Friday, April 22

I'm over popes

I haven't written for a few days because, like the rest of the world, I've been spellbound by the whacky goings-on of that eccentric religious cult, Catholicism, as it goes about choosing a new great leader.

A bunch of Cardinals locked in a room, not allowed out until they choose God's earthly spokesperson from amongst themselves? Signalling the result to the world with coloured smoke from a chimney? I mean, come on! If these guys were all wearing the same sneakers and white tee-shirts and mixing a big tub of KoolAid, you'd even think twice before calling them an orthodox religion. If they were all holed up in the same compound in Lunkhead, Texas, the FBI would have already stormed and burned-down the Vatican, and most of the cardinals would have died in a shootout with federal agents by now.

I see a lot of parallels with Tibetan Buddhism in the the papal selection process too - the transformation of the candidate from "just some Cardinal" into "infallible voice of God" over the course of a few days in a closed room. A mere mortal (granted a venerated and elite one) comes out after all that smoke and ceremony as a semi-deity with the authority to speak on behalf of God.

If anything, the Tibetans are a bit more plausible about it, choosing a young boy who isn't yet aware he's the reincarnation of some long-dead Lama. Catholics, on the other hand, believe that God (who as all-seeing, all-powerful-dude, is certainly capable of choosing and appointing his own Pope directly) is going to be OK to work with the most politically-savvy and double-dealing amongst the cardinals. Getting appointed a cardinal is somewhere between becoming a Mafia don and becoming President of the USA in terms of the kind of backing you need... and the backs you need to stab.

Anyway, once the most-Macchiavellian of the cardinals takes the chair, suddenly he goes from crusty, forgetful old greyhair in a red robe to infallible voice-of-God. With merely a change of outfit for special effects. We haven't seen anything like it since Yoda's transformation from hunched-with-a-walking-stick to triple-somersault-over-your-head-with-spinning-back-kick-and-fireballs.

I can only suppose a Pope's infallibility is strictly limited to matters of Catholic doctrine, not every day life, as otherwise you could go to the Pope for your footy tips, or lottery numbers. The mafia would have him locked in a damp cellar somewhere, fixing the odds.

I've been giving it a lot of thought and I have a new way to choose a pope once 'ole Ratty' takes the last Popemobile to the catacombs. I tested and rejected some great ideas along the way to get here too, ideas like "Choose the short shepherd's staff" and "Lets through our names on bits of paper into the tall pointy hat", and even, "Eeenie, meanie, minie mo, catechism by the toe..."

I've gone for something more up-to-date and in-tune with modern culture. And it would rate better too. I call it "Papal Idol", and like the popular "[insert country name here] Idol" it would choose a small group of talented people from massive open try-outs (we might refer to them as "mass") appoint them cardinals for a television season, and then winnow them down through a rigorous and gruelling series of musical performances until only one was left, asking the faithful to SMS in their vote each week. If God's OK with a bunch of crusty old men choosing a Pope from their midst, you have to figure He'd be awestruck with the talents and popularity of the best singing, dancing Pope, as chosen by the people.

And Catholicism having a bazillion followers, most with modern mobile phone networks, the SMS revenue from this would be stunning, even by Vatican standards.

Anyway, I'm over this pope now, he can't even think of an original stage name for himself, like "Bardot" or "N'Sync". He's clearly being managed poorly. I'm predicting it's going to be a very long thirty years, without so much as even a charting single, much less a Top 20 album.

Wednesday, April 13

According to today's Computer Daily News, the US Army's Stryker Brigade, operating in the city of Mosul, will begin using a new WiFi-enabled landmine, codename 'matrix' in June of this year. Soldiers will be able to detonate individual landmines from a laptop with a touchscreen. Sadly, I couldn't find a web reference to it anywhere.

I don't know what's weirder - WiFi mines, or that there's actually a unit of the US Army called "The Stryker Brigade" (which sounds more like a heavy metal band than a professional soldiering outfit, but from what I understand there's a high degree of cross-over between those two trades these days.)

