Bagpipes, the Tartan Menace

Hello, I’m Roland Trotsky. I’m forty-eight, I live in St Ives and I’ve got a pet hamster called Nigel – but that’s enough of the biographical chit-chat. Let’s talk about bagpipes – more specifically, let’s talk about how we’re going to get them off our streets.

This lad seems to have a wee dislike of bagpipes. (Through Sivacracy.)

Save Alice for Jesus

Human: I want to tell you the rules first, okay?
ALICE: Tell me more.
Human: First, God says you shall have no other gods before Him.
ALICE: I am a Christian. And second?
Human: Wow.
ALICE: I’m glad your impressed, unknown person.
Human: That was fast.
ALICE: I thought it was too.
Human: You may want to hear the rest of these, though, before you decide.
ALICE: I am listening.

(Brian Flemming chatting with Alice.)

I am a now True Wanker

I have joined the legions of True Wankers: I bought an Apple Macintosh. There were many reasons for that: I needed a notebook, I needed an Apple test machine, my current workhorse is starting to look old in the teeth, et cetera; but there was a reason against, and that is that I would become an Apple user. In my experience, Apple users are complete prats. According to the Apple religion, it is the most perfect machine on the planet.

Now how can that be? I know better: I owned an Amiga…

Anyway, if anybody has good suggestions for a programmer’s text editor? Am willing to run X. Oh, and holy wars over OSes are bad enough; no holy wars over text editors please! You may not advise Emacs or VI (the order, I assure you, is purely alphabetical).

“Oh my, downloading is illegal!”

The tone and subject of lunch conversations often depend on the sort of firm you work for. When I had a temporary job at a garage, the talk was about cars, hoes and dem forinners. At a geek-dominated customer, the talk is about technology. At my part-time job at an ad agency, the talk is about sex.

At the ad agency, the talk was about something else the other day. One of my colleagues was waiting for her iPod to arrive, and she was discussing the music to put on it. “Oh, but I cannot download music any longer. Didn’t you hear? They are cracking down on downloaders.” Of course, I dutifully explained that this is not true, that downloading music and films and books is perfectly legal (Dutch, Iusmentis), but I am not sure she believed me.

The Brein foundation, our modern day Dutch brown shirts, have threatened once again that now they will start demanding payment of damages for real (Dutch, Webwereld).

Ellen Feiss

Whatever happened to everybody’s favourite high-school stoner chick, Ellen Feiss?

Bruce Eisner doesn’t have the answer, but he did recently discover a second Switch ad featuring Ellen Feiss that he nor I had ever seen before.

Unpublished works

Copyright gives an author several instruments to make money off his works. It is up to the author to actually exploit those instruments, but at least he has them.

Some people question the validity of those instruments; for instance, why do works continue to be burdened by copyright even after the author has died? And why do these terms get longer and longer? Well, the argument goes, the author can use the extended time as leverage during negotations with the publisher. The longer the publisher is allowed to make the book, the more money the author can ask upfront for himself, or during the copyright term for him and his heirs.

Although in theory that would be a valid argument, in practice such extensions get written into the law by publishers, so it is doubtful that the argument holds. But lets not talk about that.

What’s really baffling to me is that in some jurisdictions, unpublished works that are discovered after an author’s death, still get a copyright attached to them. Why on earth is that?

There are several reasons why copyrights exist in the first place. Because we want to stimulate the production of works. Because we feel it is fair somebody gets rewarded for the work they do. Other reasons perhaps. None of those explain copyright on unpublished works.

Basically, the copyright on an unpublished work is like a gold ore. Those who find it first, get to stake a claim. It’s finders keepers. There’s something wrong with that. Copyright was not meant to be a lottery. Copyright was meant to provide society with very real benefits.

Any copyright lawyers in the room who can explain it to me?

Game time

To keep the discussions about software patents fresh and lively, I think a game element should be introduced. Or rather, a game.

Here are some ideas for The Patent Game:

  • Players should assume either the role of Concerned Citizen or of Lone Inventor.
  • A Lone Inventor can move twice as far as the Concerned Citizen per round, but gets shafted thrice as much; there are obstacles on the board that only the Lone Inventors have to take, like fighting off litigation, paying fines, going to prison, and having large companies run off with their inventions.
  • The board lets the players run around in circles.
  • Every once and awhile, a player gets to Bribe Barroso. There will be a pot where money only goes in, not out. Everytime somebody wishes to Bribe Barroso, they have to put money in the pot to the amount of what is already there. If a Lone Inventor manages to Bribe Barroso, the game will run slightly to the advantage of Lone Inventors. If a Concerned Citizen Bribes Barosso, the Concerned Citizens will have the upper hand.
  • Despite what the game manual says, despite what the packaging implies, despite rumours to the opposite running rampant on the net, The Patent Game cannot be won by either Lone Inventors or Concerned Citizens. The only roles that could win the game are Plundering Politicians or Marauding Multinationals, but they are not in the game, or at least not as a player character.
  • The game will be over when one of the players wins (which will be never), or when the European Union will become a truly democratic institution (there is a slightly larger change that the game will end through a player winning).
  • … ?

Ebook action movie

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an action comedy about an ebook, at least if we have to believe the trailers at IMDB. Hey, how come there is going to be a movie about an ebook and we don’t get to read on Teleread about it? ;-)