Monday, 28 April 2008

I'm a Mac ....

All of the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" parodies have been done to death and I'm not really a fan on Mitchell and Webb either, save perhaps for their surprisingly good film, Magicians.  Still, when I came across this on Digg earlier, I thought it worthy of posting. 


Great stuff.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

uTorrent usage up - Limewire down

Utorrent LimewireFrom Torrent Freak 26/04/08:

New data on the ever changing P2P landscape shows that the number of uTorrent users worldwide has more than doubled compared to last year. The BitTorrent client is most popular in Europe - with an install rate of 11.6% - and least popular in the United States, where 5.1% of the PCs have uTorrent installed.

From December 2006 to December 2007 LimeWire lost approximately 25% of its user base. By the end of 2007, 17% of all PCs in the United States had LimeWire installed, compared to 23.3% last year. Similar drops occurred in Europe, Latin America, and the rest of the world.

File sharing has been in the news a lot recently what with the growing concerns over net neutrality, packet shaping practices by ISPs and the ever-present issues of piracy.  I don't consider myself to be a massive P2P user and am very picky - I prefer to think of it as discerning - over what clients I use.  For instance, I've always kept Limewire at arms length for a variety of reasons and probably always will.  I've known others who have been badly 'bitten' in using it and after their experiences, have always steered clear.  That said, I also know of people who love it and have used it for years without a single problem.  Still, for me, the memories of Limewire being a hotbed for spyware and worse run pretty deep and have always refused to give in and install it on one of my own machines. 

I do, though, use uTorrent on occasions and found it good, on the whole.  I have used others in the past, but uTorrent is the only one I return to.  I should point out here that I don't download files illegally but merely enjoy the convenience of a P2P client for downloading certain types of content. I find it surprising, sometimes, the number and and particularly the types of people that install and use peer-to-peer file sharing clients.  I also remember reading a couple of articles  about 3 years ago that predicted such clients would be dead in - you guessed it - 3 or so years time.  How wrong they were; while the file sharing landscape is a complex one that's always in a state of flux, one thing it certainly isn't is dead. 

Thursday, 24 April 2008

New OGC Logo

ogclogoI was amused to see the proposed new logo for the Office for Government Commerce in the comment section of The Times today.  Costing £14,000 (I could have mocked one up in Photoshop for just a snip of that price) the new, sleek, modern logo is great, until turned 90 degrees clockwise.OGC Turned

Now I'm back at home, I've checked it out on the Times site who claim that OGC are planning to proceed with it: 

Apparently they are pressing ahead with it anyway. A spokesman for the OGC said (I kid you not) this:

We concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters 'OGC' - and is not inappropriate to an organisation that's looking to have a firm grip on government spend.

That's a firm grip, all right!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Chinese web users career towards web domination

Chinese Web User From USA today 21.04.08

BEIJING — China, already the world leader in cellphone use, has surpassed the USA as the No. 1 nation in Internet users.

The number of Chinese on the Internet hit more than 220 million as of February, according to estimates from official Chinese statistics by the Beijing-based research group BDA China. The government is likely to confirm the leap at its half-yearly report in July.

The longtime Internet leader, the USA, which founded and developed the network of computers, had 216 million users at the end of 2007, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

The percentage of American users — 71% — still exceeds China's 17%. China has 1.3 billion people, compared with nearly 304 million in the USA.

Given the meteoric growth the China has seen in recent years, perhaps this isn’t such a surprise after all. And, of course, from a percentage standpoint, the number of Chinese internet users is still relatively small. Nevertheless, as China continues its single-track path towards its position as a massive world superpower, this might not remain so for much longer.

And by the way, I had a lot of difficulty deciding on a suitable heading for this post.  In the end, I plumbed with an attention-grabbing sensationalist headline.  Apologies in advance. 

Sunday, 20 April 2008

New Property site promises buyers the lowdown

Zoopla House Inspection From Computer Active 11.04.08:

A new website boasts it can give anyone looking to buy a property the lowdown on just about any house, in any street, in any neighbourhood in the UK.

Zoopla will go head to head with other property websites, such as will Rightmove, Findaproperty and Primelocation. A host of smaller sites also compete for the homebuyer's attention.

However Zoopla says it has the edge by being able to provide value estimates on more than 26 million homes with data taken from the Royal Mail and the Land Registry.

Oh great.  Yet another website pitched at sellers and buyers to further clutter up the internet.  But maybe I'm being overly harsh: having checked the site over earlier, it did seem to offer most of the functions that the company claimed.  But much of the data available on a particular property will only be meaningful when compared with data from other properties.  I'm also not sure how much faith I'd put in their 'my estimate' function.  Bottom line: while the site may offer a vast array of information, it still needs to be cross-checked extensively and it still requires a lot of virtual leg-work by buyers. 

