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HTMLfixIT Archive for June, 2005

Monday, June 27th, 2005 by Franki

The net is alive with the sound of P2P proponents gnashing their teeth, and of record and movie companies rubbing their hands together in glee. The Supreme court has just ruled unanimously that peer to peer companies can now be held accountable for the actions of their users. In my previous article, I showed my disdain for companies that blame their bad performance on any external factor they can find. In this case that blame has been levelled at P2P networks like Grokster, and now these huge companies can use the legal system to put any of these companies out of business. In other words, we now have a Mafia style protection racket in the entertainment industry. Do it our way or we’ll make sure you don’t do it at all, or put another way, “make us money or we’ll make sure you lose all of yours”. The real effect of this ruling is that the previous Sony Betamax ruling of 1984 has just essentially been overturned, at least in part. This may result in opening the doors to widespread litigation of any company that offers a product that could possibly be used infringing copyright. That means the manufacturer of your MP3 player or even your mobile phone could be sued, and that means they will up the prices on such devices to cover the risk of litigation. To anyone but the record and movie companies, this is not good news.

The Judges stated that the P2P companies had invoked or otherwise advertised the use of their networks for the purposes of infringing copyright and therefore should be held accountable for such uses. Many think that this may protect MP3 player manufacturers and the like because they’d have to advertise “infringing use” to be liable, but consider that explaining in the instructions for the MP3 player how to rip a CD and copy the music to your player could be construed as an advertisement to infringe, so nobody that offers such devices is safe from the repercussions of this ruling.

More info on the troubling new ruling can be found at:, Wired and TheRegister.

Comments Off on Supreme court slaps down P2P networks.

Monday, June 27th, 2005 by Franki

If the recent news that a couple of big record companies in Australia have gone after two sysadmins for not stopping a customers BitTorrent site are any indication, record companies may soon go after Tim Berners-Lee, the guy that invented the World Wide Web, because it’s illegal use has resulted in most of the record company execs living below the poverty line. Or Perhaps they’ll go after Robert Kahn who is one of the guys who created TCP/IP, better known as the protocol on which the whole Internet relies. Surely he is massively responsible for creating the technology that steals all their hard won money.

The main problem appears to be that these guys need something or someone to blame for the slump in sales they all seem to be having of late. It would of course just be wrong for them to blame their own outmoded thinking and their desperate holding on to past business practises. I actually find it surprising that they’ve all managed to swap to CD’s without trying to find ways to make them illegal, (Though they have proposed a tax on blank media because they claim much of it is used by nasty pirates.)

They claim that piracy is ripping off the artists, but what they really mean to say is: “We as record companies, should be the only ones ripping off the artists”. Just take a look at contracts of any of the Australian Idol winners to get an idea of who’s making the “real” money here. The fact that their blank media “tax” against piracy has thus far failed to impress anybody in a position to help them, is perhaps why they are now going after anyone they think they can extort money from. Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for the struggling new artists when their songs are passed around the net with no revenue for them, but the record companies really need to look at who is really to blame here. I don’t pirate music or video myself, but by the same token I don’t buy CD’s anymore either, mostly because I’m sick to death of the record companies blaming everyone else but themselves for their lacklustre performance. Due to their inability to guide the online industry, you can’t buy a song and play it on any music hardware, or even most hardware for that matter. They have allowed the online music industry to fragment into a dozen non compatible propriety formats and that alone is one of the big reasons why online music sales haven’t taken off they way they could have. The other reason is excessive money grabbing. They are pricing online music at the same price (or more) as buying the actual CD, even though there is no packaging or distribution costs involved. What most people don’t seem to have considered, is that online music probably doubles the record companies profit margins by massively cutting costs. They’d prefer you didn’t consider that while listening to their stories about how the poor artists are starving.

The question remains, is a creator to be blamed for users that infringe using their creations? Are admins the world over responsible for every little thing their users do? If so, where will that stop? Because using that theory, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Kahn are guilty has “heck”. The Sony betamax case was lost because it was found that there were legal uses for such technology, but the record companies are now desperately trying to re-try that case in a modern arena, apparently because the need to blame people for their own poor performance has risen to new highs. Consider this though, record companies have sued children, and dead people, with that sort of indiscriminate unscrupulous litigation, can it be long before they go after Tim and Robert? Who knows, once they realise that most piracy happens on Windows computers, perhaps they will have found a target (Microsoft) with deep enough pockets to fund their ‘avoid taking the blame’ campaign for a couple more years. Truth be told, I think the real reason they are all worried, is because the Internet will eventually be capable of removing most of the reasons one would need a record company in the first place. The idea that they will one day have to work for a living must have them waking up in cold sweats.

In a further example of idiocy, the supreme court has just ruled that P2P networks can be held liable for the infringments of their users. The fact that such technical innovation will now probably disapear apparently doesn’t worry the judges.

