Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"Lets test the RIAA logic…" - Mark Cuban

Never let it be said that Mark Cuban didn't love a soapbox. If it's not TV shows it's his weblog.

You can't fault the guy though. He is, after all, the man footing the bill for P2P software maker Grokster in their fight against the 2003 appeal by media giant MGM. In a blog entry from a few days ago, Cuban marked out his reasons for his position against MGM (don't mind the first half of the link. It's basically Cuban running through his content assets. Just take his point as given; he's not into technology, he's into content).

It will be a sad day when American corporations start to hold their US digital innovations and inventions overseas to protect them from the RIAA, moving important jobs overseas with them.

Thats what is ahead of us if Grokster loses. Thats what happens if the RIAA is able to convince the Supreme Court of the USA that rather than the truth, which is , Software doesnt steal content, people steal content, they convince them that if it can impact the music business, it should be outlawed because somehow it will. It doesnt matter that the RIAA has been wrong about innovations and the perceived threat to their industry, EVERY SINGLE TIME.

In a more recent entry Cuban runs through what he considers to be the main case of the Recording Institute Association of America, the people constantly pushing for this outcome.

At a CEA event I attended a couple weeks ago, I listened to a panel where Mitch Bainwol, the head of the RIAA basically put out the argument that it was obvious that illegal downloads were hurting music sales. It was obvious because the advent of file sharing coincided with a decrease in music sales. Therefore A lead to B...

So Im putting together a list of digital media content types that are sold, and looking and asking if they have seen an increase or otherwise in sales since the introduction of Napster. I was hoping blog readers could contribute their thoughts to the list as well.

Here is my list

DVDs - Huge Increase in Sale
Digital Photographs - Huge Increase in Sales (see corbis and other outlets)
Video Games - Huge Increase in sales
Software - Not huge increase percentage wise, but increases in actual dollars… I couldnt find a specific reference. Anyone have one ?
Ringtongs - Huge increases in Sales

So, using Mitch Bainwol/RIAA logic. If 5 digital based products sold since filesharing came on the scene are showing flat at worst, up huge at best sales, doesnt it hold true that filesharing cant hurt and must BENEFIT digital product sales ?

Barring the attrocious spelling, I get the point, Mr Cuban, but I'm not sure the logic entirely holds in this case. It may, but I'm not entirely convinced.

The panel discussion he refers to is available as a PDF file here. The panel included Markham Erickson, Executive Director of NetCoalition (a trade association for a number of Internet companies such as Yahoo and Google), Dan Glickman, President and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America and, obviously, Mitch Bainwol, Chairman and CEO of the RIAA.

I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing, but it gets off to an interesting run of spurious logic.

Bainwol: ...What is the basic economic theory? There is this notion of perfect substitution. You have two products, one costs money, one is free, the marketplace goes to free...

Shapiro: ...You know what we're paying for this water? I don't get it, but the point is, water is the kind of thing where it's available for free, but yet we're always paying for it... So you can compete with free, and people do it all the time in all kinds of industries...

Bainwol: You said a bunch of thngs there that I felt compelled to talk about. One of which is the water metaphor. One, water is not free (ed: added emphasis). And, two, to compare water to the genius of creativity or to the genius of any innovation, I think, is just a real stretch. A song that comes from the brilliance of the human mind is nothing like rain coming from the skies. And to make a parallel there I think is silly.

Well, Mr Bainwol, water is free. You may not always be in a position to easily get to it, so that's why you pay for it through water and council rates. Some people may wish to create a more pure form in an easily transportable plastic container which increases its value. Point being, if you have content that's different than what you can get for free, or has some added attraction, it gives it market value (I know nothing about economics and even I know this).

Second thing on this point. I don't know what things are like in the RIAA offices, but P2P isn't free. I pay for my internet access and I can't think of many people that get it for nothing (that includes University students). Yes, it may be included in some kind of association or student fee, but what's the difference between that and the council rates to get your water?

On Mr Bainwol's second point, well obviously the man has no poetry in his soul. He can scratch out pretty words about rain drops and inspiration and say they're nothing alike, but if he's never taken the time to stand and listen to the rain, to marvel at the power and intensity of a tropical thunderstorm, or feel the tiny droplets of a light sunshower falling onto his face, then he may as well stick to his books and figures. And if you don't know what I mean either, then Mark and I will see you in court.

Monday, March 28, 2005

"I wanna be a movie star!!!"

Have I mentioned how much I love "We Make Money Not Art"? It always has such great stuff on it I can't get enough. Whether it's "Electrified Wood", an environmental logging defence alarm triggered by crickets, Wearable Furniture, Early Japanese Typewriters, A House Powered by, of all things, Spinach, Autonomous Outdoor Cleaning Robots or Self Assembling Machines.

But by far my favourite new post for today has to be this one.

Go To The Cinema And Star In The Film You're About To See

As part of Expo 2005 in Aichi Japan, The Mitsui-Toshiba Pavillion is showing an entirely digitally created film. "Big Deal," I hear you scoff, "it's been done before." The twist on this one is that before entering the cinema, each member of the audience has their face scanned. The facial information is then placed on the blank faces of the characters in the movie, creating a film populated by the people watching it.

Happy Post-Easter

Given the events of the past few days I could mention issues such as this...

courtesy The Age *

or this...

courtesy The Age *

or even this...

courtesy UComics *

or even link to this...

Baxter Protests End Violently

However given my three days off I'm feeling rested and relaxed, ready to get back to work.

Instead I'll take this opportunity to thank Steve Darlington and the SteveCon crew (which I think is Helga) for an enjoyable Saturday afternoon of game action, hanging with friends and meeting new people. I particularly enjoyd the Cthulhu game and the "Apples and Apples" although people seemed to be really getting their jollies in the Star Wars session. It's been too long since I've done the RPG thing and it was great to get the dice bag out of storage and blow the dust off.

