Friday, July 10, 2009

The Clash of Titans

In the annals of Canadian Political history, there has been many monumentous clashes: you can think of Mackenzie King vs Lord Byng, or Pierre Trudeau vs Rene Levesque. I could continue and talk about M. Brian Mulroney vs John Napier Turner. In recent history we can think Jean Chretien vs Paul Martin Jr, or Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion.

All these shall pale when we consider the latest clash of two potential titans. I'm talking about the clash between the Green Party of Canada and the Pirate Party of Canada.

It started when Gordon McDowell posted this video on Youtube. In it, he asks Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party her opinion on the launching of a Pirate Party in Canada

To sum up her opinion, Canada doesn't need a Pirate Party, since issues such as net neutrality, internet privacy and copyright reform are covered best by the Green Party. In fact she states that:
A 12 year copyright on creative material is reasonable. Lifetime of the creator +70 years doesn’t make any sense at all.” -Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader of Canada

First of all, just on the basis of that statement, we give a big cheer to Elizabeth. When the major parties are tripping over themselves to extend the length of copyright to triple digits, it's good to see someone is being realistic.

What is interesting is that in a recent blog posting by the Green Party, there is cheering by the Greens over the election of a member of the Pirate Party and the fact the member will join the EFA/Green Bloc in the European Parliament. As you can see at the end, Elizabeth concludes:
Canadians need only look to Europe to see that Greens are in the forefront of combating restrictive patent and copyright laws

All this is fascinating, and certainly one can understand that a political organization which is working hard to elect its first member to Parliament and has developed it's brand very well in the country. In fact, there are thousands of dedicated members working across the country. It seems that it is only a matter of time that one will get elected and if one gets elected, then two will get elected and so on and so forth.

Then we come to the Pirate Party, it's basically a website, which is a forum page that is becoming very active. It has no means of signing up members, yet it's getting noticed. The site, ZeroPaid made this observation:
Their membership isn’t exactly hitting tens of thousands yet. Their manifesto hasn’t even been completed. They haven’t really been around for more than 6 months in its current incarnation. They have yet to participate in an election at all. You’d think that they wouldn’t really be making any sort of movement on their issues at all, but already, they are making waves in the media and are catching the attention of other political parties. If they are this successful already, imagine what would happen by the time they make it to the point of participating in a national election.

You can read the entire response here.

I suppose the concern with the Greens is that the membership pool for both parties is approximately the same, young, politically and digitally active. The thing which should also concern the Green party is that, the Pirates have some great t shirts

That's not to say the Green Party doesn't have t shirts:

As I said earlier, you can't have a groundbreaking, culturally changing political movement unless you have t shirts.

It certainly is the case, both parties can work together for election success and to keep issues such as I already mentioned before the media and the public. I suppose one difference and this could be due to maturity, the Green Party has a broader platform that is more then simply staying with environmental issues. The Pirate Party is concentrating on issues the affect primary the Internet, such as internet privacy the the issues pertaining to copyright. Now this is not to say they are only on those issues, if you read what Pirates say about copyright on such things as drug patents, they are far reaching and very well thought out. But we all know what the media will concentrate on: 'this is the party that wants to allow kids to download music and movies...'.

Although, the Green Party seems to have some issues regarding censorship.

It will be interesting to see how both parties decide to exist in the political landscape that is Canada. What needs to happen is an awareness in Canada that we can't keep doing politics that is simply a continuation of the 19th century. Our two major political parties are based upon 19th century Canada. It's the politics of antagonism and hostility. This is a new century and we need new view of doing things. It can't happen soon enough.

As an aside, I found out about a website in Australia called Get Up! They have a campaign called "Save the Net". The problem is this:
The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems ‘inappropriate’. Under the plan, the Government can add any ‘unwanted’ site to a secret blacklist.

While at present, Australia is the first western democracy to consider this, remember, they are simply the first- with the present attitude of most western democracies to ratched up censorship, look to this virus to start spreading.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Chrome's Coming

So much to blog about and then comes the big announcement from Google: they're developing their own operating system. You've read it in,,, countless newspapers and blogs. TechCrunch says it will redefine the operating system, for example. So I'm going to add to the noise.

