Friday, May 29, 2009

The perils of alcohol

Reading the newspaper today I couldn't help noticing the warning by the wine ad: "Alkohol i samband med arbete ökar risken för olyckor", or translated into English something like "Alcohol in conjunction with work increases the risk of accidents".

Now, I don't know about you but in my job drinking alcohol could at most cause an incident, like spilling the red wine on my laptop or send a few e-mails to the wrong people, perhaps in a non-business appropriate language. Hardly worth warning me about when I uncork that bottle of Letizia.

So what I'm saying is they should definitely put a big "may" in there, right between the word work and increases. I mean, I'm not completely unreasonable, I can see the hazards if you're a cab driver, construction worker or surgeon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Comical Ask

A document containing a draft of a new law proposal further weakening (if at all possible) citizens rights in Sweden has been published on Wikileaks. Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, does a magnificent impersonation of the infamous Comical Ali as she denies the existence of this document:

Justitieminister Beatrice Ask vill inte kommentera det läckta dokumentet. Hennes pressekreterare Martin Valfridsson säger dock till att det inte finns "någon opublicerad lagremiss som är signerad Beatrice Ask".

Or, in the (famous last) words of the original Comical Ali:
"They're not even [within] 100 miles [of Baghdad]. They are not in any place. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion ... they are trying to sell to the others an illusion."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Insulting the tax payers

Stockholms Stad, the city of Stockholm, is suddenly turning into a 100% Microsoft shop, stacking up on tons of unnecessary, expensive and proprietary software at the taxpayer's expense.

Whatever happened to the report that estimated an upgrade from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office 2007 would cost between 3000-3800 SEK per user (this is an upgrade, mind you!!!), as opposed to a migration to OpenOffice that would cost a mere 795 SEK per user? I'm wondering which decision maker was paid off by Microsoft to make a U-turn like that, and just turn down open standards, platform independence and lower costs?

Not to mention the fact that Stockholms Stad's decision is the exact oposite of the government's intentions:

E-delegationen ska i sitt arbete sträva efter att den offentliga förvaltningens e-tjänster i så stor utsträckning som möjligt ska bygga på öppna standarder, använda sig av programvara som bygger på öppen källkod samt sträva efter lösningar som stegvis frigör förvaltningen från beroendet av enskilda plattformar och lösningar.

That's a laugh.

University of Uppsala adopts the Hadopi law

The University of Uppsala has adopted what may quite possibly be the single most ridiculous law ever to be passed by a senate, the Hadopi law, even though this law has yet to be implemented in Sweden. The university is acting as both judge and jury when it terminates the internet connection for its students based on allegations from the entertainment industry.

So much for the legal protection of the students...

I wonder what would happen if these "legal principles" were applied on other parts of the society:

"So, Mr. Svensson, your neighbour has reported that you've been writing her naughty letters, which she doesn't appreciate. Of course you know this means we will terminate your access to pen and paper for a year. No, we don't care that you need to sign your bills or do your tax return, and no, you can most certainly not get a fair trial in court. What do you think this is, a freakin' democracy or something?".

Angels and annoyances

I went to the movies yesterday, to watch the premiere of Angels and Demons, based on the book by Dan Brown. Free tickets of course (as I'm on my third year of a total entertainment industry boycott, my "don't feed the monster" campaign). Before the movie started the audience was informed that the distributor, Walt Disney, had ordered the following:

  • There were to be absolutely no use of cell phones or other equipment with any possibilities to record any parts of the movie.
  • If a cell phone, or any kind of illuminated LCD display for that matter, was observed by one of the security guards patrolling the auditorium (what is this, a penitentiary???), the movie would be stopped immediately, and the device would be confiscated.
This brings up a few questions:
  • What kind of police authority does Walt Disney think a cinema security guard has, to confiscate other people's property with no proof whatsoever that a criminal act has taken place? Nevermind, I forgot about the Ipred for a while...
  • More importantly though: How do those morons over at Walt Disney think the public reacts to being treated like criminals when they go (and actually pay) to see a movie? Does this encourage the audience to come back and pay to take more abuse?
  • Oh, and do these paranoid bastards really think, even in their wildest imagination, that a cell phone recording, grainy, 320x250 resolution and inaudible sound, of Angels and Demons will be any kind of substitute for the high quality cinema version? Of course not, it wouldn't even be watchable. I'm gonna wait for the high quality, region free, decrypted DVD rip myself. If I can be bothered to download it.
And as for the movie itself, it was ok.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Congratulations, France!

