Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

Monday, July 28, 2008

New kind of news tool

No sooner had I informed my friend Corina [the cultivated young lady who signs her perspicacious Antipodes comments as cm] that I was contemplating the creation of the French Leaves blog than she told me, by return email, that she was working in a similar domain, with a rather different approach.
[Click the banner to access her new website.]

In examining Corina's approach, I realize that we're all looking for ways of assimilating, organizing and digesting the stream of challenging messages we receive every day through the Internet.

Incidentally, in case you're wondering why there's a bat in the banner, I'll give you a hint. Corina is Romanian. In fact, I would be happy if Corina were to realize that her notorious 15th-century compatriot is no longer the most batty vampire-oriented personage who has ever existed. In chapter 2 of his brilliant book The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins describes these delightful animals in such a lovable in-depth way that I've developed an intense admiration for these tiny creatures, who are my constant friends at Gamone.

New blog

For a long time, I've been aware of the fact that my Antipodes blog is a relatively personal affair, which tackles a broad and heterogeneous range of topics, often in an undisciplined style. The Antipodean notion is bipolar. For Europeans, the Antipodes is Australia and New Zealand. For an Australian like me, when I was a youth, my exciting vision of the Antipodes was an unknown land named France on the other side of the planet Earth. In my blog, no doubt, there are traces of these two complementary attitudes. If so, I would like it to stay that way.

On the other hand, I've often been tempted to concentrate on a more precise objective: namely, an English-language presentation of various French themes in domains such as politics, culture, science and technology, sport, etc. So, I've finally decided to launch a second blog, with that aim in mind.
[Click the banner to access a prototype version of the new blog.]

The web address of this new blog is http://skyvington.com

Normally, my articles should be more objective and less personal than those in Antipodes. Also, the rhythm will be considerably slower: maybe a new article every three or four days. You won't, of course, find anything in this new blog about Gamone, Sophia, my donkeys Moshé and Mandrin, my billy-goat Gavroche, Richard Dawkins, etc. And there probably won't be many references to my native land, Australia.

For readers who might be interested in this kind of French-oriented blog, I beg you to be patient. For the moment, I'm trying to master the new software tool, called WordPress, which is a total do-it-yourself thing. So, I'll need some time to get accustomed to this new challenge that I've set myself.

POST SCRIPTUM

I've made a Blogger-based version of this new blog at http://frenchleaves.blogspot.com

Between the WordPress and Blogger versions, which is better? As far as I'm concerned, it was a thrill to build my own WordPress system, but I suspect it's more efficient and rapid to stick to the Blogger environment. I'll have to think about it...

New search engine

Today is the launch date for a new search engine named Cuil, pronounced cool, built by former Google employees.
[Click the image to access the tool.]

For people accustomed, like me, to using Google, Cuil is a little weird, primarily because it churns out astronomical quantities of links. In the case of an author of a book, for example, Guil indicates every imaginable website that mentions the book. My first impression is that this might be overkill. But it's preferable to play around with Cuil for a while, and give it time to eliminate any teething problems, before forming a judgment.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

High-speed tra-la-la

Click the following banner to visit an exotic French-language website that appears to have something to do with high-speed trains, because it carries the French railways SNCF logo. But I warn readers that they might not understand anything whatsoever in this website, above all in the animated films that you're invited to watch. I say this, not because the website is allegedly in French, but because of what you might call its "style". Above all, don't search around in this website if your aim is to book a seat on a French train. By the time you start to fathom out what this website is all about, your train will have blown its whistle and left the station. On the other hand, enlightened adolescent viewers of all backgrounds [not necessarily French] will probably find this stuff perfectly comprehensible, indeed ingenious and awesome.

Need I say more? Or more exactly: Am I capable (even though I understand the French language) of explaining things to any greater extent? Well, I can at least provide you with a few superficial clues, but I wouldn't claim that they'll help you in understanding the profound sense of this website.

