27 October 2010

Pope Pirate the First

He's possibly not the first person you'd expect to be speaking out against the current scope and trends in intellectual monopolies, but the pope has done just that:
on the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property

20 October 2010

Really, Mr Jobs?

Steve Jobs, as reported by the BBC:
The customers, he said, just wanted something that worked and he was confident that this approach would triumph over the "mess" that was Android's multiple variants and different app stores.

The idea that somebody would buy an Apple product because it's a good option for somebody who just wants something that works, is, in my experience, laughable.  Let me give you a little comparison, Steve.  Here was my experience with my Android phone:
  • I received the phone in the post.
  • I took it out of the box.
  • I charged it.
  • I switched it on.
  • It "just worked".  It "just worked" incredibly well.  I moved my contacts over by bluetooth.  I connected it to my laptop as a standard drive and dragged and dropped my music and other files to it.
By comparison, here is the experience that somebody in the same position as me had with an iPhone:
  • Receive the phone in the post.
  • Take it out of the box.
  • Charge it.
  • Switch it on.
  • Find out that it refuses to work until it is connected to iTunes.
  • Borrow a friend's PC, because there is no way to get the phone operational with your Ubuntu Linux laptop.
  • Get phone working.
  • Phone crashes.
  • Go round to friend's house again.
  • Get phone working again.
Now, the iPhone set-up may have changed in the latest version.  It might now be possible to get it working without the use of a separate piece of equipment.  I don't know because I had no desire to risk it when I got my latest phone.  I wanted a phone that "just worked" and in my experience, an Android phone fits the bill far better than an iPhone.

18 October 2010

Free markets according to Monbiot

George Monbiot has an annoying habit of highlighting interesting facts, then completely misinterpreting them.  The latest example is his piece on the bonfire of the quangos.  In commenting on the failure to abolish, amongst others, the Commonwealth Development Corporation, Export Credit Guarantee Department and Sea Fish Industry Authority, he, quite reasonably in my opinion, says:
Can you see the pattern yet? Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed
It is, of course, an example of what states, of all shades, will almost always do - provide privileges for their cronies and sponsors.  Unfortunately, Monbiot doesn't quite see it that way:
The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein shows how disaster capitalism was conceived by the extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago. These people believed that the public sphere should be eliminated, that business should be free to do as it wants, and almost all tax and social spending should be stopped. They believed that total personal freedom in a completely free market produces a perfect economy and perfect relationships
Put the two comments together and you can see that they are contradictory cack.  If this government were really an example of people working to eliminate the public sphere, they wouldn't have left the pile of qangos that Monbiot highlighted, they would have got rid of those too; otherwise, it isn't an example of eliminating the power of the state, but redirecting it to serve a different set of rent-seekers.  Similarly, siphoning off large wedges of taxpayers' cash to favoured groups isn't an obvious example of a desire to eliminate almost all tax.

The most ridiculous element is the use of the term "free market" in the context of a situation which is anything but.  A free market would be characterised by wealth transfers occurring purely by consent of all parties, yet in Monbiot world, the state taking substantial tax revenues from the general public and then dishing them out to a handful of corporates is somehow interpreted as being an example of the free market in full flow.

It's pure doublethink and it's embarrassing.

06 October 2010

The Evil Pointlessness of RIPA

As reported in the BBC, a 19 year old man has been sentenced to 16 weeks in prison for refusing to decrypt files on his computer.

From any legitimate perspective, it is a pointless approach. If somebody refuses to decrypt files because the material is perfectly legitimate but highly personal, such a sentence is an immoral attack on somebody attempting to defend their privacy. If somebody refuses to decrypt files because the material is evidence of serious criminal activity, the sentence serves no real purpose, as it's still preferable to disclosing the material and receiving a much higher sentence.

The obvious, but deeply unpalatable solution to the second possibility, which has already been proposed, is to increase the sentence to at least the level of the offence that may be associated with the encrypted material, but that would make the injustice of the first possibility even worse.

The only real purpose I can see for this law is to enable the state to outlaw privacy as and when it sees fit.