inside the man

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Caffeine in stockings?

Deutsche Welle published this cautionary column about caffiene use and abuse. As a hard-core coffee addict, I enjoy reading any and all analyses of my drug of choice, but I had not heard about coffee in nylons?

The textile industry is the latest to discover the benefits of caffeine for the production of nylons. The stimulant is woven into the fibers to create an uplifting, sliming effect on the upper thighs – a pick-me-up the majority of women certainly can appreciate as much as a good cup of joe.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Fresh machines compromised within minutes

If you thought that you did not need a firewall (or decent patch management), read this one.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Greater risk of MS in babies born in May

This is disturbing news for a father of twins born in May living in Alberta, the Canadian province with the highest incidence of autoimmune diseases. The population sample for this study was derived from Canada, the UK, Denmark and Sweden. One theory is that this increased incidence is caused by low vitamine D levels in pregnant mothers due to low levels of sun light during a crucial period in fetal development.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Germany gains Shaolin fighting monks

The largest Shaolin temple outside of China has opened in Berlin. Weisswurst, a stein of beer, and kung fu!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sex is OK during Grey Cup week

Mike Pinball Clemens, coach of the Argos, said it best,

Personally speaking, this game is of such great magnitude that far be it from me to interrupt what may be a player's normal course of action for readying himself for a game.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

New US copyright legislation under discussion

A bill labeled HR2391 is under discussion in Washington which would clarify a number of points of concern for the Big Media lobby. One example,

The bill would "would criminally punish a person who 'infringes a copyright by ... offering for distribution to the public by electronic means, with reckless disregard of the risk of further infringement.'"

My single greatest concern is will this lead to prosecution of American public libraries for recklessly breaking down barriers to electronic and other copyrighted materials?
You can help change the world

The World Community Grid is live. What should we think of this? Is it simply an IBM marketing front? Will it make the world a better place? Should I hook up my idle workstation cycles?
The Faith-Based Encyclopedia

Former Editor-In-Chief of Encyclopedia Britannica Robert McHenry shares his thoughts on Wikipedia at TCS. Here's a good quote:

The user who visits Wikipedia to learn about some subject, to confirm some matter of fact, is rather in the position of a visitor to a public restroom. It may be obviously dirty, so that he knows to exercise great care, or it may seem fairly clean, so that he may be lulled into a false sense of security. What he certainly does not know is who has used the facilities before him.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Alleged corporate espionage in Canada

Calgary based WestJet Airlines is now the target of two lawsuits alleging corporate espionage. One lawsuit filed last month by Jetsgo for CAD$50 million alleged that senior WestJet executives stole private data in order to gain a competitive advantage. Now a CAD$220 million lawsuit has been filed by Air Canada claiming that WestJet accessed an Air Canada employee web site nearly a quarter million times to gain operating data.

A Canadian Press story has WestJet CEO Clive Beddoe all but admitting guilt with respect to Air Canada's claims, referencing the resignation of WestJet VP Mark Hill in July over this matter. Beddoe's defense seems to be limited to the fact that the information that WestJet received from the Air Canada web site was widely available from other sources.

I find this news personally validating as I have been told time and time again by IT managers in my neck of the woods that espionage is not a valid risk in Canada. Time to revisit the risk analysis, my friends!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Did Ozzie and Harriet play go?

The American Go Association ejournal is offering a $25 (USD) prize to the first person to identify the source of this picture. This makes me want to get out old episodes of Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show to look for go games that I may have overlooked!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Go vs. chess as applied to real-world military strategy

The American Go Association's ejournal reports on Seymour Hersh's comments concerning the Iraqi resistance, "As somebody said, 'We're playing chess and their playing Go.' " Also referenced were a book and a paper exploring the influence of go on Chinese military strategy:

The Protracted Game: A Wei-Chi Interpretation of Maoist Revolutionary Strategy by Scott Boorman.

Learning From the Stones: A Go Approach to Mastering China's Strategic Concept, Shi by David Lee

This reminded me of a couple of comments in Peter Shotwell's book, Go: More than a Game. Shotwell believes that Boorman's thesis attributing elements of Mao's military strategy to the influence of go is flawed. Rather, Shotwell concludes that both go and Mao are influenced by the same ancient Chinese military and hunting concepts.

A few online Shotwell papers can be found in the Bob High Memorial Library.
Cetacean community thwarted

A US court has thrown out a case of marine animals suing George W. Bush over the US Navy's use of sonar, which has a detrimental effect on marine life. The judgment declared, If Congress and the President intended to take the extraordinary step of authorizing animals as well as people and legal entities to sue they could and should have said so plainly.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Google Desktop privacy branded 'unacceptable'

The Register has an interesting article about privacy concerns with the Google desktop. The CEO of Copernic points out that if Google knows what files you have, and some of those files are "shared", that Google may become a subpoena target for the RIAA and the new US Federal Government war on copyright infringement.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

FDA approves RFID implants for humans

Ars technica reports that the US FDA has approved the use of the ViriChip - the same RFID tag your vet injected into your cat - in humans. There is a great quote from Bruce Schneier commenting on the Bush administration's plans for RFID passports here too. For those who are interested, here is the official VeriChip FAQ!

Friday, October 01, 2004

A go OS?

