T214: Activity 1.1

The entry is for logging my work on one of my OU activities – this will probably not be very interesting…

Five questions

  1. What are the ten most commonly used languages on the internet?
  2. Find an estimate for the portion of the web that is indexed by search engines. Does the size of the indexed web provide a good indication of the total size of the web?
  3. Roughly how many internet users are there across the world?
  4. Which regions of the world have the most internet users? Which have the fewest?
  5. Which region is most underprivileged in terms of the imbalance between its number of internet users and its population?

1.  From the website Internet World Stats: English, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, German, Arabic, French, Russian and Korean (in order). Not many surprises there, I think.

2.  From WorldWideWebSize: the number of indexed web pages is at least 14.55 billion pages. The web is probably bigger than this, as it’s likely that many web pages aren’t yet indexed. Also, what is meant by “size”? The number of pages, number of individual sites or the total data storage requirements?

3.  From Internet World Stats: There are nearly 2 billion internet users out of a total world population of over 6.8 billion people. That’s a lot of people!

4. From Internet World Stats: There are over 1.3 billion internet users in Asia and Europe alone, whereas Oceana and the Middle East can’t even scrape 85 million between them.

5.  From Internet World Stats again: Africa has only a 10.9% penetration of internet users, compared to 77.4% in North America.

Continue reading

Links for March 31st

Measles Outbreak Triggered by Unvaccinated Child

What began as a family trip to Switzerland in 2008 ended up as a public health nightmare in California.

The family's 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

The pope is not above the law

One of those accused in the Verona deaf-school case is the late archbishop of the city, Giuseppe Carraro. Next up, if our courts can find time, will be the Rev. Donald McGuire, a serial offender against boys who was also the confessor and "spiritual director" for Mother Teresa. (He, too, found the confessional to be a fine and private place and made extensive use of it.)

This is what makes the scandal an institutional one and not a matter of delinquency here and there. The church needs and wants control of the very young and asks their parents to entrust their children to certain "confessors," who until recently enjoyed enormous prestige and immunity. It cannot afford to admit that many of these confessors, and their superiors, are calcified sadists who cannot believe their luck. Nor can it afford to admit that the church regularly abandoned the children and did its best to protect and sometimes even promote their tormentors.

An open letter to conservatives

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you.  I grew up in a profoundly Republican home so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You’ve lost me and you’ve lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I’d like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You’re going to have to come up with a platform that isn’t built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from yours; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Sunday Sacrilege: The greatest blasphemy of them all

We are so tired of being told that we can't be moral without an objective external source of goodness…yet here we have a group of people who most loudly claim as their professional calling a direct insight into the mind and will of the cosmic lawgiver, and what do we find? Violations of basic human decency at every level.

Stand up to Murdoch, Armando Iannucci tells BBC

In language worthy of his most famous creation, Malcolm Tucker, The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci today called on the BBC to do more to defend itself from its critics – and "find someone to articulately tell James Murdoch to fuck off".

Iannucci was speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards, where his political satire won a hat-trick of awards. These included a first acting prize for the show for its star, Peter Capaldi, who plays Tucker.

The creator, writer, director and producer of the Thick Of It, Iannucci thanked the BBC for "holding its nerve over the series, especially when they have been under a lot of pressure over taste and decency and all sorts of things".

"I love the BBC dearly and would fight for it to the death," he said. "My only wish is that whenever it is accused of something, even if it's something it hadn't done, I wish it wouldn't go to the first police station and hand itself in.

It’s True: Hot Water Really Can Freeze Faster Than Cold Water

Hot water really can freeze faster than cold water, a new study finds. Sometimes. Under extremely specific conditions. With carefully chosen samples of water.

Ministry of Justice announces move on libel reform

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has announced that the government believes the case for libel reform has been made, and that the Ministry of Justice will now move to make reforms to England’s defamation laws, potentially with a Libel Reform Bill.

Commenting on the findings of the Ministry of Justice libel working group, Straw said the government would seek to address the issues of single publication, the strengthening of a public interest defence, and procedural changes to address issues such as early definitions of meaning and libel tourism.

Is the music industry trying to write the digital economy bill?

Two weeks is a lifetime in politics – especially in the political life of the backwards digital economy bill, Labour's gift to the incumbent entertainment industries that government is bent on ramming into law before the election.

