Monthly Archives: January 2012


My previous e-reader having died, I found the pocket-friendly form and market-beating price tag of the kindle irresistible.  If I stick to Project Gutenberg for my books, I’m not sucked in to Amazon’s Orwellian World, but I have the advantages of the latest technology (including notably an e-ink screen that is no longer slow) fronting my library.

But what about the with-keyboard versions?  That’s potentially an even more interesting device, depending on what software I can run on it.  If I can install some basic utilities it becomes truly the ideal portable computer.  How basic?  Just a text editor and it becomes the ideal companion for events like FOSDEM and for real backpacking, with both keyboard and screen being a whole lot better to use than the pocket-puter (aka smartphone), as well as decent battery life.  Add a set of regular smartphone/tablet-like apps (like email, calendar, notebook) and the ability to install apps, and it really begins to look like the device I’m waiting for.

Is that feasible?  A couple of shops where I’ve asked say no chance.  What would I have to do to make it happen?  And is anyone playing with interesting ideas like running Linux or an open-ish Android on a kindle?

Benign spam

Can you spam without being evil?

A local tech (‘puter/etc) shop seems to have found a way.  A notice on his door tells me that if I ‘like’ his facebook page, I get entered monthly for a draw.  The monthly prize is £15, so just a small incentive, but then it’s only a one-man business.

I guess that’s another manifestation of the same popularity/visibility game that gives us link farming and worse forms of spam.  But this one seems pretty-much harmless: it’s just playing the rating systems.  When ratings get gamed and subverted (like the once-useful TripAdvisor) it seems to me more a weakness of the system itself (insofar as the system rewards the gamer) than anything else.

OK, I’m probably hopelessly behind the curve here, observing something you already knew.  Hmmm …

Past mistakes

Controversy of the week: what to do about the legacy of cosmetic surgery in which a key component is (retrospectively) deemed defective?  Should the offending breast implants be removed, replaced, or left alone?  Who should pay?  Different countries have reacted differently, and every reaction is sure to have outraged someone.

I find it slightly bizarre that this should be seen as a matter for governments.  Surely it should be for medical professionals to deal with: is there a medical issue, and if so what are the pros and cons of each option?  The role of politicians might be to consider how it happened in the first place and whether there are lessons to be learned for the regulatory system.  But I hesitate to say that, because the most likely outcome of politicians reviewing a hot topic like this is to make things worse.

I have one suggestion for them.  The question of who pays if corrective surgery is required can and should be dealt with by requiring all cosmetic surgery to carry insurance against the full cost of such an event arising in the lifetime of the patient.  An insurer, having its own money at stake, is better-motivated than a regulator to scrutinise the actual risks of any particular procedure.  It is also better-equipped to do so, with the budget for expert scrutiny being determined by the actual risk being taken on, rather than competing with many unrelated tasks for a fixed, politically-determined pot.

Oh, and I wonder if this’ll lead to a whole raft of similar cases being unearthed as journalists seek out new stories?

Past Crimes

Should people who committed serious crimes a long time ago be severely punished or handsomely rewarded?  Or do we let sleeping dogs lie if a long time has elapsed and they no longer pose a threat?

This has been a week of contrasts.  On the one hand, an ex-gangster and a man convicted of theft, conspiracy and fraud get honoured in the new years honours list.  On the other hand, two men who were once violent thugs involved in a murder get maximum jail sentences.

So whose crimes happened a long time ago when the criminals were juveniles and less than half their present age?  That’s right, it’s the two who got convicted.

Hmmm ….

Lest anyone take this the wrong way, I’m not suggesting the two murderers should’ve been let off.  Just noting the contrast.