About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

23 September 2005

DRM Protected CDs

Slashdot is running a discussion on a statement from a Finnish politician who claims something like:
"Now, we need to understand that listening to music on your computer is an extra privilege. Normally, people listen to music on their car or through their home stereos. If you are a Linux or Mac user, you should consider purchasing a regular CD player."

For the confused (i.e. people who get their music from alternate sources, many new CDs are restricted to CD players only and cannot be played on PCs without special software. The theory is to prevent piracy; the practice is to annoy everyone and not really work (numerous hacks exist).

Despite the outcry; the politician is somewhat correct. The CD player on a computer is a data disc reader and the music companies have every right to sell a compact disc that will only work on CD players; just as they have every right to sell DRM enabled music. That is their business. It is the consumers that must stand up and say that they will not buy DRM enabled music or not buy DRM enabled media. By bitching and moaning about the media is not really the answer - ultimately the product is for the consumer and if the consumer is unhappy they should not purchase the product. After all, a music CD is hardly a necessity.


As some of you know, I am a volunteer for the SHAWCO IT project in Khayalitsha. The project tries to teach high school kids from Khayalitsha (grade 10 - 12) IT skills like using computers and M$ Office. Today was the closing function - kids who attended regularly were awarded certificates; there were some boring (and not so boring) speeches and some food.

In many ways the project is remarkable and highly necessary - IT skills are important in the new millennium (even the checkout ladies in separate and Pick 'n Pay use quite sophisticated computererised systems to ring up purchases) and are crucial tools that are needed by students. In the environment that is Khayalitsha, the project is a major highlight in this regard.

However there are many questions that remain unanswered:
  • Can they really apply what we have tried to teach them?
  • Have they understood what we tried to teach them?
  • Did we teach them the right things?
  • Is teaching them M$ Office enough?
  • How are the kids going to effectively retain what they have been thought?
  • What about the kids that were not in the project?
  • What about adults in Khayalitsha?
Some of the questions are easy to guess but the later questions are the really crucial ones - especially considering the fact that the centre cost about R250 000 but is only used for about 16 hours a week for about 30 weeks of the year. For the rest of the time the centre is effectively a white elephant.

SHAWCO does not have the means to run the centre for longer periods of time, and unfortunately there are many political issues that run beneath SHAWCO. Only time will tell if the true potential of the SHAWCO centre can be achieved.

21 September 2005

Movie: Crash

Not many people seem to remember Crash, a movie about people with a fetish for car accidents. While the movie was certainly very interesting, it was hardly everybody's cup of tea. The new movie explores a totally different subject - a complex set of disjoint relationships that are all connected to each other. Above all, the movie explores various racial stereotypes (in the US, but equally applicable all over the world) and how these stereotypes affect the relationships. There are some brilliant scenes, and overall the movie forces us to question everyday interactions - for example, what people do you consider threatening when walking on the street?

More info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375679/

Two of the best quotes:
Look around! You couldn't find a whiter, safer or better lit part of this city. But this white woman sees two black guys, who look like UCLA students, strolling down the sidewalk and her reaction is blind fear. I mean, look at us! Are we dressed like gangbangers? Do we look threatening? No. Fact, if anybody should be scared, it's us: the only two black faces surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people, patrolled by the triggerhappy LAPD. So, why aren't we scared?

It's just black people demeaning other black people, using that word over and over. You ever hear white people callin' each other "honky" all the time? "Hey, honky, how's work?" "Not bad, cracker, we're diversifying!"

18 September 2005

Problem with SA Music

The SATNAC closing dinner featured "Mean Mr Mustard" as the evening band. For the uninitiated, Mean Mr Mustard are one of the best rock bands in South Africa, having sold many thousand records and having a great following. Thus we were all quite excited at the prospect; although we were puzzled to how the "0u toppies" will mosh to Mean Mr Mustard. We were heavily disappointed ...

As corporate functions would have it; Telkom more or less decided what songs Mean Mr Mustard should play - the result being a glorified cover band! For years, South African music lovers have wondered why South African music is not really appreciated - and the answer is simple - because the really good bands are playing cover versions of imported music in their really important money earning gigs - the corporate functions. I would have understood if they played covers of South African songs; but when the covered bands like Busted it really left a bad after taste. In the approximately 2 hours that we did stay for; they played only 3 of their own songs! What was the point?