Bonum Certa Men Certa

Links 24/1/2011: MEPIS 11 is Near, NVIDIA 260.19.36 Driver Release, LCA Opens

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Music on Ubuntu

    It's a dirty secret that as a lawyer who specialises in (and loves) free and open source software, one of my favourite pieces of software is Reason (and its snappily-named stablemate "Record") from Propellerheads in Sweden.

    It's professional music making software (which is not to say that I can make professional music with it) and runs on Windows and Mac. It is also about as un-free as any software can get: although it does have some capability for interfacing with other programmes through the ReWire API.

  • Events

    • Against the odds, 2011 kicks off in Brisbane
      During this morning’s keynote, a Loongson MIPS-based mini computer was given away to someone in the audience.

      There is also a rumour that Linus Torvalds himself, a frequent LCA visitor, will also come to Brisbane this week, but nothing has been confirmed by the organisers.

      The first two days of LCA is usually devoted to specialist “miniconfs” of varying topics. This year miniconf topics include business, cloud computing, mobile, government, graphics and even rocketry.

      On Tuesday, Google vice president and chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf will deliver the keynote address before the main conference programme starts on Wednesday.

  • Oracle

  • CMS

    • Five WordPress Plugins to Make You a Better Blogger
      Open source blogging platform WordPress is popular with millions of bloggers worldwide for its versatility and ease of use. One of the best things about self-hosting a WordPress blog on your own server is its nearly infinite tweakablilty. Post-deployment plugins turn a standard blog into a useful interactive and engaging site for readers. Here are five plugins to make your great blog even better.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Hardware

      • Arduino The Documentary. How open source hardware became cheap and fun
        Open source software has had a major impact on the applications and platforms we all use today. Linux is now a very viable alternative to Windows and Mac OS even for beginner PC users. The Android operating system looks set to dominate on mobile hardware, and more and more software applications are being released for free as open source projects by anyone who can learn to program.


  • 5 Operating Systems Starting 2011 With a Bang

  • Max Mosley Fights for Right to Be Told About Nazi-Orgy News Stories in Advance
    Max Mosley, former head of international motorsports organization FIA, has been fighting with British tabloid News of the World for almost three years. In 2008, News of the World published a story about Mosley’s raunchy role-playing rendezvous with five sex workers, in which they played prison guards to his naughty prisoner. One of the sex workers had a camera supplied by the tabloid, so the story had a graphic video component. The News of the World focused on the fact that the sex workers spoke German throughout the role-playing, and thus described it as a “Nazi orgy.”

  • Weak Commitment to Human Rights Factors into Boston Common's Decision to Divest of Cisco Systems
    Boston Common Asset Management, LLC has divested of its holdings in Cisco Systems, Inc. stock (NYSE: CSCO) due in part to the company's weak human rights risk management and poor response to investor concerns. Cisco's deceptive announcement of vote results on proxy items at the 2010 annual shareholder meeting has raised further alarm about the company's commitment to transparency.

  • Argentina: agribusinesses accused of enslaving workers

    Labor ministry inspectors from the Argentine national government and the Buenos Aires provincial government said they found 199 farm workers in conditions close to slavery during raids carried out at the end of December and the beginning of January on estates in the area of San Pedro, about 100 kilometers west of the national capital. The inspectors said 130 of the laborers, including some 30 children and adolescents, were producing for the Dutch-based multinational Nidera, and 69 were producing for the Argentine company Southern Seeds Production SA; the workers appear to have been subcontracted through temporary agencies.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Oregon sues Johnson & Johnson for leaving flawed Motrin on store shelves
      Lynn Walther was bothered by his instructions to secretly buy up faulty pain relievers from Salem-area stores.

      So in June 2009, he faxed his employer's orders to Oregon pharmacy regulators. "Something was wrong," Walther said.

    • Sick Gulf Residents Beg Officials for Help
      However, most of the 250 people at the meeting here focused on the health crisis that has exploded in the wake of the April 2010 disaster, leaving former BP clean-up workers and Gulf residents alike suffering from ailments they attribute to chemicals in BP's oil and the toxic dispersants used to sink it.

      Dr. Rodney Soto, a medical doctor in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, has been testing and treating patients with high levels of oil-related chemicals in their bloodstream.

      These are commonly referred to as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Anthropogenic VOCs from BP's oil disaster are toxic and have negative chronic health effects.