— First, the website has been created by folk who call themselves iDTGV. Here, the final three letters stand, of course, for train à grande vitesse: high-speed train. This acronym is so familiar now that it even exists in the standard English dictionary of my Macintosh. The first two letters, iD, would appear to be an Apple-inspired way of evoking the French word idée: idea. So, iDTGV is no doubt a group of creators with ideas for marketing train travel to adolescent clients. And the website and its animated videos starring Zen and Zap are probably their first major production.

— The hero Zen is a young male, and the heroine Zap a young female. They happen to be traveling in the same high-speed train, but it goes without saying that they would have never met up personally were it not for the creative efforts of the nice and thoughtful iDTGV folk.

Well, that's as much help as I'm going to give you [as I'm able to give you]. You should be able to take it away from there. I vaguely suspect that, through iDTGV, adolescents on train trips will be able to make their presence known, get in contact with other adolescents on the same train, and participate in all kinds of high-speed tra-la-la during their brief time in the TGV. Awesome, no? Let me know if you've understood the situation differently or better than I did.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Components are good for us

Imagine a skilled cabinetmaker who has always considered that the only way of installing good furniture in a new kitchen is to build each cupboard and table from scratch.

Intrigued by new kinds of hinges and drawers available in big hardware stores, he tries to incorporate them into his constructions, but something seems to have gone wrong. His cupboard doors no longer close correctly, and his drawers get stuck, because the woodworker is incapable of correctly integrating these new elements into his old-fashioned construction procedures. Then, one day, a friend invites the cabinetmaker along to an Ikea store, enabling him to discover a revolutionary approach to the installation of kitchens.

Today, concerning my operations as a Flash website developer [links], I'm very much in the same situation as the old-fashioned cabinetmaker. Since 2001, when I started to use Macromedia Flash, I've become quite proficient in the construction, from scratch, of websites based upon this approach. Meanwhile, the Flash tool has become considerably more complex. When I attempt to patch up certain aspects of my old websites, they refuse to function correctly in the new Flash environment. So, I tend to leave them alone, in their old operational state. Fortunately, today, there's an "Ikea solution" to problems of this kind. Instead of trying to patch up one of my antiquated tailor-made website elements, I can simply replace it by an off-the-shelf Flash component.

The reason I'm writing about this technical hitch [a non-problem, thanks to the concept of components] is that I've been held up recently, through bugs of the above-mentioned kind, in my preparation of two Flash websites that should interest Antipodes readers:

— One is an interface that will make it easier to access the Antipodes archives in a user-friendly fashion.

— The other will consist of free online access to my novel All the Earth is Mine, whose 16 chapters will be released on a weekly basis.

I'll provide precise details of these two services as soon as I've got them up and running.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mac user

Who is this middle-aged Macintosh user, in a cluttered office, whose personal computing comfort apparently necesitates the simultaneous use of no less than three giant 30-inch high-definition screens? Hint: For over three years, this American has been a member of the board of directors of Apple Computer. Other hints: He recently made a highly successful movie, and the existence of this movie no doubt influenced the folk who award Nobel prizes... because they gave him a shared Peace Prize! It's Al Gore, of course, who happens to be one of the planet's most high-profile Mac enthusiasts.

As the old saying goes (well, more or less): "Tell me what computer you use, and I'll tell you what sort of a person you are." We've evolved a lot since the time when the French Socialist politician Laurent Fabius, asked whether he used a computer, replied: "Yes, I have a Minitel." The Minitel was the primitive little gadget (now obsolete) built by French Telecom, in pre-Internet days, which enabled ordinary citizens to access various databases. Here in France, I'm surprised that journalists don't seem to have got around to producing an in-depth report on the daily down-to-earth personal relationships between prominent politicians and computing... as distinct from the things they pay specialists to do for them. Let me lay my head on the block. I would bet that Sarkozy does not have a personal Macintosh, and that he knows next to nothing about the technicalities of using a computer and the Internet. I don't know why, but he strikes me as that kind of individual.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Explanation of the spinning woman demo

In view of feedback I've received, I feel obliged to make it clear that the demo presented in my offbeat article entitled Right brain versus left brain [display] is merely an amusing and innocuous hoax, which has nothing to do with the viewer's brain. My presentation of the demo and my subsequent comments were deliberately facetious: a big joke! It would have been neither more nor less silly to claim that viewers who see the girl spinning in a clockwise direction have right-wing political beliefs, and vice versa.

