Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rotary, the Rotarian and Desmond Tutu

Over the last few years, it's been my privilege to be a member of two Rotary Clubs, the first was the Rotary Club of Essex and Rotary Club of Brantford. I have truly enjoyed the experience of the Clubs, not only for the get togethers and fellowship, but for the way Rotarians give back to the community and to the world. Both clubs, the former and the present are composed of people who work very hard to make the communities a better place. The Essex club only had a few members, less then 20, but each member worked hard for the local, district and International work of Rotary. The same holds true with Brantford.

One thing I did learn from my time in Essex is the fact that Rotary does live up to the term "International" in its title. Over the last number of years, the emphasis of RI has been the eradication of polio. RI and club members have donated both money and time to bring this about, in fact Rotary is close to bringing about the end of the polio scourge. There are just a handful of places left on the planet where polio still exists. So huge has been this effort that recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave a grant of $355 Million to assist in the effort. For his willingness, Bill Gates has been made an Honourary Rotarian.

With this battle almost at an end doesn't mean Rotary is going to rest and become a "fork and knife" club, already clubs are getting involved in providing clean water to the developing world. This new challenge is now gathering a great deal of momentum:
Recognizing the vital importance of safe water, Rotary International policy encourages all Rotary districts and clubs to support efforts which help people to provide themselves with safe water. The safe water projects are to be reasonably close to homes using simple sustainable technology. This policy is reflected in projects of all sizes in all parts of the world

What got me writing about Rotary this day, besides the fact I enjoy being a Rotarian is that today I received my April copy of The Rotarian. This is the monthly magazine for Rotarians of Rotary news. Of course I read each issue but this one in particular caught my eye, because on the cover was the Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In the issue is an interview of the Archbishop Tutu by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. It is an amazing interview that gave me some interesting insights into one of the heros of the late 20th century. He is a man not afraid to give his opinion. In fact the Wikipedia article gives this quote:
Tutu is widely regarded as "South Africa's moral conscience"[18] and has been described by former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, as "sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humour, Desmond Tutu's voice will always be the voice of the voiceless".[16] Since his retirement, Tutu has worked to critique the new South African government. Tutu has been vocal in condemnation of corruption, the ineffectiveness of the ANC-led government to deal with poverty, and the recent outbreaks of xenophobic violence in townships across South Africa.

It is interesting to note he did not vote in the last general election, when one considers he spent the vast majority of his life NOT voting, this was an incredible act. To him it was to draw attention to the corruption of the ANC.

In the interview he gives his opinion on conflict, ending poverty, the election of Barak Obama, the future role of the United States and a few other things. What impressed besides the entire article was the fact he can give another dimension to situations, for example, the recent global recession he says:
Tell me, with this present economic hoo-ha – yesterday there was money, today the money disappeared, and then a government can produce US$700 billion [as a federal bailout] – where did this money go, and where does this new money come from? [The U.S. government] was saying to their own people, there isn’t enough money to beef up schools in poor areas, there’s not enough money to give every American access to health care. But God is saying, there is enough for everybody’s needs, there is not enough for everybody’s greed.

That is his overall theme, there is enough for everybody. He views the world as the gathering of individuals who should care for each other. He discusses Ubuntu, the philosophy not the Linux Operating System.

He says:
It is probably the best gift we can give to the world. It’s reminding us that we are meant for togetherness. I come into this world, and I’m a helpless lump. I don’t come fully formed. I have to learn how to speak as a human being. I have to learn how to think as a human being. I have to learn how to be human through other people

To Tutu, relationship is all important, he concludes with this:
We are meant for togetherness.

So follow the link above and read the article.

I should blog soon about Ubuntu the Operating System soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Tuesday Night Blog at Starbucks

First of all I do wish everybody a Happy St. Patrick's Day. The day for wearing the green and enjoy the fun and frivolity of the occassion, which is why I'm in Starbucks, waiting for band practice to begin.

It was a fantastic day and so I was able to get out, walk around and take a few photographs with the camera phone. One in particular was this one:

To give some background to this hole, this hole used to be some businesses that were torn down

to make way for the expansion of Laurier Brantford, which is a satellite of Wilfrid Laurier University. It was to be a number of things; student commons, classrooms and offices. The demolition took place in the summer of last year. It is supposed to look like this:

It's going to be a great looking building, but things are now delayed for a bit. So it is now a hole in the ground along Dalhousie. Still, it will get going soon, I should imagine.

