We're screwed

I'm a big advocate of personal liberties, privacy and freedom in general. And as far as technology is concerned, the last few years have been bad. Really bad. I only today realized just how bad things are, and how bad they are going to get.

It's not all bad. We have Linux, a free operating system, and it has really matured over the last few years. But the good news end there.

How screwed are we? Let me count the ways....

In 1996 we got software-patents. Software-patents are more or less equivalent if someone patented the use of knife as a murder-weapon in a crime-novel. And those patents have been abused. Microsoft has patented double-clicking. Lots of common everyday ideas have been patented, by adding the magical words "...in the internet". Selling goods in the internet, banking in the internet, the list goes on.

In 1998 our American friends got the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). It basically means that going around copy-protection is illegal. It also makes it illegal to create and distribute devices and tools that could be used to circumvent copy-protection. In short: kiss your fair-use rights goodbye! EU followed USA's lead by massing EUCD in 2001, which is in many ways similar to DMCA.

Of course as years have passed, the limits of the length of copyright-protection has beed advanced. What is know as "Mickey Mouse Protection Act", whenever a piece of intellectual property (most famous example being Mickey Mouse) is about to pass in to public domain, the legislators extend the length of the copyright. More information is available here.

Of course, we are also facing the "broadcast flag" in broadcasted content. That means that the content which is broadcasted is "flagged", and the ways the content could be copied byt the consumer are limited by the devices that could do s (for example, DVR's and VCR's). It would also make it impossible to skip commercials (possible with DVR's). Again: fair-user rights are being eroded.

The latest example of these shenanigans is the "plugging the analog hole". I blogged about this before, and I urge you to read it.

What do all these things have in common? They are being actively pushed by "Big Content". Sony Music, Warner, DIsney. They want to squeeze even more profits from you and me. If our rights get trampled in the process... Well, so be it.

Of course, we also have to endure the usualy stuff... Increased surveillance, reduced privacy (EU just passed the "data retention directive", which means that in order to protect EU-citizens from few dozen "terrorists" and "pedophiles", we have to spy on millions on law-abiding citizens on the net. Of course, the Big Content has already expressed their interest in aquiring that data in order to catch those pesky "pirates"), increased legislation...

And there's nothing you can do about it

The organizations who are pushing these changes to our society have millions of dollars. Correction: they have billions of dollars. And they can present an unified front towards legislators. You and me? We are piss-poor and we don't agree on anthing. There are few organisations opposing these changes (like EFF and FSF), but they don't have the resources, and Joe Sixpack would view them as "lunatic fringe" and "few alarmist nerds".

So yes, we are screwed. And there's nothing we can do about it. Only thing left to see, is how bad things get, and how fast. In the near future, we will only be able to listen to our music with some "pre-approved devices". If you want to listen to your music elsewhere, you have to re-buy it. You might also have to pay a tiny amount every time you listen to the music. Or watch that movie you bought. And foret about watching that DVD on your computer that doesn't run Windows or Mac OS. Forget about enjoying the content you have bought and paid for, in a way you like to. And forget about making copies of any kind.

The society will not be formed how we want it to be formed, but by how some big corporations want it to be formed. Get used to it,

The entitled generation

As you may or may not know, I'm somewhat involved in the free software (often called open-source software) community. A Brief description: Free software is software that is distributed freely to users. The user can freely use the software, modify it and re-distribute it. Companies around the world are earning millions of dollars through their usage of free software.

Free software is quite often created by volunteers who work on it on their free time. Some do get paid from their work, but many are students or people with enough free time to create free software.

So, where am I getting at here? Free software has given me a great look at a phenomena I would like to see disappear. Namely, the people who think that they are entitled to everything. In this case they are the people who get lots and lots of great software for free. Many of them use that software to earn money. So they don't pay for the software and they are not forced to use the software. And still, they tell the developers of the software "Your software sucks! I demand that you fix these bugs immediately!".

Excuse me? Does the fact that the user uses the software somehow mean that he's entitled to make demands? I might understand that sentiment if he paid for the software. But he didn't. I might understand if he was forced to use the software. But he isn't. He's making the conscious decision to use some software, and he can use that software for free. So how exactly is he entitled to make demands? And besides, since this is open-source software we are talking about, he could always fix the problem himself. Or he could pay someone to fix it for him. But making demands to people who create free software isn't helping much.

It seems to me that there's lots of people who have grown accustomed to the fact that there's loads of free software available. And they take that software for granted. And when it doesn't work perfectly, they start to make demands.

It would be similar if I gave someone a free BMW. And the reply I would get in return would be something like "Dude, WTF is this?! Why isn't there any gas in the tank? I demand that you fill the tank! Don't you know that giving others BMW's with no gasoline gives a very bad impression of you?".


Anybody could do it!

Do you ever get a wonderful idea that is so cool that you start to shiver? An idea that would truly kick-ass and really turn some heads? An idea that is actually doable with today's technology and which would solve some real problems people are facing?

