Thursday, December 15, 2011

Android Looping Error in LogsProvider

I just have to broadcast this as far and wide as possible in order to help anyone else out who ever falls prey to this ridiculously stupid error.

I had been downloading heaps of apps during Google's celebration of 10 billion marketplace downloads, where they have about 10 applications per day, for 10 days, at 10 cents each. As such, I was starting to get concerned that I might run out of space on my phone, which eventually led to encountering an extremely annoying bug relating to LogsProvider that would constantly reappear modally on my phone.


Now let's take a step back to understand how storage on my Galaxy S2 works, which is, I assume, similar to on other devices: There is "16GB" of internal phone memory. This is broken up into about 2GB of internal device memory and 11.5GB of, what is for some inexplicable reason, called USB memory; I assume there is some direct USB interconnect inside the phone that Samsung thought would be the right way of hooking up extra storage. This is then supplemented by whatever SD card the owner wants to put into the phone. In my case, I've got another 16GB card.

I didn't want to run out of either the internal device memory, which was down under 1GB, or the USB space, which was down to about 3.5GB, so I did what is often recommended: I started moving applications from the phone to the SD card, which is an option on the app management page.

After I'd moved about half a dozen apps, I started getting a popup about "the application LogsProvider (com.sec.android.provider.LogsProvider) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again." Click ok, and up it comes again, with just a sliver of a second in which to try to click other things to navigate on the phone. Awesome.

So I tried several things, like deleting some apps, as equivalent messages would come up when trying to start almost any application with a message stating that there wasn't enough memory (which memory: Phone, USB or SD?).

Eventually I found a post where someone had the same problem, also after moving things to the SD card. The solution, as given by seljanempire, was to navigate to the LogsProvider application under Settings -> Applications -> Manage Applications -> All -> LogsProvider. Then select LogsProvider and click Clear Data. Worked perfectly, and a way better option to the original poster who had their phone factory-reset by a person at the store.

So, WTF? How can a phone have a modal error message that can so completely cripple the phone by running on a loop? Surely it would be ok to show it once, or once every 5 minutes, then suppress it in some kind of mode meaning "OK, I get it, now let me debug the problem without constantly annoying me and getting in my way." It's modal for crying out loud, and after clicking OK, it came back within, I would estimate, a quarter of a second.

Anyway, so my problem is solved, and I hope this post is found by someone in the same situation who can use it to avoid having to reset their phone.

And if anyone working on Android ever reads this: Please fix your error notification design, and the bug while you're at it that causes this problem when moving apps to the SD card. In fact, make it so the memory is treated monolithically in some way where I don't need to know about it. kthxbai

UPDATE: Stay tuned, but it looks like I can't actually go into any non-settings application, due to them crashing, and even trying to run a software update won't work. Looks like a factory reset might still be on the cards. It also appears to only be a temporary fix, as the message recurs after a few failed attempts to run apps. Even the phone won't work, but the camera does for some reason.

UPDATE 2: Tried doing a factory reset, but even that app crashes. I'll have to wait until I can get a cable to connect to the computer, and try to do something with Samsung Kies, as I can't connect to wifi now either. Holy crap, Google! What the hell have you guys allowed to be done to my phone? I say Google instead of Samsung, because the forums would suggest that this issue has happened to people on Android devices from other manufacturers. I was really starting to think it was a good phone, and with all the apps I'd been downloading, many of which were replacing ones I had on my iPod Touch, I was starting to see it as a single, replacement for multiple devices. Turns out it seems more like a single point of failure.

UPDATE 3: This posting has been getting quite a few hits from around the world, and it's been left unresolved, so I should update it finally: Sorry people, but I ended up having to do a factory reset by booting up into admin mode. All my important data was still preserved on the SD card in the end, but I had to reinstall everything afterwards. That includes having to remember exactly which free apps I had downloaded, as they don't seem to get registered against the user's account like paid ones do. Sorry to start the posting so positively and end it so negatively.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Occupy Process

I finally went along to OccupyMelbourne today. I brought along enough ingredients to make about 80 sandwiches, and the UPS from my computer, in order to offer people the ability to charge mobile devices.

