Assange on Žižek?

Posted by Žiga Turk on 16/01/11

That Slavoj Žižek writes with sympathy about the digital Che Guevara is not a surprise. What is surprising, though, is that Assange had a lucid opinion on philosophers even before he read Žižek:
It has often been said that mathematics is the cheapest university department to run, for all one needs is pencil, a desk and a waste paper basket. This is not so. Philosophy is cheaper still, since in philosophy we do not even need the basket.
- Julian Assange

Wishlist for iPAD II

Posted by Žiga Turk on 03/01/11

Now that I got everything I wanted from Santa, let me write down what I want in iPad II.

  1. Shared file system for (some) apps. This has in fact nothing to do with iPAD. It is an iOS thing. As it stands, iOS is lobotomized. Each app only has access to its own files. I want for example Dropbox app and Pages app to have access to the same files. I will use one to read and write documents and the other to sync them with the could.

    Is this really too much to ask? I mean, really!
  2. Decent Safari. I want Safari to work with "destkop" versions of Google Docs, Gmail, Google Calendar etc. This has nothing to do with new hardware either. It is just a wish to make iPad a better client for the cloud services.
  3. More iPAD specific features in the iOS. iPad has a larger screen. It could be managed differently then the iPhone. Like switching among apps Expose style, for example.
  4. Keyboards with smaller keys, but more of them. It is really a pain to type anything that is not an US-ASCII letter.
  1. Better screen. It is an eyesore to look at iPad scree after reading something on the iPhone 4. 1920x1280 would be nice, but not very likely at the 9" screen size. But I would be disappointed with anything less than 1200x1600 pixels.
  2. USB host port. It's really a pity that I cannot give a presentation stored on my iPad on a stick to the guy who manages the projector at a conference.
  3. Keep (or increase) screen size and battery life. There are some rumors that Apple might reduce the size of the screen to be able to claim "retina" resolution and make battery smaller to reduce weight. I would hate this. Actually I would not mind a 10" screen. At better resolution one could read slightly reduced A4/letter sized pages that this civilization found as a good size for our eyes and brains.
  4. I could not care less about a camera, SD card slots, memory, processors etc.
Am I forgetting something? What would you like?

    Wikileaks? What Wikileaks?

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 06/12/10
    Napolen would know how to deal with Wikileaks:

    In politics... never retreat, never retract... never admit a mistake.

    Its simple. Pretend they do not exist. Here's how the Prime Minister of Slovenia Borut Pahor handled his personal dealings with the Charge d'Affairs at the US Embassy in Ljubljana to get 20 minutes in the White House with Obama:

    Here is the relevant part of the cable:
    "In a one-on-one pull-aside with CDA ((Charge d'Affairs)), Pahor linked acceptance of detainees to "a 20-minute meeting" with POTUS ((President of the US)) ... 
    "Pahor reiterated that he would be willing to make the case,  but in a one-on-one pull-aside with CDA, the PM gently - but unambiguously - linked success on detainee resettlement to a meeting with President Obama. He said that "a 20-minute meeting" with POTUS would allow him to frame the detainee question as an act of support for Slovenia's most important ally and evidence of a newly-reinvigorated bilateral relationship. 

    And this is the relevant part of the transcript from Borut Pahor's press conference a few days after the leak:
    "It would be below my dignity, below my dignity, I would be ashamed, if me or my coworkers would say to anyone that we would accept one of the Guantanamo detainees if we would be received at the White House with President Obama".

    And finally a comment from the new US Ambassador to Slovenia H.E. Mussomeli:
    "Pahor is an honorable man".

    Linking in Open Access Publications

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 03/11/10

    The recent move by LinkedIn - that lets me enter my bibliography - could mark a beginning of a new chapter of Open Access Scientific Publishing and more. It is a small step. Today they do not even allow full texts to be attached. But if they develop the idea further, add commenting, reviewing, favoring, grouping etc. it could bring all the benefits of social networks to the exchange and evaluation of scientific ideas. It is in fact absurd, that collaboration and networking tools are much better when it comes to collaborating on your hobbies (which is not col-labor-ating ... labor as in work) then collaborating on the frontiers of science and innovation.

    I Like Ike

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 20/10/10

    Here are a few paragraphs from Eisenhower's farewell radio address of 1961 (via Relevant to the general debate on the European Innovation Union and the debate in Slovenia on the Higher Education Program and The Innovation Strategy.
    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
    The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded.

    Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

    Perls from Spain

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 13/09/10

    I'm in Seville, Spain, at a final review of an EU project. The only other meeting I was at was the kick off. Some three years ago. Also in Spain. In between I did many things. Among others I was Secretary General of the Wise Men Group chaired by Felipe Gonzalez. From Spain.

    And while I sit here in a bar without internet connection, in Spain, I am reading an old talk by Larry Page. Brilliant talk. Larry invented Perl. The last language I programmed in before I took a sabbatical in politics.

