Dec 31, 2004

Poetry day

I am a long way from poetry fan and there are very few poems that I definetly enjoy. I find most poetry to be a novel-wannabe. Poor authors who cannot write a novel may create a poem, which is just as illegible, but its form is more likely to be 'recognized' Sheez.

But then there are some good poems, which do convey universe of meanings in their microscopic form (eeerrr...I think I am gettign to poetic myself, now.). So let me just invite you to familiarize yourself with work of Zbigniew Herbert.

Several his poems have been translated into English, including my favourite Report from the Besieged City. I like it so much I have learned it by heart once, just for myself :)

Unfortunately, my 2nd favourite, Powrót Prokonsula, is available online only in Polish.

In this last day of 2004, I think that some poetry is just what the doctor's ordered...enjoy, and see you next year :)

Dec 30, 2004

More featuredness

Max Weber has been featured today on Wiki.

And I submitted another bio to Featured Articles Candidates: Witold Pilecki

He took part in Polish-Soviet War, ensuring the communist menace didn't conquer Europe in the aftermath of IWW. He fought in the Polish Defence War of 1939 and Warsaw Uprising. He was the only person to volunteer to be imprisoned at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, where he organized a resistance movement and helped inform the Western Allies of Nazi Germany's camp atrocities (although the Allies chose not to believe him, considering his reports grossly exaggerated). If this is not a hero, who is? And for all this, he was executed in 1948 by communist authorities after a staged trial, for his loyality to the democratic Polish Government in Exile in London.

Consider: Pilecki in Auschwitz, 42, and Mokotów, 47. Good proof there was little difference between Nazis and Communists.


To a forgotten hero. We do remember you.

Dec 28, 2004

Schoolars here and far away

Google has recently launched a new, quite interesting service: Google Schoolar.
'
Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Use Google Scholar to find articles from a wide variety of academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories and universities, as well as scholarly articles available across the web.'
Definetly a tool with great potential. I spend hours looking for various info every day, and often it is difficult to find proper peer-reviewed materials in the flood of web junk. Google Schoolar seems like a good idea. Just look at the results on my fav topic, 'evolution of democracy'. Quite a few worthwile hits - a much bigger improvement then results from 'classic Google (keep in mind 'peer review', this is be or not to be for anybody thinking 'serious science').
Oh. It has its own official blog :)




On a more distant front, Cassini-Huygens,
the Saturn probe, has , released a probe to land on Titan. Setting beside many trivia things, I am nicely suprised by the coverage such a current event is getting on Wiki. Same as with Ukraine's Orange Revolution. Before Wiki, we had to wait years for new things to be added to encyclopedia. Now it is happening almost in an instant. Sign of times, perhaps?

Space.com has a pretty nice coverage as well. A site dedicated to space news. Nifty. :)


Dec 27, 2004

Mmm....mecha

Mecha. The nifty looking piece of sf military hardware, perfect for big dozes of property damage.

And they look cool. See the Battlemechs...


Oh. Found you another nice comic. Real life. Check their 'mecha' comic. Requirements: understand the difference between western and eastern mecha concepts :>

Dec 25, 2004

3rd Featured

With Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth becoming Featured on Wiki, this is my 3rd article that became Featured - after Warsaw Uprising and Max Weber.



I am not sure what topic I'll chose for next article. Suggestions or wishes, anybody?

Dec 23, 2004

XMAS Comics

It's time to relax and have a laugh.

And what better then to read some funny comics?

Garfield is my old favourite, although they have lately redisgned their site, making it cluttered with usless Flash junk, and even worse, music. And the new postcards and games are as bad as the movie was. Oh well, the comic is still is good. :)



Sluggy, as always, is nifty and a bit cracked.



Grand Avenue seems nice. Although I have discovered it just today :)



Calvin and Hobble are just being themsevles.



In case you want to see more, here is a nice collection of links.

Oh yes. Merry XMAS - Wesołych Świąt!

Dec 21, 2004

Ooooo! OO 2.0

End of 2004 is a good time for good open source soft. Not only browsers and email clients have been revolutionized by Firefox and Thunderbird, but now office suites are witnessing the birth of Open Office 2.0


Better then Microsoft Office, free, smaller, compatibile with all known formats, with text editor, spreadsheet, presentation tool, database and graphic editor - if you haven't tried OO, do so now!

In case you want a second opinion, here is a review from the Inquirer.

Ooo, the power of OO! :)

Dec 20, 2004

Say No to Patents

But first, let's start with nice e-library - online collection of Greg Egan's texts (on his own page, of course).

Perhaps this short poem from his novel 'Distress' will illustrate best what today's blog is about:

It is not true that the map of freedom will be complete
with the erasure of the last invidious border when it remains for us to chart the attractors of thunder
and delineate the arrhythmias of drought to reveal the molecular dialects of forest and savanna
as rich as a thousand human tongues and to comprehend the deepest history of our passions
ancient beyond mythology's reach
So I declare that no corporation holds a monopoly on numbers
no patent can encompass zero and one
no nation has sovereignty over adenine and guanine
no empire rules the quantum waves
And there must be room for all at the celebration of
understanding
for there is a truth which cannot be bought or sold imposed by force, resisted or escaped.


And now, with no further diversions, the most important link of this post:

Dear Minister, please click here!

Dec 17, 2004

Wiki as a portal

I believe I let you go over two weeks without hearing (err...reading) me talking about the virtues of Wikipedia. So for today's argument on 'why Wiki is so nifty':

Wiki main page as a portal

Wiki main page consists of several very useful tools, making it an accidental but extremly nice portal. Unlike the commercial portals, that shower you with adds and substandard services like 'free' (lol...) email or advertisers-friendly search engine, wiki sports no ads and has both the important utility and trivia features you may want to start your day.

