About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

29 December 2006

Movie: The Departed

With a cast of Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg; at a glance, The Departed seems to be yet another movie trying to make it through the names of the stars. Yet, for once, this is a movie where the stars actually prove why they should be stars - the acting is just absolutely amazing!

The story is about cops and robbers; focusing on "the rat". Matt Damon plays a cop, who effectively works for the Boston Mafia boss Frank Costello (Nicholson). DiCaprio plays a cop, who infiltrates the Mafia and to bring down Costello and the whole movie is about the parties on either side trying to catch the rat(s) for their paymasters.

Nicholson is simply amazing as the Mafia boss; and DiCaprio puts in a performance worthy of an Oscar ... indeed I think both will get nominated for Oscars this year. And even Mark Wahlberg can act ... something I wouldn't admit to after watching The Italian Job. But perhaps the best part of the movie is the amazing script ... with brilliant twists and the scene in the elevator at the end of the movie reminded me a lot about the classic standoff scene in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

20 December 2006

Movie: Flags of our Fathers

The Iwo Jima Memorial (or it's official name - The US Marine Corps War Memorial), is one of the most impressive war memorials in the Washington DC area. The memorial itself is based on a famous photograph, of US soldiers raising the US flag on top of Mount Suribachi, in the island of Iwo Jima, during World War 2. This movie, directed by Clint Eastwood and produced by Steven Spielberg, recounts the raising of the flag, but instead of focusing on the war itself (like Saving Private Ryan for example), it talks about the how the photograph was used as a publicity machine to generate support (and money) for the war.

It is amazing how lies are created, and the men are almost forced to parade these lies. It is an anti war movie like none before ... and challenges the very notion of heroism and hero worship. In the times of Jacob Zuma, Robert Mugabe and Iraq, the movie raises some very relevant questions for right now.

16 December 2006

Cell C - Sound of the City

Instead of focussing on sport like the other telecoms companies in South Africa, from the start, Cell C has promoted South African culture, especially music. Their "Sound of the City" concert series basically features local music from bands based in the cities they tour. And at R50 for entry, they are great value for money.

From the outside, it seemed very disorganised and chaotic. But inside, it has to be the most organised concert I have ever been to. DJ Ready D was already spinning the decks as people filled up, and played during band set ups. Each band (there were 8) played for only 20 minutes or so, which was a bit sad, especially considering how well The Rudimentals and Springbok Nude Girls were received by the crowd.

And the Nudies, recently reformed, with their original line up, was simply heads and shoulders above the rest of the line up. They just had the extra something that others seemed to be lacking, not that Judith Spehuma and the Rudimentals didn't get the crowd going.

It was not a great end to the night unfortunately ... I had left the lights on before going in, and my battery had died. But thanks to Tim and a helpful car guard, I got it started, and is all working now! I need to remember to switch off lights next time though!

10 December 2006


Tim and Murray had a braai on Friday night, with the occasion apparently being Tim's graduation (he graduates on Monday, so congrats to him!) and end of Murray's exams. Anyway, excuses are rarely required for a social occasion, right?

Anyway, there was a strange gatecrashing event ... which was very interesting. One of the guys at the party (sorry don't remember his name) wanted to meet up with a friend and her party, and Tim just asked him to invite them over. And so they came - a party consisting of two Americans (including the friend), a South African (also the owner of Butlers) and a Canadian of Japanese decent, who now lives in Japan.

Anyway, Mr. James Nakagawa (call me Jamie) and one of the Americans were attending the Diabetes conference at the Cape Town Convention centre, and Jamie, is the CEO of an IT firm, Lifewatcher.com, which specialises in delivering medical information on mobile phones. From things like reminding people to take drugs, to some really cool ideas (that I have previously read of) like: taking a photo of a meal, and getting an approximate estimation of calories and other important information (like, do not eat - too much sugar content for your diabetes condition). And we had an interesting conversation on the backward mobile technology in the USA to image rendering of X-Rays on mobile phones. Many of the projects are similar to some of the projects in the CVC lab (like Andrew or Marshini's telemedicine project) but what was most striking for me, was how true six degrees of separation seems to be.

08 December 2006

Prison Break

So I went to Pollsmoor Prison today ... not something you do everyday really. The Western Province Badminton Association (WPBA) runs a development program in the Female Prison, and today was the official launch of the program (after 4 months of the program actually running!). The WPBA goals in this area are simple really - prison is not only about punishment, but also about rehabilitation. Most of the prisoners, will, one day, be back in the society. It is therefore necessary to allow them some level of interaction, skills and base for them to re-enter society. Sport is one such link, and Pollsmoor offers other sports including cricket, football (soccer) and rugby.

While going to the playing area (which serves as the dining hall at other times), I saw other prisoners (although I did not interact with them), and young children, who are incarcerated with their mothers because they do not have anyone else ... I suppose it is better than foster care. I was later told that for the most part, most of the female prisoners treat the kids as their own, and the kids are actually loved and cared for very well ... most, as some prisoners, like the infamous Dina Rodrigues (who was incidentally being led to counseling when I arrived) are apparently not tolerated or liked by the general prison population.

As for the participants - they may not be out for a while. Some of the ladies, including the most accomplished player to date) are there for the long term - 10 to 20 years, serving for, amongst other crimes, murder and robbery. But I suppose, judgment has been passed, and they are serving their punishment ... it is up to the society to also make sure that they do not commit again, and most of all perhaps, do not allow for a scenario where they feel they need to commit a crime?

05 December 2006

Obz Fest 2006

It was supposed to be bigger and better than ever before.And in most respects it was ... but the weather on Sunday just messed up all the plans. For the uninitiated, Obz Fest is a big street festival in Observatory, the hippie quarter of Cape Town. Lot sof great live music, "interesting" stall and good food.

02 December 2006

Movie: Casino Royale

Wow ... I have not watched every bond movie, but of the ones I have watched; I would vote this new one to be my absolute favorite. Sure there was no Q, or Moneypenny but the evolution of Bond from just an agent to a 00 is impressive and the movie is really backed up by an impressive script.

This new Bond is less of an action hero ... he makes mistakes, and gets hurt in the process, he bleeds and almost dies. But you can also see that he is, as M puts it, not just a thug. That said, it is hardly a perfect movie - the romance scenes are too drawn out and seem forced - but again, they do serve a purpose (another break from Bond tradition I suppose).

01 December 2006

Moving House

After two years at Mowbray, I moved out of the flat and into a four bedroomed house in Rondebosch, a stone's throw away (literally) from UCT. Moving is tough work, especially with the amount of junk I have ...

Anyway, one of the best parts of the new place is the large garden ... ideal for Summer Braais ... so maybe one should be organised soon.

Movie: Borat

Or to give its full name: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

First and foremost - it is an amazing movie - because of its content. It is effectively one long, candid camera tale, but at the same time, provides very interesting view of America - uncovering racism, sexism and homophobia.

It is also a shocking movie ... the scene with Borat and his obese producer wrestling in the nude is just awful; but the followup where the two of them run (still naked) into a full convention centre - complete with a trip on an elevator full of people - is an amazing piece of film making and personal bravery.

But over all, it is not an easy movie to watch ... it is as Hans-Peter put it "very embarrassing".

26 November 2006

Cricket Madness

Went to the cricket today with a whole bunch of people (mainly from badminton) ... SA played well to come back to a really good total, and Indian top order batted badly, so it was not really a contest, or a great game. But Kemp and Dhoni's innings were great to watch, so it was good value for money. I still have to see Sachin Tendulkar perform ... second time, and both utter disappointments.

Movie: Children of Men

In the near future, for an unknown reason, women cannot bear children; and as the movie starts out, the youngest person on earth, an 18 year old Brazilian has just been stabbed to death. The world is in chaos - with UK (the location of the movie), converted to a police state; where immigration is disallowed. Immigrants are treated as third or fourth class humans, confined to concentration camps, and subject to police brutality.

In this chaos, we have a miraculous 8 and a bit month pregnant teen, illegal immigrant from Fiji, who needs to be escorted to the ship "Tomorrow", which has connections to the almost mystical and legendary "Human Project". And off course, a pregnant woman is valuable commodity; and almost no one really cares about her or the baby - just the political gains that could be achieved ...

This is a brilliant movie; a definite must see, and the scene with Clive Owen (the bureaucrat/peace activist who ends up escorting/hiding/sheltering the woman baby through to the ship) coming through a warzone with a crying baby is really magical ... and also shows, how a crying baby is never enough to stop all the world wars.

