Category Archives: Rant!

Circular Logic. Argh!

I’m getting there. I’ve got my bike. It’s pretty. I love being on it, and want to be on it more.

To do so I need an instructor, over age 25 and holding a valid motorcycle liscence (class 6). This is hard to come by. I have several contacts at work, but they’re not able to go out every day, in fact, I haven’t been able to yet.

I so badly want to get out and ride, just to get to a parking lot and practice what I’ll have to do for my MST, (motorcycle skills test), which if (when) I pass it I’ll be able to ride and practice on my own.

I can’t do my test until May 12, and still need to line someone up to go with me. But before I can pass it I need to practice. Lots. If only I lived in a parking lot still. Or rather, in a building that had a parking lot.

Conceivably I could push my bike to a parking lot to practice, I wouldn’t be on the road without an instructor. ;)

I also priced out 3M Black Reflective Tape. $9/sq. foot. I want to put some invisible except under bright direct light on my bike, and maybe pants and jacket. 2 feet would probably do. You can go here to see some comparisons of what it looks like under normal light, and direct light like a camera flash or headlight pass.

Anyway, just venting a little bit of frustration.

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Also because I’ve been creative lately

John Scalzi recently wrote a post entitled “Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money“.  It’s a great read for anyone who is, or is considering being, a freelancer.  Not just writers, though that’s what it’s geared towards.

Interestingly, this has always been a day-dream of mine.  However, I know I have the fiscal and time management skills of a slightly retarded rock, so I know it’s never going to happen unless I become independently wealthy.

Here is a quick excerpt:

“Lots of wanna-be writers wax rhapsodic about how great it would be to ditch the day job and just spend all their time clickety-clack typing away. These folks are idiots. Look, people: someone is paying you money and giving you benefits, both of which can support your writing career, and all you have to do is show up, do work that an unsupervised monkey could do, and pretend to care. What a scam! You’re sticking it to The Man, dude, because you’re taking that paycheck and turning it into art. And you know how The Man hates that. You’re supposed to be buying a big-screen TV with that paycheck! Instead, you’re subverting the dominant paradigm better than an entire battalion of college socialists. Well done, you. Well done, indeed.”

He continues in this vein thusly:

“People who aren’t full-time writers tend to have a hazy, romanticized view of the full-time writing life, in which writers wake up, clock four-to-six hours of writing truth, and then knock off for the rest of the day to be drunk and brilliant with all the rest of their writer friends. They tend to gloss over the little things like all the time you spend worrying about where the next writing gig is coming from, or all the e-mails and phone calls to publishers reminding them that, hey, they’ve owed you a check for nine months now, or (due to the previous) deciding which bill you can allow to go to a second or third notice, or the constant pressure to produce something you can sell, because you’ve heard of this crazy idea called “eating,” and you think you might like to give it a whirl. The full-time writing life isn’t about writing full-time; it’s about a full-time quest to get paid for your writing, both in selling the work, and then (alas) in collecting what you are owed. It’s not romantic; it’s a pain in the ass.”

It’s worth a read.   The whole thing is full of good financial advice, specifically geared towards freelancers, but applicable really, to anyone.

Go and read it.  Really.

A note concerning the last post.

First of all, and further to the last post, I want to give some kudo’s to the Library of Congress for putting these photos on flickr.  It’s pretty cool that someone there had the bright idea to share them on a public, super popular, photo sharing venue, instead of putting them on their own gov’t served webpage where dramatically fewer people would be exposed to them.

Further, it makes economical sense in a couple of ways.  First, they don’t have to foot the bandwidth bill for constant use of them – flickr is doing that.  In return flickr has an archive of historical photos that are royalty free.  Secondly, some of the people on the internet may very well be able to provide interesting and pertinant commentary and insight to these photos – something that I dare say would not have happened to the same extent had they only been hosted at the LoC website.

Example, a comment on Wil Wheaton’s Blog:

OK, this is weird. One of the very first photos is of a barn in the Catskills. The angle of the June sun puts the viewing angle as SE, and with the distance of the Catskill Mountains in the background, I would place this photo within 10-15 miles of the farm where I grew up. I can see why my grandfather bought those 400 acres in 1940. With a view like this, Brooklyn must’ve seemed a purgatory.

People often forget when they’re paying their taxes that these things are supported too.  That good works are being done by the the Gov’t. (this is an US example, but our Canuckian Canadian Gov’t is doing some good things too.)

I’m not going to make spiel about contacting your MP’s/Congresscritters or anything here – but I am going to make note that although we may not see  all the good projects are governments are involved in, but they do exist.  So it’s a good reminder to find someone to publicly or privately thank for those we like and support, and voice our opposition to those we don’t – otherwise, no institution, no matter how right thinking, can correctly gauge the community support for the projects proposed to it.

As Seen on Slashdot, 2.

Slashdot (News for Nerds) has an article pointing towards another article (don’t you love the day and age of the news blog?) about “Fair Use of commercial video and music as raw material for new creations.

I havn’t read “TFA”(The F*cking Article, for those who don’t read slashdot in their spare time) I have gone and read TFA, and it’s … ok.  The best part of the article  may (like slashdot) be in the comments, some of which are very well written and communicated, bringing up interesting issues.

Reading through the comments at slashdot I did find one particular gem – an explanation by the user Curunir that is a great example of what “copyright” actually is, and who/what it is meant to protect. Comment below, because I felt like sharing.

“One thing I found interesting about the article is that the entertainment lawyer makes one good point while trying to make a point that is almost the opposite.

From the article:

But, as a technical legal matter, fair use is not a “right,” a misconception and misstatement frequently made these days.

While his point is that fair use is more of a privilege than a right, I think there’s a much different interpretation of what he’s saying that is important to consider.

