Technophobia: Orwell was 28 years too early

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Welcome to China everybody! Yep, renowned file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is being blocked in the UK by five of Britain’s biggest internet service providers: O2, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and Everything Everywhere (aka T-Mobile and Orange or T-Morange). BT requested ‘a couple more weeks’ before announcing their position on blocking the website, but they are under no obligation to do so.

I can’t help but think that this is the beginning of a slippery slope. The government won’t know when to stop. They’ll block all file sharing sites, websites which have links to them, any search engines through which you can access these sites and, while they’re at it, why don’t they just block any anti-government websites? Oh snap, they just killed free speech!

They say that these sites take millions of pounds from the entertainment industry, but the truth is the money the industry loses is minimal. I download American TV shows from file sharing sites. Why? Because I can’t get them here in the UK. Show them over here, get more views, get more money from advertising, everyone wins. Simples.

Often the reason people download games from these websites is because they come out earlier in the US. People want things ASAP. Say a game is released in the US two weeks before Europe, and someone across the pond uploads to The Pirate Bay. So, if you live in the UK, you can have it now, or you can wait a fortnight to get it. I wonder what you’re going to choose? The same goes for films and music – release at the same time around the world and more people will pay for them. Fact.

The movies I download from file sharing sites are ones I wouldn’t go to the cinema to see. They’re ones I would wait to see on TV. I’m going to see The Avengers in the cinema because it’s going to be awesome. If I can be bothered, I might even write a review on STR. But other movies, ones which tend to get a resounding ‘meh’ from critics, I would download. So, film industry: make good movies and I will pay to see them. Cinemas are overpriced, too. It can cost me £20 for a movie and some popcorn. That’s too much.

The entertainment industry needs to get with the times. Services like iTunes, Netflix and Spotify are doing brilliantly for themselves. That is what the people want. Whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. The entertainment industry wants you to go to a real shop and buy a DVD. Sad though it is, human beings are lazy. They don’t want to do that. The entertainment industry needs to make things downloadable. Why not have file sharing sites where you have to pay some money which the industry gets to download something? Everyone wins.

Blocking The Pirate Bay won’t work. People will use things like proxies, *insert more technological terms here* etc. to get round it. And blocking it will just mean more sites like it will appear. It isn’t the answer.

File sharing sites aren’t losing the entertainment industry money. It’s bringing about its own downfall.

Another news story that came out last month was that of the government introducing a new law so they can monitor our email, phone and web use. Whenever they feel like it. Just like that. Which, according to the Home Office, will be used to tackle crime and terrorism. Of course. It’s interesting to note that Labour tried to introduce similar plans when they were last in power, but they failed due to massive opposition to the proposals, mainly from the Tories. But it’s fine now they’re in power, erm, why exactly, Mr Cameron?

The government will be able to look at any website you’ve visited, group you’re in contact with or email, text or phone call you have made from the last two years. Without needing permission from anyone. And to those people who make the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument, you are unbelievably naïve. Would you want someone to be able to open your post and reseal it? I think not.

So while the government criticises China, Iran and other countries with similar regimes for taking similar measures, they do exactly the same back here. That’s fair. At this rate, it won’t be long before they control exactly what we can and can’t do with the internet. They’re not far away from controlling our thoughts.

Anyway, seeing as how the government could block this site if they wanted to, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to call them lying, hypocritical bastards. Turns out George Orwell predicted what was to come pretty damn well.

Enjoy the future, people!

This article was originally published on Stuff Things Rants

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Technophobia: The future of television

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Recently, as services such as Hulu and Netflix have taken off, and as consumers gradually move over to online TV services, is there a future for the television? Admittedly Hulu hasn’t yet hopped the pond to make the service available in the UK, but I’m sure it will only be a matter of time.

I live in Hastings, where a certain John Logie Baird lived, he being the one famed for creating television in 1925. Television has come a long way since then. We have colour TV, for starters, hundreds of channels, and many thousands of shows.

The television is still very popular. 50 million are sold each year. The average North American has three TVs in their house.

I have noticed that I don’t watch as much telly as I used to. One service I find fantastic is TVCatchup, a site where you can watch live TV, with around a ten second delay.

I do like American TV. For instance, in my opinion Community is the best, funniest show on TV right now. Bar none. But living in the UK, I can’t get access to it. So I may or may not allegedly possibly maybe download it a little bit illegally from sites such as isohunt and the now defunct btjunkie. Ahem. I won’t provide links to them due to laws which are trying to be pushed through by certain governments, but there is a thing called Google.

