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 número 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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