Friday, 22 February 2008

Breakin' the law

...and we actually elected these bozos.

The government will on Friday tell Internet service providers they will be hit with legal sanctions from April next year unless they take concrete steps to curb illegal downloads of music and films. (quote from

Doesn't this practically make the Internet illegal? It certainly puts sites like YouTube on very dodgy ground. Are ISP suppose to go through the millions of videos and decide which ones violate copyright ? Wikipedia says there are about 75 million video on YouTube alone, so searching that lot is going to be slightly more than a lunchtime job. The only practical solution would be for ISPs to ban whole sites. But wait, what about my quote above. It's lifted straight out of the FT's web page. Is that legal? Well, yes in this case, since it's easy to argue that it is 'fair use' but what if I had nicked half the page or the whole page? Should an ISP be interested? Is this a copyright issue or is it the movie and record industry again trying to protect their golden goose? Even if I had pinched the whole article from the FT no one would care. OK, it's stealing and if I did over and over eventually I would almost certainly get a very nasty letter in the post ( or email ) but that would be between me and the FT. ( or at least some nice gentlemen representing the FT in very sharp suits ). If I stole a car, the Highways agency isn't liable for me making my getaway on the public roads.

Don't get me wrong, using other people work is wrong but it seems ( and I quote quite loosely and badly ) 'Some things are wronger than others'. If I download a film I will be pursued to the ends of the earth. My ISP will be locked up and flogged and I alone will be responsible for the downfall of the capitalist system. If I steal anything else no one cares. No, that's not fair, people do care but they don't see it as an opportunity to make disproportionate amounts of money. I speak from experience here. Some years ago I ran a fairly popular web site. One day I discovered a very, very similar web site. After a short investigation I found that the site even contained my spelling mistakes. The miscreant involved had lifted the whole site and just changed the logo on the title bar. After a few very icy phone calls the site went away. OK, I was really annoyed that my hard work had been pinched ( and my abysmal spelling made even more public ) but that was between me and the evil doer. Did it ever occur to me that the ISP's that carried that site were to blame? No, don't be bloody stupid! Where does this stop. If I call my mate on the phone and suggest something illegal is the phone company liable. What happens if I rent a video from Blockbuster and then stick in on the Internet? Are they responsible since they are the supplier of the service. If you follow this logic to the bitter end the Internet and practically half the world would grind to a stand still.

The article goes on to say that 6 million users illegally download files. So what, it wouldn't matter if the number was 50 million. I bet there isn't one of you reading this article that hasn't at some time broken a copyright agreement. You haven't? Well next time you lend your friend that great novel you have just finished or give a old book to a charity shop, read the copyright agreement in the front. What would these tyrannical companies prefer? If I download a few tracks ( illegally ) listen to them and decide to go and buy the album on CD is that wrong? If I thought for one minute that a record would come after me in that scenario I wouldn't download and check out the tracks. I also wouldn't pay fifteen quid and hope that the CD was good.

Record and music companies loose very little acquirable revenue from online stealing as opposed to organised bootleg gangs. Bringing the whole weight of the judicial system against some poor sod in the middle of nowhere because their son or daughter has pilfered 200 mp3s is very very counter productive. It makes them look like bullies and discourages people from helping them. What they want is for people to shop the dodgy characters selling knock off DVDs at car boot sales or markets.

Stealing material is wrong both from a economic stand point since it does reduce the available return for other projects and from a philosophical point, as in, you won't go to Heaven.

Well, I seem to have worn out the question mark key in this article and I think that says a lot. The Internet is still relatively new ( ish ) and the majority of the people in positions of power are relatively old ( ish ) but this approach just shows that a) politicians are idiots and b) most people now wouldn't pee on people like the RIAA if they were on fire. Laws like this is about as useful as legislating against the sun coming up in the morning.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Will Microsoft kill Linux

Will Microsoft kill Linux

Will Microsoft kill Linux? No it won't, Linux will kill Linux. Let me tell you a story. It'll start as all good stories do with once upon a time. Mainly because that implies it's make believe and therefore no one will sue me for it. I mean, we all know there wasn't really three bears don't we... You didn't.. Sorry

Once upon a time there was a school ( sorry castle ) that paid vast amounts of money to the evil Baron de Seattle. The Baron was a horrible man but he was also a clever man. The Baron sold software to the castle quite cheaply. He knew that 'Getting them young' was the route to an excellent pension and an addiction to his software that would last a life time ( see The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life )

