Tuesday, 29-Nov-05 17:07
N90 blog

Didn't notice this until now... The Nokia N90 blog. Seems to be a bit on the "whoo, our product is so cool" -side, but they actually link to reviews, comments, etc. Which is nice, because it's really about participating in the conversation. When compared to the more generic Nokia S60 blogs, they have at least one advantage: a readable color scheme... (Guys! Fix it! It's horrible! Grey on white is NOT readable, no matter what a stylist told you!)

The N90 blog is not going to get too much comments though - they require registration to comment. I can't be bothered to register to sites anymore - I have about a thousand throwaway registered accounts on different services, which I almost never use anyway. If you're worried about spam, do comment moderation (pre- or post-).

Tuesday, 29-Nov-05 15:27
PSP adds RSS support

The new version of the Sony PSP firmware adds RSS support, suggesting that feeds and RSS are hitting mainstream. The fun thing is - they're not doing it for news, blogs and other kinds of feeds, but... podcasts!

Reminds me - I really need to update my own podcast. I've just been pretty busy with JSPWiki and apartment hunting...

Sunday, 27-Nov-05 20:57
I'm your client, not a terrorist

Nice opinion piece on the BBC by Bill Thompson about the music industry, copy protection, using terrorism laws to attack file sharers, and privacy:

If they cannot come up with a business model which allows them to make profits without criminalising their customers, trampling over our civil liberties or installing malware on our computers then they do not deserve to stay in business, and new ways for artists to reach the public will have to emerge.
Sunday, 27-Nov-05 19:17
Mobile internet experiences

I've been playing around with the enhanced web browser based on WebCore on a Nokia E61, trying it out in real-life situations (such as finding apartments we're considering buying and figuring out routes). Today I got seriously pissed off - not because of the phone or the browser, but because of some web sites.

Some smart web sites, such as Google, can figure out that you are using a mobile browser, and can serve you a "mobile-optimized" -version. Unfortunately, I happen to have a perfectly capable web browser with a large screen with roughy the same aspect ratio as a normal monitor. These web sites just stupidly assume that I have a crappy browser, and they serve me something that looks positively tiny and constipated with no option of using the full version.

Urgh.

(As an aside: I seem to have problems with sound in iTunes breaking in my ~PowerMac. It seems to happen only when Eclipse is running and I use something graphics intensive (like Exposé). It's as if iTunes is not getting enough CPU... Has anyone seen anything like this?)

Friday, 25-Nov-05 11:11
File sharing helps not-so-well known artists

From The Long Tail:

"David Blackburn, a Harvard PhD student, on the economics of P2P file-sharing concludes that it does indeed depress music sales overall. But the effect is not felt evenly. The hits at the top of the charts lose sales, but the niche artists further down the popularity curve actually benefit from file-trading."

Makes sense. File sharing is just like radio play: you get more exposure.

Friday, 25-Nov-05 10:42
Welcome, Orwell

You know, quite few people have been going nuts over their government spying on you. But the sad truth is that very few governments have any real reason to spy on all of their citizens anymore. They just don't have the money to do it, either. It also turns out that NOT spying on your citizens makes them a wee bit happier, and they don't think about revolution that often anymore. So you don't need to spy on them.

However, there are institutions out there that have the motivation and the money to spy on everyone. They think everyone is a criminal (which is probably true - when was the last time YOU forwarded an email that contained a funny animation, and you weren't quite sure about its legal status?), and because getting a search warrant on a single person is too much hassle and too expensive, they just want to have a blanket permission to spy on everyone.

I'm talking about the new Data Retention Directive of Europe, which has been designed to combat some really serious issues such as terrorism and serious crime. The media industry believes that intellectual property violation is as serious a crime as terrorism, and that the restrictions in the Directive should be loosened so that they can go to ISP's files and scan them automatically for any potential infringers, so that they can then sue everyone. All your emails, all your data traffic, all the web sites you go to. Downloading something by accident might make you liable for damages - in the U.S, RIAA wants 150,000 USD per copyright violation (in Finland, this seems to be settled around 22 €.)