In my last column, I bore the bizarre news that the LibDem front-bench Lords had introduced an amendment to the bill that would create a Great Firewall of Britain. This would be a national censorwall to which the record industry could add its least favourite sites, rendering them invisible to Britons (except for those with the nous of a 13-year-old evading her school's censorware). Over the following days, the story got weirder: the LibDem amendment got amended, to add a figleaf of due process to the untenable proposal.

And then it got weirder still: a leaked memo from the BPI (the UK record industry lobby) showed that the "LibDem amendment" had in fact been written – with minor variances – by the BPI.

The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it.

On March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted as saying that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican," and that "when one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia." This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation.

Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made "to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse." He stupidly went on to say that "those efforts have failed."

Brits: ask your MP to demand a debate on new copyright law before voting

Last week's extraordinary leaked UK record industry memo on the Digital Economy Bill candidly asserted that the only reason Britain's retrograde, extremist new copyright law would pass Parliament is because MPs were "resigned" that they wouldn't have a chance to debate it properly.

For context: Labour cancelled its anti-fox-hunt legislation because there wasn't time for proper debate, but they're ramming through this copyright bill even though it's far more important and far-reaching — for one thing, a broken UK Internet will make it harder for people who care about fox hunts one way or the other to organise and lobby on the issue.

Now, 38 Degrees is asking Britons to write to their MPs and ask them to call for a full debate on this law before they vote on it. […] No matter what side you come down on for the Digital Economy Bill, is there anyone who wants law to be made without debate?

Links for December 23rd

The BBC’s digital rights plans will wreak havoc on open source software

Last summer, the BBC tried to sneak “digital rights management” into its high-def digital broadcasts.

Now, generally speaking, the BBC isn’t allowed to encrypt or restrict its broadcasts: the licence fee payer pays for these broadcasts, and no licence fee payer woke up today wishing that the BBC had added restrictions to its programming.

But the BBC tried to get around this, asking Ofcom for permission to encrypt the “metadata” on its broadcasts – including the assistive information used by deaf and blind people and the “tables” used by receivers to play back the video. The BBC couched this as a minor technical change, and Ofcom held a very short, very quiet consultation, but was overwhelmed by a flood of negative submissions from the public and from technologists who understood the implications of this move.

Fundamentally, the BBC is trying to leverage its broadcast licence into control over the devices that can receive broadcasts.

Ivor the Engine brought back to life in new book

Cartoon favourite Ivor the Engine is being brought back to life in a new book, 50 years after first appearing on television.

The book, which will raise money for charity, has been written by the son of the late Oliver Postgate, who wrote the original Ivor stories.

It will be illustrated by Peter Firmin, the original illustrator.

The last full length story of the Welsh engine and his driver, Jones The Steam, was made in 1977.

Major record labels gang up and screw over indie record store

A small indie record store owner in Ottawa, Canada, has plead guilty to a charge of copyright infringement for importing rare CDs from abroad. Apparently, these discs (which are themselves licensed, as far as I can tell) aren’t licensed for sale in Canada, and Canadian law (apparently) bans this kind of parallel importation.

But none of these CDs are actually available in Canada. And no one orders rare, expensive imports unless he’s already got the artist’s entire catalog. And, of course, the record labels that went after this record store owner (whose whole purpose in life is to sell their CDs) are presently being sued for $60 billion in copyright damages for ripping off artists, and have admitted to $50 million in liability already.

James Randi, Global Warming and the Nature of Scepticism

It was something of a shock then to see Randi write an article on his site that questioned the scientific consensus that man made activities are responsible for climate change and that dramatic intervention is required. Such views, we tend to think, are the preserve of the ‘denialist’, loon or vested interest. How could Randi do such thing?

Firstly, of course it is perfectly respectable to cast a skeptical eye over the apparent consensus of global warming. There are indeed undoubtedly inflated claims around, and we need to be on our guard. The activities of lobby groups, such as Greenpeace, have done much to damage the scientific credibility of the green agenda over the years. However, the science community has acted independently of these groups and the consensus has emerged from within rather than channeled and gilded by the usual environmental loud mouths.

The media and the message

Innovations, not paywalls, are the future for media companies says regular commentator Bill Thompson.

