Category: technology


SOPA Resistance Day!

Image by ~C4Chaos via Flickr

Many Internet sites were today protesting the passage of two bills, PIPA and SOPA, as they attempt to add their voices to the moot of combating Internet piracy.

It is right for creators of any intellectual property to have legal ownership and to ultimately benefit financially from their creations. However, the placing of such content on the Internet brings certain new conditions to the table. Over the years the Internet has really become the information highway.

I recently was walking in town and saw office space now empty because the video renting and DVD selling businesses just were made obsolete. Even attending a cinema show now is a declining affair because people can so easily access videos and music files on their own. The Internet has made many middle men in the distribution process irrelevant. But the Internet has also opened the common sense eyes of the common man so that he can be cheaply informed and make critical decisions that are needed.

A friend of mine was shopping and sent me pictures and names of products to “google” so that she can buy the one that is best suited to her needs. Such is the immediacy of the Internet.  The proliferation of information technologies and their variously far-reaching effects on our daily living are not going to be undone unless one has a time machine.

The world of business and content creation must know that the rules of sharing information has been forever changed by the use of the Internet.

The legislative response to preclude persons downloading or uploading copy right content has been the creation of the SOPA and PIPA bills. The idea by the US Congress is to make US based Internet search engines and providers act as cyberspace police. They would have to keep an eye on each user of the Internet on their service.

Now, with literally millions of people using social networks, Google Search, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines, how practical is it to expect each user to be monitored sufficiently in real time to prevent them from copying or publishing somebody else’s intellectual property  with the owner’s prior permission?

Well, the development today is that some key supporters of the SOPA and PIPA bills have withdrawn their support. The White House as well seems to have distanced itself from these bills.

And this is another thing. Congress wishes to push such public-contempt bills in a presidential election year. The public of Internet users needs to let their strong opposition be heard.

There has to be global simple education on the damages of Internet piracy. That process will take a long time and will require all primary and secondary Internet service providers to be on board.

Any attempt to enact legislation that regulates practical use of the world wide web by common people must be drafted really by those common people; at least with minimum 51% contribution from Internet search engines and providers. As it is now, SOPA and PIPA must be stopped even in its early stages. This is one abortion that is justified and civilly legal!

Whenever it is only one person who is going to get the prize the result will always be competition. The use of search engines to rank the sites and content of all available websites is probably the most competitive industry on the planet today. And now the race seems to be on to see which site owner can outdo all the others.

And this is proving to be a huge money-making enterprise. That reality is a very sad development for those Internet users who just want to know what is out there. It is said that this is the information age yet persons who surf the net almost always miss many interesting and influential sites all because the search engines method of ranking the top three or so sites only gives the top spots to those sites that has the most viral recommendations.

Put simply, the Internet as it operates through search engines such as Google, really lead users to the POPULAR sites and NOT THE BEST SITES. And given all the technology available today, that shows something is dreadfully wrong with the integrity or reputable search results. Yes, after a many years it is possible that a site could very well be recommended and linked by many persons who rate it as good. But most of these people who grow to love a website only do so after they stumble upon that site.

It is a disadvantageous practice from the Internet not to return as a top search a website that is brand new but which has just as good a content quality as those sites in the top 3 returned search.

It is high time that the Internet and search engine results provide users with new websites or those that may be isolated or virally undiscovered. Those websites deemed “unpopular” by the search engines are those websites that offer the users of the Internet the most quality, relevant, useful and positively life changing or life helping information.

As bloggers for example, we have to be weary of the growing spam messages promising to add plugins and SEO miracle tricks that guarantees a lot of traffic. But in the same spam message you are being told that your site is unpopular or unknown compared to the “popular ones”.

Well, if that was the case how is it the sender of the spam message found your site in the first place? Then even more obnoxious and obtuse is the insult to your intelligence with the realization that the spam sender is not so much concerned about helping you generate more popularity on the Internet. No! The sender is actually advertising  a product such as an SEO plugin that cost an arm and a leg.

It is interesting that the Google folks have said that no one can guarantee a top rank in the searches. If these unscrupulous people were concerned about the promotion of your website they would offer you one or two online ads that are just as persuasive as those they posted to make money for themselves.