From what I've read, the opinion is divided about the impact Chrome will have in the OS world. Many seem to believe that it's Google's attempt to dethrone Microsoft from it's place as the predominant OS on the planet. On that basis alone, many are hoping for the success of Chrome and Google. It has to do with the entire "Microsoft is the Evil Empire" mindset that seems to inhabit the thought processes of many in the technology world. Google, with its "Don't do evil" motto is seen as just the opposite and everything Google does is good. After all it gives everything away. While with Microsoft you have to pay and pay a whole lot of money. Have you seen the price of Microsoft Office lately? Shameful they say.

Let's talk about Google for a few minutes, I do use a number of Google applications: I am on Blogger, obviously. I have a gmail account, of course and that's about it. I do have calendar, but I keep my calendar on my Dell Axim which is always with me. Then there is Google Docs, which I never use. I've tried to use the word processor, but I can't say I've seen anything that impresses me, if I'm going to use a web based application, I head over to Zoho for my word processing work, to give one example.

What do we know about the new OS. To quote from the official blog:
Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We're designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don't have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

Here's what we can know, it is fast, it is sleek, it is based upon open source software, ie Linux and it's going to be great on netbook computers. So in other word, Google is launching a niche OS for a niche product. I've not seen the numbers for netbook sales, but when I go to my local computer store, there seems to be a lot more regular notebook computers available rather then netbooks. Don't get me wrong, I think netbooks are cute, and I sit here with my Dell Studio 17 on my lap. So you can see where my bias is directed towards. For somem reason Google thinks Microsoft is vulnerable in this market, the issue is however, most of the netbook computers sold have Windows XP on them and apparently, Windows 7 can be installed on the average netbook. One can get various types of Linux OS installed on a netbook, but most people they want to stay with the tried and true.

I recall hearing this argument used against Bing; yes it's a pretty good search site and the search engine is also quite good, but most people out of habit will use Google, because it's what they are used too. So, most of us are familiar with Windows and likely want to stay in the Windows environment. Most of the programs and apps we are familiar with work well in Windows and we're not about to learn something new. As you know I'm comfortable working with Ubuntu, I like Ubuntu. I also am comfortable with Windows. I know a lot of people hate Vista with a passion, but I wonder if most of them are the tech types that know what should work and it drives them nuts when things don't. There were issues with Vista, but they are now fixed enough so that the OS is operable.

One article suggests that Chrome, while made for the netbook market right now, could be:
But eventually, the Google OS has the potential to scale up to larger, more powerful PCs, especially if it proves to run faster than Windows, she said.

Here's the catch, for the less powerful netbook cpu and specs it may run blazingly fast and if it is open source, there will be a lot of developers working to keep it that way, but if it goes to the laptop, or the desktop, where all of a sudden there are more demands and more requirements, will it suddenly lose its speed?

Also, this entire 'apps through the browser' or 'the browser is the OS', is something I'm still not sold on. The concept of cloud computing, while a good one is probably not ready for prime time. I know Google has acres of server parks set up throughout the world probably to store all my data and with all that redundancy, I'm sure it will be all safe and sound. However, what if I'm not in a place to access the web? What if the beginning of my stuff is in the clouds and I'm not connected. I know there's Google Gears, which is for times I'm offline, but what if the work is partial complete on the computer and partially complete in the clouds, but I can't sync. I like the convenience of having everything I need on my laptop and accessible when I need it and according to my schedule. I'm not paying the telecos or the cable companies extra money so I can stick a stick into my laptop and have Internet when I want it. I send them enough money every month, and I don't want to send any more.

I'm also not convinced on Google either. As I said I use some of their services but there are a few issues of concern. The first is, Google tends to stay 'stuck' in beta. Are they really developing all the time and haven't reached the final product, or is it an excuse if something goes wrong? I'm reading the book "What Would Google Do?" by Jeff Jarvis. He claims Google is a brand new company with a brand new way of looking at things. May I suggest he's totally wrong. I think Google is nothing more then a new form of mining company- except it mines data instead of minerals. Consider this, when I read my email, Google Gmail has already read it and positioned advertisements similar to the theme of the email. When I do a search the first results are companies that make something like that product. Google already knows enough about me, I really don't think they need to know everything about me. Do they really need to know about what I write, or what I am working on in a spreadsheet? How about my next presentation? Seriously, there is a limit to this mining that goes on. Now I'm not pushing some grand conspiracy here, I don't believe Google is doing anything wrong, they are in the business to sell advertisement. They do that better then anybody. I just don't know if I want to help them any more then I do.

