Technophobia: Orwell was 28 years too early

Technophobia is a column by James Hardy. 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

Advertisements

April Fools: Virgin Volcanic will take Richard Branson to the centre of the earth

Richard Branson has been known to take the Virgin brand to the extreme, and his latest venture is no exception. The Virgin Volcanic project promises to take people through active volcanoes to the centre of the earth by 2015. Initial earthports will be built in 5 locations:

  • Etna – Sicily, Italy
  • Stromboli – Aeolian Islands
  • Yasur – Republic of Vanuatu
  • Ambrym – Republic of Vanuatu
  • Tinakula – Solomon Islands

In a press release about the project, eccentric billionaire Branson said:

I have a long held a fascination with volcanoes having read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth as a young boy. I decided that one day I would go there too. Alongside our adventures with Virgin Galactic and Virgin Oceanic, volcanoes are the next great unexplored terrain. What can I say, I lava challenge!

On the first journey, Branson will be joined by actors Tom Hanks and Seth Green, filmmaker Barbara Kopple and ‘musician‘ will.i.am, who is set to make the world’s first soundtrack recorded in an active volcano during the voyage. To find out more about the project, and how you could get involved, visit the website.

Technophobia: Why you shouldn’t buy a CrackBerry

Technophobia is a column by James Hardy. 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.