Monday, November 27, 2006

Dershowitz on the world according to Carter

This critique by Alan Dershowitz of the faults in Jimmy Carter's recent book is notable not only for the content of his argument, delivered with its usual clarity, but also for the unbelievable antisemitism of the commenters: Dershowitz on the world according to Jimmy Carter

Been getting a lot of spam lately? Thank Microsoft

According to this article, the huge increase in spam over the last couple of months is due to a massive botnet controlled by a group of Russian hackers. So the inevitable has happened. As sysadmins and ISPs around the world have made it all but impossible to send spam from legitimate domains, so the spammers have gone for the weakest link: computers that are connected to the Internet but are hopelessly compromised by kludgy and poorly designed security. In other words, the Windows machines used by your parents, your spouse, your kids and your neighbours. Data obtained from reverse-engineering a botnet control client shows that many of the compromised computers are running XP Service Pack 2, the version of Windows that was supposed to represent a major tightening up of security. Guess that was more PR than substance, which is not, shall we say, unassociated with Microsoft. So even if you don't use Windows yourself, you still have to suffer the consequences of Microsoft's short-sighted design principles. Just wonderful.

Getting ripped off by something that's free

I came across a disclaimer on a website recently, part of which read as follows:

"This Agreement shall all be governed and construed in accordance with
the laws of United Kingdom applicable to agreements made and to be
performed in United Kingdom. You agree that any legal action or
proceeding between [site name removed].com and you for any purpose
concerning this Agreement or the parties' obligations hereunder shall
be brought exclusively in a federal or state court of competent
jurisdiction sitting in United Kingdom."

According to the footer, it was generated free by a company called They have an invitation on the bottom to get your
own free disclaimer.

PriorityDigital have obviously taken a boilerplate disclaimer written
by a lawyer in the United States, and replaced every reference to a
state or a country with the country supplied by the person who wants
the disclaimer. In this case, the phrase "United Kingdom" was

Now here's the problem. There are no laws applying to the United
Kingdom as a whole. There is a legal system that applies in England
and Wales. There is another legal system that applies in Scotland.
Businesses that operate in England or Wales (or both) normally opt for
their agreements to be governed by the laws of England and Wales.
Opting for a legal system that doesn't actually exist, and that
betrays your ignorance of the laws applicable in your own country, is
probably not a good way of achieving legal certainty in your affairs.

There's another problem as well. There are no "federal or state
courts" of any jurisdiction, competent or otherwise, sitting anywhere
in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales there are county courts,
crown courts, high courts, courts of chancery, and probably others,
but no federal or state courts. England is a monarchy, not a
federation, nor a member of one, and is not a state in that sense. So
where exactly are you asking for your action to be heard?

This is an example of getting ripped off by free: using a free service
like this could end up being very expensive indeed. And I am sure that
the disclaimer that PriorityDigital had drawn up to protect themselves
from liability for use of their free service, has been very carefully
and very specifically drafted to protect them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The new Million Dollar Page?

Here's another of those "why didn't I think of that?" sites: whether the guy will get to the million, who knows, but I then I doubted Alex Tew would, so what do I know: Link Experiment

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Alder Hey on Child's Play

Just a quick reminder that Child's Play, the excellent charity initiative from the amzing Tycho and Gabe of Penny Arcade is up and running again, and this year, one of the hospitals is Alder Hey in Liverpool.

The idea behind Child's Play is for gaming enthusiasts to give toys, games and books to children's hospitals for the sick kids to use, especially those unfortunate enough to be in hospital over the festive season. To this end there are a number of Amazon wishlists, each set up by one of the hospitals, and to contribute you just go to the wish list and buy something. Amazon sends the goodies direct to the hospital. That's it!

In the three years that Child's Play has been in operation, they've raised more than a million dollars, and so far this year we're up to $50k, so if you need to make up a bit of ground on your charitable giving this year, please consider buying a toy or two for sick kids.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Kids and technology

Originally uploaded by zinkwazi.

I love this picture: I think it shows how kids effortlessly take command of technology, without any doubts or fears, and how much fun it can be. (Of course, it helps that they're using a PowerBook!)

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Is it just me or is the Gmail spam filter suddenly a lot more
agressive? I used to have no false positives and one or two spams
getting through a day, but over the last week I've noticed a lot more
of the wanted stuff getting stuck in the spam folder. Anyway, while
retrieving the good stuff I came across some spam that made me laugh:

"You won't forget your eyes after you finally gave her the long-lasting love."

That sounds really good, because, you know, it's so embarrassing when
you forget your eyes and have to go back the next morning to get them.
I can really relate to that. Not.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Zero percent of Cubans are connected to the Internet"

Bill Woodcock at the U.N. Internet Governance Forum, responding to the
Cuban delegate's evasion of the question:

"Let me answer the question about what percentage of Cubans are
connected to the Internet. ... Zero percent of Cubans are connected to
the Internet. The Cuban government operates an incumbent phone
company, which maintains a Web cache. Cubans who wish to use the
Internet browse the government Web cache. They do not have
unrestricted access to the Internet."

The violence in Iraq is an Iraqi problem

An interesting article by Daniel Pipes argues that just because
America invaded Iraq to protect its interests doesn't mean it is
obliged to rehabilitate it. He suggests redeploying the coalition
forces to the uninhabited areas, where they can protect the borders,
ensure no new dictators take over, etc, but leave the policing and the
ground-level security to the Iraqis. It's certainly time the Iraqis
took some responsibility for their own fate. Saddam is gone: there's
no excuse now for not taking action. Let's see some.

In Iraq, Stay the Course - but Change It