Utility comes first, so here it is: In the news. Or as wikipedians call them - current events. Look to the right side of Wiki's main page. If something important is happening out there, wiki will have a note about it asap. For me it is much better to start my day checking for important global news on Wiki then going to a site like CNN and trying to see what is going on by browsing through dozen of US-centric dumbed-down news, half the time concerned with (let me check what is on CNN *now*) - oh yes, 'Slain mom's baby believed to be found.' Geez. Like I care. This is what is important for me: European Union leaders agree to invite Turkey to begin negotiations to join the EU from 3 October 2005. With a picture, it is one of the first things that hit me when I loaded Wiki page today. And suprise, to find it on CNN I had to scroll down one screen and check the tiny World news hyperlinks section. No comment :>

Then there is the wiki search engine. Sure, it is limited to wiki only, but if it doesn't find you what you want, it gives you the choice to search for the term on Google or Yahoo. Honestly, I find myself more and more often going first to Wiki site for search then to Google. The logic is simple: if I type whatever on Google, I get zillion hits, sometimes getting lucky and having relevant ones early. But if I go to Wiki, sure, I have a good chance of finding nothing and having to go to Google anyway - but more and more often Wiki nets me a releavant article, saving me having to sort Google pages. Btw, you can now have Wiki search in your Mozilla browser in addition to Google toolbar. If it is not near perfect, then what is?

After you know the news, then you can check the trivia. Althoug Wiki trivia is almost always useful. Sooner or later...knowledge is power. Behold, the left of Current Events: Featured Articles.

Featured articles are the heart of Wiki. Or at the very least, one of several heats. Each day they provide new article for the Main Page. With a nice picture. Btw, while I am talking about pictures, please take a look at Featured Picture section! Featuered section means that people have a good reason to visit Wiki every day, even if they are not looking for anything particular - they can read the short lead on interesting subject, and if they find it interesting, the entire article itself. Well, thats trivia for you :) Then there is of course more trivia like Selected Anniversaires and Did you know... section.

If you ever though encyclopedia is not fun (who didn't? :>), time to revise that. Off you go, have fun at wiki. :)

Dec 16, 2004

Mozilla news

Firefox 1.0, the best browser out there, is old news - but I will remind you about it in the unlikely event some of you forgot about it and - Passion forbids - are still using the virus-friendly Internet Exploder.



But just few days ago it was joined by Thundirbird 1.0, the best email client out there :> So if you are using Outlook Exploder, the virus-friendly client, feel free - or should I say obliged - to check the 'bird.



Of course it will import all you old mails, settings, passwords, and such.

Consider this: many people happily load Firefox and Thunderbird onto Windows, but would anybody ever load Internet Explorer onto desktop Linux?

Feel the power of open source...

Dec 13, 2004

Fallen Art

An island.

An old forgotten base somewhere out on the pacific. An asylum for insane soldiers and officers, too highly connected or (in)famous to be send elsewhere.

Sergant Al cultivates his love for young soldiers.

Dr. Friederich cultivates his love for photography.

And the old, mentally lost General A creates his art.

He uses neither paper nor canvas.

He uses something totally different.

--------

I feel Oscar a'comin'. Check it yourself.



Dec 10, 2004

Enjoy the reading

Today I have some free (legal) ebooks for you. Well, perhaps more of a short stories. Still definetly worth reading - check out Michael Stackople's Wars stories

Enjoy. And if you want more, remember there is the entire Bean Free Library out there!

Dec 9, 2004

Hot Stock Options

In blogs. LOL. BlogShares. LOL again.

On second thought, it is not as crazy idea as one may think. Economic games do allow one to see which blogs are most popular, and some other nifty tools provided by BlogShares allow are useful for seeing blogosphere growth or track how individual blogs are doing.

Still. LOL. Oh, do invest in Voice... :D

Dec 8, 2004

Best space opera ever

Is Legend of Galactic Heroes. And you can download it from animesuki. Now isn't it nifty?

Let's hope it does gets licenced in US or Europe one day, so it all can be reased as high quality DVDs...mmm....you did sign the petition, did you? No? Go now and sign! NOW!

One can always dream...

Dec 4, 2004

Max, featured, raises questions

Just letting you know that my* work on Max Weber article on Wiki has paid off - it is now officialy featured (i.e. among a hundred or so best articles on Wiki).

Feel free to read it. I have to admit, parts of his work are really fascinating.

There is this problem that I can't get out of my head.
I. Weber concluded that:
* Christianity is the reason our Occident (Western) culture is dominant today
II. Weber never wrote directly that in his works, but it is (my) logical conclusion:
* if we accept the Christianity religious view that there is a God and he gave his revelations to Jews and later Christians - we have to ask why didn't He gave this revelations to other civilisation (Chinese, Native American, African, etc.)? Did He meant for Western culture to dominate?
* if there is no divine puprose behind that process, does Western culture domination is based on accident - i.e. invention of 'right' religion in the Middle East few k years ago?
* is the path towards modern state, illustrated by Weber, the only path a civilisation can take? ie. if Christianity never appeared, would we be still living in 'ancient era', without scientifc method and capitalsm? What is needed for civilisation evolution? For how long can a civilisation stagnate - consider that in our world it was Occident that evolved fast and thus gained domination over other civlisations/cultures, which compared to Occident development, mostly stayed frozen in time...

This relates to extraterrestial life and alternative histories, you know :)

Consider. If similar religion is needed for technological and cultural advancement, then if we meed aliens, they should be some interesting similarities between our cultures, even if they evolved in entirely idffrent and separate places.

Hmmm. From Weber to ETs. My mind does amaze even me sometimes. Take care,

Dec 3, 2004

Good news for oranges

From Wikipedia: Ukraine's Supreme Court annuls the run-off vote of the disputed presidential election. The judges have declared that a new vote must be held by 26 December.

Le Sabot
: Big News -- Supreme Court Ruling

Tulip Girl
: Just In -- Supreme Court Has Ruled!

Still, this is just the beginning. The process of 'democratization' (and I need to write about what this means one day) is not achieved in one election. Poland started it 14 years ago and we are still feeling the aftershocks, especially the corruption of most of our politicians (for which we have to thank the Western companies and their generous bribes, I am afraid).

