Archive for the ‘ Commentary ’ Category

Doc <3 ZuneHD

While all the news flying around the blogosphere has for the most part being dedicated almost exclusively to the iPad which was released on Friday in Australia, I have been blissfully playing away with another, smaller multi-touch device that arrived that Monday. Unlike the other multi-touch device that was released last week, this one does not have an apple on the back; this one of course has a tiny Z.

Despite that the Zune HD was officially released in the United States last year, and currently has no plans of release in Australia; as my previous device was a 4gig Zune 2, I jumped at the chance to pick up a 16gig Zune HD. Almost as if by design, its arrival before the iPad launch gave me enough to amuse myself long enough for that other device to be released without comment.

I had both the Zune 2 and the Zune HD on my desk for roughly four hours before I gave the Zune 2 to Chantelle to replace her iPod Nano, an interesting historical repeat considering that that same Zune replaced the iPod Nano, Cuscal gave me while I was working there. Hers was being reset, mine was being updated, which the software did simultaneously with no problems.
Suffice to say that it was an uplifting experience seeing two Zune cables sticking out of a computer that used to have one black Zune cable, and one white iPod cable.

While I had not initially intended to give Chantelle my Zune 2, as for the longest time, all I had heard from her was her wish to purchase the iPod Touch and subsequent iPhone; and initially I decided to keep the Zune 2 as a backup player, something I could use while costuming, so it came as a surprise to me when she approached me and asked for my old Zune to replace her precious iPod Nano. Since showing her the Zune HD, I can say that the iPod infiltration of my house has been dealt with as she wants one as well.

That is something that I’m seeing replicated whenever I show this device to people, the first question is what is it, the second question after I show them some of the features is where can I get one. Unfortunately for reasons known only to Microsoft, they have restricted this devices sale to North America only, despite continued requests from other markets, they seem reluctant to release any devices of the Zune Family elsewhere, though that hasn’t stopped the most dedicated of fans from simply importing them from the US and bypassing the region security by registering US Region addresses.

I had hoped to have a picture of my HD, but for some reason my camera is playing up, so I will most likely have one before the next episode of the DocReport, as for the iPad, the only thing I have to say in regards to that overpriced etch-a-sketch, is that I have no intention of getting one or any of its successive devices.

Do you have any porn to declare???

I first heard of this story on CNET’s Buzz Out Loud podcast, episode 1232 this morning, but for some reason, it did not actually make the Australian news vendors until this evening. An interesting thing considering that it originated here, but it would seem that in a rather sneaky move Australian Customs and Border Protection staff have been granted permission to ask passengers coming into Australia whether they possess pornography in their luggage or on their person.

Changes to customs declarations have changed the first question from “Do you possess Objectionable Content” (god I hate that term) to “Do you possess Pornography.”
Now I’m not the first person today who has read this and wondered, what the hell? From as far as I can tell no other country is this conservative, in that they are simply asking travellers if they possess pornography, and if they tick yes, then Customs have every right to go through your bag, and check your laptop and mobile for pornography.

One of the biggest problems of this whole thing, aside from being completely ambiguous and yet, completely expected from this government, is that it does not actually specify what qualifies as pornography, the presenters of Buzz Out Loud, joke about it on their show that what one person qualifies as pornography, is completely harmless to another and vice versa. While it is obvious that it is another attempt to stop that elusive kiddie porn, and bestiality, but doesn’t actually state on the card that is what they are looking for.

One large argument against this move is that they do no stipulate what actually qualifies as pornographic; so that means every scantily clad mirror shot, or photo taken of your partner in some exotic location, or even a sext promising a late night romp, to simple photos of your infant in the bathtub could potentially wind you up in jail.

While the opposition to this change is almost unanimous, with the general consensus is that this is an invasion of privacy, one must really look at this government with their history of trying to sanitize the internet of pornography, this act isn’t really expected from them. Unfortunately the biggest problem to come out of this thing, is that we had to find out about it, after it came out… not before.

