Saturday, December 04, 2010

Boycotting Amazon - possible to migrate existing JungleDisk account to RackSpace?

Dear JungleDisk,

I am opposed to how has closed down the accounts they were hosting for WikiLeaks ( ). Their publicly-stated reasons for their ban ( don't make sense -- US government documents are not copyrighted and WikiLeaks has been careful in how they have released documents, with redactions where appropriate to protect individuals. Whatever may be the legality of the leaker of the documents, journalist organizations such as WikiLeaks should be free to publish information they have been given which they deem to be in the public insterest.

Nevertheless, Amazon is free to do as they wish with their business, and I am free as a consumer to do what I would like with my money -- including boycotting Amazon ( ).

I like the JungleDisk service and I was sad that I was going to need to close it down. I was happy to learn that you also support storage in the RackSpace Cloud Files service.

Can you give me more information about what steps I will need to take to migrate my data in my JungleDisk account from Amazon S3 to RackSpace Cloud Files?


Michael Maguire

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Nick Clegg's Coalition's YourFreedom website

I got the following email from Nick Clegg's people two days ago:

Dear Michael,

We've already scrapped ID cards. Now I'd like to ask you - which other laws do you want to scrap?

Your Freedom

The Liberal Democrats have always stood up for civil liberties, scrapping unnecessary laws and reducing the burden of regulation on businesses and charities.

In our manifesto, we proposed a Freedom Bill to roll back Labour's attacks on British civil liberties. In government, we are doing just that.

Yesterday I launched Your Freedom, a national dialogue on how to create a more open, inclusive society. Anyone can make suggestions about which laws we need to scrap and where we can cut red tape. You can also rate and comment on other people's suggestions. The best ideas will be put into practice – because this is a listening government.

This is the open government we have long campaigned for. So tell us about every time you've felt snooped on by the state, or had to fill in the same form three times. Help us put Liberal Democrat values into practice in Government.

I know people are talking about this up and down the country – so please do have your say and pass this message on to anyone who has ideas for Your Freedom.

All best wishes,

Nick Clegg Signature

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats & Deputy Prime Minister

PS. Please use the Your Freedom website to let me know your ideas.

This is a great idea -- I hope it works -- and for a start I added to following discussion:

Taking photographs of a police officer

Freedom to photograph and video-record the police is the Archimedean point from which many other justice issues concerning the police can be witnessed, shared, discussed and resolved. Get this fixed and we'll be able to fix many other policing abuses.

For example, as a boring, employed, middle-class, white guy, I have never been to a demonstration or been a part of a radical organization, but it doesn't change the fact that I want to live in a free society and I want people to be allowed to demonstrate and show me what they see happening that's wrong. Police crack-downs on demonstrations are relevant to the democratic process, and as a voter and a taxpayer I should be allowed to witness what goes on through the eyes of people there, rather than simply the approved media outlets.

Repealing section 76 of the 2008 Counter-Terrorism Act and section 58A of the 2000 Terrorism Act so that they can no longer be abused by the police to prevent citizens from photographing and video-recording the police is essential in order to ensure that police -- as employees of the people granted special, limited privileges above certain laws -- respect those limits and are accountable to the people.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

On Nick Clegg's restoration of civil liberties - what about *legal* immigrants?

I heard Nick Clegg's 'Civil Liberties' speech today and thought it was great and confirmed for me why I voted LibDem:

Nick Clegg pledges biggest political reforms since 1832

I have a specific question, however, about something which doesn't get mentioned much.

Illegal immigration is one thing -- definitely an easy target during elections. As, well, cutting the numbers of legal immigrants from outside the EU has also been a popular issue during the election.

A question I have not seen answered yet is changes to how we will treat *legal* immigrants.

I am a recent legal immigrant to the U.K., having naturalized in February. Prior to naturalizing, I was resident in the U.K. on a Commonwealth Citizen of U.K. Ancestry visa (I was born in Canada and my grandfather was born in Glasgow).

What I noticed is that when I went to the (as it happened by accident because of the waiting times in London) Glasgow U.K. borders office to renew my Ancestry visa last time, some people were being sent to the fingerprint room, while others were not.

