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Hania, my woman and wife, was one of the winners of the Benzelius price from the Royal Society of Science in Uppsala, Sweden, for her Ph.D. work in digital geometry and combinatorics on words (she had to help me spell this). She got this on the 300 year anniversary of the society, which was set up by such luminaries as Anders Celcius and Carl Von Linné. The Royal Society of Science in Uppsala is actually the oldest academic society in Sweden.

I’m so proud I’m certain to break some vital organ if I don’t calm down.

What a strange piece

Can’t help commenting on this opinion piece on TechRepublic: The Apple Tablet will disrupt Apple’s device momentum. Just a few choice quotes:

… 1) providing good entertainment; and 2) providing flexible input and output. The success of the iPhone illustrates how correct I was in the first point. It stumbled into the entertainment angle.

Yes, sure, Apple “stumbled” into success.

In fact, every key innovation in PC technology for the past 30 years has been driven by gamers, but Microsoft, HP, and everyone else – including Apple with its largely accidental success with the iPhone – have ignored this in the portable electronic device market. And the whole time, I feel like I’ve been jumping up and down, screaming, “Deliver the games, become the dominant games delivery system – and the rest will follow!”

You didn’t scream loud enough, did you? Oh, btw, me and a lot of other people I know buy iPhones for other reasons than games, like for their business and connectivity apps, you know? Haven’t heard of those yet? Maybe if you stopped jumping up and down and screaming for a sec, you’d hear us talking about that.

“Take my word: The super-hyped Apple Tablet – which is supposed to be a convergence of the iPhone, the Apple Mac, and the netbook phenomenon – is going to be a failure”

What Apple Tablet? Nobody has seen one, but you already know what it’s going to be and even why it will ultimately fail.

Why will the Apple Tablet fail? The one thing consumers don’t want is another gadget that ultimately does the exact same thing as several other gadgets they already own, especially one that requires all kinds of contortions to move legally-licensed and legitimately-owned content around from device to device.

Yes, especially as Apple is known for making their users buy media again and again every time another product of theirs comes on the market. Like the last time people bought all their media on the Play-For-Sure system only to discover that it wouldn’t play on the new generation Apple Zune. We’re not going to walk into that trap again, are we? When will Apple finally learn to treat their customers with respect, like Microsoft does with their iTunes, which is not only DRM free but works across devices without new purchases being required.

Oh, wait, did I get that backwards?

Then I just skimmed through the rest, but if you feel like being abused by more of that bad thinking, please head over there and enjoy some more of these “insights”.

Politics, at last

I usually don’t go into politics in this blog, but now I feel I have to.

Today we have the EU elections. Not that they mean as much as national elections, but they do mean something. I’m voting for the Pirate Party and I feel an urge to explain why.

It’s not because I support illegal downloading of copyrighted material, or hate artists or anything like that. I don’t do illegal downloading of copyrighted material for a number of reasons, one of which is that it’s probably illegal (in Sweden, it’s not all that clear), but mainly because I’m too lazy. As long as getting the content I want is convenient, and I can live without content that isn’t convenient to get, I see no reason to do the illegal downloading thing.

The thing that really gets me is that just to protect the copyright owner’s interests, we are on the road to introducing a police state mentality that would have made Joe Stalin proud. It’s simply not worth it. If I have to live either without freedom from privacy intrusions or without Eminem, I’d choose freedom any day (I take Eminem as an example simply because I really like his stuff). I can very well see myself without any of the music, movies, or books that are currently brought out, if that is what it takes. For some reason, I figure this is what the Pirate Party says as well. Or at least, they come the closest of all the parties to saying it this way, so they get my vote.

In short: if you can’t produce and publish entertainment without having to destroy our free society in the process, you can stuff that entertainment where the sun don’t shine, as far as I’m concerned.

Spoiling the show

This morning I watched Steve Job’s presentation of the new notebooks. The audience was subdued and quiet, almost morose. Steve didn’t show much enthusiasm either, and I was bored. Not that the stuff he presented was anything but brilliant, but there was nothing new or unexpected, since everything, down to the last trackpad and price tag, had been leaked on the net the days before the event.

Screw you, leakers and rumoursites, I want my Apple surprises intact! This isn’t fun anymore.

Story time

After having read about the goddam awful handling of a student that hacked a university system, I’d felt that a little story could help tip these people off on how to handle students without necessarily breaking them and destroying their future.

Story Time

Kid sits in his dorm room, bored out of his skull trying to find any excuse to not cram for tomorrow’s exam. Starts fiddling with the student registration system (or whatever), finds a glaring hole, pulls up a mate’s records for kicks and prints them out. Writes a little email note to the IT admin, going something like:

“Hey, your SRS sucks. I can tell you that anyone can see anyone else’s data without even breaking a sweat. I can prove it if you like. Please fix.”

