Friday, July 31, 2009

There Ain't No Justice!

Only two file sharing cases have ever gone to trial. In the first case, the jury awarded US$222,000 in damages for 24 songs, but a mistrial was declared. At the retrial, the jury awarded US$1.92 million(!) for the 24 songs. In the second case, which just concluded today, the damages was pegged at US$675,000 for 30 songs.

So, let's get this straight. A billion company sues an ordinary individual for completely non-commercial copyright infringement. Why do the courts allow such trivial cases to proceed at all? That's not justice. No one is looking out for the little guy at all.

In each case the defendant eventually admitted sharing files online. I say, so what? Sharing is a natural human right, just like freedom of speech. Copyright is a granted privilege. A natural right should trump a granted right, should it not?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

DRM Reality Distortion

When I read this article, I was alternately laughing and screaming. I was laughing at some of the ridiculous comparisons of software (music or video in this case) to a physical product. I was screaming because of the insane statement that it is OK to take someone money and then later break the purchased product.

DRM on downloaded music has all but disappeared because that's what the consumer demanded. However, DRM is far from dead. And as long as enough people are willing tolerate DRM encumbered media, it will never die. At some point in the future, however, they will regret it. That is guaranteed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BitTorrent Defends Itself

During the recent CRTC net neutrality hearings, BitTorrent was mentioned many times, usually in a less than favourable light, by the ISPs who wish to confuse net neutrality with network management. The thing is, BitTorrent is actually a trademark owned by BitTorrent, Inc, a company started by Bram Cohen, the creator of the protocol. Although some might say that BitTorrent, Inc, is getting too cozy with the content producers, it also demonstrates that the protocol can be used for legitimate distribution.

I suppose BitTorrent, Inc felt the need to defend its name because they filed a late submission to the CRTC, that pokes holes in many of the points raised by the ISPs. Micheal Geist's summary is here. BitTorrent, Inc's client gathers a lot statistics about transfers that allows the company to understand the affect of the protocol on the network. The problem is that the CRTC will likely pay more attention to their cronies from Bell, Rogers, etc., rather than look at real technical facts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WWI Veterans Update

The already short list of WWI veterans just got even shorter. Just a few days after I wrote about this topic, the last British veteran of WWI, Harry Patch, passed away. Henry Babcock, the last Canadian veteran, is now also the oldest.

Although the Canadian Parliment has approved a state funeral for the last Canadian WWI veteran, in 2007 the remaining veterans rejected the idea on the basis that we should honour all of the soldiers, not only the last one. I think they are right as a state funeral would soon be forgotten. But what would be the best way to honour all of the 619,636 Canadians who served in the First World War? Another war memorial does not seem like it is enough.

Monday, July 27, 2009

F1 Hungary

Massa's crash in the second qualifying session was bizarre. A piece from the rear suspension of Barrichello's car broke loose and hit Massa in the head. The strange part is they were not very close to each other at the time! It is just incredible that the debris could tumbled down the track for such a long way and then actually hit Massa on the head, almost the smallest target possible. Thankfully, with Massa likely already unconscious, the car crashed straight into a tire wall and not something more solid, which could have had a far more tragic result.

The timing system went down near the end of Q3 so it was all confusion in parc ferme as the driver's had to compare lap times to figure out their positions. I was surprised that Alonso got pole position but the fuel loads revealed that it was due to an aggressive low fuel strategy. The other surprise was that Brawn GP was seriously off the pace at a track that was supposed to favour their cars. This is not a good sign.

The race was not really that exciting. Maclaren emphatically showed how much they have improved with Hamilton dominating the race from start to end to get his first podium finish of the season. Ferrari's improvements allowed Räikkönen to net a second place finish. Webber finished third and Button managed seventh place, so Redbull crept a little closer in the championship, but not by much.

Although Brawn GP and Redbull are the only real championship contenders, with many more teams squabbling for points, the opportunities for scoring maximum points is now greatly diminished. Neither Redbull nor Brawn GP can afford any missteps now, as evidenced by Brawn GP's sudden reversal of the how the car treats the tires. Luckily for them, Redbull didn't do much better in this race, but it could easily have been much different. Both teams will be under much more pressure now to squeeze as many points from every race.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Too Much Fun

I definitely ate too much yesterday and I am suffering for it today. I may be getting too old for this kind of over indulgence. Anyway, I had fun so now it's time to pay the piper. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Family Gathering

I'm looking forward to the annual family BBQ today although the weather forecast doesn't look too good. I always have a great time at family gatherings. A get together with my family is very earthy and has an eat, drink, and be merry, atmosphere, so it is very relaxing. It has always been this way in my family. When we still lived in Cape Town, my parents hosted many gatherings and they had the very same atmosphere.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shikebane Hime: Kuro

Shikebane Hime: Kuro is the sequel to Shikebane Hime: Aka which I talked about a while ago. I enjoyed Kuro a little more than Aka because the sequel explains much more about Ouri's history, the Kougon Sect, and the origin of the Shikebane Hime. There is actually a reason why the Shikabane Hime are all teenage girls. The Kougon Sect is not without its dark secrets either.

