Branded

The dictionary.com first definition of branded – 1.marked with a branding iron to show ownership: branded cattle.

We, who are so addicted to brands, using them as parts of our identity, to define ourselves, to give ourselves a sense of value, are apparently branded cattle. Willing to pay well over the actual value of items to obtain a particular brand, you are apparently marked with a branding iron to show ownership.

Ah ha! You are owned by your items, marked by them to show ownership! Look how I scoff at you, as I sit here writing this post, safe from the insidious effects of brand obsession, wearing my Tilley hat, my Scott eVest, my Birkenstock sandals, my……

Oh.

Bugger.

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Breakfast dilemma

When eating a McDonalds sausage and egg McMuffin, is the egg meant to be on the top, or the bottom? Do the rules change if its a double?

Its a taxing question for a Sunday morning. I suspect further extensive research may be required.

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One hand in my pocket

And that hand is on my USB memory stick/pendrive/jump drive/whatever.

This will be a slightly geeky post of tips, but at least they’re useful, which is more than can be said for most of what I write here.

USB memory sticks  – useful, cheap and with more and more storage for less and less money. They’re also horrendously insecure, unless you set them up right, and what can you do with them apart from store stuff and copy files? Alright, one thing at a time.

First, lets make those stored files secure. To do that, you need to download True Crypt, a fantastic encryption program that is completely free and damn near uncrackable. Unless you’re carrying around secret codes to launch nuclear missiles, this should do all you need and more.  Its even easy to use.

So, you’ve got your vital mp3’s, I mean important work documents, encrypted. What else are you going to put on all that free space? How about some programs? Yes, you can run programs directly from a USB memory stick and very efficently too, if you download the full suite of programs from portableapps.com . Yes, its free again and now you’ll always have a program available to show someone that hilarious video of a penguin falling through the ice, chat on instant messaging or even open that vital document. Need to step away from the computer or hide what you’re doing? Simple, unplug your USB memory stick, the program goes and all your data is encrypted and secure.

Concerned about running any programs or opening any documents on an unknown Windows PC that may be infected with virus etc? There’s a way around that too, by using the embedded version of Damn Small Linux. This will install onto your USB memory stick and when you run it it runs in its own emulator window, giving your an operating system within a window. Its not particularly intuitive to set up and get used to, but DSL has a good community who can help. Is it free? Better believe it.

So there you go, a new geek out post in a new geek out topic. I might well do more of these, if only for there to be something on the blog that isn’t utterly confused and rhetorical.

One final thing. Not only is all this software free as in gratis, its also open source, which means its free as in freedom. Open source – that’s my kind of freedom and definitely something not to be confused about.

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Freeview ascent puts it above Sky in digital race | Media | MediaGuardian.co.uk

Freeview ascent puts it above Sky in digital race | Media | MediaGuardian.co.uk

Something free overtaking the mighty Murdoch empire? It brings a smile to a confused face.

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Lying down

Does the Internet encourage duplicity?

Its a question I’ve been considering for a while and true to form it now leaves me confused. It seems that much of my online experience of late has involved deliberate attempts to lie to me and its difficult not to be disheartened by such experiences, especially when considering the needs of those who have to lie online that they will be safe in real life. Those who lie about their identity when blogging in a country where they could be imprisoned for what they write are still lying, but few would disagree about the necessity of them doing so, in fact most would even applaud them for their courage in taking the risks they are in blogging at all. Objectively, of course, they are still lying, but if they are not condemned for doing so, is it truly a lie? Is a lie only a lie when it hurts another? Is lying actually something that is subjective, rather than objective? When is a lie a lie?

The wikipedia editor who lied about his credentials and identity is a well known example to the “Internet-ati” of someone whose online lies were exposed, but did anyone consider whether the editing and contributions he had made were inaccurate at all? If they weren’t, are his lies somehow diminished, or is the principle of lying sufficient that even what he wrote that was factually correct is now devalued? Can objective facts be destroyed by the source of those facts being proven dishonest? Do facts then become subjective, or have they always been?

A forum I read recently exploded into a flame war when the claimed credentials of one of the posters was called into question. In the eyes of many, it only took her honesty to be questioned for almost all that she had said to then be attacked, attacks that became increasingly personal. Lying online still seems to be considered sufficient grounds for inflicting social pariah status on another, so why then do so many fall prey to its temptations? Is it perhaps because of a desire to be someone different to what they are in real life, to gain a sense of fulfillment in their lives that the offline world does not give them, or is it merely always malicious?

The online world Second Life is rife with dishonesty, much of which I have seen to be malicious, but also much that I have seen to be escapism. Paradoxically, many in Second Life who are tired of the duplicity and the lies around them, particularly concerning people having alts (other avatars, owned by the same person), often create their own alts to escape it, to “get away” from it all. In order to escape being lied to they embark upon their own lie, so is this objectively lying, or subjectively? Black and white, or shades of grey?

Anonymity and identity, both vital parts of the Internet and yet they seem to be in direct conflict. Is there a resolution? Is there even a need for a resolution, or does online dissembling and duplicity only reflect our nature and be indicative of it? If we do it online, do we do it also offline and the Internet only makes it easier?

Its definitely too confusing for me to find an answer, but I’ve been reminded of a saying while I’ve been writing this and it seems a good way to conclude yet another unfinished thought. It does not need proof to destroy trust, only suspicion.

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Sold my soul to Google

It turns out I’m shallow. I’ve been seduced by Google’s shiny new gadgets.

It started off with gmail. We love gmail, we love its storage size, its reliability, its very cool features. Even the “targetted advertising” is funny sometimes, when I pay attention to it. Like most gmail veterans, I’ve long since got used to blanking it out mentally. Gmail is a shiny gadget and I love it.

Then Google bought writely, the online document and spreadsheet creator, and turned it into Google docs & spreadsheets, which must have taken them hours to come up with the name for. I use docs & spreadsheets almost as much as I use gmail, but then one day I clicked on the innocuous looking “more” link at the top and opened a pandora’s box of other shiny new gadgets.

Ooooh, look, there’s google reader, a RSS aggregator! Wow, Google notebook, perfect for keeping all those little notes from websites in the same place! Google calendar, that should be handy for keeping track. I may as well use Picasa for photos as well, since I’m already signed up to it, by virtue of having a gmail account. Fantastic, there’s Google personalised home page, where I can bring all of this together with widgets! I can add lots of other clever widgets too, so everything I need is in one place and I need never visit another website again and then…..

Oh. Bugger. I’m fished in, I’ve sold my soul to Google. I’ve been seduced by clever gadgets and toys and they’ve got me right where they want me, on their website all the time. But they’ve made it all so shiny!!

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Above the radar

I admit it, I’ve been hiding.

I admit it more, its not actually true that I’ve been hiding. I’ve been lost in a second life. Bleary eyed I have emerged from the sleep hoover to discover that I haven’t blogged in 15 months. Bugger.

On the plus side, I suspect I’m even more confused now than I was 15 months ago. May the confusion continue. Perhaps.

For anyone unable to speak “utter rubbish”, this post translates as “I think I’ll blog again.” There, plain English, confusion free. I’ll try and keep that part to a minimum.

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