It appeared as those those of us applying for visas from 'white' countries didn't get fingerprinted, while those from 'brown' countries did.

Technically I believe it's because U.K. borders was rolling out fingerprinting to various groups, with student visas first, and ancestry visas somewhere near the bottom of the list, but the result was mostly as described.

I have always believed that fingerprinting is something we do to criminals. For example, I am completely opposed to spending my tourist dollars in the United States because of their fingerprinting regime, although Canadians are exempt from that program (probably because we simply refused as a country).

Initially the U.S. took only a single finger which it could be argued was for unique identification alone, but eventually they started taking fingerprints from all fingers, which is worrying as it does suggest they view all visitors as criminals. From what I understand, U.K. borders was going to begin sharing its own fingerprint data with the U.S.: UKBA to exchange fingerprints with US

The unwritten laws of guest friendship are the among the oldest we have as humans. Sadly they have been sacrificed in some countries out of fear for safety.

My primary concern, however, is this:

So much of civil society *works* only because we *expect* it to work. Many countries have written constitutions with strong provisions for civil liberties and freedoms. For example several of the former soviet republics adopted written constitutions and charters of freedoms similar to those found in established 'free' countries such as Canada. Nevertheless, magically adopting a constitution didn't create a free, open a stable society in these places. If a police officer stops your car in Russia today and demands a bribe, do you pay? Can you imagine what would happen if a police officer stopped your car in the U.K. and demanded a bribe? The difference is that we have in this country an expectation of freedom. I believe that civil society in the U.K. works because we expect people to obey the law, and people expect the law to treat them fairly. When, however, we start off our relationship with new immigrants to this country by expecting them to be criminals and fingerprinting them as such, I fear we have already damaged that relationship.

I look forward to hearing more about what the official Conservative/LibDem position will be on the clawing back of civil liberties for everyone who comes to the U.K., be they tourist, student or legal immigrant.

Friday, April 30, 2010

On a proposed total ban on smacking

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights published an article in the Guardian yesterday calling for Britain to adopt the kind of blanket ban on any form of physical punishment for children that has already been adopted by law in other European countries such as Sweden.

The article justified its position with a reference to some research which my recent reading of Nurture Shock, by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman suggested was out-of-date and incorrect.

I thought I would write to the Comissioner and ask what his sources were.

Dear Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights,

As an involved, loving and politically liberal father of two young children, I read with interest your 29 April 2010 article in the Guardian and I had a question.

When you say "research shows that children who are spanked more frequently at age three are more likely to be aggressive by age five" I am curious which study you are thinking of.

Is it the late twentieth century work by Kenneth Dodge of Duke University? In Po Bronson's 2009 book "Nurture Shock," he points out that the early studies of spanking in predominantly Caucasian American children were later contradicted by studies of black American children in which the inverse relationship was demonstrated - "The spanked black kid was all around less likely to be in trouble."

According to Bronson, Dodge's more recent work with Jennifer Lansford (e.g. "The Relation Between Cultural Norms for Corporal Punishment and Societal Rates of Violent Behaviour" 2007) attempting to reconcile and understand the diverse results seems to have concluded that something more complex is at work.

Overall, Bronson indicated that the research found that the circumstances and cultural background under which physical discipline was administered affected the outcome.

The circumstances which led to later problems where ones in which:

'physical discipline was a mostly-unspoken taboo. It was saved only for the worst offenses. The parent was usually very angry at the child and had lost his or her temper. The implicit message was: "What you have done is so deviant that you deserve a special punishment, which is spanking." It marked the child as someone who has lost his place within traditional society.' (p.187)

Instead, when moderate spanking was a normal, expected part of discipline it had no adverse effects and in fact reduced aggression later.

It should be noted that Bronson claims that Dodge and Lansford are "adamantly against the use of physical discipline." From what I can tell, Bronson's book itself is not dictated by any pro-spanking agenda -- rather it is simply marketed as being a parenting book for people who hate parenting books, containing interesting counter-intuitive research results and the mention of spanking research is only a few paragraphs in passing.

It seems that the article and the original Swedish legislation may be partially based on out-of-date research.

I believe there is a difference between the physical abuse proscribed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the one hand and a disciplinary whack administered with the child's best interests in mind on the other.