    • NHS bans on operations gamble with patients' health, senior surgeon warns

      The NHS is gambling with patients' health by increasingly banning operations for hernias, cataracts and arthritic joints to save money, one of the UK's most senior medical figures said .

      John Black, the president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, accused NHS primary care trusts (PCTs) of pursuing a "dangerous" course by refusing treatment to patients, who will then suffer unnecessary pain and have less chance of recovering fully.

  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

    • Cyberwar Is Harder Than It Looks
      Modern life is made possible by sets of tightly interconnected systems, supplying us with electricity, water, natural gas, automobile fuels, sewage treatment, food, telecommunications, finance, and emergency response. In wartime, combatants have traditionally sought to disrupt their enemies’ supply systems, generally by blowing them up. Nowadays, many of these systems are increasingly directed and monitored through the Internet. Would it be possible for our enemies to disrupt these vital systems by “blowing up” the Internet?

    • Cancer survivor demands investigation after Calgary airport screening
      After spending the Christmas holiday with family in Calgary, Elizabeth Strecker, 82, was flying back to her home in Abbotsford on Jan. 4 when she was selected for further screening by security officials and told to go through the full body scanner.

    • Leahy to Review Use of 'Invasive' Scanners at Airports
      Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., plans to review the use of full-body scanning machines at the nation's airports, calling them "invasive" and one of a handful of "emerging privacy issues" for his panel's oversight agenda.

      The Transportation Security Administration has installed about 500 full-body scanning machines at airports across the country, with plans to buy and operate about 500 more this year. The agency first began deploying the machines in 2007, but it significantly ramped up their use last year after a Nigerian man unsuccessfully tried to blow up an airliner over Detroit using explosives material sown into his underwear.

    • Israel demolishes homes and classroom in West Bank village

      In a bleak but beautiful landscape of undulating stony hills I watched a group of Palestinian schoolchildren take their lessons yesterday in the open air next to a heap of rubble that, until this week, was their classroom.

    • Shot in the Head
      Several years ago, I was researching the cause of death of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces during the first months of the Second Intifadah, the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation. As I counted up the numbers, I was chilled to discover that the single most frequent cause of death in those beginning months was “gunfire to the head.”

      In the past 10 years Israeli forces have killed at least 255 Palestinian minors by fire to the head, and the number may actually be greater, since in many instances the specific bodily location of the lethal trauma is unlisted. In addition, this statistic does not include the many more Palestinian youngsters shot in the head by Israeli soldiers who survived, in one form or another.

    • Thousands of Israelis rally in defence of human and civil rights

      Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv at the weekend in the biggest demonstration for years to protest against a series of attacks on civil and human rights organisations and a rise in anti-Arab sentiment.

      Under the banner of the "Democratic Camp", a coalition of organisations and prominent individuals, the marchers heard speakers lambast the Israeli government, singling out the rightwing foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who is seen as threatening Israel's democracy.

    • Barack Obama acts to ease US embargo on Cuba
      Barack Obama has eased America's long-standing embargo on Cuba, allowing many Americans to travel there for the first time and increasing the amounts that they can invest in the island.

      Other changes announced by the president will allow all US international airports to accept flights to and from Cuba; at present, chartered flights are restricted to Miami and a handful of other airports. The moves represent an important step to rapprochement between the US and Cuba.

    • How Many Gitmo Alumni Take Up Arms?
      Almost a decade after the first detainees accused of terrorism were sent to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and almost two years after U.S. President Barack Obama promised to close the prison within a year, more than 170 of Guantánamo's prisoners remain in custody.

    • Iran opposition says rulers 'totalitarian'
      Iran's opposition leader on Wednesday denounced the country's ruling system for being 'totalitarian' like the old Nazi and Soviet regimes, with lying to its people being its defining characteristic.

      Mir Hossein Mousavi statement comes as reaction to a stepped up campaign by the ruling system to discredit opposition leaders, calling them traitors that would ultimately be prosecuted.

    • Attack of the drones

      There is a second-and-a-half delay between the RAF operator pressing his button and the Hellfire rocket erupting from the aircraft he is controlling, circling in the sky above Afghanistan.

      That's a long time in modern warfare, but the plane is an unmanned "drone" and its two-strong crew are 8,000 miles away at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. Right now, the Reaper is being commanded from a console with twin video screens shaped to resemble a plane's cockpit.

