Posts filed under 'Rants'

Here’s how to stop music piracy

How about this for a way to stop people downloading music illegally, give them value for money!

Frankly, most cds are over priced for what you get, a few decent tracks with some filler, which has done the job of annoying people to the point where they’ll just download the tracks they like and ignore the rest.

I don’t do this, however. I read a couple of music magazines, and if there’s a review that sounds like something I’d like then I download the whole album (illegally, natch) and listen to it. If I like it, I buy the album because I happen to like having physical media to hand instead of abstractions like mp3s. This solves two problems: firstly, I don’t end up with albums I hate and regret buying; and secondly I get to support the artists I truly enjoy.

Two examples:

Although it’s outside of my normal musical tastes, I really enjoyed the song “Hey Ya!”  by OutKast, so I downloaded the album “Speakerboxxx / The Love Below” and checked it out. It turned out that “Hey Ya!” was the only decent song on there, the rest I positively hated. Had I bought the album I would have been very annoyed indeed.

On the other hand, I’m a big “Weird Al” fan, I’ve got all of his albums that have made it to my side of the pond, and learning that he had a new one coming out I sought out ‘pre release’ copy that was floating around the web, which I enjoyed. When I found out that the album was being released as a DualDisc with a whole bunch of extras, including the whole album remixed in 5.1 DVD-A, plus music videos and karaoke versions, I knew I had to have it.

Finding the dualdisc in the UK proved to be something of a bind, so I ordered it from Amazon US and it arrived a healthy 7 days later for the princely sum of $25 including shipping; at the current exchange rate that is actually lower than the retail price for normal UK cds, which of I course I never pay as I buy online, but still.

So, by adding lots of content that would be annoying to download, and showing that he cares about his fans I bought the album. Conversely, had I hated it based upon the mp3s I downloaded I wouldn’t have bought it, and I wouldn’t be annoyed as a result. So, everyone wins.

Music labels, give people compelling reasons to buy a CD instead of just downloading it for free, and you will get sales, it’s hardly rocket science is it?

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October 4th, 2006

Why I won’t be buying Blue Ray or HD-DVD

I was an early adopter of DVD, I’ve had a DVD player for over eight years, many hundreds of DVDs from several different regions, and enjoy the format immensely.

I won’t be getting either a Blue Ray or HD-DVD player for the foreseeable future.

Why? I don’t want to be buying into another Betamax, and at the moment there isn’t a clear winner in the format war and I’m not going to be on the losing side. Plus there are some fairly onerous DRM restrictions built into both platforms that, frankly, give me the willies. Case in point, I recently blogged that I love my Media Centre pc, well one of the things I occasionally do is copy a DVD onto the hard drive so I can have it available more conveniently. This, naturally, won’t be possible with the next-gen disk formats as they’re all about control, and the control is given to the content producers, not the consumers. This is also why I don’t use services like iTunes or Napster, if I can’t do what I like wit the media I purchase, then I’m not interested.

Case in point, I’m a huge Mike Oldfield fan, and a few years ago he released a re-recording of Tubular Bells, and the cd was copy-protected (or as we say in these here parts, broken). I couldn’t play it on my PC and copying it to play in my in-car cd changer was similarly difficult (I never use original cds in the car). So, facing this dilemma I decided to do what all true geeks would, I googled and I found out how to break through these silly copy protection systems and rip a copy of the cd. It took some time and effort, with some tracks requiring multiple passes to get a decent copy, but I eventually managed it.

The net result –  I had a copy of the cd for my car, an mp3 for my pc, and a slew of new knowledge on how to bypass copy protection schemes.

I’ve had similar problems with copy protection schemes with games, when I couldn’t play No-one Lives Forever because the brain-damaged DRM system wouldn’t work with my DVD drive, I had to resort to finding a no-cd crack to actually play the game I had purchased. None of the pirates had this problem, naturally; I was being penalised for being a paying customer.

