I Had To Laugh

In this exciting Terminatory piece about the Empire researching …well terminators, there is this bit-

Autonomous armed robotic systems probably will be operating by 2020, according to John Pike, an expert on defense and intelligence matters and the director of the security Web site GlobalSecurity.org in Washington.

This prospect alarms experts, who fear that machines will be unable to distinguish between legitimate targets and civilians in a war zone.

Because now no civilians are deliberately and/or accidentally killed by human troops programmed to kill. Naïve, ridiculous, propagandised -and progandising-childish idiots. Our militaries kill innocent civilians, we are terrorists, we commit war crimes. And then we celebrate it.

With flags.


Watch Those Pod Bay Doors

Frankly I think the jury’s still out on a lot of humans-

Can machines think? That was the question posed by the great mathematician Alan Turing. Half a century later six computers are about to converse with human interrogators in an experiment that will attempt to prove that the answer is yes.

In the ‘Turing test’ a machine seeks to fool judges into believing that it could be human. The test is performed by conducting a text-based conversation on any subject. If the computer’s responses are indistinguishable from those of a human, it has passed the Turing test and can be said to be ‘thinking’.

No machine has yet passed the test devised by Turing, who helped to crack German military codes during the Second World War. But at 9am next Sunday, six computer programs – ‘artificial conversational entities’ – will answer questions posed by human volunteers at the University of Reading in a bid to become the first recognised ‘thinking’ machine. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bank Holiday Geek Out

Or- Full Spectrum Dominance!

While mooching around this here web thingy I came across mention of an old video game that in America was called ‘Contra‘ hmmm. Anyway that led me to revel in a bit of kompooter nostalgia and thanks to the world wide intertubes I have been able to revisit the first machine I ever had- the 48K Sinclair Spectrum (yes with the rubber keys). Actually looking at the speccy I have to say the design remains really very nice, it still looks good. Perhaps I am biased, the beige BBC micro was never much to look at.

I saved up and got the Spectrum when it was about £130. In a very rough way the Spectrum was the cheaper slightly lower class computer, the BBC Micro was the proper BBC middle class machine (as was the Commodore 64). I would venture to suggest as price is a big factor in who owns what the Spectrum  was more of a people’s machine than the pricier rivals, certainly the posher kids in school had BBC’s but let’s face, the speccy had the gamez! Admittedly they were a big part of using it, I got a C90 cassette off a guy in school with 20 on it, oh the piracy (yes you’d load them via a cassette player you plugged into the back)! You also learned a bit of programming and I loved the 3D drawing program which is amazing when you consider-

The Spectrum is based on a Zilog Z80A CPU running at 3.5 MHz (or NEC D780C-1 clone), the original model Spectrum has 16 KB (16×1024 bytes) of ROM and either 16 KB or 48 KB of RAM.

Fuck me, even security tags on socks have better specs these days! It was a triumph of ingenuity, whereas today such excellence is matched by software bloat that fills the latest machines (Leopard  needs 512MB of memory 9GB of available disk space, ok it does somewhat more but still, blimey!). Anyways, here’s the bank holiday fun (and Cheesus it’s dark here, low grey cloud and people have got the lights on even though it’s lunchtime) you can play excellent online versions of Spectrum games, my two favourites- Jetpac and Ant Attack plus loads more, or you can get emulators and original game files (some digitised from the audio cassettes).

And now a dull list of all the kompooters wot I have owned-

Read the rest of this entry »

Venezuela Fighting Microsoft

Via BoRev.Net

(Reuters) – Four developing countries have appealed against the adoption of Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) Office Open XML document format as an international standard, the International Organisation for Standardisation said on Monday.

ISO said in a statement the national standards bodies of Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela had appealed against the positive outcome of a vote it held in March after a controversial fast-track ratification process.

It gave no details of the substance of the appeals. At the time of the vote, several parties complained that the discussion and subsequent voting process was muddled and rushed.

Gaining the final ISO stamp of approval would help Microsoft win more public-sector contracts, as some government bodies are nervous about storing archives in a proprietary format.

The adoption of OOXML as an ISO standard will remain on hold until the appeals are resolved, which could take several months, ISO said.

Critics say OOXML is not fully translatable into other document formats, notably the open-source Open Document Format that is already recognized as an international standard.

I enjoyed posting this… using my Mac & Firefox.

