New book! Libra Shrugged: How Facebook’s dream of controlling the world’s money crashed and burned – released 2 Nov 2020

It’s another blockchain book! Except it’s really about that time when Facebook tried to take over the money, and the world stood up and said “yeah, ah, no way.”

Silicon Valley tries to disrupt the world — and the world finally tells them “no.”

Facebook: the biggest social network in the world, with intimate influence over its users’ lives. A stupendous, world-shaping success.

But governments were on Facebook’s case over privacy, abuse of personal data, election-rigging and fake news.

In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg wondered: what if Facebook could pivot to finance? Or, better: what if Facebook started its own private world currency?

Facebook could have so much power that governments couldn’t annoy them any more. It would be the Silicon Valley dream.

Going live 2 November 2020. w00t! Kindle first, paperback and probably audiobook to follow.

The book site is here (please spread this URL):

Carphone Warehouse is now sending spam to ask for blog spam.

This just arrived and appears genuine. Carphone Warehouse are (a) sending spam (b) to request blog spam. They also have past form of spamming. I suggest not dealing with them, cancelling existing contracts with them, and telling them why.

Continue reading “Carphone Warehouse is now sending spam to ask for blog spam.”

KDE 4.1 is really nice.

KDE 4.1 is made entirely of delicious eye candy. It’s still slightly unfinished and geeky, but remains deeply tasty. As I say that “KDE is like Windows but it works,” so KDE 4.1 is like Vista but it works. Which is a bit like “KDE is like anthrax but not bad for you,” but anyway.

If you’re not willing to geekily beat it into behaving, don’t try it yet. But if you are: how to set it up in Ubuntu Hardy (you have to add an experimental repository); install gtk-qt-engine-kde4 to solve the Fugly Firefox problem; install quick launch if you want that (though I couldn’t get it to work); switch off single-click launch in Konqueror; reboot; fiddle with all the settings. Play and have fun.

Rocknerd v3.

Rocknerd is my occasionally moribund musical webzine. It was founded in Melbourne in 2001 by Ben Butler and me, at . Rocknerd v1 ran on SquishDot, which had a charming habit of occasionally eating its own database and having to be restored from backups. Rocknerd v2 started in 2003 running on Slash, which is a management nightmare but still not as bad as Squish. Ben left and got a real job and I moved to London.

Rocknerd sputtered to a standstill around mid-2007, and the domain stopped working in mid-2008 (though it seems to be working again, just occasionally points to the goddamn moon or something). I then started the third incarnation of the site, running on WordPress, which appears to be a slightly less shit piece of software. I’m looking around for extensions to make it more interesting and participatory.

I have the database dump from Rocknerd v2, and will attempt to restore it to v3 one day when I really hate myself. Articles should be easy, preserving comment threads will be a bastard and a half.

Haunted violin for sale!

* may not in fact actually be haunted in any way whatsoever

Arkady is selling her rather nice antique violin. Not in fact haunted, but sounds luvverly.

German, made in the 1860s. The original manufacturer is unknown, as there are no manufacturer’s marks anywhere either outside or inside the instrument. It is in excellent condition; one string has unfortunately snapped but otherwise it is quite playable and has a sweet mellow tone.

It has an “artificially distressed” finish that is deliberate – as you can see from close inspection, the markings are beneath the varnish, which is original and untouched. There is some wear to the finish around the bridge and on the back which is the result of over a century of use – this is no mere ornamental instrument, but a well-played one!

The violin will come complete with all you see here – violin, bow, Stentor case and block of rosin. It is sold “as is”; it is a full-sized instrument suitable for orchestral use. It needs only a new set of strings and tuning in to be fully playable. Whether you’re looking for the ideal instrument for a serious student, an orchestral violin or just something sweet-sounding for folk music, this could be the perfect instrument for you!

Continue reading “Haunted violin for sale!”

Dave Bird, R.I.P.

(Obituary text by Arkady Rose.)

