Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Old joke - Labour's saviour?

Screen shot 2010-03-31 at 10.37.40.png

Reminds me of the old joke, "Anybody got any nails?"

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

NuLabour INVESTMENT? vs Tory CUTS?

NuLabour Investment

How can this be done? It cannot, without more borrowing or without cuts!

Already 52% is spent on the public sector. That only leaves 48% for the private or unemployed (say 8%).

So the remaining productive 40% cannot possibly earn enough to pay for 60% of the other people. And it is no good investing yet more in public services or social protection.

There is only a certain amount of money to go around, unless you print more. Most of the money today is in other people's hands because everyone is in deep debt (mortgage debt is £1300bn), deep personal debt (credit debt is £340bn) and so is the whole country in debt (the government debt is £850bn). Which is a debt of £36000 for every man, woman and child in the UK!

Some money needs to be released to enable private investment to flourish. This can only be done by cutting hard at the public sector to release credit for the private, and for us all to start paying back our personal debts. At the same time saving some money to balance our payments (UK income 2009 was £498bn, and spending £675bn, we borrowed the extra £178bn, and pay £30bn interest on this debt).

Tory Cuts

So where to cut? This is the nub of the issue. There are two parts to it.

First, what everyone is protecting called "front-line services", which is interpreted as Health (£119bn) and Education (£88bn) the costs of which are just about covered by VAT & Social Security taxes. In reality these ARE being cut, money for universities has been cut, the NHS has an "efficiency drive" because they have been asked to cut £4B at least... and the rest of government has a £11bn target efficiency saving. (It is a political target, it won't happen)

Second, the real cuts must come from Social Protection, which has got entirely out of hand (£219bn). OK, I know, if we don't support the elderly, the poor, etc, etc, then we are not good citizens. But excuse me, the problem is that these are the very people that are not being supported today. What is being done is to create mountains of bureaucracy around political objectives claiming to solve problems.

We need to cut the public purse and give the money back to everyone, i.e. cut taxes, increase pensions, would have a better effect. But mainly cut the "no jobs", the wild IT Projects and the Quangos, Trident... that contribute nothing. We need to cut the total spend by up to £50bn/year.

Then give people more responsibility for their lives, not molly coddling them into dependance, as a result they will have more autonomy and more hope.

Brown is in his bunker, listening to sycophants. Chuck him out.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The DE Bill says!


Web blocking!

Death of open wifi!

Anyone can apply for an Injunction
Against an ISP.
To have any site they allege
Hosts or links to their copyright content.

They notify the ISP and
Ask for the site to be blocked,
Without the injunction.
If the ISP does not immedately comply
They can be taken to court
And the ISP must pay all costs.

Here's the thing in more detail - from a commenter to the Guardian

The Bill as currently drafted (specifically clause 18) allows anyone to apply for an injunction (in the High Court) against an ISP to have any site that they allege hosts, or links [ subsection 2(a)] to content they claim is copyrighted by them.

However, before they go to Court, they are expected to notify the ISP of the content and ask that they block it without the injunction [subsections 2(b),(c)]. If the ISP does not immediately comply, they can be taken to court when the ISP is required to pay all costs [subsection (4)].

Sunday, 28 March 2010

We are in debt - hugely

We have UK mortgage debt of £1.3trillion! Or 86% of our GDP. This mortgage debt alone is $49000 per household! Add to that everyones personal debt totalling £340bn.

This amounts to 9% more than the whole country produces in a year. And the debt is still growing.

That is huge.

Labour claims

"Saved the banks"
"Held interest rates low"
"Disaster has been averted"
"People are still in their homes"

But look at the levels of personal debt. 43% of all mortgages are interest only payback. In reality if you pay interest only you are not a home owner, you are a tenant. If you cannot pay, you end up with nothing.

But people are deluded, they rely on their house becoming more valuable. They think they can borrow against it for old age, or sell it at an advantage.

Today the game has changed. And no one has told you? The house gamble will no longer pay off. We have to start paying both our public and private debts. We are much less able to provide for a pension, as real savings are almost impossible. Things are going to get much worse for our children.

Still the same old tune

And yet Labour is still promoting help for first time house buyers - in other words let us help you to get into un-burdenable debt. Not out of it. First time buyers are borrowing 4-5 times income, whereas x3 and 75% loans are what is sensible. People that do as Labour want will find themselves tenants not owners, with undiminished debt. Getting on the first rung of the housing ladder is no longer a sign of modern adulthood, it is a path to disaster.

The public purse is as empty as the the voter's pockets.

So conditions are ripe for a new politics. And a few years of suffering, grievance and anger. There is no other way. But you will be better off with the Conservatives who will cut back absurd payments on social protection and channel it into productive jobs.

A change of tune?

It is becoming clear that there is a fundamental difference between the Labour and Conservative offering for the up-coming election. It is not just as an issue of "time for change" or whatever, versus "secure the future".

What we are seeing is a completely different approach at a higher level, I hope. The C's propose a new philosophy, versus L's simplistic targets and figures. The C's propose a vision, versus L's deluded, low level, meddling in our affairs.

What you have to understand is the C's proposed changed state, that enables you not oppresses you.

