January 09, 2008

The AUP, Peer–to–Peer Filesharing and You


Got a flyer thing under my door today from the lovely people over at IT Services. Takes the form of a FAQ all about Peer to Peer applications, and how you’re not allowed to use them on campus. Not particularly notable, I though: I don’t run torrents or Limewire or the like on campus anyway, being as I was already aware, of course, of the university’s general dislike of such things (Plus I think they throttled the use of torrents anyway, so you could only run them at rubbish speeds)

What did catch my attention, however, was one question:


Can I use Video On Demand?

BBS’s iPlayer, Channel 4’s 4OD and Sky’s Anytime Internet all use a version of Kontiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kontiki) which uses P”P technology and therefore uses up bandwidth and is against the AUP. For further advice you should call the ResNet Helpdesk (024 765) 75000.


The arguments presented in the leaflet, albeit briefly, are as follows:

1) They gobble bandwidth, which is unfair on other university users. I can’t argue the core point here – filesharing uses bandwidth, host uploading and downloading. Despite my overall nerdiness (check out the title of my blog) I’m not a genius at all things computers, but I’d have thought that it would be possible to set download/upload rate limits on a per user basis, making this argument moot as no-one can exceed their allowance/set rate/whatever. In fact, I had vaguely thought this was already the case. Am I wrong? I’m sure someone who understands these things better can tell me why such an approach wouldn’t work for this case in particular.

2) Peer to peer applications can come loaded with spyware and can be used to spread viruses. Not a particularly impressive argument, as both things are true of virtually any kind of software you care to name that has anything remotely to do with the internet.

3) Copyright infringement. This is always the contentious one, of course. The leaflet ducks this point by mentioning it almost off handedly in the next-to-last sentence, which strikes me as slightly disingenuous. Then again, there’s a time and a place for that sort of thing.

There’s nothing inherently copyright infringing about peer-to-peer filesharing of course – it depends on the nature of the files shared. But only a fool would claim that a significant proportion of peer-to-peer filesharing isn’t based on the trafficking of copyright infringing files. So I can understand, to some extent, the university taking a hard-line stance on this when it comes to torrents and other more general filesharing apps.

But how does this argument work for things like 4OD and BBC iPlayer, which by definition aren’t infringing copyrights (and, at least I hope, aren’t installing spyware either)?

This presumably leaves only the bandwidth argument against it, which just brings me back to my wonderings about throttling such things on a per-user basis…. possible, or not?

Also, does anyone know if streaming stuff off the iPlayer website (as opposed to downloading stuff to watch later using BBC iPlayer’s application makes use of peer-to-peer distribution? Or is that also verboten? How about the stream function on the Channel 4 On Demand application (since obviously the downloading element is forbidden, but how about the streaming part)?

I confess I simply don’t know enough about how these things work to tell. Even then I wonder if IT services would be able to tell the difference from their end. If the only way to be safe from being disconnected is to uninstall 4OD altogether (and, further, not even go to the iPlayer website) well, then, that sucks. But I’m in no position to do anything about it other than obey, of course.

Ho hum. Your thoughts, from whatever perspective, are as always appreciated.

January 05, 2008

After over two years of test card footage….

...I’m back. Not that anyone will notice.

Ahem. Um, still in my second year because I got caught in a sort of time-warp. Sorry about that.


ITEM! Brrr, it’s cold.

ITEM! What about this norovirus business, eh? First there was a discrete and (in theory, anyway) calming message posted on the kitchen door (here on campus, Claycroft, anyway). Today however, we now have dirty great signs on the main entrance. Sign of increasing worry? Has someone come down with the damn thing already within the bubble (and I don’t mean the Christmas delegates)? Inquiring germophobic minds want to know.

ITEM! What the hell happened to the Boar’s website? Looks like their ownership of the domain name expired and it’s been overtaken (inevitably) by one of those godawful ad-ridden “search portal” sites. Boar, sort it out please. You were never that good for news online, but that’s just embarrassing.

ITEM! What’s the deal with search portals anyway? Are there people who really like their search bar plastered with a forest of hotlinks and images all around?