I do find services like iPlayer to be very useful. For instance, when I’ve missed the latest episode of The Apprentice, which seems to be most weeks. Side note – why does Match of the Day never go up on iPlayer? And 4oD is good, but why do they stop you seeing things after 30 days from when they are broadcast? I’m still not sure if I’ve seen the last episode of Peep Show! And as for Demand 5…

I personally don’t have an account to Hulu, Lovefilm or anything like that. I have tried out Netflix at someone else’s house, and I have to say, I like it. I like being able to watch that many shows and films whenever I want. Of course, Netflix also do a delivery service, though not in Britain, probably due to competition from Lovefilm, but I reckon that will die out quite soon.

It’s nice having shows whenever, because it is unbearable waiting til Thursday for the next Community episode (or Friday when I can download the thing). But at the same time that’s part of the fun. I think it just shows how lazy we humans are getting. We want everything whenever we feel like it, we don’t won’t to have to wait. Is that a good thing?

At the moment, in the US the rate of people moving from TV to internet services like Netflix is less than 1% per year. It isn’t a massive change. Yet.

I think Netflix and Hulu need to get bigger and better before they will become massive. They need a larger selection of films and TV shows, and they need them quicker – as the series is happening, for instance.

Recently companies have started to produce smart TVs, where you can connect to the internet and get apps through them, but for me while they’re trying to make a television that can also do more, I think it is more like a computer that doubles as a television. With a bigger screen.

I think the humble TV will go on fighting for a while yet. It will take time to completely kill it off.

Some flies are too awesome for the wall. (I know it doesn’t really make sense, I just wanted to end with a Community quote.)

This article was originally published on Stuff Things Rants

Technophobia: Why Comic Sans should be banned

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Comic Sans MS was deplorably brought to life in 1994, and is probably the worst thing Microsoft has ever given this world – and yes, that includes Internet Explorer.

Gwargh!

Even ironically typing this article in the font in Microsoft Word made me wretch.

I think the problem I have with Comic Sans is that it is actually used. A LOT. Comic Sans should be used on invites to kids parties.

AND NOTHING ELSE.

Normal fonts – Arial, Helvetica, Ubuntu etc. – have an air of slick sophistication about them. Comic Sans just asks you to make it multi-coloured. Please no. Please, please no. There is nothing worse than a sign written in multi-coloured Comic Sans.

Some fonts annoy me. No one uses Times New Roman unless they haven’t worked out how to change the default font. And excessively fancy swirly ones like Jokerman or Curlz MT are written by annoying people. The same people who use every single fucking entrance and exit effect possible in PowerPoint presentations.

But nothing comes close to Comic Sans. It is untouchable in its title of THE WORST FUCKING FONT IN THE WORLD. Thinking about it makes my stomach turn.

And Comic Sans is used in the most inappropriate of situations. I saw a few posters recently written in the font. One was about drug use. The other was highlighting the problem of domestic violence. It has even been used on gravestones. Fail much?

And then there is this one:

I feel that behind every notice written in Comic Sans is built up anger. Behind some innocuous notice like ‘Please dispose of your cups in the bins provided!’ written in the typeface, there is someone pulsating with rage, probably thinking something along the lines of:

Why the fuck are these wankers unable to make use of the bins I have fucking put out for them‽

Yep, Comic Sans says that. With flowers on. Using Comic Sans is like coming to a funeral in a pink bikini. That’s not how the world works!

What really pisses me off are those teachers who insist on writing EVERYTHING in the font. Yes, Mr. Mulae, I’m talking about you.

As for the websites which are entirely in the typeface, they are probably the leading cause of suicides in the country. Fortunately, for Safari users, some genius has made an extension which changes all pages in Comic Sans to a font of your choice. But I can’t afford an Apple, so I’m stuck with sites like Languages Online which try to be really friendly and happy and rainbows and butterflies and IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY!

For more information on how I feel, visit bancomicsans.com and like Ban Comic Sans on Facebook.

So, next time you type something, unless it is a school fair poster, a notice on a parish church, or perhaps a souvenir beach towel from Barcelona, avoid Comic Sans at all costs.

Please, think of the kittens.

Technophobia: Yes, Newt, a moon base

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

I know that this is a technology blog, but there’s only so much I can rant about that is technological. Anyway, sci-fi is a bit technology-y, right?

About a month ago, Newt Gingrich, one of the Republican candidates running for election said, and I quote: ‘By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.’

I’m sorry, but what?

Call me a cynic, but that to me seems a little bit far-fetched. It seems as though Newt has decided that his slogan this election is going to be ‘to infinity and beyond’.

