eBooks, Apple, Amazon and pricing

Given the recent US judgement against Apple in US courts for eBook price fixing, I figured my views would make a decent topic for another post here.
Firstly, some history.
When eBooks first started becoming mainstream (before iBooks was launched), eBooks were sold using the traditional “wholesale” pricing model. This model is the same as the one used to sell physical books everywhere. The publisher has a wholesale price they sell to retailers at, who are then free to determine their own pricing on their shelves – creating the situation where one retailer may have a book at $12.99, whilst another might have it at $11.99, with the wholesale cost being less than this cost (bookstores have storage, customer service etc overheads). It’s common for retailers to occasionally sell books as “loss leaders” – such things happen mostly with popular new releases – where the retailer chooses to sell the book below wholesale price (i.e. less than they paid) to encourage more people to visit the shop and spend more (due to feeling that they got a “good deal”).
The benefit of this pricing model is obvious – in theory market forces will lower the prices for the consumer by ensuring that there is competition between retailers, and new retailers can enter the ring to try and compete.
When Amazon first launched the Kindle the eBooks were sold with the wholesale model. However, Amazon sold every eBook as a “loss leader” in an attempt to sell more Kindles. They sold for $9.99, whilst being bought by Amazon for $13. Due to a combination of factors including Amazons (at the time) huge eBook market share – over 90% according to the WSJ; Publishers insistence on DRM causing consumer Lock-In; The possibility of Amazons pricing becoming ‘right’ (and thus a ‘loss for publishers); and the general tension between publishers and Amazon, Publishers wanted to raise eBook prices quickly. But with no major competitor their negotiation position was poor – at the time if they didn’t put eBooks on Amazon, their eBook sales would be decimated.
Enter Apple. Apple based its iBooks pricing on the model used in the iTunes Store – so called ‘Agency Pricing’. In this pricing model the publisher decides the retail price, and it has to be sold for that price – the retailer simply gets a percentage cut of that price (in Apples case, 30%). Suddenly the publishers could work with Apple to break Amazons stranglehold on the eBook market. Apple included a clause in the contract for the iBook Store that stated that eBooks must not be sold less elsewhere – i.e. if it was sold cheaper elsewhere then that price had to be used in the iBook Store as well. With these contracts in place the Publishers suddenly had a much stronger position to negotiate with Amazon.
For a short while Amazon held out – causing the infamous situation of an entire publishers catalogues becoming unavailable overnight. Eventually Amazon gave way and allowed publishers to use the Agency Pricing model on Kindle eBooks. Ebooks on Amazon now cost more than the old “wholesale” price due to collaboration between the major publishers and Apple. The seeds for the Price Fixing charge had been sown.
A couple of notes before moving in to my own opinions on the case. Some publishers are now experimenting with DRM-Free eBooks. The proliferation of alternative devices has meant that ePub is now the dominant standard for eBook formats – in all cases except Kindle which still uses the MobiPocket standard. Publishers also claim that physical production and transportation of a book is only a tiny fraction of a books cost.
Right, my own thoughts on this. It’s clear that Apple and the Publishers did break the law. They collaborated as a cartel to raise consumer prices. One of the few kinds of behaviour that is ‘per-se illegal’ (illegal in and of itself) is horizontal price fixing, that is fixing the price across an entire market. There is no defence in law.
That said, morally I’m not sure it’s wrong. The market back when the Agency model was introduced was heavily skewed in Amazons favour (and the publishers position was incredibly weak). They were a monopoly, and charging all ebooks as loss leaders meant it would be very hard for another store to break into the market, unless they could offer something above Amazons offering (which being cloudy is very seamless). If Apple hadn’t managed to break Amazons pricing structure its possible that their own eBook store wouldn’t have been anywhere nearly as successful – especially given there is a Kindle app for iOS. Yes consumers ended up paying more for eBooks – but for the convenience of having them anywhere and having hundreds in my pocket I’d be willing to pay a premium. That premium was, in my opinion, needed as a means of breaking up the market. I’d also argue that Amazon was abusing its dominant position by selling as a blanket loss leader.
It should be said however, that now that Apple has been forbidden from using the Agency model, I have no idea what is going to happen to eBook prices now. The public has become used to the near-retail prices of eBooks, I doubt that a switch to wholesale would see any decrease in price from Apple.
Finally as a disclaimer: I don’t like Amazon as a bookstore. I say this whilst having Amazon Prime, and having ordered books from them recently, and many over the years. Their attempts to become fully integrated vertically by becoming a direct publisher, their questionable practises of remotely wiping books from Kindles, and their sheer advantage of economies of scale disturbs me. When possible I buy from brick and mortar stores, but I must hold my hands up and say that I do still order from Amazon – particularly if I don’t have plans to go to the nearest bookshop within 24 hours. I’m very weak willed when it comes to book purchasing. It’s entirely plausible that this has tainted my own opinions, although I hope they still make logical sense without them.

