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Things to do online, when you are dead

Get tagged, then get sued

Letters Life is not fair. Companies happily take advantage of the global market to keep their costs down and their profits up, transferring manufacturing and technical support centres to countries with a surfeit of cheap labour, and so on.

But as soon as we start to do the same, they come over all regional, slapping DRM protection on media, designing in hardware incompatibilities, all to make sure we buy where and what they want us to buy. Now, is this fair, we ask you? Will it do them any good in the long run? Do we like it?

Astonishingly, the answer is a resounding NO! Well, colour us so surprised.

DRM is supposed to keep me honest ?

Well I never. To think that all those years before DRM, I was honest and I didn't need to be ! Now that DRM is here, on the other hand, I am starting to feel the urge of being dishonest - just because I'm being told to stay honest.

Honestly, regionalization cropped up and what did I do ? I got the crack for my player and put it in. There, I'm a crook, aren't I ? I still buy my DVDs, but now I can buy more since I am bilingual French/English. Seems to me that I am more profitable to Hollywood if I buy more DVDs.

I think there is something Mr. Felten has missed: forcing an honest user to stay honest is like having an innocent person followed by a cop all day long. Come Friday morning, said cop is likely to get a punch in the face from a very enraged Mr. Innocent.

Regionalization was illegal and immoral when it was implemented - and the best truth of that is that its importance has all but disappeared - and Hollywood has kept its mouth shut. Hollywood is a lot more vocal on DRM, because of file sharing. I understand that it irritates them, but they're just going to have to learn the hard way that honest users do not need to be "kept honest". They are honest because they want to be, and coercion seriously erodes the will to stay honest if applied too brutally.

Unfortunately, after breaking young children's piggy banks and mugging old grandma's stockings, the entertainment industry has already moved into accusing dead people of vile acts of piracy. Hopefully, this new market will keep them occupied for long enough for DRM to die an ignominous death without pestering us honest people much more.

One can always dream.


Well, don't know about regionalisation, but Dell do have some tweaks to make you buy their ink.

I have a Dell AIO 920 printer/scanner, which is a rebadged Lexmark 1150. Local PC store does Lexmark cartridges for the 1150 that fit the Dell - almost. The cartridge is identical apart from the top cover - it's a recessed 'U' shape on the 'Dell' cartridge, but has a raised diagonal plastic tab on the Lexmark - upshot is, you load it in, close the lid, and all your printing is badly misaligned (colour against black). No way of adjusting it to fit with the supplied software as it is so far out of alignment.

Solution? Snap off the diagonal tab - works a treat!



Some thoughts on other possible reasons for the US/European price differences:

First, a disclaimer: I am not a follower of the Mac cult and I do not consider its holy prophet the Jobs to be the only one to show the righteous ones the way to redemption.

1. US has no legislation on mandatory provisions for end-of-life electronics goods. Some states have some wimpy minimal measures, but overall usually the producer is not obliged to take your out-of-fashion gadget away once you are done with it. In Europe they are now. While the consumer usually deals with the retailer, the manufacturer foots the bill. As a result most branded electronic goods currently on market have additional 10-30 pounds worth of a handling fee which will pay for scrapping it when you get rid of it. No-name ones will have that soon as well and Apple is not an exemption. In order to get the best margin it has an incentive to have the goods in a recyclable shape. It also has an incentive to make them different for US and EU. Dunno about Australia though I suspect that it is following EU not US on this one (at least it is with cars). Also, not to worry, Dell will quickly follow suit or it will be squeezed out of its margins. So we are bound to see US and EU only models very soon.

2. As far as the price difference for the iTunes is concerned I suspect that the culprit will end up being the music industry and Apple will have the same markup in both cases. After all the UK music business has different position to negotiate then the DE or FR music business. The continental EU has a provision for tax levy on blank media as well as a provision for fair use and copying within the household. In the UK neither of these exist. As a result the music biz has a "justification" to ask for a higher levy in the UK. So I would not be so quick to brand Apple as the at fault here. It is more likely to be Mr Branson and Co.


