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Comment Re:Have a little pity on the magazine (Score 1) 290

You are making a false equivalence between different kinds of copyright violations. Private individuals downloading copyrighted music for non-commercial use is against copyright law. But it doesn't deprive musicians of much (if any) income, since they make most of their income from performance and merchandise sales anyway. But when a magazine publishes articles from a writer without attribution, they are profiting off the writer's work and depriving her of the income (since selling articles to magazines for publication is how a lot of writers earn their living).

Granted, this magazine was a shoestring operation, not some big multinational conglomerate that had a legal team to cover all the ins-and-outs of copyright law. If they had legal advice or a decent understanding of copyright law, they obviously wouldn't have done this. But that's just the thing: music companies are suing private individuals who accidentally shared a few songs, and getting hundreds of thousands of dollars of damages. Their ignorance of copyright law doesn't get them out of jail free.

And just to be clear, I think copyright law should be abolished, and replaced with a requirement for attribution. I think downloading music and movies is fine, and artists should find a new way to make a living, because charging for copies is untenable now. But I think artists, writers, etc. should get credit for their work. So I think it would be fine to take a book, change the last paragraph because you don't like the original ending, and publish it, as long as you make it clear that it's a derivative work. So you might not agree with my opinion, but it's perfectly consistent to be for non-commercial downloading, but also against magazines ripping off writers.

I am also sick of the "slashdot thinks X and slashdot thinks Y, so slashdot is a bunch of hypocrites" line of reasoning that crops up on almost every copyright story. slashdot is made up of hundreds of thousands of people. Maybe the people who are all for downloading are mostly different from the people are against ripping off writers. Or maybe most people think non-commercial downloading is OK, but ripping off a writer for commercial gain isn't. Who knows? If you want to accuse a person of hypocrisy, go ahead. But slashdot isn't a coherent entity to have an argument with, and it doesn't have to have a consistent opinion on anything.


Comment Re:Return on Investment (Score 1) 405

So instead of getting into trouble in the afternoons, kids would get into trouble in the morning, and then skip school, too. I think we should just make the school day to 9-5, and use the extra time to add back the art, music, exercise, etc. that's been cut to make more time for test prep. Of course, that would cost real money, so it's not going to happen any time soon...

Comment Re:In *England* (Score 1) 347

Yes, and assuming England is still located in the UK (I haven't been over for a few years, and I understand there have been some changes recently...), then saying they manage sites in the UK is correct, if inexact.

Granted, your average American doesn't know the relationships between England, Wales, Scotland, Britain, Northern Ireland and the UK. But I would think you could save your snark for when they actually say something wrong, which is often enough.

Comment Re:It's really simple, copyright expires. (Score 2, Insightful) 347

I could understand if English Heritage wanted to instate a new policy that required permits for commercial photography. They really want to improve the tourist facilities at the site, and have had trouble getting the money to do so. I think they'd have a very hard time of it, since Stonehenge is clearly visible from public roads and the air. So unless they want to build a giant dome over it, they really couldn't control access.

But trying to retroactively apply that policy to photos taken before the policy was in place is stupid.

Comment Re:Insane Credit (Score 1) 477

I do think you're trolling, but I'll bite.

I didn't say the first thing about the costs of the cell phone companies -- they are really irrelevant to my point. The point is that people can run up basically unlimited unsecured debt, regardless of their ability to pay. This puts people in the bad position of choosing between paying an unreasonable amount of money for service, and defaulting on a debt (and having their credit history tarnished). Maybe the cell phone companies don't need to collect because the service didn't cost them that much, but they are clearly profiting off some people paying these ridiculous bills (or paying a discounted, but still ridiculous bill).

I've always thought that it would make more sense to have progressive fees for cell phone service. So you get a base number of minutes and after that, each block of minutes would be progressively cheaper until they were eventually free. I think they could have a single plan, but I can understand why they'd still want to have different base packages with different cost/minutes. So if you got the cheapest plan, your base payment would be $40 and unlimited usage would cost $120. If you got the base unlimited plan, it would cost $90 or whatever. This would still let the cell phone companies encourage people to estimate their usage and sign up for a more expensive base if they were more intensive users. But it still has a reasonable max for everyone. The fact that you can rack up thousands of dollars in charges, when the unlimited plan costs a couple hundred, is abusive (and should be illegal).


Comment Insane Credit (Score 1) 477

It's insane that cell phone companies are effectively giving people $10,000 lines of credit (I've heard of cases where international roaming charges racked up that much in a month). At the very least, there should be an option to specify a maximum amount, where service is turned off if it goes over that amount, and I have to confirm that I want to continue service and understand how much it's going to cost to go over that amount. This would handle the vast majority of cases where people go way over because of international roaming charges, bandwidth overages, sending thousands of texts, etc.

