Filtering Out The Bad Stuff Isn’t That Easy

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The British government wants Internet Service Providers to automatically block access to pornography on the Internet so users will have to request, or will be asked at the outset whether to filter or not.

I find it hard to decide whether this is a victory for lazy parents or a very naive and uninformed awareness of how ineffective this will be and how the technology actually works and how easy it will be to bypass and how fast the Internet will adapt and innovate new methods to enable easy access again.

Much filtering is very crude and ends up blocking legitimate sites along with the undesirable. Schools know this. Filters can be set to block a large percentage of flesh colouration in an image and so many fine art masterpieces are also blocked. Keyword blocking meant in one school that searches for Mars Explorer were blocked because it contains the words arse and sex.

I’m not an advocate for easy access to pornography for the very young but I have to be slightly worried when governments start trying to censor things. Will we block stations like Babestation on free to air digital TV? Or is that mere titillation (as it were)? Will we block highly sexualised pop videos?

Cameron wants a pop up to appear when we’re accessing illegal content? Don’t most people block pop ups these days? There’s illegal and there’s undesirable. There’s smart ways of doing things and crude ways. Deciding what we can and can’t access is open to all kinds of future abuse. Better parents are given the tools to exercise control than a one size fits all nanny state solution.

We’re not a very open nation when it comes to sex and I can’t see this helping.

Australia went down this road and abandoned the idea as impractical. The time to act on this has long passed. Apathy, indifference,laziness, and and a sexualised media put pay to that. Protecting children from what they have access to online at a young age won’t be easily solved by crude and naive measures such as this sadly.

The last word should go to the media giant that are taking credit for campaigning hard on this. A better visual definition of hypocrisy would be harder to find.

Image (Mars Internet Explorer) by chengings under this creative commons licence

Information Super Glasto

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It won’t be long before another Glastonbury is upon us. I have neither the means, health or desire to hike to the west country for the exclusive pleasure of potentially camping in mud glorious mud but as an armchair music listener I often watch the BBC coverage even though it means suffering the inane presenter punditry. It’s all got very corporate over the years and the more interesting stages on the periphery are seldom suitable for much beyond blink-and-you’ll-miss-it coverage. Too niche. Too homespun. Not mainstream enough. Coldplay are hardly a prime representation of a counter culture are they now? Or maybe they are to the middle class crowd Glasto attracts these days?

This year the Beeb is perhaps pointing to the future of television for some events in that they will be providing multiple Internet streams rather than (or as well as?) trying to crowbar coverage across three TV channels and the now severely pruned red button service. The Olympics was the last huge undertaking but that offered up 24 temporary TV channels on free-to-air satellite in a deal cut with Sky. Aunty doesn’t have that kind of moolah these days. They’ve already scaled back the red button service which is slowly being redefined via Internet connected streams instead as a way of doing more for less money.

But even a multi stream coverage of Glasto may not yield total coverage. Already this year’s headline act, The Rolling Stones are still negotiating with the broadcaster to limit coverage of their set to a few opening numbers. Apparently they’re worried that rain and performing to a lass than 100% partisan crowd might turn in a performance they wouldn’t want to see recorded for posterity ala Led Zeppelin at Live Aid way back when.

Other artists have excluded TV coverage of their Glastonbury set over the years. Elvis Costello springs to mind as does Joe Strummer’s petulant attack on a cameraman during his set. The Stone Roses are the most recent blockers of  broadcasting their live gurglings just last year. Mind you some may argue that Ian Brown’s live vocals are best reserved for true fans anyway.

Of course these days artists have to contend with a sea of amateur coverage at their gigs as they look out at into the crowd to see arms outstretched not in adoration but in the act of holding a camera phone aloft to somehow capture forever their own experience of the performance.Or at least their own experience of experiencing the gig via a camera. There are even web sites where gig attenders agree in advance which songs in a set they will record so the whole gig is eventually edited together from the various angles (and footage qualities). Resourceful but not quite surrendering yourself to experiencing the live experience. Recently artists have been requesting that their fans leave their phones in their pockets. Fat bloody chance. How about a ban on Flags at Glastonbury?

Anyway I look forward to breaking my Internet data limits chasing the various Glastonbury Internet streams. At least I’ll have a greater choice in watching what I want when I want. That is if said precious artist will allow me to.

Image by MojoBaron under this creative commons licence

Trap!t

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Trap.it is a site presently in closed beta that attempts to give a highly visual dimension to news discovery. A simple search gives a scrollable page of relevant links which can be collected in ‘Traps’ and then shared.

The idea is that successive searches together with the ability to thumbs up or thumbs down the results that are served up will help the system learn you preferences.

An open beta will be available in the future. For now you can submit your email and hope for an invite. Whether Trap!t becomes a standalone service or a technology that gets purchased by an existing content provider it’s a welcome alternative to existing content discovery alternatives.

Radioplayer On Demand A Minority Feature (at the moment)

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Radioplayer.co.uk is intended to bring a standard interface to web based radio streams in the UK albeit it costs the radio station a fee to participate. As yet many stations have not grasped the listen again aspect in quite the way that radio on the iPlayer works but JazzFM have mercifully put in the effort which makes access to their on-demand content a wonderfully easy experience. Here’s hoping that other radio stations step up to the plate.

Using Audacity To Record Audio Streams And System Audio

There are various bits of software out there for recording live Internet audio streams but many people often overlook the simple free solutions already available.

Audacity is a piece of free recording software that is cross-platform and can easily be set to record from your computer internal audio. Once recorded it will offer you the choice of saving as an mp3, AAC, ogg or various uncompressed formats.

Set To Record From The Built In Input

Just make sure that Audacity is set to record from the built-in input (Audacity -preferences-devices-recording: change to built-in input).

Audacity will now record anything playing on your computer so fire up that online audio stream via a web browser or your chosen piece of audio stream player (media player, iTunes,vlc etc), adjust your system volume level and the Audacity recording level and you’re ready to record.

Windows uses may have to make some extra adjustments.

Audacity Now Has A Timer

In fact the latest version (1.3.13) adds a timer recording capability (under the Transport menu or Shift+T from your keyboard once audacity is running).

Of course when using the timer facility will inevitably require that  you’ll have to pre-start the playback of your audio stream in advance or delve into the world of software scheduling on windows, automator on OS X or gui front ends for cron jobs in linux such as gnome-schedule (perhaps I can look at these additional options another time).

Bring Your Own Radio

Recording internal audio doesn’t mean that you have to record Internet streams. You could just as easily connect an ordinary FM/AM radio, Digital radio, standalone Internet radio or satellite radio to your system input via the proper cable and set these to come on at a chosen time.

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