Don't despair though. However flawed our reality is today, it is uncomparably better to what we left behind. Ukraine is in for a rough, but better times, I hope.

Still keeping fingers crossed,

Dec 2, 2004

Late News

Apologies for being tad inactive here. I have been writing an AAR - After Action Report - from a multiplayer 4X game Space Empires. Think of it like a space opera story.

Feel free to read it here: link. Unfortunately, it is in Polish. Sorry :>

In other news.

Le Sabot: The Reformers are nobody's fool. Just found out that Poroshenko is saying the protesters will stay put until Yanukovych is out of office. This makes sense, since there's no way to trust any vote run by his ministers. On a practical level little compromise seems possible (in my opinion) so long as Yanukovych holds on to his office.

Agreed. As long as they hold office and power, what has changed? Not much.

Orange Ukraine: is now officialy orange (in all meanings of both officialy and orange :D).

Keep the support going. This fight is not yet over, and the bad guys still may have a few aces to play out. Remember: evil rarely goes down quietly.


Nov 28, 2004

Breakthrough?

Good news. Or at least, it seem so.

Wikipedia: The Ukrainian Parliament declares the victory of Viktor Yanukovych in the disputed presidential election invalid. Though the decision is not legally binding, it comes as a symbolic victory for challenger Viktor Yushchenko.

In other news:
Le Sabot: Even the "independent" Russian stations are propagandizing. Last night on a program about plastic surgery they even managed to attack Yushchenko.

Independent and Russia...go figure :/

Windowglass has some interesting news from Bielorussia: Residents of Minsk demonstrated solidarity with Victor Yushenko today. Orange color dominated in central avenue of Belarusian capital

I have to admit I am very pleasantly suprised about this. I though Bieloruss opposition was much to weak for this. Kudos for you guys as well!

OrangeUkraine - new blog which is actually not orange (in color, becouse it definetly doesn't lack in spirit) :> - has aother good eyewintess account on what is going out there

TulipGirl - I'm tired of people outside of Ukraine trying to frame what is going on here as a "US/EU vs. Russia" thing, and so condescendingly refusing to see this is all about Ukraine. It is Ukrainians who have risen up, joined together, and finally have hope that things here can change.

ForeignNotes: read the story: My mother-in-law, revolutionary

And keep your fingers crossed, wear orange, spread the news, phone your politicians - the fight is not yet over!

Nov 26, 2004

And so it continues...

Continuing the coverage. Polish media are full of Ukraine coverage. Seems like finally a couse that has united almost all of our political parties: are are supporting the Ukraine. There are demonstrations before Ukrainian and Russian embassies and such. Latest polls show that Polish sympathy for Ukraine has just tripled. We are orange all the way - if any Ukrainian is reading this, know that we are all behind you!

Read the guys on spot!

Neeka's Backlog:
The only foreign leader who has sided with Mr. Yanukovich has been President Vladimir Putin of Russia, which, needless to say, hasn't done much for the prime minister's credibility.

Le Sabot-Post Moderne:
a large group of militiamen is on-stage in Independence Square chanting "The Militia is with the People!

Windowglass: today has some interesting links including to Ukraining oppositions webcasts (radios) and such, like
5 Kanal and European Movement Ukraine

A Step At A Time: LOL. Tnx for the most entertaining article from Russian press: Russia blams Poland for Ukrainian Trouble. :)

The Periscope: some collected info and more links

Volodymyr Campaign: is spreadign word in UK

TulipGirl: has nifty buttons like:




International Support for Ukrainian Democracy: the title sais it all

PORA: I think it is kind of a news site. Good, short info briefs.

As for more traditional media, of course my favourite The Economist has an article, online edition, as well!

Needles to say, Wikipedia already has articles on Ukrainian presidential election, 2004 and Orange Revolution.

Nov 25, 2004

News from the front

There are times for me to speak, and there are times for me to point to others who deserve to be heard more then I do.

Today I will ask you to go to several blogs from Ukraine, covering their not-yet-revolution-but-not-election as well:

TulipGirl

quotes:
November, 22 I started to be really proud of my co-citizens.

Windowglass
quote: the website has now followed the very fine examples of Gazeta Wyborcza which has gone "orange" in solidarity with Ukraine

Guess why I am orange today :)

Le Sabot Post Moderne

quotes:
We need to be taking forward steps of civil disobedience (...) Lech Walesa is here!

Neeka's Backlog
quote: Today, during the 11 am newscast with live translation into the Sign Language, the translator, Natalya Dmytruk, did not translate what the host was saying about the election results, but said the following (quote via Ukrainska Pravda): The results from the Central Election Commission have been falsified. Do not believe them. Our President is Yushchenko. I am very disgusted that I was forced to translate the lies until now. I'm not going to do it anymore. I'm not sure if I'll see you again.




Orange power!

Nov 23, 2004

The most important elections

News flash: what is happenign now in Ukraine is IMHO much more important then what was going on in US recently. Honestly, the gulf between Bush and Kerry is nothing compared to the one between the ukrainian candidates. What is happening now in Ukraine is bascically a 'to be or not to be' - events on the next two days will decide if Ukraine will fall back into the graps of Imperial Russia and Emperors Putin totalitarism, becoming a failed state like Bialorussia, or will it finally free itself from its history.

2004 Ukrainian presidential election: Ukraine's electoral commission declares Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner. Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko calls for supporters to protest "the total falsification of the vote". Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) say the run-off vote "did not meet international standards", and the senior U.S. election observer, Senator Richard Lugar, notes a "concerted and forceful program of election day fraud".

See also:
Poll protest at Ukraine parliament

Observers: Poll abuse in Ukraine

Ukraine Liberal Tells Supporters to Protest All Night

Ukraine gripped by poll turmoil

Nov 21, 2004

Behold

I believe that sometimes truly the picture has a power of a thousands words.

Witness the vision of the future: the space elevator

Nov 17, 2004

News flash: Wikinews in Testing

Wikimedia Board of Trustees has approved the first stage of the Wikinews project. There's now a fully operational English demo site at demo.wikinews.org. This will be used for experimenting with various review models and basic policies before the site is launched officially in about a week. demo.wikinews.org will become the English version later.

