Shoot to Kill

I don't think anyone is suggesting that a terrorist using automatic weapons on the public or police they should not be stopped as quickly as possible and if it costs the terrorist's life very few tears will be shed.

A shoot to kill policy is different, it is a preference for dead bodies over arrests and trials and this should never be the policy in civilised countries.

I would describe my view as being that the policy should be shoot to protect and to save lives. Where shots are taken there are likely to be deaths but they are not the aim or the policy.

History

For those too young (or insufficiently British/Irish) to be aware there was considerable controversy about whether a shoot to kill policy was in operation particularly with the SAS with regard to the IRA and was particularly controversial when the [3 IRA members were shot dead in Gibraltar](http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/events/three_ira_members_shot_dead_in_gibraltar).

Language About Terrorism and ISIS

Cowardly

This is just an asinine description for suicide bombers. These are people expecting to die for their beliefs. There isn't a shortage of descriptions that really can be applied to them, vicious, barbaric and murderous to suggest just three. To use the cowardly just devalues both language, whatever arguments you are making and any other words.

ISIS is Islamic

ISIS is clearly Islamic,(Very Islamic) they talk about Islam all the time and they follow large parts of the Qu'ran to great precision.

BUT

Islam is not ISIS. There are clearly a wide spread of views amongst those regarding themselves as Muslims and a vast majority are opposed to ISIS. That ISIS exists is no more the responsibility of most Muslims than the existence of the Westboro Baptist Church is the responsibility of a Church of England congregation in the UK (it isn't their responsibility).

Some things I Think

Some of these things I don't normally say mostly because I'm don't want to offend people but today je suis Charlie and if people are going to take offence at this they should be offended. These are some things that I mostly don't say where I know or think that there might be people who disagree or might be offended. Comments are enabled for you to express your disagreement.


Father Christmas doesn't exist (OK I only avoid saying this around children).

God doesn't exist. And this statement shouldn't be more shocking than the previous one even if you disagree.

Unquestioning belief is harmful. If you are on a mission from god how can that be reasoned with and debated.

If you believe in god I find it hard to see how it can be anything other than unquestioning (pre-renaissance god or gods might have appeared logical).

Unquestioning belief combined with power is scary (I'm thinking Tony Blair and GW Bush here in addition to those with power in ISIS).

Reading


Text preserved in case Tweet deleted or 

"Ever realised how fucking surreal reading a book actually is? You stare at marked slices of tree for hours on end, hallucinating vividly" - @KatieOldham


Svbtle vs. Posthaven

I’m giving Svbtle a try having used Posthaven for a few months. This is a quick comparison of how I find the two and a little commentary on some of the alternatives I’ve considered but haven’t yet tried. See this post on Svbtle.

Background

I’m fairly new to blogging, I’d been meaning to set up a blog for some time either off based on an existing open source blog/cms or creating my own basic one in Rails or Django but I hadn’t got round to it. I liked the attitude of Posthaven when it appeared, we will charge you money but you get to keep your name for life and I think it came out of the experience of one of the founders losing control of Posterious and it’s shutdown.

Posthaven Summary

  • Costs $5/month for upto 10 blogs
  • GUI post editor (a little clunky but it works)
  • Commitment to long term platform
  • Comments supported

Advantages

  • Permanence/business model
  • Manage multiple blogs including anonymous and/or private blogs and posts.

Disadvantages

  • Some of the Posthaven features require Facebook, Twitter, Scribd, Google Analytics scripts in the page and these are loaded (with associated privacy issues) on all your pages.
  • Not yet any way to theme/customise design which I don’t need for my general blogs but may want for special ones. # Svtle Summary
  • No cost (or business model)
  • Clean (bare) design

Svtle Summary

Advantages

  • Clean UI very clean (bare but I like it) page design.

Disadvantages

  • Lack of business model, no confidence in it staying ad-free and free in even the short/medium term.
  • No hit count - only Kudos.
  • Seems to add editorial subheadlines for you “Read this first”, “More by Joseph” # Alternatives
  • Wordpress is obviously the monster but feels over complicated and reportedly nasty to write plugins for so I personally wouldn’t want to get too deep into it. You can get it hosted or run local.
  • Medium which might be worth a look but requires a Twitter login so I haven’t tried. I also got put off by many of the articles on HackerNews that were linked to there being poor.