Other thoughts:

Dell launches the Adamo. It is considered the thinest computer ever made, although it weighs a whole pound more then the Macbook Air. Just what the world needs, another expensive thin computer, I think I'll stay with my Dell Studio 17.

I conclude with what must be the photo of the Day:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Tragedy of STS-119

After a day's delay, the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-119) performed a nearly flawless launch. In fact some considered it one of the best launches in a very long time. After a beautiful dusk launch
, NASA reports all is going well. It was a total success.


What they won't report is the fact there was one fatality on this flight. This is the tragedy of STS-119, a tragedy that is compounded by the fact that NASA is now engaged in a cover-up. I am talking about the death of the bravest member of the crew, Flippy-Flap the Bat. Yes, there was a bat that had landed on the side of the external fuel tank and was 'sleeping'. was right on when it reported the bat was attempting to stowaway aboard the Shuttle.

Flippy-Flap had a dream of going into space. Flippy was known to spend his nights, not only catching moths, but looking to the stars. A prolific and avid twitterer he shared his desire and dream. Flippy truly believed space was the destiny of bats, after all, he was a flying mammal. Flippy heard of the upcoming launch of Discovery and knew this was his opportunity. He had one problem, in that he had miscalculated his flight and was bound to miss the launch. But, for his good fortune, the launch was scrubbed on the 14th and rescheduled for the 15th. With joyous abandon, he flew to the huge external fuel tank, and waited for his chance to sneak aboard. People had laughed that the bat had mistaken the fuel tank for either a very large female bat or a extremely large moth. The fools, they had no idea that the soul of Flippy-Flap was bound for space.

He made one more mistake, and that is he fell asleep attached to the side of the external fuel tank. He missed his opportunity to enter the crew area, but instead of flying off, he stayed attached, the dream was so real and strong that nothing was going to the stars. His goal, his dream, to be the first bat into space was soon to be the reality.

So the countdown proceeded on the 15th; people speculated the fate of "the bat" would be either, it would wake up as the shuttle prepared for lift off and fly away, hopefully fast enough to escape the blast. Or, it would be turned into BBQ bat. NASA agreed the bat posed no threat to the integrity of the Shuttle. But why would Flippy, he was to be a part of the crew. He was not a terrorist as some were calling him, people such as Rush Limbaugh or Dr. James Dobson, he was a bat who looked to the moon and wanted to be there, his was not going to sabotauge but be with them.

What actually happened to Flippy-Flap is now part of speculation and myth, he would never leave the Shuttle. There is one photograph that shows this fuzzy object clinging to the side, holding on for all its strength. Flippy was not going to give up.

Likely what happened, Flippy stayed with the shuttle until the fuel storage cell was ejected from the Shuttle. While tragic, he was able to experience his dream of flight and leaving the Earth. He died but he gained his goal, the first bat in space.

And so, to those who paid the ultimate price to achieve the goal of reaching the stars, we add a new Hero, Flippy-Flap the Bat.

To his memory let me quote the wonderful poem High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

— John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Godspeed Flippy Flap

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tuba, Music and Copyleft

As you know I play the Double B Flat Bass or Tuba. It's a marvellous instrument and through playing I have been exposed to a lot of interesting music and variations. Also, considering how big the thing is and all the tubing, it's great exercise for the lungs. It's a lot of work to produce music on one of those things, and to be honest there are times the sounds I produce are 'creative', shall we say.

What I have noticed is a great deal of the newer music I play with the band are variations and arrangement based upon various hymns and sacred tunes. There is nothing wrong with that, after all it is good to read and play how composers interpret the music of the past. In a way, it's giving new life to old tunes.

There is something that gets under my skin when I look at the music, and no it is not the crazy octave jumps some of these composers like to force upon us, I mean after all, a F below middle C to F, after a long hold, give me a break. Or at least a spare cannister of oxygen. Now what disturbs me is that the new music is all copyrighted. There are a few people reading this who are probably thinking 'so'. I'll get to that in a few seconds.