This is roughly the same thing as if the government wanted every single car to be equipped with a GPS device, and all your speed information would be transferred to the police, and they would just email you a ticket whenever you exceeded the speed limit. Convenient? Yes. Oppressing? Hell yeah. Imagine what kind of a noise would that create even among the honest car-driving population - everyone speeds sometimes.

The media industry gave us a fictional Big Brother, where we could watch bored kids getting drunk 24 hours a day. Now they're trying to give us the Real Thing, as laid down by Orwell and all the other dystopians.

Don't let it happen. Write to your MEP now (Finnish MEPs), and let them know that you oppose the Data Retention, and especially the way it's being rushed. And, even if you think that such a law might be necessary at some point, at the very least mention that you oppose any attempt to make it less strict - it should be meant for very, very serious offenses only. Because the fact that such detailed data about your surfing habits exist, means that it might well be misused.

Update: Got a response from Alex Stubb:

Parlamentissa hiotaan nyt kovasti vesitettyä versiota tästä aloitteesta. Katsotaan,
mitä vastaava valiokunta saa aikaan. Alunperin esitetyssä muodossa en voi
tallennusvelvollisuutta tosiaankaan kannattaa.
Friday, 25-Nov-05 09:40
Batman coolness

I'll certainly vote for this Batman meets Joker meets Alien meets Predator short film as being the coolest thing since Star Wreck. Eight minutes with Quicktime. You have that much time.

(Via Jani.)

Wednesday, 23-Nov-05 19:08
The Iteration List

Marjut links to this Cross-platform calendar that really works. I'd like to present you a similar calendar we (as in me and a bunch of friends) have been using successfully for years (10-or-so?) to decide the days we can all get together and have a game. All it requires is that everyone is reachable through email. I can't take credit for inventing this, but I am pretty sure we were among the first in my peer group to adopt it.

First, you need an email client that supports monospaced fonts (like Courier). Otherwise this'll look horrible. HTML tables should work, too, though. Otherwise, this is perfectly cross-platform. It also works great when pasted into a Wiki page.

On the horizontal lines, you write names. On the verticals, you write days. Like this:

       December
       0                 1                   2                   3
       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
       t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f 
Janne  
Ville
Kalle
Sanna

(This is the übercomplicated version; it fits an entire month on a single line, including weekdays. It looks complex, but it's actually quite easy to construct, you just smash through the entire number key pad in order, and repeat twice. I'll leave it as an exercise for you to figure out how to do the weekdays. :)

Then, you fill it up for yourself and send it to your friends.

       December
       0                 1                   2                   3
       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
       t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f 
Janne  + + - - + + + + + ? ? + + + + - - - ? ? - - - - - - - - - + 
Ville
Kalle
Sanna

Note the clever uses of different symbols: "+" means "yeah, I'm okay"; "-" means "no way"; "?" means "I don't know yet; it depends on other people's plans or something".

Two minutes later, the compulsive email reader Kalle responds, and he has copied your table, and added his own information on it:

       December
       0                 1                   2                   3
       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
       t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f 
Janne  + + - - + + + + + ? ? + + + + - - - ? ? - - - - - - - - - + 
Ville
Kalle  - - - - + + + + e e e - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +
Sanna

Note a new character: "e". Using "e" here means many things, but mostly it means "I already have some other plans, but I can cancel them, if this is the only day that suits everyone else." I.e. it's a "+", but not a very strong one, and it would be greatly appreciated, if whoever makes the decision would not choose this date.

