It’s All About Lame Licensing, Not Free Downloads

The Guardian reported today that research performed by the 11-month-old Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property suggests illegal downloads cost the UK economy more than $21 billion (£12 billion) annually (Cost to British economy of free downloads is revealed).

The Guardian quotes David Lammy, UK minister for intellectual property, as saying:

“Illegal downloading robs our economy of millions of pounds every year and seriously damages business and innovation throughout the UK. It is something that needs tackling, and we are serious about doing so.”

This is the worn out, stock-in-trade response to the issue of digital access to intellectual property and it demonstrates the fact that politicians are incapable of grasping the true root of the problem. No matter that it came from the other side of the Atlantic; Canadian politicians have memorized the same prattle.

Think of it this way: if an orchard stood on one side of the street, and a closed, locked, and heavily guarded grocery store stood on the other, where would consumers go for their produce?

While the Guardian’s article addresses a UK-specific study, the problem is the same worldwide. It’s particularly acute here in Canada where we seem to get falsely accused on a regular basis by American producers of somehow being the root of the problem.

The truth is, most media consumers are not “bad” people, and none of us take pride in consuming content that artists and producers are not being compensated for.

The real problem is with the media licensing models that govern access to content, particularly movies and television shows. Despite the best efforts of online retailers like iTunes, most media production companies insist on making it incredible difficult to access, purchase, and consume their products.

Why are non-American residents blocked from Hulu? Do producers really think that by building an artificial wall around their content, they can prevent us from accessing it?

No, that’s what BitTorrent is for. It’s the orchard just across the street from the heavily guarded retail outlet. As soon as that store opens, we’ll all head over and pay good money for quality produce (well, most of us will, anyway).

So illicit downloading is not the problem here. A lame and decrepit licensing model is what needs dealing with. Governments around the world need to move their focus away from consumers and force the issue on producers and their resistance to change.

Just What the Mac OS Needs: Amnesia

Koingo Amnesia IconIn general, the Mac OS is a cinch for installing and uninstalling apps. Most are just a matter of drag and drop. No muss, no fuss.

It’s one of the Mac OS’s major user-friendly features. I mean, take Adobe Acrobat as an example. A morning-long, gruellingly-complex install process on Windows takes seconds on a Mac. And getting rid of Acrobat is just as easy: drag it over the Trash and it’s gone.

But sometimes software developers break Apple’s rules in an effort to add unsupported functionality to their applications. This typically results in crap getting dumped all over the place in the Mac file system, which makes uninstalling those apps markedly more difficult if you’re not a Mac pro (or even if you are, sometimes).

And some specialized applications like widgets, Preferences panes, and application plug-ins, are just plain tough for anyone to manually remove (shame on you, Apple).

Enter Amnesia from Koingo. This useful little app is like Windows’ Add/Remove Programs feature. Amnesia has the power to search every nook and cranny of the Mac file system for any other app’s junk and really give it a thorough cleaning.

For example:

I thought I’d removed these all ages ago. Amnesia founds bits and pieces of each, along with a slew of associated files, that were collectively clogging up my file system and no doubt causing all degree of problem for me.

After Amnesia had identified the bits and pieces, it was a one-click uninstall process and my Mac had forgotten all about these unruly little applications.

I’ve spent a few hours using Amnesia now and I’d call it an absolutely essential app that every Mac user should have installed on their system. Or, more to the point, it’s a key functionality that Apple should build right in to the Mac OS.

There is one caveat to Amnesia, however: it’s designed as a power user tool. The average Mac user could get into trouble very quickly by uninstalling a bit too much from the Mac OS if they’re not careful.

Koingo should dumb Amnesia down at its default setting so that novice users are better protected from themselves. An “Advanced” toggle in Preferences could unleash the apps full power to us hardcore Mac pros.

Where Sex and Technology Intersect

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com recently published the results of their study, Sex and Tech. The results are surprising and enlightening. A few highlights:

  • 33% of young adults (20-26) overall have sent of posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves
  • 20% of teens (13-19) overall have sent of posted nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves
  • 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails— originally meant for someone else—shared with them.
  • 48% of young adult women and 46% of young adult men say it is common for nude or semi-nude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
  • 22% of teens and 28% of young adults say they are personally more forward and aggressive using sexually suggestive words and images than they are in “real life.”

The survey is worth checking out. It highlights a general movement in society towards a “split personality” in the emerging youth generation, and also a new attitude towards sex and sexuality that will have repercussions on the magnitude of the “free sex” generation the came of age in the 60s.

A Tool for Decoding Text Messages

Yesterday LG Mobile Phones released an online tool that many parents will find invaluable: DTXTR (or, in English, “De-Texter”).

It’s a translation service that will turn those whacked-out text message acronyms (teenspeak?) into plain English. This will no doubt delight many nosy parents who want to keep tabs on every communication triviality of their thumbstruck teens.