I thought the story I would find would be the expected one about the right to freedom of assembly or a protest about, at its root, a lack if government transparency and accountability. These are real issues, being dealt with as primary problems by the movement, but the real story is the meta one. It is about a system of decision making that far exceeds what is in place in our parliament, which by contrast seems primitive.

A Case for a Bill of Rights

I am a civil libertarian. That is to say that I believe that people's fundamental freedoms are paramount. The government is not a separate tool to control the people. It is a tool of the people, by the people and for the people. I don't believe that governments have rights, other than those that we bestow upon them. So around a dozen years ago, when given the chance to overthrow our pointless monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, I said no.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy Melbourne Being Evicted

Robert Doyle is claiming that there are legal grounds for evicting the Occupy Melbourne protesters.

To me, that sounds hollow. We live in a country with very few constitutionally guaranteed rights. This includes the right to assembly. What laws can't be enacted at the federal level can almost always be enacted at the state level.

So sure, the protesters will probably be committing some legal wrong.

But when people aren't given the rights to which they are entitled, sometimes, they've just got to take them. Doyle can claim that he is "in the right," but this is a time where legal rights do not correspond with moral or ethical rights.

He wants to reclaim the square for the people, but guess what... The people are already there. They just want to stay there. He really wants to reclaim it for as an empty space, or perhaps for people acting as consumers, but not for people acting as citizens.

Shame, Robert Doyle. You are in the Liberal Party. What do you think Liberal means?

Edit: Premier Baillieu's comments that the protesters "should do it in a way that does not cause disruption" show a misunderstanding of the point of protests. Protests occur when people feel like their problems are not being listened to or dealt with. To do that in a way where their protest is ignoreable completely defeats the purpose, because shockingly, if the protesters can be ignored, the protesters will be ignored.

Thoughts on the Case for Piracy

I just read a very good article by Nick Ross on the case for piracy.

It deals with contempt for consumers, with broadcasters focusing less on viewer experience and more on advertising revenue. It also looks at DRM, lawsuits and the chilling effect that has been used to destroy fair dealing.

The author presents the positive ways in which piracy rectifies the artificial issues that the copyright and broadcasting industries create.

There is one of his conclusions, however, with which I unfortunately disagree. It's to do with the future of how content will be consumed. Nick predicts that "we'll all be using on-demand subscription models and the notion of buying content to keep will feel archaic." I agree that in the medium term, this is where we are being led.

As it is, the copyright industries are generally still trending upwards. Within these industries, there are companies benefiting from stellar hits, and those who are not getting by. There are lots of opportunities for growth in the current state of innovation and market expansion.

But in 10 to 20 years, let's say we all subscribe to content services. We pay our $20 per month to have unlimited access to everything. People are hesitant to make multiple subscriptions, when they can just subscribe to the biggest guy with the largest catalogue. There are no more than 3 major players in the content delivery space.

It's the dream of today's content industries, but...

From where comes growth?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Letter to Melbourne's Lord Mayor regarding the Occupy Melbourne protest

This is the letter that I sent to Melbourne's Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle (lordmayor@melbourne.vic.gov.au), regarding the Occupy Melbourne protest. I have heard rumours that he is planning to dismantle the rally, which I think will cause the opposite effect to what is intended.

The protesters are the symptom, not the cause, and as such, sipping the protests will not solve anything. Taking money and dodgy lobbyists out of politics is what's needed. We need a good kick of transparency and accountability.

Send a message of your own.

It's easy.

-----------

Hi,

Considering that the Occupy **** movement is all about restoring government transparency and accountability, it seems like a really bad idea to break up a peaceful protest.

Doing this will have the effect of cementing the views of the protesters and getting more people on board to the position that government has something to hide, and special interests to protect.

Please leave the protesters alone.

