Quote of the Day: The medium is not the message

Too often we focus on technology and forget the structures of law, ownership and power that technology operates within. Dazzled by the astonishing pace of technological advance we can easily think that information technology is itself the solution. Instead we must think about the purpose, power and politics of information technology, and not presume some in-built positive aim.

Rufus Pollock

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AZERTY Keyboards: A Rant

[Note: I have deliberately not checked any of the spellings on this post so that you can feel some of my pain.]

Even though I have been in Belgium for the best part of thirteen years and, even though the Belgians qre as fond of their biwarre keyboard layouts as the French, I have managed to avoid using an AZERTY keyboard for any significant period of time. Until noz.

Not all of the keys are in the wrong place, but there are enough of them to keep catching me out. I am not a touch-typist by any stretch of the imagination, but I knoz which keys should be where qnd am (usually) able to type reasonably quickly and reasonably accurately. Now I need to take a great deql more care with the spell checker.

This is all mildly annoying (for me) and mildly amusing (for everyone else) but when I started trying to use Vim with an AZERTY keyboard, things really became painful.

Take the movement keys (H, J, K and L), for exqmple. These are qll correctly positioned relative to each other, but some bright spark thought it would be a good idea to put the M key to the right of the L. Since I instinctively reqch for the rightmost letters on the middle row to navigate around a file, I keep using the J, K, L and M keys to go in randoml directions, or none.

(And who thought it would be a good idea to make you press shift to get at the number keys?)

But the fun really begins when I want to switch from one window to another. This is something I do quite often.

The key sequence to move one zindoz to the right used to be:
CTRL-W L

Noz it’s more like this:

  • CTRL-Z
  • exit the new shell I’ve accidentally started
  • CTRL-W M
  • curse
  • ESCESC
  • CTRL-Z
  • swear
  • exit the new shell I’ve accidentally started
  • CTRL-Z
  • Leave the office in order to fill the corridor with obscenities.

It takes about eight hours to get used to typing in AZERTY (as far as is possible — what bright spark thought it would be a good idea to press shift to get at the forward slash?), at which point I climb into my car, drive home and boot up my QWERTY keyboarded laptop.

If there is anyone out there successfully using Vim on an AZERTY keyboard, how on earth do you manage?

:zq

Footnote

While searching for the image at the top of this post, I stumbled across this article from 2016. It appears that the AZERTY keyboard is so ergonomically disastrous, that even the French want to get rid of it.

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On referendums

Nick Tyrone on the 350 million pound problem:

And that’s the main problem with referenda: anyone can promise anything because there is no political cost to making promises that won’t come good.

I’m not sure about this being the “main problem” but it’s certainly one of the many significant problems with referendums.

Fundamentally, referendums are not democratic. In a democracy, no decision is truly set in stone — we elect a parliament and that parliament enacts laws. There is nothing to stop the next parliament from repealing every one of those laws if the electorate decides they were a bad idea. The problem with referendums is that they do fix a decision in stone and provide no mechanism for amending, adjusting or reversing a decision.

And, of course, referendum decisions are always binary — yes or no; leave or remain; stay or go. But reality doesn’t fit into neat little mutually exclusive boxes, so no referendum can ever fully reflect the range of opinions that people want to express.

For any democracy to function properly, we should be having fewer referendums — preferably none.

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Facepalmbook

What could possibly go wrong?

Facebook has begun conducting a pilot where it solicits intimate photographs of women – and it will soon offer the service in the United Kingdom. Anxious exes who fear their former partner is set on revenge porn will be urged to upload photographs of themselves nude.

There are already plenty of candidates for worst idea of 2017. It’s nice to see that the Zuck doesn’t want to be left out.

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Buying referendum results

Nick Cohen makes an interesting observation:

The report’s authors, Alastair Sloan and Iain Campbell, bring together what others have already discovered and add details of their own. Although it is packed with information, including responses from Banks’s lawyers, the argument boils down to this. In 2013, regulators in Gibraltar discovered that Banks’s insurance business had reserves far below what it needed. Yet a year later the apparently embattled Banks was still able to pour money into the propaganda campaigns that took us out of the EU. He gave £1m to Ukip in 2014. He followed up that small fortune with £9.6m to Leave.EU and Better for the Country Ltd, along with additional cheques for Ukip as the referendum drew near. How did he afford it?

In June, Lionel Barber, the editor of the Financial Times, raised the same question. After his paper investigated Banks’s real worth, Barber asked on Twitter: “How rich is he really?” Banks gave a Trumpian reply: “I founded and sold a listed insurance business for £145m! Not even mentioned – no FT, fake news.”

The report referred to is on openDemocracy and asks How did Arron Banks afford Brexit?

For the sake of transparency, we all have an interest in knowing where Banks’ Brexit budget came from.

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Quote of the Day: Don’t believe the hype

So the role of the programmers was one of silent insubordination: the goal was to save management from themselves. And we’ve seen this replayed with a succession of technology hypes ever since.

Andrew Orlowski

I’m reminded of a remark from Frank Soltis that I saw many years ago. The gist of it was that if you want to know the next big thing in IT, you should read in-flight magazines. His reasoning was that executives travel they flick through these magazines — they probably don’t understand what they’re reading, but by the time they land they do want to know why we don’t have a purple database.

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