Older blog entries for slef (starting at number 314)

The Dopey Tour de France

After my comments about the TV audience figures, Ismael Valladolid Torres commented:

"Audience in Spain will keep on raising while Contador keeps playing such a big race!"

I hope that's still the case after the recent revelations. The evidence suggests that Vinokourov had someone else's blood [tdfblog] and Cofidis's Moreni was using something like a nutsack patch [tdfblog] while Rabobank have fired race leader Rasmussen for telling them he was in Mexico when he was in Italty [tdfblog] so it looks like this year's race is still really unpredictable as the dopes are caught and kicked out.

Maybe my hopes for a Valverde (now 6th, 10:18 back) win still stand a chance... (My "serious" prediction, Klöden, left with Vino.)

Syndicated 2007-07-25 23:29:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Reply of FSF Radio Interviewee about Skype

Peter Brown replied:

"Thanks for the message. Here are some comments on the issues you raise:

"> - On the Radio New Internationalist show "Up in Smoke", during an interview with Peter Brown of FSF (about 43 minutes in), I was surprised to hear the following revelation that FSF uses Skype and the failure to challenge the claim that Skype is free software:"

The FSF doesn't use Skype. I would appreciate if you would clarify that on your blog post. The interviewer used Skype to telephone me on an FSF telephone. I agree that from what I said, it would be easy to infer that FSF uses Skype, but it doesn't. The interview lasted about an hour and we covered a lot of ground. Also, in this exchange I didn't clarify for the listener that when the interviewer remarked that "Skype was free", they meant as in price, but not as in freedom.

"> - I was disappointed not to find much on the FSF web site about the need for free VoIP software, building on GNU oSIP and other free software, instead of Skype's proprietary software, which has contained spyware and worms already. Will you be adding such information soon? What is the official FSF view of Skype and similar proprietary VoIP systems?"

Skype is proprietary and we don't use it. In that section of the interview we were discussing telecoms monopoly and net neutrality, and I lost the focus on the free software issue - my bad. As far as adding an article about VOIP on fsf.org I think that's a great idea. Unfortunately, I don't think we can cover that immediately, as we have some campaigns we have other campaign activities to focus on. We would be glad to take a contribution though, if you would like to write such an article - we might also want to think about using such an article as a basis for a campaign.

"> - Nevertheless, well done for covering DRM, net neutrality and the privacy problems of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in a relatively short interview."

Thanks. I actually used to work at the New Internationalist in Oxford, and they are a great coop. I have been working with them now for a couple of years, tying to encourage them to cover free software related issues for their audience. Have you seen the article Bruce Byfield (Newsforge) wrote that I got placed in the November issue of the magazine?

all the best

peter"

Thanks for the reply! To my shame, I'd completely forgotten that Skype can also call ordinary telephones and the interview didn't remind me. I guess that might be because my main awareness of Skype is when it's a problem, when someone gives a skype: address instead of a sip: one or a real phone number.

However, I'm not sure a called person would usually say that they were being called over Skype, rather than being telephoned. FSF people are smarties, though, so can hear the artefacts, or maybe the interviewer had mentioned it beforehand.

Anyone else want to summarise the benefits of free software VoIP compared to Skype systems? I won't get time before next month.

kris commented:

"There's openwengo, it has more features than skype (i.e. video), is encrypted, open and free. Enjoy."

I keep meaning to try openwengo, but each time I look at it, I fail to find the source tarball for the latest release. It also seems to be Qt-only, which I also try to avoid installing (as it'd be a fourth set of desktop widgets).

At the moment, I'm using linphone from the command-line. I sometimes consider replacing it with a stand-alone telephone adapter. I wonder: are any running free software?

Syndicated 2007-07-25 20:51:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Preface to FSF Radio Interviewee Promotes Skype

Preface to the last post: I'm aware that my surprise at FSF using Skype does raise the old question "where do you draw the line?" - For example, do you refuse to use the fixed-line telephone system if your exchanges are not running free software?

Me, I use the telephone system because it's effectively a monopoly and we don't have an alternative that works for me. I sometimes try to nibble at the system with the Phone Co-op and more VoIP use, but it's no fun banging my head against a wall. However, I boycott Skype because I can't tell what it's doing, there have been enough bad reports that I don't trust it and the alternatives of SIP and IAX work for me, but I expected FSF not to use Skype for idealistic reasons.

FSF leaders like RMS have promoted things like Why schools should exclusively use free software [by Richard Stallman], carefully corrected inaccurate claims about free software and refused to mention some proprietary software products. They were often criticised for it, but they continued to do it (for good reasons IMO, even when I disagreed with them).

So, FSF's Controller giving an interview over Skype seemed a rather surprising about-face. Then the interviewer claimed "Skype is free" and it went unchallenged. After the show, I sent the email...

