Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Blog!

New year, new blog. I've moved home!

Blogger is all well & good in its way, but I wanted something more. So I shunted b2evolution onto my web host, and away we go with a new blog. I'll be leaving this one here because it's linked to from various places and I'm too lazy to move all the posts over. However, no new posts will be added to this address.

The new front page is

And if you're an RSS user, is the new address for your aggreggator/live bookmarks/whatnot.

The template isn't completely settled yet, but it's good enough to be going on with.

See you there! ;)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Political compass

I've come across the compass before before, but I actually got around to answering all the questions this time.

My result?
Economic Left/Right: -2.13
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.59

i.e. Mildly left and somewhat libertarian.

What that means, I have no real idea- they're yank terms more than brit ones. But it puts me in the same quadrant as Nelson Mandela & the Dalai Lama, and the opposite quadrant from Tony Blair & George Bush.

So I'm happy with that result :o)

Linux, DVDs, and Myths. . .

So, it seemed strange to me that, in a world with DVD Jon and the like, somebody hadn't released a Linux tool for watching protected DVDs. So I went hunting. A few tantalising comments showed up on Google about Linux users watching such DVDs, but nothing clear on how. A few comments about libdvdcss were about all, and I already had that, so clearly it wasn't the answer.

So I asked on LQ and was told that it could be done. Once again, Iwas pointed at libdvdcss.

Hmmm. . .

So I checked my USE flags for mplayer. DVD support was on, and there's no libdvdcss option. However, libdvdread was off. Odd, since it was mplayer that installed it, but let's ignore that and just alter the USE flags to include libdvdread.

A recompile later, I tried one of my protected DVDs. And you know what?

It played!

What's more, when I tried DVD::rip, it also worked. I got a perfect working Divx5 Avi.

So now I can play any DVD in Linux, and also rip any DVD to carry it around on my GP2X as well! That's me happy again :o)

Apart from anything else, you see, it removed a big obstacle in the way of my hope for a MythTV box. This is basically a bit of software that you use to make a Linux-based complete entertainment center, for TV/Video/DVD/music/game/etc. Like a Tivo, with the ability to pause live TV and record the same show every week even when it's on at different times. Like Linux, it plays any DVD and without forcing you to watch the fecking "Downloading is stealing" crud or the adverts for other films that some obnoxious studios seem to feel is OK to put on a paid-for disc. And so on.

My desire to get around to putting one together was rekindled when I picked up a Linux Format mag with an article about it. To my surprise, when I showed it to Lou & suggested it, she was quite keen - I'd expected a "We already have a DVD player, why waste money on this?" type reaction. But no, she liked the idea.

So I'm going to look around at the various TV card options, motherboards, cases, et al. Then we'll look very seriously into buying & installing. We're both rather tempted by the Knoppmyth project - a Knoppix-based Myth installer that takes a lot of hard work out of the whole thing. Much as I love Linux' configurability all, sometimes I don't want to become an expert on the subject matter before I start, I just want to get on with it. (Plus they have a forum devoted to hardware that works out-of-the-box, which seems a good place to start looking for hardware advice!)

Once we've got it, I'm thinking we'll rip pretty much our whole CD collection to it so we can shove them away under the bed or something rather than having them fill all our shelving units. Any videos we really want to keep access to, we'll copy over to DVD then archive the tapes next to the CDs. I may consider putting a few games on for a bit of fun, but other than that, we'll be pretty much done by then.

Sounds quite cool, doesn't it? :o)

Another one bites the dust

Another Xmas has been and gone. Well, mostly. This year, I was scheduled to have three spearate Xmas events, and I've only had two so far: One with my parents on the 18th, and one at Lou's parents on the 25th. Now I just have to get the last one, the presents from my brother sister-in-law, and then Xmas will be fully over.

If it sounds like a rather laborious way of doing it, it sounds about right. This has been a long & frankly rather tiring Xmas. And now I'm back at work, so it's not getting much better. Ye gods I need some sleep.

Which I'd be getting much more of if we weren't dog-sitting my parent's pet, who snores worse than I do. Hey ho.

So, what did I get?

Well, so far, the highlights (in no particular order) were:

  • Some spending money for our holiday in America last year.

  • Thud, the discworld boardgame - like all good games, it takes five minutes to learn the rules and forever to master them. So far the trolls have won every game. It's addictive.

  • A book of Sudoku puzzles, a game I'd steered clear of successfully up until now. It's a good puzzle scheme, but I don't see the huge attraction. I can already solve the hardest level of puzzle in the book, it just takes more time than the easier ones. My strategy is to do as much of each 3x3 cluster as possible, do all the clusters, and loop until I can't do anything more with clusters. Then move onto rows columns. Then do whatever it takes to work out the rest ;o)

  • All three of the Sinfest books currently available. There's a few strips in there not on the website, too.

  • Numerous natural history DVDs books.

  • A gingerbread house. (Not life-size)

  • Some clothes & miscellaneous other bits pieces, including a present I actually bought for Lou - a SDIO camera that plugs into a PDA. Except it doesn't work with her Tungsten, despite the blurb saying it does, and it does work with my M505. So now I've got it. Not really the way I like to acquire presents!

That pretty much sums it up, I think. Not a bad collection ;o)

Friday, December 23, 2005

DRM and watermarks

I came across a reference talking about watermarking digital content, instead of using DRM.

Essentially, DRM will never work, because data read to be played is indistinguishable from data read to be copied. Worse, it will inconvenience the honest customers so much that pirate version become more appealing - such as being unable to play your legally-bought iTunes music on your legally-bought Xbox, whereas a pirate copy off P2P will work flawlessly.

Of course, there are those in the industry that like it this way: Non-compatible DRM means that you have to buy multiple copies of the same thing: A DVD movie, a PC movie, a PSP movie, etc. But mostly, they use the defence of "Yes, DRM is not perfect, but there's no better solutions, so. . . "

But there is at least one. It's called watermarking. The basic principle is this:

You create an account with (a) digital media supplier(s). An account that verifies exactly who you are, via credit card or national ID card or whatnot.

You then buy your digital content. Only the content has 'invisible' data embedded in it, identifying which account it was sold to.

You can then do anything you like with the content, just as you can with existing media: Rip the DVD movie to your PC, copy it onto your PSP or iPod, play it on your Xbox, whatever. You can even put it on P2P if you want.

But the difference is, when the copyright owner finds out their stuff is being pirated, they can tell exactly who owns the copy originally uploaded. In other words, if you put a copy of the movie online, they will know it was you that put that copy online, and they will come after you.

Of course, it's still not perfect: You might innocently lend your shop-bought DVD to a friend, only for him to rip it upload it without your knowledge. Somebody might steal your account details via phishing or the like.

But it doesn't need to be perfect, because DRM is so imperfect. It's a better system than exists right now: It dissuades casual piracy without preventing legal, fair use of the content you bought. And if somebody does put out a pirate copy, there's at least a place to start an investigation to find the perpetrator, unlike right now, where a cracked DRM scheme gives you nothing.