‘An AACS Executive’ (AACS is the name of the copy protection on HD-DVD) has told the BBC that:

The key that has been leaked has now been revoked

It’s not clear when ‘now’ is. What we do learn is that the key was not one used in hardware players but rather in software. Could this be one of the revoked WinDVD keys? Who knows. It’s also not clear if this means the MPAA will stop threatening legal action over the publication of what is now definitely just a number.

However, it is clear that the MPAA have gotten away easy this time. Since the key in question is not a hardware key they were able to revoke it without breaking anyone’s hardware HD-DVD player. So, for now, they have avoided their Catch 22. However, I for one, believe it’s only a matter of time until a hardware key does get out, and they are facing the catch 22 I described yesterday for real.

You can find out more on this BBC article (link courtesy of Dave C in the comments on my original post on the HD-DVD key).

Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am no fan of DRM technology. I think it’s a stupid idea that is fundamentally flawed. Security by obscurity is always a bad idea. Every device that can play a HD-DVD has a secret key inside it, including all computers that can play HD-DVD. If one person finds one of these keys then they can remove the DRM from HD-DVD. Basically, the whole system is dependent on these keys remaining secret. This of course won’t happen. So, the MPAA’s system provides a mechanism for disabling all devices that use a compromised key. The idea being, if a key gets out it is not the end of their DRM, they just revoke the key. Slight problem, when a key is revoked all devices that use the key will stop working leaving thousands of very miffed consumers out for the MPAA’s blood!

The cat is out of the bag, a key has gotten out. I have a copy of the key. I’m just an ordinary pleb, if I can get it trivially, so can the bad guys! So, what will the MPAA do? If they revoke the key they will break loads of people’s players and make them very grumpy. If they don’t revoke the key they will be making all their DRM efforts totally null-and-void. The MPAA think they’ve found a third alternative, they are attempting to use their lawyers to magically make the key a secret again and in the process declaring ownership of a number.

[tags]MPAA, DRM, HD-DVD[/tags]

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Without a shadow of a doubt a motorway along the route of the current N3 is needed. Cavan, where I grew up, is along this route so I know just how over-loaded it is. For the most part the routing of this new motorway, the M3, was straightforward, except near the town of Navan where the N3 passes through a very historic valley near the famous Hill of Tara. This area is considered to be one of the most important archaeological landscapes in Europe. Most of Ireland’s history has been played out there since it has been an important site for over 5,000 years. For this section of the road there were four different possible routes which would have varying impacts on the Tara archaeological landscape. One route would have had zero impact, avoiding the valley altogether, however, the route chosen does not avoid the valley. In fact, it passes between the main site on the top of the hill and a fort known to be part of the ancient defences of Tara. In other words, it passes right through the heart of this historic landscape.

[tags]M3, Tara, Irish Government, Archaeology[/tags]

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Ireland is not a big country, only a small percentage of people in Ireland are interested in Astronomy, only a small percentage of those get actively involved. So, the Irish Amateur Astronomical community is small. Yet, it is plagued by a decades old feud. On one side you have the combined entity of Astronomy & Space Ltd (a company) and Astronomy Ireland (a club), and on the other you have everyone else, mostly combined under the banner of the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies (IFAS). The level of animosity between both camps is astounding. The stories you hear are often shocking and the depth of emotion almost unimaginable. There are a few rare people like myself who straddle(d) the divide, but most are in one camp or the other. There are also many people who are new to the community and who don’t know nor care about the history that started the feud. Many of these get so put off by all the animosity that they just give up altogether and withdraw from the community to enjoy the wonders of the night sky by themselves.

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The image below is grainy, small, and to anyone not familiar with the situation in Northern Ireland totally boring looking. To those of us living on the Island of Ireland it’s probably the most historic picture we’ll see in a very long time. I personally never dared dream I’d see Ian Paisley in a joint news conference with Gerry Adams announcing a plan for joint government between the protestant Ulster Unionist Party and the Catholic and Republican Sinn Fein party. It may be a picture of two old men smiling but it’s a portrait of progress. Lets hope they can make it work and that Norther Ireland can return to local government as now agreed on the 8th of May.

A Portrait of Progress

I’m sure this is blindingly obvious to most people, anyone with more than a few braincells to rub together at least! However, this fact seems to have totally escaped the President of Poland who made an ass of himself here in Ireland this week. Here’s what he had to say:

[humanity] would disappear if homosexuality was freely promoted

Imagine what grand changes would occur in mores if the traditional links between men and women were set aside

He is quite obviously a few beers short of a six pack. He seems to be laboring under the insane delusion that gay rights is about forcing all heterosexuals into gay marriages and ending heterosexual marriage! This is if course total and utter rubbish. No one wants to replace traditional family units, just to also allow other forms of love be expressed and recognized.

