Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

beta update

a new beta (rev5) of clevercactus was released yesterday to the list, and so far it seems that the IMAP problems have been solved, with lots of help in in getting debug traces from the people in the mailing list. Also, I now have 5 different IMAP servers installed in my machine for testing. There are a couple of new problems, but they are not easy to reproduce; I'm working on them. However, since the core code for communications now is approaching stability, I have begun finalizing code that has been around for a while, but never properly integrated: code for synchronization. First in line is XML-RPC Weblog sync. I've been looking at what has changed on blogging software APIs since I last took a look at them in December/January (summary: not much). I've been writing up a review of how they compare, and will probably post it tomorrow. That aside, I'm also advancing on Palm and Symbian (SyncML) synchronization-- freshening my knowledge on both, looking for new development tools that might have appeared and so on. I had downloaded and installed the Palm Conduit Development Kit in my other machine but now I can't find the install binary--so I have to download it again. I was kind of hoping that I'd have DSL by now, but Eircom has outdone itself again--3 weeks and counting. We'll see if it comes in next week, in the meantime I've just started to download it, and at 56 Kbps those 45 MB will take about 3 hours. Oh well. I'll do something else in the meantime. The plan is to release a public beta by the end of next week. Lots of things to do!

And, another thing: Matthew Walker sent a shell script to run cactus on Mac OS X using the extensions defined by Apple, so that it can integrate better with the OS (e.g., the menu appears on the top OS menubar, rather than on the frame). He also sent links to a couple of screenshots showing the effect of the change: before and after. Very cool. Thanks Matthew!

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on May 2, 2003 at 9:46 PM

don't forget IrDA

Mobitopia

With all the hoopla surrounding bluetooth in the past few months, one could justifiably think that the idea of transparent, zero-configuration synchronization was invented a couple of years ago. But we shouldn't forget the trailblazer, and the technology that is essentially the "spiritual predecessor" to Bluetooth: IrDA.

IrDA started out precisely with the aims of Bluetooth: to provide the ability to easily connect devices in a short range network, for syncing and basic communication. At the beginning (say, 10 years ago), there was much discussion of IrDA being used on everything from printers to portable devices, and so solve the "cable problem" once and for all. Sadly, IrDA had a couple of big problems: directionality (the sender/receiver have to be more or less aligned) and its "one to one nature".

At the beginning, configuring IrDA was a nightmare, but as with everything, it got better and better. Today, I can turn on the IrDA capability in my Nokia 6210 (yes, I own a 6210, please don't laugh) and align it with the IR receptor in my notebook (a Thinkpad T21) and immediately I get a popup identifying the connection for the phone. Windows (and, I assume, Linux as well) comes built it with the capability to identify that connection as a "phone line" of sorts, allowing you to create an Internet dial-up connection just as you would with a landline. And Nokia, like other cellphone makers, provides a nice package of tools that you can install on your PC to sync the contents of the phone (including SMS), which is useful not only as backup but also to create content on the PC (say, memos, calendar entries...).

So I find it heartening that all the new phones that I've seen (Nokia's 7210, 3650, SonyEricsson's P800) come with Bluetooth and IrDA. This is brilliant: it's going to be tough for a while to find Bluetooth-enabled PCs and notebooks, while all notebooks have IrDA, and getting an IrDA receiver/transmitter for a PC is easy and, more importantly, cheap. Sure, it won't be as convenient as Bluetooth, but it's still useful.

So, here's hoping that new devices, even ones that are on the pipeline now, will still support IrDA. It will still be useful for the next couple of years, as Bluetooth becomes more widely deployed, and a common built-in option in new systems.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 2, 2003 at 7:58 PM

anonymous blogging

This is interesting: Invisiblog.

"invisiblog.com lets you publish a weblog using GPG and the Mixmaster anonymous remailer network. You don't ever have to reveal your identity - not even to us. You don't have to trust us, because we'll never know who you are."
As far as anonymity goes, this is probably the furthest you can go (okay, if, as they mention in the site, you were using Freenet then it would be really, really difficult to trace the origin of a packet, let alone of a post.