Comment Luddites (Score 1) 184

I really don't understand why any discussion of a new technology that might possibly be used to limit children in any way is accompanied by an immediate assumption that only terrible parents would use it. This seems like a very simplistic false choice between total freedom and BOFH-style lockdown.

It seems much more reasonable to me to give children freedom appropriate to their age, but also use tech to limit that freedom where that makes sense. Of course technology is no replacement for supervision or for judgement. Of course any technological limit can be broken or circumvented by someone with enough time and patience. But that doesn't mean there is absolutely no place for using tech to enforce rules.


Comment Re: Not that scary (Score 1) 344

This is really not that big a deal.

That's where you're wrong.

I already use adblock, and generally go to great lengths to remove as much advertising from my life as I can. So I'm already lost to you. I've known for years that you've been tracking people, selling the data to everyone, etc.

But this is so obvious that even casual users have noticed. The New York Times is running a big story on it. I really think that once everyone knows how sleazy and invasive the advertisers' practices are, revolt and regulation are much more likely.

Comment Re:The iPad is not that bad (Score 1) 780

As it turns out, the video format isn't an issue for me -- I've already converted all my video to h264 and loaded it in iTunes, so all my video is already iPad compatible. It was a bit of a pain when I switched from my old format, but hasn't been an issue since. I downsampled some of my videos to save space (and because I couldn't tell the difference on the iPad or on my 720p TV).

I definitely wouldn't buy any video from the iTunes store unless I really didn't care about being able to use it in the future or on different devices (I think I bought a handful of TV episodes when I didn't want to wait for the DVD to come from Netflix). But this really isn't an iPad problem -- it's a MPAA problem, and anybody else that sold movies or TV shows would have the same DRM bullshit as Apple.

The other form factors (laptop/netbook and iPod touch) are completely out for the car -- a laptop/netbook can't be easily mounted in the backseat, and an iPod touch is way too small for two kids to watch together. Before the iPad came out, I had looked for a replacement for the DVD player, and found very few that would play video from SD cards, and none that had internal storage of any kind. So the options were either a DVD player with marginal support for playing video from an SD card, or a phone-sized device that was too small to bother with. I was leaning towards just not replacing the DVD player because those options really weren't appealing to me.

And for just a video player, I wasn't sold on an iPad either. It was a couple hundred bucks more than the DVD players. But when I realized it could replace our (admittedly aging and underused) laptop, then it made sense to me.

You say it's "slow", and I really don't know what you're talking about. It does all the tasks I need doing without any obvious slowness. I haven't compiled anything on it or transcoded any video, but then that not what it's for.


Comment Re:The iPad is not that bad (Score 3, Insightful) 780

OK, I'll bite:

I recently bought an iPad to replace an old laptop and a portable DVD player.

It's better than the portable DVD player because instead of carrying around DVDs, I can just load up movies from iTunes. I can rip the DVDs using HandBrake, and put them in iTunes, or I can buy stuff from the iTunes store. As a nice bonus, it's also a much better map in the car than an iPhone, because the screen is so much bigger.

It's better than the laptop because it's a couple hundred bucks cheaper than buying the new laptop we were considering. It can handle all of the same tasks we used the old laptop for (it was our living room computer which we mostly used for checking email, web browsing, etc. while hanging out with our kids, watching tv, etc.). It's also easier to use standing up, which is great when you mostly use the computer for only a minute or two at a time to lookup a recipe, read a few emails, check movie times, etc.

I was initially skeptical of the iPad because its limits are pretty obvious (like most tablet computers). But it fills a niche for me much better than a laptop would, and at a lower price.


Comment Re:The real question (Score 1) 311

I think early access to stories and removing ads are big features some people would pay for. Customized searching and reporting, free/discounted classified ads, PDF/ebook formats for downloading to mobile devices, etc. I don't know if these add up to a viable business model or not, but I can see how they would be worth a modest subscription price to some users.

I think the bigger problem with news is that the internet (and on a smaller scale before that, cable) has divided the market so that instead of reading one newspaper, many users now read dozens of news sites. So asking $20/month from each user is now completely unreasonable. Maybe users feel like any given site is worth only $1/month. That's great if you're a blog with at most a handful of staff and some hosted webservers. But it sucks if you're a traditional newspaper with hundreds of staff and a rapidly declining readership.

The way things have been going the last few years, I suspect that a lot of the free high-quality news sites are going to go out of business, or be forced into larger and larger merged corporate entities. Maybe it'll be easier to setup profitable paywalls and/or premium services when there are only five news sites all under the same profit pressures. Or maybe it'll be easier to convince people to pay $20/month when they get a full suite of news, entertainment, sports, etc. sites -- in short when the conglomeration of internet content has turned it into TV.


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