* Thanks to Patrick at Liquor and Wordcount for the heads up on the cartoons.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A bit of artistic subversion

I don't know what it is that I love so much about this.

British street artist Banksy has added his works to four of New York's most exclusive art collections. Walking in dressed as a British pensioner, the artist added his works to the walls complete with explanatory plaque.

Staff at the New York Met discovered and removed their new aquisition early Sunday morning while Banksy's discount soup can print took pride of place in the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) for over three days before being torn down.

As of now, the other two pieces currently remain firmly in place...

If you've got a moment, check out Banksy's website. Some of his work is pretty impressive.

Wooster Collective - Banksy Hits New York's Most Famous Museums (All of them)

BBC to pilot local interactive television news service

And here I was thinking I was part of the cutting edge in television...
informitv - Interactive TV - BBC to pilot local interactive television news service

A Ride to Recall

Well this morning marks my last 5am start. Even if I keep coming in early next week (which at this point is unlikely) the eternal mystery that is the end of Daylight Savings in N.S.W. means that I'll at least get an extra hour's sleep in. So with this final early morning at the front of my brain I decided last night that I'd take the long way to work; down through Tennyson, along the river, across the Indooroopilly Bridge then Swann Rd to Toowong. It turned out to be a nice ride so I figured I'd give it a bit of pseudo-permanence here, now that things at work have slowed down a bit this morning.

3:55 am. It's still dark, the "darkness before the dawn" so famed in proverb. I've already sat on the edge of the bed wishing for another hour of sleep but I can't fight it any longer. Another day of work awaits.

4:40 Summer's been holding on into the first month of Autumn but at this time of the morning you need to do up the jacket. I live in a block of four townhouses so, being the good neighbour I am, I roll the bike down the driveway so the ignition of the engine doesn't wake anyone. All you can hear is the slight click of the spokes rubbing against the leather of the panniers, the rubber tyres on treated concrete and a slight whir as the clutch bypasses the engine. Turn the key, flick the ignition and I'm off in a burst of headlight and horsepower.

Ipswich Road is dead at this time of the morning. I'd have at least expected a few trucks dragging their early loads out to the Western Suburbs but I guess for now I've got it to myself. The predawn cool feels good across my face as I feel the engine start to warm up. I come across my first traffic as I need to turn right, slowing down to time the gap between two cars climbing the hill from Moorooka to Chardon's Corner. A quick burst through second and third, a left into Cardross St past Helga's and I'm crossing the train line.

For all my bitching and moaning about getting up early, it really is nice to be up and moving at this time of the day. Everything's so quiet and cool, completely different to earlier in the night. It helps that the only people about are ones that need to be there. For instance, there goes a "Wanless Wastecorp" garbage truck, heading to its next block of pickups.

I was also going to comment on how much nicer the air smells at this time of the morning, but turning on to Fairfield Road maybe I won't. There's a strange smell in the air here and I can't figure if it's the passing garbage truck, the train line or just the area. As I move south towards Rocklea the smell becomes stronger; agricultural, blood and bone. It's industrial area and not surprising. Unpleasant, but not surprising. The temperature drops as I move into the lower ground, past a picture of the head of a huge Fire Ant lit up on a giant billboard.

A right, a sweeping left and I'm heading down Tennyson Memorial Avenue, Brisbane Golf Club on the left, train service line on the right. Tennyson is a strange area. In just a few short streets you go from one of the most prestigious golf courses in the city to a rail yard to impossibly priced riverside mansions to cheap student rentals. I keep thinking of the "Land Value" map in Sim City and expect varying topographic regions of blue to be overlayed across the ground. On the right in the gloom is the abandoned power station, huge glass panels reflecting the ambient light. The whole thing looks like some great gothic-industrial cathedral, like the ghost of some piece of Soviet architecture left to decay. The power plant has always played a large part in my imagined mythology of Brisbane. It quite readily adapts itself to "the Dark Place" in any adventure or story needing horrific overtones and I've used it myself a number of times for just that.

Tennyson Memorial Avenue/King Arthur Drive is a great ride. A sharp right over the train line followed by a sharp left, a nice section of left and right curves then down the straight past those mansions I mentioned earlier, each one blocking any view of the river from the street behind high walls and shrubs, as if hoarding it for themselves. Once over Oxley Creek it's a nice right turn into Nadine Street and I'm riding past the river. The street is full of curves and bumps; traffic calming devices to stop people (like me) from rat running past these expensive houses. I pass my first people out for an early morning walk with the dog. Then a cyclist. Then a jogger. Then another cyclist. It seems that I'm not the only one who has a liking for this time of the morning after all.

From this side of the river there's only one way to get across from this part of town and that's Indooroopilly Bridge. I love that bridge. It holds so many wonderful memories from my early twenties and it's just so full of character. I ride the long, sweeping, 360 degree curve down under the bridge then back up and around to get on to it. The last part of the curve jumps up at me quicker than I'd anticipated, forcing me onto the brakes.

Over the bridge, past the El Dorado cinema, then a right turn over the Ipswich train line and in to Clarence Street, up the hill, past Alex's old place and the location of the house from John Birmingham's "He Died with a Falafel in his Hand," to the intersection with Swann Rd. This intersection is a real bitch. You're already heading up a fairly steep hill and need to turn right onto another steep hill. You can barely see what's coming up from the left and just over the crest on the right it curves sharply. I've had more than a few close shaves on this hill. Why bother coming this way? I could have just continued along Coonan Street and Moggill Road through Taringa and into Toowong from the south west. I start to edge onto Swann Road and the reason comes into view across the crest of the hill. Swann Road runs along a fairly distinct ridge to the south west of the city and from it you get an uninterrupted view of the city skyline, fine dots of light in the distance. Unfortunately it doesn't last long. The length of the ridge is lined with apartments and houses, each one grabbing their own piece of the view. Just when you think you're going to get another glimpse, a tree or shrub jumps up and blocks it, or another sweeping high speed curve forces your attention back to the road. But that initial glimpse is enough for now.

