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Messages - johnk [ switch to compact view ]

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51
Living Room / Re: I Finally Bought a Kindle Book...
« on: July 07, 2011, 10:36 AM »
One of the things that I wonder is, how is DRM different from traditional software licensing? They're so similar... A lock via DRM vs a lock via a license/key/whatever. I can see some differences, but in other ways, they are so similar...

I asked this question before, but I don't think anyone can really draw a line between licensing/copy protection/DRM, it's all "angels on the head of a pin" if you ask me. That's why I don't think the law will try to differentiate between different forms of copy protection.

I think, for most people:

licensing = copy protection I don't object to.
DRM = copy protection I don't like.

52
Living Room / Re: I Finally Bought a Kindle Book...
« on: July 07, 2011, 10:07 AM »
The way the movie industry will get around that is to say you can buy another digital copy - and they are already selling combo DVD/BR/digital packs of new movies precisely to head of any changes in the law in the EU and US.
-Carol Haynes (July 07, 2011, 03:23 AM)
I'm more optimistic than you, Carol. The movie/music industries realise that the law is discredited, and have said that they want reform, including the legalisation of copies made for personal use (but stopping short of the American principle of "fair use"). They have also made it clear, on the record, that no one will be prosecuted for making copies for personal use (under the existing law).

And when the new law is framed, I can't imagine it will discriminate between making legal copies of DVDs and ebooks. Both are copy-protected, after all, so to legalise personal copies the law will have to legalise stripping copy protection for personal copies. I can't imagine how the new law could differentiate between breaking copy protection on a DVD and breaking other forms of copy protection we now call DRM.

53
Living Room / Re: I Finally Bought a Kindle Book...
« on: July 06, 2011, 08:46 PM »
It may be breaking the law to "un-DRM" your ebooks, but I see it as no different from music CD copying.

I have literally 1000s of music CDs going back to the first CD releases. Some of my earliest purchases have disintegrated with age and become unplayable -- in practical terms, the equivalent of your ebook "vanishing" from your ereader.

Now as I understand it, I didn't so much buy a CD as a "licence to listen". So I could theoretically go back to the music companies and ask for a free replacement CD so that I can continue to enjoy my licensed music. We all know how far I would get.

These days, most people are clever enough to make backup CDs of their purchases, to protect the originals, to use in the car etc.

Again as I understand it, this is protected under "fair use" law in the US. But it's illegal in Britain. However everyone does it. And the law is so discredited that the record companies have made it clear that they would not prosecute individuals in the UK for making copy CDs for personal use.

An update to UK law is on the way, and I'd be surprised if the plan to legalise "format shifting" does not apply to ebooks as well as music and films. I think stripping DRM from legally purchased products will become as common as copying CDs. And the DRM debate will gently fade away...

Yes, you shouldn't have to do it, but it makes for a simpler life just to work around the problem.

54
Living Room / Re: I Finally Bought a Kindle Book...
« on: July 06, 2011, 06:04 PM »
Carol,

If these possibilities do concern you, then it is very easy to make non-DRM (.mobi) copies of your Kindle books using open-source programs.

I try not to buy DRM'd products, but mainly because of a general philosophical unease about the whole idea. Practical issues such as the ones you mention are easy to work around.

55
Announce Your Software/Service/Product / Re: Bvckup 2
« on: June 29, 2011, 11:03 AM »
I'm a fan of v1 of Bvckup and I took part in the testing and gave feedback in the Bvckup forums. So it pains me to say this, but I don't like the new web site.

Others have said it, but if you didn't already know Bvckup, you would assume from the web site that it's a Mac program. I would take one look at the page (without scrolling) and close it.

I find I do this all the time. I read about an interesting program, click the link to it, and then can instantly tell from the design of the web site that it's a Mac-only program, and I close the page. I'm sure I can't be the only one who does this.

This is not touchy-feely branding nonsense, it's basic design. There is a Mac look. Your site has it.

And the scrolling thing is a terrible idea. Design should never come before content.

Sorry, apankrat, you know I'm a fan of the program, but I really think for your own sake you need to reconsider. You've spent a long time on this design, you're very close to it. Take a step back.

56
I've been using an SSD as my OS disk for 6 months or so, and I agree that it's a "transformative" experience, particularly with Windows: for example rebooting is no longer something I avoid at all costs, because reboots are so quick. The use of TRIM in Win7 should reduce SDD failures.

Like most people, all data is on an HDD, as are temp files, cache files etc. But I wouldn't go back to an HDD for an OS disk.

