The real threat to Hollywood

I’m at the CommsDay Congress in Melbourne and in the goodie bag (provided by my client TransGrid) is an 8GB USB “thumb drive” which would be described as a “fingernail drive”. Over the last 10 years conference giveaways have shifted from a CD-ROM to USB sticks of 16 megabytes and doubled every year. This 8GB drive must have cost only a dollar or two for it to be given away with a pdf brochure on it. The same 8GB can store 8 movies at compressed high definition and perhaps a couple at really good resolution. That’s 4 next year and 512 in eight years. That’s one really high def movie for every day of the week and a couple of extras for the weekend. That’s the entire output of Hollywood including the stuff that never got shown on a big screen http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/year/2014 You don’t need a broadband network for this, you need sneakers. 

  

Some idle thoughts on Dallas Buyers Club LLC v iiNet

In his August 14th 2015 judgement Justice Perram said “If the explanatory memorandum is to be believed, ss 115(5)-(8) are aimed squarely at peer-to-peer file sharing. There are aspects of the provisions which are puzzling from a drafting perspective. The use of the expression ‘on a commercial scale’ is not defined although subs (7) tells one what one is to take into account in determining whether a particular infringement was on such a scale. This appears to be focussed on the possibility that whilst one might be able to show that a particular user shared three copies of a work by uploading it, one might not be able to show much about what those three individual downloaders went on to do by way of sharing themselves.”

Peer to peer file sharing has been around a long time. Bittorrent dates back to 2001 and Napster to 1999. But you might be forgiven for thinking that the Copyright Act 1968 didn’t anticipate peer to peer file sharing and indeed it didn’t.

According to CommLaw the history of amending Section 115 of the Copyright Act recorded in the End Notes is “am. No. 110, 2000; No. 34, 2003; No. 158, 2006”

These all occurred during the Howard government and Daryl Williams was Attorney General in 2000 and Philip Ruddock was in 2003 and 2006. The 2006 amendments were very important because they implemented the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. I have been told that representatives of the Hollywood studios sat in the Attorney General’s offices drafting the amendments so it must be particularly galling for them that the judge in this case could not see how to apply the Copyright Act to this peer to peer sharing.

There must have been some amazing tantrums after the judgment was handed down.

Perhaps next time the Copyright Act is amended some technologists might be consulted during the process, but perhaps the world is better if they just mess it up so that it’s unenforceable.

Windows 10 – Shut up and take my money!

I got an email from Holly Raiche, ISOC-au ex ED / ICANN luminary / ACCAN director, that she forwarded to the ISOC-au / Internet Australia mailing list from a friend who lives in the Cook Islands who was complaining that Windows 10 had eaten her satellite internet quota of 15GB and run up a NZD280 excess bill in less than half a month.

Of course the causes are Windows 10 cloud services and it automatically updating itself.

I mentioned this Internet consumption problem online and Phil Dobbie called me and he recorded a Balls Radio podcast segment (at 18:52) with me on the topic.

Having done this I thought I should have a play with Windows 10 myself so I downloaded it this morning, all 4GB of it.

Then I attempted to buy a license from Microsoft.

mswin10fail

Ouch! This was painful and didn’t work. I got as far as putting my PayPal details in and confirming my shipping address (for a download only version of Windows) and then the browser wedged looping around between Microsoft and some analytics company.

I tried three different browsers on my Mac.

Eventually I created a new Microsoft Live account and tried again with Chrome which worked! Perhaps it didn’t like my @mac.com address? More likely it has decided my decade old Live account is defective in some way because I never respond to their spam.

Full marks to Microsoft for charging GST and issuing a proper Tax Invoice.

Naturally the expensive new license key didn’t work!

So I downloaded Windows 10 again, thinking “well perhaps there is some timestamp thing” since the downloads seem to be generated specifically for each customer and have a time limit for use.

Another 4GB of download later and it still didn’t work.

MSWIN10FAIL2

I thought a bit harder: perhaps selecting the single language version was a mistake? So I selected the plain Windows 10 and put International English into the default language box.

