Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cursing, catfights and god warriors

You could argue that I watch too much bad reality TV but I really don't follow anything, there's just a bunch of programs I watch if I catch them when the TV's on, really! This is a summary beside the obviously good programs like MythBusters, Top Gear and The Daily Show:

Trinny & Susannah Undres... is really cute, I love it how they shape up lives and relationships with simple advice and gentle nudges. How to Look Good Naked is a bit obsessed with well... nudity, but that also means I can't stop watching it. And it's cool. ANTM is mostly a lot of silliness and fighting but I watch it anyway, compared to American Chopper where I really enjoy watching the fighting (and the handicraft) since there no-one is so much treated as a scapegoat, it's just a highly conflictual work place.

The other day, I saw something amazing on Wife Swap. Everyone who knows me will have noticed how I can not avoid fighting ignorance or habitual dogma, it just boils over inside of me... and how I feel that is over-represented among religious people. Few share my obseission though, so I'm pretty often taken for a crusader... against something. Though what I saw on TV was both hilarious and scary, it was about how the tattooed and shaved wife of Steve Caddel swapped homes with a fundamentalist big mama. Neither felt like particularly balanced people, but judge for yourselves:


When I mentioned it to some friends though, they assumed I was talking about Trading Spouses and the episode with Marguerite "the God Warrior" Perrin. No I didn't, then I would have been rolling around on the floor laughing, or in fear. Here it's more clear who's the unhealthy person I think:


My opinion is that she seems to be battling guilt and fear in herself, like her obesity, relationship to her family or that her daughter became pregnant as a teenager. It is not healthy to project fear and defensiveness around you like she does, the world is not actually such a dangerous place. No-one was out to hurt her and the family she traded with was being extremely friendly and open including saying grace with her and visiting a church. Sure they had a particular house with gargoyle statues and rich influence from other cultures, but the solstice party was not very mystic at all, it was just reminding of the human unity and celebrating a bit with nice people.

This Christian does not make me believe more in the existance of God or the Devil, she just reminds me how easy it is for nutcases to create their own worlds and become engulfed in their own emotions. Really easy, so you beware too. She's seriously scary.

Seems that Perrin later both has achieved obvious meme fame, but both actually went back onto another season of Trading Spouses, as well as appeared on the Jay Leno show. She also has a myspace page. Plus her daughter (the dance-academy one) died in a car accident...

(Update: I sometimes read the Chick comics for comical value, they make criticizing evangelism so much easier - and fun!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Revolutionizing a market just by changing the business model

Yesterday I decided to read in bed a bit and check out the latest issue of my favorite magazine Wired (yes, now that I have borrowed a MacBook Air, I am reconsidering my initial opinion. It is in fact quite light and comfortable, regarless of that it takes almost as much space as a normal computer). Before I comment on what I read, I want to stress how cool it is that Wired issues are all available online. It's just a matter of setting a reminder in the calendar so that you can have a look at the latest issue instead of feeling like browsing an archive. No more expensive subscription for me :-).

Anyway, the article which caught my eye was the title page one. Of how Shai Agassi, 38 years old, is audaciously set on completely getting rid of the dependence on oil in the car industry. That's a pretty highly set goal.

Agassi wants to accomplish this great feat by using existing electric car technology (no hybrids or any of that mess) and circumventing the issues of large investment cost and limited range by setting up the "fuelling" network in a similar way as cell phone operators work - if you commit to a subscription for a certain time, your expensive car will be paid for partly or entirely by the operator. Since the operator also owns the battery in your car, when you need to "fuel up" rapidly, like driving into a car wash, you can having your battery rapidly replaced for a fresh one with little extra cost. They also have other clever details in that system, such as navigation support, parking/refuelling and route planning to make sure you always get the cheapest energy.

Now we of course may have our opinions about the power granted cell phone operators in that existing business model, and maybe it's very basic to an average business student, but I'm really impressed by the way of amortizing large investments onto subscriptions and lowering the entry treshold for new customers. I really hope better place makes it, and fast!

