BlackCT

So, today was the day I had scheduled to upgrade our ageing WebCT 6 system to the latest version.

Four hours into the upgrade of the first of three updates I needed to apply, the following error is produced:

Installation error. com.webct.platform.installer.InstallerException: Unexpected error executing [webct_stat.sql]. ORA-04021: timeout occurred while waiting to lock object WEBCT.WEBCT_STAT

Great.

So I try and call it in, rather than log it on the web as a P1 as they recommend calling instead only to sit on hold for 5 minutes and then get dumped off to voicemail… ok, I’ll log it on the web. That was at 14:00. It’s now 15:30 and I’ve talked to an engineer who will phone me back soon with some advice. There are two more updates after this to apply…

Procedures involving rusty nails, hammers and kneecaps are springing to mind.

Digital Rights Management

Just a notice to say I’ve had a ePetition accepted on the Number 10 Website regarding the application of Digital Rights Management — the ability for software and hardware to decide if users are “allowed” to do something: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to make DRM and associated technologies illegal in IT hardware and software.

Below is the petition text, I encourage you to read and, if you so wish, sign your name here.

Digital Rights Managment (DRM) is a technology by which content distributors can dictate what consumers can do with their content to the extent that, for example, the PC that you own at home hides things from you, refuses to do something because it thinks you’re trying to “tamper” with it, and potentially notifies the content distributor of this action.

Currently, Microsoft Windows Vista is pushing this technology on users with various hardware manufacturers complicit in it including Intel, ATI, NVidia, S3 and Matrox.

This petition asks parliament to make it illegal for software to actively disallow and subvert the operators intention even if it “thinks” that it “might” be illegal — hardware is owned by the consumer and should remain such in the same way as cars do not disallow a driver to break the 70mph speed limit on UK roads.

Bring on SSL

So, I read on Wired that, for Free citizens of the United States of America, tomorrow marks the day that virtually all private communication mechanisms available to Joe Public are about to be forced to be not-so-private by the FCC.

From the little I’ve read, the powers vested in the FBI allow the law enforcement personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Free Peoples of the United States of America [1] to, with the oversight of the independent judiciary, can activate on your broadband provider, mobile carrier, university network account a wire tap allowing them to log all communication you make or receive including email, phone conversations (VoIP included), what websites you visit. This officially scares me.

I sincerely hope that, should this get implemented in the United Kingdom, then it gets tested in court against the Human Rights Act and stricken from the statute book like it would deserve. There is no way that this sort of activity is the way a democratic country should treat its citizens who are, after all, innocent until proven guilty [2].

As for readers in the DRotFPoUSA, I suggest you find out how to use PGP for all your email find out what ssh and something like TOR can do for you if only to show them that those who need to get around such privacy infractions are quite capable of doing so with little/no effort.

This does assume that the FBI don’t have backdoors in the SSL/PGP/TOR system already…

Notes

  1. Well, you have the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea… is it any of that? There’s a relevant line from Yes, Minister! talking about laws they don’t want to implement along the lines of “Always dispense with the tricky issues in the title”
  2. That’s how it is supposed to work, anyway

Snow?

Last night saw what seems like (but probably isn’t) the whole rest of the British Isles under a blanket of snow but East Kent has escaped thus far with only a few minutes of slushy ming falling from the sky.

Fortunately, the Met Office have decided that tonight we will get hours of snow… bring it on 🙂

The Christmas Repeal

BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme are doing their annual listener vote. Listeners can suubmit suggestions for UK Laws which need repealing.

Please participate in this and get some of the rediculous laws that have been passed recently by government taken back off the statute books.

Some of the laws you may wish to consider are:

Human Rights

With reference to Rachel from north London’s blog, I would like to draw people’s attention to the gradual erosion of our Human Rights in the UK.

On the government’s own website it says that our rights include:

  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of assembly and association

So, freedom of expression… is that not being permitted to express your opinion in a public forum even if others may disagree with you? The UN have decreed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that:

Everyone has the right to opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The UN regard things like war propaganda, incitement to violence and certain forms of hate speech as outside the remit of freedom of expression.

With regards to freedom of assembly and association, Wikipedia states that [ref]:

Freedom of assembly is the freedom to associate with, or organize any groups, gatherings, clubs, or organizations that one wishes. It is held to be a key right in liberal democracies, where by citizens may form or join any political party, special interest group, or union without government restrictions. In legal systems without freedom of assembly, certain political parties or groups can be banned with harsh penalties for any members. Public protests against the government are usually banned as well.

In 2005, the people of the United Kingdom were restricted from demonstrating in the vicinity of Parliament by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act. This act requires anyone wishing to demonstrate within a half mile of Parliament to get authorisation to do so. The main reason for this piece of legislation being a single man demonstrating against the war in Iraq, Brian Haw, which some members of the government have found to be distasteful.

Is this the sort of thing an elected body of MPs should be doing? Restricting the people’s ability to let them know, in times of civil unrest, what their views are? Should we allow them, once they’ve been elected, to shut themselves away from the nasty world outside and silence those who hold and wish to express conflicting views.

As a nation we have, in the past, condemned regimes which have limited the freedoms of people in this way. Is this, in fact, the same sort of regime we wish to be governed by?

I don’t.