Jon’s thoughts on P2P file sharing and the media

There’s been a lot of debate as of lately about file sharing and people downloading pirated material.

Peter Mandelson’s announcement on cracking down on file sharers this week has raised some groups raising opposition in the media, including things on Facebook. I thought I would write some thoughts here.

Firstly it was the Pirate Bay, a Swedish organisation who set up a search engine to find bit torrents (sections of files stored on individuals computers being shared around the world) that were in the news over their arrest.

Some years ago, there used to be a web site called Audio Galaxy, this came shortly after Napster. I got lured into getting free music on the advise off a friend. It was quite simple, it was just a plain web site and if you couldn’t find the artist or song you were looking for, ie: that artist’s record label had set it to be blocked you just deliberately spelt it wrong and you normally find what you were looking for. After a year of court cases or so, the judges decided Audio Galaxy couldn’t protect the rights of the musicians and it was shut down for good.

After this I decided not to download music any more, why? Because as a Christian I felt that it was stealing, it wasnt until a year I deleted all the music I had that I didn’t have on a CD or got from iTunes. Instead when using iTunes I could pay for songs but more often than not I would just go on their to go “window shopping” for music, ie: I could listen to 30 seconds or so of a song, but rather than buy it I preferred to stick to CDs, as sometimes a really great artist can have a album of consistently good songs and its nice to have all of them, and another coloured bit of plastic to stick on a book shelf. Yes my preferred way to get music I like is get second hand CDs of ebay. Why, as someone else probably has what I am looking for paid the full price and got tired of it, so as long as its in good condition, second hand is good for me, especially as probably most of the 50 or so CDs I have bought in the last few years were less than £3.

Also, if you created something for a living, a piece of music, starred in a movie or wrote software, its your bread and butter, you don’t want someone else taking your work for free. If you were doing pencil drawings on the sea front, you wouldn’t be very happy and someone suddenly coming up with a camera and taking pictures of your work, then finding out a copy of that drawing was in a friend’s house above their fireplace as the bought it cheaper from other part of town? I have worked for two software companies, I am not a programmer but I do provide a service of support and providing the tools (good maintained PCs, laptops, etc) to the men and women that write those software applications. If that company’s products ended up on bit torrent I could have no job and can’t pay my bills.

When the Pirate Bay got shut down earlier this year, there were massive rallies of people supporting those folks as the three men all got prison sentences. There’s even political groups called the Pirate party that specifically want to let people carry on downloading whatever they like without threat of legal action. Ok I admit record labels do not always work with good ethics, and the fact that Sony music put malware on music CDs to put stealth software on peoples computers without them knowing really should be illegal and someone ought to be fired and put in prison over that.

Let me get this straight, did the three Swedish guys set up Pirate bay for free as volunteers? Were they the Scandinavian Robin Hoods of the digital age don’t you think they made a bit of money from banner advertising and sponsors, actually quite a bit of money??? But a political party that is based against copyright? Huh? I thought the main priorities political organisations should rally around is improve our health services, schools, police and fire services, get maximum value for money for our taxes, reduce crime, unemployment and poverty, and help the environment not try to keep people fill up the computer hard disks with as much dishonestly obtained media as they can??? This doesn’t make any sense.

Hard disks are getting ridiculously cheap with 1 Terabyte of disk storage available for less than $100 or so, but internet providers are finding even with so called ‘unlimited download’ packages, they don’t have the bandwidth to sustain people 24×7 helping themselves to an inexhaustible supply of entertainment, and may have to sending threatening letters with the hint of cutting people off.

In this digital age, we all want things here and now, its exciting I find that I can hear a song on the radio of something I grew up with but never knew the name of the band, a quick google search of the lyrics and there it is, then listen to it on iTunes, then get it and pay for it there and then. This quick purchase to scheme ought to grow onto more mobile devices now. Getting more abilities to get music on the fly without some maddeningly complex DRM scheme you have to jump hoops through is a must.