Actually I've myself recently been in touch with a business idea which could benefit from the subscription model in terms of spreading out the cost of an expensive system. Though there's no good way to "lock" the clients to the subscription and otherwise force them to stop using the system, and the initial setup pretty much makes it all run indefinitely, partly because it's a matter of training and knowledge. At the same time, it would be nice to give the clients the opportunity to try things out and realize the system is so good it's actually worth the long-term more expensive subscription, if they initially are reluctant to chuck up all that money for a system the value of which they are not certain of. Anyone good at product management who would share ideas?



(Update: Shai Agassi has a blog called "The Long Tailpipe")

(Update 2: Finally, PRI's The World: Technology Podcast 229 mentions Better Place. PRI's WTP is a very nice podcast, do check it out and subscribe to it)

Monday, August 25, 2008

True digital nomads in Estonia

I had my doubts about whether it would work - WiFi on the bus? Yep, am sitting on the SEBE express bus Tallinn-Tartu (a 2:25 hours ride) writing this now, and the WiFi is included in the regular ticket. Maybe it's more comfortable like the friends' of Christian on the boat, but I think this is cooler and more usable. Oh, this is a good time to mention wireless-obsessed Ashish as well.


I love the concept of being able to bring your office with you and actually work as well, not just be a latte-sipping pretender :-) . Just in terms of infrastructure and social acceptance, that is not quite possible yet in Sweden at least, but I am sure they will catch up, starting with the school kids.

Maybe it could be the reversal of the process that people spend less and less time in public spaces, at least they can then spend the days way from their home-cinema apartments? Some things will need to change, but I'm sure places will pop up which work on attracting the laptop-carrying nomads.

(Update: Wow, now there's free WiFi also in my home-village Gnosjö!)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

My friend Henrik at Alfa Bravo brought me this piece of youtube video by Michael Wesch, which is one of those "wow... WOW... WOOOOOOOOW... this is really huge, everyone has to see it" things. So please see it, even though it's long. It's so cool.

One of the greatest parts of the video is at 45:25, by Lawrence Lessig (the quote is from this speech):

"We need to recognize you can't kill the instinct that technology produces, only criminalize it. We can't stop our kids from using it, we can only drive it underground. We can't make our kids passive again, we can only make them, quote "pirates" and is that good? We life in this weird time, this kind of age of prohibition where in many areas of our lives, we live life constantly against the law, ordinary people live life against the law. And that's what we're doing against our kids, they live life knowing they live it against the law."


iPhone 3G is released by EMT in Estonia

Estonian EMT has released the iPhone 3G too now. If I understand the newsletter correctly the contracts are all 24 months, so it's not comparable to the 18 months column above. I was saying that I think traffic should be cheaper in Estonia, but instead it seems they simply do not provide any "maxi" plan, and charge a bit more than Telia does in Sweden. My phone bills are currently too high, but I am not very excited about this deal.



price plantraffic includedmonthly feeiPhone 3G 8 GB,
tied 24 months
iPhone 3G 16 GB,
tied 24 months
i550100 minutes,
100 SMS, 100 MB
550 EEK
(= 329 SEK)
2670+24·550 =
15870 EEK
(= 9486 SEK)
3960+24·550 =
17160 EEK
(= 10257 SEK)
i890250 minutes,
250 SMS, 250 MB
890 EEK
(= 532 SEK)
1490+24·890 =
22850 EEK
(= 13658 SEK)
2780+24·890 =
24140
(= 14429 SEK)

Swedes have a few vowels to spare (any serbian buyers?)

For comic effect regarding the Swedish language, I told the following story:

A Finn and a Swede were arguing which ones mother tongue sounds more beautiful. Since they couldn't find any solution they asked help from an english linguistic, who asked both of them to translate the following poem by Percy Shelley into their own languages:

"Island, island, Grassy island, Grassy island's Bride."

It was the Finn's turn first. He translated:

"Saari, saari, Heinäsaari, Heinäsaaren Morsian."

Then the Swede translated:

"Ö, ö, Hö-ö, Hö-öns Mö."

I recorded myself reading that, check it out here.

