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Time for tea...

I am writing this on my PocketBook while enjoying a tea at a local bar. It is a bar "PMU", so there is a lot of stuff about horse racing. I never understood it in England, somebody did try to explain but I got lost at "each way".
Just updated my website and downloaded my email at the library, so it is nice to enjoy a cuppa and watch life pass while unwinding from the hectic nonsense of trying to fit all of my Internet needs into twenty seven minutes (the final three minutes being a mad rush with Nero). It's a shame this organiser is restricted in memory and connectivity as it'd have been kinda nifty to read through my emails too!

I have a meeting soon with the ANPE conseilleur #2, that's the one involved with finding me a job in the geek sector and not the one involved with my trial at the Éspaces Vertes job! Anyway, I'll be discussing the results of my test, not that there is much to say really - I got 80%, I'd have got 90% if I knew the words, and I am not too strong on Linux. I knew that. I do have a basic version of Linux 5 installed on an emulation, a "virtual" PC, but to be honest it doesn't seem to do much "out of the box". The GUI (fvwm?) looks good but is horrid and clunky in use, and on the whole window the handling is horrid, bordering on dreadful. Honestly, RISC OS 2 was better in use. In its defence, Linux 5 is oooooooold hat (as opposed to "red hat", perhaps?), so it has probably improved. ☺

I also have Minix3 installed and while I am not any better with Minix (and its GUI refuses to start up with obscure error messages), I see that in the context of modern computing, Minix as an experiment has more going for it - but to explain why you would need to delve deep into the design of the operating system. Let's just say with the high separation between what is a system process and what can be run as user processes, coupled with the concept of the "resurrection server", it could be an OS going places.
By the way, don't mistake Minix3 for the cheap'n'cheerful classroom "son of Linux". That was Minix back in the early '90s. This one is quite different, sharing only the name.
I can't remember the URL off the top of my head. Try and if that doesn't work, Google it!


Who sees You? Who sees You...Tube?

What a daft judgement, that a certain media company has the rights to get access to the totality of the YouTube logs. Who watched what, and when.
It might have made sense to come to an 'arrangement' where if they could say "hang on, that's our stuff" then in exchange YouTube could provide then information on who uploaded the content.

On the face of it, it sounds justified. A big media company is not going to be too pleased to find their programming on-line, especially if there is a delay between the US broadcast and broadcast in other countries - because the minimum delay on video sharing is shockingly small. A fast computer can rip to XviD on-the-fly from a broadcast video. How long would it take to upload and have YouTube downconvert it to the low-res FLV format? We're looking at maybe an hour or so? Viewers across the world could watch the programme before its US premiere hits the West Coast timezone. You can understand why they'd want to restrict their content from getting on to YouTube.

However we then have to look at what they have asked for. Logs not only of who uploaded, but also of who watched. This is very insidious and it says to me that there is an ulterior motive going on here. Perhaps they are finding they are losing out big in the face of so many digital channels and with computers and data connections up to video spec, some people are bothering less and less with telly and instead looking to watch stuff as and when they want. If I had a broadband setup in my home, I would probably want to look for old sci-fi stuff I remember from my childhood. Does anybody remember The Tripods? How about Z for Zacharia? I'm not aware of any free-to-air channel showing this sort of stuff, so I'd look it out myself. Oh, and what did happen in the final episode of Alex Mack, that Nickelodeon managed to screw up the running order of (going penultimate->first!) back in 199...something. Oh, and anything with Yuri Ebihara in it! Maybe I'll find this stuff, maybe I won't. Now having this information available to a media company will be a goldmine. What are the best scoring things? What are people looking up? I don't know how much information YouTube actually keeps, if it is possible to whittle down to geographical preferences. Couple this with YouTube being a great source of free ideas. Oh, sure, if you create something you have copyright over it. So if I created a cool animated cartoon, it is mine, right? Well, I guess if media company's lawyers want to exercise they could claim that I put it into the public domain. There might even be small-print in YouTube's Ts&'Cs that says something like that. Or if the legal team are feeling uninspired, they can just find something substantially similar and say "hey, it isn't unique, you can't copyright it!". After all, Finding Nemo was judged not to be a rip-off of a French creation that... well, let's just say if it went the other way around, they'd be suing that French bloke in every country with a legal system. Yet, somehow, it was found not to be similar.

And so we appear to be handing such information over to an organisation which could be said to have a vested commercial interest. Wanna see a terminally boring executive-type pee in her pants? Throw away the extrapolated Nielssen statistics and let her take a gander at the sort of logs any half-assed web server maintains. Who, what, where, when - all are recorded. It is a doddle to add a cookie or two "for preferences" to also tie in repeat visitors on different IP addresses. Oh, and junk in the HTTP headers can often give good clues as to where you came from, what OS you are using, and your politics (do you follow the MSIE line or do you use Firefox, or maybe something else?). Per visitor, for each transaction.
Put it like this. If I could be bothered, it is feasibly possible for me to chart all people looking at my site main index, and where they go from there. How long does it take to jump around? I could design a whizzy 3D graphic like the ones seen on TV when 'hackers' are involved (you know, the totally unrealistic surfing-between-electronic-skyscrapers metaphor) to plot the most accessed parts of my site and how visitors get there.
Don't run scared. That's just a normal function of a normally configured web server. If you ran your own server, you'd see it for yourself. Megabytes of junk accumulating as every access is recorded. All it takes is some sorry sod to see commercial value in somebody else's logfiles, and to have a ready-baked excuse to gain access to that information.