Through the roundabout, down Gailey Rd (which becomes Brisbane Street, which becomes Benson Street, which becomes Coronation Drive, all in the space of a few hundred metres), turn off Benson Street into Glenn Road and on to Archer Street and I'm there. That's when I realise I'm running a bit ahead of myself. I'm still coming down Gailley Street past Sir Fred Schonell Drive. Anything can happen between now and when I get there. Look! That concrete construction in the middle of the Glenn Street intersection. When did that get put there? Obviously designed to stop people like me from cutting the corner. I duck to the left to avoid it giving me a short burst of adrenaline to wake me up before arrival. A quick twist of the throttle up Glenn Rd, right up around the hill on to Archer Street and the ABC studio comes into view.

Welcome to another day at work. At least this one started the right way (even if it didn't continue that way for very long). Now I get to look forward to the ride home.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Finally! We're a (semi) real studio!

Last night marked the first time we've used our shoebox here at the ABC News Online Broadband Unit for anything beyond chroma key hostings. Opportunity smiled upon us when former Malaysian deputy prime minister and one of the region's more notable former political prisoners, Anwar Ibrahim, was asked to come into the Brisbane News Studio to do an interview with the ABC's Lateline program.

Former Malaysian deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim

"So," thinks our man Stefan, "so long as he's going to be here anyway, why not get him up to answer a few questions for us as well?" It made sense. Mr Anwar was already going to be here, already made up for his five minutes with Tony Jones, so why not make the most of the situation?

Well that kind of threw my boss Matt into a bit of a spin. He wound up having to relight the studio for a 1+1 interview on a set that, while theoretically being created for such tasks, wasn't quite ready. After switching the interview, he then had to reset the lights for the next news update that night, all before going home that night to pack for a trip to Sydney today. Nice effort.

Anyway, I'm really disappointed that I didn't get to be here for it, but having started at 5am that morning there wasn't much chance of staying until 8pm that night. I guess I'll have to wait for the next time. I've already voiced my opinion that the links should be recorded from a purpose built set in the newsroom leaving the studio for more of these sorts of interviews. We'll see how it goes.

Anwar Sets Australia a Tough Task - ABC News Online

Real Broadband | Real Dialup
Windows Broadband | Windows Dialup

Online response to Chinese Government Restrictions

From March 16, some of the most influential University BBS (Bulletin Board System) in China... have been restricted to users with an IP inside the university only. That means public users, who make remarkable contribution to the conversation, are not able to access these BBS any more. Before, these BBS hosted very active public forums and attracted millions of registered visitors inside and outside the university. Protests have been organized around Chinese universities. People are calling it an insult on the freedom of speech, but soon their posts were deleted and their voice stifled by university administration.

In response, students have fought back in the Chinese blogosphere, getting the story out. Moreover, they've been using the tag "SMTH" (after the url for the Tsinghua University Bulletin board, for images and text on sites like Flickr, furl and The tags allow people to quickly and easily access content regarding the clampdown of information in an environment where getting information can be problematic.

Students protest restrictions on most influential BBS - China Digital Times

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Avid to acquire Pinnacle

By now everyone's marching this one out, but I figured I had to get in on the act. Avid Technologies, the company that made their name an industry term for "non-linear editing" is buying up growing broadcast and video company Pinnacle Systems. Best known for their consumer products Pinnacle have been expanding themselves over the last decade, buying up companies like the German video card manufacturer Miro (I myself still own a Miro DC30+ capture card).

The interesting thing to watch will be what Avid intends to do with their consumer end products, specifically Avid Express DV. Of course, what would be really disappointing is if Avid starts going downmarket and further falls behind in the broadcast field as it chases the Adobe Premiere market.

Time will tell.

Press Release - Avid Technology, Inc. to Acquire Pinnacle Systems, Inc.

Cell Phones and Petrol Stations

My wife Ellen and I are big fans of the Discovery Channel show MythBusters (currently shown on Australian FTA Television Monday 7:30 SBS), an interesting amalgam of science, entertainment, big booms and the just plain gross.

In one of the initial episodes hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman attempted an experiment to see if mobile phones could cause the petrol station explosions that they've been credited with. The result was a complete failure, busting the myth. What they did find was that the likely cause was static electricity from people jumping out of the car and touching the area around the gas tank without grounding themselves first.

Well it seems that Adam and Jamie don't have quite the scientific cred to be taken seriously by legislators. Take, for instance, Connecticut state senator Andrea Stillman who decided to try and get legislation passed making it illegal to use a cellphone at a gas pump because a chain email told her so.

Luckily someone with some academic cred has stepped into the knowledge void to let us know once and for all that the whole thing is a myth. Dr Adam Burgess, of the University of Kent, found that that out of 243 petrol station fires attributed to mobiles around the world in the last 11 years, not one was caused by a handset.
"He said manufacturers' warnings not to use mobiles at petrol stations because of the risk of fire gave the idea further credence."

Once again our old pal, the meme, rears its head to make something impossible seem to be a hideous danger to us all! I'm not saying that there aren't other things you should be thinking about when using a petrol pump besides chatting on the phone, but the beat up that this has received over the years is pretty phenomenal.

Monday, March 21, 2005

My obligatory political comment

Thanks to Patrick at Liquor and Wordcount for this one.

I post this, not because I necessarily feel that it's particularly relevant to the U.S. (although I do) nor to poke fun at American citizens (even if they did vote it on themselves). Rather, I began thinking of what an Australian version would look like...

