TCLP 2013-04-22 Rant: The Unexamined Risk of HTML EME

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

The hacker word of the week this week is fritterware.

The feature this week is a rant digging into the risks of a proposal to the W3C for inclusion in the HTML standard, EME, which would bring DRM and all its problems to the core technology underpinning the web.

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TCLP 2012-09-03 The Value of Privacy

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro I thank Donnie for his very generous donation. He has also claimed the last custom nerd merit badge begging the question of what next; order more right now, order more on the next badge would be claimed, or explore a new premium to offer sustaining donors.

There is no listener feedback this episode.

The hacker word of the week this week is fortune cookie.

The feature this week is a rant about the unconsidered and unexpressed value of privacy. In it I mention the arguably well known quote from MetaFilter about users and free services, Ars Technica’s experiments with the apparently free content model, an op-ed I co-wrote about the lack of full privacy control for users, and Facebook’s intentional monkeying with confusing user privacy controls.

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TCLP 2011-11-06 Rant: Copyright Is Becoming Toxic

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro I gave another brief travel update as I am leaving right after releasing this episode for Brussels to participate in the EU Hackathon. I have booked my travel to Paris for the first full week of December. Speaking of events, Cory will be in DC November 22nd and I will be interviewing him at a live book event followed by Q&A. Another event, which I won’t be attending, but looks worth checking out is the Indiana Linux Fest.

The hacker word of the week this week is fontology.

The feature this week is a rant on how copyright is becoming toxic. This is partly informed by currently events and partly by my current and recent reading.

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Archos 43 More than 6 Months Later: Largely Fail

I purchased an Archos 43 notaphone a little over six months ago. I have little use for cell phones or expensive data plans as I am usually within easy range of WiFi and Google Voice neatly takes care of the few instances where I have to give someone a working cell number even though I prefer just about any other means of communication. A few months ago I even popped for a pay-as-you-go mobile hot spot for those occasions when I am traveling or otherwise need connectivity and the availability of WiFi is unknown or unavailable.

At first, the lack of the Android Market was my biggest complaint, followed by the crummy resistive touch screen. Over time, those two complaints have swapped places. A bit of hacking got the Market onto the device and only occasionally does it present problems, mostly around major firmware updates from Archos. The screen, however, has not worn well and continues to get worse and worse.

There is a broad strip down the righthand side of the screen that no longer reliably works. If I re-calibrate the touch screen, it will work for a few minutes before it settles into its usual semi-functional state. If it was just an inoperable chunk of the screen, rotating would mostly overcome it at the expense of some small hassle. The problem is the accuracy on the rest of the screen is absolutely abysmal. All the way over to the left, it is pretty much spot on but the further to the right you touch, the worse it gets, registering touches as offset increasingly to the left. I am convinced the non-working portion of the display is part of this mis-registration, that the offset just gets so large you’d have to tap beyond the physical boundary of the screen to register successfully.

As you might imagine, typing on the soft keyboard with this idiosyncratic touch screen is an exercise in frustration. More often than not, after the third word of a message or update, I want to hurl the accursed devices into the nearest hard surface as hard as I possibly can. I try to avoid any applications now that require any typing, resigning myself to media consumption. You’d think that would alleviate the frustration with the damn thing a bit but not hardly.

Just reliably hitting the play, pause and next buttons often is an utter crap shoot. A miss can result in sending me back to the home screen or bouncing around to another podcast episode or track. Usually I have to rotate the thing around repeatedly to get the most reliable, left most edge to line up with the buttons I need. The amount of effort involved just to keep up with my podcasts and occasionally listen to some music when I am reading on my morning train ride is tiresome to say the least.

To add insult to injury, I finally installed a firmware updated from Archos that I’ve been avoiding for weeks. I was uncertain whether it would undo my Market hack, hence my hesitation. My (undeserved) that the update might improve the screen operation finally overcame my reluctance and yesterday I installed the patch. Not only did it do absolutely nothing to alleviate my existing woes, now it has introduced a new glitch. Whenever the screen automatically shuts off to help manage battery life, media playback goes out the window. I have disabled the auto shut off just so I can continue to listen to podcasts, otherwise that app would be utterly unusable. I also realize this may be a worsening of an existing bug that was interfering with some music files that previously had been glitchy. Leaving the screen on while using the built-in music player actually seems to work better on files I thought were just mis-encoded or had some metadata that was culpable.

Heck of a workaround, risk destroying my battery life or weird series of app activations and utilization as a result of the MID floating around my pocket with its screen on or give up on the core reason I bought the stupid thing in the first place.

So what to do? The gadget is still within its warranty but I am not optimistic about the vendor’s ability to address any of my complaints. I am also loathe to give up even a brain damaged media player for the duration it would take to get it repaired or replaced. I struggle enough to keep up with podcasts as it is.

I looked around a bit online today for a possible replacement. In short, there really are none. I could get a simpler, non-Android media player. There are several that work well with Linux. Even if I set aside how deeply habituated I am to having Internet access with me constantly, I cannot imagine going back to a device that has to be routinely synchronized with a computer. Of the other Android powered devices that are not phones, the vast majority of them are full sized tablets. For reasons I may discuss in some other post, I don’t want anything larger than my shirt pocket. Besides, judging by customer reviews of at least one WiFi only version of a popular seven inch tablet, the device makers often hobble the non-cell modem equipped tablets as a subtle and irritating prod towards the more lucrative versions.

Samsung has released an interesting media player that bears some passing resemblance to its popular Galaxy line of phones. It has not reached the US though and reviews so far have been mixed. I am not convinced it would be a worthwhile purchase.