Another 4GB (that’s 12GB so far!) download and the key worked! I selected Custom install because I’ve been paying attention to social media… Things ground along at a fairly rapid pace and eventually I was given this evil choice:

MSWIN10wificonnect

Think about that! I have the choice of automatically connecting to wifi networks my contacts share with me. It didn’t offer the choice to prevent my computer from sharing that information. Perhaps that comes later? I still haven’t seen an option to disable this insidious hole in my WiFi network security.

I wonder what else Windows 10 shares? Let’s look at the Update and Security screens. “Choose how updates are delivered” looks interesting.

MSWIN10updatesharing

Bless Microsoft’s cold heart, they’re using my PC as a P2P node and I’m joining the sharing economy where people on the Internet can get parts of the latest update from Microsoft from my computer. Good job I’m a nice guy and not messing with those files…

Windows 10 also offered to give all my private stuff (keyboard input and document “inking”, whatever that is) to Cortana which would ensure Cortana could help me more. I clicked “Skip”.

It offered to send pretty much everything I type into a web browser to online services to check spelling and improve page loading. Say what?!? I clicked “Skip”.

Now it looks like Windows 10 already sucked down an update and is planning on rebooting at 3am tomorrow to apply them. Again, bless its little digital heart. Good job it’s not running my alarm clock or swimming pool or watering system.

I selected Reboot Now and everything worked. Quick booting, smooth, impressive even.

Moving along, VMware Fusion offers a VM-side tool. Installing this seems to have confused the display driver. It’s not a big issue but I had to turn high performance graphics off and untick Use Full resolution for Retina display before things worked nicely on my external monitor. Not a big issue but another thing that burnt some time.

I ran a quick browser benchmark on Internet Explorer vs Safari and I think 22,000 vs 25,000 was pretty much line-ball. It doesn’t seem that running in a VMware VM does Windows 10 too much harm. I don’t actually own any modern Windows software so I can’t test Word against Word for instance.

I’ve stopped being a WinXP hipster and have Windows 10 running in a VM on my Mac. It’s like carrying around a seductive little portal into hell. I can run all those vendor config tools for DC to AC power inverters and network appliances without fear that my Windows will certainly be p0wned within minutes, but now I’m back to the simple uncertainty about when. I can run Internet Explorer so all those government websites will be slightly more cooperative and I can look at a desktop that belongs on a tablet. Cool.

MSWin10Success

How good are Uber at GST?

UBER not tax invoiceUber just sent me an email saying that they’re raising Uber charges 10% in Australia so that their drivers can collect GST, more or less. It also include a link to their blog with the promise of info about Tax Invoices.

Indeed there is. It says that you can email them to ask for a Tax Invoice for bills over $82.50 which is the ATO cutoff for requiring a Tax Invoice to substantiate the GST input credit for a business.

It goes on to say “All rides with UberTaxi (Sydney) or UberBlack (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth) will always have a Tax Invoice that you can download from riders.uber.com.”

So let’s see if Uber know how to issue a Tax Invoice.

In their instructions the ATO say Tax Invoices must have seven features:

  1. that the document is intended to be a tax invoice – MAYBE – the words “Tax Invoice” do not appear on the document but Uber do state on their blog that it is a Tax Invoice so they must intend it to be.
  2. the seller’s identity – YES
  3. the seller’s Australian business number (ABN) – YES
  4. the date the invoice was issued – YES
  5. a brief description of the items sold, including the quantity (if applicable) and the price – MAYBE – It says “Transportation services” which is vague but accurate.
  6. the GST amount (if any) payable – this can be shown separately or, if the GST amount is exactly one-eleventh of the total price, as a statement such as ‘Total price includes GST’- YES
  7. the extent to which each sale on the invoice is a taxable sale (that is, the extent to which each sale includes GST)
    either the sale is clearly identified as being fully taxable by the words ‘total price including GST’, or
    it shows the GST included in each line item (see column with the GST amount), and the sale is clearly identified as being fully taxable by the words ‘the total price includes GST’.- YES

It appears to me that Uber are providing a mechanism that lets properly registered drivers issue documents that the ATO will probably consider to be Tax Invoices but I would feel more comfortable if they put the words TAX INVOICE on it.

