Archive for July, 2011

R18+ Games – I told you so

R18+ Games – I told you so

A little over eighteen months ago I predicted that an R18+ rating for video games would be introduced.  Well, now it’s happened, at least in principle.  For the reasons I covered in my prediction, an R18+ scheme is a necessary prerequisite to having a (comparatively) broad based Internet censorship regime.


Copyright Policy Fail

Copyright Policy Fail

[current at July 11]:


Price of Microsoft Windows 7 Premium (not upgrade version): $289.

Price of entry level PC, including an 18.5″ monitor with a copy of Microsoft Windows 7 Premium pre-loaded: $399


Restoring UC Berkeley Podcasts – Help wanted

At the start of July a repository of university podcasts from UC Berkeley disappeared from the Internet.  This was the best repository of lectures I was able to find anywhere on the Internet.  Some have been lost forever, some have gone to iTunes (= may as well be lost forever) and some to Youtube.   Since iTunes discriminates against Android users I’ve started a repository item called UCBerkeleyLectures on and am beginning to upload the audio that I have there.  At the moment there is only one course uploaded (because of trouble parsing metadata), but I have audio from a couple of dozen.

If you have audio from other courses and would like to help please let me know.

LulzSec Grammar Fail

LulzSec Grammar Fail

“Media moguls body discovered” [sic]

LulzSec and Anonymous seem to have gone nuts.  Do they predate the Wikileaks episode last year?  Were they created by it?  Anyone know?

Hmmm… wikipedia says LulzSec formed in June 2011.  And of Anonymous it says  2003 via 4Chan, achieving notoriety in 2008.  However, based on the Wikipedia article the number of Anonymous attacks has increased sharply in 2011.

Anyway, the reason I ask is that I think this seems to be a backlash against corporatism, and seems to have been triggered by the US Government’s reaction to wikileaks in late 2010.  Discuss.

Three Strikes LobbyNomics in NZ

Three Strikes LobbyNomics in NZ

ZeroPaid is reporting that the NZ three strikes law was the result of the US pressure.  There was a time when NZ was able to stand up to the US.  Now everyone is spineless.

Apparently there’s no such thing as CC BY-NC-ND

Apparently there’s no such thing as CC BY-NC-ND.  Following the link indicates that without a version number, there is no licence…(?)

In a Primitive Galaxy Far Far Away (Part 2)

In a Primitive Galaxy Far Far Away (Part 2)

How is it that the Trade Federation is able to send messages across hyperspace instantaneously but rather than inventing some form of ad hoc radio comms system they program their battle droids to communicate by speaking English (!!)  Seems pretty inefficient to me.  Thus, at the Battle of Rishi Moon, the only reason CC-7567 is able to gain entry to the base is because he can say “Roger Roger” while swinging around the head of a commando droid.  Surely the droids would be aware that one of their number had been lost from the mesh?

While I’m at it, why would you build a command station for a battle droid army in a way which had no redundancy (Episode I)?  I can’t imagine any modern army (public or private) having such a single point of failure.

For corporate hot shots the Trade Federation strike me as being a bit short on the basics.  Perhaps they were duped by the Sith?

Loss of the UC Berkeley Podcasts – updated (x2)

Loss of the UC Berkeley Podcasts – update (Wayback link now works)

Update: am starting a repository on archive org to try to recover any audio that’s out there.  Share and receive!

The University of California at Berkeley had, so far as I could determine, the best repository of online lectures and lecture series in the world.  Its repository spanned many many years, had podcasts for hundreds of (UCB) courses and literally thousands of individual lectures.  What set the UCB podcasts apart was that they were really truly podcasts of lectures.  Not the useless baloney that you typically get from University podcasts – ie from 3-15 minutes of some teaser.  They were fantastic – were being the operative word because now they’re gone.

This happened on 1 July (and I quote):

Thank you for your interest in webcast.berkeley. Please note that we launched a new site on June 30, 2011. As part of the launch, much of our back catalog of courses that we were unable to migrate out of a proprietary format which we no longer support are now unavailable. More information on the new site is available in our announcement:,2949

The new site links to Youtube (or, <shudder>, iTunes) to get a download.  The main criteria that they seem to have applied is that the recording be a video.   I’d be very grateful if this was not the case (anyone know any differently?), but apparently all the mp3 only material has simply disappeared into the ether. What a senseless waste.  Why not just put them up somewhere, unsupported and let people download them (like they did pre-30 June 2011)?

