First Russian GP Race Shows All That Is Wrong with F1

It’s rare that all of the faults of any sporting series or even business are exposed all in one shot. It’s even rarer when it’s done on an international scale to the point where nobody can deny it. Somehow, some way, Formula 1, the FIA, and of course Bernie Ecclestone have come together to show off all of the failings of F1 in a single new event, the Russian GP in Sochi. The issue here isn’t point out the faults, rather it’s the difficulty of knowing where to start. To do that, I guess I have to go all the way back to the initial decision.

The choice to have a GP in Russia at all is all about money, and not about the sport in any meaningful way. Just like racing in China, private car ownership and auto racing is not particularly natural to the Russia people. You only have to watch some of the dashcam videos of Russian drivers on the street to realize that driving is pretty new to them. F1 racing is probably 20 years too early here. The “sell out” crowd for this event was apparently about 50,000, proving that organizers didn’t even expect large attendance. For reference, Montreal gets more people than that for Friday practice.

The only reason F1 is in Russia is because they put a pot full of money in front of Bernie, and Mr Putin was fully committed to use this even to polish up his international image. It was obvious enough that the camera cut away from the racing event on multiple occassions to note the arrival of Putin, his sitting with Bernie (in a notably empty section of grand stand) and then again in the same grandstand with people packed around for a better “image”, I guess. While F1 claims to stay out of politics, you can see how this one played out. Moreover, in a time when much of the western world is placing sanctions against Russia for all that has happened in Ukraine and such, F1 is there helping to polish the image. Yup, F1 shouldn’t have been there – but money changes everything, I guess!

Now, to be fair, the politics of the event could have been lost if the facility and the racing had been spectacular. Instead, we were “treated” to another one of Hermann Tilke’s infamous technically challenging and insanely boring racing circuits. 18 corners, with the majority of them being 90 degree “end of the block” type turns, with only one reasonably interesting corner in the whole circuit (turn 3), squandered in a sea of paved run off areas, painted lines, and all the risk factor of driving slowing in a big parking lot. The poor design of turn 2, with a run off area that was faster to use than the main track, and the even poorer design of the pit lane entrance makes you wonder if this guy really cares. The track limits were not defined by gravel or grass, just some nice paint and more pavement. The result for the F1 race was only a single spin in the entire event, as drivers couldn’t even find a way to get too far out of control that wasn’t correctable on the very forgiving run off areas.

The pit lane thing was incredible. They had to slow the pit lane speed down to 60 KM and hour, because the entrance was too tight. Compared to staying on track, the average loss time for a pit stop was 30 seconds. That is just way too long in relation, making changing tires a huge penalty. So while the soft tires were potentially 1 to 2 seconds a lap faster, there was absolutely no benefit to short stinting the harder tires to get the speed benefits of new tires. To make the pit lane work, the entrance needs to be improved to allow full 80kph access, and at the same time the final corner needs to be changed to make the on track lap slightly longer and slower. If the pit lane loss net is lowered to about 15-20 seconds, then there might be potential for other strategies.

Finally, the overall track itself was just dull. Tilke creates technical challenges (loading this side, that side, reverse camber, and so on), but those challenges do not result in on track action the fans crave. The race turns out to be about as exciting as watching someone trade penny stock options, not something most of us will ever tune into.

That the track produced a predictable result for 2014 (top 5 cars were all using Mercedes engines), and that there was little in the way of drama or engagement shows the real issues of F1. They shouldn’t have been there to start with, and if they were, they should have been on a much better track. Tilke removes almost all of the risk of driving an F1 car, which means it’s not about getting the maximum out of the driver, but rather in the driver just getting the most out of the machine he has. The results of the race were all about the machines and little about the drivers, and that is truly sad.

Want to fix it for next year? My suggestions are this:

Fix the pit entrance, make it much easier and faster, at the same time make the main track last turn perhaps into a chicane or a three turn complex that adds a couple of seconds of the lap time and lower the speed on the main straight, making the net pit lane time better. It could perhaps also be achieved by making turn 1 into something other than a flat out part of the track – and move the start finish line down the straight a bit.

Ditch some of the 90 turns, like the areas around turns 12-15. Perhaps just a nice left right flick and on towards the last two turns would be better than that silly 90 right, 90 left, 90 left, 90 right thing – perhaps keep that for the main straight. Aim for a slightly shorter lap time, and remove fuel consumption as an issue.