--RELATED POINT-- House prices, of course, are very much in vogue at the moment. In fact, it won’t be long before we are due to move again – although we’re only renting at the moment. Still, a couple more years and my girlfriend and I are hoping to hop on that notorious ‘property ladder’. Whether we simply slide back down to the bottom getting our hands burnt in the process remains to be seen. But whatever happens, by then we’re hoping prices will be more favourable for buyers, although first timers are always going to struggle somewhat. Returning to the present, we’ve got our work cut out repairing some of the damage of our stay. Job number one, for instance, is filling and painting around a high positioned extractor switch, damaged from when we used to jump up and ‘slam-dunk it on and off’. After that it’s a matter of getting the coffee stains out of the carpet, repainting the damaged window frames from our ‘polythene sheeting’ to keep the draughts out of one room in the depth of the winter, resurfacing the occasional table and anything else that needs doing. Other than that, the place is in perfect condition. Well, nearly.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Microsoft tries change of tack

Microsoft Yahoo LobbyistFrom - 17/04.08:

(WASHINGTON) — Microsoft Corp. has yet to convince Yahoo Inc. to agree to a friendly takeover, but the software company is already hiring lobbyists to help it convince regulators to let the deal — hostile if it has to be — go through.

Software company Microsoft Corp., bracing for a regulatory squabble in its takeover bid, recently hired Bryan Cave Strategies LLC to lobby the federal government on the proposed multibillion-dollar deal.

Pity poor Microsoft – they just can’t seem to get this deal closed. One minute reports seem to indicate that progress is being made in their bid to acquire Yahoo; the next, they’re back to square one. But whatever the true state of play, you have to admire the typical Redmond tenacity. If one method fails – try another. So what’s next then - a campaign march?

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Cable owner impounds 2 ships

Undersea Cables From 14/4/08

“Two ships have been impounded in Dubai after satellite images indicated that they may have been responsible for the damage to undersea cables which left large parts of the Middle East without proper internet access.

The loss of the cables caused internet access in some countries to slow by as much as 80 per cent, and harmed performance at call centres in Egypt to the extent that the state telecoms company asked ordinary users to stay offline.”

I’d not heard anything more [about this story] since news broke of the internet outage in the Middle East back in January. Still, I had not forgotten about it entirely. In fact, I alluded to it in a previous post commenting just how fragile the internet as an infrastructure can be. It’s alleged that the two vessels under suspicion strayed into forbidden waters and laid anchor during rough weather to ride it out. They got a lot more than they bargained for, though, when their anchors snagged submarine cables.  After that, I suppose, the heavy swell became the least of their worries.  Now with the ships impounded, it's going to be interesting to see what the next move will be and when.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Down Time

I've returned home to Cornwall for 2 or 3 days of rest and relaxation.  Actually my trip was supposed to be a mixture of business and pleasure although there's been precious little of the former so far.

Earlier today I took the opportunity to go for a little Spring-time ramble and, as is often the case with me, my camera went too.  I was home for the Easter holidays about this time last year although the weather is more natural and spring-like for April this time around.  Last year it was uncharacteristically hot; I remember making the point on my other blog that seeing people on the beach and in the water, frolicking about as if it were summer, seemed just plain wrong at that time of year. 

Despite the colder conditions this April, it wasn't nippy enough to deter a couple of scuba divers who took advantage of the calm water in Portmellon.  Hopefully it won't be long before I'm back in the water again.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Charlotte Dymond Facts

charlotte dymond debunked5 (Small)
For the text of the ballad of Charlotte Dymond, click

All quotes are taken from the excellent write up about the story of Charlotte Dymond by accomplished crime writer Linda Stratmann.

Who was Charlotte Dymond?

She was an 18 year old domestic servant who was murdered on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, UK. Her partner, Matthew Weeks, was hanged for her murder in accordance with the law. She was found with her throat cut, having lain undiscovered for several days in a concealed ditch. Charlotte was around 18, an illegitimate child with black hair and pale skin. In addition:

Charlotte, ... was attractive and smartly dressed [and] was reputed to be a flirt.

When did she die?

Charlotte was killed on 14th April 1844. Her ghost is said to have been seen on 14th April in various years, wearing the clothes she was in the day she died.

Did Mathew Weeks indeed murder her?

Nobody witnessed the murder. There was a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence linking Matthew with her murder. His clothes were very muddy and were ripped, indicating a struggle with Charlotte in the muddy marsh.

Mrs Peter was surprised to find that Matthew’s blue stockings that he had worn the previous day were muddied up to the knees. It had rained on the Sunday but not, she felt, enough to get the stockings into that mess.* The mud, she observed, was like that found in the turf-pits on the moor.

He was seen walking out onto the moor with Charlotte and various eyewitnesses saw a couple matching their description (particularly Matthew’s limping gait) at various points walking on the moor thereafter. Matthew however returned alone, unable to account for her disappearance. He later fled to Plymouth where he was ultimately arrested.  Thereafter, Mathew changed his story at various times during police questioning.

Is it all that simple?

No. There are various theories surrounding the death. For instance, crime writer, Pat Munn, advanced the theory that she might have committed suicide, believing herself to be pregnant outside of marriage. A post mortem showed her not to be pregnant, though she was not a virgin either. In any event, there was no reason to suggest she thought she might be pregnant and, even if she had, it is a highly unusual means for someone to take their own life. There is also the suggestion that her lover, Thomas Prout, may have killed her although what motive he may have had remains unclear.

