The Proprietary Ties that Bind: Part I — Instagram, not the last straw

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was an article about people getting angry over changes to Instagram’s privacy policies under Facebook rule. Rebecca Lieb of the Altimeter Group was quoted as saying

There are always Facebook users who say ‘This is the last straw,’ [but] there’s not a lot of portability. Where would you go?”

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Who votes for these people? — Part I

Sometimes, I wonder why certain people or parties are elected. No, I’m not talking about the election in Alberta.  I’m talking about subways, subways, subways! It was brought to my attention over dinner last night that our mayor is enjoying (or at least has) a 47% approval rating from Torontonians. The question was raised about who supports this guy (no weight jokes, please).

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Status update: You read it here first

This time, at least it’s an opt-in process. Unlike with Beacon, automatic face-tagging, location tracking, profiles being exposed to search engines, giving Facebook’s partners access to personal details, and so forth, this time, Facebook gives users a chance to say “Sure, you can track/reveal these details about me” rather than assuming you want to share unless you say otherwise. Or, rather, at least Facebook’s business partners are giving you that choice, even if the thing you’re giving consent to is obscured. Continue reading “Status update: You read it here first”

Unreadable file formats and bit rot: Novel problems in the digital age… or not?

If you’ve been using computers for long enough, you’ve probably faced unreadable file formats or changes in distribution media: How do I open this old WordPerfect document? How am I going to read those files stored on a ZIP disk? Photographic prints and print editions of books have much less demanding requirements for seeing their contents. You found a box of slides from the 1960s? No problem; just hold them up to a light. In fact, if you have a good slide scanner or projector, despite their age, the pictures might still be of higher quality than images produced by your compact digital camera! The problems of unreadable file formats and changes in physical media are unique to the digital age. Or so some might have you believe (especially those pushing cloud services).
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In defence of climate change deniers

I’ve heard some people say they don’t understand how people can hold the view that climate change is not anthropogenic yet claim that climate change can be countered cheaply using geo-engineering, e.g., by injecting sulfur1 into the atmosphere. The reason for their concern is that they think it’s logically inconsistent since the effects of geo-engineering techniques and anthropogenic climate change are predicted by the same computer models. However, (anthropogenic) climate change deniers are being perfectly reasonable as far as thinking about temperature goes. Let me explain.

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  1. Why, IUPAC, why? []

Deputation Day and Night

I ended up going to City Hall yesterday, but decided not to make a fuss. There were 344 people signed up to do just that. Instead, I went to listen and (by being a body in a seat) show that people of Toronto do care about what happens to it. The main action began at 9:30 yesterday in Council Chamber 1 (CC1) but, owing to being at the Hot Yam! and running into/chatting with several people I hadn’t seen in ages on my walk over to City Hall (there was an accident, preventing streetcars from going along Spadina), I started observing municipal politics at about 4:20pm via projector in Council Chamber 2 (CC2), the overflow room. I kept some notes and posted them, mostly unedited, after the jump. Please bear with the lack of sleep.

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Stop filibustering yourself!

This Thursday, I’ll be heading down to City Hall to make myself heard over proposed cuts to city services. If you care about this city and have some time, you might want to come, too; the mayor has invited us! The way I see it, if no one shows up, the mayor has carte blanche over cuts because he can claim whatever he wants. But if even a handful of citizens show up, not only will city council hear us, but all of Toronto. Why? Well, let’s do the math (because someone has to): If just a hundred people show up1, that’s a whole working day’s worth of citizens addressing Toronto City Council. If this drags on for a few days, you can be the media will pick up on this and if our voices fall on deaf ears, well, an election can’t come soon enough.

I’ll be trying to prepare a detailed speech, to be broken down into five minute segments; I’ve already got a structure in mind. If you would like to help contribute a section or more to this speech or would like to read one of these five minute segments (maybe because you lack the time to write one in advance), drop me a line!

  1. that’s less than the number of people that come to the Hot Yam! in a week and a small fraction of the cyclists that showed up to city hall recently []

No smoking in cars or no consistency

I recently noticed a car with a non-smoking sign inside.  It had a trillium on the side, so it was likely owned by the provincial government.  My next thought was why we permit smoking in cars.  I’m not here to debate whether any government should get to have a say about this, but allowing smoking seems to be politically and logically inconsistent with a certain one of Ontario’s currently-enacted laws.

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Municipal election tomorrow

Toronto’s new mayor, set of councillors, and school board trustees will determined tomorrow (or it may already have been determined if enough people voted in advance).  Though I’ll be voting, I try to stay out of politics as much as possible.  However, avoiding politics completely is almost impossible as practically everything is political including how many courses are required to complete an undergraduate degree to whether taxes are levied on bread.  No, whenever there are groups of people, politics are unavoidable, be they household politics or diplomatic channels between nations.

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