I guess congratulations are in order, as the French prove that they've got by far the dumbest collection of politicians in the EU, quite possibly in the whole, wide world. Now that's quite an achievement considering all the stupidity out there.

The frogs have just managed to pass an Act so ridiculous, so bizarre, so outrageous that it is bound to go down in the history books. The "Hadopi-law" (yes, it's just as silly as the name implies) gives the government legal rights to terminate a users internet access based on mere allegations that his or her ip-address has been used to perform copyright infringements (yes, exactly, just copyright infringements, not acts of terrorism!). Why bother proving a copyright infringement has taken place? Why bother proving that the owner of the internet subscription was in fact the person performing this alleged infringement? Oh, and of course, why bother the court of law with all this when the government can take matters into its own hands, and terminate internet access on suspicion, taking the opportunity to terminate access for "unpleasant" people who don't share the government's views, and maybe even dare to blog about it ("nöt föör löööng, ju döön't!").

From an integrity, privacy, free speech and legal point of view this law is a complete disaster, of course. It promotes a massive surveillance and censorship, and it bypasses all judicial authority. To be quite honest, it sounds like president Nicolas Sarkozy is aiming for the big league now, with the likes of Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-il and the CPC, to mention a few.

The question now is: To what lengths will the French go in order to enforce this law? Will every French computer be fitted with a piece of spyware controlled by the government, in order to keep track of those who are banned from internet access, and make sure nothing illegal or government unfriendly is distributed in any way? If so, how do these dumb, French bastards intend to deal with Wi-Fi hotspots and internet cafés? Shut them all down, I presume? And if a friend provides a banned individual (or "non-person", as George Orwell calls them in his "1984" novel) with internet access through his own network, will he also be banned?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A bleeding industry

Seeing as the entertainment mafia industry is completly on it's knees financially, trying to collect the ridiculously high damage compensation they were rewarded by their good friend the judge in the Pirate Bay trial, even before the highly questionable verdict is final, please do your part and keep their head above the water by donating 1 SEK to their lawyers account. Remember, every penny helps ;)

Thank you so much!

iPod versus Zune

It costs 30.000 dollars to fill an Apple iPod with music. It costs 14 dollars a month to fill a Microsoft Zune mp3-player (with what is presumably DRM-infested sh*t that is lost forever once your Zune calls it a night).

Obviously ripping your own cd's, copying from friends or family, or even downloading here and there, aren't options Microsoft have considered possible...

Bad apples, part 2

As I've said before, I'm not (to say the least) a huge fan of Apple and their over-priced range of proprietary technology gadgets with a lock-in effect that should make Microsoft cry their eyes out. Today's example is just another one of why I would never dream of buying anything with the stupid apple logo on it: Being the control freaks they are, they have banned an actually useful utility, one of the very few I've ever heard of, from the AppStore (you know, the online store that let's you download applications that enable you to tickle your stupid iPhone, pop virtual bubble wrap and mimic the sound of a light sabre...), a remote control for a BitTorrent client, with the motivation that "this kind of software is often use to perform copyright infringements". Say what???

The BitTorrent technology is not only perfectly legal, it's a brilliant way of distributing all kinds of files. Furthermore, this remote control app doesn't actually download one single byte of "potentially illegal" material, it merely controls a BitTorrent client you've set up at home.

