Saturday, 27 February 2010

Lent Bumps 2010

So the rowing is now over until next term, and the Downing campaign has been pretty damn successful, although not as successful as we might have liked it to be.

I was on the bank pretty much all afternoon on Thursday, supporting every single Downing boat racing on the day. MIII got bumped, in no small part down to having an injury and the resultant sub producing some absolutely shocking rowing.

WII had a day off, while MII bumped Homerton I pretty emphatically. I was on the bank recording it, and managed to get their whole race from about 20 seconds until the gun and onwards:



I was recording it on my phone, and the quality is a bit crappy as a result. Also found that it's really difficult to cycle, record, and not drop the phone at the same time. If I'd had a proper camera with a hand-strap I'd have got better footage, but that is what it is. The spazzy bit after the bump is because the only working brake on my bike is on the right handlebar, and I was using my right hand to record, so had to sacrifice footage so that I didn't crash my bike.

WI also took a pretty solid bump on the Plough Reach to put themselves in second place in the top division. MI rowed over, and I also got footage of that, but it's pretty boring stuff given that the quality isn't really high enough to make any analysis of the rowing.

Friday saw drama for MII, with Tom Artiss crabbing twice - don't worry Tom, happens to the best of us ;). It very nearly brought Homerton I onto them, but they recovered well and held them off, eventually getting things together enough to bump Wolfson down the Reach (not me recording this time):



WII rowed over, because the cox of the crew two in front of them forgot their life jacket (again, happens to the best of us...), meaning that they weren't allowed to race, so Clare Hall in front of them only had to pass station to get a technical bump. The two crews in front of Clare also bumped out, meaning WII were going for what would have been an insane double overbump to bump each day of racing.

MI and WI rowed over both yesterday and today, both finishing in 2nd place in the top divisions. It's disappointing given the talk of potential double headship before this week, but the fact is that both the top FaT crews are damn good crews, and I don't think there's any real shame in losing. We were potentially faster, just not fast enough over the course to hit them, and even if we weren't it's still a fantastic result, and sets us up brilliantly for next year. Trinity are a far larger college, and attract far more schoolboy rowers, really we're doing well to be keeping pace with them. It shows just how good Ian and the rest of the coaching staff are that we're finishing as highly as we are.

MII and WII showed we have a really good squad for depth as well. M2 have solid blades, with an overbump on the first day and then bumps on the other three days, while WII could potentially still get blades given they've still gone up five places, and they only lost the bump on the third day because of shitty circumstances. Both crews are potentially the fastest second crews on the river (with WII's results in other competitions I'd probably drop the "potentially" part), so looking really good for the rest of year and next year in terms of how the squad should develop.

So really, bring on Mays and beyond, and most importantly bring on getting absolutely lashed in celebration at the dinner tonight.


Full, final results (stolen from FaT's website)

Mens
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Womens
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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Lent Bumps 2010 - Days 1 & 2

So we're at the climax for this term's rowing: the Lent Bumps races. As much as I'd rather not link to First & Third Trinity's site, they have the best guide to bumps that I've seen, and which can be found here. The basic format is that you have boats starting behind each other, and the aim being to hit the crew in front over the course distance. Boats that collide swap places for the next day, and there are four races each year (each for Lents and Mays), with the results being carried on from year to year and have been since 1887. Downing are looking really strong for this term, with the women's second crew being the fastest WII crew on the river, MII also being one of the fastest crews in their division, and both the men's and women's first boats aiming for headship.



I'm not actually directly involved this term, given I haven't got a crew, but if I'm honest I've been busy as fuck the last two weeks, and I'd have struggled even more if I'd had rowing commitments as well. It was fun subbing in for Goodchild while he was ill and coxing M1 earlier in the week though. I'll save myself for the Mays, and in the mean time make do with being on the bank.

Tuesday was the first day, for everyone aside from the top men's and women's divisions, who had days off. Downing MIII got overbumped, so went down three, though frankly I don't think that was too unexpected given some of the quick crews around them. The other two boats, Downing MII and WII both overbumped themselves and went up three places each, which was a fucking great result.

