Monthly Archives: February 2011

What is Anonymous?

Anonymous at Scientology in LAThe last year has seen some seriously interesting stories that have been either totally missed or totally misunderstood by the mainstream media. The first time I read an article discussing ‘the “Anonymous” Internet group’ attacking some site or other I was highly amused; it was obvious that they missed the point about what Anonymous is. Since then a lot has changed, and a complex set of intertwined stories concerning espionage, sabotage and corruption has emerged into the public domain that not only highlights some very dirty business within the Secret Service, but also how powerless they really are. It’s extremely difficult to summarise all of this stuff so I’ll have to leave that for another time.

Regardless, the latest press-release from Anonymous is absolutely wonderful:

The Koch brothers (odious, rich, corrupt bastards that they appear to be) have been hacked by Anonymous, just like the hopeless HBGary and ACS Law cretins were previously. Shed no tears btw – these people are real scum.

The best bit is that Anonymous are still at large, totally unstoppable and no-one outside of Anonymous seems to understand why!

There’s a reason why they wear V masks.

The Twitter Story

Following the success of The Social Network, it has been all to easy to overlook the other Internet success stories. So in the interests of fairness I present…The Twitter Story!

It’s 2006; the Internet has already become a significant part of life for the majority of the planet. Publishing is as simple as setting up a blog on a free blogging site; multiple generations of people were communicating on a regular basis with each other on Facebook; it really seemed like all the good ideas had been thought of.

But to some imagineers, this saturation was nothing more than a challenge! One imagineer in particular was permanently engaged in a mental challenge: to come up with the idea, the one that would make him rich. One lunchtime, as he sat with his two friends eating mexican food on a childrens’ slide (wacky motherfuckers three), he started asking himself questions about the Internet and the people that used it.

It was obvious to him that anyone with an idea, a modicum of inspiration and the ability to string a sentence together was already catered for by the plethora of existing successful services. How could anyone possibly compete with the existing tools. It was then that he had the flash of genius that changed the world. He reasoned this way:

Tools exist for anyone with even the most meagre level of skill and articulation to become a successful published blogger…but what about everyone else? What about the armies of vapid, illiterate dullards who are too vacuous to construct a rudimentary sentence, let alone the mental capacity to actually fill it with some basic semantic content which may be of interest to anyone else.

Realising he had struck a vast seam of untapped revenue, he set about thinking of ways to take advantage of (or “monetize” as these sort of scumbags would say) this concept.

One area of technology that had already successfully saturated the lives of the stupidest mouth-breathers was the mobile phone: you only have to get on a bus, anywhere in the world, to realise this. So, what if any twat could start a blog by sending a text message? Obviously, you’d have to limit the length of each “post” to 140 characters but for this particular demographic that limit was rather generous if anything.

And so the revolution began, and within a matter of 5 years, the “micro-blogging” site for the common man had cornered the market in globally accessible inane drivel!

As testament to this brilliance, I would like to end on a quote from one of the world’s top rappers, “50 cent”, who recently observed:
My album gonna smack da sh*t out a hater watch lol

Powerful neighbours

Much like the snow, power-cuts have a significant neighbourhood impact, and I can’t help but like it. Maybe it has something to do with enjoying the entropy, or maybe it’s because it causes neighbours to talk. We’ve had a couple of power-cuts recently; the first, a few months ago lasted around an hour and a half, and it allowed us to chat to our neighbour Denise before the juice came back on, and a cheer went up over the entire valley; the second was tonight, just as Helen was arriving for some e-book surgery.
A few houses down from us is the only house to survive the power outages (they are powered from a different circuit, on a cross-street) – the house of J and M. Despite being close neighbours, we rarely get a chance to talk properly, and so when they asked if we wanted to come over for drinks and Shepherds’ Pie we nearly broke bones to get in there. It was not only an awesome Shepherds Pie (complete with a sublime mushroom and onion gravy), the whole evening was a laugh from start to finish.
Thanks guys.

