Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forMay, 2005 | back to home

30 May 2005
Filed under:Current affairs (Europe) at12:11 pm

My (French) wife turned out yesterday to vote for the European constitution but in vain. I can understand the French nationalists opposing it for similar reasons to those of our own anti-Europeans, but the idea among the Left that the constutition should be renegotiated to include more of a “social dimension” is just wishful thinking, and the idea promoted by old Left unions and right wing politicians that we should shut out the workers of the nations of central and Eastern Europe to protect our own jobs is both immoral and wrong-headed. Of course, it goes without saying that voting against the constitution to spite Chirac is equally misguided (since all major parties agree that the constitution should have gone ahead).

The constitution has plenty of weaknesses but if renegotiations did take place and in the unlikely event the result did pull the constitution further in a ‘social’ direction, it would be even less likely to be passed in Britain.

I can’t put things much better than the Guardian’s recent editorial:

For all the anger about liberal Anglo-Saxon economics, the text does not include economic prescriptions that are any different from those in the Treaty of Rome in 1957… the text does improve on the botched Nice treaty and delivers significant improvements to the EU’s rickety institutions. It certainly makes more sense to have a full-time president of the EU, to give it strategic direction and continuity, than to go on with the musical chairs system … It is a good idea to have a foreign minister to boost Europe’s faltering global role. It makes sense to reduce the use of national vetoes to avoid gridlock, to slim down the European commission to streamline delivery and to give more powers to the European parliament. It is good to have a charter of rights.

All of the above seems now likely to be lost or delayed or weakened.

28 May 2005
Filed under:London,Online media,Personal,Privacy at9:15 pm

To my small collection on Flickr. I have to say it’s pretty astonishing to me that my 44 pictures (mostly pretty rubbish or unlikely to be interesting for anyone but myself and family) have been viewed altogether 2153 times to date. Of course several of them were taken at a wedding which would help boost pageviews…

23 May 2005

Having decided on a Dell Latitude 410 in the end (see comments to earlier post), I went online to Dell Canada to see what they would charge and found it would actually cost me 20% more to have my parents buy it there (never mind the cost of them getting it to me from there etc). Bizarrely, for example, they charge about 75 pounds for delivery in Canada… Of course I qualify for the education discount here which helps.

21 May 2005

New GPS-based bus tracking will replace the never-accurate ‘countdown’ system based on roadside beacons starting in two years’ time, the BBC and Silicon.com report. I wouldn’t mind paying a small fee to get a text message when a bus is about to arrive at the stop nearest me, although these days they arrive so often we never have to wait long…

A bit like voice over IP now that I think of it – it became easy to talk to people over broadband just around the time that conventional telephone rates here using alternative providers (who probably use VOIP anyway) sank to nearly zero anyway making free computer to computer calling not nearly as advantageous…

20 May 2005
Filed under:Gadgets,Personal at8:44 am

The hard drive on my lashed-together several-years-old PC desktop has failed for the second time in a year so I have decided to stop trying to revive it and plan to replace it with a laptop that my wife can use commuting as well.

Priorities:
1 Durability
2 Good support (mainly good repair and overall customer service but
telephone tech support might help). Good coverage in Europe/US a plus.
3 light/small and acceptable battery life (3 hrs?)
4 acceptable games performance (don’t tell the wife!). Otherwise will just
get used for word processing etc so don’t need lots of processor power.
5 Not too expensive (< 1000 quid) Mainly on the basis of 1 and 2 I limited myself to Toshiba or IBM and have more or less narrowed down to: Thinkpad T41 or a Portege A200

Should I be considering an HP or other brand as well – if so which? Which
of Tosh and IBM deliver better support these days? Any “gotchas”/tech dead
ends I should look out for when making my decision?

My prejudice tells me the IBM will be the sturdier choice…

18 May 2005

While Skype (which I am using extensively these days) makes it easy to call your Internet-using friends for free you normally have to pay something if you want to call a conventional phone using a voice over IP service (BBC hype notwithstanding). One organization, however, is enabling completely free of charge phoning – the fwdOUT Network. The catch is that you have to be running a Linux-based PBX on your own phone (thus enabling others to share your line) in order to participate.

Free World Dialup (by some of the same people) used to offer free calls to a number of locations around the world to anyone using an IP phone but I guess that wasn’t economically viable and it now offers straight computer to computer telephony….

6 May 2005
Filed under:About this blog,Weblogs at9:16 am

If you have been reading blog.org before via RSS you may need to update the XML weblink to this (http://blog.org/wp-rss2.php) in order to read my blog now that it has moved. I also don’t know how to give each of my categories its own RSS feed at the moment though I am sure it is possible so you’ll have to read along with everything for the moment.

5 May 2005
Filed under:Personal,Useful web resources at6:28 pm

Just a quick note to mention to any of my friends or fellow academics that read this that I am often logged into Skype these days (now that I have a laptop with built in mic and speakers). For those who don’t know Skype is a mixture of instant message application and Internet telephone). My Skype ID is, unsurprisingly, “DavidBrake”. If I don’t know you please let me know why I should let you connect to me (I set my Skype to “contacts only”).

Update: That’s “DavidBrake” not “David Brake” as I thought…

Traditionally if you wanted a WordPress weblog (open source so free to use and arguably the most feature rich blogging product around) you needed to be techie yourself or at least have a techie friend with server space spare. Certainly it is only thanks to my own connections in the tech fraternity that I have been able to have this blog hosted using first Moveable Type and now WordPress.

Recently, however, I have discovered that blogsome offers a free hosting service similar to blogger‘s so anyone reading this could have a blog like mine. I’m a little concerned that blogsome don’t have any apparent means of gathering revenue to offset the cost of hosting so they could disappear one day – particularly if they get popular – but my guess is that by the time they do there will be lots of other places able to take over hosting.

If you are already running a weblog using another service you may need a little help getting your archives across to this new platform but once you have taken the plunge I’m sure you’ll agree it was worth it to get features like categories, password protected posts and an extensible architecture for people to add features.

I am not using blogsome myself – instead this weblog, like my other group weblog at the LSE is now generously hosted by Tim Duckett.

Hope you enjoy the new look. Feel free to comment with suggestions and do let me know if there are any problems.

P.S. If you are in the UK don’t forget to vote!