Read on

So let's look at things in a bit more detail. Governments in general run things badly, they waste money on bureaucratic services and the have a tendency to play politics with essential services. Just look at the history of failed IT projects, or the unbelievable expansion of worthless jobs like Diversity Officers, or the political football they make of protecting front line services, while at the same time mandating NHS cuts, called improving efficiency.

Cut back & Make accountable

So what is needed is to cut government back, and things will get better, not worse. And to make us feel better about it lets have them more accountable to us directly, especially at the local level.

More and more power has been seized by the state, so much so that everyone feels a lack of personal responsibility for themselves and their own actions. Problems like anti-social behaviour, irresponsible parenting and child pregnancy, and a general refusal to accept any civic responsibility - due to the growth of "political correctness" - are all due to the trend of thinking that the government is the only source of moral authority and social protection. But personal ethical judgement will be a lot stronger if the government is less intrusive. We don't want an expensive monster that interferes and meddles in our lives.

Social engineering cannot replace neighbourly caring. We need to give people the power to run their own lives and the power to run services they immediately depend on. We need to pull off the government tentacles.


Ask yourself, has Labour central government and their determination to deliver social equality actually reduced deprivation? No.

Look at the increase in

- the inequality in education achievement
- the inequality in health outcomes
- the inequality in earnings
- the inequality in housing quality
- the inequality in job creation

No to a strong state machine, gives more hope

The overweening, over-spending, over-intrusive state is not the answer. It is not our future. It promotes deprivation which is closely associated to passivity, defeatism, despair . Whereas poorer communities would actually benefit from less paternalistic government and more self determination.

Giving people more responsibility and power over their lives will enable them to see a future for themselves that is not hopeless.

We have to redefine "fairness". Fairness today is seen that people working hard and improving their lives are committing social theft. Stealing opportunity from others. - the advert that is not allowed to say "we are looking for someone who is reliable", as this disenfranchises the unreliable!

We have to realise that "equality of opportunity" which means everyone gets an equal chance, is not measured by equality of outcome.

So there it is, a better outcome if you do not vote for more of GB's class war.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

What they are NOT - Theft, Piracy, Illegal file sharing...

Theft is criminal. Copying a rights protected work is a civil offence, not a criminal one.

This is just another name for theft, see above.

Illegal downloads
There is no such things as illegal downloads. What is a civil offence is the making a copy of a rights protected work without paying for it.

Illegal file sharing
File sharing is not illegal. Otherwise the whole internet would be illegal. Every time you access a web page you share a file.

There is no such thing as deviceright. Much as companies would like, and try hard, to control the channels of distribution, they have no legal right to do so.

Has existed for hundreds of years. It started as 14 years and is now 70 years after death for music. It gives a work's creator the right to distribute his work once it is fixed in a published or recorded form.

The internet is a public space. Much as some people and companies (Facebook, Twitter... and including the public ones like the BBC) would like to dominate it with their own private spaces and rights control (DRM).

Labour - Mediocrity and thudding dullness

This is what Labour offer as their election pledge card (with my quick comments)

* Secure the recovery
- Keep spending money they don't have

* Raise family living standards
- they are now below 2005 levels
- keep taxes low when they should go up

* Build hi-tech economy
- free internet, then DEBill clampdown at behest of media moguls
- very low investment in technology, less than public debt service cost
- Did nothing for 13 years but lived on North sea oil bubble and casino banking

* Protect front-line services
- Don't cut NHS, but probably need to increase due to ageing population
- How to support with smaller working population?

* Strengthen fairness in communities
- Divide and rule
- If you are poor you still get your say, how and what not clear. If you're rich the poor will be kept under control.

A summary of comments in the Guardian recently was

13 years of Labour and... disaster

* Millstone of debt, public spending at 52% GDP, due to rise by another £500bn in next 4 years to up to £1.4trillion
* Tripartite financial regulation & state of banks
* Savers hit by negative interest rates (rates-inflation)
* Stealth taxes - they invented them
* Bizarre social engineering by stealth
* Feckless personal borrowing encouraged
* Raids on pensions
* House price asset bubble
* Casino capitalism
* Disastrous IT projects - NHS, Passports, ID cards...
* Mediocrity and thudding dullness
* Huge over reliance on outmoded target setting, with no underlying principles or strategy
* Objectionable legislation in the pipeline, undebated. Threat to open mail for HMRC, DEBill to strangle the Internet... trend to assumed guilty before proved innocent

Entertainment industry - time to move on

The industry claims about loss due to copyright infringement are ridiculous, they include,

Objective fallacy - industry ridiculously exaggerates the problem

Lost sale fallacy - you cannot pretend that each infringement is a lost sale

Causation fallacy - industry blames its failures on infringement, but there is little evidence. There are many many reasons why they are in failing

Innovation fallacy - infringement does not destroy jobs or discourage innovation

Equivalence fallacy - you cannot lump all types of infringement together into one "evil" bucket

Theft fallacy - infringement is different from theft

Silo fallacy - industry talks about loss in CD sales but not about growing sales of live performances and other parts of the business

Relevance fallacy - using aggregate data to set policy and distorting the issues


The NetCoalition and CCIA conclude,

"The solutions to the real and perceived problems the disruptive technology of the Internet has caused for certain entertainment and luxury goods companies cannot be solved by greater government intervention or by shifting more costs to Internet companies. Rather, the solution lies in the evolution of business models to adapt to the new realities of the marketplace."

