Daily Archives:November 27th, 2008

Render a bit less unto Caesar

Our dear chancellor has decided to reduce VAT from 17.5% to 15%. This means that every business in the land has to reconfigure their billing systems, check the dates of their invoices rather carefully, and (in many cases) reprint lots of documentation to change their advertised prices.

In exchange, they’ll will benefit from the wild shopping spree that can be expected when things costing £99 drop to a bargain £97! The queues of people in sleeping bags outside the department stores, waiting for opening time on Monday morning, will make all the changes worthwhile, and no doubt we will still be rejoicing in a year’s time, when we have to change everything back again.

Actually, that’s probably when the shopping crowds will turn out: the day before the prices go back up again, 13 months from now, in the post-Christmas sales at the end of 2009. I’m not convinced that’s when it’ll be most needed! In the meantime, the lost taxes will supposedly come to something like £12.5bn. Just the thing for a country plunging into debt. I rather suspect this is all really just a ploy to find useful consulting work for all those newly-redundant bank staff.

Still, I’m certainly no expert, and perhaps it’ll all work out in ways I don’t quite grasp. It does seem like a lot of bother to me, though.

We just need to make sure we don’t come up with any other schemes for throwing money away, like, say, hosting the Olympics. Now that would be really silly.

Apple offering downgrades (thanks to DRM)

Fred von Lohmann of the EFF:

Once again, thanks to DRM, a new product ends up less useful than the one it replaces. This time, it’s the new family of Apple Macbook laptop computers that gets the downgrade.

When it launched the new Macbooks, Apple announced that they would sport a new digital video output connector, known as Mini DisplayPort. What Apple failed to mention, however, is that those connectors allow movies studios to force the computer to authenticate any external monitor before allowing playback of programs purchased or rented from the iTunes Store (Microsoft’s Windows Vista does something similar). In other words, the HDTV monitor or projector that worked for you yesterday, won’t work with your new computer tomorrow if Hollywood has embedded a flag in the iTunes content you paid for.

This is a remarkably short-sighted move for both Apple and Hollywood. This punishes existing iTunes customers: several have reported that iTunes purchases that played on external monitors on their old Macbooks no longer will play on their new Macbooks. In other words, thanks to the Macbook “upgrade,” Apple just “downgraded” everyone’s previous investment in iTunes content (if we’ve told you once, we’ve told you a dozen times — when you buy DRMd content, the vendor can snatch your investment from you at any time).

Full post here.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser