Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

The online GST proposal

August 18th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Government has published a discussion document about what to do with GST on online purchases. It is here. They key points are:

  • Offshore suppliers will be required to register and return GST if their supplies of services to New Zealand-resident consumers exceed a given threshold in a 12-month period. Submissions are sought on the value of that threshold.
  • In some situations, an electronic marketplace or intermediary may be required to register instead of the principal offshore supplier.

The Government has kicked for touch (for now) the most politically significant issue of the de minimis threshold of $60 GST/fees (or $400 of goods) for collecting GST at the border. That is the issue I am more interested in. If Customs starts seizing my books from Amazon, I’ll be bloody pissed off.

What is proposed in the discussion document is pretty unobjectionable, but that is because they may be unenforceable.

Basically it is saying we’re going to ask overseas e-tailers to agree to register for GST in NZ, and pay us GST.

Some may do so, for reputational reasons. But what if they don’t?

These companies may not have a legal presence in NZ. Will Amazon be banned if they don’t agree to register for and collect GST?

So I’m not sure this will achieve much. It may get some voluntary compliance for reputational reasons, but not too many businesses will rush to pay a voluntary tax. If all OECD Governments agree to pass laws mandating each other’s GST laws must be honoured by their own businesses, then it would be a different matter.

So as I said the big issue for me is the de minimis threshold. There may be a case to reduce it a bit, but if the cost of collecting GST at the border is more than the revenue from it, then the threshold is too low.


Passwords a step too far

August 17th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Over the weekend I read the Child Protection (Child Sex Offender Register) Bill.

As I blogged when introduced, I’m a supporter of it. In fact I think over time you might widen its eligibility criteria to other serious crimes.

But there is one section of the bill, which goes too far in my view. Child sex offenders are near the lowest of the low, and I’m all for a register to allow authorities to track them. But let’s look at the list of personal information to be reported:

  • Name/s
  • DOB
  • Address/s
  • Identity of children in same residence
  • Nature of work and name and address of employer
  • Membership of any groups with kids in them
  • Details of cars owned or driven
  • Details of tattoos etc
  • Passport details
  • Numbers of landlines or mobile phones

So far so good. Then we turn to the Internet details:

  • details of e-mail addresses used
  • details of online accounts and aliases used or intended to be used

Again no problems. But:

  • details of any ISP used or intended to be used including login details, user name and password


That would then give the state the ability to monitor basically their Internet communications. A government official could login and see every e-mail sent to or from them. And this could be for life.

Everything else is reasonable. But the password is not. It is the Internet equivalent of having the state listen in to every phone call you make – without any warrant. Or open every item in the post to and from you – without a warrant.

If there is reasonable cause for concern, then they can get a warrant to intercept the communications. I’m okay with those on the register having to hand over usernames and login details so they know what accounts to target if there is concern. But including the password in the register of information is a step too far.


The power of social media

August 16th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Key did a video on why he thinks we should change the flag, and rebutting some of the arguments against.

He didn’t do a media release. He didn’t do a speech on it. He merely stuck the video on his facebook page.

It’s had 489,000 direct views of the video, and 1.24 million people have seen the post as it has been shared by 6,206 people to their facebook followers.

That’s a bigger audience that either of the 6 pm TV news bulletins.

A great example of the power of social media. Not only have hundreds of thousands viewed it, but this is not a 30 second soundbite. Half a million people viewed a seven minute long video because they are interested in the issue.

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Voicemail to texts

August 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Apple employees are said to be testing a new Siri function that allows the digital assistant to convert your voicemail messages into texts.

Transcribing voicemails into text and relaying them on to the user via text message could eliminate the need to call and listen to voicemail, according to Business Insider.

That would be great. I detest voicemails. You need to pay to clear them, and have to then write them down, before actioning them. My phone message actively discourages people from leaving voicemail messages and requests they text or e-mail me.


Smart move by Dominos

August 12th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A pizza company’s drivers will be able to be tracked from the moment they leave the store to when they drop the pizza off at your door.

Domino’s New Zealand general manager Scott Bush said the company’s GPS Driver Tracker was developed with Navman Wireless as an extension to the company’s smartphone app and is launching in New Zealand following a successful trial in Australia.

“Our customers will be able to watch their driver on route to their door in real time [and] know exactly who their driver is,” Bush said.

The software was inspired by Uber and also works on desktop computers and also keeps delivery drivers safe, Bush said.