Regards,

David Crafti

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Telstra's Terrible Security

I pre-ordered an iPhone 4S with Telstra in the middle of last night, and got a call from 0883081023 this afternoon to confirm the order. This is when I had such a bad experience that I decided to coin some terms:

telstrible [telstr-uh-buh'l] adjective

shockingly insecure
The person who called me asked for all my details, which is telstrible security.
Origin:
2011; post-Modern English < Telstra + Terrible

telstribly [telstr-uh-blee] adverb

performed terribly by Telstra
Telstra telstribly connected my phone line, because it took ages and they messed up the account..
Origin:
2011; post-Modern English < Telstra + Terribly

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fixing Industrial Poverty with a Tip Jar

I have a simple idea for a charitable scheme that could solve much of the world's poverty in poor, industrial nations, as well as help bad companies improve their conditions and reputations.

All it would take is a bit of game theory.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Charity Fail

I feel bad.

I was at Box Hill Central earlier, with my daughter in her pram, getting some Subway at about 4pm, because I hadn't eaten since breakfast. A young woman or girl (I'd guess about 15 or so, but I'm bad at judging age) approached me and asked me if I had a spare $2. My hand was reaching for my wallet as I looked her up and down. I thought she didn't look or sound like she was in need, and said no. My response happened over maybe 2 seconds.

That might seem reasonable to some, but not to me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shmandatory Shpree-coshmitment: Will New Pokies Regulation Work?

Mandatory pre-commitment. The idea is to make problem gamblers think consciously about their actions, before the addictive behaviour kicks in, and to then bind them to their sober choices.

Will the plan work? No. But is the thought in the right place? Kind of, I guess. But is it the right approach? Doubtful. Here's why:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Final Solution to the Problem of the Boat People

I've been listening to Gillard, Abbot et al arguing about how best to come up with a final solution to the problem of the boat people, and while I can believe they're acting like this, it still totally disgusts me how partisan the Australian parliament is, at the expense of the human rights of those already at risk.

I was saying as soon as the High Court decision came down about the Malaysian solution that Labor would probably try to change the Migration Act. If Liberal were in power, they'd be doing the same thing, human rights be damned. The only reason Liberal are trying to block it is because they're not in power.

I don't know if I've blogged about it already, but this is an almost perfect example of how democracy can be abused by partisanship and factionalism:

Monday, September 19, 2011

German Pirates Storm Berlin's Parliament

Berlin's Pirate Party has won 15 seats in the state election on the weekend just passed.

It's a fantastic result. The Pirate Party got 9% of the vote, which places them as the fourth largest party in the parliament. They are also the smallest, because Germany mandates a 5% minimum to be allowed representation. This is to filter out fringe parties (3 of which got between 2%-3% of the vote), which means in Berlin, the Pirate Party is now mainstream.

Congratulations to all the German Pirates involved!

Safe Investment Strategy?

What would you call something that works like this?:
  1. A company asks for an investment of money, with the promise of returning your principle as well as a guaranteed rate of return.
  2. Investors get confidence by seeing the returns, and if any of them tried to individually exit the investment scheme, the company would be able to pay them out.
  3. The company used that confidence in order to convince investors to leave their investment with the company.
  4. The company could only continue paying out returns for so long as enough money keeps coming in to cover the guaranteed rate of return.
  5. If every investor tried to take their investment from the company, the company would go bust.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Double-blind Experiments for Dummies: Wine - Part 3

This is the final part of my wine-tasting experimentation trilogy preceded by Part 1 and Part 2.

Here, I'll be presenting the results, some basic analysis and a conclusion, including an evaluation of this experiment's credibility.

Double-blind Experiments for Dummies: Wine - Part 2

This is part 2 of yesterday's post entitled Double-blind Experiments for Dummies: Wine - Part 1.


As can be seen from yesterday, trying to conduct a proper double-blind experiment in the home is pretty hard. I identified 5 potential issues with my own lengthy experimental setup procedures (and I haven't yet mentioned how questionable the results would be in an experiment on only 4 participants).

This highlights why it always pays to be sceptical about reported results from scientific studies without first reading all the details, caveats, experimental snafus, etc. It especially highlights why pseudo-science is a load of crap; it relies on anecdote, selection bias, and the placebo effect, rather than rigorous scientific principles.

