An Undemocratic Democracy

The United Kingdom, is one of the oldest continuously functioning democracies in the world.   There are other contenders but many countries have dipped in and out of democracy over the years. Greece was almost certainly the first to embrace democracy but have dipped in and out over the centuries.  Now the title probably rests with somewhere like Iceland, Faroes Islands, Isle of Man or possibly the UK depending on your particular definition.

Whoever the winner, the point is that the UK has been democratic for a centuries and you’d expect them to be pretty good at it.  However sometimes a UK citizen can look at the political system and see there’s something very wrong.

Firstly there’s the voting system, it is perfectly possible to get millions of votes without a single representative elected into Parliament.   Sometimes there’s a sigh of relief where some extreme party can effectively be ignored despite garnering a sizeable following of voters.  Other times it just looks profoundly unfair, consider the Green Part getting over 1/2 million votes and one member of parliament against the SNP (Scottish National Party) who got less than a million and have 31 members.

There’s lots more examples and outside the two main parties, there’s few political parties who consider the current situation fair.   However even within the elected representatives strange undemocratic situations seems to occur with remarkable regularity.  Take for example the Brexit situation that currently is causing utter chaos within the United Kingdom.   The current Prime Minister Theresa May decided she didn’t have a big enough majority for her preferred version of Brexit so called  an election to increase it.   Unfortunately this didn’t go quite to plan and now there is complete disarray, with her majority disappearing.

In fact now within the British Parliament, no-one has a majority for anything.  The ‘hard Brexit’ people have lost supporters because of a backlash against those who wanted to remain, the ‘remainers’ have lost supporters from a switch of voting from UKIP.  The people who sit in the middle are perhaps the only hope, with maybe a drift from both sides reluctantly recognising the futility of the situation.   The situation changes daily though, and political students would be advised to invest in a solution like this to watch the changes on the BBC News.

Maybe democracy will triumph in the end but at the moment it’s difficult to see.  Many complain that the UK democratic system was sidestepped by using a simplistic referendum in the first place.  The issue was a complicated decision with a myriad of options was reduced to a yes/no vote which was completely inadequate.   Which is why we find the shambolic situation now with a divided country run by an unpopular leader with similar views.

Further Information: Bypassing region Locks – Video Proxy

Just Lost In Netflix

Would it be fair to say, that people become more relaxed and accepting of life’s little obstacles.   I think maybe it is, the angry young man turns into something a little bit calmer and relaxed.  After all if you’ve survived a few decades you’ve inevitably learn a thing or two – never buy anything from your doorstep or if something’s free then there’s inevitably a catch somewhere.

For me personally, I can accept most little setbacks relatively easily – after all I know they don’t just happen to me and there isn’t much I can do about them.  Yet again, utter annoyance and frustration is always there bubbling under the surface.   It arose the other week when I and my good lady settled down for an evening’s TV watching , our chosen series the Science Fiction show Lost.  Now every body else seems to have watched this about ten years ago, but we’ve only just found it.

However when we signed on to Netflix to watch episode 54 out of 70 something, I couldn’t find it.  It had completely disappeared from the Netflix subscription, not a word or a warning for those of us who had spent the last few weeks ploughing through this confusing box set.   After some internet sleuthing I discovered that it had been removed but only from certain regional variations of Netflix including the UK one I was using.  However it still remained on others including the US version which seems to have much more than the UK version of Netflix.  Anyway the cross part soon receded and problem solving was the order of the day – here’s the solution I found in this video  – the Best Netflix VPN 2017 :

It’s actually quite straight forward, to switch between the different versions of Netflix you just need to change your IP address to match the country you need. So for the Canadian version you need a Canadian IP address, for the US one you need a US based address and so on. You can’t actually change your own IP address but you can bounce your connection off something called a VPN server which obscures your real address from view.

So in the video they make a connection to a US based VPN server, which then routes you to the US version of Netflix. It works just as promised and ‘Lost’ is there happily sitting in the US Netflix movie list! It’s an interesting situation though, digital products like a Netflix subscription change depending on where you are. Netflix is better than most though because at least your subscription is normally accessible – if you pay for a UK TV license you’ll lose access to all their channels the moment you step outside the UK. Unless of course you invest in a British BBC VPN of course that you enable to access from anywhere!