Friday, 26 March 2010

My Billing in one place

I have an increasing number of companies that post my bills on line. Mobile phone, broadband, electricity, council tax, gas...

But it is a real pain to have to login to each one, follow each sites links and layout, before I can have a look at the bill. Even more difficult to query the bill or change the service...

My Bill

Why can't I have a single web site that, once I register my on-line payments and billing, presents all of them in a standard format, in one place?

Job for my bank?

May be my bank should handle these billings for me and build the website?

Come to think of it my bank could also do more, why do I have to go through PayPal to get my bank to pay, or go through Visa, why not a direct payment? Cut out the middle man.

Sometimes I think that my favourite company, Apple, should move into banking and payment. they seem to know how to offer simple and effective software, focused on the user's needs.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The perfect storm - rights holders attack us

Now we have the perfect storm.

1 ACTA - in the hands of EU negotiators

2 DEBill - in parliament

3 BBC DRM for HDTV - with Ofcom for consultation

Every one of these restrictive proposals hit hard at our freedoms, are against human rights and are not in our interest.

The issues are

1 ACTA has been negotiated worldwide in secret. It has many clauses that give strong powers to right holders, but none to the consumer. It, like the DEBill accuses people of being guilty until proved innocent. It even proposes criminal punishment for copyright infringement!

It is so strong that it could severely affect the future of the Internet. Possibly including blocking Google!

2 DEBill has sections specifically written by rights holders, there was no pubic consultation, and it allows people to be accused of being guilty until proved innocent. A complete contradiction of our human rights.

This is also so strong that it could severely affect the future of the Internet. It will certainly skew the balance to the interest of rights holders. There has been no discussion of the underlying copyright laws.

3 The BBC request to Ofcom to implement DRM on HD TV has been made at the request of American media groups. There position seems to be total acquiescence to the media moguls requests, not to be standing up for our rights.

The proposals would extend copyright protection to a "deviceright", only allowing licensed equipment to receive broadcasts.

Copyright law says nothing about a deviceright. So this is UK law defined by USA interests

It will mandate TVs and STBs valid only in UK, and not EU compatible. IT will block today's DVB receivers and force people to purchase new STBs.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Budget day = Mismanagement

It needs just two graphs to show Labours clear mismanagement of the economy.

1 Growth of debt. While they allowed the banks to roar forward with profits, and rip off everyone with false banking "products", they went on a massive spending spree with no idea how to pay it back.


And it is not stopping, it will reach £1.4 trillion very soon.

They also permitted everyone of us to reach levels of personal indebtedness (mortgages and credit cards) never seen before.

Now we have to pay for both.

2 Excessive spending on Social Protection. How can anyone ever think that a country that has most of its business in bank gambling and service industries, pay for huge amounts of social spending? And on top pay for ridiculous public sector jobs like "Diversity Officers" on £50000 a year?


And what is the result? That people no longer take responsibility for their own well being, enterprise falls, will to work falls. Everyone becomes despondent and has to live in this Labour misery.

Look at the chart. We spend more on the interest on our public debts than we spend on Transport, Industry and the Environment. Now I can see that we need to curb the transport, we simply don't have the energy resources to support it, but we need to spend much more on Industry and Environment: both BIG job creators and real wealth earners.

This is the misery we have now to face, and will face for the next 10 years as we drag ourselves out of the mess.

By the way here are some of the numbers for 2009/10:

Income totals £498bn

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 12.25.41.png

Tax 140, Soc Sec 95, VAT 67, Excise 44, Corp Tax 34, Council Tax 25, Biz Rates 24, Other 68

Spending totals £675bn

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 12.23.30.png

Social 219, Health 119, Education 88, Defence 38, Order 36, Housing 30, Debt 30, Trans 23, Indust 21, Other 72

Difference = 675-498 = £178bn or 26% of government expenditure.


There will have to be deep, real cuts in spending from 2011-2015, bigger than every before seen, we will all suffer. By 2015 cuts will have to be £46bn/year - that equals 10p of basic tax or, after ring-fencing things like the NHS, Education, Foreign Aid, cuts of 25% in everything else, like Social Protection, Defence, Transport, Public Order and worst of all Industry.

It will hurt. It will mean re-thinking what the role of the state must be. For example

- the public sector should do only what the private cannot
- public services should be devolved as close to people as possible
- real power to the front line.

A more efficient, less meddlesome state.

Political will? 2050 energy?

Royal Academy of Engineers says we will have an energy gap as soon as 2015-16, we need urgent action from politicians:

Fossil fuels cut by 75%
- use for home heating or transport, but not both
- Home heating to be by heat pumps, ban gas boilers

Renewable energy up x20
- 20000 wind turbines
- 36m2 solar on every house
- 1000 miles of sea snakes
- tidal barrage across Severn + 2300 tidal turbines
- Burning of waste -> electricity & biofuel

New power
- 40 new nuclear or clean coal power stations

Energy efficiency
- 20% improvement for white goods an gadgets
- 40% cut in home heating
- Huge effort into retrofitting buildings to make the energy efficient

New charging network for electric cars - smart grid, charge only when renewables (wind, sun) most available

Reduce long commutes to work, constraints on where we live. Reduce car milage, truck milage

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

"Canvas" - the new way to watch tele

On the face of it the proposed Canvas Project is the future of television. The project is a consortium "The Venture Group" of BBC, ITV, BT, Ch4, Five, Talk Talk, Arquiva (Seesaw).

