It’s been quite a while since I’ve published anything new on this blog. That’s because I don’t seem to have enough free time these days. Who knows, maybe in the near future I’ll start blogging again …
Oh well, better late than never eh? I’ve been very busy again, so I haven’t been able to write much for my blog. So my new year’s resolution is to post more messages ;)
Many homes and small companies are using Wi-Fi access points so that their computers can establish a wireless connection to the internet. It is still not uncommon for such access points, the devices with antennae that can transmit and receive data, to have no measures implemented to prevent undesired connections by other computers.
It has often been asked whether people who log into unprotected access points are stealing. The analogy often used is that it’s like being able to walk onto your neighbour’s house just because his front door isn’t locked, then tapping into his cable TV connection, run the cable back to your house and then watch TV for free.
This analogy, however, is false. An excellent analogy I have read goes as follows: You ring the doorbell of your neighbour’s house, the butler opens the door. Then you ask if it’s OK to watch cable TV, the butler then answers “sure, no problem.” So are you stealing cable television? No, you’re not.
The butler is simply carrying out his masters instructions, or otherwise used his own discretion when the master fails to provide explicit instructions. The open access point device is to internet access, what the friendly butler is to cable TV.
In other words: people with open access points have delegated decisions, regarding who to grant access to the network, to the access point’s software. It can decide for itself who gets permission to access your network, as you have implicitly or explicitly given it permission to do. That means that it is broadcasting its presence to the world, and any computer in the vicinity who kindly asks permission to log on, is indeed given permission to do so. This is not a mistake, this is by design.
Believe it or not, there are quite a few individuals who deliberately want to leave their access points open. It’s a philosophical decision for some, who hope that someday internet access will be open and freely available everywhere on earth, through open access points.
So there is nothing wrong about accessing open access points, and it’s certainly not stealing.
I have just learned on BBC NEWS that the BBC have launched a new service: online TV. Yay! By using the so-called “iPlayer”, it is possible to download and watch BBC programmes up to a week after the broadcast. Once downloaded they can be stored and viewed on the computer for thirty days, after which time the files will be deleted automatically.
Sound good, right? Nooooooo, of course it doesn’t. It would be wonderful to be able to watch missed shows immediately, without having to wait for re-runs. But there are some very significant problems with this service.
To begin with, users interested in using the iPlayer are required to have Windows XP on their computers, and anyone else can just sod off. Yuck. So the BBC, a publicly funded institution, is essentially favoring a monopolistic software giant. Even I can tell you that this is not a good way to start.
Of course the BBC have promised to make this service available to Apple OS X users, and I’m sure that will happen eventually, but even so, there is still no mention of GNU/Linux users. That does not bode well.
And then there is this whole DRM thing. Such a pointless waste of recources, I think. What with YouTube, usenet, p2p-downloading and bittorrents all over the internet, why should I switch to the iPlayer? I can download many, no make that *any* TV series, and watch them today, tomorrow or next year, all completely gratis and unencumbered by any of the unreasonable restrictions the iPlayer imposes. So what’s the point of using DRM then?
You know, it’s a nice gesture, but it is nothing more than that. Even if they make iPlayer available to Linux users, they will not use it. I won’t use it. After all, why should I, when I can just as easily download everything for free? There’s no DRM restrictions on the complete season 4 of Star Trek Voyager that I’m downloading right now, is there? Let’s see … nope, plays just fine.
And it’s not just me, mind. Everyone I know, all my friends, and some of them really are computer illiterate imbeciles, have learned to download movies and TV series. It’s on of those basic skills everybody acquires, even if they don’t know anything else about computers.
The BBC, it would seem, are just as much behind the times and clinging to straws as the big shot movie/music producers in Hollywood. We should pity them really, poor saps. I only hope they will come to their senses soon, because it really is *only* a matter of convenience.
Everything’s available, that’s not the point, whether there is an iPlayer or not. It’s just that downloading it through official channels is more *convenient*, that’s all.
I thought it was going to take a million years, but it looks like my pessimism was not entirely justified, as the beta is apparently already available for download! So I downloaded the new Flash 9 Beta plugin HERE. Then I just uninstalled the old flash 7 plugin and cp’d this one into /usr/lib/firefox/plugins, and now it works! Restart firefox and verify everthing is correctly installed by entering about:plugins in the Firefox address bar and checking the version number of the Flash plugin. It is still a beta version, so people are encouraged to try the plugin as much as they can and report any problems. For me everything seems to be working fine, it’s a big improvement on Flash 7!
Looks like I’m a “cheese eatin’ surrender monkey”, because I don’t know what happened, but when I woke up this morning I got a big hangover, and I discovered my laptop was running Ubuntu 6.10 Beta again. But there’s a difference between this installation of Ubuntu 6.10 and the last time I upgraded to 6.10….a big difference.
Because now allmost everything works! I have internet explorer 6 with flash 9, I have mplayer playing all over the place (thanks to the “noembed=1” option, which I also tried the last time, but somehow didn’t work then), I have a functional read/write-able external ntfs formatted USB drive thanks to (the admittedly very slow) ntfs-3g being added to the repos (pmount/hal do not yet automount this thing, but I have found a possible solution for that too). The font problem is also completely solved now, although I have NO idea what the hell solved it. The printer works, the windows smb shares can be accessed, I JUST installed hellanzb, which automates the binary side of usenet usage, and I’ll live with the pan newsreader for everything else.
In short, Ubuntu went from being a completely useless piece of crap to a completely superior system in a day! Why did it have to be this difficult? I suspect the upgrade from 6.06 LTS went very, very wrong…somewhere. Anyway, I’m very pleased with the way it is going now.
The problem isn’t really solved yet, but I used a quick fix for my browser (Firefox) as follows: I went to Edit –> Preferences –> Content and in the section Fonts & Colors clicked on Advanced. In the pop-up screen, I DEselected the tick-box “Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above“.
Now all fonts are looking fine, although whenever I visit a site, I will probably not experience it in the way the creator(s) intended it to be viewed.