Hey, maybe I’m wrong, maybe in eight years time we will find ourselves with a permanent base on the moon. JFK’s vision in the early 1960s that by the end of said decade America would have put a man on the moon would have seemed pretty mad at the time. And look what happened.

And while we’re on the topic, to all those people out there who think otherwise, yes, Neil Armstrong did set foot on the moon. NASA didn’t just film it in a studio to trick the whole world.

Anyway, skip forward through some stuff about America being streets ahead of China and Russia, how you shouldn’t vote Romney because he can speak French (how is that bad?) and Newt finishes:

‘Does this mean I’m a visionary? You betcha!’

Or not. Maybe you’re just, I don’t know, crazy?

So yeah. If you vote Gingrich, America will build a moon base. Of course. Not that I’m politically biased.

It’s just, if any of the current Republican candidates becomes president, the world is pretty much screwed.

Image from Sacramento Bee

Technophobia: PS3 vs. Xbox 360 and why I don’t care

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Before I start this article, I’d just like to point out that I’m writing this from the point of view of a neutral. I don’t own a PS3 or an Xbox. I have a Wii.

Yes, a Wii. Shut up.

So now it is time to face the age old question: PS3 or Xbox 360?

Well no, it’s not. Because frankly, I couldn’t care less.

The truth is, Xbox owners will pick Xbox, and PS3 owners will pick PS3.

Sure, you might get the occasional Xbox owner who thinks a PS3 is better, or vice versa, but these people are few and far between. They are outliers in the gaming world.

In general, people want what they have to be better than others. And they probably won’t admit it if they think it isn’t true. That is a fact of life.

And the arguments that these people use just get tedious. They are always the same ones. A typical argument goes something like this:

‘Xbox Live is better than PlayStation Network Sony Entertainment Network.’

‘PS3 has a Blu-ray.’

‘Xbox is cheaper.’

‘So? It’s better.’

‘Xbox is more popular.’

‘And? PS3 has better graphics.’

‘No it doesn’t.’

‘Yes it does.’

‘No it doesn’t.’

‘It does. And what’s up with that stupid Xbox controller?’

That last point is fair enough. Seriously Microsoft, I want my thumbs level with each other. Not a hard concept.

I can hear you trolling already.

‘OMG ur so biased u deffo have a ps3 really!’

The 360 is better value for money though. There we go, impartiality is resumed.

So, er, yeah. These arguments are pointless. And stupid.

Why bother?

Technophobia: I used to think of original jokes, but then I took an arrow to the knee

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

I woke up not so long ago, and thought I’d gone mad. About half the people on YouTube seemed to have mysteriously taken arrows to their knees, which meant they couldn’t do certain things which they’d used to be able to do. I did find it sort of weird, but then I thought hang on a minute, maybe the Mayans weren’t so mad after all. Maybe this was the beginning of the apocalypse.

Anyway, after trawling through YouTube trying to find explanation for this weird happening, I stumbled upon a few comments written by people I could relate to, who were equally bamboozled by this arrow to the knee thing:

WTF is this arrow to the knee?

Can one of u gay fags tell me what this arro to the nee thing is?

Or something along those lines. We all know how incompetent and horrible YouTube commenters can be.

Anyhoo, turns out it is something to do with Skyrim. Apparently one of the guards in it says that he used to be able to do something or other, but then he took an arrow to the knee.

Now, I haven’t played Skyrim. (OMG you haven’t played Skyrim? WTF! You haven’t lived man!) I don’t have a problem with it. But, I have to admit, I don’t really see the humour in this. I don’t know, maybe it is incredibly funny, and I just don’t get it. If so, please feel free to explain the joke in the comments below. But I honestly don’t get it. Are we allowed to do this with any game? Here is a (probably wrong) quote from FIFA:

‘And you have to wonder how on earth he has missed that.’

I used to (insert something related to video) but then I wondered how on earth he missed that.

Am I now an incredible comedian? I honestly don’t see how this is any less funny that the arrow to the knee thing.

And you will find it in the comments section of every single fricking video!

‘I used to shout Fenton but then I took an arrow to the knee’

‘I used to see trampolines fly past my house but then I took an arrow to the knee’

These will be repeated in some form in half the comments on the video! And people like this crap! Err…why? It isn’t funny, it isn’t original and it doesn’t make sense!

So please, refrain from quoting anything anywhere that is at all related to arrows, knees or Skyrim.

And don’t even get me started on Fus Ro Dah.

