Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Media piracy and copyright

I was listening to a film podcast where a director was bemoaning the fact that one of his films had been removed from distribution by the studio. When asked by the interviewer where his film could be viewed the director said to pirate it. In fact he went on to say that people had his explicit permission to pirate it since he wanted people to see it and that was the only way it could be seen. 

It has recently come to light that may streaming services have removed a large amount of content from streaming services and stopped producing the physical media. Apparently this is a "tax write off", which means that they don't have to pay royalties on the removed content. Not entirely sure how that works but it seems that they are happy to permanently remove content that is not "profitable enough". It seems that they promise of watching whatever you want whenever you want it was indeed a pipe dream. 

Even accessing available content is horrendously expensive. To access all of the streaming services is hundreds of dollars a month and rising rapidly. Every content owner is launching their own service so it is just getting more expensive.

So what is the solution. When I was in a job where I was procuring software for a corporation I was trying to purchase licences for a software package. It transpired that the software was no longer being sold. There was (and still may be) a provision in the software copyright law that if software was no longer being sold that it was free to use. I contacted the company that did provide the software and they provided a document stating that the software was no longer sold and that we could freely use it without license. It would be nice to see similar legislation applied to other media. If a movie or TV series is no longer available on any medium then the only option is to pirate it. Of course you can buy second hand physical media but that is not always possible, or reliable. (Also note that physical media often has a note saying that the ownership of the media is not transferable.) It is hardly fair to claim loss of revenue if the owner is not making the content available. It can only be considered a loss if the content is available to consume, otherwise the point is moot.

If the owners of content were serious about copyright infringement then they would make the content available to rent or purchase for a reasonable cost to those who wish to consume it. While they are playing a dog in the manger then of course people will seek other means to obtain it. 

Monday, December 4, 2023

My Precious - The iPhone after a couple of months use...

OK - here is the deal. First it was Nokia - great interface, ultra reliable and sort of easy syncing with a few glitches. Then it was onto the Smart Phone - HP Pocket PC with keyboard, GPS positioning, BlueTooth and wifi plus expandable memory. OK, but extremely buggy. Constant crashing, running out of memory, slow, loosing calls for no obvious reason for several hours, sometimes up to a day at a time.

To summarise
Consistent interface
Syncing - mostly good

OS not capable of more sophisticated apps
If the sync messed up was a nightmare to sort out.

Smart Phone
Extremely powerful
Great range of apps
potential of almost anything

Very very buggy - really always felt like a beta version
Unable to upgrade the OS - no firmware updates - stuck with the many bugs
Constantly missing calls for no good reason.

I decided to move towards a basic phone with a Pocket PC for the more sophisticated mobile computer experience ... until the iPhone arrived.

I was not immediately taken with the iPhone, for a start it was only GSM (Not even 3G), it was rather limited in memory and here in Australia it was quite difficult to get and really not worth the effort. Then they announced the 3G and a tentative date for Australia. I started to get interested. I wondered if this would be a nice intermediate compromise? The two devices in one.

My two sons bought iPhones when they were released so I got to see them up close and for all the limitations I did like it. It would be nice to have a phone that would work - as opposed to my pocket PC.

There is the story - one of frustration and constant phone envy - What is it like to have a smart phone that works? So finally, after having an iPhone for a couple of months here is my first assessment.

My first impression was how smoothly everything worked out of the box. No sophisticated computer knowledge required to set it up, no esoteric syncing software to set up, just the old favourite iTunes that I have been using for years and it just appears magically in the left hand pane with a big Sync button down the bottom. It does require a little setup and as with every program the options take some explaining - whey does IT language have to be so obscure. Why can't the options be self explanatory, or at least have a little help popup to explain them. But for all that it is much easier than either Nokia synchronisation software or Active Sync.

The first thing was to sync my music. Select the sync only selected music and check all the wanted play-lists and it was done. Simplicity itself. However the inability to access the device's files directly and only able to sync one way and to only one computer is severely limiting. I have looked for mechanisms to overcome this limitation but so far to no avail.