"Ignore Kyoto!"
"Imprison the Refugees."
"Toady up to the U.S. whenever possible."
"Lie about torture."
"Never say sorry!"
"Ignore Human Rights records in trade talks."

"But don't you raise my *!#& Interest Rates!"

To quote the late, great Bill Hicks, "My hat is now firmly in the political ring."

Why the political vehemence? Well today I spied an article from the Sydney Morning Herald that spoke of children being taken from schools directly to detention centres (Uurrgh, it gives me the creeps just writing that), in front of other students, because their parents had overstayed visas. No "Where are we going?" or "I guess I may never see you guys ever again", but instead a couple of guys in black suits hauling children away with no explanation.

It's repugnant and just another sign of why I can say without fear of repudiation that Coalition politics is based on evil. It is a politic based on selfishness and greed, caring only for the individual with power. This is a damn pity because there are elements of Liberal/National policy I don't have any issues with and am quite in favour of when compared to similar viewpoints expressed by the Labor Party. However it all comes back to this initial premise, that conservative politics is based on evil, regardless of their much ballyhooed support of organised religion, or rather the old Protestant doctrine of "he who dies with the most toys is blessed."

The thing that really steamed me up about the situation was not that this had happened (although it certainly did get me mad), but rather that it wasn't reported until the poor Aussie kids were being traumatised that their friends were being taken away without knowing what was happening. Their fear was that it may happen to them. I understand that this is a perfectly normal feeling, especially during childhood, but it seems that if it happens to a foreigner then it's unfortunate but necessary. The moment it impacts directly on Australian citizens it becomes a political issue.

Unfortunately I couldn't find the original article online, but here's a follow up where the N.S.W State Premier gets himself into the action.
Carr condemns removal of children -

I love my country, passionately, but sometimes I cringe with frustration at what we're becoming.

Some hilarious Flash work

My new favourite blog. It's just a pity he doesn't syndicate his site. I especially like the Notepad Invaders game and the Sisters of Mercia video.

Rob Manuel weblog

Why ABC loves a toy story - The Australian

The story's a little old now, but it brings up some interesting points about the way the ABC has started commissioning programs, especially Children's programs given the success of Bananas in Pyjamas. At the February Senates estimates committee hearing one of the issues that didn't get as much play in the media was Tasmanian Labor Senator Kerry O'Brien's questions regarding children's programming and what commercial and marketing factors are involved in deciding which ones get made and which ones don't.

Senator O'Brien's concerns were, quite rightly, that the ABC had started giving greater consideration to programs that could be onsold or produce some commercial return rather than give consideration to the educational quality of the content. ABC MD Russell Balding agreed that if there were two programs of equal quality then the one that would get the nod would be the one that promised the greater economic return. Given the ABC's Charter and philosophy on non-commercialism this didn't sit well with Senator O'Brien.

O'Brien: "... The point I'm seeking to make, and I think you are confirming it, is if two programs are potentially good quality programs and one has better ancillary rights exploitation potential then the one with the ancillary rights exploitation will getup."

Balding: "Most probably, yes, if I can only afford to invest in one of those two projects."

The author of the piece then goes on to say that he suspects that
"many parents would much rather ABC Enterprises had no role in commissioning children's television content."

I can't argue with that. I'm sure it is the case and if I was outside the ABC I'd be let down if I felt that children's programming on "my taxpayer funded station" was driven by commercial considerations rather than validity of content. However, I'm not. I know that any commericial or corporate leanings the ABC has come to is as a result of many decades of government, both Labor and Coalition, reducing funding, choosing particular representatives and generally pushing the ABC towards this methodology. As a result, the ABC has found that to survive, given the lack of government funding, it needs to think commercially as funding from these programs goes back into program making.

I find it quite tasteless that after decades of pushing the ABC towards commercialism the government, regardless of political affiliation, has the hypocrisy to point the finger, especially after the reign of former Media Minister Richard Alston. If you want a non-biased, commercial-consideration-free ABC, give it the money it needs to do its job independently. Otherwise just admit that the government is hobbling the ABC so it can be sold off as "an irrelevant and outdated model of state run bureaucratic waste."

Here endeth the aggro...

The Australian: Why ABC loves a toy story [February 24, 2005]

Friday, March 18, 2005

Donkey John

East Timor 's oil reserves are under threat by the greedy Donky John! Only you, Xanana Gus-mario, can bring down the big monkey and bring some much needed oil revenue to your starving country.

Donkey John

As part of the State of Play exhibition at the Australian Centre For The Moving Image in Melbourne, social justice campaigner Joe Boughton-Dent brings us this political satire in the shape of a classic video game as a means of raising the profile of the Timor Sea Justice Campaign.

You know, I'd hate to think that this government aided in the liberation of East Timor from Indonesia, risking the lives of our Servicemen and women, purely so they could wring oil out of a grateful but impoverished nation. Then again, John Howard has tended to follow the lead of the U.S. in these matters...

Anyway, if you're in Melbourne or just passing through get down to ACMI and check it out. Or just check out these soon-to-be classics such as,

Kabul Kaboom

Kuma\War mission 24: John Kerry's Silver Star
Escape From Woomera and
Waco Resurrection

The reason I brought it up was as a result of this little interactive piece which will be on display at ACMI for a week at the end of April. I was looking for this and found the other.
Intimate Transactions

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Digital daze -

Why don't people like Digital TV in Australia? Basically it's because there's nothing to look at. People don't want to buy set-top boxes because there's no content. Set-top box manufacturers don't want to make them because there's no public demand. Content producers don't want to make content because there's no one with set-top boxes, and on and on...

