Archive for March, 2012

Better Buy GPS for your car now (before NHTSA renders it useless)

I just saw the C/NET article (Fed driver distraction guidelines make navigation unusable) by Wayne Cunningham reviewing the recently issued National Highway Transportation Safety Agency guidelines for automakers to minimize distraction for in-vehicle electronics.

Not to worry… “NHTSA says you can keep your GPS — as long as it’s completely useless” (Techdirt article).   Me thinks their new acronym should be NHTSBA (Nat’l Highway Transporation Safety & Buffoon Agency).

Now… I don’t have a GPS, auto or handheld (altho’ I’ll probably buy one now before the NHTSBA renders them useless).  I grew up with maps and still use them.  Most folks probably don’t even remember the Rand McNally Road Atlas that nearly everyone who traveled cross-country had.  When is the last time you saw maps for sale in a gas station?

I was a navigator in the Navy (NFO) and we relied exclusively on maps.  Even when GPS became more prevalent, training still included extensive map training, as the Navy used to follow the axiom: “The more you rely on technology, the more likely that technology will fail when you need it most”  (in other words, the reliability of technology tends to be inversely proportional to just how badly you need it to complete your mission).  Yes, I know… yet another version of Murphy’s Law.

But I digress… back to NHTSBA’s recommendations.  Why not cut to the chase and make the leap to new technology?  Like Cadillac’s new “Driver Awareness & Driver Assist” package, in which the seat vibrates to alert the driver to roadway threats.   That technology could be modified to vibrate the hell out of your ass whenever it determines that you’re distracted (or falling asleep).  Because some people – of either sex – might find a vibrating seat just a little “TOO” enjoyable, why not go with electrodes (or a butt probe) that shocks the shit out of you when the system somehow determines that you’re either distracted or falling asleep at the wheel?

Better yet… isn’t it about time that the “Heads-Up Display” technology prevalent in military aircraft finally became mainstream in the automobile?  With GPS overlays of driving instructions to a desired location displayed right on your windshield?   Of course, prepare yourself for complete failure of this technology when you absolutely NEED to get to your destination for any of the following possible reasons:

  • Trying to find the closest hospital to deliver an emergency victim
  • Trying to find the closest bathroom
  • Late for job interview
  • Late for wedding
  • Nearest Starbucks
  • Nearest Bar or Medical Marijuana Dispensary
  • Finding your way back home…
  • etc., etc., etc.

Ain’t technology just wonderful???

P.S.  As a backup for technology failure, don’t to forget to look up your destination on Google Maps & print it out BEFORE you jump in the car! (and, uh, don’t forget to bring it with you)

Watch Out! ISP’s to become “copyright cops” starting July 1, 2012

In case you’re not aware, on the 1st of July Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — to name a few — will begin monitoring our Internet traffic to crack down on alleged piracy.  This shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, as this “deal” between ISPs and the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright holders, was made last June (with pressure from our pro-RIAA White House, no less).

From CNET:

The country’s largest Internet service providers haven’t given up on the idea of becoming copyright cops.

Last July, Comcast, Cablevision, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and other bandwidth providers announced that they had agreed to adopt policies designed to discourage customers from illegally downloading music, movies and software. Since then, the ISPs have been very quiet about their antipiracy measures.

But during a panel discussion before a gathering of U.S. publishers here today, Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, said most of the participating ISPs are on track to begin implementing the program by July 1.

Supporters say this could become the most effective antipiracy program ever. Since ISPs are the Internet’s gatekeepers, the theory is that network providers are in the best position to fight illegal file sharing.

That’s OK… we can just switch to another ISP, right?  Oh yeah… I forgot… ISPs have a collective monopoly on high-speed services in most regions of the USA.  In other words — many of us have no alternative ISP to sign up with.  But should you have an another ISP to switch to, don’t hold your breath.  The goal of the content industry (again with White House backing) is to get all ISPs to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the copyright holders and begin cracking down on “suspected” copyright infringement by their paying customers.

Rick Falkvinge has a different view of the copyright industry.  While most people think that they just don’t understand the Internet or how technology has changed, Rick believes they understand exactly what the Internet is and what it means to their totally obsolete business model.  The copyright industry believes that the Internet must be destroyed in order for them to remain even slightly relevant.  By making the ISP’s copyright cops, they’re well on their way to destroying the Internet (at least as we know it).

