Tuesday, 31 January 2006
Imagine legislation limiting radio to the speed of sound, and transmission range to the size of the Albert Hall.
That is what the Broadcast Flag and legislation mandating DRM is attempting to do.
You can't turn copyable bits into scarce atoms by legislative fiat.
Tuesday, 17 January 2006
It seemed then that the internet might be a liberalising influence, giving the individual more power relative to the State. To an extent this proved true. [...]
Public fear of terrorism gave governments the support needed to tighten systems of social control and supervision. [...]
The British Government took advantage of this opportunity to impose new methods of control that could not have been put through Parliament in normal circumstances. In particular, the Home Office, under authoritarian Home Secretaries, introduced Bills that it had wanted for a long time. The whole balance between the citizen and the State was altered in favour of the State.[...]
In the history of Britain there have been many periods when liberty was threatened. The immediate threat is a government with a lust for control, with little respect for liberty or for the House of Commons, but enjoying the opportunity of using new technologies for social control.
It is against this backdrop that the Open Rights Group was set up to campaign for digital liberty in the UK, and I am honoured to be part of its Advisory Council.
If you want to join us in campaigning to keep computers and the net as tools of freedom and not coercion, you can sign up here.
Monday, 16 January 2006
Wednesday, January 25 2006, 9am - 12.45pm at Network Meeting Center, 5201 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara, CA 95054
Guido van Rossum, Alex Martelli, Bram Cohen, Greg Stein and several others on Python
Wednesday, 11 January 2006
Update, midnight. I formatted an 80GB partition, installed Tiger, and iLife is just finishing. Meanwhile, Niall made an iWeb blog.
The markup is rather eccentric. What it reminds me of is Google's PDF to HTML translation, though Pages does something similar - mapping a very non weblike layout model into the web crudely. Look at this page's source:
full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?
<div><div><div class="Normal"><div class="paragraph Title_Red" style="line-height: 31px; padding-bottom: 0pt; padding-top: 0pt; ">Hamlet</div>
Or how about the blank verse:
<div class="paragraph Footer" style="line-height: 16px; padding-top: 0pt; font-family: 'Times-Roman', 'Times', 'Times New Roman', 'serif'; font-size: 16px; line-height: 19px;">'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,</div>
<div class="paragraph Footer" style="line-height: 16px; font-family: 'Times-Roman', 'Times', 'Times New Roman', 'serif'; font-size: 16px; line-height: 19px;">To give these mourning duties to your father:</div>
<div class="paragraph Footer" style="line-height: 16px; font-family: 'Times-Roman', 'Times', 'Times New Roman', 'serif'; font-size: 16px; line-height: 19px;">But, you must know, your father lost a father;</div>
If only there were an HTML element that meant 'paragraph'...
The trouble even an established customer will take to obtain a newspaper continues to shrink, as well. Once, I would drive across town if necessary. Today, I open the front door and if the paper isn't within about 10 feet I retreat to my computer and read it online. Only six months ago, that figure was 20 feet. Extrapolating, they will have to bring it to me in bed by the end of the year and read it to me out loud by the second quarter of 2007.
I realised last year that I only ever pick up the free Mercury News they hand out at the supermarket to boost circulation figures if I have a fire to light.
Tuesday, 10 January 2006
Between my accepting a job on QuickTime at Apple in 1997, and my visa coming through in April 1998, Apple launched QuickTime 3.
The long awaited fully cross-platform version, it brought full editability and extensible video playback to Windows, and was abstracted enough to run on other platforms (it had been demoed on Irix, Linux and Solaris - this underlying Mac OS compatibility layer is what became Carbon).
At the time QuickTime was installed on over 60% of Windows machines, Apple had won the Canyon lawsuit against Microsoft and Intel, and the new version was really good, bringing the full power of video editing by reference all those platforms.
So how did they fuck up?
They invented pop-up web ads, and put one in before playing any web QT movie to sell the 'Pro' version of the player. They crippled the QT Player to remove the editing features unless you paid - even for the Mac users who had had the benefit before.
Their Windows installed base sank like a stone. Independent developers who were out getting QT installed on millions of Windows PCs stopped using it, as the pop-up ad would inevitably ruin their pitch demos, and corporations would not let it be installed. Not being party to the internal debate on this, I don't know who to blame for this debacle, but the hard drive of the machine I got when joining the QT Engineering team was called 'Fuck Phil Schiller'.
By hiding their biggest differentiator - editability - from users, Apple ceded the battle for web audio and video formats (the distraction of Streaming didn't help either). When widespread audio and video sharing happened, MP3 won for audio and the bizarre MPEG-4 in AVI hack that was DiVX won for video, because they were simple, non-streaming files.
When Apple added MP3 and MPEG4 support, they again had the chance to win users back, but they didn't make QT play back MPEG4 in AVI, despite being the default AVI player, and having all the needed codecs. This gave people another huge incentive to switch.
Eventually, though, Apple realised that local storage beats streaming, and came up with iPod and iTunes to ride the MP3 wave. They got their file format adopted by MPEG4 and did a great job of licensing and implementing MPEG4 codecs.
With the iPod Video, they have the chance to reclaim this ground. The no-config encoding of H264 looks very good, and they could reclaim the de facto format as .mp4 or .m4v. They picked up on Podcasting, and let anyone, even my sons, get into their directory.
If they don't make more DRM mistakes, and enable users to share audio and video playlists based on what they have played, they could retake the initiative.