The launch of ABC2 may not be the most exciting thing ever to hit the airwaves, and God knows it's caused me a few headaches over the last few weeks, but it's a start. I've just had the most hellacious day imaginable, being told not long after starting this morning that something I had edited the previous day contained an obscenity because I had missed the talent's mistake and pickup. I've been in a black funk over it all day and as anyone that's seen me work will know when I make a mistake I could brood for my country.

Despite that, this article in Melbourne's "The Age" newspaper online made me remember that while what we're doing here may not be the most exciting of projects in the short term, the ramifications for what we're doing in this country's media landscape is profound with ongoing ramifications for what's yet to come.

So as I head home to briefly rest before heading back again early tomorrow morning, I can leave with a wry smile in the corner of my mouth as the self-imposed weight lifts ever so slightly.

(Still, I can see a long hot shower followed by a good stint of Nine Inch Nails tonight.)

Digital daze -

Video Blogger Plasti-Prompter

Ever wanted the professional look of reading from a teleprompter but didn't have the cash to buy a used one? Max Rottersman from Video Blog Wall Street Free Thinker had exactly that problem until he thought "I wonder if I can make a teleprompter out of a laptop and a few CD cases..." The result is a wonderful bit of free thinking that makes use of a piece of plastic junk that tends to have congregated in most computer rooms around the world.

If nothing else it may get you thinking about how you might implement it for your needs, whether they be video weblog or video production.
Video Blogger Plasti-Prompter

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Need a Building? Just Add Water - Wired News

Once again, it seems so simple now...

Peter Brewin and William Crawford, two students of industrial design engineering at the RCA, London, have created an ingenious method of manufacturing quick, rigid structures that can be easily transportable to create shelters in emergency situations.

A plastic bag holds a pre-fabricated canvas structure that is impregnated with concrete. When required all that you need is enough water to fill the bag. Once mixed, the bag can be inflated and the structure is formed. Given 12 hours to harden, the resulting building is 16 square metres and can even be presented in a sterile form for medical requirements.

"If this was available now, we would buy 10 today," said Monica Castellarnau, program head for Medicins Sans Frontieres in Uganda.

Wired News: Need a Building? Just Add Water

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A couple of weblogs

Just pointing to a couple of weblogs from friends of mine.

Liquor and Wordcount is written by my boy Patrick O'Duffy. Patrick is a writer and aspiring D.J. Experience his scribblings as he attempts to make his ongoing deadlines with lack of sanity intact.
Just a quick warning. While Patrick's ongoing stream of consciousness can be highly entertaining, he does like to use the vernacular from time to time. Small children should be dissuaded from reading it (unless you wish to give them a bit of life experience).

More or Less... is an ongoing travel journal by one of my former "students" Darcy Fitzpatrick. I met Darcy through the Adobe Premiere User Forums a number of years ago and took it upon myself to throw him video and editing knowledge. He's definitely moved on from there as an editor and just recently made a bigger move; from Newfoundland, Canada to London, England.
He's a clever kid is our Darcy and worth a read for a bit of escapism.

Fiendish Patterns, because it's Simy and a little bit of Simy's always worth having at hand.

The Growth of Blogs

Via Smartmobs

Just in case you thought "Blogging" was a passing fad that has had its day.

Technorati is now tracking over 7.8 million weblogs, and 937 million links. That's just about double the number of weblogs tracked in October 2004. In fact, the blogosphere is doubling in size about once every 5 months. It has already done so at this pace four times, which means that in the last 20 months, the blogosphere has increased in size by over 16 times.

Sifry's Alerts: State of The Blogosphere, March 2005, Part 1: Growth of Blogs

Project Placesite - A Wi-Fi hotspot social network

"Project Placesite" is a project being set up by three Berkeley University students to look at implementing wi-fi in a different way. Instead of just providing web and email access for wireless devices such as laptops, the "hotspot" launches the location's special site page rather than your regular home page. From this page you can continue on to the web if you want, or you can explore the page which contains small pics and bios of everyone in that hotspot at that time. It is only visible to people in the wireless hotspot at that time.

My immediate response was that it seemed to be purely social rather than having any functionality, e.g. ordering your favourite drink automatically or pay your bill electronically. However, from the look of the page, the idea is that is supposed to break people out of their electronic cocoon, forcing them to realise that there are people around them, each one with a story to tell. What the effect will be and whether it will work is the purpose of the experiment.

Project PlaceSite: Home Page

I'd love to see something like this set up at my own QUT Kelvin Grove campus. It seems that a lot of the time on campus there's a lot of talk about New Media but not much actual implementation. Or maybe I'm just missing something.

Monday, March 14, 2005

"Apple1, Indie Journalists 0" -

Hot on the heels of the article I posted last week regarding Apple's push to get several weblogs to identify "unnamed sources" that had leaked confidential product information comes the decision to the court case.

Apple was taking the weblog authors to court to force them to identify their sources, claiming that the weblogs were not protected by the First Amendment rights to freedom of the Press, as weblogs were not legitimate members of the Press.

Well it seems that the judge in the case, while not perhaps directly agreeing with that statement, has decided that the incident falls into the Trade Secret basket and that the website owners must divulge their sources.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled that no one has the right to publish information that could have been provided only by someone breaking the law.
"The rumor and opinion mills may continue to run at full speed," Kleinberg wrote. "What underlies this decision is the publishing of information that at this early stage of the litigation fits squarely within the definition of trade secret.

Weblogs are treated as Press when it comes to matters of defamation, so why should they suddenly be treated differently when it comes to protecting sources? It's a disappointing result, and while all journalists and press outlets should be held accountable for their information and reporting, to single out a particular facet of an emerging information platform is less than desirable.

Apple 1, Indie Journalists 0 - Wired News

Nifty use of XML at ABC Broadband

Just a quick one to do a bit of self-promotion for the ABC Broadband site.

