Douwe Osinga's Blog: 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Data trouble

I saw super freakonomics was out and thought that would make a nice presence for my wife. I was on a trip in the US so bringing something back could maybe make up a little for the fact that I left just after we moved and left her with many boxes.

But then the boxes sprang back to mind. A lot of them are filled with books. Do we really want more books? I did buy her a kindle for her birthday to fight this sort of thing, didn't I? I should buy her that book on her kindle. And then also put it on my iphone to read it on the plane - seems like the sort of book you can read on a phone chapter by chapter.

So I open my laptop, connect to the tmobile hotspot. But that doesn't work of course without paying. Aha, but I my laptop has iPass. So I use that to log in. Go to Amazon, buy the book, which takes 2 seconds. Start the kindle app on the iphone, click update. Nothing. No Internet connection.

I go hunt on the appstore and find the free iPass app, download to my machine, connect my phone, sync my phone, start it up. Doesn't let me in. But there's a button for corporate logins, so maybe that's a hint. Back to my laptop, login to the VPN, login the intranet and find the information on iPass. Indeed there is a code. Back to the phone, enter the code. iPass app says: no valid internet connection!

Finally I switch on data roaming praying they won't charge me more than the cost of the book for the handful of bytes I need here, go back iPass, enter the code again, now register, switch dataroaming off again, connect the phone to tmobile, enter my iPass credentials and voila, I am online.

The kindle app now sucks down the book and I can read. There's gotta be an easier way than this to connect. Especially if you compare it to how easy Amazon makes it get the book to the phone if you have a connection. Maybe the should get into that? I suppose the new international kindle that has build in data roaming is actually going into that direction.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Didgeridoo's and Grass

We went for a trip to the Kakadu national park last week for the long weekend caused by labour day which is the first of October in Australia. It was quite interesting. Somewhat disturbingly it was the first time since arriving in this country I got to talk to Aboriginals.

We got to a place for lunch and it was really nice and warm and they also had a bar so I ordered a beer. There were a couple of Aboriginals sitting outside also enjoying some and we got to talking.

Europe? One of them said his grand father had travelled in Europe. He had met Paul McCartney and painted his jacket. He was an artist. He'd also been to the Netherlands yes. And Germany. Another guy turned out to be a mechanic and had been in that line of work for 62 years. He looked like he could be anywhere between 50 and 90.

They were living in a town a little down the road, about three hours drive. But the bar there would only open at 5:30, so they decided to come here to drink some. And not to get aggressive one of them added.

Now it was warm and sunny and my beer tasted pretty good. But you have to be pretty thirsty to drive three hours to be able to get a beer for lunch.

Aboriginals are not doing well on any measure in Australia. There twice as likely to be a victim of a crime and 11 times more likely to end up in prison. Life expectancy is 11 years less than other Australians. Alcoholism and the associated aggression and abuse are rife to the point where authorities limit how much, when and where you can buy alcohol (only light beer for take away was a rule somewhere else).

Making alcohol harder to get has let some people driven to petrol sniffing, which in turn let authorities to push for a low-aromatic petrol that doesn't work for sniffing. And so it goes.

Alcohol and poor people has been a problem as old as, well, alcohol or at least cheap alcohol. Work is curse of the drinking class, as Oscar Wilde would have it. They only way to really solve it is to solve the underlying poverty and other social ills. Pushing people away from beer to petrol sniffing and when that no longer is available to glue sniffing is hardly a road to sanity.

So here's my proposal: Marijuana. Medically much healthier than alcohol, petrol or glue and the associated high is nice and mellow. Tribal law is based on the dreaming so a little weed should fit in. And a string of aboriginal settlements with reggae and didgeridoo sounds would certainly be a great tourist attraction.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kindle & Copyright

I bought my wife an early birth day present in form of the Kindle 2. A coworker had one and we like it and now I have a birth day present and a cool gadget. What's not to like?

The fact that Amazon doesn't do the kindle outside of the US, that's what's not to like. They'll sell you the machine (if you provide a US address to ship to), but then when you have the thing and you try to order a book they say that there are geographical restrictions and I should lease refer to the terms of use for this product to determine the geographical restrictions. Couldn't find any of the terms of use. They don't even let you download books that are out of copyright where it really is hard to see where those terms of use would come from.

Amazon has a nice setup to buy books and subscriptions and I was really looking forward to using it, but when that turned out to be impossible, I checked some of the other options. Different copyright laws in Australia for example mean that books are out of copyright here, while they're still paid for in the US (most interestingly 1984 fits this case).

Meanwhile your average bit torrent search engine will let you download the complete works of Bill Bryson in a few minutes for free. It is quite impressive what you can get that way - this weeks economist is downloadable illegally before it makes its way to my Australian home.