Commenting on the launch of Napster's To Go music service, we likened the UK's television license to an annual subscription. Oh...we shouldn't have done that. People get very upset about it:

Tony says, "...Subscriptions certainly match the way many people are now used to paying for TV content, whether by satellite, cable or terrestrial - what, after all, is the UK TV licence fee, but an annual subscription?"

The annual TV licence is not a subscription, it's a tax. If I have my TV receiving equipment electronically modified so it is incapable of receiving BBC programmes, I am still required to pay my TV licence. The BBC should be funded from general taxation - let's be done with the cost of administering it; scrap the staff, the computer systems, the forms, the detector vans, the legal teams and the vast cost of administering it. Let's rid ourselves of one major piece of British red tape. Let's at least call it what it is - it is not a subscription - it's a government tax on entertainment.


Or could you call it a small price to pay for having at least one channel not owned by, or trying to emulate one owned by, Rupert Murdoch?

Last Friday we asked Is UML past its sell-by date?:

While it's an interesting comment to say that UML has resulted in a fragmented modelling market, your view that UML is the baseline is actually one of the key successes of this standardisation.

No modelling process would ever be able to fit all requirements from all its users, therefore as a common grounding it is ideal. When recruiting I look for pure UML understanding, knowing I only have to teach any of the extensions we may have added ourselves. The key being if some one can demonstrate good pure UML, then they can almost guarantee they will pick up the additions.

No language is static ( well you could consider Latin, but that is a true dead language ), and should not be as it needs to change and expand to accommodate unthought of situations when it was first designed.

I can pick up a good software engineering text book and know I can understand 99% of the diagrams. This is true for design documents on projects I might join.

Ultimately, UML has been a much greater force for good in IT.


UCLA boffins discovered that people can be socially excluded by computers. Mean computers. But it is never that simple, is it?

Drawing the conclusion that "computers can cause heartache simply by ignoring the user" from these experiments seems to be far fetched at least, absolutely wrong at most.

If I understand the test setup correctly, the "suspects" didn't know that they were playing with a computer, but thought they'd be playing with two other human beings. Therefore, they did not feel ignored/left out by a computer but by other humans.

The result may have been totally different had the suspects known that they were merely playing with a machine.


'Scientists at California University in Los Angeles (UCLA) have discovered computers can cause heartache simply by ignoring the user.'

I'm no professor of psychology but it strikes me that they have discovered nothing of the sort. As the good professor says the subject thinks he's playing a computer mediated game of catch with two real people. Since it's what the subject believed to be true that has the psychological effect, the professor's discovered that people are hurt by being ignored by other people. I think we may have already known that.


Norwegian research published last week suggested that dyslexic drivers have slower reaction times than non-dyslexic drivers.

If a dyslexic driver passes the driving test then they should be okay. Of course, some jurisdictions have tougher tests than others.

And of course it isn't possible to induce or remove dyslexia in a driver temporarily and compare the effect.

And of course it's limited to people who have nothing better to do than volunteer for laboratory experiments.

And Sir Jackie Stewart OBE is dyslexic.


As if American swill-masquerading-as-beer were not enough of an affront to right-minded drinking folks, one brewer (name omitted to protect the guilty) decided to add caffeine to the mix. Seems the results are even better than expected:

Regarding Bud Extra a.k.a. BE

Some friends and I tried some of this last weekend. The general consensus is that it isn't good. In fact, one of the comments was "it tastes like ass". I'm not sure how he knew to make that comparison, but I'll agree that it is quite bad. I like Red Bull and I like it mixed with vodka, but mixing beer with it is just plain wrong.


And finally, an idea for the RIAA. Since the much-loved organisation has now taken to suing dead people, perhaps it can take a leaf out of UCLA's book, you suggested:

"The University of California is considering using barcodes and RFID tags to keep track of the bodies donated to medical research"

I read this after Andrew Orlowski's report "RIAA sues the dead", and it made me wonder whether the RIAA will now propose RFID tagging of *all* stiffs, to make it easier to track the sneaky buggers down to file suit against them.


Marvellous. With that lovely thought, we'll bid you farewell until Friday. ®

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