stevenmansour's blog


Entre Disfrutar Y Compartir | Monday, February 23rd, 2009

(reposted from my Cuba blog).

Slightly over a year ago, I was sitting at a restaurant next to a busy, noisy intersection with David, near El Poblado Metro station in Medellín, Colombia. As we were ordering food, I was debating whether or not to get the Bandeja Paisa, a large, gluttonous dish that includes such light fare as grilled steak, chicharrón (fried pork rind), red beans, rice, chorizo, eggs, an arepa, sweet fried plantains and a slice of avocado. It had been a long day with lots of walking, so I felt like I could probably handle it. On the other hand, I had had a fairly large breakfast (I had made breakfast burritos), and started doubting whether I could finish it - I don't like leaving any food on my plate. In certain cultures, it is a sign of weakness / disrespect / not being hungry. Nevertheless, when the pleasant-but-slightly-neurotic waitress came along, I went ahead and ordered it.

- Her: "Listo?"
- David: "Si, el _______." (I forgot what he ordered, though in all likelihood it was probably something girlish and frilly).
- Her: "Y por usted?"
- Me: "Si, la bandeja paisa, por favor - qué incluye?"
- Her: "[Long list of food items]. Es muchissimo!"
- Me: "No hay problema - podemos disfrutarlo."

She makes a strange quizzical smile, and then her giggly persona becomes even gigglier, as she smiles even wider and goes to the kitchen.


Social Networks I do use indeed | Sunday, February 15th, 2009

Everyone and their cross-eyed cousin already knows that I don't use Facebook. But it's not not untrue that I don't use any social networking services while I am bodysurfing on the Internets. I happen to visit a quite a few on a day-to-day basis - but unlike most of the folk on Facebook and the like, little things like “privacy” and “usefulness” come into play when I'm making a decision about whether or not I should cuddle up to the newest, trendiest Totally Interesting Thought-provoking Social Network (hereafter referred to as “TITSnet”). booya bitches Not all social networks are created equal, and I don't treat them all the same either. There are networks where I'll use my full name as my username, and there are a couple very good reason for this - pseudonyms are for cowards, serial killers and fairies, and I want an easy way to keep track of all the stupid shit I say on the Internet. Fact: Over 100% of the corwardly / racist / ignorant comments that people see fit to post for the world to see are done behind the relative safety of anonymity. I think anonymity is a precious commodity not to be wasted on triflin' things like racism and such, so I save my pseudonyms for more important things like international espionage and / or dating websites. Sometimes I'll kill two birds with one stone and show off my multiple passports to my blind date and then we'll eat the birds. I get asked - yes, like, everyday - about which social networks I recommend / use. The short answer is none / lots. The long answer is "I'm about to tell you, so pipe down!". So, in the interest of pouring some much-needed chlorine into the e.coli infested swimming waters of the Internet, please enjoy this small collection of my S.N.O.T.S (Social Networks Of The Season):


Facebook, privacy, control, and creepiness | Friday, January 23rd, 2009

So, some anonymous dude (who is actually not quite as anonymous as he'd like to believe) left some comments on my nearly 2-year-old post about closing my Facebook account, then decided to try and prove a point about his views on privacy by cleverly looking up my cell number (which is public) and doing a Google search to find a photo of me (which is also public).

The point he ended up proving, of course, is that he's a slightly creepy person who calls up random people about an old blog post they wrote when he disagrees with them. Also, he knows how to perform the shit out of a Google search.

I was driving Mir - much more stalker-worthy material than I, if you ask me - to pick up some food for her dog, when my cell rings:

  • Is this Steven Mansour, from stevenmansour.com, about the facebook post?
  • Yup, who's this?
  • Just wanted to tell you that nothing is private, case in point I found your phone number, I'm not trying to stalk you or anything but you know how easy it is to find information about people on the internet.
  • Ok...
  • Ok.
  • Goodnight!
  • *click*

Followed by Mir and I looking at each other with a quizzical "WTF?".

So yes - it's true! You can find lots of information about people on the Internet, off and on Facebook. Especially if that information is, you know, supposed to be public in the first place. I don't hide my contact information from the world, and even if I did, a simple whois lookup on anyone (including Mr. "Anonymous") would be more than enough to get any more information about anyone else. That's why closed networks like Facebook are so insidious - people put more information on there than they would on an obviously public page such as this one, with the misconception that only their friends and family can access it. They - especially young people - are duped into jumping into bed with Facebook with the idea that they can retain control over who gets to access what.

They can't.