I was surprised to read the following in the American Go Association E Journal:

NEW GO OPERATING SYSTEM: The expanding world of computer go now includes Hikarunix, “the only operating system dedicated to go,” according to creator Karl Sigler. “Hikarunix is a live Linux CD dedicated to learning, playing and studying go,” Sigler tells the E-Journal. Hikarunix features an interactive tutorial for beginners, while more advanced players can record and organize their SGF games for study and comment. “With Hikarunix you can study from an included library of nearly 7000 historical and professional games, 500 of which are reviewed and commented. You can practice Joseki with ‘Guess the next move’ programs, try to solve nearly 5000 go problems ranging from easy to dan level, and play online with thousands of go players, or start your own go server to play private games,” says Sigler. Hikarunix is available free at Note: the EJ is interested in user reviews of Hikarunix; send them to us at

Don't get me wrong, anything having to do with go/weiqi/baduk I hold in good favor, but does the world really need a go OS? Has anyone made a chess OS?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Wikipedia Hits Million-Entry Mark

What started off as an ambitious experiment (at least in my mind, that's what it was) has become one of the most accessed reference sites on the Internet. As librarian, I have to ask if that is a good thing? Still, I find Wikipedia to be an extremely valuable resource as long as I remember that it has a different definition of authority than other traditional reference works. For example, you trust the information in the Encyclopedia of Religion because it is edited by Mircea Eliade of University of Chicago fame. In contrast, you trust the information in Wikipedia because of community consensus.

Friday, September 10, 2004

NYT Promotes File Sharing

Downloading music on the net, even in the USA, is not illegal. Don't take it from me, take it from the New York Times.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Environmental concerns outlaw Ganesh immersions in India

The immersion of murtis (images) of the Hindu elephant headed god Ganesh during the annual Chaturi festival have been outlawed in Tamil Nadu due to concerns that chemicals used in the creation of the statues will contaminate ground and sea water. The popularity of immersing such idols has grown in recent years. I have heard that the Hindu community in my home, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, has bathed at least one murti of Ganesh in the North Saskatchewan river to celebrate this festival. This is practice is a spectacular example of Hindu bhakti devotional practice, demonstrating a beautiful ritual interplay between humanity and the divine. As it would be tragic if this practice were to cease entirely, perhaps the solution is simply to ensure that the immersed images do not leach any contaminates into the water.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Hacking online chess

University of Colorado at Boulder researchers have defeated the security at ICC. Could my favorite go server, KGS, be next?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

BMI Reports All-Time Profit High Despite Piracy

Even in the face of such evils as file sharing and fair use, one of the largest music publishers in the world, has reported a record year. This slashdot posting links through to an interesting ars technica article on the topic. If you want to brush up on US copyright and fair use see this excellent page put together by Stanford University Libraries. Is there an equivilent page out there for other nations' copyright law? I would sure like such a page for Canada.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

FBI moves against breach of civil law

It probably is not the first time, and it certainly will not be the last, but the FBI moved beyond the enforcement of criminal law when it brought down five file swapping servers. To put it another way, American tax payers now pick up the bill for enforcing big business' copyrights.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Is Encryption Doomed?

Could it be that there is no significant difference between mathematically hard (NP) and not hard (P) problems? Read and find out...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Lee Changho defends the Wangwi title

Lee Changho defeated my favorite Lee Sedol in the fifth and final game of the Korean Wangwi tournament. Lee Sedol was able to hang on for 182 moves before resigning. This is Lee Changho's ninth consecutive Wangwi title.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Librarians to the Rescue

The American Library Association plans to distribute more balanced material to American schools through school libraries with the goal of balancing the one sided material being distributed by the BSA, MPAA, and RIAA. I was pleased to hear this announcement and am hopeful that other national library organizations will follow suit in their own jurisdictions - students should not be exposed to a single perspective on this or any issue. To quote Tony Samek, of the University of Alberta's School of Library and Information Studies, "The largest current threat to intellectual freedom in Alberta is the dwindling numbers of Teacher-Librarians employed in the province."

Friday, August 13, 2004

Yoda Norimoto defends the Gosei title

Yoda Norimoto defeated Yamada Kimio in the 4th game of the 29th Japanese Gosei title match by five and half points to defend the title. Yoda also holds the Japanese Meijin title.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Exhibit explores the Asian origins of popular board games

A major exhibit of Asia Society in New York City explores the Asian origins of games - including many of the favorite board games in the English speaking world. The exhibition explores how games have been as important as trade and religion in transmitting cultural ideas. Backgammon, dice games, chess, and of course, go/weiqi are explored among many others.

Update: See the /. story here.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Important breaking news

England has hired its first official state jester - a certain "Kester the Jester" - since Oliver Cromwell eliminated the position in 1649. Could this signal a return to despotic monarchism in the UK?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Free Bobby

If you are interested, you can add your name to the free Bobby Fischer online petition. It seems to be sponsored by the Icelandic Chess Federation. Is Bobby a sacrificial pawn?
A 4th grade teacher is teaching some important lessons

Here are the rules: Each week, you get a salary of funny money (I think it can vary depending on grades and behavior, but the details aren't important). There are cheap, flashy toys you can buy with your funny money...
ALARM: Lee Changho takes game 4

Lee Changho has taken game 4 of the final match of the 38th Korean Wangwi. Changho forced Lee Sedol to resign after a mere 84 moves! For those unfamiliar with go, this is an overwhelming victory. The match is now tied 2-2.

UPDATE: The fifth and deciding game will be held on August 17. This is not a seven game match as I earlier reported.

Friday, July 30, 2004

DES headed for retirement

Ah, DES. You have left us all with such fond memories. The hours of memorizing your inner workings in order to pass certification exams *sniff*. We bid you a fond fare well.
Battle of the Lees round 3

Lee Sedol defeated Lee Changho in game three of the 38th Korean Wangwi final. Lee Sedol forced a resignation after 184 moves following an uncharacteristic low Chinese opening by Lee Changho. It was a classic Lee Sedol game involving an eight stone sacrifice in order to secure a massive territory at the bottom of the board. The next game is scheduled for August 4th.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Patriot Act used to enforce copyright?