DRM should be renamed to Consumer Rights Limitation, because that is exactly what they aim to do, prevent us, as the consumers, from using our purchased products as we wish. Imagine a washing machine that only allowed certain type of detergent, not because it couldn’t use more types, but because the manufacturers wouldn’t allow it. Or as in the case of iTunes / Napster et al, once you had washed your clothes in it they were not able to be washed in any other washing machine, even if you had to change it because it had broken!

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October 3rd, 2006

Bush assassination ‘documentary’ – Mediawatch are morons

Channel 4 here in the UK have made a mock documentary about the assassination of President Bush, to much anger from the Republican Party.

I don’t have anything to say about that – as much as I dislike Bush, I certainly don’t want him assassinated, but it’s only a TV show.

What did interest me was a comment from Media Watch UK, the organisation formerly known as the Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, founded by that grade-one hypocrite, Mary Whitehouse. These censorious muppets don’t want it shown, because, and I quote:

John Beyer of TV watchdog mediawatch-uk said the drama was irresponsible and could even spark a real-life assassination attempt.  He added: "There's a lot of feeling against President Bush and this may well put ideas into people's heads.”  And Mr Beyer issued a stark warning to Channel 4 bosses, saying: "If something happens as a consequence of this film, then blood is on their hands. Film-makers must understand how much power the media has. For that reason, the film should not be screened."

What an amazing insight! People who want to kill someone but were short of an idea could view a TV show and re-enact it! It’s just a blueprint for assassination!

The depths of stupidity these people plumb never cease to amaze.

If, as these self-appointed moral guardians maintain, viewing sex and violence on TV corrupts the mind, they should stop watching immediately, as they must be depraved and corrupted beyond redemption.

Naturally, they are above such corruption, as they are somehow ‘better’ than the proles who are exposed to this material and are likely to act out what they see. It’s the typical faux-superiority of those who want to protect us from ourselves, callow fools that we are. Frankly, everything that comes spewing forth from these people is far more offensive than anything they’re trying to ‘protect’ us from.

Assassinate mediawatch!

September 1st, 2006

More End Times Wackiness

Over the years I’ve known a few fundamentalist Christians, those who take the vast majority of the bible as being literally true. I’ve debated them a few times and they always have one trump card – they know they’re right, always. There is no point of logic that you can make them concede that will change their view. Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, since they have ‘faith’, that logic-sapping state of mind that lets them believe 10 impossible things before breakfast. You can argue around the edges all you like, show them discrepancies in the bible, even outright contradictions, but they ‘know’ it’s the divine words of their god so logic plays no part of the equation. The bible is right, therefore anyone who shows them that it’s not is obviously wrong. Simple. Cut and dried.

It’s that kind of thinking that makes people blow themselves up in crowded bars.

However, I digress. Via Harpers, ultimately from the Rapture Ready Bulletin Board, quotes from various fundies who believe that the current conflict in the Middle East are the final, definitive, not-to-be-mistaken signs of the end times.

A few choice quotes:

A question just popped in my head. Do you think children of around say 7 or 8 (but before the age of accountability) that have been indoctrinated up until that time by their parents religious beliefs will be raptured? . . . For example, would a 7 year old muslim be raptured? I know G-d will do right but I was just wondering everyone's thoughts. I hate to think of kids being left here.

I too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what's going on in the M.E.!! And Watcherboy, you were so right when saying it was quite a day yesterday, in the world news, and I add in local news here in the Boston area!! Tunnel ceiling collapsed on a car and killed a woman of faith, and we had the most terrifying storms I have ever seen here!! But, yes, oh happy day, like in your screen name , it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited, right there with ya!!

I am excited beyond words that the struggle of this life may be over soon and I can finally be FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

Revelling in death and suffering, presumably in a means to an end, the end being the physical transportation of a select few thousand into heaven, aka the Rapture, followed by decades of suffering on earth for the rest of us sinners before the final battle between god and satan.

Yes, it does sound like a bad Steven King novel, it doesn’t stop millions of fundies believing it.

Naturally, there is little in the way of verifiable facts involved here – after all, everything from the Catholic church, the European Union, Stalin and Arthur Scargill have been candidates for the anti-christ, so they’re following a long tradition of making shit up to fit their desire to get up into heaven with all the other pixies.

