Sunday, July 8. 2007
One week since smoking was banned in enclosed public spaces in England, as a non-smoker and non-drinker living in London what practical difference has it made to my life? Mostly it seems to mean breathing a lot more cigarette smoke than I was before. Previously smokers were mostly confined during the day, now it's hard to walk anywhere (to the station, out to lunch, up to the shops) without having to maneuver around crowds of smokers standing in the street exhaling fumes, as they're not allowed to do it inside any more.
I'm sure the legislation was well intentioned, but I'm not sure if the government was expecting millions of people to give up smoking overnight as a result of it passing. For people that were happy killing themselves through liver cancer (or some other alcohol related disorder), they can now do it without putting themselves at risk of lung cancer, that's not really a big win...
Saturday, May 12. 2007
HBO: DRM is enablement, not! Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 21:05
I just read an article quoting HBO's Chief Technology Officer, Bob Zitter which perfectly reflects the schizophrenic attitude required to argue for digital rights management. He starts off with the idea that the issue over DRM is merely a public relations issue, rather than a fundamentally untenable technology:
[DRM] is the wrong term for [the] technology ... since it emphasized restrictions instead of opportunities ... Zitter suggested that "DCE," or Digital Consumer Enablement, would more accurately describe technology that allows consumers "to use content in ways they haven't before," such as enjoying TV shows and movies on portable video players like iPods.
Never mind that most people that want to are already enjoying TV shows and movies on portable video players and iPods, those people are actually missing an opportunity, apparently. It turns out that HBO have all the technology in place, and have run successful trials, to provide people with these opportunities that they're not missing, but have chosen not to go forward and launch the technology. Why? Because people might steal it through the analogue output of their high priced HD equipment:
But the fact that current high-definition set-tops still output unencrypted analog video through their component video outputs—a problem known as the "analog hole"---makes it too much of a piracy risk to widely offer high-definition HBO content on-demand today ... Theoretically, says Zitter, those analog outputs could be disabled, forcing consumers to use a secure digital connection to watch HD content. But current FCC rules don't give HBO or cable operators that power, in order to protect consumers who bought early HDTV sets that don't support digital copy protection.
Ah, the pesky FCC stopping HBO controlling their customer's hardware, controlling it in order to give them more opportunities. It's a shame all of HBO's customers are such a bunch of thieves that can't be trusted or they'd all be given the opportunity to pay HBO to control their home video equipment for them.
Thursday, February 22. 2007
Blairing lack of understanding Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 22:34
Bill Gates thinks it's useless, amazingly Steve Jobs agrees with Bill, sadly the only person who does seem to think DRM is a good idea is Tony Blair. He is either parroting what the media execs have told him or he doesn't really understand how it works:
However, DRM does not only act as a policeman through technical protection measures, it also enables content companies to offer the consumer unprecedented choice in terms of how they consume content, and the corresponding price they wish to pay.
How does a technology who's one and only feature is to limit what a consumer can do with content be offering the consumer unprecedented choice?
Tuesday, February 20. 2007
Microsoft has a new advert, it features a succession of harried call centre staff and other corporate peons apologising to various people - "I'm sorry, it's not on the system" and "You have to call this other number." Then it ends with the voice over:
What can people do with the right software?
Quite funny really. Surveys put the Windows market share at between 86% and 97% of users, so if the current state of business software is crap, who's to blame for that?
Friday, January 5. 2007
Disney: Home of torture, forced ... Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 22:52
ABC/Disney acted only when they lost revenue. Then they went after ME with a cease and desist letter.
Read more at the Daily Kos blog.
Thursday, August 31. 2006
Why not to buy Sci-Fi and Fantasy at ... Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 14:34
Today at lunch I was trying to buy the new Novik book, Temeraire: Throne of Jade. I went to my usual place, but it was mysteriously closed due to 'unforeseen circumstances' (a very LUL-like non-explanation) so I thought I'd have a look in WH Smith instead, since it's the only other place in Putney which sells books. I looked in the 'Science Fiction and Fantasy' section but couldn't find it, but with a little perseverance I did discover the paperback of the first book of the Temeraire series in the 'General Fiction' section. I'm not quite sure of the logic involved, after all An Instance of the Fingerpost, a largely historically accurate novel, was in the SF&F section, why would Temeraire, a novel featuring dragons as a major plot element, be in the general section?
Mind you, I did end up buying a book at WH Smith, a new collection of Murakami short stories, so it still won out over the Ottakers which wasn't even open...
Thursday, August 17. 2006
Tesco - what's this intraweb thing then? Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 00:12
Tesco are an excellent supermarket, they seem to really struggle with the web though. I have a Tesco credit card and I've in the past attempted to sign up to their online service (just like I have done for my bank and all my other credit cards) but was stymied when, half way through the application process, they asked me to print out a form, fill it in and post it to them. Right, I'll send that the next time I'm in the post office then...
