Monday, December 30, 2013

Antiques Roadshow discovers Van Dyck

I used to be interested in this show back when I had a television and watched PBS. In each episode everyone is hoping exactly this will happen . . .


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013


The announcement by Canonical that they are creating their own graphics stack called MIR has been inciting quite a bit of vitriol and drama among developers in a number of open source streams this year. The future of my preferred Linux distributions of late Kubuntu and Lubuntu is rather unclear at this point for future releases in 2014. I have already been plagued by broken graphics server updates a couple of times this year and it was not much fun.

As such I have been thinking about distro-hopping. Something with a big developer base, stable but not immensely fiddly to set up and maintain. After many years happily trucking along as a newbie with Ubuntu Linux and GNOME 2, and since migrating away from the "test our shiny touchscreen telephone interface with your mouse and keyboard desktop" paradigm of the Unity desktop environment, I have become a satisfied user of KDE 4 and its Qt based programs. I am much more comfortable with the command line and system management than I used to be. The enormous and easy to use Debian/Ubuntu/apt-get package tree is great, but . . .

As openSUSE is often remarked as the best implementation of KDE I started looking at that. Lots of good things have been written since the release of 12.3 earlier this year. Yast for all the system settings has often been disparaged in the past but upon testing so far seems to be great tool for nerdy total control. The rolling release Tumbleweed repository maintained by Linux hyper-guru Greg Koah-Hartman is also inviting, as well as susestudio. Lots of in depth documentation wikis are available for the things that I do not know how to do. Word is that they have reorganised the business side in a positive way under Attachmate, and openSUSE looks robust and secure as a community and foundation. They contribute a lot to the Linux Kernel in code and funds.

What are you using these days? Any comments or suggestions?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"It's the new Capitalist Realism."

Jerry Salz on the big four mega-galleries:

But we have to ask what kinds of pseudo-museums these institutions are, because in mega-­galleries, quality, quantity, availability, opportunism, and marketability are often interchangeable. One’s never sure whether these are shows of available product, stuff floating around the secondary market, collectors liquidating assets or looking to pump and dump, or the deeply felt personal passion of the dealer. One month the megas show gigantic installations of shiny crap and bric-a-brac. The next month they’re showing Reinhardt, Rauschenberg, or De Kooning.

New York Magazine

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Harlan Ellison on government surveillance

Harlan Ellison has a healthy attitude towards government surveillance. This video is worth watching, though you may want to skip the first sixty seconds of establishing shots and news anchor banter.

The crunchbang forums have some good posts about how not to be a stooge: Here's a security guide, and a link list. And the Debian project maintains a guide to securing Linux. I admit I've yet to work through these myself, but I find them very worthwhile. It's worth mentioning that the default installations of any Linux or BSD distribution are pretty secure. But we're entering a time where it's wise to have some street smarts regarding these things.

Now pardon me. I have to go plot the violent overthrow of McDonald's.

"Creativity is a business word"

This is one of my favourite David Hickey quotes, it's from this talk (Link., which is part 2 of 5.) An editorial in Salon today about the viability of the Creative Class and its place in management culture reminded me of it. (Link.)

These resonate with me because I have one foot in the applied arts and the other in the fine arts. My role in the applied arts is that of a technician, which makes me more of an observer than a participant in design decisions. One of the things that's bothered me about the design process is the extent to which excellence is not a goal. I've kind of decided that excellence can't be the primary goal in a commercial context because the foundation of excellence is failure, and the foundation of a business is repeatable success. Anyway, in design you end up in a situation where being honest will ensure you don't get work. This is when I thank my lucky stars I am a lowly technician.

A couple weeks ago I tied up my home and work machines rendering sixty colors, eight views each for a color selection on a building facade. Beige was chosen unanimously. Did I waste my time? Yes. It wasn't arduous to make the renders, and I didn't mind making them; it just involved writing a small script to swap out the colors and change views. I made them because I would have wanted to see my options in context, if I were the decision maker. This is the "Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" effect.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Postmodernism, the school of "thought" that proclaimed "There are no truths, only interpretations" has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for "conversations" in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.

Humanities professors thrashing colleagues that stick to Postmodern frameworks and interpretations. Does this mean we can finally have a public funeral?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hello, the prime minister sent us to take all your hard drives.

A little over two months ago I was contacted by a very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister. There followed two meetings in which he demanded the return or destruction of all the material we were working on. The tone was steely, if cordial, but there was an implicit threat that others within government and Whitehall favoured a far more draconian approach.
The mood toughened just over a month ago, when I received a phone call from the centre of government telling me: "You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back." There followed further meetings with shadowy Whitehall figures. The demand was the same: hand the Snowden material back or destroy it. I explained that we could not research and report on this subject if we complied with this request. The man from Whitehall looked mystified. "You've had your debate. There's no need to write any more."
During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?
The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian's basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. "We can call off the black helicopters," joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.


