Category Archives: The Politics of Technology

Bono… Crusader For Lost Profits!

Anyone remember the U2 song Sunday Bloody Sunday? Apparently Bono doesn’t and it shows after writing a piece in the New York Times telling the Movie industry not to make the same mistakes the Recording industry made by not cracking down on file-swappers harder.

We know from America’s noble effort to stop child pornography, not to mention China’s ignoble effort to suppress online dissent, that it’s perfectly possible to track content…

Eh? So you are all for someone to sit around, with prying eyes to constantly watch us and your precious content to make sure that it’s all legit? Wow. It sounds like someone needs to experience The Troubles again.


THEY TOOK OUR JOBS!!! DERKA DERRRRR!!!

So is the battle cry of those who feel “wronged” by the presence of immigrants in their country. The recent mall shooting in Espoo on New Year’s Eve has highlighted that Finland has more in common with America than anyone can actually imagine.

The case

A 43-year old Kosovo Albanian by the name of Ibrahim Shkupolli, killed his ex-girlfriend, traveled to Espoo’s Sella mall and then shot and killed 4 people inside the Prisma superstore. His ex-girlfriend has a restraining order against him. Police are speculating that the shootings in the mall were not random (no wounded, no injured by-standers) and that each person was targeted because of the woman. Shkupolli went back to his apartment and killed himself after the shootings in the mall.

The rise of the Facebook Group

So the other day, my wife pointed out the Finnish Facebook group to me, YKSI rikos ja matkalippu kotimaahan !!! (One crime and a ticket back home). This group believes that Finland has enough trouble with it’s own population and that Foreigners need not bother to act a fool here.

To date, the Facebook Group Cause has taken the place of the online petition. The online petition was practically useless and no one cared enough to pay attention. The Facebook Group Cause would probably have just as much meaning if it were not for Google (index and it’s new real-time indexing feature), RSS, Twitter and other Web 2.0 features that allows people to consume information almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, this has also led to the rise of impatience when it comes to fact-finding.

Judgmental and bigoted go hand-in-hand?

In America, people have increasingly become more quick to judge based in little to no fact and the opinions of pundits and talking heads. Thanks to the 24-hour cable news network and the real-time dissemination of information. Now, it seems that Finns are becoming more like their American counterparts.

While groups like this “one crime” group are started with the best of intentions. There are many people who have more extreme views who will latch onto groups like this. Eventually, it will lead the population to believe that the group is anti-immigrant, racist, bigoted and 100% ignorant of the facts (Perussuomalaiset/True Finns anyone?).

If someone needs an example of what could happen to groups like this, you need not look any further than to the Tea Party groups in America. There whole cause was to protest the government’s free-for-all bailing out of Financial industry. Now the whole movement is poisoned by bigots, racists, right-wing fringe elements and ignorant idiots who wouldn’t know what was going on outside their own home if someone held a loaded gun to their head (no pun intended). Oh and don’t forget, the Fox News Entertainment Channel.

While I also opposed the Obama Administration’s handing out piles of cash [to the people who have created the current global economic condition] I cannot fathom supporting the Tea Party movement as morally bankrupt as it has become.

Meanwhile in Finland…

While this Facebook Group might be well-intended, the immigrant issue is used as an excuse to ignore the larger issue at hand. This is that Finland’s criminal justice system is a joke. “Life sentences” are slaps in the wrist in comparison to sentences handed out in the States. Even though Finland does not have a maximum length of time for a Life Sentence, usually the sentence is not any longer than 15 years. Also, local Police Departments do not have the resources or manpower to go after criminals.

A perfect example as to why this system is flawed is Juha Valjakkala, who is now knows as Nikita Fouganthine. Fouganthine was convicted on 3 counts of murder in Sweden and sentenced to life in prison. After some time, he was transferred to Finland to server the “remainder” of his sentence. During his prison term he was allowed to go on furlough from prison (one furlough was unsupervised). Which leads to problem number one: Why are prisoners – especially violent triple murderers – in Finland allowed to take a break from their prison sentences?

During his 19 some years in prison, Fouganthine attempted to escape from jail 5 times. if he was punished because of his escape attempts, you wouldn’t know it. Fouganthine was paroled (from prison in early 2008. Killing 3 people and you only serve 19 years with vacations! It’s not much of an incentive to keep people from freely murdering each other. A couple of months after his release, he was convicted of violating the terms of his parole and served most of 2008 behind bars until the Finnish Supreme Court suspended his sentence. When Fouganthine was sentenced for the killings in Sweden, he had already been convicted 11 times for other crimes.

Do you remember Pekka-Eric Auvinen and Matti Juhani Saari? Auvinen was the author of the massacre at Jokela High School. He killed 8 people and wounded 12 others in 2007. Saari was the author of the massacre at the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences. he killed 10 people and wounded 1 person in 2008.

