Category Archives: Rants

Arguing on the Internet….

Quick and dirty, because, well, gaaaaaaah!!

(After the jump, click for bigger and be careful of who’s looking over your shoulder)

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So You Want to Start an Online Community…

Optical fiber provides cheaper bandwidth for l...
Image via Wikipedia

This is going to be a very non-specific post.  A thread I have been posting in over on has made me think – and you know what happens when I start thinking?  That’s right, I get sleepy.  And then I get writing.  This being the internet and bandwidth and server space being free or low cost, every day someone decides that they will start up the next killer website/forum/mailing list/IRC channel/blog.  This will be the <whatever> to end all <whatevers> and will bring in the clicks by the thousand.  These people get very excited and start to post links wherever they can find a suitable site.  And then what?

<as a fair man, this is only aimed at people who want to do something to bring in the public – starting any of these things as a personal project or somewhere their friends can hang out online means that these words do not apply>

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Things That Make You Go “Grrrrr” – Part 2

God, what a flipping week.  The first thing that got my blood boiling was that some scumbags decided that it would be a great idea to break into a locked area and try to steal electrical cables.  Or whatever was stored in the secure area.  So these utter fucking geniuses took their boltcutters and their oxy-acetylene torch and set fire to a bunch of cables that cut the power to a whole area of North Kent (Dartford up to Welling).  Yep, 2 days without power – no shower, hot drinks, hot meals (thankfully we have a gas barbecue) or anything else produced after 1908.  Bastards.

Secondly, my place of work is in the area of London covered by Southwark Council.  Obviously, their tea budget has run out because some genius had the bright idea of sending around the cigarette police.  Yep, if you do anything with your butt apart from put it in a not very conveniently located ashtray/bin or in one of those plastic pouches to go into your pocket, you can get a £50 or £75 fine (that’s $82/$123 or 58/87 euros).  They don’t advise you that wankers are operating in your area, they wait till the fag end hits the ground and then, in a move reminiscent of a mugging, a group of them surround you.  How in the name of Jeebers do they describe their day to their friends?  were these people not allowed to become prefects or hall monitors at school?

Now that’s off my chest, back to your regular programming.

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Short Thoughts on Easter Monday

  • I am not smarter than a 10 year old.  On the other hand, I can quite easily beat one in a fight and I can get served in pubs.  So who wins now, eh?
  • Google may be far more evil than Microsoft and Apple put together.  But they have convinced us otherwise.  Which doubles their evil.
  • Our politicians do, indeed, think we are stupid.  Unfortunately we prove them right every election day.
  • My tolerance for noise seems to decrease every year.  By the time I am 60 I won’t be happy unless I am living in one of those sensory deprivation things.
  • In just under 5 weeks I am getting married.  And then am having 4 weeks off work to recove.. I mean enjoy my honeymoon.
    • The spammers are going to love the fact that I am off – comments may get disabled for that period….
  • I have so many ideas for great novels.  if only I had the time, skill, knowledge and patience to do something about it.
  • Britain needs more public holidays.  Or at least, better spaced out holidays.
  • Every year is the year of the apocalypse.  Why can’t they get it right?  Who do I complain to and can I get a refund?
  • I have too many scruples.  This means I can’t get rich by fleecing the public.  I need a scruplectomy.
  • The traditional British spring weather is rainy.  Unfortunately, so is the traditional British summer, autumn and winter weather.

I hope these thoughts give you as much pleasure as they do me.

The Churner Prize

Picture of the Churner PrizeBack in February, I discussed a book called Flat Earth News.  If you still haven’t read this book, please do so.  You will find yourself nodding your head and agreeing with so much of it; the book is all the more powerful because it is written by a journalist about journalism.  The snowball started by Nick Davies has now grown, The Churner Prize is the latest result of the book.  On the FAQ page, there is a video of an interview/discussion with Davies.

So what is The Churner Prize (apart from being a pun on “The Turner Prize”)? Well, the Why? Page has a go at answering the question.  Basically, a huge chunk of news out there isn’t news, it’s simply press releases from companies or rehashes of older stories put out simply because the story is relevant to a new program or documentary.  Sadly, few people recognise these rehashes because we are all used to the news being packaged and delivered to us and we accept that it is both news and new without question.

In Flat Earth News, Davies highlights a news story which appears in UK papers every time the World Cup is nearing.  It tells us that an average member of the public is planning to take out an insurance policy to cover the emotional trauma he will feel if England loses.  (For anyone reading along, in the hard back copy this is on page 49).  The book says:

A few weeks before the start of the 2006 football World Cup, the Press Association in London put out a story about an England fan named Paul Hucker, from Ipswich, who was so worried about the risk of England failing in the tournament that he had paid £100, plus £5 tax, to insure himself against emotional trauma.

The PA story explained that, if England went down badly and he could provide medical evidence that he had suffered severe medical trauma, Mr Hucker would receive a payout of £1 million from a web-based insurance company, called ‘I find when it comes to penalty shoot-outs it gets very difficult and I wanted to insure myself against psychological trauma,’ Mr Hucker was said to have said.

This is a relatively harmless story, it’s clearly a bit of an ad but the sad thing is that every time a story like this arises (usually via the wire service), journalists and editors run it, untouched, every single time.  For the price of a £100 (plus £5 tax) policy, the insurance company has an huge ad series run in every newspaper.  How much would a genuine ad campaign of that size cost?  A quick Google (or similar search engine) for “Paul Hucker Insurance” will show that this is something that he is known for.  Journalists, not readers, should do this sort of sanity checking.

So how can you help?  If you see stories that are clearly nonsense or rehashes or press releases, let them know at their contact mail address (churner prize AT gmail DOT com – in case of harvesters, I don’t want them spammed).  Start something similar in your own country – the problem is endemic throughout the world as the major companies take over more and more news outlets and cut back on staff.  The fewer journalists and fact checkers there are, the more chance there is of this continuing.  Read the Private Eye (or similar local investigative/satirical magazines) – basically, educate yourself and others.  It’s not enough to privately scoff at crap news, we should hold the publishers’ feet to the fire and force them to print real news impartially.

Picking the Best Open Source Project

I’m pretty sure I’ve addressed this before in some way or another, but I think it bears repeating. I’ve been seeing a new influx of posts on “which is the best distro?” and frankly it’s getting a bit dull.

Newsflash: there is no “best” distro. Every one has their strengths and their weaknesses and every one of them appeals to a slightly different audience. The 3 “daddies” of Linux are Slackware, Debian and Gentoo. Each one has a reputation for being hard to install and administer – wrongly, as over time they have all taken steps to make things easier. I have tried all three and, in my opinion, Slackware is the preferred option. Note those words: in my opinion. Speak to another Linux user and they will disagree – I know people who prefer Debian, Gentoo, Fedora, Ubuntu and so on. It is purely down to personal choice. I have tried a large number of different distros and have settled on Slackware. One is no less or more a Linux user because of the distro they use.

While we’re at it, Gnome and KDE are equally as good as each other, depending on what you want. KDE has more options but Gnome is designed to be more intuitive and easy to use. Oh, Vi/Vim and Emacs? It doesn’t matter which one you use. They both can do pretty much whatever you want them to do. Personally, I use KDE and Vi – though I use Nano more than Vi.

Are we getting the message yet?  Not only does it not matter which you use, no one actually cares.  Use what you want, for the reasons you want to use them.  Or don’t.  I use them and I use the ones I like, don’t care if you disagree or not.

So the next time someone asks you which is best, point them to this.  Or don’t, doesn’t bother me either way.