Sunday, October 30, 2005

I use Lisp

Well some people have been slagging off my use of Lisp so here's something special for them!

All logos are from the Public Domain Lisp Logo Set By Conrad Barski, M.D. who says "Why an Alien Lisp Mascot? To most programmers, Lisp seems like an entirely alien language at first. One thing that I think the Lisp community has failed to do is convince other programmers that this strangeness is not an arbitrary obstacle, but a necessary adjustment that imparts great power to programmers that would otherwise be unattainable. The alien Lisp mascot and quirky logo designs are designed to accentuate the awesome (and, to most people, alien) power that Lisp languages have. At the same time, they show how fun Lisp programming tends to be and that Lisp has wide appeal far beyond the stuffy academia it is sometimes wrongly associated with."

Its also apt as LispWorks 4.4.6 Personal Edition is now available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X.

Just to show the power of Lisp in a current development practise read about using Lisp for Domain Specific Languages.

Friday, October 28, 2005

More on European Taxation issue

Checking out Simon Coveney's newsletter:
He talks about the tax issue I raised yesterday.

"The European Commission has adopted a comprehensive plan of EU-wide taxation and customs measures that would help the EU to achieve its Lisbon objectives. The plan lists existing and forthcoming Commission taxation and customs initiatives aimed at reducing compliance costs and red tape; helping Member States to maintain stable revenue streams; generating more competition in the markets; boosting trade; and encouraging research and development. The measures proposed are not intended to change the structure of Member States' tax systems or to impinge on their national fiscal sovereignty. Instead they are simply aimed at reducing the negative effects which co-existing national tax systems can have on market integration."

I decided to dig into the actual Commision press release on the matter and I found this as the main point on the press release.

"The European Commission has adopted a comprehensive plan of EU-wide taxation and customs measures that would help the EU to achieve its Lisbon objectives. The plan lists existing and forthcoming Commission taxation and customs initiatives aimed at reducing compliance costs and red tape; helping Member States to maintain stable revenue streams; generating more competition in the markets; boosting trade; and encouraging research and development. The measures proposed are not intended to change the structure of Member States' tax systems or to impinge on their national fiscal sovereignty. Instead they are simply aimed at reducing the negative effects which co-existing national tax systems can have on market integration."

(Look Familiar .... huh?)

One of the points also mentioned was
The Commision was investigating a proposal to allow companies to use a single basis of assessment for corporate tax for all their EU-wide activities.

Now I'm supporter of the Europe project but I can't stand when a MEP tries to pull a quick one, so Simon I'd like a better answer on this.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

EU eyes up national veto in company tax law

Well I suppose it was due to happen, the European Commission under the enhanced cooperation method is in the process of circumventing the veto of five states with regards to the national company (corporation) tax law. Ireland, the UK, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia are the countries affected and it will mean that by a target date of 2008, all EU member states will have a harmonised corporate tax base or so hopes EU tax commissioner Laszlo Kovacs.

The opposition to this moves from the five countries are based on the premise that this is merely a prelude with Brussels aiming for input into the national levels of their corporate taxes as well.

The commissioner has stated if opposition persists, Brussels intends to move ahead with the other 20 member states under the "enhanced cooperation" mechanism in the EC treaty. The enhanced co-operation is an instrument enshrined in the EC treaty which has so far never been used. It also for a limited number of member states to push forward with initiatives that are blocked by other member states, in essence this was to prevent the growing numbers of members in the EU from being strangled by vetos left, right and center during negotations by a small minority.

For a better coverage see [here (EUObserver) and here (EURActiv)].

I wonder what Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has to say on all this given his more than strident defense of this particular hot chestnut whilst Minsiter of Finance ? To be fair he seems to be stuck defending his own social model opinions with Sweden which makes for a nice excuse to ignore the one topic he once swore would never occur on his watch. Maybe the current Minister, Brian Cowen will be able to achieve something ...... (yeah right) I suppose there is always the next election.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Musings from the fringe

Seems Skype had a bit of a security review but even the review has a few limitations.

This could be one of the best inventions and most useful inventions around - a lightbulb - so what am I on you ask - using quantum dots which are tiny nanocrystals just a few dozen atoms across. It projects in the visible spectrum just like your bog standard bulb, but it puts out 50 times more light for each watt whilst lasting 60 times longer! The main reason for its efficienty is it doesn't put out the infrared component of normal bulbs so not only can it be brighter but it can also be cooler to the touch! ( Details - abstract )

Thoughts, reports, worries and suggestions to fix American's electricity network and a new report called "The Emerging Smart Grid".