Reply from IT admin: “Kid, whatever you’re doing, stop it right now and get your ass down here to my office. Together, we’ll see if you’re right and if you are, we’ll do something about it. How’s that? We could have lunch afterwards, but on one condition: don’t touch it again in the meanwhile. Are we agreed?”

Kid: “Hey, Mr Simpson, sure thing! I’ll be there, no fail! And I promise not to touch a thing until then. What’s for lunch, btw?”

Next day.

Mr Simpson: “Ok, Kid, show me what you’ve got. Ummm…. ok, yes, that’s bad. Let’s see what we can do. I’ll try to find a fix for this, and I’ll get back to you when I’m done so we could go over this again together. Give me a week, and if you don’t hear from me, remind me, ok?”

Kid: “Yes, sir! I’d be glad to help.”

Mr Simpson: “One more thing, kid. You already saw some information you’re not supposed to see. You have to promise me to destroy it and forget it. On your mother’s head. Will you?”

Kid: “What info? I’ve already forgotten.”

Mr Simpson: “That’s my boy. The second thing is that you actually went too far and I’m going to turn a blind eye to that. The next time you suspect something’s amiss, you come to me first, and we’ll hack the system together. I can do that without having the SWAT team circle the building, but you can’t. You were lucky this time, but who knows about next time, right?”

Kid: “Yes, Mr Simpson, I think you’re right.” A bit of cold sweat enters into the picture.

A couple of days pass. Mr Simpson asks for Kid to come down to the IT office again.

Mr Simpson: “Can we go through what I did to the system and see if you see anything wrong with it? But you have to promise (or sign an NDA or whatever) that you’ll keep whatever you see to yourself. Ok?”

They go through what has been fixed and what has not. Then Mr Simpson delivers an exit sermon:

“Kid, this time you were lucky. You did actually trespass into the systems. Yes, I know you meant well, but this is really dangerous. Not so much to the system, it’s crap anyway, but to your future. Places like this university is full of mean, lazy, bozos that would much rather call the cops on you than listen to what you have to say. So, this is my advice to you in the future, in and out of university: if you see some potential security problem with a system, stop exploring it as soon as you have a decent suspicion, long before you have proof. Contact whoever is in charge of the system and if they’re cooperative, do as we just did. If they’re not, view them as a direct threat to your career, don’t touch another thing, don’t make yourself a suspect in the breaks of that system that will inevitably occur. Just step away quietly and save yourself for another battle. Enjoy the show from a distance when that system goes under.”

Kid: “But I didn’t know how to handle it, I was sure you people wouldn’t want to listen. Couldn’t you put up a policy about this somewere?”

Mr Simpson: “You’re a bright lad, Kid, I’ll get right on it.”

And so he did, he formulated a policy that popped up whenever a student accessed the system, and it went something like this:

“If you have concerns regarding the security of this system, please contact Mr Simpson at IT support. Please don’t hack us. Please don’t make us call in the cops. Let us work out these things together, for our sake, for your sake, and for the good name of the university.”

And they lived happily ever after.

PS: Mr Kid went on to become a CIS and had a similar policy introduced in his multinational. He then went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. He also became famous for having introduced a new, highly secure, layered and tokenbased database access method that changed database security programming forever.

Another freedom bites the dust

The Swedish parliament just passed a bill that allows the Swedish military to monitor any communications over the net of anyone without a court order. It also allows building up maps of interrelationships using traffic info without any court order. It kind of beats anything the US administration did even at its worst. Except it’s actually a law, so the government here doesn’t need to break the law to do it. How convenient.

It has been said that it was created under pressure from our uncle in the west, since so much former-east-block traffic passes through Sweden. I’m inclined to believe that, but I see no reason why our government can’t decide for themselves, so the responsibility for being pussies is all on the Swedish government.

I can see only one upside to the whole thing: anonymous proxies like Relakks, new methods of hiding traffic information, message encryption, etc, will get a real boost. This is a country of contrarians and inventors, so my hopes are high. Even some regular good citizens start asking me how to make life difficult for the buggers. That’s a very good sign.

I think, or rather hope, that this was a crucial mistake by the “who needs privacy” crowd, creating some real legimate reason to start fighting government initiatives like this. Sweden has no 9/11 to use as an excuse. Sweden has no “boys in Iraq” to support. There is very little unconditional patriotism or flag waving. There’s not even any terrorism here to defend against. IOW, there is very little emotional argument to quiet the crowd with, if the crowd gets upset.

OTOH, to get Swedes visibly upset about anything is pretty hard to do, so we’ll have to wait to see if this particular leather boot does the trick or not.

See (english)

Update: another excellent article about it in The Intelligence Daily.

The ICU Team From Hell

I just read a newspaper article about how an elderly woman died on a British Airway flight and was moved to a free seat in first class. Even though the body had a seat belt on, she kept sliding out of the seat on to the floor which upset other passengers in first class. I don’t know what upset them most: that she was dead, or lay on the floor, or got a free upgrade, but upset they were. British Airways duly apologized, maybe for all these things.

