The Internet is a Cellphone

The last post I wrote was a lament that the internet-as-a-cellphone wasn’t being fully explored from a technological standpoint.

Today we have the opposite problem: The internet-as-a-cellphone is being legislated as a cultural standpoint. Specifically, Domain Seizure has become the tool of choice to shut down “infringing content”. What is this content? Movies, games, pirated apps, etc.

How did we get here?

The old mode of piracy required a fair bit of infrastructure. A person would typically mail some money though the snailmail and they would typically get a stack of CDs or floppies in return with cracked apps and games on them. Things plunked along this way for a good while as the popularity of usenet declined due to AOL and eventually things went viral to the point where IRC was the mode of distribution. The IRC bots evolved to the point where if the bot didn’t have the software you were interested in, groups had agreed to cross referencing to other bots. The decline of USENET and the rise of IRC corresponded roughly from RadioShack and Circuit City not selling software or parts anymore to advertising software being pre-loaded on the pirated applications.

The movies thing I don’t think anyone saw coming. VHS piracy was as simple as going to blockbuster and renting whatever you wanted for $1 and then going home and wiring up the VCRs. As media moved into the digital realm, it meandered back to mail order DVDs (or the guy on the street corner selling questionable copies in strange languages), CD-Video (popular in asia, never here), MPEG copies on IRC, and the unfortunately named DivX video codec. DIVX players attempted to stem the tide with their dial-up DVD service but I would guess most of them ended up cracked.

Let me digress for a second and point out we forget who or what came before. The chinese looking to circumvent the firewall could learn oodles from the old US piracy market. How many books fit on a DVD? Actual text, I’m talking about, not ebooks. How many cameras come with an SD card now? Who checks all these things versus how much electronic stuff moves in and out of china? The great firewall doesn’t currently censor email as I recall, what about a wget service or a newsnet service with UUENCODED files? This is how the US used to do it and people wrote special mail handlers to reassemble these files, it would work in china. Its how it used to work. I had a DXR2. I bought it after my alpha died with which I used to rip DVDs. Nostalgia.

Somewhere along the way someone figured out the space requirements even for compressed, pirated materials (movies, games) was somewhere around 4GB.  Things plodded along at the 4GB limit for a bit and the movie industry responded by packing “HD Content” into 9GB DVDs with double layers, and finally the whole weird push to blu-ray and HD-DVD came around and blu-ray won because Sony’s pockets are deep enough to pay for a loss leader like that.

Suddenly, things came full circle. TV stalled. Gimmicks for TVs haven’t impressed consumers much because who cares about 3D content if it’s not on demand. Movies suffer the same problem. The issue is the world simply got busier. No-one has a two hour chunk of time to go to the theatre anymore. We don’t even have time to take books off the shelf. Why should we? We read books on our laptops, then the laptop became a tablet, than the table became an ebook reader, then the ebook reader stopped existing and became software on a cellphone. We scaled up the cellphone screen to a tablet again, but these new tablets had enough bandwidth and CPU to do something interesting – they could surf the web, and they could watch video. How big is the new HD AVATAR? 1.2GB. How big is the new HD INCEPTION? 1.4GB. This for full, 1080p content. Samsung said as much with it’s cellphones with the screen, but more importantly the line-out to your actual TV.

This is the other side of the convergence that the new internet is a cellphone.

Now we look at Megaupload and GMAIL and such and 8GB is the norm. 8GB used to be just under what it took to store a DVD. Now 8GB is just enough to store 7 full movies. What’s important is that it’s the norm. It’s an artefact from a time when things were bigger and they could be bigger because we weren’t trying to consume content down small pipes. The movie companies know this but how could they legislate how much storage a particular user has? YouTube doesn’t even care. GMAIL? Why should they make it smaller? MegaUpload? 200MB, but how hard is it to keep a list of 5 URLs to unpack a RAR of a movie? Therein lies the problem. This is basically a bandwidth problem versus a content control problem. Since they (the MPAA/RIAA) can’t control the bandwidth they’ll try to control the content. What’s the best way to do that? Take away their cellphone. One man’s ZIP is another man’s video-codec, what’s the difference between cat and zcat? Compression, but they work the same way. The MPAA/RIAA already subscribes to this new model where the internet is a cellphone, and so everyone crying FREE SPEECH over the whole seizure of URLs doesn’t get it.Taking away a sites URL is like taking away their cellphone. It doesn’t impinge on their free speech, it just takes away the radio tower. Get another cellphone, learn the IPs. Your OS has a hosts file for a reason. It’s no biggie.