And now onto the experimental procedures of the wine-tasting experiment.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Double-blind Experiments for Dummies: Wine - Part 1

This is part 1 of my attempt to carry out a double-blind wine-tasting experiment.

I was studying a case involving Penfolds Wines at uni the other week, and it made me want to get some on the way home. But I thought it would be good to buy a really good bottle, rather than relatively cheap wine, like I'd normally have. Then I thought about what a waste of money that might be, as there would be no guarantee that the more expensive wine would be any better. That made me want to find out, as scientifically as I could, whether the more expensive wine would be any better. So here's what I did:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

33 Most Creative Films of All Time

Film Piracy is Robbing American Workers! Didn't you know that?

I wouldn't bother reading the linked article, if I were you. It's kind of long and boring. The gist of it is that people in film lose out when you copy movies, and that the entertainment industry's "creativity and innovation have made American entertainment one of [their] greatest exports for generations."

It's all quite doom and gloom, so I really feel for them. I also don't think that these problems are limited to the United States.

This is why I've put together my list of the 33 most creative films of all time, in chronological order, in order to celebrate how creative and innovative the film industry has proven itself to be:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How the Artists Shall Get Paid

I have a fundamental disagreement with Rick Falkvinge. Don't get me wrong, I respect him heaps for founding and promoting the Pirate Party, but there is one thing that I have heard from him a few times with which I just cannot agree: That it's not up to us to answer "How shall the artists get paid?"

September 11 Cost Per Victim

How much money and how many people should die per civilian killed in a terrorist attack?
Well, here are the American answers:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Painful Flight Booking

There are probably far worse experiences than I just had with Virgin Australia, but the flight I just booked with them felt like they were grabbing money from me with one hand and throwing it back in my face with the other.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Sickest Book has Merit

I'm not sure why, maybe Geoffrey Rush's appointment as President of AACTA, but I found myself thinking about the movie Marquis de Sade. I remembered that a friend of mine had read 120 Days of Sodom back when we were kids and books generally came on paper.

So I started reading up about the author and his novels on Wikipedia, reading about how he was a pretty sick guy, but his writings are both political and philosophical as well as sick. I downloaded a copy of 120 Days of Sodom to see what it was like, and was confronted with most of what is on the list of what would be blocked by Conroy's Folly. I won't even discuss in detail what was in there, because I don't want search engines to associate those keywords directly with my site.

Take Your Time, It's Faster

I've been a software developer for about a decade now. I've worked my way up to a team lead position and delivered quite a few projects, with a couple of really big ones recently. These recent ones had mixed levels of success, depending upon how success of IT projects is measured. From these projects, I've learned some things, which I'm going to share now.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Proving the Bible is Questionable in Court

An interesting thing that I've just stumbled upon: We can test in the courts whether religious texts are reasonably questionable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Crappy Commercial Claims

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the kind of crappy claims that cosmetic companies make, with a view to presenting an option for them to actually improve their scientific credibility.

That proposal was predicated on the industry having motivation to have real credibility. I don't think they do, as the numbers don't work. Faux credibility, like that gained by showing complex computer graphics, is much cheaper. Skirting the boundary of deception in order to make large profits is a foregone conclusion, but I don't want to just single out that industry on those grounds.

I want to single out some other industries as well, just to point out their bad behaviour:

Crappy Cosmetic Claims

Buzzword bingo claims that are not helped by the existence of multiple spelling mistakes.

What do cosmetics companies like Estée Lauder and some guy called Gene Science have in common? They're involved in making the cosmetics industry completely disreputable.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Profitable Pizza

Here's an idea that I've been telling my friends and colleagues about for a few years, in the hope that someone will quit their job, work on it, and prove that it works, just so I can say, "huh, I thought so."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Keeping Private Data out of Governments' Hands

Whenever a company says "we value your privacy" or "we will never pass your details onto third parties", there is always the implied, and sometimes expressly stated exception for "government and regulatory authorities as required by law" as has been revealed recently with regard to cloud service providers.

