Letters A very musical haul in today's Letters round-up. That tends to spill over into questions of civil liberties and freedoms, and we've got a few thoughts on those subjects too. In between the issues, some of you were upset that we teased Nokia about selling its billionth phone in Nigeria, others were less than impressed with portable Flash, while others still just wanted to see nipples. You know who you are.
So, to start, let's examine the software proposed by the BPI that promises to sort through your hard drive and identify all the naughty illegal downloads for you:
I would be interested to know how many people at the BPI have ever written a piece of music, how many play musical instruments, and how many have a working lump of computational matter between their ears.
This P2P zapping software again asserts that all "music" MUST come from a BPI recognised source, with DRM attached, or else it should be considered "suspicious".
What they are really worried about is musicians bypassing their poxy old 1920s revenue collection model, simply releasing stuff alone, without paying for the BPI's lunch expenses and office renovation projects. This is undoubtedly what REALLY keeps them up at night.
Having conducted a brief test of the software i would like to report my result.
I am a big supporter of the music and i purchase a large amount of legitimate downloads, however i am very specific in my requirements, i only pay for unrestricted DRM free downloads, at least in part because i am a part time MP3 DJ and DRM protected files simply do not work with any DJing software.
I do download files illegally but only when i cannot get them legitimately in the format i require or even get them at all for a lot of obscure dance tracks. I have about 10 legal downloads for every illegal one in my collection, although the ratio is the other way round on the test computer.
On the computer I ran the software on there are 10 or so legitimate downloads i have paid for and 100 or so illegal downloads. The software flagged up the 10 or so legitimate downloads as being probably illegal, seemingly on the basis that they were DRM free and in my My Music folder.
It completely missed the 100 or so illegal files which were in a folder called tunes in the route of my second hard drive partition.
100% false positives and a 0% detection rate for my genuine illegal files.
It did successfully spot my bit torrent client, although i mainly use this for downloading open source software. Not a very useful piece of software for anyone really.
"The BPI claims illegal file-sharing cost the UK music industry £654m in 2003 and 2004."
My CFO says, "Show me the list of products which did not sell, and the evidence establishing a direct link between illegal file-sharing and the unsold products."
In other words, she says that claim is bollocks. She's been in the accountancy game for longer than most Reg readers have been alive, and we've twice begged her to delay her retirement (with success, thanks to generous enticements); I trust her judgment in all matters fiduciary.
Just for a laugh I installed the Digital File Check on my work computer (yes, I have an "advanced" sense of humour). What was that comment about people being more willing to take risks with their work machines? Anyway...
First of all, I got an error message from the installer, saying the command line arguments were incorrect (I hadn't given it any). Then it went ahead and installed anyway. So far, not very confidence inspiring.
I set it to work scanning the machine. It didn't find any P2P applications, correctly because there aren't any. It also listed every sound, video and image file on my disk, no matter what they were, with the message "It may include copyrighted or unwanted material".
If I was feeling exceptionally stupid, with a couple of clicks I could have deleted every one of them.
Where's the uninstaller..?
Not a resounding success, then?
An interval in our musical coverage. The ever-forward motion of technological development (in this case, portable USB flash drives) leaves a few supergeeks wondering: what's so cool about that?
I don't understand how 'special' technology is required to do this.
I have been doing it for ages with a 30gb laptop hdd in a usb enclosure. Few people realise that autorun.ini files will also work on flash drives. As such, a drop-down list can be populated when users right click on the drive. At the moment I have PortableFirefox, Opera, a synchronisation utility, and an ipod music ripper all running from the hdd.
I can hear the uninformed masses getting ripped off already.
Your article regarding the new U3 standard was mostly correct, baring your final assertion that Linux does not support this. As far as I can tell the idea actually evolved from the Linux heads.
About 2 years ago I first started seeing Linux heads installing full distros (back then micro distros) of Linux onto USB Flash memory devices and then, on appropriately modern BIOS's, being about to boot from USB.
As time has passed the practice seems to have grown to a point where occasionally (by no means often admittedly) business visitors to our companies offices request use of PC's with BIOS's suitable for booting from USB. These people are using 2-4GB USB drives with almost complete versions of Gentoo and Red Hat running on them - all very impressive and thankfully I don't need to attempt (and fail) to support them if something goes wrong.