BBC Radio Interview

I gave a wonderful interview for the BBC Radio Live’s Pods and Blogs show, I talked about Ubuntu, Ubunchu the manga and the up and coming Anime Boston event.

I thought it went well and I got to describe a couple of things in a nice way, invite people to join in the community and not be scared of us geeks.

Visit BBC Website
Download MP3 Here

Let me know what you think.

The BBC Ubuntu Experiment

bbc-and-fossIf you’ve not heard, the BBC did an interesting thing when it was advertising showing off Microsoft Windows 7 on it’s Breakfast program on Wednesday. It mentioned Ubuntu. Wait, hold the celebrations, we haven’t cracked the BBC’s FOSS enigma just yet….

Rory Cellan-Jones mentioned in his second broadcast that it was a bunch of enthusiasts and that most people wouldn’t want to use it because it’s not what everyone else uses. (see the transcript by Alan Pope for exact wording). He’s since explained that it was clumsy and that he was fairly stressed. I think he was well meaning, but the under current of culture is very Windows orientated, so I guess it wasn’t that bad if you consider the bias he was working against.

OK, so queue lots of complaints. I made an official complaint since the BBC should be neither advertising products or picking favourites by dismissing competitors. Especially when the favourite just so happens to be the two continent convicted monopolist and primary controller of ALL IBM compatible PC operating systems distribution. A company that in a better world would have never been allowed to get into such a dangerously powerful position in the first place.

Today, Rory Cellan-Jones, the reporter who made the gaff in the original show has posted a blog entry. Firstly we should be happy Ubuntu was mentioned at all, why? because it’s so insignificant that under normal circumstances it wouldn’t ever be mentioned without the kindness of a few brave souls. (that’s balance for you kids, balance so long as your perceived as relevant by the BBC).

They’ll do a more thorough review of Ubuntu on the blog, which I welcome. Although I doubt we’ll get a Breakfast TV presenter stressing himself out over showing off Ubuntu to the public.

The reason for the review is because Canonical have very kindly given a Dell Mini to Rory and his blog post is his first 24 hours with the device. Here is where I have to turn and complain a little bit at Canonical.

At the SETC where we refurbish computers, NO ONE is allowed to take a computer without first going through a two hour introduction session. We run the Tuesday sessions EVERY WEEK, so we can gather together the public into one place and introduce them to Ubuntu in a way that makes them comfortable with using it.

There are some difficult classes to teach. Those that already think they know how to use computers. Give me 20 computer newbies for every classic windows expert student. It’s not that windows experts are incapable of learning, they’re just so god damn dogmatic and you see that with Rory’s blog post, it’s obvious that he’s got an Ego the size of a planet when it comes to computers.

So given this, why did the device not come with serious sit down teaching session?

There have been a few from our experience that have slipped though, they’ve rushed the process or told porkies in order to just get their hands on the computer. These people are destined to return. they always do, because the computer is not familiar and they don’t know what they’re doing or even why they got Ubuntu instead of a nice $20 windows xp license. They don’t know how to install things, they don’t know how to load things or find files and most importantly of all, they don’t understand what Free and Open Source Software means, why it’s free, why it’s important, how it works and why they should care.


The machines that go out also have codecs, Skype, Java and a couple of other things to help make the ride as smooth as possible. The number of people who come back to complain are very low, most have problems with hardware, one had 300 wmv encrypted files which he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t play them (impossible without breaking law).

I’m aware that in the UK installing these codecs is fine. Unless your scared of the boggy men at Accatel and somehow believe that the EU patent office has more power than the EU Justice department. IANAL. So this mini should have very probably been loaded up with the extras too.

Perhaps my friend at the Union is right, what’s needed is a large scale introductory event and mass participation. Maybe Canonical or the UK LoCo can just set up something in London and invite every single BBC person, get some familiarity with what we do, how we do it and why it matters. (i.e. the rationale beyond simple technicalities of the software it’s self)

Learning on your own is fine if you have the time, but these guys aren’t that forgiving.

Media: And Then What Happens

I was just looking though some BBC news when this lovely video popped up: ‘Obliteration’ risk from download[s].

The main argument seems to be: “If everyone is downloading things, the media industries couldn’t survive and would be ‘obliterated’, wiped out, no longer creating anything.”

Now I may be just be simple, but if the UK was really producing media that consumers wanted, then that demand doesn’t just evaporate with the advent of downloading. The nature of demand is that someone somewhere will make some money making it and supplying it to those people.

The difference is of course that the media would have to be supplied on the terms of the consumer and the creators would loose a lot of control over their creations. Control that they may be leaning on to earn more money than can actually be justified from their works. But at least they’d have jobs though right?

Well we’ll see how long Channel 4’s Count Down is off the air before the thousands of students and night workers who watch the show demand it’s return. To which the media companies can quite rightly start asking for payment. You can’t demand stuff be made for free, and the attitudes of advertising and license funded content seems to be dead set against admiting direct funding for content creation is even possible.

If the music industry was to suffer ‘obliteration’ in the UK, would any of the bands even notice? would anyone who is still actually making music and singing on tours actually care? I doubt the money from Glastonbury would dry up just because people can download the songs, if anything the removal of radio and crap cds might actually make it more interesting.

So my questions to Universal Music chairman Lucian Grainge are: After the obliteration, then what happens? and why should we care when it does? Even if we enter a few years of media darkness I’d stake the outhouse on there being new inventive ways to earn money from every creative industry based on the huge outpouring of demand for the kind of TV, music, film1 and software that’s we’re all so damn used to, provided to us on the ever so damned useful internet as peer to peer downloads.

Media creation won’t disappear, the rules will change, your business will have to adapt and we’ll all get on with our lives. Because the alternative is that we turn the country into a police state that criminalises sharing and human natures to serve the interests of an outmoded media creation industry.

I won’t ever support such a move.

1 If the UK actually had a film industry of course.