DRM: A cautionary tale; or: How to piss off you customers in one easy step

In a couple of weeks I'm running a murder mystery adventure. They're live role-playing events and lots of fun. Everyone dresses up as their character, someone gets killed and we all race around trying to find the murderer.

I've run these before and what you want to do is send out the character pages to the participants a few weeks beforehand, so they can dress appropriately and think about their character. Normally what I do is split the PDF (they're invariably PDFs, sold online) into each character and email it to the person playing that character.

So far so easy. Except... this time we bought off a company called Freeform Games and it seems they use PDF password protection. Digital Rights Management. What this means is that I _can't_ split the PDF. They expect me to print the pages out and get them to people -- all over London.

Fortunately we don't have the DMCA in Europe, yet so I can use tools to crack it. Gotta really hunt around to find the tools though. Found em -- thank you Skylarov!

I won't be buying off this company again!

Oh to be a fly on the wall

Riding past Madge's place it seems the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, is on a state visit. Chinese flags on The Mall, and coppers everywhere.

I'd love to see the conversation between Hu and Bliar:

Tony: So Hu, how do you reconcile using socialist rhetoric while running a corporatist, totalitarian state? More tea?
Hu: You know I was going to ask you the same thing, Tony.

News in the middle of a movie?

British television has some very annoying habits. We won't go into the running of their best programming on Friday and Saturday nights, and their worst on Sundays. Or the fact they can't seem to start a movie at a reasonable hour.

What's more annoying is that whenever they run movies, they seem impelled to stop it halfway through for a news break. Why?

In the past it's just been ITV who did this. Considering there's now an entire channel devoted to ITV's news, why do they feel the the to destroy the flow of their movies? But just now, watching a really crappy film on BBC3, they did it too. So WTF is the point of BBC News 24 then?

Can't we just have a movie run all the way through?

You couldn't make this up: Yellow Peril firework

Last night was Guy Fawkes Night, where the Brits celebrate an attempt to blow up the government by burning Catholics in effigy and blowing shit up.

Anyway, being Australian and thus deprived of the joy of blowing shit up since my childhood, I bought some crackers. Here's a tip: don't bother buying one of those mixed boxes. Just stick with the rockets. The other things suck.

The point of this post, however, was one of the crackers in my mixed box. Fireworks are nearly all made in China, and these were no exception. The hilarious thing is that one of them, a disappointing and boring fountain-type thing, was named Yellow Peril. Where do they come up with these named, and what do the workers in the Chinese factories think of the naming?!?!?

Review: Ladytron - Witching Hour

The NME famously described Ladytron as "...a teasing glimpse of how Britney Spears might have sounded, had she been born in the GDR and a heroin addict." Their latest album, Witching Hour, gets them back on track for that laudable ideal, after the last album, Light & Magic, kind of missed the point, getting a little to involved in the wholeelectro thing.

Witching Hour is pure pop with something new for their sound, grinding guitars. Each track has a catchy chorus matched to subversive, very knowing lyrics. "Sugar" seems to be taking the same tack as an older track, "Seventeen", exploring somewhat ponderous teen ideas--something for the dirty old man in all of us--with something new for Ladytron, guitarish noise. "Destroy Everything You Touch" has stadium rock pads and a grinding bassline behind its seriously catchy effected vocals.

All in all, probably their best album yet. Debut album 604 certainly gave us a fresh and exciting new sound, but Witching Hour is vastly more polished.

Locked BIOS on laptop

A while ago I bought a broken Toshiba 3110CT laptop for parts for the functioning one. I needed one bit and buying a laptop with a broken screen was a lot cheaper than the part from Toshiba.

Anyway, the laptop itself is otherwise fine and I was thinking of using it to record telly using my snazzy new DVB-t thingy. I hadn't bothered powering it on in the past, but now I discover it has a BIOS password set. Toshiba laptops seem to be pretty secure in this regard, no little CMOS switch or battery backup to wipe the CMOS.

So I've been hunting around on the net to find a solution. For this model there seems to be two possible solutions. Option 1 uses a floppy, though I suspect this is for older models. I'll try making the disk at work tomorrow and see. Option 2 involved paying stupid amounts of money to snakes like these for some magic USB key thingy. Bah!

Anyone got any better ideas?


London Critical Mass 2005

Went to Mass tonight. Won't Mum be happy? Well, maybe not that kinda Mass :)

Was a huge turnout, following the porcine types' threats last month. Also an unseasonably warm night (17 degrees by my bike computer's probably inaccurate estimation) and a samba band. Fantastic fun. I had to duck off early, so only got about an hour or so of devotion in.

Photos here.

Back from Ireland

Got back from 9 days' holiday in Ireland spent with Holly and Mum. What a fantastic trip! Essentially we saw all of the northern half of Ireland. Loads of neolithic passage tombs: Ireland appears to have some of the best in the world. Also enjoyed the black cab tour around the Catholic and Protestant areas of Belfast.

Off to work now, so more later including pictures.

More 4: how long until it's wall-to-wall Friends?

Channel 4 launched their new "adult entertainment" channel, More 4 last night. It was pretty good, all things considered. The Daily Show was great, and the comedy about David Blunkett was pretty funny (though it portrayed him as much more naive than I think he really is).

Thing is, I'm sure E4 launched with the same fanfare. Now whenever you switch it on, they're playing one thing: Friends. Does E4 even show anything else?