One of the things I've been impressed by is the use of XML to create instant content. I probably shouldn't be so impressed given that half this site is RSS feeds, each using XML to generate the content down the left hand side, but this is just a great way to make things easy on yourself.

In particular I point your attention to the ABC Broadband Business Bulletin and the Rural Bulletin available at ABC Broadband. In the Business bulletin the market figures are taken from a Reuters XML feed at key points during the day to reflect things such as close of certain markets, etc. The graphics are a Powerpoint slide show. Embedded in the slide is a Flash object which is set up to read the XML generated by the Reuters feed and create the content. Sometimes it can be a bit flakey, but the time savings in having to create those graphics by hand is phenomenal, especially graphic elements such as line graphs showing dollar and market fluctuations.

Similarly, the Weather in the Rural bulletin is generated through a similar technique where up to date weather maps and forecast details are gleaned from XML via a site. It really is a great system and one that deserves a bit of kudos.

Friday, March 11, 2005

The next step in the HD DVD war - Engadget

I was going to post to an article on Apple jumping on board with Sony to start using Sony's Blu-Ray DVD technology for the next generation in Hi-Definition disks, thereby putting further weight on Blu-Ray's competitor, Toshiba's HD-DVD.

Then I found this one at Engadget saying that not only have Apple jumped on board, they've jumped on THE Board.

"we wonder how they’ll feel now about being a member of a Sony standards group, and having to support Microsoft’s WMV HD (aka VC-1) codec in addition the standard MPEG-4 H.264. But it should all be worth it for them, to sit alongside such illustrious board member names as Dell (think they’ll shoot spitwads at each other?), HP, Hitachi, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Philips, Pioneer, Thomson (RCA), Fox, and Disney. Ahem. Welcome to the club."

Count Apple in on Blu-ray - Engadget -

The Feature - Articles

First up, a reply to yesterday's BBC article regarding economic growth and the number of mobile phones in Africa by Mike Masnick at "The Feature."
TheFeature :: Correlation, Causation And Mobile Phones In Africa

Second, another interesting article by Douglas Ruskoff examining the way we look at entertainment and the way we should perhaps be looking in a networked world.
TheFeature :: That's Inter-tainment

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Last Clock - More interesting mapping.

Any QUT students who pass by this blog from Chris' Many Hands Project site who are looking at doing KIN809 Interaction Design should stop in and take a look at The Last Clock for an idea on their final assignment. It's an interesting demonstration of mapping space to time by segmenting a standard clock into hours, minutes and seconds, then filling that portion of the clock face with input from a video camera that records everything that goes on in front of it. Over a 12 hour period you get an idea of what sort of activity occurred when.

An interesting demonstration is this picture of 12 hours of looking at the sky overnight.

The hour band (inner circle) shows mainly black, night skies except where the sunrise has started to come up in the previous hour. The minute band actually shows the sky starting to lighten over the previous hour and the second band is relatively unchaged over the previous minute.

BBC NEWS - Mobile growth 'fastest in Africa'

It's funny really. In Western countries (and even Eastern countries I guess) mobile phones have come to represent money going out the door. How many current affairs beat-up stories have you heard about the "financial dangers of mobile phones" where some poor schmuck is forced to pay his daughter's $50 000 bill because she couldn't stop SMS'ing entries to Popstars or Australian Idol?

By comparison, in developing countries the ability to get their hands on mobile phones has been nothing but good news.
"The study, backed by the UK mobile phone giant Vodafone, said African countries with greater mobile use had seen a higher rate of economic growth."

O.K., the report is commissioned by a mobile phone company. No big surprise there. However, there has been ongoing evidence that access to mobile phones in developing countries has helped them to leapfrog earlier technologies and develop businesses based on mobile communication.

More than 85% of small businesses run by black people, surveyed in South Africa, rely solely on mobile phones for telecommunications.

62% of businesses in South Africa, and 59% in Egypt, said mobile use was linked to an increase in profits - despite higher call costs.

97% of people surveyed in Tanzania said they could access a mobile phone, while just 28% could access a land line phone.

A developing country which has an average of 10 more mobile phones per 100 population between 1996 and 2003 had 0.59% higher GDP growth than an otherwise identical country.

A couple of days ago Mike Masnick published a short article over at "The Feature" talking about the economic impact in Nepal of the Nepalese King's decision to ban all mobile communications in that country.
"Small business owners have come to rely on mobile phones to communicate, and many are in serious trouble as a result of the loss of communications. Some are selling off assets, resorting to other methods to sell their wares, and hoping every day that mobile phone communications return."

He goes on to say that incidents like this
"...should serve as... a reminder of just how valuable mobile communications can be to those in places where technology advancement has been lacking for so long..."

BBC NEWS | Business | Mobile growth 'fastest in Africa'

(Update - Here I was thinking I was so quick off the mark with this story and I find out SmartMobs beat me to it. Then again, there's a lot more people contributing to SmartMobs than to my pitiful little site.)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More stuff for today, part 2

Let's get into ubiquitous computing, courtesy of Smart Mobs.

Business Week Online has an interesting article on the new generation of computer driven clothing and accessories, including a handbag that reminds you to grab your keys or wallet. By checking weather feeds it can alert you whether you need to grab an umbrella or sunglasses. It can even upload favourite songs into your scarf.

Death to the Anti-P2P advocates!

Every day their arguments that programs like Bittorrent are only designed for copyright infringement take a step backwards. It seems that NASA is employing the Peer to Peer software to help distribute its World Wind Project. When it was initially launched the public demand crashed the servers. Now it's back and easier to get than ever.

This next one has nothing to do with new media so much as new culture. In the U.S., an Illinois House committee approved legislation that would make it a criminal offense to perform eyeball piercing.

Yeah, that's right, sticking jewellery through the eyeball.

In the immortal words of Mr Glynn Nicholas, "And here's a Picture!"