If you've read any of my blogs you might know I consider myself a Copyleftist. By that I believe culture should be considered open source, another way to describe what I think would be to say I believe in the Free Culture Movement. This is not to say I oppose people or organizations making money off their creativity, that would be wrong. However what I oppose is the length of time a copyright can last. If I can quote from Wikipedia:
Copyright has been internationally standardized, lasting between fifty to a hundred years from the author's death, or a finite period for anonymous or corporate authorship; some jurisdictions have required formalities to establishing copyright, most recognize copyright in any completed work, without formal registration

As you can read, once you stick that little © at the bottom of any piece of work, its stuck in a time warp for at least 100 years following the death of the creator. Again, some might think, 'so'? Hear me out, much of the work is based upon previous work that has entered the Public Domain. In other words, they use as their base, music which has entered into public property. It's there for anyone to take, change, interpret or to use the modern expression Mash Up. It`s not stealing, its re-interpreting the music to either a new generation of musicians and listeners, or allow the composer to interpret the music so that it speaks to them in a unique way. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact it should happen, because music needs to live, in fact all creative acts need to be taken and interpreted so that it `speaks`to the new generation of listeners.

If you`re not sure about this, consider how public domain works have been used by Walt Disney Ltd., works such as `Cinderella`, `Snow White`, and other works by, say, the Brothers Grimm. All those works were part of the public domain, and Disney was able to take them and do some fascinating creativity to breathe new life into them.

However, when you put the restrictions that are now part of the copyright, you freeze out future generations from interpreting the music that speaks to them. It`s as if you are saying `Creativity is now Illegal`. I know part of the problem is that whenever you use the word `copyleft`, a person is accused on piracy, but nothing can be further from the truth. It`s allow creativity to live and be fruitful. It`s not saying making a living off creativity is illegal, it`s expanding the work and allowing others to add their interpretation. Also, and here`s the irony, when works enter the public domain, they have life; often being stuck in copyright for all the years, will simply kill it, because no one can do anything with it.

What is needed is to allow culture to breathe and live.

That`s why I wear this tee shirt

Viva la Cultura Libre

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Few Thoughts for Thursday

Just a few things going through my mind on Thursday (aka Friday Eve).

I've been thinking about the economy, like no one else has that topic on their mind. Right now, we are inundated with bad news, it seems you can't turn on the TV or radio, or even read a newspaper without hearing of some dire news about something. Just recently the latest has been the threat given to the various levels of government by Chrysler Canada. The threat is a simple one, extract concessions from the Unions and promises from the governments or else they will simply close all the factories in Canada. The Unions are angry and the Ontario government is unimpressed. Peter Foster of the National Post suggests letting the Automotive Companies fail.

So what should happen to stimulate the economy? I mean conventional thinking, at least the thinking of today is for governments to throw gobs of money at the failing industries, such as the Automotive and the Banks. Personally I think if history has proved anything, it is that bailouts to the automotive industry has tended to be a good thing, for one they use the money well and second they pay back with interest. As for the banks, I've got a few ideas for them.

Jo-Anne suggests giving money to consumers instead of the banks. That way consumers can buy goods and services and stimulate the economy. A good idea but a few problems, the main one being inflation. Still it's a good thought.

Is it a good idea for government to stimulate the economy by adding money, or priming the pump if you will. It seems Keynesian economics is not in fashion, after years of neo-liberalism and monetarism. The central tenet of Keynesianism is:

he innovation in his core argument is to stop taking prices and wages as perfectly flexible, arguing instead for a certain degree of stickiness. Thanks to stickiness, it is established that the interaction of "aggregate demand" (in his sense) and "aggregate supply" (in his sense) may lead to stable unemployment equilibria. His work on employment went against the idea that the market ultimately settles at a state of full employment—a central tenet of Classical economists. Instead he argued that there exists a continuum of equilibria, the full employment equilibrium position being just one of them. (This idea underlies the choice of the title "General Theory": the classical theory being just a special case.)

So, is there another way, here's my suggestion. First of all, I think the government should incorporate a little bit of Chinese Justice. You might remember the Tainted Milk Scandal, I believe the end result was the shooting of a few managers and others in high management of the guilty corporations. Now imagine a few CEO's of the banks and investment companies being marched out to a wall on Wall Street and shot by a firing squad. You wouldn't have to do all of them, just a couple and I'm sure the credit markets would open instantly. Think of it as the "Marketing Division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation" response. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy described them as:
A bunch of mindless jerks that were the first ones up against the wall when the Revolution came

I think you get the point.