This is a very smart move. It is frustrating not knowing when your pizzas will arrive, and the ability to see where the drive is in real time, will be a significant selling point.

It won’t be the only point of difference. Taste is still king, and for me Hell reigns supreme over Pizza Hut and Dominos. Wholly Pizza is very good also.

However another story by Stuff has the unions protesting this really smart move:

Service and Food Workers Union organiser Russell Taylor said unions were nervous about monitoring technology in the workplace, which was becoming more common.

“It’s an invasion of privacy. Employers say it’s being done for the benefit of the employees but more often than not it is used against them.”

Unions did not want workplaces relying on technology for health and safety.

“In our view all workers should be within sight and sound of another person at all times,” he said.

Is it any wonder why so many unions are regarded as dinosaurs?

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857 blocked, only one million to go

August 5th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

India has blocked hundreds of adult websites to prevent pornography becoming a social nuisance, a government official said on Monday, sparking a debate about censorship and freedom in the world’s largest democracy.

In India’s first big crackdown on Internet porn, service providers have been directed to block 857 websites, N N Kaul, a spokesman at the department of telecommunications, told Reuters.

“Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check,” Kaul said.

“We don’t want them to become a social nuisance.”

Yeah, that will work. Idiots.

Last month, the Supreme Court refused to impose an outright ban after hearing a petition that said Internet porn fuelled sex crime. The court said individuals should be free to access such websites in private.

So the Government is ignoring the court.

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French law should not apply to the NZ Internet

August 4th, 2015 at 12:08 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Google is pushing back against France’s data privacy authority after the watchdog ordered the search engine giant to extend the so-called right to be forgotten to its websites globally.

France’s data protection authority CNIL should withdraw an ultimatum threatening Google with fines unless it delists requested links across its network, the Mountain View, California-based company said in a blog post on Thursday.

“We respectfully disagree with the CNIL’s assertion of global authority on this issue,” Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said in the post. The French regulator’s order from last month “is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the Web,” he said.

The French data protection authority is threatening the global nature of the Internet.

The European Court said that in Europe there is a right to be forgotten and required Google to remove links to old articles on people, if they qualified.

That was a bad enough ruling, but it applied to only, etc etc.

The French regulator is demanding that it apply to and etc. That means that French law would apply globally and what we can access and view in NZ would no longer be uncensored.

This is very very important stuff. Once you allow one country to demand their law applies to all other portions of the Internet, then you have the Internet governed by the most restrictive regimes.

If I was Google, I would tell CNIL that if they are going to try and assert global authority over the Internet, then Google will block all IP address in France from accessing any google service – hence they can no longer be fined by the French regulator. The massive backlash from French citizens against the regulator should see it pull its head in.

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$1.2 million for a basic Council website is too much

July 31st, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Christchurch City Council has spent $1.2 million upgrading its “outdated” website.

The revamp included new software, new content and staff training and took three and a half months. The site was last overhauled in 2009 and that version ran on systems that would not be supported past this month.

The $1.2m spend came out of the council’s IT capital budget for this financial year.

The director of a Christchurch web development company said the total cost was a surprise.

“That takes my breath away. You vaguely hear of those sorts of number getting thrown around. I’m struggling to get my head around where that cost would come from.”

The director, who asked to remain anonymous as his company did web development work for the council, said parts of the design, such as the user elements for rates and dog registration, were quite technical, making precise cost estimates difficult.

“[But] we’d have happily done the job for half that and probably, I believe, still arrived at the same result.”

$1.2 million is a huge figure. If they had designed a website where you could interact online with the Council in every area, that sort of price might be justified, but it is primarily just a static website.

As an example I went to their services section to see what could I do online. Under burials, there is no online form to book one in. You download a pdf, print it out, then have to scan it back in and e-mail it to them.

Other services which you can’t do online are:

  • Dog registration
  • Tenancy application
  • Report to noise control

Incredible that they spend $1.2 million and can’t even convert some pdf forms into online forms.


A reader on Uber

July 27th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader writes in:

A bit of feedback for you, and if you choose to publish, I hope will send a bit of a message from a platform that has been an advocate.

Bride and I have adopted Uber and loved the app, the service and the convenience. We also loved the price (typically not overly price sensitive – but it was a distinct bonus). However, last nights experience was not so good and had an element of biting the hand that feeds.