I'd heard of eyeball piercing some time ago, and while I'm not exactly thrilled with the idea of someone sticking a small chunk of metal inside my eyeball, I don't see that this has anything to do with the State. Why should they care if I want to do something stupid like that, so long as I do look after it and don't wind up going blind from an infection and hence become a burden on society...

O.K., maybe I see their point, but still...

Speaking of ways to mess up your eyes... (via Gizmodo)

How to build your own Laser Tag game. (with real lasers!)

I'm not going to say any more. Go look for yourself.

And to finish off, something a little more aesthetically pleasing.

STATIC!, a group at the Interactive Institute in Stockholm devoted to designing energy-efficient products , have come up with this rather pleasing lamp that changes shape based on energy consumption. The idea is that the less electricity used, the more open and "flower-like" it looks.

The idea is that the items react based on energy usage, like the radio that loses signal if it registers too much electricity being used. Clever idea. It will never be produced commercially, but clever.

Phew! That's it for now. Time to go back to reality and deal with these syndication issues getting content to Sydney.

Trying to save a bit of space

It might last a day, it might be the methodology from now on, but I intend to try and group items together so I'm not just using "Blog This" on any page that takes my fancy. If nothing else, the extra time it takes will help me to forget the morning I've had.

So, to start let's look at a bit of interface design from We Make Money Not Art.

Audio Cubes from Bert Schiettecatte are small plastic cubes with inbuilt audio processors. They change their audio and visual output by interacting with other Audio Cubes in their immediate vicinity which allows the user to interact with the music by moving them around.


Next up in the interaction stakes is the Vibrobod. The device rests in the lap of each user during telephonic conversations, whether chat, voice or IM. It amplifies temperature, vibration, etc that is usually lost in telephonic communication.


Next up is via SmartMobs.

This is so cool I can't believe nobody thought of it earlier.

Keitai Vyuun! which roughly translates from the Japanese as "Mobile Phone Zoom!" is a set of wind up wheels that attaches to a mobile phone. You can either get the set with just wheels, or with a pull-back spring mechanism for real racing action!

("And if the challenger should beat the Iron Mobile, they will win the people's praise and ovation forever! Every day reputations are on the line in Mobile Stadium...")

Of course, being part of the digital revolution, moving into New media the way we are, I believe that the ABC should be at the forefront of the Keitai Vyuun! revolution, organising Flash Mob race meets in centres around Australia.

Kyeitai Vyuun!

Time for a break.
(Cue the music)
Doo do doo do dooo da doo do do, etc...

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

I can't find my coffee mug, so if someone wants to buy me something...

O.K., O.K. last one today, I swear. But this has to rate as one of the greatest office inventions ever! Never again will a work colleague return with the wrong tea or coffee for you. Simple, yet elegant (and just a touch pretentious).

Mug - Drink Selector @

(Update - Found my coffee mug. Crisis averted.)

Wireless remote-controlled skateboard

I know this has been the biggest post day I've had in quite a while, but I just had to throw this one in.

The Powerboard II is a remote controlled skateboard capable of sporting speeds of up to 15 mph. Get ready for radio-controlled road rash. As the Gizmodo site review says "It's a rare yet beautiful occurrence to watch a future Darwin Award be born..."

gadgetryblog: Wireless remote-controlled skateboard

Bono's TED 2005 speech on Africa

A wonderful speech by the winner of the inaugural TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) prize. A true call to arms by a man that has moved beyond just being "a Rock Star with a cause."

Flash Required.
TED2005 Magic Moments

Sony offers pizza feature for hungry gamers -

Here's one for my student colleague Chris.

Via Smartmobs

Now there's another excuse not to surface from your massive online multi-player game.

"Sony has built the ability to order pizza into its latest online multiplayer game. Type the command "/pizza" while playing Everquest II, a fantasy game with 330,000 active players, and get the Pizza Hut Web site, where you can place orders for delivery..."
"Sony plans to integrate the pizza function more tightly into the game, so players can charge pizza to their monthly game subscription bill."

The step after that, no doubt, is letting them use in-game wealth to purchase their pizzas, with Sony figuring out some kind of buy-back scheme.

So it's not enough to create an environment that forces people to sit in a darkened room for hours on end without ever having to come face to face with another human being or perform any exercise more strenuous than walking to the bathroom, now we're going to let them pig out on fat.

At least they have to come face to face with the delivery guy I guess. - Sony offers pizza feature for hungry gamers - Feb 28, 2005

Firms taking action against worker blogs -

Via SmartMobs

An interesting article in USA Today that kind of relates to yesterday's one about Apple suing bloggers to reveal their sources. This one talks about the growing dissent between employers and their employees who blog; sometimes to the disservice of the company.

"The First Amendment only restricts government control of speech. So private employers are free to fire at will in most states, as long as it's not discriminatory or in retaliation for whistle-blowing or union organizing, labor experts say."

So watch what you say about your boss. They might be reading. - Firms taking action against worker blogs

Video camera for risky sports

And people wonder why I love the WMMNA site...

Snowboard videographers! Are you sick of powder getting stuck in your record heads? Worried about that your cam hitting that tree while you ski backwards? Well fret no more!

Designer Ben Wilson brings you the inflatable camera housing. The whole things acts like a cushion and weather shield while you're on the slopes.

Not to be outdone, his other camera stabiliser, the Fig-Rig (on the right), developed and patented with Film Director Mike Figgis, forces the user to hold it with arms at shoulder width to help maintain a steady shot. A version with integrated electronics is being developed in association with Italian camera stabiliser manufacturer Manfrotto and is due out some time soon (early 2005).

