Monthly Archives: November 2005

Pay your bills… or your car won’t start!

High-tech 'repo man' keeps car payments coming 

Depending on your point of view, this is either a useful technology or an abomination.

If you have a problem with it, there is a simple solution: Don't make car payments.

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Not very nice people…

A geek tried to buy a camera from a New York outfit who are offering it at a very good price. When he won't buy the add-ons they try to sell him they decide that the item is "out of stock". When he mentions that their website still shows it as being "In Stock" one of their staff starts threatening him.

He made good on his word and told the world about it. Contains some good info about how to spot scammers.

The moral of this story? Don't mess with Geeks. Threaten us and we will get the word out.

Go ahead…

…push the Blue button.

You know you want to…

Tivo III – Don’t watch TV, watch TiVo!

…or: You’ll have to prise that peanut out of my Cold Dead Hand

I have had my TiVo for two months. Here’s the story so far.

  • There is always something to watch. This is a good thing.
  • One remote to rule them all – the “Peanut” remote that comes with the TiVo does everything (unless I want to watch a DVD).
  • You can pause anything – even “live” TV. This is a revelation that will change the way you watch TV.
  • Once in a while, TiVo will make a suggestion. Sometimes it finds something I do not like – a couple of presses of the thumbs-down button followed by a delete and I will not see that again. However, it has also found some gems that I have enjoyed.
  • It has taken a few weeks, but we have learned to use the “instant-replay” button for those “what-did-they-just-say?” moments.
  • Oh, and we never watch commercials anymore. I can cover half an hour of Tom and Jerry in twelve minutes. This may anger the marketing dweebs who seem to believe that we should suffer ads in DVDs, Theater Movies and Cable TV. I disagree – if I already paid for it, I don’t see why I should have pay again by being forced to watch ads?
  • I can also compress and download TiVo-ed programs to my palmtop. This will almost certainly infuriate TV execs, who believe that I should pay more to watch the same content on a different device. They’ll just have to live with it.

Those are just the TiVo functions – there are other “non-TiVo functions” that are the icing on the cake.

  • I can move programs off the TiVo and “park” them on a PC. In theory I can watch them there, but that requires a DRM-upgraded version of Media Player which I will not install. Copying is not all that fast (about 25% of real-time), but then it does not need to be. Programs can be moved back to the TiVo at a later time. This is a good thing, as it means that I do not need to upgrade the 40GB HD in the TiVo.
  • I can rip all my music CDs to MP3s, park them on the computer and play them back through the TiVo. This is a very nice feature.
  • I can also view pictures stored on the PC though the TiVo.
  • I can remotely schedule a program through the web. This is a very impressive and useful feature.

All in all, it lends a whole new meaning to the phrase “must-see TV“.

Happy anniversary!

Milady has been putting up with me for nineteen years.

She deserves a medal.

Think before forwarding!

Over the years I have been sent literally thousands of forwarded messages warning me of the latest scam or ripoff. Sad to report, most of them were false, and could be debunked with a modicum of googling.

What is most alarming is that all too often the senders have gotten upset with me for informing them that they were forwarding a hoax.Talk about getting between a fool and his folly…

Anyway, rather than rolling out paragraphs of prose on the subject, I thought that I would just point you at this article… and leave it at that.

Copywrong?

In the US, Copyrights and patients were originally justified "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.", at least according to the Constitution.

Nowadays, of course, they have become a tool for corporations to get "first dibs" on all new, useful and hopefully profitable ideas (patents), and to hang on to those ideas forever (copyright).

Ironically, Copyright is not about copying, it is about commerical exploitation. I recommend Jessica Littman's "Digital Copyright" for a fair and innovative treatment of the subject.

The Betamax decision proved the basic principle that you are entitled to repurpose for your own personal use. As long as I do not commercially exploit a work (cause a sale to be lost) I see nothing wrong with ripping my CDs to my hard drive and then playing my music back through my wireless network/TiVo/Car Stereo/MP3 player.

Also, the first sale doctrine dares to suggest that once I have bought music, the record companies have no right to tell me what I can do with it afterwards. Those who try to place restrictions before the sale will get none of my money. I do not and will not buy copy-protected CDs or DRM-restricted content. If everyone thought the way that Apple (or Sony) did, there would be no fair use… which, I suspect, is their goal.

For the record (no pun intended) I do not share music – aside for the odd track for demonstration purposes – and I do not rent music. I do not copy other people's CDs.

Concidentally, if you download music, then buy the CD, have you broken the law? Yes you have – it's a felony under the dreaded DMCA. That's where the law falls down.

I had started writing a long and detailed piece on the subject… and then I stumbled across this article. I could not have said it better.

I am not a number!

We live in an age where knowledge is power and information is the coin. It seems that everyone is trying to gather information about you and sell it to everyone else. Here are ten eleven things that you can do to stop your information from spreading further than you would like it to. Well worth reading.

Does walking on a cycle path makes you a Terrorist?

Apparently it does in Scotland.

Another misapplication of anti-terrorism laws.

DuPont may have hid risks of toxin

This one, Dear Reader, will run and run. Here are my predictions, based on similar situations in the past:…

  1. Crisis? What Crisis? Dupont will Deny that there is a problem.
  2. Bad Science! Dupont will try to case aspersions on the scientists who found the problem.
  3. It's not our fault! Dupont will deny everything and try anything to avoid admitting fault and attracting liability.