30.7.07

Sympathy for sale

SFRI


Irreverent, huh? This is the image you get when you go to Sympathy for the Record Industry's website, along with a message saying "somewere a glory remains unseen...", one of the sentences that got known along with this record label, along with others like "We almost really care", "Is a force this powerful going to be overlooked by an industry that needs all the Sympathy it can get" or "You've tried the rest now go f*ck yourself". Yes, Sympathy for the Record Industry is a record label, but not just that, it is a record label that, since its conception, tells you that "the record industry is a complete fuck up", and so it does things differently. When I say "it does" I really should say "he does": SFRI is a one-man-only record label, created and run by Long Gone John, and while the label is cool enough to really care about artists and music fans, and doing things like doing business only on a handshake only basis, and releasing all its stuff without a single UPC, don't just think that this isn't a "real label" (whatever that is): not only it was voted best record label "2006" by venus magazine, but also have launched bands like Hole, The White Stripes, Turbonegro, Rocket from the Crypt, The 5,6,7,8 or Scarling..

Thing is, now with 19 years, this record label is up for sale. Using Long Gone's words, the price is "$625,000.00 or $700,000.00 if i don't like you", but, besides everything else, buying the record label includes "existing stock modestly estimated at a wholesale value of 1.8 millon dollars". Unfortunately this is a quite atractive deal for those wanting to invest in this business, and do quick cash out of it: mainly for other labels wanting to expand their business, this is a great deal. Unfortunately, because that probably will be the death of SFRI as well.

SFRI: Rock and Roll

Is EMI going to be sold to Terra Firma?

In April EMI shareholders started to have a load of news on a possible change of hands.

EMI is one of the big four record companies, with more or less 10% of the music market share. In April we started to hear about Warner wanting to buy EMI (again), in May we heard that several Private Equity firms also wanted EMI. Warner extended the offer, but Terra Firma also made an offer, and EMI accepted it - meaning that they started by then to convince its shareholders to accept the deal. Terra Nova needs 90% of the shareholders wanting to do the deal. Warner kept wanting to buy EMI, and shareholders were not really interested in Terra Nova's offer without knowing what alternatives they have... So Terra Firma raised their offer for EMI, and set'd up June 27 as the aquisition deadline. Warner said they were going to make a final offer, and EMI shareholders didn't show any interest on Terra Firma's offer. The limit date was postponed, but when Warner gave up the ride, then shareholders faced an easier decision: Terra Firma or nothing. Until friday Terra Firma had 84.94% from the 90% they need to, and a final extention was set to 1.00 pm on Wednesday. Everything would lead to the conclusion that Terra Firma is going to get the deal, but there are reports that financing for the deal could fall through due to the recent turmoil on global debt markets.

Let's see what's going to happen: wednesday is definively the final day for us to know if EMI is going to be sold to Terra Firma or not. Unfortunately I think that if they are sold those are bad news, but if they're not we have even worse news. One way or another, after the deal we'll have interesting time for the big four in the next few months.

Police shuts down Portuguese Trackers

This blog post talks about the news that the Portuguese Police shut down three Portuguese BitTorrent trackers. The whole issue arised many coments in the media and in the blogosphere. All my comments in this post are based on the press releases from four entities, PJ, FEVIP, ASAE and AFP, and the statements they've been giving about this issue (that I had access to, not everything). Also, I'm afraid I'm not using the correct English legal terms in some cases - sorry. Also, I'm not saying here that I approve the actions of those behind the websites and trackers that were shut down. What I am saying is that I abhor disinformation, specially at this level.

The press releases



FEVIP tells that there were two crime claims that led the Police to start this process, one from AFP with FEVIP, and other from FEVIP only. That led PJ and ASAE to start at the 24th of July a fiscal operation on illegal share of music, movies and games via Internet, using six search warrants.

Discrepancies start. According to the Police, the operation was a "fight against Piracy", and they then define Piracy as the reproduction of content that is protected by Authorship Rights via Internet. For that, they claim, they used human and logistic resources, including "digital proof supports", whatever that is (I really wonder what they mean with that). They say that they did this operation to reply to two enquiries (and not crime claims as FEVIP tells about). ASAE's press release complies with Police's, including their definition of "digital piracy".

FEVIP tells us that the operation stopped the illegal sharing of contents using P2P programs and websites, such as www.btuga.pt, www.zetuga.com and www.zemula.org, that were being used by more or less 200.000 users to swap material protected by authorship rights without consent.

The Police talks about a program named P2P (which I don't know of, I only know P2P technology), and also talks about more or less 200.000 users swapping material protected by authorship rights without consent.

ASAE goes further, and talking about the illegal sharing of "the contents of the program P2P", and about the more or less 200.000 users swapping material protected by authorship rights without consent.

FEVIP then talks about a protocol named "Bit Torrent". Goes on saying that Btuga.pt was developing for a long time a service for illegal sharing of files (I would love to see evidence on that).

The Police press release says that they apprehended servers, computers, DVD's, CD's, hard drives and documentation, and then saying that they made a high value apprehension that will change the act of reproducing and swapping content protected by authorship rights. They end asking parents to be alert on their children's usage of the Internet, even if inciting values is something that is really out of their action scope. Investigation follows.

Facts



A lot more could be said about this press releases, but let's stop with that. Here are some facts, for a change:

1) You should ignore almost everything about the media is saying about the case. The piece in the "SIC" TV channel is one great example - don't believe in a single word of what they said.

2) All this case isn't about "sharing illegal content". If the content was illegal, there would be no Copyright laws to be applied about. There's an huge difference between "sharing illegal content" and "illegally sharing content".

3) From the statements given from the three entities involved in this case, there's nothing about "illegally sharing content".

4) There's nothing illegal in the concept of a BitTorrent tracker, as proven in similar cases in other European countries. A BitTorrent tracker provides a number of .torrent files, and those files aren't copyrighted in any way. That being, there's nothing illegal in providing .torrent files, and since a BitTorrent tracker is just something that provides .torrent files, a BitTorrent tracker is not illegal.

5) The press releases talk about the apprehension of copies of copyrighted content (in CD's, DVD's and hard disks). If they can prove that those aren't private copies (please see the concept of private copies in the Portuguese law), then they might have a case.

6) It seems that some of those websites, besides being trackers, were selling software (clients for their trackers). That activity might have been illegal (just speculation here, mind you), but that activity is not directly related with operating a BitTorrent tracker.

7) Some people speculate that BTuga's software was a fork from Azureus. If that's proven to be truth, then that software was illegal because Azureus is based on a GPL license, and BTuga was selling closed-source binaries of the client, which would be in clear violation of the GPL license. Note that I don't know if the client was or not based on Azureus, and since I don't have a copy of the client I can't get that straight. If you can help me on this one, I would be thankful.

8) Illegal or not, if I was one of the persons behind the shut down trackers, I would be preparing myself right now to sue a hell lot of entities for defamation.

9) We have to assume that the Police press release is wrong, and if it is the case it would be good to have it corrected. There they consider "piracy" as "the reproduction of content that is protected by Authorship Rights via Internet". If that's the case, than piracy is not illegal, since the reproduction of content that is protected by Authorship Rights via Internet is not illegal. It that's to be right, then I would like to know why isn't the Police doing an operation to "fight piracy", since that would be "fighting something legal", which obviously is way beyond the scope of the Police.

10) In P2P trackers you don't swap, you share.

11) In the Internet, you don't have transition of materials, you have transmission of content.

12) You don't need explicit consent to get most of the copyrighted content (see more on the Portuguese law on this).

Since the Police says that the investigation ensues, I'm just waiting for the next set of press releases, and hoping that, in there, the story is set straight. Yet, there is lot's of stuff to talk about this issue, so I might come be back on this issue sooner than that.

A Night in Clear

The CD has stopped a long time ago. It was too hot to think. The body was too awake to sleep. My eyes opened and saw the moon, full, grinning at me. I listened to the nature sounds, defying the window's isolation, calling me. So I stood up, walking list I was asleep, and went towards the piano. The eyes shut up, but the several buttons were well too known to my fingers, so the gestures were automaticly made to turn it on, and suddenly I started playing, improvising. I was not at home - there was no home. I was playing and the nature was my stage. and the fingers kept moving and moving, the call of nature was being replied with the notes and energy that kept flowing out of me. Suddenly my legs felt week, I went again to bed but the music was still playing. One eye peeks and the moonlight was replaced by sudden rays of sun. I felt good, and ready to sleep. But it was already a night in clear.

27.7.07

permadeath

"Permadeath" is almost a taboo word on the gaming industry, but it's almost a need in having a immersive Virtual World. I wrote about it a couple of days ago, saying:
Death is death. If you died, you're dead. Dead. You shouldn't "respawn", you shouldn't turn into a ghost. Most critics on MMOG's are on the fact that they are "excessively violent". Well, if death meant death in a virtual world, players wouldn't be killing each other (at least not that much). On the other hand, if in real life when someone dies he respawns in another place, people would be killing themselves all the time.

Now that known MMO's are getting in the wild, with both the number of MMO's and number of MMO players growing, the issue is getting hot again - people start to be sick to see "yet another hack'n'slash MMO game", specially when the differences are only names, graphics and, with luck, the background story. The Guardian has a piece exactly on this issue: "Why do we have to die in games?" formulates an answer: no, we don't. Let me quote a little bit (but you really should read the whole article):
But do you need to die at all? Eric Zimmerman, a New York-based game designer who helps run the studio Gamelab, says: "Dying in games is a strange artifact of certain kinds of historical forms and content, and there is no good reason for including it in many cases." Molyneux concurs: "If we were starting from scratch, we wouldn't come up with this paradigm."

The only thing I have to add to explain my point on permadeath, is to give a footnote on a previous affirmation I did. When i said that:
I also agree that if you're paying to play a hack'n'slash game like World of Warcraft, you have to have the ability to respawn after death, but I'm not talking about building another WoW-like world, I'm talking about building a real good, new and innovative Virtual World.

this doesn't meen that hack'n'slash games can't have permadeath, or that they shouldn't have it. That sentence is meant to say that "the hack'n'slash trend we see is hugely flawed in it's concept". See, if you take into consideration that those MMORPG's are just varients of MUDs, heavilly inspired in D&D, you'll have to ask yourself: "Why is death permanent in D&D and not in a MMORPG?"

Portuguese Mediation Center... in Second Life

It is being inaugurated at this moment a Portuguese Mediation Center in Second Life.

University of Aveiro did the buildings, while the New University of Lisbon will staff the audience rooms. A video of the new island will soon be on YouTube. The good part, for me, in this project: it'll be used for students of the New University of Lisbon's law school. All the rest? Well, I guess it's just publicity, I fear it might turn into something else, later on.

The official website: here.

Q/A:

Aluap Beaumont asked if anyone from Linden Labs was contacted for this project, since Robin from LL showed some concerns in the past, even in a Portuguese workshop about SL, about this kind of issues. The answer was no.

I raised a question about how many mediations are their expecting to be able to do in the six month period (I heard about a six month period project, but I don't really know if that means that this center will only be available during 6 months). The answer was "The main purpose of this Centre is the promotion of ADR solutions such as mediation or arbitrations. In Portugal, ADR systems like small claims courts solve around 5500/year for a country of 10M people.", but later they said that "The main focus is the promotion of ADR solutions such as mediation and arbitration. Then, another goal is to get a way of training people in ADR systems. The e-Justice Centre will deal with SL conflicts. Not RL conflicts." If it's only to deal with SL conflicts, they're not going to have the same kind of proportion, for sure, and they'll start from a "zero conflicts solved" scenario, so I'm quite sceptic...

Also to answer another question of mine, the Secretary of Justice Ministry said "The e-Justice Centre is an initiative of portuguese universities and the portuguese Ministry of Justice but can deal with both mediations between portuguese or non-portuguese SL citizens."

Unfortunately the Secretary only wanted to answer three questions from the Second Life public, so many others stayed unanswered. Plus, the answers themselves raise more questions.

There's lots to think about on this issue, and lot's of stuff that can (and should) be discussed regarding to this new center. I'm resting on the issue by now, waiting for the reactions in the upcoming days, and formulate my own thoughts about this myself.

I might come back to this issue soon.

26.7.07

2007 so far - Music

I've been in a really bad mood lately: there's just a load of stuff that I don't really want to talk about that isn't going right as it should, and with that I'm doing worse - being grumpy, pissing off friends, or generaly being a worse self. I'm trying to fight this kind of state that usually comes before depression, not only because the best way to get away from a drepression is avoiding it. So, I've started to do lot's of other things, in an attempt to fight against this state - and even if you don't interact with me in another way than by this blog, you might have noticed that I'm "acting weird" lately. So, sorry if my grumpyness affected you in some sort of way lately.

Well, to pick up yet another thing I wanted to do for a long time, and distract myself that way, I'm now starting my saga of "2007 so far" posts, in a way different (and less interesting) format than the one I wanted to. In the first three posts under this tag, I'll talk about the best music purchases I've made so far this year, the best books I've read this year, and the best movies I saw this year. Notice that "this year" means "I interacted with it in 2007", and not "it was made in 2007".

So, let's start with Music.

Merankorii - Melencolia III (CD)


You can think this is kind of egocentric - heck, maybe it is. Merankorii is my own musical project, but if I make it is because I like it, and I really use it as a scapegoat, to let out those thoughts and feelings that I couldn't express in any other way. And the thing is, I really like the outcome, and (this again sounds egocentric) Merankorii is probably the band that I like the most nowadays, and the band I listen more often. In January "Melencolia III" was released, and, while it is the third of the four parts concept I defined for it, it's way different and more defined work than the previous releases. It's also, in my oppinion, the hardest Merankorii album to absorb, even if it's easier to listen than the previous ones.

Bardic Wisdom/Merankorii - Prose of the Ancient Times/Sanguine (CD, Cassete)


After Melencolia III in January, in May I've released a split album in two formats (CD and Cassete) with another one-man band, Bardic Wisdom. I already liked Bardic Wisdom (who never had released any album prior to this one), a mixture of neo-classical music with neofolk, that is quite exquisite since its sound is heavily inspired in the ancient Incas. From what I've been listening from those who got this release, the split concept worked quite well, since Bardic Wisdom's part evolves in a way that blends very well with Merankorii's side, something that you probably experience better in the CD release. This was also Merankorii's most "neo-classical" work to date, even if it will probably fit better under the "dark ambient" or neofolk tag.

Empyrium - A Retrospective... (Box)


I've blogged about this release when I got it, but I have to write about it again. Empyrium is one excelent musical project, the one that defined the NeoFolk "tree" of bands that I like the most under that tag. They've started as a "black/doom metal" band, with it's long gone demo, but since their first release they abandoned the idea of being a Metal band, and just started making an unique sound, heavilly inspired by Nature, and kept doing until they decided that Empyrium has released all the music they had to release to give to the world what they wanted to. When they felt that any other Empyrium release would be "just another CD with the same kind of music", they took the hard yet wise decision to end with the musical project. Now, they released this box, "A Retrospective...", that has six CD's including the demo and unreleased matterial - all the band's work, where each CD is also a book telling the story of the band and the story behind each release. This is the kind of release that every band should do.

Rasputina - The Lost & Found 2nd Ed. (CD)


I only knew one music from Rasputina (Tansylvanian Concubine), from a soundtrack CD I have somewhere (in Coimbra, I guess), but I really don't like that track, so I allways thought, without listening more from them, that I didn't like Rasputina. Then, this year I listened to one of the most cool covers I've heard on a Marilyn Manson song, in Last.fm, and when I went to check who was making such a beautifull version of The Tourniquet, I saw it was from Rasputina. After listening to the track I knew I had to get it, so I searched for it and noticed that it was from a Rasputina album called "The Lost & Found 2nd Ed.", and I ordered it. Wow. this album only has covers made by Rasputina, and is really awsome - one of those albums that you like every track of it, and that you can listen in repeat for a whole day. I now have the intention to know more about Rasputina, maybe by buying the "1st Ed." CD, but since I made a promise that this year I wouldn't buy any CD other than those that are really must-have's, I guess I'll postpone it...

Dismal - Miele Dal Salice (CD Limited deluxe edition)


These are the Italian Dismal. Once upon a time I used to listen to a Spanish band called Dismal, and I knew that they were going to release a CD. Then I got on my mail yet another upcoming CD's list, and saw there "Dismal - Rubino Liquido", so I've ordered. One happy mistake, since when the CD arived I noticed that it was not from the Spanish band, but from another, with a completely different musical style, only the same name. What happened is that I've listened to that Doom Metal album and I was awed, it is one of the most favourite Doom Metal albums up to date. They spent years without releasing, but this year they released Miele Dal Salice, with a new vocalist, and a new sound - impossible to define. The characteristic that comes to mind when thinking of it is just "beautiful". I wonder what path will they take in the next release...

V/A - Tribute to Dead Can Dance - The Lotus Eaters (2CD)


While I think that Dead Can Dance is preety cool, I don't own any of their CD's. So why did I got this tribute? Well, there's one track here from Antimatter, and I don't really think that track is that good, but it was the only recorded track from Antimatter that I still didn't have, so I was quite tempted to get the album. When I looked with greater care to the track listing, I saw there names like Arcana or Ulver, and with that I've made my decision. I'm really glad I made it - the whole album is awsome, better (in my point of view) than any Dead Can Dance album I've heard, and Antimatter has there one of the worse tracks of the whole compilation. If you like Dead Can Dance, this is a must-have.

V/A - Legend And Lore - Dark Folklore and European Myths (CD)


The third best neofolk compilation I have, a must-have for anyone who fancies this musical style. Once I saw on Last.fm that Nuno Nunes was listening to Tenhi and IM'd him something like "wow, you like Tenhi?"... Turns out that he had this compilation, and when I listened to it I knew I had to have it. Subaudition, Tenhi, Vàli, Neun Welten, Orplid, :Of The Wand and the Moon:, Gaé Bolg and Hekate are the bands in this album, and I think that I'll only forget that I have this CD when I have every CD from where each song here was taken from (well, except Subaudition's). BTW, and for reference, the second best neofolk compilation that I know of is "Lichttaufe - Der Folklore Liedschatz", only beated by "Looking For Europe", that is what I consider "the NeoFolk compendium", since it is more than a 4CD compilation, it is (literally) a book telling the story of NeoFolk.

Tenhi - Kauan (+2tracks CD)


Well, I already had Tenhi's Kauan, but when I found out that the Kauan CD that Paula bought in Finland was the special edition digipack CD with two bonus tracks, I had to get a way to make here swap her CD with mine (yeah, I'm evil ;-)). Tenhi is one of those bands that I need to have all their music, which I'll achieve as soon as their new 3 CD's book is released (in less then a month). They play NeoFolk, that, while inspired by Empyrium and following their line, has a preety characteristic sound - probably thanks to the heaviest use of keyboards, and the voice settings. It's surely more sad, and intimist. They've been considered "Sigur Rós in the woods" (a description that I don't really agree of) and "a landmark in the acoustic settings of nature", which surely fits.

Neun Welten - Vergessene Pfade (CD)


This band is for Tenhi fans - while with a happier soundscape, and with almost no voices, they are surelly inspired by Tenhi, even if having their own style and sound. The inspiration comes with no surprise, besides being long time friends, they record in Tenhi's UTUstudios, and are touring together. I first heard of Neun Welten on the "Looking for Europe" compilation, and bought their only release until then - a three songs single that, while I really like, sounded as... way too little. When they released Vergessene Pfade I had to get it, and fortunately they were not only up to my expectations but better than that: they even enhanced the tracks they had in the single! Great CD...

V/A - Flowers made of snow (2CD)


The tenth and last album I'm going to call "the best of 2007 so far" is a two CD's compilation called "Flowers made of snow", a compilation made by Cold Meat Industry, and aimed for fans of that label. Cold Meat Indistry was established in 1987, and is a mark, influence and inspiration for those into the alternative genre. It releases "lisstenable music with a deeper reflection on life and death, within the musical spectrum of dystopia varying from dark to darker, from ambient industrial to acoustic folk, from beautiful to that which is just painful, exploring both the philosophical and the subversive activities of human kind and its psyche". By the description that this label makes of themselves, you'll already know by now if this is a must-have or a must avoid, so I'll just add that the work in the compilation is really good, in the way they chose the tracks and ordered them in each CD.

25.7.07

UK rejects copyright extension

Remember about that awful lobbyist act I told you about in UK, where the music industry wanted that UK extended (even more) the number of years that artists (or the copyright owners) can ask for royalties? That one that had a campaign with thousands of artists asking for the extension, including lots of already dead ones... Fortunately, it seems that the extension purposal was rejected.

iPhone vs. Motorola E1

This is quite funny, since my cellphone, Motorola E1, is broadly considered as a piece of crap. Yet, here is a comparison:










FeatureMotorola E1Apple iPhone
Price$134.00 (price varies from store to store, this was the first price I've found), unblockedYou can't buy it unblocked, $500 for AT&T
Dimensions (small phones fit better in your pocket)108 x 46 x 20.5 mm, 89 cc115 x 61 x 11.6mm
Weigth (the lighter the better)107 g
135 g
Set your own music as a ringtoneOf course
Nope
Records video
Yup
No
Screen gets smudgy with usage during a couple of minutes
Huh?
Er, yes
MMS
Yes
No
If the battery starts getting way to used you...
...go to a store near you and buy another one
...send your phone to Apple
Regarding to getting software
I install here what I want and can even develop stuff.
Software? Well, I might be able to buy stuff to Apple if they release it...

Q: Are you serious? You're comparing the hyped iPhone with a Motorola E1, for real?
A: Yes. I have an old cheap cellphone that is better than iPhone, and I wouldn't change.

Q: Huh... Now, for real...
A: For real? I instaled an SSH client in my cellphone that I often use. Can't do with an iPhone. I'm a MMS sender and reciever. Can't do with an iPhone. I often use my cellphone as a modem. Can't do with an iPhone.

Don't confuse this as an iPhone-hate blog post: it really isn't. Is just that after my yesterday's post some people thought I was kind of mean with it. This post just gives you some reasons why the iPhone isn't suitable for me.

SLTalker - FAQ


SLTalker is a new personal project of mine. This blog post is my way of presenting it to the world, in the form of a FAQ. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

What is SLTalker?



"SLTalker" stands for "Second Life talker", and is a Second Life client that aims to give you the same interface and user experience as the one you have in a Talker.

What is a Talker?



A talker is one kind of MUD. You can try to know a more complete definition by reading what Wikipedia says about it, but I guess that the best way to know is simply visiting one. If you're a Portuguese speaker, I recommend Selva; if you prefer an english-speaking Talker you might want to try Enchantement Under the Sea.

What is SLTalker for?



SLTalker is basicly for those that want to go into Second Life but that, for any reason, prefer a text interface. Usual reasons for it are the fact that talkers are considered "work-safe", "blind-friendly", quicker interactivity, among others. My personal reasons as of why I prefer this kind of interfaces were written countless times here and there, but I guess that by reading my blog you will find a hand full of them.

Why are you doing this?



Because this is something I'll use. Because I know others that will also use it. And more.

Hey, I'm doing the same as you (or something simillar)!



Great! Please leave a comment in this blog post telling me about it!

Can I help you?



Sure. Please leave a comment and we'll talk about it.

What does that mean to you other related projects?



Well, I've talked about several things that might be considered "related projects".

Tints aims to be a talker protocol, but it's yet being developed, and in a phase where I can only contribute with ideas and thoughts, but not with code. I'm still on the mailing list, and waiting for the first release of code, but until then there's nothing more that I can do for it, I'm afraid. When it is in a state where I can help more, I intend to do it, and, by then, I'll probably rephrase this paragraph. Anyway, both concepts (that of TINTS and SLTalker) aren't really clashing - as a matter of fact I think that they can both be used toguether.

GNUnet-chat is another thing I've talked about a couple of times. I aim to do a talker based in the GNUnet network, but for that to happen, the next release of GNUnet have to be out there. GNUnet-chat will probably have, by then, much more attention by me than this project, since with GNUnet I can build the Virtual World I allways wanted to see, and I'm not even very keen of Second Life. But, until then, I wasn't really helping GNUnet until now, so it won't loose nothing with this, just probably win (since I think I'll learn a couple of things with this project)... Also, don't worry, I won't ditch this project to embrace fully GNUnet-chat without making myself sure that this project isn't going to die.

What about VOS? I've had the idea to do exactly this, but for VOS instead of for Second Life. I still believe that VOS is a much better project and will enable the creation of much better virtual worlds than Second Life. Yet, VOS is still in heavy development, so it's better to postpone the talker interface for VOS for one year or so, and until then I'm getting lot's of usefull experience for that specific project.

I'm not willing to let Mamnuts die, but unfortunately I don't have the patience to maintain it as once upon a time I had. If you're willing to help me out with Mamnuts, that's great. I'm looking for a developer to that particular project, and if you make me feel like you're taking Mamnuts to the direction I want to (a less buggy, more stable and more secure Mamnuts) I'll gladly give you the project.

Finaly, PyTalker, the project that will surely suffer. PyTalker isn't really in a usable state at the moment, even if I know of at least three talkers using it as a talker base. 0.1.* had good and awfull things, 0.2.* had good and awfull things, and the next version planned is 0.3.0, which I started some months ago, completely rewriting the damn thing, and using the good stuff from 0.1 (basicly the modularity and the sessions handling) and from 0.2 (characters handling, database). I've been stuck with some issues regarding external libraries, but I've fixed that today. But there's still a lot of code to be written before I can release 0.3, and I don't think I'll be into the mood of doing it until there isn't a more or less stable version og SLTalker. Sorry.

Where can I try SLTalker?



Hold down your horses mate, you still can't, so it's not about where but when. Yesterday I made my "0.0.0" version (a backup tarball basicly), that already works. With it, I was able to log in, teleport, peek my inventory, talk, shout and use Instant Messanging. For each one of those operations I hade to hand-write XML - not fun. Also, the experience didn't work as good as it should - IM'ing, for instance, broke what I said into several messages, some of them with whitespaces only. This basicly means that, while I'm on the right track, there's an awfull lot to do until there's something you can peek into. When it is, I'll set it up as a talker (with telnet and telnet-ssl interface, as an usual talker), and I'll let you know.

Will it be Open Source?



In the right time, yes. First, I have to write a working version. Then, going publicly about it, I'll surely stumble upon lot's of bugs and issues, stuff that needs to be fixed until I can call it a "proper version". Then, I'll have to clean it up, package it, find the right license for it, and yes - by that time it will be Open Source.

Where can I find more about it?



Now? Nowhere, really. I expect to create a website for SLTalker soon, where you can keep track of its development, and more. Until then, keep reading this blog and I'll keep you updated.

24.7.07

Keep the iPhone away

iPhone

For the first time I was quite near an iPhone: something like 4 meters from it. It's an horrible experience. People aglomerate around it, get excited, talk loudly, drool over, force you to put your headphones louder, and tempts you to drop that piece of code you didn't want but got anyway into your wireless network. The fuss passes as the iPhone moves along, to recieve more drool from other people on its way. What stays is the incredible number of people mumbling stuff like "I want one of those things", even if they didn't really had the change to see what they could, and specially could not, do with it.

Sighting, I just wish: "I hope this damn thingie never arives here in Portugal".

I have a blog post thought to be written about this gadget for a long time - it urges now to be written and published.

Monday

Yet another monday, I think I allways manage to do more or less 52 of these every year. Mondays have something special, but I'm not really into that "monday of hell" that seems to flood many workers around the world. No, mondays have something special, but also tuesdays, wednesdays and every other day in the week.

I guess that the thing that make mondays special is that mondays are usually full of happenings - lot's of non-brain activity, even if that activity involves using brains. Today I had a full monday - a monday in its plenitude, full of happenings, happenings of all kind. I got happy, sad, excited, tired, irated, peacefull, felt fulfilled, but at another time with a powerless feeling, I had good conversations and bad conversations, it was full, and I'm tired.

With all this things - as usually happens with me - I had a day full of stuff I would like to blog about but I'll probably never will. But there was a sentence that I chose to highlight from this day: while talking with Nuno at lunch time, he said to me something that got me surprised: something in the line of "the thing that is missing on Second Life is a text-based client". Thank you Nuno: you might not have made my day, but you surelly gave me more will to keep on some of my personal projects. So today I'll skip the reading I was intending to do and instead I'll hack some more on that messy libsecondlife code. I just wonder... why do you feel that way and yet you're not into Talkers? You know, mine has an open door and you just gave a good reason to make me push you to go there :-)

I'm in a weird mood - ine of those times where I feel like drinking a glass of Oporto's wine while doing brain-activity stuff, staying waked up late until the body can't resist anymore, and then finally fell on the bed, just to wake up in the middle of the following afternoon. I can't: I have no Oporto, and besides it's monday - and tomorrow's another day at work. But it's decided already - one of the first things to buy to my new flat when I finally move on is a good bottle of Oporto's wine.

23.7.07

On MMO's - Part II

On my latest blog post, I intended to write about why am I interested on Virtual Worlds, but the text kept flowing, and I ended with a rant on Virtual Worlds nowadays, and what aspects in them I don't like and would like to see changed. Yet, Robert seems to disagree with me in several aspects, and made a comment with his oppinion. So, let's revisit my initial comment, Robert's disagreement, and my considerations for each of those points.

I claim that in a Virtual World you have to abide to some sort of well-defined physics: for instance, if you have the concept of physical body, then bodies must follow physic rules - for instance being able to step on something on the floor, but not being able to pass through walls or other avatar bodies. Robert clains that this can lead into frustration, and I have to agree in a certain point. A MMOG designed so that players can have the immersive feeling of embodiement need to have a stable, well-defined and non-conflituous set of physics. That's what I mean when I say, for instance, that people shouldn't be able to trespass themselves, but must be able to "pass through" a sword abandoned on the ground. In the same stream of thoughts, the game must be designed in a way that, while bodies have physics, they must not mess up with the user experience. See, I'm not talking here about "there's a 1x1 passage, where 1 is one square in a squared field, where every object (including avatars) ocupy 1x1, and there's a NPC in that passage". I even told that a Virtual World shouldn't have NPC's. I was talking about a simulation of real world, with it's physics. If I go to a crowded club, I might take a couple of minutes passing through the crowd from the entrance of that club until the bar. Having someone in front of me doesn't mean I can't go towards that direction - you just need the right set of physics to implement such movement laws. Of course that if there's the possibility of having people stand in front of things, of course that if there's only one seat only one person can sit there. That, considered by Robert as annoying, is, for me, one advantage on having physics aplied to VW's. Yes, people will tend to act differently in VW's and IRL - but that's not necessarily bad. Plus, if you decide to do a "real-world like" VW, like Second Life, for instance, where players have sex (heck, they can even engage into sexual intercourse), then it should be possible to give that swift kick to the groin you wanted to.

Still talking about avatars, bodies and crowds, Robert says that he should choose to tour one virtual museum alone, "no matter how many people are there". But, Robert, is that a virtual world then? I understand your point, but I see it in another prespective. I think that it would be awsome if I was able to visit a virtual version of every museum of the world, for instance, but that doesn't have to be a multiplayer experience. Yet, when I go to a massively multiplayer online world, it's expected to go there to interact with the crowd, and the results of it (like the world itself, affected by players, not individualy but as one entity alone - the crowd). Yet, nothing stops a Virtual World to implement a set of physics different from those of the real life, and I'm certainly not against it. For instance, Second Life lets people fly. Why shouldn't a virtual world have every player with the ability to have "superman vision", seeing through things (including people?). If that's implemented with a good set of physics, it might be really cool, and my vision on Virtual Worlds definitvely isn't against such physics.

