Monthly Archives: February, 2007

The cost of illiteracy?

Interesting statistics about mobile phone usage:

In the UK, the number of outgoing voice calls made to the number of text messages is 0.6:1; in South Africa as a whole the the ratio is 3:1 for pre-pay phones; and in rural communities the average ratio is 13:1. Text messages are cheaper than phone calls, so this data, looked at from a western perspective, seems surprising. However, when considered in the context of a community where a significant number of people are illiterate it is more understandable.

from a talk given by Arun Sarin, Vodafone Group Chief Executive, last February.

Apple would embrace DRM-free music, says Steve Jobs

One of Apple’s biggest achievements in the creation of the iTunes/iPod system was the balance that it managed to strike between the needs of customers and the needs of the recording industry. Their DRM (Digitial Rights Management) system allows you to make enough copies of your music on enough devices that it will seldom be an encumbrance to anybody, while not being a free-for-all that the music industry couldn’t accept. All DRM systems make me slightly uneasy, but it’s hard, I think, to find another company that has incorporated one as well as Apple.

Nonetheless, they’ve come in for some criticism recently because they don’t license their DRM to anybody else. Steve Jobs has just posted his response on the Apple site. As he says…

Todayís most popular iPod holds 1000 songs, and research tells us that the average iPod is nearly full. This means that only 22 out of 1000 songs, or under 3% of the music on the average iPod, is purchased from the iTunes store and protected with a DRM. The remaining 97% of the music is unprotected and playable on any player that can play the open formats. Itís hard to believe that just 3% of the music on the average iPod is enough to lock users into buying only iPods in the future.

But nonetheless, Apple would very much like a DRM-free world. Cynics may say that it’s easy to say that you’d support something when it’s so unlikely to come about, and that the real message of the piece is “Don’t bring antitrust measures against us – it’s not our fault”. But that doesn’t make the arguments invalid. Worth reading.

À la cashpoint

About twenty years ago, my brother and I went on a cycling holiday in France. As we sat eating a baguette in the central square of a small town in the Loire Valley, we watched a wonderful scene play out before us. There was a bank on the square, which had a shiny new cashpoint (ATM) machine – something of a rarity back then, at least in rural France. As we munched our lunch, a family approached it hesitantly; a tall, gaunt father, a rather shorter and decidedly less gaunt mother, and a young boy. It was an outing which was to end in disappointment, because, despite the careful attention of the father and the suitably Gallic gesticulations of the mother, the machine swallowed the card and they departed empty-handed.

What I had forgotten was that, that evening in our tent, I had written a short (and most unworthy) homage to Miles Kington’s wonderful ‘Franglais’ sketches. When clearing out my filing cabinet this weekend, I came across a faded dot-matrix printout, and decided to post it here, if only for nostalgia…

À La Cashpoint

M. Jones: Ah! Monsieur! Vous êtes le bank manager, n’est-ce pas?
M. le BM: Oui, c’est moi. Can I help Monsieur?
M. Jones: Peut-être. Votre super-electronique nouvelle machine de cashpoint a mangé mon card!
M. le BM: Ah oui, Monsieur. Si la machine n’aime pas le card, elle le mange.
M. Jones: That’s as peut-être. Mais c’etait un perfectly bon card, avec des jolies couleurs et un hologram.
M. le BM: Oui, Monsieur. Mais c’etait le card de la super-store just round le corner. Monsieur is holding notre cashcard dans son main gauche.
M. Jones: Oh. So je suis. Et voila pourquoi votre machine a mangé l’autre?
M. le BM: Oui.
M. Jones: Mmm. Mais comment est-ce qu’elle le mange?
M. le BM: Monsieur?
M. Jones: Est-ce qu’elle fait la cashcard omelette, ou le crunchy cashcard avec 6 added vitamins et iron, ou peut-être le revolutionary beans-on-cashcard?
M. le BM: Monsieur veut savoir?
M. Jones: Oui, Monsieur would.
M. le BM: Mais pourquoi?
M. Jones: Parce-que j’ai trop de petit plastic cards. J’ai votre cheque-card et votre cashcard. Until 5 minutes ago j’avais le card de la superstore. Ja’i le card du hi-fi shop, le card qui dit que je suis an Ami de la Theatre de Bognor Regis, le card qui et mon ami flexible, et le card which will do nicely, sir. Je ne sais pas what to do avec tous ces cards. Puis j’ai pensé que je peux les manger.
M. le BM: Ah oui. Mais je peux vous assurer que les cashcards n’on pas un goût très agrèable.
M. Jones: Même le cashcard à la caviar?
M. le BM: Même le cashcard à la caviar.
M. Jones: Oh, fiddlesticks.
M. le BM: Mais je crois que j’ai le solution à Monsieur’s problême.
M. Jones: Oui?
M. le BM: Oui. Si Monsieur veut les donner à la machine, elle peut les manger avec plaisir.
M. Jones: Quelle bonne idèe! (Il commence)
M. le BM: Mais Monsieur, not celui-là!
M. Jones: Pourquoi pas? Ce n’est pas aussi nourishing que les autres?
M. le BM: Oh, c’est très nourishing. Mais c’est le proper card pour le machine. Elle va le redonner quand vous avez fini votre transaction.
M. Jones: Alas alors! Qu’est-ce qu’il faut faire?
M. le BM: C’est simple. Il faut le mettre dans la machine de la bank next door.
M. Jones: Ah oui! Of course! Merci beaucoup, Monsieur!
M. le BM: C’est un plaisr, Monsieur. Surtout pour la machine.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser