Sony Saga Continues

Oh what fun! The recording industry complains about the consumers doing illegal activity but the Sony story just gets bigger.

Not only does Sony put code on you computer to limit you use of recordings that you purchased for your own personal use, but it opens wide doors for malware. And these installed files from Sony are invisible to the user so they are very hard to find. Of course this has already been exploited. And it is hard to remove. To top that, the Sony provided “fix” makes even bigger security holes from what I hear.

BTW, “Any consumer who fails to keep up-to-date with the hidden software is in breach of the [end user license] agreement.”

To top it off, some of the code used in this software seems to be suspiciously like the LGPL licensed code for LAME. It looks like some one may be in violation of copyright and licensing?

“The issue that has been lurking for a long time is how invasive can content companies be as to monitoring your computer,” said Jason Schultz, a staff attorney for the EFF. “I think that Sony has gone too far here and violated the personal property rights of computer users.”

Some of the MANY references:

My suggestion, just don’t buy Sony for a while.

Microsoft Office 2003 Cost!

Owch! My behind and back are now aching as I pick myself off the floor after falling out of my chair in shock.

Customers must pay $399 for Office 2003 Standard Edition, which excludes many of the choicer collaboration features such as InfoPath, featured in Office Professional for $499. The Register, Microsoft: no Office party

Ok, maybe not that much but for a retail package of Office 2003 Standard Edition I found at $345 at my favorite low-cost retailer. If you are just upgrading, it is $213!

Why would you want to buy Word processor, spreadsheet, email and calendar, and presentation programs especially at that cost.

These are available for free. In fact here is an office suite that is cross-platform, uses open standards for files, is MS compatible, and to top it off, has a database in it too (that cost $100 more from MS). Give it a go: OpenOffice Oh, I forgot, you can use the same program in Windows, Mac, Linux and other OS, sharing config files to make it ‘look’ and feel the same on all platforms. Then there are the plugins that add even further capabilities – FOR FREE!

Ok, so the above does not have email, calendar, tasks etc. Another tool with added benefit of assiting in avoiding viruses many of which are enhanced by Outlook’s “integrations” to the OS, is a product from Mozilla and the Mozilla Foundation.

Thunderbird is a compact but powerful email client with features available like crazy (including and impressive encryption tool that uses GnuPG to permit only the intended recipient to read the email!). Others nifty tools can be found in the Extensions area. Again, this is an application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other OSes.

What about Internet Explorer(IE)? We can deal with that too! Mozilla has a superb alternative, though in more recent releases of Windows you can not fully get rid of IE.

Firefox is the solution! Again, this tool can assist you in avoiding the trash that internet browsing can bring. There are filters and popup blockers that are fully integrated into this browser. Also, a major release (1.5) is on the horizon that adds more power and still a fraction of the size of IE. Again, there are tons of extentions for Firefox including, weather, audio player contol, RSS, etc. And, if you can program a little, they are giving away cool computers in exchange for new extension for Firefox 1.5 – Firefox Contest. And Again (I feel like a stuck record – what is that?), this is an application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and other OSes.

Still sore from the fall. But hopefully you learned something new from it like I did: “Never check news about Microsoft while sitting on an office chair that swivels and rolls”.

Printer Info on Printouts

Interesting idea though I am not sure what I think of it yet in light of privacy. It seems that with inkjet, laserjet printers and probably others, digital codes may be printed on every sheet of paper that is printed. Information such as time, date and serial number in the form of colors printed on the paper.

More information here.

Government Mind Control

The researchers speculate that the government is behind the rumour that tinfoil hats protect people from invasive radio signals in order to encourage their use and therefore to enhance the effectiveness of their radio control program.

More Details Here

Actual Paper with PicturesHere

Sony Sued!

It is time for a revolution in the way digital media is handled! From what I have observed, the music and motion picture industry is ticked that the consumer can copy media without any loss unlike magnetic tape and phonograph.

These items are copyrighted and it is illegal to copy them outside the fair use stipulations in copyright law. Media industry is infringing on these fair use rights by pushing laws making aspects of the process of copying illegal or having user agreement with the media that further binds the user. Having a copy of a song may not be illegal under the fair use in copyright, but how you made that copy may be illegal because of other laws and breaking the “user agreement”.

