Wednesday, October 29, 2008

internet energy consumption

Two years ago I blogged on the energy consumption needs of the Internet, making the point that if African countries truly wanted to compete, how were they to do so if they (more than others) lacked scarce energy and water resources. My thinking then had been prompted by an article on massive server farms /data stores in the August 28, 2006 issue of Fortune magazine (European edition). Of interest still are the questions I´d posed in my 1-Sept-2006 posting, which rang as follows:

Okay, so, the article "The future of computing (part one)". Some excerpts:

"Most people don´t think of it this way, but the Information Age is being built on an infrastructure as imposing as the factories and mills of yore....To handle this change [of software becoming webified], Internet companies are building their own [data] centers..."

And what data centers need are:

  • ground, acres and acres of it
  • electricity, not only to operate the servers but also to cool all those processors chugging away (e.g. "...for every dollar a company spends to power a typical server, it spends another dollar on a/c [air-conditioning] to keep it cool.")
  • water, for cooling purposes, as increasingly alternative means are being explored to keep server farms cool.
moral of the story?

  1. even in the information age, we come back to the same basic ingredients for the infrastructure needed at base.
  2. seriously, where does this leave Africa in the race to be part of the Info Age?

greater moral of the story?

we are running low on fossil fuels, and water, on the planet (among other things, admittedly). the info age was supposed to signifiy a reduction in the demand for either of the two. instead, demand is only increasing. so, where does that leave us, after all?

It seems that my parting question of the energy-hungry Internet is to be addressed in this evening´s (Wed 29 Oct 2008) edition of Newsnight (a BBC current affairs programme). Susan Watts, the Science correspondent of said programme has blogged on the matter in anticipation of tonight´s episode. Reading the blog, it seems there is no clear answer as yet to how Internet companies expect to "go green", her having consulted IBM, Cisco, and Google. Thát, or maybe she´s saved the full answers for her broadcast... Once I´ve watched the episode on energy-hungry iplayer, I´ll let you know.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Reporting illegal net content

A study by the UK´s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reportedly found that 77% of adults do not know how nor where to report illegal content (child abuse images and criminal material) found online. The specific remit of the IWF covers "Child sexual abuse content hosted worldwide and criminally obscene and incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK".

Here follow excerpts from a recent news story:

Three quarters of adults using the internet who have "stumbled across" child pornography do not know how to report it.

Research by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) showed 77% of adults who had seen pictures of child abuse on the web did not know what to do about it.

This was despite 70% of users saying the availability of child sexual abuse images was their top concern when using the internet.

Peter Robbins, chief executive of IWF, said: "Internet consumers should know that if they do stumble across these images then it's vital to report them.

"We have international partnerships in place to get these websites removed."

If you are aware of illegal content on the Web, do make use of the IWF Reporting page. The IWF categories for reporting are as follows:

  • Child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world.
  • Criminally obscene content.
  • Incitement to racial hatred content.
  • Inappropriate chat or behaviour with or towards a child online

Should you be confused by what precisely each category covers, helpful definitions are given on the page, once an option has been clicked.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 26, 2008

musings: paul preston + google/facebook

The blog title may seem incongruous, so let me explain myself. Earlier this past week I´d attended a talk by Paul Preston, British historian and expert on the Spanish Civil War. His most recent book is just out, titled "We saw Spain die: Foreign correspondents in the Spanish Civil War". I will make one general note here on the talk, and then link up with my reference to Google/Facebook.

My first concerted exposure to notions of war journalism was years ago in my reading about George Steer (in Nicholas Rankin´s excellent work "Telegram from Guernica: the extraordinary life of George Steer, war correspondent". See a review here.) Preston´s book should be an excellent expansion of that knowledge. Interestingly, Paul Preston noted that there were about 1000 foreign correspondents in Civil War Spain, of whom about 15 were women. He also quoted Herbert Matthews as saying "Good journalism is the first draft of history."
So I sat there thinking whether this could (still) be said, about journalism in general, and whether it could (ever) have been said about tech journalism in particular. As this talk happened on the Monday, during much of the week that followed, I couldn´t help but notice the very frequent references to Facebook making the headlines. Sometimes the articles dealt with Facebook in particular, and at other times, it was more in a style of facebook-as-representative-of-the-downside-of-tech (even though, and of course, Facebook was touted in the catchy headline). (Hey, probably the week/month before it had been Google´s turn, right?...) And when Manuel Castells said later the week that the human mind functions in metaphor, I thought wryly, "but must it then be always in the lowly form of synecdoche?"...