Technophobia: Stop changing Facebook!

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

So now, apparently, we have to make a timeline of our lives on Facebook. Well no, Mark Zuckerberg, contrary to your belief, most people that use Facebook don’t spend their whole lives on it. Yes, there may be a select few that do in fact have Facebook as their home page, and spend ten hours each day constantly refreshing their news feed waiting for one of their nine hundred friends to write some bullshit about their ex.

Which brings me onto another point: Facebook statuses. Only post statuses which most of your friends will be able to understand. These are genuine examples from some of my Facebook friends.

OMG that was actually soo funny hahahahaha
Why waste your breath apologising? #Idiot.
You couldn’t trust him but you never said no.
Fucking twat. Why would u do that?
Ur 2 good 4 him hun. Dont take his shit.

Really? Maybe to two or three of your friends these will make perfect sense. Who knows, you could be a comical genius. But 95% of your friends will have no clue as to what is going on. Don’t bother. Save your breath.
Don’t get arthritis. Just text the friends that will understand!

This leads (sort of) on to my next point. Facebook ‘friends’. I think I have added perhaps a dozen people on Facebook. Everyone else has added me. Because to be honest, I can’t be arsed. I don’t use facebook all that much, at least not compared to some. I have 200 friends. This is a tiny amount compared to most of my friends. I kid you not, the person who wrote the first status above has over 1000 friends. One thousand friends! That is quite frankly, ridiculous. Nobody knows a thousand proper friends. It is just a lie. If I meet someone while on holiday in Mongolia for a few minutes, and add them on Facebook, they are not my friend. Life doesn’t work like that! Having thousands of Facebook friends doesn’t necessarily make you popular.

In that respect, I like Google+. They have circles set up for acquaintances, friends and family. And really, most of your facebook friends would should go in acquaintances. You could have 1000 acquaintances. You don’t have 1000 friends.

Note: That was sort of bullshit. I don’t even use Google+. I just know they have acquaintances.

Anyhoo, back to the main point. I have looked at someone’s profile with the timeline thing. It is confusing! As human beings, we do not like change. That is a fact. So if, Mark Zuckerberg, you change Facebook every month, people are going to be pissed off. Stop doing it!

And finally, to people who aren’t on Facebook. I don’t think that you are some strange, messed up people. I salute you. You are the black sheep. You have resisted Mark Zuckerberg’s attempts to get the whole world on Facebook.

Unlike the rest of us. The Zuckerzombies.

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook!

Technophobia: What’s with all the #hashtags?

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

A couple of months ago I set up a Twitter account. I haven’t been on it since. I don’t have (much of) a problem with Twitterers. I just don’t really get Twitter. I don’t give a toss if you’ve just had a shit. End of.

To me, Twatter Twitter just seems to be away for random people to legally stalk you. In fact, it’s encouraged! Is that wear society is heading? Instead of actually having to follow them and duck behind a parked car every time they look round, you just have to use a computer. It takes all the fun out of it.

I could sort of understand if you’re a celebrity then in might be a good way to let your fans know what you’re doing. But for a normal person? Why would you want to post tweets? Are there seriously going to be that many people who want to follow you? Just use Facebook. It’s not that bad!

OK, I get hashtags. It could be kind of useful if people want to talk about the same thing on Twitter. Xavier tells me that he found out about Gadhafi’s death by monitoring Twitter trends but, as I write this, some of the UK’s trending topics include #askmamakelly and the rumoured name of Lady GaGa’s new tour. Granted, these make a welcome change from crazed teenage girls who shouldn’t even be on Twitter wishing their favourite auto-tuned wannabe popstars goodnight and threatening to kill someone for going out with Justin bloody Bieber, but still, who actually gives a crap?

Even worse than this is the type of Twitterer who is so obsessed with the microblogging service that they use them in normal written text. NOOO! It’s not right! We can still write like normal, sane human beings. We haven’t completely sold our souls to social networking. Or have we?

Example:

‘You think it’s OK to do that? #dickhead’

No! You’re the dickhead for using a hashtag in normal writing! You’re not on Twitter. Leave hashtags where they belong!

So please, if you’re ever writing on a blog/Facebook/whatever, never, ever use a hashtag.

It just pisses people off. Or is it just me?

#stopthehashtag

(Do, however, follow Digixav on Twitter. We welcome your hashtags there! – ed)

Image from DeviantArt

Technophobia: Why you shouldn’t buy a CrackBerry

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Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

In spring this year, I bought a new phone. I’d looked around for a while for the best deal. As it turned out, I got a pretty decent one. Free phone plus £12 pounds per month, 1GB of internet, around 100 minutes and some (but not enough) texts with a 24 month contract on Virgin. I had a choice between a BlackBerry Curve 8520 and a HTC Wildfire S. I went for the BlackBerry. Not a good decision.