But then you realize that in order to turn that idea in to reality you need talented group of people around you, plus few million euros/dollars in the bank. And you don't know any talented people who could help, and nobody is going to give you that money because you are... well, nobody.


Maybe the difference between a "good idea" and "great idea" is that latter can be accomplished easily, whereas the former needs lots of resources to turn it something worthwhile?

Top 20 geek novels

I saw this on Planet Gnome. How did I rank in the geekiness-scale as far as art of literatute is concerned? The ones in bold are the ones I have read.

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams
2. 1984 -- George Orwell
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson
6. Dune -- Frank Herbert
7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson
12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham

You be the judge

I started reading "Brave New World", but I never finished more than firts few chapters before I had to return it to the library. "Colour of Magic", "I, Robot", "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Illuminatus"-trilogy, are on my To-Do-list.

Eject media?

Do you ever get that feeling that there's someone or something out there ruining everything for everyone else? I know I do.

The Media is corrupt

We all know Sony. Sony is a big company that makes televisions, stereos, game-consoles and lots of other stuff. They also publish music. In recent weeks Sony has received infamy when it was discovered that they actually install a rootkit (rootkit is a piece of software that hides in the computer and exposes the system to all kinds of security-threats) on the users computer! They do this to make sure that no-one would copy their precious music. The rootkit also communicates with Sony, telling them who is making copies and where. The acronym to remember here is "DRM", short for "Digital Rights Management". I can't see CRM or "Consumer Rights Management" anywhere.

A reminder: copying music is perfectly legal.

After furious backlash from paying customers, Sony is now backtracking on their "hey, let's nuke our customers computers, and expose them to security-risks and viruses!"-strategy. Of course, refunds are not mentioned, nor is publish lashing of Sony-execs on the books. But things are better, right?

Well, no. As it happens, the rootkit is only half the picture. Then there's the EULA (End User License Agreement). I'm not going to go through the EULA, because EFF did a great job at explaining it. You can't make that stuff up! Seriously!

So, not only is Sony attacking your computer with dangerous software, they are _trying_ to limit your legally-mandated rights. And they do all that and more, in order to protect their precious "intellectual property". What about the customers intellectual property? If the users loes his data because of malware Sony installed on his computer, is Sony liable? According to Sony, they are not. Yet, Sony reserves the right to screw over your computer in order to protect THEIR intellectual property!

You are liable for everything, they are not liable for anything. That's the way it works these days. And remember: YOU are giving your money to THEM! And in return, they screw you over!

But there's even more... It seems that Sony's rootkit contains copyrighted code from the LAME-project. What does this mean? It means that Sony is stealing LAME-developers' intellectual property and violating their rights, in order to protects Sony's intellectual property and rights. In short: Sony is doing the exact same thing they want to prevent with their rootkit! they want to protect their intellectual property, and in doing so, they are stealing someone else's intellectual property!

Welcome to my blacklist, Sony!

You WILL do as we tell you to do!

It doesn't stop there. Digital media is already full of "Digital Rights Management". But, as the saying goes, if you can see or hear something, you can copy it. And that has irritated powers-at-be for a long time. And they are planning to "fix" it by "plugging the analog hole". No, I'm not kidding. I could write long pieces of text about this, but I'm not going to. Instead, I urge you to read the article on Arstechica. They did great job at explaining it.

Bottom line: media-companies are slowly stripping consumers of their rights, in order to "protect" their intellectual property. They have the money to make these things happen, you or I do not.

Sometimes I feel that I need to get away from all this bullshit. This corporate meddling, creeping pseudo-totalitarism, this CRAP. But it's the same everywhere. Unless I decide to move to a middle of Siberia or something. And to be honest, Siberia is becoming more and more appealing every day.

We interrupt our regural programming to bring you this special announcement.

Pat Robertson is an ass. Yes, he really is.

That is all.

Am I part of the teeming horde?

Everyone seems to have a blog these days. They even talk about them in the media. So I got a blog as well! A place to share my thoughts, ideas and opinions! My own little corner on the net! Or, so they say.

Does blogging mean that I'm part of a teeming horde? Am I now magically part of a greater community? Is anyone really interested in hearing what I have to say? Maybe. After all, chatting with complete strangers on the net is very popular indeed (at least it was back in.... 1995. Oh jeez!). Instead of having a casual chat, maybe some people want to read deeper (or not so deep) thoughts by others as well? Maybe.

Maybe I should be ashamed because I consider myself to be a techie and a nerd (I carry that label as a badge of honor), yet I got a blog when everyone and their grandma already had a blog. Hell, maybe I'll get in to podcasting in 2009! Does this mean that I'm out of the loop, or do I simply have better things to do? Is it a good thing that I finally have a blog, or does it say good things about my person that it took me this long to get a blog? In the beginning, having a blog meant that you were "different". These days, not having ablog means that you are different.

But on the other hand, I have never really cared about trends and fashionable things. Maybe I'm naive enough to believe that I have something worthwhile to say?