Example of a piece dealing with Facebook:
"The internet grows up: Social networking sites like Facebook are now more popular than porn sites, but does that mean we want real relationships?"

Example of a piece where Facebook is referred to merely to gain one´s attention:
"37 países alertan de la indiscreción de Facebook"
(Translated: 37 Countries warn about the indiscretion of Facebook)
[Comment: The actual story here is about one of the resolutions (Resolution on Privacy Protection in Social Network Services) adopted by the most recent international meeting of the Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners, warning about and advising on the risks of social networking per se, and not Facebook in particular.]

Example of a piece somewhere in-between the above two extremes:
"Boss uses Facebook to catch skiving worker: A call centre employee has been caught malingering after his boss checked his Facebook status"
[Comment: contrary to what it asserts, to me this piece is not about how managers are using SNSs to catch or vet employees. Rather, it seems to me a case of the blurring of the private and the professional, and also the private and the public.]

Returning to my point then about whether journalism here is the first draft of history, I can only say with a tiny sense of despair that this doesn´t necessarily apply to writings on technology. Of course, some would here invoke notions of technopanics, and that this journalism was representative of that dynamic at play. But still, it leaves me pondering which sources to ideally follow as one tries to do relevant work in this "Internet studies" domain.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

study finds CT "capital of death by strangulation"

The capital of death by strangulation
22 October 2008, 18:38 (

Excerpts from an article by reporter Jade Witten:

Cape Town had the highest rate of strangulation of women in urban South Africa over a five-year period, a study has revealed.
Shahnaaz Suffla, lead author, and teammates looked at the distribution and patterns of homicide strangulation of women in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria.
Cape Town was the only city where the number of strangulations of women had increased annually over the period studied, from 17 in 2001 to 25 in 2005.
Suffla said most of the killings occurred in a domestic context in all four cities, suggesting that the perpetrator was an intimate partner or acquaintance of the victim.

"We will continue this project to gain a fuller and deeper understanding of the study as it contributes to the gendered homicide risk profile for a country (SA) which is considered to have one of the highest intimate female homicide rates in the world," she said.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

FoI: press freedom index 2008

File under: freedom of information

Reporters sans Frontières has today made available its 2008 ranking of countries w.r.t. press freedom; their finding that peace, more than economic stability, is guarantor of such freedom.

An excerpt:

“The post-9/11 world is now clearly drawn,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Destabilised and on the defensive, the leading democracies are gradually eroding the space for freedoms.


The ranking’s “soft underbelly” also includes countries that waver between repression and liberalisation, where the taboos are still inviolable and the press laws hark back to another era....

Online repression also exposes these tenacious taboos. In Egypt (146th), demonstrations launched online shook the capital and alarmed the government, which now regards every Internet user as a potential danger. The use of Internet filtering is growing by the year and the most repressive governments do not hesitate to jail bloggers. While China still leads the “Internet black hole” ranking worldwide, deploying considerable technical resources to control Internet users, Syria (159th) is the Middle-East champion in cyber-repression. Internet surveillance is so thorough there that even the least criticism posted online is sooner or later followed by arrest.

[Do read more...]

Labels: , ,

spain´s telecomms regulator gets a blog and twitters

Spain´s national regulatory authority for telecommunications, the Comisión del Mercado de las Telecomunicaciones (CMT) has launched a blog, as well as a presence on twitter.