HAL’s Feeling Old, Annoyances

Tedious Whine Warning!-
My 2001 vintage PowerMac was pretty state of the art then, now however, a tad slow. Which is to say some features on the web I cannot indulge in, some video players some websites, worse though is advertising that because of lush flash presentations or movie loops suck up all ones resources when all you want to do is read text. Ok so the ads support the site…but this is subtle digital divide, have an old machine and you are slowly being excluded from the full panoply of the web. The worst offenders are any promotional sites for bands or films (and myspace, shudder), not that I would visit them much anyway, but I avoid them now because of their hefty presentations. It’s also annoying how a lot of sites spread articles over 2 or more pages, not because they are long, but to get 2 page views and thus increase revenue and ok so the ads support the site and I’m not paying for it so can I really complain? I always look for view on single page or choose the printable option to avoid the multi page or ad nuisance. Yes I know there are plug ins to block ads but they take some resources and they are not perfect. I’m roughly on course to have enough to get a new mac within a year at which point I will laugh at all the losers with old slow machines now that I am in the shiny new fast machine elite, hahaha!!!

Except, the point remains, that advertising is a given but as it becomes more intricate it excludes users with older gear from accessing some sites, a slow evolution of a tiered, class stratified web. Not forgetting the vast majority of people don’t have any access at all, will they all suddenly get the very latest laptops then replace them each year? Websites are often designed with only the newest fastest machines in mind, so I suppose this is a design issue, should not one look to be inclusive as well as innovative? There is often a tension between the two in any technological medium, but for those of us who devour reams of text via the web we aren’t too bothered about shiny, flashy accoutrements and it would be a shame if those extravagances begin to rob people of access to worthwhile information presented in the the very boring yet somehow still relevant words-on-a-page format. Design wise I am continually reminded of the Simpsons episode where Homer builds his homepage and simply includes every annoying animation & sound from the web, as if current design theory is simply- and the kitchen sink, awesome! And to show what a huge hypocrite I am, here’s a youtube player that has Homer’s homepage!

Well youtube is ok, it isn’t too bad for slow loaderingly-ness or machine stutter syndrome (if I’m lucky). I suppose it is also because I am a very bad consumer (plus y’know I’m like poor-ish), I don’t buy shiny shit I see advertised (I also try to keep in mind- reduce, re-use, recycle). If I need something or can no longer quell the desire to have something I research then find the best ‘thing’ for the best price then wait, then try to resist, then give up and buy it. Gaudy intrusive ads if they do anything create resentment in me towards the thing/service advertised. I don’t like psychic trespassers or rampant sheeplike consumerism (I’ll resist adding the youtube clip of Bill Hicks giving sage advice to those working in marketing -so have a link instead- you know the one).

So in summation (& with counter argument helpfully included)- whiny old computer having loser complains he can’t keep up with the super duper interwebs. Boo-hoo-hoo, it’s called survival of the fittest/richest, deal with it!

Well whatever (God bless Thatcher’s/Reagan’s children!), but I really don’t think a swanky flash animation of trees makes a car anymore environmentally friendly or air travel any less of a privilege that is destroying the planet. However getting a new computer every so often is way cool and totally sound, ahem.

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Drones, The Cost Effective Killer

This report backs up what Naomi Klein wrote, that the Israeli weapons industry benefits from using attacks on Palestine as a testing ground for new technology. Which becomes another incentive against peace.

Palestinians say they know when an Israeli drone is in the air: Cell phones stop working, TV reception falters and they can hear a distant buzzing. They also know what’s likely to come next — a devastating explosion on the ground.

“Our experience is that the drone missile is successful in hitting its targets, and it’s deadly,” said Dr. Mahmoud Assali, a Palestinian physician who works in the emergency room of a northern Gaza Strip hospital that has often treated Palestinian gunmen hit by Israeli drones.

“The drone has a zone of around 15 meters (50 feet) where it decimates everything. It targets people and leaves them in pieces,” Assali said.

Israel is at the forefront of the drone technology that is increasingly being used in hotspots around the world. The unmanned craft provide a deadly and cost-effective alternative for armies to target enemies

A militant from the southern Gaza Strip who belongs to the Islamic Jihad group said drones were mostly used to target individuals, and not structures. He said they often hovered at much higher altitudes than manned aircraft and their missiles were frequently more destructive, leaving deep gashes where they landed.

The militant said the drones usually targeted slow-moving targets, like people walking, or cars slowing down to avoid potholes in a road.

“It looks like it makes small circles in the sky, but before it’s about to fire a missile, it slows down,” the militant said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared being identified by Israel. “It’s not like any other plane. You don’t see the missile leaving, it’s very quiet.”

Israel has long been considered the world leader in drone technology and proudly exhibits its products at international air shows. But it maintains its drones are for surveillance purposes, and refuses to confirm using them in airstrikes.

