Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

iOS 8

June 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar reports on some new features for iOS8.

  1. Can interact with notifications without switching apps
  2. Can send temporary audio messages
  3. Allow apps, music ad movies to be shared within a family
  4. Synchronized photo editing
  5. Enhanced Airdrop to wirelessly share content
  6. Keyboard can be amended by third party apps
  7. A Health & Home bundle of products
  8. Can answer your iphone on another device (such as your laptop) rather than have to get up and grab the phone
  9. Enhanced spotlight

The ability to answer your phone on your laptop is great. iPhones are always charging (mine only lasts a few hours now – will get an iPhone 6 when out), so not having to get up to grab the iPhone when working on my laptop will be useful.


The cyber bullying law

May 28th, 2014 at 6:48 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Cyber bullies could be jailed for up to two years for sending messages or posting material that causes harm, following recommendations from a parliamentary committee.

Internet providers will also be forced to reveal the identity of an offending anonymous poster, under order from the District Court.

School principals will also be permitted to ask a court to take down malicious or nasty content on behalf of a student.

The Government introduced a bill last year to tackle online abuse. Parliament’s justice and electoral select committee has now reported back with a raft of amendments to toughen up the legislation – which Justice Minister Judith Collins has accepted.

The committee wants the higher maximum penalty for the new offence of “causing harm by posting a digital communication” to be raised from three months in jail, or a $2000 fine, to two years in jail. This would bring the sentence in line with other harassment offences.

I have mixed feelings on the law. It will provide relief to some victims of cyber bullying, and that is a good thing. There is some nasty stuff happening on line.

But I am concerned that the definition of harm, based on 10 principles, is too wide and it may be used to try and stifle free speech and merely robust opinion. Already one NZ First MP on Twitter has been threatening journalists with complaints under the new law.

MPs also believe the author of material subject to a complaint be given 48 hours to respond.

There is one good aspect to the new law, and it is giving a fair degree of protection to content hosts like Kiwiblog. I’ll explain how it will work.

If someone complains that something I have personally written is causing an individual harm, then I’ll consider the complaint and either delete or amend what I have said – or reject the complaint and it may go through to the Approved Agency and then District Court for a decision.

But what if there is a complaint about what a commenter has written? I don’t want to be liable for that. The law as drafted proposed that hosts like myself be immune from liability so long as we remove the comment written by someone else upon receiving a complaint. The trouble with that is it means that I have to make a decision on what might not be a clear cut case, and that I’ll be incentivised to remove comments upon receiving complaints just to be safe.

The revised law allows me to avoid getting dragged in. If a complaint is received, then I need to pass it onto the author (commenter) within 48 hours and they have a further 48 hours to respond. If they wish their comments to remain, and are happy to accept liability for them – then the case will become a dispute between the complainant and the author/commenter – and generally leave me out of it. That is a very good thing – and may also apply to other areas such as defamation.

The 48 hours timeframe is too tight though, and I think it should be say three working days. I’m often out of touch for 48 hours or more.

So some good and some not so good in the bill.


Telling the truth is not harrassment

May 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A fraudster’s victim who fought back has won a landmark battle to name and shame the man who scammed him and dozens of others.

Nearly two and a half years ago, Steve Taylor contracted Grant Norman King to build a sleepout for his elderly father behind the family home in West Auckland.

Taylor paid three-quarters of the price – $23,500 – as a deposit. The sleepout was never built and the money was not returned.

In a bid to get even, Taylor brought civil proceedings against King but when the cost of continuing the case became prohibitive, he took a different tack, setting up the website with the intention of warning others who might be drawn in.

Within months other victims were clamouring to tell their stories and it was not long before Taylor built a comprehensive timeline of King’s offending.

King then tried to turn the legal tables on Taylor by using the Harassment Act to sue Taylor and demand the website be taken down.

Taylor was forced into Auckland District Court to defend himself.

However, that was King’s mistake. “What he did was open up the opportunity for every other victim to tell their story, which was the very thing he was advocating against,” Taylor said.

Affidavits in support of Taylor’s cause flooded in and he said it was surreal to be standing in court with the public gallery full of people backing him.