ITEM! No, actually, that’s enough. No-one will read this anyway.

September 28, 2005

It's Chucking It Down

And I have to walk home.

Oh, and it's a new year at Warwick. I'd have blogged about twenty times already, but my computers broken so I'm having to use ones on campus. Leading to dilemmas like my current one.

Nonetheless, it's good to be back.

June 29, 2005

Modular Thinking

Got an e-mail last night informing me of the new structure of the second year of my physics course.

The revamp, such as it is, appears to have been designed to alleviate concerns that many modules flew by too quickly (3 lectures a week for five weeks for a typical 6 CATS module). So now we'll be getting 7.5 CATS modules with 2 lectures a week for ten weeks.

This reform applied to the core modules has resulted in a relative decrease in the importance of the lab work + essay (now all in one "Physics Skills" module worth a still weighty 30 CATS), but a moderate increase in the importance of the Matheamtics modules (now worth 22.5 CATS total). That's good and bad news from my perspective respectively, but overall it's probably good news. The rest of the core has also seen changes from last year – the new Quantum Mechanics module is now worth a chunky 15 CATS (used to be 6) which should be interesting, and the Electromagnetism and Optics modules have been combined and reduced into one 7.5 CATS module (used to be a total of 12), which seems a bit of a shame. The Thermal Physics module completes the list, having merely been coverted from 6 to 7.5 CATS .

The optional modules are all 7.5 CATS, which means for a normal load I need to pick five of them. There are eight to choose from (unless you want to do outside options like Business studies or languages, and I don't), and while the full details of what each incoporates are not yet available, I'll post my first thoughts on each here.

"Physics of Fluids" – The new Intro to Fluids. Looks like a lot of partial differential equations, which I'm OK with. Moderate interest level.

"Geophysics" – As lectured by my personal tutor, Dr Bell, whom I like. Parts sound interesting, other less so. Unsure of what mathematical demands will be placed.

"Hamiltonian Mechanics" – Sounds fascinating if a bit mathematically dense. I want to take it because I find the weirdness appealing.

"Stars" and "Galaxies" – Two seperate modules here. I'm never quite sure whether I find astrophysics boring or interesting – it seems to osciallate wildly depending on precise topic and mood. Certainly some very fascinating questions are being tackled, but there seems also to be a strong (and necessary) tradition of extremely patient measurement and calculation which I admire, but also bores me to tears.

"C Programming" – No longer Fortran, it seems. I've a little experience with coding (in C++) and generally love all things computers, so this module seems a natural fit for me. If the syllabus is similar to the one for Fortran I shouldn't have much trouble at all. Definite take.

Then there are two entirely new modules (as opposed to the above options which are going to be moinor variations on the ones that were avilable last year). These I know nothing about beyond the module titles:

"Global Warming" – Ugh. I asuume this is a sexed-up name for a module that will give a basic grounding in the physics of weather and climate in general. Not really grabbing my attention off the bat.

"Physics of Electrical Power Generation" – Sounds profundly dull, but then many things in physics do before you get into them. Still, also not grabbing my attention.


Neglecting the two new modules, then, and assuming I take C Programming, I'm left with four modules to choose out of five – in short, I've got to drop one of:

Hamiltonian Mechanics
Physics of Fluids

I could do an overload and take them all, but I'm not sure that's so great an idea after my somewhat shaky perfomance in the first year.

Any other physicists out there puzzling over their new options? Any third or fourth years who want to reccomend modules to take or avoid? Course lecturers are also welcome to sell me on any of the above courses if they wish (especially the new two, which I know nothing about) :) .

Advice is greatly appreciated.

June 25, 2005

The last night of term at Warwick…

…is eerily quiet.

Most of my kitchen-mates already left either earlier today or earlier in the week, and now it's raining. Rarely has it been so quiet in Rootes.

This is mildly dissapointing, considering the revlry that greeted the end of the previous two terms, but it certainly gives room for quiet reflection.

What has my first year at Warwick brought me?

