Links December 2009

Dan Gilbert gave an insightful TED talk about our mistaken expectations of happiness [1].

Don Marti has an insightful post about net neutrality and public property [2]. When net access requires access to public property then it should be sold in a neutral manner.

Rachel Pike gave an interesting TED talk about the scientific research behind a climate headline [3]. The people who claim to be “skeptical” of the science should watch this.

Mark Peters wrote an interesting article “A Happy Writer Is a Lousy Writer” about the correlation between emotional state and work quality [4]. Apparently watching a film about cancer will make people more careful and focussed on details.

CERIAS has an interesting short article about Firefox security as well as some philosophy on why web browser security generally sucks [5].

Cory Doctorow writes in the Guardian about Peter Mandelson’s new stupidity in trying to legislate against file sharing [6]. This is going to seriously damage the economy of every country that implements it.

Charles Stross has been blogging a series of non-fiction essays about space colonisation, in “The Myth of the Starship” he describes how most ideas of space travel are bad and how the word “ship” is always going to be unsuitable [7].

Brent T. White is an associate professor of law at the University of Arizona who has written an interesting paper about mortgages [8]. He says that anyone who is “underwater” (IE owing more than the value of their house) should walk away. The credit damage from abandoning a bad mortgage apparently isn’t that bad, and there is the possibility of negotiating with the bank to reduce the value of the loan to match the value of the house.

Mako is working on a project to allow prisoners to blog [9]. It’s basically a snail-mail to web gateway as the prisonsers are not allowed Internet access. has an article about the special status that homeopathy is given [10]. It also notes that homeopathic “medicines” include arsenic and mercury. Such quackery should be outlawed, a life sentence for homeopathy would be appropriate IMHO.

Cory Doctorow wrote an interesting essay about why he is not selling one of his books in audio form (he’s giving it away) [11]. He concludes by noting that he wants “no license agreement except ‘don’t violate copyright law’“. The fact that he can’t get anyone to sell an audio book under such terms is a good demonstration of how broken the marketplace is.

Thulasiraj Ravilla gave an inspiring TED talk about the Aravind Eye Care System – a program to bring the efficiency of McDonalds to eye surgery [12]. Hopefully that program can spawn similar programs for other branches of medicine and spread to more countries. In many ways they are providing better service (both in quality and speed) than people in first-world countries who pay a lot of money can expect to receive.

Scott Kim gave an interesting TED talk about his work designing puzzles [13]. He is also a big fan of social networking, unfortunately (for people like me who don’t like social networking) his web site relies on Facebook.

Gordon Brown (UK Prime Minister) gave an inspiring TED talk about global ethic vs the national interest [14], with a particular focus on the global effort required to tackle the climate change problem. Now if only we could get Kevin Rudd to listen to that.

Brough has written an interesting analysis of the AT&T network problems that are blamed on the iPhone [15]. His essential claim is that the problem is due to overly large buffers which don’t cause TCP implementations to throttle the throughput. This seems similar to my observations of the “Three” network in Australia where ping times of 8 seconds or more will periodically occur. One particularly nasty corner case with this is when using a local DNS server I can have a DNS packet storm where basic requests time out while BIND uses a significant portion of available bandwidth (including ICMP messages from receiving ports that BIND has closed). To alleviate this I am now using the Google public DNS service [16] (the Three DNS servers never worked properly).