Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

I don't know, Dave. Apple may be marketing it strangely, but the ability to play MMORPG's on my Mac kicks ass. Try it, it's a neat piece of software.

Phyllis Chesler: "The reason that I have announced the death of feminism, which I agree is stark, is that from my point of view, looking at mainstream feminism in the west - in the universities, in the media, among academics and the socalled intelligentsia - there is a moral failure, a moral bankruptcy, a refusal to take on, in particular, Muslim gender apartheid. So you have many contemporary feminists who say, 'We have to be multiculturally relativist. We cannot uphold a single, or absolute, standard of human rights. And, therefore, we can't condemn Islamic culture, because their countries have been previously colonised. By us.' I disagree... instead of telling the truth about Islam and demanding that the Muslim world observes certain standards, you have westerners beating their breasts and saying, 'We can't judge you, we can't expose you, we can't challenge you.'" Right on!

Austin Cline has a review of a book called "The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945" by Richard Steigmann-Gall. It is an account of some rather vile theological responses to Nazism. It's rather sad, since the theologian who is always brought up is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the protestant theologian who went to his death protesting the Nazi regime. It's always the evil atheists who kill people - but this book looks like it may provide all sorts of interesting material of Christian involvement in the Nazi regime. The difference, of course, being that if you a book of revelation, and you've got a wide enough interpretation, justification for vile beliefs becomes easy. If you've got a true moral conscience guided by reason, and the ability to inquire freely, this sort of thing becomes far harder to excuse.

Gordon Brown to release book. I have a feeling that "Speeches 1997-2006" will be both critically acclaimed and hiding the faces of hundreds of people on the Tube every day. Oh, and I can levitate. Seriously, isn't the act of giving speeches dead? Speeches is what Martin Luther King and people in movies do. Honestly, I can't remember one thing that Gordon Brown has said. All I know is that he's a rather boring, authoritarian Scot who carries a red box, with about as much charisma or good ideas as the rest of the Labour cabinet.

GPRS Filter: I worked out how much data I need to transfer in order to make my connection worthwhile. I have to transfer at least 256K to make the £1 a day worthwhile. That should take just under a minute and a half at full speed. Doesn't that tell you everything you need to know about mobile rates - that to use up £1 normally on Orange, it only takes 85 seconds. Considering how much blogging you get from me normally on the GPRS (which I'm on currently), both you and I are getting a very good deal from the £1 a day. The other thing I do is pre-load my reading experience - load up ten or fifteen articles to read and review while I'm on a fast connection.

Bootcamp lets you run Windows on a Mac. It works, goddamnit, it works! I have a drive on my Desktop called 'Untitled' which is NTFS formatted... I don't want to reboot though. Windows is a scary place, y'know...

I use a Mac

But I'm not an elitist. I don't even drink coffee.

I use a Mac because it works most of the time.

I use a Mac because the software is better.

I use a Mac because I like the operating system.

I use a Mac because I can use it for three weeks without the operating system dying.

I use a Mac because the alternatives suck far more.

I use a Mac because games aren't the most important thing in life - ideas are. Games are important if you haven't got ideas.

I use a Mac because Mac users get what they pay for.

ISP woes

Is there any DSL provider in the United Kingdom who are not a total bunch of shite?

I just want an Internet connection that works.

I've been using Freedom 2 Surf which has been getting progressively worse each month. They advertise an Uncapped service, which isn't always true. It's capped alright. When you hit 100Gb, boom, you're out.

This is what happened with my previous ISP, Plus.Net, which sucks an equal amount of monkey balls. They advertised a service which they didn't offer. I lasted four days with these arseholes, then left.

They had a practice of 'shaping' bandwidth, which is another way of saying limiting your bandwidth and not telling you. They'd 'shape' your bandwidth in such a way that you could download a BitTorrent at 150K a second (cool), but your web browsing would time out (even when BitTorrent wasn't running).

This had the strange advantage which was that if you wanted to cancel their service, you had to go on to their website and fill out a form. Due to their crappy service, it was actually impossible to submit that form because it would time out. You couldn't cancel the service in any way except by using their website. Shit, huh?

After that, I moved back to F2S, who I trusted. All back to normal. Until they started shaping traffic. Not violently and incompetently like Plus.Net, but they started doing so.