Comments Off on Opinion: Record companies go way too far.

Monday, June 27th, 2005 by Hazel

Just stumbled onto this when visiting a local planning application website. The site plans were all in Tiff format which of course cannot be easily viewed in a browser.

The site directed you to an Alternative tiff viewer at Alternative tiff viewer

Its easy to install for both Internet explorer and other browers including Mozilla Firefox, and its free. You do however have to register.

I found it very useful, particularly as otherwise when clicking on the image to be viewed the brower went to Paint Shop pro my image program and was slower and much more difficult to view!

Take a look.


Comments Off on Great browser Tiff image viewer

Sunday, June 26th, 2005 by Franki

Several times in the past I’ve felt the need to address Microsoft’s questionable tactics with regards to Linux. Those tactics come under the banner of their “Get the Facts” campaign. In it they pay researchers to do studies that show Windows is cheaper then Linux, or is more secure then Linux, or that Windows is the better performer of the two. The main problem is that that you must take any such reports with great gobs of salt and should probably disregard them altogether. Why? Well for one thing, because we only hear about the studies that favour Windows and the ones that don’t were likely shredded immediately. Secondly because much of the paid “research” is based on criteria that is set in such a way as to favour Windows. One such example is the IDC report that claimed Windows had a cheaper TCO then Linux, but IDC (or at least one of the reports authors) later admitted that scenarios were chosen that would inevitably be more expensive to Linux.

One of the study’s authors accuses Microsoft of stacking the deck. IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky says the company selected scenarios that would inevitably be more costly using Linux.

The other side of the coin is the money that changes hands. Either the studies are paid for and defined up front, or the study authors are paid when the study is included in the Get the Facts campaign. Since authors know that Microsoft will pay them for any studies included in GtF, and they know that Microsoft will jump at the chance to include any study that “looks reputable” and shows results that favour Windows, we get the end result that we can’t even trust research that isn’t paid for up front by Microsoft any more if it ends up in GtF.

Lastly is the studies that show that it is more expensive to convert from Windows to Linux then it is to stay with Windows. What those reports fail to mention is that more often then not, the reason there can even be a comparison, is because Microsoft have done everything in their power to make sure it is as expensive as possible for people to migrate away from their software. Proprietary formats, proprietary protocols and exclusionary tactics are the reasons that they can even make those sorts of claims with a straight face. Fortunately courts both legal and of public opinion are forcing Microsoft to reduce their exclusionary tactics or face the legal and PR results. That doesn’t stop them from trying as in the case of the EU anti-trust ruling and also their SenderID anti SPAM framework, or in fact their upcoming Open document formats, which aren’t really open. As I said, it doesn’t stop them from trying, it just means that people are more likely to be aware that their often touted claims of embracing interoperability are not worth their weight in bull s**t.

Remember, Microsoft are not running “Get the Facts” to improve Windows, presumably they are doing it to try to stop or limit Linux growth from hurting Windows sales. In other words, it’s an advertising campaign, pure and simple. Do you always believe every Ad you see on TV or in the newspapers? Interestingly even the standards bodies in advertising have had cause to dislike the “Get the Facts” campaign because of it’s obvious misrepresentation of the issues and as a result Microsoft have had to pull at least one of their Ads when a closer look at the comparison they made showed that they were comparing Windows on a cheap dual CPU server to Linux running on two very expensive IBM mainframes. Had they wanted an honest comparison, they’d have compared both Linux and Windows on a dual CPU x86 server. The fact that they didn’t probably indicates that the results were not in their favour when they tried it in private. Which leads back to my first point, that we never see those findings, we only see those that favour Windows.

So in short, “Get the facts”, should read “Get half the facts with an extreme bias favouring Microsoft products.” but then even the IT dense CIOs that “Get the Facts” targets would see that as only advertising, so “Get the Facts” works nicely for Microsoft and the CIOs reading it get to think, and tell board members and shareholders that by reading them they were “researching the issues”. The fact that most of them either aren’t true, aren’t entirely true, or are so narrow in scope as to be useless and are not indicative of anything relevant doesn’t seem to be an issue for them at all.

The inspiration for this latest “Get the Facts” tirade was this excellent article from Joe Barr on Newsforge. Well worth the read, particularly if you were considering basing a business decision on a “study” paid for by Microsoft.

Comments Off on Microsoft “Get the Facts” fails under scrutiny.

Friday, June 24th, 2005 by Franki

The BSA (Business Software Alliance), which counts companies like Microsoft, Dell, Apple and HP as members, has been claiming that 33 billion dollars in revenue was lost due to software piracy ni 2004.

