Thursday, August 30, 2007

Civics 101

Hmmm, I just read a very interesting post on the Spiegel website. For those with difficulty reading the German text, the essence of the story is that from now on, EU and Swiss citizens resident in Germany may acquire German citizenship without giving up their original citizenship.

There would be two advantages to me in taking this step:
  1. I could vote here
  2. I could travel with a credit-card-sized Ausweis rather than a bulky passport.
There don't seem to be any disadvantages that I can think of, apart from the admin effort plus fee that will be inevitable.

And yet I am still unsure that this is a step I want to take. Previously I was quite sure that German citizenship was not for me, because I want to remain an Irish citizen. Now I could have both, and I'm still not sure. It seems that I am carrying more emotional baggage with regard to my nationality than I had supposed.

Has anyone else undergone a citizenship transplant?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

GEZ Censorship

Those of you who live as I do in Germany will have had occasion to be upset by the Gebühreneinzugszentrale (GEZ). These people are officially there to ensure that everyone pays their licence fees, but are known for their use of tactics more appropriate to the Stasi.

I was shocked to see this article in Golem, describing how the GEZ want to take's Tips and Tricks section on GEZ offline. They have threatened legal action for use of false terms like "GEZ-Gebühren", "PC-Gebühr", "Gebührenfahnder", "GEZ-Anmeldung" or "GEZ-Abmeldung". This is laughable, as these terms are in common use, and not as perjorative as the GEZ deserves.

To be clear - have been offering legal and legitimate advice to protect consumers from overpaying. They have now taken down this legitimate content, awaiting a legal review. See their current site explaining the takedown.

My suggestion to those who care about defeating censorship is to take advantage of Google's caching function to locate these GEZ tips, and keep them in the public domain. For example:
This may seem like a trivial example, but if German authorities can censor this sort of material, it won't take long before they take more examples from the Chinese government.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blogmusik is now Deezer

One music service which I've been impressed by recently is France-based BlogMusik. The design is funky, there's a fair amount of music available, and it's pretty damn fast, especially considering the graphics they're using on the site.

My assumption was that the site was bordering on illegal, and would be closed down soon enough. Today I was pleasantly surprised to find out on Techcrunch that BlogMusik is renaming to Deezer as part of a transition to legitimacy.

Deezer has a charming widget feature, similar to those from gbox and, which I previously blogged about here and here respectively. Below is the widget for a playlist which I put together (note - this may not display in an RSS Reader, click through to the blog itself). The great thing is that you can play this list as is, no 30-second previews or DRM.

free music

Alternatively, you can share individual songs, via IM, or embedded HTML as below.

free music

Another nice feature is the Smart Playlist, given a track, Deezer cycles through a playlist of tracks which are similar.

So how does Deezer make money? The streaming rights and bandwidth will doubtless come at a hefty price. Set against that will be some advertising revenue from banner ads, and a kick-back from iTunes (each song has an iTunes icon, so you can click through to buy). I doubt that they're currently covering their costs, but in the Web 2.0 world growth is much more important than revenue ;-)

I rate Deezer as a pretty good service, and I hope the impending legality won't kill the innovative charm they've displayed thus far.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Aedamair visits her niece and nephew

My sister Aedamair dropped by at the weekend to see her new niece and old nephew. Here she is with Rosalie:

and then with Liam:

We spent Sunday in Luisenpark, where Liam ate his customary half an ice cream (parents are there to take care of leftovers, right?)

then Aedamair was kind enough to take this picture of the family, illustrating nicely my thinning hair:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Science in an Age of Endarkenment

David Colquhoun has an excellent rant at new Age crystals, homeopathy, credulous politicians, creationists and general pseudoscience here, also available in slightly edited form on the Guardian's science website.

I used to consider most of the above targets to be in Douglas Adam's words "mostly harmless". I recall with some fondness the laughs we had in our school at Father Soffe, the creationist religious teacher - I don't believe he managed to convince anyone of anything other than his own barminess.

However this article illustrates that the problem is a serious one. The insidious nature of many of these "beliefs" are a genuine cause for concern, especially when politicians and universities start to condone and spread them. A recent example of wacky belief in German politics was provided by the Hessian Culture Minister Karin Wolff, who has suggested discussing the biblical version of creation within Biology class, "in order to avoid confusing the children". Ms. Wolff is clearly very confused herself, and should be excused from office.

Comparison of gBox widget with

After posting about the gBox service, I though I'd offer a visual comparison with a service I've been using for a while: Below is my "recent tracks" widget, which also handily slides into Facebook.

I've got to say, my preference is very clearly for the app for its clean design. What do you think?

[Update: If like me you use Google Reader, you'll not see the widget. Click through to website to see this post in it's full glory]


After the news that Universal is experimenting with DRM-free music downloads, I thought I'd have a look at one of the platforms where this will be available: gBox.

Opening in Firefox is not (yet) possible - though using the IETab extension works. Once the user agent is sorted, the interface is fairly attractive and responsive, although search and browse are currently pretty poor. The teasered songs were not very extensive, and the alphabetical list of artists is far too large to skim through (give it a go yourself)

Although gbox is partnering with Google on this, the "g" does not denote Google, rather insinuates that the site is used for "gifts". The current setup is essentially a glorified music wishlist. Purchasing music for yourself is certainly permitted, but seems to be an add-on functionality!

Once registered and logged in, I was able to create this list of desired tracks:

Get your own gBox
Gift Me

The HTML code snippet may be simply cut and pasted anywhere (although it doesn't fit in the right sidebar on this template). Now readers of this blog are free to give me music pressies :-)

There seem to me to be a few usability and compatibility problems with this service, we'll see how long it takes to get them sorted. However the wishlist widget is pretty funky, and may gain traction in the wild.

My concern is that by ruling out Apple as a partner for this experiment, Universal are losing a control factor, namely the comparison of DRM and DRM-free sales where usability is the same high quality. We'll see how this turns out.

[Update: If like me you use Google Reader, you'll not see the widget. Click through to website to see this post in it's full glory]

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Corina Schwab's Wedding

Heike's niece Corina married her long-time boyfriend Christoph last Saturday, and we were there to help celebrate. Below is a picture of the happy couple together with their remarkably cute daughter Celina at the registry office.

From Corina Hochzeit

And here's Celina together with our two:

From Corina Hochzeit

After the registry office we enjoyed a glass of sekt on the Hauptstrasse, and inevitably this attracted the camera lenses of more than one Japanese tour group.

After that it was on to the reception for a slap-up meal, and some transgender entertainment...

From Corina Hochzeit

Check out our Picasa gallery for further pics.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Auntie Doireann meets Niece Rosalie

My sister Doireann dropped by on her way from Basel to Dublin last weekend, ostensibly to visit Heike and me, but the ulterior motive to meet her goddaughter-to-be was clear.

From Doireann

BTW, I have discovered that it is a mistake to introduce someone as "Auntie" Doireann to Liam, as the title becomes incorporated in the name. We have yet to convince him to drop the formal title, and D is retaliating by calling him "Nephew Liam".

Original meets Upstart

My parents visited for a very brief but pleasant couple of days last week. Here's a picture of the "original" Rosalie Cassidy meeting the young upstart Rosalie Cassidy. They got along just fine

From Parents Visit...