We were traveling from Khandallah to Newtown for a party leaving at 6.30pm. Clocked on the app to be told that there was a ‘surge rate of 1.5x normal rate’ to encourage more Uber drivers onto the road. We swallowed the dead rat and booked. $56 to Newtown (with a driver who bad mouthed other cab companies from start to finish – chatty guy and nice enough, but not classy or my preferred backtrack en route).

Leaving party went to book via app, ‘surge rate 2x normal fare applies’. Bollocks to that. Called Wgtn Combined, cab there within 15 and happy to text on arrival as was p!ss!ng cold and we were down a driveway. That same journey was $43 (and blissfully quiet!).

I know you have been a vocal advocate of Uber and market driven demand, I though I might whore your platform to fire a shot across their bows and warn them against premature complacency.

I recently had a 2x surge rate also, but that was from Wellington Airport at 1.30 am in the morning. Normally when prices get that high, I’ll choose a taxi instead. However there were none there, and around 30 people in a queue waiting for one.

So I had a choice of paying a higher rate for a guaranteed ride in ten minutes, or spending an indefinite amount of time queuing for taxis. I went for the Uber.

So yes I am a fan of Uber, but also not an uncritical one. My main frustrations to date are:

  • Not enough drivers in Wellington. Often have a fair wait for a driver
  • The estimated times for a pick up are often on the low side – ie they say six minutes and it takes ten
  • Surge pricing does occur fairly often

But overall still very happy with them.


The NZ National Broadband Map

July 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

There is now a national broadband map for NZ. You can enter in an address and see what the availability is of fibre, VDSL, ADSL and wireless.

The map has been produced by NZRS (who also run the .nz domain name registry), a company owned by InternetNZ with assistance from MBIE and of course the retail providers.

For example if you put in 175 Melbourne Road, Island Bay, Wellington it tells you:

  • Fibre planned for 2016 to 2019
  • VDSL available with download speeds of 15  –  60 Mbps and upload of 5 – 18 Mbps
  • ADSL available with download speeds of 10 – 22 Mbps and upload of 1 – 2 Mbps
  • Wireless not available

A great resource that has already proven massively popular with 60,000 visits within hours of launching.

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280,000 reasons why it was such a bad court ruling

July 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

538 report:

I’ve been working with NPR to discuss a number of the week. This time it’s 280,000 — that’s the number of requests individuals in Europe have made to Google so far asking the company to remove certain web pages from its search results.

The number of requests has been consistently climbing since May 2014, when the European Court of Justice ruled that an Internet search engine has to consider such requests from a person about search results related to that person’s name.

This just degrades the usefulness of search engines, if 280,000 people can get information on them suppressed in the results.

In my view it was a terrible ruling by the European Court of Justice, and I hope we never get anything like that here.


Smart Police work

July 22nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police have been snooping on people’s Facebook profiles, and using the evidence to carry out drug raids.

The monitoring has been exposed by members of a blackmarket Facebook group, who complained of receiving letters out of the blue from police, warning them they were being watched.

One unidentified user received a letter from the Canterbury Organised Crime Squad, dated July 15, warned that their membership of a group suspected to be aiding illegal drug deals had been noticed. 

They might wish to “review” their membership of the group, the letter suggested – and it had a card for a drug abuse helpline stapled to it.

“Police have been monitoring your Facebook profile and established that you are engaged in a Facebook group that actively sells and trades in controlled drugs,” the letter said.

“Committing offences against [drug laws] can lead to penalties, including imprisonment.” 

Police confirmed on Monday that they were monitoring social media pages, and sometimes using the evidence they found to mount raids.

This is smart work by the Police. And it isn’t spying or snooping. If you’re stupid enough to join public groups devoted to criminal activity, you shouldn’t be surprised the Police take an interest.

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The power of the users

July 14th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar reports:

ELLEN Pao, who made headlines with a high-profile Silicon Valley gender discrimination lawsuit, was ousted Friday after a brief but stormy tenure at the helm of online bulletin board Reddit.

Pao took over earlier this year as Reddit CEO after being fired from the prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, prompting a highly publicised lawsuit.

But she quickly ruffled feathers and provoked anger with the unexplained firing of a Reddit employee, leading to an online petition calling for her departure.

Reddit, which has more than 163 million users and describes itself as a forum for real-time journalism, said in a statement that Pao resigned “by mutual agreement” and would be replaced by founder and original CEO Steve Huffman.