Just for reference: I do believe the megaupload files were seized improperly. I think everyone who was using it as a legitimate document repository should sue. I just don’t think the URL seizure is illegal nor amoral and reveals a profound misunderstanding of how the internet works.

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Is it an ereader? Is it an ipad? Also: 3D Movies

There’s a few trends I think are interesting at the moment.

IPad – people are starting to realize that the apple app store is isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think it’s directly due to the influence of the droid, which lets you run unsigned code. If I were apple I would do a full court press on the fact that (up until release 2 anyway) the droid was crashy, slow, and wouldn’t run applications equally. They’ve gotten their crap together, but the early adopters paid the price. The early adopters always pay the price, and this is especially true of apple, which is why I’m surprised they haven’t thought long and hard about throwing that stone. “Hey look, apple has it’s shit together, droids the new guy just trying to be apple. If you got burned by your early adoption experience, why do it again?” I’m guessing it’s because apple assumes the ipad/iphone is entrenched via contract, but lock in only helps you in the beginning when you’re looking to protect your head start. Once there’s competition, especially competition which prides itself on being open, lock in becomes a trap. On Star is a good example of this – because the lock in is complete on both sides of the fence, no-one has challenged On Star despite ODBC and cellphones being ubiquitous. OS X is built on open standards and trying to lock it down is why the jailbreak bit is so high profile.

Amazon Kindle versus the Nook – Both of these are dead out of the gate. The pricepoint is high enough that anyone interested in it realized they could buy a low end iphone/ipad (see above) and get the app from the apple store. Those of us with droids or whatever already rip books to PDF. They industry won’t cop to it but they basically tried to legitimize piracy of printed materials the way the MPAA legitimized MP3s but they tried to do it without the lawsuits. With little deterrent effect and high price of entry, the ebook is a nonstarter. Add to the fact that PDFs can be shared as many times as you want and are basically free and the next pricepoint becomes the used book on half.com. Trying to take away the used book via lock in when the old method was to take away the used book via “updated material” (see most college courses) and there’s no reason at all to buy one of these. This is why the kno boggles my mind. Not only is it trying to compete in a struggling market with a poorly thought out economic drive but it’s neither a computer nor an ipod while being as expensive as either one.

Speaking of Piracy – the 3D thing boggled my mind as to it’s popularity up until one recent idea – AVATAR was done in 3D and James Cameron, despite being a thieving bastard, isn’t stupid. He steals tried and true scifi ideas, because he wants a sure fire way to make money. Why take the risk on 3D when it means making the most expensive movie ever? Maybe someone else was footing the bill. Someone else like the MPAA. You see, it’s a lot cheaper to help pay for 3D filming versus a giant legal team of dubious effacy. Not only that but lawsuits are pure deterrent, and people don’t like being threatened. The idea here is to replace the paddle with a carrot on a stick. Instead of saying “videotape our movie and we’ll track you down and sue you”, they said “look at this gee wiz new technology”. What they left out was that a videocamera cannot film a 3D movie.

Creepiest Unexplained Broadcasts

Just because I’ve got two seconds, I checked cracked. I love their 5 Creepiest Unexplained Broadcasts.

I know for a fact the MAX HEADROOM one was a guy who bought TV equipment at a yard sale. The transmitter itself was on top of the Sears Tower, so it’s not like the cracked.com version where he “parks next to a transmitter”. However what he did was interrupt the UHF feed signal from the newsroom or elsewhere with his own, much stronger UHF signal. The first broadcast was cut short when an engineer co-ordinated a signal modulation change (a long way of saying “spun the radio dial”). The audio was boned up because it was likely on the wrong channel or due to some kind of tuning problem.

This type of hijacking was also used to deliver the galactic message of peace to England.

And of course, the one we all know and love, the one that spawned the movie HACKERS and kicked off the COOKOO’S EGG: Captain Midnight.

But we’re not done!

The coup de grace comes from inside the industry itself. DirecTV always had a problem with the push-model, and the cards for cracking the system wide open used to be available on ebay for a song. (Well, compared to two years of service anyway). Their fantastic GAME OVER kill made headlines even before the MSM knew what an unlooper was. If anyone is wondering who or how a giant coporation with assets in space gets cracked, Wired did a story with the guy who did it and the company behind it. Total damages awarded to DirecTV? $1500.

I love internet lore.

Bushing Finds Way to Run Nonauthorized Discs on Wii

Community responds with pile of spam.

In case you didn’t know, he probably attacked the bootloader, but without the Magic Number to know the jump into memory for booting from the discs, it’s well above and beyond the casual person to do. However, my guess is that people like Pro Action Replay who had their discs shut out by Nintendo will come up with something in short order.

Read more at Bushing’s Blog.