Only the final two sentences in my post [where I suggest that interested observers should examine the individual images in this animated GIF, using a graphics tool such as Fireworks] are to be taken seriously. The truth of the matter is that everybody sees exactly the same animation, which does indeed change directions suddenly, before reverting to the initial direction. The demo is ingenious in that the 34 fixed images composing the animation have been designed and drawn in an exceptionally skillful manner. Viewers are intrigued by the fact that, when the woman changes directions, she does so in such a smooth and seamless fashion that we have the impression that this change has taken place—like the perception of beauty—in "the eye of the beholder". This is an illusion. The change has well and truly occurred in the animation, not in our brains. In most of the silhouettes in the animation, various visual features of the woman—including her face, her breasts and her pony-tail hair—provide explicit clues as to the direction in which she is spinning. But I have extracted a unique image, shown here, in which all these visual features are missing:

Here, the viewer is unable to decide between two perfectly plausible possibilities:

— We are facing the silhouette of a woman poised on her left leg and spinning in a clockwise direction.

— The silhouette is a rear view of a woman poised on her right leg and spinning in an anticlockwise direction.

Consequently, when this pivotal image occurs in the animated sequence, the direction of spinning can be either maintained [as is usually the case] or reversed [exceptionally] in a totally seamless fashion. And this is why the woman seems to spin in a clockwise direction for a while, then suddenly change directions, and finally revert to the initial direction.

Some readers might not be familiar with the concept of animated GIFs. Back in the early Internet days, people often included an animated image of this kind in the email contact section of their rudimentary websites, showing a letter being folded, place in an envelope and slipped into a mailbox. Animated GIFs provide a good example of software gadgets—a little out of fashion nowadays—that are relatively laborious to create, but simple to borrow and use.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two cultures

When I was a young man, a widely-read little book by the British scientist and novelist C P Snow presented a dichotomous vision of contemporary intellectuals. On the one hand, there were those with a scientific education and preoccupations. On the other, there were traditional intellectuals concerned by the humanities (literature, philosophy, history, etc). Snow coined the striking expression "two cultures" to designate this breakdown. He claimed that the existence of this dichotomy constituted a fundamental barrier in the quest for harmonious and universal solutions to society's problems.

Personally, I first became aware of this phenomenon when certain people expressed surprise at the fact that I should wish to study both mathematics and philosophy, simultaneously, at university. Much later, at the research service of the French Broadcasting System, I had the privilege of working with Pierre Schaeffer, a splendid innovator in multidisciplinary thinking. But I still came upon colleagues who found it strange, for example, that a computing professional such as me might be interested in the linguistics of Noam Chomsky. (Today, of course, most people would no longer find this strange, because they know that computers exploit languages such as Basic and Java.)

The planetary success of the personal computer and the Internet has narrowed the gap, I think, between "cultivated folk" (in the old-fashioned sense) and "technical people" (who know how to write programs, for example). Besides, many ordinary individuals know that science—through disciplines such as cosmology, genetics and neurophysiology—has much to say (if not everything) about human beings and the world in which we exist. So, only an exceptionally reactionary observer would cling to the notion of a giant cleavage between science and traditional culture. Even the antiquated separation between science and philosophy has practically disappeared... and old-fashioned religion is slowly paying the price of increased scientific enlightenment. What I'm hinting at, in that last statement, is that it's becoming more and more intellectually difficult to maintain the beliefs of traditional religions.

In the midst of our new "computer culture", I often hear people on TV complaining that addiction to modern machines such as computers and portable phones is having an adverse effect upon a certain aspect of traditional culture: namely, the ability to spell correctly and to write in a grammatically correct fashion. Yesterday, for example, a well-spoken French fellow, employed in some kind of a stock-market job, explained in a TV interview that young people like himself communicate so rapidly and so profusely today, using computers and portable phones, that they tend to disregard such niceties as spelling and well-structured sentences. Now, this might be true as far as text messages and chat forums on the Internet are concerned, but I think we should relativize things before making global generalizations about the alleged negative effects of modern communications systems. In particular, it's ridiculous to suggest that there might be any kind of paucity in spelling and literary expression in the vast domain of what we might refer to as encyclopedic websites, characterized above all [but not exclusively, by any means] by Wikipedia. Here, on the contrary, all the is are dotted, all the ts are crossed, and every comma counts. Everything is rigorous, striving towards informational completeness and perfection. The web, at this level, is not a place for fast facts à la McDonald's.