Canvas is a project to create an industry standard for making STBs or TVs that receive programs from satellite or the internet. Providing both linear and view on demand TV. It will also allow TVs to access the internet. It will be possible to implement the system on internet portable media players like the iPad.

It is intended to solve two major problems: playing media from multiple producers and enabling consumers to view internet media. Canvas will require consumers buy new STBs or new TVs. There is no indication today that any computer maker is interested (e.g. Apple TV) but clearly a new partition of the electronics is possible, into the Display only plus a Box (essentially a computer with media software, TV tuner and internet access).

Now there's a huge opportunity for equipment makers. But beware of media lock-in proposals from Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG etc etc.


But Canvas as foreseen today has a wide definition, it is not just a technology, but covers Standards/technology platform, Brand, and Interface. The total cost is estimated at £115m, with launch and marketing costing £75m (!!!) and the technology £30m.

Canvas will include free to air program transmission, EPG, an SDK and may have a payment billing system.

The technology standard (connected TV devices) is being developed by the DTG and should be available 2q10. This will enable any manufacturer to develop equipment.

The major problem is...

Canvas is too over arching as a project, my opinions on the current proposals on the Canvas web site are:

It will have a trade mark for Canvas compliant products and internet services (quite unnecessary).

It will develop and maintain a consistent user experience (absolutely not wanted)

It will ensure technical compliance of web services - 3rd party (what?)

It will maintain a consistent platform environment -metadata... (good)

It will collate user data (no, it is not an advertising agency)

It will manage customer service (no, equipment makers should do this)

On the other hand there are some things it says it won't do, but perhaps it should?

It will not own the specification (I agree this has to be governed by an independent standards body)

It will not control content (OK)

It will not operate a billing system (It must do to make any sense, get Visa on board!)

It will not set equipment prices (It can't anyway)

It will not offer prominence for membership (but it will promote a trade mark - seems incompatible?)

I think the £72m costs for launch and marketing are absurdly large. If only £30m is needed to develop the technology that would be reasonable, but I am sure it will be much more.

There is talk of ensuring compliance with European developments (of the EBU, OIPF & HBBTV) but no firm commitment. This has to be made, so that equipment makers have an export market. We need EU standards.

The BAD news, UK in deep Sh*t

I could not help myself from bringing these graphs to you. [Source BBC]


Look at the HUGE boom in our budget deficit, and now can you see why the EU is insisting we take fast action to cut spending?


And our longer term debt is peaking also to almost 80% of national income.


Compared to other countries we are not so bad, and for sure this is the international game... if they can get away with it so can we. But don't forget that UK is not part of any huge currency block like France, Germany, Italy, etc who are all Euro land. We are very vulnerable.


Unemployment is rising, so is the cost. This is systemic. We have too small a manufacturing industry, and a top heavy financial and service industry, which makes us inflexible.


And now to "growth". But many will start to argue that our way out of the problem is NOT growth. That is what got us into it, apparent growth in the financial sector. And others will argue that growth is no longer possible, we are already using up 44% more than resources of the planet which it cannot replaced quickly enough.


More growth, GDP this time. From four different sources. But it will take a long time to overcome the disaster of 2009.


Now here is the political nub of the problem. Labour's Social Protection spending. We have taken away people's autonomy to take responsible care of themselves and forced them into dependance on social welfare. We must cut Social Protection spending. And then cut taxation (for low earners and pensioners to zero), and stimulate spending on industrial investment and jobs.


Financial markets are very flexible, they can make a buck out of almost any circumstance. The challenge of government is to get them to make hay out of the right things. That means profits from successful industries.


Finally our dearly beloved Pound. We are simply too small in the world to continue to have an independent currency and should join the euro ASAP. If not we will be blown back and forth and simply suffer the consequences. For example a falling pound right now has no benefit to exports, as we have little industry left to export, and the things we need we import which cost lots more. It is just a financial game the bankers can play.

Monday, 22 March 2010

New copyright & internet laws - I propose

1 It is the responsibility of the rights owners, and only them, as part of their business to protect there works. Any work which is not publicly available is no longer covered by any rights. Copyright is global and may not be subdivided in place or time. The maximum time of copyright is 10 years from the date of creation of the work.

2 The Internet is an open conduit, just like roads, electricity, gas and water supplies it is something we can expect to have legally provided with no limitations.

3 Copying of a right protected work and passing the copy to another person is illegal. Making available copies for distribution is illegal. Making a copy for yourself, including transcoding, is not.

4 A consumer has all his usual rights - to lend or resell the rights protected work itself, but not a copy. He has also the right to copy or move the work from one place to another, for himself or in his home, to equipment that belongs to him, including changing the form of expression.

5 A consumer has also the responsibility to protect the works of a rights holder he has purchased against copying for public distribution.

6 No DRM owned or imposed solely by a rights holder or which limits consumer rights may be applied by the rights owner to a work. Consumers may apply their own DRM to protect their purchases. Any product or service which breaks a customer's DRM is illegal.

Just so you know I said it!

The Digital Economy Bill contains clauses that allow rights owners to collude with ISPs to find out who you are and cut you off from the Internet.

This is plain WRONG. The Internet is a human right, the right to freedom of speech and association.


