software patents still suck

March 29, 2008 under Blackboard, Desire2Learn, software patents

As an update to my last rant about software patents sucking and how it related to my former employer, Desire2Learn, it looks like idio-cracy might finally be waning a tad. In a total 180-degree turn the U.S. Patent Office has determined that Blackboard never should’ve received patents for (in my opinion) basic Website functionality common to many a site. I’m curious to know how this will end and remain hopeful that common sense will previal.

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your tax dollars at work

March 19, 2008 under BitTorrent, CBC, DRM

The CBC will become first of the major North American television networks to release content sans DRM. Indeed, you read that correctly.

The CBC will kick things off by releasing episodes of Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister the day after they air on TV. What I really admire about this plan is that the content will contain no DRM whatsoever (a la iTunes Music Store), so people are free to watch on whatever computer or device they wish. The icing on the cake is the fact that shows will be distributed via BitTorrent, which gives distribution power to the people. I would love it if they followed suit with some of their other shows like Air Farce, The Hour, The Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Little Mosque on the Prairie or even jPod.

Actually, if we examine the CBC’s BitTorrent distrubution idea a little bit further, this is highlighting all of the right reasons for net neutrality. Putting this under a microscope yields:

  • BitTorrent is a highly efficient means to distribute digital data like software, music, video, photos, documents, etc.
  • BitTorrent, much to the chagrin of (mainly) the RIAA and MPAA, is a way to distribute copyrighted material.
  • It should be noted that BitTorrent is also used to distribute a lot of un-copyrighted material in an efficient and legal manner.
  • Due to the popularity of BitTorrent, pressure from copyright holders, and the bandwidth it consumes, major ISPs (in Canada’s case, that includes Rogers and Bell) shape network traffic such that BitTorrent traffic comes in like a trickle while other traffic (Web, email, instant messaging, etc) is unhindered.
  • The CBC is funded by Canadian tax payers.

Would the Canadian ISPs dare to continue to cripple BitTorrent traffic, even if the packets of said traffic belong to a video made available by a publicly funded television network? Michael Geist points out that the CBC’s Mandate clearly states that their programming:

…be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means and as resources become available for the purpose…

In terms of the distribution of “large” digital content like high-quality video on the Internet, nothing currently comes close the appropriateness and efficiency of BitTorrent. Hopefully this experiement is successful and ISPs have no choice but to respond by providing equal accessibility to all information available on the Internet.

Even though earlier this year I complained about the CBC showing too many Leafs games, they’re still not off the hook. Although I am viewing them in a much more favourable light. 🙂

Geek Aside:
To get around some of the traffic shaping, I suggest using non-standard ports with your chosen BitTorrent client (I use µTorrent for Windows and Deluge for Linux) and changing the associated port forwarding on your NAT router, if you have one (and you should). For fun, I often change which port I use on a weekly basis. Also, some clients are better at obscuring BitTorrent packets from traffic-shaping hardware/software than others – Deluge’s default settings rule for this.

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pachelbel hell

March 13, 2008 under Music

Popular music annoys me. It all sounds so very drab and uninteresting, and bores the hell out of me. I’ve repeated this ad nauseum to poor Dena. Pop rock. Pop rap. Pop country. Pop pop. It’s all poop to me.

I never understood why the music that the majority of people like bothers me like it does, until I came across this video from comedian Rob Paravonian.

http://www.youtube.com/v/JdxkVQy7QLM&hl=en

Almost everything in the grand ol’ banks of human knowledge was based on previous ideas, and music is no exception. However, sometimes inspiration results in duplication. On the Dean Blundell Show severals months ago, they frequently poked fun at Sum 41’s “Pieces” sounding eerily similar to Coldplay’s “The Scientist”, often playing the two songs simultaneously to illustrate the point. They then moved onto that crappy “Girlfriend” song courtesy of Avril Lavine sounding an awful lot like “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by the Rubinoos. Recently, while listening to the Dean Blundell Show, I heard the latest single from Linkin Park called “Shadow of the Day”. I’m not sure if anybody else has noticed this, but it totally reminds me of a slightly sped-up rendition of U2’s “With or Without You”. With the exception of U2, I normally wouldn’t listen to any of these bands if they weren’t played during the Dean Blundell Show. I like to prepare for work every day listening to their jokes about vaginas, farts and the combination thereof, so I’m willing to suffer through horribly boring music.

Paravonian is definitely on to something. I think the reason why I find most popular music so boring is because I’ve heard the same song too many times, regardless of whether it apes Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” or not. While I’m a fan of many bands who play the verse-chorus-verse variety of music that undoubtedly owes something to “Canon in D Major”, I now realise why bands like Sonic Youth, Boards of Canada, Butthole Surfers, Mogwai, Holy Fuck, Do Make Say Think and My Bloody Valentine are often part of my daily playlist.

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