The Music Business: Doing it Right

Laying down money for recorded music has been increasingly difficult for me to do in the last ten years; it’s such a blatant rip-off for everyone concerned, except the record companies. Shelling out a tenner for a piece of plastic that cost around ten bob to make, combined with the knowledge that the artist will receive even less than that makes it difficult to swallow.
But finally, the pillars of free-market capitalism (who caused this hideous situation in the first place) are crumbling away exposing the bottom of the pyramid to the fresh air.
For decades, the Dinosaurs have pumped disgraceful amounts of their artists money into fighting away easy access to music. Publicity campaigns, threats of ludicrously OTT litigation, lobbying for draconian legal protection, investment in countless scams which purport to offer copy protection…and all it did was harm consumers and artists – the affect on pirates was negligible. The pirates will always win, and the fascists are bound to lose – but what about the artists?

At long last, people are starting to understand how the Internet works and how it can benefit musicians. Bands and labels with a clue have started to realise that they can bypass the crooked upper echelons of the business and go direct to the fans – who also benefit because they can be closer to the music.

Together with the vinyl revival, this has been happening for a while now but I’ve only just encountered it directly.

Several jobs ago, someone dumped a bunch of music on our music server (this is de rigeur in most tech companies these days by the way – you may not like it but that’s how it is). One band in the deposit was Mogwai. I didn’t really know anything about them, and wasn’t too excited by what I heard at the time. But over the years they grew on me until now I spend a large proportion of my working life with them in my ears as I write my code. Those “pirated” tracks took me from ignorance to fully fledged fanhood. Did they ever get any money out of me – well…and hears the sad part…no. I love what they do, and I want them to be successful, but I never went the extra mile and shelled-out.

In the last year I’ve had to acknowledge that I owe the band, but paying full price for a fucking CD really still goes against the grain. I’d rather buy some t-shirts direct from them, or see them at a concert. A friend told me that they had a new album on the cards, and so excitedly I checked out their website. Their label, SubPop, were offering a free sample track from the new album in exchange for joining the Mogwai mailing list. They really did a good job – the process was quick and simple, the track was excellent, the list is very low-traffic and it just made me feel more connected to the band, and excited about the prospect of the new album.

A posting on the list announced a special deal on pre-orders of the album. I have to confess that by this time I’d managed to obtain a rip of a pre-release copy and had been playing it constantly – but the nagging guilt that I wasn’t giving anything back had already persuaded me to buy a copy. This was perfect. So, a few clicks and a credit card transaction later I’d spent over double what I would normally have spent in a shop, but for a special edition vinyl release of the album.

Now, I spent more than I needed to, but in the distant past I have spent more on a single CD purchase in a retail store than this. Not only that, but this time I was dealing directly with SubPop/Mogwai which felt a great deal better than dealing with some horrible retail outlet; real or virtual. In fact, considering how rare vinyl now is, this is a bit of a bargain.

The package arrived today and it’s truly a beautiful thing. A luxuriously pressed double album with a big, thick, heavy, blue-note-style cover. It included some silly novelty things like stickers and even some Mogwai earplugs, but you know what, even approaching 40 I still love that sort of tat.

But the most excellent bit was a small card inside the sleeve on which was printed a magic number and a URL. In return for visiting the URL and typing the magic number you receive a ZIP file containing 320K MP3s of the whole album, a PDF booklet, and a 23minute long extra track which I’m now greatly enjoying as I type this.

SubPop get it! They know what they’re doing! They know what we want. Will I buy more stuff from them or Mogwai in the future? Damn right I will! I love them even more. I almost feel connected now.

Look and learn Sony.

Development part 1

“What do you do?”
“I’m a computer programmer.”

The conversation usually ends there, thankfully. Sometimes it will continue along esoteric technical paths, but mostly it won’t. And that’s the desired effect. Responding “I’m [insert bullshit job title] in IT” will frequently encourage further conversation, but who wants to talk about IT? It’s going to end up in a discussion about a recent Windows problem some poor cunt or other has experienced and needs help with. Apart from not knowing the answer, I just feel depressed that the wonders of technology have become as bollocksed-up as they are now…primarily thanks to Microsoft’s terrible lack of vision. The word “developer” is another way to extend these moribund conversations – avoid it.

But this is all rendered irrelevant by the fact I spend all of my free time writing crap code for my own amusement. If someone were to ask “what would you do with eleventy-squillion dollars?” I would have to say that it would be doing exactly what I already do on the weekends…writing stupid code.