The nature of the connection between a Contracted Priest and the Shikabane Hime was a big surprise. The fact that no one, including the bad guys, understood the how the connection actually worked, is the only thing that saved the day in the end. It was also ironic that for centuries everything the Kougon had assumed about their power, was utterly wrong.

Although Kagami Ouri has received some training since he became Hoshimura Makina's Contracted Priest at the end of the first series, he is nowhere near ready to face the Shichisei. Makina also has a problem because she hasn't severed her connection to Tagami Keisei, her original Contract Priest. But Ouri and Makina find a way to make it work to their advantage, and ultimately are the only pair who can take on Hokuto, the nastiest Shikabane you never, ever want to meet.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

WWI Veterans

Very few World War I veterans are still alive. John Babcock is Canada's last one and he turned 109 today. The oldest veteran died just a few days ago in the UK. The complete list can be found here and as you can see, it is very short. They are last living witnesses to the horrors of WWI. Think about that for a moment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I had quick look at Launchpad today and just as quickly abandoned any plans to try it. You need a virtual environment to try this beast because the install modifies the Apache configuration, and expects a virgin PostgreSQL, otherwise the existing databases will be blown away.

Launchpad is seriously heavy duty and has some equally heavy duty dependencies (Zope) so Launchpad is not going to be a trivial web application to get running. It will be interesting to see who gets the first publicly accessible Launchpad running outside of Canonical.

Launchpad has some great features (like tracking bugs across projects) but it is too heavy weight for my tastes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The presenter at PyGTA this month was Robert Jackiewicz who gave an introduction to buildout, a tool for developing and deploying Python applications. Any complex Python application with have many dependencies which many include both Python and non-Python modules. Buildout uses a recipe system to describe which modules are required and how they are to be built. It is like "make" but designed specifically for Python.

I thought of using buildout to replace a program I wrote that creates and deletes project management environments, but buildout lacks an uninstall which would be required for the delete function. Other than that, buildout is a useful tool and I'm sure I will need for it sometime in the future.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Copyright Consultations

The Copyright Consultation roadshow started today in Vancouver. While this better than Bill C-61 which had no consultation whatsoever, the copyright stake holders are definitely going be pressing the government for much more what C-61 proposed. The cynics among us (waves hand ;)) are expecting the consultations to be a sham but I suppose there is a chance the government might actually listen to everyone and make a balanced law.

Yeah right, who am I kidding? We are so screwed!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Economic Report

The get together with my friends yesterday was a kind of report on the state of the economy. Paul has been out of work for two weeks since Cinebyte, a small digital processing company, went out of business. Alan was laid off at Revlon but then got rehired on a short term contract because there are too many projects with no staff to complete it all. All of Barry's staff at Lavalife are gone so he is expecting the axe in the next few months.

Looks like typical recession blood letting to me. It's just a little closer home than usual.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

BBQ Season

Summer BBQ season is here! Today I am going to an infrequent get together with my long time college friends. Try as we might everyone is just too busy to do this more often. It is amazing that we are having it in the summer at all because everyone's schedule quickly fills up with family commitments and vacation time.

Next weekend is my family's annual BBQ. So it is two busy weekends in a row for me. Phew, I feel exhausted just thinking about it. Just kidding, it'll be fun!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Eden Of The East 11 - End

Eden of the East is a thought provoking anime series which I mentioned before. I thoroughly enjoyed the series but with only 11 episodes I expected that there would be a few unanswered questions. There is already a movie planned but I hope that a second season is being considered as well.

While watching the series, I learned a new term "Not in Employment, Education or Training" (NEET). Many people in Japan see NEETs as a big problem for the future of the country and this is central to the story. A mysterious business man (Mr. Outside) selects 12 NEETs, gives each a special phone charged with ¥10 billion, and puts them in a game with the goal of saving Japan. But what exactly are they supposed to save Japan from? The vague objective allows the players to liberally define what the threat might be and leads to seriously rash moves like "Careless Monday."

