Tech Transfer

Things that raised a chuckle

1 March 2013

Try rm -rf, dear

Far be it for us to follow the travails of artists selected to provide 90 percent of what in America passes for entertainment at the annual Super Bowl, where they play what in America passes for football. We won’t even pretend to understand how an hour-long game can reasonably last over four hours.

But we do know a little about how the internet works. So when singer Beyoncé Knowles, who filled some of the interminable time between Super Bowl advertisements, came across a selection of unflattering stills of her ‘looking fierce’, and asked a major internet site to please remove said unflattering photographs from the internet, we had to chuckle.

Are you famous? Check. Are the photos funny? Check. Did you trigger the Streisand Effect by whining? Check. Did the photos go viral? Check. Did photoshoppers everywhere pile on the cruelty? Check. Have you become an instant internet ‘meme’? Check.

We have some advice for Ms Knowles. The only way to remove those photos from the internet is to delete everything and start over. And, to date, the only known way of doing that is to delete the contents of your computer and pretend the net does not exist. Good luck, and thanks for the entertainment.

Thinking with the wrong head

It’s wrong-headed to think that government – any government – should be in the business of picking winners. The market – that is, customers – should decide that, depending on who offers the best, most convenient, most inexpensive products. The latest example is Top TV, recently licensed to compete with the incumbent monopoly, MultiChoice, in providing pay satellite television.

It has filed for ‘business protection’, which is our version of the more famous Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code. Turns out it couldn’t cut it against a monopoly entrenched by exclusive licensing, which had locked up most available content and acquired a vast, locked-in customer base.

In response, Top TV has been trying to get permission to broadcast soft porn, and assorted busybodies feel they’re entitled to prevent it from doing so by law.

With a straight face, however, its CEO, Eddie Mbalo, claims broadcasting porn is not a last-ditch effort to create some revenue to save the company.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he told ITWeb. “It would be both naive and malicious to conclude that the granting of permission to broadcast channels would be sufficient to save a company requiring a capital injection.”

Consider us naive and malicious, then. The real lesson here is that ‘developmental state’ economics, in which government decides who gets permission to compete, and with what products it’s permitted to do so, does not work.

Et tu, Mme Minister?

A few months ago, there was disgruntled finger-pointing by the Department of Communications (DoC) at the privately-owned free-to-air station, which had the temerity to challenge a contentious aspect of digitial terrestrial television (DTT) migration in court.

The DoC had appointed the state-owned signal distributor Sentech to implement an across-the-board access control system, to prevent unauthorised decoders from accessing broadcast content. felt this system was fallible and open to abuse, and preferred that broadcasters themselves be able to manage their customers’ access to their broadcast signals.

At the time, the DoC, in a formal affidavit, declared: “The Minister is surprised by this application, which seems to be aimed at taking technical legal points probably at the expense of digital migration, with the risk that SA may be bogged down in legal battles and fail to meet its deadline in terms of its international commitments.”

In fairly short order, as legal actions go, the court declared that had a good point, and ruled against the DoC.

And how does the DoC respond?

By declaring its intention to appeal. Of course, it has every right to do so, but it’s not surprising that is now accusing the DoC of causing DTT migration delays by obstructive litigation. What’s good for the goose, clearly, isn’t good for the gander, when the DoC doesn’t get its way.