The real-world utility of this tool is questionable, however. Heavy texters are well-known to fire off 200+ miniscule missives a day. Since DTXTR works one acronym at a time, decoding kids’ texts with the tool could become a full time job. Better that LG should have permitted full-message translation or the ability to upload SMS logs from a phone for bulk translation.

Visit the tool at http://www.lgdtxtr.com/.

Northwestel Cable: It’s Getting Worse

Since January, I have felt the gradual reduction in performance of my $90-per-month “ultra” cable internet service from Northwestel, but I didn’t think it was this bad.

In just four short months, the service’s download speed rate has dropped by almost 75%. In January my download speed was a more respectable 9.19 Mb/s (northwestel cable service revisited: it’s still lame in comparison) and now, as you can see in the graphic at left, it’s a paltry 2.01 Mb/s.

Upload speeds, never a strong point of the service, have dropped by a full 25%, from .46 Mb/s to .37 Mb/s.

What’s more, since January I’ve experienced several multi-day service outages that Northwestel Cable too-often showed very little interest in rectifying. In fact, over on her blog, Horsewords, Breanna Blottner describes that she’s experiencing this situation right now (No good internet).

I’ll just revisit comparable pricing for internet services in southern Canada Shaw, to properly frame how bad the northern internet situation really is. If all I wanted was a mere 2 Mb/s download speed from Shaw, well, I couldn’t get it. Their lowest tier of service, High Speed Lite, offers just 256 kbps downloads for $19.99 per month. But remarkably, the next tier up, High Speed, is priced the same and offers a whopping jump to 7 Mb/s.

These days, I’m lucky to exceed 3 Mb/s with Northwestel and I’m being jacked for $90 each month; not to mention the additional $150+ each month I pay in data overage fees due to Northwestel ultra’s paltry 100 GB data cap.

If you jump up to the Northwestel Cable ultra price range with Shaw, you get a scorching 25 Mb/s download rate and a respectable 150 GB of data transfer per month. And I’ll bet the quality of service is head and shoulders above what we Northerners are forced to suffer at the hands of Northwestel.

Man, it’s getting so bad I feel like I should quit working to improve the high tech industry up here and just go be a miner or get a job at Wal-Mart.

Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC For Sale

The Tablet PC with Most Accessories

Cutting-Edge Tablet PC with Built-in Cellular Wireless Networking and Tons of Accessories

I’m probably going to post this on eBay, but I thought I’d advertise this unit here for a week before I do so in an effort to try and avoid the auction site’s exorbitant fees.

I’m selling my Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC computer with 2GB of RAM, a 120 GB internal hard drive, and an internel Telus- or Verizon- compatible (CDMA) cellular modem for WWAN access.

This Lenovo ThinkPad (Canadian model number 6363-HAU) is in excellent condition. It was used lightly and has since been sitting on my desk experiencing very little use. It is in perfect running order. It has always been hooked up to an APC battery backup. The unit was just repaired under warranty by Lenovo; its system board and keyboard were replaced.

This unit was was purchased in mid-April of 2007; its date of manufacture is March 28, 2007. It was upgraded to include 2 GB of RAM.

There remain about 12 months of warranty on this unit. This warranty is fully transferrable to a new owner.

I am selling this ThinkPad because I find that I rarely use its unique tablet features. I’m seeking $800 CDN for the tablet and its accessories, of which there are many (see below).

You can view more photos of the PC and its accessories in my Flickr album. Continue reading

The Fallen Pilot

The pilot of the rocket ship had lost his way. He’s made the jump into light-speed fully confident that the computer had properly calculated the destination correctly, but when they returned to normal space, none of his charts could identify his location.

There were several planets nearby, but only one was life supporting, so he headed for it to see if there was any help for him there. He disengaged his landing pod from the larger rocket booster and descended into the atmosphere.

His computer identified that the planet was almost entirely populated to the extent that he would have difficulty landing with any degree of discretion. So he headed for a remote location that seemed to have generally fewer people.

Mid way towards his destination his pod began to have some difficulty. The strange mix of gases in this planet’s atmosphere began to clog the pod’s exhaust system and the engines failed. He managed to perform a successful emergency landing in a field.

He fastened his life support system onto his head and chest, and took up a blaster on his hip. The canopy of his ship lifted to reveal a crowd of small beings with a form that generally matched his own. Each had two arms, two legs, and a head with various organs to support sensory perception. The major difference was the colour of their skin, which was pinkish white rather than blue.

When the beings saw the pilot, one of them made a gasping sound and uttered the sound, “cool.”

The beings ran away as he emerged from his ship. They went towards a large building and entered it. Sensing some danger, the pilot chose to enable the invisibility powers of his suit and follow the beings. As he reached the structure his decision was proven prudent as a large number of vehicles arrived to surround his crashed pod in the field.