Fix the run off areas. Turn 2 run off should be gravel, plain and simple. There needs to be punishment for exceeding the track limits. Maybe keep the first piece paved, but make all of the area towards the kink into gravel. Make it impossible to stay on the gas. Same thing for almost every other turn, fill the insides of the corners with grass and make at least the first 5 feet off the track into either grass, sand, or gravel. Lose the painted lines that everyone ignores! Define the track by it’s racing surface, and not painted lines.

The worst part? 3 weeks from now F1 is in Austin, another Tilke painted parking lot, and we are in for another truly boring event. F1 keeps wondering why people tune out as the season goes on… it’s all about not providing the product people want!

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Stupidity and Greed Combine for F1 Tragedy

Often in hindsight, one can see all the steps that have lead to a tragic event. Marussia F1 drive Jules Bianchi rests in a Japanese hospital, fighting for his life after a tragic and almost entirely avoidable accident. it’s horrible to think that Jules Bianchi may die or be permanently disabled, eaten up as part of the horrible workings of F1 itself.

The reasons that the accident was avoidable have nothing to do with the cars, and has little to do with the machinery used to recover a stricken car. It does have way more to do with a basic level of greed and choices made in the quest for the almighty dollar, and thus lands the problem at the feet of one Bernie Ecclestone.

The problem here is that races in Asia are generally delayed until nearly the end of the day, to try to get a better TV playing time in western Europe and specifically the UK. Like it or not, Formula 1 is a UK based sport and runs on UK time. So in order for the races to run no earlier than 6AM UK time, they tend to start very late in the day in places like Japan. The race there started at 3PM, and because it’s late in the year, the sunset is around 5:30 PM. F1 races are suppose to happen in 2 hours, within a four hour window. But clearly, there is no four hour window on this race, in fact there is barely the initial two hours before sunset. So if the race is delayed (and it was), then the drivers face the problem of low light near the end of the event.

This problem has played out before in places like Malaysia, where some races have been cut short by a combination of weather delays and low light. In Singapore, they got the F1 race only by agreeing to run as a night race, so that the TV time was better in the UK. Otherwise, they too would be running a race into the sunset.

This past week in Japan, the pending arrival of a major Typhoon also added to the problems. Race day sunday was wet, rainy, and misty, with low lights conditions as a result. The race start was behind the pace car and the cars quickly stopped after less than two laps because of poor visibility. AFter a while, there was a clear patch and they got back to racing, but the elements that lead to the tragedy were set: low light, pending bad weather, tons of spray and water in the air, limited visibility, a track with some short run off areas, and a track that is prone to having rivers of water running across it at certain points which can lead to aquaplaning. The need to get the race to at least 40 laps (so that it would give full rather than partial drivers championship points) meant that near the end of the race, the light levels were very low indeed. Adrian Sutil, the driver who had an off the lap before which lead to the yellow tractor being in the way, made it pretty clear in his comments that he was having a very hard time to be able to see where the water was pooling on the track, and his off was a result of aquaplaning… and Bianchi’s accident was likely caused in exactly the same way.

What is funny (and sad) to me right now is that the teams and such are talking about all sorts of things, including the concept of a closed cockpit car. Rather than address the real issues that created the circumstances of the accident, they are trying to come up with a way to make the accident more survivable. Kind of like erecting a patriot missile system to try to keep your horse in the barn. You need to address the issue of the open door and the missing walls before you take a big step like that. Few if any want to comment on the true root causes of the incident, because it would expose more of the terrible financial issues that face F1.

My take is this: The Japanese race should have run at least 2 hours earlier in the day. If there is a rule of a 4 hour window to complete the race, then the full four hour window should be before sunset, plus at least 30 more minutes. So if the sunset is 5:30pm, then the race should have be scheduled for 1PM local time – NO MATTER WHAT TIME IS IN THE UK. If a race in Japan is not financial viable under such a circumstance, then perhaps F1 should look at other alternatives. Running very fast cars into low light situations is just not acceptable, even in perfectly clear conditions it creates an undue risk for the drivers and officials alike.

You can blame the tractor, you can blame the rain, you can blame race control for not putting out the safety car fast enough… there is plenty of blame to go around. But when you stand back and look, the real cause here is the start time of the event itself. That choice was the initial step on the road to tragedy, and one that can and should be fixed for the 2015 season.

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CSI Las Vegas Sputters Into Season 15

Up front, I have to admit that I am a big fan of the original CSI series. While I wouldn’t say I am one of the biggest fans or anything like that, I have been a faithful watcher as the series has progressed through it’s many twists and turns, cast changes and soap opera melodramas, and even the totally silly Gilbert / Sara romance (GSR) story arc. I even tolerated the Langston seasons, horrible as they were, hoping to find the light at the other end of the tunnel. That light was Sam the bartender from Cheers, better known as Ted Danson. The series managed a very strong recovery from that point.