I bank-partied MII on Tuesday (photo above), and the weather was absolutely fucking awful. It was cold as fuck, and it was pretty much constantly snowing, sleeting or hailing. The water is also really high right now, as you can see from the flooded path under the bridge in the photo. I also made a massive error and didn't bother putting my coat on as I left, or going back to get it when I started cycling out the college and realised. I was fucking cold, and cycling in snow is always utterly shit, even when you're wrapped up. Was also carrying the kit for the crew, which was probably about 10-20kgs of weight on my back while cycling. Plus I was given the kit late at the start, so was still packing it in when the starting gun went off and didn't even catch the race. Also had an error in using a boat club bike on the towpath instead of mine. Usually it'd be a better choice, because the towpath is bumpy as hell and destroys road bicycles like mine, but when it's wet the bumps tend to soften out into mud. My bike has mudguards while the DCBC ones don't, meaning I came back utterly covered in mud.
But still, the crew overbumped so still a happy day, and brightened up what would have been an utterly shitty afternoon if we'd lost.

Day 2 was a rest day for the MII crew. MIII bumped, which is a great result for them (and stops them getting spoons), WII bumped again, so they're currently +4 overall. WI bumped and are now in 3rd place and with a really good shot at headship. I bank-partied MI, who were looking to bump First & Third Trinity to get headship. It was pretty nervous stuff, and not helped by Piran being ill and us having a sub and therefore a bit more of a scratched crew.

I was given the stopwatch to time down to the starting gun, being told multiple times by Ian to count down clearly and also to make sure I didn't press any buttons on the stopwatch. Even I was nervous just holding the fucking watch. It's also surprising how little faith you have in yourself on not being a complete retard at times. I was nervous as hell holding it in case I accidentally pressed a button, which would have been an utterly retarded thing to do, and there's no reason why I would do it by accident. It's like how when you're standing in front of a large drop you don't quite trust yourself not to throw yourself off the edge.

Anyway, Downing got off to a decent start, and closed the gap down, but FaT were strong and managed to hold them off for the rest of the race. Should be an interesting battle over the next few days, really hoping for Downing headship, even more because FaT have held it in Lents for way too fucking long. Hopefully Piran will stop being ill and we'll have the full M1 crew to ram into the back of them.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Legality Of Filesharing

So today (technically yesterday) there was a debate on Filesharing at the student union. I didn't go to it, primarily because it clashed with CUAMS, but I don't think I'd have gone anyway because I usually find that most people who debate on filesharing have views I find utterly retarded.

The fact is that most people who enter these sorts of debates seem to either hold the opinion that filesharing is utterly wrong and illegal (it's STEALING guys), and that everyone who does it should be reprimanded for it, or they hold the opinion that it's our moral right to be able to get music for free, and that really in doing it we're helping liberate the world of oppression.

To counter the first argument first, the fact is that filesharing is already far too easy and widespread. It's like gun ownership in the US - sure people can see it's wrong, but what the fuck are you going to do to remove it? Fact is that a huge proportion of people aged 14-25 will have broken copyright law at some point, either knowingly (torrents, etc) or unknowingly (YouTube, blog downloads, etc). You can't catch all those people, and even if you did, fining or handing out prison sentences or community service to such a huge number of people would be absolutely insane. Making filesharing more illegal isn't actually going to help stuff that much, because it's already far too fucking easy.

I'm going to write more on why I think the other side of the coin is wrong, because I think it's how people expect me to think, and I know quite a few people who think this way. Fact is guys, you can't glorify filesharing, and you can't justify it. Try all you fucking want, but legalising filesharing would do far more harm than good when you consider the bigger picture.

The first port of call in the defence of filesharing is that it usually doesn't amount to lost sales. This is a bit of a dumb argument in two ways:

Firstly, it's fucking impossible to prove whether you ever would have genuinely bought the album or not if you couldn't have downloaded it for free. You can protest that you'd have never spent the money all you want, but definitely wouldn't get anywhere in, say, a court of law. I don't think you even know yourself well enough to say whether you'd have paid for it or not if all filesharing didn't exist.

Secondly, it doesn't scale. While I'm sure a large proportion of illegal downloads are maybe not lost sales, I'm equally sure that some of them are. Even within the current filesharing community, I think the number of lost sales due to filesharing is significant, and that it must represent a fair chunk of revenue lost for the industry, regardless of whether it's quite as high as they'd claim it to be. The other thing to consider is the number of people who would download it for free instead of buying it, if it weren't for the fact that downloading it for free was illegal. I know plenty of people who don't torrent stuff on the basis that it's illegal and they're scared of potentially being caught for it, but almost certainly would if that danger was taken away. It's tenuous to suggest that the current number of lost sales due to illegal downloading is not worth a lot of money, and it's utterly wrong to suggest that it wouldn't be a huge amount of money if illegal downloading was no longer illegal.