After a while, also Ville and Sanna respond, resulting in a table which looks like this:

       December
       0                 1                   2                   3
       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
       t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f S S m t w t f 
Janne  + + - - + + + + + ? ? + + + + - - - ? ? - - - - - - - - - + 
Ville  + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + -
Kalle  - - - - + + + + e e e - - - + - - - - - - - - - - - - - - +
Sanna  - - e e - - - + ? ? ? + + + + + - - + + - - - - - - + + + +
                     * *           * 

From this table, it's easy to see what would be suitable dates for everyone (marked with "*"). The initiator of the sequence suggets Thursday 8th, and everyone agrees. And while they were at it, they agreed on holding the 15th as "tentative", so that they get to continue the game if it's not finished in time. One of the advantages of this calendar is of course that you can immediately see who might not make it - and while everyone is equal, missing someone might not be.

As you can see, this is quite simple. In extensive testing, we've noticed that the range of "yes", "no", "dunno", "not really, but can be arranged" is quite sufficient for even complex calendar iterations of tens of people. At some point someone will probably need to converge two threads of calendars together, but it's usually just an easy cut-n-paste job. You are, of course, free to invent your own characters... or just use "+" and "-", if you think it gets a bit too complicated.

Update: Markus points out that there's a script on the web that creates the matrix for you automatically! Wonderful (though in Finnish)!

Tuesday, 22-Nov-05 01:00
Finnish MP's bask in thanks over copyright law

Rosa Meriläinen, a Finnish MP writes in her blog (translation mine):

On Thursday I was already awake, but it didn't turn out to be useful. During the question hour, I tried to get a turn three times, but I failed. I didn't feel too sorry about it, because we left with Irina [Krohn, I would presume; a fellow MP] to the winter season opening of Gramex [one of the lobbying organizations for stricter copyright laws, sort of like the RIAA, but for performing artists] to receive compliments over the copyright law. It was very therapeutic, because we got so much negative feedback on it originally. Now I got to bask in the copious compliments of wonderful men. I have to confess that some of them didn't understand to compliment us, so we needed to guide and urge them a bit.

At first, I figured this is a joke. But then I realized it probably is not.

I have a feeling she just managed to make a bunch of fierce enemies, who don't forget easily. Irina, too.

Update: She has confirmed this to the Digitoday copyright blog. So no joke. Oh well, at least she's refreshingly honest about being on the leash of the lobbying organizations.

Monday, 21-Nov-05 18:19
Be careful what you wish for...

I wrote back in June:

The Enter magazine blog says that over 30% of Finnish 15-17 -year old teenagers have an account with the IRC gallery. I wonder what would happen if IRC-gallery started to offer blogs to their members?

Well, we'll soon find out: Kaleva tells us (in Finnish) that the IRC gallery is starting to offer a blogging service to all of its users.

"Within a few weeks of testing, the testers alone wrote over 60,000 entries", they say.

Heh. This should be cool.

Update

Just started to think... Reading blogs is more common than writing them. Are the IRC-gallery folks going to:

  1. Build their own reading system (i.e. a competitor to blogilista.fi)?
  2. License or partner with blogilista.fi? (Which should be interesting.)
  3. Leave everyone to their own devices (bookmarks, RSS readers, blogilista.fi)?

(Via Jyri.)

Sunday, 20-Nov-05 23:46
Sense of wonder
An American engineer told me last week that there are two rules in introducing new technology into the USA:
  1. Don't inconvenience me.
  2. Don't bore me.

Wise words. Made me think.

I have been rather busy this weekend, and also mostly been sleeping off the remnants of my jet lag. I also finished Homeworld 2, one of the few games I've found immersive enough so that I could care more than a few hours of. It turned out to be rather easy, though, which was a bit of a disappointment... But it was good fun while it lasted.

People keep asking me if I've already started to play World of Warcraft (there is a Mac version, I hear). I'm tempted, but I don't dare to. I know I can be addicted to gameplay, and open-ended games are the worst.