While WordPress has hundreds of thousands of bloggers do bloggers have any guarantee that the traffic to their sites aren’t being turned on and off by WordPress to give a nudge in the direction of responding to spam messages to spend hard-earned money on seo plugins and other fly by night technologies which is only guaranteed to make money for the seller?

The Internet, just like the physical world, is not a level platform. But it is not so much the owners of sites being rated as success or failures based on a popularity contest; it is the robbing and deprivation of requested information from users by search engines that is the real failure in the viral sphere.

There seems to be a growing frequency of youths using the Internet to invade specific locations and break the law. In this video posted by police, a store is robbed withing minutes and now the police wants you to help them identify any of the persons in the video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Justin Bieber                                                          

Until a couple years ago the words Justin Bieber only meant an identifiable expression to close friends and family of the then unassuming child. But many things in life are connected to the proverbial domino effect and so with the advent of the Internet and its cousins–the social networks–the circumstances were aligned for a little known Justin to upload some simple home videos for mutual family fun and bonding.

Since then the name Justin Bieber has become unanimous with teenage stardom and the all pursued get rich quick philosophy of the masses of “huslas” youths. Justin has had a sudden change of status and his whole living experience really, that most can only hope to come close to experience via the movies or a good book.

The  global following that he has received from his fellow teens have been largely due to his down to earth attributes as a person. talk with his childhood friends and those who first  sampled his music and you are sure to find out that it was Justin’s physical features, voice quality and humble personality that generated an ascent to the position of a teen idol.

The world probably needed someone to come on the scene at the time when Justin did. One of the world’s most recognizable face and voices had just been silenced. Michael Jackson, how for so many years had epitomized life itself by his extraordinary performances died in 2009. The world of pop music was therefore in some form of mourning and had a vacancy to fill.

A close look at the new multimillion dollar star will now reveal some rather grown up changes that may be an indication that the Justin Bieber that the virgin fans fell in love with has evolved into the superstar Justin Bieber. Fans will observe that his outfits are taking on a permanent on-stage look and the teen is also brandishing earing(s).  The hairstyle is no longer reflective of the simple down to earth child of a few years ago.

One of the biggest changes though, probably has to do with Justin’s emotional or love life. He has, after a few days of denial, jumped headlong into a relationship with Selena Gomez, another teen performer. While they both undoubtedly will have some things in common, one has to wonder to what extent Justin is in control of his personal and even professional life. The world has been privy to the couples rather intimately romantic adventures.  It is no accident that the word virgin was used earlier in this post; however, has stardom catapulted Justin from his own virginity or to embark on a journey of validating the “new cow” theory? Not too long ago the viral information was of a possible break-up of the teen couple over a simple text from Justin to another young lady.

Justin and his girlfriend

Justin’s parents in the earlies were doing what they could to ensure that their son still has a normal coming of age experience. Somehow I don’t think that the influx of monies from performances, product deals and royalties are compatible with that. A look at the  personal lives of stars will reveal that in over 90% of the cases, their relationships seem to last as long as the pair of shoe that they wear. Has Justin been prepared for the emotional seesaw of relationships, especially at such a tender years?

Being a globally recognized figure is always fun. Until it sets in that the media never, ever stops following your every move and action. While Justin has a competent team of advisors I can’t help but wonder if his young emotional needs and concerns are at the heart of the advice given to him. When your friends or advisors suddenly start seeing you as $$ signs and no longer as a human being first—things will never be the same.

The history of child stars as well shows that in too many cases, particularly after their careers have matured and reached a state of decline, they are unable to make a smooth adjustment to life as a regular guy again. Some years ago Jonathan Brandis was a handsomely popular television star. He hanged himself in his room after his career started sliding down a slippery rope. River Phoenix, backed by fame and fortune, sacrificed his existence to illicit drugs usage. Recently, Amy Winehouse died from complications it would seem stemming from alcohol use. (I was wondering the other day if it is a coincidence that someone  with the name Winehouse became an alcoholic).

The intent of this post is to act as a catalyst for a modestly objective but urgent intervention at rehabilitating Justin Bieber so that he can handle his new life. The information suggests that Justin is being considered as a “brat” by persons who are closest to him in his business ventures. He alledgedly made a lot of passengers on a recent flight very uncomfortable by his actions. He refused to give the pilot an autograph as well. Refusing autographs seems also to be a new habit of Justin’s. It seems to me that something is going to give soon where Justin’s stardom is concerned.