Syndicated 2007-07-24 15:13:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

FSF Radio Interviewee Promotes Skype

I just sent this: Dear FSF,

On the Radio New Internationalist show "Up in Smoke", during an interview with Peter Brown of FSF (about 43 minutes in), I was surprised to hear the following revelation that FSF uses Skype and the failure to challenge the claim that Skype is free software:

"Peter Brown: ... This interview today is being transmitted through Skype. We're talking through Skype. Now, that obviously is a direct threat to the entrenched telecoms and they would like to restrict that, to lower the quality of the voice connection and they want to do that with lots of other types of transmission.

Rachel Maher: And can they do that? Because Skype of course is free and there's a really direct benefit for organisations like ours, which is a non-profit organisation using Skype technology. Will they be able to do that?

Peter Brown: Yes, so what they can do is easily identify types of information being passed, so what they can typically do is downgrade the service that you're using, so that - for instance, voice communication - those packets of data can be slowed down, effectively making voice communciation more difficult. Now this can only really be achieved if they're able to manipulate legislation. Unfortunately, they have a long history of being very successful at this. I mentioned earlier on that Digital Restrictions Management are a threat to our freedoms because it's allowing them to erect gateways and to control what it is that we can view and do with our computers. ..."

I was disappointed not to find much on the FSF web site about the need for free VoIP software, building on GNU oSIP and other free software, instead of Skype's proprietary software, which has contained spyware and worms already. Will you be adding such information soon? What is the official FSF view of Skype and similar proprietary VoIP systems?

Nevertheless, well done for covering DRM, net neutrality and the privacy problems of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in a relatively short interview.

Regards, MJR

Syndicated 2007-07-24 13:26:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Flash Floods of Weston

Although a small puddle formed uphill of our house, it soon soaked away, so I thought we'd got away without any problems from the unexpected Summer Rain [niq's soapbox] around here, but it seems I was wrong...

Walking along Kewstoke Road yesterday, I was surprised to see sandbags outside one house. When I mentioned it in the greengrocer's, Nicky (excuse any misspelling) said they'd been sweeping the water flowing down the hill away from the shop door, as it would kill the wood floor and the electrics beneath if they didn't. It seems the other side of the hill also had some flash floods, reported in The Weston Mercury - News: The day the rains came down.

Even so, it was much less than up-river in Gloucestershire and across in Oxfordshire, where Midcounties Co-op has mobilised its resources to combat flood chaos [coop news] by distributing essentials like water.

It seems finding out whether you're in a flood risk area is unnecessarily difficult because the Environment Agency gives its reasons for stopping flood data being used [Free Our Data] - in short, they want to sell us our data a second time!

In the longer term, it looks like things may change drastically around here if an entrepreneur from Burnham-on-Sea succeeds in his plan to wall in Weston-super-Mare with Severn Lake succeeds. (tip WWN ) What would that do to floods?

Syndicated 2007-07-24 11:21:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Early Tour de France Audience Figures

Bloomberg: Tour de France TV Audiences Rise in Europe Even After Scandals (tip tdfblog ) reports audiences are up 6% in France, 11% in Spain and 40% in Denmark (to over 800,000). Italy's RAI reports 1.2million viewers, while ARD/ZDF averaged 1.4million until they pulled the plug over half a dope test.

In the UK, the BARB Weekly Summaries show the tour's London-Canterbury Stage 1 charting with 178,000 viewers on itv4. That's up from 143,000 for 2006's stage 1 (up 24%). Last year's itv4 coverage seems to have peaked at 197,000, so it'll be interesting to see how later stages fare, as details are announced.

Stage 1 was also shown on the more widely available (analogue+digital) itv1 channel. The itv1 coverage didn't chart, so it must have had less than 3.41 million viewers, but I can't see exactly how many.

British Eurosport's reported audience for Stage 1 increased from 84,000 last year to 118,000 (up 40%). Their 2006 peak was 100,000 for the last Thursday highlights, so that's already broken. They've been advertising pretty widely, with really annoying Franglais adverts that mispronounce the race name ("Tardy France" eh?).

There was also an overspill into other channels, which we don't usually see. Two of my favourites: Graham Jones: What do the Tour de France and a Victoria sponge have in common with your social networking web site? Channel 4: Tour de France's UK appeal (video feed) mms://a1167.v15478c.c15478.g.vm.akamaistream.net/7/1167/15478/v0004/origin.channel4.com/news/2007/07/05_bike.wmv

Syndicated 2007-07-24 10:48:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Has an easy-to-use UK map survived the "if it isn't broken yet, keep adding features" fad?

Recently, online mapping seems to be going through a period of "if it isn't broken yet, keep adding features until it is." I'm looking for a UK mapping web site which must include contour data (useful for bicycles), be usable without JavaScript and cookies (useful for mobile browsing) and be easy to write a search form for (useful for web links and bookmarklets); and should include aerial photos, postcode search and other countries.

