Where in the World is Jacques d’Azur?

I’m quite shocked to hear that a lot of people have never heard of d’Azur, or Jacques, as his friends called him. The well loved international man of mystery has gone missing!

Video after the break…
Continue reading “Where in the World is Jacques d’Azur?”

Full Episode of Superted on Youtube

Anyone remember this kids show from the 80’s? I used to love watching this just never felt it lasted long enough…

Apparently, to this day Superted’s secret magic word remains a mystery. This definitely needs to become a kids movie!

The Biggest Pirates of All: Stealing from the Public Domain

I was reading a topic on Slashdot the other day about the public disclosure of Google’s internal emails in its court battle with Viacom, that seem to take the shine off Google’s “Do No Evil” image.

I’m not particularly invested in this news itself, but what cause me to stop and think was this comment from user drDugan (emphasis mine):

What’s more evil?

You know what’s evil? Copyright term of “70 years + life of the author”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_term [wikipedia.org]

Almost every single thing creative that someone creates today will *never* enter the public domain within our lifetime. Nothing. The owner of the copyright must explicitly grant it to the public domain, or license it for other’s use, distribution, sharing, mashing, basically anything more than fair use… Copyright is no longer about promotion of creativity, its a legal exclusivity and an effectively permanent lock on all creative output by business interests. Add WIPO and ACTA and soon within 10 years or so, it will be a global exclusive lock, again driven by business interests.

The current copyright laws are simply a denial of any sense of balance or social good in intellectual property.

I had to read that twice… Almost every single thing creative that someone creates today will *never* enter the public domain within our lifetime.

This sentence alone pretty much explains the tragic state of affairs when it comes to the entertainment industries view towards intellectual property and piracy. In essence, to me, it pretty much morally justifies piracy for non-commercial use.

Ever heard of The Grimm Fairy Tales, Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Anderson, Jane Austin, Orson Welles, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe or HG Wells (to name just a few)? The likelihood is you have heard of these names and read their books or watched film adaptions. The reason you have heard these names, and studied their works in educational establishments is because their most famous works are all public domain.

The equal likelihood is, if big media corporations of today had existed when these artists were around and writing these works – you would never have heard of them. In fact it could be argued that English Literature as a school subject would not even exist.

Next time Disney or Pixar release a new movie based on one of these old public domain works.. remember it’s large media companies like Disney that are not only benefiting from public domain works, they are lobbying to make sure that the works they create – even these derivatives – never enter public domain.

They’re not just stealing from the past, their stealing from the future, our future and future generations. We will never be able to use the works without copyright permissions, future generations will have to keep studying works produced before the advent of the 20th Century.

This is why it’s vital that political parties, like the UK Pirate Party, exist and are supported. I’d also go as far as saying piracy itself is a vital service in changing the culture and nature of intellectual property. If it wasn’t for Napster, you’d never have iTunes or iPods – we’d still be listening to CD and Cassette players on our way to work.

Cinemoose has an excellent list of famous writers and books that are in the public domain.
Readprint is an online resource for free and public domain books.
Public Domain Works.net is an open registry with searchable database.

Not Geocaching

It’s not for lack of opportunities, life sure got busy this side of the New Year but I’ve had days where I’ve just looked out the window and decided it’s too cold, too wet, too windy.

Is it just that it’s winter, or are we being lazy? I set a GC24Z7B">new cache recently which required a lot more thought and planning than it did to actually set, hence mostly indoors work. I’ve also got one or two more I’m planning but I just seem to lack the motivation to move at the moment.

Why I’m Now Using A VPN

If you keep on top of tech news (The Register is a very good site for this), you will have noticed a growing campaign by many politicians and even some media to seize control of the internet and monitor your activity online.

This is quite unsettling for me. For one, I think that ISPs should effectively be a dumb pipe. Just like the post office, your water, gas and energy suppliers, they bring the internet to your home and charge you for it – no glamour or value added services – I just want my internet, thanks. Imagine if the postman opened all your letters before he delivered them through your door? This is effectively what the government wants ISPs to do with your packets. Furthermore it’s one big slippery slope to facism. Today, they’re monitoring for pirates, tomorrow they’re reading your emails for signs of political dissent.

On the other hand there are new services like BBC iPlayer, Hulu and Spotify which block traffic from certain countries. Even if you’re a TV Tax payer, you still can’t access iPlayer from abroad!

I’ve used a blocklist since 2003 and a web proxy for hiding my IP address whilst casually browsing, but I consider these no longer adequate for either the threat to our privacy or accessing media services online. So I tried out a couple of free VPN services and I’ve settled on one now which is paid for, and I’ve now budgeted in as part of our broadband costs. I will blog about this later.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) tunnels all your internet traffic through an alternate network of servers, usually encrypted, so that whoever, or whatever, is at the other end sees that server and it’s IP address and not your own. Traditionally VPNs have been used by companies to provide a virtual network for employees to sign into from insecure home computers, but there are now many services springing up all over the internet offering free or cheap VPN services for private use.

The anonymous part is important. If the VPN company keeps records, they can be subpoenaed to provide your account information – so you’re not protected. It’s also important that the VPN is encrypted, or your ISP can view your traffic – we want them to be a dumb pipe and not trouble themselves over our online habits!

If you want to try out an easy to set up and free VPN service, check out It’s Hidden – though they have recently restricted their free connections to 20 minutes. There are others with clients you can download, but some of them inject their own pop-up adds – a small price to pay for the free privacy.

Whether VPN services will be the future, is anyone’s guess. I suspect that when the government finally catches up and realises that everyone is surfing over an encrypted, anonymous connection they will try to crack down on these services too – by then I imagine pirates will already have created or found new tech to stay anonymous and be moving on to that, which is how it should be.

Command Line Fu

My new favourite site.