Maybe the antiquated "two cultures" expression might be resurrected usefully in a modern context. On the one hand, there are the speedy youngsters, using portable phones and chat forums, who don't give a damn about spelling or expression, as long as their many muddy messages get through. On the other hand, there are the countless great web authors who are engaged in the passionate challenge of installing humanity's history and intellectual heritage on the Internet. It is normal that these two "cultures" should coexist, but it would be idiotic to confuse these two totally different preoccupations. One is a culture of immediate facility; the other, a culture of ageless wisdom. And the actors, in each of these two cultures, are not at all the same.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Australia intends to censor the web

I've often thought that Australia surely appears to the world at times, from a sociopolitical viewpoint, as an immature nation. When political candidates seek to be elected, and when citizens vote, they often seem to do so, not through profound principles about what's good for the people and right for the nation, but merely on the basis of a single pervading question: What's in it for me? Things are warming up for a forthcoming federal election, and the tactics of the two major contenders [current PM John Howard and Opposition leader Kevin Rudd] are already producing what a local journalist referred to poetically as "a shriekfest about smears, fears, sneers, jeers, cheers, leers...".

To my mind, there is no more abject indicator of sociopolitical immaturity than an appeal to censorship. And this is what John Howard and his minister of Communications, Helen Coonan, are presently seeking to impose upon the Australian people.... in a telltale elusive manner, as surreptitiously as possible, so that few observers are likely to realize what is happening, and kick up a fuss.

This lady wants to extend a black list of websites to be outlawed, purely and simply, by the ACMA [Australian Communications and Media Authority]. For the moment, apparently, ACMA shields the Aussie public from certain websites containing pornography or offensive content. It would be interesting to know what exactly is meant by the terms "pornography" and "offensive content", just as it would be intriguing to learn something about the individuals who perform this censorship, their credentials and their operational criteria.

The planned Coonan censorship extensions concern websites in the domain of "terrorism and cyber-crime". Superficially, that sounds great. Australia simply has to ban websites that seek to expound terrorist ideology and cyber-crime methods, and—abracadabra!—these obnoxious phenomena will disappear magically from the wide brown country. What idiotically naive thinking! Are Australians not mature enough to separate the wheat from the chaff? To see what web stuff they wish to examine, and what they want to reject spontaneously? Are Howard and Coonan afraid that some silly kid in the suburbs is going to learn from the Internet the art of making roadside bombs, or the methods for delving into the online bank accounts of unsuspecting citizens? What rubbish! The nation's leaders would do better to enhance the sophistication of their intelligence, security and law-enforcement services...

To paraphrase one of my favorite conclusions on affairs of this nature: Every nation has the censorship it deserves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Excellent web journalism

One of my favorite news sources on the Internet is the New York Times [click on banner to visit the website]:

They've created an amusing informational category named Freakonomics [click on banner to visit the website]:

Besides, they often display marvelous images, which I like to "borrow" whenever it's appropriate:

This delightful image accompanies a fascinating New York Times article [click on image to display the article] concerning the gesture of an upturned palm, employed as a signal in the animal kingdom. Great stuff!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Interesting illustration

A few minutes ago, in the recently-created French news website called Rue89 [a curious blend of the word for "street" and the year of the French Revolution], I accessed an article concerning the disturbing demand made by the German minister of Culture in the Hesse Land to include so-called "intelligent design" themes in high-school biology courses. I was intrigued to discover that the article is illustrated by an image that appears to have no connection whatsoever with what is related in the article. [Click here to display the article.]

I suspect that a prankster has found a way of hacking the Rue89 server. This doesn't surprise me, because I was struck by the technical naivety of the folk behind the Rue89 project [redundant journalists from Libération] when they described publicly the structure of their future website, shortly before it was launched. I remember saying to myself that it was inevitable they would get screwed in one way or another.

