Acid-free bits?
Apr 22nd, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Seen at the end of a Kindle book I just finished:

Manufactured in the United States and printed on acid-free paper. The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.

That’s a relief. I’d sure hate it if acidic paper corroded my Kindle’s RAM.

What is System D?
Apr 21st, 2012 by Ken Hagler

The Shadow Superpower. System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call them débrouillards. To say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of “l’economie de la débrouillardise.” Or, sweetened for street use, “Systeme D.” This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy.


Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It is where the jobs are. In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world — close to 1.8 billion people — were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.


The total value of System D as a global phenomenon is close to $10 trillion. Which makes for another astonishing revelation. If System D were an independent nation, united in a single political structure — call it the United Street Sellers Republic (USSR) or, perhaps, Bazaaristan — it would be an economic superpower, the second-largest economy in the world (the United States, with a GDP of $14 trillion, is numero uno). The gap is narrowing, though, and if the United States doesn’t snap out of its current funk, the USSR/Bazaaristan could conceivably catch it sometime this century. [Foreign Policy]

This article, published just six months ago, is generally credited with the widespread adoption of the term “System D” in place of older terms such as “underground economy” and “grey market” among English-speakers with an interest in the subject. I expect it will become more prominent in the future, as the US becomes more oppressive and its “official” economy heads down the drain.

No wonder it was too good for Hollywood
Apr 21st, 2012 by Ken Hagler

I happened to see a movie on cable, Colombiana, which struck me as being too good for Hollywood. At the end (before the annoying cable channel advertising interrupted), I got enough of the credits to see the writer’s name: Luc Besson. Well, that explains it.

Jobs for time travellers
Apr 20th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

I keep an eye on various job listing sites, and I’m frequently dismayed by the requirements they specify. Case in point: Craigslist has a listing for an iBooks Author contractor with a requirement for two years of experience. The initial release date for iBooks Author: January 19th, 2012.

Curiously, the “other requirements” section fails to mention that applicants must supply their own time machine.

US courts are unjust? What a shock!
Apr 15th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Government trying to deny Megaupload fair legal representation. The United States government has adopted a take-no-prisoners attitude in its prosecution of Megaupload, seeming to raise every conceivable objection to Megaupload’s efforts to defend itself. We’ve already covered the government’s attempts to block Megaupload from spending money to preserve servers that the company says contains data needed for its defense.

Now, the government has adopted a new tactic: making it as difficult as possible for Megaupload to obtain legal counsel. The prominent law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan has sought permission to represent Megaupload in the case. But in a legal document filed on Wednesday, the government raised several objections to freeing up money to allow the law firm to represent Megaupload in court.

As Quinn Emanuel noted in a Thursday response, the government’s objections are so broad that they would effectively prevent Megaupload from hiring any lawyer with experience litigating major copyright cases. Indeed, they could could make it impossible to hire any lawyer at all. It’s hard to see how Megaupload could get a fair trial if the government’s objections are sustained by the court. [Ars Technica]

From Ars Technica’s coverage of this case, it’s pretty obvious that they’ve never paid any attention to the US legal system before. Everything that’s happening in this case is perfectly normal for a case in a US Federal Court. Megaupload isn’t supposed to get a fair trial–after all, if the government went around giving people fair trials, justice might leak into their legal system and they wouldn’t be able to keep up their 99.5% conviction rate. Nobody who has any say in the matter wants that to happen!

A Bitcoin Introduction
Apr 14th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Bitcoin – The Libertarian Introduction [On Life and Liberty – Erik Voorhees]

An excellent general overview of what Bitcoin is. It does gloss over a few things that I consider problem areas, though, so I’ll mention them here.

The first time a new user launches the Bitcoin client, it has to download the existing blockchain (that is, the record of all previous Bitcoin transactions). Right now this is about 1.5 GB, which may not seem like much to anyone with a good Internet connection, but the download mechanism is extremely slow. This means that the first-time user’s experience is going to be along the lines of “launch the client and wait at least a day before you can do anything with it.” This is likely to put off anyone with a casual interest, especially given the way that it’s glossed over by Bitcoin advocates. In theory this will eventually be overcome by clients that don’t download the entire blockchain, but it’s certainly a problem now.

While the decentralized nature of Bitcoin makes it invulnerable to the kind of government attacks that have destroyed earlier attempts at alternate currencies such as e-gold and the Liberty Dollar, it’s still possible for someone with more than 50% of the network’s computing power to destroy it. This is the thing that has me wary about Bitcoin’s future, as the Evil Empire does in fact have a great deal of computing power available and a previously demonstrated willingness to destroy alternate currencies. As Bitcoin increases in popularity the network will get bigger until it’s beyond any government’s ability to destroy, but it’s still a danger now while it’s not widely used.

Finally, Bitcoin is based on cryptography, which in most respects is a very good thing. However, in cryptography something which is unbreakable today may not (indeed, probably will not) be unbreakable in twenty years. When you’re securing your hard drive that doesn’t matter, because you can just upgrade the encryption as needed, but when your money supply is dependent on the security of SHA-256, it’s a different story. I haven’t seen anything I’d consider reliable on just how easily (if at all) the algorithms behind Bitcoin can be changed when it becomes necessary.

Quote of the Day
Apr 7th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Seen in a job listing:

Include a copy of your résumé in text, HTML, RTF, or PDF form. If you send a Word document, you will not be considered for the position.

That’s exactly right
Apr 7th, 2012 by Ken Hagler

(Part of) Why Instapaper and Similar Are So Useful.

ReadWriteWeb, Jon Mitchell: Websites Have to Get Better:

Read-later apps are competition for noisy, ad-ridden websites. They represent a simple fact: Users hate our sites.

Sure do.


The ReadWriteWeb article is, perhaps unsurprisingly, on one of those websites–and while I use ad-blocking software, I’m still not interested in trying to read an article that takes up maybe a third of the screen, with the rest devoted to a bunch of graphic designers showing off how clever they are. I sent it to Instapaper before the website had even finished loading.

Poor recommendation
Apr 3rd, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Amazon is recommending Diablo 3 for me. After spending 12-16 hours every day for months testing Diablo when I worked for Blizzard, I really never want to see Diablo anything ever again. Ever!

Second opinion on iCloud insecurity
Apr 3rd, 2012 by Ken Hagler

Apple holds the master decryption key when it comes to iCloud security, privacy [Ars Technica]

The folks at Ars Technica noticed the same thing I did about their earlier article and actually investigated.

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