I was going to write a post called 'Tyranny of the Storytellers' when I realised I had said it before in my first week of blogging
Too often the best storyteller for a particular audience can win out over someone who is constrained to telling the truth. A current example is the DRM debacle. Any competent engineer knows that the notion of locking up content from those who purchase it and view it on their own computers is technically impossible (setting aside the moral bankruptcy for a minute). The 'content owners' so much want this to be true that they are creating a market for snake-oil that appears to give them what they dream of. Which I suppose is poetic justice of a sort.
This was before I predicted class action lawsuits and criminal prosecutions against Audio CD DRM foolishness.
And so to this weeks iteration. Lloyd Shepherd said
let's face it: we're going to have to have some DRM. [...]it's clear that the people who make the consumer technology that ordinary people actually use - the Microsofts and Apples of the world - have already accepted and embraced this. The argument has already moved on.
why the hell does Apple, Microsoft and other Bigs using DRM mean that it's good or that it's "won" a damn thing? Hey, they sucked up to Hollywood for distribution of mass-media Hollywood-type crap. And they're going to screw it up, too. You'll go to Google for your CBS, Apple for your NBC and Microsoft for your ABC. The old sources will be distributed through a mess of incompatible systems, each isolated by their own DRM, and will flush their costly, inefficient and ossified old industry into the hell we've had on the Net with instant messaging for the duration.
Shelley returns with:
by saying that "all DRM is evil" and that only recourse we have is to keep the Internet completely free, and only with independents will we win and we will win, oh yes we will–this not only disregards the actuality of what’s happening now, it also disregards that at times, DRM can be helpful for those not as well versed in internet technologies.(much more in her comments).
Also Charles Eicher replied to my APIG submission.
His discussion of the Church-Turing thesis is one built on a rebuttal to the extended version of it put forth by Kurzweil and Wolfram to imply that the human brain and the universe are bound by universal computability. While these are fascinating ideas, I am talking about computers, and he concedes that "a computer is defined as a device that can run computer programs.", then handwaves about quantum computing, while misunderstanding that in order to view encrypted media, you need to decode it into a viewable form.
To this I respond "Eppur si muove" - emulation has been doing a fine job in preserving digital works, and will continue to do so, with Moore's law making it easier.
His 'DRM is fine in private contracts' argument would be reasonable were this what is being proposed, but it is not - the DMCA, Broadcast Flag and other proposed legislation privileges DRM with summary powers to limit fair use, and criminalise circumventing it. Many can and do reject DRM contracts, which is why DRM proponents resort to subterfuge and laws attempting to restore the kind of monopoly control of publication the Statute of Anne abolished.
Saturday, 7 January 2006
Rohit Khare and Ben Sittler from Commercenet; myself, Tantek and Niall from Technorati, and Ernie Prabhakhar from Apple talk on Microformats
I'm speaking in a session called 'Geek Out' with Scoble and Will Pate
I'm speaking on Microformats and Tags
Subscribe to all my events
Friday, 6 January 2006
Doc notes the Viiv announcement with trepidation, and also says:
I've almost given up anyway. The other night in the hotel we watched Anderson Cooper, CNN's version of Geraldo Rivera (always On the Scene, always Concerned, always Talking With The People Involved), report for 45 minutes on word that nearly all the trapped miners in West Virginia were saved. In the morning we found out that the report was false. Not from the TV, but from a phone call and from bloggers deconstructing the whole mess.
Live TV is dead. Last week I was waiting for my car to be serviced, (which took 2 hours longer than expected because of a recall), so I sat in a room with CNN on for 3 hours, hearing the 'live' announcers link to the same taped stories over and over again, using the same 'spontaneous asides' repeatedly. It made Dinner For One look fresh and new.
I stopped watching Local TV news years ago - their endless teasing to tide you over the adverts "Bubonic plague struck a South Bay town today - after the break, find out which one" is completely useless in a world where we have Technorati and Google News to find us the answer before they've finished the link.
TV people will be the last to notice this, because "here I am, with the nation hanging on my every word" is the dream that brought them into the business in the first place.
By the 70s and 80s we had videotape, so TV could be stored, but it required hugely expensive machines that took work from video engineers to line up to record onto giant reels of two-inch tape. So there was only usually one copy of each program, and lots were wiped and reused. Around the time I got there, the BBC realised that tapes decay - the oxide falls off, and that they had lost 20 years of TV recordings by not having a rolling backup program.
In 1998, I went to work at Apple on QuickTime, and started work on live streaming. This was hard work, but interesting - making a personal TV Transmitter for anyone with a Mac, so they could use the internet for lots of people to watch them at once. Having built this technology, I started looking for uses for it, and was rather bemused to find there weren't any.
The problem was storage again. It was always better to have a locally stored copy of the video than to try to get it over the net in real time. It just didn't use the net efficiently, and the 'buffering' experience really sucked. In fact, what I realised was that live TV was a waste of time too. But now we had enough storage.
People spend lots of money on iPods and TiVo's, whose whole purpose is to turn live streams into files so you can pause and skip them, moving the storage into their houses, and pockets. This personal storage is why Podcasting makes sense.
Downloading is always better than streaming, and Edited better than Live, except in one instance.
That difference is when you have 2-way interaction. When you can speak back to the person at the other end, either via iChat AV or Skype, or just by having a textual back channel to a conference.
That's where Live is needed.
Thursday, 5 January 2006
Dave Rogers finds hierarchies.
David Weinberger finds collaborators.
Shelley Powers finds
Sorry Shelley, I was evidently looking for the wrong thing. Writing is hard.
Sunday, 1 January 2006
"For once", I thought, "why not watch TV and see the local countdown Live?"
Nope. The TV was showing 3-hour-old New York new years footage.
My New Year prediction is that 2006 is the year people notice live TV is dead.