Ericsson: Keep R&D in Coventry

Unite is campaigning to save communications giant Ericsson’s research and development site in Ansty, Coventry following the company’s announcement in November that it plans to close the plant in mid-2010 with the loss of 700 highly skilled jobs.

Unite is calling on the government to support the UK’s role in innovation and research and development of hi-tech communications which it has hailed as one of the key areas of future growth for the UK economy.

Unite argues Ericsson’s decision to close the site and transfer the work to China and elsewhere is a huge blow to the UK economy and the union is particularly concerned that the closure of the site will reduce the UK’s capacity in this key hi-tech industry.

Links for December 14th

Cleaners ‘worth more to society’ than bankers – study

Hospital cleaners are worth more to society than bankers, a study suggests.

The research, carried out by think tank the New Economics Foundation, says hospital cleaners create £10 of value for every £1 they are paid.

It claims bankers are a drain on the country because of the damage they caused to the global economy.

They reportedly destroy £7 of value for every £1 they earn.

Why AOL Time Warner failed to change the world

Was there ever a deal like the one which saw AOL merge with Time Warner in January 2000?

It took place during the biggest bubble the stock market had ever experienced, and it marked the final triumph of the internet over the old media.

Or so it seemed at the time.

Libel Reform

Our libel laws are a menace, but not to journalists, or even to doctors: they are a menace to you. Put very simply, when you restrict the free criticism of medical ideas and practices, you harm patients and the public.

Major Labels Accused Of $6 Billion Worth Of Copyright Infringement In Canada

The major labels and their friends like to throw around huge numbers of “damages” when it comes to copyright infringement. But how about when they’re on the receiving end of a copyright infringement lawsuit. Up in Canada, there’s a class action lawsuit against the Canadian divisions of all of the major record labels, suggesting that the labels have infringed on the copyrights of artists to the tune of $6 billion

The arguments made by climate change sceptics

At the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, 192 governments are aiming for a new global agreement to constrain greenhouse gas emissions and curb human-induced climate change.

But some commentators are unconvinced that rising greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of modern-day warming. Or they say the world is not actually getting warmer – or that a new treaty would hurt economic growth and well-being.

So what are their arguments, and how are they countered by scientists who assert that greenhouse gases, produced by human activity, are the cause of modern-day climate change?

Links for December 4th

Don’t strike up the band

Visit a pub and there’s every chance you’ll hear background Muzak, or high-volume Sky Sports coverage of Premiership football. But what are the chances of hearing live music?

At least as good as they have ever been, says the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which controls the licensing of pubs. Nonsense, say musicians, who blame the 2003 Licensing Act for drowning live music in red tape. The facts to settle this argument ought to be there, but aren’t.

Ever since the act came into force there has been a long-running argument between the department and its critics, who assert that dodgy statistics, misleading statements by ministers, and a failure to collect the right sort of data make its claims unbelievable. Far from “flourishing”, as the Government claims, music in pubs is declining or dying, they say.

New Agers and Creationists should not be President

New Age beliefs are the Creationism of the Progressives. I move in circles where most people would find it absurd to believe that humans didn’t evolve from prehistoric ancestors, yet many of these same people quite happily believe in astrology, psychics, reincarnation, the Tarot deck, the i Ching, and sooth-saying. Palmistry and phrenology have pretty much blown over.

If you were attending a dinner party of community leaders in Dallas, Atlanta, Omaha or Colorado Springs and the conversation turned to religion, a chill might fall on the room if you confessed yourself an atheist. Yet at a dinner party of the nicest and brightest in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and (especially) Los Angeles, if the hostess began to confide about past lives, her Sign and yours, and her healing crystals, it might not go over so well if you confessed you thought she was full of it.

Study shows lower autism rate in vaccinated kids

A study just released claims that kids who are vaccinated against measles have a much lower autism rate.

Web giants unite against Digital Britain copyright plan

Some of the biggest names on the web have written to Peter Mandelson to express “grave concerns” about elements of the Digital Economy Bill.

Facebook, Google, Yahoo and eBay object to a clause that they say could give government “unprecedented and sweeping powers” to amend copyright laws.

“We urge you to remove Clause 17 from the bill,” the letter read.

However, the government has said it believes the clause will “future-proof online copyright laws”.