Ok, Arthur Scargill isn’t really on their list of anti-christs, I made that one up in the 1980’s when I heard one fundy explain how the beast would come from a city on seven hills. He assumed it was Rome, but I knew that Sheffield is also built on seven hills, and at the time that was where the NUM were based, so my logic was just as inescapable as his.

The one major difference between then and now is that we currently have an American president who actually believes all this rot (Ronald Reagan also did, but his antichrist was the USSR, and that, somewhat inconveniently for the rapture groupies, disappeared). The USA’s (and, naturally, lap dog Blair’s) failure to demand that Israel stop blowing up unrelated bits of the Lebanon to stop Hezbollah launching rockets only gives the fundies more joy. It’s akin to Spain blowing up bits of the Basque region to stop ETA, or the UK blowing up bits of Ireland to stop the IRA, or indeed the UK blowing up bits of Palestine to stop the pro-Israeli terrorists trying to form the state of Israel in the 1940’s (oh how people forget that Israel was formed by, what can only be described as, terrorists).

Of course, no rapture will occur, it’s a silly fiction beloved by simple-minded biblical literalists who want to smirk at the rest of us when they go up to heaven and we’re left in a living hell. It’s a kind of holier-than-thou attitude based upon enjoying the suffering of others. It’s inevitable really, when their religion revolves around holding sacred the image of a gallows, going so far as to decorate their houses with it, or wearing it as an item of jewellery.

Thank god I’m an atheist…

[edited for some typos]

July 27th, 2006

The solution to malware isn’t getting a Mac

Sophos are advising people to switch to Macs to avoid getting malware on their pcs. Their logic being that since the top ten bits of malware of last year were for Windows, switching to the Mac platform will save you.

I have no major problems with the Mac, it’s quite pretty, beloved by many in the media and photographic realms (mainly for historic reasons, Macs don’t do anything that PCs don’t any more, in fact quite the opposite in most instances) and ‘cool’.

But saying that ‘Macs will save you from Malware because they’re not PCs’ is correct only because malware authors don’t give a crap about the Mac, it simply isn’t on their radar. Why? Because Macs make up at most 3% of the desktop PC marketplace. As a software author myself, unless I had a very specific reason to do so, I wouldn’t bother writing something that the remaining 97% of the market couldn’t use. Now, if I could release simultaneous versions for both Mac and Windows, then it’s another issue, and Adobe, for instance, do this mainly because of the aforementioned media and photographic demographic.

If, for example, Macs had 50% market share, I can guarantee that OSX would be crawling with malware just as much as Windows, the phishers, porn, pills and pandemonium brotherhood of morons wouldn’t ignore that amount of wetware.

Which comes to the crux of the problem – it’s not the platform, it’s the people. Since Microsoft woke up and smelled the firefox coffee, they have made great strides to make IE less of an insecure mess designed to maximally propagate crapware just because the user was looking for free screensavers. But, even with the enhanced security feedback, making it hard to install ActiveX controls without positive confirmation, people will still do it. Why? Because people want their free screensavers, dancing kittens and what not, and no attempt to dissuade them is going to work.

Mac users are no more or less stupid than PC users, they’re just using a minority platform that the scumware people don’t care about, if (and in my opinion, not when) Macs become ubiquitous then they, too, can enjoy flying penis popups and having their bank details sent to Romania for ‘processing’. Until then, just practising some common sense will prevent the overwhelming majority of infections:

  • Don’t use IE, get Firefox and enjoy using a safer, better browser.
  • Have anti-virus software, and keep it up to date. In my experience, using the big boys like Norton or McAfee leave you open to new junkware for longer than the smaller players, like BitDefender (which I currently use), Kaspersky, Panda, NOD32 et al.
  • Think! If some website is saying ‘you need to say yes at the following prompt to view this site’ then ask yourself why. The warnings are there for a reason.

I’ve never had a spyware, virus or trojan infestation even though I don’t exactly match the profile of a safe web-surfer, I often to go less savoury sites out there, and it’s not because I use a Mac, it’s because I don’t use IE, keep the defences up to date and use common sense.

July 5th, 2006

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