57
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 19, 2011, 10:22 AM »
Networks do not work. They do not let you seek reasonably. Any kind of media content over a network is a complete failure. Seeking should take the time it takes to click, and not the time it takes to buffer 300 MB over a 20 Mbps connection that really only delivers a max of 10 Mbps, but practically only ever achieves 700 kbps, but can realistically be expected to get 100 kbps if all goes well.

Actually not quite true - I subscribe to the Digital Concert Hall (basically all of the concerts from the Berlin Philharmonic) and that works great. You watch either using you browser on your computer or I watch it on my Sony Bravia TV. The streaming content works really well on this site so some people can get it right.
-Carol Haynes (June 19, 2011, 07:03 AM)

It's true and not true.

No site in the world can fix the problem. Even Microsoft with an Akamai CDN can't fix it.
Well, for what it's worth, I recently bought a cheap Sony Blu-ray player which has the usual "widgets" for online services that most AV devices seem to have these days.

They included Lovefilm (DVD rental company that now does streaming, recently bought by Amazon). As I already use Lovefilm for DVD rental, the streaming facility didn't cost me anything, so I tried it. And it works just fine. I've watched a few movies without a single glitch, and the initial buffering only took 30 seconds or so. Yeah, not DVD quality, but perfectly watchable. Tried the Digital Concert Hall Carol mentioned, and that too streams well, no glitches, and really excellent picture and sound quality (and that's on a 5ft projector screen).

Now I have a very reliable 7Mbps internet connection, so others may not be so lucky. But streaming does work well with reliable, fast connections.

Tech note: when my current ADSL connection was first installed, speeds were higher (up to 12Mb/s) but unreliable. Generally speaking, ADSL2 networks will do everything they can to maximise your speed, but if you have a noisy line that can work against you. So I got my ISP to "lock" my speed at a much lower level, and my connection has been rock solid ever since (not a single problem in two years). I can download at 7Mb/s all day long. Worth bearing in mind if you have a dodgy ADSL connection.

58
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 15, 2011, 07:35 AM »
There's a good reason to give them the thumb:

They add zero value.

None. Nadda.

I said that above as a tongue in cheek sort of silliness, but it's basically bang on true.

Again, I can't agree. In the broad sense, you are right. Big business is full of greed, and waste, and middlemen who add little. But over the history of books, say, or music, I am grateful for the A&R men and the publishing editors who sifted the rubbish and brought us great talent. I am not convinced the wisdom of the crowd would have achieved the same thing.

Neither do I share the optimism most of you have about the future of the DRM-free book market. But I can see I am outnumbered on this one and I will retire to my corner.

copy protection falls under the banner of DRM

No it doesn't - I can give away my CDs, DVDs and BluRay disks or lend the to a friend or sell them on eBay and the other person can use them as normal. DRM doesn't allow you to do anything with YOUR property outside the rules imposed by the corporation.
-Carol Haynes (June 14, 2011, 08:44 PM)

But before I retire to my corner, just a technical point. My understanding of DRM is that any form of file protection where you would have to "edit" the executable file directly to use it on another device is DRM.

So some forms of copy protection are DRM, as I see it. For example having to use a serial number to activate a software programme is obviously not DRM, whereas an executable that is linked at purchase to a "machine ID" is DRM (and I would call that copy protection). Have I got that right?

59
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 14, 2011, 08:17 PM »
Many have offered solutions, just none that have been accepted by the proponents of DRM.

What are these solutions? I've never defended DRM, but I still don't see an alternative for ebook authors. How do you generate a reliable income stream for ebook authors without some form of DRM (and copy protection falls under the banner of DRM)?

60
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 14, 2011, 06:45 PM »
Gas prices, unemployment, inflation, and the simple fact there really hasn't been a real flood of truly great bands in the last decade have a hell of a lot more to do with declining sales that piracy ever did or will.

I can't agree. Do you know anyone under 30 who pays for recorded music? I don't. But they listen to music all the time. They love music. They just won't pay for it. They don't think it's in any way wrong not to buy it. They think "old people" are odd because they pay for music. But at least musicians can earn a living from live performance. That's the deal now. The money is spent at the gigs and festivals. No one pays for the recorded stuff. Except us old people.

I don't like DRM either. As I said above, I still buy printed books because I don't like DRM, but I do want books. But I don't have a solution. And I can't see one, apart from putting the clock back 200 years and "sponsoring" writers directly. And to be honest I can't see that working. I hope I'm wrong.