Anyhoo, since I don't have anything real-ish to write about, I thought I'd give a nudge to some of my recent favourites from the blog/podcast world, in case some of you might like them too. Some of these are certainly worth finding:

  • Escape pod: My #1 podcast right now. Get yourself a new science fiction/fantasy story every week. They range from five-minute snippets to 30-minute short stories, and the reading isn't half bad either. It would be great if someone started this in Finnish, too. (I'll read your short story in my own podcast if you send it to me. I promise to treat it gently, though I am not a great reader.)
  • Flickr blog: Get the best of Flickr, daily. Flickr is like a diminutive blogosphere; loads and loads of average photographers, but it also is a place where pros and semipros post their stuff.
  • Digikko: (in Finnish) Digitaalimediaa mainosmiehen silmin; miten markkinointi ja rahanteko toimii uudessa mediassa ja uudessa nettikulttuurissa, blogien ja avoimen lähdekoodin pyörityksessä. Täältä löydän kiinnostavia linkkejä ja pohdintaa. Hyvä blogi, kaiken kaikkiaan.
  • Tekijänoikeusblogi: (in Finnish) Jaakko Kuivalainen jatkaa ansiokkaasti vain tähdenlennoksi luulemaani blogia ja kattaa tekijänoikeusasioiden uutisointia. Blogin kommenttipalsta on tosin sen tärkeintä antia, sillä se tuntuu toimivan parhaimpana tiedonlähteenä. Erinomainen esimerkki siitä, miten perinteisempi media voi vuorovaikuttaa lukijoittensa kanssa.
  • Tomorrow Elephant: Mostly English, some Finnish included. Writes a bit too rarely, but when it does, it does the "daily geek thing" in a bit more interesting fashion than everyone else. Maybe it's because the guy is trying his wings in writing scifi, too...
  • Touch by Timo Arnall. Exploring tangible computing - e.g. using your cell phone as an interaction device for objects within your reach. Just touch, and magic happens. Fascinating, though he should blog more. Dang, I should blog more about it...
  • Mette miettii: (in Finnish) Mette miettii edelleenkin fiksuja. Hyvää kommentaaria asioista, joita ei ehkä muissa blogeissa puida jatkuvasti.

As you can see, no personal blogs made that list. In fact, while I was going through my blogroll, I realized that few of them tend to survive for more than two months on it. I go to blogilista.fi maybe twice a month, and subscribe to a random blogs that seem good, but few of them manage to keep my interest up for long. Probably because I don't know these people, and I've already found "my" number of people that are interesting and write well enough. Maybe this is what prompted some people about a year ago to tell that "blogs are a 'fad' and they shall soon pass." True; there is only so much you can read about someone's life - unless they lead extraordinarily interesting lives, the entries start repeating after a while. No matter how good a writer you are. I mean - would you like to read Bridget Jones' diary, part XVII? The original is a good book. Even the sequel was fun. But after a while you just start to look for something else, you know?

The world keeps turning and there are new news every day. I know of people who don't bother to read news anymore, saying that they repeat themselves, and there is little that is actually new in news these days. I sort of agree with them. It's the same thing as getting bored with diaries - the "new" factor disappears quickly. Hey, people get killed every day. It's life.

In scifi, I think, the same idea is called "sense of wonder". You need to have some, in order to be able to "suspend your disbelief", and really immerse yourself in the fictional world the author has created. I guess it also works for computer games (Homeworld saga certainly does it for me) and other entertainment in general - it just goes by different names.

But this "sense of wonder" is what creates the image of "new and interesting". Blogs - as a concept - had it for a while. Now people are getting more jaded: since everyone can now blog, the medium loses its particular attraction; the differing factor from what-was-before. Podcasting is now at this "sense of wonder" -stage; we don't quite know what they're good for, but gosh gee darn golly, doesn't it give you kicks to see that people are subscribing to your podcast?

The way I think it is that blogs are somewhere between the noisy chaos of the masses screaming about their individuality, and the cold, objective reality of idealistic journalism[1]. It's the stuff that could be news, but it just cannot pass through the filters and bottlenecks. Good blogs are written by people who could do it for a living, but they choose not to. Good blogs are written by people who have a passion for something, and they're far more interested in sharing that passion with a very limited number of other people, than they are in making a deadline, getting paid by word every day, or just abiding their time before they get to go home and do what they really want to do.