I find this story to be extremely disturbing. If this story is true, the FBI invoked the Patriot Act to get an alleged copyright violator's records from his ISP in response to an MPAA complaint. To quote the /. posting, "Is copyright infringment now a terrorist act?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Lee Changho takes game two

Lee Changho takes game two of the 38th Korean Wangwi title match, forcing a resignation after 184 moves. Lee Changho was able to construct a vast solid territory in the upper right while Lee Sedol struggled for life in the centre. The best of seven match is now tied 1-1.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Bobby Fischer's blog

What's on Bobby Fischer's mind these days? Read on at your own risk. Strong language and strong opinions here.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Lee Sedol defeats Lee Changho

After a fairly quiet year of go, my boy Lee Sedol takes game one of the Wangwi title match from "the best go player alive", "Stone Buddha", "8 time Wangwi title holder". Lee Changho. The next game to be held on July 20, 2004. This is a best-of-seven match.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Bobby Fischer busted

Former chess world champion Bobby Fischer was picked up by Japanese officials after trying to travel to the Philippines with an invalid passport. Fischer has been wanted by the US for 12 years for violating an embargo against Yugoslavia. Fischer has become a vocal critic of the US in recent years. Want to bone up on your Fischer history? See Colby Cosh's review of David Edmonds' Bobby Fischer Goes to War.

Friday, July 09, 2004 not exactly following the ethos of traditional archives

I do not know what to say about this. This sort of behavior certainly dilutes's value as a reliable historical record.

Monday, July 05, 2004

The 17th Fujitsu Cup crowns a new world champion

19 year old Park Yeonghun (6p) defeated Yoda Norimoto (9p), current holder of the Japanese Meijin and Gosei titles, to take his first international championship.
Firefox is better than IE - according to Microsoft

If any of you have any doubt that freedom of the press can exist for publications owned by large diversified corporations, check this out. MSN's Slate has published an article that claims, in no uncertain terms, that the Mozilla project's open source Firefox browser is clearly superior to Microsoft's own Internet Explorer. Columnist Paul Boutin even goes on to recommend that readers consider Mozilla's Thunderbird email application and Sunbird calendar application as alternatives to Microsoft's Outlook and Outlook Express, which he describes as "two other virus carriers". Indeed, open source software is the biggest threat to Microsoft's near monopoly. If only the open source community could create an office product superior to Microsoft Office!

This, of course, was slashdotted here. Expecting the register, k5, and ars technica to chime in at any moment.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

US libraries suffer a blow to intellectual freedom

If you are an American library, and you want to keep your 'E-rate' funding, July 2nd is the day that you need to turn on your Internet filtering. Lord knows that libraries don't need any more money, right? It is anticipated that the adoption of filtering will be nearly universal.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Senate OKs Pirate Act

Distressingly, the so-called Pirate Act, has been approved by the US Senate and will now head to the House of Representatives for approval. What's the big deal? See my earlier posting.
Globe and Mail Comment: Songs of the Internet

A thoughtful and well reasoned commentary on the two recent Canadian legal decisions concerning online music sharing. Here is a thought provoking sample - no punches pulled here: "We hope the court was wrong and will be overturned on appeal. If it was right, the act should be amended." What do you think?
A new free online service: MD5 cracking

Forgot your password but still have your shadow file? Got someboy else's shadow file? Submit it here and have your answer in a few days.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Drop everything! Go TV 24/7!

Korean Baduk TV 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, available for free as a Windows Media stream! I am signing up for Korean lessons tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Canadian High Court Says ISPs Don't Owe Royalties

Slashdot notes another Canadian court ruling against the recording industry. This lawsuit pitted the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) against the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP). SOCAN was seeking to collect royalties from ISPs as their services are used to pirate copyrighted materials. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that ISPs are merely intermediaries and that they are not bound by copyright law. Here's a CBC backgrounder on downloading music in Canada. It is not great, but it is a good place to start.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Schneier: Unchecked police and military power is a security threat

Ponytailed lefty lunatic or darn clever academic and businessman?

Monday, June 28, 2004

Satan and your appliances

Following on to my post about Roman Catholic concerns about the lack of traditional values in modern social policy, I draw your attention to the work of Old Scratch in household technology.
New Zealand cardinal slams liberalism

Cardinal Thomas Williams, Catholic Archbishop of New Zealand has published a missive in the New Zealand herald deriding social policy in New Zealand and, by implication, the rest of the modern world, for the placing of the comparatively young notions of individualism and cultural relativism ahead of traditional judeo-christian values and traditions.

Refreshingly, Williams does not advocate a state sanctioned return to the values of the Roman Catholic church as a solution to the problem, but rather advocates a civic minded mistrust of what he describes as the "barbaric" work of tearing down existing standards uncritically.

Quoting Shaw, Williams suggests that New Zealand, like Shaw's United Kingdom, may be passing directly from barbarianism to decadence without first pausing at the stage of civilization. This begs the question, from the value-free post modernist perspective, what is decadence? It is precisely this lack of common language that challenges the dialogue between traditions in our pluralistic society - in this sense, relativistic individualism is a tradition along side of Catholicism, Tibetan Buddhism, Indonesian Islam, etc.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Battling the evil robots

Ethical questions raised by robotics? K5 user Work tells us that we must consider these now. Here's one alternative.
Victory for the boomers!

Martina Navratilova, 47, humiliated 24 year old Catalina Castano in a first round singles match at Wimbledon. Castano was quoted as saying, "It was like playing my mom."
Time to dump Internet Explorer

IE 6 is a security nightmare. Since I have to use it at least occasionally for work reasons, I have been fastidiously applying security patches as soon as they are released. Do to this policy, and probably due to my browsing habits, I am fortunate that I have never had an IE 6 related security incident - yet. 153 holes since April 18, 2001! This is not good software. After some time as a devoted Mozilla user, I have made the (minor) switch to Mozilla FireFox.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Stone Buddha wins on stone goban

Lee "Stone Buddha" Changho has performed well on a hectic play schedule - 5 international games in 9 days - with a record of 4 wins and 1 loss. This included taking the Taida Cup with its $20,000 USD purse.

