A little knowledge

I’ve always believed in the phrase ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. We’ve seen it in action, someone you’ll be talking to will have just 5% of the facts and fill in the other 95% with complete waffle, and if the person their talking to has even less information than them, then their convinced of that fact. And so the dangers progresses.

In my travels and conversations with people I’ve met a lot who love to talk about the current financial crisis. They like to discuss its problems and how we can get out of it, and they seek to give advice to others on how to conduct their lives. Things like ‘oh don’t make an investment, the markets are in the dump’ or ‘starting a business right now is a terrible idea!’ are thrown around carelessly without thought or knowledge.

Here’s the thing, turns out now is the best time to invest, think about it! If you invest ina market that in the dumps then the only way it can go is up. Sooner or later the economy will start thriving again, we’re not going to be stuck in a century long recession, it wont happen. Why? Because that how free market economics work.

See if you think about it then it seems to simple! It’s like Sherlock Holmes explaining to Watson why something that may seem preposterous at first is actually very ‘elementary’ when it’s laid out.

So as an economist here’s my plea to you, please spend a few hours learning about the state of the world. Even if you don’t care, because it’s those issues that affect your life, not the raid you WOW guild has planned for next Friday.

Knowledge will set you free, and until you gain it you are a slave. A slave to these ‘little knowledge’ people who will tell you anything as long as you listen and make them feel important.

Like I said, it’s so clear to see that your a slave now that I’ve explained it.

Elementary my dear <insert your name here>

Azmain is an economist who is a follower of Keynesian economics. He writes on a variety of social and economics issues on his blog, The Rosebud.

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World War Three: The Oil Wars

So given the political climate in the Eurozone and the Arabic nations I am actually starting to get a little bit fearful of a potential World War 3, or as I have been calling it, The Oil War. This fear has been sparked by a happy little news report I saw on BBC news. Makes for an interesting read I’ll say that much.

For those than want the TL;DR version, it basically boils down into the following. Iran is waving around its nuclear e-peen again and the rest of the world doesn’t like it. After having been told on multiple occasions to put it away and not listening, the rest of the world is now shutting Iran out of the world of trade.

So no Trade Embargo against Iran. Fun times all round. It basically means that no new trade agreements may be made with Iran or Iranian based business and all existing contracts will be honoured until July 1st at which point they become null and void.

Now on a political level, Trade sanctions can have a profound effect on a country as it reduces their GDP and can cause havoc with their manufacturing industry as they can no longer get the materials, or getting the materials suddenly costs a hell of a lot more.

But I am not convinced that it will work in Iran’s case. They are new on the nuclear scene and are a little kid that is trying to play in a big kid’s game. After all, in the modern theatre of world politics, unless you are a long standing nuclear power or are willing to seriously make some noise almost no-one takes you seriously.

And that presents a real problem because Iran wants to be noticed. They want to play in the grown up’s game they will ride their nuclear e-peen as far as they can to get in here. But being so small and insignificant basically sets their options down to “Start really waving nukes” or go to war. I reckon they’ll go for the Start really waving nukes option. Especially since it wasn’t too long ago when they played the world’s most dangerous game of think fast, by giving the nations of the world, LITERALLY a 1 hour warning of a nuclear test.

What does it mean for the rest of us?

I in no way think that the Middle Eastern conflict is over. In any way, shape or form. I simply think it will change the combatants and the location slightly. Politics of this scale has a tendency to start forcing extremes. In this case either cave to our demands, or fight. And I don’t see Iran being the kind of country to back down, (especially given their history of Draconian military dictatorship).

So I think that this will escalate into armed conflict, but how far it actually goes, I don’t yet know. All I see though is that infamous doomsday clock being pushed another minute towards midnight. And that on its own is a damn scary prospect in its own right.

I think it’s just a massive shame that the UN is kept so powerless and can’t really enforce the things that it needs to. It was a beautiful idea when it was built after World War 2, but these days it has no weight. If it had, I think the Iranian nuclear threat would’ve been absolved a long time ago.

Maybe it’s time for a new UN, and the starts of a real world government, who knows. Comments and thoughts below!

Dave the glorious Emperor of the New Earth

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Asynchronous Web Applications are the Future

Given the prevalence of Jquery and Ajax request capabilities in modern web design, I’m still surprised by the amount of websites that still rely on the request -> retrieve format of web design.

We all know that speed matters on the web, and delays in getting information, or while waiting for a page to load can have a huge effect on the users experience and can sometimes drive traffic away from a website.

But with the technology available to us, it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s an exciting time to be a developer for the web, given what we can now do! So let’s start updating out sites to be “realtime” user experiences, where the page doesn’t visibly load.

A brilliant example of this would be GitHub and their project browser. Every time you click on a file or folder, it smoothly passes you to the next page, undetectably; the interface simply slides to show the next page. But the address bar updates, thus allowing you to bookmark specific places or files, but to the user it is clean and smooth. No pages loading.

For the most part our interfaces should be none blocking. We want the pages to update and refresh as we use them, showing the new information (though there are some key exceptions such as Credit Card Transactions where you want a confirmed response before processing any further).