In court Judge David Wilson sided with Taylor and said the website, with all its explosive accusations, could remain online. “It would be inappropriate if a man in Mr King’s position could close down postings of essentially factual material on the basis that it interferes with his commercial plans and deprives him of customers,” the judge said.


“I accept Mr King is distressed by the postings but in my view that distress arises because he would prefer potential customers were unaware of his history and is not such as justifies the making of restraining orders.”

Lawyer Madeleine Flannagan, who advised Taylor and has been the victim of online harassment herselft, said the judge’s decision showed free speech was alive and well.

She said the unique nature of the case, setting a new precedent in harassment laws, meant it was already being used by media law professors at Auckland University.

Taylor’s website also resulted in King being punished. Since setting up the website, Taylor said more than 70 victims had come forward, across a 32-year span, claiming losses of more than $3 million.


Madeleine has commented:

The law appears to now stand that if someone repeatedly publishes attacks on another person online this action can constitute harassment under the act if the information is harmful, baseless and untrue. However, if the blogger has a lawful purpose for releasing the information and it is either true, or they have reasonable belief that it is true, then even if that information is highly offensive and causes distress, such conduct is lawful and does not fall foul of harassment law.

The judgement is below. I welcome it.

King v Taylor



Xero ranked No 1 by Forbes

May 22nd, 2014 at 12:03 pm by David Farrar

Xero has just been ranked #1 by Forbes in its list of top 100 most innovative growth companies.

Well done Rod and his team.

I remain a very happy customer and shareholder.

I would like a native payroll package at some point though please!


Why Google should not be hiding information

May 21st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The attempted murder of an entire family, an actor’s affair with a teenager, and tax dodging are just some of the things that people are asking Google to hide.

The search engine has been inundated with more than a thousand take-down demands in the past few days, triggered by a European Court ruling last week giving people the right to be forgotten.

Half the demands made in the UK are from people who have a criminal past, such as one man who is trying to remove links to information about his conviction for possessing child abuse images, according to a source close to Google.

One person is trying to remove a link that reveals a conviction for cyber-stalking, while another wants links to information about tax offences erased.

In another case, a man who had tried to kill his family wants to lose links to a news report about the crime. A well-known actor is also demanding links to articles about an affair he had with a teenager be removed. And the child of a celebrity has tried to get news stories about a criminal conviction removed.

It is not just criminals and celebrities attempting to hide their past. A former MP seeking re-election is trying to get links to details of past conduct removed. And a university lecturer who was once suspended wants that information taken down.

Businesses are also demanding that certain things are removed. One company is calling for the deletion of links to forum discussions by customers complaining of being ripped off.

The European Court ruling that Google should be made to remove links to old information on some people is another reason why perhaps the UK should leave the EU. It’s a ruling that is very bad for the Internet and freedom of speech – and very good for criminals and fraudsters.

I was listening to a US podcast on this case and what was interesting is that it was from a man who had his home repossessed a decade ago and this got reported in his local newspaper. His court case was asking both the newspaper and Google to remove the story.

The court said that the newspaper can’t be forced to remove the story, but Google (and other search engines) should hide from search results if it is ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive’. 

Apart from the insanity of Google having to somehow judge what is inadequate, irrelevant or excessive, the ruling rides over the fact that Google only indexes material that publishers say they can index. If you don’t want it to appear in Google, then you can mark your page x-no-archive.

The newspaper that published the story is the entity that should decide if they want to keep the story online. And as a compromise they could have kept the page on their website but marked it x-no-archive. But that is a decision for them, not Google.

I often get people e-mailing me asking for some deletion or amendment of a post or comment that names them, as it comes up very high on Google. I consider each request on its merits, and usually will agree. But that is my decision as a publisher – and if I decide not to – it is outraegous that in Europe Google would be forced to second guess me. Google should be a search engine – not a Judge.

Opinion remains divided on the ruling, with EU Commissioner Viviane Reding saying it was a clear victory for the protection of personal data, while Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says it was one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings he had seen.

I agree with the great Jimmy Wales.

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A second cable getting closer

May 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Southern Cross Cable’s near monopoly over international internet traffic appears to be dangling by a thread.

