Monthly archives of “May 2006

High frequency wave files back up again

They’re back up (well, the wave files anyway), thanks to the Internet Archive.

ZDNet: DRM train wrecks

ZDNet’s David Berlind has started to compile a list of examples of ‘DRM train wrecks’, i.e. situations where the use of DRM has a distasteful corollary for consumers unaware of what they’re getting themselves into.

“Most people don’t realize how much they’re giving up when they consciously or sub-consciously use solutions that depend on [DRM]. I get a lot of email that accuses me of being a Chicken Little that overblows the situation by saying the sky is falling. Well, the sky is falling and if those folks want to live in denial, that’s their problem.”

Some of the examples are more straightforward cases of sloppily designed DRM implementations leading to security problems, such as the Sony Rootkit case; examples of ‘DRM switcheroo’ (what I’ve previously called feature deletion or external control on this blog) also abound.

Real-life anecdotes of users who have lost all their (legally acquired) music due to DRM errors or licensing changes – as I discussed in ‘Consumers’ reactions to DRM‘ – are perhaps one of the best ways of driving the message home to consumers (for example the examples discussed here).

The ‘DRM train wreck’ tag is a great initiative. I guess in time it would be good if DRM’d content acquired a stigma from consumers’ point of view, clearly seen as undesirable and worse than second-best, a format to avoid.

BBC: Bram Cohen on network neutrality

This BBC Newsnight story, by Adam Livingstone, about the possibilities of a two-tier internet – ‘BitTorrent: Shedding no tiers’ – has an interesting fictional ‘architectures of control’ example to illustrate the possibilities of price discrimination in networks (see also Control & Networks):

“So there’s me driving up to Homebase… and I get to within half a mile of the store and my car starts to slow down.

Before I know it, I’m doing five miles an hour. What’s more, half the other cars around me are doing the same. But the cars on the other side of the road are all fine. So I turn round and head home and suddenly it’s all back to normal. “What on earth is going on?” as our man Paxman would say.

“It’s simple” said the grease monkey at my local garage. “The people who made your car have done a deal with B&Q. They’ve fixed it so that if you ever drive towards Homebase, you’ll start going at 5 miles an hour.”

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High frequency ringtone download

High frequencies being tested in the urban badlands: see, no teenagers here!
High frequencies being tested in the urban badlands: see, no teenagers here!

A lot of people find this site through searching for something along the lines of ‘Mosquito high frequency anti-teenager ringtone’, and are presumably disappointed when they find that there is no such ringtone to download, even if just because they’d like to test it on friends and family. (More on the Mosquito device) There’s also the more possibility of course of using the ringtone as a kind of ‘secret ringtone’ that, supposedly, only younger people can hear, so you can receive text messages, etc, e.g. while in class, without adults noticing, though I’d have thought that was partially the point of the vibrate mode.

Anyway, I thought I might as well give those searching what they’re looking for, sort of.
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Brake-Fast Doggie Bowl

Brake-fast - image from

Image from

Thanks to Steve Portigal and Page Sands for bringing this to my attention: the Brake-Fast Doggie Bowl is designed to stop dogs wolfing down their food quite as quickly as they would otherwise, which can cause painful (and dangerous) bloating. The raised prongs act like ‘traffic calming’ to slow down the dog’s eating.

This is a clever forcing function architecture of control, with the intention of making life better for the animal without risk of injury. There’s also another interesting feature – or rather deliberate lack of one:

(Q) The brake-fast(R) bowl slides all over the floor when my dog eats.
Why didn’t you put a non-slip edge on the bottom?
(A) We had a lot of discussion about the bowl sliding. In the end, we decided the purpose is to make the dog slow down their consumption rate, having the bowl slide adds that much more time when eating.

(From the Brake-fast website)

There are many examples of feeding systems or toys designed to entertain and distract dogs (and other animals) while being fed, since dogs clearly enjoy challenges, particularly when they result in a ‘reward’ of food. Steve points me to Kong dog toys which are designed to be filled with food which the dog can only get at by playing with the toy and chewing it, and I should also mention Simon Crilley’s Canine Joystick, a more advanced system which actually monitors the extent of the dog’s play before sending a signal to a wall-mounted food dispenser (another image here – PDF link).

Changing norms

Via Steve Portigal’s All this ChittahChattah, a short but succinct article by John King, from the San Francisco Chronicle noting just how quietly certain features have started to become embedded in our environment, most notably (from this blog’s point of view), anti-skateboarding measures, traffic calming and security barriers:

“…woven into the urban fabric so subtly we don’t even notice what they say about our society… The common thread? You didn’t see them much a decade ago, but now they’re part of the landscape.”

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