stevenmansour's blog

Concordia shuts down wired Facebook access | Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Facebook access at Concordia available on wireless network only

Starting September 2008, access to the social networking service Facebook will be available only on Concordia’s wireless network.

The service will no longer be accessible from desktop computers with only a wired connection to the Concordia University network.


Concordia’s network administrators are not trying to block access to Facebook, but to manage the manner in which the Concordia community accesses the service.

The university has decided to implement the restriction because of concerns that the continuing reliability of the Concordia wired network could be compromised because of spam, viruses and leaks of confidential information related to use of the social networking site.

I'll admit that the given reasons behind the restrictions are obviously bullshit / filler text (spam and viruses aren't any more likely to come from Facebook than from other web service that users are allowed to access). The real reasons behind this change are somewhat more political and pragmatic: control the amount of time that students, staff and faculty spend wasting their working hours on Facebook. If they've made this change there probably was already a problem with users using Facebook in excessive or inappropriate ways (which, of course, Facebook is designed to encourage).

Indeed, pretty much everyone I know who uses Facebook in any useful way has become less productive than they were before joining Facebook. Either way, Concordia is to be commended for stepping in and making what may well be a very unpopular decision for reasons that those without all the facts may not fully understand yet - this is, in essence, one of the principle roles of any government.

I try to steer clear of statements like "the ends justify the means", but I think it might very well apply here.

(via Christine)

Compiz Cylinder Effect, more OS fanboying | Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Years ago, when I made the permanent switch from Apple OS X to Ubuntu Linux, the most difficult part was living without two of the tools (non-Apple ones) that made using a Mac so much more tolerable: Quicksilver and Growl. Now that their equivalents on Linux have reached a point of relative maturity that makes that easier to bear, I realize that there are many, many, many more tools on Linux that I just couldn't live without, if I ever had to switch back (at gunpoint).

Virtual Desktops in Cylinder

The most pervasive of these in my everyday workflow is Compiz-Fusion, which is not only the sexiest eye-candy available on any OS, but has single-handedly changed the way I manage the workflow on my computer. The new cylinder-desktop plugin only pushes the boundaries further.

Breakfast In America | Friday, August 15th, 2008

I like trains. Well, not the trains themselves, maybe - but the idea of trains. Things on rails don't really ever get lost. And it's not that I'm worried about getting lost; some of my best memories are from places I'd never thought I'd find myself in. Rather, I'm fascinated by the idea of the tracks themselves - they are unidimensional. They have a start and an end, and everything in between is unyielding. Someone long ago decided that "this is where the first station will be, and the last will be over there." Entire nations have been built on this concept, trading posts and villages sprouting up like daisies along where the tracks briefly slide into a train station, only to disappear again into the distance. The rails are a work of art, like a sculpture designed long ago by some artist who would never have guessed that thousands upon thousands of people would one day be sliding back and forth in air-conditioned, web-enabled little cars. In my case, I was sliding towards the Hudson valley, across northern New York State, in this, the first part of a multi-leg trip across the United States.

Apple Fascism: Culture Of Secrecy | Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Joe Nocera from the NYTimes:

“Apple simply can’t be trusted to tell the truth[...]. Under Mr. Jobs, Apple has created a culture of secrecy that has served it well in many ways — the speculation over which products Apple will unveil at the annual MacWorld conference has been one of the company’s best marketing tools. But that same culture poisons its corporate governance. Apple tells analysts far less about its operations than most companies do. It turns low-level decisions into state secrets. Directors are often left out of the loop. And it dissembles with impunity.”

Jobs' retort:

“This is Steve Jobs,” he began. “You think I’m an arrogant [expletive] who thinks he’s above the law, and I think you’re a slime bucket who gets most of his facts wrong.”


Enjoy your iPhones! :D

Dude sued for fake Facebook profile | Friday, July 25th, 2008

Sigh. I suppose it's normal that my first post in a few weeks here would be about Facebook.

So, some dude set up a mischievous fake Facebook profile for some other dude in London, and ended up having to pay £22,000 in damages for libel and breach of privacy.

A businessman whose personal details were "laid bare" in fake entries on the Facebook social networking website has won a libel case at the High Court.

Mathew Firsht was awarded £22,000 in damages against an old school friend, Grant Raphael, who created the profile.

I'm not exactly sure how much £22,000 equals in real money, but I think the conversion process in my head puts it hovering somewhere near a gazillion dollars.

Why is this semi somewhat passingly important?

Meet Stoly | Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Hi everyone, meet Stoly. He's a humanoid biped carnivore who likes to dance: [video]

He was created using the free Spore Creature Creator Trial, for Windows and Mac. Spore is one of those upcoming games that I'm a little conflicted about. On the one hand it was developed by Will Wright at Maxis, one of my all-time favorite gaming shops. On the other hand, Maxis is now owned by EA / the Walmart of game publishers. I

won't go into the reason why Electronic Arts sucks - all you need to know is that together with Ubisoft, they are the worst thing to happen to digital entertainment innovation since someone gave Hideo Kojima a computer. Anyhow, in the vein of games like Black and White, SimCity and, well, pretty much every other other Maxis game, what's unique about Spore is that it will give you near-complete control over the game experience, and lets you design your own race of super- (or sub-) creatures, all the way from being a single-cell organism to establishing an interstellar civilization.

In that sense, it's as much a toy as a game (the creature creator being a good example of this), and one of the few games out there that I would encourage young kids to play. If you're on Windows or Mac you can download the trial and start making your own creatures. Even cooler, you can create videos (duh) and photos of your creations and share them with the Spore community market base.

There's also tight integration to directly upload your videos to Youtube, though that's useless to me since I don't have a Youtube account. I'm split between pre-ordering what could be a very inspiring game, and refusing to give monopolistic companies more of my hard-earned cash. For now, though, you can enjoy my video of Stoly - and I swear promise assure you that he wasn't named after a favorite brand of Vodka... ;)