It is a Wiki project - meaning you can participate now, without logging in or any kind of registraton. Everything is open, nothing is final. What Wikinews will and can be depends in large part on you. There already is a global Wikinews mailing list(http://mail.wikipedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikinews-l) for discussing the project. If you are interested at all, please subscribe -- coordination is of key importance. There's also an IRC channel #wikinews on irc.freenode.net. Realtime discussion can help to polish up articles.

If you're looking for something to do, check out the articles in development(http://demo.wikinews.org/wiki/Category:Articles_in_development) and articles in review(http://demo.wikinews.org/wiki/Category:Articles_in_review). Or start a new story in the Wikinews workspace, or ignore the proposed review system - it's up to you. I hope you'll join us soon in this exciting experiment.

It is history in making, if you ask me - can you afford not to be a part of it? Well, yes, but think about braggin' right later...

Nov 15, 2004

Dinosaur Story: The Ebook Meteor

Ebooks, in most cases, have been oversold. They have not made normal books obsolete - and no wonder, in most cases they are simply not as comfy as good ol' paper books.

There are two things to consider: the ebooks availabity, the software, and the hardware part.

The ebook availability is quite good. Majority of non-copyright wokrs (i.e. pre 1934) ara availalbe in places like Project Gutenberg and many others. New stuff (let's forget about pirates, please) is not as common, but there is some progress - I am especially amazed with great (and profitable) experiment of Baen Books, which sells their works though Webscription.net and in addition, offers MANY (as in dozens) free books in their Free Library as an apetizer. Do read this Usenet post when one of Baen's writers elaborates on the idea behind the Library. I just love such optimistic ideology...and when it comes true, it is a cause for celebration. Hip Hip Hurray for Baen, I say :)

The ebook software is quite fine - I presonally prefer the Standard Generalised Markup Language - i.e. your normal html, with added things like it remembers where you closed the window and is very easy to navigate (especially compared to some proprietary things I have seen. Microsoft Reader...horror...imagine your book hanging up...bleh).

It is the hardware that doesn't deliver. PDA's are evolving - and in few years may become as good as normal books (i.e. light and readable), but today? Of course you can read on your normal PC (desktop or laptop) - which I do from time to time, since the alternative (normal book) doesn't exist, I can't easily buy it...or is prohibitvly expensive.

You call THIS a book? Naaaah. Pull the other one.



Try again in 3 years, I say.

Nov 13, 2004

Ol' Max is gonna get it soon

I am finishing my work on Max Weber article on Wikipedia - it has came long way since I started work on it last summer (30th may to be exact). I hope it will join Featured Artciles soon - feel free to take a look and fix anything you want!


Reminder: be safe!

Recent discussion started by RAZ (Polish writer and journalist) on Usenet has reminded me that there are still people (over 75%) that use Internet Explorer/Outlook Express, thus both asking to be attacked by hacers/infected by viruses, and using an old user-unfriendly software!

If you are using Internet, you have to learn some basic hygene. Just like if you meet other people, you usually shave/wash/put some clothes on, if you use the net, you have to know a few things.

I hope you are not one of those poor uneducated souls that still use IE/OE, but if you are, go download Mozilla of Firefox NOW! Downloading and installing will take just 5 minutes, their User Interface are similar to IE/OE (just better), and you will soon start working faster and safer!

In other security related news, if you want free firewall, try: Outpost Firewall
For free anti-virus, try: AVG

Stay safe!

This security bulletin was brought to you by: VOICE OF THE PROKONSUL

Nov 10, 2004

Bloggin' from Farpoint Station

Well, it is really Prague, few hundred km from my usual hunting ground around Cracow/Katowice. But considering it is the further I've travelled since I started blogging (and by definition, furthest from there I've blogged), then the name is appropriate. Kinda. And I couldn't help myself if I can put a decent sf reference :>

Now, back to serious business. Today's topic is a bit abstract, but beautiful: fractals

It is one of those subjects that I think no lenghty discussions are necessary. The Wiki can tell you more about math and theories then I anyway. I just one to say one thing (well, a few): fractals represent both chaos and order, how they cannot exist without another, and how they create all beautiful things in life.



Once, mathematicians, philosphers and all scientists thought that we can find a 'perfect solution', a simple and elegant 'theory of everything'. Then we discovered things like quantum mechanics, fractal and chaos theories...and now we know that the truth is not that simple. Still, we know more then before - and isn't this better?

I am in a philosphical mood today. Don't worry, it will pass soon :>

Be sure to check the amazing fractal gallery at Greg Egan's page!

And then there were fractals.

Nov 9, 2004

Going to Prague, hunting dinosaurs (Dino Story ctd.)

In the background of me going to Prague to take a GRE test (casue I need if for my PhD and they don't have fast computer based testing in Poland...long story and irreleveant as this blog goes), I learned more about one of the dictionaries coffin nails, namely the Wikitionary.



What is so great about Wikitionary? ATM, nothing much. Project spawned off Wikipedia in Dec 2002 is new and defiently 'work in progress'. Much of the entries I check didn't exist (i.e. didn't exist before I added them ;). But the potential...imagining entering ANY word, and getting its: etymology, definition, grammar notes, pronouciation, quotatons, synonyms, antonyms, derived and related terms and last but not least translation into all existing languages (including conlangs).

Breathtaking vision? Sure! :)

Nov 7, 2004

Dinosaur story 2: The Media Industry

Dictionary companies are not the only type of industry (or service sector) threatened with new developments.

Tradional media coorporations are doomed as well. They used to think: 'we paid for the news, we control the news, we say what is the news and what isn't'. It is time for their wake up call. Internet has long promised to take on their monopoly, and is now delivering. They are jblogs - the journalist blogs like Back-to-Iraq 3.0 or Andrewsulivan. They are free to read, but accept donations - and deliver news from various places, from Iraq to US elections, free from coorporation spin. And they are honest about it - they don't say 'I bring best unbiased news'. Their honestly state their perferences, and don't try to sneak any hidden agenda whithin their reports.