I can't see any sort of legalisation of filesharing not massively harming the music and film industries. If you suddenly remove the concept of equivalent trade, that we should pay for something that we receive and which someone else has created, then I think the industries will struggle to even exist. Sure, people are still going to write songs and make music because they want to, but at the same time, how are they going to live? Would any of the current bands of today be writing as good music as they do if they had to have jobs? Sure, big bands can make a massive amount of money from touring and the like, but for small bands tours tend to cost more than they make back. I feel the amount of good music that we'd lose would be substantial.

The TV and film industries would be hit even harder. Sure, people are always going to pay to go to the cinema, and TV companies will always make money through advertising, but DVD/Blu-Ray sales would disappear. The industries would suddenly be far less profitable, and I think production standards would drop to save costs, as well as some fantastic shows never being made at all due to lack of investment. It should be noted that Family Guy was only un-cancelled on the back of strong DVD sales. Sales which wouldn't have existed if filesharing was legal.

It costs nobody anything for me to make a digital copy of something, but that's still neglecting the money and effort that went into creating it in the first place. The industries aren't robust enough to not drop substantially if suddenly there's no obvious way of recouping that initial investment. Films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which had huge production budgets, would be far less likely to be made, and would probably not be as good if they were, if it wasn't for DVD sales being around to add a fair bit of cash flow. Decent screenrips would probably exist if it wasn't illegal to film inside cinemas as well.

The guy behind The Pirate Bay is currently launching some scheme called Flattr, where you basically have a subscription that goes to support the people whose stuff you illegally download. It's a nice idea in concept, but the main issue with it is that it's still not going to see that much money passing through. As humans we are selfish. We don't always follow the finer points of game theory and we can't be relied on to choose something that doesn't entirely benefit ourselves. Flattr would work really well as a future of filesharing if everyone used it and everyone paid lots of money, but I can't see that happening. People would have to do something that's relatively bad for them but is for the greater good, and in reality that's not how things work. Flattr is like communism - a great idea providing you can rely on human beings to not be selfish. Which you can't, because we are.

The fact is that if filesharing was legal I'd be quite happy to pay £10 a month to support the bands and film makers that I like. But that makes fuck all difference unless everyone also thinks the same way, and I don't think people would. If the majority of people don't pay into the system then my £10 is basically just pissing into the wind. Legalising filesharing on the assumption that people will still pay fair prices for stuff is being massively naïve about how human beings think, because the majority of people are not going to choose to pay for something they can get with no trouble for free.

The final argument for filesharing is something along the lines of copyright being invasive of our rights as people. That once something is converted into a digital string of 0's and 1's then we should be able to copy it to our heart's content, and copyright laws are restrictive and evil. They give the large media corporations control over us by forcing us to pay them for services, and they allow people to control people's access to information and data. Now, I sort of see where this argument is coming from, and I wouldn't even say it was necessarily wrong, I just don't see why it's an argument. If artists and music/film corporations are gaining some sort of control over me by producing stuff that I like, then I don't quite see why I should be upset about that.

Take the legal system for example. I'm losing a crapload of freedom due to the presence of laws and people who enforce them. There's a ton of stuff I can't do as a result of it all. But would I trade it all in for those freedoms? Absolutely not. There are freedoms that I never feel I need, and I'm quite happy to relinquish them for what I get in return. The same applies with copyright and music. I wouldn't take a world where filesharing was legal, but the quantity and quality of music and film were diminished.


So where do I lie then, if I think that the world shouldn't crack down on filesharing, but also that filesharing shouldn't be made legal? The answer would be a compromise; I lie somewhere in between the two. I think services like Spotify are starting to show us how it should be done. You need to provide a service that is both low-cost or free to the end user, but still generates revenue for the companies involved.

For example, if there were just a few filesharing networks out there which required a subscription, but also voided any sort of legal implications of what you were doing on there, then I think it could work. The subscription money would pay off artists and companies, and the law would be hardened on people who downloaded illegally from sites which weren't in this subscription system. It seems one of the few feasible ideas that have been put forward.

