Ben Laurie blathering

14 Nov 2006

Government Spending Transparency

Filed under: General — Ben @ 11:49

According to the Telegraph, the Tories will introduce a Government Spending Transparency Bill, which will put all spending over £25,000 online. Except “where related to national security” – expect the sudden discovery that almost everything is related to national security.

If it gets through, I think this will lead to some absolutely fascinating mashups.

9 Nov 2006

Cypherpunks: Its A Word

Filed under: General — Ben @ 15:02

The Oxford English Dictionary has added cypherpunk. Along with bling, Disneyfied and hard-ass.

7 Nov 2006

Blogosphere Statistics Porn

Filed under: General — Ben @ 16:56

Technorati release a quarterly report with all sorts of interesting statistics. This quarter’s is out. Long tailers will probably be disappointed, but there’s interesting stuff there anyway.

30 Oct 2006

My Brain is Outboard

Filed under: Brain Function,General — Ben @ 12:12

I recently read Charles Stross’ Accelerando, which is a fantastic book I’d recommend to anyone: kinky sex and outrageous technology. What’s not to love about that?

In common with other current sci-fi, something we’re supposed to understand in Stross’ books is “The Singularity” which, now I’ve read a few, appears to be the point at which we outsource so much of our intelligence to computers that we become something completely different and generally not very friendly to ordinary humans. Anyway, as I read this kind of book I always have this vague jealousy of the characters with all their outboard enhancements and can’t wait for real life to catch up with sci-fi.

So, I was musing about this last night and realised that real life is catching up. What prompted this initial thought was the fact I can no longer remember what music I like is called, or who recorded it. This is because I use LongPlayer to listen to my music and so I no longer need to be able to find it, it just happens (though it is kinda scary that currently I only hear any particular song about once every 9 months, at least on my main player). So, I started to catalogue other functionality I’ve outsourced to computers. Here’s my initial list:

  • Sense of direction: outsourced to GPSes.
  • Organisation: outsourced to email, mostly.
  • Memory (at least for stuff of an academic nature): outsourced to the ‘net.
  • Phone numbers: outsourced to phone/palm (though I’m getting out of the habit of carrying a palm due to sync issues)
  • Addresses: outsourced to computer and GPSes.
  • Maths: outsourced to Mathematica.
  • Arithmetic: outsourced to calculators, Perl and the like.
  • Darkroom skills: outsourced to Photoshop and Epson.

So, at what point does the singularity occur? And will I care?

26 Sep 2006

IBM Puts Patent Filings Online

Filed under: General — Ben @ 10:16

The New York Times reports that IBM will put its patent filings on line as it files them.

“The larger picture here is that intellectual property is the crucial capital in a global knowledge economy,” said Samuel J. Palmisano, I.B.M.’s chief executive. “If you need a dozen lawyers involved every time you want to do something, it’s going to be a huge barrier. We need to make sure that intellectual property is not used as a barrier to growth in the future.”

I think this is an excellent step in the right direction by IBM. More companies should do it.

25 Sep 2006

My First RFC!

Filed under: General — Ben @ 14:42

I just noticed that my first RFC has been published. Not very exciting – I promise the next one will be more fun.

The First Hit is Free

Filed under: General — Ben @ 11:17

George Danezis gave Mike Bond and I a ride to Dagstuhl from Brussels. On the way, we mused about many things. One of them (I have no idea why!) was what would drug dealers turn to if suddenly all drugs were legal?

The first suggestion was guns. Amongst the scepticism, someone quipped, “well, at least you wouldn’t have to change the lingo – the first hit is free!”.

The second was music … I think you can see what’s coming…

4 Jul 2006

I Really Do Rule The World!

Filed under: General — Ben @ 15:07

Last week’s New Statesman, in an article about digital rights said

We British don’t like to brag about it, but this country is still a home for some of the world’s best open-source coders – Ben Laurie, who coded the security software that deals with most credit card transactions online…

28 Apr 2006

eBay Scamming

Filed under: General — Ben @ 2:23

My friend, Ben Hyde, recently blogged about a scheme to use second chance offers on eBay to extract the maximum price from the winning bidder.

Recently, a friend of mine bid on an item with five minutes left to run. As it happened I had monitored several previous sales of the same item by the same seller, and knew that they generally did not sell. Two minutes before the end of the auction she was outbid. With Ben’s comments in mind I advised her to not find another auction to bid on just yet, and to wait for the second chance offer to come through. Sure enough, just one day later, it did. In her case she didn’t pay any extra, because she’d bid the exact amount of the initial bid, but clearly she could’ve ended up paying a lot more.

Interestingly, eBay don’t offer the data that would make this obvious – show a user’s record for not paying for successful bids. I wonder why they don’t? Not doing so makes this behaviour essentially invisible to other users.

21 Apr 2006

Royal de Luxe

Filed under: General — Ben @ 19:38

The excellent giant puppet group Royal de Luxe are coming to London on May 4-7. By a miracle, I’ll actually be in London for some of that to see it. Look here for more.

20 Apr 2006

Funky Maps

Filed under: General,Motorbikes — Ben @ 16:02

My friend, Ben Hyde, blogs about map porn. They’re all fun, but here’s one showing motorcycles.

9 Apr 2006

Not Microwavable!

Filed under: General — Ben @ 2:18

I just opened a pack of AA batteries from Sainsbury’s. On the back it says:

“Warning! This product is fitted with a security device which is NOT MICROWAVABLE”

WTF is that about?

25 Mar 2006


Filed under: General — Ben @ 15:54

I don’t play computer games as a rule, I think they’re a waste of time. But I recently saw the video of Spore and it looks like so much fun I think I’ll have to play. Once.

I did actually play We Love Katamari (sorry, too lazy to find link) when the UK version finally came out, but unfortunately first person games like that give me motion sickness (I guess I should call it staying-still sickness – things that actually move are fine with me), so I gave it up pretty quickly.

28 Dec 2005

Money for Spam

Filed under: General — Ben @ 2:10

Amazingly, someone has successfully sued a spammer in the UK.

What I’d like to know is exactly what he did so we can all do it.

Update: I am in contect with Nigel Roberts, and there will be a “how to” soon.

15 Sep 2005

Ben Enters The Blogosphere

Filed under: General — Ben @ 16:46

Anyone who knows me knows I hate blogs. So, what the fuck am I doing, starting one up?

Well, I’ve come to realise that there’s a point to blogs, too. I still hate almost all of them. I don’t want to know about your relationships, or what you ate for dinner last night. And don’t expect me to meet you for drinks because you blogged where you were going.

But they are a good place for doing some things. For example, where would I put my brief article on primes and MD5 collisions if not in a blog? (You’ll see from the date I’ve flirted with this idea before). They’re also a kind of person-centric mailing list – only you don’t have to subscribe to them and they stay available forever. Perhaps they’re good for other things, but I can’t think of any right now. Let me know!

Anyway, consider this an experiment. The next few posts are probably going to be a little odd, because they’ll be about stuff I should’ve been blogging at the time, but, well, I didn’t have a blog. Will I keep it up? Who knows. Watch this space.

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