Blogathon 06/17: Licence to print money

BBC something's up

The BBC have announced a revamp of their iPlayer service.

A recent change in the law has already tightened up the rules about how and when people can use the iPlayer.

The rules are now very clear.

BBC iPlayer

You need to have a TV licence to watch BBC TV programmes, whether you watch them via broadcast, or watch them via the iPlayer catch-up service.

This is fair enough.

Because if you don’t have a licence but you do consume BBC TV output, you are a content thief.

Let’s face it, if you live in the UK you get a pretty good deal from the BBC.

  • A local radio network that mostly delivers unique content 24/7
  • Ten national radio networks that all deliver unique content 24/7
  • Eight national TV networks that mostly deliver unique content for a large part of the 24-hour day
  • A comprehensive news/magazine/weather website that is updated 24/7
  • A global network of BBC reporters, capable of reacting to, and reporting on, almost any event that that is thrown at them

And you get all of these things, advertising-free, for £145.50 a year.

That’s a pretty good deal.

Actually, no, it may not be.

It is only a pretty good deal if you actually make use of BBC content.

If you don’t consume any BBC content, it becomes a tax on a commodity that you’re never going to use.

There is a Facebook group dedicated to not paying the BBC licence fee.

BBC Licence Fee Witholders

I hung around there for a while, and was very disappointed to see that most members of that group are only concerned with not paying the licence fee whilst getting all the benefits of using all of the content.

People in that group say things like ‘I only have the BBC for my children’, and ‘I only watch Strictly’.

No, really they do.

Ironically, a significant number of the people in that Facebook group have Sky (with all the exorbitant costs that involves).

*eyeroll*

Anyway.

The thing I don’t like about the BBC licence fee is that there is no opt-out.

The way the law currently works, the licence fee agents (Capita) have to prove in a court of law that people are consuming BBC TV programmes, and the defendants have to show that they aren’t.

It’s one word against another.

This adversarial system is obviously flawed, and for the C21st, it is outdated.

We need a better, a fairer, and a more modern model of funding the BBC.

And of making sure that only those who consume BBC output pay for it.

I feel certain that the new version of iPlayer will have some sort of TV licence/account authentication mechanism built in to it.

And, in this digital TV age, it would surely be simple to encode BBC TV transmissions, and to have them decoded with a licence-related PIN?

I realise there are people who wouldn’t like this thinking, but moving the TV licence fee to a subscription model would be a step towards a fair system.

Wouldn’t it?

What’s the alternative?

Is there even an alternative?

low-hanging fruit

If I was a hacker of whatever denomination (mischief-maker, terrorist, cyber-thief), and I was looking for a big, fat, high-value, minimal-security-set-to-the-lowest-common-denominator target…

This.

Interesting firewall rules

From here, in downtown Shanghai, Google does not exist.

Not in any of its various guises or products.

Gone.

So too is Facebook.

And Twitter.

Also all of the WordPress-hosted websites (fredbloggs.wordpress.com and now I have to check that subdomain doesn’t exist and if it does that it doesn’t contain offensive material).

Also missing from the face of the planet, for that matter, is your website, young Masher.

This one does exist, obv.

But I can’t upload images or media to this, or any other website I control.

I can FTP to them.

I can ssh to the backends.

But all ‘put’ and upload commands/functions are blocked.

On the other hand, Yahoo works.

So does this mean that Yahoo and I are harmless?

But young Masher* and Google are evil?

Interesting firewall rules are in place.

Non-standard ports work via https.

And configuring port 100001 on a spare domain, opening port 100001 on my firewall and hosting server worked.

I was then able to ssh to the server.

But ‘put’ still failed.

No matter what I ran grep with, everything looked and felt normal.

Just no upload functionality.

Interesting firewall rules, for sure.

*I have met the former on a number of occasions, and have to say I believe he lacks evil.

Rice works!

Apple products (I’m talking about iPhones and iPods) are notorious, nay infamous, for being moisture sensitive.

I’m avoiding using the word ‘water’, for reasons that will become obvious.

I’ve never owned an iPhone.

I’m sure they’re lovely and all that, but they’re not my cup of tea.

But I’ve had a few iPods.

My favourite product is the iPod Classic, because I love having 160Gb of storage.

iPod classic

My current music library adds up to 75% of an iPod Classic (yes, 120Gb of music), and for that reason alone I love the iPod Classic.

All the hits and more.

Ahem.

Anyway.

Back to my winge.

I’m currently on my fifth iPod Classic and yes I really do know that Apple don’t make them any longer, but that doesn’t mean one can’t continue to buy them.

How have I successfully binned four iPod Classics?

Moisture.

Not ‘water’, per se, but ‘moisture’, definitely.

Unlike the designers of the iPod, we unfortunate souls who don’t live in sunny SoCal endure a climate prone to massive amounts of unpredictable precipitation.

And I mean massive amounts.

But not unpredictable as in it sometimes falls up.

It always comes down, this precipitation.

Though sometimes it does come sideways too.

And I’m a motorcyclist, so sometimes I’m caught out by this unpredictable precipitation.

I always wear proper clothing.

