Saturday, June 02, 2001

So many great scenes in Dr Strangelove (1964) to choose from, but here's one:

Peter Sellers as President of the USA, phoning Soviet premier Kissof to break the bad news.

Jonah Goldberg sums up three and a half decades of Star Trek, illustrating why collecting seven seasons of Voyager is not a top priority of mine right now, (got to finish TOS 1-3 and TNG 5-7 first - and B5, SG-1, and .. oh never mind):

Where we started with a ship and crew dedicated to confidently conquering the unknown and imposing our own sense of justice on the galaxy when necessary, we now have a ship suffering from a constant lack of confidence, desperately trying to get home to mommy. The first Trek crew would have sold their souls to be in a whole new quadrant of the galaxy no one had ever seen. The last line of the first Trek movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, concludes (mercifully) with a helmsman asking Kirk for a new heading. He answers, "Out there�thataway." This is not a man in a hurry to sleep in his own bed.

Friday, June 01, 2001

From NTK: A very poorly password-protected list of e-mail addresses for sale to spammers. 33 million of them, apparently.

Downloading right now. Time to find out how many of mine they've got in there.

Also time to stop revealing one of my current ones in clear text on every page of this website. I just learned a very simple trick to fool webcrawlers: Turn it into an image. So here it is, my new e-mail address, (which does support PGP btw):

Steve Gibson, hacker and humanitarian, investigates a DOS-attack on his webserver, learns IRC, and gets mixed up with a 13 year old script-kiddie. Hilarious, tragic, and educational.

Thursday, May 31, 2001

The norwegian Conservative Party have been growing steadily for months, and in one poll they're even ahead of Labor. Along with the Progress Party, (who went from 16% to 34% last year, then lost it after some brutal infighting), they have lower taxes as a main issue. Looks like they've struck a nerve in our high-taxed country, and are putting the social democrats on the defensive, with barely three months left to the election.

So here's my view on taxes and government spending. It's not based on extensive economical analysis of the norwegian economy, nor on heavy political reading, or party indoctrination, all of which I leave to professionals. It's based on a very simple thought experiment:

Imagine there were no taxes, and every government agency was financed by knocking on peoples doors and begging for money. Which of the following welfare services would I personally, out of my own wallet, make an effort to keep alive?

  • Police, fire and defense? Certainly.
  • Health services? Of course.
  • Home and health care for the old and disabled? Yes.
  • Schools? Propably, but not necessarily a public one. I remember some pretty incompetent, evil or just criminally stupid teachers from my days in public schools, and if I don't get a say in keeping people like that away from kids, they don't get to waste my money.
  • Social security and charity? I suppose so, can't let people starve to death, but they'd better make a serious effort to get back into work, for their own sake, and for mine. I don't see how this is insensitive. It's very cruel to feed other peoples addictions, and while anyone I know can ask me for money any time if they really need it, I wouldn't allow anyone I care about to get dependant on alms, not even (or especially not) my own brother or sisters.
  • Helping poor countries? See social security part.
  • Religion? No way. It's your God, you feed him.
  • Science? Absolutely, there's still a lot I want humanity to discover. I'd focus on the clearly beneficial hard sciences, though.
  • Paying people to live in rural areas, so we can pretend we're still a country of farmers and fishermen? No.
  • Putting drug dealers in prison, harassing users and addicts, and mounting expensive anti-nicotine/alcohol/narcotics propaganda campaigns? Certainly not. (Addicts themselves asking for help to quit, though, that's different. See social security part.)
  • Preventing my local grocery store from staying open on random religious holidays? You got to be kidding. Do that on your own spare time please.
  • Butting into what other people watch on TV? Huh? Don't understand the question. Rephrase.
  • Hiring an army of paper-shufflers to administrate all of the above? Hm, ok, but they'd better prove their usefullness. And keep the noise down, we're trying to work over here.

So that's my political philosophy. You may disagree, but the important thing here is not my answers, but the question itself: How much would you donate to these causes?

See, the problem is that whenever somebody identifies a problem in society, they always say "we must do something about this", "we can't let this happen". Not "I must do something". We. The difference is that "we" are always rich, "we" have always got extra time and money to make all bad things go away. However, "I" am poor. "I" have to struggle to make ends meet. "I" am too busy to help.

Next time some man in the street wants government to do something about it, ask them if they personally would finance whatever they're proposing, and suddenly everything looks very very different. And yet they are financing everything government does, through taxes.

Using the word we (or they!) in any discussion involving government spending, is dishonest and misleading, and the least I expect is a bit of honesty and perspective. (Respect for other peoples money as well is an optional bonus.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2001

ShieldsUp, a free web service that scans your machine, identifies security holes, and explains how to fix them. Windows 9x, like much Microsoft software, is by default very insecure, and with a little work you can at least reduce the risk.

The site also recommends installing ZoneAlarm, a free personal firewall. In protects you from outside attacks, but also prevents unauthorized programs on your own PC (like trojan horses) to access the internet. Easy to configure, and propably a good idea if your PC like mine is connected almost 24/7.

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Propably more interesting than the movie, US military documents from the attack on Pearl Harbor, posted by the nice people at The Smoking Gun.

Particularly liked the draft to Roosevelts war-speech, with hand-written comments and changes, such as two unreadable words replaced with the inspired "infamy".

Monday, May 28, 2001

Oh no, another Star Trek series.

Nothing wrong with Trek or trekkies, I joined that club about 10 minutes into Wrath of Khan (1982), but the odds against the fourth spin-off of any series being any good, are pretty bad.

Have to admit the name's original, though, Star Trek: Enterprise. How on earth did they think of that?

Cryptome has posted the draft to a sober and well written EU report on Echelon, just another privacy-incompatible service courtesy of your local superpower. Less extensive than the apocalyptic rumours indicated, but still capable of intercepting quite an amount of personal communication.

Now let's see, where did I put that checklist:

You may think all this is overkill. You may be one of those people who don't mind if strangers shuffle through your personal papers, your letters arrive opened, and people stare in your bedroom window. Then again, you may have a normal need for privacy, and a natural distrust of the motives of surveillors, (whether they do it for a living, pleasure, or both.)

Obviously, if anyone really wants to read my files there is very little I can do about it. Operating systems can be cracked, encryption broken, and secrets revealed through torture or threats. But you see, that's just it. Encryption makes it time-consuming and expensive to intercept civilian data, limiting law enforcers to only watch actual suspected criminals - like they used to do.

The Internet enables effortless mass-interception of private data by anyone with enough power or money, and the nature of power makes abuse inevitable. Encryption just makes it difficult again.