And for fun!

My blog is worth $3,387.24.
How much is your blog worth?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Skynet Talks

HEAnet and Google gave talks last night to the UL computer society. They were very informative but not for the non tech head.

First up was Dave and Eoin from HEAnet who covered a whole range of issues from the historical to future directions. HEAnet is the ISP for the Irish third level universities and the talk described its development from a small group which provided the 512 k connection to the Internet right to the current organisation which provides 2 Gigabytes and is aiming to in to 10 shortly. It also revealed the new dark fibre structure which has been implemented. The talk covered more networking principles and related practical tools then any module on the topic so I must genuinely tip my hat to both Dave and Eoin for a top notch presentation that was interesting and engaging.

Thomas from Google Ireland followed with another brillant presentation. He took us from the company's first server to its current clusters on the hardware side, whilst on the software he started with crawling, stemming and word indexs before getting to the good stuff on PageRank as a technique, the query handling process and the Google File System. Within the context of a query he spoke about how the system design approached failure by the use of many parallel cheap computing resources and how programs like BORG where used for process transfer both within the cluster and between clusters. The main point was that files where stored in three copies or chunks and that this had worked as a policy when applied to day to day use. Another fun point is that no where within a Google cluster will you find screws as all the components are tied down with velcro for ease of access which dovetails with the policy of really cheap computer hardware for the cluster so if the part breaks its next but in a much more pragmatic manner due in a large part to the shear size of a standard Google cluster. A normal rack mounted cluster in a data centre will only use about 30-40% of the available racks but a Google setup use them all and when they take a room they fill the data center room as Thomas proudly said. Two of the Q&A topic where very interesting. The first dealt with the removal of the Firefox versus Internet Explorer statistics from Google's zeitgeist but the answer was well I can't really comment on that since we've been specifically told not to. The second was to do with privacy and data issues given the wide spectrum of information Google now has on many users with Mapping, Mail and Chat services as well as the normal query service. The scaryiest answer from this part was that in GMail when you delete a message it is merely marked as deleted due to the versioning approach taken with the file storage. Daniel wrapped up the talks and pointed us in the direction of the sports bar for refreshments.

Out of interest in the pub I asked Dave and Thomas how they found the Irish data retention requirements and how they deal with requests from the Gardai. The answers were of course we assist but the query must be formulated to our data. Interestingly both personally agree that the issues deserved more coverage and discussion so back to my last post and we'll see how Digital Rights Ireland can start carving a niche in this forgotten corner, oft the domain of secret cabinet orders or last minute additions to Dail bills (Garda bill I'm looking at you). A good night and much food for thought so roll on the next set of talks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Digital Rights Ireland

Digital Rights Ireland is a new organisation setup in Ireland whose aims are to defend Civil, Human and Legal rights in a digital age. So finally a EFF for Ireland. I've followed some of the bloggers below so it seems like a good group and if you are actually interested in signing up or hearing more, you can subscribe to their mailing list. The current committee as they'd say is as follows:

I'm sure this is a group whose membership will continue to grow and grow but for now its just starting so, fingers crossed and good luck to the boys.

Ear Flap

An Ear Flap is the use of real picture but an inaccurate or misleading description especially in the revisionist spin doctoring of current day politics.

"It's quite common (especially with the speedy distribution of material the Internet makes possible) for politically-oriented jokes, photographs, and other put-downs to 'jump parties', with partisans of one side altering names and other details to associate the same material with the personalities and politics of the other side. (The same set of spurious quotes, for example has been variously attributed to former [Republican] Vice-President Dan Quayle, [Democratic] Senator John Kerry, and [Republican] President George W. Bush.)

The example given is about an item I'd covered already as the DIY Bullshit protector but I did supply the correct reference to its use by a spectator (73-year-old veteran, Bill Moye) at one of GW's speechs but it seems the Republicans are quite capable of cutting and pasting the image into another press release and attributing it to an attendee at a speech by Senator Ted Kennedy so more bullshit I guess from the Republican spin doctors who have got a lot to learn about tracability and the Internet. And for the fun again here is how to make them (see also)!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Full house for debate

Full house for debate
Originally uploaded by bluepelican.
It was a full house for tonight's debate with Simon and Mary Lou. Topics covered mainly EU defense and the EU social model. They also talked about EU software patents and Simon spoke about the need for some reform as the current patent process requires a patent per country within the EU so that we need to find a method which will still prevent the multinationals from patenting all software but which allows for an easier process for companies to patent ideas in Europe. Simon also talk about possible student loan systems and the financing of the Universities as there is 10 times more spent per third level student in Queens as opposed to Trinity our best ranked University. This has to be done without the re-introduction of fees and we need to take a leaf from the UK, Austrialia and Canada who ask graduates later in their careers to pay back a percent of their earnings.