      The UK has five Reapers like this one operating in Afghanistan. With a wingspan of 66ft, they are 36ft long, reach a top speed of 250 knots and usually carry four Hellfire rockets and two laser-guided bombs. These Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) – which rely on fibre optic cables, European "upstations" and satellite links – are part of an international trend towards remote combat. RAF-controlled Reapers used their weapons in Afghanistan 123 times in the first 10 months of 2010.

    • Confusion, fear and horror in Tunisia as old regime's militia carries on the fight
      Confusion, fear and horror in Tunisia as old regime's militia carries on the fight

    • Tunisia forms unity government in effort to quell unrest

    • UK linked to notorious Bangladesh torture centre
      UK authorities passed information about British nationals to notorious Bangladeshi intelligence agencies and police units, then pressed for information while the men were being held at a secret interrogation centre where inmates are known to have died under torture.

      A Guardian investigation into counter-terrorism co-operation between the UK and Bangladesh has revealed a detailed picture of the last Labour government's reliance on overseas intelligence agencies that were known to use torture.

    • Analysis: No more Iraq mistreatment inquiries (for now at least)
      The High Court has dismissed a challenge to the government’s decision to ‘wait and see’ if another public inquiry into abuse of Iraqi detainees is necessary, pending the outcome of internal Ministry of Defence investigations. The court looked in detail at the obligation on states under Article 3 to conduct an independent and effective investigation into allegations of torture, before concluding that what is required by Article 3 essentially depends on the facts of any given case.

  • Cablegate

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Last refuge of rare fish threatened by Yangtze dam plans
      The alarm was raised after the authorities in Chongqing quietly moved to redraw the boundaries of a crucial freshwater reserve on the Yangtze, which was supposed to have been the bottom line for nature conservation in one of the world's most important centres of biodiversity.

    • Who are the biggest electric car liars - the BBC, or Tesla Motors?
      In a world-gone-topsy-turvy moment, the BBC has been accused of virulent anti-green bias by advocates of electric motoring, including Kryten from Red Dwarf and - of course - famous battery-car manufacturer Tesla, maker of the iconic Roadster.

    • Undercover police officer 'could be prosecuted in Germany'
      Green party MP calls for government to reveal whether Mark Kennedy committed criminal offences in Germany

    • Police climate spies can't break us
      Planting police spies among green activists was an attempt to derail a growing social movement – and it has failed

    • Mark Kennedy 'took part in attack on Irish police officers at EU summit'
      The undercover policeman Mark Kennedy was in the vanguard of militant anti-capitalist protesters who attacked Irish police officers at an EU summit in Dublin marking the accession of eastern European states to the union, Irish anarchists have told the Guardian.

    • Eco-terrorism: the non-existent threat we spend millions policing
      Spying on environmental activists serves no one's interests except for big corporations. Let's end this insult to democracy

    • Mark Kennedy accuses senior officers of suppressing vital evidence
      The undercover policeman at the centre of the storm over infiltration of the environmental protest movement today insisted that all his actions had been sanctioned by his superiors and accused senior officers of deliberately suppressing evidence that would have exonerated six activists facing criminal charges.

      Mark Kennedy, whose seven-year career as an undercover officer in the protest movement was detailed by the Guardian last week, broke his silence in a newspaper interview in which he rejected claims he had acted as an agent provocateur by orchestrating and financing protests. He also said he knew of 15 other undercover officers who had infiltrated green protest groups in the past decade, and of four who remained undercover.

  • Finance

    • Nick Clegg signals support for banks breakup
      Nick Clegg today indicated the government would back a breakup of the banks to "make them safe" and protect the British economy from having to bail them out again.

      The deputy prime minister said there was a "very strong case" for separating high-risk "casino" banking from low-risk high street banking to ensure banks were no longer "too big to fail".

    • Racism, Materialism and Militarism in the US
      Here are some of the facts about racism, materialism and militarism in the US which we should reflect on as we decide how best to carry on the radical struggle for justice of Dr. King. (For each fact, I provide a brief cite to the sources which are listed at the end of the article).

      Let us renew our commitment to the radical revolution of values for which Dr. King gave his life as we turn to the realities of current life.


      Even with similar qualities (credit profiles, down payment ratios, personal characteristics, and residential locations) African Americans were more likely to receive subprime loans. Similarly blacks and Hispanics were significantly more likely than whites to receive loans with unfavorable terms such as prepayment penalties. The result: from 1993 to 2000, the share of subprime mortgages going to households in minority neighborhoods rose from 2 to 18 per cent.