Australian skeptics cheer David and Toni McCaffery

Continuing with Australian Skeptics awards, they are giving out a new award in honor of Fred Thornett, a skeptic who died earlier this year. The first recipients of The Fred, given to outstanding promoters of reason, are David and Toni McCaffery.

The McCafferys are heroes of mine. Earlier this year, their four week old infant daughter lost a battle with pertussis. Yes, whooping cough. She was too young to be vaccinated, and because the antivaccination movement is strong in their area, vaccination rates were low, and the herd immunity was in turn too low to help little Dana.

When this grieving couple was shrilly and mercilessly attacked by Meryl Dorey and the AVN, the McCafferys fought back. They went on TV, they gave interviews, and they told the truth: their daughter died from an easily preventable disease, and that people like Dorey and the AVN are a public health menace.

Deepak Chopra: redefining “wrong”

I am no fan of Deepak Chopra. For years he has gone on TV, in print, and in his books, peddling all manners of nonsense. Here’s a quick reality check: if his claims of “quantum healing” are correct, why is he getting older?

Anyway, he has gone to the very font of new age nonsense, the Huffington Post, to spew more woo: he’s written an article about why skepticism is bad. It’s almost a bullet-pointed list of logical fallacies.

Brits 2, Scientologists 0

It’s nice to see the Brits sticking it to the Scientologists – first I read how English Heritage have turned down an application from the cult’s supporters to place a blue plaque on a building once occupied by founder L Ron Hubbard in London’s Fitzroy Street, and then I read this story on how Winston Churchill’s descendants are threatening legal action over a Scientology poster (pictured) which uses the wartime PM’s image. The poster was aimed at recruiting new Scientologists to work, funnily enough, at the same Fitzroy Street building for which English Heritage denied the blue plaque.

Keeping cyberspace open to the public

Bill Thompson doesn’t want to see the online commons enclosed by private interests.

Why does Peter Mandelson favour the Analogue Economy over the Digital?

Mandelson is standing up for the Analogue Economy, the economy premised on the no-longer-technically-true idea that copying is hard. Companies based on the outdated notion of inherent difficulty of copying must change or they will die. Because copying isn’t hard. Copying isn’t going to get harder. This moment, right now, 2009, this is as hard as copying will be for the rest of recorded history. Next year, copying will be easier. And the year after that. And the year after that.

And don’t suppose for a moment that other countries are in the dark about this. Right now, the future of the world’s economies hangs on each government’s ability to ignore the Analogue Economy’s pleading.

Countries that declare war on copying – and on all those businesses that are born digital – are yielding their economic futures to countries that embrace it, creating a regime that nurtures the net and those who use it.

Links for November 27th

Boots’ cynical stance on homeopathy

There's something of a backlash taking place online against Boots today, after their professional standards director Paul Bennett admitted before a parliamentary committee yesterday that the chain sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, even though they know there is no scientific evidence that they actually work.

National papers involved in a conspiracy of silence

[W]hy, I wonder, was The Guardian the only national paper to report on the fact that former News of the World football reporter Matt Driscoll was awarded almost £792,736 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination by an employment tribunal?

The Guardian story appeared online on Monday night and in Tuesday's morning's paper. It was covered by the Press Gazette. It was reported on a lawyer's website. There were also mentions on various blogs[…].

But this record payout – believed to be the largest award of its kind in the media – was not considered to be newsworthy enough for any national to mention.

Yet it must surely be in the public interest for people to know about misbehaviour by Britain's best-selling newspaper

‘Aggressive’ policing of protests condemned in post-G20 inquiry

Senior police officers could lose the consent of the British public unless they abandon misguided approaches to public protests that are considered "unfair, aggressive and inconsistent", an inquiry has found.

Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, used a landmark report into public order policing to criticise heavy-handed tactics, which he said threatened to alienate the public and infringe the right to protest.

The report, published today, called for a softening of the approach and urged a return to the "British model" of policing, first defined by 19th-century Conservative prime minister Sir Robert Peel. O'Connor advocated an "approachable, impartial, accountable style of policing based on minimal force and anchored in public consent".

The initial reaction from protest groups was positive. A lawyer from environmental organisation Climate Camp […] described the findings as a "huge step forward".