They say:

CMT Blog no pretende ser una simple plataforma para la réplica de contenidos de la página web de la CMT o las resoluciones del regulador, sino una herramienta para comunicarse de manera sencilla y directa con todos los públicos:


CMT Blog does not intend to be a simple platform for the replication of content from our homepage nor for its resolutions, but rather a tool to communicate simply and directly with all of our publics:

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

on the internet, nobody knows you´re a plant

Lots of people are familiar with the early New Yorker cartoon which rang "On the Internet, nobody knows you´re a dog." If not, see here. But of course this is not the story for this post. No.
Rather, a news item just in reports on the apparent popularity in Japan of a pot plant which has its own blog. An excerpt (from the story, not the blog) below:

Engineer Satoshi Kuribayashi, who has been studying how to communicate with plants, helped Midori-san express herself.

He wired up the hoya kerrii, commonly known as a "sweetheart plant", to a sensor that measures bio-electric signals and translates them into Japanese using a computer algorithm.

Labels: , ,

tech case in our own backyard: speedster jailed - posted proof on YouTube

An Oxfordshire (county) man has been jailed for 12 weeks by the Oxford Crown Court. Let it be noted that his having posted inculpatory video of himself on YouTube was not the thing that initiated moves to his arrest.

The court heard that when officers called at his home, before they had a chance to say anything to him, Ferenci asked them: "Is this about the YouTube video?"

Police then discovered that he had posted the video clips of himself on the internet.

Guess it´s a case of 15Mb of fame... More details here.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

media portrayals of domestic violence & this is not about facebook

"Man who killed wife over Facebook posting jailed for life"
Having lived in two societies where violence against women is much highlighted and railed against in the media, I am acutely aware of how public perception of domestic violence can be shaped (wittingly or unwittingly) by media accounts.

The story of a man who was recently sentenced to years of imprisonment for the murder of his estranged wife after his having been allegedly humiliated by her on a social networking site, caught my attention not only for the horribleness of what had occurred, but also in so far as the way in which it had been written up. To me, the write-up is problematic on a number of levels:

I find the descriptions of the violence entirely gratuitous. Would it have not been sufficient to say that the attacker had been fuelled by alcohol and cocaine? Any adult can infer that the consequences of violence fuelled in this way would be entirely brutal. Enough said. Why elaborate further on the detail? What is problematic here is that it makes the grotesque the norm. In a manner similar to the ways in which the intricate details of suicides are not published, so too the intricate details on violence against women need not be published and popularised in this way.

Even though the couple had been separated, the news story is not suffused with this fact. It refers throughout to the victim as "wife" rather than "estranged wife". My claim is that this trivializes the separation somehow, as a mere trifle, as something transitory. And this image is problematic in so far as it perpetuates a certain unsympathetic view of women (or men) who leave partnerships, and struggle to be taken seriously in their efforts.

Further, I see this news story as representative of yet one more instantiation of the "this is what happens when you go out on the Net" kind of scare story. The fact here that the victim had used a social networking site is circumstancial, and should hardly be read (nor implicitly flagged) as harbinger of the dangers of life online.

Labels: , , ,

using ICTs to "promote" the arts

I mean here "promote" in an expanded sense of the term.

Recently, the Royal Opera House has made available online in its entirety a recording of its recent (September 2008) production of Mozart´s Don Giovanni. Having watched the opera online, I was duly impressed by and enthralled with my Internet-based experience, and I thought it a wonderful form of outreach for the arts, generally, and performing arts, in particular. The reason being that, in addition to the performance per se being available, much was provided in this Internet-screening by way of context. For, in the main pane streamed the visual recording, whilst below this the surtitles (subtitles) streamed, and to the right of the video feed, was a pane containing text giving more details on the historical significance of the work, along with descriptions of the characteristics of Mozart´s music, etc. It seemed to me a great way with which to introduce new audiences to the work. Browsing around the ROH site generally, one can´t help but notice that the folks there are extremely tech-aware.

It is then with the above in mind that the following part of today´s interview in the El País with the soon-to-be ex-director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Philippe de Montebello, struck a chord:

"P: ¿Y en cuanto al futuro?