So ubiquitous was the evil Baron's software that many people thought it was free and they loved the Baron. Little did they know that the Baron charged the castle for every PC it had, even those that didn't run the CCXP software ( Child Catcher XP ) Also they didn't know that the Baron had made it very difficult to stop using CCXP and to get out of the deal would be very expensive and disruptive. ( Actually if this wasn't a fairy story suitable for 4-8 year olds the idea of drug dealers hanging around handing out dime bags and racketeering would spring to mind. )

Anyway, deep in the basement of the castle lived Jack ( the Network Admin – I was going to say he lived under the stairs but that seems a bit unrealistic doesn't it ) Jack worked day and night, toiling with CCXP trying to make it work reliably and wishing for a better life.

time passes

Jack had to take a quick break there because a simple search had brought the CC2K3 ( Child Catcher 2003 Server ) to it's knees and it needed it's boiler cleaning.

One day while Jack was out in the courtyard collecting coal to keep the CC2K3 running he saw in the distance three bears dancing in the forest. As Jack approached he could hear them singing “We are the Linux bears, We are free bears, We are reliable bears” ( OK, the lyrics are shit but you get the point ). Jack thought about his life stoking the boilers of CC2K3 and hoping that it wouldn't all blow up and suddenly realised that the Linux bears were the answer.

Happy and gay ( not homosexual I might add, but when these sort of stories were written gay had a different meaning ) Jack ran back to the school ( oops, castle ) to see his master the Head teacher ( rats, I meant the Knight – these euphemisms are going to kill me ). Jack explained to the Knight how he had seen the Linux bears in the forest and they we the answer to the Knight's problem of having to pay Baron de Seattle huge amounts of money. Now the Knight was very brave and said “OK, if you can get the bears to help us, I will support you”.
“Fantastic” thought Jack. “In no time at all the Baron de Seattle will be the Baron Hardup ( If you haven't been to a English Christmas pantomime you probably won't get that one ).

Now at this point dear reader, I should point out that time in the castle passes at a glacial rate. Unlike the real world the castle changes very slowly, time is measured in terms and years not days and weeks. It has one big holiday a year where all the elves go to sleep and everything goes quiet. That's when Jack can make big changes because when the elves wake up again after seven weeks they have forgotten what things were like before.

So Jack rushed off into the forest and chased after the Linux bears. We will call the bears Ubuntu bear, Suse bear and Redhat bear, not for any reason other than I think they are good names for bears and the third one was wearing a hat. ( and shouldn't be confused with any company or product of a similar name )

“Mr Ubuntu bear” Jack shouted “Can you help me. The Knight has said I can get you to come to the castle”. Mr Ubuntu bear just ignored Jack. “Mr Ubuntu bear” Jack shouted again “Can you help me. The Knight has said I can get you to come to the castle” but Mr Ubuntu bear still ignored Jack.

“Mr Suse bear” Jack shouted “Can you help me. The Knight has said I can get you to come to the castle”. Mr Suse bear took out a little pen and wrote in the air ( air mail ha ha ) in little glittering text “I'm sorry I'm out playing in the forest at the moment, I'll get back to you as soon as my porridge is cool”
“Mr Suse bear” Jack shouted again “Can you help me. The Knight has said I can get you to come to the castle” . Mr Suse bear took out his little pen again and wrote in the air, in little glittering text “I'm sorry I'm out playing in the forest at the moment, I'll get back to you as soon as my porridge is cooler”
And so this went on. Jack finally realised that Mr Suse bear wasn't interested in little Jack and the castle and was only interested in playing with the big bears in the Baron de Seattle's garden

“Mr Redhat bear” Jack shouted “Can you help me. The Knight has said I can get you to come to the castle”.
Mr Redhat bear rushed over to Jack and said. “Sure I can help you.” So Jack explained how the castle worked and his plan to banish the Baron de Seattle forever. Unfortunately Mr Redhat bear was a bear of very little brain ( A bear with attention deficit disorder ) and quickly lost interest in Jack and the castle. Mr Redhat bear, with his head stuffed with sawdust didn't realise that time in the castle was different and how slowly things happened ( the phrase 'it's like running through porridge' is just perfect here isn't it ) and eventually even Mr Redhat bear stopped talking to Jack and went back to play with the other bear in the forest.

As Jack walk dejectedly back to the castle he could hear the bears still singing about how good they were and how bad the Baron was. Ah well he thought maybe next year they won't be such silly little bears.

A fairy story .... maybe