Two years later, I still didn't have the online access setup.
However, some weeks ago I saw an advert which indicated they'd made some improvements so I thought I'd give it another go. I did manage to get signed up without recourse to the post office or the telephone, but I wouldn't be allowed 'full access' until I'd typed in a code off a letter they were going to send me. This is still an improvement, at least it doesn't require me to leave the house.
So tonight, I tried to gain 'full access' by typing in the code. It was not a fun experience. After searching for some way to let them know how much fun I was having I finally hit upon a 'Contact Technical Support' form, here is my rant:
I have been trying to setup online access to my credit card details. For some reason you cannot give useful help at any point in the process. For example, selecting a password - the help is as follows:
It remains to be seen if they respond. In case you were wondering, this is the Tesco Credit Card Online FAQ.
Of course, now that I seem to have 'full access' I discover that what this really means is - 'click here to have us send you a letter or phone you'.
Saturday, August 5. 2006
I get a lot of spam, usually I don't pay much attention to it and most of it gets auto-filtered by Thunderbird but one this week caught my eye:
you have pissed of being obese, or not being able to fit into your clothes
Now, bad grammar aside this strikes me as being particularly derogatory - not only implying I'm obese (and, to be fair, there's more than an element of truth in that) but also that I'm too stupid to realise it and keep buying clothes that don't fit me. Why would I do that? Mind you, if I was stupid enough to be doing that I might also be stupid enough to click on the link in the email...
Thursday, August 3. 2006
Frustrated of Oxford Street Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 17:54
I've just spent a thoroughly demoralising hour trying to buy clothes on Oxford Street, I should really have learned by now that they just don't have stuff in my size, but I'm always an optimist... The really frustrating bit was trying to find a pair of size twelve shoes in M & S. They have this little system where the top shelves are labelled 'Sizes 11-12', the next shelf down is labelled 'Sizes 9-10' and so on, this is in departure to their usual strategy of putting the largest clothes on the lowest shelf - thus making all the big people bend right over to search through them, which is a stupid way round if you think about it. Anyway, I wandered into the shoe department and was delighted to see that all the top shelves were full - "Plenty to choose from!" I thought to myself. However, fifteen minutes of wandering round examining all the shoes on the top shelf revealed that all those shoes on the '11-12' shelf were mostly size 10, with a few 11s and one pair of ugly (brown) 12s. If they'd just organised the shoes liked they claimed I could have saved quarter of an hour of becoming increasingly annoyed (I may even have devoted that time to buying more stuff). To compensate I had to leave the shop immediately and spend an hour wandering round bookshops instead...
Oh, and afterwards I bought all my clothes online...
Monday, October 24. 2005
Please keep to the left...why? Posted by robertc in The Ranting Category at 21:37
Of the many minor annoyances that I encounter on a daily basis, those little things that sap your morale and, over time, your strength and will to live, two of the most stupid ocurr at Waterloo and Putney station. Most mornings I get off the Northern Line at Waterloo, I walk up the steps and get on the escalator between the Northern and Bakerloo lines. I say 'the escalator', in fact there are three of them - two on the right go up, the one on the left comes down, so I go up on the right hand side and then walk directly across to the barriers out of the Underground system. Now, given that this is the shortest route between the Northern and Bakerloo Line platforms and the regular rail platforms of Waterloo, and that the slightly more convenient route is less convenient because they're repairing the escalators, this little hall gets quite busy in the mornings. You basically have a nearly constant stream of people coming up from the Underground and a similarly constant stream of people coming down from the train station, these two streams of people could move easily past each other were it not for one thing - despite having to come up (and go down) the escalator on the right side you have to use the exit (or entry) barriers on the left hand side. This means that people coming in both directions always have to walk across the flow of the people coming in the opposite direction with all the stopping, starting and oh-sorry-after-you that this entails. It seems such an obvious problem that is so simple to solve, and yet, instead of that, London Underground Ltd chooses to make everyone's day just a tiny little bit more difficult. Having successfully navigated the Waterloo rapids I can get on a train and relax for quarter of an hour and, given the time I usally manage to drag myself into work, the similar situation at Putney station is less of an issue for me but, by that time, I am attuned to the problem. So I get off the train at Putney and go to the stairs to get out of the station. Hanging above the stairs there is a big sign saying 'Keep Left'. As you walk up the stairs there is another hanging sign at the top, 'Keep Left'. You get to the top of the stairs and reach the gates, of which there are five, two to get in, three to get out and the three to get out are, yes, on the right hand side...
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