Click the picture to hear me read the poem
Admittedly, I did that to have an excuse to experiment a bit more with Audacity, a great open source multi-platform sounds editing tool. It is fairly easy to use even though you of course have to get to understand some basic sound editing concepts (there are great tutorials for the program), then it's just rock'n'roll. Record or import, give it a few seconds of just background noise to analyze, remove the noise, crop the clip, amplify to normal levels and export to mp3. Very simple.

PS. Speaking of open source and free software, TestDisk saved my ass the other day, when Boot Camp Assistant deleted the opposite partition it said it would. TestDisk rapidly analyzed my disk and recovered the original filesystem like a charm!

Elb^H^Hstonia has computer security competence too!


... though can they see through a demoralizing business plan?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bloggers are yappy chihuahuas? (On obeying copyright claims)

Yesterday Fredrik Svedjetun of Dagens Media wrote an editorial where he decided to compare the community of at least Swedish bloggers to yappy chihuahuas. The generalization and silliness aside - this is a part of a long running discussion (both pages in Swedish, sorry about that) about how DM request payment for when their copyright protected material has been used by bloggers, which in turn has made the bloggers furious for more or les wellfounded reasons (therefore the yapping).

Before giving my view on this debate, I'd like to display a picture of myself depicted as a roundabout dog:


Now to the issue at hand - obviously there is a bit of friction between what is with some despise called "old media" and the new media represented by bloggers (though which to be fair should include also microbloggers, youtubers, podcasters, shoutcasters, livestreamers etc.), on the way things are done, accountability and licensing. My simplistic judgement is that the new media of course will play according to different rules, you cannot register a legal entity for every space in which you would like to share your thoughts, comment or communicate, and you can't keep track of if your material may be dissipated in either of these spaces. Though if someone manages to catch and complain to you (as was the case with Blondinbella and deeped), I suggest you follow the law and fold as much as you have to. Simple as that - they have the law on their side so quit whining!

On the other hand, we of the new media are also in our every right to make a lot of noise about copyright holders choices to greedily charge us if we'd without buying a license use their material, and it's not making Dagens Media look very good. Don't whine - notice, complain and show disliking by buying your services from someone you like better the next time.

To the point of diminishing the Swedish "blogosphere", indeed they are largely Stockholm-residing latte-sipping MF's, but they have also proven a couple of times that they are being heard and that they can accomplish some very real changes on society, which is enough reason to want to consider myself part of them. It's a bit curious though - the Swedish blogosphere is so much more tightly knit through sites like knuffa (Swedish digg.com) that even with a smaller potential audience, I would probably reach a much larger actual audience if I would write in Swedish than I do currently, writing in English. The global internet is simply to big and I'm excluded from the Swedish blogosphere since I want to be read also by my Estonian friends and others. I will have to suffer that for now I guess.

(Update: Simon has generalized the whole thing into a simple yet efficient scheme for achieving more visitors to your web sites. Yes, sometimes a small fine or bill is cheap to pay compared to the publicity you get - now if I only would be able to make money off the doubtfully legal things I do...)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You don't need a GPS? Your cow does!

Cnet Asia Crave writes:

"From the plains of southern New Mexico, we bring you a story of headset-wearing cows. The US Department of Agriculture and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are teaming up to remotely corral cattle using a wireless device that sends sound straight into the bovines' ears. HDTV-watching pigs can't be far behind."

Considering the friend of my girlfriend who wrote his thesis on "The ergonomy of the dairy farm", and how I have seen extensive prototypes for automatic sorting systems using wireless ZigBee networks for huge Saudi dairy farms... this isn't such a bad idea. Also, it's sort of an innovative location based service... where the wearer doesn't even have to be able to read the guidance device.

Indians are protesting that it's undignified for the cows and that they "look funny wearing that right on top of their heads".