As an immigrant

As I said previously, using the immigrant issue to ignore the larger issue at hand is really what is troubling Finland today – the criminal justice system. Immigrant crime is small in comparison to crimes committed by Finns. It has gone up in recent years (helped by a growing immigrant population). However, crimes caused by immigrants will never exceed the crimes cause by immigrants. It’s pretty obvious as to why – the population of Finns far exceeds immigrants!

The Facebook Group name simple spotlights immigrant crime while completely ignoring Finnish crime rates. Oh sure, the creator mentions that there are a host of problems and she also calls out Finns. However, you cannot simply ignore the name of the group. Currently, there are 8,000+ members for this group. I wonder just how many of these members knows what it’s like to be an immigrant? I’m willing to bet that it’s very few of them.

When an immigrant in Finland commits a crime that makes headlines, it affects the rest of us immigrants. I was reading some of the comments on Finlandforthought.net about this subject. A couple commentators attempted to argue that they should not be lumped into the same category as a murder. Fair enough, you have the right to feel this way. However, in reality this is not the case. A crime committed by a foreigner in Finland is a crime committed by all foreigners at the same time! It also works this way in the States. While it’s usually a person in the minority who actually subscribes to this line of thinking, just like in the States, the vocal minority has a big influence on public opinion.

When some people ask me what nationality I am, they are relieved to find out that I am an American. Should this make me feel better? Well, it doesn’t. It makes me feel worse. I have a child on the way who will be half American and half Finnish. If things keep up the way they are now, what is my child’s future going to be like? I used to think that when it comes to matters in Finland, I would let the Finns worry about Finland. I can’t afford do that anymore. Finland is my home too.

In conclusion

Shkupolli abused his privilege to reside here in Finland and he needed to be deported a while ago; and he would have been if the Finnish criminal justice system was actually tough on crime. However, a “one crime” fits all approach is really not the answer. I cringe at the thought of someone being deported for getting caught smoking a joint. If this is the approach to take, why not expand it? How about a mandatory 5 year sentence (with no bullshit vacations) for any crime committed by anybody?

Change doesn’t come by bandwagon, it starts at home and in the system. Let’s start focusing on the real issues.


The EU/Microsoft Browser Ballot Saga: The Final Chapter

Yesterday marks the day that the EU/Microsoft Antitrust probe came to end as the European Commission approved Microsoft’s Browser Ballot plan. In this plan, users of Windows XP, Vista and 7 in the European Economic Area will receive a choice through Windows Update as to which browser they would like to install. According to Tom’s, the browsers are: Opera, Chrome, Safari, Firefox, AOL, Maxthon, K-Meleon, Flock, Avant Browser, Sleipnir, Slim Browser and Internet Explorer.

The agreement will remain in place for at least five years and the EC will make a review after two years. If Microsoft violates the agreement, they will be fine up to 10% of it’s annual income. However, the EC does not have to prove that Microsoft has violated antitrust rules in order to fine Microsoft.

Say what??? It’s bad enough that the EC has wasted EU taxpayer money and time with this witch hunt but now the EC can gank money from Microsoft by simply saying, “Hey, you are not doing what you agreed on. We got this email from the people at Opera saying so!” What a load. To be frank, Microsoft should have packed up business, flipped the EU the bird and said, “Good luck with Ubuntu, assholes!”

Ugh! I will end this post by linking you to my previous post on this subject. My opinion on this subject is documented there.


The EU/Microsoft Browser Ballot Saga Continues

File under: “I cannot believe this crap is still going on.”

In another chapter in the ongoing antitrust-settlement saga between MS and the EU, MS has decided to revise it’s browser ballot system after complaints from Opera, Mozilla and Google. Apparently the browser ballot list (which for some reason was not in the version of Windows 7 that I bought) was in alphabetical order which put Apple’s Safari first on the list. Microsoft has changed the list so that the browsers are randomly placed.

Some thoughts

Am I the only one who is tired of this bs? Is there really nothing more important for the EU to concentrate on so that they can worry about what Microsoft puts in its operating systems? The last I heard, the EU has problems with how to deal with Muslims within the EU, Russia and energy issues.  What about the Lisbon Treaty and the EU Constitution? Or is this to distract us from the fact that there are far too many EU MPs and out of those MPs, there are those who have taken far too many liberties with their pay and allowance paid to them by taxpayers in the EU?