18 November 2006

PS3 Madness

So the PS3 is finally out, and it's already being sold on e-bay, and it's amazing how much people are willing to pay. A quick glance, some on bidded US $6 999! while there are a number of bids over US $1 000. This begs the question - why did Sony not just sell the initial units (limited availability after all) on auction in the first place ... I think they would have made a lot more money out of it.

13 November 2006

Around the world on a plate

For me, one of the best parts of going to new places is trying out new food. Many years ago, a guidebook to Singapore claimed that you could go round the world sampling food from all over the world in Singapore. The same can be said about Washington DC, and as one of the attendees at WESII put it, the "food scene in Washington DC is awesome". But, being restricted by unfortunate things like "exchange rates" and "student budgets"; I could only restrict myself to the "budget" restaurants and food places; and unfortunately cannot give you any idea of how good (or expensive) the food is at some of the more well rated restaurants.

But even despite these limitations, I did manage to sample a variety of restaurants. This was helped off course, by the fact that, just two blocks from where I was staying, was a block of restaurants (about 12 in total IIRC) catering to the suburbia. I did not eat there every night, but it was the main area. So, in total I managed to go to the following different types (in no order):
  • Japanese
  • Afghan
  • Italian
  • Pizza and Movie place (see earlier blog post)
  • Mexican
  • Greek
  • The American Diner (really greasy, really crap)
  • A whole lot of Subway
  • Chinese
I should have gone to the Bulgarian and El Salvodorian places ... but I ended up conserving money instead ... This list looks too small; I think I am also missing a few places ... oh well.

The "food scene" in Edinburgh was less diverse (from what I saw), and well, like everything British, more expensive. Thus, there was more eating at the traditional "English Pub" (well curry is a traditional English food right?) than anywhere else.

09 November 2006

Movie: Kekxili - Mountain Patrol

First and formost - this movie is set in Tibet, so the landscapes are amazing; but that does not really distract from an amazing story; about a couple of people, risking everything to hunt down poachers of the endangered Tibetan Antelope. It is based on a true story, and is told in a documentary style; which makes the movie an even more harrowing tale, focussing on various angles of the situation - the poor vilagers who are almost "forced" into poaching, how patrolmen's lives are affected by their actions; and even how they have to make really, really dificult moral judgement calls. It is not a hollywood movie - so do not expect a fairytale ending; but it is one of the most impressive movies I have seen, and one of the most moving.

Movie: The Devil Wears Prada

It was billed as a darkish comedy, something different from the ordinary. Unfortunately, it was nothing special ... just a twist of an usual storyline ... girl (aspiring journalist) applies for job as a PA to a fashion editor, gets the boss from hell, refuses to quit and adapts, thus becoming a "different" person ... you get the idea. It was funny - only because of the number of outrageous tasks set by the boss .. like finding the new Harry Potter. A few laughs, but nothing special really.

Movie: Cars

Yet more reviews courtesy of the Virgin in-flight entertainment system.

Not much can be said in addition to what has already been written about the Disney-Pixar movie. It is a simple, predictible story, with the traditional Disney moral for the kids; but it is so much fun, and so well animated - it is weel worth watching. And if you like cars, you will appreciate the differences in the characters as represented by the different cars.

08 November 2006

The Scottish Highlands (a phlog)

Yesterday, Eric had to go to work (yes some people do work), and I decided that a trip to the Highlands would be a nice idea. It was quite expensive (30 Pounds!), but the weather was good (i.e. no rain) and in the end, a great trip really. On the whole, I learnt two main things about Scotland: 1) It is a beautiful part of the world, and it would be great to do a similar trip on a slower pace. 2) There have been a number of rather violent people who have wanted this beauty, and have killed mercilessly towards this purpose. In fact, the major "people" highlights of the tour centred around wars and battles.

In my past trips (for the last 3 years anyway), I have never done city tours or paid guided tours (mainly because of the expense). These have one real advantage - you get to hear a lot more about the history and stories that come with the place. Stories and facts that are well arranged and well told ... a very nice complete package. Anyway, enough mindless mumbo jumbo ... and onto the pics
A highlands cow ... damn these things are big

The first loch we stopped at
Same loch, higher up
Route through the mountains
The highlands reminded me of almost every story I had read by British authors, with a number of rivers, small forests - just no wildlife
Urquhart Castle
Searching for Nessie at Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle (from Loch Ness)
Nessie Explained?

07 November 2006

Reflections: ACM CCS 2006 and ACM STC 2006

I had been meaning to do a review earlier, but I have been busy exploring Scotland instead (and proof reading Honours Project reports) :p

To be honest, the program for the main ACM CCS 2006 was not very exciting; mainly because there was too much focus on cryptography, and less on security of systems in general. Also, I ended up at times choosing the wrong sessions - I went to a tutorial on Digital Forensics, where I learnt nothing new; and was a horrible presentation; and I later heard that the alternate, intrusion detection research papers, was quite good. Similarly, the paper sessions on Thursday turned out to be quite dreary; while I heard great reviews on the tutorials ... oh well.

The keynote talk, by Peter Neumann, while interesting at parts, was largely inconsequential - as he was effectively talking to the converted. His talk centred around software design that does not take account of the full scenario - and thus leads to security pitfalls. This has to do with a lot of things, including bad design principles and off course the lack of software liability.

The most interesting paper on Day 1, was "Hot or Not: Revealing Hidden Services by their Clock Skew", which investigated the potential of revealing a person's geographical location by studying his/her clock skew due to temperature fluctuations. It was a fun discussion; although maybe not very applicable.

Day 2 had a couple of interesting papers, mainly dealing with privacy. "Doppelganger: Better Browser Privacy Without the Bother", discussed a new cookie management system using Firefox extension. Not recommended for UCT though - requires quite a bit of bandwidth to work :p The very next paper, "Fourth-Factor Authentication: Somebody You Know", was also an interesting idea, discussing how to manage password retrievals in a more secure manner.

The paper in the session after lunch, "How to Win the Clone Wars: Efficient Periodic n-Times Anonymous Authentication", featured a brilliant presentation, and the content was interesting, but I don't think it will be easy to implement such a system in real life. The last session featured various attacks, and these were, as always, very interesting; including a discussion on botnets created through browser exploits, a discussion of 1-time pad problems in current software and a paper on short attacks through keyboard emanations - not as effective as last year's paper, but more useful for short attacks. Day 3 featured interesting papers but I wasn't really bowled over by any of them.

The Scalable Trusted Computing Workshop, on Friday was quite interesting - although the papers focussed more on "scalable" aspect. I learnt a lot more about the Trusted Computing Group, and even made some interesting contacts, so it was good from that point of view.

The highlight of the conference though, was probably, meeting Michael Schroeder (of Needham-Schroeder fame), who was being honoured by SIGSAC for his contributions to computer security. When we were talking, he mentioned reading about mobile banking in South Africa in the Economist, and he was very interested in the results of the honours mobile banking project. So, if we reference his paper, I am sure it is already one step to publishing (and the honours guys haven't even officially finished)!

31 October 2006

Reflections: ACM DRM 2006

Yesterday was basically the reason I am here - to attend and present my paper at the DRM Workshop at the ACM Computer and Communications Security (CCS) Conference. So, this is a brief reflection of the proceedings of the workshop.

The first paper, by some researchers from SUN, looked at some of the business models that movie industry could adapt from the MMORPG world. While the ideas are certainly applicable; I am not really sure of the practicality of the ideas. The second paper looked at privacy, from the point of legal and economic practicalities. Basically, the paper argues that there exists certain legal and economic obligations if a business wishes to collect private information. These obligations create a risk; and thus creates ceiling on how much privacy can be afforded to customers. It was a very interesting paper; but I think it glossed over one crucial point - very rarely do businesses actually take into full consideration the economic and legal obligations when they do collect private data.

My paper, which was next, was very well received, and attracted quite a lot of interest. I was not really expecting a great reception; because the paper is quite simple in nature - but it is an area that has not really been addressed before. So, I was pleasantly surprised at the paper's reception.

The next paper on a view only file system has been discussed before as a mechanism for short term DRM solution. The one presented this year went a step further and designed a VM based system. It could work; but I am not convinced on the security layer between the VM and OS/lower level VM; or the performance overheads. The paper following it discussed an interesting key distribution strategy; but I must admit I did not follow it as well as I should have.