When companies or government agencies ask personal questions, if they really want truthful responses, there should be some line in the sand that sets a non-negotiable barrier against compulsion by the state to reveal the personal information.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Comparison of the Engineers and Workchoices Cases


An essay from my study of constitutional law. I crammed the whole thing into a weekend, but it got pretty decent marks, and I managed to load it up with plenty of opinion, around the need to write down constitutional protections against government expansion of power and reduction of civil liberties, rather than relying on implied rights, which are doomed.
Other than converting it from a .docx into .html, it's as-is, including the poor-quality conversion itself. I probably should have cleaned it up according to the lecturer's comments, but meh. Anyway, here it is...

Critically compare and analyse the development and limits to the Australian Constitution by the High Court in its decision in Amalgamated Society of Engineers v Adelaide Steamship Co (“Engineers case”) (1920) and New South Wales v Commonwealth (“Workchoices case”) (2006).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oaths and Affirmations

In Victorian legislation, section 21 of the Evidence Act 2008 requires sworn evidence to be given after an oath or affirmation. The difference between oaths and affirmations is that oaths are sworn to god, whereas affirmations are promises to the court.

This is faulty.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Opes Prime Collapse and Phillip Thomas

The Opes Prime collapse is back in the media. This was where a stock-broking firm was lending money to people for them to buy shares, but until the money was paid back, Opes Prime technically owned the shares. When there were some defaults, Opes Prime ran out of money, went bust and started selling all the shares that other people thought they owned. This caused a minor collapse on the ASX as a variety of companies took plunges.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Solution to the Google+ Nymwars

Google is going through a lot at the moment due to their decision to not allow pseudonyms. This article details a lot of the opposition out there to their decision, but also guesses at the reasoning behind it.
It seems to me that the whole issue could be easily resolved with a slight model change.
Currently, you can find people by their real name, and that's the only name that people can use on Google+. But this doesn't help if you want to use your World of Warcraft screen name for some people and your real name for others.
So instead, what if you could just assign a name to each circle, and then, for each circle, say whether the name should be searchable?

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Evolutionary Case for Homophobia?

OK, so this is just a theory. Really just a musing, even. I'm not saying that it's the truth. I've just wondered about it... Is there an evolutionary case for homophobia to exist?

There have been a lot of men, for a very long time, who have, for one reason or another, thought that the persecution of other men could be justified on the grounds that they didn't want to compete for women.. You'd think that the straight men who are left would be happy for making the competition lighter, right? But that's not the case, and I'll present one potential reason that could result in the observed behaviour of homophobia.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

National Classification Scheme Review Submission

Here is my submission for the ALRC's National Classification Scheme Review. At time of writing this, it isn't live on their site, as they were inundated with over 2000 submissions, so I thought I'd post my response here. I think it is pretty good, but not perfect, so let me know how you think it could be improved.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Abuse of Statistics

I've been thinking about the abuse of statistics. I'd like to make a point about it, which will start off seeming contrived, but will hopefully end up being somewhat informative, so here goes. I'll avoid doing any complicated maths, and my numbers are approximate.

I've walked across a train crossing near my house around 500 times, so I must be lucky to be alive.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Religion, Bigotry and the Census

The Atheist Foundation of Australia, in the leadup to the 2011 Australian census, is running a campaign for people to mark No Religion on their census forms. The justification for this campaign is that many people who are no longer religious still write the religion of their youth, as a matter of habit, rather than due to any real beliefs.

The purpose of the census is to accurately record the demographics of Australia in order to better target services for the people, and for posterity. As such, I support the AFA's campaign, because I would rather decisions about how tax money is spent are made based on accurate data. I also personally agree that the AFA's goal, of taking religion out of politics, is a worthy one in a secular country.

Unfortunately, it seems that we live in a country populated by enough bigoted morons to have a noticeable effect on online discourse. I don't mean the term 'bigoted moron' to be a slur. I mean it literally. And I don't mean 'literally' the way Jamie Oliver means it, i.e. figuratively. I'm sure that many of these apparent morons are actually somewhat intelligent, but it makes me wonder to whom they have been listening.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

LulzSec was right

I'm posting a story that someone communicated to me, which highlights how bad the state of IT security is. Take it with a grain of salt or a bar of chocolate (which is better than a grain of salt). I for one believe it. I've paraphrased some parts where I thought that idioms might hint at the identity of the person:

I decided, not for shits and giggles, but because I was bored, to see how easy it really is to find credentials on google.