After years of failed ventures and dashed hopes, Hawaiki Cable chief executive Remi Galasso said his company was just a few weeks away from confirming it would build a competing US$300 million (NZ$350m) cable linking New Zealand and Australia to the United States.

The former Alcatel-Lucent executive said Hawaiki had secured a major New Zealand company to be its equity partner and an Australasian bank willing to provide debt financing.

All that remained was for Hawaiki to convert some “letters of intent” it already had from customers into firm contracts and “complete the bank process to unlock the funds”.

“This is not a piece of cake. We are dealing with large organisations, but I am confident the finishing line is a few weeks away,” Galasso said.

Hawaiki would then put into effect the contract it had with United States supplier TE SubCom to lay the the 13,127 kilometre-long cable, which should be ready by March 2016, he said. The cable would have a capacity of 6.4 terabits, sufficient to carry a million HD movie streams simultaneously.

This will be great, if they get over the line. For both competitive and security of supply reasons a second cable is desirable.

It won’t be a silver bullet. The cost of international bandwidth is much reduced from years ago, and is around 5c a GB last time I checked. However competition is the best way to get prices even lower.

Telecommunications Users Association chief executive Paul Brislen said that would be tremendous. Opinions varied on whether a new cable would reduce broadband charges for consumers or raise their data caps, he said.

“The way Southern Cross talks, the international component of any internet-provider (ISP) charge is minuscule, and the way the ISPs talk it is the one thing that stops them offering really large data caps. Time will tell who is right and who is blowing smoke.”

But a new cable was needed in case there was ever a major outage on the Southern Cross Cable, he said. The risk of anything affecting Southern Cross’ twin landing points in Auckland was low but the impact would be huge, he said. “It is very important we have a second company operating.” Southern Cross Cable is half-owned by Telecom. SingTel owns 40 per cent and US carrier Verizon 10 per cent.

It is worth noting that the Southern Cross Cable is a figure of eight so an outage in one segment won’t result in a loss of international connectivity for NZ. They would need to have two simultaneous outages for this to occur.

But again, more cables means less vulnerability.

Galasso did not believe success would adversely impact a separate proposal by Telecom to lay a new cable, the Trans Global Access (TGA) cable, between New Zealand and Australia in conjunction with Vodafone and Telstra. That investment, estimated at about $100m, has been awaiting head-office approval from Telecom’s joint venture partners.

Instead, he said the two cables would be complimentary, as customers could use one as a back-up. “My view is two new cables will be built, Hawaiki and the TGA cable,” he said.

I agree. As more regional data centres get located in Australia, cables to Australia will become more valuable also.


Can the most rural 25% of NZ really get fibre for $200 million

May 19th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Internet Party has a policy to extend fibre from the current proposed 75% of NZ homes to 97.8% of NZ homes. They claims this can be done for a Government investment of $200 million.

I am a supporter of getting faster broadband out to rural NZers. Fibre is the best broadband technology, and is the preferred option – if affordable. But I have very significant doubts that you can connect up most of rural NZ for anything close to a $200 million subsidy.

First of all consider that $1.5 billion is barely enough to subsidise fibre to the most urban 75% of NZ. So if the most urban 75% needs $20 million per 1%, it defies belief that the rural 23% could be done with $8.7 million per 1%.

Most reports say rural fibre costs six times as much as urban fibre.

How much would it cost? This would mean laying fibre down almost every road in NZ. We have over 93,000 kms of road. Fibre was estimated to cost by the NZ Institute in 2007 to be around $150,000 per km.

A report by Dr Murray Milner on fibre costs also estimated open trenching costs of $120,000 to $150,000 per km (and up to $600,000 per km in very difficult areas)

That would be be a cost of $14 billion to get fibre down every road in NZ. Now I know the policy is only 97.8% but you get the general feeling that a $200 million subsidy will not get you anywhere near 97.8% coverage.

I think fibre can be extended out beyond 75%. But there comes a point at which the cost is too prohibitive, and satellite and wireless technologies are a better investment.