Application download and backup is straightforward. Although there are a plethora (supposedly just passed 10,000) of applications most of them are rubbish and you do not have the quality of applications that are available for the PPC. You get far less quantity but much higher quality applications for the PPC. Also the limitation to multitask on the iPhone is a severe limitation. I will be happy when all of my favourite apps for the PPC are available on the iPhone.

The phone works. What more can I say. The inability to easily sync with my Outlook is a nuisance but I am depending less on Outlook - but for those still tied to outlook can be rather problematic. I use Google for most things now - except for work mail. The mail app is nothing short of brilliant. I have two Gmail and one Yahoo account and it is very easy to use and has just the features one would want in a mobile mail app. Gmail contacts seem to work fine. No complaints really. There is an excellent web interface to the Gmail calendar but it does not integrate with the native iPhone calendar. It would have been nice to have integration with all of the web apps, it seems like half a job to me.

The interface is very nice to use. Smooth and easy to navigate, and all the application interfaces have a nice consistency. Much more than any other device I have used, and much better than the PPC. Selecting an application is easy and navigating it is simplicity itself - although the developer does need to make the labels so that they make sense. One of the benefits of Apple tying it down like a homicidal maniac is that you are forced into this tightly defined interface. Not a bad thing on a device such as this.

As mentioned above the iPhione is quite reliable - maybe not as reliable as a basic phone but no where near as flaky as my PPC. The occasional app crash (except for this reboot problem I have (more below) it has been extremely stable.

The media player is as good as one would expect from Apple. Anything on the Nokia or the PPC looks plain amateurish compared to the iPhone media player. It is smooth, powerful, easy to use, and of reasonable quality. The new Genius feature is a very nice addition. As above there are some gripes but the media player is not a tacky add on as with other devices. One thing I will say is, the lack of high def BT stereo support is notable. I bought a pair of BT stereo headphones for my PPC and so far they have lain idle. It is a nicely integrated powerful media player in its own right.

May trees have been felled in defence of the browser and apart from some well documented gripes it works as advertised and is very smooth and easy to use. Most sites are properly rendered and easy to navigate. IE for PPC, eat your heart out.

The maps software is nothing short of brilliant. You get the map, satellite view, directions, assisted GPS, markers and now with the 2.2 update you get street view. All of which is easy to use, fast and convenient. There is now only one thing lacking, that is turn by turn navigation. Why it is missing I have no idea. It is a serious limitation and its absence on what is otherwise such a comprehensive device is a complete mystery.

I do have an issue with my iPhone whereby on several occasions when the phone has been docked it went into a mode whereby it would reboot every minute or so. It would continuously reboot until I removed it from the dock. The first time I thought it had developed a software fault and did a full restore. After it started happening the second time I realised I could stop it by removing it from the docking station. I come back the next day and it is fine. Still no idea why it did this.

Great interface
Very easy to use
Consistent look and feel on all apps
Many additional programs in every conceivable category to choose from - many free
Good email support
Most popular sites now have iPhone dedicated pages
First class media player

No multitasking
Limited RAM
No memory expansion
No direct access to the file system (unless jailbroken)
Apple tie down the applications with a draconian approval process and limitations (Unless jailbroken)
No Stereo BT support
Many of the apps are toys with no real porting of many serious computer programs as yet
Often tied to onerous phone plans
No turn by turn

Using the iPhone is a pleasurable experience with very little down side. The limitations, some of which are really annoying, are far outweighed by the many advantages.

It would be nice to see a new model with more CPU grunt, more RAM, multitasking, better integration in some areas, better BT stack and turn by turn.

