The Broadcast Flag

Like the “Federal Marriage Amendment” anti-gay legislation, the “Broadcast Flag” has surfaced again in our nations capital. Like an Osama Bin Laden that refuses to be caught – these things just keep coming back and attacking us.

I am a member of the EFF and as such I mailed yet another letter to a couple of California senators asking for a NO vote. I was rewarded by yet another form letter telling me “how we have to consider new ways of protecting intellectual property”.

I get that intellectual property is very steal-able, and that the owners of said property have a right to want to protect their content. I am a software engineer – so I’m very familiar with the problem of writing something worthwhile and having someone steal it.

If I write something worth money however, my options are relatively limited – and the most likely form of remuneration for me is to stick it on the internet and ask for donations; and put some ads on the download page (while providing a torrent link). Who wouldn’t pay a $3 for a well supported torrent for a new Star Wars movie. I would – and I haven’t seen the last one yet.

What I don’t understand though is why it is government’s job to protect this intellectual property. If you don’t want people to capture your video from pay-per-view and copy it – then don’t broadcast it on pay-per-view, and don’t sent it out over the cable network. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

John Peel Day

Today is John Peel day. Today, we will celebrate one of the greatest influences over modern music.

Many of you may not know who John Peel is; but you may recognize some of the talent that he helped to spread to the world. Artists like David Bowie, Joy Division, Pulp, Billy Bragg, Orbital, T-Rex, Pink Floyd, the Sex Pistols and countless more all received radio airtime from John Peel and got a huge boost because of it. Without John, we may not have ever been exposed to this music. He was constantly looking for new music, and playing it over the national (in the UK) airwaves.

Personally, I only occasionally ran into John’s show on Radio 1 when I lived in the UK, and it was not until I heard on the radio here in SF that he had passed away that I put the name to that voice. I wish I could go back and listen to all his shows again, perhaps some of the millions I missed.

I hope that this void will be filled by the growing number of Music Podcasters out there, who are finding new music and bringing it to the attention of the masses.

Do something today – go see a live band, or buy an album by a band you’ve never heard of. Take delight in some obscure new artist in some dark corner of cyberspace, and spread the word. RIP John Peel.

Why won’t the music industry take my money?

It’s 2005 and I can buy music on-line at any time and download it to my computer via iTunes. This is an awesome leap forward. It’s great. I love it. And I buy more music as a result. Everybody wins.

What I don’t understand is the following: It’s perfectly legal for me to buy a CD from and have it shipped to my house in San Francisco, but I can’t buy music from the UK iTunes music store!

It turns out that I like a lot of British music, some of which doesn’t warrant being imported into the US. I understand that it’s worth selling American music to Americans and vice-versa, since the majority of the market doesn’t want to get their music from overseas. But I don’t get why I am prevented from buying joining the UK iTMS and buying stuff (you actually need a UK issued Credit Card to join the UK store, so even an American LIVING IN the UK might not be able to join unless they had British bank accounts.

Where’s Thomas Friedman’s Lexusy Olive Tree Flat Earth when it actually helps the consumer?

Nagios for New Orleans?

A lot of stories got out of New Orleans post-katrina. A lot of them talk about happiness immediately after the storm had past because people had survived, and it was all going to be okay. Nobody knew that the levees were damaged and perhaps already breached.

Now – In a city like Denver, I would accept that it would truly be a surprise that there was a flood. But in New Orleans, which is in a swamp and mostly below sea level, and also happens to be squarely in a hurricane zone (storm swells anyone?), there ought to be some monitoring – just in case something goes wrong.

I live in California. Sometimes you’ll be sitting in the office and all the blinds will start swinging and making noise because there is some small earthquake somewhere. Usually it is on the USGS website within 10 minutes. The same kind of monitoring is also utilized for volcanoes in Oregon and Washington states.

So you see – I find it shocking that a pager didn’t go off – or some sirens leap into action when a levee breaks, and water starts flooding in. And that certainly ought to be something that FEMA has visibility into.

At the same time, it’s not really surprising at all. All the time I see vital computer systems which go down because some log file fills up a disk partition, or because somebody makes some change on a networking device. It usually comes to light about a week later when someone (who is one of about 20 people who noticed it is broken and yet the only one who thought to ask about it) pipes up and asks why something is broken.

So the learning would be – make sure your stuff is monitored so you know when it breaks. Especially if there are lives at stake.