That's all.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Arrrgh Matey! Prepare to be Boarded

Alright, as reported in my last blog about the fact Canada is the new Rogue Nation, I reported that there is a move afoot to develop a Pirate Party in Canada. The website is reporting that a Pirate Group, or party is being formed at McGill University.

I have just registered to start a formal club at McGill Called the Pirate Party of Canada Club. It will be a while before it is official, but the wheels are now turning. The plan so far is just to get a bunch of Pirate-Sympathizers together and start scheming about how to build the party. If others start sprouting up similar organizations across the country, we will be off to a good start.

Anyone in Montreal interested in working toward the formation of the Pirate Party of Canada should let me know and we’ll schedule meetings.

Anyone passing through Montreal should let me know and we’ll start meeting each other and sharing ideas.

For anyone thinking about starting similar organizations at other schools, I’ll post the first draft of our club constitution below… it might save you some time. Please feel free to critique. Most of the document is there to satisfy the school’s guidelines. We had a little fun with the preamble but there are many improvements to be made I imagine!

I’m thinking that local clubs like these might serve as a good starting point to get PPofC off the ground. First we’ll try to establish ourselves locally in isolation; then we’ll get the communication lines running and start wikiing together the national movement; then we’ll be ready to write up the formal documents, register with the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, and really get cracking!

The news site Zero Paid is reporting the new Party is looking for members to join this band of Buccaneers.

Before I go any further, perhaps we need to remind ourselves what it means to be a pirate:

Yes, it means adventures on the High Seas, the clash of cutlass & sword, and Keira Knightley. It means searching for buried treasure, or boarding gold laden galleons. All of which would be reason enough to joining the merry band of sea dogs.

Well, not quite.

The Pirate Party of Canada is a party of ideas and ideals. I know it would be simple and easy to dismiss this group as simply "making the Internet safe for sharing copyrighted material", but that would be both naive and proof you've been reading too much material from the RIAA and its Canadian equivalent. By the way, on the Canadian site, there's a news article entitled: France's solution to online Piracy, which was recently declared unconstitutional.

The Goal of the Party is found in the Manifesto of the Swedish Party, which is probably going to take on the same authority as the Charter of the Global Greens, which presents the principles which all Green Parties acknowledge as the basis of the Party.

Likely the same could be said for the Pirate Party Declaration of Principles 3.2. There is now a 3.3 by the way.

The Principles are in the Introduction:
The Pirate-Party’s values are based on 3 fundamental values: that the personal integrity must be protected, that culture must be set free, and that patents and private monopolies are harmful for society.
We are now, in a society of surveillance in which practically everyone is registered and monitored. It is not consistent with a modern society of law that all citizens are subjected to surveillance and therefore are treated as suspects. Democracy requires strong protection of privacy.
Copyright was created to benefit society by encouraging the creation, development and dissemination of culture. The achievement of these goals requires a balance between society's demands for access and dissemination and the author's requirements for recognition and compensation. We believe, that today's copyright is out of balance. A society where culture and knowledge is free and accessible to all on equal terms benefit the society as a whole. We argue that a widespread and systematic abuse of today's copyright actively discourage these purposes by limiting both the range of culture and access to culture.
Private monopolies is one of societies archenemies. This is because it leads to excessive prices and large hidden costs for the citizens. Patents are officially sanctioned monopoly on ideas. Larger companies are fighting feverishly to break records in number of patents, which they then often use against smaller competitors in order to not be able to compete with the larger company. The monopolist’s goal is not to keep a fair market price and compete on equal terms with the customer’s benefits, price, and quality in mind. On the contrary, the patent laws are used as a lever to raise prices to a level which a free and fair market would never have paid, and to impose restrictions that it never would accept. We want to limit the possibilities of creating unnecessary and harmful monopolies.
Trademarks are primarily a protection for the consumers. We believe that the trademark law in essence works well today, so we propose no changes.

The Pirate Party of Canada echoes those principles:
The Pirate-Party of Canada values are based on three fundamental values:
that the personal integrity must be protected, that culture must be set free and that patents and private monopolies are harmful for society.