The 75% target for fibre is (from what I can tell) the most advanced in the world. When complete in a few years, I don’t think any other country will have fibre available to such a high percentage of the population. So lets not think 75% is bad – it is top of the class. Now again, I think we should debate what to do with the remaining 25%. But a policy that says you can get 98% of the population connected up to fibre for a mere $200 million extra subsidy is not credible – by a long shot. You can’t just wave a wand.

If the Internet Party did want to credibly contribute to the debate, then maybe they could fund an independent study of what the costs are of various broadband technologies to the most rural 25%, and then we could focus on what is the best solution.

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Patent wars ending?

May 18th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Apple and Google’s Motorola Mobility unit have agreed to settle all patent litigation between them over smartphones, ending one of the highest-profile lawsuits in technology.

In a joint statement on Friday, the companies said the settlement does not include a cross license to their respective patents.

“Apple and Google have also agreed to work together in some areas of patent reform,” the statement said.

This is a very welcome step. In certain areas patents have gone from protecting innovation to harming innovation.


Why courts should not interfere with search engines

May 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Paedophiles, scandal-hit politicians and others seeking to cleanse their online reputations are demanding that Google remove any links to inconvenient truths about their past, in the wake of a historic legal judgement, it has emerged.

The ‘take down’ requests to the world’s biggest internet search engine came after a European Court ruling on Tuesday that people have the “right to be forgotten.” The controversial decision, by the Court of Justice of the European Union, was in response to a case brought by a Spanish man who complained that an auction notice of his repossessed home on Google’s search results had infringed his privacy. 

So who will benefit from this barmy ruling?

And it has emerged that a former British politician seeking re-election has demanded that links to information about his behaviour in office be removed, while a man convicted of possessing child abuse images has requested links to pages about his conviction be deleted. And a doctor wants negative reviews from patients removed from the results, according to the BBC.

Good on the European Union Court of Justice for ensuring paedophiles can demand information about their convictions be hidden. What a blow for human rights.


New fibre plans from Chorus

May 16th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Very impressed with the new fibre plans from Chorus. Less impressed that I phoned Vodafone three days asking to be switched to fibre and they have not yet ring me back, despite saying they’d do so in 20 minutes.

Anyway here’s the plans now available at a wholesale level:

  • Fibre 100/20 $40
  • Fibre 100/50 $45
  • Fibre 100/100 $50
  • Fibre 200/20 $55
  • Fibre 200/50 $60
  • Fibre 200/200 $65
  • Fibre 1000/1000 $275

The 100/100 plan looks very attractive to me.

Great to see Chorus responding to demand.

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The benefits of fibre

May 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The occasion certainly did not pass unnoticed, with the prime minister in town to visit Manaia View School, the first location to connect to fibre back in 2011.

Principal Leanne Otene proudly showed John Key the ways in which fibre has benefited her pupils, eliminating frustration and decreasing truancy rates.

Otene says her students no longer remember a time before fibre and now have digital, rather than wooden, desks to store their school work. …

Board of Trustees member Kirsten Holtz says the technological transformation at the school has been “absolutely amazing”.

“There’s now one device for every two kids, and fibre has made online learning more accessible and instant, there’s no waiting around so there’s more learning.”

“Children are engaged, and engaged children are children that are learning,” she says.

In the next few years fibre will not be just in every school, but available to 75% of NZ homes.  The impact in education is starting to show. The impact for other sectors will take longer to be realised, but may be no less significant.


MPs on Twitter

May 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar


These social media stats for MPs were collacted by Brand Gauge, a social media metrics site and tool.

No surprise the PM has the most followers. Interesting that David Shearer still has more followers than David Cunliffe.

The top tweeters are Tau Henare, then Clare Curran and Trevor Mallard. Gareth Hughes and Kevin Haguge are also above the 10,000 mark.

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Why Whale Oil should win the Canon Media Blog of the Year

May 9th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Canon Media Awards are tonight. Whale Oil is one of the three finalists for Blog of the Year.

While I have high regard for the other two finalists (Toby Manhire and Giovanni Tiso), I think it would be a travesty if Whale Oil does not win this year.

A win doesn’t mean one is endorsing everything Cameron has ever written or said.

