News and politics

Remembering Terry Pratchett

“Tech-savvy admirers of the late Terry Pratchett have hit upon an idea for a particularly appropriate memorial. It will be everywhere and nowhere, hiding in the code of the internet.

Pratchett’s 33rd Discworld novel, Going Postal, tells of the creation of an internet-like system of communication towers called “the clacks”. When John Dearheart, the son of its inventor, is murdered, a piece of code is written called “GNU John Dearheart” to echo his name up and down the lines. “G” means that the message must be passed on, “N” means “not logged”, and “U” means the message should be turned around at the end of a line. (This was also a realworld tech joke: GNU is a free operating system, and its name stands, with recursive geek humour, for “GNU’s not Unix”.) The code causes Dearheart’s name to be repeated indefinitely throughout the system, because: “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.”

What better way to remember the beloved inventor of this fictional system, then, than “GNU Terry Pratchett”?”

Source: The Guardian

This, of course, means simply adding a HEADER value for HTTP responses in your favourite Web Server.  The header name = “X-Clacks-Overhead”, value = “GNU Terry Pratchett”.


Rushed Mandatory Data Retention Legislation

The two major parties in the Australian Government are scrambling to hash together amendments to the controversial Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 which is currently before the House of Representatives.

We haven’t seen any amendments over the past few days (and a few independents haven’t too apparently) although a single amendment has finally been distributed just this very morning.  Given how little light this new amendment has seen, how can this be realistically rushed through parliament when the ink is literally still wet on most of the key details of the legislation (in the form of the aforementioned amendment)?

What’s clear is that there’s far more detail to be defined, and what’s happening now (including the complete lack of transparency) is a disservice to the electorate and to the business which will be adversely affected by this overreach.  This simply shouldn’t be before parliament in the current form!

I find it bizarre that attention is being shone on privacy specifically for journalists – “respond to fears that the surveillance powers would curb press freedom and personal privacy.”  This whole legislation curbs personal privacy!  The only way to _not_ significantly impact the privacy of all Australians is to not have mandatory retention in the first place. 

What’s disconcerting most at this stage is that members of the opposition appear to be falling onto the bandwagon.  Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been as dispirited by the dysfunctions in Parliament before as I am now.  The whole “process” is bad comedy, poorly written and poorly acted.