61
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 14, 2011, 05:38 PM »
The lion's share of the money still goes to the publishers

Not true -- the biggest share goes to the retailer.

who used to justify their percentage because of the mechanical reproduction costs they incurred by printing, binding, and shipping books.

Not true -- it's always been a small part of publishing costs (10-15 per cent)

+1

Or maybe it's because the publishers and their stakeholders have invested significant resources into securing distribution channels that empower authors to reach end-users through efficient marketization which facilitates monetization of intellectual properties and brings increased value to works and content that otherwise would require individual artists to maintain ecommerce infrastructure and complex systems which would detract them from their artistic pursuits and feed them better, which could lead to food-coma, thus reducing their productivity in global markets and reducing their facetime with prospective buyers looking to enrich their lives through content consumption for which publishers can charge a premium to ensure the viability of authors, artists and content producers that can thankfully take full advantage of publisher channels and relationships that extend their reach beyond what they could hope to achieve by setting up a PayPal account, spending $25 a month on a web site, and doing the marketing that they would have to do anyways because they will only ever become a part of the long tail in the publisher's value-chain.

Any time these forums discuss the marketing of books/music/tech there is a general tendency to kick the big companies involved who want to make money. Add to that a general loathing of DRM without offering any idea as to how content creators are supposed to make any money. I have no illusions about big bad corporate life (I've done my time there) but putting two fingers up to the money-making machine without offering any alternative doesn't advance the argument.

Book authors face a serious problem making money from ebooks. No DRM, no income. It's that simple. I'm sure the good folk here will happily sponsor their favourite authors by sending them a few dollars a month direct. But the vast majority won't. And writers will just stop writing.

I used to be a local newspaper journalist and editor. The industry's income has vanished. Few people will pay for online news. The paper I worked for employed 35 journalists in its heyday. It now employs a handful. The story is repeated in countless papers across the UK. More importantly, the news they used to provide has vanished. Detailed analysis of local government spending, for example, or the performance of local schools and hospitals. And no-one has stepped in to do the same thing. Sure, all this information is out there, somewhere, if you know how to dig, and how to make Freedom of Information requests to government/official bodies, and how to analyse the data. But the average punter doesn't have the time or the inclination. Many local government officials and politicians are delighted to see local newspapers vanishing. And at its essence it's the same debate as books. If no-one will pay for the information, the writers and skills will simply disappear. And our lives will be the poorer for it.

62
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 13, 2011, 05:59 PM »
The big fat problem with Kindle is a word I dislike most when it comes to formats: proprietary.

I don't understand the debate about the "proprietary" nature of the Kindle. The Kindle is an e-reader, and a top-class one at that. You can load it with thousands of books and documents without ever buying an ebook in a proprietary format. That's how I use it anyway, and many others do likewise.

And for what it's worth, I agree with elvisbrown. No-one likes DRM, but at least it means authors get a few bucks for their work.

Most musicians make music because they enjoy it, and some of them hope to make some kind of living from it through live performance. Most writers write for money, plain and simple. Without DRM, the vast majority of people will not pay for books, just as very few people under 30 pay for recorded music.

I don't think DRM will survive, but I don't see how authors will be paid, and I don't see how books will be written, aside from the small number of fiction writers who do it for love.

63
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 10, 2011, 05:37 PM »
Worth reading on this topic: Seth Godin's recent blog on the "free-gap":

"Creators don't have to like it, but free culture is here and it's getting more pervasive"



64
Living Room / Re: Why ebooks are bad for you
« on: June 10, 2011, 12:00 PM »
Firstly, as Doezaan suggests, the correct title for this short article would have been "The danger of DRM-protected ebooks".

This article says nothing new. I agree that from a practical point of view, the only viable method to reward book authors in the long-term is likely to be voluntary payments by readers.

We've all watched idealistic software authors make their software freely available, inviting voluntary donations. And then a 100,000 downloads later, they notice they've earned just enough to pay for the bandwidth used by the downloads.

So I am pessimistic. People's mindsets will have to change. Today, people don't think about the welfare of individual authors, or singers, or software writers. That's something they'll have to learn.

There are green shoots. I remember the author of Instapaper inviting "subscriptions" to support the service, while offering nothing new in return. I think enough people signed up to give him some hope that voluntary donations could be part of a viable model (I signed up - Instapaper is a fantastic service, and I'd hate to see it disappear). But I'm pretty sure his paid-for apps are still the mainstay of his income. Most people only pay when they have to.

At the moment I'm in the "I don't like DRM on ebooks, but I don't see a viable economic alternative" camp. So despite having a Kindle, I still buy printed books. I only use the Kindle to read my Instapaper feeds, and other documents I email to the Kindle.