Tom Kalker, from HP Labs and Coral, presented the invited talk focussing on interoperability. Most people who have voiced opinions against DRM, seem to imply hatred on the lack of DRM interoperability, and not some of the other issues. He discussed how interoperability in DRM is not only a format issue; but also a business and complete technological issue. He talked about Coral, which uses a credential system, allowing for interoperability. However, it is by no ways a perfect solution, as every device would still require their own file format etc.

The next paper discussed more interesting code obsfucation and diversification as a mechanism to combat piracy. It was quite impressive, until the performance hit .... 840 times slower!

Pramod Jamkhedkar and Gregory Heileman presented their paper next, and their DRM project is very similar to mine; and we have been presenting or discussing similar ideas for the past three years. This year, they discussed, what they considered fundamental flaws in Rights Expression languages. In a few ways, their arguement was flawed, because it discussed mainly the flaws of XrML and did not consider the fact that some of the issues are being addressed or have been addressed in other RELs like ODRL. However, the issues raised are correct and needed to be recognised.

The next talk on interoperability, was a bit of a miss; simply because a lot of the content seemed to be contrary to the issues raised earlier; and the underlying details were hazy at best. The talk following it was very interesting; discussing some of the background to Intel's LeGrande architecture. Bascially, the OS is going to be dead - instead, the CPU itself will have a trusted OS base; complete with drivers and firmware. Applications will run on top of this base; in a completely protected environment, similar in operation to Multics. I am not sure of the maturity of the solution, but both Intel and AMD, together with other interested parties, have been pouring money into similar projects; so something is bound to come up.

The next paper, from Phillips Labs, discussed ideas on how to lower consumer anger and better ways to handle consumers who make use of pirated DVDs; or more appropriately Blu-Ray discs. Much of the work presented revolved around the use and operation of blacklists in Blu-Tay discs. It was really interesting; especially on the changing position.

The last paper of the workshop on watermarking presented nothing new; and in fact I have seen many better applications of watermarking.

30 October 2006

Movie: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

I went to watch the movie here in DC with a friend from cyberspace ... one of the guys from the Atlas F1 Paddock Club. The movie house itself was interesting - basically an auditorium like most movie houses; but one that is also a full service restaurant and features arm chairs instead of normal movie seats. So we had two F1 fans watching a movie about Nascar while eating Pizzas.

The movie itself was surprisingly not too bad; and the rip offs of team orders and F1 were brilliantly done. As entertainment value, Nascar is not bad at all; and neither is the movie. If you are a racing fan; it's great; if only to identify all the different parallels.

Dam Festival 2006

I saw an ad talking about a Indie Rock festival in Washington DC; and I just couldn't give it a miss. Basically, a number of bands; spread out over a number of clubs playing in the evenings. Unfortunately, I managed to go to only one of the clubs - and it was an interesting experience.

First up; the club itself was quite small. Apparently, rock is a big genre in the DC area - the size of the club, Velvet Lounge, would lead you to think otherwise. Another disappointing aspect was the fact that most of the people who were there; seemed to be band supporters - they were there because they knew someone in one or more of the bands. The numbers were really small; and there was no real vibe - no mosh pits. Being Halloween weekend, there were a few costumed attendees - the best being a guy dressed up in a robot suit; completely with a functional iPod and speakers! At $8 cover charge; it was quite cheap; and good return for money.

The first band, Drunken Sufis (ft. The Psycho Terrorists), was in my opinion the best of the lot. They had an impressive stage show; and much of their music was about the War in Iraq, Bush etc ... almost Green Dayish. They had good songs and put on a great show - couldn't ask for much more.

The second band, from New Zealand, Over the Atlantic, was interesting - comprising of two members (bass guitarist and a lead guitarist/vocalist) and a computer doubling up as a synthesiser effort. It was interesting music - no doubt about that; but it just didn't click for me ... might work on radio; maybe - but not really a live band style.

The third and fourth bands, The Opposite Sex and The Object Lesson resp, were more mainstream rock bands; singing largely incomprehensible lyrics. However, they had really good music - brilliant guitar and drum play. The Opposite Sex features one member doubling up on a saxophone and a synthesiser; which reminded me a bit about the Nude Girls; but their songs were just not that great. The Object Lesson featured a hot keyboard player (wearing a catholic school girl outfit :p) instead of a Sax player and was the only band featuring a female member. I did not stay for the full set of the last band, The Chance, but they didn't seem too different from the two previous bands.

Overall, the music itself wasn't too bad - but it didn't have the vibe - maybe it was just a bad day.

28 October 2006

Freak House

Halloween seems to be very popular in the US, and this being Halloween weekend, there seems to be quite a few themed events happening around here. I came across "Freak House" in one of the free newspapers here, and as the website bills it "Torture. Murder. Shark attack. You'll scream your tits off!!"; it was just too tempting.

It is similar to London Dungeon in concept; although, more adult in nature. Basically, they have taken a whole three story house and converted it into a 9 roomed, scary/freak show. In many of the rooms, audience participation is almost pre-requisite; and I am sure a psychologist would have a field day in analysing how people react to certain situations. It was very cool, although London Dungeon is certainly more polished.

Rights and Repression

Being the capital of the world's most powerful country, it has also been the scene of many civil rights protests, and with America's thirst for storing history, it has also preserved a lot. The day before, yesterday ended up being quite a sobering tourist attraction day - as I ended up going through the Holocaust Museum and also going through various neighbourhoods involved in the Civil Rights movement. I also went up the Washington Monument, which was closed for renovation in my previous two visits.

The visit to the Holocaust Museum was sad, and at the same time, it did have a ray of hope in the end. The detailed examination of what happened to minority groups before and during WW2 is downright frightening ... how can fellow human beings really do that? But what was most frightening is not that it happened; but the reactions of the other countries in the world to the plight of the persecuted. Not only did they not chose to interfere earlier; but countries like the USA, sent refugees back, and, during WW2, refused to bomb gas chambers in some concentration camps even if it was physically possible. It is the indifference that really shocks - and the scary thing is - we haven't really learned anything since. After all; Rwanda happened and the world stood by - and Darfur is happening - and the world still refuses to take action.

The ray of hope, however tiny, is that the Holocaust museum is starting to document other holocausts - and trying to raise awareness of pressing issues like Darfur. I hope that it is not too late - otherwise 50 years from now; we will have another museum to add to the list.

Walking around Adams-Morgan, U Street precinct in DC was less strenuous on the mind, although not less worthy. One guidebook I read while browsing at Exclusive Books before arriving, claimed that Washington DC is predominantly black and latino. Moving around in downtown DC, you wouldn't believe that. Thus walking around suburbia was interesting in itself - and gives a very different view of a city ... A lot of the old buildings are preserved, and the contrast in architecture and style is amazing.

27 October 2006

Drug Free Zone

I came across this while walking around in DC suburbia ... and I was instantly reminded of various episodes in Season 2 of Weeds. There didn't seem to be any surveillance cameras though

25 October 2006

Reflections: WESII

For the last two days, I have been attending the The Workshop on the Economics of Securing the Information Infrastructure, sponsored by I3P. It was quite an interesting conference bringing together people from different disciplines including computer security, economics and social sciences. A lot of the content did revolve around policies; but unlike ISSA, the content was much more constructive, and dare I say, more useful.

There were a few really interesting discussions and topics; so I will briefly discuss them - maybe some of you have something to say about them ...

First up, there was a panel discussion on DNSSec, including a very quick demonstration on how quick and easy it is to actually commit DNS spoofing attacks. Considering the fact that DNS forms the backbone of the Internet (from the users perspective), a secure DNS solution is really important. In summary, DNS entries themselves are not verifiable, and like the paper I am going to present next week at the DRM workshop; there is no verification service currently available for DNS. This means that a man in the middle attack is very possible scenario for DNS - because in the current DNS setup; the first response received from a DNS query is taken to be the correct query. For a spoofer, it is therefore possible to redirect any DNS query, and a malicious attacker can really cause a lot more damage than phishing attacks. DNSSec seems like a good solution; but implementation is the problem as it requires every top level domain controller to actually do it; and also enforce others to carry on.

Two papers at the end of the first day were also quite interesting. There was a discussion on modeling black markets for software vulnerabilities; a scenario that already exists with botnets - but can seemingly also extend to any malicious intent; just like the arms trade I suppose.

But it is the last paper that I am really excited about. Bob Briscoe from British Telecoms presented an idea on how to control congestion on the Internet; allowing users an equal share of the bandwidth pie. The proposal raises the potential for real quality of service guarantees for Internet access; but at the same time provide a very real solution for denial of service attacks. It is a very neat idea, and is definitely a paper I intend following up on.