He also asks why can't he decide to "ban" (as in "he doesn't exist for me") someone from his world. And this sets the whole difference in our vision: I'm describing one Virtual World, and you're describing "your Virtual World". If we're talking about one Virtual World, the world isn't yourse, or mine, or from his creators, if that matters. If a set of people choose to have a presence in that virtual world, they have. Of course that you can try to ignore someone you don't like, but - like in the real world - that person still exists, no matter you know or acknowledge it or not. The same goes with Robert's next question: why can't he have an experience in that virtual world where only his friends exist there? That follows the same line of thoughs, but raises a cool question. One one hand, you're still telling that you don't want to be in a massively populated virtual world with lots of people, but instead you want to be in your own virtual world, with your friends that go to the same world. While that can seem something against my own vision of a Virtual World, as a matter of fact it isn't. You want, and should have, the ability to have your own "instance" of that Virtual World, meaning - in fact - that you have your own Virtual World. Picking your example of World of Warcraft, you don't really want to go to WoW and "don't see" all the other players, you want to buy a game called WoW that lets you either create one virtual world (and invite there whomever you want) or connect to other's VW's (possibly including Blizzard's VW).

Then, Robert wrote a paragraph that was describing something that he considers bad, but that's exactly what I think it would be good about a Virtual World like I described. He said:
If you think that people in virtual worlds will behave themselves without restrictions you are sadly mistaken. A small group probably will but larger groups will not. Too many people get online to vent in ways that the real world prevents because they can more often than not act like a jerk without reprise because of the anominity and protection the virtual world provides. The only reason real life people don't act like this is because of the fear of immediate and long term reprisal, providing that infrastructure would require a massive programming and social undertaking for a virtual world. That undertaking world mean work and that is not what people are there for online. We have to enforce civility in RL because we can never truly escape it, online you just need to turn the computer off.

I completely agree with Robert here. If you set up a real world without rules or restictions (beyond physic ones), several groups of people will act in several different ways, and one player won't like several of them. That is, in my oppinion, awsome, sice this exactly describes "a new world" - and people will have to adapt themselves, and the world, to fit in. That also means that the world itself have to addapt and evolve, and citizens of that wold will end creating their notion of civility, their set of rules, and define what's "socially acceptable" or not. The big difference here is that it is not the worlds' creator that defines what is that set of rules, but instead players do - like what happened in the real world.

Finaly, on the issue of death. Robert says that "good police work is difficult and how many people want to play a game where they have to be policeman, social workers, lawyers, etc to enforce civility?", but I also disagree here. See, the fix for this one is really a no-brainer, if you implement the right physics: for instance a newbie to the game may not have the ability to kill another player. Also, while this kinds of settings implicitly demand a social structure, possibly with different roles and different people assuming that role, those roles don't have to be those of the policeman, the social worker, the lawyer and so on. Maintain civility will probably be one of the targets of that virtual world community, but the idea that it must be enforced isn't really true - there are several ways that such a virtual world could evolve into, and most of them are completely different steps for those that humanity took. That's one of the most funniest parts of the whole concept of Virtual Worlds. I also agree that if you're paying to play a hack'n'slash game like World of Warcraft, you have to have the ability to respawn after death, but I'm not talking about building another WoW-like world, I'm talking about building a real good, new and innovative Virtual World.

The comment ends with one sentence: "If the virtual world is there for me to view the worlds wonders from my living room, why even make it possible for me to die at all? Or get mugged, raped, or otherwise violated." My reply to that is cynical, yet truthful to my believings: would you like a (real) world (or humanity) where people hadn't the possibility to have urges to kill, rape, mug, or otherwise violate? Where there was no sadness, no depression, no pain? The concept is far from new: a world like that as called as a dystopia, and if you want to see the dark side of that I recommend you to read some books like Zamyatin's "We", or the well-known 1984, Brave New World or Farhenheit 951.

21.7.07

On MMO's

Sometimes I get asked about why am I doing so much research about games, specially MMO's. Well, on one hand what I'm doing can't be even considered a research of any sort, so it's completely away of the "so much research" idea that some people seem to have. On another hand, I do not have a specific focus on MMO's, I'm not working in nothing directly related with games (if I was I wouldn't talk about MMO's in my blog), and I'm not thinking in ditching my job (that I really like, BTW) to create a games start-up of any sort, or moving into the games business.

What I am, in fact, is a curious about lots of things, including thoughts of the future, in general, technology and virtual worlds. Those who've read some research and/or SciFi on the issue will surelly agree with me here: we are doing a really poor job on the virtual world field. There are issues that were explained, studied and dissected for more than twenty years, that highlight problems that you see even in nowadays successful games, like World of Warcraft. Neal Stephenson described the Metaverse several years from now in his SciFi book "Snow Crash", and while he kept developing his own concepts around it (take, for instance, the peer-to-peer and decentralized networking technology he roughly describes in his Young Lady's Illustrated Primer), we're so far from his Metaverse concept that any exciting new online game has a bad taste in mouth for those that, like me, are craving for something like what he described back then. See, I'm not complaining that the made a game conception and design that nobody implemented, nor I'm really interested in a Snow Crash'y version of a Metaverse (or the future). What I want, really, is something as simple as a game at least as well designed as his Metaverse was.

I talked about it before (sorry, no network at the moment to provide you the link): the biggest problem in virtual worlds developing is that these projects are only financially backed up from for-profit corporations, with only profit in mind. I'm not saying that having profit is bad, what I'm saying is that those who are actively playing in this field are restrained of being creative, and instead are compelled to do a product that will maximise profit while minimizing investment. You have tons of well known and profitable MMORPG's, but they're all preety similar. While the same formulae sells, why would the gaming industry invest in new ones?

The only thing (at least that I can recall now) that I do not agree with Neal Stephenson's metaverse is the (well explained, in fact) necessity he felt for avatars trespassing each other. I'm sorry, but while it's acceptable that characters in Second Life have the abbility to fly, it's unaceptable that a character has no difficulty on going from a street to inside a building, while a river of people are between him and the door. Avatars should be able to "pass though" a sword abandoned on the ground, but not a tree, a wall or another avatar.

The first preceptions achieved by babies is that of the existence of world dynamics: permutable, mutable and ever changing. If you want to create a virtual world, you must, above all, emulate that experience, creating what some thinkers call as a "dynamic landscape". You've seen it before: take as an example the old single-player game "Sim City". While you start with a randomly generated environment, you're allowed (with a certain amount of money) of turning rivers into mountains and vice-versa. It's feasible, for instance, to start with two different and randomly generated landscapes and affect them in a way that one is exactly a copy of the other. Now take this experience no new levels - the multiplayer experience. Imagine a new version of Simcity where two players can play together, via a network connection, collaboratively. In that scenario, they could dispute over what was to be done in a certain corner, and, in fact, spend all of their resources by turning a river into a mountain into a river into a mountain. Now take that new level of experience into the Virtual Worlds realm. Think of Second Life, World of Warcraft, Ultima Online, or whatever your favourite virtual world is. Are you able to do that? Wouldn't it be a great enhancement to the gaming experience?

On the topic of Simcity, it also has a characteristic that unfortunately many MMOG's adopted: the end of the world. See, you can design a virtual world that, instead of being a planet, are, for instance, a turtle shell. Yet, heading allways in a certain direction should not lead me to "a wall" or any other limit. While it might be easier to see it in Simcity (where the world is basicly a small bidimentional squared matrix) if you think about it you'll notice that most "Virtual Worlds" also fail this test, thus not being really Virtual Worlds.