On Gender and Sexuality

Ok, so here’s the thing. I’ve been trying to write this post for quite a while, but the words just don’t come out in any coherent manner. I intended to write a post explaining the concepts of Gender, chromosomal sex, and Sexuality. As this has not worked out what I shall instead do, I think, is include some useful videos/links etc that explain these concepts better than I ever could, with some comentary afterwards drawing out, what I feel are important quotes/themes
So firstly, a kind of 101 on all things related by the amazing Vlogbrothers

Some of the key ideas here are that sex and gender are two entirely separate things. Also, take note of the pronoun usage throughout – the pronoun is determined by the gender and not the sex.
And now I”ll include a genderbread person, which hopefully underlines that the combinations of the different traits – sexuality, gender, sex are infinite and a continuum, rather than just binary options.
An area that the vlogbrothers skimmed over, to the videos detriemnt is that of intersex people. These are people whose biological characteristics don’t match the two boxes we’ve seen. It may be a case that they have XY (tradiationally male) chromosones, but have female genitalia. Or they may have both genitalia, or even ‘just’ ambiguous genitalia. In all these cases it’s common for doctors to perform surgery on the baby/child (not all conditions are obvious at birth) to ‘fix’ them into one of the two roles they could fit in to.
To illustrate this, here’s a two part interview with a person who is intersex – they have XY chromosomes, and did have testes inside of them, whilst having outwardly female genitalia.

Some important things here- bodily automony and self determination. A person (including children) should be the only people to determine whether any surgery is done to their bodies. And a person is the only person who can determine their own identity, and choose their own labels (if any). Another concept is that the determinations people can make about their gender or sexuality can change over time, and that’s ok.
Another term in those videos was ‘cisgender’. All cisgender means is that basically your gender identity, and your physical sex characteristics all fit within one of the standard boxes of ‘male’ or ‘female’. It’s etymology is pretty much the exact opposite to ‘transgender’. Some cisgender people seem to have a problem with that term, but I simply ask, what other term could describe that particular alignment in a neutral way?
Another video now – one from a TEDx event that outlines some of the problems transgender people can face every single day.

There are a few things in this video that need to be highlighted – the first is the conflation of sexuality and gender. Breaking the gender roles as a child might mean your child is gay, or it might mean they’re transgender, or it might mean that they are a cisgendered heterosexual person. My point is that drawing conclusions about the signs after the facts seems easy, but is really very misleading, and no matter how your child interacts with gender roles, you shouldn’t assume it means anything about their sexuality or gender identity. Your child will tell you when they figure it out, and when they feel comfortable doing so. The important thing is to keep supporting them and loving them.
Another point mentioned is that of pronoun usage. It’s important to note that only the individual can decide which pronouns are acceptable for others to use. Some who fall outside the binary may even prefer something different to he or she – some prefer the use of Xir for example. Personally this next video, on the topic of gendered language sums up my thoughts on the matter of pronouns – although other trans people may disagree about the claim that ‘invented’ pronouns don’t really work.

A couple of things in this video – the use of ‘it’ is never never acceptable (well, there might be one trans person out there who is OK with it, but I have yet to find them). And they is a suitable gender-neutral alternative most of the time. Incidentally, I managed to remove my gender from Facebook via a bit of unfiltered input on their mobile site.
A common theme through this post has been that of ‘gender roles’. They’ve been mentioned in everything I’ve linked to so far. Gender Roles are the idea that ‘blue is for boys’, ‘women belong in the kitchen/at home’, ‘men are the breadwinners’ and ‘women care for the children’ and other such claims. We’ve already blasted through the very notion of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ binary classifications, so let’s put a final nail in the coffin. ‘Blue is for boys’ is only recently true – in America for example through most of the 1900’s, boys wore pink more often. The entire notion of acceptable colours for boys and girls got turned on its head at some point. If that doesn’t show how the entire notion of objective gender roles is wrong, I don’t know what will.
So, there we have it. An introduction into gender, sex and sexuality and how they really have no relation to each other at all. Except what society tries to force onto people anyway.