And this is just the start of the new free media avalanche. As with other Internet based things, it is all happening right now: witness Wikinews, a project spawned from Wikipedia: Current Events, which is being discussed and voted at that very moment on Wikimedia, the partent of Wikipedia and many other Big Letter Wiki projects.



And in the backgrounds, freeware tools like NAS (News Aggregator Software) further undermine the traditional media corporations monopoly...

Can you hear the dinosaurs swan song?

Nov 6, 2004

When flame tanks target dictionaries

Sometimes writing article on Wiki is like planting a seed and watching it grow with amazing speed. Just few days ago - on 2nd Nov - I created a stub for flame tank. Over past 4 days it increased in size well over 10-times...

Wikipedia goal is to collect all human knowledge. Looking at examples like that I belive that it can do it in less then one decade.

And if that happens, who will want to use printed encyclopedias or dictonaries? When the ex-CEO of Britannica predicts that they are as doomed as dinosaurs...I am not the one to argue.

Onward, to the new world. One more tradition bites the dust.

Nov 5, 2004

Quote day

The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but who spends all their life in a cradle?

-- Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935)

I feel it is enough for a today's blog. Quality over quantity.

Nov 2, 2004

WikiTravel

Wonders of Wiki technology never cease to amaze me. If you want to now where to go for holidays - or have already decided, but want to read a good guide - why not try WikiTravel? It is the ultimate guide that anybody can edit. Make sure to write about your experiences and help future travelers know what to expect...


Wonder what is coming next...

Nov 1, 2004

All Saints in Poland

All Saints - Wszystkich Świętych in Poland - Is an extremly popular festival. But not in the sence of American Halloween. It has little common with it, well, except for its Christian origins (although one can trace the origins past Christianity to some pagan rituals like Dziady). In Poland, All Saints resolves about remembering one's family that passed away. We visit their graves, light candles, pray (or think) a little, sometimes meet family braches we don't get to see all year...few people laugh or joke. This is dead serious here (pun intended).

In the night, when we pass various graveyard on our way to home, thousands of candles flickle in the dark.







I wonder how do they look from up there...

Oct 31, 2004

The unknown land

Africa seems to be the land of mystery, and even with the net vast resources it is much harder to find information on it then on Europe or US. Which is, of course, not that strange - net penetration of Aftica is around 10%, and that means many people knowing its history, culture and such first-hand simply cannot contribute the the internet community. And there is of course the fact that during the education, Africa tends to be marginalised as well. Again, an obvious fact - if you live in countru X, continent Y, you will likely learn more about X and Y then about the rest of the world.

Which means that most of us now very little about Africa of today, and even less about it's history. And that is a shame - especially for history lovers like me. Reading about such strange places is close to reading a good fantasy book - one simply cannot belive that it really happened.

Let me show you my favourites story of the Axumite Kingdom. Well before 1 AD it has carved massive monuments, like the Obelisk of Axum.



It had a strong navy and naval trading routes going as far as India. Its cosmopolitan ports where inhabited by Arabs, Jews, Indians and many other cultures. It converted to Christianity in 4th century AD and remained Christian ever since, even when all of its neighbours have converted to Islam. When first European explorers 'discovered' Axum around, they were so suprised by the chruches, crosses and similar insignia that they thought they finally disvovered the domain of Prester John.

And this is just the tip of an iceberg...stay tuned to Wikipedia: History of Africa!

Oct 29, 2004

The future is KISS

Heed the wise words, especially when they are free. Current The Economist edition is free till next Thursday (that's the 4th) and it contains very interesting Technology Survey on information technology.

It starts with pointing the Big Evil in today's technology: it is way to complex! And I agree. Let's consider Linux, for example: a beautiful thing, a great idea...and way too complex for most people to use. Make it simple!

Today some 70% of the world's population are “analogues”, who are “terrified by technology”, and for whom the pain of technology “is not just the time it takes to figure out new gadgets but the pain of feeling stupid at each moment along the way”. Another 15% are “digital immigrants”, typically thirty-somethings who adopted technology as young adults; and the other 15% are “digital natives”, teenagers and young adults who have never known and cannot imagine life without IM (instant messaging, in case you are an analogue). But a decade from now, Mr Coburn says, virtually the entire population will be digital natives or immigrants, as the ageing analogues convert to avoid social isolation. Once again, the needs of these converts point to a hugely increased demand for simplicity.

Can it be done? I always said that one should look at the history to see what is coming in the future. Not for details, but for overall thrends, obviously. And The Economist is wise enough to listen to me. Now you see it, now you don't takes a look at old technologies - clocks, sewing presses, cars...they all started like computers: big, inefficient, way too complex. And over the years, they changed into those small usefull things we can master in few hours (or days, at worst).

So in the early days of any technological revolution the engineers are in charge, and their customers are the early adopters. But the mass market is the late adopters.

The economy is simple: software will have to get simpler. There is no other choice - to quote the Economist again: t
he struggle between complexity and simplicity is binary: Either it will all blow up, or it will simplify. It started with the dot com crash, which weeded out the most useless and inefficient companies. Now, if it is not useful, it is not going to happen.

Gottla love the 'mom test' idea. It is brillian:
“WITH e-mail, it wasn't till my mom could use it that it became ubiquitous. The real test is always the mom test,” says Brad Treat, the boss of SightSpeed, an internet video company. “If my mother flips over to some Skype thing...,” begins Michael Powell, America's media and telecoms regulator, answering a question about internet telephony. “If my mother is going to use it...,” starts Ray Lane, a venture capitalist, asked whether this or that technology has a future.

The more KISS the thing is, the more used (and more profitable) it is. Google is simple. iPod is simple. Wikipedia is simple. Can you see the trend?

Oh yes. The survey also spells Microsoft death. Can you say *sweeeet*? Or 'disruptive technology'?