R: El reto mayor es cómo transmitir el sentido de tan formidable legado a las nuevas generaciones sin desvirtuarlo. No es fácil. Las encuestas ponen de relieve una alarmante falta de conciencia histórica entre los jóvenes. No es sólo una cuestión de ignorancia, sino de indiferencia, que es más grave. Las colecciones que alberga el Metropolitan no significan lo mismo para la mayoría de los jóvenes que para el público maduro. Si queremos que nuestra institución tenga sentido para la gente joven, las nuevas generaciones de comisarios y directores van a tener que estudiar y utilizar las herramientas de la comunicación. Es una de las razones por las que decidí dejar la dirección del Metropolitan. Nací antes de la II Guerra Mundial. Pertenezco a otra época. No me siento cómodo con las nuevas tecnologías."

My translation (emphasis added is mine):

Q: And the future?

A: The biggest challenge is of how to convey the sense of this formidable legacy to new generations without devalueing it in any way. It´s not easy. Surveys highlight an alarming lack of historical consciousness in the youth. It´s not only a question of ignorance, but also of indifference, which is the more problematic [of the two]. The collections that the Met houses do not have the same significance for the large majority of the youth compared to older audiences. If we want our institution to be meaningful to the youth, the new generation of curators and directors need to study and make use of the tools of communication. This is one of the reasons why I´ve decided to leave as director of the Met. I was born before the Second World War. I belong to a different age. I don´t feel comfortable with the new technologies.

Labels: , ,

history has judged so the courts should not?

On the morning of Sunday 19 October I´d posted the below blog entry. It is now the early hours of 22 October, and more-or-less daily there have been follow-up media reports. It is with this in mind, that I would like to add (some links to articles and opinion pieces that have appeared. I leave my original post below (at the bottom) intact.

Some Spanish-language sources:

Some English-language sources:

More particularly, I found that the following part of the Garton Ash article resonated w.r.t. the process that seems needed in Spain as regards the victims of Francoist repression:

"Let me be clear. I believe it is very important that nations, states, peoples and other groups (not to mention individuals) should face up, solemnly and publicly, to the bad things done by them or in their name. The West German leader Willy Brandt falling silently to his knees in Warsaw before a monument to the victims and heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto is, for me, one of the noblest images of postwar European history. For people to face up to these things, they have to know about them in the first place. So these subjects must be taught in schools as well as publicly commemorated. But before they are taught, they must be researched. The evidence must be uncovered, checked and sifted, and various possible interpretations tested against it."

My original posting of 19-Oct-2008:
This write-up is a response to the article titled <<Zapatero: "El franquismo está ya juzgado por la historia">> (Zapatero: "Francoism has already been judged by history.")
Spanish President José Luís Rodriguez Zapatero responded in this way, when asked to opine on the recent initiative undertaken by Judge Balthasar Garzón vis-a-vis prosecution for atrocities committed not only during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, but also those committed in the Spanish post-war (posguerra) period. (The Spanish postwar period should not be confused with the WWII postwar period. In some ways they sit quite separate.)

Zapatero´s response above suggests that since history has already exercised judgement, that this is where the buck stops. This is incorrect, and here´s why:

Garzón´s claims that what ocurred had been human rights abuses and therefore outside the scope of the 1977 amnesty seem entirely correct. Spain cannot for much longer hold itself up as the champion of human rights (e,g, the pursuit of Pinochet) without having a look in their own backyard. To continue to avoid dealing with the domestic matter is absurd. Further, the international (human rights) climate has changed in such a way that it is ripe for this kind of judicial judgment to be made/exercised/invoked. And given the timeline if we compare other atrocities the world over that have happened _after_ the Spanish Civil War and that have already been judged, Spain simply cannot afford to "look the other way" anymore. I feel that the international community is looking to Spain to clean up this blight on its human rights record. Yes, history _has_ judged. But any State that professes the virtues of the Rule of Law, cannot but make that this judgement also be a legal matter.

See also this English-language write-up of some days ago:

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ofcom´s outgoing chief´s valedictory speech: some highlights

David Currie, outgoing chief of the UK´s communications regulator, Ofcom, gave his valedictory speech.
The Guardian headline focuses on Currie´s assertion that Ofcom will likely have a wider regulatory remit, more especially over Internet content.
Haven´t we heard such talk for years vis-a-vis regulation of the Internet? By posing such a question, I am not saying by implication that such extension of its remit is necessarily the best way to go about things.
The question for me is, have we really reached the end of this "period of forbearance" and whether we are really at a point where we know what kind of regulation is indeed needed....

