Archived Posts from this Category

Yet again, upgrade time is upon us.

Posted by on 29 Feb 2008 | Tagged as: Tech

Wonkiness may ensue for the next ten or fifteen minutes.

Edit – all done!

“The Problem”

Posted by on 21 Feb 2008 | Tagged as: Music and Arts, Tech

…is not so much with music downloading, it’s with the math.

Let’s look at this piece from yesterday’s Star, shall we?


Sales of CDs are down 20 per cent worldwide and 35 per cent in Canada, compared to 2006.

An estimated 1.6 billion music files are downloaded in Canada each year on “grey-market” peer-to-peer systems, representing $1.6 billion in lost revenue, using the iTunes price model of 99 cents per download.

Well, if you do the math correctly it would be $1.584 billion. Let’s not shove that extra $16 million in there.

But first, can we see some proof that lost CD sales are in some tangible way related to peer-to-peer sharing? Because just putting those two sentences side-by-side isn’t doing it for me.

…oh, hang on, there is no proof. The data say something else entirely. Digital distribution has been good for Canada’s music industry. (Alright, that’s 2005 data, but I don’t imagine the expense end of the equation has altered all that much in the last year or two, and the data below are also from 2005.)

And again with the oft-repeated falsehood that one peer-to-peer download = one lost sale. Two problems here.

  1. People will always try things for free that they wouldn’t risk even 99 cents to purchase. What’s the real proportion of peer-downloaded tracks to tracks that would otherwise have been purchased? I have no idea; if anyone has any real data I’d be curious to see it. My money says it’s pretty far from 1:1.
  2. How many people acquire one track for free and then go on to purchase more tracks from the same artist? Again, I have no good data source, but my money says it’s not likely to be zero.

Virtually every song ever recorded is available through peer-to-peer file-sharing (more than 79 million recordings). Only 3 million songs are available on legal sites.

This implies all peer-to-peer file sharing is not legal. Not so. There’s material there that’s past copyright expiry. As well, lots of artists allow their stuff to be shared freely. How much is there legally? These sources are certainly not going to tell us:

Sources: Songwriters Association of Canada; Canadian Record Industry Association; PricewaterhouseCoopers LLB

Just for fun, Toronto Star, next time how ’bout consulting some sources that aren’t just corporate bumf?

If this pathetic mishmash of lies and innumeracy is the best the industry can do, no wonder they keep turning out craptastic music that nobody wants to buy.

Hubbert’s cliff

Posted by on 29 Jan 2008 | Tagged as: Current Events, Tech

I’m a peak oil agnostic, more or less – obviously something of the kind has to happen eventually, but I’ll let people who know more about geology than I do argue about whether it’s in the far future, the near future or (as some maintain) has already happened.

Still, I was struck by an essay on The Oil Drum making the case that if peak oil does eventually arrive, we may not have the luxury of sliding gently down the declining side of Hubbert’s Peak, planning sensibly along the way, but may instead end up very suddenly in the post-oil economy – much faster than the amount of oil remaining in the ground would imply. His whole argument is worth looking at, but it can be summarized by the idea that when the water hole dries up, the animals look at each other differently.

IIRC, David Strahan also mentions this scenario in his book. (Strahan has a theory of the Iraq war which is based entirely on peak oil, which I found interesting.)

1. Return on Investment: Increased scarcity of energy, as well as increased prices, increase the return on investment for attacks that target energy infrastructure. Whether the actor is an ideologically driven group (al-Qa’ida), or a privateer(youth gangs in the Niger Delta), the geologically-driven declines increase the ROI for attacks on energy, which will drive both decisions to act, as well as targeting decisions for that action. This is a positive feedback-loop because attacks on energy infrastructure and supply drive up the price, which further increases the ROI for such attacks…

2. Mercantilism: To avoid the dawning “bidding cycles” between crude oil price increases and demand destruction, Nation-States are increasingly returning to a mercantilist paradigm on energy. This is the attitude of “there isn’t enough of it to go around, and we can’t afford to pay the market price, so we need to lock up our own supply.” …

3. “Export-Land” Model … In a regime of high or rising prices, a state’s existing oil exports brings in great revenues, which trickles into the state’s economy, and leads to increasing domestic oil consumption. This is exactly what is happening in most oil exporting states. The result, however, is that growth in domestic consumption reduces oil available for export.

4. Nationalism … the territories of nations and states are rarely contiguous. As a result, it is often the case that a nation is cut out of the benefits from its host state’s oil exports. This will be especially apparent when the “export-land” effect reduces the total size of the pie to be divided. As a result, nations or sectarian groups within states will increasingly agitate for a larger share of the pie.

5. Privateering: Nationalist insurgencies and economies ruined by the downslide of the “export-land” effect will leave huge populations with no conventional economic prospects. High oil prices, and the willingness to make high protection payments, will drive those people to become energy privateers. We are seeing exactly this effect in Nigeria, where a substantial portion of the infrastructure disruption is no longer carried out by politically-motivated insurgents, but by profit-motivated gangs.

Geopolitical positive feedback-loops … do not act like logistic curves. They are positive feedback loops that are both self-intensifying and intensified by geologically-driven declines in production. While the geologically-dictated baseline in oil production decline may exhibit a long tail of ongoing production, geopolitical forces may abruptly chop off that tail. Commercial oil production requires some threshold level of security, rule of law, etc. to operate at all. Below that threshold, oil production does not gradually decline, but rather stops completely.

Boring administrivia re: users

Posted by on 27 Jan 2008 | Tagged as: Tech

I’ve turned off self-registration for Mock Turtle. Spammers keep signing up in the hope that it’ll let them post their crap. They can’t anyway, but it’s boring to keep deleting them.

If anyone wants to register as a subscriber or writer or whatever, presumably they’ll know one or more of the existing writers and can email for access. I hope that’s not overly restrictive.

Happy New Year

Posted by on 31 Dec 2007 | Tagged as: Current Events, Tech

Big Brother lives in your phone

Posted by on 09 Nov 2007 | Tagged as: Tech

Firm to use cellphone data to map traffic in real time

One the one hand — cool and very useful way to avoid traffic jams. Good excuse to buy an iPhone so you have a screen large enough to make sense of whatever data map becomes available.

On the other — why are so many people driving and talking on the phone at the same time? Eek. And the ability for someone to sign up to track their kids (or, more accurately, their kids’ cellphones) and/or spouse (‘s cellphone) is a bit much.

It’s upgrade time

Posted by on 05 Oct 2007 | Tagged as: Tech

Things may be strange for the next bit while I overwrite some files.

Should be back to normal in a few minutes. I’ll update this post when the upgrade’s done.

edit — done!

The evil that is Comic Sans

Posted by on 14 Sep 2007 | Tagged as: Tech

I’d be perfectly happy to never see it again, and apparently I’m not the only one. There’s a whole movement advocating its abolition.

I did not know that it originated with Microsoft Bob, but that explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Stop the presses

Posted by on 20 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Humour, Tech

— and hold a spot on page one. Microsoft product leads to crash:

Skype: Outage caused by Microsoft update
Associated Press
August 20, 2007

FRANKFURT — A two-day outage that left millions of Skype users unable to use the popular Internet phone service was caused by an abnormally high number of restarts after people had downloaded a Windows security update, the company said Monday.


Posted by on 09 Aug 2007 | Tagged as: Tech

An AOL survey showed that 53% of those polled admit to checking their email in the bathroom. As if keyboards needed exra germs…

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