Hard News by Russell Brown


Fun like the old days

Computerworld editor Rob O'Neill sent me the link to this story about an apology from a state minister for suggesting that a government website was hacked by Sydney Morning Herald journalists, who obtained a confidential transport strategy document.

As it turned out, the super-duper, big-time security the website's developers claimed had been breached doesn't seem to have been switched on. The directory concerned had been as publicly accessible as you like.

"I thought of you when I posted this," said Rob.

I thought of me too. Because we were both working for Computerworld in 1996 when I wrote a taunting, smart-arse story about the fact that the Australian subsidiary of A Large Telecommunications Company had left work in progress for A Large Media Company sitting out on the internet. I got sued – and, innovatively, served by email.

The subsidiary claimed, amusingly, that the server, which was not only known to the Domain Name System but listed on a number of European websites as an open news server (no shit, they'd been using it to serve Usenet newsgroups and hadn't set access privileges) was part of some top-secret part of the internet that could not possibly have been discovered by anyone, ever.

Although both parties walked away with their costs in the end, the settlement restrains me from saying much more. But ironically, my only real mistake was downloading and republishing the images without permission, rather than simply linking to them -- in a well-meaning attempt to protect the company from its own ineptitude.

You don't often get to have that sort of fun these days – not since Downing Street's Iraq dossier was released as a Word document replete with its own hidden revision log.

Now, "hacking" is more likely to really mean leaking – or actual, bad-faith and illegal access to private information, such as that at the centre of the News of the World phone hacking scandal. A cross-party inquiry by British MPs has found that the Murdoch paper accessed the voicemail and phones of politicians, celebrities and members of the Royal Family on "an industrial scale". And the MPs are livid.

Adding extra spice, the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, is now the chief communications advisor to Conservative Party leader David Cameron. Coulson has been able to maintain plausible deniability so far, but I wouldn't bet on that staying the case. Especially if, as seems likely, the matter proceeds to a judicial inquiry.

For now, I don't think this is good for Rupert Murdoch at all.


A couple of delightful cultural testaments turned up in comments on System this week, but deserve a proper airing in a post.

One is the interview with Chris Knox conducted for Pitchfork Media by Shayne Carter, in which Chris responds to a series of leading questions about his musical inspirations.

The other is the graffiti artist Askew One's memoir of Morningside (the real one, not the Bro' Town one). It's beautifully written and illustrated and should be harvested pronto by libraries and archives. It's history, bro.


Meanwhile, we had a useful discussion about the Radio New Zealand funding scrap with the Facebook group founder Jake Quinn and Radio Live general manager Mitch Harris. And Jose Barbosa produced a couple of great reports on Webstock.

The video is here if you missed it.

BTW, if you were puzzled by John Drinann's claim this morning that the former Labour government's "sense of ownership [of Radio New Zealand] never translated into additional funding and it was a party to the underfunding specified in a report from KPMG," that would be because it's wrong.

The relevant information is in Figure 14 on page 30 of the same KPMG report that Drinnan namechecks, which shows (most notably) CPI-adjusted increases in 2000, 2003 and 2004. I presume Drinnan got his information from his government source and didn't bother to look it up for himself. Labour in government didn't give Radio NZ everything the broadcaster wanted, or as much as KPMG felt necessary, but it demonstrably did repeatedly provide "additional funding".


It's quite the weekend for music in Auckland.

Gilles Peterson headlines The Turnaround tonight.

Pluto play Cassette Nine tonight

The Ruby Suns and Signer play the Bacco Room tomorrow night (see you there).

Arch Hill Recordings has a 10th anniversary barbecue and show at the King's Arms.

And Music in Parks is back with The Datsuns, The Bats and Clap Clap Riot at Nixon Park in Kingsland on Saturday afternoon.



And finally, Hong Kong's Apple Daily, the source of the marvellous Tiger Woods CGI re-enactment, is back on the topic of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's allegedly bullying ways with staff. It's brilliant:

And – hey! – it's another Auto-Tune the News:

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