Self hosting

I hadn’t got round to getting set up myself so this would sort of defeat the purpose but there are a few options that I would consider.

  • Ghost seems like quite an interesting option that I should look at although it is Node so I might need to learn some Javascript if I was going to modify it at all. Hosted cost $5/month even for a single blog. Officially it only supports SQLite and MySQL - Postgres works but isn’t high enough priority to delay releases.
  • Octopress / Jekyll is probably where I should be going in the short term. I could self host or push to Github pages for this sort of thing and it supports Markdown which I am increasingly comfortable with.
  • Something hacked together with Rails or Django. No time to get it set up or support it in future.

Conclusion

I’m not quite happy with either for different reasons, will probably self host in the future.

The scripts from Google and Facebook will probably cause me to move away from Posthaven fairly soon. I use Noscript to avoid them when I am browsing and I would prefer not to impose them on readers as that would be hypocritical (although it does work fine without them if they are Noscript users).

As for Svbtle while I quite like the design and using Markdown but the lack of current business model bothers me and I’d rather migrate at my time of choosing than when they announce some new policy.


H.264 is OK, webm is not the answer for most people

[Originally a comment on hacker news on 29th May]

H.264 / MPEG4 part 10 / AVC

Yes it is patented which is a definite disadvantage compared with a theoretical[4] patent free codec but it has some real advantages.

1) The standard is controlled and defined by a collective industry group under the auspices of ISO. [1]

2) Most of the major players in video technology at the time took part in the standardisation so are committed to FRAND patent licensing terms. [2]

3) In almost all cases and commercial business models (that do not involve Free software) the MPEG-LA H.264 patent license is really very reasonable and unlikely to cause problems to an otherwise healthy business. Note that the license Google has to the MPEG-LA pool of patents while free is NOT compatible with Free software.

4) Any companies not in the MPEG-LA pool that popped up now with demands really would trolls in the original sense that they have sat under the bridge for a long time waiting for a juicy opportunity rather than being upfront earlier. I don't think that this would help them in a legal case although there is no guarantee that they don't exist. [3]

5) H.264 is really quite good although the latest codecs are showing what can be done with further development and processing power.

6) H.264 decoding (and often encoding) is cooked into a massive amount of existing and deployed devices in ways that cannot be adapted to VP8/VP9 by a software update.

For now H.264 is the no brainer option for any commercial system although multi codec support may be worthwhile in some cases. If you want patent free I recommend MPEG1 as I believe any patents on it should now be expired or at least expiring very soon if they were granted a long time after filing. I'm glad that Firefox has backed down and will now use the OS codecs to allow playback of H.264.

[1] The OOXML case shows that this isn't foolproof but in my view it is a better option than the standard being controlled by a single company even if the controlling company publishes the source code. This applied to Microsoft when they offered VC-1 as a free alternative to H.264 (there is now an MPEG-LA pool) and to Google now with VP8 and VP9 now. Google is the new Microsoft and has fully learnt the lessons of "Embrace, extend and extinguish".

[2] Not Free software compatible but better than nothing. And even Google's license to the VP8 patents from the MPEG-LA pool does not seem to grant Free software compatible rights.

[3] There is a greater risk of people popping up with claims against VP8 or VP9 as they are newer and less prominent. The MPEG-LA's call for a pool of patents has helped draw out those patent owners and many have joined the pool and reached terms with Google (although Nokia and maybe others haven't.

[4] Realistically for patent free greater than 20 years old is the answer so it probably needs to be MPEG1.

How much digital manipulation can a photograph have?

[Written as comment on Hacker News in response to this article.]

I think it is slightly unfortunate that the topic of the photo triggering this debate is a controversial political topic with many contradictory truths, claims and counterclaims of distortion and deceit. In this case there seems to be legitimate journalistic photography of the event that should be the focus of any debate about the event itself.

The real issue with this photograph are whether the digital processing applied exceeded that which is appropriate for a photography competition. Specifically there seems to be a suggestion that it may be composite of different photos from the same event although that seemed far from proven to me.