He’s absolutely correct that fair use isn’t a right, it’s an exception. But it’s an exception to the rights of the copyright holder. And this distinction is important because it underscores how entertainment companies misrepresent copyright. Rather than copyright defining the few excepted uses allowed to people/entities who don’t hold the copyright, it actually defines the few rights granted exclusively to the copyright holder.

And this is an important observation about the intent of copyright. Namely, that anything not explicitly granted to the copyright holder is permissible rather than forbidden. The big content producers would like copyright to be a limited set of things that we (those not producing the content) are allowed to do with their content, which they believe they own. But when defending our rights, it’s important to remember that copyright is actually a limited set of things that we’re not allowed to do and that content cannot be owned, only protected. And this is the principle that should be applied whenever something falls outside of what is explicitly stated in the Copyright Act…that everything not covered is allowed rather than forbidden.”

Canuck DMCA, Dead or just biding it’s time?

Canadian copyright law is something I feel very strongly about. Yes, I personally have been guilty of downloading movies or videogames. I’m not perfect. However, I don’t support a policy which places those who would violate someone’s copyright above the holder of the copyright. (This is an issue Sami and I are not in 100% agreement on. I do think we agree on the basics though – that copyright holders have certain rights, they should be protected, and too draconian laws could be bad – it is a matter of degrees. She’ll speak up if I’m entirely incorrect.)

I do support fair and balanced copyright reform. Copyright reform in the works should give people exclusive control over their works for a time, and when that time expires have their work become part of the public domain.

Fair and balanced copyright reform would give copyright holders the ability to seek compensation for loss of profits when their intellectual property is violated.

What fair and balanced copyright reform should not do is place undo restrictions on consumers. For example, we should be able to device shift. We should be able to time shift. We should be able to parody a copyrighted work.

These are rights that are being considered for removal from future copyright reform being proposed by the Hon. Ministers Jim Prentice and Jose Verner.

This may seem like greek to some, but let me illustrate what I think is one of the worst ideas in the proposed reform – the lack of device shifting.

Device shifting is when you take copyrighted material that you have purchased, and move it to another device. For example, you buy a CD. You take the CD home and rip a copy of it to play on your iPod. This would be illegal under the proposed reform. Is this sane?

Sure it is – if you’re a major media label. You’d rather someone buys your CD, then goes home, attempts to put it on their iPod and finds out they can’t. They then have to go onto iTMS (iTunes Music Store) and purchase a second copy for their iPod. Royalties twice, for the same content.

Of course, I’m sure many industries would have liked to have the ear of Mr. Prentice. If I were a horse and buggy manufacturer when the automobile was invented I’d have loved it if I could have bought legislation in Canada which would make it illegal for people to drive automobiles on the roadways. Or if I were a producer of coal-oil, I’d have loved it if electric light bulbs were outlawed.

It is not the place of the government to protect a failing business model.

/end rant. (though I may write more about this in the next little while.

If you want to know more about this, here are a few places to start.

Michael Geist’s Blog – Michael Geist is a Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa. He is an expert on international copyright.

Facebook Fair Copyright for Canada Group – A group dedicated to discussion of fair copyright reform in Canada.

CBC’s Search Engine article.

The Globe and Mail’s article, New copyright law starts Web storm.

I need to learn to watch before I post

I posted a video in my last post before I watched it.  Now that I have watched (most of) it here at work, I have some points to make about this obviously one sided attempt at journalism.

The first critique is that the only computer repair shop in the show which was shown to do a good job was the one where the technician told the customer to “take it home, do it yourself, reinstall windows, it’s simple”.  If I was a customer I’d be upset – I bring my computer in to have it fixed, not to be told to fix it myself.

Secondly – I work as a computer technician.  I can say confidently that I would have diagnosed the first problem (damaged RAM) correctly.  However, it wouldn’t have been onsite, as we don’t generally service non-booting computers onsite – too costly for us and for the customer.

The technicians who did get the problem right were criticized for selling replacement parts at too high a price.  Because of course, buying ram on a discount website is the best way to gauge how much a computer service person/center should be charging.  It isn’t like they have to keep track of inventory, stock the item in the first place, deliver it and install it.  That part should all be free.

Thirdly.  The second manufactured problem (a few corrupt windows files, no more than 60 dollars to fix).

Oh. My. Goodness.

First of all – you shouldn’t have randomly corrupt files in windows.  This shouldn’t be able to be solved in an hour, because of a little first step in pc repair, namely, diagnostics.

It will take time, at least 15 minutes, probably half an hour or more, to identify that there are corrupt files in windows.  Then, there should be reasonable time spent (probably 6-8 hours of bench time, not chargeable) to prove that a failing hard drive or bad ram didn’t cause the corrupted files.

The technicians who said “you have a virus” may be simplifying the problem, but I’m inclined to think they are taking the easy way out (seeing limewire installed and guessing there is a virus or spyware strain corrupting windows) and not just trying to hose the customer.

This brings me to another thought.  Explaining things.  Customers get aggravated if you speak in geek talk, but get angry if you simplify things and later they are given a more detailed explanation that makes your simplification seem like you’re talking out your ass.  I seem to be pretty good at explaining problems to customers simply without having to resort to half truths, but not everyone has that talent.

A more fair test would have been to bring the laptop in and say “I think some files are corrupt, someone was playing with it and may have deleted some windows files”.  This way they could rule out some of the diagnostic procedure and get to the fix – running a repair install of windows.

Overall, a sketchy reporting – one that makes me look bad as it paints all computer technicians with a very broad brush, and puts them in a bad light.

I know that in my town there are several competitors who offer cheaper service than we do.  I also know that I get very few negative reports – or I wouldn’t still be doing my job and making the money that I make – which is quite decent, thankyouverymuch.