Why was suicide discounted?

The nature of the wound, principally. It was totally inconsistent with typical wounds inflicted by suicide and suggested the attacker came from behind:

The wound that had ended Charlotte’s life had been terrible indeed. It was eight and a half inches in length, starting on the left side of her neck and extending all the way around to the right. It passed two and a half inches below her ear and was two and a half inches deep. It was deeper on the left side, where the whole of the soft tissues were divided right down to the bone. The windpipe was completely divided, the oesophagus partly. The instrument had even gone between two vertebrae partially separating them. It was clear that great force had been used. The roughness of the sides of the wound meant that the instrument was unlikely to have been very sharp. [A local doctor] did not think it possible that she could have inflicted the wound herself.*

Was a love triangle the root of the motive for Charlotte’s murder?

In all probability, yes:

Charlotte and Matthew had been seeing each other, even before she came to work at Penhale. There was, however, a rival for Charlotte’s affections.* Thomas Prout, aged about 26 was a nephew by marriage of Mrs Peter, and lived some four miles away. Matthew had worked with Prout before, and they had not got on well together. A few days after Lady Day, Prout visited Penhale, and John Stevens overheard words between him and Matthew. Prout had said that he was thinking of moving to Penhale, and if he did, he would soon deprive Matthew of his girlfriend.*

The thought of losing Charlotte, coupled with the possibility of her infidelity, arguably drove Matthew to kill her.

Was the evidence against Matthew overwhelming?

Nobody saw the murder take place, but the circumstantial evidence against him was compelling.  The main points were as follows:

  • Matthew’s suspicious behaviour after returning to the farm (principally his failure to account for Charlotte’s whereabouts);
  • That his clothing was muddied and torn, indicating a struggle had taken place on the moor;
  • The fact he fled the farm when questioned by Mrs Peter;
  • That he was the last person to have been seen with Charlotte by witnesses;
  • Prints in the marsh by Charlotte’s body were felt to be a match with Matthew’s shoes; and
  • That he changed his story during police questioning.

Matthew was illiterate.  Whilst in jail, he was said to have dictated two letters.  One was to Mrs Peter and one was to his family.  The letter to his family detailed how he wanted his property to be dealt with after he died as well as containing an apparent confession.

"I hope young men will take a warning by me and not put too much confidence in young women, the same as I did; and I hope young females will take the same by young men. I loved that girl as dear as I loved my life; and after all the kind treatment I have showed her, and then she said she would have nothing more to do with me. And after this was done, then bitterly I did lament, thinking what would be my end. And I thank the judge and jury too, for they have given me no more than was my due."

He is also said to have dictated a separate confession in which he explicitly admitted the murder.  However, Linda Stratmann suggests this ‘confession’ could have been bogus as the style of writing and vocabulary used was considerably more sophisticated than that used in the letters.

However, as Matthew was illiterate, nobody really knows whether the letters and separate confession were authentic. 

Why did Charles Causley write the ballad?

Good question. While it’s impossible to know the precise reason why Causley wrote the ballad in1974/1975, we can certainly speculate. Firstly, Charles Causley was himself Cornish and the story of Charlotte Dymond and her subsequent haunting by her ghost on Bodmin Moor have become firmly ingrained in Cornish folklore. Given the nature of the story, it is likely Causley felt moved to do so by pure tragedy of the tale. The final stanza of the ballad hints towards his personal opinion as to the culpability of Matthew in which he is regarded as being as much a victim as was Charlotte. 

This is less to do with the fact Causley believed Matthew was innocent of Charlotte’s murder but rather that Matthew’s low intelligence and ill-fortune in life made him more susceptible to be struck by a jealous rage at the thought of Charlotte with another man. The ballad also suggests that Causley believed the naive and dim-witted Matthew may have been exploited by the police.

     N.B. * My emphasis.

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond

charlotte dymond  balladTo view my FAQ concerning Charlotte Dymond, click

Coming as I do from Cornwall, I thought it would be appropriate to mention this one. I first learned about Charlotte Dymond during an English lesson at school but have since read much more about it. There is an excellent write up about it by accomplished crime writer Linda Stratmann. There is also a fascinating book published by Pat Munn dedicated to the mystery surrounding the murder of Charlotte Dymond. While some of the conclusions that Munn comes to are perhaps less than logical, it is an excellent read nonetheless.

Charlotte Dymond, an attractive 18 year old domestic servant was found murdered near Roughtor Ford on 14th April 1844. Her colleague and boyfriend, crippled farm-hand Matthew Weeks, was hanged for her murder. Her body had lain undiscovered on Bodmin moor for several days before it was found by a search party. The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond written by Charles Causley explains the story of the whole affair far more eloquently and concisely than I am capable of, so will let the ballad take it from here:


It was a Sunday evening
And in the April rain
That Charlotte went from our house
And never came home again.