Who’s Been Snooping at Your Email?

There’s been loads in  the news recently about countries snooping on each other, it appears we’re all at it.  The UK Intelligence services at GCHQ hoovering up all the internet data that crosses the UK, Russians, Chinese and Israeli Intelligence all investing heavily in internet surveillance and the NSA in the US well spying on everyone including their own via Prism.

Many of us now feel that we have to use technology to protect ourselves,  a simple VPN can go a long way to blocking those who are spying on us.  They have other uses, for example to access region locked sites – watch this video – BBC News Streaming , for an example.

So it’s obviously quite understandable to start thinking about how much of our communications is so easily monitored. Our web traffic at least the majority of it, is I’m afraid very easily accessible by just about anyone in any position of power.  At every ISP a detailed list of the majority of your communication traffic is easily picked up.  The web’s favorite protocol – HTTP is unfortunately rather lacking in security features and as such web traffic is mostly transmitted in the clear.

So what about email? It’s still one of the most used messaging systems in the world, but how secure is email – read this report?  There are two main issues regarding the security of your average email –

1) It’s transported in clear text so everyone can read it.

2) The email is transmitted across the shared infrastructure of the internet.

It means that email is not private at all. Not only is is transmitted in a completely readable format with no encryption at all but this ’open letter’ is delivered by using a network of shared routers, servers and cabling.   Anyone at any point can tap into this data a little like GCHQ have tapped into the major fiber connections in the UK.

There are solutions that can make Outlook or Thunderbird a little more secure – one of the major improvements is to encrypt your messages.  This means that if done properly only the sender and the recipient would be able to decipher the contents.  Look for applications like Hushmail and programs like PGP to offer different solutions to this issue

James Williams

Author of RAI Streaming Estero

Morality in the Digital World

I was talking to a lay preacher the other day, I’ll leave out the particular denomination as that’s not the point of the story.   Anyway we were talking about football and related stuff in particular the cost of actually watching out favorite Premiership teams on the TV.

It’s something I have given up the escalating costs of being able to watch football on the TV had started to become a little bit hard to justify for me.  My subscription costs to various TV and satellite services was getting close to £100 ($80) a month which is an awful lot of money to pay just for watching a few games of football on the TV.  So I bit the bullet and cancelled the lot which was surprisingly less painful than I thought.

It turns out you can listen on the radio for free and watch highlights after the game on TV too, for those ‘must see’ matches there’s always a bar somewhere you can go and watch it on.    So for me, it wasn’t a big deal and certainly not worth all the money I was paying out every month.  However my preacher friend had a similar thought but ended up taking a different, slightly surprising route than I did.

What he did was buy a media streamer pre-installed with something called Kodi, which is an open source video player which started it’s life on the Xbox.   The interesting thing about Kodi however is that supports hundreds of add-ons which can effectively stream copyrighted material directly from the internet.  So you can buy a box with Kodi pre-installed and configured which allows access to all of Sky, Virgin and BT’s subscription channels absolutely free.

I have to say I was shocked, a very religious and moral man was effectively stealing these channels without paying for them.  It was hardly crime of the century but I wondered if he had considered that it even was theft?   It turns out that he didn’t, or at least conveniently pretended he didn’t understand it was theft.    After all he’d bought the media box and was simply using it’s facilities to download the programmes that he used to pay for.

This is our world, the digital world where perhaps our morales can be a little more elastic than in the real world.  After all would my friend break in to an electronics shop and steal a Sky box, or mug a passer by for money to pay the subscription?   Of course he never would even consider doing this.   Yet literally millions of law abiding people are using this and similar methods everywhere to download things that they haven’t bought.  It doesn’t stop here of course, if there’s a line where is it drawn – is the ex-pat using a VPN to watch iPlayer in Australia a criminal too?   It’s much too simple to just consider that theft just involves physical objects – my preacher friend was effectively defrauding SKY of hundreds of pounds a year.