I don't like these filesharing debates, and I particularly don't like people who try and glorify filesharing or claim it isn't immoral, because they don't help anything. They're not moving us forward because there's not enough compromise being sought. The current direction we're heading as a society is towards filesharing eventually becoming too much of a risk for people to do it. That basically the legal ramifications are so harsh, and it's so easy to be caught doing it, that nobody bothers any more. Which sucks for the filesharers, and is also going to cost a small fucking fortune for the media companies and legal systems to put in and enforce. Compromises such as Spotify are far better all round, but they almost never tend to come out of these sorts of shitty debates over filesharing.

The question should not be whether filesharing should be made legal or not, or whether it's morally wrong or not. The real question we should be asking is how we can use the methods of filesharing to better society, and we should be looking for the answers that provide overall benefit. It's just that more people need to see that the debate is far from black and white, and that the best end result is almost certainly going to be some shade of grey.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Valentines Day & Winter Olympics

First post in a week or so. I've been insanely busy with work, like never before, and I'm finally getting to the light at the end of the tunnel and a regular work schedule.

So today was Valentines Day. Being single, I didn't really pay it any real attention whatsoever. I think it was actually around 6pm before I actually remembered what day it was, because someone was bitching to me about how much it sucks for everyone who is single on Valentines Day.


Thing is, anyone who complains that being single on Valentines Day is shit, and is crucially a guy, is an idiot. Valentines Day is utterly shit for guys. The emphasis is on us to get the expensive present, the card, the romantic gestures, booking the table and all that faff. We have to put up with all the shit to organise it, and we have to pay all the expenses. Valentines Day is awesome for the women, but for the guys it's fucking miles better being single. I wasn't stressed out at all yesterday (well I was, but that was because of work, not a girlfriend) and I know plenty of guys with girlfriends who were, and were stressed for the entire week building up to it. Guys who complain that they don't have a girlfriend on February 14th have clearly never had a girlfriend on February 14th to worry about.

Sure, you can get girlfriends who agree you're not going to do anything for Valentines Day, so then it makes no difference, but I don't really see how being a guy on Valentines Day can ever be a good thing, can ever be better than neutrality. We either don't give a shit, or we've had to do a ton of crap and spend money to make it ~special~ for the girlfriend.

A day that is a good day to be a guy is the far less publicised and corporate March 14th which, as well as being Pi Day, is also 'Steak & Blowjob' Day. The equivalent of Japan's White Day (only with genders reversed), to reciprocate all the trouble and money the guy has spent on the girl. It's also extremely well named. Probably because women are too dumb to understand the concept otherwise (j/k).


The main reason I'm hyped this week is the Winter Olympics, because they fucking kick ass. I'm a bit annoyed that I have to watch it on iPlayer, rather than bumming around at home watching it like I can with the summer ones, where I can basically spend all day in front of the TV watching stuff. I actually find most of the Summer Olympics to be pretty boring, but the Winter ones are awesome as hell. Particularly the Luge, Bobsled, Skeleton and most of all, the Snowboard and Ski Cross events. I used to think that people throwing themselves down an icy slope at 100mph was pretty exciting and entertaining to watch, but the Snowboard Cross in 2006 totally obliterated that. The women's final in Turin in 2006 was possibly one of the most epic sporting events I've witnessed.

The Snowboard Cross is a complete medal lottery in my opinion, but it's still possibly the greatest spectator sport ever created. It's short, but full of excitement and people crashing and falling down all over the place. I was lucky enough to randomly catch it on TV in 2006 not really knowing what I was watching, other than it basically being SSX in real life, but man I was hooked instantly. Also really happy they've added Ski Cross this year, because a whole extra set of races is fantastic. It's on tonight at 6:30pm and 10:00pm GMT, and I might have it on the projector in my room (depending on how the quality from iPlayer looks) for anyone at Downing that's interested in watching it.

