Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Audio Apartheid Extended to Botswana

Even the indomitable Mma Ramotswe would have a few words to say about this conundrum: citizens of Botswana, the home of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency, are prevented from buying and downloading audio books about its most famous detective.
Why? Because the publishers in their infinite wisdom, and for reasons known only to themselves and perhaps Alexander McCall Smith, have determined that these audio books shall only be sold to customers in the USA and Canada. The titles are not even available in the author's home of the UK, let alone anywhere in Africa. It's another form of Apartheid, only this time most of Africa, including South Africa and Botswana, have been reduced to "Bantustan" status, meaning that they are excluded from the global marketplace. It's comforting to know that the UK is also regarded as a "Bantustan" in this case, but it still doesn't eliminate the sheer injustice of it all.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa's Car Spotted in Parking Garage

We arrived in the covered parking at Cresta shopping centre this morning and spotted this car. The picture was taken with my Nokia cell phone. I guess even Santa needs to stock up on last minute goodies. Foreigners may not understand but "GP" doesn't mean he's a doctor, it means he lives in Gauteng.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Down with DRM!

Increasingly, music lovers are becoming fed up with competing rights management schemes for digital players like iPod and Zune.

Fred Benenson spent a recent drizzly Saturday afternoon with friends in Manhattan wearing yellow hazmat suits. They were in front of the new Apple store on Fifth Avenue, distributing flyers and explaining to passersby why iTunes, Apple’s online music store, “sucks.” The target of their ire: a technology the recording and film industries call “Digital Rights Management.” DRM, as it’s known, is encoded onto downloadable digital content so that copyright owners can prevent piracy. But it also prevents people from transferring downloaded content as they might like. Since different companies use different DRM technologies, an iTunes-bought song can’t be moved to a Zune, Microsoft’s new answer to the iPod, or even e-mailed to a friend. Since the vast majority of online music is sold on iTunes, “Apple has a stranglehold,” says Benenson, 23, a graduate student at New York University’s interactive telecommunications program. “There are some musicians who I like who will only offer music on the iTunes store.”

Music: Fans Mad at Anti-Piracy DRM - Newsweek Entertainment - MSNBC.com

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Audio Apartheid

Book publishers are a weird lot, and seem to have no qualms about carving up the globe into pieces and then treating each piece differently. That's why I call it Apartheid. There are other words to describe it: "regional segregation", "economic discrimination", or even plain racism. Call it what you will, it sucks. Here's a recent example:
I can buy this audio book from Audible.com, which happens to be the best source for audio books on the planet. But if I want the unabridged version, I get this response:

Now I know that Audible doesn't like it, but until now their approach has been "there's nothing we an do about it". In their own words:
When publishers decide to publish a work, they acquire the rights to distribute that title in certain parts of the globe. Sometimes they buy "world" rights, but frequently the rights for a book are split among several companies, each of whom publish for certain countries. As a distributor, we need to abide by the restrictions that publishers assume when they publish a work. Thousands of our titles are available for "world" distribution.
Their management knows this is a problem, but at the moment they feel powerless to deal with it, because they are dictated to by their suppliers. It's time for their customers to dictate to their suppliers. I just have to figure out how.
Apple, on the other hand, is just plain arrogant in their approach: they won't even let me sign up to their iTunes store, even though I own two iPods, sold to me in South Africa through official distribution channels. When interviewed on 702, the MD of Apple SA said there is nothing he can do about it, he's only the distributor. That sucks! I'm his customer, and he throws his hands in the air.
So not only does Apple make buggy software, they just couldn't give a damn.

Aleit Park Fence Fixed

It's difficult to tell whether the visit was in response to Reference number 5393/23-Oct-2006 or not, but yesterday the City Parks guys showed up around 10am and fixed part of the wooden fence for Aleit Park.
At around 11 they lit a braai fire (labelled "1" in the bottom of the picture) and enjoyed their braai until around 12, and then left. Today, they arrived again at around 10am and finished the rest of the fence. This picture was taken shortly after they arrived today, and shows the work done yesterday, labelled "2".

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Hilarious Cockroaches

The Straight Dope web site has some classic advice for dealing with roaches. It's also hilarious, assuming you know a little bit of Vietnam war history.