While the Federal Home Affairs Minister, Mr Brendan O’Connor continues to profess that this was in the nations best interest, and the reference to pornography was deliberate, as people ‘understood the meaning of the word’ over the word that it replaced, unfortunately, one problem I can find with this, well aside from just another pieces of evidence to support the claim that this government has lost the plot. is that Objectionable Content, doesn’t just restrict itself to pornography.

A number of people I have spoken about this to, have wondered just how exactly this kind of thing could be enforced, or even investigated considering that nearly every male will have on their phone, a picture or video of something that could be considered pornographic, or will have a ‘lads mag’ in their carry on, purchased from the airport newsagent. And to those lasses who photograph themselves in the mirror, is it pornographic if the photo’s are of yourself?
Buzz Out Loud, once more suggested that in protest that everyone coming to Australia should declare they have pornography; unfortunately those lines are already full of people that already do.

Is the Filter really gone??

The news has only just broke so not all the reports are in yet; but it would seem that the Australian Federal Government has officially decided to not submit the Mandatory Internet Filter in either the May or June sessions of Parliament, considering that the Government does not reconvene until the end of August, it is highly unlikely to be passed into law before the next election.

While this would be the latest election promise of the current government put on the back-burner, this is the first that a majority of netizens are not complaining about; aside from other members of the public who have slammed the government for dropping another election promise, completely unaware just how much damage this promise would have caused if it went ahead.

Despite reports yesterday, stating that the Filter was not being submitted to the Senate in the next two sittings, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has come out today, almost in response to the global sigh of relief, to state that the government had no intention of dropping the filter, and planned to still introduce it, though as of yet, there has been no actual timetable.

In a earlier post I commented that when the Filter was Green-lit, its supposed to have already been submitted to the Senate, been approved, and technically should be in operation as we speak. But as we can plainly see, the Government has even less faith in their filter than the rest of the Public does.

Rumours have been running rampant as to why this is the case, whether it is due to international pressure from internet content organizations ranging in size from Leo Laporte’s TWiT Network, to the massive corporations such as Microsoft and Google to drop the Filter; even the US State Department, through the US Ambassador to Australia stating that there are better methods of tracking illegal activities online.

Unfortunately there is very little information about why this has happened; except that it has, so while other people may be jubilant in the belief that the Filter is gone, this seems to be a lot akin to some speculation that I and other bloggers have had, that this might just be an election ploy, drop it now, before the election, be re-elected, and when everyone’s attention has been diverted something else, re-introduce it.

Actually, Conroy, they do…

A few weeks ago, during an interview, Stephen Conroy reaffirmed the Government’s stance to not disclose a list of websites that have been blacklisted; stating that “We don’t disclose when books, music or video games are banned, so why should we do the same with the internet,”

Unfortunately, Minister Conroy, that information is disclosed; when a game, book, movie or CD is banned, all the vendors are notified that they will not be able to sell these items to the public, they in turn tell the public that they cannot purchase these items. It is after all the reasoning behind the R18+ movement, because the community at large is aware that these games are being banned. Despite that once these items become banned, they are often highly sought after, and obtained from other countries, usually Indonesia or New Zealand with little or no legal recourse. Despite the legality of obtaining these banned, the method of notification and obtaining them still exists, and raises the lack of knowledge in the Communications Minister.

The main issue associated with not revealing the blacklist, or even just new additions to the blacklist, is the lack of information about what would happen once a website is on the blacklist. Considering that  a number of companies that exist almost exclusively online, the there is a chance that a harmless online distribution company may end up on the blacklist by way of accident or malicious activity; they  have no detailed legal forum to appeal the decision, or even legislation to inform them that they have even been put on the list.

Another issue that is highlighted by the reluctance to release the blacklist relates more to the effectiveness of the Filter, as opposed to the secrecy. The basic concept of this filter is to block ‘harmful’ content at the ISP level, meaning that you shouldn’t be able to access websites that are on the list. Ideally then, there shouldn’t be a problem with releasing a list of websites that you can’t access, right? Unless, of course the filter isn’t the perfect fix that the Government is promoting it as.