The story reveals itself through Takizawa Akira as he rediscovers his lost memories. Even as he finds evidence that he may have done some nasty things in the game, he continues to dig deeper until he gets to the truth. You can't help but admire the character for that. Thankfully, Akira's memory loss is answered completely. Leaving that dangling would have been too much to take. The other characters didn't impress me that much but that might be because the story focused so much on Akira, which didn't leave any time to develop the other characters.

Juiz is a female voice that answers the players on the phone. But exactly who or what is Juiz? There is some evidence that Juiz is an AI but it is not conclusive. If true it adds a surprising sci-fi element since the story only takes place in early 2011 which isn't that far away. However, there is a woman who appears briefly in episode 10 that sounds exactly like the voice on the phone. Was the woman just a clerk who answers the phone or was she something more?

Despite all the unresolved mysteries, Eden of the East is still an excellent series and well worth watching. I hope that the movie fills is the missing pieces of the puzzle.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11 Video

While I was watching the restored Apollo 11 videos, I was trying to remember the first time I saw them. That may sound unusual but you must remember that in 1969, television in South Africa was still seven years away. The news paper was the only source of information on the landings and the news was at least a day old. I was only 7 years old but I nevertheless tried to read every article that was printed. What is peculiar, is that I can remember reading about the landings, but I have absolutely no recollection of the first time I saw the video of the landings.

Human memory is indeed strange.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Snakes In A Pub

I attended the PyCamp and Software Carpentry social tonight. I arrived late (which just continued the running gag I have at the regular PyGTA meetings) so I missed dinner, but the discussions that followed made it worthwhile. While there was some technical talk of course, the conversation was amazingly varied and informative. All-in-all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Active Directory

Microsoft Active Directory (AD) is the one system that everyone dreams of replacing with an open source solution. William Muriithi gave an interesting talk about how he tried to use BIND, a Kerberos server, OpenLDAP, and Samba 3 to replace an Active Directory server. Unfortunately, even if you get all of that working, you still can't eliminate the AD server completely. AD has several peculiarities and extensions that are missing in the open source solution which make it unworkable with the Windows clients.

The best hope for replacing AD is Samba 4 but it is still only in alpha release. It looks like ditching Active Directory will remain a dream for a little while longer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

F1 Germany

A damp track made qualifying very interesting with lots of surprises. The second session was kind of funny. Everyone went out on slicks in a long procession, skated around the slippery track once, and then promptly went back in to get intermediates.

Mark Webber didn't look that great in Q1 and Q2 but he was unbeatable in Q3 when it counted. Barrichello managed to out qualifying Jenson for the second race in a row. It seems Jenson only does well when the car is going perfectly, which isn't the mark of a champion in my opinion. For only the second time this season, Vettel qualified out the top three, in fourth position. I expected him to do better at his home race on a track he knows very well. MacLaren made a huge step forward for this race and their efforts got fifth and sixth on the grid. The biggest surprise was Sutil and Force India who made it into Q3 for the first time, and even out qualified both Ferrari's! How sweet is that?

The race was equally exciting with good action everywhere down the field. Webber scored his first win but it certainly was not easy. Before the first corner he had contact with both Barrichello and Hamilton, who had used his magical KERS button to storm to the front. Barrichello took the lead in first corner but Webber would be running longer so it really wasn't so bad. But then Webber received an undeserved drive through penalty for the contact with Barrichello. The penalty should have ended Webber's chance for a win, but the team saved it by having him serve the penalty when Barrichello pitted. After that, Webber drove like a demon to make up the lost time, and earned a well deserved first win.

It was bizarre watching Button weaving down the straights to keep the tire temperatures up. I can understand Barichello's frustration, but with the Brawn GP Achilles heel in full effect, blaming the race strategy doesn't make any sense. Brawn GP have lost a lot of ground and I still have doubts they have the budget to keep up with the rest of field.

I wonder if Hamilton regrets using so much KERS power at the start. He was barely able to slow it down for turn one but his sudden appearance must have surprised Webber quite a lot. The resulting contact with Webber gave Hamilton a puncture which ended any chance for a good result and all that work from the team went down the drain.

Sutil is on the other end the heart break scale. He was having a great race with an excellent chance to score some points when Räikkönen basically drove over Sutil's front wing. Sutil was on the racing line after exiting the pits and really had no where to go. Will Räikkönen apologize like he did after Monaco 2008? Well, it looks like that won't necessary.