Monday, August 18, 2008

Blog button - Förbundet Unga Forskare

As Simon has been writing - let's make a blog button to spread your message! As possibly too few know, I really like the Swedish Federation of Young Scientists (sv. Förbundet Unga Forskare) and want them to get as much attention as possible, so here goes:

Förbundet Unga Forskare - den bästa skolan som finns
The motif would appear obvious - Young Scientists like to blow things up :-) . Of course that's not the only thing they do, or even the primary thing, but it's easier to work with the image you already have. If you want to add it to your own blog, just copy and paste this code into the customization of the blog:

<a href="http://www.fuf.org/"><img border="0" style="display:block; margin:0px auto 2px; text-align:center" alt="Förbundet Unga Forskare - den bästa skolan som finns" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_ZOrL3_2HYA8/SKl1z1fe5QI/AAAAAAAAAL0/mFTzaU4iZlg/s400/Iblowfuf.png"/></a><br/><a href="http://unclecj.blogspot.com/2008/08/blog-button-frbundet-unga-forskare.html"><span style="font-size:0.7em">Lägg till den här knappen på din egen blogg</span></a>

I may improve this later, maybe make a better landing page and put the picture somewhere better, but this is good enough for now. Enjoy!

(Update: Let's have a blog button for Gnosjö as well:
<span style="font-size:0.8em" align="left">I am from Gnosjö! :</span><br/><br/><a href="http://www.gnosjoregionen.se/"><img border="0" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5212418522378624866" style="cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;" alt="Jag har Gnosjö-andan i mig!" src="http://bp2.blogger.com/_ZOrL3_2HYA8/SFY7B48LX2I/AAAAAAAAAFw/AOsWrjydnTQ/s200/gr_logga_13.gif"/></a><br/><a href="http://unclecj.blogspot.com/2008/08/blog-button-frbundet-unga-forskare.html"><span style="font-size:0.7em">Lägg till den här knappen på din egen blogg</span></a>

I borrowed the logo from GnosjoRegionen, but since I link to them, I hope they're happy anyhow:

Jag har Gnosjö-andan i mig!

)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Young Scientists are looking for a web editor - but do they need one?

First of all, I do not feel that I have managed to uphold my commitment to FUF (Förbundet Unga Forskare, the Swedish Young Scientists Foundation) over the summer, writing, commenting on and contributing exposure to their activities.

Anyway, I noticed a few days ago that they are looking for a new web editor. It's a great thing and I encourage anyone in of highschool ("gymnasium") age to jump onto the task. It's great fun, very developing and a merit to be working with FUF.

In my own little pink world though... I wonder if there should be a need for employed editors? FUF should be able to leave it up to the crowd of the members, but until that day is realized, I again invite you to our IRC and Skype channels. See you on the Internet, eating pills!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Today the smurfs are creating a blogstorm

My friends Christian and Jesper of the websmurf group have decided to make today a blogging day, and I will of course participate from my side of the pond. For any non-geeks this may seem like an odd thing to dedicate your day to, but for one thing, they are dedicated to prove the power of blogging.

Today, one demonstration is to make UPS listen to my old friend Dan in his objection to how they are mistreating him as a customer and then strategically making him pay for them correcting their own mistake. Go Dan! Anyone interested in helping Dan or proving modern customer power, just link to that entry and make sure to mention "UPS" and maybe "customer care" in the anchor text.


I have in the "pipeline" to write about
  • Securing your own windows computer like a pro - for Christian at mjukvara.se (Done, being processed before publishing)
  • Colonialism and spreading democracy - the speck in your brother's eye and plank in your own - for the Emigrant Blog
  • It's not "gaming" anymore, it's "e-sports" now - for this blog
  • How to encrypt using security tokens and S/MIME - like a professional - for this blog
  • The customer is always right - Engineers do not learn service -for this blog
  • Fysiktävlingen - for this blog
  • Social bookmarking - Finding the popular pages and reading the popular books - for this blog

I suspect I won't finish all that today... actually I won't even try to finish it all, it's nice just to have it in the pipeline too :-)

Hey guys, don't miss out making a visit to "Karin på Ön" as well, one of the coziest and strangest cafés I've visited in a long time.

Check back here for updates later.

(Update: Actually, I spent my evening reading and commenting at Blogge Bloggelito (not safe for work) about Göran Skytte and Russia annexing Ossetia, at mjukvara.se and Tommy K Johansson. I'm pretty happy about managing to put together the last pieces of that security tutorial for Christian, finally! )

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

FRA critics from the grave - how will you then silence them?

Today from the department of politics and futurism:


(read more at the Orwell Diaries)