brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


What the heck is an “anti-reaction”?

Microsoft propaganda minster Robert Scoble has remarked that news that Longhorn will prevent playback of DRM'ed video unless it is to a sufficiently "secure" or "digital" device has provoked a strong "anti-reaction".

Just what the hell is an anti-reaction? It generated a strong reaction: a reaction that should tell Microsoft that anyone intelligent enough to know what it means knows that it is inherently anti-consumer. I've said it before, I'll say it again: there are no consumers who think that DRM is a good thing. There is a reason for that: it only restricts consumers, it doesn't empower them. It only makes things more difficult for consumers, it doesn't ease their tasks. And perhaps even more importantly, it restricts the world of media creation to using those devices which are somehow approved of by Microsoft or their taskmasters in the media world.

In the last three or so years, I've begun to think of my computers as something fundamentally different than in years past. I've thought of them as engines for playing with mathematics and physics, I've seen them as game machines, I've seen them as storehouses for vast quantities of the written word.

Now, when I look at my computer, I see it as a method for creating media. I use it to process pictures, audio and video. I use it to store them, forward them to others, and subscribe to other people's media feeds.

And DRM doesn't help me at all with that because it takes some distribution decision out of my hands and gives it to someone else.

When I snap a picture with my digital camera, carefully nurse it with the Gimp until it is a masterpiece, I want to be able to print it without having to ask permission. I don't think I should have to beg and plead Walmart and try to convince them that I am truly the owner of my own images, just because they look professional.

I'd like to be able to take my video content directly from my MiniDV camcorder, and load it onto the machine I use all the time (a Linux box). I'd like to be able to transcode them into a format which can be used in popular video players (like DVD players for instance) without worrying whether I have the right patented technology. I just want it to work.

I'd just like things to work, and be easy to distribute. Nothing about any of these DRM features seems to be at all concerned with these topics.

Filed under: Rants and Raves 1 Comment

Treason, Okay, Violence, Okay, but Sex?

I've been tracking Wil Wheaton's amusing anecdotes about competing in the 2005 WSOP, but today the poker muse must have temporarily vacated him only to be replaced by the political muse. Today he's writing a brief letter to Senator Hillary Clinton, indicating that her valuable time might be better spent chasing after Karl Rove rather than Carl Johnson, creator of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas.

For those of you not immersed in the world of video games, Grand Theft Auto is a popular series of video games where the principal activities required are essentially all violent crimes. The gamer is expected to steal cars, drive around, shoot police officers, rough up prostitutes, and generally just cause all sorts of mayhem.

These games have been controversial since they were first released, but they are also insanely popular, due no doubt in some small measure to the controversy itself. The game is rated M, indicating strong violence and sexual themes, so it is not like parents are not warned.

But the controversy has been kicked up a notch in the last couple of months by a modification which is going around the Internet called "Hot Coffee". Apparently one of the subplots for the game involves trying to get your girlfriend to invite you back to her place for coffee. This particular mod changes an innocent coffee break into, well, sex. No, I'm not going to give you screendumps, I don't have any, don't ask. Search around for yourself if you want to see what it's all about.

So, here we have a game which consists of

  1. Stealing cars
  2. Drive by shootings
  3. Killing police
  4. Smashing hookers with tire irons

and yet the thing which requires a congressional investigation is the notion that someone has managed to create a modification to the game which allows you to see a bunch of flesh colored triangles do the horizontal mambo. Are there a whole bunch of parents somewhere who felt like GTASA was appropriate for their children until they learned of this mod, and are now irate?

I'm confused. I respect the idea that it's a vile video game without any redeeming value and is completely inappropriate for children, but presumably you knew that before, didn't you? If you are a resident of New York, do you think that it's a worthwhile use of your representatives time to tell you what you and everyone else knows?

Filed under: Politics 3 Comments

JuiceBox Revisited…

My Pear Photo Transferred to the Mattel Juicebox

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned that I had picked up a $12 Mattel Juicebox that I was thinking about hacking. I've done relatively little with it since then, but this morning I felt compelled to at least convert a picture from normal jpeg format to the internal format used by the player, without of course using the Windows XP software they ship with the thing (I think I already threw away the CD in fact...)

The format is simple: 240x160 12 bit values, with 4 bits for each of red, green and blue. That's it, no headers at all. Oh, and you must name the file with a .jbp extension (Juice Box Picture?). I wrote a simple program to convert ppm files to this format (without dithering, but with 4 bit color it isn't terrible), mounted an SD card, copied the file over, unmounted it, and then put it in the juicebox.

Voila. Worked perfectly.

Unfortunately, I'm camera-less today, so I'll update with a picture later today. Witness the picture to the right.

Filed under: My Projects 1 Comment