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Untitled Dalek Sketch [Jan. 8th, 2010|05:55 pm]
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Untitled Dalek Sketch
Haven't thought of a title yet. Perhaps something will present itself while I work in.
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Attempt no Landing There [Dec. 31st, 2009|05:35 pm]
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This is something I'm leaving in 2009: the (very roughly) chronologically ordered contents of a bookmark folder I generously named "Research". Starting in February 2006 these links chart the rapid decline of so-called Intellectual Property from the meniscus of eccentric financial precedent to the depths of authoritarian insanity. You may also find a few bright moments of hope in there too, but these should be considered a statistical anomaly...

I'd actually typed a few hundred words of ranting here before deciding that, maybe, I should leave some of that behind too.

Instead, let's just hope the next ten years sees the tables turned.

Have a Happy New Year.
Here's to 2009, and to reducing my bookmarks by 233 links...Collapse )
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There's a Crack For That [Nov. 6th, 2009|02:22 pm]
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Need to crack the security on the wireless networks of 250,000 - that's almost two-thirds! - of Eircom's broadband customers so you can share copyrighted content without falling afoul of Eircom/IRMA's private HADOPI law? There's an App for that.

Technically the Dessid app is marketed as a "password recovery tool" though the author admits it could, like the vast majority of networking software and hardware, be used for nefarious purposes. The app uses a vulnerability in the way default SSIDs, passwords and encryption keys were set up on the Netopia routers supplied to the majority of Eircom's customers. This is hardly a newly discovered weakness, the Eircom SSID Thinger and the code it's based on have been around for about three years.

What this situation is really demonstrating is how hopelessly unfit Eircom/IRMA's Three-Strikes rule is for the broadband environment it's entering. How can you cut off customers for file sharing when more than half of your customers are using the insecure default configuration that you supplied them, a configuration that allows anyone to access their internet connection? How can you punish customers for breaking a rule with absolutely no way to prove who actually broke that rule? Is it now against Eircom's terms of service to not understand wireless security protocols? Naturally, once the animated corpse of the recording industry gets involved, logic no longer applies.

As with an increasing number of IT related stories, there's an XKCD strip for that.
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Halloween Horror Writing [Oct. 31st, 2009|01:43 pm]
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This is the most horrifying moment in Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's zombie/vampire novel The Strain:

...the FAA had cleared a fifteen-minute window of downtime for airports within the range of the occultation [solar eclipse], out of concern for the vision of the pilots, who couldn't very well wear filtered glasses during takeoff or landing...

I had difficulty sleeping after that.
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Customer or Adversary, Pick One, Not Both [Oct. 15th, 2009|07:59 pm]
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Back in January 2006 I made this prediction:

Going to the movies is not what it used to be. Security at the studio-owned theatres is heavy, it's not a trip to be taken lightly. But if you want to see the film everyone is talking about without waiting a year for the home release, you have little choice. When you enter the lobby the first thing you see are long ranks of tiny, thumbprint activated lockers. This is where you must leave all of your electronics...

Turns out I was wrong; it's already getting worse:

I was refused access to a Cineworld cinema tonight because I had a laptop in my bag.

I was told it was a new policy to stop people recording the films. I pointed out that my laptop does not have the capability of recording a film. It does not have a camera on it for a start.

So why had I brought it to the cinema I was asked.

I pointed out that like many other people on their way home from work I had a laptop in my bag. That didn’t mean I planned to use it in the cinema. It was just in my bag as that seemed a more sensible option than leaving it in my car.

I was told that they would let me into the film, but I would have to hand my laptop over first and collect it at the end. It turned out that they didn’t have any kind of receipt system in place, so I declined the kind offer to look after my £1500 Sony Vaio that contains all my current work projects, plus some half baked book ideas.

These measures are a part of guidelines for cinemas drawn up by the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT). Perhaps their desire to control private citizens has overtaken their ability to plan any implementation of their schemes. It's as though they are so used to getting their way through lobbying and the purchase of laws that they have forgotten that something like this entails more than simple yelling, hand waving and the dropping of large bundles of cash at the feet of easy politicians.

Three years ago I considered the possibility that I might never visit the cinema again, a pledge based on the principal that I could not, in good conscience, continue to fund the activities of these people. Three years later and I have kept that pledge. Strangely, in that time, I have had absolutely no qualms about my continued boycotting of this toxic industry, no regrets at passing up three years worth of blockbusters. I can say, in all honesty, that I have not missed the experience at all.