A win recognises his impact on the media in 2013 and 2014.

British media magnate Lord Northcliffe once famously said that News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”

Using that definition of news, the award must go to Whale Oil. He broke the Len Brown story which has had a massive impact. He also has broken a number of stories on Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party. In both cases, these were stories that the subjects wanted suppressed but were of public importance revealing how various media were involved in setting up the Internet Party, without disclosure.

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Whangarei now fibre connected

May 9th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The roll-out of ultrafast broadband as far as the street has been completed in Whangarei, Communications Minister Amy Adams has confirmed.

The city, where fibre has been laid by a subsidiary of lines company Northpower, is the first to complete the communal roll-out. Chorus is not due to finish laying UFB in the 24 cities and towns for which it won its roll-out contract until the end of 2019.

Adams and Prime Minister John Key visited Manaia View School in Whangarei to acknowledge the milestone. “As the first fully-fibred city in New Zealand, Whangarei is in the enviable position of getting a head start on the rest of the country,” Adams said.

Well done Northpower and Whangarei.

Around three days ago I told Google drive to back up around 7 GB of photos to the cloud. The result has been my Internet connection has been a trickle for the last 72 hours.

Copper based broadband can do reasonable decent download speeds, but the upload speeds are just inadequate for proper cloud use such as backups. Hence I will be moving onto fibre in the near future.


MPs and Twitter

May 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Embattled justice minister Judith Collins is abandoning Twitter, and Prime Minister John Key says he backs her decision because it’s full of “trolls and bottom feeders”.

Key said he had not given Collins an edict to stay off social media and it was her idea to remove herself from the twittersphere.

“She’s volunteered. She’s said to me I’m going to stay off,” Key said.

“My view is there’s a lot of trolls and bottom feeders on that and in the end they get in people’s head. It’s an anonymous situation it’s a form of cyber bullying, I don’t engage in that.”

I think that is an unduly negative view of Twitter.

Yes there are trolls out there. Lots of them. But you don’t have to respond to them, and/or you can always block them.

There are also lots of journalists, commentators, and political activists out there who are worth engaging with.

While there is a balance to be achieved, I think it is good for MPs to use Twitter to engage, not just broadcast. Steven Joyce does that for example, as does Russel Norman.

And for what its worth, I think generally Judith’s engagement on Twitter has been productive, useful and amusing. Obviously excluding the Katie Bradford tweet.

Abandoning Twitter to Labour and Green MPs is not a great social media strategy – for my 2c.


Fibre on poles

May 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar



A reader e-mails:

Here are some photos of the double telephone poles in Oamaru. I notice now that the fiber does not seem to be strung from pole to pole, but rather is undergrounded and goes back up each pole where it is terminated in some sort of junction box – see photos for details.

It seems the copper wires will be brought over to the new fiber pole and the old copper strung pole will be removed at some stage. This seems to have happened to some other double poles that until recently were like this down another nearby road. I am guessing the reason for replacing the old telephone poles is that they are quite old anyway. You can see they are gum tree trunks and no one has used gum tree telephone poles since the 1970s I think.

So now each street has a set of poles for electricity, copper and fibre. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could all share? Good to see the roll-out happening though.

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The uncapped data battle

May 4th, 2014 at 9:05 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Intense competition in the Kiwi broadband market is proving a boon for consumers.

This month, Telecom and Vodafone began offering unlimited data plans (at $109 a month), so users can download as much content as they like without incurring extra charges or having their broadband speeds cut.

On Thursday, Slingshot responded by cutting the cost of its unlimited offer from $109 to $89 a month.

Slingshot spokesman Taryn Hamilton said data use had doubled in the past 12-18 months as people started using the internet more, and data-heavy websites and apps became more common.

There were a growing number of “power users”, people who watched television online, played games and downloaded content, he said. “These people are flocking to unlimited. It gives price certainty, and allows people to use data without thinking about it, or being worried about the cost.”

This is a key point. Once you have flat rate non capped plans, the way you use the Internet can change for many. Under capped plans, many will restrict what they do online – meaning they’re not using the Internet to its full potential.

Peter Griffin, of the Science Media Centre, said the unlimited deals were a sign of a shifting market.