InfoSec news aggregator

Another decent looking infosec news aggregator for your consumption.
Old Norse e-texts

There are times when a blogger tries to find that really obscure link to the discuss in order to stand out from the crowd. There are other times, when a blogger finds something really interesting when none of his or her readers care in the slightest. Get out your PDA and start downloading today's reading for the commute: a smorgasbord of Old Norse e-texts! For the fundamental background, consult the wikipedia.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Lee Changho's revenge

Lee Changho avenged his defeat at the hands of Yoda Norimoto a few days ago by defeating Yoda in the final game of the Taida Cup by 6.5 points. Game record at the link above (from

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Fujitsu Cup is down to the final four

The 17th Fujitsu Cup, the highest paying international go/weichi/baduk tournament, is down to the final four. Japanese phenom Yoda Norimoto (9 dan) kept Korea from a clean sweep by defeating Lee Changho (9 dan), the most successful player in the world in recent years, by 3.5 points. Game records available (follow the link above).

Friday, June 11, 2004

A nice dose of literary criticism

"Proust might be a mountain and his enthusiasts the bibliophilic equivalents of extreme adventure freaks; but at least they don't need oxygen bottles, picks and pulleys, thermal gear and a sherpa to help surmount him. It's impossible to really understand Ulysses without help.

Joyce seems to have intuited as much when he publicised his chapter notes so that readers could grasp the exact nature of the Homeric correspondence alluded to in the title (Ulysses is Latin for Odysseus). Ezra Pound thought they were so obvious that "any blockhead can trace them". I don't agree."

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Electronic health records for animals?

Initially, I was going to crack a joke about the privacy concerns of the zoo animals of the world. However, this is an interesting and ambitious project. Outcomes of this project include disease tracking, genetic tracking and a single source for animal pedigrees.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Who Is Maurice Strong?

Is this for real? Is this kind of idealized "power behind the [metaphorical global] throne" possible, and if so is he Canadian? While I am no position to evaluate the validity of the claims made in this article, it sounds suspiciously like some highschool kid bragging about his 20th level international bureaucrat in some conspiracy role playing game. In any case, I am reluctant to form a conclusion on the true nature of Maurice Strong based solely on a web page written by a guy who is the author of Eco-Scam: The False Prophets of Ecological Apocalypse and The True State of the Planet - There is potential for a certain bias that may have colored this portrait of Strong. Whatever the truth is, a fascinating biographical corpus as accumulated around Strong on the net. Here are a few to whet your appetite:

  • Strong's Government of Canada bio published along with his 1992 Skelton Lecture sponsored by the Canadian department of Foreign Affairs

  • The survivalist perspective on Strong, including an exposée of his ties to a New Age religious conspiracy

  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation produced a documentary on Strong - info here

Voluntary blindness update

Update: You can burn your retinas or follow the advice in this link.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Aaaah! I'm blind!

A public service announcement: Looking at the Sun will damage your eye sight. Surprisingly, even the apparent speck of Venus on the Sun's face doesn't change this fact.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Nostalgic for WWII crypto?

Feeling nostalgic? All fired up after reading Stephenson's Cryptonomicon? Get your fix of mid-20th century cryptology and computer science here! Then, read up on Schneier's Solitaire cipher. (Neal Stephenson has a really bad site here, if you must see it)

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pirate Act wants US taxpayers to pay for prosecution of civil suits to protect business

The ars technica perspective on this legislation is eminently clear: 'Why pursue costly civil litigation when you can have the government do it for you? That's the gist of part of the so-called Pirate Act, a new set of legislation aimed at criminalizing various online acts of piracy. While common parlance often talks of file sharing as "theft" or "stealing," in the overwhelming majority of instances, copyright infringement is a civil matter, not a criminal one.'

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Feed the worms who write worms to the worms - The economic logic of executing computer hackers

Steven E. Landsburg supplies us with another darkly humorous link today. Landsburg carries out an interesting theoretical exercise, comparing the value of executing murders to the value of executing malware authors in purely economic terms.

One aspect of this discussion that Landsburg does not touch upon is the theory, influenced by biological immunology, that computer vandalism such as writing an Internet worm contributes positively to the Internet's collective resistance to more targeted forms of computer crime, hacking into personal computers in order to perform fraudulent online banking transactions, for example. How could we measure the positive economic value of malware authoring in terms of it's net impact (if any) on reducing the net impact of computer crime? While this question will likely remain unanswered, I doubt we will identify a prosocial angle on murder.
Microsoft security spend greater than the Star Wars missile system

This report from Techworld I do not think is intended to be humorous, but it is if you add the following to the headline: "...and both investments have born so much fruit!"
Passwords for chocolate

I guess it is a day for blogging humorous news items. However, this one is black comedy to the ears of an information security professional.
Danish IT firm gives workers free Net porn

A humorous story from The Register.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

9th LG Cup 2nd round results

Korean superstars Lee Sedol (my favorite) and Lee Changho are through to round three of the 9th annual Go/Weiqi/Baduk LG Cup World Kiwang. Cho U is the last Japanese player in the tournament after the famous O Rissei and Yamashita Keigo fell to Koreans Lee Changho and Cho Hanseung respectively. Round three will not be played until October 2004.
Weighing Profits against Peril

SecurityFocus columnist Mark Rasch has a thought provoking column on Microsoft's long awaited XP service pack 2. Should Microsoft make SP2 available to unlicensed (read: stolen) installations of Windows XP, especially when SP2 has feature enhancements and important security fixes?

