No Comment: Copyright

I was going to comment about this book on copyright.

I do want the book cited.  The writer– himself gifted in language– strongly recommends the book.

I have been interested in copyright issues for a long time, but especially since the late 1990’s when I was convinced that the music industry had disastrously misjudged the technological landscape and invested all of their strategies into trying to kill online access to music and videos.  It was Apple who first realized that it really wasn’t about the money.  The typical down-loader spent far more on buying records and CDs than the average non-downloading citizen did.  It wasn’t that millions of users were so eager to obtain music and video without paying for it: the truth was they just wanted access.  They wanted to be able to find a recording or movie they liked and listen to it or watch it without having to go to a physical store and place an order and wait– forever– for some distributor to finally acknowledge their preference and ship it to them.

Apple charged people for every download, and, astonishingly, people bought it.

We have a reached a point now where I believe the sale of actual music or video files is no longer the salient point.  The point is eyeballs, email accounts, registrations– whatever attracts the user to the website, to the click-throughs, the data.  The question content owners are going to ask is not “did you pay for the song” but “do you have an account?”.  Can we sell your eyeballs?  Can we hit you up with ads?  Can we spy on you?

The second thing that has become apparent is that, in spite of what the industry keeps telling us, the artist is not getting paid.  The average amount an artist was paid for an album sale in the 1970’s was about $1.  The average amount he receives for a download from iTunes or Spotify is too small to measure.

Who is getting the money?

Spotify and Apple and their cohorts.

 

 

 

Qubits

The ultimate goal of quantum supremacy would be to use qubits to crack encryption codes.  NY Times

I have read this many times, about the latest advance in computer technology: it will be able to crack encryption codes.

I have a simple question: if an application is programmed to deny further attempts after three, or maybe five incorrect password entries, how will even the most powerful quantum computer in the world be able to “crack” the encryption?  Sure, it can bombard the server with every conceivable combination of numbers and letters and symbols, but after each try, most servers will lock the user out for at least 20 minutes.  So it will have to wait until the application resets the login function, which, obviously, can be as long as a diligent programmer wants it to be.

So, how would a very, very powerful computer get around it?

Is that statement in the article just a glib teaser, designed to excite the reader?  I think it is.  Or perhaps they envision a computer that is so smart, it can hack into the operating system of the target device and over-ride the login time-out restrictions.  But then, maybe we could use an equally smart computer to devise an operating system that cannot be easily hacked.

Speaking of super computers…

Microsoft warns users against putting applications in any folder other than “program files”.  Why?  Because if you do, Microsoft’s “hotfixes” may not install correctly.  So why is that a bad thing?  Here’s why:

Microsoft hotfixes, updates, and security updates may not be installed correctly.
New versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer or Microsoft Windows Media Player may not be installed correctly.

In other words, if you don’t put applications in Microsoft’s preferred location, the applications will not be in Microsoft’s preferred location.  If you don’t get the most current hotfix, you might not be able to install the latest hotfix.

I install most of my applications in a folder called C:\apps, and continue to harbour a burning resentment over the fact that Microsoft will just go ahead and create folders under “program files” anyway, just to be really, really, definitively stupid.

The real message is, we own your computer.  When you browse your computer and see a label called “my computer”, it means Bill Gates’ computer– not yours.

 

Until it Stinks

Sir Joseph Bazalgette may have saved more English lives in Victorian England than any other single man.  I bet you never heard of him.

You need to know about Joseph Bazalgette because, perhaps in the future, a new Bazalgette will be remembered in the same way that he is, for saving us from global warming.  For the same reason: because the stink has become overwhelming.

There are profound similarities between Victorian-era London and the entire world today.  Victorian-era London had a major problem: it had millions of people living in close quarters who were all generating a lot of shit.  They were enjoying the convenience of not having to take any expensive measures to deal with their shit.  They just dumped it into the city drains and the drains dumped it into the Thames and from the Thames it came back.  Yes it did.  The tides and the variations in the flow of the Thames caused all that excrement to wash back up onto the shoreline where it splashed about and eventually worked its way into the drinking water and food and into the mouths of children.