For all the limitations, given the choice, I would buy the iPhone again. Reliable device, smooth navigation, great feature set make this a great device. Add to this the great media player and maps it is a true winner.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Gazetteer Of Programming Languages

This is for the geeks amongst us, although most people will probably appreciate this.
This was first published in 1982 in InfoWorld and is attributed to John Unger Zussman and later published in the November 2, 1984 edition of the University of Waterloo’s mathNEWS. I was given a photostat copy in the mid 80s and used it in a computer magazine I was editing at the time. It has since become quite widespread on the internet under the title “Lesser known computer languages”, probably because most computer guys cannot spell gazetteer. Read and enjoy…

‘Simple’ is an acronym for Sheer Idiot’s Programming Linguistic Environment. This language, developed at Hanover College for Technological Misfits, was designed to make it impossible to write code with errors in it. The statements are, therefore, confined to ‘begin’, ‘end’, and ’stop’. No matter how you arrange the statements, you can’t make a syntax error.
Programs written in Simple do nothing useful. They thus achieve the results of programs written in other languages without the tedious, frustrating process of testing and debugging.

Slobol is best known for the speed, or lack of it, of its compiler. Although many compilers allow you to take a coffee break while they compile, Slobol compilers allow you to travel to Bolivia to pick the coffee.
Forty-three programmers are known to have died of boredom sitting at their terminals while waiting for a Slobol program to compile.

From its modest beginnings in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley, Valgol is enjoying a dramatic surge in popularity across the industry. Valgol commands include ‘really’, ‘like’, ‘well’, and ‘y*know’. Variables are assigned with the ‘= like’ and ‘= totally’ operators. Other operators include the California Booleans, ‘fersure’ and ‘noway’. Repetitions of code are handled in ‘for/sure’ loops. Here is a sample Valgol program:
like y*know (I mean) start
if pizza = like bitchen and
b = like tubular and
c = like grodyax
for I = like 1 to oh maybe 100
do wah
- (ditty)
barf(1 ) = totally gross (out)
like bag this problem
like totally (y*know)
Valgol is characterized by its unfriendly error messages. For example, when the user makes a syntax error, the interpreter displays the message: gag me with a spoon

This otherwise unremarkable language is distinguished by the absence of an ’s’ in the character set. Programmers must substitute ‘th’. Lithp is said to be useful in proceththing lithtth.

Historically, Valgol is a derivative of Laidback, which was developed at the (now defunct) Marin County Center for T’ai Chi, Mellowness, and Computer Programming, as an alternative to the intense atmosphere in nearby Silicon Valley. The center was ideal for programmers who liked to soak in hot tubs while they worked. Unfortunately, few programmers could survive there for long, since the center outlawed pizza and RC Cola in favor of bean curd and Perrier. Many mourn the demise of Laidback because of its reputation as a gentle and non-threatening language. For example, Laidback responded to syntax errors with the message:
Sorry, man, I can’t deal behind that.

This language was named for the grade received by its creator when he submitted it as a project in a university graduate programming class. C- is best described as a ‘low-level’ programming language. In general, the language requires more C- statements than machine code instructions to execute a given task. In this respect it is very similar to COBOL.

Named after the late existential philosopher, Sartre is an extremely unstructured language. Statements in Sartre have no purpose; they just are. Thus, Sartre programs are left to define their own functions. Sartre programmers tend to be boring and depressed and are no fun at parties.

Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Obedience Training, Dogo heralds a new era of computer-literate pets. Dogo commands include ’sit’, ’stay’, ‘heel’, and ‘roll over’. An innovative feature of Dogo is ‘puppy graphics’, a small cocker spaniel that occasionally leaves deposits as he travels across the screen.

Lingua Programmatica
As a programmer who has frequently been frustrated by the lack of flexibility of conventional high-level programming languages, I am pleased to report the recent completion of a new language that promises to leave Pascal and the others stumbling in its tailwind. The new language is called LATIN (not to be confused with the natural language, Latin, with which it is, however, identical).
LATIN offers such conveniences as Roman numeral mode (for those who are tired of trying to deal with clumsy Arabic numbers), output to marble, and a sophisticated user interface that features not just icons but also omens. The package includes complete error detection and punishment. Program execution is rapid; however, programmer execution is painfully slow. The carefully written documentation is hand-copied on papyrus scrolls by Egyptian slaves, and scans nicely. The language is provided on a sturdy double-sided discus, designed for years of troublefree use.
Availability of LATIN is something of a problem at present, as the compiler is written not in assembler but in an intermediate-level language called GREEK (G-Code), which has yet to be implemented on any microcomputer.
And this one by Karl Hildon . . .