KISS or DIE!

Elves in space

Take one: great anime, Crest of the Stars.

Take two: great online comic, the Outsider.

There is something about those pointy ears...





Oct 28, 2004

How to design a spaceship?

I wrote a rather long article about this, posted on FreeOrion.org site. It is a forum where ppl can take part in designing the (hopefully) best 4X game ever.

Feel free to join the discussion. My post is here.

Waste of time? Never. Brain excersize,

In other new, my prelection on the Imladris sf con has been mentioned in at least one newspaper review (Dziennik Polski - in Polish, obviously) and also on at least one general sf site (yes, also in Polish). Since it was my first attempt at giving such a lecture, I am pleasantly suprised and will likley continue this until somebody pays me to stop :>

Finally - if you dig maps of space empires, here is a beautiful work. Full Thrust maps. I love maps...historical, futuristic...mmmm....maps.....

Oct 27, 2004

Outside looking in

Found something shocking recently. In the 'fun' sense, but still, shocking. It is way to shocking to put in many words. An amateur video presenting what I *think* is a parody of role-playinggeeks (like myself). They used a very clever (read: disturbing) trick and used women for majority of the cast.

Oh, how they mighty could sink so low...see Dungeon Majesty (yes, they have a trailer).

I wonder if it is how some people tend to view the normal geeks...

Btw, I am just a major geek. Say, how geeky are you? Take this (geeky) test.

Geek of the world, unite!

That's what happens when I blog twice per day.

Incomin'...who cares?

In 1.4 million years, a star will cross less then 1.l.y. from our sun....yeah, don't hold your breath.

What I am seriously worried about are asteroids - those big chunks of rock/metal/other stuff (like water...funny...? Ever been hit by a 100 ton snowball? Thought so.).

An impact by a 10 km asteroid on the Earth is widely viewed as an extinction-level event. The dinosaurs did't like it, I bet you we wont like it neither.



It is amazing how little has been done to prevent this from happening. Some talk and theoretical ideas, but action? Next to none.

Obviously, who wants to waste money on making sure our species has better chances of survival? It is not as popular as unemployement, job offshoring or gay marriage...

Just one more reason for politicans to go and Earth to unite under world wide single government, I say.

Oct 26, 2004

Use net to buld a RL society

One of the reasons I think net will revolutionize our life is because it is already happening. And it will touch almost everything in our lives.

Consider the place you live in. Your neighbours. Your street. Your city. All stuff of RL (Real Life). But the net helps us vastly improve this. It doesn't matter how 'social person' you are, you can use net to take part in the life of your RL geographic community. It should be possible for you to talk with your building manager, decide together with other people living on your street what should be done to improve it, discuss the fate of that nearby park, look or find a job based on your local economy needs, find people sharing your interests online - and meet them in RL, since you live close by...

Most of that is happening now. I was not suprised when I read in the Economist article (Honouring nerd values) about the Craiglist.org company that strives to create just such a community. It started in San Francisco and has now penetrated to many corners of not only US, but the entire world. With net penetration over 50% in US and many other developed countries, and all others catching up soon, expect your local community to be soon reborn in the virtual/real life mixture - if it hasn't yet.

Of course, Wiki has an article on the Craigslist: '
Having observed people (on the Net, The WELL, and Usenet) helping one another in a friendly, social and trusting community way, Newmark decided to create something similar for local San Francisco events. Soon word-of-mouth and popular demand led to the addition of new categories, and "the list" soon became large enough to demand the use of a list server (majordomo), which required a name. Friends started calling it "Craig's list", and the name stuck. Craigslist has since grown to be one of the most heavily-used sites in the world, with new sub-sections for 57 large "metros" in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, and Australia including New York, London, Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Portland, Washington, DC, and Vancouver. Newmark says that craigslist works because it gives people a voice, and a sense of community trust and even intimacy. Other factors he cites are consistency of down-to-earth values, customer service and simplicity. In lieu of real banner advertising, Craigslist staff for a short time posted mock-banner ads, as a humourous substitute'

Good community is a good thing. I like truisms :) Just wish we had sth like this where I live. Oh well, sooner or later, it will happen. Hopefully, sooner :)

Oct 18, 2004

Alternate 18-39

I am working on a panel on 'Alternate histories 1918-1939' for the Imladris VIII science-fiction convention.

I have 15 minutes of speach now, and 45 left to fill. Good thing I find the topic interesting...history and alternates are fun. I have lots of materials from Uchronia to fill rest of the time, I just can't decide what to chose. Or so I tell myself.

Wiki is very helpful for gathering info's on real timeline. The age and decade sections are nifty. And real history is often not less interesting then the imaginary thing. Things like Red Army of Ruhr or USA coup d'etat information...history is a treasure box.

I just hope the listeners will have as much fun as I do...

Oct 16, 2004

Coup d'etat in US!

Read all about it!

An apparently serious effort to overthrow the government, perhaps with the support of some of America's wealthiest men, largely substantiated by a Congressional Committee....

...Newspaper descriptions of the final report are also astonishing for how lightly most treated it...major newspapers of the United States were intentionally distorting the news and, in some cases, directly lying....

....some US military commanders were prepared to stand aside while 500,000 veterans marched on Washington...

Rest assured. It is not a newsflash. It is a historical event: 'except for the personal integrity of a remarkable American general (Major General Smedley Darlington Butler), a coup d'etat intended to remove President Franklin D. Roosevelt from office in a 1934 might have plunged America into civil war'

But it is wise to remember at all times that Americans were not immune to the sentiments that gave rise to totalitarian governments throughout the world in the 1930s. It would be a serious mistake to assume `It can't happen here!'

And it is also wise to ask yourself: have I heard about this particular piece of history before? how often? And why?


Be vigiliant.

So true....so funny...so pathetic...

Found a beautiful thing lately. A comic about nothing else, but PhD studies: PhD Comics Seems that my troubles are universal.

On the bright side: I am not alone. On the dark side: sems that no matter when one goes - Poland, UK, US...it is the same ol' story. Oh well. In pursue of knowledge one cannot be dettered by such small things...