You can even get a cheaper version manufactured to order by Ben for £80 through his website.

we make money not art: Video camera for risky sports

German Big Brother

Via We Make Money Not

The most recent series of Big Brother is about to kick off in Germany. As an interesting social experiment, the producers have created a village for the contestants to inhabit, with each member doing a job and playing a social role (Rich, poor, average). They will be paid money depending on how well they perform their tasks throughout the series, however they lose the amount if they leave voluntarily. Even more interesting, the show has no set end date at this point, which means some of these people could take a liking to the place and live there indefinitely.

WMMNA - "Big Brother TV Village"

WMMNA - "Real Life Soap Opera"

BBC News - "German Big Brother to Run and Run"

I'm not a real Big Brother fan, having seen a series being created from the inside (crew, not cast), but this sounds interesting. Of course, depending on how the contestants take to it the whole thing could be a huge snore.

Not that I could understand anything they were saying anyway. Hmm, learn German. Put it at the end of my list of things-to-do.

Monday, March 07, 2005 Is Apple The New Microsoft?

Via C-Net.

An interesting article by Lisa DiCarlo with implications to the growing number of weblogs. Apple Computer is suing three websites to disclose sources on information regarding products that had yet to be announced. Apple claims that the weblogs were not protected by the U.S. Constitution's 1st Ammendment Rights because weblogs weren't legitimate members of the press.

If upheld, the ramifications for the growing number of investigative weblogs are quite severe, at least in America. Of particular interest are weblogs that have been purchased by more commercial and journalistic interests such as Salon, Slate and C-Net.

I'd say "write your congressman!" but that would be horrribly ironic of me, given my views on the Americanisation of Australia. Nevertheless, it is quite scary that anyone could be THAT backwards thinking, especially a company that has done as much for modern computing technology as Apple. Is Apple The New Microsoft?

Douglas Rushkoff - Evolution as a Team Sport

I have to admit, I'm a bit of a fan of Douglas Rushkoff's work. Not only his thoughts on media and communication but on culture and the counter-culture in general. That's why I was pleased to see his new article for Arthur Magazine posted on his weblog. Entitled "Evolution as a Team Sport" it runs through Rushkoff's ideas on why what we're approaching is more a renaissance than a revolution, and that it's only going to be accomplished through the networked, collaborative spirit that has arisen through modern technology, from open source projects to fractal theory to holographics. I'm not sure I'm sold on everything after the first read through, but the proposition is pretty inspiring.
:: Douglas Rushkoff - Evolution as a Team Sport ::

Your Japanese dinobots are belong to us!

Via Engadget from Akihabara News.

Robot model dinosaurs, complete with cheesy sound effects. What's not to love? Check out the video for all the Jurassic action!

Japanese dinobots! - Engadget -

ABC2 is Live!

After some serious mucking about this morning, we're broadcasting live via the second digital channel across Australia. If you're here in the land of Oz and own a Digital Set-top box, punch up channel 21 and watch our output.

" can find it on channel 21 on free-to-air, on channel 126 on Foxtel and Austar, channel 22 on TransACT in Canberra, and channel 20 on Neighborhood Cable in Victoria."

Happy viewing.

ABC2 - Home Page

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Fred Durst says: My cellphone was not hacked - Engadget

A few days ago I made a comment at Digital Video Fuel forums that certain very ordinary people were using up other's 15 minutes of fame quota to prolong their celebrity. One of the names mentioned was Fred Durst, frontman for Limp Bizkit. And here's why.

A few weeks ago, noted "I'm only famous because my daddy's rich" media-whore Paris Hilton had her Mobile hacked and the contents posted on the internet (the frightening thing? Sales in the phone she used, the Sidekick II through T-Mobile, the company that hosts her cellphone account, have gone through the roof!).

Well only a short while later a sex video of Durst appeared online, apparantly from the same guy that had hacked Paris' phone. Durst came out quite soon after to let us all know that no, his phone hadn't been hacked. The clip had been copied from his computer when he'd taken it in for a service.

And this is better... how?

Anyway, the bit I love is this quote from the story.

"He’s trying to look on the bright side, though, saying that he doesn’t hate hackers and that hopefully what happened to him and Paris is teaching people that nothing is safe and that in the end is “causing awareness for homeland security.” So basically making a stolen sex tape was his contribution to the war on terror. A true patriot!"

Way to cover your mistake Fred.

Fred Durst says: My cellphone was not hacked - Engadget -

TheFeature :: McLuhanizing Mobile Media

We're two days away from launching ABC2 and the ABC Online Broadband Channel. I'm feeling kind of stressed, especially after having been called at 7am this morning to fix last minute teething problems.

So, to get my mind off of the fact that we're about to go live in a couple of days, I ran across this article at "The," a collaborative weblog on the mobile internet. Howard Rheingold, author, thinker and creater of the Smart Mobs weblog I have feeding into the RSS sidebar, asks the question, "What would Marshall McLuhan, visionary prophet of pre-Internet media, say about mobile telephony, texting, the mobile Web, and the always-on world of wireless devices?"

It's a few months old, but very interesting nonetheless. To summarise (as much as I can) rather than answer this question he applies McLuhan's "Theories of Media" to the technology, asking the four questions published in "The Laws of Media: The New Science." The four questions are, in a nutshell;
What is enhanced by the artifact?
If pushed beyond its original limits, what does it reverse from its intended purpose?
what old, possibly obsolescent condition is brought back by the artifact?
What former condition is pushed aside?

While the discussion going on from there (and continued in the comments section by other readers) is interestng, the point that hit home to me was the one about reversal. His answer is that for all the Mobile Internet's intentin of freeing people from a location ( "I don't have to be at the office; I can do what I do from the beach!") it has wound up tethering them instead ("I can't ever leave the office, even at the beach,").
Anyway, if you have an interest go and take a look t the article.
McLuhanizing Mobile Media
and his more recent one,
Cameraphones as Personal Storytelling Media.

Happy reading.