This ignorance on behalf of their president makes it clear to me that although Poland is politically in Europe, their government is mentally in the middle ages and seriously lacking in IQ. Simple human rights for gays in Poland is a real problem and a real test for the EU. Poland signed up to the EU which means they have taken on responsibilities and duties as well as getting the advantages of EU membership (mainly vast wodges of cash). When it comes to human rights Poland is failing to come even close to living up to those responsibilities. The EU will have to tackle this and doing so will test the strength of the union and the union’s commitment to living up to its ideals. We certainly have interesting times ahead of us.

I don’t make a habit of posting links to youtube videos here but today I’m making an exception. We hear a lot of hype about Web2.0 and it can be very hard to explain it all to the average person on the street. I think this video does the trick very well. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the term Web2.0 and I’m not fond at all of a lot of the hype around it but you can’t deny the web is changing and it’s changing us. Anyhow, the video:

I know some people don’t like it when I get political. However, when you give your blog the tag-line ‘an Irish Voice in the Blog Sphere’ you sometimes have to take time to reflect on events in Ireland, even if they are political. It’s been almost a year and half since I last shared my views on the situation in Northern Ireland on this blog and back then I felt that the Unionists were being let down terribly by their leaders. Since then there has been a lot more movement from the IRA. They have basically ceased to exist and their political wing has now agreed to support law and order in Northern Ireland by backing the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). At the same time the Unionists are refusing to accept a report by the police ombudsman proving what we all knew already, that there was serious corruption within the old Northern Irish Police Force and that they colluded with Unionists. Basically, Unionists continue to live in a revisionist past while the republicans are looking to a brave new future for Northern Ireland.

[tags]Northern Ireland[/tags]

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In this day and age there are cameras everywhere. Between surveillance cameras and mobile phones we are seldom unobserved. Generally people see this as a bad thing, Big Brother and all that. However, when you combine it with the ability to easily publish media on places like YouTube it can actually be a good thing and serve to protect ordinary citizens from abuses of power. This was brought home to me today by an exceptionally disturbing video shot on a mobile phone in UCLA which clearly shows a student being abused by police. I warn you, this video is exceptionally disturbing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g7zlJx9u2E.

The video starts with the student clearly saying that he is leaving and asking the police to let go of him. He is quite clearly cooperating with the police but objects to be man-handled by them (a very reasonable objection). How do they respond, they Taser him! His screams of agony are heart-wrenching. Needless to say he ends up on the floor. The police then start YELLING at him to get up and when he doesn’t they taser him again, for longer. At this stage they start yelling agian but a crowd has gathered and you can hear students quite correctly pointing out that he can’t get up immediately because he’s just been tasered twice! There are already students asking for badge numbers at this stage but getting no where. In the middle of this second tasering the victim lets out a clearly audible yell “Here’s your Patriot Act, here’s your fucking abuse of power”. I can’t say I disagree with him! But it gets worse and so does the abuse of power by the police. They continue to taser the victim and refuse to give their badge numbers to the many students repeatedly asking for them. The video ends with a student who is complaining about the abuse he just saw in a calm and and completely civilized tone being threatened with the taser “back or you’ll get tased too”. That is an abuse of power plain and simple, it is police brutality. There was no need for this extreme level of violence.

Before the days of video cameras in mobile phones and YouTube we would have only been able to hear this story from second-hand reports and we’d have to take those reports with a grain of salt. Now in cases like this we can all see the raw footage for ourselves and base our opinions on the hard evidence. I for one think this incident is a disgusting abuse of police power. In the past this was unlikely to ever result in any action being taken against these officers but with this video being so publicly available it will be very hard for the police to sweep this under the carpet, particularly if the students of UCLA keep the pressure on. I personally hope this video turns out to be the evidence that gets these animals ejected from the police force.

No, I haven’t gone all anti-science or become a creationist, I just needed to grab your attention to highlight a serious issue I have with supposed scientists like Richard Dawkins. This article has been brewing in the back of my mind for months now. For most of its gestation period it went under the working title ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’, but it was missing a focus to build around, Dawkins provided that focus, and the ten year anniversary of the death of Carl Sagan provided the spark to get this out of my brain and onto ‘paper’ as it were.

I consider myself a scientist, I chose to do a science degree, then chose to go back and try for a PhD in science, and took the time to get myself elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. As such I have a very personal interest and involvement in science, scientists, and the public perception of science. I’ve shared some of my reflections on the nature of science on this blog before (see links below) but those reflections didn’t really get to what I now realize is at the very core of science, knowing that there is a lot that we don’t know, and a need to be open to the possibility that we’re wrong. Science does not move forward by digging its heals in and refusing to accept changes in our understanding of the universe, and science is most certainly not served by speaking in absolutes and making unsupported and indeed unsupportable statements in the name of science.

[tags]Science, Creationism, Dawkins, God[/tags]

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