A distinctly mediocre set of marks for my first year – I'm getting a 2:2 at the moment. THis is entirely my fault, related to my failure to submit some of my assessed work for important lab modules, as wellas one or two dodgy exam perfomances.

Relatedly, it's brought me my first real feeling of struggle and failure in my academic career thus far (PE excepted). My record thus far in actual exmainations has been nigh-spotless: 10 A* and an A at GCSE, Four As at A level (and a B at AS-level). This is the first time I've noticeably screwed up badly at something that matters, in terms of my actual qualification.

Granted, this year only counts for 10& of my overall degree, and so it's probably not going to decide my final classificatin one way or the other. But nevertheless, they were real with real consequences, and in at least a couple of cases I fell well short of the mark.

I hope I won't sound too arrogant (and that I may even be in good company) when I say that this was new experience for me. What shall I draw from it?

Possibly it's a sign I've reached the limits of my potential – but I don't believe that. I didn't work hard this year. I know I can do better, if nothing else because I now I could (should) have actually submitted that assesed work.

Possibly it's a sign that I lack motivation. This I'm more willing to accept. I love my subject: I generally enjoy the mathematical side, absoloutely adore the theory, and get a kick out of experiements when they are exciting. I even enjoy writing.

What I can't abide is tedium: the unfortunate but necessary things involved in doing work. In the laboratories this year, that tedium was manifest in the reports and notebooks – while I was in principle happy to do them, the practice of going through the procedure of a good laboratory report each time was something I developed an aversion to.

That was silly. It's something I need to be able to work past – on general principles, the ability to handle the boring parts of life so that one can get through to the good parts is a skill we all need to develop.

Then again, I've often thought my tolerance for tedium was pretty high; I'm wildly pedantic, enjoy useless information, I actually like creating databases and spreadsheets to help me solve problems, to the extent that I'll use them even when they're inefficient or inappropriate. So I don't feel it's just the tedium of the process that got me down.

Definitely there were time management issues.My time keeping has been very shoddy this year. It directly ffetced my assesed work because nine times out of ten I would find myself doing the whole thing the night before it was due in.

Hardly an unfamiliar problem for the average student, but rather than just causing me to rush work, I think I developed an association between the work and unnecessary stess and tiredness, such that I actually began to rebell against doing it at all.

After my first missed deadline, having discovered that, not only had the wrld not ended, no-one had even seemed to notice, it got rather easy to miss others. This is another lesson, and a sobering one – I have to be the one who notices if I'm screwing up. The department and/or my lecturers are not going to notice for me.

WHat I need to develop then is neither quite enthusiasm for my subject (I have that in spades) nor motivation to succeed, but more an internal drive – a physical compulsion – to work, consistently, regularly and well, even when it's unappealing.

I've survived too long by coasting – on my "natural intelligence", my general inquisitveness, my happiness with scholastic institutions – that I never develped the tough outer shell needed to persit when the going gets tougher. That time has now arrived, and I must step up.

As deep down, I want this. I want a degree. More than that, I want a career. I want a future. I want, if not t have fame or notoriety, to matter in my field.

I don;'t merely want to be a clever person, I want to be a driven one, a sucessful one. I want to be great.

Let's make it happen.

May 04, 2005

Election Night Drinking Game!

Surely I can't be the only person to seethe urgent need for drinking game rules this election night. I've cribbed some of these shamelessly from various intenet sources.

Help me out with suggestions below, but to kick us off:

Take a sip whenever

…a constituency changes hands
…a swingometer is used
…someone says:

"voter apathy"
"low turnout"
"war in Iraq"
"the immigration issue"
"Blair" and "liar" in the same sentence.
"concerns about the postal vote"
"key marginal seat"
"I'll have to stop you there"
"Just a bit of fun"

Finish your drink whenever

…a Lib Dem complains about being overlooked by the media
…a Tory is forced to admit they supported the war
…Andrew Marr uses more than one metaphor in the same sentence
…John Snow's computer graphics go wrong
…there is a technical hitch resulting in, no picture, no sound or some other hillarious cock up.
…someone accidently swears.
…you hear the votes called out for a Monster Raving Loony Party candidate

Do a shot whenever

…a cabinet or shadow cabinet minister loses their seat
…Veritas wins a seat

Drink solidly for the next four years if

…the Tories win

I'll add to this as the comments come in and I get ideas..


