Letters This week we brought you news that 85 railway stations are going to get Wi-Fi hotspots courtesy of The Cloud. A commuter writes:
Interested to read the article, and was interested to see Slough on the list, but I thought you might like a commentary from a business user who is itching to use WiFi on the railways but currently doesn't.
I use the Maidenhead to Paddington line pretty much daily - that line has several hotspots at Paddington and is now apparently to be getting one at Slough (half-way point). But at Paddington I'm standing waiting to get on the train as hundreds of people rush at once for a seat (they announce the platform around five minutes before departure). At Maidenhead I'm standing on a platform with very few sitting places and so can't use WiFi. And in both places, all I want to do is get on my train and go - I don't deliberately turn up early and hang around railway stations just to use WiFi.
They really need to put a WiFi service on to the train itself - that's where I'd make use of it. Not at the station, but during the journey.
Oh, and as a user of the railways who goes past Slough I can confirm there's absolutely no need whatsoever to encourage more passengers on to that particular route. I wonder what passengers can do to encourage more carriages on to the route instead...?
The discussion over what to do about VAT on emailed data rumbles on, still. Last week we had lots of people suggesting that the way to avoid it would be to burn data to a disk and send that by post. Here is another point of view:
The word "ecommerce" is the giveaway but the original report obviously did not make it clear enough; Dr Redfern is charging for his data whether sent by email or any other means. If a VAT registered company sells a good or service then, in most cases, VAT is chargeable; one of the few exceptions is printed material. The zero rating on books is a long standing concession to avoid taxing knowledge. Dr Redfern is trying to extend that concession to electronic transfer and exploit it for commercial gain.
Before the conspiracy theorists cause too much panic; VAT is only chargeable on data which is being invoiced and is only charged when the product is invoiced. If all the routine to and fro while doing the job or supporting the product in service is not charged then no VAT is due. What is 17.5% of sweet FA anyway?
So, as long as you have been adding VAT to your invoices when you have supplied your product electronically you're in the clear.
Don't lobby too hard on this one people, the only possible change in the law would be to impose VAT on books.
Music downloads through Apple's iTunes store passed 400 million this week. You think there is a very simple reason for its success:
iTunes is so successful because it is such a great application. Its simplicity of use belies the sophistication of what's going on underneath. I have 177 songs bought from the store right now and I don't even own an iPod. I don't like the DRM arrangement because it's overbearing and actually offensive. Going by El Reg's own stories music is better protected these days then sensitive military or medical information. Talk about a sign of the times.
However, I know that Apple only does this because they have to to make the deal with the pigopolists. Where DRM does not apply [iPhoto] you're free to share and that is as it should be. This has to read like an Apple marketing blurb but it's nothing more than giving credit where it's due. Apple offers a great user experience in a great environment. As long as they keep doing that I'll be a customer.
I also don't mind paying for a good service [provided they're not charging internal organs of course]. Look at other places where stuff is free and compare the quality. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys.
That's the way it is. Jacoppo
Well, that was kind of what we said too, although we kissed less butt doing so...
We found out all over again just how fleet footed and nimble the truly computer literate can be, this week, as Sony's copy protection for the Sony Playstation Portable's Universal Disc Media has been cracked, even before it arrives in stores in Europe. Lots of thoughts on this one:
Well just to correct you a little on your excellent article on PSP's hack.
Living in beautiful and sunny Mexico, I have quite a bit to do with the dark and naughty business of Piracy ;)
Aren't you forgetting about the UMD music players from Sony which allow users to write to blank UMD's?
Sure theres a lot of technological argy bargy to go along with it, BUT rest assured there's been LIMITED success here in Mexico with crossing over the two technologies :)
Just thought I should mention that,
I just wanted to note that PSP's can already have any content you'd like thrown on them. There are multiple pieces of transcoding software available to do this, the most dummy-proof of which is likely to be PSP Video 9 (http://www.pspvideo9.com).
Using Tivo Desktop and PSP Video 9, I can watch whatever I want on my PSP.
I watch TV episodes on my PSP already. I download the torrents of the stuff I like and then run it through one of several options (currently playing with a variety of Mac/PC converters based on ffmpeg) to get a MPEG-4 file (around 170MB per 45 minute episode in 2-pass VBR) that I can fit two of on a 512MB Mammary Stick. It pays to run your encodes overnight for your morning Metro/tube journey as they can take over an hour each even on an XP3200+ or dual G5.
Sure, the resolution isn't full 480x272, but it's perfectly good for TV episodes on a train.
News Flash! PSP users have been able to watch movies and TV shows via the memory stick on the PSP almost from day 1.
Several transcoding programs exist. One such program, www.pspvideo9.com, is free and allows users to transcode any video file into the PSP proprietary format. It even allows you to transcode DVD VOB files.