In reality, I think that it will “hurt” this industry since I will be even more careful what music I buy. I will definitely try to avoid Sony since my PC is my media player these days (see Sony Sued)

“…under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), no one may create or distribute hardware or software that circumvents a copy-protection scheme. Thus besides suing someone for copyright infringement, encryptors of copy-protected content can sue someone for merely decrypting it.” – IEEE Spectrum, “Getting Copyright Right”, Feb 2002, Page 49

Under the original copyright laws as they were intended, there is no problem that I copied the above quote and because of the fair use of copyright. However, if the above was in a PDF using an encryption algorithm, I could get sued, not because I copied the two sentence but because I was able to get around the encryption and do the copying, illegal under DMCA. Because it is digital media.

I want to see good artists that are in to entertainment because they are artist and not because they want to be multimillionaires (thought this is a great side benefit) , leave the formal industry group and market and sell on their own or separate from these media “unions” such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Create a consortium of like-minded artists to oversee a new marketing, production and distribution method. Imagine what an artist could make on a $15 CD that goes platinum when production and distribution only cost less than $2 per CD? Could mainstream popular artist CDs sell for $5 each? Wow.

As for copyright enforcement, I believe laws like the DMCA infringes on the rights of the consumer given by “fair use” in copyright. It also inhibits further creativity of the artist to develop new material to support themselves and their cause. Hey, if it is impossible for one to copy your stuff without first handing out $1+ per copy or thousands in a law suit why be creative anymore, the dough should continue to roll in forever. This also goes for the extraordinarily long time works can be copyrighted – another thing that was not intended by original copyright laws. Have you noticed how few artists anymore are really good for an extended amount of time?

There is a ton more on this topic that I can ramble about but I will stop with this: It is not worth my effort to buy media any more. Just listen to the radio or better yet, webcasts for free.

P.S. If you are interested in developing an alternative to media distribution without the likes of the big companies like Sony and associated “associations” like the RIAA, I would be interested in hearing about it.

What is this picture – added 3rd hint

guess in the sandSaw this cool picture along with a bunch of other cool ones. Gather the family around and see if you can guess what it is and post a comment with what you think it is.

Here are hints (more to come):

  • It is on the ground, in the sand, probably on the dirt track of a road.
  • It is on an African road.
  • It belongs to a large mammal

In a few days I will post where this came from.

Software Tools Rippoffs? (focus: PDF converter)

Had an interesting discussion last night about software tools and then this morning I checked into an “opportunity” for passive income (I beg to differ that it was passive income because it seemed to require continual work but that is another story) using all these software tools you could purchase.

The amazing thing about it was that these tools could be found for free. For example:

Make any document into internet friendly PDF so your friend with a Mac can view it too for only $97! A savings of $150 from having to purchase Adobe Acrobat!

😀 This is good. The tools to do this are FREE! If you want a very simple tool that does what the above product says it does go to PDF995. This is a real simple PDF producer. However, for free you get ads (these may be irritating for some like me) but for $10, poof they are gone, a $87 savings over the above product!

But I am a Scrooge and can’t spend a dime but I get an even better product for it 😎 You may say that is not possible. Well, here goes:

PDFCreator
This is my preferred tool. Sorry the “home page” is not working at the moment but I took you to the project page. The current stable version is 0.8.0 and that can be downloaded following the link via the “download” in the Latest file releases section. I am using the AFPL version but the GNU version should be fine too or you can do both and when creating the PDF you can select with generator to use under Options. Probably should apply the PATCH file once the PDFCreator is installed.

Pretty simple to use though may be a little slow. Open the document that you want to convert in your document creator and then go to print but select PDFCreator instead of your normal printer. A little window pops up that you can input some document information in. If you are really into modifying, you can check out the Options. Here you can do many adjustments to the PDF but I have found the default to generally be best (though you can increase or decrease graphic resolution for your specific needs and many other tweaks).

Viola, a $97 savings over the initial product! And probably many more options and better support though I am not going to spend $97 to find out!

Please comment with comments and questions!

Allan's Intellectual Transfer