I guess what annoys me most is... well... there's a girl called Becca who has a southern accent (she's from Georgia someplace), and it appears as if she keeps a sort of video diary? And then there is me. I 'play' with stop motion animation. It's a doddle - you need a little webcam with macro mode, a bit of software that can take pictures from the camera and dump them as frames in an AVI (Google for "SMA" if you are interested), an idea, and a hell of a lot of patience.
Take Becca's bits on YouTube. Take my animations, if I uploaded them. What bloody right does some great big company have to look at who's been watching? Are they going to reciprocate by informing us of the exact sales of their products in all of the outlets carrying their products globally (remember, I live in France, yet I am under the understanding that this American ruling could affect me as YouTube is based in America)? Can we cite them for non-disclosure on an anti-trust excuse?

This has decided one thing for certain. If I go on YouTube and I need to register, I won't be dumb enough to use my real identity. It's not a matter of "what have I got to hide", the answer is nothing. It's more a matter of "who is watching, and more importantly, why?".


Whoa, dude, what are you hiding?

Let's make this bloody clear - you don't need to be a criminal to want to hide parts of your identity. Those people who proudly say "I'm not bothered, I've got nothing to hide" are talking out of their asses.

Anybody who has made their email address public and seen some of the shocking spam will understand exactly what I mean. Lurking amid the penile extensions and viagara adverts is a downloadable PDF that claims to tell me how to rape a woman and beat her so it leaves no marks, I could 'buy' my own Asian child for a few thousand dollars and she would be very willing, if you know what I mean.
The fewer traces I leave around, the less I have to think of this rubbish heading in my direction.

I'll tell you what. When I am 'on-line', I plan to run two mailboxes. One will be my day-to-day contacts (rather like I have Yahoo!'s mail now) and I will read it when I am not busy. The second mailbox will be for friends. Their addresses will be registered and if any mail comes in which is not from a recognised source, the message will be deleted. No questions asked, just wiped off the face of the Cloud, or the Noosphere, or whatever your favourite cutesy name for the transient ether that is the Internet happens to be. That is the mailbox that will be associated with my computer for the "<bong!> you have mail!" message ... actually, it'd be kinda cool to have that in Japanese, any offers?

A final thought to those who say "I have nothing to hide", you might like to think how easy it would be to set up any number of you as a paedophile. Does your computer auto-run CDs when you insert them? If I could get to your computer, or perhaps if I was a dodgy policeman on a personal crusade, I could drop in a loaded CD-ROM or... these days... a number of systems will try auto-running USB sticks! So give it access to your computer. A break-in, or perhaps a sanctioned raid? Insert the media, the CD or the USB device (USB is preferable, it is small enough to be easily hidden) and let a little bit of software load. That software (actually, a simple batch file could be enough!) could easily copy some hard-core child pornography into your computer. How about "My Documents\My Pictures"? If they wanted to be vicious, they could drop some stuff into your browser's cache to make it look as if you have had an interest. Oh, and no messing around with the system clock is necessary, Windows records the date of last file modification (and also creation and last access under NTFS). The last-accessed is bogus, as opening the file will alter this. The modified timestamp will be copied over from the original so the time-stamp of a file added 'today' can be weeks in the past. It is slightly better with NTFS in that a copied file can have a later creation date than its last modification, however in many of cases that can easily explained as "you copied the file to tidy up", so no fiddling with the system clock is required.
It is just a hypothetical idea, but it is sadly a viable idea and one that has potential to work if a person has some sort of vandetta against you. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear? Get real.
I'll tell you what, I'll drop some kiddie-porn on your computer and I'll let you see how far the "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" line will take you when the police haul you off for questioning. There will be sick sad pictures on your computer, and some unpleasant police expecting you to come up with a better explanation than the one they hear all the time, namely, "it weren't me, guv!".
Maybe it will blow over when there is no collaborating evidence or maybe you'll get sentenced on that alone? When it is over, how many of your friends still want to talk to you? How many people point at you when they think you aren't looking, you'll know exactly what they'll be whispering. Your own family will be supportive yet oddly distant. And the whole time, shock horror, you really were innocent!
The concept of nothing to hide meaning nothing to fear belonged in a nicer calmer world. The sort of world we see in episodes of Hartbeat. Nowadays? Now it is time to be vigilant, and not to roll over and play dead because some twat says you should.

I'm all for fake personalities on-line. You'll know when you meet a likeminded person and you can share truths and get on well; but for all the strangers, there is a danger in sharing too much. For example, you know I live in Brittany, and you know I'm in dépt. 35 and not so far from dépt. 49. That is as close to an address as you will find on my website. I have a mobile with crappy reception. My friends know the number. It is published nowhere. I say what I am willing to share, and no more. It might be prudent of you to behave in a similar manner until you feel you can trust the person you are talking to.


Today's word...

Today's word is propensity (prop-en-sit-ee); which means bent, inclination, penchant, tendency; you could say that I have a propensity for looking stuff up on Wiki.


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