Mary Lou made a bit of a stumbler with saying only people who lived in Continental Europe and spoke a foreign language could fully appreciate the European project. Talk about the shooting oneself in the foot but maybe she'd be more familiar with kneecapping... She did however repent on that one but then proceeded to bluff and ramble on Danny's question on her view that our peacekeeping must be only be mandated by the UN, reformed or not. Danny pushed on the fact that as a Republican with a strong party line on self determination, How could she let the US or Russia or China dictate Irish interventions but she waffled somemore and said it was only the UN that should dicate our peacekeeping activities. The Gerry McCabe question was asked and deftly side stepped by the typical Sinn Fein if you've not known the problems of the North blah blah blah .... (Sorry I fell asleep at this point, not!)

Simon then spoke on the need to see the services directive achieved even if its in conjunction with Charlie MacCreevy. The Turkey question was then dangled but Simon spoke on how it would not be the accession of today's Turkey but that of a Turkey of 10 or more years down the line. It will be a big challenge as it would be the first Islamic country to join so he agreed to their accession but again only if they meet the criteria. Posing a question he said otherwise are we just a Christian white boys club? Simon agreed that whilst the UN has seen change recently it needs to be more balanced to take into new changes such as India but missed answering the bit on the triple lock (The FG answer from Gay Mitchell is of course to remove the silly concept which was only given by FF to ensure Nice 2 passed when they really threw out the soverignity of the nation with the bathwater so to speak). Simon also found it hard to hear Sinn Fein on Gerry McCabe and how they still sought the freedom of his killers and he said that the excuse of bird watching in Columbia also didn't wash when the delegation consisted of two ex-bomb makers and a interpreter. He make his plunder of the evening by asking how could one be respected when they kneecapped drug dealers in their areas as that was the responsibility of the police, garda's. Which got a right bit of laughter

Gerry McCabe also came back in another of Mary Lou's responses which was the standard line of Sinn Fein tripe about the Northern process which got some valid, correct and highly emotive responses from the floor. The chair, Prof Warrley then interceded. That was about it for the evening.

The politics of wishful thinking from Sinn Fein, after 30 seconds of sound bites their policies collapsed. The general consensus post debate was fine prepared speeches but that Mary Lou failed on the specifics.

Busy busy busy

Catching up with all the work from MetaMusic and trying to balance some work on my PhD has been tricky so I'm afraid one of the casualities was my blogging but I'm trying to place everything so here's a few tidbits for today.

The Bioneers conference had quite a few interesting presentations and one of these regarded the greening of urban spaces which is covered by Worldchanging. They've also got a nice article on the integration of online data resources with online mapping with a good example being Placeopedia combining Google Maps and Wiki's (review here). It slightly diverges from the concept of Location-Based Wiki's (for more see Russel Buckley's Manifesto for taking Wiki's into the real physical world). The idea is the combination of urban informatics with tagging and images all linked thru the location based services.

On the lighter side of humour - "How many members of the Bush Administration does it take to screw in a light bulb?" - Answer

Speaking of which I wasn't sure if this was a joke or not but it is actually true, so MI6 have actually setup their own website and now all James Bond wannabes can see the details and opportunites provided in the secret service!

Two from down under with explainations on Howard's new policies on terrorists and on labour unions and related industrial relations .

From the UK we have a report on the need for individual voter registration from the UK Electoral Commission. And we have the Open Rights Group which aims to be the UK version of the EFF (see also their campaign for blogger rights) for dealing with and campaign on digital rights issues.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wednesday and shattered tired

Arrived back and meet Danny who was waiting for Anna, his American better half ;) so ended up hanging about the airport for another hour before heading into to the University and catching up on some work. Feeling like this jetlag is a bit of a bummer but a couple of nights sleep and hopefully it'll be back to some sort of normality but sure what's normality these days anyways !

So got some of the photos from Gin (big thanks for everything!) and well the Charles and the sunshine were just brillant as arriving back to grey old Ireland was a bit of a let down with the knowledge that it won't be that sunny here again until next summer so it was a really nice couple of days of sunshine and craic.

Shannon bound :-(

Had a really wonderful time in Boston and saw a real different side to last time. Cambridge is really somewhere special and it was leave peeping time. All and everything was due to one very special lady. I'm leaving with a happier but heavier heart, roll on the next visit.