It's *really* easy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

BitCoin and the Prisoner's Dilemma

I read a post the other day about how BitCoin generation is a Prisoner's Dilemma due to the fact that everyone could agree to use less resources with the outcome the same, except that human nature wouldn't allow it.
I think I've just come up with another example of the dilemma, which can be generalised to all other similar, speculative, trading vehicles: it's the balance between holding while the price is rising and selling enough to maintain liquidity.
If everybody holds onto their BitCoins, due to the belief that the price will keep increasing, then the price stops increasing due to a lack of liquidity, which I am certain would destabilise the unstable equilibrium that characterises a currency with no major backers. If everybody tries to sell to cash out, then the price stops increasing due to an oversupply.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Samsung Galaxy S II

I'm typing this on my shiny new Samsung Galaxy S II... and I'm just not sure.


I have to type in the plain text box, because the keyboard doesn't come up in the rich text box. Typing a conma folkowed by a space doesn't put the keyboard back on the letters screen.


There are so many apps on this thing by default, and most of them are optus shovelware.
There's no single screen of important apps. The Google apps aren't well integrated, in fact despite setting up other email accounts, and linking a Gmail account, I can't even find my Gmail account on here. I can't hook up my work email, which uses exchange, because it says that the Exchange admin wants admin access for my phone including the ability to take all data and wipe it remotely, to which I can't agree. IPhones don't have the same requirement.



Scrolling is weird. There's no elasticity when scrolling to the edge of screens and flinging my finger around in Google Earth sometimes sends the map panning, but usually stops as soon as the finger leaves the screen.
While typing this, I can't see most of the text box (on a Google website), because the text box is wider than the screen and nothing is resized properly. There's no easy way to navigate around inside this text box in which I am typing. This is my worst-written post and I can't even tell if there's anything past this sentence, so I might edit this later from a PC.


The hardware's great, but the software's far less pokished than on an iPhone, which I hate to admit.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Borders

I discovered today why Borders had to go into administration.

Forget about the fact that it is a massive bricks-and-mortar book chain in the age of Amazon.
Forget about the fact that Borders in Australia doesn't own the right to the Borders-branded online store.
Forget about the fact that they sell the ridiculously terrible Kobo eBook reader when there are so many ways of reading eBooks without having to smash things.


Borders is broke because they treat their customers like idiots.

I have always thought of RRP as being the price that suckers pay. It's what you pay if you go to Harvey Norman or Myer and don't try to haggle. It's 10% above what you'll pay at JB Hifi, before you haggle. It's 20% above what you'll pay at MSY if you're buying computer equipment. I don't know that these values are correct, but what I do know is that if I peel the $54.99 sticker off the back of a Clive Cussler book at Borders, I don't expect to see "RRP A$44.95" printed on the book. Just as I don't expect to see £7.99 on a Dune book beneath a $22 sticker.

I asked a staff member if it was normal for them to sell books well above RRP, to which the staff member replied "yes", with a smile.

Borders, good riddance.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bob Dylan in Concert

I don't know what it is about Bob Dylan, but I love his recorded music.

Back in about 1998, a guy I went to school with told me that he had been to a Bob Dylan concert, and that he had sounded like a drunk, scratchy, old man. He's 13 years older, so he could only improve with age, right?

I went to his Melbourne concert tonight and bought a t-shirt (because that's what Pirates do), and I was expecting to be disappointed, and I wasn't disappointed.

His vocals sounded like he was clearing his throat. There's a line in Things Have Changed that goes "I've used a camera" which came out more like "hyoo KA!" He'd pause for a couple of seconds, and then spit out a whole line or two quickly, frustrating any attempt to sing along, and one of the first things that struck me, was about half way through Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, people started applauding, because they'd just realised what song was being sung. This was a theme throughout the night, with people realising at different times what the current song was, as not only were the vocals generally unintelligible, the arrangements made the songs effectively unidentifiable.