I guess it’s a very subjective issue, copyright infringement could be thought of as a criminal offence or just blurring the rules slightly.  It would be harsh to consider all those people who miss British TV and want to watch BBC iPlayer in Ireland or use a Proxy for Netflix access as hard core criminals but it’s easier perhaps to convince yourself no crime is being committed.   I think though it’s worth considering the legal and practical implications of finding yourself in court for ‘digital fraud’ or ‘obtaining goods and services by deception’ before using these extremely tempting technical options!

The Dangers of Digital Law

Laws are in general supposed to make us safer and more secure, I think most of us would agree.  However there are areas where this is not the primary concern and even some where the opposite is true.  This is almost certainly the case in one of the older digital based laws created in the US called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (1998) better known as the DCMA Act.

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It sounds safe enough at first glance but there’s a huge flaw at the very heart of this legislation which could seriously undermine the safety of the internet.  It sounds rather dramatic but it’s certainly a possibility with the increasing reach of devices connected to the internet – particularly the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) .  The problem is that all of these devices from smart phones through TVs to toasters and fridges all contain software embedded in them in order to communicate across the internet.  Software of course often contains bugs and flaws which can constitute a security risk, in fact there have been many reports of these ‘smart devices’ being used in DDoS attacks.

That’s where the problem lies with the DCMA Act, which contains a law stating that flaws in these devices cannot be disclosed without express permission from the manufacturer of the device.  Consider the issue, a security researcher or ethical hacker discovers a security flaw in a device, they cannot release this information legally and the manufacturer is unlikely to want to publish it’s own security problems.  What happens is that the flaws remain and don’t get fixed, and almost certainly then get exploited by computer hackers.

In fact there are situations where DCMA makes it not only illegal to disclose a software fault but also to fix it.   There have been test cases, most famously brought by John Deere tractors where it has been stated that it is illegal for owners to attempt to fix their tractors instead being forced to return them to dealers instead.  This is because the tractors like most equipment now contain a certain amount of software which control the devices bringing them into the remit of the act.

It’s of considerable concern to all of us, the devices we have bought are not really our property and the issue is extending to all sorts of situations.  We can’t use third party disks or cartridges in printers and game consoles because the manufacturer controls the software and access to that device even after we’ve bought it.  With digital services it’s even more extreme with media giants like Netflix enforcing blocks on proxies and VPNs as described in this article – The Great Netflix VPN Ban.

It’s a dream come to true for the manufacturers who are able to implement specific profit maximizing business models which are extremely restrictive to the end owners.  Control of the device is effectively kept with people who created it not with the people who bought it. Don’t think you can do what you like with that HP printer, because you can’t the law says so!

Further Reading:

Using Residential VPN services: http://www.theninjaproxy.org/technology/is-a-residential-vpn-service-essential-now/

Introducing Vlogging and Content Samurai

For many years, the internet has been expanding partly due to the millions of blogs appearing across the world.  It seemed at some point that nearly everybody who could use a computer was writing a blog and sharing their experiences on life, the universe and what they had for lunch.  Although blogs are still very popular, the medium seems be undergoing a change,  no longer is a page of text and a few photo’s enough – now it’s all about video.

The change has been partly fueled by the way we use the internet now,  social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube  aren’t really designed for long pages of text.   They are all much more aligned to other formats like audio and video, so much so that Vlogging or video blogging was born.   Now everywhere you look instead of text there’s a video explaining, cajoling or selling.

For the individual and their diary type blog moving to a video format has been quite straightforward.  Unfortunately for some small businesses and online entrepreneurs it’s quite difficult especially when they don’t have the skills and equipment to produce high quality videos.   Although the computer software companies have started to produce useful tools and resources which can assist in the production of these videos.

One of the most innovative products released in recent months is that of this product known as Content Samurai which provides an interface to help companies produce videos online quickly and simply.

You can see that the software doesn’t actually need to be installed as it’s run from the cloud. This means that all you need to access it is a web browser from which you can control the options. The idea is to supply the program with the written text which is then formatted into a slideshow style presentation. This presentation can then be modified by using some preset styles, text can be changed and images and videos inserted into the slides.

After this stage is completed, then you are prompted to deal with the audio by either recording the script that has been produced or simply selecting appropriate background music from the list. When this stage is completed, the video is produced and stored in your account in an MP4 format. This can be downloaded onto your computer and then distributed to whatever site you require – perhaps YouTube, posted on Facebook or Twitter or perhaps just uploaded onto your own site.