Update 3 July: I have received an email from their support people to say that some audio is available through iTunes – which is great for you people who don’t run Linux.  Alas for me, though, as I can’t get to them (so also can’t verify whether it is true or false).  Also, of course, if you’ve an Android phone – currently the most popular selling smartphone operating system – you can’t get the iTunes versions either.  Can you let them know that an iTunes only solution is a problem – webcast (at) media (dot) berkeley (dot) edu.  I am going to see if I can set something up on

The move means that file sizes, instead of being on the order of 20 Mb for an hour of podcast are now like 120-200 MB (!!) because of the inclusion of video.  Thus, a course of say 25 lectures which previously took up maybe 500MB (so you could fit many lecture series onto a portable device), now a single course will blow 3-5GB.   Mobile devices? Ahem…

The good news is that the Wayback Machine apparently has at least some of the material for the desperate. How long they will be available there is an open question.  The bad news is that UCB seem first to be on hiatus from further podcasting, and second to be now only doing video going forward, so future courses will still be prohibitively large.  If they were to offer an audio-only stream this would ease the pain somewhat.

The other mildly good news is that they’ve apparently received something of an outcry, so perhaps common sense will prevail.

I would like to note here that, having had to jettison its old podcasts because they were “unable to migrate out of a proprietary format” they have chosen mp4 as the target format (eh?!)

CeBIT Gov 2.0 Conf: Open Source Wrongness

CeBIT Gov 2.0 Conf: Open Source Wrongness

I was contacted earlier today by “Stephen from CeBIT”.  Stephen ultimately was asking whether I would like to pay CeBIT for the privilege of presenting on open source related issues at an upcoming Gov 2.0 conference.  Stephen’s line was that there would be many potential customers at the conference so it would be a good investment.  In effect, Stephen was asking to be paid for marketing to Government.

Selling to Government, at least in Australia, is universally acknowledged to be difficult for SMEs.  Ultimately the reasons for this are that the Executive is particularly averse to failure and are subject to fairness tests in the award of contracts.  As a result, the Executive establishes a bureaucracy to ensure that each potential supplier is treated the same, and any engagement is subject to particularly extensive terms and conditions.  All of this carries with it a cost of engaging with Government.   In other words, marketing to Government is particularly expensive.

This is a particular problem for businesses based on open source because it means that the costs are heavily front loaded.  Part of the reason businesses pursue an open source strategy is that they do not have a marketing budget sufficient to kick start their operation – they may barely have enough in order to develop the code.  Several years ago John Roberts then CEO of SugarCRM spoke about marketing leverage of closed source vs open source businesses:

“I started looking at the financials of proprietary firms, and I started seeing that, some of the largest CRM providers that spent 80% of their operational expenditure on sales and marketing, and less than 10% on engineering.”

In other words, for an open source project to compete in a marketing sense, they would typically need to increase their headcount by a factor of 10.  Note that none of these extra people are improving the value of the software or solution to the Government customer.  All of them are engaged in lobbying the Government customer to adopt the product.

It gets worse – the expectation of Government is that these marketing costs are front loaded, and that they be recovered through licensing fees.  As mentioned above these costs are extraordinarily high in a relative sense for open source SMEs.  The corresponding risk of bidding for work is therefore very high – and higher the smaller the SME.  The fees for the provision of services are seen to be largely undifferentiated – an hour of service on product X is seen as being roughly the same value as an hour of service for product.  However product X is seen to be not comparable to product Y almost by definition (as their feature sets are different and/or the products may have network effects through lock in).  The upshot is that no premium can be charged for the price of services, but a premium can be charged for the grant of a licence. Thus the only way to recover these costs is through the licence fee.  You can see why this would be a problem for open source businesses.

It is somewhat pointless pursuing Government engagement with open source on these terms because genuine open source bids will always be underrepresented.   The Gov 2.0 conference looks to be an exemplar of this problem in microcosm.

Government instead, needs to be proactive in seeking out and evaluating open source solutions and, in particular, being technology neutral in its acquisition terms.  The Gov 2.0 projects seem to be not a bad model – with funding provided against open proposals with a comparatively low engagement cost.  Standardising on  closed data formats is particularly unhelpful, regardless of whether the format is an ISO standard.  If necessary, Government needs to reengineer its procurement practices as necessary to address any procedural fairness  issues.

Blog Stats

  • 273,967 hits

OSWALD Newsletter

If you would like to receive OSWALD, a weekly open source news digest please send an email to oswald (with the subject "subscribe") at