65
Living Room / Re: Tablet Discussion - in the market to buy
« on: June 08, 2011, 08:45 AM »
she loves to sit at a park and read. I do not want to get a dedicated e-reader
This is going to be frustrating with the vast majority of tablets, as there is too much glare to make them great for reading under the sun.

+1. And it's not just the sun that's a problem.

Josh, I think you are kidding yourself if you think a screen protector will solve glare problems. And glare isn't the only problem. Screens with backlighting are just hard on the eyes, there's no way around that. Try reading a novel for a couple of hours on a tablet and you'll see what I mean. I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab, and I love it. It has the best screen of any tablet I've tried. But I would never use it as a reader. For that, I have a Kindle. I carry both all the time.

If the main purpose of the device is as a reader, do your wife a big favour and buy a dedicated e-reader. Her eyes will be very grateful.

66
Living Room / Re: Tech shopping tips
« on: May 22, 2011, 05:29 PM »
One buying philosophy rarely fits all things. For most stuff, I stay well behind the curve and patiently await 'bargains'. For a limited number of items, I buy the very best I can afford. Things that really matter. In my tech life that means:

- computer monitors (always good iPS monitors)
- audio speakers (hi-fi system, not computer)
- espresso machine (hugely over-engineered for domestic needs. Will outlive me. A daily joy to use)

67
I wasn't sure whether to post, as I don't want it to seem as if DC members are "ganging up" against Michael, but as someone who just bought two PE licences and likes the product, I might as well say my bit.

Michael, I bought my two licences despite your posts in this forum. I was almost going to reject your product simply because of your very unfortunate manner in these forums. Your tone is consistently combative and unpleasant.

A number of level-headed members who have been here a long time have told you the same thing. I think you should just accept that. I think the best thing you can do for your product is stop posting, and allow those of us who use your product to answer queries or say why we like it (as I have done in other threads). Or get other members of your team to post here.

Your are doing your company no favours by your contributions here.

68
Living Room / Re: Is Amazon the new Apple?
« on: April 20, 2011, 11:11 AM »
But then again, that's the company bosses' duty - maximising long-term returns.
Nope not necessarily.  Just maximising returns.

In a meeting with several high powered executives (many of well known companies), a presenter asked the question in an icebreaker exercise, "If you had the choice of (a) a slow measured growth over 10 years, doubling stock price, but the company being strong in its industry, or (b) increasing the stock price 5x over the next year, but the company being out of business in 5 years, which would you choose?"

After tallying the results, over 80% chose (b).  And that's pretty much true for corporations...

Well, all I can say is that the first thing you're taught at business school (yes, I did...) is that your duty is to maximize long-term returns. Any idiot can boost short-term returns, and, believe it or not, shareholders do worry about the long-term and have intelligent analysts who will see through and flag up short-term thinking by bad managers (obviously I am referring to the big shareholders, the pension funds and so on, not the hedge fund cowboys trying to make a fast buck).

It's not a fair fight. It's a slaughter. Consumers are nothing more than sheep in an abattoir.
<snip>
The big problems start when some nitwit figures out that he can also turn the abattoir into a brothel. Then every abattoir is the same within a short period. It's a downward spiral as Apple and Amazon are showing. They've turned the abattoir into a brothel. Now all the other abattoirs out there will follow suit.
Doom and gloom... :(

Goodness, Renegade, it's a wonder you manage to get out of bed in the morning, with such a gloomy view of the world.

"It's hopeless, we're doomed" is what you seem to be saying. I can't accept that. But neither can we change everything overnight. One thing at a time. Get angry about one thing, and help to change it.

On your example of light bulbs: after years of campaigning by various lobby groups, governments in Europe have finally taken action to stop the waste. In the UK, energy companies are compelled to supply heavily-subsidized, low-energy light bulbs to consumers - you can pick them up in supermarkets for about 10p (15c) each, with no limit on the quantity people can buy. They should last six to eight years. If energy companies are being forced to give them away, built-in obsolescence becomes unattractive, so bulb life should increase in the future.

Change, one step at a time.

69
Living Room / Re: Is Amazon the new Apple?
« on: April 20, 2011, 08:24 AM »
I can't help but comment on this:

...maximize returns to shareholders... ...that's the company bosses' duty - maximising long-term returns.

That is pretty much a mantra today, but the foundations for it are based on logical contradictions.

It's more than a mantra, it's the board's duty (not a legally enforcable duty, but a fundamental principle of business).