The Winter Olympics is fucking over my sleep cycle, given I keep staying up until 2am watching stuff when I have 9am lectures, but it's so damn good, and I wish it happened more often than every four years. At least work is lifting off now so I can allocate time to watching it a bit more easily.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Shitty Science

This isn't so much a small rant in itself as it is a promise of future things to come on here. In some ways it's something of a personal tribute to the book Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, as well as the writings on Donald Simanek's web pages. My personal attempts to summarise and argue against some of the bullshit demonstrated well on this demotivational poster:

 

The fact is that we live in a world now where information is freely accessible. The main problem is that a lot of people really struggle to filter out the good information from the bad information. It's quite easy for people to read about things, but quite often they're being misled, either intentionally or unintentionally, by what they're reading. Quite often people are shown conclusions based on false evidence, a poor scientific understanding, incorrect theory or logic, and quite a lot of people are easily swayed by what are utterly wrong attempts at science.

These things spread across quite a broad range of issues. Things like climate change, evolution, the Large Hadron Collider, perpetual motion machines, 9/11 conspiracy theories... all of these are frequently the victim of media hype and misrepresentation on the internet. There's actually a massive amount of utterly rubbish science in the media, and articles that frequently put a spin on things that just causes people to get the wrong idea. The MMR jab had absolutely no solid link with autism, and yet the stories coming out in the media made it seem like it was a closed case that it caused it. It was complete bullshit, and it resulted in presumably tens if not hundreds of thousands of children not being immunised, all basically on the back of the media scaremongering based on some extremely tenuous claims.

Even reputable scientific branches of the media like New Scientist can be guilty as with this article on a supposed "water-fuelled" car, which is complete bollocks (it basically runs with boron as it's raw fuel). The article explains what happens properly, but the headline and opening paragraph is massively misleading and incorrect, and I've seen the same "water-fuelled" bullshit on other media channels, and with a far more misleading representation that would genuinely convince the average reader that we've invented a car that runs on water. Which is completely wrong. Water is already burnt oxygen - there's no more energy we can take from it.These articles aren't just incorrect, but they can sway opinion on what are quite important topics. What's all the worry with climate change and an energy crisis when coal runs out? We can just power our engines on water! It's really unhelpful for people to be mislead in such a way.

As another example of how the media is damaging our decisions as a society concerning energy, nuclear power is completely the way forward, and we'll be totally screwed if we don't start switching over to it on a massive scale in the next decade or two, but it's gotten such a bad rep in the media that it's difficult to put a case for it. I'll say, as someone who has worked inside a company that designs nuclear facilities, who has seen the regulations and meticulous detail that goes into the safety, who has read up extensively on modern reactor designs and past disasters, that it is ridiculously safe as a form of energy. It has no carbon emissions, and while being expensive right now, we're not going to run out of fuel any time soon like we quickly are with fossil fuels. It's also still being improved massively, while we've sort of hit our limit of efficiency with conventional combustion power stations. The only sensible option to ensure we're still going to have enough power in forty or fifty years is to switch over massively to nuclear power, but this is tricky for government and planners to get support for, because the uneducated masses only have knowledge acquired from the media and sci-fi, and so provide far more resistance than they ever should.

So I intend, fairly soon, to use this blog to post a few things just to correct certain utterly incorrect lines of thinking, because sometimes it really does need to be pointed out. You especially get it with people who are supposedly educated, yet have been educated wrongly  - not all high school physics teachers know what they're talking about. I was told that the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed due to resonance, which is utter bullshit. I was also told there's no such thing as centrifugal force, only centripetal, which is again bullshit. People get told how aerofoils work (the shape of the wings of an aeroplane) in a way that's completely not true. These misunderstandings of science are fairly harmless, but it's still irritating that people wrongly believe stuff like this. I don't so much blame them for believing things they're taught at school, more the fact that the people teaching go uncorrected.

Indoctrination is especially different to fight against. Creationists have so many theories which are utterly incorrect, and which are quite obviously incorrect to anyone of a scientific background, but which to your average person seem perfectly reasonable. Quite often it's not that easy, even for people who know the subject matter well, to point out what the flaw in the argument is, but there always is one, it's just that enough people don't see it and are convinced the argument is true. For example:

We start with two variables, x and y, so that
x = y
Multiply both sides by x
x2 = xy
Subtract y2 from both sides
x2 - y2 = xy - y2
Factorise:
(x + y)(x - y) = y(x - y)
Divide both sides by (x - y)
x + y = y
Substitute x = y
2y = y
Divide by y
2 = 1
So it turns out that two equals one. We've broken maths. The entire world as we know it is based on faceless lies and fallacies... except it isn't. As anyone who is fairly keen-eyed or has seen this before will know, there's a fuck up in the step where we divide both sides by (x - y), because as x equals y, (x - y) actually equals zero, and dividing by zero causes the final incorrect outcome. The conclusion is wrong because the logic used to reach it is wrong, but what I demonstrate here is that it's not always blindingly obvious why it's wrong. We know that two does not equal one, and therefore there's a trick somewhere, but it's not clear where it is, and if the final result was a bit more contestable (e.g. evolution, who perpetrated 9/11, etc.) then such an incorrect argument could easily be used to sway someone's opinion and mislead them, despite the fact that it's wrong.