I'm not saying that these people are better writers than professionals. But passion shows, you know? That's what creates the sense of wonder; that's what creates "new" news. That's what makes a really good professional author really good.

That's what we really care about.

Passion and sense of wonder.

[#1] Boy, did I spend time deciding which one of those words requires quotes. Quoting all of them looked pretty stupid, so I leave it to the reader's imagination.
Friday, 18-Nov-05 16:14
Copyright anger

Got today a photograph of my godson. It's wonderful, and it makes me happy. He looks adorable.

But what makes me very angry is the backside of the picture. It says (rough translation):

"According to the copyright law, a photographer has a copyright also on any commissioned work. Due to this, digitization or other copying is prohibited without the explicit permission of the photographer."

This is utter copyright bullshit. Not only it would mean that I couldn't legally scan the picture and store it in that format, which definitely would count as deep infringement of my consumer rights, it is also blatantly wrong. The Finnish copyright law, § 49a does say that a photographer has copyright on pictures, but it also says that "private copying is allowed under paragraphs 1 and 2 of § 12." And actually, in a whole lot of other exceptions. Even under the new law.

I find it very dangerous that people use copyright law as a general club to claim all rights, including those that they are not entitled to. Copyright law exists to prevent other people from gaining from your work, which is why publishing and selling copies is regulated. But consumers have rights, too - and one of them is the right not to ask for permission every single time you need to breathe, move, talk to other people, or scan a photo you have purchased.

Friday, 18-Nov-05 12:04
Spineless bastards

I so agree with Matti Nikki and Bruce Schneier on this recent Sony DRM thing:

The real issue with liability, however, is that Sony BMG is actually taking over computer systems that don't belong to them. They did this deliberately and knew very well what they were doing. Unfortunately, security companies seem to be afraid of tackling this issue, it's not good for business to make enemies of large corporations. Doing this, the security companies are only working for their own security, rather than that of their users. The big problem is laws like DMCA and in Europe, the EUCD, which make it illegal to circumvent these copy protection systems, no matter how malicious they are. The laws don't tend to define what these copy protection systems are allowed to do, but since nobody wants to touch the issue probably under fear of having to fight DMCA related lawsuits, the creators of these "protection" systems are getting away with what they're doing.

Hey, you spineless security corporations and governments! Your wishy-washy "well, we'd tell you what we really think but the media industry would sue the heck out of us" -tactics are making life on the internet dangerous. We already have hackers and malicious people to deal with - if we need to fear corporations which believe they own our life, too, life becomes really, really hard.

You must stop this here.

This is the kind of tactics media corporations will employ in the future, if you don't slap them now. They have already lured you into giving them unprecendented power with your copyright laws, but you don't have to give them any more power.

We people are not just passive consumers of entertainment. We are living, thinking beings that value our freedom - freedom from being told what we may read or listen or watch. Sony BMG Finland says that no CD's with copy protection have been imported to Finland, yet there are hundreds of them in public libraries and private homes. They also remind, in a gleeful tone, that starting next year, directly importing CDs not published in EU will be illegal. I read it as "well, it's your own fault from buying the CDs from somebody else than us."

The media corporations - and Sony BMG in particular - are like bullies on a school yard. They have the power, they know it, and they want to threaten and blackmail people to do their bidding. They think they own the yard (in this case, "culture"), but they simply don't realize the fact that culture belongs to the people who create it, and those people who enjoy it. They are just middlemen in transferring that culture from the creators to the people.

The internet is eliminating the need for those middlemen, as they currently stand. This scares them, as they see their power slipping away.

Both the creators of culture and the people who enjoy this culture need to grow up, get out to the world, and leave the bullies on the school yard.

(The only corporations that have taken a proper stand against this are F-Secure and - surprise, surprise - Microsoft. The other is not spineless, and the other is big enough to ignore stupid companies. Amazon is also doing the right thing and offering free refunds on all Sony XCP-protected disks.)