The US content industry has been working to get three-strike laws installed in many nations with some success — France (HADOPI), UK (Digital Economy Act) and New Zealand are just the first.  Since the entertainment lobby has been unable to get such similar laws passed in the US, they’ve instead enlisted (or forced?) the help of US’s largest ISPs to turn them into “copyright cops.”

So how is this all going to work?

Again from CNET:

. . . .

The program, commonly referred to as “graduated response,” requires that ISPs send out one or two educational notices to those customers who are accused of downloading copyrighted content illegally. If the customer doesn’t stop, the ISP is then asked to send out “confirmation notices” asking that they confirm they have received notice.

At that time, the accused customers will also be informed of the risks they incur if they don’t stop pirating material. If the customer is flagged for pirating again, the ISP can then ratchet up the pressure. Participating ISPs can choose from a list of penalties, or what the RIAA calls “mitigation measures,” which include throttling down the customer’s connection speed and suspending Web access until the subscriber agrees to stop pirating.

(for more detail, see Ars Technica’s Major ISPs agree to “six strikes” copyright enforcement plan

I don’t think this is the type of Internet we want, nor is it something we should accept lying down.  The Internet community rose up in January to kill the Stop Online Piracy & Protect IP Acts — bills that previously seemed all but sure to pass.   I can only hope that the Internet community will respond with just as much vengeance to prevent our network intermediaries (ISPs) from taking on the role of “copyright cops” — something that they are neither competent at or entitled to perform.

Remember — OUR Internet is being stifled by a bloated, outdated and completely obsolete entertainment industry (primarily the RIAA & MPAA).  Piracy is nothing but UNMET CONSUMER DEMAND.  But “serving their customers” has never been NOR will it ever be on the entertainment industry’s agenda.  And why not??? — because they have an obsolete business model to prop up!

More Info:

Is the movie industry really that stupid? (or do they just think we are)

Warner Bros. recently announced a new initiative called “disc-to-digital” to allow consumers to use a variety of methods (e.g., take your discs into stores) to turn their DVDs into digital copies stored in a virtual cloud that they can watch on (studio-approved) Internet-connected devices — for a fee.  And, of course, the files will be digitally protected with UltraViolet, the movie studio’s latest (& useless) digital rights authentication and cloud-based licensing system.  Take a look at Techdirt & ExtraTorrent reviews of Ultraviolet if you haven’t heard of it.

Really???  Are the movie studios, MPAA, etc., really that stupid?  Or do they just think that the consumers are that stupid?  Frankly, I don’t know which is worse.  Either way, the “disc-to-digital” initiative described above is just plain dumb AND stupid!

As for other related news…  every three years the US Copyright Office considers requests for exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that prevents breaking or circumventing digital locks (making copying DVDs illegal).  Right now Public Knowledge is fighting for an exemption to allow anyone who lawfully owns a motion picture (including TV shows) on DVD to break the digital lock on that DVD in order to copy the motion picture to another device for noncommercial purposes (i.e., smartphone, iPad, laptop, etc.).  While I wholeheartedly support this effort, I’m not going to hold by breath because the entire movie industry (& friends) are fighting this exemption tooth & nail.

Many people started digitizing their (lawfully purchased) DVD collection almost a decade ago, when DVD Shrink first hit the street in 2003.   Many also accelerated their digitization when the movie industry started taking control of their DVD players, by not allowing users to skip over previews and the increasingly annoying & longer FBI Warnings (in multiple languages, no less), among other irritating features.

Unfortunately, by 2008 the studios had added additional copyright protection features to DVDs that thwarted the use of DVD Shrink, which hadn’t been updated since 2006, and many people switched to other software, such as DVDFab (which also allows conversion to many popular video file formats).  There now must be over a dozen different vendors of updated DVD ripping software.  Here’s a review from one site of the top ten DVD rippers for 2012.

So… for those who desire to build a digital library of their (lawfully purchased) DVD collection, the tools are all there (and have been for some time).  As for Warner Bros. “disc-to-digital” initiative?  Good luck with that.