One of the interesting papers from today was the analylis of the value of data, using techniques similar to the insurance industry. The paper discussed how data can be valued, and why the valuation easily explains why the uptake for some security products like disk encryption and email encryption is so low. Can't really say I agreed with the values; but the approach made sense overall.

24 October 2006

Virgin Atlantic's Infight Entertainment System

In terms of intent; Virgin Atlantic's inflight entertainment system is quite amazing: on demand music, video and games - including playing games against other passengers on the plane. But after seeing a number of failures on both of my flights so far, I am convinced that the design is flawed.

Basically, the inflight entertainment system uses a very thin (anorexiac?) client which seems to process input and provide output only and one server (well atleast one per class anyway ... can't confirm about business class). Because the thin client performs no operations - the server does tend to become overloaded - and rebooting it; requires an inactivity period of over 30 minutes for most users. Furthermore, if too many users are using a certain feature - like the mapping service - then the system also becomes overloaded or too slow. In fact, there are a number of instances where the system (from the user's perspective) is just too slow or unresponsive.

In my opinion, it would be a better design in incorporate much of the interface processing components, like the menus on the client side. This way - the server does not have to do everything and the response time would be increased. Furthermore, if there are problems with one or two clients; it will not require the entire system to be rebooted. Just a few thoughts ... anyone else used a similar system?

How evil are you?

A link from Carl ... must say; many of the things listed are not really evil ...

You Are 58% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

Movie: A Scanner Darkly

This is an adaptation of possibly Phillip K Dick's most personal novel - chronicling his own experiences in drug use. It is a celebrated novel; but I found it the most difficult to understand and follow of the ones I have read. The movie on the other hand is quite precise and easy to follow - a feat in itself.

The most obvious and impressive aspect of the movie is the technology used in merging live action and animation (almost painterly in nature) into one seamless movie. This gives the movie itself a certain look; which it self enhances the whole "drug use" genre in some respects.

The story itself is good - and like most other Phillip K Dick stories; it explores the various interconnections between various aspects of life taken to extremities - in this case surveillance, corporate influence and friendship. Keanu Reeves plays an undercover agent seeking out a drug cartel behind a very toxic and addictive drug - substance D.

Unlike some of the more blockbuster movies made from Phillip K Dick movies, like Minority Report and Blade Runner - this focuses more on the poor and the disenfranchised - and very much less explosive. None the less it is an amazing movie because it is made so well and even Keanu manages to show some expressions (although that could have been animation)

Movie: The Notorious Bettie Page

I did not really know much about Bettie Page - a pinup model from the 50's who has been apparently photographed more than some of her more famous and well known counterparts like Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford. The movie is effectively a biopic about her heydays when she was a major, well known model.

What is really interesting is that she was a force before the so called sexual revolution; so some of her reactions and the reactions of the society in general is quite interesting. In particular, Bettie Page was a well known fetish model; and the movie stresses that she was not into the fetish lifestyle itself; and how she rationalises what she does - esp in the light of being quite a strong Christian.

Movie: An Inconvenient Truth

A few quick reviews on the movies I watched while there was nothing else to do on the plane.

Trailers in Ster-Kinekor put the movie as the most terrifying movie ever made. As a documentary it is - mainly because you soon realise that what you can do as a person may not be enough; because 6.5 billion people also have to do the same thing. Climate change and global warming ... it is a fact; and it is terrifying what the future could be if we can't stop the degradation. As the movie states - do we have political will to do it? And more importantly - do all countries have the political will to do it?

Unfortunately, like many other "movies that have to be seen" the people who really need to see it; will no doubt not see it.

20 October 2006

Rent a Super Car

Now this is a business model that could work; and I would support! We all know that super cars are expensive machines; and thus most people can't really afford to drive one; let alone own one. So, Rio Prestige, based in Edinburgh, is a super car rental agency. For relatively low prices, you can hire a super car and drive it around.

Now they are based in Edinburgh; and I will be in Edinburgh in two weeks time ... an interesting opportunity except for the fact that you have to be 25 to hire ... maybe I can convince Eric to come along ...

18 October 2006

Movie: The Black Dahlia

Almost, everything I read about this movie before watching it was negative; so I did not really have very high expectations of the movie. On the surface, it is a movie about a murder mystery and the lives of the detectives that solve the mystery. As a detective story; it is great - and the pieces of the puzzle do come together. While, it is in no way comparable to a Agatha Christie or any other crime fiction great; the story is good, and plausible.

But it is the style of the movie that was really iffy. Arthur correctly pointed out; that the movie was done in a certain style, and thus was a good movie for that style. However, I think it was too stylized; there was an over emphasis in style - and that was a detriment. That too much style forced the movie to be too long; and introduced a really slow pace at some parts of the movie. In the end it is like too much make up on women (especially old women) - unattractive and artificial.

Sam commented that watching the movie was like going to a wine tasting when you don't drink wine. Maybe; but I think it would be more apt to say it was going to a wine tasting where cheap wine is being served from really expensive looking bottles.

08 October 2006

Ho Ha about Gay Marriage?

There has been so much debate on the legitimacy of the proposed Civil Union bill, which have set me thinking (which, as a self confessed idiot could be dangerous) and so this post is very much a mind dump. But first a bit of quick background.

Firstly, it has been criticised by some in the Gay and Lesbian community, because it is a separate act; and is different from the current marriage act. Thus they argue; it is different and discriminatory. The government argues that it needs to be; because the marriage act is primarily based around religious and traditional ceremonies; and since the new bill is independent of religion; it requires different treatment.

On the other hand, there is the criticisms from the religious, and virtually every homophobic person, on how gay marriage is against nature, and against every religious belief; and thus immoral. In fact, the government was really pushed to write this bill; because the Constitutional Court ruled that the current Marriage Act is unconstitutional; so it is obliged to change the law. And like the death penalty - referendums on the matter will not help. To change the legal position on either; there needs to be a change in the constitution; and even a simple 2/3 majority is not sufficient to do that!

So either way; like it or not, gay marriage will be legalised; and there is effectively nothing that the opposition can do. This off course raises a few very important issues and problems. First and foremost - in a constitution that separates the church and the state distinctly; is there a need for a marriage act, other than to recognise marriage can be performed under religious and traditional ceremonies? In that scenario; other than recognised state machinery to register and dissolve marriages; why is there a need to have separate acts governing them?

Secondly, and more interestingly in my opinion: why should marriage be between two persons (as dictated by the last Constitutional Court judgment on the issue)? Why can a marriage not be between more than two persons? And it is not a new thing in South African culture anyway - quite a few cultural groups, like the Zulus, recognise polygamy. And so do some religions, including Islam. So, if it is religiously and culturally ok to have more then two persons in a marriage; why should a civil marriage be any different? Why should it not be possible to have marriages involving multiple persons, of different genders? Do we really have any right to regulate people's love and sex lives - as long as every one in the relationship is a consenting adult?

Gay marriage controversy ... wait till the polygamy controversy starts :P

07 October 2006

"Sundowners" on Lion's Head

At the last SASSU-UCT meeting, we decided to go up Lion's Head as a sort of last committee thing. Despite three people baling at the last moment, it was a great last team event; although, to be honest; sports at UCT tends to run itself, so SASSU does not really do much (or claim to do much, like SRC). I say "sundowners", because although the intention was there, none of us brought anything other than water; but it was a great hike up Lion's Head; and a wonderful view of the rising full moon; and a setting sun.

Clouds come in (quite fast), and envelope Signal Hill. By the time it was dark, virtually all of Cape Town was enveloped in the cloud and mist.

Some of the SASSU-UCT collective (Gary, Cheryl, Tarryn, Jacob)

Fraser strikes a pose

The hike down was quite interesting, under the moonlight and without torches. What made it even more interesting was the fact, that for the most part we were above the clouds, thus able to see the stars. Sadly, my camera and my photographic skills are quite lacking to give a really good perspective. A pic of the path down anyway ...

05 October 2006

Movie: Sophie Scholl - Die letzten Tage (The Final Days)

Another movie from the EU Film Festival; and this was Germany's entry for the Best Foreign Film award at the Oscars this year. The plot is about Sophie Scholl and other members of "The White Rose", a anti-Nazi German, mainly student movement, in operation near the end of the WW2. What was interesting about many members of the The White Rose, was that most of them had actually spent time at the front lines; or were intimately connected to the front lines. The movie recounts the last days of The White Rose; from the arrest of Sophie Scholl (and her brother Hans), her interrogation, the show trial and finally the execution.