It wasn’t the petition that did her in, but that many of the moderators of subreddits went on strike, did blackouts etc. Basically they got the message across that they were collectively more important to Reddit than the CEO.


Tame on Uber

July 12th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jack Tame writes in the Herald:

I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago and I needed a cab. I was downtown, it was a Tuesday evening and that chilly breeze was holding off from blowing across the bay. In short, it wasn’t tough to find a taxi rank with a few drivers twiddling their thumbs. …

But Andre explained that he won’t be shelling out for an overnight direct on Air New Zealand anytime soon.

“Buying the medallion to own this cab cost me all of my life savings,” he explained.

“Two hundred and fifty grand that I’ll probably never get back.”

You have to feel sorry for the drivers. Their industries make you pay an obscene amount of money to drive a taxi.

The next few days I was in LA where the cabs weren’t quite so ubiquitous. With Andre’s words still in my ears, I whipped out my phone and let Uber do Andre’s work. Six separate times.

It was easy. It was cheap. And I can see why those cabbies in France and the UK are so worried that Uber will steal their jobs. In Christchurch alone, more than 1,300 people applied to become Uber drivers this week.

If history teaches us anything about commerce, it’s that consumer convenience and cheap prices will always win out. It’s why your running shoes were made in Vietnam and your T-shirt in Bangladesh.

No one wants anyone to lose their jobs, but economies are always forced to evolve. Just ask the Luddites – the machines always win.

In California, a 15-minute cab with Andre cost me $114. Covering more than twice that distance with six separate Uber trips cost me $82.

So it is a no brainer.

The difference is Uber drivers don’t need to pay $250,000 to be an Uber driver. They try to make the cost of entry as low as possible. The NZ Government should be doing the same – how do we make it easier for people to earn a living being a driver, while still having safety assurance.


Hawaiki makes progress

July 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

For the first time, it actually looks as if the 50% Spark-owned Southern Cross Cable could get some serious competition.

Hawaiki Cable founder Remi Galasso has been trying to raise $400 million for a trans-Pacific submarine cable since 2008.

Today, Hawaiki signed an equity deal with SIL Long Term Holdings, the family investment vehicle of NBR Rich Lister Sir Eion Edgar. …

Speaking to NBR shortly after the deal was made public, Sir Eion would not say how much money he would put into Hawaiki but described it as “substantial.”

He said he would also be advising the cable company and helping it bring other investors onboard.  

Asked whether his investment was contingent on more customers coming on board (at the moment Haiwaiki has one firm customer, Crown agency Reannz), Sir Eion said “No, we’re committed.”

That is promising. Pacific Fibre got lots of potential customers but never got the capital. Hawaiki looks to be achieving both.

However the history in this space is that progress is a long way removed from commitment. Until they announce the project is definite, I’m not counting on it.

He said Hawaiki would lay its 25 terabit-per-second Sydney-Whangarei-Hawaii-mainland-US cable by December 2017. He expected it to be cashflow positive in three to five years.

It will be great if they achieve this.


NZ broadband

July 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

InternetNZ says it’s not our broadband that sucks – it’s how we’re using it.

The group’s annual NetHui event logs on in Auckland today, hosting key figures from the industry, MPs and others interested in how the internet is changing our lives, and what lies ahead.

InternetNZ work programme director Andrew Cushen says New Zealanders like to complain about the state of our broadband infrastructure, but the reality has left the cliché behind.

“The simple fact of the matter is over the last five years in particular, the Government has put in a great deal of money through the ultra-fast broadband programme and the rural broadband initiative, to make New Zealand’s internet some of the best in the world,” he said on TV3’s Paul Henry programme this morning.

“Yes there are still some issues, yes there are still some people waiting for some rollouts to get there. But the story is really fantastic in terms of the capability of the network… By 2020, 98 percent of New Zealanders are going to have really fantastic connectivity.”


The Government has invested a huge amount in our broadband infrastructure. The fibre roll out especially is great as it is basically future proofed.

Speeds are lifting, and data caps have faded as an issue. The focus as Cushen says is shifting to what we do with it – as businesses, consumers, Government, citizens and families.

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Kiwiblog and the Harmful Digital Communications Act

July 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I have updated Kiwiblog’s complaints policy to take accounts of the Hamrful Digital Communications Act 2015. The policy is here.

The new section is below:

Harmful Digital Communications

If you believe a comment or post on Kiwiblog is harmful to you as defined by the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, please e-mail You may also text the editor on 021 940 045 to alert me to the complaint, but the complaint must be submitted via e-mail and include the information detailed below.