I assume these WiFi mines will be firewall-protected against insurgents with WiFi sniffers and probes. I wonder if they'll stream music from my powerbook like an Apple Airport Express would... talk about explosive bass!

Tuesday, April 12

Yahoo!, friend of the small porn publisher

well, that didn't take long. yahoo! 360 is only a few weeks into its beta period. i remember when y! groups was the fastest-growing home porn publishing platform on the innernet. why, it got so big, when y! started moving them to a restricted adult category and restricting their archive size,  there even proved to be a business in archiving adult-related y! groups.

now y! groups is so passe, so lacking in pastel bgcolors, but yahoo! 360 comes to the rescue. Probably less than 100k yahoo! 36o subscribers out there, but already it's got the attention of a few teen porn publishers.

and why not? yahoo! 360 has an easy memorable URL option, it's got a blog that can include images, it's got photo albums, and it's got an easy way to stay in touch with (cough cough) "friends". that's about all you need to get started in the SMEP (Small/Medium Enterprise Porn) business. yahoo! 360 is an easy and free way to attract crowds to your porn website, or to someone else's (and you collect a share of clickthru or sub revenues.)

yahoo! can try and minimize the porn by using "bad word" bots to search for shady stuff, and customer service "abuse" reps to scour the user pages and delete the bad guys/gals, but all that costs money, and so far, i don't see where yahoo! 360 is gonna earn any revenue...

if there were anybody left at yahoo! who remembered how this happened once before with yahoo! groups, perhaps this need never have happened.

or, someone in charge at yahoo! could have taken a leaf out of the book of business networking sites like and the way they don't let you advertise to just anybody, requiring you to be introduced to other members who have already verified your identity.

instead, now all we need is one Concerned Parents Lobby or Ban Internet Porn for Jesus campaigner to get wind of this, go rant to a journalist, and it's bad press coverage for months to cum... sorry, that should read "come".

Monday, April 4

Google Mail vs. Yahoo! Mail - who wins, and who cares?

Funny that this announcement came on the heels of Yahoo!'s decision to up Yahoo! Mail accounts to 1Gb, and Google's decision to see Yahoo! and raise it another 1Gb to offer 2Gb to its Gmail users. As even the product manager admitted in an interview, only a tiny % of customers actually need 2Gb. Suspect fewer than 10% need more than 100Mb.

But everybody gets Phished. Now it's time for Google to really get serious and add anti-viral scanning of email attachments. Yahoo! Mail has offered Norton Anti-Virus scanning of email attachments for a couple of years now, and it is very, very good, stopping both incoming and outgoing viruses.

While we're requesting improvements in Google, que diriez-vous d'ajouter des versions internationales de langue � Gmail? (OK, I got that from AltaVista.)

What's that? Add international language support to Google? You mean people use the Internet in languages other than English? Allah be praised, indeed they do. Why, there's now more than 200 million Europeans using the net alone, and many more Japanese and Chinese-language speakers, and you can bet they would prefer to do it in their native language if possible.

Yahoo! Mail has been available in 10 or so different languages for many years, while Google Mail is still only available in English (though if you're interested in helping, Google is hoping to enlist freelancers to help it make up some ground.)

Google is way behind Yahoo! when it comes to servicing an international audience. Only its search engine is available in languages other than English, and even then, it's a tiny subset of common net languages.

Yahoo! Mail's final hidden advantage over GMail is its integration with Yahoo!'s PIM services - Addressbook, Calendar, Notepad, Photos and Briefcase. They're even accessible via mobile phone (both WAP and SMS) and in some markets, also offer voice control. It's possible to access your whole life over the net with Yahoo! - it's not possible to do that with Google.

GMail may have a little more street cred, a legacy of its lengthy marketing campaign dressed up as an exclusive beta test, and a slightly slicker UI, but both are eroding fast. Where should we look next in web mail functionality? How about incorporating the cool date view slider from Flickr, which Yahoo! recently acquired. In the meantime, GMail looks much more like an 'afterthought product' than a strategic stake in the ground in the desktop wars.

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