Hard News by Russell Brown


Just a quick post today to say thanks to everyone who came along last night to the Karajoz Great Blend in Auckland, and who stayed and listened and enjoyed themselves. Our guest, Ashley Highfield of the BBC, was most impressed. He addresses conference audiences all the time and told me afterwards he'd never come across a crowd that was so thoroughly engaged.

Robyn Gallagher and Mark Derricutt blogged the event before bed last night.

We fly to Wellington in a couple of hours to do it all over again, with a different panel, at the Film Archive. Please don't turn up unless you've successfully RSVPd for tonight - venue capacity is strictly limited and it's very full indeed. If you are coming, 6pm please.

Following up from last week's discussion of the French riots, Public Address reader James Dickson reported from France:

One of the things that is not mentioned in media reports about these riots is just how profoundly *unaffected* the majority of the french population has been by these riots. Apart from the actually quite limited rioting in Lyon and in central Paris itself, most French would be unable to point to evidence of any disturbance in their own neighbourhoods. This fact alone should provide sufficient evidence of the exclusion of these communities from the rest of France.

As to the implication that this unrest is the result of a clash of civilisations, that certainly isn't the take of the French media, or commentators here (I live in Strasbourg). Though a large proportion of the population of these communities is Muslim, the problem is seen as being one of economics rather than religion. I would also like to know who first reported that French media are talking about the 'hidden hand' of Islamic extremism as somehow coordinating the riots. Thus far the only references to this I have seen, have been in foreign (and, often American) news reports. In fact, even Le Pen and the French right-wing have been restrained in trying to seriously link the two.

Don't expect that to stop the wingers trying.

Okay, now it's personal. I'm used to standing by and watching while various indecencies are committed on in Windows users - but now comes the News that music CDs bearing the Sony BMG DRM will take bleeding liberties with my Mac. A Macintouch reader has discovered a MacOS X application on a partition in the CDs - if you accept the EULA (which requires you to enter an administrator password) it will install two .kext files. That's right: it will add extensions to your system kernel.

There's a Slashdot thread about it here, and a discussion on the website of Imogen Heap, on whose CD the unannounced code was discovered.

This isn't anywhere near as unpleasant as what happens on Windows systems - MacOS X simply won't run something like this without your okay in the form of a password, and it's hard to see exactly how the start.app binary on the CD would launch unless you actually sought it out and launched it. Furthermore, it's not a back door for hackers like the Windows version is (there now appear to be three viruses that take advantage of the hiding features of the Sony malware).

But it's not good either. MacOS X is very stable, but one thing that can really mess with it is badly-written .kext files. Do you trust them to do this competently given the debacle over the Windows DRM? Have a poke around the website of the company that provides Sony's Mac DRM and see what you think. They appear to be geared towards acquiring copy-protection technologies and turning them around for a quick licensing dollar. Until 2002 they were an oil and gas exploration company. Reassuring? Hell no.

Anyway, already facing several lawsuits (whose prospects were radically enhanced late last week by the appearance of the viruses that exploit the DRM software), Sony BMG has backed down and announced it will "temporarily suspend" manufacture of the CDs. The Boycott Sony blog is staying abreast of events.