If the material is in a post written by the editor, then I will consider the complaint and amend or remove the material if I agree it is harmful. If you do not agree with my decision, then from 2017 you will be able to complain to the Approved Agency and/or the District Court.

If the material is in a post written by another author (such as a guest poster or a commenter) then Kiwiblog is an online content host under the HDCA, and safe harbour provisions will apply.

Kiwiblog will refer your complaint within 48 hours to the actual author and notify them that a request has been made for the material to be removed or amended.

The author has a maximum of 48 hours to respond to the complaint. They can do so in three ways:

  1. Not respond at all – which will lead to the material being complained about being removed or amended
  2. Agree to have the material removed or amended, which will will be done by the Kiwiblog Editor
  3. Not consent to having the material being removed or amended, in which case it will remain online unless a takedown order from the court is issued.

In all cases I can decide to remove or amend comments, regardless of the above procedure, if I believe it is in breach of Kiwiblog policies. These HDCA provisions are in addition to existing policies.

The safe harbour provision means that Kiwiblog does not have liability under the HDCA for material authored by others, so long as I follow the procedure summarised below. So any disputes are between the complainant and the author – Kiwiblog is merely the online content host.

The details of notices and counter-notices are in s24 of the HDCA, specifically:

(3) A notice of complaint must—

(a) state the complainant’s name and a telephone number, a physical address, and an email address for the complainant; and
(b) state the specific content, and explain why the complainant considers that the specific content—
(i) is unlawful; or
(ii) breaches 1 or more communication principles and has caused harm; and
(c) sufficiently enable the specific content to be readily located; and
(d) state whether the complainant consents to personal information that identifies the complainant being released to the author; and
(e) contain any other information that the complainant considers relevant.

(4) A counter-notice must state—

(a) the author’s name and a telephone phone number, a physical address, and an email address for the author; and
(b) whether the author consents to personal information that identifies the author being released to the complainant; and
(c) whether the author consents to the removal of the specific content.

The details of both complainant and author will remain confidential, unless permission is explicitly given to share your details, or ordered to by a court.


Some alternatives to global mode

July 2nd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

If you wish to be able to pay someone for the content you consume, and were reliant on global mode, here’s a few alternatives.

  1. UnoTelly has a one month free trial for NZers
  2. Hola – takes 30 seconds to install
  3. Fast VPN
  4. Hotspot Shield
  5. Unblockus

I use Hola – it is great, and free.

UPDATE: Read comments below about Hola. May be worth avoiding.

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The Harmful Digital Communications Act

June 30th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This afternoon Parliament will pass into law the Harmful Digital Communications Act. If I was an MP, I’d vote against the bill.

In saying that I recognise a significant amount of good will come from this bill. I also recognise that Amy Adams has made improvements to it, which have mollified some of the concerns people have had with the bill, which is why Labour and NZ First are now supporting it. In fact ACT is the only party against – David Seymour explains why here.

Here’s the good aspects to the new law:

  • The approved agency (will be Netsafe who are very good) will get legal standing, and be able to far more effectively mediate cases with Facebook, Google etc where real harm is happening – especially cyberbullying of teens
  • Specifics behaviours which are despicable such as encouraging someone to kill themselves, posting revenge porn etc will face criminal sanctions
  • Has an extensive safe harbour for intermediaries such as Kiwiblog and Trade Me, so that we’re not liable for content generated by others on our sites, so long as we pass complaints on promptly
  • Rather than me having to judge if a comment is harrassing, threatening etc, I can allow the Approved Agency to mediate, or the District Court to rule

The bad aspects include:

  • The 10 communication principles are too wide, and principle No 10 especially could lead to severe restrictions for online speech, with the principle being used to stifle legitimate criticism
  • The timelines for the safe harbour are very tight
  • A few dedicated trolls could make life hell for content hosts by constantly taking them to court, especially as there is no filing fee
  • Different legal standards now apply to offline and online speech

The Press editorial is opposed:

The purpose of the statute is high-minded enough.  It is designed to deter, prevent and mitigate harm to individuals by digital communications. But the thresholds set by the new statute are perilously low and potentially pose a  threat to freedom of speech. …

Both the agency and the District Court must  decide matters according to “communication principles” contained in the new statute.  Some of these are ludicrously wide.  One, for example, prohibits  digital communications that make a false allegation.  As those with experience of defamation law know, that can be an area of endless argument, and the new statute has none of the safeguards provided by two centuries of development of defamation law.  A similar risk arises from the prohibition on a communication that may be “grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual”. It does not take much imagination to see how that provision could be used by a deeply religious person to resurrect blasphemy laws that have largely (and properly in a secular society) fallen into disuse.   

