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).

27 July 2007

Nannying the Internet

This post is primarily motivated by this article. Basically, in an attempt to fight botnets, a US ISP is diverting traffic intended for suspected botnet addresses to "safe" addresses. So far, a noble goal? Except off course, if the suspected botnet address is actually a legitimate address - i.e. a false positive. This is when things get complicated, because customers get angry and companies loose business.

There is a ton of products out there that can be used by ISPs to control network traffic and block access to certain sites. Most of them work at the DNS level (which largely makes sense) by blocking out DNS entries; although others go the extra mile and block out reverse lookups also. Primarily the products cite controlling/blocking porn and phising as the primary motivation, but at an ISP level?

Should any network provider have any control over what the customer wants? Even if it is illegal? Even if it is against the customer's best interest? It is a tough legal question; but it all really revolves around who controls these lists? And can these lists be reviewed by the public?

In the battle for safety, giving the control over safe areas of the network to an ISP, while easier for the general public, is one step closer to Big Brother in many ways. What is the difference between this and the big China firewall? In both cases, if you can't see it - it doesn't exist! "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither" ... it is equally applicable to virtual world as it is to the real world.


There has been a spy scandal of epic proportions brewing in the Formula 1 paddock. The story so far, in point form:
  1. Ferrari announce that they are investigating Nigel Stepney (part of the dream quartet) for sabotage. Eyebrows are raised, internal politics is the general consensus.
  2. A copy shop in the UK alerts Ferrari that their IP is being copied in their shop.
  3. The person doing the copying was the wife of Mike Coughlan, chief designer of rivals, and current points leader, McLaren.
  4. Coughlan home is searched by the police, and a 780 page dossier of Ferrari data, plans etc. of the current Ferrari F1 car, tests, practices etc. is found
  5. Stepney and Coughlan are both good friends, going back years.
  6. Stepney and Coughlan both approached Nick Fry of Honda for a potential job as they were both tired of their current environment.
  7. McLaren gets hauled off in front of the FIA World Motor Sport Council charged with the breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code, which basically states that they were in possession of rival team's data without consent (i.e. espionage).
  8. The FIA finds McLaren guilty of possession but they hand out no punishment, because there is insufficient proof that McLaren used the data they had access to! The FIA does provide for future punishments though. Full FIA statement.
And this is where it all becomes farcical! What's the point of finding them guilty of one charge (a very serious charge at that, whose maximum sentence is the ultimate: expulsion) but not hand out any punishment? One thinking behind why no punishment was given is that there is a close championship battle, so docking points or exclusion would harm the show. Fine, what about monetary fines? The FIA fined the Turkish GP organisers 5 million US Dollars for hosting a controversial podium celebration!

This is off course not the end of the story. The full spy saga has a long way to go, and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, including Coughlan got the data in the first place. As for the Honda link, no idea if they are involved. But the FIA's current decision is neither here nor there ... and just plain stupid.

23 July 2007

Kunsthaus Tacheles

From the outside, it does not look like much. In fact, it looks like a dilapidated building, which should have been demolished long ago. In reality, it is one of the best art and culture centers I have ever been to. It is a haven for art of all types, and the building itself has a very colourful history (according to Wikipedia anyway).

Huge, brilliant detail, ad?

Even bigger, but more true to the artform

Berlin has a lot of graffiti - but this is one of the best places to see the real grand work - murals and art works that are 6 storeys high - with both the the really beautiful and precise and the freeform. I have been here a number of times since I have been in Berlin, and I think I will keep up coming back.

By the main entrance

Up the stairs to the top

Tacheles features a number of bars, two movie theatres with really plush sofas (should try it out sometime) and off course, a number of artist studios and exhibitions.

Potter Mania

I was introduced to the series by my younger brother, and I have become a fan. Normally, I buy the books online, but I decided to experience the whole, midnight release experience at one of the largest bookstores in Berlin, Dussmann das KulturKauufhaus.

The whole queuing thing is quite interesting - esp when you consider the massive queues for recent gadget launches like the iPhone last month and the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3 last year. The staff were all dressed up as witches and wizards (and a few more specific characters (none of the main characters though!) and the media was there to off course. It was actually quite an interesting experience. There was probably not much difference between those launches and Harry Potter; except the queues were comparatively lot shorter, and the gratification a lot faster - after all you can start reading the book almost immediately. I had already finished 50 pages on my way home!

Spolier Alert

Real Spolier Alert

As for the book, I must confess that I did not like the ending. Overall, the book is quite dark, and a lot more grown up. The twist involving two of the most important characters was good, but the ending was too simple, and at some level too expected. It is too much of a Hollywood ending; but then again, it is a children's story; and good does triumph over evil and all that.

Great Ad

Have seen this a few times on German TV ... brilliant ad for Mercedes Benz featuring Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mika Hakkinen. Click on title, for the direct YouTube link. And, turn up the volume, the sound track is also brilliant!