It's quite possible that my interpretation of the situation is totally off the mark. Perhaps the author of the article, a certain Pierre Rouchaléou, actually chose this image to illustrate his account of the conflict between serious science and the so-called "creationist" movement, whose members believe that Genesis provides a factual description of the creation of the universe and living creatures. After all, if you were seeking a striking image that is intimately connected with the creation of human life, it's harder to imagine a better choice than a close-up of a hairy vagina. In any case, it's a perfect strategy for luring people (like me) into reading attentively every word of the article. Maybe it's an image of Eve stretched out under an apple tree in the Garden of Eden.

My guess, though, is that it's a prank. Maybe the prankster is using this image to point out that he regards the minister of Culture in the Hesse Land as a [expletive linked to female genitals]. If I find further information concerning the use of this image, I'll include it immediately in my blog. After all, the article and the image seem to form a truly antipodean duo.

Last-minute news: Mea culpa! Straight after publishing the present post, it took me a few minutes to discover that I'm an ignorant philistine. The huge closeup image is a well-known painting (well-known, that is, to everybody except me) by Gustave Courbet [1819-1877] entitled The Origin of the World, which hangs in the Orsay Museum in Paris. So, it's an appropriate, if not ideal, illustration for the article, in that this image and its title should be acceptable for both scientists and Genesis nuts.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Free wi-fi in Paris

I've been trying to invent a shortcut term for the expression "free wi-fi". The French pronounce "wi-fi" as wee-fee. So, the term free-fi is almost acceptable here, except that there's already a French ISP [Internet service provider] named Free, who's not involved in the Parisian project. Besides, free-fi doesn't sound too good in English. In any case, free wi-fi is about to become a reality in Paris, under the auspices of the left-wing mayor, Bertrand Delanoë [pronounced deu-lah-no-way], and the municipality. Starting in September, there will be 400 hotspots, located in public parks, municipal premises, libraries, museums and employment bureaux.

That's a nice promotional image of a fellow seated (I think) in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, using free-fi, but it doesn't look too realistic. Balancing a portable computer on your outstretched leg is not exactly an ideal ergonomic position. The user probably wouldn't be able to read much on his screen, because of the sunlight. And I don't see the carrying case in which he brought his computer to the park.

Talking of hotspots, I'll never forget my first visit to a McDonald's in Sydney, last year. They seemed to be employing a team of recently-trained school kids as staff. I ordered an apple pie and Coke from a young guy who had most likely just started his McDonald's career that very morning. Then, since it was the first time I had ever set out to use wi-fi in a McDonald's, I asked him: "If I understand correctly, there's a hotspot in this restaurant." He froze, speechless, as if I had just told him that there was a rat in my apple pie, or a snake in the toilets. Or maybe he thought I was using exotic language to request some kind of rare McDonald's dish that the employee-training program had neglected to mention. All he could do, still without saying a word, was to call over the adult female in charge of the restaurant, who confirmed immediately that all I had to do was to sit down, anywhere, and turn on my MacBook. It did, in fact, work perfectly.

So, you might say that using the Parisian free-fi system will be exactly like a McDonald's hotspot, but without the apple pie and Coke.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The less said, the better

A year ago, I went along to a major store in Valence [the Fnac] to obtain information on a digital camera, and then I actually bought it through the Internet, at a price far below that of the store. I've just behaved in the same way for the purchase of a camcorder. I'm sure that many consumers must be using this same approach. It's a funny situation. It's reassuring to go along to the store, where you can meet up with real human beings and receive their expert evaluations of various products. But, once they've helped you to choose the product you need, you don't actually purchase it from the store. Instead, you return home and order it, at a much lower price, through the Internet. So, I conclude that the store only sells equipment to customers who haven't yet discovered the phenomenon of Internet shopping. In other words, these customers are in fact financing the expert assistance that people like me are receiving from the store. I often wonder how long this kind of situation can last. Maybe, one of these days, the store will decide to refuse to talk to would-be customers who in fact make purchases through the Internet. But how would they enforce such a rule?