Some "non-Internet excerpts" below from said speech, that I found of interest:

"I personally dislike the term “light touch regulation”. Either it arrogantly assumes that the regulator knows everything that is going on in the market and can apply just the right, discerning, touch on the tiller to maximise wellbeing. No regulator is that omniscient. Or “light touch” means a palsied unwillingness to act, captive to the producer interest, when real detriment to the consumer is occurring.

Ofcom’s approach has three elements. First, a bias against intervention: a well-functioning market is the best safeguard of the consumer interest. Second, where intervention is necessary, a preference for the least intrusive form of intervention: for example, price publication rather than price controls, wholesale pricing rather than retail controls. But, thirdly, where intervention proves necessary being swift and decisive."

"Broadcast premium rate services probably affected more consumers, though the individual amounts involved were much lower. The pace from discovery to ‘cease and desist’ was swifter. Several broadcasters, who ought to have known better, came close to forfeiting wider public trust. Hefty fines were in order. They have learned that they too have a duty of care to individuals in the audience as consumer as well as to the mass audience as viewer.

For our part the two lessons learned were, first, that reliance on complaints-driven investigation and enforcement is not foolproof. If consumers do not know that they have been diddled they do not know to complain. We now have proactive audit controls in place. Secondly, that relationships with sister regulators must be on a very clear footing. Where the relationship is one where there are clear boundaries and handovers of regulatory power and responsibility, then a self-regulatory or co-regulatory relationship is possible, as we have with the ASA over broadcast advertising. Where the boundaries are ambiguous and the need for speed vital, a tauter ‘agency’ relationship, such as we now have with Phone Pay Plus, is appropriate."


"And as Ed Richards said two years ago in his first major speech as Chief Executive, the time has come to think again about the universal service obligation in a converged broadband world and to think radically. But it must be governments at a European (sic) that decide."

"Take-up of broadband is approaching 60 per cent of households. So, as I have said, a reappraisal of the Universal Service Obligation is timely. Today, BT funds the USO and it applies only to narrowband.

The European Commission has just kicked off the debate on this issue which ultimately is a European level decision. Ofcom will need to work closely with Government on the right policies for the UK and to influence the debate across Europe.

The analysis – if not necessarily the policy prescriptions – should be wide-ranging and from first principles. To what should a new USO extend? To what standard? Is mobile an acceptable substitute for fixed? Who pays? How?"

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

when the front door determines the info system setup

i´ve just stumbled across a peculiar instance of how the physical still shapes the virtual (even though it doesn´t have to be the case). i have books due today at two libraries both feeding into and from the same library automation system. however, they are due at different branches, and this is important in so far as their effects go: the one closes (physically, lock & key) at 4pm (say) and the other at (6pm) . ostensibly the books are due 15 October (which suggests a 24hr time window). at 5pm i remember that i need to renew the loans, so dutifully sit down to do said renewal online. unfortunately i discover that since the 4pm-library has already closed its front doors, my book due there is now flagged as overdue. and probably the same would have happened had i sat down at 7pm in an attempt to renew both books (except then both would be flagged as overdue). but why let the hour of the closing of the front door be thing that determines the limit for renewal? since i am performing this transaction at 5pm, a full seven hours of 15 October are still on the horizon. why not set the system so that the overdue flagging only happens at midnight? would doing so mean fewer fines, hence less such revenue? i doubt it... so?

Labels: ,

ENISA Quarterly Review, Q3 2008

the latest edition of ENISA Quarterly Review, 3rd Quarter 2008, is available online at ENISA's website.


This edition includes articles following a call for contributions related to "Security and Interoperability of eID".