This is not a complicated video editing software, it’s designed to be a simple and quick as possible. The goal is to produce professional, high quality videos without any specialist knowledge – you can see an example file being produced online here in this video. This has lots of advantages but the greatest is speed, allowing a business without access to specialised resources the ability to produce large volumes of quality videos very quickly.

Education and the Velvet Revolution

Peace education stands as one of the most undervalued and underfunded points of our educational system that is world-wide. If we look at the typical education curriculum at elementary school, or a high school , which is where youth are most impressionable, any site of compulsory non-violent schooling is almost entirely non existent. Regardless, we often find compulsory history classes, which describe every single war in detail, including its death toll, its generals and all the other players.

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Yet given this educational dilemma that is lopsided, once in a while an enthusiastic humanitarian comes to champion a brand new form of instruction about peace, rather than violence.

The Revolution was named “Velvet” due to its soft and non-violent method of peace.

The power of this movie lies in the way it can capture the essence of the Velvet Revolution and how power shifts when individuals the youth, stand up against protest and repression in a non-violent way. The solidarity of the Czech people was so overwhelming that it forced them to bring in new leadership, namely Vaclav Havel, the leader of the revolution and basically crippled the government.

Broken educational systems could no doubt use this picture as a model to teach students at all levels of education about non-violence’s tremendous impact on world history and it. There’s a host of information online yet it doesn’t make it onto the curriculum of most of our schools, lots even on social media, but again you’ll often find facebook blocked in these situation.

Once peace and non violence become “required” curriculum in schools, especially for teens, we’ll begin to find a shift in our belief system regarding what alternatives are accessible to our issues. If a kid has just seen violence, at home, in history books and in the media, then that kid will act accordingly. If a child sees and is educated peaceful approaches to solve disputes and problems subsequently teens will naturally choose this path for resolution.

James Elsworth

Author of How to Watch BBC Abroad

Search Tips for Your US Holiday Planning

Many of us rely heavily on the search engines when doing our research, years ago we used to reach for an encyclopedia or other reference book, not any more. The internet has become our ultimate reference guide, from spellings, definitions, research and of course shopping. However I wonder how many people realise how many restrictions are placed on you when you search?

Take for instance my current problem (ok so it’s safely in the first world problem category!), I want to take my family on a short tour in the USA – to see some West Coast highlights. So I turn to Google to see what’s on offer, typing in some relevant search terms into the world’s favorite search engine.

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So I get my results, tour operators, offers and holiday companies offering a range of tours covering the Western side of the USA. Which is great, lots of choice – except my choice has been severely restricted without my knowledge simply because of my location. When I visit Google, I am classified as a UK use based on my IP address and so my search results are tailored to that fact. This is of course great if I’m looking for a plumber, a New York based plumber is of little use to me! However it also means that I will get UK based results for my travel search.

So I get UK based firms offering tours around the West coast of the US, which is ok but what I don’t get is US firms offering the same thing. Why shouldn’t I consider American based firms instead, I’m sure they’d be happy to take me on a tour too. The reality is that without some effort I simply won’t see these companies because they will be filtered out in my search – I will see the big UK travel companies who offer tours in the USA. The worst thing is sometimes these are simply the same tours repackaged by UK travel agents, of course with some sort of premium on top of the price.

Google is basically controlling a large part of my decision making process and the choice available. Many thousands of companies do exactly the same, like this as you’re logging in from the US I’m afraid. But fortunately there is a solution and it’s actually quite a simple one.

It involves changing your IP address and taking control of what you see online. For example in my situation if I change my IP address to a US one then search for West coast tours USA, I’ll actually see a whole load of different results. In fact I see US based results, loads of US tours in America, which is actually what I wanted – local firms offering local tours not repackaged for a UK travel agent. The benefits increase I can also use this control to bypass blocks based on my location – this post for example shows how I can watch British TV when I’m actually in the USA. Normally you can’t watch the BBC online from anywhere outside the UK.

Further Information

Attracting Good Social Recognition

We all want to be accepted by our peers and feel that we are a recognized and valued member of society. But why is it that some people manage to do this apparently very easily, while others struggle to get anywhere?