Take me home! cried Charlotte,
‘I lie here in the pit!
A red rock rests upon my breasts
And my naked neck is split!’


Her shawl of diamond redcloth,
She wore a yellow gown,
She carried the green gauze handkerchief
She bought in Bodmin town.


Her skin was soft as sable,
Her eyes were wide as day,
Her hair was blacker than the bog
That licked her life away;


About her throat her necklace
And in her purse her pay:
The four silver shillings
She had at Lady Day.


Her cheeks were made out of honey,
Her throat was made of flame
Where all around the razor
Had written its red name.


In her purse four shillings
And in her purse her pride
As she walked out one evening
Her lover at her side.


As Matthew turned at Plymouth
About the tilting Hoe,
The cold and cunning constable
Up to him did go:


Out beyond the marshes
Where the cattle stand,
With her crippled lover
Limping at her hand.


‘I’ve come to take you, Matthew,
Unto the magistrate’s door.
Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy,
And you must know what for.’


Charlotte walked with Matthew
Through the Sunday mist,
Never saw the razor
Waiting at his wrist.


‘She is as pure,’ cried Matthew,
‘As is the early dew,
Her only stain it is the pain
That round her neck I drew!


Charlotte she was gentle
But they found her in the flood
Her Sunday beads among the reeds
Beaming with her blood.


‘She is as guiltless as the day
She sprang forth from her mother.
The only sin upon her skin
Is that she loved another.’


Matthew, where is Charlotte,
And wherefore has she flown?
For you walked out together
And now are come alone.


They took him off to Bodmin,
They pulled the prison bell,
They sent him smartly up to heaven
And dropped him down to hell.


Why do you not answer,
Stand silent as a tree,
Your Sunday worsted stockings
All muddied to the knee?


All through the granite kingdom
And on its travelling airs
Ask which of these two lovers
The most deserves your prayers.


Why do you mend your breast-pleat
With a rusty needle’s thread
And fall with fears and silent tears
Upon your single bed?


And your steel heart search, Stranger,
That you may pause and pray
For lovers who come not to bed
Upon their wedding day,


Why do you sit so sadly
Your face the colour of clay
And with a green gauze handkerchief
Wipe the sour sweat away?


But lie upon the moorland
Where stands the sacred snow
Above the breathing river,
And the salt sea-winds go.


Has she gone to Blisland
To seek an easier place,
And is that why your eye won’t dry
And blinds your bleaching face?



To view my FAQ concerning Charlotte Dymond, click HERE.

The Law Actually Hot Picks of the Week

This week has been a pretty busy one for me; even 'hot picks' are late this time around.  I’ve not been online that much and have not got through much of my habitual reading and listening of the week as my podcast consumption has gone through the floor.  That said, I've not let my finger slip entirely off the pulse of the tech law world and have kept my eye out for some of the week's quirkier news stories.  Here they are:

Virgin Media BPI Not News: Virgin Media deny clamp-down on hackers.  This one is kind of news because it’s not.  Allegations broke on the net this last week about the ISP branch of the Virgin Empire being close to reaching agreement with the BPI over the '3 strikes and you're banned' policy that the latter want implemented.  Virgin Media have vehemently denied these allegations saying that they have merely held discussions, as have all ISPs but are far from reaching agreement. 

This concept is so fundamentally flawed, it's almost laughable.  Turning ISPs into the 'download police' is just crazy - something I've argued on Law Actually many times before.  That said, if the ISPs fail to satisfy bodies such as the BPI before the April 2009 deadline, the government will step-in and impose their own, possibly more stringent controls.  When this story first broke, I outlined some of the more serious issues that plague the proposal - and believe me, there are lots of them.  The ISPs also acknowledge that many problems remain - such as who will bear the administrative costs of the new policy and who would be liable should an innocent user be disconnected.  This saga has got a long way still to go.

Kieron Saunders Burn13 year old suffers severe facial burns and blisters after a tanning overdose. Kieron Saunders, 13 frequented his local tanning salon as a means of combating his acne, an alternative, I suppose, to Clearasil. Still, he surely wasn’t counting on the blisters he was left with being much worse than his pesky spots. Unsurprisingly, there have been since been many calls for a change in the law regarding tanning salons; as it stands, such salons need not be permanently staffed. With concerns over skin cancer increasing year on year, I have to agree with the idea of scrapping these unmanned, coin-operated contraptions and tighter controls in place for salons who use conventional sunbeds. But seriously, should a 13 year old be using a tanning bed – acne or no acne? I know Mrs Saunders described her son as a ‘vain boy’ but isn’t this a touch too far?

Personal Data Dump Industry experts say jail data-loss bosses.
A survey of computer experts this week revealed that 1 in 4 thought that the bosses of companies which lose consumer data should be prosecuted. This is very much in line with what I have been arguing for a long time, now. The whole culture and attitude towards handling consumer data needs to undergo a massive shift for any substantial progress to be made with the data protection issues which have plagued the UK in the last couple of years. Three quarters of those surveyed thought offending companies should be fined while almost 60% thought affected consumers should be compensated. Hear, Hear!