Dear Cecil:
I'm tired of Roach Motels, Baygon, boric acid and other pansy-ass roach killers. I want a recipe for some stuff they will eat gladly and die of quickly. I have no kids or pets to worry about. I don't care if the active ingredient is a little dangerous to handle, or hard (even illegal) to get. I want the little suckers dead. What will do it? --Hayden J., Chicago

Dear Hayden:
Calm yourself and pay attention to your Uncle Cecil. There are two proven approaches to dealing with la cucaracha: (1) borax, and (2) arson. Assuming your landlord objects to the latter line of attack, hie yourself down to the basement and mix up the following recipe: 4 parts borax, 2 parts flour, and 1 part cocoa powder.
Now, you may regard borax as "pansy-ass," my boy, but that is because you are young and ignorant and have not yet grasped the subtleties of Total Insect Warfare, which requires fanatical dedication. You must mix up oodles of this stuff and apply it with the enthusiasm of Robert S. McNamara dumping Agent Orange on the Mekong Delta. Pour it in a continuous line along the walls. Put an extra dose under sinks and around kitchen cabinets. Hell, fill your damned house to a depth of one foot with the stuff. The little bastards will die piteously, I promise.
Incidentally, should you also be happen to be troubled by rats, I have here an ingenious formula for inducing rat death: Mix equal parts cement and flour. Place a pan of this powder out next to a pan of water. The rats eat the cement, then they drink the water, and by the next morning their bowels have turned to concrete. Sadistic, eh? I knew you'd love it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

702 Starts Podcasting

At long last 702 has decided to test the podcast waters. Now, finally, I can listen to Aki's Technobyte, because I rarely catch it on the radio. He always has interesting things to say, too.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

'Bad fats' ban in NYC restaurants

BBC News"New York City's Board of Health has voted to ban artery-clogging trans-fats from the city's restaurants.
The city's health officials have for years warned that the fats can cause obesity and lead to heart disease.
Trans-fats go into partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is commonly used for frying and baking.
The unanimous vote makes the city the first in the US to ban the fats, although the original strict deadline to comply has been lengthened.
Restaurants will be banned from using most frying oils containing trans-fats from 1 July, and will have to eliminate the fats from all foods by 1 July 2008."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Finally! A number to call for iTunes support

iTunesSlate magazine has finally tracked down a number you can call to speak to a real live person at iTunes. It took them a year to find it. Such is the arrogance of Apple. And since it's a 1-800 number you can't call it from outside the USA. These guys are unbelievable.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Aleit Park gets its grass cut

Aleit Park, next to our flat, got its grass trimmed today. I can't recall when it was last cut, but I think it was in October sometime.
A man stands hear the northern boundary of the park, with grass up to his knees as he cus it with a weed-eater.
The same boundary fence, with the men hard at work using weed-eaters.
In the rest of the park, mowers without grass buckets are used to trim the thinner grass.
A proud worker insisted I take his photograph.
The men cut the grass on the pavement near the "rustic" wooden fence.
Grass in the foreground waiting for attention.
A lone Hadeda picks its way through the piles of cut grass left lying all over the park.
On Sunday a group of 4 homeless men arived to wash their clothes in the stream. They stayed the whole day, shouting at one another in their drunken state. They were so drunk they could hardly walk straight. We could still hear them with all the windows closed in our flat.
Today the same part of the park is looking a bit neater, even though all the tree rubble in the background is still there. The gardener for our block of flats cuts the grass regularly, as shown in the photo of the drunks. The parks people always ignore this side of the stream, except to trim the edges.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Windows Vista Capable? NOT!

Thanks to the podcasts "This Week in Tech" and "Windows Weekly" for pointing this out: if your laptop (like mine) has the "Windows Vista Capable" sticker on it, don't expect it to perform well if you install Windows Vista. It won't. All the badge says is that Vista will install and run if you're stupid enough to try it.
Remember how slow your Windows 98 machine was when you "upgraded" to Windows XP? The same thing will happen when you "upgrade" your XP machine to Vista. You'll have to pay a fortune for the upgrade, and then you'll have to add tons of RAM and maybe replace the hard drive. The moral of the story: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you must have Vista, buy a machine with it installed. Don't "upgrade"!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sanlam needs a dose of Reality BEFORE they give out my personal contact details

I have a retirement annuity with Sanlam, and the broker who deals with me, Phil Ryan, is a good financial advisor who has served me many years and has always given me good advice and no hard sell.
Sanlam, on the other hand, has seen fit to give out my contact details to various shady organisations and marketing companies over the years, and in each case I have told them not to do so. The latest offender is "Reality", some kind of points incentive scheme. I first heard about them by getting a marketing postcard in the mail. That was on Monday. I immediately sent an email to info@reality.co.za as well as to Sanlam, requsting my details be removed. Sanlam replied with a reference number 1-1BKJG9 and confirmed the same day that their marketing department had been informed. I wonder if they were "thinking ahead" when they gave out my details? I doubt it.
Obviously the Reality marketing machine was already in full gear and they couldn't process the "unsubscribe" requests fast enough, so today I got an email from them. I called their call centre and pointed out that I have already informed them not to send me any stuff, and the Call Centre team leader promised to get the marketing manager to call. I wonder whether this person will have the courage to face an angry customer or not.
When I emailed a copy of this blog to them, as well and my second "unsubscribe" request, I got a reference number from "Reality": Reference #4010 and #4802. Those unsubscribe requests must be pouring in.

HelloPeter complaint