It is with great sadness that I have to report the passing away of a long-time staunch critic of $cientology, Dave Bird.

Dave was often referred to by other members of (alt.religion.scientology.central commitee, UK division – see Brief history of ARSCC) as “Our Glorious Leader”, a title well-earned. He made me feel very welcome on my first demo against the cult in front of the TCR org in London, and I often looked forward to his emails, phone calls and letters. He was a cheerful, active, scarily-intelligent and amusingly-inventive campaigner against the cult of $cientology and had been an active member of the National Council for Civic Liberties/Liberty before taking on the cult.

Dave had suffered from some time from health issues arising from his diabetes and so it had been a couple of years since he was last able to join us on a demo, but he kept up a keen interest from afar via the phone and internet, including actively posting to a.r.s. He had an amusing array of sigs; one included the quote “Woof woof (glug glug) .. who drowned the judge’s dog ?” Another good sig was this one:
8====3 (O 0) GROETEN --- PRINTZ XEMU EXTRAWL no real OT has
A society without a religion is like a maniac without a chainsaw.

The following is the obituary posted today on alt.religion.scientology by Jens Tingleff, a fellow member:

“Dave Bird died the morning of Sunday Feb 10th from complications arising from diabetes. He had been in hospital for six days.

Dave had been active in the NCCL and in the fight against miscarriages of justice before he came to activism against the criminal organisation known as the “church” <spit> of $cientology.

While Dave was a great debater – and a lot of fun – on a.r.s. he also had many effective moments in Real Life, notably initiating getting proper legal representation for Bonnie and Richard Woods (and the rest is history – I don’t think the clams have sued anyone in the UK since then).

Dave brought a welcome street theatre side to our pickets, including many props, some of which worked, some of which didn’t and the largest one of which was Carrie the Giant Clamshell.

Dave worked hard at his activism, organising, doing practical things, designing props (the balloons were always a favourite of mine) and writing songs. He was a firm believer in the will of good people to show up at a demo that someone else had to do the hard work organising and he was happy to put in the work. He did ask a lot, but he gave more.

The criminal organisation known as the “church” <spit>>of $cientology didn’t like him one little bit, as evinced by the multi-page entry on their hate site RFW

Dave would have gotten a kick out of the day he passed away being the day of the largest worldwide protest against the criminal organisation known as the “church” <spit> of $cientology.

I’ll miss him

Best Regards


Over 500 people turned out for the demo against the Co$ on Sunday 10th, and I’m sure Dave was there in spirit. He would have been delighted and highly amused at the whole Anonymous situation.

Rest in peace, Dave. You will be sadly missed.

Quotes of the day.

It seems like that would be true, doesn’t it. Luckily, engineers use actual science to design stuff rather than just gut feelings.

Chandon Seldon on Slashdot.

Did you know there is an MOS in the air force for internet help desk? That means there are people who’s entire job in the airforce is getting sent to kuwait and answering phone calls from junior officers about why flash videos of a dog humping a cat are loading slowly.

Dan Rosenthal on foundation-l.

I’m doing science and I’m still alive.

I’ve been cleaning out the eMusic account: Martin Rev first album and Clouds Of Glory and Killing Joke 25th anniversary live album. Many years ago, I was in a failed band. I’d come home after hours of musical torture and want to hear an actual good record that was rock’n’roll but didn’t actually involve guitar, bass or drums. Clouds Of Glory is that record.

I have also been finding and playing every possible version of the Portal theme “Still Alive” after playing the Weebl and Bob version for Freda. (Spoileriffic ending fight.) Lyrics and chords, piano 1, piano 2 (mp3), cello, indie rock, EBM (mp3), NES, 8-bit, Japanese, Swedish, Engrish, YouTubeSports (hear his voicebox disintegrating), YouTube stereotype, by the songwriter (in concert), transcription (PDF).

Liz is playing the baby awful ’80s charity videos. Hear’n’Aid, oh dear God.

