Days: it’s a blog thing

Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…

Saturday, October 06, 2001 ↓


Sadly, more than three weeks after the event, there are still enough people around expounding the theory that September 11 was just America's chickens coming home to roost (its support for Israel, its backing of the mujaheddin against the Soviets in Afghanistan and subsequent desertion, blah blah blah), that journalists and commentators like Thomas Friedman have to keep reminding them of the basic facts. Why did the terrorists attack?

"One can only be amazed at the ease with which some people abroad and at campus teach-ins now tell us what motivated the terrorists. Guess what? The terrorists didn't leave an explanatory note. Because their deed was their note: We want to destroy America, starting with its military and financial centers. Which part of that sentence don't people understand? "

In this article in yesterday's New York Times, Friedman poses some valid questions as to why some parts of the Arab world are in their present state, for which they should first perhaps look to themselves rather than blaming The Great Satan America (oh, and all of its allies, of course).

Posted at 4:02 PM

Friday, October 05, 2001 ↓


Like many Brits, I listened to Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech in Parliament yesterday, in which he affirmed that having examined the evidence, he, the members of the Cabinet, and the leaders of the opposition parties were convinced of the guilt of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida group in organising the attacks on America.

The PM said that not all of the evidence could be made public as, not surprisingly, that might threaten the lives of intelligence operatives — but a document would be placed in the House of Commons library setting out the key points. You can read it now on Yahoo News.

Blair again made it clear that the "war" will not be against Islam, but against terrorists, pure and simple. Governments throughout the coalition have been going to some pains to express their view that the deeds of Mohammed Atta and his associates were not the deeds of true Muslims, just as many representatives of Islam have been declaring since the tragedy. In reaction to the attacks, many in the West have been trying to learn a little more about Islam and what it is in or around the religion that can make misguided murderers out of people who were born into the world as innocent children like the rest of us. It's often a puzzle to non-Muslims where many beliefs and practices come from when we know that they are not in the Koran. In fact, they often arise from Hadis, traditions or sayings attributed to Mohammed and believed to have been recorded by his friends or contemporaries. The respected Indian writer Ram Swarup described these in his book Understanding Islam through Hadis - Religious Faith or Fanaticism?. It makes for fascinating and illuminating reading.

All religions (and this is another of the problems I have with religion) are capable of making inflammatory and insensitive statements and accusations about adherents to religious beliefs other than their own, so I don't pick on Islam in pointing this out. But while Muslims around the world are crying out how misunderstood they are by non-Muslims, they should realise that understanding is not a one-way street. If they are taught (as a relatively harmless example)

"If you are in the land of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], do not eat from their utensils. But if it cannot be avoided, then wash them before using them"

(see here) they surely must not be surprised that Jews and Christians will be offended by the clear implication that they are somehow unclean.

Will the religions of the world ever stop taking swipes at each other?

Posted at 6:10 PM


The more I think and read about the W3C's scheme to permit RAND licensed technologies in Web standards, the more stupid I think it is and the more angry I become. I seriously wonder what protection the idea will provide against a Working Group member spotting an opportunity in a draft Recommendation he is working on, and having his company lodge an application for a broad, vague, catch-all patent for a technology targeted at exploiting the Recommendation. The W3C's policy that Members should declare up front any patents that may relate to a draft Recommendation is a bit naive, and could always be countered with the argument, "But I wasn't aware myself of my company's patent in this area until today".

Anyway, the story rolls on, and there are a few interesting articles in The Register: W3C denies misleading world+dog on RAND license status and IBM risks billion dollar Linux strategy with W3C RAND demands

As usual, The Onion furnishes some biting wit: Microsoft patents ones, zeroes.

Posted at 5:37 PM

Thursday, October 04, 2001 ↓


Somewhat ironically, given that the world's airlines seem to have gone into freefall with transatlantic traffic being particularly affected following the September 11 hijackings in America, it was on this day in 1958, that the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) began operating the first transatlantic passenger jet service between London and New York.

Recently BBC TV has been showing dramatisations ("Murder Rooms") based on the relationship between Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and Joseph Bell, the Scottish surgeon on whom Conan Doyle modelled his fictional detective. Bell died on this day in 1910.

Posted at 2:38 AM

Wednesday, October 03, 2001 ↓


A few days ago, the New York Times and MSNBC reported that Osama bin Laden hinted at the attack on America in a phone call to his stepmother, a few days before the event. It seems that CNN is not so sure.

Posted at 2:29 AM

Tuesday, October 02, 2001 ↓


A recent World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) patent policy proposal has raised a bit of a ruckus in the web design and development community, because it seems to fly in the face of the W3C's prior views on patents and standards, as Dave Winer reminds us.

Actually, I can see where the W3C is coming from. It strikes me that they are trying to take a realistic view that developers who are members of the W3C will (because it's their business to do so) lay down patents on technologies that conceivably will be considered for inclusion in a W3C Recommendation (a "web standard") one day. So they are trying to head off problems by putting their members on notice that they will have to declare if technology being discussed in relation to a standard could infringe a patent which the members holds or has applied for. If that's the case, the W3C says they would prefer the member to allow royalty-free use of the patent, or at worst, allow implementation under RAND terms.

The question is, does anyone get hurt by this proposal? At first I thought this couldn't harm web designers or users, but I was thinking in too narrow terms. The problem arises when a developer of, say, a web graphics program wants to implement a standard (a laudable objective) in his new application. He might be bound to pay a royalty fee because the standard incorporates licensed technology. And that charge would have to be passed on to the customer, so in the end we (designers and their clients) pay more. Arguably, though, it might not add much to the cost per shrink-wrap package.

And then I realised a greater difficulty arises in the open-source community, where developers produce, enhance and modify programs for free, and allow them to be used freely with no royalties. To incorporate a standard into a piece of open source software where use of the standard would demand payment of a royalty screws up the whole open source concept.

Ah, now I see the problem. BAD idea! But given that key members of the W3C include the likes of Microsoft, I feel a certain inevitability...

Posted at 5:47 PM


Have you ever had so many things to do, all more or less equally behind schedule, and all more or less equally important?

And then a man from Her Majesty's Customs & Excise calls up to say he'd like to arrange a visit regarding the VAT for a non-profit organisation for which, stupidly, you accepted the unpaid role of Treasurer a couple of years ago?

That's where I am now.

Posted at 5:19 PM


Isn't it nice to know that the world's favourite terrorist mastermind still takes the time to contact his (step)mother, to let her know what he's getting up to? Like, to tell her a couple of days before the New York atrocity, to expect big news?

Warms the heart, doesn't it?

Posted at 12:31 AM

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