    • The myth of Japan's lost decade
      Growth rates that take demographics into account show Japan has done better than most of Europe over the past 10 years

    • The 'new normal' of unemployment

      The American Economics Association held its annual meeting in Denver last weekend. Most attendees appeared to be in a very forgiving mood. While the economists in Denver recognised the severity of the economic slump hitting the United States and much of the world, there were few who seemed to view this as a serious failure of the economics profession.

      The fact that the overwhelming majority of economists in policy positions failed to see the signs of this disaster coming, and supported the policies that brought it on, did not seem to be a major concern for most of the economists at the convention. Instead, they seemed more intent on finding ways in which they could get ordinary workers to accept lower pay and reduced public benefits in the years ahead. This would lead to better outcomes in their models.

    • Yes, bonuses do work – but for fruit-pickers, not City bankers
      Open the business pages at this time of year, and a whole bunch of telephone numbers come tumbling out. An average payout of €£233,000 for the investment bankers at JP Morgan. A €£9.7bn pot for the swots at Goldman Sachs. And a €£2m kiss goodbye for the boss of Lloyds, Eric Daniels, presumably as thanks for bungling the high-street bank's affairs so badly that it now relies on cash from the British taxpayer.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • DC Public Affairs Firm Dumped Tunisia Last Week
      A week before the Tunisian government collapsed on Friday, with its longtime dictator fleeing the country in the face of massive popular protests, a Washington, DC public relations firm that had been hired by the government abruptly severed its relationship the North African nation.

    • 2011 Census press and social media "incident" media spin preparations
      The 2011 Census is rapidly approaching on Sunday 27th March 2011 and the Government bureaucracy is preparing its media spin and propaganda campaign...

    • [People for the American Way]
      Unfortunately, politicians and pundits on the Right are now responding the same way they always respond to criticism: deflection and denial. They are angry that they would be held accountable and are showing bitter defensiveness by going on the offense against anyone who raises uncomfortable truths like Sheriff Dupnik and some in the media. And they've childishly resorted to their own irrational finger pointing. Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Tea Party leaders and others on the Right are now claiming that the Tucson shooter Jared Loughner is a liberal because he listed Marx's Communist Manifesto among his favorite books (a ridiculous stretch since he also listed Mein Kampf and an Ayn Rand book). Rush Limbaugh said that the gunman has the "full support" of the Democratic Party. And Republicans from Lamar Alexander to Sarah Palin are pushing the message that merely discussing examples of the violent rhetoric which has come to define our political discourse is tantamount to contributing to the ongoing rancor.

  • Censorship

    • Customs Chief Defends Seizure Of Domain Names

      The head of the Homeland Security Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency Tuesday defended his agency's aggressive efforts to combat online piracy and counterfeiting by seizing Internet domain names.

      During a speech at the annual State of the Net conference, ICE Director John Morton defended the agency's "Operation In Our Sites" actions that involved the issuance of warrants in June to seize nine Internet domain names engaged in piracy of copyrighted content. A second operation carried out in November involved the seizure of 82 domain names of commercial websites that the agency said were illegally selling and distributing counterfeit goods and copyrighted works.


      Computer and Communications Industry Association President Ed Black questioned Morton on whether the seizure of domain names sets a precedent that will allow less Democratic governments around the world such as China or Iran to seize domain names in the name of intellectual property protection but are really aimed at shutting down political speech they oppose.

    • EC Survey Finds Cracks In Online Filtering Tools

      The European Commission Thursday released the results of a survey it conducted that found while most software programs it tested do a good job of blocking kids from accessing certain websites, they are less effective at blocking access to social networking sites and blogs.

    • Hate Speech and Free Speech

      What Lerner is urging, in modern form, is the revival of laws against sedition. The "protected values" (or in modern legal lingo, the "cognized groups") may be different but the principle is the same: words which have a "tendency" to incite violence and/or threaten the security or wellbeing of ... [insert your cherished value-of-choice here]... need to be outlawed and criminally punished.

      Whether enacted in 1789, 1918 or 2011, laws against sedition are inimicable to a free society; and no amount of spurious sociological "impact studies" (so-called) can change that constitutional fact.

  • Civil Rights

    • Homeland Security's laptop seizures: Interview with Rep. Sanchez
      Worse, all of this is done not only without a warrant, probable cause or any oversight, but even without reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in any crime. It's completely standard-less, arbitrary, and unconstrained. There's no law authorizing this power nor any judicial or Congressional body overseeing or regulating what DHS is doing. And the citizens to whom this is done have no recourse -- not even to have their property returned to them.