Quote of the day.

When I see terms like “technically correct” or “politically correct”, I think these words were written by someone who has been wrong for so long, and finds it so painful to make corrections, that the last resort is to ridicule correctness, like that kid in the back of the class who doesn’t know the answer and so mocks the teacher.

FreeChief on Groklaw

Lisa McPherson Day picket against Scientology, Tottenham Court Road, Saturday 1st December, 1pm.

(I thought for some reason this was next Saturday, but apparently it really is tomorrow. I presume the weather will suck slightly less.)


In the closing years of the last millennium, a shadowy and powerful organisation operating under cover of religion attempted to silence criticism of itself on the Usenet™ bulletin board chatroom message network. The backlash from this event resonated forth as Internet Freedom Fighters sprung forth, goggles on and capes a-flutter, to defend their right to discuss and criticise the powerful in public.

Not many remember those dark days, before Xenu was fodder for children’s cartoon shows and surgery soap operas. But our re-enactors will be out in force. See them enturbulate™ the Scientologists! See the Scientologists with their E-Meters™, “stress-testing” random passers-by! See authentic living critics of Scientology singing silly songs through the Xenu Boom Box!

1pm, Tottenham Court Road Museum of Scientology, W1T 2EZ, next door to CEX near Goodge Street Station. Bring an umbrella.

(Lisa McPherson, my old Australian Critics of Scientology page and why I bothered.)

How to avoid Windows Vista in business.

I’m a Unix sysadmin. I got a new work laptop today, still on XP. I asked the IT guys if we were in any danger of Vista. They said “Nope, XP is supported for years yet!” And we all exhaled.

We have worked out that if we are ever threatened with Vista, we promptly (a) pump up the Gutmann (b) write a whole pile of in-house apps for ourselves that only work on XP. The latter already worked wonderfully for us in making an instant business case for staying on Firefox — make sure your in-house web apps are written for Firefox and SeaMonkey, and specifically break in IE. (This is easy: just write to standards. We have one vital app for twenty people that was broken for six months in IE with no-one realising …)

So: to stay off Vista, stock up on in-house apps that don’t work on it. Then you have the business case you need.

In double-blind medical tests on legal thuggery …

Via Paul Crowley: The UK Society of Homeopaths has a code of practice and rules of professional conduct, including such cautions as “Advertising shall not contain claims of superiority. No advertising may be used which expressly or implicitly claims to cure named diseases.” When Andy Lewis of the Quackometer found a SOH-registered homeopath blatantly flouting the code and wrote about it, the SOH promptly dealt with the offender …

Well, no — they forced his ISP to take it down under the Laurence Godfrey precedent (the mere threat can scare a UK ISP). This has led to the original article being mirrored across the net. And has made the news. I expect the SOH’s press officer will have a really great Monday morning.

Any SOH members in the house?

Volunteer spyware.

  • God inducers will be included in mobile phones by 2009 as seduction devices. “Body of Christ.” *zip* *thunk*

InGimp is a version of Gimp 2.2 with instrumentation, being run by HCI at the University of Waterloo to gather data for how to improve open source user interfaces in general. Available for Windows, Linux and Intel Mac. The Windows version picked up my Gimp preferences properly. The first startup was really slow, but normal thereafter. If you use Gimp but would like it to suck less in future, you may wish to contribute your way of working.

Gimp 2.4 is nearly out — 2.4.0rc3 is in Ubuntu Gutsy, and it’s already much nicer than 2.2. So I hope they’ll instrument that as soon as there’s a release.

Running screaming from Slash.

My all-but-comatose music site, Rocknerd, shudders along on Slash. Using WordPress here makes me not want to kill it with a stick, so I’ve put a test site up. The only tentacle I’ve found so far is that I’ll have to learn CSS to make stuff work in whatever theme I pick.

