In Toronto, of all places...
In Toronto, of all places...
This is my second time typing this article. Stupid browser button in the wrong place.
The theme of this post is simple: boycott Sony. If you bought a CD from them recently, then sue.
Sony recently a number of albums with DRM (digital rights management) software installed. DRM is a blanket term for all sorts of programs designed to let you use content (music, movies, whatever) without being able to copy it. Sony's version of "DRM" (they call the specific product XCP) goes well beyond just that.
It installs a rootkit on your computer (PC or Mac) as soon as the CD is inserted. This rookit allows Sony to gain complete access to your computer at any time. Worse, the rootkit modifies the operating system to hide itself from prying eyes. Once this modification is made, code by people with fewer scruples even than Sony, such as virus writers, can hide in the same shadow.
Making matters worse, the uninstaller released by Sony, after much bad press, doesn't really uninstall anything. It undoes the "stealth" mode provisions, but leaves the back door open to anyone to take remote control of your computer.
A research group recently published results showing that Sony's DRM has now infected over 500,000 networks in North America alone. All of these networks are presently vulnerable to an attack that could take the form of remote control of machines, or an automated worm that self-propagated across the net. Several supposedly secure military networks have been infected, causing the Department of Homeland Security in the US to consider legal action against Sony on grounds of national security.
This practice of installing software in secret is reprehensible. It is done, obstensibly, to allow Sony to check your machine for unauthorized copies of their music. This is completely unreasonable. If Sony believes that you pirate their songs, then they can get a court order to search your machine. A government cannot hack your computer without a warrant. What would make it OK for Sony to do the same?
Microsoft and several antivirus companies have stepped up to the plate on this one. MS considers Sony's DRM to be a major security threat, and is thus including it as a target for their anti-virus and anti-spyware packages. Most antivirus companies are following suit. If you have purchased music from any Sony label in the past year, be sure to run a scan on your computer once the tools become available!
Several class action suits have already been filed against Sony. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation, a human rights group) has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Sony, which threatens major legal action against them. Both the EU and the US are reportedly considering filing criminal computer trespass charges against Sony for this incident.
This is an invasion of privacy and property. That Sony feels justified in doing this is inexcusable, and unacceptable. At the very least, please don't buy music from Sony, or any of the other major labels. This problem is endemic to the industry and will only get worse. There was a time when there were fewer superstars, and most musicians supported themselves not with recording contracts, but with concerts. Support your favorite artists - forget buying their music, but go see their shows.
D'Arcy and I were researching provincial sales taxes for an ecommerce app today, and we came across something sadistic. In PEI and Québec, the provincial sales tax is charged on the GST! For example, PEI has 10% (!!!) provincial sales tax, according to the PEI government. It's applied after the GST, though, which makes this a thinly veiled lie.
Let's say you buy something for $100 in PEI. The GST is 7% or $7. The PST is 10%... so that's $10, right? Wrong. The PST is calculated against the full amount, with the GST! $100 + $7 = $107. 10% of $107 is $10.70. The total amount you owe is $117.70. You just paid 70 cents PST for buying... the GST!
Québec does the same thing. They claim to have 7.5% PST, but in fact they charge after the GST.
The correctly adjusted tax rates are: PEI - 10.7%, Québec - 8.025%. Most ecommerce software gets this wrong, and that causes the business that use it to be short on their tax remittances. Theoretically, this could lead to a bill from the provinces.
Clearly this is a way to hide taxes away from the electorate. PEI and Québec should be ashamed!
This memo, dated July 23, 2002, was published by a meeting of British cabinet members and concerns their plans for a war in Iraq. The date, of course, is a full 8 months prior to the actual invasion. The Times of London recently got their hands on it and published it in full. Despite being acknowledged as accurate, this has received little to no coverage in North American media.
Some choice excerpts:
"Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
"The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections."
I find it quite outrageous that a war would be planned to coincide with an election, in order to boost the Republican party's chance of success.
UPDATE 10:30PM: It looks like the CBC has picked up the story. Interestingly, they focus on the postwar planning passages instead of the manipulation of intelligence to justify the war. I guess in the US, the concept of the President lying to get his invasion is too unthinkable to publish. To the rest of the world, it is no longer news.
CounterPunch is running an excellent article entitled "Forcing Iran into the Nuclear Corner." Leaving aside the rhetorical ranting of the author, one can clearly discern his point - one that most Americans seem to have missed.
"[Iran] realizes that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons and posed no threat whatever to the United States, and was invaded and occupied, thus reducing it to a state of anarchic bloody shambles. On the other hand, North Korea does have a nuclear weapon, probably two or three, and poses a serious threat to US interests, and Bush is terrified of invading it. That proves, think the beards in Tehran, that if we don't get a bomb, fast, then the maniacal Bush and his fundo generals will flatten our cities, invade us, and behave like barbarians thereafter by bashing down doors at midnight, terrifying our women, blaring insults at our people from loudspeakers, shooting civilians, torturing innocent captives for fun, and literally getting away with murder."
Thanks to Stephen for pointing this one out.
With all the back-biting, side-switching, yelling, procedural shenanigans, differing interpretations and overall competitiveness gone from Canadian politics, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic. The last few weeks have reminded me how much fun I had in my LHSA days!
Some people just never get it. NewsHounds.us, an American political blog that tracks FOX News received a cease-and-desist letter from the fine folks on Bill O'Reilly's show. The O'Reilly people demanded that an "illegal link" to one of O'Reilly's columns be taking down.
CBS' The Nation has an excellent article examining the relationship between the early United States (before the Civil War) and the "Christian Principles" which President Bush is sure it was founded on. Their conclusion is that the founding fathers, and the constitution, were founded on the principles of the Enlightenment - small "L" liberalism and big "R" Reason.
A wonderful little quote from Benjamin Franklin:
"A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under colour of law"
Apparently coalition forces have been setting up decoy polling stations in Iraq. This is clearly the height of idiocy... as Bruce Schneier pointed out on his blog, this will either result in everyone knowing that these places are decoys, or in everyone not knowing - in which case, it doesn't matter to the insurgents which are decoys and which are not.
Of course, there is an additional effect of this practice. It will undoubtedly weaken the confidence of the public in the electoral process. How do you know that your vote was not cast at a decoy? How many decoys were there? Were decoys placed preferentially in areas that disagree with the resistance? It's not unreasonable to ask if perhaps the whole election was indeed a decoy.
I'm usually a big fan of the CBC. They provide accurate, unbiased and generally dispassionate news coverage that makes my scientific mind and liberal heart (note the small "L") very happy. Today, though, I am disappointed.
The CBC ran an article today titled "Study will give free heroin to some B.C. addicts." So far, so good. What irked me, though, was this:
Up to 470 Vancouver heroin addicts will take part in a North American first – a study that will give free heroin to junkies.
Why are drug addicts "junkies?" If drug dependency is, as all the evidence seems to suggest, a biological condition requiring clinical treatment, then why is it OK, in our PC society, to call someone a "junkie?" Imagine what would happen if the CBC ran a line like "giving retards a place in society" or "providing a home for senile citizens" or even "finally giving a real option to lardasses everywhere?" There would be outrage! Each of these examples is demeaning to people who have biological differences from the accepted norm.
Why should drug dependency be different?