Symantec Virus Logo


I saw the BBC report his week that Symantec have announced that there are well over 1 million computer viruses lurking out there. You kind of have to feel sorry for the poor souls working for the AV vendors writing virus definitions – still, it keeps them in a job I guess. Indeed, you could argue that the insecurity of previous windows versions to have kept an entire industry in business for years.


Dell Keyboard hair 'Dell breaks your laptop and sends out replacement full of pubes'. 
Charming. I know Dell was once notorious for pre-loading their computers with all kinds of crapware and bloated craplets but this is a step too far. Surely the first question you should ask, though, is how the keyboard got chocked up with them in the first place.

But it’s a difficult dilemma to be faced with. After all, what do you do with a laptop that has hair apparently growing out of the keyboard? I like the 3 options listed on The Consumerist:

“1. Vacuum it, douse it in alcohol, and just try to use it and forget about "the hedgehog"

2. Sell it and buy a new laptop

3. Go to the gym, run 3 miles, trim body hair directly over the keyboard, send laptop back to dell.”

Facebook Sex Addict No week would be complete on Law Actually without a reference to Facebook. The Metro reported this week that a user, Laura Michaels, set up a group entitled ‘I Need Sex’. A self-proclaimed sex-addict, Michaels admitted to sleeping with 50 men she met via the site. Pretty good going by anyone's standards.  Ms Michaels was choosey though; I mean, it’s not like she’d just have sex with any Facebook user out there. Oh no, she’d have to, you know, like the look of his Facebook photo first. The group (since removed) quickly garnered interest: “Within 10 minutes the group had 35 members and soon attracted 100 men, 50 of whom she slept with.”

I guess someone didn’t explain to her that the ‘poke’ function wasn’t to be taken so literally.


Windows XP Time The 'Save Windows XP' campaign has drawn more than 111,000 supporters
When will those XP-philes out there just accept the fact that Windows XP is over the hill and should be consigned to history?  Given that it launched in October 2001 it's already had an extraordinarily long life cycle.  Granted, Service Pack 2 was tantamount to a ‘XP Second Edition’ but the OS is still getting rather long in the tooth. I’ve been following this story for a long time now and was interested to see Paul Thurrott over at the Supersite for Windows write up a review about whether XP is ‘good enough’ in everyday use. He concluded, yes – at a push – it is. But, then again, why would you want to, when you could have a far superior experience in Vista ? I second that. With more information about the next version of Windows - currently dubbed Windows 7 – beginning to trickle out, those stubbornly trying to hang on to the XP experience are just keeping themselves deliberately behind the times. Just get over it, move on and do us all a favour.

Friday, 11 April 2008

iPlayer placing undue strain on the internet?

Iplayer crash burn copy 2 From The Times 10.4.08

"The success of the BBC's iPlayer is putting the internet under severe strain
and threatening to bring the network to a halt, internet service providers
claimed yesterday.

They want the corporation to share the cost of upgrading the network —
estimated at £831 million — to cope with the increased workload. Viewers are now
watching more than one million BBC programmes online each week.

The BBC said yesterday that its iPlayer service, an archive of programmes
shown over the previous seven days, was accounting for between 3 and 5 per cent
of all internet traffic in Britain, with the first episode of The Apprentice
watched more than 100,000 times via a computer."

Let's face it, online video is massive. And now there is a truly great offering for quality UK TV delivered over the internet, it's really catching on too. Viewing on iPlayer grew exponentially in March and there's no sign that the iPlayer bubble is about to burst. My only gripe with the service is that it doesn't feature more programmes.

Obviously, watching video and TV online requires a lot of bandwidth and places a heavy strain on ISP resources. With this trend of online media only set to grow, it's right that ISPs are planning ahead. Arguably, they've somewhat missed the boat and are reacting to increased demand right now, rather than acting proactively. Still, you can't have everything, not even online.

The cost up upgrading the infrastructure of the net is going to be massive. It's only natural, then, that ISPs want companies who place a heavier demand on their networks to help foot the bill.   Think of it as an online congestion charge.  It doesn't make it right necessarily, but you kind of get where the ISPs are coming from with this.  The BBC, somewhat predictably, are having none of it.  They point to much larger streaming media sites such as YouTube as being a much bigger culprit of placing strain on existing broadband capability.  What's more, the BBC have threatened to name and shame ISPs which attempt to 'traffic shape' their iPlayer service, a proposal which some ISPs are using against the Beep as a bargaining chip. 