I used to use Multimap but it recently started requiring JavaScript and ditched the OS maps which showed the contours.

Streetmap is still usable, but the visible copy of the beta site makes it look like they're about to make the same JavaScript-hungry mistake (emailed).

Google Maps works without JavaScript and cookies (despite its whinging on the front page) but doesn't have contour data. And it's Google, who I don't like for other reasons.

OpenStreetMap, Maporama, Mapblast and Ordnance Survey all seem to require JavaScript (OS despite their own accessibility policy - emailed). Map24 just seems broken in ways I've not debugged.

So, besides Streetmap for now, is there an easy-to-use UK web map with contours?

Syndicated 2007-07-23 12:42:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Google: "misleading and deceptive conduct", "Click Fraud Up", "opera mini 4 is bringing difficulties"

Google seems to be having a harder time with adverts in 2007. Firstly, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleges misleading and deceptive conduct by Trading Post and Google. Then, a report suggests Click Fraud Up to 15.8% in Second Quarter.

Now, it looks like Opera may be about to break Google adverts from many mobile devices - Harishankar asked:

"Does this blog post [Mobile Phones and Mobile Games: Google's difficulty in over-coming Opera mini's Proxy Server] saying "opera mini 4 is bringing difficuilties to google adsense" make sense?"

I'm surprised Opera's proxies are so privacy-friendly, but it makes sense to me. I expect Google will change their adsense policies yet again soon, if this worries their clients and they don't want a showdown with Opera.

Syndicated 2007-07-23 12:13:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

Sat.1 starts Tour coverage. ZDF promises to drop football.

For part of Stage 11, I watched the new Tour live coverage on Sat.1 who bought the German rights. When Sat.1 is busy, Pro7 will cover it. The two stations are owned by the same company, along with Kabel1, N24 and 9Live.

The coverage was OK - the same French pictures as everyone else, but fewer extra features than ARD/ZDF. Commentary was a bit pedestrian, but that's like ZDF. I like Eurosport's commentary much more. International Herald Tribune reports that Eurosport's ratings tripled for stage 10 which is unsurprising. Eurosport and Sat.1 both seem to be on the same ~30% of German DVB-T as well as DVB-S.

In comments on my last post about this, Thomas asked:

"You don't read German papers, do you?"

No. I've not even tried to buy one since moving to this village.

"I do, and I'm neither outraged nor surprised. It is a fairly logical step in light of the debate and the public reception of the tour, cycling pros, and Team T-Mobile in particular."

Is it public reception? Around 50% of those polled by ZDF disagreed with the decision (according to the IHT link above). Given all the ZDF spin on this, that's shockingly low. Is this driven by the silly debate of Bundestag members, rather than public opinion? (I've still not forgiven them for booting Eurosport off of ZDFvision. CDU seem to like messing ARD/ZDF about.)

Are German papers in a feeding frenzy? In some days, they'll move onto football or boxing or something else. Get this in context: it's not like the old scandals where we had pro teams or wives being caught with car boots full of drug kits.

"I'd also bet that T-Mobile will quit as a sponsor."

It didn't seem like that from TV interviews, but I guess they wouldn't say yet. I think if they were going to jump ship, they would have done it after last year's worse problems. AIUI, their contract expires 2010 anyway and I wonder whether all the good publicity from their tour outing in England will help them stay until then.

"Some things belong in pharmacology textbooks and not on TV screens."

Does this mean drugs or incomplete drug tests? ;-)

"If I paid German TV fees, I'd be outraged that this comes that late. But then, I know better and don't have a TV in the first place."

Oh, well! Then I guess nothing would convince you to watch the tour!

Philipp Kern commented:

"they did not threaten for a year actually. After the big doping scandal some months ago they explicitly announced that they will drop the Tour de France if a new doping case pops up. Granted, the person in question did dope before the Tour."

We don't know that yet - only one sample has been tested so far and even then, this test is controversial and has been successfully appealed against before. It's only a case.

Also, maybe it wasn't the TdF, but here's a comment about ARD in 2006 threatening to drop cycling (scroll to 25.10.).

"The argumentation is that the Tour should not be a contest of the best doping substances like it could have been the last years.

But I am probably biased because I don't watch the Tour, or sports in general."

No more biased than ARD/ZDF's producers, it seems. In an interview on itv4, a ZDF producer said they would drop any sporting event with a doping problem like cycling. So, if ZDF have dropped cycling for 1 in 189 participants being accused of doping, then if any footballer is accused of drugs offences, they cannot show any matches involving them. If you want to take football off ZDF, you know what to do...

Thijs Kinkhorst reports in "Too much testosterone" that NOS also continues coverage, like our itv. Good on them. Let's applaud any drug cheats getting caught and punished, after we're reasonably sure.

Syndicated 2007-07-20 01:43:00 from MJR slef-reflection Recent Changes

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