I am quite a big fan of mainly 1980s-reformed for quite a few years lately-but now defunkt British band New Order, with their most recent album they offered a free MP3 download of a song which had 30 seconds of 5 different tracks of their album melded together, which was enough to convince me that that albums was worth buying. And it was! More of this kind of marketing please record labels. Also make all those nice rare stuff and B sides that impossible to find available buy or obtain as a bonus please!!!

I am big music fan and since passing 30 few year back my musical diet as grown more and more widely, collecting all the missing albums of the artists I like, songs from TV commercials, music from movies (getting quite into John Williams and Ennio Moricconi especially) stuff I group up with and new talent that might not so far have got recognition deserved.

The basic thing I am saying is here, if you live music, movies, games and applications, please pay or them, and keep the people employed in those industries in jobs. You can’t moan that music isn’t like the good old days if you just rip it off of Bit Torrent. Some organisations have sprung to provide better more direct ways for artists to get paid for their work, I have bought two CDs from Cdbaby.com who are good example of this.

Using applications like Limewire or Bit Torrent not only is illegal and hurts jobs, it also is a BIG security risk for your computer, as spyware is usually bundled with Limewire, and you could easily accidentally configure both apps to make some other the folders on your computer shareable to the outside world, possibly compromise a business’s IT security to hackers, or mean (probably not likely) you could be prosecuted. I spend a lot of time removing spyware and malicious apps which convention antivirus software cant always touch and needs specialist tools to remove, even then with modern techniques like root kits, criminals are more determined to find ways to get your computer to deliver spam or find financial information without you knowing. Software on torrents is often poisoned with nasty side effects. Mac users are non immune, the new Mac OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’ has been discovered interfered with malware.

When I get back to the UK I want to be able to know that my possible future employers isn’t in danger of having their products being ripped off.

If you cant afford to pay for software, especially things like Microsoft Office or Adobe’s graphics applications, there’s always free open source alternatives which might need a bit of retraining but much of the free software these days is becoming extremely high quality. If anyone feels that Bit Torrent etc does have a legitimate uses for things feel free to comment below.

 

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Office Live – A review

Since someone told me about this at work, it sounded interesting.   Microsoft now offer a free template style web site which they host at no charge, a domain name is even thrown in.

When I needed to get an online presence to promote my plans to volunteer in Israel this seemed like a great solution.

Microsoft being the all conquering software mammoth are of course criticised, and using this service wasn’t going to win me respect with my fellow geek peers but I decided to go for it, seeing as free as good, and HTML and web design isn’t my thing and starting learning in this field isn’t on my priority list seeing as there’s other aspects in IT that more relevant to my interests.

During the registration process I was required to be a fee of GBP12 (this computer doesn’t have a pound sign 🙂 )  for my domain name, ok its not too much money although I would preferred them to be upfront about this though.

Once I started editing the site, there are some premade templates (about XYZ company, contact us, various similar things) that enable to drop pictures into the suggested layouts which is quite nice.  The editing suite uses Microsoft Office 2007 ribbon style interface which works quite well here, the editing functions do seem logical and pleasant to use.

Then I found out the not so good factors.  I was using a mixture of Microsoft Office 2003 and Open Office Writer 3 to write the text in different style and colour text and copy and paste it into the site.  Because of this I think some information got corrupted cause certain pages to hang.   A typical instance of this would be that when bring up the office live site to edit it, I would just get a permanently spinning please wait symbol.   The way to get round this would be to simply delete the specific page and make a new one with the already save text in hand.   On the main page which would be the default.html site though, it was impossible to delete or edit this.

The really bad point came when I showed a church leader about my plans to go away and the web site came up mostly blank on his Vista based PC running IE7.  This was quite embarrassing, although my fault I should of checked it under several browsers in advance.   It seemed using it on different browsers and different screen resolutions would give a very different view, the neatly tiled collection of photos on my home 20” monitor would become an odd mess on a smaller display.

On the forums of Office Live there’s quite a few other people with this issues, the documentation and a response back from a support agent told me about checking for cookies and other browser settings, (which I had already done.)

Unfortunately these issues remain consistent if I change any aspect of the site on my home or work computers using different browsers or versions of Windows.