You’ll never catch me out on one of my motorbikes in anything less than proper, approved, substantial motorbiking clothing, as approved by the Enhanced Motorcyclists (of which I am a card-carrying, fully-qualified member).

My usual commuting clothes are a suit, shirt (etc), underneath a waterproof textile jacket and trousers.

My iPod usually nestles in the jacket pocket, with the zip done up as tightly as possible.

And that, in a nutshell, is how I have managed to throw away four iPod Classics.

Not through direct water contact inside the waterproof pocket of my waterproof textile motorcycling jacket.

Oh no.

The damage has occurred through condensation, as droplets have formed inside the waterproof pocket of my waterproof textile motorcycling jacket.

This is hardly robust.

But, as I’ve said, the iPod was designed by those tender souls who live in sunny SoCal, and who wouldn’t know actual rain if it fell on their collective heads.

Anyway.

After my last iPod stopped working due to moisture, I thought I’d test the ‘stick it in a bowl of rice’ trick, to see if that solution actually worked.

It did!

Actually worked.

I had to leave the iPod in a mixing bowl of Uncle Ben’s finest long grain, for three weeks, but after removing it, cleaning the rice dust off it and charging it overnight, the lovely little gadget came back to life!

Intact.

And in fully operational mode.

So there you are.

I can’t guarantee it will work for you, but it worked for me – and before I submerged it in a bowl of uncooked rice, my iPod was deader than an actual doornail.

So if you find yourself looking at the aftermath of an Apple/water conflict, give it a go.

You have nothing to lose but your rice.

And you could always cook that afterwards, anyway.

But don’t cut corners.

My iPod really did need three full weeks of rice treatment.

Droning on and on and on…

It is as if we are on the tipping point of a Really Big Thing.

They’re all droning on about it.

The media.

Especially the tabloids.

Drones.

Drones. Are. Everywhere.

Apparently.

A simple quadcopter is now a drone.

A model aircraft is – depending on which publication or website you choose to read – a drone.

Strapping a GoPro* to my motorbike would make it a drone too.

Probably.

Anyway.

Back to the drones.

Apparently, if I strap a GoPro** to myself and jump – with a parachute, obv – out of an aeroplane I would be, according to the Daily Mail, a drone.

Which is rich, because all the Daily Mail does is drone on about things.

The government has drones.

Thousands of them.

But if we call a model aircraft with the smallest camera attached to its fuselage a drone, then we dilute the whole government/drones thing.

So let’s do it, yeah?

It’s a drone.

Even if it’s a balsa wood model aircraft with a cheap and cheerful camera parcel-taped to the side.

It’s a drone.

The things that the Government is using to kill civilians in the middle east?

Those are drones too.

Let’s just forget that the Reaper UAVs are weapons of death and destruction,

Because they’re not.

They’re drones.

And every town has people who own drones.

And they’re OK, right?

Right.

So that makes the Government’s drones OK too, right?

Erm… Right?

I said right?

*face*

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*Why would you buy a GoPro, when there are much better, cheaper cameras out there?
**No really, why would you?

Moving…

I have moved this website (the TLD and this trailing sub-domain blog).

These websites (and databases, etc) are no longer hosted on my NAS in my lounge in Rugby.

They’re now hosted at a Tier 2 datacentre in Nottingham.

That I built.

Yes, that’s right, I’ve built a Tier 2 datacentre.

I could fill your head with the wonderfully geeky adventures that I’ve been through, to establish the datacentre.

But I won’t.

But it’s been a stunning experience.

In a very good way.

However, it all seems to have been set up rather too well (thanks to my design, and thanks to the sensational technical assistance of a Belgian uber-ninja-geek who I got onboard to do the virtualisation, install the KVM HyperVisor, and build the admin tools).

I say ‘too well’, because now that it’s done it’s all…

Well…

Done.

And I’m bored, because the actual admin overhead is…

Minimal.

And by ‘minimal’ I really mean ‘next to nothing at all’.

Anyway, the Belgian uber-ninja-geek is sticking around to handle first-line support (none!) and to virtualise the next set of infrastructure which I will finish building, RAIDing and installing the OS on, next month.

I shall move have also moved the Geekblog from the NAS to the datacentre this weekend/early next week.

I could fill your head with the amazing fun and games and geeky adventures and outright learning curves that I’ve been through in the last couple of months.

But it would only bring your excitement to fever pitch.

And we want to avoid you frothing up your underwear at the thought of such rampant geekage.

I have moved contracts.

I’m no longer slogging my heart out trudging down the M6, M42, M5, M4, M32 to Bristol.

Now I just potter a little way down the road to Northampton.

This is a massive improvement in my life, obv.

Especially as the weather has improved, so I’m doing most of these daily trips on the ZX9R.

And finally…

I am moving.

House.

Again.

To Nottingham.

Boggling

If you had told Very Young Me that the next time I read the same Harry Harrison/Stainless Steel Rat book, I would be using the gentle weight of a palm-held microcomputer, capable of a hundred million different functions (and capable of doing all of these things without any form of cabling), to hold down the pages against the breeze, I strongly suspect Very Young Me would have a largely boggled brain.