Thoughts on UltraViolet

I’ve recently been able to take advantage of UltraViolet ‘digital copies’ of movies, and the experience has left me with some thoughts. I promise that this won’t turn into an Anti-DRM rant, beyond a brief mention of the rights you are guaranteed.
Firstly, for those who don’t know what UltraViolet is, a brief explanation. UltraViolet is essentially a service, backed by 5 of the ‘Big 6’ movie studios, that provides a ‘digital locker’ of sorts for digital copies included with select movie DVD/BluRay discs. You buy the DVD or BluRay in the shop, and included in the case is an ‘UltraViolet’ redemption code. After following the instructions you then have a digital copy of the movie in your UltraViolet account that you can then stream or download onto your UV compatible players.  There’s also a feature of adding up to five additional accounts under your own to share UV library access.
At least, that’s the ‘non-technical’ version. What the service really is, is a collection of license files. That’s it. The Ultraviolet service itself doesn’t store any movie files, it just stores some DRM information stating that you have the license for this film. The actual files, streaming and downloading services are provided by other ‘UltraViolet Retailers’ – so, for instance a Warner Brothers movie will likely use the Flixster service – both being owned by the same parent company. The ‘UltraViolet’ website ‘stream’ and ‘download’ links merely point you to this other service. Which is an entirely separate account. UV mandates a choice of DRM schemes, and mandates a few select rights (streaming for free for one year, unless geographic restrictions come in to play), all other options are couched in “may” language, and thus might not be applicable at any point.
Because of this… decentralised…. nature, the core of ultraviolet is essentially nothing more than a thin veneer on-top of numerous different digital lockers. And thus is pretty useless. There may be progress in the future – UltraViolet appears to have plans to create ‘branded’ UltraViolet players that let you stream (or play downloaded files) from any of the UV retailers. This unification could actually provide some value.
Now, let’s talk about this in practise.
My first experience was when I bought Les Misérables on DVD. For this film they had also allowed an additional iTunes redemption (separate from the UV redemption – as UV is incompatible with iTunes[0]). iTunes redemption was simple – sign in/up to the iTunes store. Put the code in the redemption box, and done. The UV experience first required me to sign up for a Flixster account, then allow that to create a separate Ultraviolet account, put the code in the box, and it showed up in my UV library, and in my library on the Flixster site. As I only bought the DVD version, I was not surprised when I only received a Standard Definition digital copy. This however is where the cracks start to show. On the UltraViolet site the ‘download’ box is greyed out – implying that I only have streaming rights. The ‘watch’ link on the UV site simply takes me to my Flixster library. It doesn’t start the streaming of the movie – instead I now need to hunt again through my Flixster library to find the actual movie. On the Flixster site however it transpires that I can download the movie – into the Flixster desktop app. It’s this inconsistency of information, and the lack of one click integration that, to me, is UltraViolets biggest weakness.
My second experience was redeeming my ‘Harry Potter Wizards Collection’. This is essentially a giant box containing all 8 movies on DVD, BluRay, and a UV copy of all the movies, along with many special features and exclusives (No iTunes digital copy code however). The UV retailer was again Flixster, although this time I only needed to sign into Flixster, as they had ‘linked’ my UV and Flixster account together. Thus my previous notes about this particular retailer carry through. This time, however, on the UV site it shows that I have the standard and high definition version of all the films. However when I go to the Flixster site, I can find no way to actually obtain, through stream or download, a High Definition version of the films. This is a major problem in my view – and again, highlights how the lack of unification and integration is too apparent. When they’re trying to compete with iTunes for digital distribution, unification is one thing they need to get spot on. To be told in one place that you have the High Definition version, but not be able to get it is frustrating.
If UltraViolet feels like one thing, it really does feel like it was designed by a committee. None of whom wanted to let go of their vested interestes,  each of whom has a different idea about what should be allowed, leading to this incredibly weak platform. If their UV Player idea ever takes off, then it would help. But fundamentally, the idea of a system that does nothing but say “John Smith acquired this movie on this date from this UV Retailer” is worthless on the technical side. To the end user it’s a glorified catalogue that doesn’t even provide one click access.
A final note – obviously I haven’t tried any of the other UltraViolet retailers, but I don’t have high hopes of them being any better either.
[0] – UltraViolet movies cannot be played in iTunes, nor loaded onto native iOS devices. However, UV Retailers (such as Flixster) do have iOS apps and native platform apps that have to separately download/stream the movie each time.