Meanwhile, I'm amazed by the improved quality of Internet shopping. I only ordered the Sony camcorder and a Macintosh video software product a few days ago, and they were both delivered this morning.

Inevitably, when the morning silence is broken by two delivery trucks visiting Gamone, I have to reassure my neighbor Madeleine on the phone that no major upheaval is occurring at my place. She hears the vehicles moving up and down the steep road behind her house, and she's justified in imagining that it might be a gang of international bandits who are stealing my kitchen table and chairs, or maybe even my donkey and billy goat. Here in the Bourne valley between Choranche and Châtelus, the people in each house are reasonably well aware of any movements of vehicles [and animals, too] in the vicinity of neighboring houses, and the telephone is often used on such occasions to verify that all is in order.

Madeleine and I are capable of gossiping on the phone for half an hour. Well, jumping from one thing to another, and knowing that my neighbor is a fervent churchgoer, I took this opportunity of asking Madeleine what she thought of the pope's decision to authorize the Latin mass. Her reply was delightfully unexpected: "When I was a girl, I used to sing in the choir at Pont-en-Royans, and all the words of our chants were in Latin. Those are beautiful memories. After Vatican II, we were all shocked to hear the priest talking in everyday language. At first, it sounded silly, and it made us laugh, because we weren't used to hearing ordinary French in the church. But, since then, I've forgotten all my teenage Latin." In other words, it's an upside-down [Antipodean] situation. For Madeleine [and, no doubt, for countless other Catholics of her generation], the move from French back to Latin could never be as upsetting as the initial move from mysterious celestial Latin to everyday French.

Madeleine's explanations remind me of one of my favorite [true] anecdotes, which dates from the time that Christine and I were students in Paris. We had a group of French student friends who were musicians, and one of the girls told us this story: "We first met up with this American guy when he was playing the saxophone in front of a café in the Latin Quarter. He didn't speak a word of French, but we managed to communicate with him, and we ended up inviting him back to our place to play music together. We called him Big Joe. He became a member of our group, and we got on wonderfully well together. I think we communicated mainly through our music, because Big Joe still didn't understand a word of French, and none of us were very fluent in English. Sometimes we would ask him a question, and Big Joe would simply laugh and shrug his shoulders. So, we didn't really know whether he had understood us, or what he was replying. But that didn't really matter, because we were all convinced that Big Joe was a fabulous guy, a great friend. We didn't need words. Then the summer vacation arrived, and Big Joe went back to America for a couple of months. When he returned to Paris in September, Big Joe informed us that he had spent all his time in the States doing intensive French courses at the Alliance Française in Chicago. Sure, there was no doubt about it: we were all amazed to find that Big Joe was now speaking a primitive but acceptable kind of French. But the greatest shock of all, now that Big Joe could speak to us, concerned the things he started to tell us. It was pitiful. We discovered that he was a total asshole, not at all on the same wavelength as the people in our group. Everything he had to say—and Big Joe liked talking a lot—was pure uninteresting bullshit. At times, he would even get around to talking of politics as if he were a fascist bastard. Within a few weeks, we all started to dislike Big Joe intensely, and we ended up throwing him out of our group."

That brings me back to what I was saying, at the beginning of this post, about going along to a store in Valence for expert assistance and then making my purchases through the Internet. Maybe, like Big Joe, I should simply keep my mouth shut.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

BigPond story (continued)

In yesterday's message entitled BigPond deserves a big kick in the pants [display], I didn't go into details concerning the nature of the BigPond problem that has been annoying me for so long (well over a year). Furthermore, behind the visible part of my blog, I've been using email to instigate an investigation into BigPond's behavior, with the aim of forcing this organization to abandon their French blacklisting.

First, let me point out that my use of the expression "French blacklisting" is eloquent (people understand that image) but slightly approximative. A more precise way of describing the situation in technical terms consists of saying that certain BigPond mail servers (not necessarily all of them, because some of my emails to BigPond do get delivered) have placed the names of certain French ISPs (Wanadoo/Orange and Free) on what is known as a DNS block list.