So an exciting F1 season continues. Unfortunately, so does the politics. Will this nonsense never end?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Calorie Control

I always snack while working but I really need to watch my calorie intake. I went the whole weekend without my usual snacks (chips, etc) but I found that I actually missed the snacks. From that I can conclude that my best option is to not have any junk food around at all, so I'm not tempted. That's really kind of sad when you think about it. Forced abstinence is not a good substitute for will power.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dakar Rally 2009 End

I watched most of the Dakar rally except for the final day in Buenos Aires which was missing from the batch torrent. I know the final day isn't competitive but it was still mildly disappointing not seeing it.

The most notable thing about moving the rally to South America was the number of enthusiastic spectators. They seemed to be everywhere, even in places that looked like it was the middle of nowhere! I could theorize about why the Africans didn't pay much attention to the rally but that's a subject for another post.

The rally had some seriously difficult stages. The first week was supposed to be easier, but stage two was one of the worst. The Atacama was truly amazing. The enormous size of the dunes and the "sharp" crests, created problems for struggling. The fact that several stages were shortened and one was cancelled completely tells the tale of difficult the conditions were.

It was scary how Carlos Sainz when out. The road book didn't seem to indicate that there was a 6 meter drop into the gully they were suppose to cross, so he basically drove off a small cliff! While they getting medical attention in the gully, another car almost went off the same cliff. If it had not stopped in time, it would have landed on Sainz car. I don't even want to think about how bad that could have been.

I'm looking forward to next year's race. The route is here and it looks like they will making two passes through the Atacama. That's just nuts!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Too Many Irons

The phrase "too many irons in the fire" is based on a simple fact: if a blacksmith tries to heat too much material at once, the result will be of inferior quality because the metal is not being worked at the correct temperature. Even though I know better, I still fall into the trap of trying to do too much. I really need to re-evaluate the priorities of the stuff I'm working on, otherwise the results will definitely be inferior.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Blogger Spell Checker

For the past few days, the Blogger spell checker has been wonky. Some words that are spelled correctly are shown as being misspelled. The list of possible replacements always includes the word that is supposedly incorrect. If you replace the word with same one, exit and re-check spelling, the word is still shown as invalid! If you replace the word with a with different one, it works.

All this nonsense finally forced me to figure out why Iceweasel (unbranded Firefox on Debian) doesn't spell check in text entry fields. Turns out all I needed to do was install a dictionary package! The Iceweasel package only recommends the dictionary packages and since I don't automatically install recommended packages, I was supposed to select a dictionary manually. Oops.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CRTC Credibility

At the CRTC net neutrality hearings today, a discussion between member of the Commission members and the group from MTS Allstream, gave everyone the distinct impression that the Commission does not understand the relationship between wholesale ISP's and the ILEC's. My opinion of the CRTC just sank even lower which I honestly didn't believe was even possible. No wonder Canada's telecommunications ranking has fallen so low. Here is Micheal Geist's summary of today's proceedings. It's worth reading as there are a few gems in there.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kick Me

I need to start planning the upgrade to Debian Lenny on the servers that I administer so I really need to be reading the Lenny release notes. This is not terribly exciting work so over the last two days I found way too many interesting distractions to avoid doing real work. I need a good swift kick in the behind, is what I need, but preferably by someone who isn't going to enjoy it too much. ;)

Monday, July 6, 2009

CRTC Net Neutrality Hearings

The CRTC hearings on net neutrality started today. I'm too cynical about the neutrality of the CRTC itself to believe that the hearings are anything more than a sham, but I guess anything is possible. Unfortunately the questions on first day didn't improve my opinion in the least. Follow the hearings on twitter or just wait for the daily summaries on Micheal Geist's blog.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kemono no Souja Erin 18

A lot has happened in Kemono no Souja Erin since I last mentioned this series. The final act of Erin's mother was to control a Touda and command it to carry Erin away to safety. The Touda carried Erin very far because when she is found by a bee keeper named Jone, it is on the other side of the country and Erin is just drifting on a log.

With Jone's help Erin is able deal with her grief and before long she is helping him with bee keeping. As a former teacher Jone recognises Erin's potential and he reluctantly decides to train her. The reason for his reluctance is only revealed much later. An encounter with a Beastlord, a powerful animal with great importance to the earliest history of the country, prepares Erin for the next change in her life. Erin is intrigued by the Beastlord because it has the ability to control Touda in exactly the same way that her mother did.

Four years pass and Erin, now fourteen, is happily working with Jone as a bee keeper but she has also become like a daughter to him. However Jone's past catches up with him and he must return to the city. But Jone knows that Erin, with her passion for nature, would not be happy in a city, so he offers her an opportunity to study at the beastarian academy where they also look after the retired Beastlords. Given her fascination with the creature, Erin naturally jumps at the chance to get close to them. Erin takes the entrance exam and her answers completely stun the head teacher, Esal, who is an old friend of Jone. Erin is about to start a new chapter of her life.