It might, however have something to do with, the Ministers announcement of 16 April, stating that it would not be an offense to bypass the Filter. Yes you read that right, the Mandatory Internet Filter, is mandatory, as long as you actually use it. Now I would have thought something called Mandatory would be, I don’t know, Mandatory, and it being an offense to try and bypass it. It it will be perfectly legal to bypass the filter, a feat that can be accomplished quite readily, by way of VPN or Proxy Servers, negating the actual effectiveness of the filter, to the point where it shouldn’t even be called the Mandatory Internet Filter, but the Optional Internet Filter.

A number of my fellow bloggers have begun to speculate that the Filter is becoming a political foil, something that will be dragged along until just before the next election, only to be dropped; I’m unfortunately a little more sceptical, the Government would not have used the Filter as an election promise in one election only to drop it in the next as an election ploy seems a little redundant in the world of politics

Wait, Earth Hour?

I had contemplated simply reposting last years Earth Hour Article, as the sentiment that surrounded last years post is still relevant, as a whole the measure is simply an empty one to let people feel better about themselves, without actually doing anything. While I still might, there was something that I needed to point out; I had no idea Earth Hour was on.

Despite the media blitz that existed last year for this frivolous exercise, it did not seem that Australia followed through this year. In fact on the 27th, I ran my day as I normally did, and considering the number of lights still on in my region, so did a lot of people. This is despite the fact that the organisers and the World Wildlife Fund declaring that even more Australians participated than last year, this is despite the four major sporting games that took place during the time. But we’re also overlooking the power plants still chugging along producing all that wasted power…

Considering how much disdain I have for Earth Hour, and how much I loved my original article, I shall reproduce it here

 

Earth Hour: Only an hour to affect nothing

originally published March 28, 2009

This evening marked a time in that those with social consciences turned off their electronic devices in an attempt to save the world from global warming. At 8:30 AEDT, those that felt that their one act could save the world, turned off their lights, and turned on their torches, for one whole hour. News reports speculated that over a billion people turned their lights off, some had parties where they would celebrate their achievement by torch and candle light.

All the while, these people turned off their lights, the Powerplants still chuffed away, producing the same amount of emissions they did the hour before, and the hour later. Regardless what the masses had done, since simply killing the power in the home, does nothing towards the generation of said power in the powerplant, any action anyone did, would have simply been a cosmetic one.

Now I have been trawling the blogosphere, trying to gauge what the ‘official’ stance on Earth Hour is, and I am amazed, at just how naive a lot of people are. There are some bloggers who insist that this becomes an annual calendar event, while others are marvelling at how major cities look with some of their lights off, compared to them on. All the while, ignoring the fact that as long as things like Stadiums, and Shopping Centres, who consume more power than most city blocks, remain in operation during these times, no matter how many houses turn their lights off, nothing is going to happen.

I personally did not participate in Earth Hour, for abovementioned reasons, so I went out to Dinner, to a Steakhouse, that for the duration of Earth Hour, had its lights on, kitchen running, and showed Happy Feet on the TV, while another showed a local sporting event, that I wasn’t paying attention. This Steak House also happens to reside on the largest club in the Region, and it as well, chose its bottom line, over any so called attempt to save the planet.

There are a number of reasons as to why Earth Hour, as a whole is a pointless venture, namely, its our reliance on power generators to maintain a number of our vital systems, namely public transport, and hospitals, systems that if power is removed from the process, the whole system grinds to a halt. The other major issue, is the fact that there is no incentive to do it, other than a moral one to say that they did their bit to save the planet, before they get into their gas guzzling SUV and drive to McDonalds.

If anything Earth Hour, is and always will be, an environmental failure, propagated by the Greenies, in an attempt to guilt the masses into accepting that their misguided approaches to well just about everything, as the correct course of action.  If anything, all it did is raise some kind of awareness, that the individual might be able to affect an environmental issue, but if failed any real attempt to combat any form of climate change.

Oh Happy Day.

It had to take something big to bring me out of my writers block, and I must say, this is as big as it gets. Following the South Australian State Elections over the weekend, and despite still retaining his seat of Croydon; on the 21st of March 2010; South Australian Attorney General and bane of gamers nationwide, Michael Atkinson, has stood down from his post as Attorney General, thus issuing in a collective cheer, and/or fist pump from the gaming community.