There are several points here:

  • Microsoft Windows is made and owned by Microsoft. I fail to understand why anyone has the right to tell MS what they should or should not put into their operating systems. How come no one has gone after Apple yet over the inclusion of Safari? Anyone notice how quiet Apple is in this latest chapter?
  • Thanks to Internet Explorer being included in Windows we have a CHOICE to download any other browser we wish to use. Does Internet Explorer automatically blacklist websites of the major browser competitors? No. Once again we are free TO CHOOSE and download whatever browser we like thanks to the inclusion of Internet Explorer.

I think the second point is the most important. Internet Explorer did a lot of good for the competing browsers. It did more than competitors care to admit and the numbers speak for themselves. The use of alternatives to Internet Explorer has been on the rise for years now. As I pointed out here, Internet Explorer has been losing its share of users and it is going to continue to lose users. Internet Explorer is a sub-par product compared to the other browsers. A poster child for what not to do with a web browser. Firefox blazed the popularity trail with tabbed browsing, add-ons, themes, standards compliance and security. It was because of these features, ordinary users began realizing that they had a choice. People in Europe made their choice well before EU bureaucrats thought they should get involved.

Competition and innovation were not stifled, they were enhanced greatly thanks to the inclusion of Internet Explorer. Still need examples? Gecko and Apple’s Webkit are only a couple.

Enough is enough. There is far more important shit to worry about.


Mininova Shuts Down Torrent Links

Yesterday, torrent giant Mininova turned off it’s torrent link hosting service in compliance with the BREIN ruling handed against it by the Dutch Court of Utrecht earlier this year. According to this Mininova blog post, Mininova is going to rely on it’s Content Distribution service. This service allows content providers to distribute their works using Mininova for free.

Mininova was the second major European torrent service that was hit with a court ruling this year. The first was the Swedish service, The Pirate Bay. But unlike Mininova, The Pirate Bay is still hosting links to torrents. However, The Pirate Bay shut down it’s torrent tracker and has told users to use the provided magnet links.


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – Russians, Servers and Sales

Sales

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has, apparently, broken sales records previously held by Grand Theft Auto IV. According to the Christian Science Monitor, sales figures from North American and the U.K. put sales amount at 4.7 million units and the dollar amount past $300 million in the first 24 hours. GTA IV sales were 3.6 million units at $310 million for the first weekend.

Activision rejoices, “Hah we knew it! You clock dollars when the game you release is geared towards the console market!!”

Meanwhile in Russia…

Our neighbors to the east are apparently not very happy with the “Airport/No Russian” scene that has been sort of controversial in the west itself. The scene, in which you play a Russian terrorist who kills innocent people in an airport has drawn the ire of the Russian government and a few Russian gamers. The Russian government has banned the game and according to CNET (Warning: sarcasm filled article!), the scene will be removed in both Steam and disc versions.

I had the pleasure of attending Finnish language courses with many Russian classmates. They are nice, regular people. They were not the monsters my government (The United States) made them out to be when I was growing up (during the late stages of the Cold War).

The Russians are a proud, patriotic people. They love their language, culture and county. Russia is the center of their universe and anyone who doesn’t like it, be damned. Does this sound familiar? Well, it should because this is how we Americans are.

The entertainment industry in America has made anyone, from Americans to Russians to Muslims the enemy of any protagonist in a story. Because this is exactly what it is, a story. We Americans are used fighting our own in books, TV, games and movies. We also don’t think any less of our fellow countrymen. Guess what? We don’t think any less of Russians because a few bad apples decide to cut down innocent people in a game.

Now, I could point out Russia’s foreign policy, talk about Russian current issues and the dark past of the Russian-led Soviet Union. Then, I could point out the same for America just so people don’t feel that Russia is being singled out. But, I’m not going to do that. In the end, this is just a video game based on a fictional story. No real harm has been done and Activision is going to block scene from the Russian versions. Time to move on.

PC gamers to Activision, “You can clock all the dollars you want, we’ll make our own server.”

Over at Tom’s, you can get a look at a video presentation of people playing on a self-built dedicated server. They demonstrate grenade and AC-130 cannon spamming and low-gravity jumps. I would assume that since this can be done, eventually there will be community-made dedicated servers up and running in no time.

I think the funny part about this is that this dedicated server was made a week after the game was released. There is simply no excuse as to why support for dedicated servers is not available.


Convicted German Murders Sue Wikipedia

In the Summer of 1990, German actor Walter Sedlmayr was found killed in his bedroom. In 1993, half-brothers Manfred Lauber and Wolfgang Werlé were convicted of Sedlmayr’s murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2007 and 2008 respectively, they were released on Parole. Now, according to the New York Times, they are suing Wikipedia for publishing their names on it’s website. The pair has already successfully pressured publications in Germany into removing their names from online articles.

According to the NYT article linked above, in 1973 the high court in Germany ruled, basically saying that a criminal has a right to privacy even after the person has been tried and convicted of whatever crime they have committed. In the case now, Lauber and Werlé have been tried, convicted and have served there time.