Thursday, 17-Nov-05 17:01
Is 30 responses a lot or just a few?

From Joi's blog:

"We receive at the IHT [International Herald Tribune] roughly 30 letters per day, of which 10-15 are usable, the letters editor said. We end up publishing roughly six.

For a daily newspaper printed in 31 print sites around the world and distributed in more than 150 countries, 30 letters per day struck me as very low, but several colleagues thought it was "a lot".

I sometimes get more than 20 responses - many publishable - for a single posting on this blog."

What's the situation in Finland? How many responses does an average column in a newspaper get - with their vastly superior circulation over blogs? Or is there something in having your responses published instantly for everyone to see? Or maybe the intimacy of the blog format makes it automatically more interactive?

One thing I've wondered about is that the discussion on the blogs @ Helsingin Sanomat (Finland's biggest newspaper) seems to be constantly of high quality - and far more useful than the discussion on the Helsingin Sanomat discussion boards. Maybe it's because the trolls haven't found blogs yet. Maybe it's because the trolls get filtered. Or maybe it's because long, thoughtful posts elicit long, thoughtful answers. Or maybe bloggers are smarter?[1] Or maybe blogs are just a superior conversation systems ;-)

[#1] If this was a role-playing game, I would shout "I disbelieve".
Wednesday, 16-Nov-05 16:33
Finnish spam attack

Well, this was a first. Somebody has been posting comments that link to Finnish spam sites...

Obligatory content: take a look at this wonderful flash drawing.

Tuesday, 15-Nov-05 22:33
Upgrades...

Upgraded this weblog to the latest version of JSPWiki. I also added comments directly on the individual entry pages; though I can't figure out why I didn't do that before.

Let me know if something broke. I know of at least one thing...

Tuesday, 15-Nov-05 22:21
The libel saga unfolds...

Jani, of the Pöyry fame, did finally receive an order to appear before court. This will be interesting to follow - and I of course hope for all the good things for him! Nothing he said was anything you couldn't read in a normal newspaper; and way, way nicer than what you normally can find in a typical USENET flame war...

Sunday, 13-Nov-05 20:53
Blogosphere as a community

A couple of weeks ago, while trodding through wind and water to a Secret Blogger Inner Circle Meeting bar, I realized that I have been (sorta) wrong. I have been arguing that the Blogosphere is not a community - but in fact, there is a community called Blogosphere. It just might be that nobody belongs to it. But it seems that you can treat it as a community, since there is always someone that reacts to things in the same way the entire Blogosphere would. It probably is not the same person each and every time, but the net effect is that it appears as if the Blogosphere does something or has an opinion.

It works the same way on Slashdot, where one can predict certain comments like clockwork.

A cheekier analogy would be to to equal blogs with genes (he said, hearing the horde of doctors and scientists baring their fangs and preparing to shred this analogy to pieces): A gene has no intelligence, has no concerns, no aims, but yet innumerable counts of them are able to produce something that is coherent and intelligent, in a process that is called evolution. In the same way an unintelligent collection of blogs produce something that can be treated as an entity, no matter whether anyone agrees to be a part of it, or even agrees to what it has to say.

Blogs are individualistic, beautiful voices of the world. The blogosphere is a statistical, chaotic monster of the internet.

From beauty to beast.

Ain't that grand?

Wednesday, 09-Nov-05 22:11
Series 60 blogs launched

Yup, the corporate blogs are also now happening in Finland (well, technically anyway). Take a look at Nokia's official Series 60 blogs, launched today. There are three of them at the moment - and if they turn out useful, there will probably be more. I have to plug Tommi's S60 applications - because otherwise he might reach over the cubicle wall and throw things at me.

Welcome to the Blogosphere - the community that's not a community, but still kinda is. There's all the room you want for ya :)

(And whoever thought of using BLINK in the blog - it's not a good idea. It is, in fact, a very, very bad idea. I shall hit you with a wet trout if we ever meet.)