As CSI moves into it’s 15th year, it seems pretty clear however that this procedural show has once again lost it’s way. Some might suggest the loss of Captain Jim Brass, one of only a few remaining cast members is the problem, but really, that isn’t it. Having watched the season premiere, I have realizes that the show faces much more serious challenges.

Season 15 was one of the first to start without a real cliff hanger. Season 14 ended with Brass saying goodbye in his own way, so this year they get to start with a very clean slate. No hold overs, nothing dangling over their head, no charges, no CSI near death situations, nobody buried or in jail. So what do we get? Finlay in a car with a bomb. Is that the best they could do? That was the moment that I realized that the real problem isn’t characters, it isn’t setting, or anything like that. It’s the simple problem that the writers are trying hard to outdo themselves and create drama, but to do so they are going back to the same lame bag of tricks that makes season ending cliff hangers so annoying.

Quick rundown of the season 15 premiere elements tells you everything: CSI death risk, serial killer, past case, personal history, sleazy lover, repeating crime scene symbols, and… TWINS SEPARATED AT BIRTH. Do they just put a whole bunch of things on the wall and throw darts at it?

I understand the deal. The writers are trying hard to create new story arcs for the season, a longer one of Finlay’s “romance” (if that is what you call banging in the back seat of a car in public), a medium one of the Gig Harbor Killer, and so on. Perhaps I have been watching too long, and my CSI skills are honed enough to spot the obvious, and the season 15 opening is as obvious as they can get. Pure paint by number stuff, so much show that I stopped the DVR a few times and went on to watch other stuff, as the CSI episode was just way too obvious and painful.

True fans of the series are likely shocked to see it make 15 years. Miami and New York have come and gone, Cyber is coming, and yet the flagship still sails on. But there is an ill wind, a rocky shore, and a helmsman apparently using out of date charts to sail this ship. Season 16 doesn’t look like a given at all.

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Signs Society Has Reached a Dangerous Tipping Point

A number of years ago, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. It’s an interesting book that talk about how things change from being X to being Y, and how rather than being a smooth and gradual change, things are often instead a sudden swing as a tipping point is reached. It’s as if there is finally too much weight on the other side of the balance, and suddenly it shoots up way more quickly then you would expect. The bookRead More

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Dave Hester Coming Back to Storage Wars

Here’s a pretty funny story. I wrote a couple of years back about Storage Wars, a show on A&E that sort of quietly preys on the bad economic times. It’s all about people who buy storage lockers that people fail to pay for. The interest is in what is found in those lockers, and if they made a profit.

One of the original players in that series was a guy called Dave Hester, “the mogul” or Mr Yuuuuuup is you prefer. He was sort of painted as the villain sort, not really bad but certainly someone who seemed to get pleasure out of other people over paying at auction for these things. Anyway, after a couple of seasons, things got ugly and Hester claimed that the show was salting the lockers with interesting things, essentially making the show not a reality show up a semi-scripted show. He of course got canned, and launched a lawsuit or two or three in relation to it. He lost the more important part of the lawsuit, the courts ruled the show is free speech and there is much they can do about it. However, it is said that Hester won his unfair dismissal lawsuit, but the judgement is sealed and nobody is saying how much if anything was paid out.

Now in perhaps the oddest twist, Dave Hester is appearing in a new episode on August 12, 2014. There is new indication that he is back on the show forever or if this is a guest appearance, but it seems that this is a conclusion to a truly weird situation. The show apparently needs him, considering another of the more interesting characters, Barry Weiss the collector, left the show at the end of last season.

One has to wonder of course, is this appearance the actual settlement of the lawsuit? Either way, fans of the show will certainly be interested to see Dave back getting people upset!

Read more of this story at All voices here

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The Tragedy of Tony Stewart

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This past weekend a tragedy occurred Saturday night in the world of racing. No, a driver wasn’t killed in a racing accident or critically injured in a fire, rather a driver was run over under the yellow flag in an angry exchange. That driver’s name was Kevin Ward Jr, and the driver that hit him was NASCAR star and dirt track owner Tony Stewart.

