Archive for December, 2008

License awareness, for perfectly informed consumers…

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

These days it’s very easy to acquire digital copies of stories, pictures, music, video, fonts, code – any sort of media you care to mention. Sometimes this is legal, notably through open source/free software, creative commons licenses, and Bittorrent. Sometimes it’s illegal – through Bittorrent*, copying files from websites, lending CDs/DVDs, etc.

Obviously, this is in clear conflict with established media industries, often represented by acronyms groups like the BSA, RIAA, and MPAA, who want to maintain their historical place in the distribution channels. Many others around the web have commented on how these businesses need to realize that they don’t have a right to a profit in their particular part of the market, and I concur, but won’t rehash that here.

Instead, the whole reason for this post is to point to what I hope is the way forwards: License transparency at the client level – nicely demonstrated with the display of licensing information in recent work on the Banshee media player.

I don’t think this feature has filtered out to a release yet, but a suitably enabled Banshee will display the license information for songs, along with the track name, duration, etc.

This may not seem like the sort of thing that would be useful to 99% of the population, but it is relevant to 100% of the population, as many people may not realize that, in many cases, ripping the CD they borrowed from cousin Kev is illegal. For the cases where it’s the artist’s intent that copies should be made, I think it should be advertised and encouraged.

As a both a musician and an open-source enthusiast, licensing rights can be an important tool to help me ensure the quality and longevity of my work in both those areas. I haven’t a solid plan for this, but suspect that outright, no-strings, free-for-all copying won’t help me develop my rock-star career. (Any advice on developing the rock-star career is welcome 🙂

I believe that most people don’t currently consider the licensing of the media they use, and just copy it if they feel like it. Rather than taking the futile DRM approach, I think it’d be better to share media quite liberally, and for software to inform people what’s going on, enabling appreciative users to support it – with financial (particularly for music), and direct (more relevant with software) contributions.

If we’re in a market-driven economy, let’s try and work towards perfectly informing the consumers…

Merry Christmas!
Dave B.

* Note the dual use (legal/illegal) potential of some technologies.
† Ok, I’m a drummer – it’s close enough 😉

Teaching awards – the photographic evidence

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

The photographic evidence of TALL at the teaching awards has now emerged – with more images of the ourselves and all the other winners, here


Phoebe updates

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

While Phoebe is still very much a prototype, over the last couple of months we have been upgrading it (or her, is software like ships?) to fix some of the known usability bugs from our last rounds of evaluation.  With so many people planning to use Phoebe in earnest over the next few months, as much as possible we wanted to ensure that the feedback we get helps us to specify development in the future, rather than forcing everyone to tell us about problems we already know about.  With this in mind the following are all now in plac:

  • Implement a search across shared designs
  • Ensure robustness of the view design screen
  • Ensure that terminology is consistent and meaningful to users
  • Allow formatted content to be pasted from MS Word
  • Adding tables, headings, linking to images
  • Allow the adjustment of a text entry box size in template
  • Add links where appropriate to the final outputs of the D4Lprogramme
  • Make it possible to copy and rearrange certain fields in a design
  • Allow HTML codes to be included in the information entered in a design
  • Ensure robustness in browsers other than Firefox
  • Fix general usability bugs in template interface

We have also had a problem with Phoebe displaying the following error “Fatal error: Class ‘MDB2’ not found” – if you refresh the screen it takes you to where you were with seemingly no damage, but we have just migrated servers to hopefully eliminate this.

We are very aware that these sorts of updates and bug fixes are a job which never finishes, and just when we think we have it all working I am sure someone will be able to tell us something else we have omitted, or inadvertently broken by fixing something else.  To this end if you do use Phoebe and have a problem, can you to let us know  by emailing us at and we will do what we can to sort it out.