Here is a quick sample of the articles you will find in this issue:

* A Letter from the Executive Director
* A Word from the Editor
* Electronic Identity Cards and Citizens' Portals
* eID Interoperability: the Key to Success in Europe
* eduGAIN - a Pan-European Confederation
* Privacy and Capability Management for the European eIDM Framework
* Common Criteria Protection Profiles for the Spanish eID-related Applications
* Complexity is the Achilles Heel of eID - the Swedish eID System
* Finnish Government Proposes Access to Employee Identification Data
* ENISA's Activities on eID - an Update
* Can Online Social Networks Qualify as Identity Management Systems
* Food for Thought: Can we be Green and Secure?
* An Interview with Kevin Mitnick - Social Engineering: No Silver Bullets

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

internet´s future

a number of reviews of Jonathan Zittrain´s book "The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It" have flown by in my mailbox in recent months. not that i´ve been following absolutely all of the reviews.
i´d attended at least two talks of Jonathan´s which were book-centric, as well as two other lectures that seemed to me more conceptually linked, though yet quite distinct from any book-talk. i´ve not read the book cover-to-cover yet (but have downloaded it!) so will merely and generally opine that there is always value in the cautionary tale.

i copy below part of a review of Zittrain´s book by Geert Lovink. the part of the review (though not quite having to do with the book per se...) that i found most interesting and most thought-provoking was with regard to the status/measure of one´s discipline (see below).
even so, i don´t quite agree with Lovink since it is not the case that all research in this area is merely a mapping exercise. further, there´s much value in trying to understand something before we try to shape it. experiences of colonialism ( to go off-topic a bit, yet still a salient analogy) attest to the folly in trying to shape something without (full) understanding.

"Funding bodies worldwide, categorically refuse to fund fundamental humanities research that,
like Zittrain, dares to look into the future. What we are left with are piles of PhDs that are condemned to remain unread as they merely map the impact the Internet on society–projects that are doomed to become history writing. How can we raise, and organize a new generation of technology-aware research that have the guts, and the creativity, to design a comprehensive field of critical concepts that can be implemented into code? We have to stop understanding the Internet, and start to shape it. That's the real Zittrain challange." (sic)

the entire Lovink review can be found in the nettime archive

but see also the more detailed Thierer review and commentary over at and

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 10, 2008

AccessInfo - Europe: Report on Spain: When Public Information is Not Public

Here below a report from Access Info Europe, on freedom of information legislation in Spain. I´ve also included a link to a related article in the Spanish daily, the El País.
1 October 2008

Report on Spain: When Public Information is Not Public

Absence of a law and lack of political will in public institutions:
Citizens cannot receive the information they need.

A report by Access Info Europe published today reveals that of over forty requests filed with more than twenty public bodies in Spain during the past year, a full 78% did not receive the requested information.

The report “When Public Information is Not Public” sets out the unexpected and unacceptable answers by the Spanish administration in response to information requests. This study also analyses the major shortcomings of current law and practice in Spain which is hindering exercise of the right of access to information and citizen participation.

The study found that requests for infomation in Spain meet with a range of evasive responses: Ministries which keep silent when asked if Spain has included into national law the UN Convention Against Corruption, which it signed in 2000 (Ministry of Justice), or which refuse to provide information on the number of its buildings sold in 2007 (Ministry of Defence). Public officials who ask “but, can this information be given to ordinary people?” when asked about the meetings of the Minister with external interest groups (Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure), or who, when asked about the number of days that the President was outside the country, told the requestor by telephone “present your written request but you will not get this information” (Cabinet Office). Local governments which return unopened letters to the Mayor even when these contain an administrative appeal (Madrid Town Hall). All these are some of the worrying responses from the Spanish Administration used to deny access to information.

“The majority of the reasons given by public bodies for not providing the requested information are not in compliance with international principles on the right of access to information, nor are they in line with current practice in other European Union countries,” said Eva Moraga, author of the report.

“The fact that Spain does not have a specific law on access to information is permitting this type of behaviour by the Administration,” added Moraga.

The report reveals that the treatment of requests for access to information in Spain mixes the predominant administrative silence with paternalistic responses and abuse of the letter of the law to construct surprising grounds for denying access. Access Info Europe calls on the Spanish government to fulfil its electoral promise and to approve a law which replace the obscurantist Administrative culture with full recognition of the right of all persons to have full and equal access to all information held by public bodies.

In Spanish the report "Cuando lo público no es público"

Annex (in Spanish): The list of request

The El País piece:

Labels: , , ,