I send an email to Amazon support and they said that my one-click delivery address was set to the address of my parents in law. I didn't know I had a one-click delivery address, but indeed, after I changed that (and for good measure did the payments through an Amazon gift certificate and tunnelled my traffic through some server in the US) it started to work just fine.

But it makes you wonder. We now have the technology to give each person for a few hundred dollars a device that could hold 1500 books. I know, I know the Internet could give everybody access to all the worlds information all the time too and has been able to do that for a while, but it requires cables, upkeep, computers. With a kindle like device we really could bring the worlds information to everybody.

If it wasn't for copyright of course. A kindle full of books costs the same as an ipod full of songs. It really doesn't seem very likely that copyright is really our best way to get books into the hands of as many people as possibly while paying authors for what they do.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Eating Animals

Followers of this blog have noticed that lately there hasn't been much to follow. My last post is from January. I've gone through dry spots before, but at least this time I have an excuse: Twitter. It is just so much easier to send out a tweet than a blog post. If you're interested, you can follow me here:

I've always been a fan of vegetarianism. I'm not a fan of how the bio industry works. Animal welfare just isn't part of growing meat. Understandably maybe, but I think if we would play videos of the lifes of the animals next to the meat coolers where we sell their bodies, sales would depress rather markedly.

And it is not just the animals. Meat is a rather resource intensive food and we're getting to the point where we don't have enough planet to go around. Take Australia for example. Australia is in a draught and has been for 10 years. TV spots tell you to not have the water running while you brush your teath to save the continent. Wider discussions are going on about peak-water, the idea that the production of drinkable water has peaked and that the next wars will be about water, not about oil.

If you look at the numbers agrigulture is the big consumer here. 70-80% of all water is consumed by farmers. Showers, baths and drinking costs maybe a few hundred liters of water a day. Growing one kilo of meat costs 20 thousand liters of water. Australians eat about a third of a kilo a day. All in all you can probably reduce your water consumption by more than 50% when you become a vegetarian.

According to FAO (, Meatproduction is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse effect gasses. Airtransport sits pretty around 3% (though admittedly more people eat meat than fly). Vegetarians probably eat slightly more vegetables, but not nearly enough to make up for that 18% gap.

Lastly, if we don't come up with something new, we'll run out of food. The world population is set to grow by another 3 billion. Yields in agriculture aren't going up much. Total amount of land used for agriculture is falling (more cities, more degraded land). Last years food panic shows what can happen when demand and supply get mismatched. Eating plants directly rather than feeding it to a cow and then eating the cow is obviously more efficient.

And yet. Steak just tastes really good. Saying to the world I am going to eat that anymore? Augustinus saying springs to mind: "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet." Of course you can decide to eat less meat and lots of people seem to have done that, but it always sounds a bit hollow. Like a smoker saying I won't quit, I'll just smoke less.

So I have a new plan and an uggly word to go with it: Weekatarian. Week + Vegetarian, sounding a bit like a weak vegetarian, which it is. Weekatarians eat meat, but only one day a week. You get to pick the day so you can line it up with special occasians. You'll probably end up eating more meat that day than average, but quite a lot less than in an average week. You can keep eating the odd steak, don't have to say good bye to bacon in the morning and you'll reduce your water use by half, cut greenhouse gasses by maybe 10% and have less animals tortured in your name.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Why do I feel the urge to post predictions for 2009? Mostly because I enjoy reading them - the fact that the web let's people check back a year later is interesting. However, the ones that I read seem in general uninspired. Yeah, the economy won't be good in 2009, Obama will be president and the Internet will still be there. So here's my shot at 2009:

  • Microsoft rebounds
    Just when people think there is no live after Bill. Windows 7 will turn out to be the best windows so far, making even Mac heads stop and wonder. The XBox will be turn out to be the winner of the console wars (but not by a lot) and Explorer 8 a decent browser.

  • China takes the big hit, not the US
    2009 will be a bad year for the world economy, but things will start to look up again if you look closer. More over, the US will be hit less hard than China, which will might not actually shrink, but will do significanly less well than the now predicted 6% economic growth.

  • Greenery will have peaked
    Global Warmings Mind share will go down.

  • The EU will bail out a member country
    27 member states and an economic crisis not seen since the 30's, so this one seems not that unexpected. But it will be interesting, since it will make the EU assume yet another role normally reserved for a state. And the UK will actually support it, since their banking system won't be able to take the actual collapse of said country.

  • Obamo more similar to Bush than the Europeans would like
    The Europeans will try to keep their love affair with Obama alive but they will start to realize that on things like Israel, Iran and the International Court of Justice, America is still America.