The taxi industry aren’t good at GST so why are they lobbying over Uber?

The SMH online has this article which says “Uber drivers will be liable to pay GST on every dollar they earn from August, after the Australian Taxation Office recently advised they are legally classified as providing taxi travel.”

An article in the Financial Review yesterday said the Taxi Industry had been lobbying the government and ATO to ensure Uber charge GST. Uber know this because they had a good result with an FOI request that returned with the letters from taxi lobbyists.

So you would think the taxi payments industry would be on top of this GST thing, right?

Firstly, what makes a valid Tax Invoice? In their instructions the ATO say Tax Invoices must have seven features:

  1. that the document is intended to be a tax invoice
  2. the seller’s identity
  3. the seller’s Australian business number (ABN)
  4. the date the invoice was issued
  5. a brief description of the items sold, including the quantity (if applicable) and the price
  6. the GST amount (if any) payable – this can be shown separately or, if the GST amount is exactly one-eleventh of the total price, as a statement such as ‘Total price includes GST’
  7. the extent to which each sale on the invoice is a taxable sale (that is, the extent to which each sale includes GST)
    either the sale is clearly identified as being fully taxable by the words ‘total price including GST’, or
    it shows the GST included in each line item (see column with the GST amount), and the sale is clearly identified as being fully taxable by the words ‘the total price includes GST’.

I catch lots of cabs so I checked my current receipts in my wallet.


cabcharge

This document claims to be a Tax Invoice. (1)

We can identify the driver by a number and the driver’s ABN. (2) & (3)

I omitted the issued date (4) in the scan but it is below the image.

There is a description of a pick up location and destination description (5)

Below the Total Fare is “INC. GST” which suggests (6) and (7) are satisfied.

So on the face of it I received a valid Tax Invoice.


GMCabs This document claims to be a Tax Invoice (1)

A driver number is shown (2).

An ABN is omitted (3) but a date is shown. (4)

There is a description of a pick up location and destination description. (5)

Below the Total Fare there is no “INC. GST” which suggests (6) isn’t satisfied.

The line “SERVICE+GST” acts like (7) is satisfied but it isn’t.

If the bottom line said “Total Inc. GST” (6) & (7) would be satisfied.

So on the face of it (3), (6) & (7) I did NOT receive a valid Tax Invoice.


taxipayThis document claims to be a Tax Invoice. (1)

We can identify the driver by a number (2)

There is no ABN. (3)

The is a date when it was issued. (4)

There is a description of a pick up location and destination description but they both say “Home” so arguably it doesn’t really satisfy (5) but I will give it the benefit of the doubt.

Below the Fare is “inc. GST” and also shown is the GST on the “SRV FEE” which suggests (6) and (7) are satisfied.

So on the face of it (3) I did NOT receive a valid Tax Invoice.


One out of three receipts appear to be a valid Tax Invoice while the other two appear to pretend to be.

It’s odd that this industry is lobbying to ensure Uber collect GST when they don’t appear to be on top of their own GST compliance.

How Data Retention affects web hosting service providers

The more I deal with Data Retention the clearer it is the Federal Government have bought themselves a disaster. Over the years public servants and politicians have not understood the difference between hosting content on the Internet and connections to the Internet. As a result companies that provide hosting of websites on hardware that belongs to others (like AWS) and no other access to the Internet fall into a peculiar gap.

To be required to ‘Retain Data’ under the new Part 5-1A of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (which is so new AustLII doesn’t have it consolidated yet) an entity must be at least one of:

What ordinary people think of as an ISP is really a Carriage Service Provider because the interweaving of the definitions mean a business that isn’t a licensed carrier providing services using services provided a licensed carrier almost always becomes a CSP.

So what does that make a pure web hosting business?

Web hosting services are definitely Content Services under Schedule 7 of the BSA.

They are also defined as ‘Internet Content Services’ under Schedule 5 of the BSA.