More seriously and I think Jason Calacanis of Mahalo was right. He opined on an episode of TWIT that the way out of this economic mess will be one entrepreneur taking a risk and hiring or keeping one persom employed. The risk is to keep one person employed when conventional wisdom would say to lay off. It is a risk because it goes against the news of the day. The word of the day is 'layoffs'. but what if one says, "I'm not bowing to conventional wisdom, I'm going against conventional wisdom".

Recently Chrysler announced the laying off of 1200 workers. All that does it maintain the dire economic news. By laying off 1200 people, the economy has just shrunk by that amount. Actually it has shrunk by more. But, consider if the Chair of Chrysler had thought it through and figured the best solution would be to keep people employed andn producing goods. Perhaps a few concessions from the Union might be a good idea, but I'll not go into that. For certain he would have taken it on the chin by shareholders for not balancing the book or getting rid of inventory. But how do you get rid of inventory when the people to buy the inventory can't afford to because they are unemployed. That would have been an incredible stimulus for the economy, plus the good news that would have come instead of all the bad news? Sure stocks would have gone down, but why is the stock market the be all and end all.

People watch what happen and think, 'perhaps things are starting to get better', this gives them optimism and they start to hire and produce again and the result, the pump is primed.

There is one difference between this method of recovery and the one that is being suggested, it doesn't cost a cent of taxpayers money. By the way, I heard that some hospitals in Windsor are cutting back staff, again another example of the economy shrinks. I suppose the assumption is people don't get sick when the economy is bad. What if that hospital accepted the challenge and didn't lay off anybody.

I realize this is simplistic, but then again, complexity doesn't always work. In fact when it appears the simple is counterintuitive, it may be the right solution.

What else am I thinking about?

Well, I got the new U2 CD, No Line on the Horizon. I can say it is a good CD, perhaps not a good or as great as The Joshua Tree or The Unforgettable Fire.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Starbucks and Tea

As you may know, I like Starbucks. It is one of my favourite coffee stores. I have enjoyed Starbucks in Vancouver, Toronto, New York City, Belleville, Windsor and Brantford, to name a few places. I've also got a collection of Starbucks cards, which I use extensively. I also make sure I have a balance on one of them, so that if the thought strikes me, I can enjoy a nice Starbucks drink.

One thing we all know about Starbucks is that they sell coffee and espresso. Usually the joke has been made as to the price of the coffee or how people have established their own language when ordering their favourite drink. Still I can't kick, they keep one of my daughter's employed as a baristra.

Over the years, Starbucks has expanded their menu and one of the major additions after their Frappuccino has been their Tazo teas.

While a good concept, I'm afraid in some cases, Starbucks has not done tea drinkers a service with their various concoctions. To wit, in some cases they have decided to devise a tea latte. Now my problem is this, tea is not to be latte. I do understand and quote extensively the saying Blythe used in the movie The Great Escape that "Tea without milk is so uncivilized". He said this to Flt Lt Anthony Hendley, by the way. There is a difference between adding a bit of milk to your tea and a latte. A latte is a rather large amount of milk. I tried their Vanilla Rooibos Latte and realized they had ruined the flavour of the Rooibos tea through the process.

There could be other examples, but I think the problem is one of concept, tea is by nature, a delicate infusion of tea leaves and hot water. It is drink that may be the puriest and simpliest drink of them all, after water. It is no wonder that tea was adopted by Buddhists accepted it as their drink. It is a very zen experience, to watch the play of leaves and water.

Certainly tea has been a great source of inspiration. There has been some great poetry written about tea. To give an example:
Saw Luk Yu off to Pick Tea

Thousand mountains greeted my departing friend
When spring tea blossoming again
With indepth knowledge in picking tea
Through morning mist or red evening clouds
His solitary journey is my envy
Rendezvous in a temple of a remote mountain
We enjoyed picnic by a clear pebble fountain
In this silent night
Lit up a candle light
I knocked a marble bell for chime
While deep in thought for old time.

Huang Pu Zhen-- Tang Dynasty poet, friend of Tea Sage Luk Yu

So I say to Starbucks, allow the tea to express itself as it should, the simplier the better.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Netbook? Notebook?

As you know, from reading my blog, I recently purchased a new laptop computer. My first one, the Dell Inspiron 1000. It was a budget computer, but it did all that I wanted a computer to do, web surfing, word processing, spreadsheets and the sort. I also used it to experiment with Linux, installing Ubuntu on it, and loving the ability to play around with this great operating system.

