Welcome to the new world, Neo… but you’re not going to like it

I just read a newsflash about an automated system shutting down a video stream because the video stream contained copyright protected material.

Sounds OK to you too? To me it does, until you dig into the details:

On September 2, the Hugo Awards ceremony took place, and was broadcasted live over the internet. Just in case you don’t know the Hugo Award, it is huge (pun intended). It’s a yearly award given to the greatest achievements in Science Fiction. I’ve put a link to Wikipedia in for anyone who wants more details.

So there is this huge ceremony, and halfway through awarding Neil Gaiman the Hugo for a Doctor Who episode he wrote, the video stream of the ceremony that thousands of people were watching all over the world gets cut off by the stream provider, UStream. Turns out that UStream is / was using a third party service to detect copyright violations in streams, and this third party flagged this Doctor Who episode, which was of course running in the background, as copyrighted. Which of course it was, but the decision to show it there had been made with the agreement of the copyright holder, so it should have been OK.

Later, UStream released a PR blurb explaining what happened, and also said that Ustream couldn’t restart its own live feed once Vobile had shut it down. (Vobile is the third party service; UStream for now has suspended using them after this incident).

So here’s where the scary part begins. Aparently, there are already cases where machines have more control over things than the people who originally employed the machines. Skynet, anyone? The Matrix, maybe?

What would it take to make those “machines” inter-operate, and suddenly decide that human postings on the net contain statistically way too many copyright violations to be allowed at all?

What is there to determine whether any given piece of information that you read was actually written a human being? How do you know that it is, in fact, true?

In seemingly unrelated news, a German court has decided that even the 160 characters of a twitter “tweet” can be enough to violate someone’s copyright. And even retweeting an offending tweet can make you a copyright violator. How many ways are there to tweet “I love you” at your girlfriend that have not been used already in romance novels?

Welcome to the new world – but I know you’re not going to like it.

Retroshare – the next messenger?

I’m gonna play with RetroShare a bit.

RetroShare is a serverless, p2p based communications platform where every single piece of transferred data is encrypted. You find your contacts by their pgp key.

Here’s a link to the homepage.

If anyone wants to poke me on retroshare, my pgp key is on the public key servers with the key id 0x27BD763C.

RetroShare for openSUSE is on the build service.

Survey results are in

Here are the results from the survey:

75% answered “yes” on the question whether they use kontact or not. Those who answered “no” did not get to the rest of the survey. All questions except the last two were multiple choice.

Component usage:

E-Mail 93,42%
Contacts 78,95%
Calendar 77,63%
Feedreader 53,95%
Task list 35,53%
Summary 19,74%
Yellow Notes 17,11%
Journals 10,53%
Time tracking 9,21%
Other 9,21%

Mail protocols:

IMAP 72,6%
POP3 47,9%
Local Maildir 17,8%
Other 11,0%

Calendar sources:

Vcard files 75,0%
Google contacts plugin 29,4%
CardDAV 11,8%
LDAP 10,3%
Kolab etc 10,3%
Other 7,4%
Novell Groupwise 1,5%

Address sources:

iCal file 66,1%
Google calendar plugin 32,3%
CalDAV 21,0%
Kolab etc 14,5%
Other 11,3%

Quality compared to other PIM applications or email clients:

Poor 11,1%
Below average 16,7%
Average 34,7%
Good 33,3%
Excellent 4,2%

Has kontact improved over time:

Improved 23,9%
The same 25,4%
Worse 50,7%

Single sign-on on openSUSE / KDE4, or the three faces of the community

It seems that “the community” consists of three separate groups of people:

  1. the people who loudly demand features
  2. the developers who loudly debate the ethic, moral, technical religious impacts if the features demanded by 1. would be implemented
  3. the small group of developers who watch 1. and 2. and at some point say “Oh for crying out loud. What a noise over 5 lines of code.”

As an example, look at the discussion over the feature request in kmail where someone wants kmail to be able to remove attachments from mails.

As another example, look at this one. Some people would like to see single-sign-on in KDE4. The discussion was long and loud.

And, if you Google a bit, you find that the wallet daemon has had the required dbus call since KDE 4.4.2, for crying out loud!

Just that noone has bothered to point a finger at the required pam modules and helpers.

I’ve packaged them for openSUSE, get them from my OBS project and configure them as described in the readme files included in the packages, and you have single sign on.

Note: single sign on only happens if you actually enter a password on login. The typical suse setup with an user session starting automatically on boot can’t work with this.

Note: this seems to work only for local useraccounts, but not in a NIS environment.

openSUSE 12.1 – coming soon

I’ve been testing openSUSE 12.1 RC2 for a week now, and so far I’m impressed.

Network installation went pretty well (after I had figured out that the reason for the initial woes was the DHCP server here at work, not suse), and so far a lot of stuff that used to need manual intervention “just works” now. For eexample the use of ksshaskpass for ssh-add and other little quirks.

On the other hand there are a few oddities, none of them being the fault of the openSUSE team, as far as I can tell:

  • kopete refuses to “do” MSN – MicroSoft has changed something on their end; kmess needed a patch & rebuild as well
  • no sun java – Oracle has changed the licensing and disallows redistibution now.

Other than that: cool beans.

Especially KDE4 is impressive on this version – KDE 4.7.2 actually works now.

Debian 5, or the joy of working with prehistoric software

For various reasons I had to setup a Debian box. Debian 5.

For building software that would be distributed in binary form and should run on any linux.

The original software that mine derives from is being built on a debian 5 system.

So, I needed one as well.

Enter: VirtualBox for Mac + Debian 5 netinstall.

So far, so good, until I actually cloned my hg repo onto the deb box, and found that the clone had two heads.

… debian uses mercurial 1.0.1 on debian 5.

1.0.1.

seriously.

that is old.

very old.

It’s a miracle that debian has heard of unicode by now.

At least I think they have heard of unicode …

gotta check that.

A tale of two internets

Lately I’ve come to think that there are two separate Internets out there, existing side by side and with little interaction between them.

One of them is the internet that we all know, populated by people who write their little rants about anything they care enough about.

The other is a scary place where semi-intelligent bots imitate human behaviour by auto-generating streams of gibberish aimed at each other, making it look like strangers talking to strangers.

Case in point: get a twitter account. post any random tweet but add “popular” hashtags. Observe the behaviour of “the net”. Pay special attention to some of the new followers you’ll get… do you really believe that someone follows 25000 people?

Who made up this “You have to be on twitter and facebook to be a successful company” fad, anyways?

Related: If “Search Engine Optimization” worked, none of those self-proclaimed “SEO Experts” would have to spam twitter… they would just be found with google.