2007-08-19 22:30:34

Music industry offers unuseable audio streams to critics

As their latest change in policy, the music industry now only offers low quality audio streams instead of music CDs to critics of the print and movie media corporations.

For quite a while now, the music industry has been accusing the critics of passing on the CDs they have been given. Up to this point, they have not been able to substantiate this claim. Just like with all the other accusations made so far, however, the music industry jumped to conclusions and decided to only pass low quality (32 kbps) audio streams to the media in the future.

However, as the swiss german news paper Der Bund complains, 32kbps are such a horribly bad quality that it doesn't allow the critic to decide if the music is worth listening or not. Thus, Der Bund sees this as another step of the music industry on the road to insignificance.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: chaos, news

2007-08-08 21:36:09

Google now with keyboard navigation

Google is working on a new interface which allows people to navigate their search results with keyboard shortcuts (besides looking all 3Dy and web2.0y). I must admit that this is the best usability enhancement of web applications for long.

One especially interesting aspect is that Google chose vi commands to navigate the search results. Maybe they still have employees that remember the Internet before the Web?

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: general, news

2007-08-01 16:10:38

MacOS X: UNIX, not BSD

The OpenGroup has registered Apple's MacOS X as an entity entitled to bear the UNIX trademark. This is of course a big step for MacOS X, which is now officially an UNIX operating system.

At the same time, however, this invalidates the claim that MacOS X is a BSD operating system. This claim, voiced loudly by MacOS X users confronted with BSD operating system users, has always been technically wrong, since MacOS X is not derived from or compatible to BSD operating systems. Nor are its drivers in any way. Normally, BSD drivers can be made to work on all BSD operating systems using only a small amount of #ifdef work.

MacOS X is a reimplementation of a kernel and userland which provides, amongst other things, a BSD compatible API to userland programs. It also ships with some tools that also exist under BSD. This, however, doesn't make it a BSD operating system.

The new legal argument also speaks against MacOS X being a BSD operating system: for historical reasons, the BSD operating systems cannot obtain the UNIX trademark, even though they all pass the UNIX certification requirements. The amicable arrangement in 1993 in the case of AT&T versus the University of California, Berkeley, clearly states this. Thus, legally, a BSD operating system can never be an UNIX operating system. Thus, if MacOS X is UNIX, it cannot be BSD.

Thanks a lot to Apple for making this clear.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, standards

2007-07-30 20:00:23

UDC wants a safer Switzerland

Today, I received an information sheet from the UDC party, which asks me to sing something for a safer Switzerland. Opening the document and looking at its inside, it becomes clear what one is supposed to sign: it's a petition for an initiative aiming at provisions that allow the police to expel foreigners that «committed crimes».

Being a legal analyst, let's have a quick look at the paper.

The first part talks about modifications to the constitution(!), and demands Art. 121 to be ammended with 4 new alineae:

3 Ils (les étrangers) sont privés de leur titre de séjour, indépendamment de leur statut, et de tous leur droits à séjourner en Suisse:

a. s'ils ont été condamnés par un jugement entré en force pour meutre, viol, ou tout autre délit sexuel grave, pour un acte de violence d'une autre nature tel que le brigandage, la traite d'êtres humains, le trafic de drogue ou l'effraction; ou

b. s'ils ont perçu abusivement des prestations des assurances sociales ou de l'aide sociale.

However, alinea 2 already clearly states that foreigners who pose a threat to the security of the state can be expelled. This undoubtedly also includes murder, rape and slave trade.

Also, it is a pretty good question why burglary is actually part of this list. As we will see later, the provisions imposed by this paragraph are 5 to 15 years of being banned from entering Switzerland. This would appear to be quite a hard punishment for burglary.

Also, the «permis de séjour» doesn't entitle people to take advantage of any social support, so this section is mostly nonsense.

Another problem with these formulations is that «any other severe sexual delict» is also subject to these provisions. There is no concise definition of a «severe sexual delict». For example, pedophilia is widely abused nowadays as an accusation, while it is not outlined in this paragraph whether or not it would be subject to the paragraph.

4 Le législateur précise les faits constitutifs des infractions visées à l'al. 3. Il peut les compléter par d'autres faits constitutifs.

This makes the legislation even more blurred. In fact, this ammended article would be an universal tool to expell foreigners, as a constitutional right of the authorities of the country. It appears somewhat unfitting to implement such legislation in the constitution.

5 Les étrangers qui, en vertu des al. 3 et 4, sont privés de leur titre de séjour et de tous leur droits à séjourner en Suisse dovient être expulsés du pays par les autorités compétentes et frappés d'une interdiction d'entrer sur le territoire allant de 5 à 15 ans. En cas de récidive, l'interdiction d'entrer sur le territoire sera fixée à 20 ans.

This constitutes basically a specialized version of alinea 2. However, the formulation doesn't give a judge any choice in the case of e.g. a burglar to decide on a reduced punishment of, say, 6 months of being expelled, or not being expelled at all. In cases where the foreigner really constitutes a threat to the security of the state, Alinea 2 is effective anyway.

6 Les étrangers qui contreviennent à l'interdiction d'entrer sur le territoire ou qui y entrent illégalement de quelque manière que ce soit sont punissables. Le législateur édicte les dispositions correspondantes.

This goes straight against the sans-papiers discussion. It appears wrong to prevent any solution to this problem before the discussion has come to a public conclusion. Also, the current situation with the sans-papiers is actually caused by the fact that the provisions that this proposal tries to establish already exist.

It appears that one of the main purposes of this documents is to establish more strict punishments for sans-papiers, and that the fear of the people from the «evil raping and murdering horde of foreigners» is being exploited to reach this aim. Also, the proposal isn't very clear on how to trigger these legal provisions, so it appears that, while it claims to make Switzerland a safer place, it actually reduces legal security for foreigners. Thus, it actually achieve the opposite of what it was originally meant to do.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, politics

2007-07-27 22:03:53

United Nations Development Program on ODF and OOXML

The UNDP Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme has released a technical whitepaper on the distinctions between ODF and OOXML.

In this paper, the UNDP joins the Japanese argumentation, stating that OOXML is highly suboptimal as a standard. Starting from page 27 of the PDF, the document analyzes the errors and contradictions in the specification very thoroughly. It also mentions the external contradictions, i.e. those with existing ISO standards. Finally, it complains about the references to closed, patented or proprietary formats which are found a lot in the OOXML specification.

The most important part to note about this document is that it is not politically inspired, but focuses on the facts, i.e. the strict technical constraints. This view isn't frequently taken on the pro-OOXML side, and clarifies that from a purely technical point of view, this standard is not admissible, from the point of view of an international organization.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: standards