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June 27, 2004

Briana's back in business!

Potentially good news! The world's worst chatbot, using off the shelf binaries (I feel lucky -- and risky!), Brie (aka Briana), is back in business for now. Feel free to send her Jabber messages within reason, but please read the instructions first.

Also, you may wish to keep in mind that a real human does, on idle occasion, read the logs, to see how Brie puts up with swear words and rude words... :)

June 26, 2004

It's a long way from Katherine: the baby bonus bungle

Clare Martin, NT Chief Minister (ALP), on the Australian PM (Liberal), in Thursday's Northern Territory News on the effect of one-off payments of $600 to territory families, which has led to more domestic violence, drunkenness and substance abuse:

'The logistics of actually managing those payments, they haven't even thought about it,' she said.

'This is a Canberra pre-election promise. Okay, it's very welcome by families but you have to look at how it's implemented.

'From John Howard's point of view, Canberra is a long way from Katherine.'

Ah, the law of unintended consequences... oops. The ATSIC people don't seem too pleased, either:

'(The Federal Government) should have staggered the payments, not give it to them all in one hit.

'The Government has just compounded the violence and drinking problem we already have in the region.'

Guess you can't get everything right. :(

It's all money

Walking past the stall for the Shop For Your School booth at Westfield Queensgate, I see that this year, they aren't using the sponsor's product at all this year at the counter. No Apple desktops this time -- they're using two HP desktops, instead.

June 25, 2004

Workshop notes

Having gone to the Wednesday night NZCS event, it felt as if I had the recap before the big workshop on Thursday. But no matter, as it was useful to hear the stuff beforehand.

What I didn't hear beforehand from Andrew Maurer was some detail about what was meant in Australia's Spam Act 2003 by inferred consent. As I (still) haven't read it for months (I suspect possibly even before it was passed, as well), it was interesting to see how wide a net they have cast to avoid innocents being caught up. Anthony Wing also had a few important messages. The interesting bits though were that his agency has issued 130 warnings so far, and a suggestion not to reinvent educational material. (I've heard similar things with regards to Internet safety, too, in the past.)

More on this and the InternetNZ submission later.

As if by coincidence, I received an e-mail message from Dell this morning, asking me to 'confirm' consent, for the purposes of the Australian Spam Act 2003, for staying on their books as (presumably) a marketing target, which I was happy (I know, I'm a sucker) to do, as I am pondering whether to replace a computer that seems to have a rather dodgy thermometer somewhere in it.

Thanks muchly to the kind Jeff Barr of Syndic8.com, I now have a Gmail account. The part of most interest to me was the spam filtering function. But, alas, now having my paws on a 'virgin' e-mail address is so tempting enough to consider not publishing it online to see if harvesters pick it up and start spamming it...

[Listening to: All You Wanted -- Michelle Branch -- The Spirit Room (03:38)]

June 24, 2004

Can't be bought

Love can't be sold. Love can't be bought. Love can't be found in the marketplace.

[Very randomly watching: The Wedding of Peter and Cara (01:31:50) -- R2]

Spam workshop today

Well, it's just hit midnight, which means I am off to the anti-spam legislation workshop that InternetNZ are running today. Yesterday, though, I got the opportunity to attend a joint NZCS-InternetNZ meeting in Wellington, with some of the speakers at today's workshop making an appearance. I have to say I now have an appreciation for the policy decisions the Australians made that I wasn't too keen on, courtesy of Andrew Maurer and Anthony Wing. The most important one to me is the civil remedies, as I was thinking for a while it'd be better to get black marks than financial pain (though it never was a deal killer for me). It's great that we got these two fine men along to the workshop: if their contribution today is anything to go by, they'll be great tomorrow for helping with formulating the submission to the MED. Also a good time to meet them and some of the other people involved, before the workshop, too.

Once we can get the legislation in place, I'll be very happy, and I'll feel much better about putting my efforts in the direction of educational resources for schoolchildren. Groovy.

In the meantime, there's an interesting New York Times article on some developments in technology-based verification solutions. More related stories and comment to come later in the day, when I get back from the workshop.

June 22, 2004

Where can you find an Australian flag flying?

Where can you find an Australian flag flying? Apparently John Howard wants to tie additional funding to schools to flying the flag (among other things).

For some (satirical?) reason, I'm tempted to compare them to The Register's latest 419 scam listing here and now.

Perhaps it's another 'idea', like last week's apparent pre-election vote-buying scheme?

Or maybe not. I like to give the benefit of some doubt, for some reason. Maybe I'm too generous?

Some toilet humour, a systems update, and some school results

Perhaps someone needs to select better acronyms?

On other matters, greta.electric.gen.nz is back up, until the second week of July, Philip tells me, so more overloaded load average madness on my Jabber and Mailman box is to be had until then. (Actually, it was up all the time the downstream server it hides behind was being worked on, but hey, even I couldn't access it during the downtime.)

I've also calculated what I think is my likely mark for EDUC 234, based on adding up my marks (ah, the joys of internally-assessed university papers). No such luck yet with the SOSC 111 paper I randomly picked up. That had an exam, so I'll be waiting for a while. Now, unfortunately, it's time for me to sort out my papers for next trimester. Yuck, as I smell degree planning up ahead in bright lights. Ugh, indeed. Incidentally, I see the VUW School of Education has decided to change its website. Hopefully this time the information is updated often enough, though even in its previous state, the information was still useful.

Time for bed now, methinks. I was going to write about the upcoming InternetNZ spam workshop, but I've decided to leave that until afterwards as I gather up ideas. (And yes, I'm still working on that unit plan. I might trim it for brevity, though.)

June 21, 2004

Always about money, or about e-mail address clinginess

For many Australians, it's always about the money as well as what one can extract from something... not all Australians, though, of course.

I wonder if it's about time I cynically started saying 'only in Australia'? I imagine those Centrelink staff are cursing Howard and his gang for the little flood he's caused. Or not. Oops.

Incidentally, the word I've found today in the OED is the noun ocker, or rough, uncultivated, or aggressively boorish Australian. Lively definition, that. Doesn't sound nice, though. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary expands on that to say it's an alteration of a name of some, uh, Australian television character called Oscar, whom I've never heard of before. How odd.)

I suspect, though, even an 'ocker' wouldn't like having to let their e-mail address expire. Well, if it weren't for spam, anyway.

In the meantime, I wonder if I'm made of fairy dust. Certainly we're made of stardust, apparently.

[Listening to: Love You For Always -- Mandy Moore -- I Wanna Be With You (03:21)]

June 18, 2004

greta.electric.gen.nz downtime

FYI: Due to some changes on the network on which greta.electric.gen.nz resides, most of its services will be unavailable for a few hours or so tonight. And then, I'm told, probably the second week of July, too.

Thanks, as usual, to Philip Dowie, for keeping the server up. :)

June 17, 2004

How to Jabber safely (apparently)

Being a read the manual type of person, reading a fact sheet on 'safe' IM practices was kind of amusing. But, that said, serious at the same time.

A while ago, I was contemplating running an academic experiment using a chatbot I'd cobbled together using existing parts -- centericq and some external plugin implementation of Eliza. I'd have to say it did work kind of well when I were testing it -- if one were supervising it (it has a habit of suddenly causing a crash by increasing processor overload, at least last time I tried it). It did fool the odd person, but there were two problems -- it processed each message individually, and it couldn't join conference rooms, because it would reply to everything in the room, right down to the join messages. (I imagine, though, for the latter I could have used a grep or something.) I can't seem to get past the ethics issues, though, but that's mainly because I haven't had time to work on it in the last several months. Still, it was of some amusement at WCE.

What does this tell me? Like my join message on jdev@conference.jabber.org suggests, I'm not hot by any means at programming, and I worship off-the-shelf binaries from apt-get. But I like writing documentation-like stuff, which is what I suppose I can contribute to Jabber.

In the meantime, however, I'm working on a unit plan for teaching schoolchildren safe choices with regards to junk e-mail and instant messages. I've deferred work on it, however, until a workshop next week...

So, incidentally, I'll be going to an anti-spam legislation workshop in Wellington on 24 June. It should be interesting to see what sorts of stuff come up. Sure most of the spam we get in NZ comes from overseas, but we still don't want people to perceive our country as a soft touch. At least in the meantime we have a good Internet Service Provider community who tend to (by my experience or two getting a spammer run in; other people's experience may vary, I suppose) terminate spammers pretty quickly.

[Listening to: Disc 3, Track 09 -- Douglas Adams -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Audiobook] Disc 3 (03:08)]

Update: while typing this, someone asked me to put my chatbot back up. Turns out its home directory was a bit full, so creating a fresh account seems to have done the trick for now. Currently it's Jabber only, but I'll add back the other protocols if I see it's gonna be useful. I'm not sure if I'll leave her on all day, though. I'll have to think about that.

[Listening to: Disc 4, Track 01 -- Douglas Adams -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Audiobook] Disc 4 (02:57)]

First Wiki page

Well, my first substantial Wiki page has been written, but as usual, it's a work in progress, listing non-English conference rooms, as well as phrases to paste into a room to alert people of certain languages to rooms that actually speak their language more often. Only four languages thus far, but I expect more as we get the people coming through.