Chumby One: handsome successor to the cutest computer ever

The Chumby One — the successor to the incredibly innovative Chumby device — is just about ready to ship, and is available for $99. Chumby is a cute, squeezable hand-held device that is wide open — everything from the circuit board designs to the software is open-licensed and freely downloadable. The idea is to produce an adorable, versatile device that any hacker, anywhere, can improve, so that all Chumby owners can get more out of it.

Activists repeatedly stopped and searched as police officers ‘mark’ cars

The roads were empty when Linda Catt and her father drove their white Citroën Berlingo into London on a quiet Sunday morning. They could not have known they were being followed.

But at 7.23am on 31 July 2005, the van had passed beneath an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera in east London, triggering an alert: "Of interest to Public Order Unit, Sussex police". Within seconds Catt, 50, and her 84-year-old father, John, were apprehended by police and searched under the Terrorism Act.

After filing a complaint, the pair, neither of whom have criminal records, discovered that four months earlier, a Sussex police officer had noticed their van "at three protest demonstrations" and decided, apparently on that basis, it should be tracked.

Murdoch-Microsoft deal in the works

Microsoft is ready to pay Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. to remove its news content from Google, according to the Financial Times. Microsoft has also approached other "big online publishers" with similar deals.

"One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan 'puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them",' wrote the FT's Matthew Garrahan. "… Microsoft's interest is being interpreted as a direct assault on Google because it puts pressure on the search engine to start paying for content."

This he calls a "ray of light to the newspaper industry."

Dirt can be good for children, say scientists

Children should be allowed to get dirty, according to scientists who have found being too clean can impair the skin's ability to heal.

Normal bacteria living on the skin trigger a pathway that helps prevent inflammation when we get hurt, the US team discovered.

The bugs dampen down overactive immune responses that can cause cuts and grazes to swell, they say.

Their work is published in the online edition of Nature Medicine.

Protests grow over digital bill

The Digital Economy bill has sparked a wave of protest among consumers and rights groups.

Soon after the bill began its journey through Parliament on 19 November, many expressed worries about parts of it.

The bill suggests the use of technical measures to tackle illegal file-sharing that could involve suspending the accounts of persistent pirates.

Critics fear this and other powers the bill reserves could damage the UK's growing digital economy.

BBC iPlayer launches Wii channel

The BBC iPlayer is relaunching on the Nintendo Wii in the form of a dedicated Wii channel on 18 November.

Only consoles with a broadband connection in the UK will be able to run the channel.

To get the service, Wii owners will be able to download it from the console's online shop for free.

Australia mulls Scientology probe

The Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has said he will consider calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the Church of Scientology.

But he said the evidence must be looked at carefully before proceeding.

Senator Nick Xenophon launched a scathing attack on Scientology, citing letters from former followers alleging extensive criminal activity.

Scientology spokesman Cyrus Brooks said the senator's attack had been an abuse of parliamentary proceedings.

Senator Xenophon tabled seven letters from former Scientologists who he said were willing to co-operate with New South Wales and Australian federal police.

"The letters received by me which were written by former followers in Australia, contain extensive allegations of crimes and abuses which are truly shocking," he said

Apocalypse Then: a two-part series on the lessons of Y2K

In 1993, a tech consultant named Peter de Jager wrote an article for Computerworld with the headline "Doomsday 2000." When the clock struck midnight on 1/1/00, he wrote, many of our computers would lose track of the date, and very bad things would happen as a result.

Looking back, De Jager's article is remarkable for its pessimism. He interviewed several IT experts who said the tech industry was completely ignoring the computer-date bug. Many didn't think it was a real problem, and those who did felt no pressure to do anything about it—after all, the year 2000 was a long way away. "I have spoken at association meetings and seminars, and when I ask for a show of hands of people addressing the problem, the response is underwhelming," de Jager wrote. "If I get one in 10 respondents, I'm facing an enlightened group."

But then something strange happened: Everyone started worrying about Y2K.

Links for November 17th

Labels may be losing money, but artists are making more than ever

The Times Labs blog takes a hard look at the data on music sales and live performances and concludes that while the labels’ profits might be falling, artists are taking in more money, thanks to the booming growth of live shows.