Mark, unfortunately, concludes with the statement that in the future Microsoft should consider releasing multiple versions of their service packs - one with just security enhancements and one, for licensed users only, with both security fixes and other improvements. This is all that Microsoft needs, another OS version to support.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Pigeons of death

The Register tells the poignant tale of the 1950 cancellation of a bold pigeon driven smart weapon program by the British Joint intelligence Committee. Included here is a link to the wartime contributions of pigeon fanciers.

Friday, May 21, 2004

What's Your Terrorism Quotient?

This Slashdot post covers a real example of computerized terrorist profiling. Why does this remind me of the Terry Gilliam classic Brazil? If you sense dark irony, I am communicating successfully. Glad my name is not Tuttle, or was it Buttle?

Welcome to the Ministry of Information Retrieval

Thursday, May 20, 2004

New advance in securing your valuables

Sometimes the low-tech ideas are the best ideas - but maybe not this one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Inside the world of competitive scrabble

This sounds like a potentially interesting documentary to any competitive player of board games or to students of human foibles. The film is currently making rounds in the US festival circuit. Planned screenings are listed on the web site.
DDoS extortion

This variety of computer crime is likely more common than currently reported. Many organizations are hesitant to go public with their computer security issues. But here is the good news: if your information security infrastructure is well prepared for all of the usual virus and malware issues, you will be a less tempting target for cyber criminals who will seek out easier prey. Dave Dittrich has setup a great bibliography of all things DDoS.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Court clears Dutch music search engine of copyright violation

In a case involving the popular web portal, a Dutch court has ruled that "providing links to an MP3 file did not constitute disclosure or publication of contents according to Dutch copyright law." A lawyer for the portal stated that if the justice system wants to deal with illegal music downloads, they should go after those providing the files and not the search engine.

According to this article, this is the first case in the world involving a search engine that automatically crawls the Internet for files, some of which may infringe upon copyright.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

More signs of Sasser author's hero status

Following up on my mention of a story describing alleged Sasser author Sven Jaschan's hero status in some of the German press, it seems that Jaschan now has his own fan/legal defense fund raising web site. Apparently, Sasser was intended as "a harmless wake-up call to the world." The site goes on to ask of us, "Imagine what could happen if this had been done by criminals with no respect for the public"? On a related note, Jaschan has now being fingered as the creator of the NetSky worm - all 28 version. Sven is free on bail in German and faces up to 5 years in prison and a number of civil suits.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Hackers as national heros

Some German press outlets are holding up the arrest of the 18 year old alleged Sasser worm author as evidence that Germans may be returning to the role of leaders in technology. If your country has a nagging economic and identity crisis, perhaps the government should consider funding the education of young computer criminals?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Be an informed caffeine user

If you are going to do it, do it right! Dr. James Wyatt says, "I hate to say it, but most of the population is using caffeine the wrong way by drinking a few mugs of coffee or tea in the morning... The physiological process they need to counteract is not a major player until the latter half of the day." Drink coffee all the time not just in the morning, silly.

If you want the full story of caffeine from the history of the cultivation and use of the drug, to its socio-historical importance (caffeine and the industrial revolution?), to the science behind my favorite alkaloid, you must read Weinberg and Bealer's The world of caffeine: The science and culture of the world's most popular drug. If reading is not your thing, just get the t-shirt.
The first published 9/11 humor?

Is this too soon? Is it bad taste? Is it disrespectful to the thousands of victims, or is it funny? Whatever your judgment, you must admit that humor is a strange beast.
War of the snuff videos

Finally a news outlet with the courage to call it what it is. I do not know why I have this image of Whitehouse insiders with pained expressions and desperation in their voices railing, "These Abu Ghraib pictures are killing us! We've got to get some images onto the tube that make them look bad!" And now, we have escalated to video. What next? Live network specials?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Canadian music downloaders deterred by US lawsuits

When it comes to a topic as arcane as computer security or the law perhaps Canadians can be forgiven for listening to the loud voices of authority figures in the media, even if the authority figure's opinion is irrelevant. That's what I was thinking as I read this story on the latest Ipsos-Reid poll showing a marked decline in Canadian music downloading. It seems that the waves of lawsuits South of the border are impacting Canadians' comfort when it comes to downloading music files despite the recent Canadian decision, now under appeal, which found that not only downloading but also uploading music files does not infringe upon Canadian copyright law.

Despite this setback, the president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) is quoted as saying, "There are still 120 million downloads a month from illegal sites and sources." Sorry pal, until you get a win in the courts or successfully lobby the feds to change the Copyright Act, there are no illegal sites.
Slashdot - Alan Turing, the Inventor of Software

What other news source could cover the story of Alan Turing's inclusion in BusinessWeek's great thinkers and innovators of the past 75 years better than the slashdot community? Ah, the endless Turing test jokes and straight to the sexuality issue.
Imposed gender

I had never heard the unique tale of Winnipeg born David Reimer. Apparently, he even has a published biography, As nautre made him: the boy who was raised a girl. David committed suicide last week after falling victim to a fraudulent investment scheme.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Sasser author tried to limit damage

The latest reports show that the accused German Sasser worm author tried to release a "damage limiting version" of the now infamous worm before he was arrested. Apparently, it did not work. German officials continue to deny that Sven Jaschan was motivated by trying to drum up work form his mom's PC support company and are painting him as a typical peer recognition motivated criminal hacker. It will be interesting to hear Sven's testimony when he goes to trial.
Malware for Mother's Day?