This was not merely distasteful: it was poisonous.  People died of cholera and other diseases, and the smell was absolutely terrible.

Think about the government of that city.  When did it finally think that it might not be such a good idea to dump all of their shit into the river?  The truth is they always knew it was a bad idea.   They just didn’t have the courage to make the tough decisions required to do otherwise, including raising taxes to pay for what was needed.

What was needed was a massive complex system of pumps and reservoirs that took all the human waste and channeled it further out into the river at low tide.  It’s never been clear to me why this didn’t backfire as well, but it didn’t, and the system worked pretty well until they finally figured out a way to dump it into the North Sea.  Joseph Bazalgette designed and built that system.  I hope there is a statue of him somewhere in London.

You may wonder whether dumping it all into the North Sea was much of an improvement.  Well, it was for the people of London.

In any case, the similarities to climate change are uncanny.  And the lesson learned is simple.  People are too stupid to make modest measures in time to save themselves from having to take drastic measures when it is almost too late.  As the Marshall Islands sink into the sunset we can only wish that it would produce a stink that would envelop Wall Street and Washington.

Unlike London’s shit, climate change may not be so forgiving.  There is no way to take the carbon and dump it further out from the earth’s atmosphere.

I Knew I Would Regret Switching to WordPress Sooner or Later

And here it is.

Suppose you were a young, healthy man or woman.  Suppose someone entered your life and fell in love with you and invited you to move in with them.  Suppose they got you everything: every meal, every snack, every drink.  Suppose they urged you to stay on the couch, relax, eat more, relax more, sleep in, sit down, lay down, take the car to the corner grocery store instead of walking.

Eventually, you will not know how to cook.  You will not be able to walk.  You will grow fat and sedentary and stupid.

You are now the ideal customer for Microsoft, and Apple, Google, and Facebook, and WordPress.

I initially signed on to WordPress because it was free and it was convenient.  And because I had to know it because part of my job was to provide technical support to other people who were using it to update websites for the organization I work for.

Yes, I fell for it: the fatty food on a tray in front of the TV.  But I didn’t mind it too much because it still required some work to actually create content, and format it the way you like.

But the other day, I was reading some of my older posts in HTML and thinking, gee, I like the look of that.  It’s more real, more raw, less slick, and has more character than the stupid standard WordPress fonts and formatting.  I had already decided to go back to my html editor and my rather primitive looking but content-focused webpages.

And then, the update to WordPress came, and I wasn’t paying close attention, and suddenly this stupid fucking new “Gutenberg” editor appear out of nowhere, with no option to turn it off.  And suddenly my editing screen was a kludge of stupid options I had no interest in, blocking me from actually putting in the content I wanted to put in.

Gutenberg is an addition to the WordPress platform that will transform the way websites and content is displayed through a series of customizable blocks. This will allow users the flexibility to control the way their content appears on the page and create an easier building experience for anyone looking to create a website.  Some credulous tech blogger somewhere

WordPress, joining Microsoft in it’s perverse and pernicious determination to make everybody as absolutely stupid as possible, has removed the normal editor from current editions of WordPress and replaced it with an idiotic contraption intended to make it easy for idiots to drag and drop multi-media crap into their own webpages so that they have glorious content without actually providing any glorious content.  Just steal it.  Just let WordPress automatically format everything so that you lose any ability to control what your page looks like.  Your page is going to look like a million other pages.

The new editor also allows for developers to create guard rails so to speak that will guide content editors to their intended goals. Imagine that it is similar to the bumpers that are used to improve your performance when bowling.  The same credulous tech blogger.

The ability to actually see and make changes to your blog on the go – or even post a blog with custom features from your phone is just one of the many updates Gutenberg will bring to WordPress. Text pasted from Word or Google Docs will get cleaned up and converted to blocks automatically and instantly.