I am pretty sure that Bob Dylan can actually sing though. There were times when a relatively clear, melodic voice would come through, and I'd find myself wondering why he couldn't sing more like that, but knowing that the answer was why I was there: It's Bob Dylan. It's kind of like Prince with Kiss. The little snatches of clear vocals are the reward for listening to the rest of it.

There were quite a few songs that I didn't recognise at all though. I'm not sure if I really didn't know the songs, or I just couldn't recognise the croaky vocals and new arrangements.

All of this was no real problem though, as this is what I had expected to see. The most annoying thing about the concert was the ticket seller: Ticketek. When I booked, their servers were busy crapping themselves, so I resubmitted before checking my email account, and of course ended up double-booking. In order to get a refund, I searched their website trying to find contact details, and of course couldn't, as Ticketek implement every Dark Pattern they can think of. I'd booked silver tickets, because the gold tickets were listed as "allocation exhausted". A couple of weeks later, I noticed that there were gold tickets available, so I got around to using Google, and searched for Ticketek contact details there and managed to find an enquiry form, so I submitted my request to refund one set of tickets and hopefully upgrade the other set.

I got an auto-reply, which included a phone number, so I followed the dark-pattern-filled path that they had set for me. I called the number (132849, in case you're wondering), and about 6 times over 3 hours, it was engaged. I finally got through and was on hold for around an hour. When I spoke to someone there, he tried to tell me that they had a strict no refunds, no exchanges policy. I wouldn't accept that, so he spoke to a manager, which was just his way of putting me on hold for another 5 or so minutes. I got the refund for the duplicate tickets, but he said that they couldn't let me upgrade the other tickets. I tried to pull out the old "misleading and deceptive" advertising thing (as I was lead into buying tickets that I didn't particularly want, because the ones I wanted were falsely listed as sold out), so he said he'd speak to a manager again and get back to me within a day, which never happened. Eventually, someone got to my email response and told me there was a strict no exchange or refund policy, however they had already given me a refund on the extra tickets by that point. Anyway, the point of all this is that my seat was shit.

Overall, I'm glad I went. It was what I expected, and as such, it was quite humorous. Bob Dylan is a legend and it was good to see him before 2024, by which time, I think his voice may be a little rusty.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NBN Oversight

I'm all for faster internet access, but I have to say, I'm not convinced that the National Broadband Network is the best solution out there. $40B+ for faster internet is about $2000 per human in Australia, which could be spent in so many other ways, such as:
  1. Providing solar power for every household in Australia;
  2. Building affordable, luxury apartments to sell at cost to about half a million people,* solving our housing shortage and allowing more immigration;
  3. Giving it to the states to improve hospitals, public transport, education etc.
Even if we want to spend billions on faster internet, it feels like there are better options, such as:
  1. Relying on existing market development (after all, Optus has been upgrading their cable network to support up to 100mbit per second);
  2. Wireless for the last (most expensive) mile;
  3. Using a fraction of the money as incentives for companies to invest further money building out their own networks.
Of course, I'm concerned that by building one government controlled network, there will be little impediment to large-scale monitoring and tracking, and it will make it easier for the government to implement censorship systems.

But this rant isn't about those aspects of the NBN, so that said, I'm happy to assume that the NBN is a good enough plan with which to improve our nation's infrastructure, competition issues aside, because sometimes any plan is better than no plan.

What concerns me, is that I was just listening to parliament on the radio, and they were debating a motion to disallow some delegated legislation. The legislation in question is currently in place to stop the parliamentary Public Works Committee from being able to oversee the project, and maintain transparency throughout the process. The motion failed, so the biggest, most expensive project in the history of Australia will have no parliamentary oversight to ensure that the project is running according to plan, or according to budget. As it is, from the 40% of the NBN plan that has been released, it is apparently going to optimistically lose 3%,^ due to the cost of capital being higher than the gross profit, which doesn't sound like the best of projections, considering the size of the project.