While this story has got a long way to run, one thing remains obvious to me: the UK should not let itself fall further behind other countries in the net-speed stakes.  Massive investment is needed for us to keep up with the pace of development and that cost will inevitably be passed on to consumers. But I guess we've got to live with that; it's a small price to pay for keeping ourselves firmly in the 21st century.  Plus, you can't put a price on lightning quick downloads. Oh, okay, an ISP probably could.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Everyone's Feeling the Pressure

Revision Hell It's that time of year again. The tension and pressure on us poor law students is so palpable you could almost reach out and grab hold of it. Yes, exams are looming, stretching ahead like a barren wasteland of doom, gloom, hard work, and sleepless night.  And by the time we're into May, sore-finger-itis sets in: our poor hands are left raw and cramping - a symptom of gripping pens too tightly and writing too much in too short a space of time. Revising becomes the number one objective and all of us get more than a little uptight, fraught and tetchy as the days of untold torture unravel. As our tempers get shorter and our patience evaporates, co-habiting with a revising law student can prove a living nightmare.

And let's face it: it's an awful time.  A time when we students can frequently be found in a semi-delirious state, chain smoking with strained, bloodshot eyes and tousled hair, slumped over textbooks and surrounded by reams of paper. And some people reckon that life as a law student is easy?!

So how are some of the ‘regulars’ bearing up?

Legal Lass admits to being 'in the revision zone' something we're all sadly well-accustomed with. At least she’s ‘in the zone’ though – more than some of us, I’m sure. She does, however, relish the opportunity of spending all day in her pyjamas.

Andro is feeling the exam-time squeeze and posted a picture of a bunny being bathed as an indication of her own expression after a gruelling exam. She's also finding the tedium of revising aspects of the Civil Procedure Rules a headache. I'm sure we can all sympathise with that.

ASP is still posting as frequently as ever it seems. He’s pushing out content 2 or 3 times a day on occasions and seems largely unperturbed by the impending exams. The guy’s just relentless in his posting.

Lacklustre Lawyer is not only struggling with an intense workload but seeking a burst of inspiration as to the career path he should choose. And boy, do I know what that’s like!

Susie Law School - (yes, who still doesn't like to Law Actually) second 'nudge nudge' of the year - is documenting the progress of her exams, LPC style. I stopped blogging about my experiences on the LPC long ago. It was bad enough living the experience without raking over the coals on Law Actually.

Law Girl has apparently gone to ground during this 'busy spell' for law students. Pretty sensible, if you ask me.

Minxy's posting frequency has dropped a little of late, a testament, no doubt to her gruelling workload and the pressing time of the year. As ever, though, the number of comments to her posts remains startlingly high!!

As for Law Actually - well, I'm hoping to keep my posting fairly frequent in the coming weeks. I eased off a little last year on both my blogs, although to be fair, Law Actually wasn't properly 'bedded in' at that point. But I abandoned F1 Central for the entire revision period. This year, it seems, I've more or less abandoned it full-stop.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The End of the Internet

The End of the Internet Alistair Croll over at Gigaom has been doing some doomsday prophesising about just how the internet might implode, explode or otherwise end.  Much of it is lighthearted scaremongering, but it's important not to forget just how fragile and potentially vulnerable the internet as a whole is to attack.

Some of my favourites:

“Massive physical infrastructure failure. If an accident involving a couple of cables in the Mediterranean can make the Internet unusable for hundreds of millions, imagine what an intentional attack could do.”

“Someone subverts the Domain Name Service. The Internet relies on DNS. But if someone broke — or worse, subverted — the fundamental way in which we find web sites, we wouldn’t trust URLs any more. Phishing would be easy. Own the DNS and you own the Internet.”

Perhaps best of all:

“The lawyers get involved. The Internet has been an experiment in free speech. That may be coming to an end. Unable to go after the sites themselves, lawyers go after the hosters and registrars. That’s how Swiss banking group Julius Baer took whistleblower Wikileaks off the air. And once there’s precedent, others are sure to follow. The recording industry is already wondering if it can go after carriers for enabling copyright infringement. This is the irony of Net Neutrality: When telcos start treating different bytes differently, they aren’t ‘common carriers’ and may be liable for what they transmit, including illegal content. So they’ll comply."

Good point. Damn those lawyers, eh?! Interfering busybodies that we are!

“Walled gardens: Many countries already restrict how the Internet is used. China’s firewall — which includes 30,000 people tasked with finding improper users...”

Geez, don’t even get me started!!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Law Actually Hot Picks of the Week

Another Sunday, another batch of my hot picks. I’ve no idea whether this will become a regular thing or if it's something more of a ‘passing fancy’. As ever, the same rules apply: what follows is a selection of news stories that caught my eye from the last 7 days.

Carphone Talk TalkTalk Talk says ‘No No’ to BPI proposal

Charles Dunstone, CEO of Carphone Warehouse has vocalised in the last week his disapproval of the music industry’s proposal to hold ISP responsible for customers who download music illegally. He lambasted the idea, quoting his legal team who advised him that trying to hold an ISP responsible in this way is analogous with trying to “prosecute a bus company that takes a shoplifter the shops”.

Talk Talk is the first ISP to have responded to the recent proposals that seek to force ISPs to disconnect users who download songs illegally. Dunstone claimed that “consumers had a right to unfettered internet access” and “it’s not our job to control it”. Good call.

Google Docs 'Web-based applications are all well and good, but there's still no beating the desktop computer.'