It's amazing the effect a good night's sleep can have on your mood.

Right now, I love my course. It can be stodgy and tedious at times, but it's worth it for those transcendent moments when it all clicks together in your head.

The feeling is pleasantly like fireworks in the brain.

May 03, 2005


I've decided to start a caffiene habit. To that end, I opened proceedings this morning with a double espresso.

It was one of those things which tasted so oddly foul that you couldn't stop drinking it out of disbelief. And it really does work!

Also, I need to blog more. More blogging.

Later today, some political rambling, perhaps.

Then later, some book reviews.

Or perhaps, caffiene addled ranting. Whatever.

I Have A Blog And I Must Scream.

April 23, 2005

Forgot To Sleep Again


April 11, 2005

A Revelation from the Digital Revolution

So we got digital TV the other day, the Freeview thang you've heard about, one of those cute little boxes perched like a combination between a small eager electronic puppy and an all-seeing robot sentinel atop the screen.

Through it's arcane ministrations, a panoply of new channels did emerge, lo, and it was considered good. Shopping, travel, re-runs, history – this and more now lie at my fingertips.

But best of all, the music channels, who do sterling service in being basically unobjectionable (advertised atonal animated anthopomorphs aside) stuff to have on in the background when there's nothing better (which is often). And music videos is what they do, on endless rotation. Or so it seemed…

Last night, the estimable TMF ran… A List Show.

The terror invoked by the three words is known to all who frequent Channel 4's Saturday night schedules. A bunch of clips of something or other, strung together into a ranking order by some dubiously legitimate "democratic" process, fronted by whichever mugging presenter type didn't have anything better to do that week (read: Jimmy Carr), and commented on in witless vein by a series of J-list "celebs" and comedians, who pretend to A) remeber the clip in question perfectly well and B) to have something genuinely interesting to say about it.

In short, the ultimate in cheap, lowest-common denominator television. And this one was on a cheapo music channel knockoff. It would surely be the nadir of television viewing.

"The Top 100 Cheesiest Music Video Tricks…. Exposed!" (just breathe that title in for a moment…) had all the elements of a Channel 4 list show… but taken to the MAX. The premise was paper thin. The commentators were utterly unrelated to their subject matter, and appeared to have basically been culled from whoever was wondering past the studio at the time. There was a recurring segment on "Video Vixens" which had clearly been inserted merely to buff up the T&A count. I could go on.

And yet… and yet….

It was wonderful.

Beyond the realms of low-grade low-rent schedule filling pap, this was television that had gone past the merely shameless and out the other side: a programme so unapologetic about it's own unimportance that the voiceover cheerfully admitted it ranked the tricks in "whatever order we feel like, basically". The interviewees, so tangenital to their subject matter (not to mention any real notion of celebrity) as to be in the stratosphere, were entirely at liberty to mug along like the mindless goons they knew themselves to be. Freed of any responsibility to be representative, insightful or critically penetrating; it was free to wallow gloriously in it's own filth, grinning all the while. It was utter effluvia and it was loving every minute of it.

The sheer, brazen honesty of it was like sweet, sweet oxygen. Channel 4 have been getting it wrong all this time. To make great TV, you shouldn't try to make excuses for yourself. Accept your programmes for what they are; trashy, exploitative, utterly rubbish. No-one was fooled when you tried to sell Teen Big Brother as a serious sociological experiment, or 100 Worst Britons as the damning democratic critique of a restless nation. So why bother? Give in to your worst impulses. Revel in them. There is a better way.

Tonight, TMF are running the "Top 40 Worst Sex Songs". Dammit, I'm there.

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  • But with programs like 4OD which run in the background, anyone with their PC switched on would be on… by Nick F on this entry
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