The Drones' Club

The government is asking libraries etc. to destroy public domain information its various agencies had disseminated:
Understandable, one might think. After all, one does not want terrorists bombing nuclear power plants or poisoning the drinking water supplies of large metropolitan areas.

However, I seem to recall in March 2001, a USGS scientist, Ian Thomas, was fired at the behest of The White House for publishing maps of caribou calving areas in the ANWR that revealed that their "energy policy" was a fraud. In fact, that Bush/Cheney are outright liars and are trying to push through yet another welfare program for the super-rich by clearing the way for drilling in the ANWR since "no caribou calving areas were going to be affected." Thomas was fired and purged - all the data he had collected and maps he had drawn were expunged from USGS web sites. (Here is as much as could be salvaged: Ian Thomas, Censorship, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Big Oil.) As Ian Thomas says "You don't have to burn books any more; you just press the delete key."

Do we trust the executive branch to be good stewards of information? Ashcroft has just sent an order to government agencies that they effectively need not comply with any Freedom Of Information Act requests for documents; Ridge refuses to testify to Congress; budget director Daniels refuses to say how emergency anti-terrorism funds are being spent; and, most egregious, Bush has signed an executive order limiting public access to presidential documents of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. Could it be that he's afraid they'll embarass GHWB? And others of his administration who are now back in office?

Here's an interesting document: the first ten amendments to The Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill Of Rights. Please send a copy of it to Mr Bush/Cheney, Mr Ashcroft, your Representative and your Senators, they seem to not have heard of it. Except for Rep. Barbara Lee of the 9th District of California, and Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who were the only dissenters to the outrageous "USA PATRIOT Act". Read to stay abreast of the situation. And register to vote.

About the ANWR, Big Oil and Dubya: the Bush Administration says it's merely supporting states' rights: the residents of Alaska want the ANWR to be drilled; his hands are tied! Interestingly, Californians have long been opposed to offshore drilling for oil after the environmental disaster of 1969. (Off-shore wells suffered blowouts on the sea bed, blanketing beaches in the Santa Barbara area with crude oil. Here's Rep. Lois Capps talking about her district's opposition to off-shore drilling.) California also has some of the strictest auto emissions standards, and was instrumental in getting the Clean Air Act passed. The Administration is trying to push off-shore drilling through despite popular opposition and is trying its damnedest to gut California's Zero Emissions Vehicle requirements; it has actually joined the auto and oil companies in an amicus curiae brief in a lawsuit filed against the state. Apparently the Bush Administration is for states' rights as long as what the states want is aligned with the interests of the big oil companies. Not just that, but Bush owes California nothing: the state voted overwhelmingly for Gore in 2000 and re-elected Davis to the governorship in 2002. Salon covered this very well in a recent issue.


Protect Our Children From Pornography, said Congress, as they passed the "Children's Online [Internet] Protection Act" (CIPA) -- except that it was passed only because some enterprising members tacked it on as a rider to an omnibus budget bill to resolve all outstanding budgetary issues. The CIPA required that all schools and libraries that get federal funding must install software on all public-access computer workstations that monitor all access by children and filter out objectionable content.

I thought that libraries are meant to be repositories of information, upholders of our liberties and the freedom of speech, providing access to all viewpoints and opinions. Of course the ACLU filed a lawsuit; happily, the American Library Association (ALA) thinks so too, and have filed a lawsuit against CIPA.

Quite apart from any constitutional issues raised by CIPA, it's ridiculous to expect blocking software to actually work. Do the parents in this country really want to abrogate and surrender their responsibility to raise their children to some company that makes filtering software? These companies do not reveal which sites are on their "blocked" list, since it's "proprietary" and "their intellectual property". Take a look for yourself: here's the current list of sites blocked by "Cyber Patrol" In the past, blocked sites have included Banned Books On-line, Amnesty International, The Safer Sex Page and the web site of Rep. Dick Armey [perhaps that one really deserves to be blocked!].

Peacefire reported that of a thousand random web sites they tested "SurfWatch" (now called "SurfControl") on, 121 sites were blocked. Of them, 100 did not have any content; 19 were innocent of any pornography, sexually explicit or adult material; and 2 were pornographic. This is sort of program Congress thinks will protect our children and our freedoms.



P. G. Wodehouse was the greatest writer in English of the twentieth century. Check out The Wodehouse Society or Wodehouse and WW2. Perhaps you might want to read what George Orwell said about Wodehouse and WW2.

Shakespeare and religion - a name that's a household word, a word that's on everybody's lips. An essay by Aldous Huxley dictated on his deathbed. Want to find that passage in Shakespeare that you can barely remember a few words of? Try the Shakespeare Concordance, a service of Languid House and the Drones Club.

Then there's the Unicon Programming Language. The extensions allowing Icon programs to use graphics, POSIX features, and OO support (along with a bunch of other things) are known as Unicon; you may also read about Co-Expressions in Unicon.

If you have DSL at home, you need an OpenBSD firewall running NAT for your network. Perhaps you need an Introduction to OpenBSD instead? (There is much repeated information, you probably don't need to read both.) If you're interested in Linux and are thinking about a laptop purchase, read one person's adventures: Linux on the Transmonde XL. (A little dated.)
Some time ago I got a TV tuner card so I could watch movies on my Linux box — but what's a TV without a remote control? There are some tiny all-in-one motherboards being made; I got an EPIA M10000 and made it a diskless silent machine booting over the network.

The computer is general purpose machine that can do anything, right? So why do we still use other electronic devices like answering machines? Just get a voice-capable modem and you can have voicemail as a web page. Check your messages securely from anywhere without having to memorize all those DTMF commands. Make the answering machine menus and functionality (and the webpage) as complex or as simple as you want it to be -- all through the easy magic of shell scripts.

Backcountry skiing is a wonderful way to explore the wilderness areas without the crowds that you see everywhere during the winter. Learn more -- read the FAQ.

In one of his excellent books, E. R. Tufte presented a way of drawing Graphical Timetables which I wrote a program (in Unicon) for.

BART maps

Another Unicon amusement is the Galton Box which shows one example of the binomial (random) distribution in ordinary life. And, of course, the afore-mentioned Shakespeare Concordance is also written in Unicon.
Of course there's a webcam. It's not vanilla, though.
Here's the most remarkable document I have ever read that was written by a public official in recent times: Peru vs. Micros**t. A Peruvian congressman responding to Micros**t's complaint about an initiative in the Peruvian legislature -- that the government should only use software that uses open and documented file formats, and for which the government can get the source code. There concerns are eminently practical (and not ideological): planned obsolescence (compulsory upgrades, usually involving new hardware, that Micros**t so often locks its hapless users into) and "spyware" (without access to source code, how can a user be absolutely certain that a program is free of malicious secret back-doors?). If only US officials were this perceptive!
(On a related note, if someone you know is spouting Micros**t FUD about how "insignificant" the cost of their software is, here are some prices: Windows XP: $275; Office: $355; Exchange: $100 (approx., per-seat.) Now add in the cost to you of all that "blue screen of death" downtime.)
If Darl McBride [Micros**t cats-paw] was in charge, he'd probably make marriage unconstitutional too, since clearly it de-emphasizes the commercial nature of normal human interaction, and probably is a major impediment to the commercial growth of prostitution."    — Linus Torvalds

What about radio-controlled airplanes? There's a FAQ and some pictures.

If you have a Ph.D., you should think about the Ph.D. Expunging Service.


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Copyright © 2003,2004 Shamim Mohamed
This document is under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.
$Date: 2006/04/28 21:29:03 $ Last modified: Fri Apr 28 14:34:35 PDT 2006