One of the things that are lately being sold as "new" is the concept of in-game economy. The thing is, this concept is not new - at all, and was even implemented for more than a decade. What's yet to be seen is the mindset on the gaming industry that virtual worlds are only good when they give a collective user experience - which is to say that the gaming experience of a single user must be such that the experience itself only have value by being online. In other words, let's kill the NPC's and have a fully player-driven economy. Don't take economy as "money talking" - I'm here talking about the player role and his effect into the world itself. One of the biggest critics I do on WoW is actually that: if you took out every player of WoW out of there, the world would be entirely unchanged, and if you took half of them, randomly or not, the game experience of those others wouldn't be affected - at all. Players of a MMORPG's are citizens on a Virtual World - and should be able to role play as such. That means that they should be able to create, change and break rules, to act alone or as a community (including creating social synergetic concepts, like goverments/polythics or religions). In a scenario as the one described, players naturally create relations, boundings and groups that go beyond the "capacity to play" - avatars tend to group up with those with similar value chains, morality and the concept of right and wrong arises, and "rules" (that can be simply viewed as cahotic organization) emerge.

Now, for a change, let's talk about a classic issue: physics. While this is being sold as a big feature, it should be, instead, taken as an obligatory one. What kind of immersion and embodiement is expected when, in a simulation of an Earth-like world rains do not make rivers rise, clothes get wet and dust turning into mud? Just to tease you off, even the first MUD ever created had both the concept of physics - the most obvious being stamina, day time and seasons.

Also, please stop imposing real-world social restictions and taboos into the virtual worlds - worlds dynamics should not be affected by external sources. This implies that stuff like we're used to see in Second Life are bad for the world itself - things like player bans, kill restrictions, passage of real world laws into virtual worlds and stuff like that. If you want to see a world evolve, you have to let it evolve.

Finaly, and probably the most arguable requirement... Death is death. If you died, you're dead. Dead. You shouldn't "respawn", you shouldn't turn into a ghost. Most critics on MMOG's are on the fact that they are "excessively violent". Well, if death meant death in a virtual world, players wouldn't be killing each other (at least not that much). On the other hand, if in real life when someone dies he respawns in another place, people would be killing themselves all the time.

20.7.07

Quickies

Remember that I vented yesterday about libsecondlife being in C#? Well, I found out that there's already a port to Java. I also don't like Java, but it's surely less painful to deal with. Still, I'm hoping to see a port to yet another language ;-)

In unrelated yet exciting news, I've just signed the pre-deal to buy a flat here in Lisbon. In August it should be officially mine. Yay!

19.7.07

OOXML and Second Life

A quick post:

After writting a lot about what has been happening in Portugal about the standardization of OOXML, Groklaw as a good article about it.

Remember that Second Life HTML client I've been talking about? It's called AjaxLife, lets you log in into Second Life via your browser, and is now Open Source. Which remembers me that I've been teaking in my spare times with libsecondlife and I should write about it - in another post. But, mainly, I hate C#, .NET, Mono, and I just wish someone would port libsecondlife to anything non-.NET. Please.

News in the music world

Music news:

Looking to the EMI stocks variation I would say that they failed to sell out to Terra Firma, but I'm not sure. I'll possibly get back on this issue later.

18.7.07

Interesting MMO links

Back to a day of links, but today I'm going refer some links about MMO's (Massively multiplayer online games):

First thing in the morning, here at work, I had two co-workers laughing while reading this article that tries to compare games and movies, in the stand of "why do we have B movies, and obviously B movies fans, but there's no such thing as B games?". And, well, while his article is preety funny (as he is somewhat masochistic), there are some really pertinent points there (starting by the fact that he's right on the fact that there are B movies but not B games). In some facts, it remembered me of some stuff I wanted to research more about, and that Clive Barker gave me some apetitizers for, with his recent speech at Hollywood and Games (a reading that I also really recommend). For those who're wondering, Clive Barker is both a B movies producer, a writer and games author.

But on my e-mail and feeds I also had more good readings: not only we get GOD (Richard Bartle, MUDs creator) to talk about MMO's and bashing WoW (heck, the title cites him saying "I'd close World of Warcraft!"), we also get an article the big names in the MMO creation world. Finaly, Bounty Bay Online is now in an Open Beta phase, so go ahead if you want to check it out, please tell me if wine runs it...

17.7.07

Fedora 8 roadmap

I'm a Debian user and fan, but, unfortunately, I also have to deal a lot with Fedora. In January, when the roadmap of Fedora 7 came out, I did (I think) my first positive post about Fedora. It had some nice new things, and I really hoped that Fedora 7 would be better than FC6. I was wrong, and Fedora 7 quite sucks, being an unstable pain in the ass. Since Fedora 8 is planned to be out there already in November, what I really wanted to see on their roadmap and wanted features list was a lot of items for stabilization, bug hunting and stuff like that. Damn, an usable FC7, since, at the moment, FC7 won't run certain scenarios where FC6 works. Yet, instead of that, here's the expected Fedora 8 feature list, which I'll break up into several groups:

Nice, but shouldn't be a priority at all:
  • Better startup
  • Bigboard
  • Fedora 8 Bookmarks
  • RSyslog
  • No more XFS
  • XULRunner
Stuff I'm happy they are working on:
  • Codec Buddy
  • KDE 4
  • Network Manager
  • Pulse Audio
  • Presto
  • TeXLive 2007
Stuff they really need to focus on:
  • Virtual Security
  • Policy Kit
  • Improved support for using Fedora on Laptops
Too bad that there are so few items in the last group of stuff comparing to the other too. Also, and by taking a look at the release date and the number of opened bugs, I think that they well could postpone the first group of items for Fedora 9, and concentrate on implementing well the other ones, as well as fixing up the Fedora 7 mess...

16.7.07

OOXML in Portugal

Basicly, the final decision was postponed to a later meeting, in the end of the month. Let me remark the fact that representatives of Sun and IBM didn't attend to it because there were no chairs for them. Yup, it goes THAT far. But not all is lost, the fight is yet not over. I'm not going to write more about this issue today, but let me quote a comment on the chair's issue:

Specially since this isn’t true. For seating people there were seats enough for almost 30 people, but they chose to steer away one of the most important big companies in terms of open standards.

They further refused representativity to universities, libraries, and other entities that care a lot more for structured documents than Primavera or Jurinfor, Microsoft parners, or most ASSOFT registered companies.

Microsoft alone wasted three seats. ASSOFT wasted two more, business partners of Microsoft wasted a few more spots.

The President, Microsoft representative, tried to shut me up twice. At the second attempt I accomplished my promise of speaking louder if I had to in order to be heard, refusing to be cut off.


Rui is writting at this moment a more extensive review of what happened there, so soon you'll be able to know all the sordid details here.

Geeks, Girlfriend, KDE, Mac and stuff

It's great, yet odd, to have a geek girlfriend. It's awsome to know that she likes Linux so much, even if she got a Mac (a decision she regrets, BTW). It's preety cool that she likes KDE, and it's awsome to have someone showing you you're not wrong thinking that KDE (or Linux in general) is better than Mac OS in terms of usability (even if the overall oppinion is otherwise). It's great to hear her saying "damn, why the hell there aren't good Mac OS programs like there are for Linux?" and knowing she's truthful when she says so - to the point of wanting to install KDE, or at least Konqueror, in her Mac. It turns scary, 'tho, when you read what is she doing to achieve her objective: she effectively not only tried to use KDE 4 (way too buggy nowadays, are you crazy?), but she tried it on a Mac (my hero!). Don't get me wrong - KDE 4 is AWSOME, and I can't wait for it to be released. But NOW? It's impossible to work with it yet!

Of course that I have to defend my manhood (hehe ;-)) when she is obvious mocking me in that blog post, so, I have to say that while I find preety joyful and funny to see a Mac owner wanting to turn it into a PC to use it with a real Operating System and Desktop Environment, what's really funny is to see the vices Mac OS already made her have: how would you react when you see someone panicking while using your laptop with Debian and KDE, after copying some stuff from a pen drive to the hard disk, and then wanting to unmount the pen... and, after some seconds of puzzlement, she tells "How the hell do I unmount the pen? Move it to trash?" :-D

15.7.07

Microsoft Zune already has 150 users!