NORTH programs can only execute efficiently where snow falls at least 5 months of the year. This is because many NORTH programmers become sick and fed up with their environment and move on to SOUTH. Almost all NORTH programs are totally useless in the SOUTH environment.
NORTH programs are immediately recognizable by the “, eh ” suffix which seems to be necessary after every line. Although there are other slight differences, most NORTH programs can be translated to SOUTH by replacing the “, eh ” suffix with “, uh “.
Debugging NORTH programs is no probs. The “Gimme a break” command can be inserted to stop programs from taking off with goofs, and after an error, the “Check it out” command shows the offending botches.
The following is a demo program that comes with the NORTH interpreter:
10 hosers = 1, eh
20 buzz hoser, “what’s happenin’ man?”, eh
30 far out, eh: hosers = hosers + 1, eh
40 it hosers < beer/6 then 20, eh
50 if dough = 0 then cruise, eh: goto 50, eh
60 if donuts = 0 then cruise, eh
70 if beer < 24 then cruise, eh: beer = beer+24, eh
80 killer, eh
90 on stereo goto heavy metal, heavy metal, eh
100 while beer > 0, eh
110 beer = beer
- hosers, eh
120 endwhile, eh
130 if munchies then do food, eh
140 if burnt out then crash, eh: else 70, eh

Named after the famous French philosopher and mathematician Rene DesCartes, RENE is a language used for artificial intelligence. The language is being developed at the Chicago Center of Machine Politics and Programming under a grant from the Jane Byrne Victory Fund. A spokesman described the language as “Just as great as dis [sic] city of ours.”
The center is very pleased with progress to date. They say they have almost succeeded in getting a VAX to think. However, sources inside the organization say that each time the machine fails to think it ceases to exist. 

FIFTH is a precision mathematical language in which the data types refer to quantity. The data types range from CC, OUNCE, SHOT, and JIGGER to FIFTH (hence the name of the language), LITER, MAGNUM and BLOTTO. Commands refer to ingredients such as CHABLIS, CHARDONNAY, CABERNET, GIN, VERMOUTH, VODKA, SCOTCH, and WHATEVERSAROUND.
The many versions of the FIFTH language reflect the sophistication and financial status of its users. Commands in the ELITE dialect include VSOP and LAFITE, while commands in the GUTTER dialect include HOOTCH and RIPPLE. The latter is a favorite of frustrated FORTH programmers who end up using this language.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Patents and Innovation

I have read that the rationale behind the modern copyright act was to encourage innovation. (As opposed to the old copyright act which was a form of censorship.) However, is this the way things have worked out?

I was watching a recent episode of GeekBeat on high end 3D printers when the host John P asked the guests why it was that there is now an explosion of cheapish 3D printers. The answer was quite surprising. It was that the patents on 3D printing have now run out. So for the last 25 years there has been an effective road block to innovation in 3D printing and that now that the patents have run out there is an explosion in innovation.

So - what is the take away message from this? The modern patent and copyright legislation does not encourage innovation. It leads to price gouging, massive law suits, stifling innovation and creativity and huge profits for large powerful organisations.

It is high time that there is a massive overhaul to the patent and copyright laws, but I fear that the rich and powerful will never allow that.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Auto connect to Samba on Mac Lion

Every time I boot my Mac it disconnects my samba share. How to get it to auto connect, even connect in the first place. Well boys and girls, here it is.

First you have to connect to the server in the first place. In Finder select Go->Connect to server.  Put in your credentials or select guest for anonymous login. This will create a new shared locaion in Finder.
Select the share to open

Now to make it do that when you automatically login. Open System Preferences, Select Users and Groups then select your user from the list of users. Then select the Login Items tab. Click the + button below the list of Login Items and then browse to the Samba share you wish to open automatically. It will then appear in your list of Login Items and problem solved.
Add the share to your Login Items

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Joys Of Ignorance

A little bit of knowledge is a reason to instill panic on the unsuspecting masses.