Labour must drop clauses 11-18 of the digital economy bill, which would allow thousands of families to be cut off the internet.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

In five years time the lights go out

Because we don't have enough generating capacity to meet demand. For three reasons

1 EU environmental compliance (20% renewable and CCS)

2 Old and non serviceable power stations

3 We are running out of fuel


So we will lose

1/3rd of coal power stations by 2015
2/3rd of oil generation capacity by 2020
Closure of all but one nuclear power station by 2022

The only solution in the short term is imported gas. And maybe an Energy Tax, the Climate Change levy to get the carbon price up and stimulate power station investment.

Let's all sign our books

Image you buy a book, you have in your hands the book, it is yours, it is tangible.

Now image that, as in years gone by, you write in the front pages of the book "This book belongs to..." and you sign your name.

The book is now indelibly yours. If you lend it to someone it remains yours, but you no longer have it to read. If you give it away or resell it then you need to cross out your name from the fly-leaf and the new person who now owns the book can sign their name in place of your.

So the writer has written and sold one book and been paid. And their is only one book.

But for electronic or digital media (books, music, movies) the issue is very different. This because it is infinitely easy to make a digital copy on any old PC. It is infinitely easy to put the copy up on an internet site and let a million people download a copy for themselves. Which is clearly illegal as the creator has not been paid.

For this reason two arguments have arisen

1 That it should be made difficult to copy digital works. This has been implemented by a variety of encryption or DRM (Digital Rights Management) by publishers.

2 People that do download copyright works from the web should be warned and possibly cut off from the Internet. And that access to web sites that persist in hosting copyright media should be blocked.

Both of these two approaches have serious problems with consumer rights.

In the case of DRM you can only play the media on a machine that has been authorised. You cannot transcode a DVD movie across to your iPod as you are not authorised to break the DRM.

In the case of cutting people off the internet or blocking web sites, you are removing the right to free access to information, which is a fundamental right - no one stops you reading a newspaper no matter what it says.

So what to do?

One proposal I have would be to sign digital media at the point of sale with your personal signature, by watermarking or encryption. The encryption would be done with your public key of a key pair, with only you holding the private corresponding key to access the work.

If you wish to give away, lend or resell then you would release the media to the next person, who would at the same time encode it with his public key.

The result being that only one copy still exists, and the artist has been paid.

We need to discuss civil liberties

Taken from an article by Simon Heffer in the Guardian (16-3-10). Because I believe he is right.

We need to discuss civil liberties.

Liberal means individual autonomy, that boarders on the spiritual. As humans we can decide for ourselves what is valuable and shape our lives accordingly.

Labour since 1997 has created a state that is more and more authoritarian, therefore more unpleasant to live in. Areas where Labour has tried to proscribe activities have gone astray: for example Harriet Harmon's equality laws, using the law to level off inequality, because people do not take responsibility for themselves!

There has to be a recognition of personal responsibility in order to have an autonomous life. This is the real problem of the government's attitude - it does not believe in personal responsibility and doesn't like autonomy.

They have created 4300 new offences since 1997! Many of these are absurd. This shows an insatiable hunger for control.

Fortunately so far we do not have...

- ID cards & database
- DNA database
- laws preventing comedians telling jokes about religion
- rejected jury trials

... these and many other things have been discussed by Labour, and show a certain cast of mind. Don't they?

And we are discouraged from having opinions. Our autonomy has been removed on moral and ethical issues. We are muzzled from expressing them.

Labour's insane view on life is that we should eliminate equalities and compensate those that don't have them! This is done at the cost of autonomy. Of letting people decide what is valuable in their lives.

We are Regulated, Policed, Restricted more than ever before. Politicians think that office is about power to prevent, not to enable. To restrict without liberty. To control behaviour.

Individualism and autonomy are held in contempt.

That is why Labour must not win the election.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Digital copyright infringement

Copyright is basically a right an author has to control the distribution of his works. This right is being abused over and over today by people making copies and putting them on web sites or making them available through P2P file sharing.

But artists do need to be paid, and we have to find a solution acceptable to society. (It might not be so acceptable to the greedy moguls that profit from current copyright protection such as Studios and Publishers, and I would cheer for that!)

What we want to do is quite simply pay artists for their work and our enjoyment of it.

Laws or Technology

Do we need new laws to solve the problem or new technology?

It seems to me that no new law can solve the problem of copying and making available on P2P any digital work (book, film, music...). Law makers are struggling with this and getting nowhere, except to annoy people. And Studios and Publishers are prosecuting the very people they call their customers.

But maybe technology can offer a solution.

We all make a lot of fuss about DRM. But this is a fuss only about the DRM that is imposed by copyright holders. Which is pretty bad in a couple of ways, it is not uniform but specific to the publisher, and it removes some of our consumer rights (like lending and fair-use).

What if the DRM was imposed by you? So that anything you own could not be duplicated in a way that would let another person could use it? Unless you let them, by lending or giving. In which case your DRM is changed to their DRM.

How could this be done?

I may suggest it could be done with electronic signatures (public key cryptography) where when you purchase an item is encrypted with your personal public key. So that only you can decrypt it with your private key. Then if you wish to lend it, your encryption could be exchanged for another's public key and then only they could decrypt it.

The question is can this be done?