I would recommend that businesses do not use this free application it is too unreliable and not standards compliant (like a lot of Microsoft’s other products) making it not easily manageable.

I am finding since updating this blog, I really like WordPress, I can have a web site in a blog format with easily changeable themes and layouts and where as the dashboard interface takes some getting used to and some menu features are not always where you expect to find them, its perfect for any individual or business for casual writings or any kind web site that revolves round a updateable blog.

If you are curious, you can check out the Office live web site maker here www.officelive.com

Useful links

some interesting links I will update from time to time

Links

Bridges for Peace, the Christian charity I will be working for
www.bridgesforpeace.com

Pictures and blog of biblical locations
www.bibleplaces.com

Online bible in multiple languages and different translation
www.biblegateway.com

Walid Shoebat, an ex-Palestinian Terrorist who found Jesus.
www.shoebat.com

 

Mount Carmel

 

Myself, my Dad and his two friends went to Mount Carmel after staying in Netanya.

Below maybe the place on Mt Carmel where there was twelve stones mentioned in the bible – although I could just see ten of them plus the statue thing in the middle.


1 Kings 18
18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel……

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.”

Netanya getaway

moto_0410This week I took some time out of work in Netanya, a seaside city above Tel Aviv.

According to Wikipedia, Netanya is twinned with UK coastal city of Bournemouth and I can see some close connections to it.

Where as Jerusalem has public signs and information in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Netanya has signs in most just Hebrew and Russian, do you say ‘Da?’ or ‘Ken?’

I knew there were a lot of Russians in Israel (maybe 10-15%?)   but it didnt prepare me for the shop signs are mostly in Russian as well as well as products in the shops are more targetted to people from the ex-Soviet states.  Quite a few French as well, as some real estate agents have all their adverts in the windows in French.   Netanya has 190,000 people but that is expected to grow to 300,000 in 2020.

old blocksLooking around there are cranes building more apartments and hotels, and strangely some blocks with the windows missing, I am guessing as these buildings look somewhat dated, they are being refurbished with the outer skin of the building being changed around.

netanya streetGetting around is quite easy as the streets are in normal grid fashion, a world away with mountainous Jerusalem, just like the above mentioned seaside town in Dorset, Netanya has cliff top views of beaches and nice walks, as well outside ice cream bars.

Shopping is more difficult here, as less people speak English than in Jerusalem.  There is a Shuk (outdoor type market for fruit and vegetables) and for most other things.  There is not many Orthodox people, Arabs or Ethiopians in this city.

right balcony netanyanetanya balcony

My flat!

I really like this city, with its cliff top views, I was really privileged to have someone lend me this really nice apartment which looks directly over the Mediterranean, plus has wireless broadband, TV and cable, nice big rooms and an underground garage.  I stayed here several days with my Dad and his two friends and couple more on my own.

This is a mostly fairly secular city, I only see a few Sukkot tents but not many.   This one is in the balcony directly below my flat, althought strangely theres no roof on this tent. 🙂

netanya sukkotnetanya garden

read this site in English/French/German/Spanish/Russian/Arabic/Hebrew

You can read my blog in several languages including English

Vous pouvez lire mon blog en plusieurs langues dont le Français

Sie können mein Blog lesen in mehreren Sprachen, darunter Deutsch

Usted puede leer mi blog en varios idiomas incluyendo el Español

Вы можете читать мой блог в том числе несколько Языки Испанский

يمكنك قراءة بلوق بلدي في عدة لغات منها الاسبانية

אתה יכול לקרוא בבלוג שלי במספר שפות כולל ספרדית

Play CDs/DVDs on a netbook or laptop without optical drive

For this you will need to download the following free software:

Infrarecorder (if you don’t already have CD burning software) –  http://infrarecorder.org/

Daemon Tools lite – http://www.disk-tools.com/download/daemon

VLC Player (if you don’t already have DVD playback software) – http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

make iso

Firstly make an ISO image file of the CD or DVD in question.   I use Infrarecorder for this.   If your DVD is copy protected I am not going to tell you how to get round this or break the law, I am using one of my organisation’s promotional DVDs for this purpose.