What also makes this difficult is that the explanations of why the bullshit argument is bullshit are quite often quite complicated, or at least more complicated than the incorrect argument they disprove. Quite often you have quite a neat, albeit incorrect, theory that takes a fair bit of work to explain away, which also makes it difficult. When faced with abstract scientific concepts compared to propaganda designed to be convincing and to mislead people, it's not surprising people sometimes make the incorrect choice. A lot of effort and money goes into the spread of misinformation backing creationist theories, and not enough money gets spent to show people why the creationists are incorrect. It's also difficult when all these creationists band together, continually repeating their incorrect arguments to each other, feeding of each other's false logic, and together convincing themselves more and more that what they say is true. There are creationists who just flat out refute the existence of certain fossils that massively back up evolutionary theory because they continually tell each other that they don't exist, and nobody explains to them otherwise. It's also a fuckload easier for them to deny the existence of the fossils, or label them as hoaxes, than it is for me to show them to them, or prove their age is true. It's also difficult when scientists are apparently in on the conspiracy (9/11, climate change, etc) because then there's no apparently reliable source of evidence that can convince them.

But I ramble. The fact is that there are far too many supposed bits of "science" that get repeated by teachers and internet users which are complete bullshit. I aim in the future to write a few posts on this blog which will hopefully be informative, and will explain why certain commonly-believed fallacies are incorrect. I doubt many people actually read this, but I'd like to think that every little helps when it comes to educating the ignorant and uneducated. Knowledge is power, and in some cases it seems that depriving others of knowledge is also a power of it's own. I'll probably start off simple, with things like aerofoils and tidal systems, before going towards disproving some of the major "evidence" towards 9/11 being an inside job, climate change, and hopefully tie this in with work inspired by The Greatest Show on Earth on why creationism is definitely wrong and the 'theory' of Evolution is correct.

I hope that you guys will enjoy reading them when I start writing and publishing them, and hopefully they'll educate a couple of misled minds as well.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

An Appertiser

I'll make this a brief life update before hopefully writing something proper tomorrow. Depends how Engineering and Frostii work goes.

 
I'm in a mixed mood. Partially in a good mood because Liverpool won the Merseyside derby today with an excellent performance considering they spent an hour of the game with only ten men. I also had a pretty nice evening at the Sri Lankan Society ball thing (despite not remotely being Sri Lankan myself).

Partially in a shit mood because of stuff that happened yesterday, where I ended up being a prime culprit for something that I didn't actually fucking do. I wasn't that annoyed by it, more just the fact that it seemed so ridiculously like it could have been me that did it, except it wasn't. Not going to say anything more specific just because this is a public blog and it's not stuff I'd want to take into a public domain and end up potentially causing more shit as a result. I'm also in a bit of a shit mood because I've got a supervision at 10am tomorrow that I've yet to finish the work for. Note that tomorrow is a Sunday.

Yeah, a supervision on a fucking Sunday. It's a double length one as well - two hours long. I thought it was bad last year when I had supervisions on a Saturday afternoon, but Sunday just takes the piss. I'm tempted to claim that I'm religious and therefore can't go, because it's just daft. It surely must suck for the supervisor as well, given that he's got to supervise for 12 hours on a Sunday, and I don't get why he's scheduled it for tomorrow. Hopefully I can get a bit more work done tonight and at least have a decent amount finished to go through tomorrow, because I guess I might as well try and make the most of it.

Looking overall to be a pretty nice week, and I can't see an obvious point where work is going to bunch up and get on top of me if I keep up with stuff. Frostii work will inevitably find a way to fuck me over, but I'm used to that now. It was typical that when I had a three day lull this week in work, every single project I'm working on was stalled and not giving me stuff to do. I generally don't get that much subbing stuff to do, and really if I end up being overloaded it's my own fault for not getting work done while I could, as it is right now.