As a last resort, I’ve looked into unlocked smart phones. A could see carrying around a Nexus S or some Galaxy based phone but haven’t been able to find any discussions about how reasonable it is to leave such a device unactivated. All the posts and forum threads I’ve found assume you’ll pop a SIM in from some carrier or another and start using it as a regular phone, voice + data plan and all.

I even considered biting the bullet and getting an Android smartphone with a plan of some kind. I can’t get past the fact that any contract option still costs more each month than I am willing to pay considering how lightly I’ll use the minutes and bandwidth. See my comments on access to WiFi and my ingrained aversion to mobile telephony. There are now Android phones available with pay as you go plans which could be a reasonable upgrade to the 2G dumb phone I still carry for when I absolutely, positively have to make or receive a mobile call. Of course none of the smart phones on offer with that option are ones for which I actually would pay good money.

Am I being unreasonable? Is there an option I haven’t considered to get an Android powered, small form factor media player and Internet device? If you have an answer to the latter, I sure would like to hear about it in the comments. Or if you can clarify how well an unactivated phone might work, I’d like to hear that too.

TCLP 2011-04-27 Rant: Innovation Tax

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

The hacker word of the week this week is flash crowd.

The feature this week is a rant on the barriers and friction that make up the innovation tax. The idea was really brought to the fore in my mind by a Harvard Business Review piece by James Allworth. A good example of the thought process of risk averse dominant incumbents was encapsulated in the recent interview with Francis Ford Coppola to which Cory on BoingBoing linked.

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TCLP 2011-01-19 Rant: Tragedy of the Pseudocommons

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

I’ll be at Wiki X DC this Saturday (which may or may not interfere with getting a news cast out on Sunday).  If you can spare some cash, Podiobooks could really use the support to upgrade their servers right now.

Listener feedback is from Jonathan in response to my piece about being an autodidact.  He recommends a couple of videos and David Brin’s blog.

The hacker word of the week this week is fisking.

The feature this week is a somewhat rambling, speculative rant on the tragedy of the pseudocommons. This stems from a lot of recent attention on commons as economic and governance models, including the Nobel prize winning work of Elinor Ostrom and David E. Williams. The title is in fact a riff on Hardin’s original critique of the commons. In discussing the ethos animating digital commons, I suggest the Free Software Foundation exceeds the core values by insisting on stronger notions of liberty. James Boyle’s book does an excellent job describing the more obvious threat of enclosure. My pondering the pseudocommons is similar in some regards to my thoughts on the true burden of forking. Nicholas Carr pegs one extreme example of the form.

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TCLP 2010-11-10 Rant: Network Neutrality

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, a quick review of “The Dervish House” by Ian McDonald.

Listener feedback this week was Wild Biker who was curious for my thoughts on Ballotpedia.

The hacker word of the week this week is fireworks mode.

The feature this week is a rant on how I think the current network neutrality debate came to be.  The Berkman Center had an excellent podcast episode recently that serves as a good backgrounder.  I mention the Carterfone case as the antecedent for open access to networks.

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TCLP 2010-07-07 Will We Ever Have Effective Complex Privacy Controls?

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

Listener feedback this week is from quite a few folks. Matt wrote in about outliners, asking what I do in particular to bend vim to this task. I use a vimrc line like “autocmd BufEnter,BufNew *.notes set sw=4 ts=4 expandtab spell tw=0 foldmethod=indent smartindent”. Colin posted a comment about AAC and chapter marks. John had a much more incisive comment on my switching to an open stack segment. Ian also wrote about outliners, suggesting org-mode and in particular a couple of screencasts. And Max shared his experiences switching to Linux not once, but twice.

The hacker word of the week this week is filter.

The feature this week is a rant digging into the question of whether we’ll ever develop effective controls that match our complex expectations of privacy and digging into the source of that complexity. I mention a couple of posts by danah boyd, some criticism of the demands made of Facebook by privacy advocates, my reading of Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody“, and small world networks.

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TCLP 2010-04-28 Rant: NoSQL

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, thanks to Josh for his donation and a call for ideas for a premium for larger donations. I’m looking for something as unique and distinctive as the merit badges that would be appropriate for $50 or more and monthly donations of $5 or more.

There is no listener feedback this week.

The hacker word of the week this week is fat-finger .

The feature this week is a rant where I try to get to exactly what it is that bugs me about NoSQL. In it, I refer to my hacking 101 piece on databases.

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TCLP 2010-03-24 Rant: I Am Not a Pirate

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, a correction on the rant (I recorded it previously) based on further explanation by Cory in the Lab Out Loud interview about price discrimination and demand elasticity. Also, Happy Ada Lovelace Day. As pledged, I’ve written a blog post for the day. I also share a badge update. And thanks go to new monthly donor, Andrew.

Listener feedback this week is from an anonymous correspondent agreeing with my thoughts on the Apple developer license. Also, David shares another vim/eclipse plugin and Jed and John share their thoughts in response to the Inner Chapter of Tools.

The hacker word of the week this week is fandango on core.

The feature this week is a rant entitled, I Am Not a Pirate. (Although big content is starting to agree though for very different reasons.) Mostly this is in response to Ars Technica’s ad blocking experiment, in particular my friend Nuri’s thoughts on that story. I mention Mike Masnick, of Techdirt, who champions a model he calls connect with fans plus reason to buy. I also mention Flattr and the recent roundtable on free content versus paying the author on The Secret Lair podcast. I also refer to ideas explained by Cory Doctorow on an episode of the Beyond the Book podcast.

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