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Month: February 2011

The theater of leaks

And so the theater continues – Julian Assange lost his plea against extradition yesterday, and although his lawyers are expected to appeal, it seems that he is heading north soon. What is truly amazing in all this is that throughout the entire odyssey (which involved a 250 000 pounds bail)  he has not been officially charged with anything – he is merely wanted for questioning, you see. It is all based on a system of arrest warrants for which the phrase ‘guilty until proven innocent’ morphs into ‘guilty because…just because’. There will be many more high moments in this court drama until, in the end, it all quietly disappears from managed perceptions.

Below is a selection of useful articles on WikiLeaks:

Cracks in the wilderness of mirrors – Pepe Escobar

US embassy cables: The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment – Simon Jenkins

WikiLeaks vs. the Political Class: Why they hate Julian Assange – Justin Raimondo

WikiLeaks’ Marketing Strategy: A Stroke of Genius – Gary North

The moral standards of WikiLeaks critics – Glenn Greenwald

 

Memories from the future

Jean Michel Jarre is that rarest of creators who will always remain ahead of their time. This track was made in 1978 – one year after I was born, and is probably the first piece of music I ever heard. My father was listening to it on a tiny tape player, and the recording was a copy of copies, a chain of copies spanning the iron curtain. A message from a future that never came.

Jean-Michel Jarre – Equinoxe (Part 4)

Jolicloud first impressions

I just discovered Jolicloud – an open source, Ubuntu Linux based operating system made for the cloud. Apparently the original version – 1.0 – was made entirely with netbooks in mind, though the latest version I am downloading now – 1.1 – is hardware neutral and should run on anything. I am planning to run it in dualboot with Windows on my Hp Mini as a start and see how it goes from there. The access screen looks beautiful, with intuitive functionality and zero hints of the Linux beast under the hood running the OS. Start screen>

Update: I am writing this through Jolicloud on my netbook – the install is fast, smooth, and probably as painless as it can get. First screen asks to connect online, which is what one should expect from a cloud OS. The layout feels a bit like a cross between Ubuntu and Android, which makes sense to me. With cloud connectivity it should all be about speed and smooth experience, so I decided to test that by streaming music and doing a couple of other things simultaneously. So, while I am typing this I am listening to Henry Saiz streaming through the SoundCloud player app, while also running Prezi in another window for good measure, and the overall speed and experience make me a believer. I haven’t tested things like connecting to projectors or corporate wifi, but from what I see so far Jolicloud is a win.

Android FTW!

This little graph from IHS Reseach has been making a lot of noise around the interwebs in the last three days. The message is that app store revenue is growing all over the board, in some cases quite dramatically, which is ultimately just another proof that the trend away from the desktop and towards the cloud is real and getting stronger. Android Market revenue grew 861.5% year-over-year – read that figure again. Of course the Android revenue is still puny compared to what Apple is making on its apps, but the other important figure is that the Apple App Store lost 10% of market share over the same period. With the three-way competition between Samsung, HTC and Motorolla for control over the Android hardware market only heating up, these figures can go only one way for Apple.

To make things even gloomier for Apple, Eric Schmidt just announced at MWC2011 that Android has 300 000 activations per day and rising, that YouTube apparently gets 160 million mobile views per year, and that ChromeOS is definitely coming this year.  I will probably have another post with more on that speech.

The Bed of Procrustes

Just received my copy of Nassim Taleb’s latest book The Bed of Procrustes. Excellent hardcover edition, beautiful typeface, and that’s not mentioning the sharp writing Taleb is famous for*. The aphorisms in the prelude already set the stage –

An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion

– and it only gets better from there. The very idea of basing the book on the myth of Procrustes is brilliant. As Taleb points out in a footnote, the Procrustean myth isn’t just about the obvious allusion to an arbitrary frame into which everything must fit; it is also about changing the wrong variables when things don’t work. The same idea is captured in a poem by Bertold Brecht:

Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

*Although I think the earlier Fooled by Randomness is sharper, more focused, more merciless, and altogether better than the more famous The Black Swan.

Internet of Things links

The Internet of Things is slowly but surely becoming an unevenly distributed reality. Early precursors – a number of sites dedicated to creating accessible crowdsourced data-clouds for everyday objects. After being created, each data-cloud is accessible through scanning a printable tag which can be downloaded from the site. The information I upload into the cloud together with the image/video can be as trivial as ‘this is my writing desk’, or as arcane as the travails of family heirloom. It doesn’t matter – most of the data will be useless, but the potential of object socialization is immense because of a/ the ability to create semantic depth where until now there was none, b/enfolding the rich dynamics of space and time in objects, c/ merging physical reality with the net.

Object stories: Tales of Things, Itizen, StickyBits

Architecture intermediaries: Pachube, Mbed

While object stories are the easiest path of entry and therefore probably where the majority of participation will occur for now, a project like Mbed has massive potential as it ultimately may do the for the internet of things what blogspot and the likes did for self-expression.

The big lesson from the Egypt internet shutdown

On January 27th, Thursday, in the midst of huge anti-government protests, internet traffic to and from Egypt went from 3 gigabits per second to zero. In other words, Egypt was completely cut off from the wider internet, or as the NYT phrases it – “Egypt pulled itself off the grid”.

The suddenness and rapidity of the take-down (or pull-off) set the net buzzing with talk of an ‘internet kill switch’. The suspicion was that the Egyptian government had exercised some sort of technical capacity to shut down connectivity. The fact the event coincided to the day with the re-introduction of  a legislation in the US Senate granting ‘internet killing powers’ to the US president no doubt excited the interwebs even further.

As a metaphor, the internet ‘kill switch’ conjures images of a big red button tended by serious-looking men in military uniforms quietly shouldering the weight of their responsibility. No doubt, that was also its intended thought-trajectory. After all, one cannot expect decades of Hollywood indoctrination to go to waste.

As it turns out however, what really happened is much simpler, banal and of a variety that technically-inclined people usually find very hard to fathom.  As IT World explains, all it took was a government phone call to each internet service provider with an offer they could not refuse.

“It was individual, craftsmanlike, one-intimidation-at-a-time thuggery, plain and simple.”

What is the lesson in this? Contrary to technical opinion the net is very easy to shut down and you don’t require any complex routing equipment, coding, or legislation for that matter. All it takes is for the state to exercise its one and only true prerogative – violence.

And the Droids march on

The 4th quarter sales figures for the worldwide smart phone market in 2010 just came out and according to Canalysis Google Android is practically destroying the competition. As the graph below illustrates, the Android platform seems to have attained a market leader position with roughly 33% market share globally (to Apple’s 16%). Whatever the current market share, the most impressive figure is the year-on-year growth in the last column – this is just phenomenal growth considering that Android is barely 2 years on the market and has had minuscule advertising compared to the iPhone. The growth generated by the Android clones should be the final proof that open access platforms beat closed gardens, and the impending explosion in Android-based tablets should make these figures even more one-sided.

Full text of the analysis below: