22 September 2005

Random Ramblings: Addicted to War

At the risk of imparting a political air here (oh hell, why not), yet another book I picked up at the Hawthorne branch of Powells was Joel Andreas' "Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can't Kick Militarism" (AK Press, 2004). FYI: This 3rd Edition has been updated for the current war over Iraq.

This isn't a "book" in the traditional sense of the word - it's almost completely illustrated and flows in a comic strip-like fashion (although it's hardly comical, of course). No doubt, the illustrations are intended to make the content easier to digest than if it were presented in a textual tome. Points raised by the author are often documented by end-notes, and quotations from protagonists are used to proverbially hang themselves. The emphasis of the book isn't entirely on military matters though. In fact, the author does a good job of weaving a social/political/economic/historical context of how U.S. policies evolved over time.

The book's website can be found at: https://www.addictedtowar.com. If you subscribe to this side of the argument, you will find a wealth of links to other, like-minded websites. It's here that I found Common Dreams, a place that I frequent now.

P.S. Apparently there is a Thai translation of "Addicted to War" - either already finished or in the works - published by an outfit called "Open Publishing" (?). I'm still trying to track it down, but the company doesn't ring a bell. If anyone has any clue as to who they are, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

16 September 2005

Random Ramblings: More Books

Another book that I picked up in Portland was J.D. Lasica's "Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation" (Wiley, 2005). While the subject matter should be self-explanatory from the title of the book, it's the numerous stories told inside that's truly revealiing. Basically, the book posits that there is an insidious movement afoot to strictly control the use and proliferation of digital content (well, analog content too). The result is that laws permitting fair use of copyrighted material are being weakened by laws such as the "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" (see: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA and https://www.anti-dmca.org) and by hardware vendors who are either in cahoots with or being arm-twisted by special interests to implement measures that work against the best or fair interests of consumers.

Like anyone who is fascinated by electronic gadgets and who doesn't have many other expensive habits/sins to cater to (fast cars, wine, women, song), I've bought and used more than my fair share of these new fangled digital toys (game consoles, MD players, iPod's, Tivo/ReplayTV PVR's, DVD recorders, etc.). I can also attest to having bumped my head more than once against what I consider to be unreasonable limitations on usage. Given this, it's probably best to be aware of this creeping trend towards absolute control while there's still time to do something about it.

For more/related information, check out the author's/book's website at https://www.darknet.com. While the site has snippets from the book, it's no substitute for a full and thorough reading of the book, which I highly recommend.

13 October 2004

Random Ramblings: Salon.com

A tip. Several times a week, I visit Salon.com, an internet site that provides U.S.-related news and commentary that leans towards the liberal side of the spectrum. Many of the articles there can be read only if you are a subscriber to their paid service, Salon Premium. If you aren't a subscriber but still want to read the articles, you can opt to sit through one of their commercials, which then rewards you with a "one day pass" to all/most parts of the site. (No doubt, a "cookie" is placed on your computer that expires after a certain day/time.) The sponsor of the commercial changes every day and it usually takes about 30-45 seconds to watch and about 1 to 5 mouse clicks to navigate the pages.

Since I'm not a subscriber - and don't really wish to become one - I inevitably take the "commercial" route. While I used to dutifully sit through the commercial waiting for the "Next" button to take me to the next page, I've since smartened up a bit and instead spend my time reading other web pages while waiting for that slowpoke "Next" link to materialize.

Actually, there's an even better modus operandi - although it doesn't work perfectly everytime. When a commercial page appears, there is inevitably a "Next" button hidden on the page somewhere that gets displayed last. The trick is to find out where this button is hidden - the mouse cursor will turn into a hand pointing a finger - and to quickly click it so that you can move on to the next page. Sometimes this "Next" link is located in the same place on each page, sometimes it moves from corner to corner. In any case, it should take you less time to find the link than it would take you to wait for the page to fully render.

Sometimes you'll get fooled and click a yet-to-be-shown link to the sponsor's website instead. No problem - just click your web browser's "Back" button and try again. In time, you'll get the hang of it.

10 January 2001

Random Ramblings: Crypto Article in Newsweek

I was browsing the local Barnes & Noble bookstore today when the latest issue of Newsweek Magazine caught my eye. The front cover read "Beating Big Brother" and featured a number of articles relating to cryptography that were excerpted from a new book by Stephen Levy titled "Crypto: When the Code Rebels Beat the Government - Saving Privacy in the Digital Age". Check it out at Amazon.com or your favourite online bookstore.

While the subject matter is definitely interesting to me, I wasn't too enthused about paying US$3.50 for what seemed like an awfully thin issue. Thus, I sat myself down in a comfortable chair and proceeded to skim through it, all the while reminding myself to re-read it on the web. Unfortunately, the web version (at https://www.newsweek.com) doesn't contain everything the printed copy does. Most notably it's missing the section(s) on the RSA guys (Rivest/Shamir/Adelman).