Why? If I understand correctly, BigPond calls upon an outside firm to help them combat spam... which is a noble intention. Apparently, this outside firm (maybe TrendMicro) considers that Wanadoo/Orange and Free "continue to allow spam to be generated by their customers"... that's to say, by ordinary people like me. Consequently, BigPond has taken the decision to include the names Wanadoo/Orange and Free in DNS block lists on their servers.

To use a famous image (popular in French), it's like throwing out the baby with the bath water. Since BigPond believes that lots of spammers operate from Wanadoo/Orange and Free (which may or may not be true), they've decided to punish everybody, globally, by refusing to deliver any email emanating from these two French ISPs.

This morning, I was happy to receive an email from my old schoolmate Ron Willard who reminded me of the existence of an excellent technical website [display] on the subject of DNS block lists. It includes a more powerful image than my metaphor about the baby's bath. A US army officer is quoted as saying (no doubt in a Vietnam setting): We had to destroy the village in order to save it. BigPond has decided to destroy the possibility of emails from France in order to save their Australian customers from spam.

Friday, June 22, 2007

BigPond deserves a big kick in the pants

The behavior of this Australian ISP [Internet service provider] with respect to French users is outrageous. Over the last few years, when my email address was sky.william@orange.fr, BigPond refused to deliver my emails to any of their customers. Since then I've changed my address to sky.william@free.fr, and I've just found that BigPond still refuses to deliver my emails to their customers. These French ISPs, Orange and Free, are two of the largest and most respected organizations in this domain, and BigPond's crazy idea of blacklisting all French customers is scandalous. It would be interesting to identify the BigPond employee who's behind this strategy.

I intend to lodge a formal complaint with the international email authorities concerning this curious BigPond behavior, which is not in keeping with the spirit of the Internet.

Here's the precise technical data [in which I've obliterated part of the email address of my intended receiver] confirming the blacklisting:

s***y@bigpond.com: host extmail.bigpond.com[144.140.90.13] said: 451 Mail from this IP address blocked due to DNS block list. (in reply to MAIL FROM command)
Reporting-MTA: dns; postfix2-g20.free.fr
X-Postfix-Queue-ID: EE6C213E75DF
X-Postfix-Sender: rfc822; sky.william@free.fr
Arrival-Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2007 12:45:37 +0200 (CEST)

Final-Recipient: rfc822; s***y@bigpond.com
Action: failed
Status: 4.0.0
Diagnostic-Code: X-Postfix; host extmail.bigpond.com[144.140.90.13] said: 451 Mail from this IP address blocked due to DNS block list. (in reply to MAIL FROM command)

Friday, June 8, 2007

No trespassing

While surfing on the web, looking for information about recent Australian movies, I ran into the following site:

This is the first time I've ever seen a case of explicit geographical discrimination on the Internet. In fact, I didn't even know it was technically feasible.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Internet outlaws?

Tomorrow evening, the tradition of election-night parties will be in full swing from one end of France to the other. The general idea, to avoid boredom, is that you invite along friends from several points on the voting spectrum. This means that the party is sure to be neither wholly joyous nor totally sad. While one party-goer is lamenting in tears, another is exploding in joy.

Not surprisingly, an interesting party-guest, tomorrow afternoon, will be the Internet, whose Googlistic websites have the habit of behaving from time to time like oracles in Ancient Greece, as if they knew everything... even before it happened. In other words, the Internet should normally be able to tell us who's won the election long before any kind of formal decision has been established. Worse still, tomorrow afternoon, a theoretical French voter, knowing already who has won and who has lost, should be able to wander along to the booths and cast his meaningless vote. Now, Napoléon never reckoned on this kind of technology. And the present-day French Republic doesn't like this scandalous logic at all. One doesn't need to beat around the bush. It's against the law of the republic.

Conclusions. Tomorrow evening, a team of competent French Internet cops will be looking out for offenders: that's to say, webmasters who would dare to announce the election results before 8 o'clock in the evening. I'm alarmed at a personal level in that my journalist daughter would appear to have received a mission from her boss that consists of trying to break the law in this domain... so that she'll be able to write an article from the jailhouse on Monday morning claiming: "Your favorite TV magazine knew who won and who lost at least an hour before the rest of you... which explains why I'm dispatching this article from a prison cell." With friends, I'll bring her oranges.