Then they started fucking around and kicking people off the service who actually tried to use the uncapped service which they'd paid for.

Now they've introduced this new suite of products, which are all really shitty deals (who wants to pay £14 a month, and then pay £1 for every gig you transfer?).

All these ISPs are booting people off who actually use their service. If people didn't want to use their service, they wouldn't buy it. They do a deal which basically says, once you cut through the legalese: I pay you money, and in return, you buy pipes and you connect me up to those pipes.

I don't want advertising, I don't want deals. I want to pay my money, and I want to use the pipes. If you can't handle the pressure, buddy, buy some more fucking pipes or get out.

ISPs need to stop jerking their customers around, and learn to live with the fact that they are utility companies. They aren't anything special. They are just a label wrapped around the same soap or dog food as everybody else is churning out. Only your brand is pissing customers off.

Okay, they may be the fringe, geeky customers. But they still pay money.

When I was using dialup, before Freeserve came on the scene, I used the same dialup provider for years. They had good customer service, helpful staff, were reasonably priced, had well-managed servers for both email and Usenet and had a bunch of BSD nerds working there. They didn't piss anybody off, they didn't have these stupid fits where they banned their customers. They also weren't god-damn AOL, so I could retain some pride.

Is there a DSL provider who (a) provides a reasonably-priced, unshaped, uncapped, un-fucked with connection who (b) treats their customers like customers rather than shit? 'Cos if there is, they sure are keeping themselves well hidden.

I've just seen Angus Deayton slag off the credit card companies on Sky One. Funny that, he slags off credit card companies now, and Barclaycard specifically. But just a few years back he was doing TV ads for Barclaycard. Hypocrisy, thy name is Angus. Would it be reductionist to say the charlie has affected his memory?

I just saw an advert about a television programme where they get celebrities to smash up cars. The same civilisation that has given us Shakespeare and David Hume now gives us celebrities crash testing cars on television. Love it. Hate it. It's always there, gosh darn it.

OS X on X86 has done 41,039 RC5-72 blocks. We've got a few to go until we can reach Win32 on X86, what with its 2,417,680,533 blocks submitted. We've got two processors though...

Force and voluntarism

They just don't get it in Whitehall, I was reminded today. You'd think that when the policy monkeys are thinkin' and dinkying, they'd look in the dictionary from time to time. Just to clarify, here is what the Oxford American Dictionary has as the definition of to volunteer:

freely ofer to do something

freely ofer to do something

Simple enough. And this is what they have for to force:

make (someone) do something against their will

make (someone) do something against their will

Only in Whitehall can you force someone to volunteer without being told the obvious fallacy in your thinking. Well, I'm no Socrates, but here I am in political gadfly mode. Here's an (open) email I've just sent to my MP regarding his party's plans to do so...

Back at the beginning of January, David Cameron proposed a plan which would, in the words of the BBC News report, make it so that "School-leavers could be forced to do community work under a Conservative government". Mr Cameron then described this "new enterprise as something for every young person in our country. An essential part of growing up to be a British citizen, not just an add-on extra for a select few".

The then LibDem party leader, Charles Kennedy, responded by saying that "David Cameron wants to portray himself as a liberal but needs to be careful to attribute his 'ideas' to those who are genuinely doing the fresh thinking".

Mr Kennedy's criticism seems too harsh. We all know that it is a time of change in Tory - sorry, Conservative - leadership and ideas. We have had such a scheme in Britain. It was started under the Liberal (George) government back in 1916 using the Military Service Act, and then reintroduced in 1939 by the Conservative (Chamberlain) government in preparation for World War II. After the war, National Service was introduced by Mr Attlee's Labour government in 1949, a scheme which was kept running until the end of 1960, with the last soldier being dismissed in 1963. It is as much a Liberal idea as a Conservative idea, as much a Conservative idea as an Old Labour idea. You've all played with it, and, failing any new ideas, you all want to play with it again.

It does not seem to be that there is any significant difference between the "community work" scheme that Mr Cameron has proposed and the National Service scheme which was in operation from 1949 to 1960. Both require school leavers to serve a term of service doing mundane tasks for the government rather than enjoying the freedom to choose which field of life they wish to enter. Both interfere with the fundamental liberty of the individual, going against their will in service of a "higher good". It does not matter whether the end result is the end of the Nazi regime, a well-ordered society or old people getting cups of cocoa (each of which is arguably a very good end indeed).

