(no subject)

The price of a thing is largely wages. (What proportion is wages? I guess it depends on the thing. But, say, a computer or car is mostly wages; a restaurant meal has a larger real estate component.) Anyway, if you buy a Prius, but Toyota's workers spend their money on virgin forest furniture and dirty electrical power, have you really achieved anything at all? Does the environmental behaviour of a company's employees matter?

How does Meraki work?

Meraki is evidently some sort of combined wireless router and ad-supported public wifi provider. The website doesn't explain how it works very well, though. From what I can gather, it seems that in the standard/normal one-device residential deployment, you plug a Meraki device into your cable modem, and it provides wireless access to the internet. The difference between this a regular wireless router is that it offers two sorts of connections: (a) a WPA password protected connection that works pretty much exactly the same as a wireless router; and (b) a public (throttled) connection, open to anyone, that delivers ads. (You can disable (b).)

Another significant difference is that instead of configuring it via connecting to a webserver built into the device itself, you use an admin area on So, by design, it "phones home". I can't figure out how often it connects, or what information it sends and receives. (It must be getting the ads from

It looks like the ads are served by rewriting HTML--is this correct? And if so, are all other ports untouched? Do https pages work?

The Meraki also supports some wifi mesh system, whereby you can essentially connect a whole bunch of Meraki devices to power and the internet (at least one needs an internet connection), and it will create one big wifi network and figure out how to route traffic from one device to another and finally out onto the internet. But I'm not so interested in this bit.

uPNP isn't supported and port forwarding is difficult (maybe impossible on the smallest Meraki).

The Meraki business model seems to be somewhat similar to that of fon--how do they compare?

(no subject)

Róisín Murphy, "Dear Miami"--ooh that's a good track.

Leopard is nice.

I moved the Dock over to the right side straight away, and it looks okay there now.

I might be able to replace Quicksilver with the (much faster) Spotlight--still experimenting.

Virtual Desktops was something that I really missed after switching from Linux to a Mac. (Especially since my Mac had a 12" screen.) I'm not completely comfortable with Spaces yet. It would be nice if you could switch from one space to another by scrolling with the mouse. (Though that breaks the otherwise infinitely high menu bar, I guess.) Some windows and dialog boxes seem to pop up on the wrong screen though (they way they do all the time on a dual-screen Windows machine).

Time Machine seems incredibly wasteful but I'm going to use it anyway, and try not to fret that a movie I just downloaded has ended up on my backed-up-for-all-time external drive. I guess I should exclude the "Downloads" directory from Time Machine? If a directory is added to the exclude list, does it retrospectively get removed from Time Machine backups? What directories and extensions are excluded by default?

(no subject)

What you get when your gallery is all about pretentious tat: my Chinese-speaking co-worker, in describing what he did yesterday, managed to pronounce the "Tate in "Tate Gallery" Ta-Tay.

(no subject)

I heard a strange and beautiful story tonight. One of the founders of Vice magazine built—for his girlfriend, and with his own hands—a bed. They slept together in this bed. Some time afterwards, a friend of the person telling this story seduced the girlfriend—this was a female friend—and convinced the girlfriend to cheat on the founder of Vice, in the bed he built. An emasculating circumstance.

Radiohead’s new album is surprisingly good. I especially like “Reckoner.”

Fierce Little Midgets

Time was so short, the Executive Committee [of Chicago's World's Fair
of 1893] began planning exhibits and appointing world's fair
commissioners to secure them. In February the committee voted to
dispatch a young army officer, Lieutenant Mason A. Schufeldt, to
Zanzibar to begin a journey to locate a tribe of Pygmies only recently
revealed to exist by explorer Henry Stanley, and to bring to the fair
"a family of twelve of fourteen of the fierce little midgets."

The committee gave Lieutenant Schufeldt two and a half years to
complete his mission.

Erik Larson, "The Devil in the White City", p. 121.

I am making progress, slowly.


On not knowing how to spell "internet"

So, I have this friend that has been doing her PhD thesis for a very (very) long time. Every time I see her I try and get her to finish it because: (1) she needs the kick in the ass; and (2) her computer is very old and I'm worried it's going to die before she finishes. Yesterday I discovered her computer is so old that it does not know how to spell internet! It's Windows 95 + WordPerfect 6--the internet was around then but I guess it hadn't made it through to WordPerfect's spell-checker? I need to redouble my persuasive efforts.

(no subject)

I saw some superficial anti-globalisation ad recently which whined that globalisation was bad because it'll mean that we all end up liking (a.k.a. "buying) the same movies, soft drinks, burgers, etc. which got me thinking ... is there any sci-fi vision of our space-travelling future where the people of Earth are not united and/or ruled by the same government? A necessary precondition for space travel seems to be the elimination of all conflict, and the establishment of a monoculture on Earth.

Risk management in Afghanistan

How to you figure out whether opening a copper mine in Afghanistan is going to be profitable? The Aynak copper deposit is 30km south of Kabul, and is estimated to contain 240m tonnes of copper, putting its value at $30 billion. However: (a) developing the mine would cost around $1bn and take at least 6 years (probably 10); (b) the security (and political) situation in Afghanistan is uncertain; (c) as well as developing the mine, you'd also need to run a power station--Kabul itself is supplied by a single 19-megawatt generator, and the mine would need 50; and (d) copper is now $7,000 per tonne, but five years ago it was $1,300.

(From an article in the Economist, "Copper bottomed?", 2006-11-25. The piece also says that a whole lot of Afghan mines use basically medieval technology: men work with pickaxes, and many are supported by pine beams which must be replaced every three days.)

Hawking on scientific method, and string theory

Stephen Hawking on scientific method, and (obliquely) string theory: "One can not ask whether a theory reflects reality, just whether it agrees with observations. A good theory is one that explains a wide range of observations on the basis of an elegant model, and makes definite predictions for new measurements. ... Some very elegant theories predict extra dimensions to space time, above the usual three space and one time dimensions. If the extra dimensions were curled up very small we wouldn't see them. We can't rule out theories with extra dimensions, but so far we have no observations that require them."

(I hadn't realised string theory was completely unsupported by evidence. From a BBC Radio 4 interview.)