What is really amazing is the dialogue, and the arguments - not only by Sophie Scholl, on why Hitler's war strategy was wrong, and the war needed to end; but also the Nazi arguments; on why their course of action was correct - and would ultimately succeed. It is an intellectual debate that makes the movie worthwhile. But it is also the stark difference in arguments between the interrogator - whose arguments are philosophical and largely logical; and the judge (and chief prosecutor rolled into one) at the show trial - whose arguments are basically propaganda and righteous beliefs; that make it so interesting.

In many ways; the arguments are like present day Iraq situation; the Israeli-Palestinians conflict or indeed the Iranian Nuclear Enrichment tug of war ... both sides in the disputes have perfectly logical arguments; but these are all drowned by the rhetoric and the passionate preaching, often by both sides. It seems that, history truly repeats itself, often.

03 October 2006

UCT Student Leadership Awards

Before I rant, congratulations to Chad for being awarded, for the second year running, the Student Leadership award for Postgraduate Students.

And now to my rant, I was nominated for the leader in sport, but just before the ceremony yesterday, I realised that it was not listed on the presentation schedule. I learnt from the MC, that it was not going to be awarded, because there was no suitable candidates meeting the high standards. I would have left it at that, except, one of the deputy vice chancellors, Prof. Nhlapo, came over during the reception and I was obliged to fill my curiosity, and ask him why it was not awarded.

His response was, that there was only one nomination, and therefore the award was not awarded because there was no competition. It is a position, I sort of understand; but baffles me none the less ... for two reasons. Firstly, why announce that there was no suitable candidates for the award ... because it implies that there were nominees and none of the nominees met the standard. Secondly, it implies, and Prof Nhlapo did concur when I raised it, that even if there a brilliant leaders who are nominated, they will never get the award if they have no competition ... it just seems so absurd.

In either case, my main motivation for the awards was not really the money (which would have been good, considering the crappy exchange rate) - but to prevent what has happened in the past, where the winner has been the SRC sports rep, who did not play for any sport teams and did not really belong to any sport clubs. In fact, most of the winners last night were from the SRC ... an amazing fact, considering the debacles of the SRC this year ...

Movie: Antonio Guerriero di Dio (Antonio, Warrior of God)

It's the European Film Festival again; although it seems to be a lot smaller affair. This is Italy's contribution to the festival, a biopic on Saint Antonio.

The movie begins with a shipwreck, with two survivors - Fibonacci (the mathematician) and a monk; and a supposed treasure. For the most part, the story focuses on the Monk, Antonio - who, as the film progresses is shown to be greatly admired by the general populace; because of his humility, and his affinity to the poor. For the large part, Fibonacci does not feature in the movie; except in the almost incidental contribution of the Arabic number system to the West; which is taken advantage of by a prominent money lender, who employs him. Antonio's major fight in the movie is against greedy money lenders, who feed of the poor and the unfortunate, but Fibonacci and Antonio are not shown together again.

It is a story about a Saint, and so it was like many religious movies, a bit preachy. The story, while simple, was not well told, in my opinion ... and Antonio's illness was never really explained. What was great about the movie though, was its cinematography - it's a stunning film, taking full advantage of some beautiful churches and medieval architecture.

A different comment: It is amazing to note how many scientific advances have been made on the back of persecution (or towards to cause of persecution) of other humans.

27 September 2006

Movie: Hard Candy

The subject of the movie is quite difficult - on the surface, it is about a pedophile trying to pick up a 14 year old girl over the Internet. But that is only the first 20 minutes of the film - and nothing is what it seems to be. Primarily, it is a story about revenge; but you never really feel sorry for the victim - maybe because he is a pedophile; and possibly a murderer - and while many parts of the story is quite tragic; there is also quite a bit of comedy - situations where you can't really stop laughing ... even though it is rather cruel. It is definitely one of the best pieces of acting I have seen for a long time; and that alone should be a reason to watch the movie.

26 September 2006

Cape Town International Comedy Festival

I had sent out an email a bout a month or so back, about people who would be interested in going to the comedy festival. Since I did not really get much positive feedback; with most people unimpressed by the R120 price tag; I decided to go alone; to the last show - Best of Fest, on Sunday night.

It was definitely worth the money - 6 comedians; plus the MC; in a show, including the interval; lasting around 3 hours. It started of rather sedately, with the host, Sugar Sammy, regurgitating some old jokes; but then he spotted some late-comers, and they provided the perfect fodder to really launch the show. The first comic, Kagiso Lediga (SA), was rather bland, until the end - with his skit on Zuma, Mbeki and Madiba bringing down the house. The next act, Reggie Watts (USA), can be best described as weird - it was funny; but it was nothing like regular comedy acts. Describing it is very difficult, it is one act that needs to be seen and heard in person. In between all these acts, the MC befriended the front row, picking on a number of front row audience members; including a man who was dressed in a pink shirt and hitting on the women. Charlie Pickering (AUS), the last act before the interval, really brought the house down; first with his banter with the MC (who was congratulated for being so professional, despite his desperate fight against impotence); then relating an interview where he talked about Crocodile Hunter, not knowing he had just died. It was a varied act; but well delivered; and in the end he really related well to the audience.

After the interval, the fireworks really started. First, Trevor Boris (CAN) who described himself as a gay farmer, hit on the man with the pink shirt. Most of his comedy delivery, centered around gay marriage and divorce; and he was really impressive. He was followed by John Vlismas (SA), who managed to probably insult everyone in the room - starting with thin people, then fat people, then women, and then people of every colour. And he brought the house down; because; it was amazingly brilliantly put together; and delivered. I was expecting a woman to end the show; especially after John Vlismas, but the last comic was Jason Wood (UK); and he was something totally different. Firstly, much of his act was delivered in songs, impersonating the singers; a brilliant feat considering the range of singers he covered. He was a great choice as the final act; and brought the show to a brilliant finish.

Health of the Nation: 50 Hour Sport Challenge

This past weekend, I was involved in the 50 Hour Sport Challenge; and initiative mainly geared to expose kids to sport, so that they can hopefully pick up a sport, and keep healthy. With a number of major sponsors, including Old Mutual, Supersport etc, it was a very slick, and well organised event.

I was helping out with badminton, as part of the Western Province Badminton Association, and it was very interesting experience; because unlike traditional sports like cricket, rugby or soccer, badminton is almost unknown; and it is also quite difficult to get into. On the other hand; it is possibly the only sport in the world, that does not really have any distinction between ladies' and men's game; with mixed doubles being one of the key components of the game.

Ultimately, badminton is a dying sport in South Africa; and ironically; it has lost a lot of players after 1994. In an attempt to re-ignite the sport; we need to grow the sport with the kids; and this was a great opportunity. In the end, we made a few contacts with teachers and community leaders who are interested in getting the sport going in their schools/communities; and hopefully this will be a new start.

Movie: Nacho Libre

Starring Jack Black the story is simple - it is about a priest, who enters wrestling contests (wresting, WWF style off course) to earn money for the orphanage where he grew up, and now works. Interweaved, there is the story of his sidekick (a homeless man), a beautiful nun (the love interest which can never succeed) and some orphans.

In many ways, the movie reminded me about classic comedy movies; the Charlie Chaplin style ... where there is some sort of moral, and humor is very much PG rated, and not dependent on sexual prowess (or lack thereof), relationships or body excrement. It is almost like watching a cartoon ...

The acting is not amazing, and neither is the story; but it is still a very funny movie, and well worth watching. And the nun (Ana de la Reguera) is really hot ...

10 September 2006

Great views, missing 7de Laan and a question of brotherhood: Tales from another long cycle ride

This is unfortunately not a phlog. After barely 5 hours sleep, and a rush to meet Hans-Peter in Rondebosch (because of running a bit late), the camera was sadly left behind. Yet again, Reinhardt decided not to join us for another crazy (but shorter) cycle trip; but gave no reasons this time around.

During the past week or so, Hans-Peter and I considered going to Hout Bay over Constantia Nek. However, considering the sizable uphill trek back to Constantia Nek, I convinced Hans-Peter, that it would be better to cycle through Chapman's Peak, into Fish Hoek and there after, depending on time, cycle back to Rondebosch or take a train like our last mad trip.