Telecom has about half the country’s broadband customers and where it went, other providers would have to follow.

“It’s just a matter of time before people don’t even think about how much data they have to use.”

Telecom chief operating officer Jason Paris said the company had already sold a few thousand unlimited plans.

“It’s going gangbusters.”

I’m on a 60 GB/month plan and once I move to fibre, will probably go for an uncapped plan.


Google Plus

April 30th, 2014 at 9:12 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The man who led Google’s foray into social networking is leaving the company.

“Now is the time for a new journey,” wrote Vic Gundotra in a Google Plus post announcing his departure after eight years.

So what does that mean for Google Plus? If you ask Google, absolutely nothing. But if you ask TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis and Matthew Panzarino, it means Google Plus is walking dead.

In theory I am on Google Plus. I think in three years I’ve gone into it twice. Have never worked out how it can benefit me so just ignore all the messages I get from it.

So I tend to think it is doomed.

However services can make themselves more relevant. I never used to see the point of Linked In, but in the last couple of years it has become quite useful – even if just as a CV reference service. The endorsements useful also. So I do use Linked In a but now – but to be fair only to check a specific person out – not like Twitter and Facebook where I just check in to browse when I have spare time.


The Greens’ Internet Rights and Freedom Bill

April 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Greens have released a crowdsourced bill – the Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill. It’s a serious and valuable contribution to politics and the Internet. There are three major aspects to their proposal.

  1. Ten Internet rights and freedoms
  2. Creation of an Internet Rights Commissioner within the Human Rights Commission
  3. Creating a Chief Technical Officer (CTO) for the NZ Government.

The ten proposed Internet rights and freedoms are:

  1. Right to Access
  2. Freedom from search, surveillance and interception
  3. Freedom of expression
  4. Freedom of association
  5. Right to privacy
  6. Right to encryption technology
  7. Right to anonymity
  8. Right to a safe and secure Internet
  9. Freedom of innovation
  10. Freedom from restriction

The full bill is here.

While I don’t agree with everything in the bill, there’s a lot I do agree with, and I think it would be an excellent bill to pass first reading and go to select committee for feedback.

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Telecom goes uncapped

April 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Telecom has launched a range of “unlimited” broadband plans which do away with monthly data caps.

The plans start from $109 a month on copper-based ADSL and entry-level fibre “ultrafast broadband” services. A $10 discount applies if customers also have an “ultra mobile” plan with the company.

Telecom is also offering uncapped broadband on VDSL copper connections for $119 a month and on 100 megabit-per-second fibre connections for $139 a month.

Retail boss Chris Quin said Telecom might manage traffic from customers who took up the plans, “particularly at peak times”, by prioritising time-sensitive services such as Skype, internet television streaming and online gaming over other services.

This would ensure “the best experience possible for the greatest number of users”, Quin said.

Some smaller internet providers including Slingshot and Orcon also offer uncapped broadband plans, though major rival Vodafone does not.

This is a very welcome move. Having the largest ISP offer some uncapped plans should see many other ISPs do the same. Good to see Telecom taking the initiative – as they also did with mobile roaming rates.


Whedon releases film as a download

April 22nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Joss Whedon is releasing a film he wrote as a US$5 (NZ$5.84) digital download, bypassing the normal channels of independent film distribution.

In a video announcement following the premiere of the supernatural romance In Your Eyes at the Tribeca Film Festival, Whedon says the film will immediately be released online via Vimeo On Demand and

Great to see one producer embracing the opportunities of the digital age, and experimenting with potential new business models. I hope it does well.


High Court rules in favour of Commerce Commission

April 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A consumer group has welcomed a High Court ruling on copper broadband prices, saying it should eventually deliver lower prices for telecommunications users.

The court said today that Chorus had lost its challenge over cuts to copper broadband prices by the Commerce Commission.

This is not a surprise.

The commission had decided Chorus could charge only $10.92 a month for copper broadband connections, down from $21.96.

Brislen said lower prices were not expected soon as a drawn-out process to establish final prices for the sector was continuing.

Not as drawn out as it could be. A final price may be set by year end.

