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.

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Today’s the day. Or, maybe not

Today, Tuesday the 15th September 2009, is our due date. Our little Ruby is officially ready to be born and I’m about to become a father.

Holy shite! Is it nine months gone already?

I have little moments of realisation of what is to come. My impending fatherhood, sleepless nights and the responsibility for another life. These realisations jolt me back into reality in a very, very good way. I’m ready for this. I want it. I need it.

Ruby isn’t quite ready yet, though. Jo is looking in exceptional health at the moment and our baby is content in the womb, although she’ll appear at some point in the next 12 days whether she wants to or not!

I’m ready Ruby. Come to Daddy, and be good to Mummy on the way out.

Ansty Park

Someone in our work organisation has put together a video showing how our new offices in Ansty were put together:

The buildings are incredible and it’s a fantastic place to work. So much better than the previous two places. It almost makes you want to come to work!

Fancy some free Izzard?

izzardI’m not normally one to download podcasts but I’m a bit of a fan of Eddie Izzard and thought I would give it a go.

I found this free (free!) podcast in the iTunes store featuring Eddie being interviewed by the equally funny Simon Amstell (UK store for that link). It’s very, very funny, helped along by some insane questions from the audience.

It was recorded in the Apple Store on Regent Street and is intended, I presume, as a taster for people to find his other stuff on iTunes.

Eddie often heads off into a complete tangent from the question asked and one of these tangents happened to include a discussion of Leicester Forest East Service Station. I pass this twice a day – once on the way to work and once on the way back – and I just happened to be sailing past while he was talking about it.

Spooky.

I shall be trying some other podcasts soon I think. I love listening to music but sometimes a bit of comedy on the way to work helps the miles go by that bit faster.

Cheers Eddie!

8 secs

8 secs, originally uploaded by rutty.

8 Seconds – An eight second exposure. That’s your only requirement. 8 seconds. Not 7. Not 9. Eight.

8 seconds exactly here. I always work in aperture priority so it was good to try out the other options. I set it to Shutter priority (8 seconds obviously) and just pointed my camera out of the window of the coach I was on while travelling back from London to Oxford. It was night-time and it was a bumpy ride!

I did a few of these but we went past a fairly famous building on the A40 (I think) called the Hoover Building. Hoover used to own it, might be Tescos now. Well, they own everything else! And there was a Tesco sign outside for some reason. Anyway, this building was lit up in bright green so I managed to get that streaking across my exposure as well as the street lights above and cars below.

Came out great! I upped the saturation and contrast to make the colours pop.

Links for September 8th

Cory Doctorow: Special Pleading

Six years ago, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom couldn’t be counted as a real success for open publishing because I was too obscure to feel the cost of the lost sales. Now, I’m too successful, someone whose name is so widely known that I am uniquely situated to benefit from open publishing, since the micro net-fame I enjoy provides the vital push necessary to wrest sales from freebies. Hilariously, some of the people who say this go back in time and revise history, claiming that I was only able to sell as many copies of Down and Out as I have over the years (nine printings and still selling great!) because I was such a big shot famous writer in 2003, on the strength of a dozen short story sales.

There’s a name for this rhetorical tactic: “special pleading.” Special pleading is when you claim that some example doesn’t merit consideration because it lacks, or contains, some special characteristic that makes it unique, not part of the general discussion.

How UK Government spun 136 people into 7m illegal file sharers

The British Government’s official figures on the level of illegal file sharing in the UK come from questionable research commissioned by the music industry, the BBC has revealed.

The Radio 4 show More or Less – which is devoted to the “often abused but ever ubiquitous world of numbers” – decided to examine the Government’s claim that 7m people in Britain are engaged in illegal file sharing.

The 7m figure comes from the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property, a Government advisory body.

Thinking about downloads

A few weeks ago, Peter Mandelson announced his intention to push forward on stringent measures to deal with “illegal” filesharing and downloading. The measures went much further than what had been envisaged in the Digital Britain report, with responsibility for the decisions and implementation passing from Ofcom to Mandelson.

[…]

It now appears that “internet suspension of illegal downloaders could become law”. Before that happens, I thought it would be worth while to share some of my thoughts about this.

I was in Hitler’s suicide bunker

At his living room table, 92-year-old Rochus Misch shows me some of his old photo albums. Private pictures he had taken more than 60 years ago. There are colour images of Mr Misch in an SS uniform at Adolf Hitler’s home in the Alps, snapshots of Hitler staring at rabbits, and photos of Hitler’s mistress and future wife Eva Braun.

For five years, SS Oberscharfuehrer Rochus Misch had been part of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, as a bodyguard, a courier and telephone operator to the Fuehrer.

Plinth debut for Marillion songs

Marillion are allowing a fan to play tracks from their new album on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square on Tuesday evening.

Richard Loveridge, 38, will spend his hour on the plinth talking about his 26-year love of the prog-rock veterans.

“My longest adult relationship has been with these five men, so I wanted to frame the story of my life with the story of Marillion,” he said.

Snow Leopard reveals new spots

Apple’s latest operating system – Snow Leopard – is a strange beast.

It’s curious because there are few new features to shout about.

Snow Leopard’s major changes are under the hood; Apple has been spending time changing the stuff that you do not usually see – or care about.

Why? Because spending time there should mean a faster, more stable operating system tuned to today’s hardware. Also, the changes should mean that in the future third-party application developers will have more to work with, allowing a richer, faster system.

A Stitch In Time

If you’re using a self-hosted blog running WordPress and you haven’t upgraded for a while I would highly recommend upgrading. From the official WordPress blog (by Matt):

A stitch in time saves nine. I couldn’t sew my way out of a bag, but it’s true advice for bloggers as well — a little bit of work on an upgrade now saves a lot of work fixing something later.

Right now there is a worm making its way around old, unpatched versions of WordPress. This particular worm, like many before it, is clever: it registers a user, uses a security bug (fixed earlier in the year) to allow evaluated code to be executed through the permalink structure, makes itself an admin, then uses JavaScript to hide itself when you look at users page, attempts to clean up after itself, then goes quiet so you never notice while it inserts hidden spam and malware into your old posts.

The tactics are new, but the strategy is not. Where this particular worm messes up is in the “clean up” phase: it doesn’t hide itself well and the blogger notices that all his links are broken, which causes him to dig deeper and notice the extent of the damage. Where worms of old would do childish things like defacing your site, the new ones are silent and invisible, so you only notice them when they screw up (as this one did) or your site gets removed from Google for having spam and malware on it.

All software has bugs. It’s inevitable. Developers can’t possibly write perfect code – the longer a program is the more bugs there are in it. WordPress is a large application and the developers are fixing bugs all the time, but new ones appear with every new feature and no amount of PHP pesticide will ever stamp them completely out.

Where there are bugs there are ways for people to exploit an application, and there have been some nasty exploits around recently.

Matt is right in his post – get your installation upgraded as soon as practical after a new release so that these sorts of exploits can be kept to a minimum