Friday, April 27, 2007

My anti-DRM Promise to me

I've been in the midst of a shitty experience these last 2 weeks which helps account for my lack of time to write anything at all for my blog (that and my general lack of anything interesting to write)

I rebuilt my machine the other day as it was getting sluggish and bogged down with crap, while I was at it I spent most of a weekend moving music files out of the families folders into a single music folder (we had 4 copies of some CDS)

I wish I hadn't bothered as loads of the music is now unplayable and I get the "You do not have the rights to play this..." errors all over the place

The REALLY annoying bit is that this only happens for files I have bought the CDs for, media player doesn't seem to be bothered by the stuff which is admittedly sourced from the internet or friends MP3s. Bear in mind that this is not even the fabled ‘interoperable’ functionality gone wrong – it’s the SAME frikking PC!!

Just *finding* the CDs that Media Player is refusing to play is proving a real pain in the ass (I am unfortunately not anal enough to sort them by artist), also these overpriced £15 CDs turn out to often be shit quality, and quite a few are no longer fully readable. So I have started to download the ones I can't find.

Since the whole problem is caused by DRM I am not going anywhere near iShite or similar sites – I’m downloading torrents
Any you know what? It’s easy, it’s fast, the files are a much better quality generally and they WORK!!

Now why would I *want* to do this legally from now on? It’s expensive, the actual quality of the CDs and MP3s is often crap, it’s definitely inconvenient (20+ hours fixing the problem and counting) and generally a pain

My anti-DRM promise to me:

I will still continue to buy CDs (just the way I am), but I will refuse to buy any that come with DRM – if I get any home and find they have DRM but this is not stated on the sleeve, (Capitol seem especially bad at this) I will be returning them as unfit for purpose
If anyone out there from the record companies is listening (and if you care) - you just lost more sales

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Radio Suarvé is born

I've spent all week up to my neck at work dealing with a wide variety of stupidity. From the guys who can't do their job without being reminded every 5 minutes, the helpdesk agents who can't type their own name without a detailed work instruction, and finally to the server engineer who's sat quietly watching his server's utilisation shoot through the roof, but not actually thought to report it till the CPU actually melted through the disk array...

Any of this sound familiar? Yup I work for a large corporation which decided to 'best-shore' most of its staff, and in a stroke of genius got its remaining staff members to detail everything they did in work instructions, then slowly replaced them with cheaper, less qualified staff... Basically your bog standard off the shelf US Corporation, obsessed with short-term share 'value' and little else

End result of the above - What I like to think of as 'Monkeys with Work Instructions'. If you have one monotonous task to do which requires doing x to part y over and over then great, in fact fucking A, absolutely the cheapest way of doing it. As soon as you need to be doing more than 1 monotonous task, or use something not absolutely identical to the aforementioned part y, then the whole thing turns in the kind of nightmare you'd get if George Orwell directed the Marx Brothers - in short an absolute clusterfuck

Well that's basically been my week, and yet I've been smiling through it...

No mum - it's not finally happened, I've not lost it completely - I was venting away on and spotted a post mentioning, so I started playing

At this point I should warn you this is going to sound like a plug and I guess it is, but it's an honest one. Basically you type in your favourite artists name and hit go - then the very clever electro-web-hingumy goes away and starts to play a whole radio station of similar artists

I've spent all week rediscovering lost bands and encountering music I love but have never heard, basically I've had a DJ on my desk whose entire reason for being has been to scour the vaults of music history for tunes I might like - ace

I strongly recommend anyone to try it, you get the Dynamic DJ for free for a tiny fee you get to create your own online station of tracks you love - at the bottom of this blog is now my personal station, enjoy

PS I make no apology at all for my eclectic (crap) taste in tunes

Monday, March 19, 2007

London Chapati 'bombers' a real threat?

It's been a weird week in the war on terror - seriously there's been the news that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad has basically ‘fessed up to everything, ever (including the turban on the grassy knoll). Coupled with this is the continuing trial of the London Chapati Posse, better known in the press as the "July 21st 'bombers'", which is an odd name since the one thing they didn't have that day is a single working device between them

So basically, if the interrogators at Gitmo are right, the main man for al Qaeda has been captured, and all we have to worry about now are the kind of incompetent bundlers, that would try to start a bombing campaign with half the ingredients of a curry, and the contents of their sister's bathroom cabinet

Easy life – finally we can go to beige alert or whatever colour signifies no longer being arsed

But wait, NO!!

‘Scientists' reveal the July 21st terrorists were just that – terrorists, not the patisserie fixated fools we had them pegged for, apparently unbeknownst to the rest of the populace, Chapati flour is the modern underground army's equivalent of fertiliser.

Bugger me – who'd of known? Quick someone warn Gordon Ramsey before his pie-top brings disaster to us all

Hang on?


Further reading of the Telegraph article and you get to the bit “Mr Todd said he conducted the quarry tests using different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and different ratios of peroxide to flour”. Clever bloke that Mr Todd by all accounts.

I am no scientist in truth but after an afternoon on the internet I present my highly polished research….