University Update

Today my University published provisional pass lists for graduating students like me. Essentially as long as I don’t owe the university any money then all will be good.
I got a 2:1. Which is awesome. And exactly what I needed to be able to take up my job offer with IBM Hursley in September. ^_^

Why I run a Tor Relay.

Everyone has the right to freedom
of opinion and expression; this right
includes freedom to hold opinions
without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and
ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.

– Article 19, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I make no secret of the fact that I use Tor, and that I run a Tor Relay. Admittedly  I don’t use Tor as often as I perhaps should – but a lot of my browsing is on websites where I have an account that’s already associated with ‘real-world’ me, thus negating the purpose of Tor. Given the recent headlines, I figured now would be a good time to explain what Tor is, and why I encourage its use.

What is Tor?

Tor is software developed by the Tor Project that aims to ensure that your ISP and middle-men cannot correlate who you are with what you’re doing on the internet. The idea is that you download the Tor Browser Bundle – a one-click package of everything you need. Then when you browse the internet using the provided browser (a modified Firefox) you are routed through 3 volunteer relays in a way that guarantees forward secrecy, before the last node actually sends your request to the website in question. The way the encryption is set up means that when using Tor the ISPs, and anyone listening before your data reaches the first Tor node knows only that you’re running Tor, but not what you’re doing. The 3rd ‘exit’ node, and anyone listening to the connection between them and the destination website can only see your data, but not the original source. As far as the website is concerned your IP is that of the exit node. When you combine this with HTTPS connections secured with SSL even the exit node can only see the site you’re visiting, without seeing any of the data being passed back and forth. The EFF has a nice diagram summarising this.
Thanks to this it provides a way to secretly access websites that you may not be able to. In Turkey for example, it can bypass their web firewall so users can read news about what is really happening. Tor’s usage skyrocketed during the height of the recent Egyptian revolution.
A second feature of Tor are its ‘Hidden Sites’ these are websites who accept connections directly from Tor without having traffic go back over the ‘clear net’. This way there is no ‘exit’ node to spy on your data or site. Your connection is fully encrypted.  There are Wikileaks mirrors for those wishing to view that data. There’s an e-mail service so you can send and receive emails (even interacting with clear web email addresses) entirely anonymously. The New Yorker has an anonymous document submission/communication platform as a Hidden Service (the second link won’t work unless you are using Tor).

What’s a Relay?

A Tor Relay is a computer with the Tor Software installed that has volunteered to be one of the middle-men in other peoples Tor connections. They provide the bandwidth that can make the Tor experience faster and more stable. An ‘Exit Node’ is a special kind of Tor Relay that has additionally volunteered to be the last Tor node before a connection jumps out onto the clear net. By running a normal relay I can help ensure that whistleblowers and dissidents can access the information they need to do their job.

Any downsides?

Like anything, it’s not perfect. There are known attack models – if all three of the relays you route through are run (or have traffic logged) by the same organisation, they could in theory perform timing analysis to work out which data stream is yours. There’s also the fact that it is significantly slower – streaming data is out of the question (even more so because Tor is TCP and doesn’t innately support UDP). And naturally like all privacy preserving tools, it can be used by the bad guys as well – Tor semi-often hits the headlines because of the Silk Road – a drug marketplace that operates as a Tor Hidden Service. But humanity is mostly good. Some people can do terrible things, but in the grand scheme of things I believe that the good it enables, and that humanity uses it for, greatly outweighs the possible negatives.

So who the heck is funding this?

One last point. The Tor Project makes no secret of the fact that they were originally founded and are funded by the US Navy. But as you can see, there is now a wide diversity of funding coming in. And if that isn’t enough, Tor’s Projects are entirely Open Source (including the core Tor code) – you can download the code, submit patches (please do that!), and check there are no back doors.

Did I see mention of a free T-Shirt?!

Yes. Yes you did. I have my free t-shirt. Get yours for running a 500KB/s relay for two months. Or a 100 KB/s exit that allows Port 80 (HTTP) traffic. (I do the former).
Privacy is important. Especially for those whose governments are actively stopping their own people from being well-informed.  You can make a difference. ^_^
Update: I finally found a link I was looking for, but couldn’t find. I’ve added it to the Hidden Sites discussion.