What do people feel are acceptable digital edits to be applied?

1) Global filters/brightness/contrast/sharpening

2) Similar filters applied to local areas to to ensure all wanted areas are properly lit and visible

3) Actually touching up/smudging or otherwise directly manipulating particular pixels.

4) Actually combining different photos (e.g. you have ten photos but someone (different) has their eyes shut in each one so you grab one face and merge it back onto the correct body).

Personally I don't see a single clear line where you should stop so I think that it should probably be spelled out in the competition rules.

What happened to Japan's electronic giants?

[Text below extracted largely from my comments on this Hacker News discussion about this BBC news item although there is slightly more there it needs the context of the thread which I can't pull into this blog post easily (or legally given copyright laws).]

There is some truth in this article but it misses some of the really key factors.

  1. Value of the Yen. The Yen is seen as a safe haven and has been at almost ridiculous levels (considering trade balances and government debt) at least since late 2008. This is crippling exports (and/or profitability) in these price sensitive markets (TV's, computers, phones) as even though much production is abroad they still have massive cost bases in Japan.
  2. Development of Korea. LG and especially Samsung took the place of the aggressive upstarts driving down prices and then building up the quality as Japan once did to the West in markets such as cars. It will be interesting to see what China's development does to Korea in 15-20 years. So far the aggressive pricing from Korea has kept Chinese TV brands from prominence but that may not last.
  3. As Japan prospered and incomes rose it became uneconomic to manufacture commodity items there. Outsourcing and offshoring production damages the feedback and development loop between production and design that enables efficient optimum design of products. Also they narrowed the parts of the supply chain that they supplied to focus on the high value ones that could still be profitable but that costs control and foresight into important developing areas. e.g. Samsung could develop LCD panels in exact form factors to fit their devices and to use them as structural elements in TVs getting a jump start on Sony. (Sharp had[has?] their own panels but the quality wasn't uniformly high and they were overly dependent on their home TV market anyway).
  4. There is very little profit in many electronics items. TVs especially are not a source of profits (maybe Samsung makes some but it is hard to tell from their annual reports). Aggressive and falling prices, unstable panel supplies and the fact egos and ecosystems are on the line means that the once stable profit source of CRT TVs has been replaced by an LCD bloodbath. Even in mobile phones only Apple and Samsung are really making money (along with a number of component suppliers getting their slices).
[In response to a comment about Sony having missed the boat on the idea of connected devices and the ecosystem that "Google and Apple have done so very well."]

[Sony have, movie studios, TV studios and record labels] however they lacked the internal structure and strategy to really deploy them effectively. Plus someone would have had to choose a suboptimal strategy for their division's financial results if they were to avoid selling some rights or exclusivity externally but to use it for joined up strategies. (Or the low profit hardware arm would have had to paid commercial rates.)

It also surprisingly gets harder in many ways to negotiate for other rights when you have your own studio/record label and who wants to only watch/listen to Sony content. Anti-trust law may be a factor in this (as a content owner Sony couldn't legally do an Apple and tell their competitors what pricing model to accept) but also it changes the tone of the negotiation and attitude of other parties when they are your competitor.

And finally just when the network technology and the products are getting to the point where a useful internet delivered content ecosystem can be established somebody high up the organisation decides to split the platform and bend over for Google in order for the honour of making the Google TV for US only under ridiculous contract terms based on Intel hardware costs and to be supported by a dreadful marketing campaign it still sows FUD amongst content partners.

geon > I don't see why being a competitor would make it impossible for Sony to build a media store. It worked for Valve...

Firstly I didn't say it would be impossible just potentially harder than if not a competitor.

I don't know the history of Steam that well but my understanding was that it started as an easy way to get their own games. Yes Sony Music could have done the same (maybe they did but I can't remember) but a store with a seemingly random selection of about 25% of pop music doesn't make a great hit in the era of Napster and when they are still pushing DRM (which Steam also uses).

I don't believe that as a company with about 25% of the music market could legally impose pricing conditions on it's competitors (Valve may allow flexible pricing but iTunes did not at least at the beginning and I don't believe was such a proportion of the market at the time).