So a little more then simply sharing or stealing files as some would accuse them of espousing. When you think about it, these are issues which should concern all of us. We are becoming the surveillance society. Look around how many CCTV cameras are in operation. In the larger cities, it is the new reality. Right now, most of us see them on traffic lights, only operational when some jerk speeds through a red, and there is certainly some justification for them to be there, but what about as you enter your friendly Wal-Mart? If you think its bad here, just visit the UK; it is considered the world's leader on CCTV surveillance. A recent article in the Guardian reports on the incredible number of cameras that are trained on the average citizen. The article, entitled Every Step you Take declares:
Millions of people walk beneath the unblinking gaze of central London's surveillance cameras. Most are oblivious that deep under the pavements along which they are walking, beneath restaurant kitchens and sewage drains, their digital image is gliding across a wall of plasma screens.

So the issue is more then downloading the latest MP3 file of the popular group or singer of the moment, it's some serious material that needs to be discussed. Right now it seems that governments are more interested in curtailing civil liberties then protecting them. Of course that is done in the name of protecting and fighting the war against terrorism. It's the whole "destroy a village to save it" mentality. It is also interesting to note that political parties that want to curtail and make government smaller, are the ones who want to expand the powers of government to find out more about you. So while they cut health care, they expand the authority to learn everything about you. It's as if they are waiting for you to mess up.

If that wasn't enough, consider this fact: the Pirate Party sells cool tee shirts and other paraphernalia, for the well dressed pirate to wear.

To quote Captain Jack Sparrow: "Savvy"

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada- the New Rogue State

As we celebrate the 142nd Anniversary of Confederation, let us consider a few facts about Canada. For some reason, there has been a few headlines which point to a disturbing trending of this fair Dominion. For some odd reason, this headlines point to one frightening fact, Canada seems to be joining the list of Rogue States. To the list which has included such nations as North Korea, Iran and Eritrea, we include Canada.

Before start to send me some bad comments, let me give you three examples:

1) Early in June, it was revealed that USAirways Flight 1549 was brought down by Canada Geese. If you read the article you will discover that a DNA testing revealed the geese had come from Newfoundland. It only makes sense, rogue birds from the Rogue Province of Newfoundland & Labrador brought down a commercial jet liner. This was an act of terrorism. Sadly it makes sense, if you want to talk about the avian Al-Qaeda, you have to talk about Canada Geese. These birds are obnoxious, noisy, dirty and if you have ever been on a golf course or a city park, they leave their own IED's. These winged Mujahideen would think nothing of taking down an airplane, no matter how many of them had to give their lives to the cause. Probably the last honks would be translated 'Goose is Good'. It would not surprise me if Danny Willians wasn't involved somehow in the act of violence to that innocent plane. By the way, in response, New York City will remove from the city airports, all Canada Geese. I suspect the US will open the Goose equivalent to Gitmo to deal with these potential terrorists.

2) A recent report from the UN labels Canada as the leading exporter of both Ecstasy and Crystal Meth. The organization's drug czar Antonio Maria Costa says:
“We have seen in Canada an increase in manufacturing and seizures in illicit drugs because of pretty tough measures in the United States, which have made some of the manufacturing migrate south towards Mexico and north towards Canada,”

So while the US is cracking down the labs that manufacture the drugs, Canada with its lax drug enforcement and soft headed judges and lawyers is becoming a haven for drug manufacturers. You couple this with the fact that in BC, marijuana has replaced forests as the largest 'cash crop', you understand this is the second step into becoming a rogue state.

3) If this wasn't harsh enough, Canada has been pegged as the leader of illegal file downloads. We are the true cyberpirates. File sharing software is on 77% of computers in Canada. We simply don't understand the necessity for artists to makes a living and so we should not do such things. Music, movies and everything in between is downloaded and shared in Canada. We are the wild west. It's no wonder the music industry is suffering, it's all because of Canada.

If you look at the numbers, you would think we are Sweden. In fact if the Pirate Bay had been set up in Canada, there would have been no law suits, no criminal trials and certainly no jail time for the founders.

To continue the Swedish analogy, a recent article in the Canada Press reveals there is a move to establish a Pirate Party in Canada. It would only make sense. However let me say that the Pirate Party is no just a one trick pony, it also wants to make issues on Internet Privacy and safety. Certainly if you read one of my blogs on the various bills being before the House, you can understand the need for this group.

So you there you have it, a Rogue State in the making.

Happy Canada Day all.