Seriously?  The blogger is suggesting that bumper pads at a bowling alley are what we all need.

Can anything worth reading be written on a cell phone?  Seriously?  Are you going to dictate it to “hey Google” and let the master geniuses at Google clean up your text (and censor it)?  You want the NSA to be able to scan your blogs before you even upload them?  (I know that sounds “paranoid”: the idea that such a thing sounds “paranoid” is the U.S. intelligence gathering community’s best friend).

Yes, let’s all go bowling.  There are your bumper pads.  Enjoy yourself.

Sharepoint, Sharepunt

Here’s what astounds me: Sharepoint is Microsoft’s fasting (sic) growing business ever. Faster than windows or office. It’s also a source of 1 bil+ revenue a year. YET, comments from 40+ educated people who know technology very well cannot explain its purpose or real value.   From Here

So what is it you do here?

If you have seen the movie “Office Space”, you will immediately recognize the query from a pair of consultants– the “two Bobs”–  hired to optimize the business operations of some hi-tech company that writes banking software (consequentially using only two digits for the dates).    They interview all of the staff and are sometimes perplexed at the role played by a particular individual.  They look at him, indulgent, perhaps, and open-minded, at least at first, and ask: what is it, exactly, that you do here?  One employee, desperately trying to justify his position, gets angrier and angrier as he explains that he takes the specifications from the customer and brings them to the development team.  The consultants repeat:  Yes… but what is it you do?

The truth is that “Office Space” is one of those movies that I like in spite of the fact that it really isn’t very good, on any artistic level.  The acting, script, and direction are pedestrian at best.  But it hit on an area of human life neglected by Hollywood: work.  And it’s amateurishness works in its favor there in the way it tries to show you something about working relationships that you won’t see elsewhere.  Like:  “PC Load Letter?!  What the fuck does that mean?”

In this case, the employee, Tom Smykowski, could have given an answer more in line with “I develop strategies for customer relationship development to enhance corporate branding” or something like that.  What he says instead is that he brings the specifications from the customer to the developer.  He “deals with” customers, which is actually more of a real job than what most managerial employees do.

So, in trying to inform myself about Sharepoint– what is it exactly that you do? — I found this guy.  Oh good, I thought.  He doesn’t look too corporate.  He’s sitting in a car.  Maybe, at last, I can get a real explanation of what Sharepoint does exactly.  So I watched.  He blathered on about how great it is, how fabulous, how foundational, and how it …. it….  it….

All right.   In spite of the car setting and the lack of a suit, he sounds like a shill for a consultancy group that sells Microsoft services and support.  When we need collaboration, when we need workflow… communications: few to many…  the many to many conversations crossing teams… applications … granular security… think Sharepoint.  And there’s teams: teams is where we’re doing things because we converse and we’re working on different things… where we meet and share files and the other aspects of what we do as a team…   Enhance employee engagement….  Yammer are those large  topic-focused typically self-serviced type conversational groups… teams!  Teams are where I do my work and get it done. …   They actually work together in a synergistic fashion and usage will vary from org to org depending on their own requirements.

Yes, but what is it you do?

That last line– my God!  You really hit on something there!   “Synergistic fashion”.  Something so profound and specific it will make the hairs on the backs of the necks of every high-priced consultant in North America tingle.

But what is it you do?

I think of Sharepoint, at this stage, like the layer of management just below the CEO at most organizations.  There are people who do real work at any organization, institution, or company.   When an organization starts out, that’s all anybody does, though there are always people with real power among them: the owners or appointed positions with the authority attached to them by the owners (it’s really always the owners who have the real power).  Then the organization grows and gets more money.  The appointed leaders promote themselves.  The last thing they really want to do every day is real work, so they crate new categories of “work”: management.   But even management can involve real work, like supervision, scheduling, processing time sheets, coordination, and so on.  So, as the organization gets bigger and bigger, they appoint other people to do the real management while they attend training seminars, retreats, and leadership conferences.  Eventually, they stop working altogether: their entire job consists of coming up with phrases like “synergistic fashion” and “topic-focused typically self-serviced type conversational groups” and “enhance employee engagement” to justify paying themselves more than the people who actually produce things of value for the organization.  Way more.