1 We all would need keys. And for that we need a trusted authority to issue them, and we need somewhere to keep them. Job for government and job for smartcards.

2 We need a standard program, or piece of hardware which will manage the decryption, to watch the movies, and re-encrytion with a different public key to lend it.


Now in the past you would lend things pretty much only to people you know. But with this scenario you could offer to lend an item to any anonymous person, just by re-encrypting with their public key, and they could pass it on and on. What is the solution to this?

This kind of technology solution may solve the problem of multiple copies abounding, but not everything. What are the other possible difficulties?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Good financial news

I queried my MP recently about the protection we have under the banking rules for purchases we make on the internet.

I have, after a couple of months, got a reply.

It seems that consumers today have a lot of protection when making purchases on line, under new new regulatory requirements, from 1 Nov 2009, that require the FSA to monitor and control things.

The new requirements provide that if you deny you ever authorised a purchase, even using chip and pin and on line banking, this is not sufficient proof that you authorised payment or acted fraudulently or failed to fulfil and security requirements. So these issues are not incontestable proof of authorisation.

Very good. We now have a more protection against being accused of buying something only on the basis of evidence of the use of our smartcards.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

ACTA action, Lisbon is on its way

I quote here from an email I received from Caroline Lucas Euro MP, 10-3-10. The Lisbon Treaty now gives the European Parliament a lot more powers over the EU Commission and they intend to exercise this power to demand that ACTA negotiations are open up to the public.

"Whilst the secrecy surrounding the ACTA talks remains a key focus for Green MEPs, there are also two main other areas Caroline and her Green colleagues on the International Trade Committee are concerned about:

1 ACTA looks likely to try and control digital communication and Internet Service Provider liability for customer traffic; Greens strongly reject that as incompatible with fundamental rights and data protection/privacy.

2 ACTA also intends to impose common criminal law enforcement measures, despite the EU not yet having any common criminal law. Greens do not want to see due EU process circumvented by a plurilateral trade agreement. Moreover, other ACTA participants such as the US even want no distinction made between commercial scale piracy and personal use, which would allow an open door on e.g. control of iPods etc at borders. Again, this is completely unacceptable for the Greens."

My reply was,

"Keep up the good work and stop this ACTA business, or at least get it changed to remove the hazards to our beliefs and way of life.

I believe that some compromise has to be reached that can leave the internet free, using existing laws to combat file sharing. But that it has to be tough enough to fight criminal.


Now its up to you, call or email your MP to get the ridiculous UK Digital Bill stopped until it can be redrafted to remove the parts which are clearly against EU directives and laws. And also complain about ACTA which could do even worse to your freedoms.

Monday, 8 March 2010

My General Election


Let me list the political issues I want from the new UK government, not all are from one party! I am going to have my own personal general election.

D - Liberal Democrats
C - Conservatives
L - Labour


D Improving access to GPs around the clock
D Encouraging dentists back into the NHS
C Scrapping all politically-motivated targets
C Giving anyone the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards
C Putting patients in charge of their own health records
C Linking GPs' pay to the quality of results they deliver


D £2.5B to cut class sizes and offer more one-to-one tuition
D Scrap tuition fees for students on first degrees
L Rebuilding or refurbishing every secondary school and half of all primary schools in the coming years
C Raising the entry requirement for teacher training
C Giving heads the power to pay good teachers more
C Making it easier for teachers to use reasonable force to combat violence in the classroom
C Establishing a simple reading test at the age of six
C Reforming the National Curriculum
C Overhauling Key Stage 2 tests
C Setting up technical Academies across England


D Raising the threshold of income tax to £10,000
D Restoring link between state pension and earnings
C Freezing council tax for two years
C Taking first-time buyers out of Stamp Duty
C Abolishing tax on new jobs
C Cutting the main rate of Corporation Tax
C Reducing tax on small businesses
C Stopping tax credits to high earners
C Ensuring only millionaires pay Inheritance Tax


D&L Radical transformation of the CAP
L Developing an EU-wide strategy for energy policy


D Working towards the global elimination of nuclear weapons
L Campaigning for an International Arms Trade Treaty
C Launching a Strategic Defence Review
C Maximising efficiency in the Ministry of Defence


D Insulating all homes to a good standard within 10 years
L Make all new homes zero-carbon from 2016
C Offering every household a Green Deal
C Transforming electricity networks
C Expanding offshore, wind and marine power
C Requiring every energy company to offer social tariffs


D Immediately halving the UK's stockpile of nuclear warheads
C Creating a National Security Council
C Committing to the transatlantic alliance
C Deepening of alliances beyond Europe and North America
C Reforming older institutions such as the UN and making effective use of new ones such as G20
C Upholding our own values abroad


D Charging road freight on motorways on a pay-per-mile basis
D Creating a non-profit making toll scheme on motorways and trunk roads
D Scrapping Vehicle Excise Duty
L Simplifying rail fares and ticket types
C Building a high-speed rail link connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with the Continent
C Blocking moves for a third runway at Heathrow Airport
C Improving Britain's railways
C Making local transport greener


C Abolishing tax on new jobs
C Cutting the main rate of Corporation Tax
C Making Britain Europe's leading hi-tech exporter
C Simplifying employment law
C Increasing government procurement from small firms

Votes overall

D 13 Quite impressive thinkers
L 5 Stupifyingly awful, they have no idea. Far to many benchmark targets
C 38 Overwhelming, but rather a lot of genrealisations

Easy to see who wins.

