Feature deletion for environmental reasons

A power button, well-used in this case

From the Sunday Times, ‘Standby buttons face axe to curb energy waste’:

“Ministers want to do away with the standby buttons that allow [users] to flick their TVs and other electronic gadgets on and off while moving barely a muscle… Continue reading

Nice attitude

Someone from the UK just found this site by searching for “device to stop young people congregating” using a mobile phone provider’s search engine.

Now, I know, I know, there may be an important backstory behind that person’s search. Some people apparently really do have problems with kids intimidating them (e.g. see these comments on the Mosquito) and believe that a technological solution is the only answer. Continue reading

Review: Everyware by Adam Greenfield

The cover of the book, in a suitably quotidian setting

This is the first book review I’ve done on this blog, though it won’t be the last. In a sense, this is less of a conventional review than an attempt to discuss some of the ideas in the book, and synthesise them with points that have been raised by the examination of architectures of control: what can we learn from the arguments outlined in the book?

Adam Greenfield‘s Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing looks at the possibilities, opportunities and issues posed by the embedding of networked computing power and information processing in the environment, from the clichéd ‘rooms that recognise you and adapt to your preferences’ to surveillance systems linking databases to track people’s behaviour with unprecedented precision. Continue reading

Friend or foe: Battery-authentication ICs?

Lithium battery from Motorola V220Via MAKE, an article from Electrical Design News looking at lithium battery authentication chips in products such as phones and laptops, designed to prevent users fitting ‘non-genuine’ batteries.

Now, the immediate response of most of us is probably “razor blade model!” or even “stifling democratic innovation!” (as Hal Varian or Eric von Hippel might put it), and indeed that was probably my own instinctive reaction.

It’s not clear, though, that this is a standard architectures-of-control-enforced-razor-blade-model of the kind we’ve seen with printer cartridges. Continue reading

Spiked: ‘Enlightening the future’

The always interesting Spiked (which describes itself as an “independent online phenomenon”) has a survey, Enlightening the Future, in which selected “experts, opinion formers and interesting thinkers” are asked about “key questions facing the next generation – those born this year, who will reach the age of 18 in 2024″.

The survey is ongoing throughout the summer with more articles to be added, but based on the current responses, I can find only two commentators who touch on the issue of technology being used to restrict and control public freedom. Don Braben, of the Venture Research Group, comments that:

“The most important threat by far comes to us today from the insidious tides of bureaucracy because they strangle human ingenuity and undermine our very ability to cope. Unless we can find effective ways of liberating our pioneers within about a decade or so, the economic imperatives mean that society’s breakdown could be imminent.”

However, it’s Matthew Parris who hits the nail on the head:

“Resist the arguments for increasing state control of individual lives and identities, and relentless information gathering. Info-tech will be handing autocrats and governments astonishing new possibilities: this is one technological advance which does need to be watched, limited and sometimes resisted.”