The Times says that they’d like more granular data about who’s making all the money from concerts — is there a category of act that’s a real winner here? — but the trend seems clear. The 21st century music scene is the best world ever for some musicians and music-industry businesses, and the worst for others.

Which raises the question: is it really copyright law’s job to make sure that last years winners keep on winning? Or is it enough to ensure that there will always be winners?

Huawei Pushing Aside Cisco and Ericsson

There was a time, about a decade ago, that Cisco (CSCO) executives would comment that Huawei was so good at copying (aka appropriating) Cisco’s technology that it even replicated bugs in the software. What was once a joke has morphed into a juggernaut in the communications-equipment marketplace that shows no sign of abating.

Huawei has pushed itself onto the world stage of equipment OEMs for carriers worldwide in wireless, IP-broadband, core networks, software, and services. According to market research firm Informa, Huawei is now the number three supplier of wireless infrastructure equipment, trailing only Ericsson (ERIC) and Alcatel (ALA)

How to cope with unemployment

Unemployment can be one of life’s toughest challenges, but there are many practical steps you can take to help you best cope.

An array of information is available through the BBC News website and various groups offer help for people who are unemployed.

Here is a guide to some of that advice and information.

Surreal drama of Zambia ‘porn’ trial

The trial of a news editor in Zambia, accused of distributing obscene material, is coming to an end. Chansa Kabwela says she sent photos of a woman giving birth without medical help to senior government officials to highlight the effects of a nurses’ strike. Jo Fidgen has watched the trial, and reflects on what it reveals about Zambian culture.

Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap

You won’t find a better media center than the open-source XBMC, but most people don’t have the space or desire to plug a noisy PC into their TV. Instead, I converted a cheap nettop into a standalone XBMC set-top box. Here’s how.

The David Nutt affair, Lord Drayson, and the new political confidence of science

As I’ve been covering the repercussions of the sacking of David Nutt as the Government’s chief drugs adviser over the past two weeks, I’ve been reflecting on what the affair means for British science, and its role in political life.

On one level, of course, the episode has been rather depressing. This Government talks a good game on making evidence-based policy, but as I’ve argued before, the dismissal of Professor Nutt highlights that what many ministers prefer is policy-based evidence. Scientific advice is still too often seen as something to be embraced if it supports conclusions that are politically palatable, and ignored if it does not.

Cut the Cable For Good with Boxee and Apple TV

If you vaguely recall hearing similarly over-the-top pronouncements before, you’re almost certainly right. For more than a decade, pundits have been saying that your internet connection would, any day now, be the primary pipeline for television shows, on-demand movies, YouTube videos, music videos, video podcast feeds, online radio, personalized audio streams, online and offline pictures and music—anything you could fit on your screen, really.

Enter Boxee
Boxee’s media center gives you that, and all from one application. It’s free, it’s open source, it’s built from the guts of the killer Xbox Media Center (which is still a quite active project itself), and it simply works. Loaded onto an Apple TV, or any TV-connected computer, Boxee also gives you free license to drop your cable or satellite dependency with hardly any regret, especially once you realize your year-to-year savings.

Free Speech Is Not For Sale

After a year-long Inquiry, English PEN and Index on Censorship have concluded that English libel law has a negative impact on freedom of expression, both in the UK and around the world. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and should only be limited in special circumstances. Yet English libel law imposes unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on free speech, sending a chilling effect through the publishing and journalism sectors in the UK. This effect now reaches around the world, because of so-called ‘libel tourism’, where foreign cases are heard in London, widely known as a ‘town named sue’. The law was designed to serve the rich and powerful, and does not reflect the interests of a modern democratic society.

Ofcom knocks back BBC DRM plans

BBC plans to copy protect Freeview high definition (HD) data have been dealt a blow by regulator Ofcom.

It has written to the BBC asking for more information about what the benefits would be for consumers.
Initially it looked as if Ofcom would approve the plans but, during its two week consultation, it has received many responses opposing the plan.

Critics say a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for Freeview HD would effectively lock down free BBC content.

My son has cancer. He can’t go into day care because of unvaccinated children. – By Stephanie Tatel – Slate Magazine

Current public opinion about childhood vaccinations sometimes seems to be influenced less by science and more by Jenny McCarthy. But here’s something that rarely gets discussed: the threat posed by the nonvaccinated to children who are immunosuppressed.