The video is a perfect example of how things can get out of hand so quickly in racing. It is very much an adrenaline driven sport, tempers do flare as when things go wrong. Ward Jjr was unhappy after Stewart slid up into him pushing him into the wall and into a hard spin, and got out of is car to finger wag Stewart. It’s not unusual to see stuff like this, people who are in racing at a local level know that fights in the pits after a wreck are just not that uncommon, and waving your hands at a driver who cut you off or giving them the finger isn’t exactly shocking news. But that is shocking is that in this altercation, Stewart ended up running over the other driver, apparently killing him just about instantly.

(warning, the video clearly shows the event… viewer discretion is advised)

Iphone 6 Rumors and Release Date

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It looks like September 9th is going to be the release date, and of course the rumor mill goes full speed. Apple seems to be able to spin up endless amounts of hype like this. Anyway, the reports are a bigger phone 5.5 inch screen, sapphire screen to resist scratches and cracking, aluminum chassis, and of course the new iOS8. Some are suggesting a wearable like an iWatch or similar type product, but it’s not shown one way or another. There is also the possibility that there will be a smaller and larger version of the phone, to try to satisfy customers who prefer smaller to larger. Also on the rumor table is a 13 mega pixel camera. Read more here

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Nvidia Shield Tablet Gaming To The Max

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I have to admit this is pretty cool. Nvidia has come out with a new tablet that is aimed right at the gaming market, right down to having a full sized gaming style controller to play on! With an 8 inch native HD display (1920×1200), Tegra K1 Keppler graphics, and low lag Wi-fi interface, this is a powerful tablet / note pad / slate based on Android and running some impressive performance numbeers. This is desktop gaming in a portable package, and a pretty impressive on at that!

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Jerk Tech and Vapid Business Models

IN my daily quest to read all of the internet (I fail badly, as everyone else does) I ran across an interesting opinion piece of Techcrunch. In a story called Stop The JerkTech, Josh Constine (@joshconstine) called out the creators of certain types of apps that appear to be to make money by helping jerks. The two he cites are a public parking space app, and a restaurant reservation app. In both cases, they are selling what is otherwise free for a fee – the very core of jerk tech.

I found the story to be quite entertaining because it’s a solid poke at some of the insane business models that seem to be getting financed these days. Some of them like the jerk tech are designed to make money by reselling things that are generally free, others by trying very hard to wedge themselves into normal transactions as a form of middleman. A third group of the truly vapid business models are the ones with no real business at all, based on the fantasy of build a really big audience and hope someone buys you out before you run out of funding.

I find it all interesting because much of it shows the lack of morals that exist in the tech world. The phrase often tossed around is “tech allows it”, so it must be okay. Jerk Tech is pretty much something that tech allows, but in social terms is not the best idea at all. The restaurant reservation app works by having their people make fake name reservations for all of the top restaurants in the San Francisco Bay area, and then selling those reservations to people for $10 or so. The problem is that they appear to monopolize the market place, making it impossible for normal people to just call the restaurant and get a table. Moreover, the eatery doesn’t get a cut, but suffers if all the expensive reservations are not sold and become no shows. It’s a somewhat automated version of being a really big jerk – and making money while doing it.

Middlemen business models are very popular as well, in part driven by a deep understanding of the Google business model. Google’s job is to get involved in as many transactions as possible. Everything they do to take over markets, such as giving away a free operating system, browsers, mail, search, and all of those other things is about gaining eyeballs and selling ad space. They also sell ad space on many, many websites (including this one) and take 50% of the income for doing it. They are very rich middlemen.

As a result of this, you have plenty of middleman business models. Some of the most common prey on people’s narcissistic desires to be famous. Those are companies who “help your band get airplay” or “publish your book”. Vanity presses for writers have almost always existed, they have generally been a pretty scummy way to make a living, getting the author to pay for printing books that will likely never sell. Online, “tech allows it” means that you have literally tens of thousands of these things in everything from help your band to getting your dog a job in movies. All of them are middlemen, trying to get between you and the real resources.

In fact, the internet is in fact one giant middleman contest, with the goal to remove as many of the end retail players from the game. Amazon.com is an amazing success story, and it’s business model is exactly to become the middleman in books (and a whole bunch of other things). Their goal is to make it so that instead of going to any other retailer, you go to them and they deal either directly with the manufacture or even get the other retailers to sell through their system. This gives them incredible power, and the problems that exist currently between Amazon and Hachette publications is a perfect example of the power of the all consuming middleman scenerio.

In fact, the middleman world is the fastest developing part of the internet, and in my next post, I will talk about how the middlemanware and jerk tech worlds are often one and the same.