It provides you with an “intuitive” experience, so he says.  That’s not what “intuitive” means, really.  The experience is what you get to.  The skills required to navigate to this result are not intuitive, and real-world experience shows over and over again that Microsoft does a very poor job of making interfaces that allow users to “intuit” how to do something, like set up an international meeting via the internet with white board, powerpoint presentations, and video-conferencing.

“Your employees can create sites to share documents and information with colleagues, partners, and customers”.  Yes, it sounds like the internet.

Or listen to this (from here, an otherwise fine article):

Yammer the startup had a vision. It was to make the world of work more transparent and connected, to break open the rigid structures in corporations and to let information travel freely for the good of more collaboration, innovation and responsiveness. Yammer the platform was the conduit, the trojan-horse so to speak, to achieve such an ambitious social change agenda.

Is there any world in which you can imagine that any of this can take place without the actual work of collaboration being performed by smart, engaged, well-compensated employees?  Now, is there any world in which you can imagine that all these good things would not have happened anyway, without the expensive technological framework being sold to you by Microsoft?  There’s not a thing that Office 365 does that could not be done by Groupwise, Thunderbird, ExpressionWeb, WhatsApp, or Google.  The biggest obstacle this this process is not addressed by any software: stupid leaders who are more afraid of being exposed as the useless appendages that they are than they care about productivity and efficiency and rational management strategies.

 

 

Microsoft’s Requirements

Microsoft: “(Required) We collect required diagnostic data to keep Office secure, up-to-date, and performing as expected on the devices its installed on.”

This is the message that popped up as I tried to open Word on a new installation of Office 365 on my HP laptop.  “Required”.  Sounds powerful, doesn’t it.  It’s “required”, like, you have no choice.  Microsoft has no choice: it just has to have access to your computer to browse around and take whatever it wants while you are online.  They can’t do anything about it: it’s required.

There is nothing “required” at all.  It is pure bullshit.  There is no law or regulation that “requires” Microsoft to collect your data.  It’s Microsoft telling you to bend over and spread your cheeks– it’s “required”.

And “performing as expected”?  Absolutely, like the fat, bulky, cluttered, disordered disaster that, yes, I do expect.

But seriously, Microsoft is telling you that, finally, they are not even going to pretend to give you a choice about allowing them to go onto your computer and ransack your personal data.  Your acceptance of these conditions

Short of Short

Is Martin Short really a comic genius?  I had had him pegged as a very weak Jerry Lewis wannabe.  And that is a very low bar.  But Vanity Fair says he’s fabulous: he’s the funniest guy at the party.   He is well-liked by the comedy establishment in Hollywood and New York.   Talk show hosts can’t wait to have him: he makes it easy for them, taking on the entire burden of being witty and funny and entertaining.

Am I missing something?   Other than those parties?

The comedy I remember from Martin Short always resembled the stuff your older, untalented brother would do to taunt you, and the biggest hits from Oasis.    That whining, sneering, wildly effeminate voice and dippy moronic body language.    All of it modeled– disgustingly– on the gestures of a person with a mental and physical disability.  I have always found that kind of humor repellent, for obvious reasons.  It’s broad and offensive.  It’s the Gomer Pyle of stand-up comedy.

Short seemed unusually taken with deformity and otherness, with lots of wonky eyes, oddly recessed hairlines, and androgyny.

Decent human beings do not mock or ridicule people who were born with disabilities or defects.  You just don’t.   First of all, it’s not really funny.  If you can’t help but fail, and it’s not your fault, it’s not funny.