If you’re on the easy street to happiness and life just gives you whatever it is that you want, it’s probably difficult to imagine how anyone could not enjoy the same level of abundance of good as you do. By the same token, if you feel like every day is a struggle just to get through and life throws every curve ball and red light at you every step of the way, it can be galling to see someone enjoying easy success.

Attracting the Good Into Your Life

law of attractionYou have probably heard or read about the Law of Attraction and how its advocates claim that using it correctly can bring all measure of good into your life easily and without the need to struggle. However, do you know how it works and what you need to do in order to get it working in your life?

The short answer is that few people actually do!

It’s as if there is an elite group of just a handful of lucky souls that have that ability to turn everything they touch into gold. Others seem to be able to zone in on the perfect life partner and enjoy lifelong happiness.

Yet others seem to enjoy perfect health right into old age and can’t tell you what they’re doing differently from the rest of us. Despite not knowing why, they still have their health at an age when most other people are either watching their final days on this mortal plane slipping away from a hospital bed or they already gave up the ghost long ago.

You Can Make It Work For You Too

There is a well kept secret that’s hidden in what can only be described as plain sight that reveals itself to anyone who goes looking for it. It’s the secret of how to harness the law of attraction and get it working for you just like those other people I just mentioned.

You can enjoy perfect health, lifelong happiness and the financial security of abundant wealth. You just need to start doing a few things differently from what you’re doing now and get some social interconnection by attraction happening in your life.

Start by changing the way you think about things by trying to see everything in a good light and stop complaining about things if they’re not going the way you want them to. Start doing things as best you can with a good heart and not just for the money.

Above all, be happy. Because when a person is happy, good things seem to follow them around as if by magic.

A Peaceful World from A Solemn Society

brænde og kostumerWe have all heard about the many problems and troubles that our society are experiencing today. But did you know that our world today, is actually facing a big problem and this problem is the absence of peaceful society. Lots of troubles, war, poverty and even famine are the main reasonsm why people a lot people are having this problem and why they are unable to have a peaceful community. With different races, different beliefs, different cultures and different tribes, each of the people usually think about themselves and forget to think about that we are the same people living in this world and dreaming on having a peaceful society. Perlcritic is one project that are trying to do something about this. One of the guys from this project James Kostumer, are creating some special containers that will help get food all the way to where it’s needed, without it being stolen or getting lost. Having a people world would start from the society. The society is the group of people who are living in a certain community and if peace starts at them, then there can be peace for the whole world. Yes, we might say that a peaceful community will remain a belief and a dream because we have different races in the world and surely we have our different cultures and beliefs. But, this should not practice discrimination and respect each other’s beliefs and culture and everything will be alright. People use to think about how they can live a happy and peaceful life without the worry of the possible war or any serious problem that the society might face.

Yes, living a peaceful society can be just a dream but if you start it by yourself and all will cooperate, then this dream will be come true. Yes, there is nothing possible if each one of us will cooperate and let us practice fair. Being fair in the society without practicing any discrimination would let the society understand how each of us has an effect in the community. A community that practice discrimination would surely experience serious problems. Fair and no discrimination can have the assurance that we will be living in a peaceful world. A small society would start the peaceful and solemnity. So, in time that this happen, a peaceful world from a solemn society is now a dream comes true. Who wants to live a troublesome, poverty, drought and famine society? Of course no one wants to live like this. So, having a peaceful society would be the key to have a happy and peaceful society.

Let us practice peaceful and solemn society and surely it would give a positive result. In our modern world today, we have heard lots of different problems. These different problems start from the people who actually done wrong in the society and this should be stopped. Paul Hegn once wrote an article aboout this, and it was soon published in almost all the countries in the western world. Now you can even download a plugin for wordpress, to help you monitor this. Did you know that a small mistake or a small doing can be the start to have a huge problem in the future? Yes, a small mess can be the culprit of a serious trouble and let us avoid this. It is not denying that the people itself who do the wrong doings and they are the one who are putting themselves into danger. But, is it nice to say and nice to experience to practice fair, no discrimination, no war, no crimes? All of us want this and this can be possible from us.

Source:
perlcritic.org