Links for February 9th

Digital Economy Bill bill could ‘breach rights’

An influential group of MPs and peers has said the government's approach to illegal file-sharing could breach the rights of internet users.

The Joint Select Committee on Human Rights said the government's Digital Economy Bill needed clarification.

It said that technical measures – which include cutting off persistent pirates – were not "sufficiently specified".

In addition, it said that it was concerned that the Bill could create "over-broad powers".

iPad Snivelers: Put Up or Shut Up

It's taken me a couple of days for me to understand the wet sickness I felt in response to all the post-iPad whining, until it finally came up in a sputtering lump: disgust.

The iPad isn't a threat to anything except the success of inferior products. And if anything's dystopian about the future it portends, it's an American copyright system that's been out of whack since 1996.

Apple – an open and shut case?

In a fascinating and well-argued piece in this morning's Financial Times, the Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain expresses a worry that is now taking hold amongst many – that Apple has moved firmly from the "open" to the "closed" camp in the software community.

He points out the tight control that is now exercised by the inhabitants of 1, Infinite Loop, Cupertino over the software that can be installed on the iPhone – and in future on the iPad – and worries about the power that gives governments and content owners to demand that certain applications be switched off.

Open Societies need open systems

Openness, like democracy, must be constantly defended, says Bill Thompson.

Are expensive digital HDMI cables better?

"You wouldn't spend £20,000 on a car then put cheap tyres on it, would you?"

That might seem like powerful argument for road safety, but it's the kind of line being trotted out in high street electrical stores to sell HDMI cables.

These short, unexciting-looking wires are used to connect devices such as Blu-ray players and games consoles to modern, flat screen televisions.

HDMI cables rarely come included with new gadgets and while they can be bought for as little as 95p, some retailers stock models costing up to £110.

Gates: $10B vaccine program could save 8.7M lives

Bill and Melinda Gates announced plans Friday to invest $10 billion in the fight against a number of illnesses including AIDS and said the record donation could save nearly nine million lives.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, they said the 10-year program will focus on vaccines for AIDS, tuberculosis, rota virus and pneumonia.

"We must make this the decade of vaccines," said Bill Gates.

"Vaccines are a miracle," added Melinda Gates. "With just a few doses, they can prevent deadly diseases for a lifetime. We've made vaccines our priority at the Gates Foundation because we've seen firsthand their incredible impact on children's lives."

None dead in mass homeopathic overdose

The mass homeopathic overdose, organised by the 10:23 campaign, went ahead on Saturday morning, and it appears everyone involved lived to tell the tale. Hundreds of sceptics gathered at various locations around the country, many of them outside branches of Boots, and at 10:23am downed entire packets of homeopathic pills. With the exception of an amusing remark reported in the Observer from Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who quipped that one "swallower" hurt their thumb while opening the pill bottle, there were no reports of casualties.

Ericsson cutting an extra 1,500 jobs

Swedish telecoms equipment group Ericsson has said it is cutting an extra 1,500 jobs, as it reported a 92% fall in quarterly profits.

Hit by the cost of its restructuring work, and a continuing drop in orders, its net profit for October to December was 314m kronors ($43m; £27m).

This compares with 3.89bn kronors for the same quarter in 2008.

The latest 1,500 job cuts come on top of the 5,000 positions that the company shed last year.

British Newspapers Make Things Up

[A]ll British newspapers are tabloids because they don’t distinguish between what is true and what they make up. I knew this from my own experiences of dealing with British journalists, but, as it turns out, even the British government admits, in an official government publication, that British newspapers make things up and report them as facts.