Tuesday, 08-Nov-05 19:08
Dallas, TX

I'm now in the heartland of Bushislavia. Lots of flags around, not so many bumper stickers as I feared. Steaks are juicy and big, and the TV is filled with news of terror here and killings there. Beautiful news anchors look serious and tell stories of horror and fear in urgent, but controlled voices. The only non-US news I've so far have been about the riots in France, and how they've spread to other countries as well; and also some 15 terrorists hatching an evil plot in Australia.

It is contagious. Someone knocked on my hotel room door yesterday evening and said there's a pizza delivery for my room.

I didn't open the door.

Friday, 04-Nov-05 15:57
Digging through the scrap heap

Here's a bunch of interesting links and some other things I've been meaning to write deep and meaningful posts about, but can't be bothered right now.

  • "A new group calling itself Mothers Opposed to Blogging (MOB) has called on the United States Government to impose an immediate ban on blogs and blogging due to the damage it is causing to American teens, including a massive rise in literacy, communication skills, and understanding that the world doesn’t stop at the Canadian and Mexican borders."
  • A book plot patent has been published in USA. So, you not only have to worry about plagiarism, your great idea for your new book might be patented, too! Whatever you do, don't write a story about "an ambitious high school senior, consumed by anticipation of college admission, who prays one night to remain unconscious until receiving his MIT admissions letter." (Any book writers want to comment on this?)
  • MPAA wants to plug the analog hole: "The bill would essentially require all analog devices, such as televisions, to either re-encode a signal into a digital form, complete with rights restrictions, or to encode the rights restrictions into the analog stream itself. Manufacturers would also be forbidden to develop a product that would remove those restrictions. Exectives at Veil Interactive, the developer of the VRAM technology at the heart of the legislation, described the technology as one that would not be noticeable by consumers." The idea, of course, being that if you happen to make a phone call in a place which has copyrighted music playing in the background, the phone would not work (because the recipient of the call is not authorized to hear the music). Knowing the track record of "copy protections that the consumer does not notice", it sounds like a very stupid idea to try.
  • Paul Graham talks about what businesses can learn about open source. It's one of the most insightful talks I've heard in a while, and you probably should listen to it, if you are following this blog because you think about the same things as I do, but not if you just want to hear what color my hair is today or how much I love Outi. There's also a text version.
  • Oh yeah, and the Matti Nykänen movie trailer.
Thursday, 03-Nov-05 12:37
Check your firewall settings

I don't know what changed, but my iTunes now finds - depending on the time of the day - five to eight other iTunes in my network neighbourhood. I can see music from a bunch of complete strangers, listen to it - and interestingly, I can also see folders like "XXX's ~LimeWire Tunes": a clear indication (though no proof) that someone is downloading music illegally. I'm currently listening someone's Tori Amos MP3s, and they probably have no clue whatsoever that I am doing it.

Apple's Bonjour technology is quite efficient: I can see a bunch of network shares, iTunes Shared Music folders and Airport access points. There's nobody in iChat though; or I would've asked where they are. I just hope every single one of them is well-protected. It's not fun if someone reconfigures your access point. A bug in the Bonjour stack might also cause quite some mighty havoc...

So folks, please check your firewall settings - prevent packets from the outside. Or at least turn on your personal computer firewall - with OSX it's in the Sharing preference pane. Remember, that unless you have a firewall between you and your ISP, every single other person in your entire area can see all the services you are running in your computer. Maybe even the entire world. And they don't need to be hackers - they need to just start iTunes or Airport Admin Utility.

Wednesday, 02-Nov-05 19:17
Podcast gets BAFTA nomination

Ewan Spence, the all-around cool guy and a fabulous podcaster says that his Edinburgh Fringe Podcast has been nominated for the Scottish BAFTA awards in the Best Interactive Media Award category! Congratulations, man. You so deserve it.

You can still listen to the episodes; highly recommended, if you're interested in the quirky, strange and fun places of this Earth.