Personally, I have found that with very young children, words do not work well enough when it comes to ceasing potentially life-threatening behaviour, such as playing with power cords or sockets, reaching for stove tops, or unlocking the front door of the house to the street. In those literally life-harming cases only, a whack on the hand administered calmly and without anger seems to be the safest for my child.
My rule is that for everything else, no matter how angry I feel, the naughty step or being sent to the bedroom works less effectively but well enough, which is fine.

I have no great religious, cultural or philosophical attachment to the use of physical punishment with children, and I would be very eager to find out if there is significant up-to-date research showing that it is problematic. Conversely, if the latest research shows that avoiding mild physical punishment is in fact neutral or even against children's best interests, then I would look forward to seeing the language used by government moderated by up-to-date studies.

Michael Maguire

Saturday, March 06, 2010

On becoming a target for anti-immigrant politics

Fun to read one of those articles and then realize -- 'Hey! They're talking about me!"

Here's my letter to the editor of our local newspaper, the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle, as well as a scan of the original article that prompted it.

Dear Editor,

As a Canadian immigrant to London, when people make disparaging remarks about immigrants to me, I usually point out that I am one. This often gets some kind of response like – “Oh not you, you're the kind we like.” I'm never quite sure how to take that.

Your 5 March 2010 article "Immigrant increases could lead to tax hike" states "more than 27% of the borough's white population was born overseas, almost double the amount of London as a whole." Further on, Councillor Harry Phibbs is quoted as saying "If we have more people here we have got a greater strain on local services and if people do not speak English as their first language that is an added problem".

My wife, also foreign born, does not speak English as her first language. So it would appear the Honourable Councillor's blame for the council's financial woes is aimed squarely at our home.

If it is the duty of immigrants to contribute their own experiences and wisdom to their newly adopted home, allow me to point out that 45.7% of Toronto's population is foreign born. Canada's two official languages of English and French are the mother tongues for only 55.3% of the city's inhabitants. Yet despite the usual big city struggles with budgets, crime and funding of social services, life doesn't grind to a halt. I believe it helps that city councillors work on the real issues, rather than needlessly immigrant-bashing.

Is the Honourable Councillor somehow saying my wife and I are responsible for the borough's tax hike? If so, how exactly? Does he not realize immigrants are the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding, voters next door -- or are we just "the kind he likes"?

Michael Maguire

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Apple iPod Touch 8GB

Firmware: 3.1.2 (7D11) Model: MC086BT

I purchased this, at £150 the cheapest of the iPod/iPhone's which allows for App Store software, in order to be able to experiment with OSX development for the iPhone.

It has been absolutely great to use around the house. Using Joikuspot for the Nokia N86, it has also been fun to use on-the-go.

It's thinner than the iPhone and great to help keep kids occupied when e.g. on an airplane.

I'm so attached to it's size I almost think I'd rather wait for the next, thinner, generation of the iPhone.

This 'phone' doesn't suck.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Samsung i7500 Galaxy (Android)

Firmware: 1.5, I7500XXIH6, 2.6.27 hudson@andy #1, 76XXCSDCBALUM6375

In general, I have found that Samsung phones, while popular for their basic voice and texting, have pretty much sucked for 3 party application developers. For this reason they haven't been much use to us in the company.

It would appear, however, that Samsung knows this too, hence their jumping on the Android band-wagon. Finally samsung has produced a spiffy phone that developers can love too.

I think this phone is probably the nicest Android phone so far, especially if one is not a fan of HTC devices.

Note: I had some trouble because I originally bought this model from eXpansys UK and it turned out it was a grey-market phone from the UAE (Firmware 1.5 Kernel 2.6.27 wootae77@SE-S409 #1 Build number 76XXCSDCBALUM6375). Unfortunately it was without support for the Android Market application (which defeats the point of Android, really -- shame on Google for allowing Android phones to be shipped without the Market app or not making it easily available in a subsequent download). I subsequently sent that one back and bought a proper UK phone on contract from O2.

I'm not a big fan of the fact that it is touchscreen only (no keyboard or number pad) but that is a taste issue only. Battery life seems pretty great.

This phone doesn't suck.