Their continued struggle to introduce this private police state encompassing anyone found in front of a glowing screen only strengthens the resolve to never assist them again. The irony is that, at this rate, tens or even hundreds of thousands may join me unknowingly out of simple irritation and exasperation at being asked to pay for the privilege of being treated like criminals. But it is a certainty that any further drop in revenue that the industry causes for itself will only be used as evidence for the necessity of their tactics.

Here's another prediction, one I'm sure you are all quite capable of making yourselves: It will get worse, and it will not get better until the studios as we know them are long gone.

Via BoingBoing: Brit copyright group says, "No laptops allowed in cinemas"
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Augmented Unreality [Oct. 13th, 2009|01:10 pm]
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Augmented Unreality Goggles preview image
Inspired by this video from Christoph Rehage (or at least inspired by switching this video to full screen mode).

Other formats: JPG, GIF, PNG Blank (transparency for alternate image).
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It was the Journey [Sep. 25th, 2009|02:52 am]
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This just in from Slashdot:

"Google has launched a product called SideWiki. It takes the form of a plug-in to Firefox and Internet Explorer which allows users to mark up the web by adding comments which can be seen by anyone else running SideWiki."

Well, that's... humiliating. Don't suppose it could get any worse really.

Google's version joins a long line of attempts to impose a layer of comments on the Web, including Microsoft's Smart Tags and Third Voice.

... If you'll excuse me, I have a very carefully optimised database to purge and a sub domain to free up, then we shall never... speak of it... again!
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The Recoding Industry is Dead. Long Live Music! [Sep. 18th, 2009|04:32 pm]
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There is very little short of murder that we would not blithely accept the recording industry as being capable of, but this sort of stupidity really just beggars belief. ASCAP and the BMI want to collect royalties on the 30 second track previews in the iTunes store. It seems as though they are determined to cripple what little business they have left, like a man lopping off one of his own fingers every time he drops something.

I doubt there is anyone left that believes the recording industry will still be with us in the future - at least no one intelligent, sane and not actually financially dependant on this dying model. So the question is, what comes after?

Along with radical copyright reform (shortening the term to a maximum of 14 years and excluding all private copying) I've been a supporter of the blanket license in one form or another, preferably something along the lines of an independent, non-profit organisation acting as collecting, tracking and redistribution service for all digital media. But where music is concerned I think something else is going to happen. Or perhaps, something else should happen.

I'll lay it on the line: artist should forget about royalties, forget about the sale of recordings.

In a world of ubiquitous copying technology recordings are worthless. The recording industry only continues to exist on a foundation of past profits from which they exert political pressure, changing minds and laws to favour the old way of doing things. But that foundation and that influence is not going to last. Those old profit margins are never coming back. They will never recover the money they are wasting right now to fight an ill-advised war on the people who use to line their pockets.

If we accept that there is no more money in recordings, what does that leave the artists? It leaves them the skills that they started with; musicians should be paid for playing music, singers should be paid for singing, songwriters should be paid by the artists they write songs for. The future of music as a business is sponsorship and live performance, a future where the distribution of recordings is merely a precursor to this main event. And think how much more inclined punters will be to fork out for concert tickets when they are not paying an idiot who has never played a good note in his life to do something that the punters can do themselves at a microscopic fraction of the cost!

This is not to suggest that all use of recorded music should be free. Commercial uses, uses that attempt to produce a profit from an artist's work, should involve a payment within the term of copyright. But everything else should be written off as normal, private use and beyond copyright including sharing, and playing the music on a radio in a garage.

There is this odd perception that the industry has attempt to encourage, that artists should receive money from the public long after they have completed their work, that we must not stop paying them because they have families and illnesses to support. It is a suggestion that completely ignores the simple truth that these people were not paid enough by the industry that exploited their talents in the first place, and that the only way to support them now is to give huge sums of money to the labels who then offer the artist some thin shaving of the profit. As an excuse for the extension of copyright terms, disingenuous just doesn't cover it.

What remains of the members of The Beatles should not be paid by the public unless they are playing live. When they reached the point that they could no longer play they should, by that time, have saved and invested in a pension to cover the remainder of their lives. Sound familiar? That's because it's they way the rest of us live when our work is not protected by the magical thinking of artificial and self-referential moral logic.

Yes, this situation will be hard on smaller acts. They will have a hard time getting work, they will have to accept small fees and big losses. Well, wake up! That's how it is right now! The music industry has never been a wonderful frictionless fairy-slide into a world made entirely of money and Learjets, and it never will be. Some people will put their whole lives into their art and get nothing for it. It is lamentable, but it is not a problem solved by eternal copyrights and royalty payments on sales of a dead medium. And hasn't this risk always been a part of the allure of making music, the romance, the machismo, the daredevil attitude? No creative process is a sure thing, so no efforts based on this process can truly be relied upon. That is no reason to create a vast complex of logically and morally precarious rules to protect them.