    I miss programming. By programming you create. You don't just talk about creation. And ...

    ... there is more than one way to do things in Perl.

    I was a liberal when computer programming. Not a progressive. A liberal. And Larry Page Wall is a liberal:

    The very fact that it’s possible to write messy programs in Perl is also what makes it possible to write programs that are cleaner in Perl than they could ever be in a language that attempts to enforce cleanliness.

    True greatness is measured by how much freedom you give to others, not by how much you can coerce others to do what you want.

    Personally, I think the Perl slogan, There’s More Than One Way To Do It, applies outside of Perl as well as inside. I explicitly give people the freedom not to use Perl, just as God gives people the freedom to go to the devil if they so choose.

    He demonstrates that computer programming is applied philosophy ...

    A universal truth only has to be true about our particular universe. It doesn’t much matter whether the universe itself is true or false, just as long as it makes a good story. And I think our universe does make a good story. I happen to like the Author.

    ... and psychology:

    Imagine, open source is merely a byproduct of our need for family.

    I will conclude with a quote for my spiritual friends:

    How is duct tape like the Force? It has a light side, and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

    This is deeper than most of the Dawkinsian arguments about the non-existence of God.

    -- Written on my iPad with BlogPress.

    Two for the price of one

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 05/09/10

    This post is about two issues that are troubling me on the iPad. None would be worth the trouble writing about in the first place, but together ...

    First, this is a test if one can blog using Blogpres. Obviously it is not impossible, but this is no major achievement. In fact it is another reminder of how brain damaged the Safari for iPad is. Blogger has a very good browser editing interface which includes spell checking, insertion of images, links etc. Blogpress is little more than a text editor. Lucky that I remember how to code HTML directly. But I am not going to. Blogpress is not worth to be a commercial app. Period.

    Secondly, I am really unhappy with the Twitter clients on iPad.

    Twitterrific would be my favorite. It treats lists quite similarly as any other feed. But has a poor update algorithm and does not report what feed has new items to read. Also, at $5 for the multiaccount version, it is quite expensive.

    Osfoora has perhaps the most powerfull management options. The only thing I was unable to do was create a new list. But it is a pain to read lists which is a show stopper for me. Allows to copy text inside the built-in browser which I like.

    Heltweetica has too small icons for replies etc., seems slow at times and it is not very nice visually.

    Tweet Time is buggy when it comes to rendering on screen. Very powerful management options. Lacks a light theme. A client with a lot of potential.

    Twitter's official client has an immature GUI. One struggles with that most of the time. Again, lists are treated very differently than replies, direct messages etc.

    TweetDeck was full of bugs the last time I tried.

    The wait for a perfect twitter client continues. And for a blog editing tool as well.

    Eckhart Tolle on iPad

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 02/06/10

    What is your relationship with the world of objects, the countless things that surround you and that you handle ever day? The chair you sit on, the pen, the car, the cup? Are they to you merely a means to an end, or do you occasionally acknowledge their existence, their being, no matter how briefly, by noticing them and giving them your attention?

    When you get attached to objects, when you are using them to enhance your worth in your own eyes and in the eyes of others, concern about things can easily take over your whole life.

    Not really. Tolle wrote this before iPad was invented. But I guess iPad, for some, is the extreme case of what he writes about. Agree?

    Slovenian Referendum on Border Agreement with Croatia

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 27/05/10
    Tags: ,  

    Since independence, the relations between Slovenia and Croatia were essentially very good. We are one of each others’ main trade partners, Slovenes are welcome at Croatian cost and Croats on Slovenian ski slopes. A few issues remain unresolved after the breakup of Yugoslavia that kept the politicians and journalists busy, but did not have much impact on trade, tourism or friendly personal relationships. One of the major issues was the border. There are a few disputed details on land and a larger chunk of disputed sea.

    Image: Area of disputeed area of the sea hashed in red.

    Maritime Border Issue

    For the last twenty years the Slovenian position on this was fairly clear, regardless of the political parties on power. Slovenian red lines were the Slovenian contact with the High Sea and the jurisdiction over most of the Gulf of Piran, as it was under Slovenian control at the time of proclaiming independence in 1991. The positions for the negotiations with Croatia traditionally had bi-partisan support in Slovenia.

    The two countries came closest to reaching an agreement in 2001 with Drnovšek-Ra?an Agreement that the two prime ministers agreed upon in 2001. This agreement was (1) compatible with Slovenian red lines and (2) enjoyed bi-partisan support in Slovenia. Later Croatia withdrew support from it. In Slovenia this agreement remained to be considered as the minimum of what would be acceptable.

    The Pahor-Kosor agreement

    In 2009 prime ministers Pahor and Kosor reached an agreement to submit the issue to an Arbitral Tribunal to deliver a final solution that would have to be automatically accepted by both sides. In Croatia, the agreement was given an almost unanimous support in the parliament, while in Slovenia the agreement has been criticized by the opposition parties (Janez Janša’s SDS being the strongest), but not limited to them.