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The Future Of Android is Android L

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Google’s Android phone OS has had an amazingly good run. From zero to the most dominant player in the mobile OS field, they have skipped by and run over pretty much everyone else except Apple’s Ios. But that success has come with some caveats, including the issue of so many versions, so few updated devices, and the problems of trying to support such a diverse device base. Android is on everything from the smallest smart phones to tablets and even video playback devices, and has a future in automotive applications as well. So with that in mind, Google set about to create the next big version of Android, called Android L.

There is plenty here for everyone. The goals appear to be a more unified experience on all Android devices, and significantly better battery life. Initial tests have shown upwards to 35% longer battery life when compared to KitKat (version 4.4) on some phones.

There is a pretty decent write up here at Tech Radar that summarizes all of the good things coming to Android L.

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F1 Shakes Up Boring Season with FRIC Ban Threat

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The 2014 Formula 1 (F1) season has been a it of a bust in many ways. A whole lot of new technology has been featured especially in the shift from “engines” to “power units” with much more battery power and smaller, turbo charged engines. One team, Mercedes F1, got it pretty much exactly right out of the box, and one or the other of their drivers have won every race except 1, when a rare double mechanical problem took one out of the race and slowed the other.

Mercedes as a result dominated the points race,their drivers could take two races off and still be clear of the chasing pack in both individual and team points. With half the season done, it has been looking like a foregone conclusion, so much so that many teams are already talking about 2015 and just playing out the 2014 hand for show.

Well, it seems that the F1 brain trust has decided that they need to spice things up. To this regard, they have looked at a piece of technology that has been used for a couple of years now. Called the FRIC (front and rear inter connected) suspension, it uses a closed hydraulic system to try to retail car ride height at an even level. The aerodynamics of the cars are greatly upset when the car is not level or hasa shift in attitude, so these systems are very powerful indeed. There has been some suggestion that FRIC was one of the reasons why Red Bull had been so dominating in the last couple of years. F1 has suddenly decided that this may in fact be a “movable aerodynamic device” in violation of Article 3.15 of F1’s Technical Regulations.

The timing of this is certainly interesting. Except for the fact that Mercedes has wisely let their drivers compete for wins and the championship, the season has pretty much been more of a question of who ends up in 3rd. The rumors are that this could hurt Mercedes the most, as their system apparently is very good. It is suggested that it could also hurt Red Bull, who’s car has been low on power but has very good handling this year. The next race weekend in Germany will tell us the full story, as it is rumored that the teams are in in process of either removing the system entirely or disconnecting it from front to rear in order to avoid sanctions. This could mean a shake up in a season that seemed to be already over.

BMW Working On Inductive Charging

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Automotive technology in the area of alternate fuels and electric vehicles is fun to watch, in part because it’s sometimes very slow moving, and yet at the same time with plenty of leaps and bounds in technology that are pretty amazing. I found this article on BMWBlog and on Automobile Magazine’s website that both talk about BMW working on an indictive charging system for the electric cars. The idea is to take away the cable and make recharging just a normal part of parking your car in the garage. It’s sort of a big step up from the inductive charging systems used for remote controls and game remotes.

The concept by itself is quite nice, but continues to point out some real drawbacks of the purely electric car world. You only have to look at all of the people who street park their cars in major cities to understand that any house bound or garage bound recharging system is just not workable in the real world for a large percentage of the driving population. it suggests actually in some ways that we may be headed for a future where car ownership and driving is reserved for the well off who have garages for their cars at home. It may also suggest a future where shared cars (hourly rentals) are much more of a common thing, rather than actual car ownership.

No matter what, it’s is certainly fascinating to see what is under development!

Samsung Race to the Bottom

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Adding more to the story from yesterday’s CNN Money post comes this story from Techcrunch. it’s called Samsung’s Race to the Bottom and it points out of many of the issues that they are facing. One of the key areas of discussion of course is that smart phones are reaching commodity level, and that many people are not upgrading. But there are also the issues of having a lot of competition in the Android market, and the current availability of all the good parts for all of the competitors means that Samsung’s offering perhaps aren’t as unique and as special as they once were. So they are forced to compete on price, which can certainly hurt.

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Apple Submits Patents For Stronger Displays

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Interesting story I found added on today’s Techcrunch article list, featuring some news about some patent applications from Apple. It seems they are working on tougher Sapphire displays that are somewhat flexible in nature, using lasers and other techniques for tempering certain areas and not others. They are also claiming patents on ways to have illuminated buttons. It’s an interesting read, you can check it out here.