The weather was near perfect, with no wind. But there was quite a heavy cloud cover, so it was a bit on the chilly side, and Hans-Peter was hoping to catch a tan - but the sun never really shone through. The first part of the trip to Constantia Nek was surprisingly not too tough (with Hans-Peter showing his higher fitness levels by making it up the hill by Kirstenbosch without stopping in his first attempt). Except for the mad bus drivers that drive at seemingly insane speeds through the narrow roads, there isn't much to say. The ride down the hill was a lot of fun, esp with the surprising lack of other road users.

The cycle up Chapman's Peak was not as demanding as I initially feared, although we did make a few stops to admire the scenery. It was also quite pleasing that cyclists do not have to pay toll fees for the road. The cycle down from Chapman's Peak was even more fun, especially as we frequently broke the posted speed limit, and even caught up with a few cars that had passed us previously. In fact, the entire ride was worth it from that downhill alone. We stopped briefly at a farm stall in Noerdhoek, primarily to clarify directions, but I can testify that they make awesome chocolate chip muffins.

The ride into Fish Hoek was surprisingly short, and the only notable event was the naming of the side streets that whizzed by. I think the numbering started about 20, counting downwards as we approached Fish Hoek ... 20de Laan, 19de Laan etc. except when it came to 7 ... for some reason, it was 7th Avenue - and the sign was the same on both sides; so doesn't seem to be a case of Afrikaans and English names ... maybe a bit more practical road name changes?

We stopped for Pizza at Lakeside ... can't really say it was brilliant, but it was not bad. Afterwards, there was a very curious boy (about 6/7 years old) who was asking Hans-Peter few questions about his bike, like how the bike chain works and where he could acquire one for his bike. But it was the last question, that really brought a smile ... when he asked whether Hans-Peter and I were brothers or just friends. I think Hans Peter should have answered that we were brothers ... just to see what he would have asked next.

For the record, the trip was just over 60Km, and we covered it at an average of 17.1 Km/H ... still not good enough for the Argus, as it does not consider the rest periods, but not a bad time.

08 September 2006

Look busy

Came across this link while looking for flights for my US/Scotland trip in October/November ... brilliant I think ...

06 September 2006

SATNAC Reflections - 2006

So, SATNAC 2006 just finished, and once again, there was a whole lot of good food (actually food at Moyo, the opening function, can be considered heavenly) and some amazing entertainment, including Watershed at the closing function last night. And for a change, and quite surprisingly, the academic content, in my opinion has improved; with some very interesting presentations. However, most of the presentations were still not relevant to my line of research.

31 August 2006

Health Fad takes a twist

I was buy stuff at the supermarket yesterday, when I noticed that one company has introduced gourmet yoghurt of sorts called "Bliss". Now, I love yoghurt ... always have, so I was naturally a sucker to try it out. Basically, double cream yoghurt with chocolate and cherries - tasted great though; but certainly no longer in the health food camp.

30 August 2006

Movie: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

The Fast and the Furious series has always been very entertaining; not because of the brain dead plot; but because of the eye candy - great cars, awesome car chases and tons of hot babes. All things considered, the latest movie is probably the best of the lot; the plot is still simple, but atleast makes some sense; the car chases are really amazing, together with an awesome sound track - and the number of babes on the screen are probably higher than ever before. If nothing else, the movie is worth it for the car chases alone; it is by no means a cinema classic; but I don't think it was ever meant to be one.

23 August 2006

Movie: Thank you for smoking

It is possibly one of the best movies I have seen this year. It is a brilliant satire on the life of spin masters, in this case Tobacco - but at the same time a story on the essence of argument. And unlike the great Monty Python skit, the arguments are not about contradictions. The acting is superb, the story is brilliant; and if nothing else; the opening credits is worth it alone.

20 August 2006

a phlog ...

By popular demand ... a picture of my wheels ...

And while we are at it; went up to signal hill yesterday to take a picture of Robben Islandm for a photo competition ... anyway it was a beautiful sunset ...

17 August 2006

Greatest Movie Posters


Don't agree with all the choices; but yeah - on the whole, spot on.

Movie: Miami Vice

I have never watched a full episode of the TV series, so I did not really go into the movie expecting much. And to be honest; the movie was crap - in summary it was a movie about nothing. Because, nothing really ever happens in the movie. There are no twists; there is hardly any character development; and even the plot is utterly stupid; because there is neither a sad nor a happy ending ... you leave the movie feeling ... what was that all about?

The only redeeming quality of the entire movie is the shootout at the end; it is brilliantly shot and edited. That, and the soundtrack is pretty good. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.

14 August 2006

Movie: Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest

First and foremost; this is a very entertaining movie - with great action sequences (esp the long sword fights), awesome effects and a generally coherent storyline (simple, but effective). Also, unlike the first movie, this one seems to focus a lot more on William Turner (Orlando Bloom) than on Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp).

The big problem with this movie, is the fact that it is effectively a long trailer for the 3rd movie, and thus doesn't really have a proper ending as such. Also, some parts of the movie, notably the canibals, do not seem to have any major influences on the plot or on character development. Unless, they play a significant role in the 3rd movie; these segnment will just be a footnote on the whole series.

Overall, the movie was long; but entertaining. Unlike the first one, there was no amazing acting; and the story was unfinished. And, yes there is a scene at the end of the credits; but it is not worth waiting.

Movie: The Sentinel

It's a police/counter-terrorism/spy drama about nothing really. Except for a little side drama about the First Lady of the USA having an affair with her chief bodyguard in the secret service, the plot is rather bland (the said bodyguard is suspected to be involved in a plot to kill the president), a rip off of other similar dramas, but with big holes and stupid storyline. There are some swipes at the current administration, with the president having more success in the Middle East peace process and supporting the Kyoto Agreement; but Michael Douglas is too old to be an action hero; and this movie, while fun to watch, is not a movie that I would watch again, ever.

12 August 2006

The Power of Nightmares

I finally finished watching "The Power of Nightmares" (also see here), a 3 part documentary made by the BBC in 2004. Basically, the documentary, in a style very similar to Michael Moore documentaries (except not funny), explores the relationships between modern politics and terrorism. In particular, it alleges that in the West at least, politicians are now seen only as managers of public life, not grand visionaries who will usher in a new fantastical future. Terrorism has become so hyped up nowadays, not because it is a new phenomenon, but because politicians have realised that they can use it as a new tool to promote themselves - as the people that will protect the public from terror and fear.

It is a very interesting documentary, because it manages to chronicle two of the most influential groups in modern politics - the American neo-conservatives and the Islamists, over the period of the last 30 years or so. But possibly one of the boldest claims in the documentary, is that Al Qaeda as we know it is largely fictional, and its power largely overhyped. The documentary alleges that Al Qaeda, as a term, was invented by the FBI in a trial in early 2001, largely to enable the FBI to try Osama bin Laden in absentia, because that is the only way they could make the charges stick. After 11/09/2001, Osama bin Laden used the term, only after it was used in news reports. Furthermore, the attacks might have been financed by Osama bin Laden, but he was not actually responsible for planning and co-ordinating the attacks.

The documentary also alleges that Al Qaeda is not really a terror network, and is actually a small group of Islamists. Yes, Osama bin Laden is largely responsible for financing many terror operations, but a large network of terror cells planning attacks in largely fictional. The documentary cites the Taliban recruiting and training militias (largely foreign) to fight in the Afghanistan civil war - not Al Qaeda. Also, bombing Tora Bora mountains and subsequent ground searches have yet to reveal a single Al Qaeda operative. With regards to the huge number of terror cells allegedly uncovered in the US; the documentary alleges that not a single one of them has been actually convicted of being a terror cell; and the accused have walked largely free, although some were convicted of some minor crimes.

The documentary aired before the 7 July London bombings; but the question remains. Are these bombers really part of a large terror network, or are they just a bunch of people who have their own grievances and have found this their best way of expression. This is a particularly interesting with regards to the recent airline hijack terror alert, because if the documentary is correct, then the people arrested yesterday are going to go free; because they were actually doing something less sinister.

Terrorism, whatever the definition is not new. As the archbishop of Jerusalem commented on BBC Hardtalk in this past week, one man's heroic action is another man's terrorism action. It is quite amazing how many plots seem to resemble Hollywood movie plots; leading to the question on whether these plots are actually anywhere near the truth. Prevention is better than cure; but the idea of catching people, because they might do something in the future is rather frightening. As in Minority Report - how do you know the soothsayers are correct?