So after four years, the computer bit the dust, it has been suggested to me that there was an issue with the motherboard. So I waited until the new year and purchased my bright shiny Dell Studio 17. I could have bought any one of a number of computers, but I chose Dell because:

a) when I went to a electronic store, the staff was way too busy to answer my question and
b) I like the ability to pay monthly.

I won't go into the full details of what the computer has, because you can read it elsewhere. I can say it has a 17" glossy screen and has 3Gigs of Memory. It is a fast operating machine- plus I do like the built in webcam. Just the thing when I want to do a quick video for Seesmic or perhaps do a video message on Facebook. I haven't done that yet, I tried in February but the message I got was the servers at Facebook were down.

Of course, it is a large laptop, weighing over 7 lbs, but that's the price to pay if a person wants a larger, clearer screen for viewing videos and movies.

After saying all that, the major news has been towards the new version of laptops that are called Netbooks. I did look and consider them for a while but I must admit, I was not impressed with the small size. I know that is the main selling point, but I look at the keyboard and consider I may have problems typing. I recently saw a person use a Dell Mini-10< was not overly impressed with the compactness of it and how it operated. The one I saw had the Windows XP system, and I know this because the organization has options that can only apply to Windows software.

I undertand the machines have very reasonable prices, certainly it something to consider that a person can buy a computer for under #300.00 and have a good operating machine. Regardless of that, I like a computer that is a computer, plus I liked the fact I can get a green cover.

It seems my thinking may be a bit behind the curve, Wired Magazine reports that netbooks are becoming popular with business. It seems netbooks were all the rage at this year's CES. The author of the article I mention states:
At the Consumer Electronics Show here, much of the buzz is about netbooks. Nearly every major computer manufacturer has one, and some manufacturers are explicitly targeting businesses that want a cheaper alternative for employees than full-blown laptops.

"The netbook is catching up as a much more mobile device," said Vijay Rakesh, a ThinkPanmure analyst. "They're great just for storage and working when you're out of the office."

There is a strong push now to get into the netbook game, Om Malik wrote in his blog a couple of months ago, an article entitled: Five Things to Consider before Buying a Netbook. His main piece of advice, go with something you would be comfortable using if the thought is to go highly mobile, to use his words.

With all sorts of companies now making netbooks, and if the numbers are correcting, starting to become a major player in the computer landscape; I suppose it would be only a matter of time before the Other Computer Maker enters the fold. So right now the rumours are flying of an Apple Netbook. The rumour is that Apple has commissioned a Asian company to make the touchscreen for their netbook.

Now has engendered some discussion on the merits of an Apple Netbook. some positive and others negative. John C. Dvorak mentions in his latest Tech 6 of the fact that Apple Netbook rumours are swirling again. His point of contention is that it will be an expensive netbook.

I know there are a lot of players already out there, but as we all know, the moment anything with an apple logos shows up, there will be the MacFanatics throwing their money to purchase it, no matter how over-priced it is. Of course, if history is any guide, it will be very pleasing to the eye and be a work of modern art.

I do wonder if this is another example of the hype that tends to grip the tech world every so often. There are other voices, Joe Wilcox wrote an article entitled: The Problem with Netbooks.

There are some problems and I have to say I'm happy with a regular sized laptop then one of those smaller models.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Arrogant Worms visit Brantford

This past Friday night (March 6th) The Arrogant Worms brought their unique combination and music and comedy to Brantford's Sanderson Centre. I had found out of their appearance in September and had bought the tickets for the event in October. So I have been waiting for their appearance for quite awhile. This was not the first time I had seen the Worms in Concert, the first time was in Picton Ontario.

The Worms, who are Mike McCormack, Trevor Strong and Chris Patterson, came to the stage at a bit after 8:00PM. Now it was immediately pointed out that Chris looked a bit different, in fact he had morphed into Mike Ford, formerly of the Canadian group Moxy Fruvous, group which had as member, Jian Ghomeshi, who was also the former host of the CBC program >Play, I still have the tee shirt.

The opening few minutes the troupe joked about Chris Patterson and how things like sleep are probably foreign to him now, in fact one of the member said he's probably walking around like a zombie attempting to change the diaper of strangers.

It was revealed that the group had a Brantford connection, Mike McCormack's parents were both born and raised in Brantford and met at the Cockshutt Plow Factory. Also, the video of one of their most popular songs, "Carrot Juice is Murder" was shot in Brantford. The scenes of the protest were shot on the steps of the Carnegie Centre in the downtown. They explained the reason for choosing Brantford was if they had done the video in Toronto, they probably would have been arrested. As it was, as they were shooting, a few of the Brantford cops came around to see what was happening and when told of the video expressed a "cool" and then suggested a location that may have offered better light.

