A Slice of Life
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commentary on issues in politics, culture, environment and technology
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07 Oct 11 Time to rethink the Steve Jobs iShrines?

steve jobs ishrineIsn’t the recent outpouring of emotion over the passing of Steve Jobs taking things just a little too far?  Midnight vigils at Apple stores?  Shrines? Millions of tweets, blogs, articles conferring almost saint like status on the ex Apple CEO?  Steve jobs certainly was a visionary.  Yes, he had some wonderful ideas but contrary to popular belief products such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, while they may have transformed the consumer electronics market are not likely to solve world hunger, the energy crisis, the GFC, climate change or terrorism and wars.

Steve Jobs the man was apparently arrogant, selfish and inconsiderate.   While these attributes may well have helped him to find his path to success they would have been hardly likely to be endearing  to those that knew Jobs personally.  Apparently Jobs approached working relationships with a similar attitude, setting very high standards and regularly reducing to tears those who fell short of his vision. (more…)

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06 Oct 11 Andrew Bolt: more offensive than sex with a horse?

andrew boltRecently, the well known columnist and blogger Andrew Bolt was found to have breached the Racial Discrimination Act.  Justice Mordy Bromberg found Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times contravened the Racial Discrimination Act by publishing two articles on racial identity which contained “errors in fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language”, reported the Herald Sun.

Ron Merkel, QC, for the complainants, said there was no attempt by  members of the group to shut down freedom of speech or debate about racial identity issues.  Mr Merkel said Bolt was free to express his views on the subject but should not have chosen to attack the nine individuals he named in his columns and blog.

Many of us, including myself, may not agree with Andrew Bolt’s views on this issue and many others.  Whatever happened to the famous saying, sometimes incorrectly attributed to Voltaire which many in the legal profession are fond of quoting: ” I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ”

Yes, there are a number of errors in Bolt’ articles on this topic.  Is Bolt being prosecuted for publishing errors?  It is true that had the facts been presented accurately Bolt’s arguments would not hold much water.  For example, he questioned indigenous lawyer Larissa Behrendt‘s Aboriginality, incorrectly stating that her father was German and that she is somehow claiming benefits that should be the right of indigenous people of ‘purer blood’. In the sometimes heated court exchanges, Bolt took exception to the prosecution’s comparison of the debate and Bolt’s views to Nazi race laws, the Holocaust and eugenics.  Bolt argued those who chose to identify with only one part of their background over another were contributing to racism and came at the cost of less focus on the important issues of education, housing, health and poverty.

It is interesting to note that earlier in the year, Larissa Berendt attracted criticism after using her Twitter account to describe watching bestiality on television as “less offensive than Bess Price“, an Aboriginal woman in favour of the radical Northern Territory intervention. “I watched a show where a guy had sex with a horse and I’m sure it was less offensive than Bess Price.” (more…)

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12 Jul 11 OMG I’m a GPS: 6 degrees of separation

Gillard's stepdaughter poses for 'Zoo Weekly'Some time ago (26th December 2008 to be precise) I published an article entitled “OMG I’m a gay porn star” The article was about the unforeseen consequences of Googling oneself. My search discovered that I share my name with another ‘Liam Alexander’ who is a model on a site called ‘originaleuroboys’; a gay porn service. In the article I wondered if “this Liam is a real person…; quite likely he was dreamed up by two guys fantasizing on the phone”. However, I learned that this Liam is a real person after receiving this comment:

“Liam Alexander the porn star is for real. I was the photographer that did the originaleuroboys.com photoshoot with Liam that is now on originaleuroboys.com. To add the the interest in Liam take a look at our studio website http://www.7bluestudio.com because Liam features on the homepage larger than ever! Ben Willis, Director”

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04 Aug 10 Consume, Be Silent and Die: A Valediction Against Lurking

flock of sheep

Image via Wikipedia

The vast majority of internet users are lurkers; passive users who never generate any content, never participate in discussions, never post comments.  This to some degree explains the extraordinary success of Facebook.  The ubiquitous Facebook ‘like button’ allows passive users to interact with online content with a simple click; you don’t need to comment, you don’t need to exercise your brain at all.  Perhaps it also why social media platforms such as MySpace have been less successful.  You can customise MySpace profiles a great deal more than you can with a Facebook profile, especially if you’re comfortable using a little html, but you really need to post some content to get anything out of it.  The simple fact is, most people just aren’t interested in how their profile pages appear.  Posting the odd trivial message, clicking ‘likes’ and playing games like ‘Farmville‘ is a rewarding social media experience for many. Just what is wrong with that?! I hear you ask with a rising tone of indignation and outrage.

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30 Jul 10 Ask and Ye Shall Recieve: Dealing with Twitter Complaints Part II

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 10:  MC Hammer sp...
MC Hammer speaking on the power of social media. Image by Getty Images via @daylife

In a previous post on this topic, I related how I experienced dissatisfaction with a company’s services and how I sought satisfaction from the company in question by making my complaint online via Twitter.  Had a made my complaint by more conventional means, say by telephone, I’m sure it would have been much less successful.  “Yes sir, we’re very sorry but there’s not much more we can do…”  Most are familiar with being fobbed off by less than sympathetic sales staff, getting nowhere and ending up feeling frustrated and angry.  Complaining via social media is much more effective; you have a potential audience of millions and the whole thing ends up being a PR exercise which may be mutually beneficial.  If you are involved with an online complaint, there are a few things to be aware of that might help. (more…)

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27 Jul 10 Ask And Ye Shall Receive: Complain on Twitter

hitler on the phoneI first noticed how effective a Twitter complaint could be some time ago.  I was casually discussing a problem I was having with a WordPress plugin ‘SezWho‘.  To be honest, I wasn’t terribly fair; I tweeted something along the lines of “this plugin sucks” when in actual fact, the problem was most likely caused by conflict with some other plugin and not really a problem with SezWho at all.  I was surprised that within hours of making my comment, SezWho contacted me via Twitter and went out of their way to resolve the problem.  I apologised to them for jumping to conclusions and I was very pleased and impressed by their diligence and professionalism.