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Samsung Hits The Profit Panic Button

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Samsung today pushed the panic button on their financial outlook, “The South Korean electronics giant issued a second quarter earnings warning Tuesday, claiming that its profit could fall as much as 26% from the year earlier. “. This story from CNN Money is an eye opener for some, but really it’s something that anyone can see coming.

Smart phones have more or less hit the wall in technology terms. The current crop of phones are not that much better than the ones before them, the last real big innovation was perhaps LTE, and that was perhaps the final reason for most people to upgrade in the last few years. However, quad core processors and HD quality screens up to nearly 6 inches released since 2011 or so have pretty much come to dominate the marketplace – and they are great. The results are that fewer people are buying upgrade phones, and are instead sticking with the already great phone they are using. It may also be an indication that people are not obtaining new phones when the renew their service contracts, which may push the demand for new phones 2 years down the road at a least.

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Is Claiming Fair Use Just a Nice Way to Pirate Stuff?

I read Mike Masnick over at Techdirt on a fairly regular basis, in part because he is an endless source of laughs for me. He has completely convinced himself of a bunch of different things about the economics of the internet, piracy, and copyright, yet most of what he supports seems to flicker and fade. Trent Reznor, once one of the true heros of the “FREE!” economy and one of it’s pioneers apparently had second thoughts, signed a new record label deal and appeared at the Grammy awards. Most of the tricky “pay what you want” schemes for selling things have faded away, and still few crowd funded entertainment options have really played out in a big way. Some minor successes to be sure, but nothing that has anyone running for cover.

What really caught my eye was an article about fair use and the “innovation economy”. Now, fair use is one of the rallying cries of the anti-copyright set, and one that Masnick attempts to push as a right, and not an affirmative defense. Yet, in the seminal case on the subject, Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music, the judge in the case clearly stated that “fair use is an affirmative defense”. In fact, it’s pretty self explanatory, fair use is saying “yes is used the copyright material, but I feel I have the right because…”. The first part of claiming fair use is an admission that you used copyright material without permission. Masnick seems to have a real problem with this basic idea, and as a result, much of what he writes about copyright on Techdirt tends to suffer the juice of the poisoned apple.

What is funny is that fair use is sometimes used as an excuse for piracy. It’s a big logical jump, where people say that since the Betamax case permitted “time shifting” by recording a program now for later viewing, pirating a copy of what you didn’t record is okay because you could have done it. Some might call that bootstrapping, but I call it the misinformed leading the misinformed. The legal reality is much simpler. The best way to explain it is that while the courts have tolerated to some extent “remote” DVR machines hosted by cable companies, they are careful to assure that each end user records and plays back their own copy of the programming, and not a shared network copy. They also do not store all material and allow a user to select from programs they did not explicitly record. So they are not creating a on demand system, rather just a DVR with a very long wire. By the same logic, obtaining from a third party a copy of what you did not yourself record would not be time shifting or fair use, just a straight copyright violation.

Mike Masnick also points to a recent court ruling with a blazing headline of “Court Ruling Notes That For-Profit, Full Copy Of Audio, Without Commentary Can Also Be Fair Use, In Specific Circumstances”. It sounds like fair use is a free for all for full use of audio, right? Well, not really, First off, the case is very narrow in scope, and most importantly, it involves the news media reporting on a given topic. The recording in question is of an earnings conference call for shareholders, and was used by Fox specifically as part of a news report. It’s not surprising or even particularly revolutionary that such audio could be used to report on something. Yet, Masnick repeatedly hammers on the “full length recording” as some magical thing, like suddenly the courts are going to give everyone a pass on using audio in any way they see fit. The ruling is extremely narrow in focus, and deals with the news media, a news story, and a very specific news worthy item. It’s not a revolution, it’s how things have always been.

Fair use is a wonderful doctrine, it’s a great balancing tool to allow a narrow set of situations where one can use copyright material without obtaining the rights, and is balanced against all sorts of things. Interestingly, the Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music that is often cited in these situations is itself a bit of a red herring, firstly because the Supreme Court only ruled narrowly on what it saw as an error by the lower court and sent the case back down – they did not issue a definitive ruling! Also, the case was in the end settled by the two parties with 2 Live Crew licensing and paying to use the work in question. Their fair use claims of parody may or may not have played out in the courts, but clearly even with the Supreme Court sending the whole mess back to the lower courts, they didn’t feel the desire to press their luck. For that matter, the rights holders seemed relieved to get out with a licensing deal instead of more court time, so everyone was happy. Since that time, further rulings have pretty much shown that almost all forms of sampling to create new songs is not fair use, and that everything must be licensed. The Campbell v. Acuff Rose Music case didn’t so anything for fair use, if anything the only thing was force licensing. Their fair use claims in parody may or may not have worked out for them, and we will really never know.