Some thoughts

I support the right to privacy. I am also I firm believer in innocence before guilt. I always hear of people who have not been tried and convicted in a court of law, but who have already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion. Overzealous officials and media who already brand suspects guilty, so the masses can feel safer, knowing that they have the right person. But this is always not the case. Richard Jewell was nearly crucified and had his life ruined because he was a suspect in the 1996 Olympic bombing in Atlanta. It’s even worse if the crime allegedly involves children. Such as the case in Massachusetts where a state worker was accused of downloading large amounts of child porn onto his work laptop. 11 months after he was charged the charges were dropped when it was discovered that his laptop was seriously infected with a virus that was downloading massive amounts of child porn. By then, the damage had already been done. His family’s reputation was ruined. He was in financial ruin because he fought the charges. He had death threats made against him. He suffered property damage and his health greatly suffered because of the stress. All because he had already been convicted in the court of public opinion.

The problem with Lauber and Werlé’s case is that they are not suing Wikipedia because they are claiming to be innocent, but because they believe – thanks to German law – that they have a reasonable expectation to privacy. They don’t want the murder to be erased, just their names. In essence, without actually saying it, they want to rewrite history.

The saying usually goes, the Winners are the one who write history. Unfortunately, in Germany, in an effort to make up for the sins of their forefathers, there has been an ongoing effort to rewrite history by stifling free speech. For example: game publishers have to remove Nazi symbols from World War II based games if they want to sell their games in German’s huge market. One of the biggest examples is that it is a crime to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. A thought crime for which Germany will punish someone for speaking their mind.

Before you go there, it is clear that the Holocaust occurred. There’s irrefutable evidence, pictures, witness accounts. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a jackass. I’ll believe a veteran of WWII who saw the concentration camps, on any given day over the likes of someone like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. However, being a jackass isn’t and should never be a crime. Thinking something should never carry a prison term.

Unfortunately, we will never know Walter Sedlmayr’s opinion on this because he is dead. What happened has happened and it’s now a matter of public record. The crime was brutal and heinous enough to warrant transparency to ensure that the public always has their eye on these two gentlemen. The German public as well as the rest of the EU should at least have this if they cannot have an actual “life” sentence.


The EU Tackles Rights To Internet Access

A couple of days ago, the EU agreed to an “Internet Freedom Provision” that makes sure that due process is respected when dealing with someone who has allegedly violated some rule and is facing having their internet connection shut off for good. The provision makes clear the process of shutting off an internet connection by reinforcing judicial review, presumed innocence, and privacy rights.

However, the provision also allows for gradual response measures. This is probably to appease the French government and it’s HADOPI law. Last year, the European Parliament attempted to pass Amendment 138 after France initially passed HADOPI. This was in response the HADOPI’s original presumption of guilt and requirement of a national blacklist of offenders.

The problem now is that the provision only protects those who have been sanctioned by the national government and not by a private company or individual. This means that, for example, the IFPI can file a complaint with, let’s say DNA here in Finland, regarding someone who is uploading mp3s. This provision does not protect the user from DNA shutting off their internet connection.

Last month the Finnish government declared that, starting July 2010, people in Finland will have the right to at least a 1 Mb connection. But does that mean the right can be taken away? Or is this a guaranteed, no matter what, right?

When that story broke, commentators on various sites questioned internet access as a right saying that, “It’s a privilege, not a right. Who the hell is Finland to say otherwise?”

While in the States you can pay your bills online or use your debit card, people are still paying their bills at the local bank or grocery store. There are also people still using paper checks. Here in Finland, paper checks are a thing of the past and paying your bills online is the preferred method to pay your bills. The older generations are the few who still stroll into the local Osuuspankki or Nordea to pay their bills. They are also the reason why I stay away from my local Nordea branch. 30+ min. wait time to ask a question from a cashier? No thanks.

My point is that the internet has become integrated into our lives so much that we can no longer afford to do without internet access. You may not need to, but I need to pay my bills. It was a privilege back in 1999, but ten years later it is a right.

It’s time to catch up with the rest of us.


The EU Protects Our Ears

The EU has proposed new rules to make mandatory default “safe exposure” volume settings in portable music players. Besides a default volume setting, the EU would also like companies, who make portable music players, to add warnings in instruction booklets and in other locations.

While this is well-intended, the problem is that you can’t govern what a person does privately. Common sense should tell a person that they should not listen to music, at full-blast, 24/7. There’s really no way for the EU to enforce these rules upon the consumer. Also, these rules could end up taking more money out of our pockets because of additional costs on the manufacturing end. Consumer electronics here in Finland already cost an arm and leg.

URL: Europa.eu