If one accepts the doctrine that individuals, having reached the age of majority, should be free to do what they will without interference from the State, then there is no moral difference between slavery, national service and Mr Cameron's (or Mr Kennedy's) proposed scheme of compulsory community work.

This scheme seems to be riding on the coat-tails of the historical accident which makes it so that sixteen year olds can choose to have sex, join the military and pay taxes, yet cannot choose which political party or candidate represents them in Westminster. If democracy is supposed to allow individuals to collectively decide their fate, then the proposed scheme is even worse, since it enslaves without representation.

If the government wishes to support the development of charity, virtue and humanitas in school-leavers, the limit should be with encouragement and perhaps offering some benefit. I do think there is 'phronesis' in helping others, but the sort of work which is envisioned doesn't help the human person develop.

For instance, I know many people who do intellectually challenging charity work. But this involved them spending their own time and intellect developing the skills to do this work. I've spoken to people who are helping develop technology that is being shipped off to help small tribes and communities in Brazil record the culture around them and help build the archive of human knowledge. The skills for that weren't there at sixteen - they needed to spend time learning, working under their own industry and following their own dreams.

Chucking everyone in to charity placement at the age of sixteen to go and make coffee and dig ditches could actually put people off doing charity work which is relevant to them - that aligns with their interests, curiosity and career plans. Charity cannot be forced, helping others can not be made compulsory. It stops being charity when you threaten people in to doing it.

I know that if the government told me, at age sixteen, that I had to go and spend a period of time doing forced charity work, I would have told them to stick it where the sun doesn't shine and bunked off.

On the flip side, the government try and force people to learn (and look how well that works!), so forcing people to volunteer is a logical extension of it...

My questions are:

Is Mr Cameron, and the Conservative Party, intent on carrying on the policy of compulsory enslavement for school-leavers?

If that is the policy, then how can forcing school-leavers to work for the government without pay be seen to be "compassionate"?

Is there any meaningful distinction beyond utility between, say, choosing to enslave school-leavers and choosing to enslave, say, women only or blacks only? If you can discriminate by age, why not by gender or race? Is it because the policy maker simply feels that age is somehow different from these characteristics (that one "chooses their age", perhaps?) or is it just because it is politically expedient to lock young people in to slavery?

Does Mr Cameron realise that the "it's good for them" argument which will no doubt be raised to justify this authoritarian measure is the same argument used by Southern slaveowners to justify the servitude of blacks?

If Mr Cameron's policy is to be realised, will there be support for non-traditional charities and causes, such as the development of free and open source software? I know people who have just finished school who wouldn't dig a ditch or fly a plane to Africa, but would get involved with the development of technology, which benefits everybody from the industries and governments of developing countries to individuals and companies in the West.

If Mr Cameron's policy is to be realised, will teenagers be given a choice of what organisations and causes they are to be involuntarily volunteering for? For instance, will atheists be forced to 'volunteer' for evangelical charities? Will pro-choice teenagers be forced to work for pro-life organisations? What matching procedure will be in place to ensure that a person's skills and interests are met by their 'voluntary' service?

What are the methods by which Mr Cameron resolve the tension between liberty and authority ("a tension that persists to the present day and that we, in the Conservative Party, feel keenly" - L. Fox, 2004)?

Can the many libertarians of the next-generation who are disenchanted with a political system which seems intent on continuing the failing policy of treating it's citizens as pieces of meat to be "watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so" (Proudhon) trust the new Conservative party to value liberty over the sort of unthinking paternalism which prevails in Whitehall?

If liberty is to be a value of Conservatism, then surely said value is diminished when one's party leader is advocating slavery for school leavers? I can only imagine politicians coming up with the idea: "Volunteering is such a good idea, we want to force everyone to do it!"

Yours, Tom Morris

Dennett has a superb response to Madeline Bunting and Michael Ruse, the former is a journo who supports whichever crazy train is riding through town; the latter a smart philosopher who's spent too much time with Bill Dembski to come out with his credibility intact. Butterflies on Wheels said: "Reporters should avoid being complicit in publicity stunts by the likes of Dembski."