Archive for 2003

Notes from an arms race.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2003
Now that my radio programme is finally done (it will go out on December 28) I find it hard to return to normal life. So I have been poking around the records of my mailbox at Cornerhost. Since the middle of November, when last I reset the log, SpamAssassin has trashed more than 6500 messages for me. I don’t know quite how many, but there were 6592 unique subject lines used against me in that time, the output of this command.
grep B1 ‘dev/null’ ~/.procmail/log|grep -v ‘dev/null’|sort|uniq|cut -c 9 |wc -l
There are still some things that get through: what provoked this post was a poisoned spam which masquerades as a receipt for something bought with a stranger’s credit card:


A subtitle goes begging

Tuesday, December 16th, 2003

I was astonished to discover that there are only 6370 Google hits for “Political correctness gone”, and none at all for this, the perfect title for a leftish blog.

The year’s midnight

Sunday, December 14th, 2003

Today I removed five rods, two landing nets, a wading staff, two pairs of waders, and a bag of clothes, reels and fly boxes from the car to make room for a Christmas tree. Could anything be more dispiriting and wrong? Only four months ago, the world looked like this, which is the Trysil river, at about seven in the morning. (The main image is a 1MB download. You have been warned.)
Of course, at this time of year, the river looks like this

real computing

Saturday, December 13th, 2003
I deserve to have this happen, I have received unto myself the fruits of my beardliness. But still, it seems hard. When I built my lovely new silent-except-for-vast-speakers computer, I was left with the problem of what to do with the old one. The Devil suggested putting some form of Linux on it and using it as a file-server, backup machine, and silly toy. Most of this worked. The Devil then suggested that I run all the slow and grungy OpenOffice programs for converting years of crud into HTML. To do this, he whispered, I would need to be able to browse the Windows machine from the KDE file manager. To do that, I would need to get a daemon called Lisa running. I told you this was the Devil’s suggestion. The daemon does not run. It gives me an error message. I put the message into Google. Six other people have had this problem. None has solved it, except someone who speaks Italian. It’s possible that a Pole has done so also. I haven’t attempted a machine translation ot that thread, because, according to Google’s translator, the Italian’s problem started when
I was putting on a gas mantle (small net) between two blots some. > I have tried to make to leave the demon lisa but as output on shal me it is
> appeared this message of error:
> NetManager::prepare: bind (TCP) failed, errno: 98
The solution to his problem was obvious:
I can dirti that after a month I have resolved the problem. When I tried to enter in the cartelle you flavored yourself (samba), konqueror remained “in attended” with the gear that ruotava..e nn it made to see the rows. … I have shaped konqueror from the panel and gia’ I have activated and shaped lisa
> (I hope correctly poiche’ do not give errors to me when the service set offs).
> If I try launch lisa manually from finishes them, pear tree ‘, I obtain:
> NetManager::prepare: bind (TCP) failed, errno: 98
> Konqueror works for a po’ if I demand the URL: “smb:/”. But if I execute
> this procedure a second time impalla all and konqueror a shielded white woman (with the gear introduces me
There are a lot of nightmare figures in Count Zero, which I have just reread, but nothing in Gibson’s imagination warned us that cyberspace, when we got there, would be guarded by the shielded white woman with a gear.

from the crypt of metaphor

Saturday, December 13th, 2003

Today’s Financial Times has a report on the development of Birmingham Motor show, which is being “driven”, it says, by “a steering committee”.

Will the WSJ buy the Telegraph?

Friday, December 5th, 2003

I’m told, by an old friend who works there, and who would certainly know, that they are making serious enquiries. It makes a lot of sense, none of it very palatable. In other Black-related news, my friend, who writes a weekly column for them, has just been told they can’t afford to pay his paper bill any more. I should think not, after the amount that has gone missing. Good heavens, we’ve had to pay the Chairman and his cronies $20m in hard cash. What makes you think we can afford your paper bill?

The (Police) dog that didn’t bark

Friday, December 5th, 2003

Lots of stories in all the papers today about the declining popularity of Ecstasy (and the increasing popularity of cocaine). The interesting point is that all the commentary attributes this to a change in fashion: the idea that laws, or the efforts of the police, might affect the level of drug consumption is not even raised to be dismissed, and this despite the fact that the research being reported comes from the Home Office, who are responsible for the police. Not even an indirect role is granted to the police, in that their efforts might put the price of drugs up. On the contrary, it is argued that Ecstasy is less popular in Manchester than it used to be partly because the price has dropped (after a decade of prohibition) from £25 to £4.00. £25.00 deals of cocaine are much more fashionable.

Greedy web update

Thursday, December 4th, 2003

It turns out that the idea of the greedy web is slowly and disorganisedly getting under way. Mark Shuttleworth, who made a lot of money by founding Thawte, spent a large chunk going into space, with a Soyuz mission. Now he has put up $100,000 for improvements to various open source software projects; and he’s already paying a couple of Lithuanian programmers to build an open-source school management system.

Economist with the truth

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003
How much do computers matter? Brad de Long thinks he has a measure for it:
The computer-and-communications technology revolution we have been living through transforms twice as large a share of the economy as did the British Industrial Revolution, looks to last three times as long, and proceeds at a pace three times faster than the revolution in spinning and weaving: it is, relative to the size of the economy, eighteen times a bigger deal than the original.
But, when I look around the world, the real revolution and divide seems to be the fall in infant mortality in modern societies. Is there a name for that? It’s certainly distinct from the industrial revolution. It has more to do with food. and sewerage.


Tuesday, December 2nd, 2003
I was interviewing a prominent Catholic intellectual, shall we say, for my programme on the next Pope, and he explained the attitude to contraception so beautifully that I must slice this out of the transcript. You really have to admire the way in which “interpret” here turns out to mean “ignore”:
in 1968 when you had the ban on contraception reaffirmed in the encyclical humanae vitae, what happened was that bishops’ conference after bishops’ conference filtered that teaching, which was authentic papal teaching, in their own way; and in quite a few of the conferences what you got at the end was a very strong affirmation of the rights of the individual conscience and the affirmation that if in good faith the individual Catholics decided they could not follow that teaching, then they should go to communion and they should consider … continue to consider it …
I hasten to add that this man is not in fact a Jesuit.. On this subject, nowadays, Jesuits say nothing at all.