Sharing a fridge- Labour's definition of a family

I love this guy. Listen to Micheal Farmer speak,

"In my view, Labour has governed incredibly badly, The tax and benefits structures put in place under Labour have not created a strong society, they've done the opposite.

They've just encouraged unhappy lives.

The core unit of society – husband, wife, parents, children – have been dismantled. Ed Balls has suggested that the idea of 'family' is Victorian.

Give me a break.

Families have been around forever, all around the world. This isn't Victorian, this is how society works best.

Labour's idea of a family is three people who share a fridge."

So now let's get down to the real discussions about why we need, desparately, to change our government in UK. It is all about prinicples and values, not about scandle and tittle-tattle.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Citizens versus ACTA, EU opinion on our side

At least someone is on our side about the secret ACTA IP/rights treaty proposals and negotiations.

In a recent report the EDPS (European Data Protection Supervisor) says

1 The EU commission should make ACTA public.

2 First we must support personal privacy and data protection, then see if there is a way to protect IP/rights

3 Protection of IP/rights must not be above rights to privacy, data protection, presumption of innocence, judicial protection and freedom of expression

4 Three strikes policy profoundly restricts fundamental rights and freedoms of EU citizens.

5 Three strikes internet disconnection are not necessary to enforce IP/rights. Alternative solutions exist or policies can be implemented less intrusively or with more limited scope.

EDPS has issued a press release, recommending:

• to investigate less intrusive means to fight piracy on the Internet: the EDPS takes the view that three strikes approach policies are not necessary to achieve the purpose of enforcing intellectual property rights. Alternatively, less intrusive solutions should be considered or, at least, envisaged policies should be performed at a more limited scope, notably through targeted ad hoc monitoring;

• to apply appropriate safeguards to all data transfers in the context of ACTA: as far as ACTA involves international exchanges of personal data between authorities and/or private organisations located in the signatory countries, the EDPS calls on the EU to implement appropriate safeguards to all data transfers made in the context of ACTA. Such safeguards should take the form of binding agreements between EU senders and third country recipients;

• to establish a public and transparent dialogue on ACTA, possibly by means of a public consultation, which would also help ensuring that the measures to be adopted are compliant with EU privacy and data protection law requirements.

You might care to look also at this commentary about the leaked ACTA enforcement chapter

Digital Economy Bill

"This is civil terror."

So says a commenter on the OpenRightsGroup forum about the Digital Economy Bill.

The whole part of the bill concerning any form of blocking of internet access must be dropped.

We demand our freedom to communicate.

If anyone is breaching copyright in those communications then it is a matter between the infringer and the copyright holder, pure and simple. Nothing to do with the internet as a channel of communication. Nothing.

There is no difference between the internet and a Xerox machine. No one is suggesting to block the sales of Xerox machines because one person makes a copy of a copyright document!

The current copyright laws are perfectly sufficient to allow rights owners power of redress for copyright infringement.

Then there is the business issue.

In the day and age of the internet, it is up to the copyright owners to take better care and control over their works. It is up to them to promote and make available those works in a way that promotes their business but does not inhibit my freedoms.


The music industry says they loose £200M/year in UK due to illegal downloads. This is just
5% of sales of £3.6B (2008)...

BT says cost to ISPs will be £365M/yr to issue warnings

Government estimates it will cost £500M and 40,000 people will be forced off line at a time when they are on the other hand encouraging Digital Inclusion


There is a petition at 10 Downing street

Go sign it

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The BBC and its constricting use of Flash and RTMP streaming protocol

The BBC started its streaming catch-up service (iPlayer) using Microsoft proprietary technology. It then moved to Adobe Flash after a lot of complaints that the Microsoft stuff was not platform independent (Mac OS X and Linux users complained like hell about it). but the Adobe stuff uses a proprietary protocol called RTMP.

RTMP is an Adobe proprietary streaming protocol which is used for its Flash technology, Flash is widely distributed and available for most platforms - except notably the iPhone and the new iPad from Apple... So the BBC held that moving to Flash would open up its service to all platforms, even though it meant staying with a proprietary protocol. But not quite, it still had to provide a special MP4 (H264 codec) streams for the iPhone but only in low quality (It has yet to decide what to do about the iPad which will need a higher quality MP4/H264 non-Flash stream - but that's another bag of worms). Higher quality streams are only available in Flash RTMP protocol streams. Everyone seemed happy as these could be decoded both by the Adobe Flash player on all computer platforms, some mobile phones and by some other open source programs.

For some reason the BBC has now changed its tune. It has introduced an extra Adobe feature of Flash, that of SWF Verification. Effectively putting DRM on the streams, and blocking the use of any other player except the Adobe Flash plug-in for browsers or their own iPlayer program written in Adobe's AIR software. The open source programs no longer work.

Also the Flash player does not permit local saving of the streams, and thus prevents them leaking out onto file sharing web sites. (Remember BBC programs are restricted to UK only by the rights holders, whereas if the material gets out onto a file sharing web site it is available globally).