Jury Nullification

I saw this post on Tumblr today about Jury Nullification

An image promoting Jury Nullification
An image promoting Jury Nullification

The image had had some text added by a tumblr user as a comment

This is something that more people should be aware of, if only because (in many states, at least) defense attorneys are actually prohibited from mentioning it to jurors. The law allows a jury to return a “not guilty” verdict contrary to the facts of the case, but not for the defense to inform them of that power or to argue for its application in the current trial.

And I decided it would be a good idea to cross-post my response here, as legal issues are something I’m passionate about myself.

My Response

Jury Nullification is….. yeah.
I mean, I know it’s a thing, and it does, on the face of it, seem like an important thing. But the entire principle of the Jury is that they are Finders of Fact. That is, their entire role is to determine only whether a law has been broken. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s a vital and very important role – 12(ish) random men and women drawn from amongst the general population. To judge whether a particular fact has occurred.
The issue with Jury Nullification (for me) is that, although it sounds like it’s an amazing thing, and it brings to mind all kinds of nice images of “giving it to the man”, it’s not that simple.
There are the scenarios presented where for instance 12 jurors return not guilty for someone who is in court for light cannabis use – to pick a US example. Or copyright infringement.
But this ignores other potential situations. 12 is a tiny number. It could be easy to get 12 people who think “an eye for an eye” is perfectly fine, and so will vote Not Guilty for some crime done in retribution. Or 12 people who are racist and thus vote not guilty simply because the victim was black.
And of course, there’s the other side – where the Jury vote Guilty even when the evidence is slip-shoddy, because the defendant was black, or (and this is a serious actual problem) they believe anyone who the police have arrested must be guilty.
The reason why Jury Nullification is awkward is because these are 12 individual people, answerable to no-one (In the UK speaking about Jury Deliberations can lead to a charge of Contempt of Court for the Juror), whilst the law-makers who actually make the law are elected by the entire population, answerable to them, and thus (in theory) create laws based on the overall will of the people. Therefore Jury Nullification is (in theory) the minority overriding the majority. (Which, while not always bad, is definitely a warning sign in any justice system claiming to be by the people)
Jury Nullification isn’t as awesome as it’s made out to be – it is very problematic due to the reasons outlined above. It’s not even really an actual thing. There’s no law that states “Juries may return a verdict of Not Guilty if their conscience disagrees with the law” – technically Juries don’t even create the punishment; sentencing is purely in the judges domain. Instead Jury Nullification is an unpreventable thing arising from the fact that Jury Verdicts are meant to be simple findings of fact, with no moral judgements made by the Jury. It is an innate part of a justice system where the defendants peers are responsible for deciding whether a law has been broken.
So it exists, but it is also a dangerous thing, as it undermines the entire principle of Juries being simple Finders of Fact – hence why in some jurisdictions it is not allowed to be mentioned to jurors.
As something I’ll add just to this blog entry, I’d say that Jury Nullification is a simple principle that can lead to a whole mess of chaos – especially for the uncertainty it can create should either side appeal the verdict. In certain, limited cases it can prove useful, and is potentially a last line of defence against unjust laws. The problem is that different people have vastly different opinions about whether a law is just or unjust – and this is why it is such a dangerous thing to publicise directly to jurors.

Migrating Email from Google Apps to Office365

So, as you might have gathered from the title, I’ve switched away from Google for my E-Mail, along with Calendar and contacts, I figure a post on how I went about it is in order.
Firstly, my setup, and thus how I picked Office365 to replace Google Apps for Domains.
I have a Mac, and use Mail.app, Contacts.app and Calendar.app on there. I have an iPod Touch and an iPad, where again I use the default apps. My Phone is a Blackberry (OS 7, not 10 – this becomes important later). When using Google to house Email, Contacts and Calendar everything worked, and I linked my Facebook Account on the Blackberry to my Contacts application so my contacts had display pictures and additional contact information.
I only require one account, with a custom domain name. I may add further domain names in future.
The vast majority of my contacts are simply a name and email address. Others are a name and phone number. A scant few have both email and phone – unless they are linked up with Facebook.