Come to think of it, they should make few comics bout me :>

Oct 15, 2004

Look what I did...

My new Wikipedia User Page. If it is not nifty, then what is??

Sorry for the lack of updates. Hopefully I will have more time now and will be back to once-per-day update schedule soon :)

As an additional apology, here is another nifty link: Anime Wallpapers - aren't they pretty?

Oct 8, 2004

See what he did

I have been not posting much lately. Long story short, my attempts to start a PhD are taking much more time (and yield much less success) then I expected them to. Oh well. Welcome to the real world I guess :>

So instead of posting something today, I invite you to read this blog'o'article:
Here I Blog, I Can Do No Other. Very interesting, and something I have thought about before but didn't put into words...and now, I don't need to, since it has been well done already.

All right, a quick thought. Blogger, the site hosting the very blog you are reading, and thousands of others, has recently pulled out ads and is now seemingly hosting our blogs for free (and doing a pretty nice quality job at that). Would you care to state your opinions why are they doing this?
...Yes, it is an obvious attempot to get some coments. But I'd really like to know...

One final note. Garfield comic strips are great. Garfield the movie bored me to death. You have been warned...computer animation seems to be able to produce trash just as other techniques. Why can't some people understand that it is the script that counts?

Oct 4, 2004

X Prize Live

Marvels of technology. The web TV broadcast promises to let you watch what you want and when you want. No more ads, no more adjusting your daily schedule to the TV schedule...

Well, it is still far from perfect. But you can watch space travel becoming reality live yourself HERE.

As they are saying just now...space travel is a reality. A private spaceship is being watch into the space. Race to space....we can do it. We are doing it. Ah, a great moment. Another big leap for the mankind. See it for yourself.

Sep 30, 2004

SpaceShipOne

Isn't it beautiful?

Among good things connected with capitalism and market economy is that: when a new market is given to them, they will make it accessible to general public ASAP.

Space trips...space hotels...zero gravity products...moon bases...what NASA couldn't do in 40 years, I bet private companies will do in less then 20.


Sep 29, 2004

Outside Context Problem

One of the most interesting concepts I have ever read about. And one of the most beautiful sentences I have read as well...I love sf.

An Outside Context Problem is a term introduced by Iain M. Banks in his novel Excession:

"An Outside Context Problem was the sort of thing most civilisations encountered just once, and which they tended to encounter rather in the same way a sentence encountered a full stop. The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbours were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests."

Sep 28, 2004

Happy Idiot Talk

Sometimes it is good to step away from thinking in abstract, scientific terms about the future. Yes, the Singularity is a'comin', and Toffler's Third Wave is trying its best to submerge us, but I find that if you don't know where that road leads, you basically don't care about it.

And when one actually hears people talking about future, too often it is a variant of scaremongering and pessimistic ignorance. Brrr...I say enough is enough! Why shouldn't the future be nice? If I have anything to say about this, I will strive to create The Culture on Earth.

Utopian? Sure. Waste of life? Beats couch rat's race and potato life strategies, IMHO at least.

See you in the special circumstances...

Sep 24, 2004

EU Democracy Day

It is always nice to have something to celebrate, isn't it?

.

On 2003-09-24, the European Parliament voted to clearly make software unpatentable in Europe and to defend basic liberties of the information society, such as freedom of "computer-implemented" reasoning and calculating, freedom of publication, freedom of interoperation. The Parliament's decision was backed by a large and well-informed consensus of programmers, entrepreneurs, economists and consultative organs of the EU. Many MEPs said that they had never before witnessed so intense participation of citizens in their decisionmaking.

.

But Commissioner Bolkestein and the Council of ministers moved swiftly to discard the Parliament's decision and, on May 18th, reach a "political agreement" in favor of their clientele, patent officials and patent lawyers of multinational corporations, which ensures unlimited patentability of "computer-implemented" algorithms and business methods in Europe. This agreement was reached against the will or without consultation of most national parliaments. The Dutch Parliament passed a resolution to oblige its government to withdraw from the agreement, but the government (steered by advisers from its patent office) chose to disregard this resolution. Yet slowly, some governments have started to move. On 2004-09-24, the first anniversary of EU Democracy Day, the Council of Ministers could decide to put the "political agreement" back on the negotiation agenda and begin a more accountable process.

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It is an important day and an important cause that still needs your support!


Sep 23, 2004

Continuing...

There has been a lot going over the past few days for me. I won't bore you with the details, since it is not the point of this blog. Instead on dwelling on myself, I will try to show you a few interesting thoughts I had recently (errr...I see a problem with this sentence) regarding the article I mentioned in my last posting (now, better?).

1. Internet makes some private goods (like encyclopedia, phones, software) to become public.
2. This may slowly change capitalism.
3. Even if it is just a small influence on the economic system, it defiently increases cooperation (simpy by making it easier and cheaper).
4. This can be viewed as the increase of 'good', 'ethicial' and so on. It is not important if you view the humans as 'good' or 'evil' from birth and how important is their upringing and education and such. Humans are behaving better due to the net, and that is a fact.
4a. Sidenote: majority of tech developments have that effect. Question: is technology an ultimate saviour of humanity?
5. Through RL may be a bitch, and this likely won't change anytime soon, Internet slowly but surely improves both quality of our lives - and ourselves, making us better people.

I feel better now. Take care,

Sep 21, 2004

The case of Wikipedia

In my info gahtering, I stumbled upon a very interesting article by Andrea Ciffolilli.



