Monday, May 24, 2010

Casablanca and misc

Every once in a while I was asked the name of the song by the German officers in the Cafe scene from the B/W classic Casablanca.

Stereotype would dismiss it as some non-relevant stock Nazi huzzah, yet the song couldn't be any more remote from that. Wacht am Rhein is a patriotic song written in the 1850s, at a time when Germany was a geographical term, in response to French claims in Rhineland. Words are overrated when it comes to songs, just sit back, turn your volume up and let your heart decide.

A bit of rant here: Elsaß-Lothringen (or A-something-Lorriane as the Frenchies say) is German proper from the days of the HRE. Louis XIV took it by force and the latter day French brainwashed the poor Allemagne so successfully that they regard them as French. The consequence? Following the war in 1875, people from the left bank of Rhine was never afforded full rights in the German Empire, and it was soon lost in the Treaty of Versailles anyway. Presently, Strasbourg still had the German character, however the demographic is more French than ever in history.

Back to the film, the circumstances of the selection is no less ironic: The director intended to cast a handful of Waffen-SS officers singing to the actual Nazi anthem Horst Wessel Lied. The scene would have been perfect as planned, however international copyright laws prevented it from happening since Wessel (Did he really compose the song?) has only died for a couple of years so his family still holds the copyright to the song. So it was done, and my personal favorite march is forever branded with the Huns.

Bonus: Vocal performance by the University of Kyushu Choir. Out of place as it might seem, however the song's (wrongful) associations with German militarism (for the love of our lord, the Prussian nation is Baltic pagan in origin, and GröFAZ is from Austria) made it way too non-PC in any country with a significant hippie population. In Japan they either don't care, or they are Aryan wannabes, whatever, it 's all good sing along:

More on copyright, since I discussed my view of movie piracy with someone today, and I feel the need to clarify my position further.

I like to watch a movie in the cinema, complete with overpriced popcorn and icecream. I spend a good proportion of my disposable income on DVDs and other merchandise for the movies and TV shows that I like. However for titles that I am not sure whether it was worth my money, I'd still download it first before committing myself to the bigger sum. I know this is fundamentally illegal and morally wrong, however I challenge you readers, and most of you would have downloaded something that you should not have. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. Aaaaaanybody?

I am ample unapologetic and reactionary to find excuses: First of all, genuine law-abiding citizens are not rewarded for their good deeds. Every time I watch a non-pirated DVD there will be a few minutes of rather graphical propaganda against piracy that is very difficult to skip. No, thank you, I'd rather watch the pirated version with the insulting bits thoughtfully spliced out. Instead of telling people the right thing, people were intimidated to refrain from doing it. And alas, intimidation does not always work.

And it is no particular secret that artists receives little dividend from the operational income, with the most swallowed by the various middlemen. Similarly, the more successful digital content delivery systems including Steam, Kindle and iTunes, all offer a higher cut of the price to the copyright holder than their traditional counterparts of publishers and record companies.

The real risk with uncontrolled piracy, however, is that people no longer recognise the hard work behind the content they were getting with a click of mouse. To quote Laura Marling:

"People don't appreciate music any more, they don't adore it. They don't buy vinyl and just love it. They love their laptops like their best friend, but they don't love a record for its sound quality and its artwork."

The anime fansub community usually handles the same issue with respect and dignity, as they pledge to cease their work once a title has been licensed in the country where they operate from. And indeed, there is no better publicity than the good word of mouth based on community efforts.

There has be a selfish rein in what I do, too, and this is how life works out. The internet had been the anarchists' refuge for the last 10 years or so, but Big Brother is catching up fast. Oh the joys of legal relativism.

Telecom is pulling the plug on their unlimited Big Time plan. (Shortened to BT for the rest of the post, not to be confused with British Telecom)

As a user of BT from day 1, I am particularly disappointed. As posters at Geekzone had noted, BT had many issues in the past year, and it was only in the last couple of months that it had been consistently good, i.e. no slowdown of http traffic during peak hours, YouTube plays smooth etc. The announcement of its closure after all the issues were ironed out is adding insult to injury already inflicted.

Nonetheless, with hindsight, BT did have some fundamental flaws that doomed it from the start.

First: Uncapped speed+uncapped data = leecher heaven, period

Secondly, because of the nature of ADSL technology, users never gets the same experience out of the same plan. Howick has severe congestion at their local exchange with the highest attainable bandwidth never going above 3Mbps regardless of location; I live in an old house 1km away from the exchange, situated in an old neighborhood with ugly overhead cables and the best I can manage is 5Mbps with ADSL2+ (closer to 4Mbps with G.DMT); for someone I worked with lived right next the DSLAM in Panmure, his failing D-Link modem gets a full 8Mbps (G.DMT Max) and I have no doubt that 20Mbps is possible. There is huge discrepancy between locations. My friend in Howick is paying more than both of us for a Go Pro plan to feed his mother's MMO habits, (very promising topic for another post someday) yet he is not getting better service.

Some leechers are said to download terabytes of data every month, and they must have rather large calibres of networking and storage. The all-in-one wireless router I had tends to crash over a few hundred concurrent TCP sessions, thus according to my own figures I have downloaded less than 300GB in the first six months on BT, later Dad moved in to hog all the bandwidth that is left so I did not really enjoy the advantage of unlimited data save for downloading OS patches and the odd night spent on digging YouTube archives.

My dear father, along with many other geeks suffer form Squirrel Syndrome: they collect, store and hoard all sorts of useful and useless information, most of those they will not view for a second time, yet they enjoy gathering data for the sake of it like the autumn squirrels stockpiling nuts for winter, except the winter never really comes. You only live so many years in life, and there are so many new things to be done that makes the entire archiving movement pointless.

On the other hand, I can see which theoretical background they based their successive moves on. They thought so could shape P2P traffic, however as it turns out there are too many methods to disguise traffic as long as the golden rule of network neutrality stands, not to mention the prevalent use of file hosting sites as distribution media. The infallible A.S.Tanenbaum once wrote: "One can always pay for more bandwidth but latency." Unlimited data brings too much uncertainly to traffic that they are simply unmanageable, this is why the Go Large plan had to go even with its meager 256kbps bottleneck.

I am not too certain what replacement plans they are considering, however it is most likely that BT users will be moved to the existing 20GB uncapped adventure plan within 6 months. A more favorable outcome is if they bring back the old Go Large, with an adjusted speed cap say 1Mbps with unlimited data, however unlikely.

The Big Time party is over, life moves on. Now there is one less reason for me to stay here after I finish my degree.