Despite the number of Microsoft Zune owners being huge (and increasing, since if you're a Microsoft employee you can't have anything but a Zune), they are known for opening the Zune box, throwing out all the crap inside (making it empty), and then putting their favourite music player (or three) inside of Zune's box. But with the "exciting" news of the new Microsoft Zune sharing model, it seems that Zune has now 126 new users (even if they didn't sell not even one more Zune, so it must have been Microsoft employees), reaching the fantastic number of 150 users. And, like any technology crippled with DRM with 150 or more users, it's DRM got scared and cracked up. Analists are discussing the possibility that the great hacker that managed to crack Zune's DRM system (by changing one bit from 1 to 0) might be in fact a Microsoft employee, in order to get even more fame for the Zune thingy. Microsoft expect to reach 500 users until the end of the millenium.

The Geekness of Wikipedia

This is something commonly known, and often talked about: Wikipedia isn't really Encyclopedia-like because its articles have a great "geek factor" - meaning, for instance, that some Star Trek characters have longer Wikipedia entries than personalities that will allways remain in History.

But I've just stumbled upon one of those weird cases, and so I felt I should share this experience with you... Augusto Hilário is the name of someone that is commonly known as just "Hilário": a great musician and an essencial piece of the evolution of Fado - a Portuguese musical style. To help you to understand his importance, Fado is the musical style that usually is used to define Portugal, and is a part of the Portuguese identity. Now, there are two major "Fado styles": Lisbon's Fado and Coimbra's Fado. Hilário was one of those guys that defined the characteristic style of Coimbra's Fado, and thus is a really important person in Fado's history and for Portugal. So, I went to http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilário... And was redirected to Henrique Hilário's profile. Who's that? A Portuguese soccer player that, by the description they have there, didn't achieve anything of revelence to grant him an entry into an Encyclopedia... Specially not overtaking "Hilário"'s entry.

BTW, more info about Fado's Hilário can be found here, or here (links in Portuguese).

13.7.07

BBC to ponder DRM use

BBC is going to meet Open Source advocates that are telling them that they shouldn't use DRM.

Dead Combo at Santiago Alquimista

As I told you, I went to a Dead Combo concert at Santiago Alquimista. I went with Nuno Nunes, who reviewed it here.

Anti-OOXML Portuguese petition

The Anti-OOXML Portuguese petition is now closed and delivered, to be presented on Monday. It has 1277 valid signatures.

I'm somewhat time limited, so for now I'll just leave you with a big THANKS to all of you that have signed. Please consider repeating your act, and sign the international petition.

Portuguese Petition
International Petiton

12.7.07

Todays news

More developments are emerging, such as online video game design classes or workshops, that open up opportunities to build creative new games. If you know Portuguese, you might be interested in this workshop on video-games development. The final day when we'll know if Terra Firma is going to by EMI or not is today. While it's expected to be sold out, Warner is still on the run, even if it's just to make EMI shareholders not to sell to Terra Firma. Cory Doctorow has a long but interesting article about DRM, that explains in detail what's at stake on DRM issues, what are the real intentions and de behind-the-scenes moves that made DRM to be in our laws. Finaly, the upcoming Tenhi 3 CD's book is already available for pre-order, and with discount. IF you do not know Tenhi, listen to some of their tunes here: they're awsome.

I don't think I'll be able to blog more today, since I want to start working on cleaning bad signatures and formating the petition for delivery. Remember, if you still haven't signed this Petition (only for Portuguese citizens), you really should, and quick, since the petition will close in less than 24 hours.

11.7.07

Yup, you guessed it...

Yup, you guessed it... yet another links post:

10.7.07

Another day of links

Yup, I've been busy.

Links for today:

I'm posting this at so early today, since I don't think I'm going to get the time to write something bigger than this, so I'm telling you those two things happening today in Lisbon with enough time to attend to one of them... If you decide to go to the Dead Combo gig, feel free to come to me and say "hi".

9.7.07

Links for today

Links for today:

Note that today I didn't read any of my feeds, so maybe there's a war out there and I'm just giving you old news...

6.7.07

Portugal: digam não ao OOXML!

Ajuda Portugal a tomar uma boa decisão, diz não ao OOXML!


Queres ter um counter destes? Basta usares este pedaço de HTML no teu blog:

<iframe width='102' height='36' src='http://www.petitiononline.com/signatures.php?petition=OOXMLPT' frameborder='0' scrolling='no'></iframe>

5.7.07

Links for today

Here's a couple of links...

About OpenMoko, the free cellphone framework, did you know that OpenMoko is now a company? Also, their first phone, Neo 1973, is going to be released next July 9th! YAY!

Moving to music-related links, seems that Belgium ISP's have to block their users from downloading illegal stuff, since it seems that "P2P experts" told in court that that's feasable, which obviously isn't. I wonder when a counter-process will start, with ISP's there saying in court that it's just impossible to do what they want. In the business area, seems that EMI stockholders might not being interested on selling out to Terra Firma. Last but not least, Mako wrote a piece on DRM.

Finaly, on tech, ASUS is going to split into three different companies. These guys make the best motherboards and laptops I know of.

Planeta DebianPT

There's a new Debian Planet out there, this one for Portuguese folks: Planet DebianPT. This new planet simple aims to aggregate Portuguese folks that are in any way related with Debian. This blog is now being agregated there, and if you think that your blog should also be, just read this.

Unfortunately I don't blog about Debian as much as I wanted to (must get some more time for that...), but I have a couple of things that I want to talk about, so maybe I'll use this as an incentive ;-)

More about AllOfMP3

Keeping up with the AllOfMP3 saga...

A couple of days ago I wrote about AllOfMp3 finally shutting down, but leaving a spin-off behind. The Spin-off, Mp3Sparks, is now also shutted down, but there are still alternatives:

For those using Microsoft Windows, you can still use your AllOfMp3's accounts (and credit) to buy music on the new Russian service AllTunes. I wonder how long will it take to shut them also down. Also, take in account that you'll be able to use your balance from AllOfMP3 in this service, but not to add more money to it (and keep using it): you'll get a "Processing for this site disabled." message.

If you're looking to a an alternative simillar to AllOfMp3, I wrote about MP3 City here: a simmilar service, also legal, but in Ukraine, a country that, while working on their accession negotiations to became members of the WTO, had still no pressure from the RIAA to the WTO to that country to change their laws.

Debian Social Contract turns 10

One of the things that makes me so happy to be a Debian user (better, makes me happy with the fact that Debian exists) is the Debian Social Contract, that today turns 10 years old. So, why do I like it? What's Debian Social Contract? Well, it is a statement about Debian and what it aims. It's, er, a "promise" to society. It basicly says:
  • Debian is 100% free software, and will allways be. We'll have non-free software, but never depend on it, so it's painfully easy to have a 100% free OS using Debian;
  • Debian works with upstream. This basicly means that when Debian changes or fixes stuff, tries allways to help the programs it is modifying. Free Software is not about competing, is about collaboration;
  • Debian does not hide problems;
  • Debian's top priorities are Free Software and Users.
OK, it says a lot more than this, but these are the key points for me.

At this day I give a BIG Thanks to all the Debian community: thanks to you we're builiding the best Operating System ever.

3.7.07

Amie Street - happy birthday!

Amie StreetToday is the day we celebrate the 1st year of Amie Street. 21 days after its launch, I was already signed and addicted to their service. Amie Street is, at their own words, "a social network centered around the discovery of new music", but they are a lot more than that - as a matter of fact that's not a way I would describe them.

Amie Street is an online music store that sells DRM-free mp3's, each of them at a price that goes from 0 to 98 cents (or, in other words, from free to less expensive than with-DRM iTunes files). As I said last year, when I uploaded there my own music for sale,

So, what do these guys give of so new? As a matter of fact, their business is quite simple: artists give their music for free there, music is rated, the best rated songs move from free to costing money and getting more or less expensive depending on being more or less rated. To avoid bad ratings or people not caring about rating at all, they pay money for users that especulate well (telling that a band will start selling well and being right gives good money for the artist and for the raters).

So, where's the flaw? Well, people can simply not buy non-free music, so that since the moment a songs start costing money can be the moment that the song stops selling, until is free again. But comparing that to having the song forcefully free (like in those other services), well... I just guess that no artist has nothing to loose with this.