I should have some free time tomorrow afternoon/evening, and I've not really posted here for a few days, so there'll be a proper opinion post tomorrow instead of shitty life stuff that nobody really wants to read.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rostradamus: Prediction I - Google Shall Rule The World

It's sort of dawned upon me over the last year or so that all these super-villains we see in movies have been massively overcomplicating stuff for decades. You don't need a giant space laser, or nuclear warheads, or any of that shit to have complete control of the Earth. All you actually need to achieve global domination is a good business team, some innovation, and the best search engine on the internet.



The fact is that Google are creeping closer and closer to just owning every aspect of our lives. We live in a world where we are dominated by the internet, moving towards a wireless way of living where virtually everything we do uses the internet in some way. Google already have an absolute shitload of online services, and they own YouTube. All they really need is Wikipedia and Facebook and they've got 90% of my internet usage right there. Google is my primary search engine, YouTube is where I get mah video streemz, I get my email on Google Mail, I have text files and spreadsheets on Google Docs, I consult Google Calendar to find out where I need to be in my life... even this blog is on Blogger (run by Google), uses Google's Feedburner for the Atom feed, is followed by people on Google Reader, viewed using Google Chrome, uses Google Ads and I check pageview stats and the like using Google Analytics. My homepage? www.google.co.uk, of course.

It's actually a little startling that what was originally a small group of students who made a pretty tidy search engine has become both a global brand, and in my opinion probably one of the most valuable corporations in the world. If they keep up their innovation and remain where they are, then in twenty or thirty years when the internet will probably be wirelessly accessible from anywhere, and virtually everything we use will connect to it, then Google should probably be the most recognised and richest company on the planet. To have expanded to the point of making operating systems and mobile phones, they could utterly dominate the market when cloud computing takes off.

The other thing is, that because the internet transverses continents, it has no authoritative body. There are no monopoly laws for things that don't tangibly exist. Do people in the west seriously use search engines other than Google? Considering that "to google" is now actually a verb, with a meaning along the lines of 'to look something up on the internet', I can't see anyone stealing their share away from them. Maybe if Microsoft's Bing search engine wasn't stupidly named and utterly shit, then they'd have succeeded in cutting a bit more of a share away given the slightly aggressive and disgraceful way it gets wired into Internet Explorer (though not much better than how much Google advertise Chrome).There's nobody to rein in Google as they start to utterly dominate the market.

The fact is that they're already so heavily ingrained with the daily lives of people who are heavy users of the internet and technology, and as more people become like that I can't see it changing. We could easily get to the point where all our videos, photos, documents, emails, appointments and browsing habits, all the technological representations of our lives, are stored in Google's servers somewhere.

It's a little scary to think how much information one company might possibly have of so many people, how bad things could get if Google suddenly stops being a forefront of innovation and a company which represents the good side of the internet, and is generally extremely good-faced and reputable, and becomes evil instead. We're all fucked if Google breaks the trust that it's users place in it. I had enough trouble last summer when my Google account got suspended (by mistake seemingly). I didn't use it much back then, so it wasn't an issue, but if it got suspended now I'd be pretty screwed until it came back online, because I rely on it fairly heavily.

Yet the thing is, while recognising this, I don't really feel like I want to do anything about it. I'm not one of these people (David Cobbledick) who refuses to give Google any more information than absolutely necessary, because in giving Google information I'm usually getting some sort of incredibly useful service in return. Google Calendar is fucking useful, GMail is the best webmail service you can get, Blogger is far better to use than Livejournal and the various other blogging sites, and Google's search engine just rips the shit out of the competition.


I might not be comfortable with placing personal information into the hands of a company, but for the stuff I get in return I don't see why I wouldn't. And for now at least, Google are nice, especially by the standards of global corporations. They have quite a friendly front, and I can't help but like a company when I open my web browser to see they've changed their logo to include Wallace & Gromit or the cookie monster from sesame street. Who couldn't help but like and trust a company that does that?

 So yeah, the day that Google changes hands, or reveals that it was actually plotting world domination from the offset, we're fucked like mankind never has before. But until then there's not much we can really do other than to continue to use and bask in the light of the fantastic services they provide. Because I'd rather live under a dictatorship than use Bing as my fucking main search engine.