Most of this really probably should be integrated into ChatBot queries, really. But this is a start. After all, I do procrastinate a lot. :)

June 16, 2004

Learning new stuff every day

Today's cool word I find while randomly browsing the online Oxford English Dictionary: New Zild, the adjective form of it being defined as Of, relating to, or designating distinctive New Zealand speech or language; of or relating to New Zealand (esp of something viewed as typically characteristic), among other definitions.

And I've learnt how to persuade Movable Type to make some XML feeds for the power house; I thought it'd be a good touch to finally get around to it after someone suggested I do so, to make putting me on Planet Jabber a bit easier, should I ask to be added. Not sure I do, but if I am added, I wouldn't object. :)

On other matters of 'learning', I've finally realised the joys of a certain travel book, albeit by CD. For the past four years, since getting a copy of the US edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on CD, I've found audiobooks much easier to take in than books in print form. Alas, the Harry Potter audiobooks as sold in NZ are rather expensive. Looks like I'll have to curb the habit and continue reading the print versions (like I did with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix). Damn.

[Listening to: Disc 2, Track 17 -- Douglas Adams -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Audiobook] Disc 2 (03:05)]

June 15, 2004

Commented out

Lesson of the day: when you write a very provocative post, be prepared for the responses. This particular one from a Microsoft person wonders about a certain coincidence, and then attracts a handful of equally provocative comments back. While I'm browsing it and I hit reload, the article disappears. Then reappears (slightly edited, I think) when I hit reload again a few moments later, all 18 comments gone. All this in the last ten to twenty minutes.

Coincidence? Do I think this was just a coincidence? I think not.

Second lesson: if you play with fire, you'll be burnt. Oops indeed. I'm not making any comments about the content of the diary posting myself -- anyone with schoolboy or schoolgirl experience (or any playground wisdom, really) should know this.

Updates, 12:48: Mark Derricutt saved the comments in his diary, while I get Ping 'http://blogs.msdn.com/joestagner/services/trackbacks/154867.aspx' failed: Sorry couldn't find a relevant link in http://hydro.electric.gen.nz/pub/self/diary/tphse/archives/000114.html from the Microsoft person's diary software. How rather odd. Maybe it's a 'coincidence'. Spooky. Oh wait... hold on, there's more as I type this. I see that he says a couple of folks did as I expected and dropped by to offer personal insults and name calling. Sure that this were the case, but deleting the whole lot seems a bit heavy handed. They weren't all flames or porn comment spam, right? Hopefully, however, his genuinely meant message doesn't get lost in all the backlash (back and forth, that is), which appears to be that dodgy hacker people are costing everybody, not just a certain software company that makes a certain operating system. I think that's his point.

June 14, 2004

Five year adult passports?

Five year passports for adults? I feel like a kid again.

[Listening to: A Wild and Distant Shore -- Michael Nyman -- The Piano [1993] (05:52)]

New books, or: I'm on display!

That's right, it appears that I'm on the new books display at the VUW Library this week. I, uh, guess that's a good thing. (Alas, not literally me, but my book.) I'm still waiting for the invoice to be paid, though. I need to get around to the 'reminder', perhaps.

I wonder if anyone will actually spot it? That is, especially keeping in mind it's a somewhat thin A4-sized tome that's been plastic spiral bound and rather invisible when shelved, in my opinion. Maybe it might even pique someone's interest enough to read it. Deep down, I do hope so.

On the subject of new books, or not so new (if last year doesn't count), Michael King's Penguin History of New Zealand appears to be going for a seemingly ridiculous $10 (even including delivery charging, let alone GST) at the current online incarnation of Whitcoulls. I wasn't expecting those sorts of prices not to happen for a little while yet. Odd. Good thing I was playing about on Lynx over SSH over really expensive broadband Internet 802.11b then, while considering whether to try spending $29.95 at a book shop I had been meaning to visit for some time, I suppose.

Still trying to find out what new stuff is in the hardback edition the Penguin Books database says was published this month, minus a living author, though. A few library catalogues also seem to be implying that there is a different 'revised' paperback edition published this year with the same ISBN and (as a check against the Penguin Books database reveals) page count as the hardback edition. If it's more than an obituary, I think I'll be annoyed.