What is funny is, for example, a capable person thrust into challenging circumstances through his own fault– a character flaw– and then failing to keep his dignity.

Secondly, it’s an affront to human dignity.  We all know that– you don’t laugh at other peoples’ misfortunes.  But because Jerry Lewis did not have a disability– other than bad taste– people thought it was okay to laugh at him when he imitated people with disabilities, some of the very people his famous annual telethon was supposed to help.

When he’s not making fun of people with disabilities, Short sometimes plays a more complex character, Jiminy Glick, a talk-show host.   Short does the sleaze part fairly well, but where is the humor exactly?  It’s mostly humor about the humorists– narcissistic comedy.  I feel the same way about it that I feel about a mediocre novel about a novelist, or a mediocre movie about Hollywood, or a mediocre  song about a singer.  It’s not that they are bad novels or movies or songs– even if they are– it’s that these artists have chosen to make an artwork about themselves.  With a few exceptions, these works are boring.

Oh, but there’s more:  there’s bodily function and sex jokes.

There’s not much real political or social commentary: Short doesn’t want to offend half of his audience.  In an interview on PBS (where he was accompanied by Steve Martin, with whom he is touring), he was clearly a bit discomfited by the idea of political humor, probably because he knows the most respected  comics out there are political but the most commercially successful are not.

Short is personally popular– I have no problem believing that he is a nice guy.  He will get monuments and awards and banquets and honors, because he has quietly carved out an undistinguished but visible profile among establishment entertainers in Hollywood– the kind of elite that give each other prizes while they are alive.

Now, you might expect a tail here: but the real edgy comedians don’t get awards until they are dead.  It’s a little strange to me, but a few years ago George Carlin was honored at the Kennedy Center with the “Mark Twain” prize.   George Carlin himself must have read the invitation and checked his own pulse before accepting.

 

 

Biological Annihilation

This sneaky little article in the New York Times seem to come out of nowhere– as the authors observed.  No one’s paying attention.  We better start.

It begins with observable detail.  If you are old enough, you will remember the annoying task of cleaning bugs off the windshield of your car after a drive in the country.  I remember it.  I remember how hard it was to get those messy little splatters off the glass, even if you used Windex or windshield washer.  You’d always had to take a second run at it to get the most persistent little blotches.

If you rode motorcycles, like I did for a time, you knew the experience of getting bugs into your eyes and mouth while racing along in the countryside.  Constantly.  There was no escape.

It turns out that we might be headed for a big, big problem.  Where are the bugs?

I look forward to the pesticide industry– which is surely studing the brilliant success of the oil (carbon) industry in sewing doubt about climate change — starting a campaign to try to convince people that 1) there are really more bugs than ever before,  2) pesticides do not harm bugs (except when they do, as advertised, and 3) suburban home-owners use more pesticides than farmers.  After a few years, and after these theories have been debunked, the arguments will become:  1) yes, there are fewer bugs, but the bats are to blame and 2) what’s the problem?  Do you like bugs?  3) pesticides actually eliminate predators of bugs.

A few years later and the strategy becomes, 1) all right, so we are causing the bugs to die, but you can’t sacrifice good farm jobs just to save a mosquito or two.   2)  it’s too late to do anything anyway.  3) don’t worry– by the time we die because the food chain is disrupted by the annihilation of insects, we’ll already have been killed by global warming.

At not point will anyone in the pesticide or farming industries admit that they were wrong.

 

 

 

 

Re. Noah’s Ark:

There 400,000 species of beetles
12,000 types of ants
20,000 of bees

Autotune Your Brain

David Draiman is a classically trained singer and has an amazing sound and range. Disturbed is a phenomenal metal band. Really enjoyed your take on his performance. David was actually under the weather for this performance and yes the producers added autotune without him wanting it. He never uses it. He was irked.

The above comment appears below a lovely Youtube video of vocal coach Tara Simon analyzing Disturb’s performance of “The Sound of Silence” on Conan.

