Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Google Book Settlement: Black Hole or World Library?

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about copyright matters again – about whether the proposed Google Book Settlement is a black hole or cultural opportunity for the whole world. And why music companies want to grossly exaggerate the number of illegal downloads.

You can listen live after the 11am news, read on for my speaking notes, or after the broadcast you’ll be able to download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 8:34 pm  

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Software Freedom Day

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about Software Freedom Day, what it’s celebrating and how you can enjoy it. There will be events in several parts of the country.

The site for the Wellington event is here, the Waikato one here, and if you know of others please put them into the comments.

I’ll be on just after the 11am news. Listen live, or after the broadcast you’ll be able to download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 7:27 pm  

Thursday, September 3, 2009


This Dilbert cartoon.

posted by colin at 7:13 am  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Setting Government Information Free

Today on Radio New Zealand Natonal after the 11am news I talked about the why and the how of setting government information free so that we can all benefit. There’s been a lot of work done on this in many countries, including New Zealand, and some useful things are starting to happen. In a few weeks time a bunch of folk in New Zealand are giving up their weekend to attend the first ever New Zealand Open Government Data Barcamp and Hackfest.

You can read on for my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 7:10 am  

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Government Information – does it want to be free?

I’ve always been interested in this. We have already paid our government to collect data – why should it lock the data away from us, or charge us for access? Just because you have the power to do something, doesn’t make it right, after all. And, to be fair, the New Zealand government has been publishing a lot of data for a long time.

posted by colin at 10:56 am  

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Today on the radio

Today on Radio New Zealand National I’ll talk about a whole list of things – not sure if I’ll get time for them all. I’m going to mention the rumours that IBM will buy Sun, talk about why you can’t use your mobile on the London Underground, how you can tell if your computer is infected, and about where the value lies in software, which is based on a blog post I made a few days ago. I’ll put some of my speaker notes and the links for the program behind the “more…” below.

Listen live at 11:05 or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 9:00 am  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do Androids dream of Electric Phones?

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about Google’s new mobile phone platform, called Android. The first Android phone has just gone on sale in the US. It’s a very interesting move by Google and will probably result in dropping mobile phone prices. Can’t be bad.

Read on for my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3.


posted by colin at 10:11 pm  

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bad dog, IE6. Bad dog!

I try to make this blog work for everyone – that’s why I have the font-size changer in the right hand column, so that everyone can read it despite my somewhat outrĂ© choice of white on black. And that’s why I was disturbed to find that Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 doesn’t render it properly.

On the right is what this blog looks like in IE6. Two things are wrong. The white background around the green Adium logo shouldn’t be there – that background is set as transparent. IE6’s forerunner, IE5, gets that one wrong as well. It’s ugly, but I can live with that problem.

The really, really annoying thing as far as I’m concerned is that the right hand column displays below the main column, so most people will never see it. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It’s telling that only IE6 of the 50-odd browsers I tested using got this wrong. IE6 is old, and home users will probably have upgraded by now (hint), but many are stuck with IE6 at their workplaces, where IT departments like to control desktop configurations and need a very good reason to change versions. And the statistics for this blog show that IE6 makes up only about 2.5% of visitors, but that might be because the site is barely usable in IE6.

This must be an example of IE not following standards. Lots of websites have separate code – effectively separate web pages – for IE browsers so that their pages render the same way on IE as they do on other browsers.

I’m left wondering why IE was so non-compliant for so long. I’d like to find an explanation besides incompetence or hubris in assuming it could ignore standards and force the web to its bidding. To its credit, Microsoft realises it has a problem in this area and the latest IE8 beta makes a real effort to be more standards-compliant. That leads to other problems for sites with IE-specific code, but let’s not go there now.

In the meantime, I’m faced with trying to debug this thing for an old browser on a platform I don’t own, or just giving in and accepting that some people won’t be able to read it even if they want to. Sigh.

posted by colin at 8:24 am  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Free formats!

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about how you save sound and vision on a computer, and about how broadcasters like Radio New Zealand can make their programmes available over the Internet. And I talked about the importance of free formats, and announced that RNZ is now progressively making its content available in the free Ogg format. Great decision, guys.

Read on for my speaking notes or listen to the podcast. In Ogg.


posted by colin at 11:55 am  

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Censoring the Internet

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about censoring the Internet.

Back when the Net was a lot younger, someone famously said that “the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”. He was wrong, of course – some countries’ citizens can’t read about material their governments don’t want them to, or not without technical workarounds that are beyond many Net users.

And, even in liberal democracies like New Zealand, there are limits to free speech on the Internet. If you publish objectionable material – child porn and the like – on the Internet here, expect to be prosecuted.

Read on for my speaking notes or listen to the podcast and hear what I really said.

posted by colin at 11:55 am  
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