I don't know if this story is available in the Asia/Pacific edition of Newsweek yet, but if you're interested in this sort of thing (it's not all technical - there's a lot of interesting stories of behind-the-scenes government shenanigans for all you conspiratorial types), do read it soon before it gets replaced by next week's news.

08 October 2000

Random Ramblings: Wired Magazine

Although I've been internet'ing for quite a while now, I've never had the occasion (opportunity? desire? frame of mind?) to buy a copy of "Wired" Magazine (https://www.wired.com). Not sure why - perhaps it was too expensive in Thailand or perhaps it lacked the hardware/software reviews that I tend to read, focusing instead on trends and issues.

Anyway, having finished my quota of reading for the week, I picked up a copy of "Wired" just for the hell of it. This was the October 2000 issue, the one with a digital American flag on the cover. What drew me to the magazine was its report on "global file sharing", as exemplified by Napster, Gnutella and their ilk.

Now, I'm not much of a Napster user (too slow from Thailand and even here in the U.S. I only occasionally use it to obtain some songs that I already have in Thailand (read: legally own) but didn't bring with me. However, I do closely follow the news about the Napster phenomenon, and of course, the trial. That, plus my limited experience with Gnutella prompted me to buy the magazine.

If you're interested in the subject, it's a good read. Some articles from the magazine are already on Wired's site, but not all. The complete set of articles won't be posted for another month. There's a good resource listing of file sharing software (posted), an excellent article by John Perry Barlow of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (not yet posted), and an interview of David Boies, lead lawyer for Napster (posted).

05 July 2000

Random Ramblings: The "Max" Magazines

You may have noticed in my writings that I refer to the "Maximum" magazines (i.e. "Maximum PC" and "Maximum Linux") fairly often. I like them because of their no-nonsense style of writing. Upon my arrival here in the U.S., I noticed a Mac magazine called "Mac Addict" which looked an awful lot like the "Max" mags. Indeed, it was published by the same publishers (Imagine Media). Interestingly, it's been out as long as Maximum PC (the July issue for both are vol.5, #7). Check out the "Max" websites at:
  • https://www.macaddict.com
  • https://www.maximumpc.com
  • https://www.maximumlinux.com
  • 03 May 2000

    Random Ramblings: Open Source Readings

    There was a letter from someone named "Brian" in Post Database's Helpdesk today about Open Source readings. Mentioned was Red Hat CEO Robert Young's "Under the Radar". Linux aficionados of course know that THE definitive article on this subject is Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", which is a contained in a book of the same name published by O'Reilly and Associates (https://www.ora.com). If you wish to save a few Baht, ALL of the articles in the book (and more) are available from Eric's website at https://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/. Have a look.

    24 April 2000

    Updates: CD-Bundled Magazines

    A minor update was added to my "CD-Bundled Magazines" article, re: Maximum PC and Maximum Linux. Also, I'm soon going to prune down my glossary section and point everyone to Maximum PC's "Terminator" (https://www.maximumpc.com/terminator/) instead. Seems like I unintentionally/subconsiously "cloned" this. No need to re-invent the wheel.

    24 March 2000

    Article: Some Classic Reads

    Courtesy of some spring cleaning at the Khoman hovel, a mini-review of some old classics: "Some Classic Reads".

    02 March 2000

    Random Ramblings: Latest Browsers on CD

    The latest issue of Multimedia Magazine is out and its accompanying CD, as with previous issues, comes with the latest versions of Netscape Communicator, Internet Explorer, Opera and NeoPlanet (for Windows only, sorry). Do yourself a favour and NEVER download any of these browsers from the internet ever again. It's a whole lot easier to get it from the latest Multimedia Magazine (95 Baht cheap).

    19 February 2000

    Updates: CD-Bundled Magazines

    An update was added to my "CD-Bundled Magazines" article today.

    13 February 2000

    Random Ramblings: Magazines at Challenger

    There are a few magazines that I enjoy reading (Maximum PC, Linux Journal and Linux Magazine) that don't seem to be available in Bangkok. I should subscribe to these, but procrastination and I are good friends. Anyway, during a visit to Challenger SuperStore at Ploenchit Center (Sukhumvit Soi 2) today, I noticed Maximum PC and Linux Journal for sale. My guess is that these are non-current issues from their Singapore stores. Granted, they're not the absolute latest issues, but they're probably no older than what you'd get if you had a surface mail subscription. Thought you'd like to know.

    03 February 2000

    Article: CD-Bundled Magazines

    This ugly first page is being improved and today it looks a bit different (I won't say it looks better). This middle section is now being used for "news", while the links have been moved to the left panel where they belong.

    And the news today is that a new article has been posted: "CD-Bundled Magazines". After spending so much time putting this website together, I'm anxious to get back to some serious writing. More to come.