Towards a 1984-like society: Lets go some other way!

So now here in Copenhagen, apparently traffic experts are suggesting that instead of a congestion charge similar to London’s, in the future we should have a GPS receiver in our cars that transmits our position continuously to the tax authorities. And I’m sure that somebody (who won’t be re-elected and who therefore can’t be held accountable) will declare that this is for the sole purpose of Congestion Charging. And it wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes the law.

Yeah, right. Now I ask you, dear reader: How long do you think it’ll be before this is also used to find the mythical pedophile nazi-terrorists  too? I guess that’s ok too, right? But how long before they dig in and allow this to be used by the police to find:

  • Illegal parking
  • Speeding
  • People collecting social benefits they shouldn’t be collecting (Danish: “Sociale Bedragere”)
  • People they want to check up on and keep track of, just for good measure.
  • Continuously monitor who associates with conspicuous people, a.k.a before-mentioned pedophile nazi-terrorists.
  • Keeping lists of who participated in which public demonstrations, just for good measure.

And how long before the tabloid press start revealing that reality-star du-jour has spent the night at another reality-star du-jour?

This is a slippery slope. Here in Denmark, we have a “child pornography filter”. Originally that was for child pornography only. But it evolved into blocking The Pirate Bay (because it was proven that pirates are terrorists?), other file-sharing sites and drug spam sites. Its well on its way to being turned into a general purpose SOPA-like censorship filter.

And make no mistake. This is ideal for putting in a database: Who-was-where-when.

Imagine that Hitler gained power today, and measures like these were in place: “Ah, the opponents (I’m sure he’d call them terrorists) met at Freedom Lane nr 17 on Oct 17 at 19.00. Arrest anyone who parked within 15min/200m from this time/place”.

I am scared, actually. Primarily that most people don’t give a damn. Because they think they haven’t got anything to hide.

Seeing the Sun’s Path – Android and iPhone apps

I’d like to recommend an Android App for seeing the Sun’s path in Augmented Reality (AR): Sun Surveyor. There is also Sun Seeker for iPhone/iOS, which I haven’t tried since I don’t have an iPhone.

We’re out looking for a house to buy, and for me getting the afternoon and evening sun on the terrace during summer is so incredibly important. This way, I don’t have to take the real-estate agent’s word for where the sun goes down in the summer and whether the trees will create shade on the terrace. I can check it myself. Über-cool!

The graphics are laid out on top of my phone’s camera image, so given the image to the right I can see that on July 9th (almost mid-summer) the sun clears the wall just after 7pm before it goes down at 8:52pm.  A little before that it will be obstructed by the wall in the background though. All visible on one screen.

I guess this could be handy for photographers too, but for buying a house this is indispensable. What surprises me is how all the real-estate agents that I’ve shown it to were blown away by it (or so they pretended :-)) but had never seen or heard about something like that before.

Have fun with it!

Increased surveillance is considered a positive by many? Yikes…

Here in Denmark, we’ve just had an election, and the previous government has been replaced.

A newspaper article [lang=”da”] looks back at what people liked and disliked about what the previous government did.

I have trouble believing, much less understanding, that 68% consider increased surveillance to have had a positive effect for Denmark, 16% believe the effect to be neutral and 16% believe it to be negative.

Wow. The people who believe that our society is better off when the government monitors us more out numbers people like me 4 to 1? Yikes. Has nobody read 1984 or seen Das Leben der Anderen? Doesn’t anybody remember DDR or the Soviet Union? Perhaps China will open source the great firewall too, so we can install it here!

I’m a little sad today about this.

Edit on 2011-10-20. Oh no, it keeps getting worse [lang=”da”].

Natural Sort

Why doesn’t every programming language have “Natural Sorting” built in, out of the box? Natural sorting is the way humans sort, where number substrings are sorted numerically, everything else alphabetically:

Sorted “Asciibetically” (normal computer sort) Sorted “Naturally” (what humans prefer)

Notice how 10 comes before 2 in asciibetical “normal computer sorting” ? Haven’t we all seen user interfaces that like that? Its just plain wrong. 🙁

Dave Koelle’s Alphanum Algorithm sorts naturally, but instead of analyzing each array element O(log(N)) times, I present a modified Perl version that allows for Schwartzian transforms, yielding huge performance improvements.

Continue reading Natural Sort

Refresh your browser automatically during web development

Did you ever find that while editing files for the web (e.g. HTML, Javascript, Java/Flash/Ruby, whatever) that it would be cool to have your browser reflect any changes as soon as you hit Save in your IDE without having to Alt-Tab to the browser and hit refresh (Ctrl-R)? That way, you could stay entirely in your browser and just move your eyes to the browser as it refreshes automatically showing you the results of your newest changes.

Well, now you can! I’ve developed a pair of tools for that allow this when used in concert. Both are Open Source, of course.

Continue reading Refresh your browser automatically during web development