Copyright violations

It seems there's a lot of people who think that images in Wikipedia can be used however they like. In fact, unless they've been released into the public domain, they have licenses that require some fairly minor, but still important, actions if you want to use them.

Below is an email I've just sent to the owner of Sydney Architecture Images: Newtown Gallery, who seems to have taken all the photos from the Wikipedia article on Newtown, without any attribution, and slapped some ads on it. I'm willing to give the person the benefit of the doubt.

Your Newtown Gallery is breaching the copyright of, it seems, all the images from Wikipedia's Newtown article:

Specifically, and what made me notice, is that you are using my photo:

Images on Wikipedia are not free for you to use without restriction, unless specifically released into the public domain (for example, the Trocadero image you've used). Most of the images on Wikipedia are available under quite liberal licenses, but they do impose some requirements on you.

In the case of my photo, I have licensed it under the GNU Free Documentation License. This license has quite simple requirements, basically that you must attribute the author and license your copy of the work under the same license.

This image that you're using:

is licensed under a Creative Commons license, which has pretty similar requirements.

So in summary, you are free to use these images, but only when you follow the requirements of the license. Please amend your site accordingly.


Wow Lindsay, that was bloody quick! Yesterday I asked about doing a geo mashup of the NSW government's name and shame list of dodgy food joints, and today Lindsay has done one. Impressive!

Now I wanna know how you did it, and how you managed it so fast!

Geo mashups

A site screaming out for a geo-mashup is the NSW Food Authority's Penalty Notices list, which shows the companies that have received penalty notices for poor hygiene and the like. Problem is, the data isn't in a very human-usable form, but would be very amenable to a mashup and map overlay!

I think it's time for Australia to get something like, which does this for local authority (council) planning lists. So, for example, it could fetch the list of development applications for my local council, and overlay them on a map. More importantly, you could register with the site and have it email you if there's a DA near your house.

The code for is open, but it's kinda UK-centric. Any ideas where to start doing mashups in Australia?

Fuji Xerox DocuPrint 203A on Ubuntu Linux

Just bought this super cheap (AUD$88) black and white laser and spent a while going around in circles. FInally worked out that it works just fine with the Xerox P8e driver.

So to install, System > Administration > Printing. Click [New] and work out what port you've put it on (LPT or USB, with modern hardware the name will show up), click [Forward]. Now select Xerox and P8e. You're done!

Works a treat! Nice printer at a very competitive price. Even works just fine via my JetDirect which is nice. It's a bit noisy, but it'll be switched off most of the time anyway.

One thing, done well

I bought a digital photo frame yesterday. On the face of it, this should be a pretty straightforward product. You stick a memory card in it that has photos on it, and it randomly cycles through them. But of course, the manufacturers of China can't stick with something so straightforward. Oh no, in the electronics manufacturing world you have to cram in a whole bunch of features that nobody needs into a simple product. Then crown it with a user interface that would make a 1980s VCR manufacturer blush.

So this thing, instead of just showing photos, also plays back video and sound files (thus requiring a speaker) and, of course, has a clock and calendar function. Because a clock is a mandatory feature for any electronics device. You wouldn't want to spend the next change to or from daylight savings sitting around the house with nothing to do, would you?

So what's my problem with all these extra features I'll never use? I can just ignore them, right? Well the problem is that instead of spending time making sure the thing works well for the one thing people buy it for, they've blown it on this stupid crap. I discover, after quite a bit of troubleshooting, that it doesn't support progressive JPEG files, something that's been supported in browsers since 1995 at least. This is the default format used by Smugmug for their resized photos. So I had to convert all those photos.

Then of course the UI is appalling. You can't seem to get back to the menu from the Settings page. Instead I had to turn it off, then on again to get back to "view photo" mode. There's no randomize feature, it seems, so you can get a random next photo. WTF? Surely this would be a base feature? And the UI crashes randomly, because they spent more time working on video decoding than fixing bugs in the stuff that counts. Grrrrr!