So, Apple, I'm assuming computers in general should be banned then, because they're "often used to perform copyright infringements". Particularily the DVD-burner, that's got to be banned. Burn it, I say! Oh, and the Internet, of course, we all know that a huge amount of the traffic on the Internet, both HTTP, FTP and not to mention those dreaded newsgroups, is piracy, so let's just close down the whole thing, shall we*?

*) Incidentally this is just what French president and crazy frog extraordinaire, Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to accomplish. Perhaps they should join forces, dumb bastards.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mr. Muscle

I bought this can the other day, to clean the drainage pipes in our bathroom. Nothing peculiar about that, except the warning label on the back informing me that old and rusty pipes could be damaged by this product. Well, how on earth am I supposed to know if my pipes are rusty? Perform a colonoscopy on them? Heck, I don't even know if they're made of plastic or metal, that's how skilled a plumber I am.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dumb, dumber

It looks like Socialist democratic politicians Tomas Östros and Carin Jämtin are still trying to make people believe that a 1% annual tax on the estimated value of a property is better than a 0,5% annual interest rate on the actual profit from a property sale.

So, you sell your house with a profit of 1.000.000 SEK. You can either pay the 22% tax on this profit right away, and have 780.000 SEK left, or you can postpone this tax and pay an annual interest rate of 0,5%, around 5000 SEK, until you actually pay that 22% tax, at which time you stop paying the annual interest rate.

Or you can go with Östros' and Jämtin's system, which gives you a tax rate of 1% of a property's estimated value. Live in a home some bureaucrat has estimated to be worth 3.000.000 SEK, and pay 30.000 SEK annually in property tax. Of course, you will still have to pay a 22% tax on the profit when you sell, although you will be able to postpone it without paying interest rates.

Now, which of these would you rather pay (none, obviously, but given the choice between plague and cholera...)?

Centerpartiet - the new Piratpartiet?

I've written about opportunistic politicians before, who change views and opinions as often as they change their underwear (and that's not to say they are particularly smelly!).

The last in line is Centerpartiet, a political party that has lost all credibility, recently having voted for the FRA surveillance law, and the Ipred "private police law".

With Piratpartiet, the pirate party, flying past them in the latest polls, Centerpartiet appears struck by panic, and has suddenly adopted Piratpartiets views in these questions, more or less to the letter, all in order to win back votes:

I ett yttrande till partistämman i Örebro skriver partistyrelsen att upphovsrätten är i stort behov av en omfattande översyn. I försöken att stävja den illegala fildelningen har "skyddet av upphovsrätten generellt sett värderats för högt i förhållande till skyddet av den personliga integriteten", skriver partistyrelsen.

In other words: "We mean exactly the same as Piratpartiet. Please believe us, and please forget the fact that we've voted for these misanthropic laws, we didn't mean to". Sounds credible.

The pinnacle of good timing

There I was, driving eastbound on Valhallavägen, in central Stockholm in heavy rush hour this morning. Imagine my surprise when I noticed two construction workers had closed off one lane to do what appeared to be less important work, to say the least. There they were, in the middle of the road, creating havoc. Doing this at mid-day, evening og perhaps even during the weekend was obviously no option.

Good job, guys!

View Valhallavägen in a larger map

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Made in China, so what's the problem?

I remember reading this article a couple of days ago on how the prices on imported merchandise here in Sweden may skyrocket, due to the weak Swedish krona against euro and dollar. I might be wrong here, but how many of the products we buy in Sweden are actually made within the EU or the USA? Aren't most things "made in China" or similar low-cost countries?

I had a look at the exchange rates for the Chinese Yuan over the last 180 days, and it peaked late February, early March, it has fallen like a stone lately, to levels from early November last year.

Actually, the US dollar has also fallen sharply lately, and is down at early November 2008 rates, at 7.93 kronor/1 dollar (versus 9.29 at it's peak).

The only currency that has held its position against the Swedish krona is the Euro, although it has retreated massively since its peak late February, early March:

So any hyper inflation at this point would not have to do with currency exchange rates, that seems pretty obvious to me at least (although I'm just a simple, uneducated man). Let's hope Swedish merchants don't start a downward spiral of inflation and higher interest rates just for the sake of improving their margins.