Keeping in mind I've got far more interesting things to worry about, of course. :)

[Listening to: All Imperfect Things -- Michael Nyman -- The Piano [1993] (04:04)]

June 13, 2004

huttcity.com appears again

Back in 2001, being low on available cash to burn (literally, perhaps), and in any case, not having much use for it anyway, I gave the venerable Hutt City Council my huttcity.com domain, after having got a phone call from their webmaster asking if they could have it. The person on the other end of the line suggested she'd look for another domain if I didn't hand it over, as they weren't interested in paying megabucks (nor when, trying to push my luck, I asked if they'd give me an alias on the domain), but they did agree to pay the (by then) overdue domain name renewal fee. Then again, this was in the days before anyone would have considered the UDRP, though it did exist by then.

I gave them the password for it, and after a few problems for the city council renewing the domain, it was all theirs, and ending my problem of finding money to keep it. Even though I did give it up, I assumed it was getting a good home/registrant.

Several months went by, and at least a year later, it was still pointing at the council's site. Which was still cool, all the same. I thought they'd never get around to using it for anything (the webmaster muttered something about some sort of city portal site, as my distant memory of the exchange goes), but I see it now appears to have another life as a pilot project for free mini-sized sites for new businesses that haven't yet splashed out on hosting. Likewise, having pounced on huttcity.org separately, they also have a site for community groups that's virtually the same, down to the documentation (give or take a few words here and there).

Well, new life into what was, when I had it, originally subtitled 'your online guide to Jabba the Hutt's favourite place to be', I guess.

June 12, 2004

Firing up a Wiki

Well, I've finally done it. I've forgotten the vandals that say something stupid. Okie, so I've simply reinstalled a Wiki on greta, PhpWiki to be exact. I've set it up to allow editing from self-created logins for now.

Right now, the only use I have for it is for some quick end user documentation for Jabber users. Why? To be idealisitic, a quick FAQ-style site so I don't have to remember the answer to the same question without having to refer to a newsgroup posting or an infrequently updated website (hey, Emacs takes forever to load on my server).

And so I can compare it against Faq-O-Matic to see which I want for the job. (Well, if I can persuade it to work, which I can't right now.)

Personally, I think it'd be far easier to load more terse statements into ChatBot, so it pops up for users immediately, rather than a web page. But time will tell.

June 10, 2004

Firefox 0.8 and 0.9

Quick, Aucklanders -- what do you notice about the code names for Mozilla Firefox 0.8 (Royal Oak) and 0.9 (One Tree Hill)?

I wonder if it's a coincidence, or if this will continue? :) Of course, I'd rather they used suburbs of where I live, and not some big heap of land up north. Hehehe. :) At least it might for a while... the previous code named releases appear to be Pescadero (0.1), Santa Cruz (0.2), Lucia (0.3), Oceano (0.4), and Naples (0.5). A quick Google search suggests to me these are all places in California, if anything. (Seems also that 0.6, 0.6.1, 0.7 and 0.7.1 never got code names, which is a pity. Oh well.)

June 8, 2004

Small but cute libraries

Here's a photograph of a cute little library on Great Barrier Island. I wonder if they would have room for a computer with Internet access? Looks extremely cute yet also homely as well, though. :)

Outdoor wireless on Lambton Quay

Wow. Gotta say outdoor wireless in Midland Park (outside Mobil on the Park on Lambton Quay) is pretty impressive for checking one's work timetable without having to find an Ethernet port... or a wireless access point in a coffee shop, or at (another) 'work' on the Willis Street end of Lambton Quay. Mmmmmm... fun, fun, fun. :)

It's starting to get a bit dark, though, so I'm not going to try reception among the other parts of Midland Park. Perhaps another day.

[Listening to: Reverie -- Brooke Fraser -- What To Do With Daylight (05:14)]

Looks like I need to get some more albums, too. Though Brooke Fraser is really, really good, I don't think I wanna thrash it just soon... :)

June 4, 2004

I want a virus!

Where are virus-laden messages when I need them for my newly enabled virus e-mail scanner?

June 3, 2004

NetStumbler around Wellington

Computerworld's brief story about CityLink's wireless network's apparent success (despite my repeated grumblings about the high per megabyte pricing) reminds me of one good thing one can do if bored in the back of a motorcar or bus going through some part of central Wellington: chugging along a street on one's way home with a working installation of NetStumbler or MiniStumbler to see how many people secure up their wireless access points properly.

That's not to say I'm the first person to think of this. In any case, the largest proportion of unsecured access points I've found tend to be CityLink's public prepaid ones.

Low scoring

More cuisine reviewing by the Bearcom in the cuisine guide. The low-scoring look at free milk bottle lollies begins at what is currently page 4.

Optical illusions

On the day I get a new mobile phone, a new technology comes out...


June 2, 2004

Going, going, gone... to Auckland

So, the VUW vice-chancellor is going... he's only taking a short drive up SH1 to the University of Auckland, not to some place overseas, however.