French jails, tomorrow evening, should theoretically be brimming over with Internet outlaws. A positive note: the future president might be prepared to announce an amnesty, to rid over-burdened French prisons of all these inoffensive orange-eating electronic outlaws.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blog readership

It goes without saying that I'm writing this blog primarily for myself, like a personal diary. Over the last few months, since deciding to start Antipodes, I've grown accustomed to the daily challenge of recording an almost insignificant Internet record of the way I see things... which might or might not interest other individuals in the universe.

In the beginning, I looked upon this style of communication as an optimal solution for my communications with Australian relatives, since some of them relied upon local ISPs [Internet service providers] such as BigPond who had concocted the convenient conclusion that everything emanating from France was necessarily shit... not to be delivered. Normally I'm neither aggressive nor revengeful, but I've often felt like telling those ISPs to get screwed. But what the hell does it matter? If there are folk in Australia who imagine that the state-owned ISP in France tolerates spam, all I can say is that they're fuckwits.

Apart from that, I'm discovering with joy that a lot of people, in many places, are in fact reading my daily words. This makes me immensely happy, and encourages me to carry on with my modest blog.

Today, halfway through April, here's the readership breakdown:

It's normal that about half my readers are French, and the other half Australian. That, as planned, is my personal family of readers. I can understand, too, the Canadian one percent. That's probably Patiti. But I marvel before the huge twelve-percent of American readers, followed by minority scores for Chinese, Japanese and Germans. It's a fine feeling to be read, even if I'm not quite sure who's doing the reading.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Pakistani goatskins and a long-haired camel

From time to time, I receive a genuine but hilarious e-mail. This morning, a Pakistani guy contacted me, stating: "I have heard from reliable sources that you import musical instruments from my country. Please take a look at my offer of low-priced goatskins to make bongo drums." It's possible that this e-mail owed its origin to my former association (in the '70s) with the concrete-music research group known as the GRM in Paris. Or it could be just run-of-the-mill spam.

Thinking that my son would appreciate this trivial story, I phoned him in Brittany. As often happens, he reacted with a far funnier tale. Recently, he found a message on his mobile phone: "This is the director of the zoo in Paris. Your long-haired camel has escaped, and we've just learned that he's wandering around at a busy traffic intersection on the edge of the city. Would you please contact me urgently to tell me what we should do." The caller left a phone number. Amused and intrigued by this unexpected tale, my son decided to contact the phone number. He was amazed to find himself talking with the zoo director, who informed my son that the incident concerning the escape of the long-haired camel was perfectly true, but that the stray animal had soon been captured, and that all was now well. The director thanked my son for having been sufficiently concerned about the fate of the long-haired camel to phone him up. So, it was not a hoax call. The director had been trying to contact the circus owner who had donated the long-haired camel to the zoo, and he had merely used a wrong number, which happened to be that of my son.

The moral of my post. We should never brush aside messages about Pakistani goatskins and long-haired camels, because there might well be an element of truth in them. Put differently: Life is surely more than a drawn-out April Fool's Day joke. We must persist in believing that there might indeed be more to human existence than spam and hoaxes.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Successful switch to Free

A few weeks ago, I was uncertain about the best timing for my switch of ISPs [Internet service providers] from Orange to Free. Friends had warned me that I might run into unexpected problems, and I was worried that technical hitches or delays might leave me with no broadband Internet access at all for several days or even weeks.

In reality, everything has worked out perfectly. I've been using my new e-mail address, sky.william@free.fr, for the last week, and my Internet-based telephone is fully operational.

Today, a woman at Orange phoned me to say that they had received my registered letter stating that I wished to terminate my association with them. She asked me to tell her the reasons behind my decision. There were several reasons, including the fact that Free is less expensive than Orange, and that Free enables me to phone Australia. She couldn't really put up a case against such arguments, so she simply asked me the date at which I wished to cut my ties with Orange. I said today, and she replied OK. So, my old e-mail address, sky.william@wanadoo.fr, is no longer operational.