For some this future of real work might sound terrifying. If it truly scares them, then they are either talentless recording industry cling-ons, or are really not cut out for music making.

The truth is, no matter what happens, music will go on. For as long as there are people there will be music. We couldn't stop them making music if we made it illegal! Why would we think it could disappear just because we change the way we pay the creators?

Face facts: the recoding industry is dead. Long live music!
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StringThinger.com [Sep. 14th, 2009|04:25 pm]
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This is what I've been working on for that last two weeks.

-... ..- - / .... --- .-- / - --- / ... . .-.. .-.. / .. - ..--..

Basically, StringThinger is a string manipulation multi-tool. It allows users to apply multiple transformations to a string through a "stack" of functions which can be saved and shared. Thing is, it's very difficult to present an accessible example of what you might use it for.

Well, here's an impractical but simple one:

02A80050 50122225 95555240 00000001 80000D00 001A0000 540000F8 00000006 1C618800 321A3186 BEFBEF80 00001000 04000000 20000FC0 01F00000 1861C620 20086863 9AFBEFBE 00000040 C0100180 0083003F 0607C00C 00100804 10301018 60400C43 00019800 310C0186 04040804 10180440 30088020 20808080 800600C0 30047580 08080010 7C002174 B604E4FE E1C1B802 83B20507 E40A0C08 36000000 00382000 751554E0 0AA00014 000F8000 7FC00380 E00C0060 340160CC 06611414 42244880 45100084 20010040 00940079 F478

This builds a stack with hexadecimal input that outputs the Arecibo Message using Unicode characters for clarity.

As you can probably see the pre-prepared StringThinger stacks are communicated using URL query strings, so keeping a stack for future use is a simple matter of copying and pasting, or even just bookmarking a link. For added convenience you have the option of pasting the link into a form on the page and building the encoded stack directly without the need to follow the link. This same process can also be used to combine two existing stacks.

The whole thing is executed in JavaScript so there's no need to send data to the server and it will work off-line too.

Other features include list processing and sorting, and what I call "Super Stages" which allow for processing sections of the input string and returning the result along side the original - very useful for building associative arrays. There is also a JS port of my HTML/XML balancing system and entity tidier as well as an implementation of the MD5 hashing function (something I've been meaning to do all year).

StringThinger started out as a diagnostic tool for Project Little Island when there were problems with character encoding. At that point it was nothing more than a set of JavaScript functions linked to a web page form. Troublesome output could be pasted into a textarea and processed for examination at the binary level. Later came functions for translating between UTF-8 and UTF-16 (the internal character encoding for most PCs), then hexadecimal translation, MD5 hashing and list handling. Then Morse Code... for some idle reason. Eventually there were so many loose functions that there was little choice but to organise them into something more usable. Really, what we have in StringThinger is the very embodiment of scope-creep.

I have this working in Firefox 3+, Opera 9+, Chrome, and even IE6+, which I think is enough for now. Earlier versions of FF and Opera should be okay as they've been compliant for a while. So far StringThinger looks its best in Firefox.

If anyone thinks of new functions to add, or even shortcuts combining several existing functions, I'd like to hear about it. The system is designed to be extensible so that adding and rearranging functions is simple. And, naturally, I'd appreciate any bug reports.

[ BTW, if you're looking for the Morse Code translation functions they're in the Misc section at the very bottom of the list. ]

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Beginning of the End [Sep. 1st, 2009|12:14 pm]
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On the 24 July 2009, an Order was made by the High Court requiring eircom to block or otherwise disable access by its subscribers to the website thePirateBay.org, its related domain names, IP addresses and URLs. The Court was satisfied that on the basis of the evidence presented by the record companies that the PirateBay website is a website that facilitates the exchange of copyrighted sound recordings without the consent of the copyright owners.

eircom recognises the legitimate rights of the owners of copyrighted material and believes that individuals who share or download copyrighted material without the authorisation or the permission of the copyright owner are acting illegally.

The Order further provides that should the PirateBay website content be legitimatised in the future, then eircom has liberty to apply to the Court to have the Order vacated and access to the PirateBay website enabled.

eircom in compliance with the Order has agreed that access to the website the PirateBay.org, its related domain names, IP addresses and URLs from the eircom network will be blocked indefinitely from the 1st September 2009.

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