A complainant will not be able to obtain any redress unless he or she can show that the offending digital communication has caused  harm. But harm has also been given an alarmingly expansive definition by the statute. It is defined as anything that causes a complainant “serious emotional distress”, a disconcertingly subjective notion. 

The statute requires any decisions to be consistent with rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. It is odd the new statute should state this explicitly because those provisions should apply anyway. Presumably it was in recognition of the fact that the new statute potentially threatens those rights and freedoms.

The BORA reference should mean that the court only orders material to be removed in extreme circumstances. But until we have several cases go through the system, we don’t know what sort of approach will be taken.

As I said, there are good aspects to this law. It will help a number of people considerably. But as with The Press I fear the communication principles are too wide, and it will result in people ironically being bullied by others using the law for exercising their free speech online.


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A solution to scalping?

June 30th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

There’s been outrage over people scalping Super 15 tickets on Trade Me. No practical way to stop this unless you require photo ID with tickets to get into events. Also making tickets non transferable means if you get sick or injured or the like, then your tickets are wasted and your seats go empty.

The basic “problem” is that there is a fixed supply, and high demand. The secondary market allows those who want to pay a premium to get to go, after missing out due to the vagaries of online booking systems.

Now one may say it is unfair that the scalpers make the money, rather than the sports code. This is true. So why not have the sporting code itself auction off some tickets?

Sell half the tickets at a fixed rate (so some fans can get to got for an affordable price), and auction off the remaining half with the top say 4,000 bids getting four tickets each?

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Paris taxi drivers

June 29th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

ANGER against ride-booking app Uber continues to escalate with taxi drivers and even a former cop in Australia taking matters into their own hands.

Taxi drivers set fire to cars and blocked major roads in France overnight as protests exploded into violence against the illegal service.

One private chauffeur was pulled from his van by angry cab drivers who shouted “why did you come to work, you know we’re on strike today,” according to AFP. Meanwhile in Strasbourg taxi drivers posed as customers to lure Uber drivers and assault them.

American rocker Courtney Love was caught up in the demonstrations when a vehicle she was travelling in outside Paris was attacked.

She tweeted that protesters “ambushed” her vehicle and “were holding our driver hostage”.

In the most serious incident in Paris, one private chauffeur, who said he did not work for Uber “or any other app” was dragged from his van when he reached a blockade in the west of Paris.

Angry taxi drivers slashed the tyres of his vehicle, smashed a window and then set it and a chauffeur-driven van on fire.

On at least two occasions in Strasbourg in eastern France last week, taxi drivers posed as customers in order to lure Uber drivers to isolated spots where they were assaulted by cab drivers and their vehicles damaged.
Well that really makes me think that these are the sort of people I want driving me around Paris.
So sad that thugs think violence is the answer to competition. Little better than the mafia or the 1930s gangs of New York.
People choose Uber for probably four main reasons:
  1. Better service – easy to order, find, and pay for
  2. Cheaper
  3. Safer
  4. Better quality drivers

If you don’t want people choosing Uber over your own taxis, then makes taxis better service, safer, better quality and cheaper.


Global Mode lawsuit settled

June 24th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

The “Global Mode” case has been settled in favour of the big media companies.

A notice posted this morning to the NZX by Sky TV reads, in full: “The legal proceedings against “Global Mode” service providers have been settled. As a result, from 1 September 2015, the “Global Mode” service will not be available to any person for use in New Zealand.”

This is a pity, as it would have been great to have got a court ruling on whether circumventing geo-blocking technology is illegal. It would have had global ramifications.

My take: this is a victory for the old media companies but really only a moral one. Global Mode was unique worldwide in that it covered every CallPlus and Slingshot customer, without them having to do anything but there are still lots of easy ways for people to access geo-blocked sites. …

And perversely, had they lost, at least the big media companies would have had a legal decision confirming what everybody already knows: that in the age of streaming video services, there’s no such thing as an exclusive local license any more – and that the price Sky TV and others pay for local rights should reflect that.