Sony is even going to release their own transcoding software. This is the main reason I bought a PSP.
"it can't be too long" before someone figures out how to transfer video to a PSP? Huh? We already can; the ffmpeg project figured out the AVI format weeks ago and there's nothing to stop the PSP playing video right off a memory stick (actually, Sony _want_ you to). This is purely interesting for the game pirates.
You can already transfer videos and music from a memory stick equipped PC to a PSP see http://www.pspvideo9.com/ the PSP can also show up as a memory stick drive if you buy the USB cable for it.
We ruined a reader's Friday evening with an article about the potential for virus writers to get creative on a biological level. You mean you don't want s'kiddies being able to put together handy plagues to amuse themselves at the weekends? Shocking...
Well that put a damper on my Friday evening... nice article...
First we get an idea of the aspirations of the people playing with the next big way to destroy mankind...
"At some point, we will have very good control over biological organisms, maybe to the level that we are with computers today."
Wow, the words 'Step away from the test tube' come to mind.
And the mentioning of Polio (yes the very horrible thing that we have tried very hard to wipe out) to provide a size comparison to something that a doctor and researcher knocked up last December does not create a comforting association.
Suddenly we introduce an Anti-Virus researcher.
Remember this is someone who works for a firm that makes money by selling products that only work against known, published viruses, for which there is a working signature, that you have managed to place on your machine and that you continue to pay for. Any one of these missing and you are screwed.
An equivalent real world example would be having a syringe permanently in your body that auto updates with the latest daily vaccine release, but you could still get something before the vaccine is created.
But we can hope "that ethnically specific weapons will never become a reality". Unfortunately "it would be foolish to imagine that they are an impossibility"
Luckily there is a safeguard... You "limit access to the materials and knowledge to modify viruses..." and "with specialised knowledge... ...comes a solid understanding of the risk."
Well it is good to know that all of this is going ahead with a solid understanding of the risk of someone being able to create a new virus that would target specific ethnicity or other human characteristics rather than going ahead with no understanding of the risks.
Nuclear research was originally sold on the basis that it would create a world that would have unlimited free energy and we got lots of scary countries with bombs - America, France, North Korea, etc.
Many drugs are sold on the basis of cures that are then removed off the market - thalidomide is a really good example, on no that one is being re-introduced.
Genetic engineering will feed the world which is why it is currently fighting hunger and depravation in supermarkets throughout the developed world whether we want it or not.
And now we have really scary genome crap that will cure mankind of all ills... Although it may provide the mechanism for its own destruction.
The commonality with all of these things is the researchers. Maybe someone should create a virus that targets people in white coats or maybe it just needs to detect people who love playing God and who's professional arrogance switch manages to filter any signals to their brains that might make it difficult for them to sleep at night.
Well I am off to puts my genetic code into stealth mode through large additions of alcohol.
Lastly, we come to the news that The Register is about to go all international, and start running articles in Esperanto. Hopefully, the following responses will put those of you who took us seriously, out of your misery:
Dear Team Register,
British humour at its best: using the most universal language on the face of this planet, not spoken by any major ethnical group (language boffins are not an ethnical group), to get your point across to all these individuals that you're only publishing in Real English... (Especially liked that one)
Speaking 4 languages fluently and being able to get around in anther 6 (asking for cigarettes and booze, being polite and stuff) I'd say to those individuals: Be happy that English is the lingua franca of business! English is an easy language! (Spelling is a naitmare, but we hav spelchekers for tat) We could have had worse: Russian or Hungarian to name a few or (heaven forbid) Chinese!
On the other hand, the article having been published on a Saturday morning, 99% of your readers must have thought: 1/ Huh? Don't understand! Let's read the next article... 2/ The editor and author must have been doing some *serious* drinking on Friday-night...
The Register in Esperanto? WTF? Are you mad?
Much as I'd like to believe that you're setting up an Esperanto Register site, It looks too much of a troll to take seriously. If you're honest, fix the UTF-8 Esperanto characters, fix your atrocious grammar by hiring an experienced proofreader or, just a wild thought, actually learn the language. Actually issuing a URL wouldn't be a bad idea; sticking the article under "Odds & Sods" screams out TROLL to me.
I won't bore you with actually responding in Esperanto. I sense sniggering emanating from your end because I took the bait.
WTF is this? I found this at 02:30 on Sunday morning after several samples of Fosters and thought that it was just one can of Australian sweat too many. But no.. it was some form of gibberish that you expect me to understand in my weakened state.
Shame on you for daring to assume that I could think at this time in the morning.
Bona artikolo, pli placi, kaj al infero kun la Amerikoj!
Eth eth eth, eth eth eth eth, Chris waddle.
Thank you, and goodnight. ®