I agree wholeheartedly agree with this. I’ve used a lot of web-based apps in my time and some can be handy if you’re on the road or using a public computer which doesn’t have the required program installed locally. Still, cloud computing is improving all the time and, I feel, the direction the computing world is heading in, long term. It’s just we’re not there yet. Not even close.

Bikini Lines Doctor asks “Where has all the pubic hair gone?”

Okay, stay with me on this one – the article I stumbled across on Digg actually discusses a serious issue. The article documents, inter alia, the findings of two people who find the glamour and beauty obsessed world that’s spreading to the pre-teen age bracket increasingly disturbing. In one case, Melanie Engle an aesthetician (don’t worry – I hadn’t heard of it either) describes that recently a mother brought her 8 year old daughter in to a beauty salon for an eyebrow wax specifying that she wanted them “arched like a supermodel’s”. Later that day, Engle “was directed to give her pint-size client a … bikini wax.” Further on in the article, a one Dr Hillman – who specialises in adolescent medicine – has found it increasingly difficult to rely on err, ‘growth’ as a diagnostic aid. “[N]ow, I need to ask girls, if it’s not there, ‘Do you wax? Do you shave?’ Because so many of them do.”

Max Mosley Max Mosley caught with his trousers down

I was shocked to learn of Mosley’s antics this week in which it was alleged he partook in a Nazi-style sex orgy with prostitutes. Mosley initially refused to comment and has since vehemently maintained there was no Nazi role-playing involved at all. Mosley is now suing the News of the World for breach of privacy claiming unlimited damages. As a long-term fanatic of F1, it’s only natural I took an interest. Mosley, a former barrister who specialised in intellectual property disputes has weathered several crises in his time as FIA president but none quite like this. Assuming that there were no Nazi-themes involved in his rather shady antics, I think Mosley does a great job as president and should remain in the role. That said, I sense this story has a long way still to go and it remains to be seen if he'll get that chance.

Facebook Dollars And finally, thanks to Andro for giving me the heads-up on this one: Michael Arrington over at Tech Crunch is suing Facebook for $25 million for allowing 3rd parties to use his image and Facebook content as ads without his express permission. I blogged last week about the issue of Facebook seeking to grant themselves the right to utilise the user content for ads that’s tucked neatly away in their terms and conditions and now this.

--UPDATE --  This story: April Fool or non April Fool?  When I initially heard about this I couldn't decide what it was.  Trawling the comments, I noticed, people weren't buying it as a true story.  Just to clarify, I still don't know and I don't really care either way: half the lawsuits in America seem to be lifted from the pages of a joke book, quite frankly, so what's one more?  Whether it's a straightforward gag, frivolous lawsuit or double-bluff, what does it matter?  Would I personally try sue Facebook for 25 million dollars?  You bet your ass I would. 

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Good Pirates

Good Piracy From 24.03.08:

If you are downloading stuff you wouldn’t have bought in the first place, according to economist Karen Croxson, you are probably doing the company that created the product a big favor. You, Mr ‘Good’ Pirate, are telling your friends, adding to the media ‘buzz’ and driving up sales.

Many pirates say that they would never have bought much of the stuff they downloaded or copied. If you fall into this category, you might be a ‘good’ or ‘promotional’ pirate. Croxson says that piracy is only a threat to sales when people who originally intended to buy, didn’t, and pirated instead. The others - of which there a many, many millions - never intended to buy and these, says Croxson, cannot possibly harm the seller.

Croxson’s view on this type of piracy is one that I’ve long agreed with. While these good pirates are technically breaking the law, they cannot be said to participating in an act of ‘economic piracy’ – for want of a better term. In other words, while these people may be infringing someone’s intellectual property rights, they are not defrauding them from revenue. There can be little doubt that getting to the root of the problem is the most effective means of combating piracy. However, companies have often made an awful fist of going about it. The worldwide DRM debacle is a case in point.

As is frequently mentioned on so many of the TWiT podcasts I listen to, DRM only hurts the ‘good guys’ and does little if anything to deal with the root problem: the hardcore, mass market pirates. In the case of DRM, it only inconveniences or, at worst, screws over the people who have genuinely purchased the material and want to enjoy it on several devices. Content vendors though, are catching on; DRM is becoming more flexible in that regard and in some instances, disappearing all together. Just look at the Amazon music store in the US who realised that far from protecting profit margins, DRM is actually hurting them. It was time to get rid.

Croxson’s speech, essentially, just re-iterated several well-known facts: people often download content illegally they were never going to buy legitimately. Far from being universally bad for businesses, you can definitely make the argument that some forms of piracy actually help. A person may illegally download a couple of ‘taster tracks’ of an artist’s work and then go out and buy the whole album. In that sense, you could argue, that kind of piracy DRIVES sales. In the same way, good publicity spread via ‘word of mouth’ from someone who has downloaded material illegally may encourage others they mention it to, to go out and buy it.

