Friday, February 19, 2010

Like movies at home? You're screwed!

Oh, here's a goodie, courtesy of the entertainment industry. It seems that at the end of this year, entertainment gear (TVs, receivers, Blu-ray players, etc.) will no longer be allowed to make products that output HD signals unless those outputs meet the AACS (Advanced Access Content System) -- which amounts to the ability to limit them to the "old" low-res analog TV quality if the folks that put the movie out choose to do so. No high-definition for you unless your player complies with their desire to control how their movies are viewed. The movie studios want to be able to charge you for every single way you want to watch the movies you buy.

Yes, this applies to current HD-capable devices such as Blu-ray players.

No, you may NOT take the one disk you BOUGHT and PAID FOR and use it whenever and wherever the hell you want. Nor may you make a backup copy in case the dog chews the store-bought one.

Watch it at home? That's one copy.
Want to watch it on a portable while on the road? That's another copy.
Want to watch it on your computer? There's copy #3.
Watch it on something else, or a different place? Guess what...

In other words, the movie industry is finally at the point where they can (try to) enforce their wish to control how you watch the movies YOU bought, using the players that YOU paid for.

As a Linux user, I don't doubt that somebody is going to figure a way around this, since Linux doesn't spread it's legs for the MPAA/RIAA the way Microsoft does. You Windows users... well, you're pretty much screwed.

Conversation at the grocery store

My local Albertson's is doing what they call a "reset" -- that is, shuffling pretty much everything in the store around to a New! Improved! location. To give you an idea just how fucked up the place is right now, they've got all the greeting cards lined up on pallets in the middle of the frozen foods section.

I went in a while ago to buy a few things, and couldn't find half the stuff I was looking for. Not being inclined to go on a scavenger hunt just to buy groceries, I just collected the shit I could find and made my way to the register. There I had the following conversation with the checker:

Checker: "Thank you for shopping Albertson's. Did you find everything you were looking for?"

Me: "Well, as a matter of fact, no, I didn't. I've only got about half of what I came in for."

C: "I'm sorry. Can I get someone to help you find things?"

M: "Only if they're going to put it back where it was."

C: "..."

M: "Look, I know y'all are doing this because some pinhead marketing drone at corporate told you to, figuring people would buy more on impulse when they see stuff they hadn't noticed before. That probably even works on some folks. For the rest of us, shuffling stuff around like you are just aggravates us, and makes us go someplace where we can find what we're looking for."

C: "Well it also reminds people of things that they meant to buy, but forgot until they see it on the shelves."

M: "Good for them... but I'm still annoyed that I couldn't find what I was after -- so I'll be going to Wal*Mart from here 'cause I know where stuff is there."

C: "I hear that Wal*Mart is going to be redecorating, too -- a lot of stores are, now."

M: "Maybe so -- but I'll bet that when they're done, the stuff will still be in the same places; they don't rearrange things just for the hell of it like Albertson's does."

C: "..."

By that point, she'd rung up my (single) bag of stuff; I paid for it and left. For Wal*Mart, where I easily found the rest of the groceries I was after.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pointless bitching

Just a few things that have drifted through my mind on their way to somewhere else...
  • "Common" courtesy -- I've been racking my brain trying to see if I can figure out when parents stopped trying to instil some measure of this trait in their kids. When I was but a wee lad, people were generally willing to make at least SOME small effort to show courtesy to others; nowadays, not so much.
  • Thinking and planning ahead -- When the hell did THIS go out of fashion? Do people really not grasp the concept of actually choosing to take deliberate actions to bring about some future result? Don't they realize that if doing "A" results in "B" happening, then NOT doing "A" produces a different result? The honcho types at a lot of financial institutions that jumped on the marginally-legitimate default-swap deals, high-risk investments, and other dubious deals without thinking "what if..." fall into this category, too -- except that the rest of the country got strong-armed into bailing THEIR dumb asses out of the jam they got themselves into.
  • Honesty/integrity -- By now, I expect that all of us have seen ample evidence of the folks that somehow misplaced theirs. They'd be the ones that "overstated" their income to get a home loan, and ended up getting foreclosed on. As an added bonus attraction, a fair number of them failed the "planning" test, too, and are now living in conditions that they could avoided easily enough.
  • Personal responsibility -- Again, when I was just a little guy running around, I was taught that I was responsible for my own actions (or lack thereof). Nowadays, it seems like anyone and everyone in or with any kind of trouble immediately starts demanding protection or compensation or salvation for whatever ails them. Taking an example from the "healthcare reform" situation: does no one realize that insisting an insurance company cover a pre-existing condition (yes, that's something that needs to be more narrowly defined) bears an uncanny resemblance to trying to buy auto insurance for your vehicle AFTER you've gotten into an accident?
  • Congress -- they've steadily gotten more and more polarized over the years, and less and less willing to play nice. Whichever one has the majority is more than willing to try and bully the other into doing things their way; then when the situation is reversed, get payback-plus-interest. And THEN the dumb fucks wonder why their approval rating is the lowest it has been in decades. Here's a clue, shitheads: neither of the major parties has a hammerlock on the One True Way™. You dumbasses need to stop thinking "my state/district/party" and do what you were elected for -- imagine that you're there to do work for the whole freakin' country. 'kay?

Okay, THIS isn't good...

BoingBoing is reporting that a Merion, PA school district has been remotely monitoring school-issued laptops -- even in the child's home. From the fine article:
According to the filings in Blake J Robbins v Lower Merion School District (PA) et al, the laptops issued to high-school students in the well-heeled Philly suburb have webcams that can be covertly activated by the schools' administrators, who have used this facility to spy on students and even their families. The issue came to light when the Robbins's child was disciplined for "improper behavior in his home" and the Vice Principal used a photo taken by the webcam as evidence. [emphasis added]
For further scary details, have a look at the class-action suit being brought against the school district.

If you're not inclined to go through the comments to find it, a PBS "Digital Nation" piece showed it being done inside a Bronx school (at about 4:39 in).

Me, I can see something like that being done in the classroom during school hours -- but anywhere else, not so much. Here's hoping the sub-geniuses that came up with this idea (and the morons that didn't object, and the asshats that actually implemented it) all find themselves doing serious time and being sued for everything but their underwear...