Brio and Open-Source Hardware

Intellectual property rights in technology. Great, aren’t they? Consider Brio, the middle-class fave range of wooden toys, whose manufacturers have neatly locked out competitors who want to make toys that will go with theirs by using couplings and fasteners that are proprietary and non-standard.

Elsewhere, on the NANOG (North American Network Operators’ Group) list, they discussed the thorny problem of cooling increasingly powerful servers and routers, and arrived at some consensus around using much more water cooling. Paul Vixie argued that in the future, rackmount equipment would have standard connectors for cool water in and warm water out, as it already has standard power connectors, USB ports, and RJ-45 Ethernet ports.

Cool idea! Naturally, there are already racks with water connectors, but inevitably they are proprietary and incompatible. Amusingly, someone pointed out that standard connectors and flexible pipes exist in the beer trade, which is a start. But what does intellectual property actually bring society? I know the standard arguments about the necessity of rewarding invention, but it’s very noticeable that a lot of innovation happens in the open-source world and in what you might call the non-patent space, among academic researchers and the like.

When Bell Labs invented the transistor, they didn’t try to enforce patents on it. Instead they published all their results in peer-reviewed journals and organised technical conferences to spread the knowledge. Perhaps the optimal solution isn’t to look for a total solution, but just to start pushing back the limits of the IP-sphere and see what happens, tolerating any anomalies? Again, seeing that the EU’s misbegotten software patents directive is now dead, this is something we could get started..

HOWTO Protest with a Tank

Der Standard reveals all you need to know about driving a stolen tank into the police lines. Apparently, the man who stole an ex-Soviet T34/85 from the 1956 revolution commemorations and used it on the Hungarian riot police has been arrested. He is reportedly a former soldier (no surprise, as Hungary either has or used to have universal conscription) who might conceivably have driven one before.

This is not that likely but is possible. The T34/85 was possibly the best tank of the second world war and remained a mainstay of the Red Army into the 50s, but was already being replaced by the T54 series in 1956. By the time anyone likely to be fighting with cops in Budapest this week would have been serving, the Warsaw Pact armies had long since flushed most of their T34s out of the ranks, and for that matter their T54s. Most of the T34s that avoided scrapping, museums or use as targets were exported to the Third World – as is well known, there’s nothing you can do for poor people that will do them more good than sending guns.

Anyway, the report in the Standard gives some useful hints on how to protest with a tank. You’ll need enough voltage to turn over a really hefty diesel engine. The Hungarians solved this with several car batteries hooked up in series (not in parallel, mark!). You’ll probably find the tank is locked or worse, so bring an angle grinder, oxy-acetylene torch or arc welding set. In Budapest, the tank’s hatch proved to be padlocked – so it was a good job he came with the right tools.

It doesn’t sound likely that the tank would be fuelled up and ready to go, so the wise man would want to bring a jerry can or three of diesel – after all, once you get it started you can always stop and fill up. Given all the equipment, you’ll almost certainly need an accomplice, or perhaps several. But when arrested, remember to say that you acted entirely alone.

Closer than you think

Remember this post, about Sweden’s new year’s resolution to give up oil by 2020?

According to Jeremy Faludi at, it might not be as difficult as you think.

For example, currently, 6% of Europe’s electricity generation is from renewable sources. If they wanted it to be 100% by 2025, they should expand renewable energy generation by about 15% per year, every year, compared to other power sources. (This does not mean 6% now, 21% next year, 36% the year after, etc. It only means 6% now, 6.9% next year, 8% the year after, etc.) This sounds small, and in fact is less ambitious than their current plan to grow renewables from 6% to 12% by 2010. That would require increasing renewables’ share by 17% per year. But if Europe kept growing its percentage of renewables by 15% per year until 2025, they would be at 100% green power. Perhaps such a policy would be both more ambitious and easier to achieve.

Who’s in?

Killer Workout

Do gyms breed terrorists?

The three cells appear to have had at least one thing in common, though—their members’ immersion in gym culture. Often, they met and bonded over a workout. If you’ll forgive the pun, they were fitness fanatics. Is there something about today’s preening and narcissistic gym culture that either nurtures terrorists or massages their self-delusions and desires? Mosques, even radical ones, emphasize Muslims’ relationships with others—whether it be God, the ummah (Islamic world), or the local community. The gym, on the other hand, allows individuals to focus myopically on themselves.


This is really too good to be true, but we got pictorial evidence.

IT WAS not until midway through the live television interview that the BBC interviewer started to grow suspicious. The man whom she believed to be an expert on internet music downloads seemed to know precious little about his subject.

Not only that, but the stocky black man with the strong French accent bore little resemblance to the picture on the expert’s website, which showed a slim white man with blue eyes and blond hair.

The interview’s here.

Via Nick Whyte