Slightly related, but I don't really get the hype over Google Wave. I'll say firstly that I've used it a bit, and I think that it's technologically fantastic, and a really novel and useful way to do stuff. My main issue is that I don't really see a use for it. It's fantastic to play around with, but I just feel that it's actual functionality is limited from the point of view that the only things it really does well are extremely specific. It's useful if you're trying to plan something, but I just feel that for most things that regular email and forums do a better job. They're not as shiny, but you can do a bit more with it. I'll wait to see if they add more features to Wave, but right now I don't use it that much purely because I have no real use for it - I don't need to do any of the things it's actually good for.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

College Internet

I don't know what the fuck the problem is this term, or last term, but the DNS server in the college has just been completely fucking shit recently. It's a pain in the arse that everything that uses the internet is still connected fine, but I can't access webpages. MSN works, IRC works, StrongDC works, µtorrent works, the whole fucking lot all work fine, but when I open Firefox I frequently find myself unable to load any fucking webpages.


I'd complain to the computer officer about it, because frankly it's something that should have long been sorted out given that it essentially renders the college internet access broken for sizeable intermittent periods throughout the day. The only thing that's stopping me complaining is that I don't really want the computer officer looking at my internet usage any more than he ever normally has to. I don't visit any particularly dodgy sites, but there's a fair bit of filesharing going on, some pornographic material, visits to 4chan, and a various other things I'd rather avoid putting under scrutiny if I can help it.

It's sort of amusing, because the internet here is otherwise absolutely fantastic. Torrents don't connect that well, but I still can't complain about 100Mbps internet, and the fact is I can use DC for all my filesharing needs. I expect my internet to give me shit at home, where the speeds are slow and the connection is a bit flaky (and my, how it can be flaky), but at Uni I expect pages to actually load when I try to load them.

The real moral of this story is that the issue is easily solved by using Open DNS, which is free and is working fine for me so far. Providing you can get the connection to hold up long enough for you to set it up, you're pretty much sorted from then on. So Downing peoples, use that, and never have to complain that the fucking internet won't load any gorram webpages again.



Totally unrelated, but I got a double yakuman hand on Tenhou yesterday, which made my day pretty fucking sweet. Also managed to get caught up with work, so hopefully I can stay caught up.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Music Recommendations Please

Every now and then I grow vaguely disillusioned with my own music collection. Usually at a time like now, when none of the bands I particularly like have released an album recently (though Dropkick Murphys, Feeder and God Is An Astronaut are releasing albums fairly soon), so I'm sort of lacking of anything to listen to that I'd say was particularly fresh for me.

So guys (and gals), I'm making something of an appeal for you to all recommend me bands you think I should listen to. I'll genuinely make an effort to try them all out (it'll help if you recommend a specific album as well), and I might make a couple of posts containing my opinions. It's nice to be the discoverer of your own music tastes, but I find most of the bands I really love right now were introduced to me by other people, and a couple I was specifically told I would like them, and turns out I did. I figure it's worth spending the hour or so to try a band out, because if you end up liking them you've really gained something in your life for very little work.

 
Two things that could be useful here. The first is the beginning of my list of recommendations, started with some discussion with Peter Saunders:

Definitely try:
Jawbreaker
Jets to Brazil (What the vocalist from Jawbreaker did after he had throat surgery, I think) Leatherface
Cursive
Lawrence Arms
Dillinger Four
Strike Anywhere

Fast punk:
The Movielife (most pop)
Descendents
Elliott
Hot Water Music
Lifetime
Kid Dynamite (least pop)

Vaguely Maybe:
Husker Du (The band I was struggling to remember the other day)
Minutemen
The Replacements

Also:
Minor Threat
We Were Promised Jetpacks
Billy Bragg
Streetlight Manifesto
Weakerthans
Toe
Minus the Bear
So Many Dynamos
Max Levine Ensemble
Maybeshewill
The other thing that might be useful is my Last.fm profile page, so you guys aren't linking me to shit I have already listened to.

So yeah, take the opportunity to have some input on my blog while I actually give a crap about it. Recommendations via Facebook comments are OK, but I'd rather you posted recommendations in comments the blog and not on Facebook, because it'll be easier to find them again in a couple of weeks when this post has gone off my main profile on Facebook. I promise I'll try and listen to as much as I can, and I'll especially make an effort to any recommendations of specific albums as well as artists, because it's easier for me to sample.