In a judgment released today, Justice Stephen Kos rejected Chorus’ appeal.

“The simple fact is that the commission did not accept Chorus’ submissions,” he said.

“Despite the combined intelligence and force with which Chorus’ submissions were delivered, I am left unpersuaded that the commission erred in law.

“In my view, submitters were plainly aware that a price point above the confines of a more limited benchmark range was a possibility. The commission, in my view, was also open to that possibility.

“In my view, the commission has done just as Parliament had prescribed.”

This is a key point. Parliament passed the law. The job of the Commerce Commission is to interpret and implement it. Those who don’t like the outcome shouldn’t have attacked the Commerce Commission for just doing their job.

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A Mega lawsuit

April 9th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Internet Party leader Kim Dotcom is facing a new lawsuit in the United States from six Hollywood film studios.

They claim in their suit the Megaupload founder “facilitated, encouraged, and profited” from illegal file-sharing on the site.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) filed the suit on behalf of the studios this morning (NZ time).

The lawsuit was filed by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Universal City Studios Productions, Columbia Pictures Industries, and Warner Bros Entertainment in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The US Government is already seeking to extradite Dotcom to face charges of copyright conspiracy, racketeering and money-laundering allegedly carried out by his file-sharing company, Megaupload.

It’s an interesting move. Does that signify concern over whether the criminal case will succeed, or was this always planned?

Dotcom is specifically named in the suit, under his most famous name as well as Kim Schmitz and Kim Tim Jim Vestor.

Kim Tim Jim Vestor???

According to the Government’s indictment, the site reported more than $175 million (NZ$203.4m) in … proceeds and cost US copyright owners more than half a billion dollars.

The studios allege Megaupload paid users based on how many times the content was downloaded by others. But the studios allege the site didn’t pay at all until that content was downloaded 10,000 times.

This is a key detail in both the criminal and civil lawsuits. Other file-sharing websites do not pay people based on how many downloads they get for content they upload. This is how they allege they incentivised copyright infringement, rather than just provided a file sharing platform (such as the new Mega).

This does not mean the lawsuits will be successful. But it is a key factor in why Megaupload was targeted, and not other file-sharing sites. If someone can earn say $10,000 by uploading the latest movie release, well that is a pretty good incentive to do so.

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The return of the start menu

April 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In an apparent effort to shore up support for its Windows software, Microsoft announced at a developer conference here that it’s bringing back the Start menu and will offer certain versions of its operating system for free.

The Start menu, which Microsoft eliminated when it released Windows 8 in 2012, will return to Windows in an update, the date of which was not announced. 

Getting rid of the start menu probably is their worst ever design decision – and there’s been a few!

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US Supreme Court and patents

April 3rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The US Supreme Court has grappled with the standards for software patents, considering the issue for the first time in decades in a case that has divided the computer industry. …

The case concerns claims that CLS Bank International, a New York-based provider of settlement services, infringed patents owned by Melbourne-based Alice Corp. The patents cover a computerised system for using an intermediary to limit the risk that one party to a derivative trade will renege on its obligations.

CLS says Alice’s patents run afoul of Supreme Court decisions that say abstract ideas aren’t entitled to legal protection. Alice, which is partially owned by National Australia Bank, said the abstract-idea exception to patent eligibility is a narrow one.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that Alice’s argument was doomed by a 2010 Supreme Court decision that limited patents on business methods by rejecting a proposed patent on a system for hedging energy trades. She asked Alice’s lawyer, Carter Phillips, how his client’s idea was any “less abstract than hedging.”

Other justices were similarly sceptical. Justice Anthony Kennedy said a group of college engineering students could probably write the computer code for Alice’s idea over a weekend.

“My guess is that that would be fairly easy to program,” he said.

You can’t always tell how a decision will go by the questioning, but it sounds like the Court is skeptical over overly broad patents that block innovation, That would be a good thing.

The Obama administration is urging the court to issue a broader ruling that would put new limits on the availability of software patents. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli told the court that software was eligible for patenting only if it “improved the functioning of the computer technology” or “is used to improve another technology.”

Software can generally no longer be patented in NZ, unless it is basically embedded in a machine.