I agree that this is not much of a victory for the broadcasters. It takes around 20 seconds to install a plugin to get around geoblocking, so people will still circumvent. And as Keall says, if they had lost in court, they could negotiate lower fees from rights holders. Now they will still pay inflated fees for theoretically exclusive content, but still have people directly accessing it from overseas sites.

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A 111 app

June 22nd, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government hopes a new smartphone app for emergency services will save lives and money.

Communications Minister Amy Adams said 70 per cent of calls to 111 were made from cellphones.

But many callers could not provide accurate location information to ambulances, police or firefighters.

This could cause delays as long as 15 minutes as emergency services tracked down the exact location of a crisis.

On average every minute caused an extra $4000 in fire damage to houses, Ms Adams said.

The minister announced today the Government was making a request for proposals to build the new emergency services app.

Seems a great idea. It can send your GPS location automatically. Also a good app may allow you to indicate the urgency of the assistance needed.


Guest Post: Firemen, journalists, and a naked emperor.

June 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Deanne Jessup:

Here in New Zealand we have just had a survey that tells us journalists are the least trusted, and firemen are the most.  This got me thinking about why, and what if anything should be done about it?

Imagine the world where most fires put themselves out safely every time.  Only we never knew it happened.  Instead, firemen turn up, wave spraying hoses and extinguishers, and hit things with their axe-shaped tools.  Once the fires are out, we celebrate them as heroes, declaring them wonderful and the most trusted of us all.

Now imagine we found out through the internet that firemen are frauds!  Over time we discover it was all a ruse to keep them in work.  Would you still trust them?  What if it then came out that firemen themselves actually lit most of the fires?  Would you still call them when the fires appeared?  What if it was a fire that would not extinguish itself?  What happens then?

As absurd as this tale is, a variation of it has been playing out every day of the last decade.  Journalists have fallen from our graces.  Though obvious, my main moral is not ‘the boy who cried wolf’ though it is certainly relevant to ask what happens if we decide we don’t need the media at all.

In my view, this tale parodies the one from ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’.  We know we can get our news elsewhere; we know about social media, blogs, and live streams.  But like the people of the Emperor’s court who thought they had to pretend, perhaps we are worried what they will do if we point out their nakedness.  So instead the absurd situation persists where we pretend their relevance but trust them the least.

The internet has both caused this situation and is constantly changing the nature of it.  Initially, it revealed the nakedness of the media, now it is becoming the child from the story pointing loudly and shouting “you have no clothes on!”  Technology has radically reshaped the world.  We are moving into a new era.  Media are trying to reinvent, to clothe themselves in the attires of the day.

The current scramble to ‘change’ shows the media think the reason readership and profitability are both low is because they are printing in the wrong place, rather than the reality that they have been caught printing the wrong thing.  There is no road to trust by adopting old practices on new platforms.  Media must take to heart that no amount of blogging, social engagement, and digital media will change that we can now see around them.

They must understand that we can now see the truth, often faster than they report it.  To become trusted again, they must add value and once again report honestly, openly, and without prejudice or bias.  Of course, as they were ‘caught’ naked, a fair question is did they ever?

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PM changes phones for security reasons

June 15th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

When most people find their missing phone, it’s followed by a vow not to lose it again.

Prime Minister John Key, on the other hand, quickly bins his.

Mr Key has revealed that he gets rid of his mobile phone every few months for security reasons.

Those precautions are prudent not paranoid, an expert in technology and security says, as phones can be successfully tampered with in only a few moments.

The Prime Minister’s admission follows revelations that other world leaders had their phones accessed, and that US President Barack Obama and others use strict security measures.

While Mr Key’s phone has special security measures on it, he does not assume his conversations are private.

“I kind of work on the principle that I will be [listened to] at some point,” Mr Key said on More FM yesterday.

“If I was having a conversation with my national security advisers … I would never have a mobile phone in the room I’m in … because you can use it as a listening device, whether it is on or not.”

Left behind or not, the phone will be replaced every few months.

“If I left it in a hotel room by mistake, which I have done on a few occasions, I would just throw it out [after getting it back],” Mr Key said.

Barry Brailey, chairman of the NZ Internet Task Force, a non-profit organisation that aims to improve the country’s cyber security, said that was prudent.

“There is commercially available spyware-type stuff for handsets. If you can get physical access to the handset you can probably install that in less than three minutes.”

We know there are people in the country that will hack communications of their political opponents, so this is no surprise. Let alone, any attempts by non NZers.