Is Symantec Anti-Virus Malware?

Not quite going by strict definitions of malware, but it skates pretty close to annoying and intrusive software in my humble opinion.

Recently I had to work on a Windows XP based machine with a Symantec anti-virus ‘solution’ installed. As with most Windows PC’s, the system had ground down to a halt and was complaining of a full hdd. I was trying to troubleshoot the problem that disk-cleanup would not fix.

I installed Treesize, ran it and discovered in the ‘All Users’ profile the source of the problem.

The Windows partition was approximately 70gb. 46gb were taken up by temporary files created by Symantec in “C:/Documents and Settings/All Users/Application Data/Symantec/Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition/7.5/xfer_tmp/”

Symantec Fail
Malware or Negligence?

I solved the problem by deleting the temp files and the xfer_tmp directory. I didn’t even check this was the right solution – if the program had crashed that would have been a bonus as far as I was concerned.

This is not just a program bug, this is borderline negligible, considering it’s supposed to be corporate software. It may not be malware by typical definition, but in my case: Installed by default and without choice or consultation, rendering the PC unusable – it’s malware to me.

I’m just glad I run Linux and don’t have to put up with this crapware most of the time.

Creating A Separate Home Partition

Having a seperate home partition on Linux makes it easy to install not only different distro’s and new releases of the same distro, but to have multi-boot distro’s running on the same ‘puter. Of course, having a home partition on the same partition as your OS hinders this flexibility.

When I made the move to Linux (specifically Ubuntu) I approached it as a typical Windows user and installed on a single partition, I didn’t understand or see the usefulness behind creating separate partitions on my home PC.

Windows only release a new OS every few years, and since their upgrades tend to only affect the Windows default directory, a simple backup is all that is needed to ensure continuity.

If you’ve come to the same situation and want to create a separate home partition without having to do a backup and fresh install, then check out this tutorial for Ubuntu from psychocats.net.

Bookshelf: The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Men Who Stare at Goats I was a little curious when I saw the title of the movie come out and when I spotted this book on sale I decided to pick it up and satisfy my curiosity.

As it is, I’ve now read the novel before the movie, in fact I’ve only watched half the movie so far. For what it’s worth I don’t think the movie does this book justice at all! In fact the movie is less an adaption of the novel and more of a poor tribute to it.

There’s just so much detail left out and from what I’ve watched so far, it’s really treated entirely as a comedy with little care or attention paid towards the serious, more saddening side. Of course I’ve only seen half so all that may change towards the end of the film, but where I left it just seemed to be getting nowhere near the darker side of the novel.

As for the book, the book is fascinating, immersing, funny and tragic all at the same time. The author carefully leads us through interviews and historical events, offering background and explanation to the occasional bizarre moments that leaked into mainstream press and public consciousness. It also shows a darker, sinister side to the lighter, much joked about moments such as the leaking of torture using Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

Linking all of these events and bizarre military strategies is something that sounds like the plot of a badly concieved B-movie. The First Earth Battalion, brain-child of and army man gone native hippy taking inspiration from the peace movement of the 70’s. The author, Jon Ronson carefully lays out how something that started out as a thought experiment in creating a US army of peaceful warrior monks – bringing love and peace to the conflict zones – became so twisted and corrupted, ending with something a bit like Saw franchise meets X-Files.

Of course, it’s hard to touch on so much material and cover-ups without eventually succumbing to a conspiratorial tone, and towards the end of the book, as the author runs out of leads, there is a slight leaning towards speculation. It doesn’t detract from the novel in any way and after everything else that’s been presented, it doesn’t feel that far reaching. However, it does leave an small opening for sceptics to question the research and sources.

Nevertheless, I felt enlightened after reading the book, since there are so many references to real and tangible historical events, it really makes sense of it all from an inside perspective. It certainly makes you more media aware when looking out for those occasional blunders that make it into the spotlight.

The Men Who Stare at Goats totally belongs on your must-read list, click on the link to buy it now at Amazon.co.uk!

Gift Economies

A while ago I was inspired by a post on gift economies at Glocal Christianity. I was excited because both me and the wife have been slowly expanding and practising this in our own lives and now I had found a term to frame it.

I like freedom, as you can guess by the tone of my blog and I thought I’d share with you some of the ways we express our freedom through gifting and how you can too.

  • F/OSS (free and open source software) such as Linux, Firefox and OpenOffice.org.
  • Freecycle. This is great for getting rid of secondhand things quick or picking up some fairly good quality second hand items when you’re on a limited budget.
  • Geocaching. Whilst not strictly a gift economy (more a barter economy) it still has the principles of giving. Whenever I place a cache I personally give up ownership of the container and items since life’s too short to get hung up over an inexpensive item you place at risk.
  • BookCrossing. I’ve only put one book out there so far, but I have stack of others I bought recently in a sale that I do at some point plan on getting out there.
  • Creative Commons. Usually anything I put on the web I use a CC share-alike attribute. I don’t always put up an icon but the intent is there.
  • Giving generally. No website for this, just traditional generosity. Giving to church, giving to friends in need. We’ve even given a car away (to my brother), this was something I never saw myself doing before.
  • Giving Blood. Admittedly, I’ve only done this once, perhaps I need to be a bit less selfish and do it again when there’s next a blood drive.

Of course, there is much more than just the few examples above, there are other ways of giving we still have to explore:

  • Couch Surfing. Not sure we’ll ever get round to this one but I think it’s ideal for people who are unattached and have the free time.
  • OpenStreetMap. I have used OSM and have very good intentions of one day getting round to editing it to add our road which is missing.
  • Random Acts of Kindness. For some reason we haven’t done much with this but it’s something I totally want to get into. I’m waiting for the right day to come along where I pay for the next person in the queue at the petrol station.. that sort of thing.