I am using a nice Dell Latitude X1 laptop, its oldish machine but small light and has an external DVD burner.   I did this as I was setting the computer to play a looped DVD film for a conference.   There is not much space in the booth at the conference on the table to set up the external DVD drive.

make iso2

I like Infrarecorder as its simple and free & open source.  I don’t care much for Nero as it make images into its own .NRG format rather than more common .ISO file.   Nero comes bundled with all kinds of extra bloated stuff most people don’t want.

Transfer the ISO file onto your laptop via network or USB drive.

I would suggest you copy your ISO file on the the root of C:\ drive of your laptop or make a folder lets say, C:\films or whatever.  This was they can be read by different people if you have multiple log in profiles on the computer.

Install Daemon Tools on the laptop.  When you do this, don’t go through the installation too quickly.   The makers of this application bundled some annoying form of search toolbar, which could be a mild spyware app.  Just make sure you untick this before doing the installation.   Once installed it will need to install some drivers to make it mimic a standard CD or DVD drive.  You will need to reboot.make iso3

Once rebooted your PC will show and extra optical drive in My Computer,  I would recommend that you not leave it mapped to D: or E: or whatever as it could get confusing, if you later plug in an external DVD drive.   So, go into Start, Settings, Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Computer Management, on the left hand side click Disk Management.   Here you can rename the drive letter of the pseudo-optical drive.   I have chosen V:for virtual DVD.

Install VLC player if you haven’t already done so.   VLC or Video LAN Player is way better than Windows Media Player, Real Player and Quicktime, and it plays DVDs.   Note it isn’t perfect (although I have been at presentations and see the three above application crash or refuse to play video properly)    Sometimes VLC may start playing the main part of the movie rather than the main film menu.   Having said that, I love VLC’s vast choice of format support, simple non-gimmicky interface and fast start up time, which other mentioned apps do very poorly.   Without hidden extra bundled software VLC is my choice for corporate use and at home.

Ok, you are almost done.   On your Windows task bar (bottom right hand corner near clock) click the silver icon with mount v drive2the lightning flash. From here you can select the ISO file and VLC or whatever your main choice of media player should choose to play the film straight away.  From this icon you can chose to dismount the disc or insert another one.   Windows will think its just a normal CD, it all works totally transparently.  You can even make this pretend DVD drive sharable if you wish over your network.   I have done this with some awkward applications that might not install easily over a network, gives me the advantage I can remote in (using Remote Desktop or VNC viewer) to my own PC to pick and choose the right ISO file.

This is also great if you want to go away somewhere with your laptop and not bring bulky films with you.  Ought to save battery power by not using a real DVD drive too.

It should be noted that ISO files get very big (DVDs are ~4.7Gb) so make sure you have enough hard disk space.   mount v driveRecent netbook computers like Dell’s Mini 10 which might have a small SSD hard disks of 16Gb or so should definitely bear this in mind.

Enjoy watching movies whilst in bed/whilst camping/on a plane!

back to airport to meet peoples

Went to visit my Dad and his two friends who came to pay a visit so had to get up to TLV (Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion) airport

Got to make use of free wireless whilst waiting.

Interesting things whilst waiting, a vending machine that sells fresh flowers.  Vending machines have always fascinated me, but not seen one for this type of merchandise before, there was a label on it showing the company had a patent for this type of thing.

moto_0389

McDonalds in the airport is Kosher (observes Jewish law for preparing food)    they also sell a McShwarma which is quite funny.

moto_0388

By Jonathan Posted in me

Jerusalem stock car racing / brains for dinner / recycle buildings

moto_0350

If you have a nice building thats beyond repair, tear it down apart from the front and build a new one, and use the outter old front as a facade.

moto_0382

As spotted in a Jerusalem supermarket.   Have spotted whole sheep’s heads (complete with eyes) in Arab market before.

moto_0385

Well most cars I see have dents and scrapes in, but didn’t think they do stock car racing in Israel, but seen this Mitsubishi quite a bit in my neighbourhood and it looks like it has been put through a race….