Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Keira Knightley in Atonement
The Ian McEwan novel "Atonement" hits the big screen this week featuring James McAvoy, the ironing-board-esque Keira Knightley and Redcar sea front bedecked with World War Two memorabilia. I saw the film set in construction and being kitted out with vehicles so it will be good to see the finished version at the cinema.

Apparently, since visiting Redcar, Knightley is now addicted to lemon tops and pound shops.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

When DRM goes bad

Customers of Google Video, who bought music videos, TV shows or sports events on their website were emailed this week to explain that Google Video was now closing its doors and that the videos that had bought would no longer be playable. The digital rights management (DRM) technology built in to the downloaded videos will cease to operate and the files would be useless. The customers would be given some credit in lieu, but not a full refund on what was paid.

I have bought music from Apple's iTunes service which is copy-protected. What if iTunes were to fall on hard times and close down? Would my purchased songs stop working? As the Guardian says, opponents of DRM have been handed free PR by Google's move - they can now point out that the service providers may revoke your licence to play your content at any time.

Oddly enough, the consumer is used to gradual obsolescence in their entertainment systems, whether it is vinyl records sitting on a shelf next to the VHS (or Betamax) videos, or the Playstation 2 games that won't play in the Playstation 3, or buying a film in HD when you already have the DVD, or the album one is urged to buy again beacause it has been remastered - as if it were incorrectly mastered the first time round.

The insidious thing about DRM is that you have the content safely stored on your computer; you paid for it and yet the licence issuer has gone out of business and you can no longer get permission to play your own content. Ironically, the person who stole the ripped content from a file-sharing site can continue to play the content with impunity, while the law-abiding customer is penalised.

It's like shop-bought DVDs that play endless, intrusive anti-piracy messages before the film to the person who bought the DVD, while the person who downloaded a copy from a news group only sees the film itself.


Cow fighting

I was reading Mathew Parris's account of pantomime bullfighting in Peru when I ended up looking up guinea pigs on Wikipedia because the Peruvians seem to eat an awful lot of them. I then ended up reading about bull fighting and was amused to find that in Switzerland, bouts of cow fighting can be found where numbered beasts are goaded into pushing each other out of a ring - like bovine Sumo wrestlers.
Cow wrestlering


Monday, August 13, 2007

Keeping up

How, dear reader, does one keep up with the every changing streams of news emanating from every crevice of the internet. We can't spend all day scouring all our favourite websites, so we need a way to digest this information and only see the bits that are new.

This is where RSS is your friend. RSS allows websites to publish a summary of their recent changes in an easy-to-read (if you are a machine) format. Your RSS reader can then aggregate RSS feeds together to produce a news feed tailored just for you. I've tried various news readers including NetNewsWire and the readers built into Safari and Firefox.

But the most convenient one by far is Google Reader. Because it is published on the web, and can therefore be accessed from anywhere, it is easy to catch up with your un-read items from wherever you are.

Google Reader


Friday, August 03, 2007

Alan Smith to Newcastle

It's been a tense time for Boro fans as Alan Smith's departure from Manchester United loomed ever closer. It seemed for a time that Smith was destined for Boro after Keith Lamb claimed the club were stepping up their interest in the one-goal-a-season striker. Luckily, Newcastle stepped in to match our offer and take the clogger themselves.

Teesside breathes a sigh of relief.