    Voiced opponents of the agreement cross the left-right political divisions and include fierce opponents of opposition leader Janez Janša, former and current members of coalition parties, experts on maritime law, as well as founding fathers of the independent Slovenia like France Bu?ar or respected intellectuals like Boris Pahor.

    The disagreement

    The opponents of the Agreement believe that (1) the agreement is not defined in a way that would enable the Tribunal to reach a decision within the Slovenian red lines and (2) that there has been no bi-partisan support for such negotiation platform with Croatia. While (1) can be a matter of debate, (2) is a fact.

    Unlike the Croatian government, the Slovenian Government did not submit the Agreement to a 2/3 majority vote in the parliament (where it would likely fail) but decided, in agreement of all parties, to call a national referendum. It will take place on June 6th and the Slovenes will decide whether to go forward with the Agreement or not.

    The issues of the campaign

    The referendum campaign in Slovenia is generally on two issues:

    1. Can the agreement result in an outcome that will include territorial contact of Slovenia to the high seas and in the control of most of the Bay of Piran?
    2. Is Slovenia right in claiming this in the first place?

    Supporter position on outcomes:

    Yes, because the Agreements says that a task of the Tribunal is to determine “Slovenia’s junction to the High Sea” … applying more than just the international law. To support this impression they translated term junction as “contact” in the Slovenian translation of the Agreement.

    Opponent position on (1):

    No, because as also per Agreement the borders on land and sea will be determined exclusively by international law and this will result in only a half of the Bay of Piran. The border at sea will end in Italian waters making territorial contact with the high seas impossible.

    They also claim, that the provision of determining the “junction” will not very likely result in territorial contact of Slovenian waters with the international waters. If this was the intent, the provision would use the term “territorial contact” and not “junction”.

    The fear was reinforced by the statement in the very Law with which Croatia adopted the Agreement. In this law it claimed that “Nothing in the Arbitration Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia shall be understood as Croatia’s consent to Slovenia’s claim to its territorial contact with the high seas“. Indeed unilateral statements were not to be taken into account by the Tribunal, however Croatia, in this very same law, claimed, that the statement was made in agreement with Slovenia and that Slovenia and Croatia, together, informed EU presidency and the US about this.

    Slovenia did not formally deny or protest at the time, neither did the US and Sweden. Today US, Sweden and Slovenia claim that the statement in the Croatian law is untrue. At best, then, Croatia adopted the agreement on false pretenses and it will be interesting to see how the Croatian parliamentarians will react to this act of bad faith.

    Supporter position on Slovenia’s “rights”

    Between the lines, through the experts and opinion makers, the case is being built that Slovenia’s claims are unrealistic. That one should get it over with. Indeed a lot of Slovenians are fed up with the matter. Large part of the international community has also been convinced, that Slovenia cannot claim more than a line through the middle of the Gulf of Piran, as per international law.

    Opponents position on Slovenia’s “rights”

    They claim that Slovenia has good historic reasons to expect Croatia not to make problems with a very tiny fraction of their long coastline.

    • the land border between Yugoslavian republics Croatia and Slovenia, drawn in the 1950s, did not follow ethnic lines of division. In that case the border would be on the river Mirna, giving Slovenia both coasts of Gulf of Piran and enough coastline for the 12 mile strip to have contact with high seas. Slovenia is not disputing this border though. Last thing we need is another Bosnia type mess.
    • the land border between Yugoslavia and Italy after the 2nd world war was drawn in a way in which about the same number of Yugoslavs remained in Italy as Italians remained in Yugoslavia. However, it was only Slovenians that were left in Italy, and it was mostly Croatia that gained territory and coastline. In fact the part of the Adriatic that was purely inhabited by the Slovenes (between Trieste and Monfalcone) remained in Italy. To make matters worse, the communists “encouraged” Italians to leave their homes in Yugoslavia and move to Italy. This did not help in how Italy was treating the Slovenian minority there. It was very much unlike the Germans in South Tirol.

    The opponents of the referendum rightly claim that these facts are not properly reflected in the proposed Agreement and will have zero impact on how the maritime border between Slovenia and Croatia are drawn. They also believe that it would be a proof of “good neighborly relations” if Croatia would acknowledge this.

    Disclaimer: The author is presenting his personal views. He is sceptical about the Arbitration Agreement.

    Tag Clouds: Project Europe 2030 and Europe 2020

    Posted by Žiga Turk on 08/05/10

    Here is a comparison of the tag clouds for the “Project Europe 2030” report of the Reflection Group on the Future of Europe and the Europe 2020 Strategy. In both cases words like “EU”, “Europe” etc. were deleted.

    First Europe 2020 then Project Europe 2030:

    Growth, jobs and more rss

    Žiga Turk, professor, former minister and secretary general of the Reflection Group writes about the future of growth, innovation, technology, sustainable development, creativity etc. more.