Hot off the feed from Reuters - there are suspicions that the young German man under arrest in connection with creating the Sasser worm may have been attempting to drum up business for his mother's PC support business. If there is any truth in this theory, a theory which is denied by German authorities, it certainly changes the forensic profile of the young male black hat hacker.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Man on Fire

I took in the latest Tony Scott offering last night and was treated 146 minutes of revenge served cold. Well, OK, maybe it was more like 60 minutes of syrupy alcoholism recovery and child-bodyguard bonding followed by 86 minutes of revenge served cold. The most memorable aspects of the film were the forced audience-character bonding through repeated use of extreme eye, nose, and mouth close ups, and the continuously unsteady camera work.

I now know a great deal about Denzel's pores. I now have a deep relationship with Dakota's dentation after repeated explorations of her engaging toothy smile. I now have more data on the mole on Radha's nose than the Opportunity rover gathered on the rock named Bounce. And I now have Marc Anthony's "Marc, I want you to show me regret mixed with greed mixed with guilt mixed with desperation... that's it!" look, complete with head tilted down, brow furrowed, lips pouty, burned into my mind.

As for the cinematography, Scott must have really liked Soderbergh's Traffic. Scott's cinematic portrait of Mexico has the same unsettling camera-never-at-rest, this place is dynamic, unsafe, and rife with crime message that Soderburgh so effectively communicated in his 2000 film. The only thing that Scott lacked from Soderburgh's method was the sepia tones. In fact, now that I think of it, these two films will probably do more harm to the Mexican tourist industry than the Zapatista uprising. The cheesy thank you message to Mexico City "a special place" that closes the film does nothing to dispell this impression.

In the end, through little employment of subtlety, Scott generally succeeds at the key challenge in making a good revenge flick, making the the audience sympathetic to all of the atrocities that the hero will inevitably commit. Only in retrospect do I feel pangs of guilt for cheering on Denzel's determined campaign of torture and murder that occupies the majority of this film.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Linux in public libraries

It is rare to read a real life success story about Linux on the desktop, but this story describes the Howard County Public Library's recent success using Linux on over 200 public access terminals. Slashdot and newsforge have also covered this story. Regardless of whether Windows or Linux has a lower TCO, sometimes cash strapped public institutions need to make choices which minimize or eliminate large one time capital investments.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Evil hacker does good
Kevin Mitnik, famed haXor and phone phreak, has become a hero in the press after aiding a small town police department to nab a bomb threat prankster.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Bargain hunting online

I am all for rooting out the best deals, but have never enjoyed doing so. I always wonder whether it is worth all of the time and effort to find what you want at a small percentage less than the first place you look. Probably, I am just lazy. In any case, should you wish to participate in this quest for lower prices online, the link above is a good slashdot list of websites for the frugal.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Lycanthropy today

People just don't talk about werewolves enough anymore ( ** flashbacks to the Monster Manual ** ). This great article will get you right back up to speed on the topic.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The global p2p holy war

The RIAA crusade proceeds around the globe with all of the fervor, self riteousness, enterprise, wealth, opportunism, and exclusivity of membership of the Knights Templar (or is this the right Templar link?). Copyright is sacred, and exceptions such as fair use sully its holy purity!

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The argument against privacy

kuro5hin is running a thought provoking piece discussing some recent criticisms of 'privocrats'. Regardless of your current perspective, this is a valuable read.
Directory of 'Kill Bill' cinematic references

The New York Times has published an interesting brief survey of some of the chief cinematic references in Tarantino's two part 'Kill Bill' revenge flick. There are reports now that a third installment is now in the works.
Marx as justification for G. W. Bush's foreign policy

I stumbled across this one year old article today and was immediately drawn to the author's use of Marx to justify the most recent US invasion of Iraq. A brief quotation will illustrate my fascination:

But all of this is lost on the man who simply pays another man to build his home for him. He is free to imagine his dream house, and to indulge in every kind of fantasy. The proper nature of the material need not concern him - gravity doesn't interest him. He makes the plans out of his head and expects them to be fulfilled at his whim.

If we look at the source of the Arab wealth we find it is nothing they created for themselves. It has come to them by magic, much like a story of the Arabian nights, and it allows them to live in a feudal fantasyland.

What Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have in common is that they became rich because the West paid them for natural resources that the West could simply have taken from them at will, and without so much as a Thank You, if the West had been inclined to do so.

What are we to think of these comments? While I am neither a philosopher nor a political scientist, I am fairly certain that a Marxist could arrive at similarly negative conclusions regarding George W. Bush's rise to power. The entire article is filled with similar misapplications of the thoughts of famous philosophers and questionable historical recall - I found it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Privacy advocates unimpressed with Google's Gmail

Google is one of the most successful Internet enterprises ever. Now, they are trying to dominate the free (well, actually ad funded) email space with the recent announcement of Gmail - free web mail with 1 Gb of storage. However, among the concerns that privacy advocates have raised are statements that do not promise that email deleted by the owner of a Gmail account will be erased from Google's systems, and that Google's advertising engine will read your email and display ads related to the topics discussed in the message you are reading. One gig of storage: cool. Privacy issues: not cool. How long will it take before the new English verb "to google" takes on a new Orwellian flavor?
Playing video games makes better surgeons

A new study reveals that surgeons who play video games complete laparoscopic surgery in less time with substantially fewer errors. The usual eclectic commentary on this story can be found on slashdot.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Canada a rogue nation?

The Miami Herald, in reference to the recent Canadian legal decision on p2p music sharing (see slashdot here and here, and below) reports that "The Canadians, who often consign the United States to the status of rogue nation, demonstrated last week that they too can thumb their noses at international law when the fancy takes them." Does this legal decision consign countries like Canada and New Zealand (see here and here) to the status of international outlaws? In what other countries is file swapping legal?
Canadian minister promises to fix copyright law

In response to the recent court decision in favor of p2p file sharing of music, Canada's Federal Minister of Heritage, Helene Scherre, has stated publicly that she will make changes to Canadian law in order to outlaw music file sharing. The minister is correct on one point, Canadian copyright legislation is badly in need of modernization in order to clarify a number of points raised by new technology. New Zealand, for instance, has rewritten their aged intellectual property legislation from the ground up. Notably, it is clearly legal to download and make digital backups of copyrighted music for personal non-commercial use in New Zealand.