Evaluation of Options

I wanted, as I stated before, a hosted solution. A friend recommended Intermedia to me, however they now require a minimum of 3 accounts which makes the initial cost of an account for me at about £18 per month. I also considered running my own contacts and calendar software, and going with a less full featured email service such as FastMail. Software I looked at included OwnCloud and Baikal. However none of the software for Calendar seemed particularly well designed – the web UIs were often lacking or non existant.
Looking, as I mentioned into Microsofts’s own solution. At £5.60/month I get unlimited storage, and a full email, calendar, contacts house. An additional bonus – important for me, is that it includes complimentary access to Blackberry’s Business Cloud Service. BCS is kind of a slightly scaled down version of Blackberry Enterprise Server, that Blackberry host themselves, and is directly integrated in to Office365 if you choose to enable it. This is vital as adding the Office365 account to your Blackberry Internet Service only synchs the Email, and not the calendar or contacts. Both of which are pretty essential for my phone to achieve its purpose.

The Migration

Having selected Office 365’s Hosted Exchange plan, I signed up and paid my first £5.60. The signup was quick and smooth, as was the account creation. When you sign up you initially get to choose a subdomain underneath onmicrosoft.com for your account. You cannot remove or change this subdomain, but it’s free to add your own domains to the solution, and assign users to the correct domain name. Once the account was set up I setup access to the default subdomain account on my devices, and sent an email to check everything could work. This necessitated enabling, and setting up my Blackberry Cloud Services account.

Blackberry Cloud Services

This is the only negative experience I’ve had. This was the first time I got an error – when it tried to load their administration panel. It fixed itself on a refresh, but still. In addition, unlike Office365 it is not a sleek UI. It is very much a business/corporate designed UI. It reminds me very strongly in fact of this comic image. Every navigation element leads to a giant search form with many options. Naturally, in my use case, with only one account and one Blackberry, I’d prefer just to see my user details straight away. That said, my use case is obviously not the primary target for this tool.
Once I’d searched for my user and selected myself from the search result list, I checked through the options given for configuring a Users Profile. On a Blackberry, this profile can control every little thing that the device and users can do. It allows specifications of device passwords, remote wiping, separation of work and personal apps (to the extent of disabling copy-paste between the two domains). Naturally, this web tool only provides a fraction of the power, and the default options were fine in my case. Thus I used the option to send an email with an activation password to my email. On the Blackberry I had to download the ‘Enterprise Activation’ app, and use the password provided to associate my blackberry.
All the testing emails worked fine. So I set about doing the actual migration

Doing the Migration

The first thing was adding my domain to the Office365 account. This was incredibly simple, and contained helpful instructions on updating the DNS to verify ownership, and enable specific services, for a variety of domain name service providers. Having verified my domain, and activated it for my Exchange account I reassigned my user to use my own domain instead of the onmicrosoft.com subdomain. That done I removed Googles Records from my DNS. I then set up the email migration. Again, Office365 had an excellent Wizard that catered for a variety of Exchange-Exchange migration situations, and a generic IMAP importer for other situations. I went with the IMAP route naturally. After providing the domain and IMAP server, I uploaded a CSV containing the details of the accounts to migrate (one in my case), and set the import going. With 27,000 odd messages it took a few hours for my account to fill up – so many messages due to the way GMail handles its tags system over IMAP. Each tag is its own folder, and messages are duplicated across the ‘folders’.
I then used my own Google Account to export my Contacts into a .csv file which I then imported directly into my own account, again without any issue.
The Calendar app however  as far as I can see has no built in import function. Trying to use Calendar.app to export my Google Calendar, and reimport it into my Exchange Calendar with its own import function caused an error. As I don’t actually have any future appointments scheduled at the moment, this is bearable. My history is currently only viewable on my Mac as I imported it into a local Calendar. For those with future appointments though that could well be a stumbling block, or possibly a deal breaker). You may be able to use Google Calendar to ‘share’ the calendar to the Exchange one, but I didn’t investigate that option as the loss is minor.
Having imported everything I updated all my sync settings to point to the new domain, and everything was pulled down fine. I ended up with Duplicate Contacts in some instances, but Merging them when they showed up on a device was sufficient. My Blackberry I had to remove the syncs entirely as it was still trying to sync to my old account as well. After wiping out all the contacts locally and re-enabling sync to my new account everything seems to work.
I went to re-enable Facebook-Blackberry integration, only to discover that this option is disabled by Blackberry Business Cloud Service. It’s configurable in the full BES package, but it is one of the things they removed in this not-quite-BES-in-the-cloud version. For now I have simply enabled Facebook integration on my Mac and iPod/iPad. The information added by these isn’t synched up into Office365, so my Phone contacts aren’t Facebook integrated at the moment. Microsoft however do have US only facebook integration directly in Office 365. Hopefully that will come through soon. Either way, Facebook contact integration on the phone is only a nice to have and didn’t really benefit me aside from the display pictures.
I did however enable LinkedIn integration in Office365, which pulled in additional contacts into my contact list.