The graphs are from

One streaming book, please.

Five publishing houses were the first to abuse the new Ipred law, attempting to start legal proceedings against the owner of an FTP server, claiming he had made publicly and widely available copyrighted material. Those of you knowing what an FTP server is will know that they usually don't make anything "publicly and widely available".

Anyway, one of the publishers behind this revolting act, Storyside, has come up with a brilliant idea to battle piracy (besides violating human rights and suing their customers): A "Spotify-like" service for sound books. Yes, that's right, folks!

Helena Gustafsson, VD på Storyside, funderar i lite andra banor och vill utveckla nya kanaler för distribution av ljudböcker. Hon tror att människor vill köpa ljudböcker på olika sätt och är övertygad om att det finns flera modeller som ännu inte testats.

– Jag tror till exempel på en sajt som Spotify fast i bokform. Strömmade ljudböcker ska vara billigare än nedladdade, den som vill äga en produkt måste vara beredd att betala, säger hon.

Right. Now, who on earth would be interested in sitting in front of his computer listening to a streaming sound book? Sound books are for long car rides, intercontinental flights or maybe even subway rides, provided they are long and boring enough. And the idea to actually charge money for this? Umm, well, good luck. Especially now that you've alienated your customers by taking legal actions against them.

Another one of these bright minds, Shadi Bitar of Earbooks, is looking for laws and regulations on the Internet:

– Vi hoppas att det ska införas lagar och regler på internet. Det är väldigt svårt att konkurrera med det som är gratis och först om vi får en legal marknad kan våra tjänster utvecklas, säger Shadi Bitar, VD på ljudboksförlaget Earbooks.

Well, Shadi Bitar, here's a newsflash: There are laws and rules on the Internet, just as there are in real life. And the police have traditionally upheld them, cracking down on child pornography, frauds and scams. The problem is that you and your comrades in crime insist on bending these rules and even creating your own rules enabling you to act as both police and judge.

Anyway, for those of you interested, the publishing houses involved in the abovementioned judicial farce are:
  • Bonnier Audio
  • Earbooks
  • Norstedts
  • Piratförlaget
  • Storyside
They're all on my do not buy-list (or "don't feed the monster" list), and they should be on yours too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tricky Dick

Swedish writer Dick Harrison has probably done more to hurt his own career lately than any pirate could. This cartoon character has made a complete ass of himself while debating the Pirate Bay verdict and other piracy questions on national TV, demonstrating both a lack of knowledge and a lack of manners. He has openly applauded the highly questionable and ridiculously harsh Pirate Bay trial verdict, claiming that he would have loved to see an even harsher sentence (...). Not only that, but the Dick is also highly in favor of the Ipred law, a revolting piece of work designed to protect the profit of the entertainment industry at the sacrifice of personal integrity and privacy.

Following all the ill-informed nonsense and ridiculous TV-appearences, Mr. Harrison appears to have become a victim of harassment, brought to our attention in this article by his charming fiancee, Katarina Lindberg. Seeing as Dick Harrison is no stranger to harassing people himself, it's tempting to say that what goes around comes around. Bad karma and all that.

Still, frustrated pirates, or local loonies, whoever it might be, should not stoop to his level like this. There are better ways to fight the insanity of Tricky Dick and others. Informed argumentation worked remarkably well on TV, for instance. Keep going down that path.

I will refrain from commenting on Katarina Lindberghs rant about threats and freedom of speech, as I guess everyone can see the obvious irony in them. However, I found this little piece of text a bit amusing:
Vi skall bemöta våra motståndares åsikter med argument, men inte kränka dem som människor. Om det finns människor som vill argumentera för att det skall vara okej att sno andras grejer, visst sätt igång att slipa argumenten, för ni har ett tufft jobb framför er.

