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December 2003
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February 2004

Bird Flu

BBC News

International health and food safety agencies have appealed to donors for funds and technical assistance to help stop the spread of bird flu in Asia.

The agencies warned that the disease could become an influenza pandemic.

"We have a brief window of opportunity before us to eliminate that threat," said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

There are fears that the bird flu virus could mutate, attaching itself to a human flu virus which could spread between people.

"Although it has not happened yet, the so-called 'bird flu' presents a risk of evolving into an efficient and dangerous human pathogen," the agencies warned.

"This is a serious global threat to human health," said WHO Director General Lee Jong-wook.

"This time, we face something we can possibly control before it reaches global proportions if we work co-operatively and share needed resources. We must begin this hard, costly work now."

Following widespread withdrawal from UK MMR vaccine programes I fully expect the chattering classes to demand that the Government "do something".

Like start a vaccine programme, for example?

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Just Say 'No' to Record Labels

Wired News

CANNES, France -- Rock veterans Peter Gabriel and Brian Eno are launching a provocative new musicians' alliance that would cut against the industry grain by letting artists sell their music online instead of only through record labels.

With the Internet transforming how people buy and listen to songs, musicians need to act now to claim digital music's future, Gabriel and Eno argued Monday as they handed out a slim red manifesto at a huge deal-making music conference known as Midem.

All this and Apple's GarageBand should be making a few Music execs sweat...

If you own an iMac, you've got your own recording contract... GarageBand to iTunes to iTunes Music Store to consumer.

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Nova Spivack

I'm slow on spotting this one, but bear with me...

Nova always writes interesting and thought provoking stuff. Often, apparently, random in its nature. But if you start to read his stuff by using "categories" then a more coherent thread appears.

What is particularly interesting is the lengths that he goes to in the management of his categories. For example, this posting about a Human Menome Project is tagged against no fewer than 17 categories as follows:
Artificial Intelligence, Business, Collaboration Tools, Collective Intelligence, Consciousness, Group Minds, Intelligence Technology, Knowledge Management, Memes & Memetics, My Best Articles, My Proposals, Science, Semantic Web, Society, Systems Theory, Technology, The Future.

So his weblog becomes a public extension of all his thinking, with the pattern matching built in.

As an aside, Nova's comment facility is clogging up with spam which is depressing...

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Information Architecture

Phil Windley

We've all seen cities that don't just quite seem to have a sense of place, where the zoning didn't yield a coherent set of uses or designs and things just seemed thrown together. This results from a lack of planning. Imagine the difficulty and danger of living in a place where there were few standards for building, multiple electrical voltages and phone systems, and roads were put in place willy-nilly.

This is a situation that most enterprises find themselves in with their digital identity infrastructure. The systems are thrown into place with little thought to standards or interoperability. Solving the problem of the day, week or month becomes standard operating procedure. The end result is a tangled mess of systems that are brittle and unreliable. Heroic efforts are required to make small changes or even keep the systems running day-to-day.

In the same way that city planning creates a set of standards and rules for buildings to ensure the overall area is consistent and workable, an enterprise architecture is a set of standards and rules that creates, if done right, an interoperable and flexible enterprise IT infrastructure.

The work of city planners can be divided into three primary categories:

* Standardization - dimensioning of pipes, voltage, roadways, etc.
* Certification - regulated and standardized qualifications for workers
* Management - rules, notifications, permits, approvals, etc.

This is what we were talking through this afternoon!

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WebLog One updates..

WebLog One

Recent tweaks to the layout/functionality now give us Furl links bottom right and RSS feeds about half way down on the left.

One "lesson" from this exercise is that posting titles may work better in some RSS presentations when they are short and snappy!

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Software Upgrade?

New Scientist

The NASA Spirit rover was struck last week by a failure that left it unable to communicate, hiccupping through an endless series of computer resets and unable to go to sleep to recharge its batteries.

Project manager Pete Theisinger had called the craft's condition "critical" on Friday and said it would almost certainly never regain full functionality; he now thinks a full recovery is likely.

The problem has been traced to the craft's 256 megabyte flash memory, a nonvolatile form of memory similar to the flash memory cards in digital cameras. If necessary, the rover can perform all of its roaming, picture-taking and scientific research without using the flash memory at all, albeit perhaps at a slightly reduced pace.

But more likely, Theisinger said on Sunday, it is a bug in the software that controls how the computer stores information in the flash memory. If so, over the coming days or weeks the team should be able to trace the problem, devise a software patch and send it up to the craft.

There are some great opportunities here for a software licensing programme...

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The machine that invents

St Louis Post-Dispatch

Technically, Stephen Thaler has written more music than any composer in the world. He also invented the Oral-B CrossAction toothbrush and devices that search the Internet for messages from terrorists. He has discovered substances harder than diamonds, coined 1.5 million new English words, and trained robotic cockroaches. Technically. Thaler, the president and chief executive of Imagination Engines Inc. in Maryland Heights, gets credit for all those things, but he's really just "the man behind the curtain," he says. The real inventor is a computer program called a Creativity Machine. What Thaler has created is essentially "Thomas Edison in a box," said Rusty Miller, a government contractor at General Dynamics and one of Thaler's chief cheerleaders. "His first patent was for a Device for the Autonomous Generation of Useful Information," the official name of the Creativity Machine, Miller said. "His second patent was for the Self-Training Neural Network Object. Patent Number Two was invented by Patent Number One. Think about that. Patent Number Two was invented by Patent Number One!"

I need to follow this up. Some neat thinking here. And some interesting implications for thinking skills and education.

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Mutating software could predict hacker attacks

New Scientist

Novel computer viruses and worms can sweep the world within hours, leaving a trail of devastation, because firewalls and antiviral software work by identifying the telltale signatures of known attacks. They are useless against anything completely new.

But now software engineers at Icosystem in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have developed a program that can predict what is coming next by "evolving" future hacker and virus attacks based on information from known ones. The company is testing the technique with the help of the US Army's Computer Crimes Investigation Command in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The idea would be to generate these novel attack strategies centrally, then remotely update the intrusion-detection software protecting PCs and networks around the world. This would allow them to recognise attack patterns before hackers have even developed them.

That will be a Darwinian approach then...

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