The only problem I see with this service until now it that it is way too buggy, and has a really small selection of music (yet). Considering that the site is still at it's "Alpha" state, I'm not really worried about it, tho.

In January I wondered if they would survive for long: I even posted some graphs back then, so here's another visits graph today:
Amie Street stats at Alexa


Does "one year" means that they've made it? Well, it means that they've made it through the first year - but nothing more. They're removed the "alpha beta" tag, for instance, but that doesn't really mean that their website is stable or perfect - it surely isn't. Also, they have to do some serious thinking about their business model, if they want to keep up with the latest trends. In the "selling DRM-free music business" they'll have Amazon entering the space, in the "giving money to small artists business" they'll have ad-supported free solutions to care about, like the long-awaited reverbnation feature. Well, let's wait and see, next year I hope we're both still be here to talk about it.

Techcrunch is giving free music to celebrate Amie Street's birthday.

Happy birthday!

License of this blog

Some months later I've finaly decided that, since I can't find any better license, this blog (and its contents) is from now on licensed on a CC license.


Creative Commons License


This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Portugal License.

Finaly, one item from my old TODO list scratched. I hope to scratch more of there in the following days.

AllOfMP3 - death and rebirth

Exactly one year ago, the British recording industry has been given permission to sue Russian music website allofmp3.com in the High Court, even if AllOfMP3 was a legal site in Russia. In October, USA decided that Russia had to change their laws and shut down AllOfMP3 in order to be a member of the World Trade Organization, in a economic terrorism move. People from AllOfMp3 fought back, yet in October, telling why their service was legal, and explaining that buying from them, even in USA, was legal, by both Russian and American laws. Of course that pressure kept going up, and Russia finaly setted a day for the law change. So, and while the site wasn't shutted down that day, since the 1st of June AllOfMp3 started being an illegal activity under the Russian law. While I covered it and pointed out a simmilar, but still legal, alternative (Ukranian), the best thing came only recently: the guys who had AllOfMp3 have just launched "a new service" (the same but with different prices and different name, even the user database is the same) called MP3 Sparks, that is basicly the same thing, but with a license from NP FAIR instead of ROMS. I'm still trying to contact them and know if this is the only difference, and, if so, why does this difference suffices to make them legal again, since no one seems to have that explained, but they state that they are legal. If I get more news on this I'll keep you updated.

2.7.07

Advantages of Open Source

Thinking retrospectively, I think I missed two things really important on my latest post, so this one is meant to fill the gap.

The good thing from the "bug hunt"

While I didn't like the bug hunt and even criticized it, there's a really good side on this, thanks to the Portuguese Ministry of Justice.
  • They're trying to make their best, or at least it seems so. They didn't just spit out some silly website (I was tempted to have links for "silly website", but we had enough examples from Portugal in the last few weeks, so they're really not needed) that only works on IE or something like that. Even this issue - the site works on Mozilla browsers (SeaMonkey and Firefox) but those browsers aren't able to see the security certificate as a valid one, and they're trying to fix that. While this could be qualified as "just doing their job", unfortunately this care isn't common, so they' deserve some kudos from that.

  • They're avoiding one slow bureocratic process of opening a public request, having people/companies wanting to do the job, choosing "the right one" and so on. Instead, they've seen an easier and better opportunity: since anyone can fiddle with the (open) code, they're just saying "Hey, there's this thing over here that would be really cool if someone did it. Why don't you have a try? If you make it we'll give you 1000 €!".

An advantage of Open Source

And the latest point leads me to another, perheaps the most important lesson to take out of this example: this is only possible because Mozilla's browsers are Open Source. See, since the code is open and freely available, anyone (at all!) is elegible to do the job - and that's great for every side: the Ministry of Justice can have their problem solved without having to contact some vendor and convince them that their piece of software does something that they don't like and have a virtually unlimited number of possible coders (if this was IE, for instance, do you think that anyone but Microsoft employees were to do the job?). Even Mozilla ends winning, because they don't have to do anything but reviewing a patch when the fix is done. Awsome, right?

It's scary the number of times I still get to hear stuff like "but are there any real companies betting/using Open Source software?"... It's not only a number that is rising, but finaly companies are starting to see the real power behind Open Source. Also, I remember talking with some Siemens' workers that said stuff like "yeah, we use Open Source stuff internally, but why do you think that they would let us contribute with bug fixes or enhancements? That would be giving our work to the other companies in the field!" What is missing here is that, even if you don't care a little bit about Open Source, there are lot's of advantages on contributing, and giving back. Let's get real - forking software is a pain in the ass. If you keep changing the original code and never merge stuff with the original branch, you'll end loosing endless hours of porting changes from the original branch into yourse, or, even worse, you'll stop looking into the original branch, which includes loosing lots of security or bug fixes, enhancements and new features. If you give back your changes, they're automaticly maintained - by the community. In other scenario, if you contribute fresh code (a new project, a new functionality, whatever) by releasing it in an Open Source model, you'll eventually get more users testing, helping, and enhancing your code. For free.

Well, this post is getting bigger than I wanted it to, so I'll shut up by now and have some sleep ;-)

Bug 245609 – Mozilla not getting certificate issuer from Authority Information Access CA Issuers

Some people alerted me on a "bug bounty" for Firefox (even if the issue is with Mozilla Core and not on Firefox): the Portuguese Ministry of Justice will pay a 1000 Euro reward for those who fix this "bug". What's the catch?

Well, first of all, this is not a bug. It is correctly tagged as a RESOLVED as INVALID enhancement, and it is. It could be, if anyone cares to do so, a VALID enhancement, simply by changing the context: something like "there's nothing that can happen wrong if we emulate the behaviour of the other browsers, and it would be better for users", explained, would suffice.

Now, the problem is that the message that announces the bounty says:

But somehow that doesnt seem enough to justify the problem.
First because it seems really stupid for Firefox not to
implement something that all other browsers implement and just
saying "lets wait till the standard is clear".
Second because its not a solution if you just say "reconfigure
the server and make sure that the intermediate certificate is
served". The other browsers dont need that.
Third because even if you install the certificates locally
in your browser, the problem continues. It seems to be
related to a possible problem with comparisons of fields
encoded in UTF-8 in one certificate and encoded in quoted
printable in others.

Well, if you're trying to convince those who maintain a piece of software that they should implement an enhancement, you shouldn't start by calling the actual behaviour as "really stupid", specially when that behaviour is RFC compliant, thus not a bug. Then, the problem, as described in the bug page, isnt that "the standard isn't clear": if you actually read the RFC's, you'll see that the https server has the obligation to send a complete certificate chain.

Now, IMHO the target should be "have the issue properly solved", so, since the issue is that, by RFC, the https server must do something that isn't doing nowadays, then having a "bug bounty" over Firefox isn't helping. If the target is to have Firefox with the same behaviour as the other browsers, then it would be nice to have a proper enhancement request submitted and aprooved, and only after that a "patch bounty" for an implementation of the solution. I could do some more work on this issue - heck, I could even go after that bounty. Presented the way it is, I'm just not interested: seems to me that the solution proposed is ignoring the fact that the target website is broken since it is not complying with the standards involved. Supporting a broken web by changing the behaviour of one web browser is plain blindness, specially because you can't garantee that (1) every browser acts the same way, and (2) in five years you have a major browser out there that implements everything well but still does not support broken cert chains.


Useful links:
http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2246.txt;
http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2459.txt;
http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc3280.txt;
http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc4346.txt;
http://tools.ietf.org/id/draft-ietf-tls-ssl-version3-00;
http://www.ietf.org/html.charters/tls-charter.html.


From RFC 4346:

certificate_list
This is a sequence (chain) of X.509v3 certificates. The sender's
certificate must come first in the list. Each following
certificate must directly certify the one preceding it. Because
certificate validation requires that root keys be distributed
independently, the self-signed certificate that specifies the root
certificate authority may optionally be omitted from the chain,
under the assumption that the remote end must already possess it
in order to validate it in any case.