Friday, February 10, 2006

DRM is your friend - Ars

Ars Technica is a great site to read computer news and reviews, and I recently noticed they also have a solid focus on consumer rights. For example, in today's editorial on Digital Restriction Management (DRM), they criticise the MPAA for their silly claim that DRM is good for consumers. The usual claim is that "it stops piracy so that you, the consumer, will continue to enjoy our quality content", but now they've said " provides casual, honest users with guidelines for using and consuming content...." ahh, how good of them to "guide" consumers with restrictions that, thanks to the DMCA, are legally binding. With the "broadcast flag" and "analog hole" bills being considered, restrictions on TV and radio may soon be mandatory also, for all manufacturers.

So, I've got their RSS feed bookmarked. Other issues Ars has covered in the last week include IPTV, librarians' concerns that DRM inhibits archiving, Legalization of P2P in france, AOL & Yahoo's paid e-mail plan, the danger and utility of metadata, Blizzard Entertainment's latest heavy-handed behavior, the long tail versus the blockbuster, antitrust complaints over Microsoft Vista, the latest U.S. government plan to amass personal information, and the latest use of a software patent as a cash cow. Indeed, if there's one thing that might turn off the Average Joe or Geek to Ars Technica, it's the sheer amount of information they provide. My only complaint is that there seems to be no easy way to browse old articles.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

My first stitches

Has anyone ever threatened to "rip you a new asshole"? Well, now I know what it's like!

Some time ago I bought a two-foot square mirror from a garage sale. I wasn't using it and Tuesday night it was resting upright against another object in my room. The side of the mirror was sticking out, which sets the stage for my tale.

I had just taken a shower and was nude in my room, standing up. Oblivious to the presence of the mirror, I quickly ducked down, perhaps to pick something up from the floor, and felt a sharp pain in the left buttock. Giving a yelp, I jumped up and onto my bed. I instinctively grabbed my behind and applied pressure, but all I felt was my own skin.

When I twisted around to look at the area, I was expecting to see some kind of scratch, but instead I was greeted with a large gash. I saw it only for a moment; I believe I saw a mix of colors inside the wound--yellow or orange, with dark red streaks. As I watched it, blood began oozing out. It occurred to me that I should put a bandage on it, so I jumped out of bed and looked frantically for my box of band-aids. Finding it after a few seconds, I pulled out a band-aid and it turned out to be one of the tiny ones. At that moment I realized I was bleeding, and blood began dripping on the carpet. I reached in the box and pulled out a regular-size one before coming to my senses: it was too small, and I'd better get out of my room before my carpet was covered in blood.

I grabbed a towel and clumsily held it in front of me as I made my way to my roommates' room. I hadn't explained to them that I was a naturist, and being a Chinese couple, I assumed they would be uncomfortable if I were nude, but I didn't want to get blood stains all over my towel. So I held it in front of me in the dark hallway when my roommate, Micheal, opened his door.

"Turn on the light," I said, since, holding the towel with both hands, I couldn't do it myself.

"What?" he responded.

"Turn...on...the light!"

So he did, and I explained I'd cut myself. His wife Karen came out also and took a look too. I asked for a bandage and he brought a small square gauze-like cloth. It got pretty awkward at that point as I tried to hold the bandage and towel in place at the same time. Soon after I felt a little lightheaded and laid on the floor.

I don't remember exactly how the conversation went, but we discussed what to do. I really wasn't sure. I didn't know if Alberta Health Care would cover getting stitches and whether they were really necessary. The cut was about 5 cm long (4.6 cm, come to measure it) and 1 cm deep; in hindsight, stitches were clearly necessary, but at the time, I thought that Micheal could use a series of band-aids to pull the two sides of the cut together. I was also worried about wait times at the hospital, and my fears were confirmed when I called Foothills. They said I would have to wait "several hours" and suggested I try the clinic on 8th and 8th. I called the clinic, which refused to give me a wait time, only saying it would be faster than the hospital.

Well, Micheal put a bunch of band-aids on it along with that gauzy thing, and we went to the clinic. We arrived around 10:40 or 11:40 (I forget), and there were only about 8 patients waiting ahead of us. Even so, to our amazement, we spent almost 4 hours in the waiting room. This was unusually unpleasant for me, since I was somewhat sitting-impaired.

I could sit, but I couldn't shuffle in my seat without a lot of pain.

Then I was called into a room with a bed and medical equipment, and waited for what seemed like a half hour before the doctor came. In the meantime, the nurse came and removed the bandages, which was certainly worse than the stitching. The operation itself was an interesting experience, though not quite worth the wait. She used local anaesthetic, which is very cool stuff. I hate to think how it would have felt without it.

There are now ten stitches in my bum, which the doctor calls "sutures". I'll have to get them removed in six to nine days.

I had a major assignment I had to finish by 1 PM the next day, and I knew I wouldn't finish it properly by then, because I'd have to sleep in awhile. So I asked to have a doctor's note I could use for sympathy-garnering purposes. Amazingly, I was told I'd have to pay $15 for it. I didn't have to pay for the stiches*, but if I wanted a written record of getting them, it would cost me? Crazy. Do stores charge money for receipts?

So I told them to forget it.

The next day, having slept in by over two hours, I rushed to write a presentable report for my assignment. This went very smoothly overall, but I still arrived 15 minutes late for the class where I was supposed to hand it in. Luckily, however, the teacher was 20 minutes late. Ahh.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I'm back!

Well, it turns out my motherboard wasn't defective: all Asus P5GD1 motherboards are defective in the same way, and my replacement failed in the same way. Luckily I found a solution and reinstalled Windows. However, I was unable to install Linux. Research suggests it will only be possible if I replace my hard drives with a Serial ATA drive (or buy a different motherboard).

Linux is looking a lot better than it did six years ago when I gave up on using it. I tried a Kubuntu live CD, and was very impressed. It automatically detected my video card and ethernet port, and gave me a friendly introduction to today's Linux. Unfortunately, I can't install it because it can't see the hard drives.

Broadcast flag update

Anyway, the record industry is pushing their greedy agenda again with their latest bill. Ars Technica reports (via EFF) that there's a new bill to force hardware makers to put draconian hardware restrictions in their digital radio receivers. It's not clear to me on first read what exactly the implications are of this bill--I should edit this post later when I figure it out.