06 August 2006

High but not soaring

It has been a strange last two weeks ... one of my papers that I submitted to the DRM Workshop at the ACM Computer and Communications Security Conference was accepted. This was the same paper that was rejected at ISSA because of bad structure ... and to be honest, I thought this was my weakest paper of the three I did submit. The paper on last year's honours project (which I co-supervised) on a DRM controller on a Linux Kernel was rejected, although the reviews were quite positive. The paper I had very high hopes for, was also rejected, also with some very positive reviews, but the workshop chair wrote to me, and said that there was a lot of discussion on that paper ... so that was also quite positive. But I still feel down, because I thought it was one of my best piece of work to date.

Another low: I desperately wanted to stop over in Brazil on my way to the USA, so that I could go to the last round of the 2006 F1 Championships - which is already a firecracker. But some one has booked out all the flights, so even though the rest of the trip is quite affordable ... getting to Sao Paulo is proving to be a problem.

Another high: got a paper accepted at SATNAC, which admittedly, is not really held in high regards by many academics in South Africa. What is interesting however is that the paper was quite scathing on Vodacom ... one of the jewels in Telkom's crown - the main sponsor and organiser of SATNAC. I wonder how the presentation will go :p

Also another high, got my dad's old car ... so I finally got wheels. So, to all those who gave me lifts ... thank you! It was interesting driving down from Jozi on Thursday ... Free State is such a dull looking province (at least in winter). The drive through the Karoo and onwards was quite scenic though - the rains meant that there was a tinge of green and even blossoming fynbos. No pics unfortunately ... should have stopped more I suppose ...

25 July 2006

Current Favourite Songs

According to Amarok on my home machine, the following 27 (sorted according to artist) are my current favorite songs from my music collection (approximately 5700 titles). It's a fairly acurate representation even though I do play music through other media players and then there is my iPod etc.Looking at it, it's quite an interesting mix, and reflects quite well my varied taste in music (though there is no classical or jazz numbers on the list). I am surprised that there are no Offspring songs on that list though.

And, I know I will take a lot of flak for the song that appears 2nd on the list - but I can counter, that it is probably the only song that proves that she does have some vocal talent, and I do think it's good song. (I tried getting everything in a table, but that was a nightmare in formatting, and text is not any better ... so I am forced to show that I am a student, and do it reference style :p)

  1. Black Eyed Peas: Let's Get Retarded
  2. Britney Spears: Everytime
  3. Dido : Thank you
  4. DJ Cleo : Goodbye Feat. Dj What What
  5. Eminem : My Dads Gone Crazy
  6. Eminem : Stan - featuring Dido
  7. Enigma: Return to Innocence
  8. Evanescence: Going Under
  9. Evanescence: My Immortal
  10. Freshlyground: I'd Like
  11. Goo Goo Dolls: Iris
  12. Guns N' Roses: Knockin' on Heaven's Door
  13. Mafikizolo: Ndihamba Nawe
  14. Metallica: Whiskey In The Jar
  15. Metallica: The Unforgiven II
  16. Nancy Sinatra: Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
  17. Ray Charles: Hit The Road Jack
  18. Robert Miles: Children
  19. Scatman : Scatman's world
  20. Seether: Broken (Feat. Amy Lee)
  21. Seether: Remedy
  22. Spingbock Nude Girls: Blue eyes
  23. Springbok Nude Girls: Bubblegum On My Boots
  24. The White Stripes: Seven Nation Army
  25. U2 : Beautiful Day
  26. U2: Sunday Bloody Sunday
  27. Vanessa Mae: Contradanza

24 July 2006

Living on the edge

I was curious to see how long my battery would last ... carried on full strength (strong backlight, no CPU throttling) for at least 5 minutes after my battery indicator said it was dead ... wonder where the power came from ...

Scoring Goals

So, Kaiser Chiefs won the Vodacom Challenge against Manchester United over the weekend, on penalties. Admittedly, it was their second side made up of a number of young players but it was a good performance by the Chiefs. Other than Fernadez's keeping at the goals, one thing that stood out for me in the entire competition was the lack of goals by both of the South African sides - Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. In fact, between them, they only scored one goal (Kaiser Chiefs against Orlando Pirates). This is not a new problem for South African sides - remember the African Cup of Nations earlier this year - South Africa did not score a goal in three matches back then either.

This is actually in stark contrast to Banyana Banyana (the ladies side), whose game I caught on TV while avoiding other things I could have been doing. In a qualifier match (I think for the African Cup of Nations) against Tanzania, they won 3-0, with two breath taking goals, especially the last one in the 93rd minute from a corner curling into the top of the near post, which the defender could only head into the goal. So goals in South African football - probably only from Banyana Banyana.

20 July 2006

Microsoft Playing Fair?

From dedicated tech sites like CNet to mainstream media like The Seattle Times, the word is that Microsoft are adopting 12 principles towards more competitive practices with Vista. No doubt, the fines lobbied by the EU totaling to almost a billion Euros had something to do with it, but the question remains - how much of this is publicity, and how much of this is actually going to happen.

The question really is, can I buy Windows Vista, the operating system without crap like IE, Outlook Express, Solitaire (and the other Windows games), Media Player and all the other GB worth of bloatware? Windows Vista is reputed to have a massive installation base, but if this is true, a slim down version of windows at a slimed down price ... then Linux and other OO variants will have to really think fresh ... On the other hand, it could also usher in a new era of true interoperability. Somehow, I just don't see it happening.

Morning Radio Blues

I used to be a big fan of Mark Gillman. In fact, my alarm clock radio thingie is tuned to 5FM for this reason. But off course, Mark Gillman is gone from 5FM, and his replacement, Gareth Cliff is crap. So, I ask, are there any good breakfast shows on radio - specifically, something that won't put me back to sleep? I promise to try all suggested shows.

19 July 2006

Movie: Swing Vote

Abortion is probably the most contentious (and in my opinion interesting) legal battle ever, more than the death penalty. In the USA, abortion was legalised in a now famous ruling referred to as "Roe vs Wade". Since then, the anti abortion movement (pro life) has been fighting to overturn the decision, and in many cases, this has been one of the tickets that republican presidents (like Dubya) have run on, and will probably continue to run on.

The movie plotline is simple, Roe vs Wade was overturned, and a state made abortion equivalent to murder 1. A woman is charged with murder 1 after aborting, and the case has moved back to the Supreme Court. A new hot shot trial attorney has just been sworn in as a supreme court judge, and thus the decision needs to be re-affirmed or over turned.

There are no new arguments, although it is a very balanced presentation of the problem posed by abortion, with some personal touches. And in many ways, the final decision reads a lot like our own rules governing abortion, like mandatory counseling.

I read a book on the subject once, a few years back, and it defined the pro life stance as an argument based on the "sanctity of life". The question it raised was - why is life sacred, and more particularly, why is human life sacred, and are some human lives more sacred than others?

Movie: Superman Returns

It was not a conscious decision to watch two movies dealing with polyamorous love in the same afternoon - although the relationship in this case is a lot more of a love triangle. Superman (and his alter ego) loves Lois. Lois loves Superman (but not the alter ego). Lois loves Richard. Richard loves Lois. Yet another triad see ...

The movie, as expected is a CGI masterpiece, and like all superhero movies, riddled with plot holes, and sometimes stupid points. Right from the very beginning when Lex Luther, takes control over the Krypton crystals ... come on, an advanced civilisation without an access control policy?

But the movie was a lot of fun, although at about 2.5 hours, it's probably 30 minutes too long.

Movie: Separate Lies

Polyamory is a strange concept to most people, and the thought of having more than one love at the same time is probably weird, though I have never worked out why. And more importantly, why people should care that others are in a polyamorous relationship - maybe it's jealousy.

Polyamory is not the theme of the movie - the movie is primarily a murder mystery. But it is the unique triad that develops that is the real focus of the story - the married couple, and the wife's lover - all of them recognising each other's presence and role in their respective lives. The movie never really takes the ultimate step (from the view of the polygamy supporters), but it's probably the most acceptable position in the overall scheme of things.

As for the mystery itself - it's not really one. It is rather obvious, what makes the movie good is how the story is unfolded and the superbly brilliant acting. It's worth watching for that fact alone.

Movie: Natural Born Killers

Yes, it's an old movie. But it's one of the major Quentin Tarantino creation that I had not seen before this past weekend. A lot can be said about the theme and it's subsequent influence, including its possible influence in the Columbine Massacre. Yes, it's gory, and it is one of the few movies where the bad guys win, and in some perverted way you support the script writer's vision that the bad guys go free.

Murder for the thrill of it? First person shooters already practice it virtually. Embedded television as tanks and planes blow up real people into bits is already reality. So the thrill in killing - it seems real ... the question is how different is the movie to all this current reality?