It shows a lot of conclusions I have independently reached (most of them can be found in my MT thesis and later articles), but I admit it is more throughout when it comes to the 'why's and 'how's behind the reasons for creations and growth of virtual communities, something that I barerly scratched (and motly took as granted) in my works. It uses Wiki as one of the examples, and shows - interestingly - that when it is as easy to help as to destroy (or perhaps even easier), then people will help. Quite an optimistic thought for an academic article :)

There certainly is great charm exerted by successful projects of massive collaboration producing a public good or a club - Tell me, how often do you hear a word 'charm' used in such a publication? Charming :)

Anyway, it is a very interested read if you want to see how Internet promotes cooperation and promises to change the economy of the future (if you follow the logical conclusion and apply the cooperative projects to other venues of life). Utopian, you say? Did you read my blog about Skype and the death bell of modern telecoms?? Internet is going to - directly or indirectly - revolutionize both democracy (a political system) and capitalism (an economic system), and most likely all other elements of the social system.

Remember - I told you so, so don't you be future shocked :)

Sep 20, 2004

Wikipedia Reaches One Million Articles

Wikipedia Reaches One Million Articles

20 September, 2004 (Tampa, Florida):

The Wikimedia Foundation announced today the creation of the one millionth article in Wikipedia, its project to create a free, open-content, online encyclopaedia (Wikipedia.org(http://en.wikipedia.org)). Started in January 2001, Wikipedia is currently both the world's largest encyclopaedia and the fastest-growing, with articles under active development in over 100 languages. Nearly 2,500 new articles are added to Wikipedia each day, along with ten times as many updates to existing articles.

Wikipedia is created entirely by volunteers who contribute, update, and revise articles in a collaborative process. "The idea of sharing knowledge is powerful," said Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder.

Wikipedia's process is governed by Wikipedia's official neutral point of view (NPOV) policy, which requires that contributors work to avoid bias in writing articles. Even articles covering controversial topics can be developed using this process. Contributors build upon each other's changes and flawed edits are quickly repaired. "Everything is peer-reviewed in real time," said Wales.

Wikipedia now ranks as one of the ten most popular reference sites on the Internet, according to Alexa.com (http://www.alexa.com). It is increasingly used as a resource by students, journalists, and everyday researchers. Wikipedia has also been cited thousands of times in a diverse array of documents and publications, including news reports, books, academic studies, and even legal documents.

With its dedicated community of volunteers, Wikipedia has also gained recognition as a website for community interaction. This has led to Wikipedia winning two international prizes in 2004, the Prix Ars Electronica (http://www.aec.at/en/prix/winners2004.asp) for "Digital Communities" and a Webby Award (http://www.webbyawards.com) for "Best Community."

Wikipedia runs on a wiki software platform called MediaWiki, which allows anyone to edit a page at any time and have one's changes visible instantly (wiki means 'quick' in Hawaiian). Visitors can also examine older versions of pages to see how an article has developed.

In addition, static versions of Wikipedia are being prepared for release on CD or DVD. Soon to be available is a German-language version distributed by Directmedia Publishing. Wikipedia is working on a bilingual French/English DVD release of the encylopedia in collaboration with Mandrakesoft (http://www.mandrakesoft.com/), publisher of the Mandrakelinux OS(http://www.mandrakelinux.com/en/), which will be included as part of an upcoming distribution.

All Wikipedia text is published under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html#SEC1) (GFDL), which lets contributors enhance and modify each other's work based on a principle known as "copyleft." This means the licence allows third parties the right to reuse Wikipedia articles as long as they pass on that right to others. The MediaWiki software is available under a similar licence designed for software.

Wikipedia is becoming increasingly multilingual; for the past year, it has experienced most of its growth in languages other than English. Out of the more than 100 Wikipedia languages, 14 currently have over 10,000 articles (English (http://en.wikipedia.org): 348,000, German (http://de.wikipedia.org): 141,000, Japanese (http://ja.wikipedia.org): 72,000, French (http://fr.wikipedia.org): 52,000, Swedish (http://sv.wikipedia.org): 40,000, Polish (http://pl.wikipedia.org): 38,000, Dutch (http://nl.wikipedia.org): 35,000, Spanish (http://es.wikipedia.org): 29,000, Italian (http://it.wikipedia.org): 24,000, Danish (http://da.wikipedia.org): 20,000, Portuguese (http://pt.wikipedia.org): 16,000, Esperanto (http://eo.wikipedia.org): 15,000, Chinese (http://zh.wikipedia.org): 13,000, and Hebrew (http://he.wikipedia.org): 10,000).

In addition to Wikipedia, the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation (wikimediafoundation.org(http://www.wikimediafoundation.org)) supports several multilingual sister projects, including Wiktionary (a dictionary and thesaurus at wiktionary.org), Wikiquote (a compendium of famous quotations at wikiquote.org), Wikibooks (a collection of manuals and textbooks at wikibooks.org), and Wikisource (a repository of public domain documents at wikisource.org). All of these projects are published under the same licence and run on MediaWiki software. To support these projects, the Foundation has raised over US$100,000 (£55,000 or €80,000) since its creation and is holding a fundraising drive from September 20 to October 3 with the aim of raising an additional $50,000. More information is available and donations can be made at http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Fundraising(http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Fundraising).

With changes being made every minute of every day, it is impossible to predict where Wikipedia and its sister projects will be one year from now. But Wikipedia's rate of growth has continued to increase in recent months, and at its current pace Wikipedia would double in size again by next spring.

Truth soon to be

On Wendsday I will have an interview at the University I wrote earlier which will determine if I will be able to start my PhD studies this year. Keep your fingers crossed...I am not good at f2f contacts :>

Been doing lots of reading on various releated subject, democracy, politicial systems, economy, etc. in case they decide to ask me something. I found that writing stuff down is the best way to learn them - and is there a better place to do it then Wiki? I learn and at the same time create resources other can use. That is what I call 'nifty' :D



In other news. Gaim 1.00 has been released. It replaces ICQ, MSN, YIM and other clients (yeah, it let's you keep old contact lists), with its slick open source great UI window. It works on all OSes. I wrote more about it few weeks ago, so feel free to dig into blog archieves for more info if you dont feel like reading about it on the official page or Wiki. Anyway, try it out!

Speaking of useful open source tools, I think this is interesting: a html editor that apparently works like an add-on to a browser. FCKeditor. They have a demo on the page so you will see what I mean better then if I were to explain it here...

See ya,

 
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