He remotely enabled his vehicle’s invisibility powers, too.

Inside the building he discovered a crowd of the small beings he’d seen outside. They were being controlled by a very small group of larger beings who were ordering them around and directing their movements and actions.

The pilot wandered into a room where several of the small beings were expelling fluids into a white receptacles attached to the wall. Understanding this to be the product of the environment in which he wandered, he took notes and captured images.

However, as he did so he was careless and his blaster fell to the floor near one of the beings. Once the device had disengaged from contact with the pilot, it became visible.

“Dude, where’d you get that thing?” said one of the beings to the other near whom the device had fallen.

“What?”

“That blaster. Is it a clone one?”

The being stooped to pick up the blaster, and said: “This isn’t mine. But it’s so cool.”

The being with the blaster held it carefully in his arms and began to point it about the room, making shooting noises. The pilot ducked for cover.

“Does it make noise?” the other being asked.

The being pointed the blaster at the other and pulled the trigger. A tremendous noise sounded and a beam of green light shot out of the blaster, tearing a gaping whole through the chest of the first being and sending a massive splatter of blood onto the wall behind him.

“Cool.”

The pilot stood back silently and observed the being, who examined the remains of the other being. For a moment, the pilot considered revealing himself in order to seize the blaster. But before he could act the being fled the room. The pilot followed.

The being ran down the hall. Suddenly he yelled, “Hey, Martin! You’re a fucking turd brain!”

Another, much heftier and taller being turned to the being with the blaster and shouted, “You little runt! You’ll pay for that. Let’s get him!”

The being with the blaster shouted, “I wouldn’t do that!” He pointed the blaster at the being called Martin.

“Scott, a fucking Star Wars gun won’t stop me.” Martin lunged at Scott. Several other large beings followed Martin.

Scott again pulled the blaster’s trigger and a tremendous sound exploded and a beam of light shot though Martin’s head. The contents of Martin’s skull were expelled  and several nearby beings received a splattered coating of them.

Mayhem immediately ensued as the beings began to run about and away from Scott. The pilot lunged to grab the blaster, but an unfortunate side effect of invisibility is a loss of dexterity. Scott continued down the hall at a fast pace, towards a door and outside. Again, the pilot followed.

Atmospheric cover had been reduced since his landing and the strong glare of the powerful sun was much stronger than the pilot had ever experienced before. He increased the strength of his suit’s solar protection, but it was barely enough to permit the pilot to see in the powerful light. He heard explosions.

Scott had emerged into a large, open area holding a collection of immobile vehicles. He was indiscriminately destroying them with the blaster, one after another, in quick succession. 

The being had discovered that firing the blaster at a certain location of a vehicle resulted in a larger sound and incendiary event. He enjoyed this. Several other beings had joined Scott and cheered his actions. They all joined in a chant: “Can I try?”

Tired of the vehicles, and bothered by the resulting black, noxious smoke, Scott turned his attention to the building that he’d exited. He began to randomly destroy the transparent light portals and the walls themselves. More and more beings began to cheer.

Suddenly, from the crowd came a shout.

“Everyone be quiet. Scott Simpson, you give me that gun immediately!”

One of the much larger beings approached Scott.

“Why should I?”

“Scott, this is quite enough. I don’t know where you got that thing, but  you’ve caused enough havoc for today.”

“Mr. Denson, I like you but if you try and take this blaster away I’ll shoot you, too!”

Sensing danger, the pilot edged closer to Scott, who was carelessly holding the blaster.

The wind shifted at that moment. It pushed the thick black smoke from the burning vehicles towards the pilot and Scott. They were wrapped in its stench. The sun was unable to fully penetrate the cloud and the pilot’s vision returned; this was his moment to act.

“Scott, stop! Look out!” The larger being shouted, pointing at the pilota.

As it wrapped around the pilots invisible form, the black smoke revealed his shape.

Scott turned abruptly and saw the pilot lunging towards him. He carelessly and rapidly began firing the blaster. 

He caught the pilot in the leg, then in the shoulder. The pain was searing and unbearable. The pilot fell to the ground. His suit damaged, his visibility returned.

“Holy shit.” Scott stood over the pilot. “What are you?”

Mr. Denson joined Scott. He turned to the approaching crowd and shouted, “everybody stand back!”

“I think we’ve found the owner of your gun, Scott.”

Scott looked down at the fallen pilot and began to cry. He mumbled, “I’m sorry, Mr. Alien.”

He laid the blaster across the pilot’s chest. The pilot felt the strange atmosphere seeping into his damaged suit. His lungs began to convulse as the mixture of gases poisoned them.

Scott sat down next to the pilot and touched his arm. The pilot closed his eyes, cursed his faulty hyperdrive computer, and was gone.