Downloading material for free on the net or making an illegal copy of a friend’s movie, CD or program, etc. clearly can have a negative impact on businesses who sell creative content. Worse still, is the problem presented by the mass market pirates who, frankly, screw everyone over. But still, Croxson’s points are well worth pointing out. In the scurry to protect their intellectual property rights at all costs, many content owners lose sight of the broader issues involved and end up inadvertently hamstringing themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favour of piracy per se but this story reminds us that piracy issues are by no means black and white, good and bad – there’s a significant amount of grey in between. Maybe it’s time that creative content producers started recognising that and making good use of it.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Trouble on Myspace? Dial 999

Social Networking VictimFrom 02.04.08 

Social networking sites like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace may soon have to carry a '999' emergency link to improve the safety of kids online.

In a 73-page draft of a report due to be published on Friday by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, the sites will have to carry ads for the emergency services so that kids can call if they feel they are being targeted by potential abusers.

Experts contributing to the report claimed that youngsters are at risk from 'sexual grooming' by paedophiles, bullying and online fraud.

I'm not quite sure how practical and effective this suggestion is, quite honestly but at least the Government are examining the problems poses by social networking for young web users.  Undoubtedly, they want to be seen to be doing something, but whatever the reason, this issue is too important to ignore. 

I can't help feeling that better education of the risks involved, coupled with technological advances to help filter or restrict some of the more dangerous elements of the sites would be a more effective way to go.  I mean, blocking the site completely is more of a sure-fire way of removing the danger, but, sadly, if a kid wants to do something which their parents have forbidden, they'll generally find a way of doing it.  After all, they could opt for something as quick and straightforward as using the site at a friend's house whose parents don't block access to the site.

Better education, awareness and guidance are crucial because the whole point about online grooming is that the kids rarely recognise they're in danger.  Sticking an online banner ad up saying 'Dial 999' is going to have little effect on this problem, surely?  Save, perhaps, for tripling the number of hoax emergency calls.

In related news, Ofcom have today reported that around half the children using the net in the UK have profiles on social networking sites, despite the policies those site have in place to discourage and prevent pre-teens signing up.  In a somewhat trite observation, Ofcom noted from their research that such users are not particularly concerned with such issues as online privacy.  Oh really?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Internet - Upside Down

Wifi Piggybacking fun  
What would you do if you discovered your neighbours were piggybacking on your wi-fi connection?

- Secure it?

- Call the police?

- Pay them a visit with a baseball bat?

- All of the above?

Or, perhaps, mess with their minds?

Well, Peter Stevens from ex parrot chose this latter option. Determined not to let his impertinent neighbours get away with it, he split the network and let his neighbours carry on surfing at his expense on one half while he used the other. Then, the games really began. As well as redirecting his neighbours repeatedly to Kittenwar he "set iptables to forward everything to a transparent squid proxy running on port 80 on the machine. That machine runs squid with a trivial redirector that downloads images, uses mogrify to turn them upside down and serves them out of it's local webserver."
The result: random text and graphics appears upside down and back to front.  And, as if that wasn't enough, Stevens made an alternation to the code to produce a blur effect to the webpages that the pesky piggybackers were viewing.  You can almost imagine them, rubbing their eyes repeatedly and blinking several times, before turning to one another open-mouthed, wondering just what the hell was going on.

Great fun.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Google Custom Time

Google Custom Time In keeping with previous 'releases' by Google on 1st April each year, the internet monolith have this time rolled out a new feature to Gmail: Custom Time. This handy function allows users to send email so that it appears to have been sent hours, days, months or even years earlier than when the user actually clicked 'send'.

Here's how Google explain how to use it: "Just click "Set custom time" from the Compose view. Any email you send to the past appears in the proper chronological order in your recipient's inbox. You can opt for it to show up read or unread by selecting the appropriate option."

According to Google, there is an upper limit of pre-dating your mail back to 1st April 2004 - the date Gmail was released.

It certainly looks like a neat feature with a multitude of uses, as borne out by the 'testimonials':

"I just got two tickets to Radiohead by being the 'first' to respond to a co-worker's 'first-come, first-serve' email. Someone else had already won them, but I told everyone to check their inboxes again. Everyone sort of knows I used Custom Time on this one, but I'm denying it."
Robby S., Paralegal
"I used to be an honest person; but now I don't have to be. It's just so much easier this way. I've gained a lot of productivity by not having to think about doing the 'right' thing."
Todd J., Investment Banker

"This feature allows people to manipulate and mislead people with falsified time data. Time is a sacred truth that should never be tampered with."
Michael L., Epistemology Professor

And perhaps best of all: "The entire concept of 'late' no longer exists for me. That's pretty cool. Thanks Gmail!"
Miriam S., Delivery girl

Pretty neat, eh?

You only get 10 emails per year which can be 'pre dated', though. Google's explanation:

Our researchers have concluded that allowing each person more than ten pre-dated emails per year would cause people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless.

And the technology behind this wonderful new function in Gmail?

Gmail utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality.

Love it. Almost as good as their
'TiSP flush drive' last year. If the idea of wired broadband where you flush cables down your toilet to establish a connection wasn't wacky enough, an email-time-machine more or less nails it.