It’s idiotic to blame God, the devil, or anything other than geology for the Haitian earthquake

[...]we can clearly identify the "fault" that runs under the Atlantic Ocean and still puts Portugal and other countries at risk, and it took only a few more generations before there was a workable theory of continental drift. We live on a cooling planet with a volcanic interior that is insecurely coated with a thin crust of grinding tectonic plates. Earthquakes and tsunamis are to be expected and can even to some degree be anticipated. It's idiotic to ask whose fault it is. The Earth's thin shell was quaking and cracking millions of years before human sinners evolved, and it will still be wrenched and convulsed long after we are gone. These geological dislocations have no human-behavioral cause. The believers should relax; no educated person is going to ask their numerous gods "why" such disasters occur. A fault is not the same as a sin.

Web Security: Are You Part Of The Problem? – Smashing Magazine

Website security is an interesting topic and should be high on the radar of anyone who has a Web presence under their control. Ineffective Web security leads to all of the things that make us hate the Web: spam, viruses, identity theft, to name a few.

The problem with Web security is that, as important as it is, it is also very complex. I am quite sure that some of you reading this are already part of an network of attack computers and that your servers are sending out spam messages without you even knowing it. Your emails and passwords have been harvested and resold to people who think you need either a new watch, a male enhancement product or a cheap mortgage. Fact is, you are part of the problem and don’t know what you did to cause it.

Links for September 17th

BBC looks to copy protect content

BBC plans to encrypt Freeview HD data have come under fire from critics, who say it will effectively copyright free BBC content.

Under plans submitted to regulator Ofcom, the broadcaster has requested that it be allowed to encrypt certain information on set top boxes.

Only trusted manufacturers would be offered the decryption keys.

How to read articles about health

People often ask “how can I spot bad science in a newspaper article?” as if there were a list of easy answers, and it can be very difficult – given the lengths newspapers go to in distorting evidence, and witholding facts – but here is an excellent set of pointers. It’s written by Dr Alicia White from the Behind the Headlines team, and this is a resource I cannot recommend highly enough: they describe, in everyday language, the actual scientific evidence behind each day’s major health news stories

Run, Izzard, run and run again

It’s the last leg of Eddie Izzard’s 43 marathons in 51 days. How did the less than athletic comic pull off such a feat of endurance?

Tomorrow’s World classics go online

As footage of the weird and wonderful inventions that defined Tomorrow’s World is released online from the BBC archives, it is a good time to remember how much of the technology we now take for granted was demonstrated for the very first time on Tomorrow’s World.

Patry’s MORAL PANICS AND THE COPYRIGHT WARS: elegant, calm, reasonable history of the copyfight

Few people are as qualified to write a book about the copyright wars as William Patry: former copyright counsel to the US House of Reps, advisor the Register of Copyrights, Senior Copyright Counsel for Google, and author of the seven-volume Patry on Copyright, widely held to be the single most authoritative work on US copyright ever written.

And Patry has written a very fine book indeed: Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars is every bit as authoritative as Patry on Copyright (although much, much shorter) and is absolutely accessible to a lay audience.

Salford 24-30 Leeds

Leeds finished the regular season with the League Leaders’ Shield after a battling victory over Salford to spoil Robbie Paul’s final Super League game.

Tries from Luke Adamson and John Wilshere helped Salford to a 12-0 lead but Leeds were level by the break after Kallum Watkins and Jay Pitts scores.

The Rhinos carried their momentum into the second half with Luke Burgess and Brent Webb putting them 24-12 up.

Salford fought back late on, but Carl Ablett’s try was enough for Leeds.

Help! I’m a Beatles hater

The re-release of the entire Beatles album catalogue has unleashed another wave of veneration for the 60s pop band. But could there really be anyone who actively dislikes their music?

Sex, flies and videotape: the secret lives of Harun Yahya

Inspired by the high profile of its Christian American counterpart, Muslim creationism is becoming increasingly visible and confident. On scores of websites and in dozens of books with titles like The Evolution Deceit and The Dark Face of Darwinism, a new and well-funded version of evolution-denialism, carefully calibrated to exploit the current fashion for religiously inspired attacks on scientific orthodoxy and “militant” atheism, seems to have found its voice. In a recent interview with The Times Richard Dawkins himself recognises the impact of this new phenomenon: “There has been a sharp upturn in hostility to teaching evolution in the classroom and it’s mostly coming from Islamic students.”