Despite this, Labor was talking about having awesome transparency. This is what annoys me the most. There is so much about this project that is hidden, so by calling this a transparently-managed project is complete doublespeak. And most people just swallow it.

/rant


* 500k people = 200k apartments = 400 high-rises = $100M per building or $200k per apartment.
^ Look up the parliamentary proceedings from today to find references to any figures I am quoting.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do Not Knock List

After yet another religious type coming to the door today trying to sell us their non-evidence-based beliefs, and some semi-frequent hassling by utility companies, I started thinking: If we can have a Do Not Call list, then why not a Do Not Knock list?

If people could put their addresses on a list to indicate a lack of interest for certain types of door-knockers, then the householders could avoid being annoyed and the door-knockers could avoid wasting their own time and being abused for disturbing people.

I'm not so concerned about restricting the freedom of people who really want to communicate with others by door-knocking for non-sales purposes, as a legislated Do Not Knock list would have the same kind of exceptions for non-commercial communication as the Do Not Call list, but all this could lead to helping marketers to identify a household's demographic, which would be undesirable.

So, as an intermediate step, I've knocked up the following:




I tried to put one together that would refer to utilities, but I'm not very good with graphic design, and I was having trouble showing power plugs, gas flames, mobile phones and similar. If you like the idea and put together some better imagery, write a comment to let me know.

In the mean time, print out the image and stick it to the outside of your front door if you'd like to avoid having people annoy you with religious crap while you're sleeping, eating or otherwise uninterested. If they still annoy you, I'd guess you have licence to go nuts at them.

Edit: I decided to do a search and noticed that there is already a Do Not Knock campaign. Support it if you are interested.

Another edit: Completely unrelated to this post, but I just want to ensure that Pratik the Ninja's site gets indexed in Google.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ways to Prove Homoeopathy doesn't Work

These experiments are not intended to be fully double-blind compliant or anything, but they are more scientific than homoeopathy, as low a bar as that may be.

Method #1:

1. Make a solution containing 9 parts water and one part bowling ball.
2. Stir.
3. Extract a drop of solution.
4. To the drop, add 10 litres of water.
5. Repeat 3-4 several times to ensure that no bowling ball remains in the solution
6. Drink the solution: You will notice that nothing bowling bally happens.

Now, post your own ways of disproving homoeopathy in the comments.

Palantir Technologies

I once went for an interview with Palantir Technologies.

It has great technology for visualisation of data. It can be used to allow operators to see connections in unstructured data where they might otherwise remain hidden.

I saw a demo on the website that showed the system being used for anti-terrorism purposes, and while I thought it looked very cool, it raised the question, which I asked during the interview: From where does the data come?

When people use this software, are they getting court orders for bank transactions, phone calls, emails etc.? The answer I received was about what I would expect: Palantir provides the software and it is up to the users to use it legally. That's totally fine with me. It's the same argument that can be used for guns, drugs (including alcohol and cigarettes), BitTorrent and cars.

I thought that there was nothing about the fact that Palantir makes software that can be used in corrupt, illegal ways to imply that the company itself, or its employees, were unethical.

So, it turns out that in this case, I seem to have been wrong.

Through documents that were obtained when Anonymous hacked the security firm HBGary Federal, it has been shown that Palantir was directly involved in plans to attack WikiLeaks in order to protect Bank of America, about whom WikiLeaks is believed to possess a trove of documents.

Since this has all become public, Palantir has apologised profusely for its part in the scheme. Is that enough though? Who wouldn't apologise when caught red-handed trying to illegally attack another organisation? Surely the test for ethical behaviour is conducted when you don't think anyone else is watching. That's one of the main arguments for promoting the right to privacy: To enable people to choose to be good, rather than just forcing them to be, with no conscious thought.

In this case, Palantir's private actions came out, and it has failed the test. As it stands, no mere apology can compensate for its complicity.

If it truly wants to redeem itself, Palantir should put its money where its mouth is: Donate a large amount of money to organisations like EFF or WikiLeaks.

So, to Palantir CEO Alex Carp, put your money where your mouth is. Don't just talk up freedom of speech. Actively support it.