That said, I have also been thinking about PKI in the context of blogging, and what it could do in terms of allowing or disallowing comments or even referrers that are not from sources that authenticate themselves properly. A few months ago there was a surge of blog-spam, both on comments and on referrers (I got hit by a few of both), but it has subsided. If it reemerges, we might have to find a way to deal with it, just as with email, and 'signed' posts, or 'signed links' might be one part of the solution.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 2, 2003 at 4:10 PM

how good is 'bowling for columbine'?

I've heard many, many good comments about Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine in which he examines the 'gun culture' of the US, and tries to find reasons why the US has a higher rate of gun homicides than any other country in the world. However, I missed it when it got released here in Ireland, so now I'm waiting for the DVD.

In the meantime, I found two sites (here and here) that debunk several, if not all, the premises on which the documentary was built. Since I haven't seen the movie I can't really comment, but one thing I find interesting about this "debunking" is that it should be easy to verify; I mean, just watch the movie and these things should be obvious. For example, the splicing of different Charlton Heston speeches mentioned in the first article should be clear since it appears that he is wearing two different suits in a segment that implies the sequence is linear. The spinsanity piece (second link) is particularly interesting to me since they are non-partisan and have attacked spin in the left as much as in the right.

One thing I do find interesting is that, if true, Moore (an avowed lefty) is engaging in little more than what other people (particularly in the right, although no one is clean of this) have been doing more of recently: bending the truth or 'connecting dots' of dubious precedence. The White House in particular has been heavily engaged in this in the past few months when trying to shore up support for action in Iraq. Unless they are so extreme that they are disgusting, I respect (although I might disagree) almost any position, as long as the person/group espousing them is honest and consistent (or makes it clear when they've made a mistake--anyone can change their mind). But consider for example this quote from Bush's speech yesterday at an aircraft carrier, declaring the end of armed conflict (although not the end of the war--if they did that, under the Geneva convention they'd also have to release the estimated 6,000 POWs currently under Coalition control, which would be, shall we say, inconvenient). Bush

[...] spoke in emotional terms not only about the troops who toppled Mr. Hussein but also about the Sept. 11 attacks, melding the battle against terrorism with the battle against Iraq. "We have not forgotten the victims of Sept. 11th, the last phone calls, the cold murder of children, the searches in the rubble," he said. "With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got."
I find it awful that the tragedy of Sept. 11 is used for this purpose. US intelligence agencies themselves identified the hijackers mainly as Saudis (12 of them) and the operation to be organized by Saudis. Today, as was widely reported before the war began (take, for example, this article), almost half of US citizens believe that Iraq was either heavily involved or somewhat involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. There are no facts whatsoever that point in that direction. The Bush Administration itself identified Al-Qaeda as the main culprit, and, when linking Iraq and Al-Qaeda in the UN in February, Collin Powell talked much more about the risk of Iraq's weapons falling in the hands of terrorists than on the apparent links (which, tenous or not, he argued as being recent).

Both Moore (if he did what is claimed with his documentary) and the Bush Administration (if they are, as it appears, encouraging overtly or covertly the spread of things that aren't true) could be say to be voicing things in a way that reinforces what they truly believe in. I guess it goes back to the question: "Would you be willing to lie (or at least not tell the whole truth) to advance a 'cause' you truly believe in"?

As far as I'm concerned, the answer is no. In more mundane situations, gray areas are more commons, but for these ethical/moral/philosophical questions, when you are affecting millions of people with your message, making your case truthfully and honestly is a major element that determines true success.

Okay, I veered off into a rant there, this is a contentious subject and the particulars of each case are not what matters for what I'm trying to say. My point is: whether you're on the left or on the right, and specially for ideological debates, what counts is being honest. Everyone is entitled to their point of view, voicing their opinions and so on, but manipulating perceptions through half-truths and fabrications always ends up creating more problems than in solves. It doesn't matter if you think your cause is just: in these situations, the end rarely justifies the means.

Categories: art.media, geopolitics
Posted by diego on May 2, 2003 at 3:59 PM

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