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03/26/2004 Archived Entry: "An eclectic assortment"

I've been so busy for the last several days that I haven't had time to keep up with the news. The big item in the Information Technology world is the European Union decision against Microsoft; I expect I'll have more to say about that in a day or two. Meanwhile, I've been sitting on a number of items of interest, in the expectation that I'd weave them into a commentary; but instead I'll just present the assortment.

* If you thought the feds may be lousy at delivering the mail but smart about security, think again...and read this excellent piece by Richard Forno, "The Joke of Federal Cybersecurity Oversight".

* Also read this item from The Register, about the clumsy handling of nuclear warheads at the Pantex plant in Texas. Where the Bushies get off criticizing Iraq's sloppy accounting, I'll never know.

* Speaking of nuclear technology, I'm indebted to the folks at LewRockwell.com for dredging up this article about a high-school student who started producing his own fissionable isotopes. (A friend sent me this link a few years ago, and I misplaced it.) Lucky for him it happened in 1995. These days he'd enjoy a nice long vacation in Guantanamo, habeas corpus be damned.

* One candidate for euphemism-of-the-year is "information dominance", which is fed-speak for propaganda, at home and abroad. If you've had the feeling the media is lying to you, suppressing information, or slanting stories, well, it's probably been engineered. All part of The War Effort, and good citizens shouldn't question it. Those of us who think for ourselves should be cultivating independent (non-U.S.) news sources, like the Internet and shortwave radio.

* Information is controlled the other direction, too: read James Bovard's excellent piece "Quarantining dissent: How the Secret Service protects Bush from free speech".

* At the recent CeBIT show, Hitachi was showing what has been called "RFID dust" -- radio frequency identification transponders the size of tiny particles. Libertarian SF writer Vernor Vinge saw this coming, but I don't think even he expected it so soon.

* More on privacy: a county in Alabama is making workers clock in with their fingerprints...expect this technology to spread. A company in Oregon is developing a voice-analysis lie detector that can fit into eyeglasses...so you'll no longer have a choice about it; expect these to become standard issue for cops, customs agents, and security screeners, despite their claimed 10% to 30% error rate.

On the brighter side...

* A "Crossfire" of articles on open-source software. On the left, Alternet.org looks approvingly at high-tech activism, and complains that "progressive" media haven't figured it out. (Hey, none of the mainstream media have figured it out.) On the right, I was happy to encounter an article unabashedly titled "Open Source for Capitalists". As a libertarian, I can appreciate them both.

* Netcraft has a thoughtful posting on the two different yet related web phenomena, blogs and wikis. I have almost no experience with wikis, so I can't agree or disagree with their prediction that wikis prove more enduring.

* And just for fun, here's why you don't want to put Windows in your telephone booth.


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