Sunday Dec 06, 2009

☞ Your Freedom - In Safe Hands?

  • The House of Lords debate uncovered the lack of accountability that has been caused by concentrating so many roles in a single department under Peter Mandelson. The Lords asked "Can so vast a department really be held to account effectively when its only Cabinet minister is here and not in the Commons?" but I'd go further and ask whether such a vast department can in any way be held accountable to Parliament. Lord Mandeson is clearly not a safe pair of hands for our liberty and he is using both of them to grasp it and reserve it to himself.
  • Whether these are a good idea or not for their intended use, the article makes no mention at all of their use by the police to track vehicles for other uses. Everywhere you see the phrase "speed camera" or "safety camera" think "surveillance camera" becuase these are general-purpose video cameras whose use is dictated purely by software. They can be used with great ease for general surveillance, and the more we allow on the streets the less freedom we have as a society, no matter what benefits may be used to justify their initial introduction.

Sunday Sep 06, 2009

☞ Downloads and Britain

  • JP Rangaswami does us all a favour by putting the facts about digital downloads all on one page. This whole situation has arisen because of an unplanned extension of the law on copyright, once only about the origination of cultural artefacts and the regulation of producers and now, because digital every act of use involves a copy, available as a weapon for controlling and then gouging customers. Lord Mandelson should be correcting the imbalance in copyright law back in favour of the consumer. Instead he's allowing himself to be influenced only by the old order desperately attempting to order the tide to turn and consequently over-riding the findings of his own staff.

Friday May 08, 2009

☞ Freedoms, their use and abuse

Tuesday Feb 24, 2009

UK Government Endorses Open Source and ODF

Tower Bridge

Late today (UK time), the British Government issued a bold new strategy for use of open source software - and open standards - in Great Britain. In Open Source, Open Standards and Re-Use, the government's Minister for Digital Engagement (yes, really, and he's on Twitter too) significantly revised the brave but toothless policy of 2004 "that it should seek to use Open Source where it gave the best value for money to the taxpayer in delivering public services". This is fantastic news - the digital tipping point is at hand. (The publication is also progressive in having nominated use of the tag "#ukgovOSS" in comment and coverage so it can be found and aggregated).

Like other fine policies before it, the core of the document asserts that the government

  • will actively and fairly consider open source solutions alongside proprietary ones;
  • will consider exit and transition costs as well as the total lifetime cost of ownership;
  • will pick open source where it doesn't cost more;
  • will insist proprietary vendors explain exit, rebid and rebuild costs;
  • will expect proprietary licenses to be transferable throughout government;
  • will expect public sector solutions to be re-usable
In support of this there are some key action items that include:
  • develop clear and open guidance for ensuring that open source and proprietary products are considered equally (action 1);
  • keep and share records of approval and use of open source (action 3)
  • support the use of Open Document Format (action 8);
  • work to ensure that government information is available in open formats, and it will make this a required standard for government websites (action 8);
  • general purpose software developed by or for government will be released on an open source basis (action 9).

This is all to be warmly welcomed and encouraged, and I congratulate the government on this progressive step. The endorsement of ODF is especially welcome, and would have seemed no more than an impossible dream to those of us associated with OpenOffice.org and involved in it at the start of the decade.

I will be very pleased to support and assist in any way that appropriate. In particular, I encourage the CIO Council to consider switching from an assumption of a procurement-driven approach to software acquisition to an adoption-led approach. Doing so does not favour open source; rather, it levels the playing field so that open source solutions can been seen alongside existing approaches. Sadly, if we stick with procurement-driven approaches and try to force-fit open source into them, we will be gamed.

Wednesday Apr 04, 2007

Don't-care

Is it just Apple UK? Or is the quality of Apple service degrading locally?

I have been using a Mac for nearly 5 years now. In that time, I have had cause to call Apple for help only a few times. Each time I have called them for help, they have gone out of their way to keep me going - especially when my old Powerbook failed in November 2005, when the manager of the Valley Fair Apple Store was overwhelmingly helpful and accommodating, way beyond what was required of him. Today, seeking support at a Genius bar in the UK for the first time, I met my first Apple jobsworth and I'm furious.

The problem is that the display is gradually failing on my Powerbook G4. I have Applecare, so I'm entitled to service. But the guy I spoke today took each opportunity presented him to be negative, and ultimately found a way to choose to interpret a clause in the Applecare terms to deny me repair service.

I'll stop there (at least until I am no longer furious). However, I'm wondering whether this is a UK effect or whether it represents a general downward gradient - I have noticed a similar difference in service attitude between, for example, Avis in the US and the UK, so it may just be I should stick to Apple US for service.

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.

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