I naturally suspect Draiman’s comments a little– who wants it to be known that they asked for Autotune– but it’s believable, and his performance is extraordinary.  And Tara Simon’s skill is extraordinary: she spotted the Autotune immediately.

Why would anyone enjoy listening to a performer who cheats?

Well, why do San Francisco Giant fans still lionize Barry Bonds?  Because humans have an endless capacity for self-delusion.  We love what we see and hear and we want to believe it is real and we really don’t want to know if it’s not.

That why we would not enjoy a race between a motorcyclist and a bicyclist.  Not because we’re smart enough to realize that it isn’t a real race: but because it is obvious that it is not.  We can’t pretend the motorcyclist won because he was more fit, or more beautiful, or more virtuous: we cannot pretend that he didn’t cheat.

But if we saw a race between two bicyclists and one of them crushed the other, we wouldn’t want to know that he had an electronic motor and batteries hidden in the bike’s frame.

Did Dolores O’Riordan know about Autotune?  Her live performances with the Cranberries are among the worst I’ve ever seen of a well-known band.  That said, I would still rather watch her blunder her way through “Linger” honestly than hear a pristine, perfect fake version with Autotune.

Do you listen to CBC radio in the afternoon on your way home from work?  Virtually everything they play now is what I call factory-pop.  Fake beat, fake tone, fake instruments, and fake (Autotuned) voice.   It is shit.

 

Lenovos

Someone recently asked me for advice on purchasing a refurbished laptops, a Lenovo t450s vs. a Lenovo T440.

That first one with the 12 GB of RAM and the i7 processor is a nice little powerhouse. For most of day-to-day computing needs, it’s overkill, but the two applications that love lots of memory and the SSD card are Photoshop and any video-editing software– and recording software. #1 also has a higher resolution screen, which, again, is useful for Photoshop and video. That said, #2 is also pretty good– 8 GB is generally the benchmark for Photoshop, and the SSD will help a lot. (memory is upgradable to 12 GB if desired). I’m not a fan of touchscreen, so I’d almost prefer #2 which doesn’t seem to have it. The i5 is slower than the i7 by today’s standards, but if you’re used to an i5 you probably won’t feel like it’s slow.

The i5 model actually does not have the fastest i5 processor– another factor, so the i7 model has a not insubstantial speed advantage. (You would notice it if you used an i5 for a few weeks and then moved to an i7). Both have bluetooth and wifi.

For recording, that might be a factor in latency– that lag between the music and what you hear back in your headphone or speakers. If you plan to do a fair bit of recording, using a DAW, Reaper, or whatever, that might be a factor.

Both have USB 3.0, but the i5 (T450s) has two ports while the i7 model as 3. Might be a factor if you are connecting a microphone, a keyboard, and a mouse, and who knows what else…

It’s kind of a 4 cylinder vs. a 6. Here’s a bit of my logic: the Lenovos are durable, reliable machines. The extra $250 now might buy you a laptop that will age a bit better, process video and audio faster, and maybe give you a few more years of viability– saving you $$ from upgrading sooner– while the i5 (T440) will be a solid, reliable machine. I’ve had Reaper (a DAW) running on the i5 for a while and it seems to handle it nicely, especially with 8GB of RAM and an SSD for storage.

I like the Lenovos– that’s our default machine in our office. Durable, reliable, and good features. I have an older T61 here that has been a rock for me. That’s quite a compliment actually– it’s quite “old” by laptop standards but I never sit there and think, “gee, it’s slow– I should replace it”.

One last left-field comment: I have Windows 7 on all my home machines– I’m not real fond of Windows 10. Microsoft really wants to shove updates down your throat now and it’s hard to prevent Windows 10 from suddenly going off to la-la land and downloading a massive patch without asking you. If they offered Windows 7 instead, I’d take it myself, but they probably won’t. And, unfortunately, everyone will eventually have to upgrade anyway to keep up with drivers and applications and such…

Bill.