Doron Suslik, a top official at the Israel Aerospace Industries, which manufactures drones, said the company has customers from all over the world, including Switzerland, France and India, with annual sales of $500 million to $600 million.

He refused to divulge the drone’s military capabilities, citing his clients’ desire for confidentiality. Government and army officials also refused to comment on the drone’s firing capabilities.

The use of drones is shrouded in secrecy, and Israeli defense officials refuse to comment publicly on whether they are being used in airstrikes in Gaza. However, Israeli officers in private conversations have confirmed use of the weapons.

We Have Met The Enemy, And It Is Us

Then it was as if an invisible yet intensely heated finger were drawn through the heather between me and the Martians, and all along a curving line beyond the sand pits the dark ground smoked and crackled. Something fell with a crash far away to the left where the road from Woking station opens out on the common. Forthwith the hissing and humming ceased, and the black, domelike object sank slowly out of sight into the pit.
War of the Worlds- HG Wells

So the Pentagon are testing their new heat ray and who better to turn to than 60 Minutes to fall down in awe and help them promote their new toy in an infomercial, sorry, hard hitting piece of journalism. Now an enterprising and questioning reporter might say given the huge death toll of a premeditated war of aggression, the removal of privacy, ‘free speech’ zones and the ending of habeas corpus should we be quite so pleased our friendly military/industrial/congressional thingamabob are perfecting new technology to force compliance upon people through the medium of searing burning pain? Or y’know you could just go- Oh Wow, a heat ray like in Buck Rogers, awesome dude!

CBS 60 Minutes: David Martin Reports On A Non-Lethal Weapon Straight Out Of Buck Rogers

*sigh* The infomercial works so well for the Pentagon because it also pushes the meme US forces deeply regret killing civilians and just wish they had a non lethal way to enforce their will, sorry, help lovely people rejoice in the Beneficence of Uncle Sam. In the fake demo where troops dressed as demonstrators to be zapped with the ray gun the narration suggested they were mimicking the kind of situation to be found in Iraq. Yet the visual presented something a little bit more home grown, not many keffiyeh’s on show, the protesters looked an awful lot like anti-war demonstrators. Yes that’s partly down to the vast wit and utterly hilarious nature of Army humour, but this was a big pre-arranged video shoot for national consumption, so what message was it really putting across?


It also sought to promulgate rules of engagement most appropriate for 4GW where civilians and combatants become an amorphous mass to the brave honourable uniformed hero of the Imperial overlords: (Roughly) If someone is coming towards you and you zap them with the heat ray and they do not run away, then one can assume malicious life threatening intent and unleash lethal force on them.

The impulse to run the other way is so strong that anyone who keeps coming has to be considered a threat. “It could be used to read someone’s mind, in effect, because you immediately know what someone’s intention is. If they continue to come at you, then you’re fairly sure they’re not a tourist. They’re probably a terrorist or an adversary who wants to do you harm,” Payton [Sue Payton, an assistant secretary of the Air Force and the Pentagon official in charge of buying the ray gun] explains.

Ready for a crowd being unable to disperse quickly because of the practicalities of masses of people demonstrating? Being panicked trying to run, trampling and often being unable to get out of the way of the heat ray, so you get much longer exposure and then… well you did not run away, nevermind you were trapped by the crowd, suddenly whole swathes of people become liable to lethal force… under the mode of thinking the Pentagon sought to disseminate here.

And as with Tasers, the obligatory demonstration on the journalist. Displaying how someone supposedly representing our concerns within the mediated piece is willing to allow it’s use, who can then give an account we should deem trustworthy because we are invited to identify with the presenter. And if you leave your brain at the door that almost works…except controlled conditions before cameras do not replicate the the situation where it would be used, to be honest the moment someone does one of these -well I tried it and it didn’t kill me!- you know you are dealing with showbiz and not serious enquiry.

And even as the Pentagon’s mouthpiece sought to complain they can’t deploy it because of fears after Abu Grhaib this could be construed as a torture weapon (no, really?) the Marines distaste for non-lethal technology was clear-

“A major came up to me and said that the Marine Corps wasn’t overly thrilled with the whole non-lethal concept. And his idea was, is that the Marine Corps’ idea of force escalation went from M-16 to F-16. How many people we could kill and how fast we could do it.”

Which is why they are a fearsome force of destruction, but hearts & minds, freedom & democracy? Not so much. So back to the question of what it is for? And like those non-lethal Tasers that keep killing people, do we, should we trust those wielding it? An authoritarian personality would shout ‘Yes!’ but a news show?(ht2 Naj)

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