After all users want to use web applications without interruptions or delays, and having blocking sections in there can negatively affect user experience and potentially drive clients away from your application. Users don’t generally need to see loading messages, or other feedback relating to the requests passing in the background, (though don’t misunderstand, not all feedback is bad, but it should be un-intrusive and non-blocking, like a small spinner for instance as a username is being checked and validated).

By using asynchronous requests, where the client side session updates immediately while the server updates in the background we can achieve cleaner and more user experience driven web applications. And we are starting to develop the tools to do so.

A fantastic example of this would be SpineJS that aims to let you completely decouple the server side mechanics from the user experience, which on the hole makes for neater web applications that are more pleasurable to use.

I’d love to see more of this type of development, and people should start making more use of it.

Dave, the asynchronous packet!

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The SOPA Aftermath: What’s next?

So after a brilliant Web Rally across the world, with multiple sites going dark for the day, (including Wikipedia, Wired, even Google had a black sash) the SOPA and PIPA bills have been shelved for a while at least. I am still proudly showing my stance on internet censorship by keeping the banner in the top right, for at least a while longer and that will stay there until Jan 24th.

SOPA Resistance Day!

Image by ~C4Chaos via Flickr

But now people we need to consider what’s next. And what the viable solutions are.

This bill started out thanks to people blindly lashing out at the perceived threat of copy write theft  and it was almost the biggest intellectual disaster that could’ve hit the world. Blacking out content on the net, would have killed the net. And sure it would’ve killed piracy online, but in reality, the piracy would continue.

And if the piracy would continue why censor our freedom of speech.

The biggest thing most of the politicians behind the draft of this bill don’t get is that pirates are clever. Really clever. Hence why so much stuff gets DRM stripped literally hours after initial launch. You can’t really stop them, all you do is cut off a distribution channel, but by the way Wikipedia went dark, I think it’s safe to say that cutting off the net does more harm to the common man than good.

There are multiple ways around restrictions and blocks like that, such as TOR and proxy connections to hide and mask IP’s and then you can look at things like VPN networks. Global VPN networks of people.

Try to shut down the net like that and I think it would simply evolve. For the day to day people you would have the Government Approved Internet and the Undernet. A collection of VPNs talking to one another, with free information and free speech. See Freenet for a great example.

There are a lot better solutions to the problems. But you will never get rid of the pirates.

However looking into the aftermath of SOPA, I have to flag up one huge point. Megaupload is dead. Once a file sharing website, to which anyone could upload files and pass the links on, a good way to get around the restrictions of email attachment size limitations has been Axed and the owners arrested for “Copy write Infringement” simply because of the content their users have put up online.

And as was noticed last night by the mighty TotalBiscuitFile Sonic also seems to have gone. No longer allowing uploads anyway. You can simply get in for retrieval of data that you have already put up there. And it looks like they have only done that in response to the Megaupload raid, fearing consequences for their own site. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more file sharing sites do exactly the same thing. And the users will start to be hurt.

You can’t expect website owners to be able to police every single bit of content that passes through them. There is simply too much information. Far too much information. All you can do is report when you think something is in violation of copy write and inform the owner for it to be flagged and removed.

And given the number of users Megaupload has, do you really think they are capable of policing every bit of data uploaded to their servers on a day to day basis. I certainly don’t.

I have a strong feeling though that this is only the beginning of a large number of high profile website hits that will shake the internet all over again. And I do not approve of this.

The people making these decisions need to be educated. We are a technical world now, and the internet should be a breeding ground of creativity, not a pit of censorship.

Make no mistake. SOPA and PIPA will be back and we will have to act again, and show the same solidarity we did on Jan 18th or else we will lose.

Dave, the master of VPN

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Global Injustice and the Death of a Programmer

After having read this wonderful article on Mashable, I must admit I have become a raging cauldron of fury. To think that in this modern day and age, that this kind of human rights abuses can still go on sickens me to my very core.

In essence for those of you that haven’t looked at the article in question, the story is that of one programmer, by the name of Saeed Malekpour.

Malekpour has been sentenced to death in Iran for the crime of developing the SOFTWARE that is used to upload photos to pornographic websites.

That is his crime. He developed software. And it has been used by a porn company. So now Saeed must die.

Is this seriously how the world works. I have no control over the fashion in which software I develop is used. I simply create it. Saeed’s image upload script might be used by thousands of companies but because it is used on a website that uploads and distributes pornographic material, Saeed will suffer and die as a result.

He’s undergone torture and threats to his family as well as having a forced confession. The real kicker in all of this is the fact that he’s actually a Canadian citizen and the Canadian government hasn’t stepped in at all to stop this blatant flaunting of human rights to protect one of their own.

I can guarantee that if Mr Malekpour was a UK citizen or a US citizen the troops would’ve been called out to bring him home the moment the Iranian government refused to release him.

It honest to god makes my blood boil. Now it’s well known that the Iranian government has draconic rules relating to the use of internet and the sites that people can view, but now they are extending these rules towards the people that make software.

It’s almost as ridiculous as stating that if I make a cup that is used by terrorist organisations, I should be branded as a terrorist as well.

My heart goes out to Mr Malekpour and my only hope in this matter is that the Canadian government steps in before it’s too late.

But am I the only one thinking that perhaps it’s time someone stepped on Iran’s toes regarding their abuse of human rights?

Dave, the defender of the average man

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