Everything went better than expected. Office365’s Exchange component is fast, sleek and very nice to use. The only things that went wrong are a lack of Calendar import; and the Blackberry which had by far the most issues in all aspects of the migration. Something that can be laid firmly at Blackberry’s feet. That said, BBOS10 doesn’t have BES, but instead integrates with Email, Calendar et al over standard protocols (hopefully reducing those issues?).

University is over.

So on Wednesday I had my last University exam.
It’s the end of my formal education (barring going for a Masters at some point in the future). Having been in formal education since the age of 4/5, this is quite something. Yes, I had a placement year last year, but for some reason I don’t really count that – I was still a student really. Still getting e-mails from my University. But that stage of my life is at an end now.
*flumps in to a seat*
So what have I done since the end of that exam? First I went into Bath’s centre and kind of wandered in a stupor for a while before going home and reading a book. I’ve played some games, tidied my room up after the garbage that collected during the revision-snacks phase. Watched the movie Night Watch (The subtitles on Disc 2 are excellent), and I have the last book in the series the film is a loose adaption of on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Rewatched the movie Adams Family Values. Looked in to alternative email/contact/calendar software. Email is one thing I don’t want to have to host myself – dealing with blacklists, spam and security is not something I want to do just to keep my email working. I’m thinking of perhaps using Microsofts Hosted Exchange offering. It’s cheap, but still paid (thus I’m the customer, and not the data). It’s Exchange, so it’s feature rich. And being Microsoft and Enterprisey it doesn’t go through upheavals with social media integration. Sure, they might work just as much with Law Enforcement as Google do – but at least they don’t have my search history as well.
A final thing I’m going to do over the summer is code myself up a private journal software. Yes, I have WordPress. And I could use that, but it doesn’t quite do what I want. Given my quality skills with UI design, I’m sure that this will look all modern and that </sarcasm>. Anyway, here’s a thumb sketch of my requirements:

  • Web access
  • One entry per day. You can extend, but after say a week you can’t edit them anymore.
  • With specific sections for
  • Interesting Links browsed / found
  • Interesting stories read
  • A way to pull in specific Tweets/Facebook/Tumblr posts.

So the way I’m kind of imagining it is a kind of digitally integrated private snapshot of my life day by day. It’ll be interesting to do this. Maybe I can use it as a chance to finally learn JQuery and AJAX and all the web 2.0 goodness? I don’t know. I’ve wanted to get around to learning how to AJAX and JQuery and that, but I’ve never found a tutorial that actually made it click. But anyway, this might be my project over the summer. 4 months of a clear diary is somewhat daunting. Although it will likely be the last time I have this amount of time free.
Well, this turned out to be somewhat rambly. Ooops.

Some ramblings on data silos and online identity

I have a problem with Google.
Google know far too much about me, and they also hold far too much of my data. Their policy of ‘don’t be evil’ isn’t comforting, especially with their recent increased product-cull rate and their lack of support among other things. All it would take is their login process to be compromised and anyone could have access to my data. If you think that’s unlikely, you should read about how their two-factor authentication lead to full account access without the second factor, nor the accounts master password.
There’s also the issue of US law enforcement having essentially carte-blanche access to the data Google owns. As someone who takes privacy seriously this sort of thing worries me.
So, what services do I use that belong to Google?

  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Browsing History, Chrome extensions, bookmarks etc. (through Chrome Sync)
  • Search History
  • YouTube History
  • Old Blogger accounts
  • Google+ account
  • RSS feeds that I followed back when Google Reader was a thing.
  • Old Google Wave postings
  • Purchases through Google Checkout
  • Documents/Files in Google Docs (including University work)
  • Location information – through Google Maps searches, journey planning etc.
  • Information about websites I own through Google Analytics – even this blog.