It should be pointed out that one of the biggest parody music makers of modern times, Weird Al Yankovich does not rely on fair use for his work. Rather he asks permission and does not release a song unless the original artist is on board. It’s not about his pure legal standing, it’s about realizing what is right and wrong in reality. It’s that sort of thing that seems very hard for the copyright minimalist groups to understand. Sometimes you just have to be fair, even in fair use.

Another example of people not getting it is over at Torrent Freak, another bastion of piracy wrapped in free speech flag. Andy on that site is particularly humorous, only because he comes up with nuggets of self-justification that are almost beyond understanding. In defense of Kim Dotcom’s mega not removing infringing files and instead only disabling specific reported links, suggesting that perhaps an original rights holder might have used Mega for a backup, so deleting the file would violate their rights. Yeah, I know, I had to think about it a bit to realize how incredibly stupid this was. Movie makers and musical artists aren’t generally lining up to use Mega as a backup service for their finished work products. I certainly can’t imagine Warner Brothers or whatever uploading rips of their DVD products to Mega for safe keeping. Attempting to create the space for an exception by suggesting the most unlikely scenerio is laughable. It’s trying to excuse the illegal acts of thousands (if not millions) of people by suggesting something stupid. It’s pretty much on par with the guy who says that MH370 flight was taken by aliens and dropped on the moon (and seriously, someone has claimed that!).

Using fair use or completely insane possible situations to cover for rampant piracy makes those who support it look silly. Trying to drive a truck through the head of a legal pin to excuse bad behavior is the last desperate claim for those about to eat it.

The post Is Claiming Fair Use Just a Nice Way to Pirate Stuff? appeared first on Stuff Channel.

Originally Syndicated via RSS from Stuff Channel

Apple Planning Busy 2014

iwatch apple

So the rumor mill is starting to crank up around Apple again, they still don’t have the Steve Jobs mystery thing worked out however. This story from Expert Reviews suggests that Apple has a full slate of new products on line, from the Iphone6 (or whatever it may be called) to new cheaper IMacs and such. The topper in all of this is the long predicted IWatch. I have posted up an image that seems to be around in a lot of places, which is based in part off of some patents Apple obtained. However, this all comes at a time where Apple is still being shaken to it’s core by staffing changes, including the “retirement” of Greg Christie, a vice president and engineer who was responsible for much of the Iphone interface that not only made the Iphone a great product, but may have defined mobile phones as we know it. Christie has been a big part of the lawsuit with Samsung, it’s not known if this change of status might also change Apple’s approach in the lawsuit.

Originally Syndicated via RSS from Broadband Wireless Access

Whiners and Wind Ups In the New F1

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a fan of auto racing (and to an extent motorcycles as well). I have routinely and regularly called out NASCAR for their sleep inducing, near incestuous series, and I have spoken against F1 on a few occasions as well. NASCAR pretty much failed to move forward and lost me as a fan, and F1 had certainly been hovering on that side as well. Four years in a row of Red Bull dominance and an endless parade of rules bent and broken at will made F1 a bit mindless.

However, the FIA and F1 who sort of combine to actually make the series go saw the issues and decided that F1 needed to move towards being more relevant for actual road going technology. Few of us were going to benefit by increases aero effeciency by cycling our engines at high speed to detach airflow (exhaust blown aero), nor for that matter were very many of us driving around in normally aspirated high fuel consumption V8 engines. So with an eye to the future, they redid the rules to put a bigger emphasis on hybrid power, electric recovery, and fuel effciency, not only limiting the size of the engines to 1.6 liters (with turbo) but also limiting both fuel flow and total fuel allowed per race, which has certainly changed the game.

Three races into the new era of F1, and it’s pretty easy to see that some engine companies got it, some didn’t so much, and others just having been able to integrate the whole thing into a functional package. Mercedes has certainly put together a great engine package, which is powering most of the teams near the top, and Renault has pretty much dropped the ball, and served up a complex system that doesn’t seem to be work well and is prone to failures.

There have been complains and whining from all sides on this one, even F1 head Bearnie Ecclestone complained the cars were too quiet – until he heard them in person and then said it wasn’t that bad. Clearly the cars are quieter, considering they don’t rev to 18,000 rpm anymore and have their exhausts blocked by a turbo, but they turn out much more torque and power total than the old cars. There are also complaints that the cars are harder to drive and hard to make work propertly.