17 July 2006

Weird Food

Fancy eating camel humps? How about pig testicles or sea slugs? See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/06/programmes_food_for_thought/html/1.stm for a visual delight :p

Signs, Walking and Public Transport

I was at the V&A to watch the F1 at Sports Cafe yesterday (I am a regular, they not only know my name - they reserve a table without even asking :P) and I noticed that V&A has set up walking routes in the V&A area. There are 4 different routes, well demarcated with explanations at interesting points, and the routes themselves have different themes. Thinking about it, Cape Town (the city itself) is quite a walking friendly city - there are a number of signs, most of which point the right way, and major areas like St George's Mall and Parliament Gardens have a lot of historical anecdotes etc - you can almost make a guided tour out of it! The V&A has gone even further with their noticeboards in a number of languages - English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu (I guess it's Zulu and Xhosa), and a number of international languages like German and Japanese. Now, if this was extended to the rest of Cape Town - it would really make it unique.

Anyway, on my way back, I saw the first white guy driving a (minibus) taxi in cape Town yesterday. I don't know - it just seemed very weird ... it just seemed so unusual. The main thing I really wanted to talk about was the standard of driving by taxi drivers - forever criticised and demonised. I have had lots of good experiences in taxis, and since I don't drive - I am not really in a position to comment. When I do cycle, they are often the most respectful - and I think they are often criticised wrongly.

Anyway, one of the problems raised is how they often stop in the middle of nowhere - but thinking about it, and after some experiences in Jammie Shuttles, I don't think it's entirely their fault. It's often lazy customers who want to be dropped off or picked up at certain points that force this habit - and often people get very angry if they don't get their way. But I suppose, if every taxi driver stuck to their guns and only picked and dropped off people at designated points, then the situation would improve.

15 July 2006

Kanye West

So Tim calls me on Wednesday night, and offers me a few (.. more than just a few) Golden Circle tickets to see Kanye West on Friday night. So after a SMS and email frenzy, I secured a number of tickets (although some people were left disappointed), and we were off to see the concert.

To be honest, I am not a great fan of hip hop - I like a few acts, but I am more of a rock fan than a hip hop fan. Admittedly, Kanye West is not the average hip hop star - more known as a producer than a singer, and even his show featured very little bling and had a very low stage presence.

Even before we got to the show, there was drama, but I think it's only fair for Sara to speak about it (if at all). The opening act was Lungelo, and although he was impressive, I cannot really say that he,, and his group, were impressive, I am not sure they were better than acts like Tumi and the Volume or Skwatta Kamp. It was a very energetic stage show though.

There was a long wait till the next act, which made many in the crowd quite impatient. As for the main show it self - I can say that there were a lot more screaming fans than at a rock concert, but Kanye West himself did not have a stage presence. What his show did have was some sort of a story, not a great one, but he did manage to string together his experiences as a producer with his own stuff in some type of logical order.

The really interesting feature of the show was the String Band composed of a harp, two cellos, a violin and 3 violas (i think ... maybe it was 4 violins). Sara claims that the cellists were a bit off tune - can't really say - I couldn't really notice the difference. The backing vocals were quite good (and some might say better than the main vocals) but what really stole the show was the DJ - he was brilliant.

Overall, I don't think I would have really paid to watch Kanye West - but I did enjoy the show. So thanks Tim for the tickets!

08 July 2006

Weekend starts on Thursday ...

So, I have just returned from the 6th Information Security South Africa conference (my 3rd) in Sandton. To be honest, this was a very disappointing conference - the quality of many of the papers in the conference, was poor, and as I blogged earlier, the reviewing was very poor, and I wasn't the only one complaining. Furthermore,half the conference was taken up by industry presentations, which had very little value - and some of the industry attendees I spoke to weren't impressed either. So like SATNAC last year, this was yet another South African conference that left a "well, that was a waste of time" feeling.

Anyway, Thursday night was the conference Gala dinner, an occasion usually featuring good food and entertainment - and although we were not expecting a big name band like Mean Mr Mustard at SATNAC, we were expecting something interesting. We were instead treated to, what can be best described as "Medical Pop Idols", a show featuring songs and dances organised by medical students, friends of the program chair's daughter. Unfortunately, most of the show was rather uninspiring, and Reinhard's Mobile TV proved itself once again (although there wasn't much to watch on TV either)!

Anyway, after coffee, we decided to get out and see what the surrounding area has to offer, in the light of one of the resident attendees proclaiming that, in Gauteng, the weekend starts on Thursday. But, since we did not have a map, we decided not to stray too far ... We discovered, very quickly, two things:

  • Jo'burg seems to have very few street lights

  • There are some really high speed bumps in Jo'burg

Furthermore, other than petrol stations, only News Cafe, Teasers and a Fontana Chicken Roastery, there was nothing else open. Phoning friends who stayed (or used to stay) in Jo'burg didn't help either - and so we decided, that while the weekend might start on Thursday, but no in Sandton/Rivonia/Morningside.

06 July 2006

Red Lights and Car Shopping

Over the weekend, I was visiting my family in Gabarone, before heading off to ISSA 2006 (where I am currently, bored out of my mind with the corporate crap). One of the interesting things about Botswana, is the price of second hand cars, which are on average 30 - 70% cheaper than South Africa. After all where, will you get a 1998 Lexus with relatively low mileage for about R50 000? The reason off course is simple - most of the cars are imported from the Far East, like Japan and Singapore, who have a high replacement rate and have very high taxes for second hand cars. And even with a huge number of importers, the variance on car prices is quite low, although the selection is quite limited.

Unfortunately, I will not be getting any of those cars, but I should have wheels soon ... finally. And on the note of driving - I noticed a rather strange phenomenon with regards to traffic lights in Gabarone. The change to the red light, it seems, stands for stop in the next 5 seconds, and not immediately - and cars just stream past the red light. And it seems that most drivers in Gabarone know this, as drivers hardly set off at the change to the green light!

30 June 2006

Biased News?

In the last week, much has been said about SABC's supposed biased news coverage. I am not defending the SABC, but honestly, when has news coverage ever been unbiased? Even in the day of the Internet, the persons who have the biggest influence in how people learn of events around the world are the news editors. They have the power to decide which story is "newsworthy" and how much exposure the story should get. Coupled with the reporter's own views on the subject, limited time and space, news is hardly unbiased.

The best example of how varied the same story can be, is to read/listen/view the same subject delivered by different news organisations, and even then it's difficult to draw the correct picture. So the SABC is not alone, but maybe they have just taken it a bit too far ...

26 June 2006

Cycling to Cape Point

Sometime last week, Hans-Peter, Reinhardt and I thought it would be a good idea to cycle all the way to Cape Point and back, so we decided on Sunday, with great weather prospects for the weekend. On Saturday night, Reinhardt chickened out, citing strong winds and a 50Km ride each way. HP and I decided to go anyway - and Reinhardt was (slightly) wrong on both counts.

The first half of the ride was quite good, at a very decent speed, without really needing to stop - though we did stop at St James and Glaincairn. Since HP had not come this way before, we even decided to stop at Boulders for a while. The ride upto the nature reserve was not too hard either, although we did stop a lot more. There was a slight breeze, but it was quite pleasant actually.

It all changed once we got inside the nature reserve - the wind speed really picked up, and made cycling uphill really really difficult. In fact, towards the very end, we ended up just walking up the last bit to the parking lot on top of Cape Point. We had lunch up at the restaurant, which was a bit over priced, but food wasn't too bad. After quite a long stop over (about 90 minutes), we cycled down to Cape of Good Hope, which was really living up to it's other name of Cape of Storms now.

Cycling back towards the entrance was interesting. Parts of the way, we did get some help with the wind on our backs, while other places, the crosswinds together with steepish hills and tired legs made it a lot tougher. There was an accident towards the entrance of the reserve (I think the driver of one of the vehicles was injured), and we were basically the only ones to get through (which drew lots of comments from the drivers who were blocked). Ironically, the wind died down once we were out of the reserve, and it was quite calm for our trip back.

We ended up only cycling to Simonstown and then catching a train. Firstly, it was already 17h30, and getting dark. Secondly we were too tired, and cycling another 30Km would have been quite difficult. So overall, we did about 90Km (hence a lot more than Reinhardt's prediction), in just under 6 hours of cycling. But the whole trip, with all the stops was about 9 hours - a whole day. It's by far the longest distance and time I have cycled in one go. It was a great day actually ... but I think we would have been able to cycle back if we didn't have to contend with the winds inside the reserve.