Sunday, 20 June 2010

Blog address has changed!

Try for a fuller flavour and longer-lasting happy times.

Also Wordpress looks better on phones, which is the real reason. How sickeningly modern.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Digital economy bill

Below is the letter I sent to my MP about the digital economy bill. For more info on the bill, have a look at..

The 38degrees site will help you write to your MP too.

Dear Mr Lloyd

Have you read the digital economy bill being rushed into law without debate?

It makes the owner of an internet connection liable for any copyright infringements that occur through its use, even if those infringements are carried out by someone unknown to the owner, without their knowledge.

Let's imagine an average household. Fred has wireless internet installed at home, but he's by no means an expert. His 13-year-old son knows far more than he does about the computer. Unfortunately for Fred, one of the things his son knows is how to download songs for free. He has a vague feeling that it's supposed to be wrong, but he's never really understood how - it's not like he's stealing them after all. Sadly, an infringement is an infringement and the kid will learn when Fred gets the first letter from the ISP. A couple of weeks later Fred's son invites a friend over to work on a school project. His friend brings his laptop, and it automatically connects to the wireless network. It then resumes what it was doing before he put it to sleep at his own house - namely downloading the torrent of the new Transformers film. Oh dear! Infringement two. Fred is now particularly tense - the second letter has made it quite clear he'll be disconnected next time, and he has no idea how to stop the computer letting his son download songs. Can you make the computer do that? He doesn't know, so he has to rely on his son's word. Unfortunately for him his technically-literate neighbour has hacked into Fred's wireless network and downloaded several films.

When Fred gets disconnected, the letter says he can appeal. But what can he say? He has no idea who downloaded that last batch of films. His son is adamant it wasn't him, or any of his friends. Fred doesn't have the technical knowledge to know where to begin proving his innocence.

It's fair to say I grew up with the Internet - I was "online" before the web had been invented - but even with that experience I couldn't prove Fred innocent either. His wireless router probably doesn't record information about the computers it connects to the Internet (mine doesn't), but even if it did all it could record would be the MAC address. This is effectively just a name, unique to each computer. The record would contain entries for Fred's computer, his son's computer, and a mysterious other computer, which was connected at the time of the infringement. Unfortunately even with this information Fred still can't prove his innocence as there's nothing to say he doesn't own the third computer too.

The fear of similar situations will mean public wireless internet will all but vanish. What cafe owner will take the risk? A technically literate one would realise the need to record extensive logs, which comes at a cost significant enough to make the free internet too expensive to be worth the effort.

Perhaps more important than the technical considerations is the fact we are talking about "proving innocence". If that concept in itself is not fundamentally wrong then it is surely a significant enough departure from the usual application of law that it deserves intense parliamentary scrutiny - don't you agree?

The music and film industries like to portray anyone disagreeing with their draconian copyright reform demands as freeloading "pirate" pseudo-anarchists who just don't like paying for things. This is simply not true - all of my technically-literate friends are against this bill, and all of us regularly buy music and films, whether in shops or online, through services like iTunes and Spotify.

In a leaked email (available at Richard Mollett, Director of Public Affairs at the BPI relates a "strange sense of detachment" amongst MPs regarding the digital economy bill. Apparently, MPs are "already resigned to the fact that they will have minimum input into the provisions". Are you already resigned to it Mr Lloyd?

Yours sincerely,
Chris Russell

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

game development: behind the scenes

John says:
can i make carry its nonstandonable?
Chris says:
dont use such foul words in my direction please
maybe not
who knows what fate has in store.. for the curious traveller
just passing through - or so he claimed. and yet i observed he had an unhealthy interest in Lady Tabitha, wife of the recently-departed lemon tycoon Lord St John d'St John
and with naught but a string bag some said contained only bottles of semi-polluted river water, he had intrigued all of the villagers
thus began the tale
of Geoffrey Howe: Carryit Traveller
*cue organ theme*
John says:
never mind, i fugured it out....
then i figured it out
Chris says:
aunt irma remarked: "his riposte would've been so much more effective, if only he weren't a nincompoop"
John says:
it didnt work
Chris says:
and with that we had spencer fetch another decanter of port

Friday, 4 December 2009

Do you speak broken website?

Every so often I get the urge to learn a foreign language. Normally when I spend some time in the company of someone who, despite having learned English as a second language, speaks better English than a lot of English people I know.

The last time this happened I came across a piece of software called Rosetta Stone - it claims to teach languages in an "intuitive" way, and has an endorsement from Eddie Izzard, which is quite impressive to me. However it costs a small fortune (~£400 for a full course) which put me off at the time.

Recently though it was bonus time at work (woohoo!) and I was reminded about Rosetta Stone. So I did a bit more research.. and found one or two reviews that talked about a concern of mine - that Rosetta Stone's "intuitive" method completely avoided teaching grammar, leaving you with a good stock set of phrases for various situations, but little ability to develop your knowledge beyond that point.

Another product seemed to deal with that - Tell Me More claims to be used by substantially more European governments, universities and businesses, and will happily tell you all about grammar if you ask. Iiiinteresting..

So tonight I decided it was time to just go for it - out came the debit card, onto Tell Me More's website goes the browser. After being redirected to the correct site for buying in the UK, I started entering my details. I tend to have things delivered to work (cos most of the time I'm there, not at home - clever eh?) so I had to enter a separate delivery address. The website invited me to check my details - it listed the correct addresses, but had me as "Miss" on the delivery. Oops! Must've filled that in wrong - "amend".. I set it to "Mr". Invited to check my details again - I'm still "Miss". Hmm. I tried to fix this a couple more times but the site was adamant. Whatever, it's only an address label. Next stage! I entered my payment details - and was sent back to step 1. Getting quite peeved now. Payment details again.. back to step 1. Right. RIGHT.

Off to the "contact us" page. I entered a polite message suggesting that I expect somewhat better service when they're asking me to part with £400, and hit the send button. Javascript errors galore! *sigh*

I went back to the front page. "Contact us". "Consumer". I'm presented with a slightly different contact form. This one has a field marked "Date:" followed by SIX boxes, marked "Day", "Month", "Year", "Day", "Month", "Year". You want two dates? Which two dates? I only have one birthdate, so it can't be that. If it's the date I got really fucked off with your website, that's today. The date I went to your competitor and gave them £400 - that'll be tomorrow.

(In case you were wondering - German)