In terms of dayjob, we “developers” spend our entire lives gaining further experience and honing our skills. Tragically there is a “developer culture” that involves reading the same blogs, books, and then discussing how our interpretations are better than yours. In reality we’re actually just getting more experienced, older and sadder.

Excellence, arrogance, success and failure

Since moving here, a constant source of amazement has been derived from the local mass transit authority: SEPTA. They have many, many, flaws but overall I have to admit that they do an equivalent, if not better, job with their resources than TfL (sorry Simon). The day after 15 inches of snow fell, despite the forecasters’ assurances that it wouldn’t happen, the trains ran on-time.

More importantly, the staff have always been essentially helpful, accurate and friendly. “You’re leaving me early?” asked my lovely morning 99 driver on the day I was too tired to realise I was at the wrong stop. She is the model on which all bus drivers should be based btw.

And let’s not forget Philly’s favorite bus driver, Bruce, who holds court over every bus he drives, and manages to get a laugh out of every passenger. In fact if a single passenger failed to crack a smile, I’m sure he would take it personally.

The other impressive SEPTA victory is the “regional rail”: each train arrives and departs on time, and includes a full staff of helpful, friendly people who not only understand the byzantine fare-structure but can advise passengers on the cheapest way to complete a journey. It’s like they enjoy their jobs, and take pride in providing a good service! One excellent guy told me about an obscure type of pass called a “Cross County” which was absolutely perfectly suited to my particular way of life. $100 a month for any journey I could take to work, combined with travel anywhere on the network, on whatever medium, over the weekends! It was cheaper than I was paying for a one-way journey each way.

So, when you meet the type of officious cock-end I’m used to meeting with TfL, it’s a shock. Last week I lost my monthly pass. This is quite stressful because it is worth a significant amount of money. However one particular kid on the train wasn’t prepared to deal with me and my obvious fare-evasion ploy and gave me what I can only describe as a “right load of shit”. I offered him the receipt for the pass and his response was “that’s no good to me. I need a ticket.”
“Smartass!” said the elderly lady across the way from me (presumably directing her irritation to the young cock…although I suppose it could have been directed at me…anyway…)
Fortunately, my main man was also on the train and he vouched for me (he was the one that told me about the cross county pass in the first place).
I got home and searched everywhere I could before Michele found the pass in one of my shirts. I now look forward to seeing Mr Bellend again. Some people choose to grow beyond harbouring grudges…I am not one of them.

More Technolust

Immediately after reading details of Google’s prototype Chromeos netbook – the CR-48, I became mildly obsessed. This morning the mild obsession was promoted to wild, frantic, fully-fledged, autistic obsession; my HoD woke up this morning to find one on his doorstep and I got a chance to play with it. There were a lot of, probably valid, negative comments from other colleagues, but I fell in love with it in a profound way and now…


Despite being a geek, I tend not get excited by new technology. The last two devices that I really developed an obsession for were a Motorola F3 e-ink phone, and my beautiful Bencher morse paddle; neither device could really be described as high-tech or cutting-edge, but I wanted them so badly I couldn’t help myself.
But this isn’t so easy: you can’t buy them. Google have to decide to send you one. And the strength of desire makes me feel like Charlie Bucket with Asperger’s.

It’s…perfect! Unbranded, voluptuous texture, no windows key, wifi, 3G, webcam…sorry, I’m afraid I’ve just cum.

Certificate of Wrongness

Being an opinionated, arrogant, arse who works with a bunch of opinionated, arrogant, arses, I spend a great many hours engaged in heated debates. These arguments usually end in deadlock but occasionally they become a farcical circus where one of us realises they were wrong but pursues their argument in the hope of finding some truth in order to save face (usually by changing the argument or invoking some form of logical fallacy). For the purposes of catharsis and the lulz, the common reaction by the others is to demand an acknowledgement that wrongness has occurred: insisting they use the words “I was wrong”.
Pondering this, I wondered whether it should be put in writing for posterity in a kind of “Declaration of Wrongness”, that can be pulled out and waved at the victim in future debates; again this would be both cathartic and generate lulz.
Two colleagues (both geniuses) went further and created a legally binding, and utterly brilliant Certificate of Wrongness!
Download it, save it, and use it for righteousness.