Category Archives: Findings on the web

Television license as tax?

A discussion popped up this morning on one of the major Danish newspaper’ website (in Danish): Should the television license paid in Denmark be a part of the tax, instead of as it is now, paid separately? The idea was aired jointly by the culture spokespersons of both the largest government party, Venstre, as well as the largest opposition party, Socialdemokraterne, in a rare display of complete agreement on a previously controversial subject by the two parties.

However, it quickly turned out it wasn’t actually an agreement. The political leadership of Venstre quickly issued a statement that the views of the culture spokesperson were not the official views of the party, and that the idea had not been discussed in the party leadership. Bummer. At least the idea got some airtime, and hopefully started some discussions.

The television license in Denmark is in fact known as the media license, since it no longer covers just television and radio, but also computers capable of playing online media content, or mobile phones with such capabilities. It is estimated that 99% or more of all Danish households should pay the license fee, yet only around 93% do. The fee is currently set at 2190 kr/year, and is in effect a regressive tax, in that practically everyone is liable to pay it, but for a low-income individual the percentage of income paid is higher than for high-income individuals – for a student on government allowance, the license fee sums up to 3.6% of his or her income.

I’m fully in favour of changing the current system, and I’m sure most of the population are as well. The main beneficiary of the license fee however, Danmarks Radio, is not. One reason may be that all the current license fee collectors would be made redundant, which is of course a concern. More likely is it that they fear too much government involvement, should their money have to come from the taxes rather than from direct collection. While I sympathise with such fears, the system works for many other organisations without evidence of government involvement, and the board of Danmarks Radio are politically appointed, 2/3 by the parliament and 1/3 by the minister of culture.

In all, I hope this brave outspokenness of the culture spokespersons pays off, and that we get a renewed debate in this country about the social imbalance of the current system. Or, if not in this country, then on this blog. 😉

Memopal: Avoid!

The recent post I made about Mozy received a few comments, concerned with a piece of software called Memopal. Akismet identified one of them as spam, but the other one got through. Looked pretty much like a regular comment:

I’ve read on Wikipedia about remote backup and I tried some services, but the only one I bought is Memopal.

Memopal offers a search engine online that helps me find archived documents in few seconds. Some Competitors have a search engine too but it’s very slow and usually it is not online.
Memopal is online storage, online backup and file sharing services into one product.

Memopal saves all versions of my documents. Moreover I have two computers, desktop ad laptop, and I can install Memopal on both buying only one license. It’s great!

But googling it, it’s completely identical to something posted elsewhere, namely here, at the end of last week.

The other comment was more of the same, and had been posted in a bunch of different places by a character name of “michelle79”.

Memopal: Don’t post spam comments. It’s really bad publicity, and makes you seem like scammers and cheats. I certainly wouldn’t want to buy any license from you, if that’s the sort of marketing strategies you employ.

Mozy: Privacy an illusion?

One of my friends, Søren, posted a post yesterday about the backup-system Mozy, that he had been using for his mac. Apparently, the software is just great, but this isn’t what concerns him.

Looking at the Mozy privacy statement, they have the regular reassuring bit:

We will not sell or market the email addresses or other collected personal information of registered Users to third parties.

We will not view the files that you backup using the Service.

We may view your file system information (file extensions, sizes etc. but not your file contents) to provide technical support.

That’s all fine. The part that worries Søren is this:

Mozy, Inc. may disclose Personal Data, including the data you back up with the Service, with or without notice (a) if required by a subpoena or other judicial or administrative order, (b) where required by law, or (c) at our sole discretion, where we deem it necessary to protect the safety of any individual or the general public or to prevent violation of our User Agreement or the rights of Mozy, Inc. or any third party.

Points (a) and (b) are obvious. Mozy’s privacy statement would of course have no effect over the requirements of the law – while it may still worry people outside the US, it’s not really something that can be a surprise to anyone. The strange bit comes at (c). Mozy may disregard the privacy closes at their sole discretion. Basically, they’ve written up these nice privacy statements, but may choose to ignore them if they so wish.