Friday, April 02, 2004

No April fools blog post

I thought that I would buck the trend and not put up an April Fools Day blog post. There were some good ones out there, however. Here is my favorite: Mandatory subdermal RFID tags for the homeless.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

More on the recent file Canadian file sharing decision

The morning papers have brought a flood of information and opinion to light. The Calgary Herald reports that the court likened p2p file sharing to libraries placing a photocopier in the midst of copyrighted material - a legitimate tool for personal non-commercial use of copyrighted information. I am overjoyed that the court made this analogy, as the publishing industry has been grumbling about photocopiers in libraries for years. BBC news reports that the court further decided that p2p networks do not constitute "commercial distribution" and thus do not violate Canada's concept of fair use of copyrighted material.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Comment and trackback support added today

I thought that I would try this out. Use the comment function (click on "Comment" under a post) to let me know if I should have even bothered...
Canadian court finds for file swappers

A court has ruled against a request by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) to compel Canadian ISPs to give up the identities of Canadian file swappers. The judge went further than merely refusing the CRIA's request - to quote the Globe and Mail, "According to the judge, there is no compelling evidence that either downloading or sharing of digital music files is even illegal." Great news for fair use of copyrighted material in Canada.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Equifax Canada reports security breach

Detailed credit files of over 1400 individuals localized in Alberta, BC, and a few in Onatario were stolen from Equifax systems. The breach shows signs of being masterminded by organized crime. Not good.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Pluto (and therefore Sedna) debate continues

The debate rages onward. What I found particularly enjoyable was S. Alan Stern's rant in a recent Space Daily article where it is clear that emotionally, he really wants Pluto to be called a planet. This may have something to do with the fact that he is the leader of NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission. Would Pluto not be an equally interesting object of scientific study whether or not we label it "planet"? And what would an astronomical discovery be without an animated fly-by of the new discovery starting from Earth?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

And then there were eight

A working group of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has declared that size does indeed matter. Sadly, Sedna is merely a trans-Neptunian body and not a planet. Now the planet cops have turned their attention to poor old Pluto. Will Pluto get its planet license revoked after over 100 years?

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The spiritual benefits of a new planet

The staff astrologer of the illustrious UK paper The Sun has revealed some surprising positive influences emanating from the newly discovered planet!
A new planet! When will it stop?

First, they tell us the Earth is round. Then the Earth is not the centre of the universe. Then there are planets beyond the original Galilean six. Then they find something like Quaoar orbiting beyond Pluto and decide that it is a "trans-Neptunian object" and not a planet. And now they find a new larger ice ball and name it after a fingerless patrifagial Inuit goddess badly in need of tonsurial care - is Sedna planet or not? Who decides?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Blood in the library

Canada's libraries are a haven of cultural memory and quiet study. They are also a good place for the homicidal trio that dogs your footsteps to pin you down and attempt murder by the blade. A student was knifed multiple times in the University of Alberta's science and technology library on March 10th.. This is a surreal event to take place at my alma mater, but I wanted to take this opportunity to remind all library users to practice safe studying - do not tell anyone where you plan to be studying in the library, and do not study at the same carrel twice.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Wikipedia - wikipedia

Last night I was awoken with a start in the middle of the night by an unanswered question, what happens if you look up "wikipedia" in Wikipedia? Finally, once all hope of returning to sleep was lost, I had to crawl out of bed and find out. Wikipedia is a wiki-based free content encyclopedia which includes almanac-like and gazetteer-like information. Free means free to use, free to edit, and free to copy and redistribute. Wikipedia is multilingual, and an open-content, collaboratively developed creation, managed and operated by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. As of March 2004, it contains over 220,000 articles in English, and over 290,000 articles in other languages.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Go Proverbs
This is one of the best collections of go proverbs on the net. Wouldn't it be nice if all subject areas were covered by a concise set of proverbs? I can recall my father once telling me during a troublesome home renovation project, "When all else fails, use brute force."

Thursday, February 19, 2004

"The future is already here. It is just unevenly distributed." - William Gibson

Monday, February 16, 2004

More on the ensuing Canadian file swapping court battle
Mathew Ingram of the Globe and Mail has published this interesting editorial on the current effort by the CRIA to first get Canadian ISPs to hand over the identities of file swappers and then take these individuals to court. A balanced view all around.

Friday, February 13, 2004

The realities of IT consulting
This comic strip sums up my daily work quite well.
Canadian recording industry goes after ISPs for the names of file sharers
And so it begins. While the available details are sketchy, the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) is taking at least one ISP, Shaw Communications, to court in order to force them to release the names of at least 29 customers targeted as file sharers. This will be an interesting battle as the legality of file sharing has yet to be tested in Canadian courts. CRIA's latest communications campaign includes their web page on the 'Free Music' Myth, which clearly outlines their moral position on this issue.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Lee ChangHo caricatures
Need some adorable caricatures of the youngest 9 dan go professional in history?
Wikipedia on go/weiqi/baduk
Wikipedia is truly an astounding resource. (Of course, the first thing that I looked up there was go.) For those who are not familiar with the project, it is an online encyclopedia created and maintained by the Internet community. It is an entirely non-commercial effort with a bafflingly large scope.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

The game of go

Why is go so good? I am attracted to, or rather obsessed with, the game at a number of levels. One of which is the game's paradoxical combination of simplicity and complexity which, at least for me, confers a numinous quality upon the game.