But I am an optimist, and I have seen examples in recent years where companies have successfully increased returns to shareholders by emphasizing their ethical business practices, being transparent in their dealings with consumers and suppliers, increasing their donations to charities, and being generally good people. Increasingly, consumers seem to reward ethically sound companies with their custom. In the UK, at least, I also sense an increased willingness to make the effort to support local, small businesses, even if the price is slightly higher. There is a growing awareness that the consumer has to take responsibility for the world we are creating.

And that's the key. We get the companies, and the world, we deserve. Consumers decide where their money goes. I don't like Apple, I don't buy Apple stuff. Every vote counts. Be optimistic.

Footnote: Very small example of how things are changing (nothing to do with big business): I visited the web site of a local restaurant this week, just to get their phone number. I noticed that the modest web site contained a statement of business practices, including transparency. Example: every bottle of wine on the menu is priced at "cost price plus £8". I was impressed.

70
Living Room / Re: Is Amazon the new Apple?
« on: April 20, 2011, 07:23 AM »
There seems to be a trend in DC forums for threads about particular business methods in the tech industry to turn into an anti-big business rant. I've worked in big business, and yes, I'm well aware of just how far companies will go to maximize returns to shareholders. I find some aspects of modern business distasteful. But then again, that's the company bosses' duty - maximising long-term returns.

As I've said in another thread, this is all circular. Most companies are ultimately owned by the investment funds that run people's pensions. These funds demand high returns, because people who buy pensions want the best possible returns. Beating up big business is all very well, but offering an alternative to modern capitalism would be more interesting.

71
The reason I made the point about auto-starting programs like PE, is that, unless you do, you never get full benefit from the program.

Using abbreviations has to become an instinct. Every time I type any personal details, or give standard replies to emails, or write a signature, or leave eBay feedback, or use a letterhead, or write a date, or start a program, or use a special character, or create an appointment in my diary, or minimise a window....I'm using a text abbreviation.

Programs like PE or Autohotkey are programs you have to commit to if they're really going to save you time. But once you do, you work in a different way. Every time you do something on a PC more than once, you ask yourself -- can I turn that into a text abbreviation?

The limit is really the number of abbreviations you can easily remember. If the abbreviations/hotkeys are sensible and intuitive, the number can be quite high...

72
I wish it were the case that concern with startup time was no longer an issue, but I'm afraid it's still very much a concern for me.  I've tried Phrase Express and have also used several programs similar to PE, and I haven't seen a need for any of them to be in my start-up menu.
I fully understand that start-up time can still be an issue for some people these days. What I cannot understand is how anyone can want to run a program like PE without having it start with Windows? The whole point of the program is to have it there all the time so you can use text replacement in all programs.

73
Neat Net Tricks software review panel reviewed the $139.95 version of Phrase Express.  Six panel members submitted their reports, which were in general rather negative.

I read through the review, and I feel that they do have some valid points, but a lot of their negative comments seem excessive and repetitive.

Agreed. I'm still fairly new to PE, so I'll reserve final judgement on the program at this stage, but I also found the NetNeatTricks review rather odd.

I'm not familiar with NeatNetTricks, but as cthorpe says, they seemed to be obsessed with some of yesterday's big debates.

Of course you want a program like PE to start with Windows, otherwise it loses its purpose. And unless a progam is badly written and takes up 100s of MB of disk space or RAM, I don't care about those details. Those are Windows 95 debates. Then there was the ranting about the EULA...

But the reviewers finally lost me when one said that PE had a poor GUI and a "very high and time-consuming learning curve". If you're the kind of person who's interested in using a program like PE, then you're not a beginner. You use a computer fairly intensively. And if you know your way around a PC, then PhraseExpress is easy to use. Certainly, compared to AutoHotkey, which I used to use for text replacement, PE is child's play. I've only had to use the manual twice so far, and that was to find particular commands for macros. Based on this review, I won't be spending too much time on NetNeatTricks.

74
They appear to have landed here: Browser Scene

75
Broke my normal golden rule about not buying programs that only offer single computer licences and actually invested in two network licences for PhraseExpress. Even for the individual user, the network version has some benefits if you use multiple machines on the same network.

I have three computers on a home network, but never more than two in use at any time, so two licences are sufficient. One of the computers is on 24/7, so that's my PE "server". The network version keeps a single version of the phrase file on the server, so all machines have access to all new phrases. Impressed with PE so far. I used to use Autohotkey for this purpose, but once you get beyond simple text replacement, PE is easier to use. I particularly like being able to save RTF or Word document snippets as phrases.

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