So what can we keep private? Lots. I'm pretty open - I make a point to use my real, full name in online games or on the handful social networks left that are genuinely useful to me; it makes it easier for me to keep track of and aggregate everything I'm doing. On others - ones where I prefer remaining private - I always use a pseudonym, encryption and TOR. There is data (music, videos, games) on my home PC that you'd probably be able to access without much difficulty if you really wanted to get at my Lionel Ritchie Paris Hilton Audioslave high-fidelity OGG files. Then there is other data and information that anyone would have a bitch of a time trying to find, decipher, crack and decrypt.

So, what's the point? Well, that problems with privacy control and things like identity theft have been around long before the Internet ever came to be, and will stick around long after the Internet has withered to dust copper flakes. That it's about corporate responsibility, education, and governance - not paranoia. That anyone with a phone book and fingers can find whoever they're looking for. And finally, whether you live down the street or in Florida, that you shouldn't look up my number and call me unless you've got something to say.

Or unless you're a blond-haired blue-eyed college cheerleader from the south. Then, you can just ask.

privacy


New MSI Wind Netbook for sale | Friday, January 2nd, 2009

EDIT: SOLD!!!

Put up my barely used netbook up for sale over on craiglist - pass it on! :)


I'm selling a pristine brand new MSI Wind netbook that I had bought as a temporary machine while waiting for my new laptop to arrive. It has barely 2 weeks of use on it, comes with everything brand new in its box. In addition, I installed Ubuntu Linux 8.10 on it with all the add-ons and extras (It still has Windows XP French installed as well).

  • 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom Processor
  • 1 GB DDR Ram (upgraded from 512 MB)
  • 80Gb Hard drive (unlike the tiny 4 - 8GB SSD drives in most of these things)
  • 10.2" Screen (the reason I chose this netbook - way easier to work on than a tiny 8" screen like the one on the eeePC).
  • 1 year manuf. warranty with receipt.
  • Running Windows XP french (original install), Ubuntu Intrepid Ibex 8.10 (with Compiz Fusion running smoothly - this thing's got a surprisingly good 3D chip). You can easily install Windows Vista as well, or - yes - Mac OS X.
  • As seen in the pictures, yes, the machine is totally new, with the plastic and stuff still on it.

msi wind for sale

msi wind for sale

msi wind for sale

msi wind for sale


Contact me if you're interested in picking this up, or if you know someone else who is.


CCA Science and Tech Mindmap | Friday, December 5th, 2008

This past Saturday, I have the opportunity to moderate a very useful discussion about community and online collaboration at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

This is a rough mind map of the questions and answers that we tossed around. Clicking the thumbnail will bring you to the large .png image, but editable / open ascii, html, latex and MS Office versions are attached, as well as the original kdissert mind map.

cca_mindmap


9 games for non-gamers | Monday, November 24th, 2008

Yesterday, I had the joys of getting one of my non-gamer friends hooked on a game. Getting to watch Mir laugh and stumble through building a lattice to make a bridge for a bunch of wobbly goo balls to cross over was totally worth the teensy $20 I paid for World of Goo.

People who were weaned mostly on games as children, rather than other forms of media - Saturday morning cartoons, sci-fi movies, dungeons and dragons - continue to approach problems from a different perspective as they move into adulthood. For example, we tend to interpret architecture and industrial design different, after subconsciously studying the worlds we previously walked through, built from the imagination of the game creator's mind. There are other nuances within gaming, of course, such as the type of games played (educational, sandbox, interactive storytelling, entertainment, etc), as well as within the different [constantly changing] genres of games - first person, strategic, puzzle, and others.

Whether I'm having a conversation about politics, technology or society with someone, the ideas that get thrown around between people who are (or were at some point) at least moderately invested in gaming tend to take on a distinctly more constructivist approach. This often leads to a more holistic understanding of not only the topic at hand but also the other person's stance on the issue. I take for granted that not everyone I deal with is/was a gamer, and so I often find myself expressing frustration at concepts and context that I assume are common knowledge, when in fact, they aren't. Of course, this reflects more on me being an occasional insensitive douchebag than on them lacking any knowledge. What follows is a list for these people (people who don't play video games, not people who think I'm a douchebag - their list is long enough as it is).


CRTC fails to protect net neutrality | Friday, November 21st, 2008

Via The National Union of Public and General Employees

In a move that has disappointed many Canadian high-tech leaders and public interest groups, including the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that it will not force Bell Canada to stop its controversial Internet throttling practices.

[...]

The CRTC decision comes in response to a request from the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) that Bell stop throttling other Internet service providers that use its network. More than 2,000 Canadians across the country filed letters with the CRTC supporting CAIP’s request.

[...]

CAIP has been in limbo since April waiting for the CRTC decision. CAIP argued that Bell’s throttling practices violated telecommunication regulations, gave Bell an unfair market advantage and interfered with Canadians' online privacy.

Well, you know, shit.

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