Exactly what concentration was required to go boom? Hydrogen Peroxide does indeed go boom, lots of very successful bombs have been made using it in the past notably during the 2nd World War. However its worth noting that the percentages in those bombs was around the 80% mark

The Hydrogen Peroxide these guys bought was 18% according to the police (it was hair colouring cream) – to increase its strength these Jamie Oliver activists boiled it – quite possibly on a ‘low heat letting it simmer gently' – odd that, since everyone else seems to agree that exposing it to heat would decompose the Hydrogen Peroxide (see the line “Heat, U.V. light and contact with any organic substance and certain minerals will cause h2o2 to decompose in the following advert for 'Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide')

Presumably they were hoping the decomposition would happen quickly if they included a detonator (i.e. it would explode), but as far as I can figure it would have gone off in the pan (partly decomposed – partly evaporated) and in the mixing with an organic substance (flour) long before…

So back to the question – did the scientists get the rogue chef's device to explode? No – they created a device using similar ingredients in different proportions, which they didn't detail, and it went bang. They did the science equivalent of stating “the gun was a replica your honour, but in tests shooting someone in the face with a real gun looked like….”

In the article in the Telegraph a ‘large cloud of white smoke could be seen rising yards into the air' – call me a cynic but, could that be flour by any chance?

I can strap 5 pounds of TNT to my cat and detonate it – this doesn't make cats an explosive ingredient (in this case the cloud would just be a slightly different hue)

I think what is annoying me most about these stories is that in failing to challenge such blatant absurdity, our press is clearly either sleeping, in the governments pocket or engaged in activities involving a different white powder… Everything they have heard, they have written down and ‘reported' on with little or absolutely no corroboration – this isn't so much journalism as propaganda by apathy

In doing so they are failing us again and creating more scare stories – as far as I can tell the following are all true

  1. The London Chapati Posse ARE terrorists – they clearly intended to cause terror, they just aren't bombers or vaguely competent
  2. Chapati flour does not equal TNT, it equals chapati
  3. The continued over-reaction of our officials and press to almost every minor event undermines their credibility
  4. If you boil Hydrogen Peroxide, chances are it will flare up in the pan and start a small fire (the ‘bombers' neighbours were lucky)
  5. It is still safe to piss off hairdressers without them blowing you up
  6. It is probably still not a good idea to annoy chefs as they have easy access to meat cleavers

All in all I am back to beige alert…. Apparently the home office disagrees and is still on ‘severe'

Other Reading:, Dick Destiny

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Inside a Comic Relief Call Centre

On Friday night the BBC's annual Comic Relief fundraising event came to its climax, in it's now familiar night of comedy television.

As ever the event made for an excellent night of telly whilst raising money for charities throughout the UK and 3rd World - for those of you who don't know where the money goes or would like to know more you can find out more here

At the time of writing this post Comic Relief 2007, AKA "The Big One" has raised £40,236,142.00 for charity, and the number continues to climb as more people live up to pledges made, late donations come in and money from countrywide events held during the night is added up

If you haven't yet donated and want the warm cuddly feeling you only get from helping your fellow man - warm cuddly feelings are available by donating here

Alternatively if you want something for your charity money you could always buy the official DVD from Amazon (including Tony Blair's comedy sketch) - all Amazon's proceeds go to comic relief (if you buy from the ad on the right as far as I am aware I get no referral money, but if I do you have my word it will be donated to Comic Relief too)

On Friday night ES had the pleasure of working inside a call centre collecting donations from people ringing in. The company I work for and several others around the country had staffed up their 9-5 call centres, and sat ready to take calls coming from all over the UK

After a quick induction on what to say, how to say it, working the very simple web based form, and where to divert callers ringing the donations line for other reasons, we sat down and waited for the calls. If this sounds very informal - remember most of the people were seasoned call centre staff and are used to this type of thing, I spent 5 years working on a technical support line, and apart from the fact that the people ringing weren't hurling abuse, its all very similar (we also had loads of support people behind us ready to help with problems)

Lines opened at 1800

1830 - Still waiting

1845 - First call!

From then on calls came in fairly regularly but it wasn't until 2100 that they started to come in immediately one after the other - the amusing bit for us was the fact that you could tell which bits of the program were most popular by the gaps between calls. There were massive gaps when Tony Blair was on telly (it definitely looked funny but we had the volume down unfortunately)

In the periods where Lenny Henry or the others were doing documentaries the phones went mental - hopefully that just shows you care, or perhaps its because you found these bits boring - who cares? you called!

What always amazes me is the frequency that people ring in donating £100 or more - amounts that I found staggering sometimes. Don't get me wrong - I took loads of calls for £1, £5, £10 etc and every single penny really does help, but you really got the feeling that everyone was donating as much as they could afford rather than the bare minimum

Anyway - thanks to everyone who called in especially those who had a laugh - we didn't get to watch the telly but you provided the entertainment just fine

To the drunk guy who rang in complaining at Tara whosherface winning the Comic Relief celebrity Pop Idol, I couldn't agree more - she was crap and Barry From EastEnders deserved to win way more!

PS - If you spent ages in a call queue waiting to donate, my advice for next year is ring before 2100 - before 1900 if you can, you'll get through straight away and that's it - you can relax for the rest of the evening (oh and have your card ready in your hand - you'd be amazed how many people rang in to donate but then had to go hunting!)