John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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Translation Error

July 25th, 2010 · No Comments

The interpreter loses her cool, and we know just how she feels.

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Grammar Nazi in the Workplace

July 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

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The End of History

July 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

The End of History from BrewDog on Vimeo.
Buy some 32% Tactical Nuclear Penguin and 41% Sink the Bismarck here:

Follow James on Twitter

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Grammar Nazis

July 21st, 2010 · No Comments

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The 100 Greatest Movie Insults of All Time

July 2nd, 2010 · No Comments

Or at least some of the funniest. It is an extremely foul-mouthed selection, you have been warned, but my own favourites lean in the other direction. How can you beat this exchange from Casablanca?

Peter Laurie – You despise me, doncha?
Humphrey Bogart – Well, if I gave you any thought, I probably would.

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English is the Latin of Today

December 10th, 2009 · No Comments

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails

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In Defence of Fundamental Rights in Internet

December 3rd, 2009 · 2 Comments

This is a manifesto, or countermanifesto. It’s Spain-specific, because it is addressed to the Spanish government, but its concerns are general. Here’s the background: the other day, a group of slightly famous Spanish musicians, egged on (I imagine) by the SGAE (Spain’s royalty-collection agency), held a kind of demo and issued their manifesto demanding, among other things, an end to free downloads of music in Internet. As there were a number of local (Spain-level) celebrities there, it made the news. The Spanish government responded by pointing out that the white paper for its new Law on Sustainable Economy contained provisions which would, for example, make it possible to close down web sites offering P2P links and so on, without a court order. The Spanish Internet community, which theretofore had not really given a fig about the Law on Sustainable Economy (or was to all intents and purposes ignorant of its existence), rose up as un hombre and shouted “Foul!” Now another manifesto has been issued by “a group of journalists, bloggers, webmasters, and Internet creators and professionals.” It has been published by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of websites and blogs, and this is it:

“Manifesto: In Defence of Fundamental Rights in Internet

“Because the White Paper for the Law on Sustainable Economy includes changes to legislation affecting the free exercise of freedom of speech, the right to information, and the right to access to culture via Internet, we Internet creators, professionals, users, bloggers and journalists express our firm opposition to the project, and declare that…

“1.- Copyright cannot be held to be above fundamental civic rights, such as the right to privacy, security, the presumption of innocence, access to the legal system, and free speech.

“2.- The suspension of fundamental rights is and should continue to be exclusively the competence of the judiciary. Not a single closure without a court sentence. Contrary to the stipulations of Article 20.5 of the [Spanish] constitution, this white paper places the power to block the access of Spanish citizens to any web page in the hands of a non-judicial institution, an organization belonging to the Ministry of Culture.

“3.- The new legislation will create legal uncertainty throughout the Spanish technological sector, to the detriment of one of the few fields of development and with a future in our economy, obstructing the creation of businesses, hindering free competition and slowing down the country’s international expansion.

“4.- The new legislation proposed threatens new creators and hinders cultural creation. With Internet and technological progress, the creation and publication of all kinds of contents has become far more democratic, as they no longer originate prevalently from traditional cultural sectors but from a host of different sources.

“5.- Authors, like all workers, have the right to earn a living from their work with new creative ideas, business models and activities related with their creations. Attempting to use legislative changes to sustain an obsolete sector which is unable to adapt to this new environment is neither fair nor realistic. If their business model is based on the control of copies of their works and this is not possible in Internet without the violation of fundamental rights, they should look for a different model.

“6.- We consider that, to survive, cultural industries need modern, effective, credible and accesible alternatives which meet new social uses, instead of restrictions as disproportionate as ineffectual for the purpose they say they are pursuing.

“7.- Internet must function freely and without political interference backed by sectors which seek to perpetuate obsolete business models and make it impossible for human knowledge to remain free.

“8.- We demand that the Government guarantees by law the neutrality of the Net in Spain in the face of any pressure that may be exercised, as a framework for the realistic future development of a sustainable economy.

“9.- We propose a real reform of the intellectual property right orientated towards its purpose: to return knowledge to society, encourage the public domain and restrict abuses by collection agencies.

“10.- In a democracy, laws and changes to them must be approved after an adequate public debate and all the parties involved having previously been consulted. It is not acceptable for legislative changes affecting fundamental rights to be made in a secondary law dealing with a different matter.

“This manifesto, written jointly by several authors, belongs to all and to none. If you want to join, spread it over Internet.”

I do, so this is me, spreading.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Copyright issues · Spain

“Pay the Writer!” says Harlan Ellison

October 30th, 2009 · No Comments

→ No CommentsTags: Freelancing · Writing

Mediaeval Helpdesk

October 26th, 2009 · No Comments

→ No CommentsTags: Geekish · humour · Language

Legal and ‘Illegal’ Software

October 26th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is such a thing as ‘illegal’ software, as ‘they’ would have you believe (though even that is moot – actual successful prosecutions have been few and far between, for one thing. But let’s leave that to one side for the time being).

Reasons to buy legal software (and to not use illegal software):
– Fully featured, relatively bug-free, available
– Free, downloadable patches to correct the very few bugs and security vulnerabilities that do occur once in a blue moon
– Free or low-cost upgrades
– Peer pressure from other professionals who have invested money in legal software and think that means everyone should
– Not to have to fib to clients asking whether your software was legal (does this ever actually happen?) or to have to perjure yourself signing a contract clause declaring that you use only legal software
– Those nice young people at tech support are a pleasure to deal with, available 24/7, and will come round to your house and massage your temples when you have a headache
– You think Adobe (or whichever corporate giant) does a great job and deserves a return on its investment
– You can save money by pretending to be a student / teacher, even more by buying a second-hand ‘education’ version. You think there is nothing iffy about this, everyone does it
– You have a vague idea Big Brother could find out if you use illegal things
– Cracked software breaks, only occasionally but always at the worst time
– p2p and other means of acquiring illegal software can leave you open to malware
– You think stealing is stealing (i.e., you don’t distinguish between illegal and immoral)

Reasons to use illegal software (and not buy legal software):
– Cheap or free
– To keep your hand in at p2p, setting up proxies, cracking and other fun things
– This is the real world. Even the most intellectual-property-rights-sensitive professionals ‘borrow’ and ‘lend’ each other things like fonts, and without paying more than lipservice to any “I’ll delete it from my machine for as long as you’re using it on yours” nonsense
– Once they have purchased (a) software licence(s), most small businesses and even public institutions like ministeries that you know wouldn’t think twice about installing further, licence-less copies of that software. And your duty to your family or bank manager is to compete as well as you can with aforesaid small businesses
– Not to have to deal with tech support slimeballs
– Software giants want to reduce people to helpless droids incapable of using alternatives (hence the ‘education’ versions), and are, in fact, hellbent on galactic domination
– Legal software isn’t really worth all that money, it’s just dressed up to justify the abusive prices
– You aren’t scared of Big Brother
– ‘Stealing’ means ‘taking away.’ You can’t take something away and leave it in the same place for others to use. Ergo…
– Oh come on, what’s the difference between pretending to be someone you aren’t (such as a student) and straightforward piracy?
– Public libraries never used to pay royalties when you were a lad and that was not just OK, it was a good thing. Just because they changed their minds doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, the whole copyright industry / sector and its pressure groups and lobbies get right up your nose
– Oh, all right, perhaps it’s naughty of you, but the truth is you don’t really give a damn

Comments are welcome.

→ 1 CommentTags: Copyright issues · Freelancing