Come on now – you can’t be serious? Apparently, according to someone who seems to be an employee, they are. The post doesn’t mention the last of the three clauses, though, but merely the cases of administrative order – which neither Søren nor I are trying to contest. Since when have Mozy become the protectors of the public, though?

Søren wrote a reply post, which I think you should read. I will be keeping an eye on this case, as I think it’s quite interesting to see if Mozy can come up with any explanation for wanting to give themselves the power to start protecting the public from their users.

Update: Søren also posted a comparison of various privacy policies. Good read as well.

An update, slightly delayed

Now, some time ago I expected I’d be updating my blog every 10 days with news about my moving plans, which would make for a good few posts – but I wasn’t home when the time came to post with 30 days left, and I didn’t really have anything to write.

I called up the landlord on Tuesday, and inquired as to whether I could move in on June 27 instead of on July 1, which I was might be possible, though entirely dependent on whether the builders were done yet. If they were, it’d be no problem, though I’d naturally have to pay the few days extra rent. I’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

Furniture shopping is at a standstill, since I seem to have figured out the style of furniture I’d like, but I’m not sure whether I’ll have the room for it nor money to buy it. I know for sure that I’ll need a bed, but everything else is a bit more optional, ranging from simple things like “a nice lamp” through “a table and chairs” to “a complete Wegner lounge”. I don’t really think I can realistically buy any of it before I move.

The first exam of the year is on Tuesday, and is in “Technical Project Management” – that is, management of technical projects, and not the technical aspects of managing projects. We’ve been using a book called Applied Software Project Management, which is decent, but as one of the other students in the course pointed out, it isn’t really up to date with agile methods, and the level of some of the advice given approaches the trivial, for example by spending most of a chapter introducing Subversion.

Procrastination has set in, and I’ve resorted to reading food blogs. Some time ago, I was trying to find a recipe for Heston Blumenthal’s oxtail stew, and instead stumbled upon someone who’d actually tried to cook it. Intrigued by the writing style, and the whole subject of a food blog, I’ve spent a couple of hours reading Becks & Posh, as well as a bit of time at Hedonia, especially having fun with the Eatsdropper posts. Recommended.

Danish Embassy bombing

I weren’t going to write about this, and I apologize in advance for being a bit ranty. We probably all know what’s happened, and even though I have the deepest sympathies for the people hurt or killed, it could’ve been a lot worse.

But then a quote popped up in a Danish newspaper article, from The Post in Pakistan. I found the exact quote on their webpage:

While the radical elements in the Muslims world should use the language of logic instead of resorting to terrorism, the West must also understand that the freedom of expression is not a licence to hurt the sentiments of millions of people.

And just for the benefit of the people at The Post: Yes it is. Freedom of speech and expression is exactly that – a freedom. Posting something that’s forbidden by someone else’s religion surely cannot be reason enough to restrict this freedom, and while I understand and support the ideas of boycotts, protests and flag-burning, please stop trying to pressure our government into apologizing for something the country’s citizens do which is completely legal. They have no legal way to do that. If you want an apology, ask the people who’ve offended you. And don’t expect to get it.

Khaleej Times also posted an editorial, that takes a slightly differing view – they still put all the blame on “Denmark”, instead of where it rightly belongs, with Jyllands-Posten – but they also have the following bit:

Most unfortunate and unacceptable as this attack is, we can’t help notice the fact that none of those killed was a Denmark national or European. […] This doesn’t mean if the victims included Danish or European citizens, the attack would be somehow justified. The point is such attacks always end up targeting innocent people — the people who have nothing to do with those the terrorists seek to punish and target.

Quite a clever observation, though not one I think the terrorists care much about. No matter what they write, though, their tone still seems to indicate that had only Danish people been killed, their outlook would have been a lot more positive. Scary.

To round it all off, sorry for the above post. I hadn’t planned on making it, but those few quotes got me going for a while. I’m not surprised at the attack, and I don’t think it’s the last one we’ll see. It’s expected, possibly even deserved, looking at what the Danish media have done to Islam. But that’s the price of freedom.