There are more negatively ending lives and careers of once-popular child stars that  are all around. Is Justin Bieber surrounded by genuine people who don’t put money-making above life-saving? Is Justin happy with himself? What plans are in place for life after the stage or the glitter of it all?

It is the stuff that movies are made of. A scientist secludes himself in a mysterious lab and comes up with the formula that makes a non living thing come alive. But for the scientists and researchers at the Scripps Research Institute (SRI) that possibility is no longer a figment of the imagination.

For some time now the world has been aware of the scientific process of cloning; producing an animal or part thereof has been the moot for much sociopolitical and ethical debates. Now, the pioneering gurus at SRI are claiming that they are making almost daily progress in crossing the Rubicon between the inanimate and the animate. Using their test tubes, the scientists have been able to produce living organisms that are capable of exponential reproduction and therefore sustain its species.

Although the lab professors have to provide very meticulously controlled environment for the molecular life processes to survive, Dr Gerald Joyce is more than confident that as long as they continue working it is really just a matter of time before the world has its own actively living, self reproductive life form that has man as its creator. That invokes certain feelings of condemnation, particularly among many persons who do believe that humans are trying to become like God Himself by attempting to create life.

And that might be a solid ground for a critical decision; after all, man had to leave Eden because he wanted to “become like God” and so ate of the forbidden fruit. Is it a fair statement to say that man even today has not given up the gambling quest to become as knowledgeable as God?

There are some educators who believe that the folks at SRI have already created life already; however, Dr Joyce is of the modest view that because the only form of life that we know is what we see on Earth then more work has to be put into the ongoing synthesizing of the inanimate so that whenever the official pronouncement is given, there will be no fashionable grounds for doubt or disbelief.

I suspect that the moment that the final breakthrough comes will not be made public right away. Obviously, the realization that man has created a living being that is able to exist on its own in a normal earthly environment is going to have never seen implications for the way that all seven billion people live on this earth. Like so many other breakthroughs that possess almost infinite socio-economic and political ramifications all the nations of the world would want to have the ability to create new life in their own corner. If these procedures and PR are not handled properly, the stage may be setting for a new age war of deadly proportions.

As it is now, many of us less scientifically endowed and knowledgeable persons are interacting with genetically modified edible goods and we don’t even know it. When we attempt to ascertain the organic nature of a lot of things that we import and use in our kitchens, it is often very difficult to  come to a definite conclusion. It is not just the pursuit of life within a lab that is the moot here. The larger, and probably more consequential, issue is the boundary that our scientists will draw the line at and say beyond this accomplishment we will not pursue any more discoveries.

Finally, in every instance where a life-changing discovery, invention or breakthrough is made, for whatever noble purpose, there is always another human being lurking in the shadows of the good guys to usurp and manipulate the item by putting it to a negative use. These are considerations that we must take seriously now and insist that those who lead and make decisions look into with all immediate transparency and accountability.

The debate on capital punishment in developing countries is a never-ending one. In St Vincent and the Grenadines capital punishment has existed in one form: hanging by the neck until dead. This form of capital punishment is as old as the island’s colonial history. In fact, hanging would have been the means of execution in the commonwealth nations because it was borrowed, like so many other things, from Britain.

The socio-economic development of nations have given birth to human rights organizations. Unfortunately (or fortunately) a popular area of contention as held by these human rights groups has been that of capital punishment. They have always argued that no human being should be executed. It amounts to murder. So even if the state carries out an order from the courts it is a murderer just like the executed. Well, the term executed implies here that is being taken for granted that capital punishment is on the law books for the offense of murder or treason. That is the case in our Caribbean territories.

Persons who have been angered by the voicing of the human rights groups’ opposition to capital punishment has always asked why should we protect the rights of the convicted murderer when that murderer did not extend that privilege to the victim. And that is quite understandable. When one reads of some of the premeditated acts of brutal violence and murder it often leaves one feeling that there must be an eye for an eye. I recall several years ago when a young man used a rope in the way that cowboys would to catch a wild animal, and pulled a young lady out of a public transport vehicle in the capital city. In the presence of all he proceeded merrily to use his cutlass and remove the young lady’s head from her shoulders.