So the question is ‘are they Internet Service Providers’?

The definition is “For the purposes of this Schedule, if a person supplies, or proposes to supply, an internet carriage service to the public, the person is an internet service provider.”

Parsing that we need to understand the words.

  • Person – a person at law i.e a company
  • “internet carriage service” means a listed carriage service that enables end-users to access the internet.
  • end-users – not actually defined in the BSA but we can take it to mean users of the internet
  • public – the Act contains this “Note: If a company makes internet content available for access on the internet, and an individual obtains access to the content using an internet carriage service, the company and the individual are end-users in relation to the carriage of the content by the internet carriage service.”

So it looks like the Parliament put a nice clear indicator of their intent right in the Act. On the face of businesses that operate websites are end-users of the Internet.

But if the owner of the website pay a hosting business, who allocates IP addresses to its customers and carries IP packets from an upstream ISP to the web server, that is ISP-like behaviour that a reasonable person would think would be captured by Data Retention, but the connection to the Internet is happening entirely within the web server which only looks like a carriage service if you squint very hard.

Squinting at Section 87 of the Telco Act:

Carriage service providers – Basic definition

(1) For the purposes of this Act, if a person supplies, or proposes to supply, a listed carriage service to the public using:

(a) a network unit owned by one or more carriers

And the definition of Listed Carriage Services is in Section 16:

Listed carriage services

(1) For the purposes of this Act, the following carriage services are listed carriage services:

(a) a carriage service between a point in Australia and one or more other points in Australia

So is the same Ethernet port, CPU and memory two distinct points or one point? If they are two distinct points then Data Retention would apply, if not it wouldn’t.

And if the server is a WEB server, what part does the claimed STRONG prohibition in the new Part 5-1A of Act against retaining web browsing history play?:

(4) This section does not require a service provider to keep, or cause to be kept:

(ii) was obtained by the service provider only as a result of providing the service

Note: This paragraph puts beyond doubt that service providers are not required to keep information about subscribers’ web browsing history.

If you were cynical you would conclude that the only reason Internet access providers don’t have to record web browsing histories is because Internet content providers are required to record it already. But only if the web hosting operator is considered to be a carriage service provider.

At some point this is likely to be tested in the Federal Court and High Court. That will be fun to watch.

Finding a reliable Reminders app

I have been playing with the app Due on iOS and OSX. It’s a good “to do list” app that lets you record when you want reminders for whatever reason. I’m using it because I can’t trust iOS and OSX Calendar and it gets cluttered with boring “Buy Milk” reminders. It’s _slightly_ idiosyncratic.

The OSX application allows you to click on the days you want a repeating alert to sound. Four nights a week Mr12 finishes at the normal time and one night is late. It’s easy to enter this in the OSX application but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do it in iOS, even on an iPad because it shows dates on the usual iOS poker machine reels.

There appears to be a few little bugs. The settings for the alert sounds seem to bounce around a bit at first. I set one which worked but the other one changed immediate afterwards. It all seems stable now so I’m guessing they used uninitialised variables!

I had previously purchased version 1 of the app. For some reason buying the app for AUD$12.99 still left me needing to pay another $3.79 for an in-app purchase for “Upgrade from 1.0”. Yes, I clicked Restore In-App Purchases and no, that didn’t work. Your experience may vary.

I needed the upgrade because I wanted access to Dropbox syncing.

Using Dropbox it can sync in the background.

Using iCloud you have to open the app on each device and then it will sync.

Yes, Apple really know how to cripple tools that might compete with what they have decided is fundamental functionality.

The Due apps are meant to have good natural language parsing for dates and they show it in their promotional videos but typing something like “Noon on the Third Thursday of the Month” doesn’t work for me. It’s easy enough to enter manually but only parsing “Next Thursday” or a long form date is just lame.

Is it worth nearly $20? I’m satisfied with it and it appears to work so far. It syncs in the background and it has a nice simple interface. It is NOT OmniFocus or Evernote and that’s fine because I already have them for keeping track of project work.

Due is a great way of reminding yourself every Friday morning to put the bins out.