    • “No Touching” at High School? A Student Protests!
      Dear Free-Range Kids: I am a senior at a a small New England high school. A few days ago, the administration implemented a new rule: No physical contact at any time. The only appropriate touch, we are told, is a handshake. Presumably, this is to thin out the kissing couples who clog up the halls. I have no problem with that. But am I wrong in thinking that banning all touch goes too far? This morning I was in the library and saw a boy and girl studying at a nearby table. She had her arm around his shoulders. A librarian rushed over and loudly harangued them. They were forced to sit two feet apart for the remainder of the period.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Sequel to Catcher in the Rye 'banned in US'

      But a US judge blocked its publication in North America, saying it mirrored Salinger's original too closely.

    • Third Parties Increasingly Targeted In Infringement Cases
      This is unfortunate, but not a surprise. We've been warning for the better part of a decade the problems with third party liability. Those who benefit from it will always push to stretch it to dump liability on third parties who had absolutely nothing to do with the actual infringement, and often had no idea that any infringement was going on. These payment companies, ad networks and registrars are quite far removed from any actual infringement. As noted above, they're barely "third parties" at all, as they're really fourth or fifth parties, so far removed from the actual infringement as to make these legal actions really quite questionable. It's hard to see how anyone can reasonably argue that a registrar or a payment processor or an ad network should somehow be liable for actions done by the users of a site that they work with. If this continues it will severely stifle many of these activities, as payment providers and ad networks won't do business with all sorts of perfectly legitimate sites, just to avoid the liability of being blamed for the actions of someone two steps removed.

    • Senator who opposes antipiracy bill under pressure?
      Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, was instrumental in blocking the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA) late last year. COICA was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and passed in that committee unanimously. But it was derailed when Wyden opposed it. Individual senators can place holds on pending legislation.

      Since the legislation was introduced very late in the prior congressional session, Wyden's opposition forced supporters to wait until Congress reconvened. Now that Congress is back to work, Leahy has said he will again try to get COICA passed. The bill already has the backing of the major Hollywood film studios and record labels, but a mostly new group of supporters sent a letter today to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, praising him for past antipiracy efforts and asking for his support in getting COICA passed.

    • Copyrights

      • RIAA threatens ICANN over new TLDs
        The RIAA, no stranger to playing the bogeyman when it comes to technological change, is concerned that .music, for example, could be used to encourage copyright infringement.

      • MegaUpload joins the fight against MPAA and RIAA propaganda
        After a flood of piracy allegations, the file locker site MegaUpload has stood up against the music and movie industry. In an interview for TorrentFreak the company says RIAA and MPAA are directing them with some "grotesquely overblown allegations". Just a couple days ago Anti-fraud firm MarkMonitor claimed that upload sites are "on a par with peer-to-peer sites when it comes to piracy." MarkMonitor's stats say that RapidShare, Megaupload and Megavideo alone account for more than 21 billions visits to illegal files per year.

      • Canadian-Uploaded YouTube Video Doesn't Infringe in US--Shropshire v. Canning
        This lawsuit relates to the Christmas novelty song, "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer," a song I listened to far too many times while preparing this blog post. I won't dignify the song with a link. Just know that it was initially released in 1979 (not known as a good year, or era, in music) and co-performed by a guy named Elmo Shropshire. Need I say more?

      • No, Just Because A Site Contains 'Academic' 'Advantage' & 'Scam' On The Same Page, It Is Not Defamation Against Academic Advantage
        I would love to see this law firm go to court and try to defend the claim that the post on BoingBoing (which is actually quite interesting) was designed to do nothing more than damage Academic Advantage when absolutely nothing in the post or the comments is about the company Academic Advantage.

Clip of the Day

Duke Nukem Forever First look 2010 Live Demo

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Credit: TinyOgg

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One in a Thousand Voters Chose to Vote Daniel Pocock (as First Preference)
He got about 4 times more votes than what had him win FSFE elections
Daniel Pocock on Good Performance in His EU Election Campaign: Thanking the voters of Midlands-North-West, Ireland
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
The 'IT Industry' is Already in Ruins
The "powers that be" do not want the "hoi polloi" to possess skills and systems
Microsoft's Windows is Sliding Away Into Minority Platform Territories, Even in Rich Countries With Affluent Computer Users
We seem to be striking a nerve at Microsoft every time we say this
Self-Hosting Should be Taught and Embraced, Outsourcing Creates More Problems (or Risks) Than It Solves
One can control one's destiny...