Some said he even smiled in the process.

Crimes like these seem to want to make the average law-abiding citizen become a hang man or executioner. But since 1995 we have not seen an execution in these parts. A significant cause of this has been the ruling of the Privy Council in England that after a person has spent five years on death row their sentence is to be automatically commuted to life imprisonment. The rationale is that after waiting and wondering for five years when you will have your neck popped, then that is enough psychological torture and suffering.

Since that ruling it seems all on death row have filed one constitutional motion after another, sometimes on the most trivial of grounds such s lack of protein in the form of beef on a Sunday. So the system of due process has seen the five-year period elapse with no execution being done.

Those in favour of capital punishment have always said that it is a deterrent to committing violent crimes; that if someone knows he will be hanged then he will think twice. As it is now, convicted murderers of some of the most heinous crimes have been released on parole for good behaviour. The sting seems to be that the family of the victim is never in any way compensated or put in a position to make life easier because of their loss.

An interesting situation has developed in the UK recently where an attempt to allow the public to be actively involved in determining what their elected officials discuss has brought up the topic of capital punishment and hangings. In an e-petition poll conducted it was revealed that 53% of those who participated were in support of the reintroduction of hangings. This is interesting. The politicians and House of Commons will be discussing it later this year.England has not hanged anyone since 1964.

Let’s suppose that the public gets its way and the execution of persons through capital punishment is reintroduced then all in the Caribbean will be expecting that the old barricade from the Privy Council be removed immediately. In fact the Caribbean has also been trying to get its own final court up and running–The Caribbean Court of Justice or the CCJ as it is commonly called.

There are others a well who believe that it is the method of capital punishment that should be changed, not the total removal  of capital punishment. In that light they claim that it is time to execute persons by more humane means such as a lethal injection. I suspect that whatever the outcome of the debate in England later this year that the saga will continue. However, whenever any mechanism that acts as a check and balance is removed or made inoperative then common sense will dictate that some other equally or even more effective means of achieving the same goal be put in its place.

 

 

 

 

Since I have launched myself into the blogosphere i have become aware of the concept of pinging. It’s an information technology term that refers to the unseen method used by search engines to identify and enlist a website in their directories. It reminds me of the method also used by whales and submarines to to determine the distance of an object from their present locations.

Anyway, while bringing myself up to date a few weeks ago about the apparent hacking into the telephone conversations by the media houses owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his son James, I came across an interesting article. I am quoting a part of it below:

“Mobile phone networks have the ability to locate their customers handsets.At a basic level, they can determine which cell the phone is using. In a city, that might narrow-down the location to a few hundred metres. In the countryside it could be several kilometres.It is also possible to triangulate the position of a phone more precisely using its relative position to several masts.Additionally, many modern phones contain GPS technology to help determine their exact longitude and latitude.Mobile operators are reluctant to discuss exactly what level of detail they are able to provide to law enforcement, although there are examples of police tracking criminals, accident victims and missing persons by their mobile phones.”

Talk about food for thought, eh?  Well I am smiling from relief because I am not a user of a mobile phone at the present moment. But all mobile users must be aware of the implications of the above quoted statements. Yes, some of the effects may very well be good; nevertheless, human history teaches quite well that wherever something is created for a good purpose  it will not be too long before somebody else finds some less than good use for that same creation. The case of the dynamite is a classic example.

Not too long ago the World Health Organization issued the first warning of its kind, alerting the human population that use of the mobile phones right next to your ear is a cancer hazard similar to that of being exposed to radiation from an X-ray or photocopier, for example.

Now, we are being told that our mobile phones are not so private after all. And this is not really strange now that I think of it. If you are familiar with the Internet you will know how easy it is for your use of it to be tracked. And I think that is a fundamental principle that the manufacturers of all modern technology are incorporating in their products. They are subtly able to infiltrate your space and you are non the wiser.

As the consuming public, though, what will our response be? Are  we going to be concerned about whether or not an uninvited party may be listening in to our private conversations? Should we know what that eavesdropping information is used for? Should we hold our governments accountable if our domestic privacy is breached? Or, do we think that we may be just a small country and cannot be bothered?

Hmmm. I will love to hear your feedback on these thought provoking issues.

via BBC News – Mobile pinging claim raises legal questions.

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