Wednesday, 02-Nov-05 14:25
Open Browsing and Context for everyone

I don't usually comment on company launches (because it is wise), but I have to say that opensource.nokia.com certainly tingles my nerve-of-goodness. Way to go, guys :-)

In other news, the new Web Browser for S60 supports cool things like thumbnail views of the pages, AJAX and DHTML for Web 2.0 hype compliancy, and built-in RSS support for following blogs and news. The best part though: it's got a plugin API, so people can develop new browser plugins for S60, too. It's cool enough to make a geek drool.

However, while this is very nice, someone might mistake to think that this means that there no longer is a need to create mobile-specific versions of the web. In fact, it becomes more important than ever: while 3G and high-end smartphones will have a browsing experience similar to the laptop, the most phones sold in the world are simple devices with GPRS (roughly the equivalent of a 56k modem) and tiny displays with a very simple browser. Most people in most countries cannot afford high-end phones (or maybe they cannot: getting a high-end Nokia in the US is an ordeal). In fact, according to this BusinessWeek article, sales of sub-$50 handsets might increase by 100% annually for the next five years. For many, the mobile phone will be the first touch of the internet.

Browsing is also a very engaging experience. It's a foreground task, which tends to consume most of your attention. (And my feeling is that since you don't need that much brain power to browse, the brain tends to turn itself into mush whenever you surf the web.) The apperance of the Web on the mobile will result in more people walking absent-mindedly on the streets, looking at their phones, bumping into other people, and getting hit by cars. Of course, SMS is already causing serious amounts of this "vicinity detachment", but SMSs tend to be short, whereas a browsing session may take hours.

The way that people work with their phones is different from the way they work with their computers. A good browser will make it easier for the developers to make mobile stuff, but you still need to think of the person that is using the software. Previously, your user had needs or wants, but you could always safely assume that he was sitting somewhere, with time to spare, two hands free, big keyboard and a screen. Now, your user could be someone who is running through the aisles of a Walmart, with two kids trying to see who can topple more bean cans, one toddler screaming "HUNGRY" in the cart, trying to steer with one hand, and fiercely tapping a small keypad with another.

The physical context of use becomes more important than before. A lot of the research on the context-sensitive applications so far has been about trying to figure out user's mental context: i.e. what does he really want. But that's very, very hard, and prone to many misinterpretations (Think of how well men in general are able to figure out what women really want. Trying to teach that to a computer is like trying to teach a hedgehog the difference between waltz and tango.) But the physical context is a lot easier to adapt to - you can rely on the user to recognize his own mental context, and figure out which app he wants to use.

When sitting in front of a computer, most of us enter a virtual world. But when dealing with a cell phone, we are dealing with the real world. There's a difference.

Tuesday, 01-Nov-05 11:41
Here's your second generation copy protection

Sony BMG seems to be adding rootkits to their CDs. Rootkits are nasty little programs that hackers use to break into your computer and turn it into a mindless zombie, ready to do whatever the hacker wants. They are very similar to worms and viruses, except that they don't spread autonomically. In this case, it seems that Sony breaks into your computer to make sure you don't make any illegal copies.

Of course, hacking is illegal. Except that with the new Finnish copyright legislation, it suddenly becomes fine (because apparently, there was a tiny piece of text in a license agreement that said they might install some small bit of software). So, if you buy a CD from Sony, they have the right to do whatever they want with your computer. And you can't do anything about it, because it's illegal to remove copy protection. Sony offers no uninstaller, so the program is with you forever (unless you reinstall Windows).

These are exactly the kind of situations the protesters warned about during the discussion on the new copyright legislation.

(Via everywhere.)

Update: Wouldn't F-Secure break the Finnish Copyright law by publishing a detailed analysis of how the DRM system works after January? Probably, though it is unlikely that anyone will sue them because of it. This just demonstrates again how the copyright law influences areas that it is not really supposed to.

Update2: Oops, the new law comes into effect in January. I changed the above sentence to be conditional. Thanks to the anon commenter. Sometimes you just blog faster than you think :)


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