They played a mixture of songs from a number of their albums, including the latest, Beige and Torpid. As well, a number of classics, including that great sing along song "Mounted Animal Nature Trail", the joke of the song is the audience participation during the chorus "And the cow goes....'Moo'", which is part of the joke, the animals are dead. Part way through the song, someone said outloud "Oh I get it", which led to the suggestion that should be incorporated into one of the signs of Brantford, "Brantford, Oh I get it". They also made constant reference to "Crazy Bill's", which is a local convenience store next to the Sanderson Centre. Mike Ford got tired of one young person near us and jumped down to the stage and "threatened" him, he said he was lucky he wasn't in the aisle seat. I think Mike probably gets unhinged easily, after all, he did tour with Jian.

One of the newer songs that was funny was "The Hot Dog Song". Here is the lyrics:
Everybody loves hot dogs
Even pasty Hippies
'Casue its hard to beat a tube of meat
But now a question hits me

What the hell's in
A hotdog
I shouldn't ask maybe
'Cause i don't know any animals that grow cylindricaly

So have a hotdog on me my friends
It's made out of animal oddds and ends
Have a hotdog on me my friends
It's the particle board of meat

Its good to reuse and recycle
The unpopular pieces of meat
That are quite gross
Yet after they're proccesed
Are such a Delicious treat

That the children eat them 'til they're queasy
Because they love the taste
Of sodium phosphate
And iridorbate
Soy protien
And Sodium nitrate

So have a hotdog on me my friends
It's made out of animal odds and ends
Have a hotdog on me my friends
Its the praticle board of meat

May or maynot contain
Chicken and, or
Pork and, or

So have a hotdog on me my friends
Dont think 'bout the parts from the pigs rear end
Have a hotdog on me my friends
Its the particle board
The particle board
The board particle
Off mmmmmeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaat

Meditate on that truth, "The Particle Board of Meat".

The songs were hilarious, the banter was equally so, you would think all three of them had toured for years, well two of them had, but the chemistry was great. The crowd was appreciative and got into the humour. I even cheered and got acknowledged by them when they started talking about "Tubas". Being a tuba player, I could not simply sit back.

They ended the evening with their most popular song, "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate". But even after that, the crowd was not satisfied, they came back for two encores.

It was truly a great evening of fun and humour.

I would have included photographs, but the Sanderson Centre has some silly rule about using photographic equipment.

If you get the chance, go see the Worms live. You will thank me.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The year 2009 and Facebook

A couple of years ago, the Big Thing in the social networking and media world was My Space. It was huge. Everyone who wanted to have a presence was going to MySpace. It was THE place for teenagers and indie bands to go and have a presence. You had to be there if you wanted to be anyone. It was so large that Rupert Murdoch dropped 580 Million Dollars to buy it. It was going to gives News Corp a huge presence with young people.

That was part of the good news, and then the bad news began to follow. It became a place where cyberbullying was the norm and a place where sexual predators would hang out and go trolling for little kids. Part of that was due to the fact that young people were posting everything about themselves online.

While MySpace is still popular and growing, in fact according to the Wikipedia article, it was still attracting hundreds of thousands of people a day, at least during 2006, I have to believe it's slowed a bit.

There has been other problems; in the September 2006 issue of PC World, MySpace was considered the worst websitein the Internet. It was considered to be full of spyware and that it got compromised by phishers. So the lustre came off that rose. But like I said, it is still there and still making a presence.

Now let's forward to 2009. I have a facebook account. Over the last few things, Facebook was the big thing. In fact, Toronto was declared "the Capital of Facebook". You had to have an account and if you didn't people gladly sent you them. How many emails were links or invites to join facebook.

To be honest, Facebook has a lot of good points, it is a way to keep in touch with family and friends. You can meet people you haven't seen for years. There are groups of interests you can join. There are also games and quizzes a person can play and have a good time. You can post photographs to share with family and friends. It's an all in one place, where you can send messages through walls and then through emails.

