October 25th, 2007

The Wiretappers of Europe revisited

XS4ALL is one of the quality ISP’s here. It’s original founder is the guy behind “we don’t trust voting computers”. The only reason I really don’t like them is that they use the network of the former monopolist KPN, which I consistently refuse to pay any penny more than stricktly necessary. The Dutch lawmakers are forcing ISP’s to install tapping equipment at their own expense, to be used at will by the government. While this has an economical background too, XS4ALL is a provider with principles. They do not deny the government’s right to tap (with the proper procedures in place), but they refuse to pay for the equipment. This could end up in the highest European courts.

XS4ALL appeals the decision of the The Hague court. In it’s decision, the court argued “it was not logical that commercial entities like XS4ALL have to pay for making their network tapable, but found no juridical means to force the state to pay for it.

In the Netherlands, courts cannot rule about the lawfulness of “normal” laws against the constitution. XS4ALL does not deny this, but according to the ISP the court DOES have means to judge on the “tapping-law”, which is if it contradicting European law and rulings.

The court CAN rule about the lawfulness against European treaties and rulings. And since tapping is a matter of common interest, it falls under “commonality law”, and THAT is layed out in European treaties.

This could take years and if they win, the grapes will be sour, as we, the taxpayers will have to pay for the equip instead of XS4ALL customers, but still.

Added: Austria just awarded it’s Big Brother award, given to the worst (potential) privacy violators to my countryman Peter van der Arend. He is head of the ETSI working group Technical Committee on Lawful Interception, which is setting standards which would make all phone and internet networks tapable in an international, uniform way. I won’t start a rant here, go to the EFF to find out more about digital (un)privacy.

Earlier on the nest: The Wiretappers of Europe. The Diebolds of the world.

October 25th, 2007

The world solar challenge

My country won the World Solar Challenge this week. Wikipedia:

The World Solar Challenge is a solar powered-car race over 3021 km (1,877 miles) through central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools.

Added: a link to a cnn report.

October 25th, 2007

The flu

Flu season starting here, I’m up for my shot early next month, as I am in a risk category. Many people think a nasty cold is flu (influenza), but it isn’t. Anyway, some interesting facts I would like to share.

  • Cold season indeed is a flu (and cold) stimulant. But not because we’re more susceptible or the virus gains magic powers by the weather. The reason is simply that we vent our houses less and lock ourselves in too much. Lesson: insulation is good, but keep some air flowing.
  • Best flu (and cold) suppressor is not the shot. Is is: wash your hands, then wash your hands, then wash your hands again. Before and after food, after you-know-what, and in general, as often as possible.
  • Know how to wash hands. Soap does NOT kill bacteria let alone viruses. Soap is an entirely mechanical aid, it bridges water to fatty material, so it helps rinsing off the germs, no chemical magic involved. Knowing that, the routine is: soap hands and rub carefully, up to the wrists and between the fingers (see picture below). Then rinse with lots of water. Use a paper towel and close the valve using the towel.
  • Do not use anti-bacterial soap. It will not kill viruses and the will only help the surviving bacteria to get more resistant.
  • Do not ever sneeze in your hand or on the back of your hand. If is probably worse than sneezing in the air, which is a big nono as we all know. The best thing to do (read any hospital procedure) is to sneeze or cough in the sleeve of your shirt.

Wasing hands

More tips? Post as comments pls. Stay healthy!

Added:  Another study seems to prove that as far as transmission through air (aerosol transmission) is non existing at 30C (90F) and maximized at 5C (40F), which is proof of the seasonal uproar of influenza. Also, low humidity adds to aerosol transmission, adding to the winter effect even more. The scientists from that study strongly suggest vaccination as the method and play down the effect of washing hands, but they do concur it helps a lot against the common cold.