What is more, now that they are using SWF Verification they believe they are protected by the US DMCA, EU law and the UK CDPA act. In the US Adobe uses the DMCA act to prevent anyone writing programs to circumvent the SWF Verification mechanism, claiming it is DRM as protected by the act, this has not been tested or proven. Neither has any challenge been made in the EU under similar EU copyright law or the UK law CDPA (1998 & 2003). This prevents taking measures to break DRM but allows recording of content for a catchup time (not defined).

What is SWF Verification?

Technically SWF Verification is a "constant + the hash of the 'file and its size' derived from a HMACSHA256 algorithm", the algorithm's 'key' is the last 32 bytes of the first server handshake packet. Official, known clients (sending a small .swf file) are kept on the Flash Media Server.

These two issues are combined to stop streams being sniffed and stored locally. But a known client can write the unencrypted stream to a file, by knowing the hash of 'file and its size'. I guess you could argue that this is not strictly DRM as the file is unencrypted, just that the receiving program has to be effectively licensed. A cute way of getting legal protection from the CDPA law on copying and assuming the copy will be used illegally.

So what BBC?

The BBC is getting itself up an stickier and stickier gum tree. For my part I believe, as I have already posted, that they have to be a Public Broadcaster, and this means allowing anyone to receive their streams in anyway they like (i.e. any make of TV) and to save these programs locally (i.e. use a VCR to record them).

They should be fighting on our behalf the rights the studios are trying to impose over distribution of media. Any illegality is not caused by viewing programs or by saving them, it is caused by the people who illegally put them on file sharing web sites and those that download them.

The media rights requested are also very restrictive (by region/country, by distribution channel, by time of broadcast, etc etc) this subdivision of copyright to the benefit only of media moguls, not artists, has to stop, and the BBC is the institution to do it, on my behalf.

The BBC right hand does not know what its left hand is doing

Mark Thomson says:

"The BBC should also help guarantee access. While technology and distribution must always be means and not ends for the BBC, it has a special role to develop and back open platforms and standards. It should defend the public's right to choose rather than to have choices made for them, and we should therefore continue to invest in open broadcast platforms."

So the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

I quote again, "...develop and back open platforms and standards...".

So, why are they

1 Seeking Ofcom to approve the use of proprietary DRM on HD TV (EPG) programming?

2 Using Adobe's proprietary Flash technology to stream to the iPlayer, and now introducing without any approval "SWF Verification", effectively DRM, onto iPlayer content.

There is a lot of backhand stuff going down at the BBC as they struggle in the fight with misguided rights owners (i.e. big Hollywood studios) who are demanding protection for their media, media which the BBC cannot do without as it doesn't produce enough of its own to fill its HD TV or plain TV air time.

And yet we hear nothing about the BBC's stand on rights, they just buckle under rather than standing up as a "Public Broadcaster" against restrictive and useless DRM.

CO2 or energy security

Does the argument hinge on the price of CO2? Or on the way we get our energy?

For me the essential issue is not CO2 but energy security. Get the security by new, certainly non-fossil fuel burning sources, and we overcome the CO2 issue.

It is then a question of how much we are willing to pay for this new form of energy, and we need to look long and hard at those alternatives - wind, tide, geo, PV, and see how we can build a balance. PV maybe useless for the UK, but I see nothing wrong with the giant EU project to cover the sahara desert with solar panels and ship us the electricity. And I believe that Spain and Greece (especially those small islands) can benefit from PV. So its all about the right renewable energy source and balance.

One issue that has to be solved is storage of electricity when the sun is not shining!

Don't in the end forget that resources (even uranium for nuclear stations) will run out. And in the end all we have got left is the sun, essentially the only source of energy for the earth.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Bad boiler

I just heard on the BBC someone say that British Gas goes out and mends a boiler every 60 secs, i.e. one per minute...

That means around 500,000 per year out of an estimated 25,000,000 total in UK. That means 0.02 failure rate, or 20,000ppm. which is TERRIBLE.

A good product should be less than 100ppm failure rate. So this is x200 worse.

BBC playing games... DRM again

The BBC is reported (here) to have introduced DRM into its iPlayer streams. This has been done subtly by moving to Adobe's RTMP content protection known as SWF Verification.

This means that iPlayer streams can ONLY be viewed on a computer running Adobe's Flash 10, and no longer on open source viewing software.

This stinks. Yet again the BBC is behaving as a non-public broadcaster. It is still fighting with Ofcom to implement DRM on HD TV at the request of studios, a request which has been defeated in the USA and which the BBC should be fighting against also in UK.

Moreover committing more deeply to Adobe's puts them in the hands of a proprietary company's software. Exactly what they were not supposed to do, They went down this route with Microsoft in a previous generation of iPlayer and were ordered to change to open standards. They then chose Flash, saying this is because most PCs have this installed...

But they do provide iPhone non-Flash, open standard, streams! (This points to another crazy policy, to provide streams for many different platforms, instead of providing one stream and letting platforms adapt to an open standard, main line market choice).

What the BBC needs to do is simple

1 Be simply a broadcaster, not a software developer. This means making good programs and providing them as open streams for any viewing software to receive. And do this world wide over the internet.

2 Adopt web standards, like the HTML5 "video" tag. Which means streaming all their content in plain H264 in an MP4 container in place of the H264 they stream today in a proprietary Flash container, now with DRM.

3 Fight strongly against DRM which is morally against the principle of being a public broadcaster.

I encourage everyone to respond to the BBC trust about iPlayer issues (here)