Startlingly useful plugins: Admin Drop Menus (really — install this first), TDO Mini Forms (allow post submissions from the big wide world — essential to replacing Slash), WP Cache (though I’ve hardly the traffic for it), Category Image(s) (essential Slashalike bling … once I work out the CSS), Subscribe To Comments and Get Comments Count.

Are there any other useful plugins worth trying in order to recreate the shiny bits of Slash without the horrors within?

World Intellectual Property Day: April 26, 2007.

From the mailing list:

April 26, 2007 is World Intellectual Property Day, as declared by our friends at WIPO. The theme for 2007 is “Encouraging Creativity” —

I encourage all free culture advocates to organize activities in proximity to IP Day with the theme: “Encouraging Creativity: Are We?”

Rather than a self-congratulatory pat on the back, modern intellectual property regimes deserve critical examination — and, some argue, a kick in the ass. This crucial public policy issue should invite tempered deliberation and public participation, not grandstanding and finger-wagging.

If you have a local CopyNight meet-up in your town, this would be a great theme for April. (Most CopyNights meet on the 4th Tuesday of the month, which would be April 24, just two days before IP Day.)

If not, you could organize some other event — or just get together with a group of friends at your favorite bar or cafe.

Don’t forget: WIPO says, “Member States and organizations are encouraged to send brief reports of the events and activities organized in their country to celebrate World IP Day.” So be sure to send them an announcement of your event. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to hear.

I’m sure Wikimedians have some marvellous ideas for this one. You have two weeks!

Is this thing on?

Vox sucks in ways only walled garden suburbs can. What was will be at this address. At present I’m trying WordPress, which is apparently reasonably manageable and not hideous. We’ll see how this goes.

How do I set the timezone? The host is in EDT, I’m in BST. UTC all the way through would be just fine, particularly as that’s the time it’s actually displaying.

The Ubuntu Feisty alpha-testing experience.

I’ve been on Ubuntu since Hoary. And I don’t even like Linux — I far prefer FreeBSD, which is actually nice to run. Administering Linux (the kernel) gives me a raging headache. But the Ubuntu environment on top is so nice it’s worth it.

Kubuntu Feisty is an enjoyable system with the latest of everything to just get on with doing your stuff if you don’t mind the fifty meg of updates a day and the occasional stupid breakage. (The latest version of x11-common has a broken script in the .deb. And no, I’m not going to open the .deb and fix it by hand — I run Ubuntu so I don’t have to be a sysadmin just because I can.)

The question is what Feisty’s major disaster will be. Edgy’s was that distupgrade from Dapper didn’t actually, uh, work. I think Feisty’s will be that network-manager is still, with one month to release, utterly broken. I have to run a little script for each possible network card to get wifi to behave.

I freely recommend Ubuntu to people who aren’t computer geeks, but are sick of Windows being flaky crap and want something that’ll at least be stable. The way it brings new life to old machines is pretty cool as well. (I eagerly await Beryl stabilising to the point of being a reasonable default window manager.) But you might want to start with Dapper (6.06), the stable version.

(I might add that one powerful force against Linux on the corporate desktop is that too many people remember the really bad old days and how Microsoft Windows everywhere is still a vast improvement on that. See this, in which hairyears talks about why Vista is not going anywhere near the financial districts for this year at least: "I’ve worked with Windows all my working life and, despite what you may hear, it has been a blessing to us all: without it we would still be running Wang word processors on Wang hardware that saved documents in a Wang file format that can only be read by other Wang applications and printed on Wang Printers. Or HP, Or IBM, or Toshiba: whatever. It took a Big Bad Corporation to build a big enough operating system that everyone uses it, and every other software vendor works with it rather than against it, each other, and the user population. I fully expect the Big Bad Corporation to make a handsome profit from their systems and I am certain that Microsoft have behaved far, far better than IBM would’ve done if their DOS and their visual interface had established the natural monopoly that emerges from a widely-used operating system.")

(Inspired by Eloquence.)