For starters, it turns out Virgin are a bunch of wankers. Over the summer, I went on holiday abroad. For this, I rang Virgin up and got them to turn my internet off so when I returned I didn’t have a phone bill which was in the squillions. After numerous phone calls, this went OK. When I got back, I rang them back up to get them to switch it back on. Two weeks later, nothing had happened. Many hours of frustrating phone calls to some call centre in Uzbekistan later, I finally got through to someone who seemed to know vaguely what they were talking about who assured me all would be sorted. Almost two months after my initial phone call, I still didn’t have internet. After many stressful hours of my life which I will never get back, finally my internet got switched on. And the signal I get is pretty horrendous. And a 24 month contract! What was I thinking? I am now stuck with a phone which I don’t like for the next 18 months.

Virgin hatred over, I shall move on to the phone itself.

First of all, the BlackBerry App World. It is appalling. The free apps you find which are actually worth keeping for more than a week are all but non-existent. I have found one so far: Pixelated. The fact that graphics, quality and controls are pretty limited on the phone is going to be a pretty big drawback for any app developers.

The internet on the Curve is slow. Seriously slow. It can take upwards of a minute just to load a page like BBC Sport. For a phone to be released in 2009 without a GSM 3G radio was an abysmal oversight by RIM, and it was something that I assumed would be present when I signed my contract. The camera on it is also pretty dire. I think it’s 2MP. The picture quality is very poor and it won’t let you record a video unless you buy a memory card. Some people do not have a microSD card handy, and I wouldn’t even want to film in jerky and blurry whatever the crappy resolution is.

The phone struggles with multitasking. Far too often that irritating little timer appears in the middle of the screen, signalling the fact that I won’t be able to do anything until it disappears, normally at least 30 seconds later. At times the timer just doesn’t go away, so I am forced to take the battery out and put it in again, which means the phone decides to take a good five minutes to restart itself. Sometimes, when it’s doing god knows what, it takes more than half a minute just to respond to me pressing the unlock key.

And there are annoying little niggles with it. When I press the mute button to unlock the phone, it takes me straight to the music screen. It’s small, but annoying. Although it has fixed itself now, for a while the zoom on the camera didn’t work. And when you open the QR code scanner, if you don’t scan a code then you can’t close it, so you are forced to take the battery out and put it in again.

As you no doubt know, a couple of months ago, BlackBerry service shut down, for no apparent reason. And it wasn’t a complete internet thing; I could still use a Flixster app to get movie reviews, even though it needs the internet to work. The communication from RIM was a nightmare. I thought it was just my phone until I asked other BlackBerry owners. Then, they announced it was back up and running. Which it wasn’t. A few days later, it finally got back on. There was no explanation from RIM, just an apology with a few crappy apps, most of which refused to run on my 512MHz CPU.

I am focusing on the bad bits of the Curve here. There are good points too. BBM is a very good service when nobody flicks a switch in Slough. The phone looks great, and feels sturdy and well-built. The trackpad works very smoothly, and the layout of the phone is great.

RIM can change for the better. With QNX and the promise of Android apps coming to BlackBerry devices will vastly improve the shoddy software experience. If the next generations of phones come equipped with ‘4G’  LTE and HSPA+ radios then the internet problems will be gone. If BBM can stay up and running whenever we need it and they open it up at last to owners of Android, iOS and other smartphones then it will become the dominant mobile messaging platform. iMessage and ChatOn will die. Design quality seems to be getting better as I would say the new Bold 9900 looks very nice and the touch interaction is useful and the cameras are much improved on newer devices. Dual core or even quad core chips will bring the hardware specs in line with the high end Android handsets and will make the software less laggy and therefore more desirable. It’s not all doom and gloom for RIM.

So, I wouldn’t say that BlackBerries are terrible phones. My 8520 is not bad. It just needs a lot of work on it. RIM need to give it a better processor, a better camera that we expect from new smartphones, a much better wireless antenna like the Pearl and fix the software bugs. They should speed up the internet and give the graphics an upgrade, and find a way to encourage app developers to use the App World more. When BBX launches, it will entice developers but RIM need to make some massive overhauls for them to stay around and forget about iOS and Android.

But, for now, I’m just stuck with this phone for the next 18 months of my life.

Bollocks.