The patron saint of this new movement, the ubiquitous “expert” cited and referenced by those eager to demonstrate the superiority of “Koranic science” over “the evolution lie”, is the larger-than-life figure of Harun Yahya.

Musicians hit out at piracy plans

An alliance of music stars, songwriters and record producers has spoken out against UK government proposals to kick file-sharers off the internet.

Persistent file-sharers could have their internet accounts suspended in an attempt to crack down on piracy.

But Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien, a member of the Featured Artists’ Coalition (FAC), said: “It’s going to start a war which they’ll never win.”

The FAC said “heavy-handed” tactics may turn fans away from music for good.

Links for February 18th

  • Novelist Pratchett becomes a Sir -

    Author Terry Pratchett has been knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to literature.

    Sir Terry, 60, was named in the New Year Honours list.

  • Wonder twins telescope sees star’s dying gasps -

    500 light years away, the star T Leporis is dying.

    It used to be much like the Sun, but the store of nuclear fuel in its core is running out. Due to the nuclear processes going on deep inside it, its energy production has vastly increased, blasting out thousands of times the energy it did when it was a stable star. The outer layers of the star absorb this energy, and, like a hot air balloon, expand hugely. Even though it is now far, far brighter than it used to be, the expansion actually cools the star’s surface. It has become a bloated, swollen red giant.

  • Not safe for work: the git that keeps on giving -

    Remember: if you steal a man’s fish, you’ll make him hungry for a day, but steal his nets and you’ll keep him hungry for a lifetime.

  • 50 Mobile phone apps to change your life -

    If you’ve recently got a new phone for Christmas, be it an iPhone, G1, Nokia or a spiffy BlackBerry, we bet you didn’t know it could change your life.

    Download any of these apps and become more efficient, thinner, fitter and better at saving on the go, so you’ve still got time to sit around in your pants whenever you feel like it.

  • Maybe Facebook should just offer a loyalty card instead -

    Facebook has more than 150 million users. You would think that that must be valuable. The problem that “social networking” sites are throwing up, though, is that while you might have a lot of users, how do they ever become something that’s actually valuable?

  • New law making it an offence to photograph a policeman should worry us all -

    More than 300 photographers descended on New Scotland Yard this morning to protest about a new law that could criminalise anyone taking a photograph of a police officer. Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act, which came into force today, permits the arrest of anyone taking photographs of the police, the armed forces, or the intelligence services which are “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. Now a policeman might not be your first choice of subject but this should concern us all.

  • Babies’ gestures partly explain link between wealth and vocabulary -

    Babies can say volume without saying a single word. They can wave good-bye, point at things to indicate an interest or shake their heads to mean “No”. These gestures may be very simple, but they are a sign of things to come. Year-old toddlers who use more gestures tend to have more expansive vocabularies several years later. And this link between early gesturing and future linguistic ability may partially explain by children from poorer families tend to have smaller vocabularies than those from richer ones.

  • Creationists are still denying Darwin -

    The fundamental ideas behind the theory of evolution have been scientific gospel for decades – and yet creationists refuse to go the way of the dinosaurs. Who exactly are they? And just what do they believe?

  • Facebook ‘withdraws’ data changes -

    The founder of Facebook says the social network will return to its previous terms of service regarding user data.

    In a blog post Mark Zuckerberg said the move was temporary “while we resolve the issues that people have raised”.

    Users had complained after new terms of service seemed to suggest Facebook would retain personal data even if someone deleted their account.

  • Westboro Baptist Church justifies UK picket -

    This is the full text of the Telegraph’s correspondence with the Westboro Baptist Church, about its plan to stage a picket in Britain for the first time. The church has threatened to demonstrate outside the staging of anti-homophobia play The Laramie Project at a school theatre in Basingstoke, Hampshire on Friday.