When we elect people to Parliament and they become ministers it would not be unreasonable to expect them to have half a brain. The problem is that they keep opening their mouths and removing any remaining doubt we had.

This proclamation from one of Queensland's finest demonstrate how dangerous a little bit of knowledge can be.

I am not sure who these health experts are but I have not seen one peer reviewed study stating that 3D TV is any worse that any other piece of technology. I know of one anecdotal story from someone who was involved in testing a 3D game and they found a certain level of disorientation in some subjects but as far as I am aware no further investigation was done.

Second, who are these manufacturers that issue such dire warnings?

In reality no one has identified 3D TVs as being any worse than any other bit of tech. It is true that some people are adversely affected by 3D video but no more or less than other technologies such as CRT TVs, plasma or LCD displays, computers, fluros, even my mum was sometimes affected by driving in the car at times.

Oh yes, roll out the old pregnant women and children. How on earth does being pregnant make 3D TVs more dangerous? The truth is that the warning that the manufacturers issue is the standard disclaimer that manufacturers issue for all flat panels, and is not unique to 3D displays. They do this so that people will not sue, not because they believe it is a serious issue.

The paranoia over 3D is no different from that which accompanies any new technology that the ignorant do not understand.

The warnings in the last paragraph are ridiculous.

"They should also avoid watching 3D TV under fluorescent lighting or direct sunlight and it's also suggested the screens should not be placed anywhere near stairs or balconies because viewers can become disorientated and that could lead to an accident."

To suggest that someone walking down a stair will be disorientated as they glance towards a 3D TV shows how ill informed the minister is.

Maybe the minister in question should go back to what he is good at...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Apple iPad - Tablet, slate or what?

Since its launch many commentators have referred to the iPad as a different class of device, and have also referred to it as a tablet. The problem with these commentators is that by doing so they show their ignorance of the sate of computing tech today.

First of all this is not a new class of device. The slate computer has been around for a number of years and a Google search on slate computer will reveal to the least tech savvy amongst us that this type of device is not new. A slate is basically a computing device with no attached keyboard, a touch and/or active screen and minimal buttons for quick functions. The slate form factor has been popular for specialised operations but has not had a large penetration in the main stream. It has remained a fairly niche product, mainly due to user ignorance. Manufacturers have not been keen on publicising slates up until now and no one has put a lot of effort into developing or promoting the form. The iPad is really a low end slate device, without a serious CPU, RAM or OS. Hardly new, if you are talking about a crippled computer being a new type of device, but seriously, I think not.

Tablet? Well the Tablet computer has been around for about ten years and comes in two basic forms. Convertible or slate. A convertible Tablet is similar to a laptop but the keyboard twists and folds up onto the back of the computer to allow it to be used in a slate mode. This makes the device larger and heavier. Many people use a slate form factor and attach a portable keyboard and mouse whe required. The Tablet has a pen, active matrix display and may or may not have touch. It is a mistake to call the iPad a Tablet computer. It is a slate without the tablet functions. To be a tablet you need to be able to use a stylus which has been specifically omitted from the iPad.

I am eagerly awaiting the plethora of Windows slate computers now in the pipe line to see what they are like. It would be nice to see some real slate Tablet computers emerge from the scrum.

At least one good thing will come from the popularity of the iPad. It demonstrates to manufacturers that there is a market for real slate computers (as opposed to the toy that the iPad is) and that some real development work will be put into developing a serious contender.

The truth is the iPad is a very high quality device but the average consumer does not care. They want a device that is cheap and convenient. If the main stream PC maker comes to market with a real computer for the rest of us then then they will carve a huge market for themselves. This reminds me of an exchange between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs from the movie The Pirates Of Silicon Valley.

Jobs "Our products are better than yours."

Gates "It doesn't matter."