And do not miss a chance to . . . Behold the fury of Glenzilla.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monday, July 08, 2013


This flash widget is a nice 10 minutes of brain massage. Like a Steve Reich piece. (Warning: Leaving the landing page may lead to NSFW content. The linked site is a grab bag of small flash creations, mostly trite.) (Link.)

Friday, June 07, 2013

From the Ministry of Information Retrieval

I swore I had posted this, but a search says I didn't. This was the keynote as last year's HOPE conference (Hackers on Planet Earth). It was given by William Binney, a former NSA employee involved in building the post-9/11 surveillance infrastructure. This has become more relevant in light of recent leaks.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Woz on Russia Today

I didn't know Steve Wozniak was a founding member of the EFF. That's pretty cool. This video is from April of last year.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saturday, May 04, 2013


"Glass just smacked of the old I’m-an-important-technical-guy-armor syndrome. The 90′s cellphone belt holster. The 00′s blinky blue bluetooth headset that guys left in their ears blinking away even while not in use. And then Google Glass..."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sterling: Here be Dragons

Bruce Sterling continues his event speech series on disruption. This time at a conference for start-ups. He gets directly to the point, and I imagine the euphoric designers here in Berlin were squirming in their seats.

.... but that's what you do, and that will be the judgement of history for your start-up culture. They are gonna' say the twenty-teens were all about that. It was a tacit allegiance between the hacker space favelas of the start-ups and offshored capital in tax avoidance money launderies.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Props to the NYT for publishing this Op-Ed by a Yemeni detainee:
And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.
I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.

Glenzilla was on the main page of the Guardian with this concise headline for his commentary: Obama, Guantánamo, and the enduring national shame

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bruce Sterling: annual rant at SXSW (2013)

Now, most of you in here aren’t novelists. I’m not complaining that novelists are disrupted and are very badly off — although we are.
What I’m telling you is that you’re more disrupted. You are worse off.
Whatever happens to musicians happens to everybody. Including you.
People like to say that musicians reacted badly to the digital revolution. They put a foot wrong. What really happened is that the digital revolution reduces everybody to the state of musicians. Everybody — not just us bohemian creatives, but the military, political parties, the anchor stores in retail malls, academics subjected to massive open online courses.
It’s the same thing over and over. Basically, the only ones making money are the ones that have big, legal stone castles surrounded with all kinds of regulatory thorns. Meaning: the sickness industry, the bank gangsters, and the military contractors. Gothic High-Tech.
If more computation, and more networking, was going to make the world prosperous, we’d be living in a prosperous world. And we’re not. Obviously we’re living in a Depression.
I’m a cyberpunk writer. I wanted to write a kind of visionary, futuristic science-fiction that was tied into real-world tech developments. I learned how to do that. I did it. I did lots of it.
But it was one of those situations where the operation was a success and the patient died. The world’s extremely cyberpunk now, but the science-fiction genre, this particular form of a counter-culture literature with its paper support structure of fanzines and conventions and specialty bookstores, it was a casualty.
If you really want to be involved in futuristic tech development — if you’re sincerely interested in it — why don’t you just do it? Why write fiction about it? Just involve yourself in it. Network with the people who are doing it. It’s not hard.
Full transcript.

Sunday, April 07, 2013


It is sort of like Zork with a great sense of humor . . . a game playing itself in your pocket computer/telephone.

Saturday, April 06, 2013


I've been reading some of the development stories from the first Macintosh team on They're very cool, some of them are quite harrowing.

Here are some notes taken by Andy Hertzfeld at an Alan Kay talk.

Here's how Bill Atkinson invented the "marching ants" selection boundary for MacPaint. 

Steve Wozniak, Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld can be seen in this documentary shot at a retreat hosted by Stewart Brand (author of the Whole Earth Catalog, and the best book about architecture ever written.) I posted a link to this video a while ago, but it's noteworthy enough repost. It also has footage of RMS playing Tapper.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I am Excited!

I am excited! Thank you Guys, and sorry i was gone for so long.

John Cleese on generating ideas

 This clip made the rounds last year. It's worth watching if you haven't seen it. I can verify what he's saying from my weekly walk in the woods. When I can get away from the minutia of my projects, the most seems possible.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Glenn Greenwald is writing for the Guardian now . . . and he is still pissed off.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

Berlin Surveillance Camera Rampage

CAMOVER. My new favorite game.

The game is real-life Grand Theft Auto for those tired of being watched by the authorities in Berlin; points are awarded for the number of cameras destroyed and bonus scores are given for particularly imaginative modes of destruction. Axes, ropes and pitchforks are all encouraged.
Link and Link.

FAQ in English. (With great logos.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

My New Coffee Break Game

A free demo with the first few levels is available here.
To get it to run under Ubuntu 12.10, I needed to fetch a couple of libraries:
$ sudo apt-get install liblua5.2-0 libglee0d1
Also, running the game in windowed mode requires an undocumented command-line switch.
$ ./teleglitch32 -w
I also recommend FTL.
Incidentally, the field-of-vision system in Teleglitch is a good illustration of the isovist concept from space syntax analysis.