That some revenue is lost to piracy is without a doubt true, but many are somewhat doubtful about method by which the BSA reached this figure. In short, according to the Economist (subscription required) the BSA worked out it’s piracy figure by using surveys to determine how many programs the average user has in each area, they then compared that total to the amount of software actually sold in that area and used the difference to reach the $33 billion figure. There are so many problems with that reasoning, that you start to wonder if perhaps the BSA is just a collection of marketers, lobbyists and lawyers working furiously together to further the goals of their member companies. For starters, take me for example, I have, Firefox, NVU and Thunderbird on all of my machines. All of those are free Open Source programs, and yet they would count as “piracy” using the above calculation. When you consider that over 65 million people have downloaded Firefox alone, that, it makes you wonder how the BSA could tout such a figure and do so with a serious face. They also apparently jump to the conclusion that the people really guilty of pirating software would rush out and buy it were they unable to use their illegally gotten software. I find that assumption dubious to say the least. So I guess the moral of this is that we can all help the BSA tout bigger software losses if we all adopt and encourage Open Source software.

The second chapter in this woeful story relates to the current software patent issue dividing the EU. The BSA released figures that once again have been twisted to serve the interests of it’s members, nearly all of whom are huge companies. Their claim was that software patents benefit small and medium sized companies (SMEs) as much as large enterprise. Rather then go into all of the detail here, I will instead direct you to Ingrid Marson’s article at ZDnet where the saga has been explained more clearly and in more detail then I could hope to achieve myself. One comment I would make is that the BSA is behind much of the current lobbying in the EU in favour of software patents and their figures have been quoted by at least one MEP over there as reasons why software patents should be legally approved. That the figures are hopelessly inflated in the BSA’s favour is apparently not worth considering.

Comments Off on BSA, proof that even software companies can fail maths.

Friday, June 24th, 2005 by Gary

Every day thousands and thousands of computer users fall victim to the multitude of online security threats. Viruses, SPAM, Trojan horses, Spyware, Phishing, and just plain old fraud are rife. We all know it, many of us make it our business to minimise the risks, but for many others it is all just too hard or too confusing. This breeds both paranoia and victims.

The victims of online security attacks pay a high price. Their personal information is stolen and used in the worst of ways, loans are advanced in their names, their credit cards are charged with fraudulent transactions, and entire savings (or even entire mortgage offset accounts) are transferred out for the credit of criminals. While some of these victims are able to recoup their losses through claims, their ‘victim-ship’ is transferred to the credit card merchants and banks who ultimately foot the bill when a claim is paid.

Meanwhile, the paranoia builds amongst the rest of us. Our trust takes a battering, and we start losing faith in E-Commerce. If we let it get to us we reduce (or altogether cease) our online purchases, and this time the merchants suffer from a decrease in sales volumes. We know where it goes from there: they lose, we lose.

Responding in some way to the limited consumer understanding of online security, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and the Australian Bankers’ Association have developed a Fact Sheet entitled Protecting Your Information Online [PDF]. This is a “Complete Idiot’s Guide” to the subject (but without lame jokes), with content including:

  1. Avoid being caught by fraudulent e-mails;
  2. Tips for protecting your computer [a good prelude to our tips]; and
  3. Using Internet Banking [safely!].

What makes this publication especially valuable is that the advice in it is for everyone, not just confident computer users or people working in IT, but for our parents, wider family, and friends: the potential victims of a future security threat. While it is an Australian publication, the advice is well and truly global. This is the kind of document that should be sitting in the E-mail Inboxes belonging to our family and friends (along with the jokes you forward), and I can only think of one way you could get it to everyone in your address book. 😉

Meanwhile, the Australian Institute of Criminology High Tech Crime Brief reports that Identity Crime and Phishing are on the up and up (and up!). Perhaps we could all do our bit to try to reverse this trend by spreading the news?

Comments Off on Phishing for the Facts.

Friday, June 24th, 2005 by Franki

According to Gartner, the continous flow of phishing attacks together with other well publicised security scandels has undermined the public’s faith in the security of E-Commerce. These results are based on a survey of 5000 US consumers and it seems that it will impact E-commerce growth by between one and three percent. Other points of note in the report are that 80% of those surveyed have less faith in E-mail from unknown parties and that 85% of those folks delete them without opening them.

Also see:

There are several things that can be done to try and stem the tide and shore up public trust. For one thing, commercial security packages could take a page from Open Source products like ClamAV which, when used on a mail server, will block known Phishing attacks (which are generally just text/HTML E-mails containing links) as well as the normal Viruses. Improvements in security need to be shouted from the roof tops and banks in particular, need to do more to advise their clients on the risks of online banking and what they can to reduce their exposure. For all the talk about big online companies having their data stolen, most of the problems actually appear to stem from actual uses falling victim to Phishing attacks, or Trojan/keyloggers/Spyware.

For the smaller developers in E-commerce fields, not storing sensitive customer data on publically accessable servers goes a long way to lessesing the potential exposure.

Comments Off on Losing faith in E-Commerce.

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