I'm truly enjoying this series. Everything about the story is so richly detailed, from the characters to the historical background, that it feels like I'm reading a novel instead of watching a TV series. This is story telling at its best.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

True Mazinger #9

The first episode of True Mazinger made no sense what so ever, but it was appealing nonetheless. I'm a sucker for mecha anime and this one is based on a manga published in the 1970's, which was the grand daddy of all mecha stories. In keeping with that heritage, the animation style is 70's retro but done with modern techniques. The retro style includes the massively over dramatic yelling of commands for weapons activation and other functions. Its all in good fun though, and underneath the story is really good.

Kabuto Kouji is given the Mazinger Z, a powerful robot designed by his grandfather Juzo, to fight off an attack by a strange enemy using mechanized beasts. Kouji is young and a hot head, and with power of the Mazinger Z under his control, he easily believes that he is invincible. Fortunately there are several interesting secondary characters who try to keep him from becoming too delusional. The first few episodes have also revealed surprising relationships between several characters which make the story all the more interesting.

The story draws heavily on Greek myths. The head of Mazinger Z is recognised by several characters as resembling the god Zeus. The story actually does explain how they would know that, by giving the myths a more sci-fi origin. Given that things are often explained after being introduced, at some point I expect the first episode will make more sense, since it now looks like a flash forward to events later in the story.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Early Morning Fun

I got up much earlier than usual today because I wanted drop off my passport renewal application at the passport office, which opens at 8am. I got into the queue around 8:20 and was out by 9:20 which isn't too bad all things considered. I was planning to be there earlier but sometimes things just don't work out.

The nearest passport office is very close to the Scarborough Town Center. I was hoping to find free parking in the mall parking lot but I couldn't find an open lot. It seems they don't want commuters filling up the parking lot before the customers arrive. Next I tried the parking lot of the government building in which the passport office is located, but the lot is very small and was already full at this early hour. After driving all the way around the mall again, I finally found the only open lot which I had missed the first time. By now it was already 8:10 and this parking lot is almost the furthest one from the government building.

No problem, I know the Scarborough Town Center mall quite well so I should be able to dash through it quickly. Except I haven't been in the mall for about 8 years, so when I walked in the door, I didn't recognise a darned thing! To top it off the mall is in the middle of a massive renovation project which just added to the confusion. So much for the quick dash! This was way too much fun to be having so early in the morning...

Well, at least I won't have to waste time picking up the passport. It seems that it is automatically mailed to you (via registered mail, of course) if you elect not to have your old passport returned with the new one.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Dakar Rally 2009

I missed the Dakar rally back in January so I'm finally getting around to watching it. Moving the rally to South America was an interesting change. There are lots more spectators, at least in first four stages, which is all I've seen so far. According to the commentator, the organizers said the first week would be easy, while the second week would be hard. Sounds ominous.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

WRC Poland

Poland was insanely fast and extremely tricky in some sections. The rally was new for everyone so good pace notes were very important. This was demonstrated in stage 4 when Loeb hit a well hidden tree stump that no one if the Citroen team had in their notes. With Loeb's bad luck continuing, Hirvonen had a great opportunity for another win and take the lead in the championship.

Hirvonen really delivered on day 2 with some impressive driving. Despite having difficult road conditions he kept pushing and managed to maintain his lead. In third place the charging Sordo touched 197 km/h in one section, just crazy, crazy fast. The three way battle for fourth between Ogier and the Solberg brothers was some of the best rallying I've seen this season. On stage 13 Petter stormed past his brother to take fifth and was just under 8 seconds behind Ogier.

Sordo's charge was halted on stage 14 because his notes used a marker that was not there in the rally, and so missed a braking point. Luckily he was able to continue. Also on stage 14 Petter Solberg developed an oil leak which halted his attack on Ogier. Ogier in turn had mechanical trouble on stage 16 which ended his rally and the fight fourth was over.

With Sordo out of the picture, Ford looked set for another one-two finish. Unbelievably, Latvala crashes in the 2km super special stage, breaks his steering, and goes out of the rally! Latvala was regaining his confidence and showing some really good pace the last few rallies, so this mistake will affect him well past this rally.

All-in-all Poland was an exciting rally, the best so far this season. Loeb had it all his way at the beginning, but now suddenly Hirvonen is the new leader of the driver's championship. Hirvonen looks re-energized and it shows in his driving. Really looking forward to the rest of season now.