I guess the crew on this flight was of the same variety as one particular team on the ICU where I did my residency enough number of years ago to make any crime they committed fall under the statute of limitations. Some of these nurses also worked in the ER on the night shift, and this is where the following story plays out.


On a dark and rainy night… a car crash trauma victim is admitted in pretty bad shape. Major blunt trauma to the chest, miscellaneous fractures and stuff, maybe neurological problems (I don’t remember), unconcious. Naturally, everyone just start doing their stuff, taking blood pressure, vital signs, arterial blood gases, putting in central IV lines, etc. We didn’t have oxymeters back then, but he definitely looked hypoxic.

After a couple of minutes, I get the blood gas results, and they confirm what I thought, namely crush lung. Low on oxygen, low on carbon dioxide. I was standing about 3 meters away from the patient explaining the blood gases to an intern while the nurses were working on the patient. I was talking in a normal to low voice, explaining how the blood gases showed bad oxygenation and hyperventilation at the same time, which indicates functional shunting, in other words almost certainly a crush lung, so we’d need a chest xray and almost certainly PEEP (ventilation with over pressure). We kept discussing different aspects of this for a while, maybe a minute or so.

Then I turned around and noticed the nurses had put a mask and balloon over the face of the patient, but hadn’t connected any oxygen line to it. They didn’t pump the balloon either. So I said, quite loudly, “hey, you forgot the oxygen line!”, whereupon the lead genius answers “You shouldn’t connect oxygen in these situations!”. So I said, “Of course you should!”. He says “No!”.

So I walk over there and ask them “What in the world are you guys doing? Suffocating the patient?”

Answer from the lead male ICU nurse: “You said he is hyperventilating, and when a patient hyperventilates you make them re-breathe in a bag. Everyone knows that!”.

So here they were, effectively suffocating a patient that came in to the ER already very short on oxygenation, because they overheard a discussion I had with an intern that they didn’t understand and acted on anyway. They had an unerring talent for doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, with a scary consistency.

When these guys worked nights, believe me, you didn’t have the luxury of sleeping while on call. Death by stupidity walked the corridors like a ghost.

Anyway, the patient made it. But certainly not thanks to that team.

Back to the regular programming now.

Pirate Bay

I guess everyone’s heard of the Pirate Bay arrests by now, but just to make sure: The Pirate Bay is a huge Bit Torrent tracker for illegal material and was situated here in Sweden. They hold no copyrighted files, only tracker files. They did think they were perfectly legal and they may be right. Anyway, on May 31, 2006, the police confiscated all the servers and arrested three people. Not only did they close down a number of totally unrelated sites, but they arrested one too many, namely a legal representative as well. Most would say the raid was excessive. It was also fairly ineffective, since The Pirate Bay servers are already up and running again, from another location.

The Swedish police, so far, has been very reluctant to enforce the new laws against sharing of copyrighted materials that went into effect just last july here in Sweden. They’ve claimed they don’t have the resources to hunt kids downloading games and music illegally, being too busy to track actual murderers and rapists and such, so why did they go overboard like this? Why did they use so many resources so extravagantly, and possibly without support in actual law?

Well, one theory could be that they don’t know what they’re doing. I don’t believe that. Another theory is that they were under extreme political pressure to act, resulting from pressure from the USA. Yet another theory could be that they implemented the saying “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it”, to create a spectacular failure of the new anti-piracy laws, so they wouldn’t be asked to do this kind of thing ever again.

The question may be moot, since the latter seems to be the effect, whatever the initial intention. There’s a general election here in a few months and all political parties are scrambling to be the first and fiercest to have the anti-piracy laws of last year repealed, making downloading of copyrighted material legal once again. That’ll make Sweden popular with the MPAA and the other boys (note sarcasm).

On the other hand, even though Sweden is a small country, it is not entirely insignificant, so this may force the industry to find other means of protecting itself against losses due to piracy. An extra charge on broadband connections is being proposed here by many, and if introduced, may force the industry to finally accept that times have changed.

Government info sites don’t work

There’s a relatively new site called “” that the Department of Homeland Security has set up to keep the American people informed on what they do and how the people should prepare themselves for terrorist onslaughts, natural disasters and war and stuff. As with most such government initiatives, I see a lot of problems. First and foremost that they don’t really try to inform people in a useful way, they try to pacify people to keep them from becoming upset. In other words, they do their best to keep people un-informed.
Continue reading “Government info sites don’t work”

More on peroxide

Tonight: The London police chief tonight said the order to shoot stands firm and even though they regret the mistake, more people can expect to be shot.

“It’s still happening out there, there are still officers having to make those calls as we speak, he said, adding: “Somebody else could be shot.”

I can’t believe this. Is this really happening?

2005-07-26: Bruce Schneier says about the same thing, but more.