Now, let's consider 2009, after two years of positive spin and hype, there are some cracks appearing in the wall. The uproar started when Facebook attempted to change its Terms of Service agreement. According to the new TOS, Facebook owned all your material. You can read it here. Here is the Big Issue:
You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the licence granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content. Facebook does not assert any ownership over your User Content; rather, as between us and you, subject to the rights granted to us in these Terms, you retain full ownership of all of your User Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your User Content.

When people who read TOS say the change, it was the red flag before the bull. There was a huge uproar over the change. There were so many complaints that Mark Zuckerberger had to pretty well apologize and promise never to do that again, unless they have the input of the users of the site. It was hailed as a victory for users and democracy. Then again, if you can remember last year when Facebook changed the Home Page, that caused an uproar.

Now the bad news is coming strong, a teen is suing facebook over the issue of cyberbullying. Now there are issues of security. Also a koobface worm is making its rounds. You open a link to a video and you fill your computer with malware. Wonderful when you think about it.

Again, more bad news. Now I suppose the hype is now towards Twitter. It is attracting all the attention, just listen to anything by Leo Laporte and the TWIT Network. Also it's attracting celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher. There's also Stephen Fry who may have the most number of followers of all twitterers.

So I guess is, when will the negative stories about Twitter start to surface? When will read of the security problems of Twitter. Oops, they have already started.

By the way, you can add me to your twitter followers, I'm here.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Calling the World

It was about a decade ago that people were lamenting that over half the world had never made a telephone call, it revealed the sad fact of the digital divide, or at least of the communication divide that existed between the first world and the third world. The countries of the third world were simply not catching up, or were at a disadvantage.

Clay Shirky of Wired wrote:
Half the world has never made a phone call. It's a striking statistic, especially handy when underlining the seriousness of the digital divide between the Western and the developing worlds. Future South African president Thabo Mbeki cited it in a speech he gave at the Information Society and Development Conference in 1996. Vice President Al Gore said it in 1998; former FCC boss Reed Hundt said it in 2000; HP's Carly Fiorina said it in 2001; and — though they were not debating each other at the time — Michael Moore and Newt Gingrich both said it in 2001. As did Kofi Annan, secretary general of the UN, in a presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Not to be outdone, Tatang Razak, a spokesperson for Indonesia's Mission in New York, raised the stakes in April: "After all," he summed up in a speech before the UN, "most of the people in the world have never made a phone call."

This is the kind of factoid that journalists call too good to check.

Let's move forward a decade and consider the most recent news release from the International Telecommuncation Union has announced that telephony growth has meant that 60% of the world has now made a phone call. From a report by the ITU, it was announced there are now 3.3 Billion mobile phones out there and the majority of the news ones are found in the third world. The report demonstrates that while the digital divide is still there, progress is being made.

When you think about it, this makes sense, the beauty of mobile telephony has to be cost, it's far cheaper to build a bunch of towers then put in the infrastructure for landlines. You have to string a lot of wire, run it into peoples' houses, to say nothing about the technology needed to establish a phone company. Consider what is required for mobile phones, towers, radio waves and phone numbers. I know that is an oversimplication, but I think you know what I mean, it's far simplier to establish a mobile network then a land-based network.

Part of the article read:
Africa showed the strongest gains over the past two years and more than two thirds of all mobile subscribers were from developing countries by the end of 2007, the ITU said.

This is 'a positive trend that suggests that developing countries are catching up," the report said.

Mobile subscription growth stood at 39 percent annually in Africa between 2005-2007, and 28 percent in Asia over the same period.

Couple this with the fact that broadband internet access is also expanding, and in some interesting places. One of those places is Senegal, where broadband penetration stands at 90%.

The second reason is that broadband is spreading quickly.
Although in a few countries broadband is offered
mainly to businesses, almost all low-income countries
are starting to provide commercial broadband services
to private end-users. While in 2001, the number of fixed
broadband subscribers represented only 15 per cent of
the world’s total Internet subscribers, this rate increased
to almost 60 per cent by the end of 2007. In a number
of developing countries, including Senegal, Morocco
and Chile, broadband subscribers represent over 90 per
cent of all Internet subscribers.

When you think about it, that is an amazing fact, so now it seems that the Internet is no longer the private plaything of the First World, but the third world is not catching on and becoming involved. Imagine how rich it will be when that expands further.

In other information and news:

I got an email today from Starbucks, touting the new Pike Place Roast coffee. Let me say, I've tried the Pike Place Roast and it is a delight. It is worth the price for a cup of Starbucks.