On one hand, go is an extremely simple game requiring a bowl full of black stones, a bowl full white stones, a 19 by 19 grid - although other grid sizes are sometimes used - and a simple set of rules. Basically, one player plays black and the other white; they take turns placing their stones, one at a time on the intersections of the grid; once placed stones never move, unless they are captured (then they are removed); stones are captured whenever they are not adjacent to at least one unoccupied intersection - a point - or adjacent to a stone of the same color that can trace an unbroken chain of stones the color to at least one unoccupied point. There are a couple of other rules to handle situations where the same sequence of plays could be repeated endlessly - similar to the rule in chess - and other circumstances. The game ends when both players pass. The object of the game is to surround more empty points than your opponent.

On the other hand, this simple game is dumfoundingly difficult to play, or at least to play well. This game has baffled amateurs and professionals alike - yes there are professional go players in Japan, China, Korea and neighboring countries - for hundreds of years. More recently, go has confounded computer scientists who have successfully computerized, notably, checkers and chess in recent years to a professional level of play or better. Go automation is currently surprisingly weak - at a level where even a relatively mediocre amateur can defeat the best software available.

It will come as no surprise that this wonderful, engaging, frustrating, enraging game that will change your life if you let it, has generated a massive body of literature similar to chess. Unfortunately, only a fraction is available in English. Go is a game of paradoxes - it is simple and it is complex, it is supremely logical and deeply intuitive, success depends on close quarters tactics and success depends on full board strategy, you can learn the rules in thirty minutes and will take you a lifetime to master.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Relocation complete
Relocating for work is a new experience for me. It is a rather jarring experience being uprooted in order to fulfill the motives of others. Still, it injects an element of adventure and exploration into my professional life that I find quite welcome and even revitalizing. Here's to a little variety to spice up one's professional situation!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Drucker's New Pluralism
When I blogged Drucker's article the other day, I had only read the opening paragraph with consideration for his well known opinion on operating private enterprises in a balanced manor that is not exclusively focused on the bottom line. However, now that I have read the article, I find myself dumbfounded. This is not the new pluralism to which I have been referring. Drucker touches only briefly on cultural diversity, or diversity of any kind, but instead trumpets the virtues of the single purpose institution - and many of his arguments are highly questionable. Try to fathom the following statement: "The strength of the modern pluralist organization is that it is a single-purpose institution." So, modern pluralism is singularity of purpose? Bizarre.
Look for more from me on the real new pluralism soon.
H-T Family Album
The Hammond-Thrasher photo album is now online. Even if you are not interested in looking through my family photographs, you may want to look at JAlbum, a nice freeware Java photo album tool.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The "new pluralism"
I have been pondering this term for some time now. My professional life brings me face to face with cultural diversity in Canada's public sector on a daily basis. When I think back to the research and field work that I carried out years ago as part of my undergraduate studies in comparative religion, I find myself wondering just what is "new"? In any case, understanding the changing faces of our communities remains a primary challenge for public and private sector institutional leadership in Canada and most developed and developing countries in the world. There is a growing body of literature on this topic across all disciplines, some of which I am currently trying to wrap my mind around. One example of a call for recognition of this issue is Peter Drucker's short 1999 paper "The New Pluralism". Drop me an email if you have thoughts on this topic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Sensei's Library: Go Comic Strips
I should have known when I posted the link to Almost Sente yesterday that Sensei's library would have links to other go related comic strips. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Logarithmic Maps of the Universe
Until I looked at this map, I was completely disoriented.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Almost Sente
The only comic strip about go available in both English and Polish. Quite clever - humor that only a seasoned go fan could appreciate. Littered with Hikaru no Go, Pi, Beautiful Mind, and historical references.

Friday, January 09, 2004

The seven habits of wildly unsuccessful CIOs
TechRepublic posted this item, which is both humorous and wise, last month. To add to the irony, right above the second habit, "Exhibit a knee-jerk reaction against open source", there appeared a web ad from Microsoft arguing that Linux has an 11% to 22% higher TCO than Windows servers in "4 out of 5 scenarios".

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Wardriving in Calgary
On January 6, 2004, I was driving into Calgary, Alberta from the North and decided to try a little wardriving. I fired up the laptop and turned on Network Stumbler and got my first hit right at the city limits on Deerfoot Trail. By the time I had reached my downtown destination, following one brief detour across the river for coffee, I had 136 hits. Interestingly, about 60 of these did not have WEP enabled, and 11 were peer nodes. I should also mention that there is a high correlation between end points with no encryption (WEP turned off) and end points that are clearly using default SSIDs.
What are people thinking? Adding a wireless endpoint to your home or office and not securing it in some way is the digital equivalent of building a new external doorway into your home of office and not even bothering to install a door!

Monday, January 05, 2004

Burn, Baby, Burn in Norway
Aftenposten reports that Jon Lech Johansen's acquittal has been upheld. Last year, a Norwegian court acquitted Johansen of criminal charges related to his involvement in breaking DVD encryption then publishing the exploit to the world. Johansen, now 20 years old, was a teenager at the time these acts took place. Slashdot reports that the Oekokrim (Norway's white collar crime unit) has decided not take the case to further appeals. A Slashdot editor comments that this means it is legal to burn personal backup of your DVDs in Norway. Doesn't New Zealand's new copyright legislation make this act explicitly legal as well?

Saturday, January 03, 2004

A Couple of Columns on Canadian Copyright
The Globe and Mail Technology section has a thoughtful editorial by Kate Taylor and a year in review piece from the Global folks at

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Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Returned to working as a Management Consultant, specializing in risk, security, and regulatory compliance, with Fujitsu Canada after running the IT shop in the largest library in the South Pacific.

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