Not surprisingly, the sourest of sour grapes appears to be coming from previously dominant Red Bull racing. They have been the team who has dominated for 4 years, with a slick combination of the best packaging plus some incredibly inspirated rule… what would you call it… rule skirting. Everything and anything was fair game to them, including apparently heating the underside of the car so the floor would flex more during the race to increase downforce, to flexible noses, blown exhausts, and a whole bunch of other things that will one day come to light when the players are not longer in the game, and will reveal just how much of a charade it all was. Red Bull loved the old rules because they found all the ways to get around them, winning the last 8 or 9 races last season without even marginal opposition. They were just that far ahead.

Now, they find themselves having problems, and that has resulted in some pretty sad whining from them. F1 champ Sebastian Vettle was asked about the engine sound, and he said it was “sh-t” (poop). Red Bull honcho and Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has made some not so veiled threats about leaving the series, and now chief engineer (and rule bender) Adrian Newey had made it clear he things all of this technology is expensive, meaningless, and not relevant. Of course, it probably pisses him off no end that he can no longer find another twist in the rules to apply an aero adjustment to make his cars slide to the front anymore, and in fact his original 2014 design was at least partially scrapped because the car kept overheating and catching fire.

My opinion? Red Bull can take the door and go. They are fair weather friends to F1, and as soon as things are not going their way, they are quick as a group to start talking the series down and making off the cuff comments that are not to anyone’s benefit. The races so far in 2014 have been interesting, with plenty of different strategies and challenges, and as a result, F1 is actually fun to watch again. Red Bull want it their way, the old boring way… and that’s just not going to happen.

In the never ending world of chess that is F1, Bernie Ecclestone perhaps gets the last word on this one, the one that is likely to get Red Bull to shut up already. He announced that two new teams would be coming to F1, which would pretty much negate whatever potential loss would come from losing the two Red Bull teams. So if Mateschitz thought he had F1 by the short and curlies, it turns out that he may just be giving himself the wedgie instead.

The post Whiners and Wind Ups In the New F1 appeared first on Stuff Channel.

Originally Syndicated via RSS from Stuff Channel

Mobile Rises as PCs Continue To Fade

goodbye PC

The times they are a-changing, and if you are in the business of making desktop computers or their parts, then you are probably hurting in a very big way. People are buying as much as they did before, if not more, but now more and more are buying portable devices and leaving the desktop behind. This report that I found over at Techcrunch shows a nearly 5% increase in phone sales, and a near perfect matching 6.6% decline in PC sales.

It could be said that this is the long goodbye for the PC as we know it. The PC world is getting it from all sides, from quadcore phones and tablets to online cloud services that make home storage seem as up to date as floppy disks. There is plenty of action in phones, tablets, phablets, and a fast growing market is the clamshell devices, which fold open to reveal a laptop like screen and keyboard combo, albeit in a smaller package.

Certainly a big part of the market is because mobile and portable computing is still a young industry, expanding rapidly and evolving at full speed, with many playing catchup to the current 4G standards. There is also the basic concept that the PC market hasn’t moved forward much in the last few year, the last big leap for most people was onto Windows 7, as most seem to have avoided windows 8 variants where possible. For many, there aren’t enough new features or benefits to justify a costly upgrade. However, it’s apparently easier to justify a nice sized chunk of change for the latest iphone or Samsung device, and the tablet world is expanding rapidly and the devices are impressive pieces with great graphics, screens, and processing power.

The PC will always have a place, but it appears that for many, the PC is’t the first choice anymore

Originally Syndicated via RSS from Broadband Wireless Access

Comcast and Apple Reported Talking About Streaming TV

comcast apple

The hot rumor of the last couple of days is that Apple and Comcast are in talks regarding a streaming TV service. There are stories on the Hollywood Reporter and Techcrunch that show how this might all pan out. What is interesting here is that they are apparently avoiding a net neutrality issue (at least for the moment) by negotiating to have the service provided on the “TV” part of the bandwidth, and not on the internet side of the IP tv delivery method. This would essentially create a service that would sew up the last mile, and at the same time perhaps show a new future business model for cable and internet companies, selling access to the last mile without actually using the internet. Net neutrality supporters are probably woofing their cookies thinking about this one, as it entirely sidesteps the who deal and leaves them out in the cold.

Originally Syndicated via RSS from Broadband Wireless Access