Right. So Lindbergh want's to fight her opposition with good arguments (clearly her fiancee doesn't agree with her on that one), and in the very same sentence she accuses people having different opinions about copyright laws for promoting theft? Very smooth, Lindbergh. Very, smooth.

Lies, lies and damn lies

In 2007 Sweden got it's first toll roads, also known as the congestion tax, with a web of cameras encircling the city of Stockholm, photographing every car entering and exiting the city. It was a dark day for the protection of personal privacy, and it was the day that Sweden definitly lost it's socialist democratic profile (after all, what's socialist about a flat rate tax that obviously hits people with lower income way harder than people with high income?).

The city council, led by the so-called "Alliance" (consisting of the parties Moderaterna, Folkpartiet, Kristdemokraterna and Centerpartiet) appeared to be opposed to this tax when the former city council imposed it. Of course this was all just a bid for votes, a big fat lie.

Today this city council proposes not only to uphold this economical Berlin wall encircling Stockholm, but they want to raise the toll rate and build new road tolls on, surprise surprise, the only north-south connection available in this city (well, except from driving through the city, in which case you'll have to pay the road tolls anyway), Essingeleden. Incidently this is also a potential treasure chest for these unscrupulous politicians, with over 160.000 cars passing by every day (*15 = 2.400.000 SEK).

Of course the reason for this insanity might be considered good: It will help pay for important investments to the city's infrastructure. But wait a second...isn't this what we pay taxes for (and the reason why Sweden has one of the highest income taxes in the world)? Isn't that a bit more just, when people actually pay their taxes according to their wealth and income, and not according to where they have to drive to get to kindergarden, work and the grocery store? After all, these politicians claim that the infrastructure around Stockholm is important for the whole country, so why should local motorists who "live in the wrong place" pay through their nose for something that is clearly government business? Oh, and why on earth should a motorist driving on Essingeleden have to pay road tolls to finance a public transportation in the form of a street car from Solna to Alvik? This is clearly a matter for the city, municipality or county - not the motorist!

These road tolls are meant to finance all these projects for 12 years, but who really believes they will be removed after this time? You only have to look to Norway to find the answer to that. Never. Instead, the toll charge will be raised again and again, pushing people's limits, and new toll booths will be built here and there, just to keep the income increasing. And of course, the free passage on holidays, weekends and weeknights will soon just be a distant memory. That'll probably be the first to go, if Norway is used as a standard.

Road tolls were probably a good idea in the middle ages, when rich merchants had to pay to enter a city and sell their goods. Well, times have changed quite a bit since then, and we have come up with much more accurate and social ways of getting those tax kronor.

Even though I'm not allowed to vote in the general elections, or the EU elections, I can still vote for city council. And believe me, no political party with road tolls on their agenda will get my vote.

Friday, May 1, 2009

HTC Diamond

Recently I've been spending more and more time resetting my HTC Diamond to its factory settings. I'm up to twice a week now, and I've just about had enough.

For some yet unknown reason the phone will suddenly just decide to drop all data connectivity - no WAP, no GPRS, no HSDPA, no bluetooth, no WiFi, you name it... This so called "smart phone", with all its fancy schmancy ways of connecting with the world, can do nothing more than sending and receiving text messages, and - thank god - make and receive calls. Now, if that was all I wanted I would have gotten this phone instead, so I keep resetting the Diamond, as it seems to be the only thing that will give me at least temporary relief - for a couple of hours, a day, or maybe a couple of days if I'm lucky.

Oh, and the process of doing a hard reset of the phone is probably the most ridiculous ever. If anything it should have been a yoga pose: "Press the volume up key, located at the top left and on the side of the phone, and the enter key, at the bottom of the phone, while at the same time trying to find the tiny reset button with the stylus pen." I appreciate that people don't want to reset their phones by mistake, but come on, seriously... So, ladies and gentlement, I bring you my new yoga pose, "The Diamond" (see picture above). Come on you little bastard! Reset already! Give me my connectivity back! Hmm...doesn't seem to bring much serenity.