Following a long list of widely anticipated that have fallen by the wayside, thanks in no part to Atkinson’s reluctance to allow an Adult’s rating for video games, notably including titles since allowed sale such as Left4Dead 2 and Aliens Vs Predator, it is unlikely that Atkinson’s contribution to the history of Australian gaming will be soon forgotten. But to the same end, the question has to be asked, in the wake of Atkinson, where do we go from here and what happens now?

There is currently a focus paper on the books, in relation to the R18+ rating, and many proponents where cringing at the notion that regardless of popular opinion, that Atkinson would object to it again, hopefully following his departure, some bloggers are issuing in a new age of gaming, where parents will be more properly informed about gaming content, and that adults will have access to the games that they have wanted for the last eight years; those games designed for them.
Unfortunately, I am a little more cynical, call it over zealous caution, or a simply distrust of politics, but I would be more wary of Atkinson’s replacement, as it is still early days before his stance can really be determined; ideally, his replacement, whoever it is, is more open to this notion of ratings, and open this ‘golden age’ of gaming, or he could be as some of my sources have been touting following rumour in previous months of Atkinson’s retirement, that his replacement is just another rendition of the former Attorney General.

However, it must be said, that while Atkinson has been a thorn in my side in relation to his stance on game ratings, credit has to be given where it is due on his stances on many of the other issues in South Australia, so to that, I tip my hat to a worthy adversary, even though the likelihood of our paths ever crossing is somewhat none-existent considering my personal reluctance to ever return to South Australia, though that is a story for a different time.

Whatever the outcome, it is still a long road that needs to be travelled before an R18+ rating for games becomes a reality, however, at the same end, the departure of Atkinson has simply paved that road. So I say this in passing, Gamers, celebrate this victory while you can. as the work has only just begun.

Don’t you even think about it

Following the tragic stabbing death of a child in Queensland a few weeks ago, Facebook memorial groups have sprung up by the dozens and unfortunately, not everyone feels the need to show their respect on them.

Individuals, hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet, to say comments they wouldn’t otherwise have the fortitude to do so in public, has been around since the privatization of the internet some 30 years ago, this form of keyboard courage is not new, and will continue to exist, because of the method in which the internet transmits its information. Facebook is not the first time that this kind of ‘cyber-bullying’ has existed, its just the first time that it has entered public domain. This time of cowardly act has existed almost as long as communication has existed on the internet, where individuals act cruelly online, and all smiles and happiness in person.

However, if it where up to Independent Senator Nick Xenophan, and yes the Rudd Government, the Australian Internet Experience would be monitored, by way on an Online Ombudsman, because ya know it sounded like a good idea when they thought of it.
The problem with such an exercise is one that has highlighted the failures of the Mandatory Internet Filter is its enforcement; considering the notion that the Internet is an international experience, no one Sovereign nation has the right to enforce laws on another Sovereign nation, meaning that while Australian activities will be monitored and enforced, International Activities wont be.

So if anyone was so desiring to say spam tribute pages on Facebook with derogatory comments, or in some cases, Porn, as seems to be the reason why this thing is coming into effect… because the Federal Government has the spare time to be checking their Facebook Status in between running the Country. They simply need to hope onto a Proxy Server, VPN, or well any of the methods in place to circumvent the Mandatory Internet Filter, and get away with their plans without recourse, because once again, THIS WILL NOT WORK.

The only people this will catch are those too ignorant at covering their tracks, which will be people who while doing nothing illegal, have the misfortune of having opinions, or school children who simply didn’t like whoever the person the tribute page is made about. Though it doesn’t help that in a recent report, Legal experts have actually come out to say that these Tribute Groups actually harm, not help criminal convictions.

And the next news person that says that hackers have attacked these Facebook Groups, please be aware that it is NOT considered hacking if the integrity of the site has not been comprised. The Correct Technical term for posting a large quantity of questionable/illegal photos is called Porn-Spamming, and the act of posting content that may be deemed offensive is called Wallspamming. However that doesn’t mean that its spam if its just people having opinions of their own, yes, its nice and all to have these tributes, but NO ONE IS PERFECT, there are people that will always find fault in people, and especially if they have issue with the popularity the individual had in death.