I also don't see why these things are so expensive. I'd expect the price to be where it is if it did something truly cool, like have a wireless connection and it just connects to your photo store and displays photos. But it seems instead an 8 inch 800x600 LCD with some basic electronics (and a bunch of crap you don't need) is $200 or so?

Should the bush have metro-equivalent broadband?

Yesterday's Crikey had a letter from Rachel Dixon that rather eloquently said what I've said before about the National Broadband Network projects aim of connecting 98% of the population to "metro-equivalent" broadband, or 12 megabits-per-second.

The crux of Rachel's argument is that she has a sister-in-law in Nundle, a town of 289 souls out towards Tamworth. It has excellent air quality and no aircraft noise, but isn't blessed with particularly good access to broadband. Rachel, on the other hand, has poor air quality and loud, regular planes flying overhead in inner-city Sydney, but access to very fast broadband. So if the residents of Nundle are to get the excellent broadband, why can't we demand country-equivalent air quality and serenity?

This is the big problem with setting the bar to 98% of the population. We haven't comitted to providing 98% of the population with sealed roads, reticulated water and gas, or town sewage. I bet a big chunk of the final 5% don't even have grid electricity! What about guaranteeing them access to metro-equivalent hospital services? I'm within walking distance of a fair number of hospitals, so shouldn't the good people of Nundle also have the same? Why is broadband so different?

If a business or family chooses to locate itself in a remote area, is it really the government's job to provide the services they would get if they located themselves somewhere closer to the population centres? Shouldn't there be some social and economic cost to locating yourself in a remote area? There are certainly costs associated with locating yourself in a big city: air quality, peace and quiet, land costs.

Dear Mr Albanese: thanks for your form letter

Last week I wrote a letter to my local member, Anthony Albanese, detailing my concerns about the proposed internet censorship regime. I received a response last night. I won't bother wasting electrons copying it in here, because I can just link to the letter Stilgerrian got because it's exactly the fucking same.

So apparently Lindsay Tanner reckons the government is keen to use web 2.0 buzzword compliant tools. The first lesson they need to learn is that we talk to each other, compare notes and compare responses we receive. Second thing about all this web 2.0 crap is that it's social, and the one thing that stands out more than anything else is robotically-created canned replies.

I sent Albo the following response:

Dear Anthony,

Thank you for your recent form letter. It's refreshing to see that my comments and queries are completely ignored, and instead of either considering or responding to them, you've sent all people contacting you the exact same message. I'll be sure to return the favour at the next election when someone tries to hand me an ALP how-to-vote.

In case you'd like to actually read, and respond to, my email, I'm including it again.

I'm not holding out much hope of a rational response.

Voting machines: a solution searching for a problem?

Punch voting machine

It's US presidential election time again, and the big story as always in America is long queues at polling places. I don't get it. They have the simplest voting system going, where all you get to do is tick a box for your preferred candidate. Yet it takes ages, despite (or is it because of) the use of the latest voting technology.

Australian elections use a relatively complex system of tabulating votes, yet a clear winner is almost always known within a few hours of voting closing. The most I've had to queue to vote (outside of voting at Australia House in London, which often has queues around the block) in an Australian election is about two minutes.

Computer-based voting machine

So what is it that makes the voting process so slow in American elections? Why are there over 30 minute queues as standard?

So without even going into the serious problems with voting machines, it seems they don't actually solve any actual problems, and I suspect cost a lot more to operate than having a bunch of casual vote counting staff on the evening of the vote. In Australian elections I've been involved in (as a party volunteer) the same staff who operate the polling place all day stay back for the vote count in the evening.

The big question is, given this is likely to be the first election of a non-Republican since Bush stole the vote from Gore in 2000 (assuming they don't pull the same trick again), will the Democrats look at reforming the voting systems to prevent these state-based tricks?