Climate care gone mad!

A Danish newspaper published a piece (in Danish) on their webpage today, detailing how the local council in the Danish capital city, Copenhagen, want to limit the amount of “green time” at intersections leading into the city, on days when there’s a lot of smog. The stated intent is to reduce particle and CO2 pollution, simply by measuring their air pollution and turning the lights red for longer when it reaches a certain limit.

Of course, the person in political charge of the project put a lot of emphasis on the supposed CO2 benefit, making it completely apparent that he hasn’t grasped thing one about CO2 emissions. Driving 10 miles with no traffic jam lets out far less CO2 than driving 10 miles with half an hour of queuing in the middle. People could turn off their engines, sure, but they’re not going to – the queue is likely to be moving ever so slightly once a minute, so turning off the engine would be a waste.

Sure, the particle situation in the inner city might improve. A little. But it’d get a lot worse for the people who’ve chosen to live out of town to get better air, and unless people’s habits change, and they start using public transport – yeah right – it’ll worsen the effect of the cars on the environment, not make anything better.

If you really want to make people use public transportation, improve that, and make it more reliable, instead of just trying to make the potential users’ lives miserable. If public transportation isn’t worth switching to from your car – then that’s because it simply isn’t good enough!

New upper boundary for Rubik’s Cube

A colleague told me about a news post I should read, detailing that a new upper boundary for solving the Rubik’s Cube has been found – now 25 moves, instead of 26. While this in itself is interesting, the way it’s described in the news post is even more interesting:

He’s shown that there are no configurations that can be solved in 26 moves, thereby lowering the limit to 25.

What the poster probably meant to write was that there’s no configuration that requires 26 moves, and not that solving the Rubik’s Cube is never possible in 26 moves 😉

None the less, this is great news – with luck, we may soon be able to play with our Rubik’s Cubes in a way we know is truly optimal!

Telia / Cogent routing dispute

My current internet connection is with a local company delivering internet connectivity to the student housing around here. They get their traffic routed through Telia, which has worked rather well for a while. But a few days ago, a couple of sites stopped working from here, though they still worked using the internet connection in my office at work.

Today, someone I know working at Telia solved the problem for me: Telia and Cogent have stopped exchanging traffic, due to a payment dispute. This is ridiculous.

I’m not sure who’s right or who’s wrong in the dispute, but it must be bad for business for both parties – far worse than the amount of money they would stand to gain from getting paid for peering traffic, or to lose by paying up.

I hope they get it solved soon.

Modelling where I live

I wasted a bunch of time on this, stupidly. I should’ve been writing some stuff I have to hand in on the 2nd, for a class on peer to peer networking, but instead, I modelled where I live in Google Sketchup. Screens of the results are below. It’s not only possible to model the flat I live in, but converting it to show a whole floor or building, and even showing this inside Google Earth is very easy to do. I like it a lot, I shall have to do more of this.

Pictures are clickable, for bigger versions of same. Please link to the article and not to the pictures.

The flat I live in, from the top down
The flat I live in, from the top down

Same, different angle
Same, different angle

This is how the apartments fit together
This is how the apartments fit together

The building, in Google Sketchup, with Google Earth terrain
The building, in Google Sketchup, with Google Earth terrain

My home in Google Earth
My home in Google Earth

Christmas is here again …

Argh. So, it’s December 1st, and time for a couple of random holiday links, that might cheer people up to get a bit less depressed.

First of all, Richard’s site has a really great advent calendar, of random fun and games. He posts fun stuff as well in his diary, and the all famous TCMI – Tacky Christmas Music Interface. This year, there’s even a bookmarklet of it, whatever that is. I’m sure it’s smart.

Second, a game I played a bit last year, with some nice music and catchy gameplay. It’s simply called Winterbells, and the goal is to jump up through all these little bells and score points. Simple. Catchy. And when you get good at it, very time-consuming. Want to beat my high-score? Just get to 559,146,770 points.

I’m sure I’ll be back a couple more times through December with random tidbits from the Christmassy part of the net.