Many companies now have a social media presence.  If you have a complaint, you can easily find their social media profile and complain to them directly.  Just Google “so and so on Twitter” or “so and so on Facebook” and you’ll find the company you’re looking for very quickly.  Don’t make the mistake I inadvertently did: do a little research before you complain to make sure the problem is actually the fault of the company in question.

Dealing with complaints on social networking sites has become an important public relations exercise.  Many companies employ a ‘social networking team’ to deal with such complaints.  Dealing with a problem positively can turn bad publicity into good and an angry customer can change from a bad mouther to a singer of praises.  As is usually the case, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if you are dissatisfied you might as well get some grease. For example:

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09 May 10 The Golden Age of (Digital) Piracy?

The Pirate Bay LogoThe period known as ‘Golden Age of Piracy‘ lasted from the 1650s until the 1720s. Colourful characters such as Henry Morgan, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, Calico Jack Rackham and Anne Bonny (yes, there were even female pirates!) perpetrated outrageous deeds on the high seas with near impunity until the authorities finally cracked down using a divide and conquer approach. During the Golden Age, pirates posed a serious threat to shipping and even held whole towns to ransom. An increased Royal Navy presence in the Caribbean and the the offer of pardons for pirates seriously reduced their numbers and by 1725 pirates no longer posed a serious threat.

The early 21st century may well have seen the Golden Age of Computer Piracy come and go. Those that argue for a free internet have many supporters. Wasn’t the internet originally set up to allow a free exchange of ideas and information between individuals? Surely Tim Berners-Lee never envisioned the commercial juggernaut it has become.

Colourful organisations like The Pirate Bay and other file sharing sites have come and gone (remember Napster?). It’s interesting to note that even The Pirate Bay’s logo is not covered by copyright. Under ‘permission’ on Wikipedia Commons, the following is listed:

This work is labeled as Kopimi, meaning that the copyright holder of this work does not only release it, but specifically requests that this work be used and copied for any purpose, including unlimited commercial use and redistribution. It is believed in good faith that a work classified as Kopimi is free to use in any way, including modification and the creation of derivative works.

Given The Pirate Bay’s free internet position, they could hardly copyright their logo. Specifically requesting that the content be copied for any purpose might well be a novel and successful promotional strategy. Making your brand as visible as possible might well be enough of a benefit to offset all that illegal file sharing but this, of course, is never likely to happen.

The game is up for The Pirate Bay and their brethren, just as it was for Blackbeard and co. back in the 1720s. The stakes are simply just too high. The large content corporations are circling and pumping an ever increasing stream of financial and legal resources into crushing digital piracy. NEC has created a pirated film detection algorithm with a 96% success rate. More and more control will be taken from the user until any use of digital media will be strictly monitored and restricted. Using the internet will be subject to just the same level of control. If the odd 13 year old girl is dragged through the courts for downloading a few Justin Bebier tracks so be it; just collateral damage.

It has never been reasonable for corporations to target little people like this but it has happened often enough. Many have argued that corporations that make their content accessible via the internet for profit bear the responsibility for safe guarding their products. If products are not copy protected, should individuals be prosecuted for copying them? Before very long, copy protection technology will develop to the level that will only allow us to use digital media in the precise manner intended by the providers and will render all these arguments obsolete.

Brave idealists might try to oppose the corporations but it is a battle they can never win. Soon the golden age of the internet might well be nothing more than a dim memory.

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05 May 10 Windows Desktop Search Solution for Vista

Internet Explorer 1
Image via Wikipedia

At last!  I have finally fixed the annoying indexing problem in Outlook 2007 that I’ve been obsessing about for the last few days.  I must have trawled just about every site on the web with discussion on how to fix the problem including the automated MicrosoftFixit‘ solutions with no success.  Every time I tried to search in Outlook I got an indexing status message with thousands of entries to process and nothing happening.  Going to the control panel > indexing options > advanced > rebuild index also had no effect.  I got a message indicating indexing was not running due to user activity.  I made sure I was doing absolutely nothing; still no success.  Grrr.  There are any number of solutions out there; going to control panel > administrative tasks > services > Windows Search , starting, stopping service, going to tools > instant search > search options in Outlook 07, selecting, deselecting folders to be indexed etc. etc.  Still no effect.  Grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

The solution turned out to be very simple:

  1. Install Service Pack 2, unless you have already done so.  If the ‘modify’ and ‘pause’ buttons are not available in control panel > indexing options reinstalling SP2 might well be the solution.
  2. Indexing options, Services > Windows Search all look okay but Outlook still won’t search?  A corrupted registry is most likely the cause.
    Download this registry update
    *I found Internet Explorer was the best choice for downloading this update.
    *Select ‘Open’ and allow the update to run
    (it’s safe; it can be found in it’s orginal context here: http://www.vistax64.com/tutorials/85803-index-windows-search-service.html an excellent tutorial which I followed to the letter with no success.)
  3. With SP2 installed and the registry update installed, my Outlook search now works perfectly, and I didn’t even need to restart my computer!

If your problem persists, rebuilding the index might be the way to go.  Try this:

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04 Apr 10 Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-04-04

twittering machine

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