Given Google’s lack of support for anything (even their paid Google Apps accounts aren’t much better), if I should loose access to my Google account overnight, the effect would be immediate and devastating. I’d loose access to my email until I could get a mail server online (or a different provider) and redirect the DNS. I’d have to hope that my IMAP backups worked. My Calendar and Contacts would become unsynced – Calendar is something I use quite a lot, often updating it on different devices relatively frequently. Loss of other information wouldn’t be quite as devastating, although Google Docs/Drive access would inconvenience me a lot.
My other worry, given my privacy, is how complete a picture could be drawn up should someone go through all this. They’d be able to find me on multiple services through sign-up/notification emails. They’d find all my blog postings from previous blogs.
All of this has been percolating inside me for a long time. As someone who really doesn’t like this kind of data correlation to be easy, or to be going on without me knowing, it bugs me. I’m a paid supporter of the ORG (it’s the UK’s version of the EFF); I use, advocate and run a relay for Tor. I take my privacy seriously. It’s somewhat ironic given how public I can be on sites like Twitter, and Tumblr. Notice how I didn’t link to my Tumblr? That’s because I don’t want to publicly link the content there to here, or to my real life identity.
It’s kind of funny in a way. I have posted links to my Tumblr on my Facebook and Twitter before, but despite that I still like to think that it’s semi-private. It’s not linked via a common username like some of my other accounts are. This (unintentionally) brings me nicely to the second half of this post. My online identities.
I use so many servies, and social networking sites. I have a Twitter, a Facebook, a Tumblr, a reddit account, a LibraryThing, a YouTube account, a HackerNews account, a Dragonmount account. I even have a DeviantArt account (which I occasionally log in to), a MySpace account and a Bebo account – both of which were receiving my Twitter updates last time I looked several years ago. For someone who is determined to find all of my accounts, and is nifty with Google it wouldn’t be that hard. And yet, that also has me conflicted. I often claim that I don’t filter my Twitter feed as if someone is interested in me personally then they get me personally, not a filtered me. If someone isn’t interested in the law and legal process, but they are interested in Wheel of Time then they can either get their Wheel of Time fix elsewhere, or follow all of me and get to know me better. In other words, I want people to follow me because they’re interested in me, not because they’re interested in a small subset of my interests.
And yet, there are some things I’m not comfortable with both groups knowing. For instance, I ‘came out’ on reddit before I posted on my Facebook or even my tumblr. And now I’m feeling that I want to ‘re-invent’ myself online. It’s too easy to link my profiles to me, there’s also too much content going too far back. The picture someone could construct of me if they had the time and motivation to do so is something that creeps me out – not in a bad way, but in a “this sort of thing shouldn’t be possible” way. It’s a thing with our generation, that we seem to live more and more of our lives online and in public. And yet I want the pseudonymity  that a more.. disconnected set of online profiles would provide.
I guess what I’m saying is that I want to start fresh. A total disconnect would be impractical and likely impossible. And certain things, such as HackerNews, and Facebook I want tied to my real identity. But other identities such as my reddit profile, or my various forum accounts don’t need to be. And I feel like I should embrace that they don’t.
Someday soon I shall break up my online identities, in every sense of the phrase. InnerLambada shall die. In my place shall rise….. well now, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? 😉

Redux: How I actually migrated my hard-drive

As a follow up to my previous post, I’m briefly outlining what things went wrong. This shall be a much briefer entry, and isn’t menat to be a full guide.
My guide was good until Step 11.
Firstly I did everything I needed to with standard tools – An OSX installation USB, OSX Disk Utility, Windows Installer. I used OSX Disk Utility to clone across my OSX Partition, and attempted my Windows partition, which seemed to clone fine, but another issue cropped up with Windows…..
It turns out that Windows can be funny about moving HDs and locations on HDs. I got the infamously generic blinking cursor, and none of the standard suggestions seemed to work (if someone is looking for some SuperUser rep, just post a plausible answer that could have solved the issue). Eventually I just used BootCamp assistant to remove, and then recreate the partition, proceeding with the standard installer. I then just pulled the files I needed (mostly game installers) off my old hard drive.
Everything else works fine, and the system is much speedier now.
One word of earning for Microsoft Office for Mac users. Apparently it uses some kind of hard-drive based identifier when you register it, and now that’s changed so it wants my licence key again. Which is stuck back in Norfolk. *grumble*