My Yahoo! Mail Peeps Keep Getting Mugged!

Dear friends who use Yahoo! Mail,

It seems to me that being a Yahoo! Mail user is fraught with peril these days. It certainly seems as though a disproportionate number of you have had more than your fair share of problems recently.

In fact, it’s actually quite surprising how many of you have been mugged while travelling.  I don’t know whether it’s that people who use Yahoo! Mail are more likely to be mugged or if it’s that people who are more likely to be mugged are more inclined to use Yahoo! Mail. However, it’s safe to say that if you’ve ever contacted me to let me know that you’ve been mugged while travelling and that you need money, your preferred method of letting me know about your situation is with an email sent from your Yahoo! account.

Being mugged must be quite traumatic. I can tell because of how poorly written your emails tend to be after this happens to you. Your broken English is a testament to the hardship that you’ve had to endure. I’m just thankful that you still have the means to let me know.

As bad as I feel for those of you who have once had this happen, I feel especially bad for those of you who have been robbed repeatedly. I have one acquaintance that was recently mugged two times in six months.

He was in Dubai the first time it happened. I was surprised to say the least.  Both because I had no idea that he was travelling and because I couldn’t believe that this could have happened to him. Fortunately he was able to use Yahoo! Mail to send the following cry for help:

On Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 1:09 PM, Yahoo Friend <friend@yahoo> wrote:

This message is coming to you with great depression due to my state of discomfort. I came down here to Dubai, United Arab Emirates with my family for a short vacation but unfortunately,we were mugged and robbed at the park of the hotel where we stayed. All cash, credit cards and cell phones were stolen off us but we still have our lives and passports.We’ve been to the embassy and the police here and they have done the best they can. Our flight leaves in less than 12hrs from now but we are having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills. I am contacting you to ask for a short loan which I will refund immediately I get my family back home safely. Let me know if you can help.
Looking forward to positive response.


Exactly six months later he was travelling once more in London (another surprise to me) when he was mugged again. Once again he was able to let me know using Yahoo! Mail:

On Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 9:11 AM, Yahoo Friend <friend@yahoo> wrote:

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to London,United Kingdom for a short vacation. unfortunately,we were  mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash and credit card were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us. We’ve been to the Embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills. Well I really need your financial assistance.. Please, let me know if you can help us out
Am freaked out at the moment!


I have to say… it hardly seems possible that the same thing could even happen again.  What are the odds! I like to think of myself as helpful and when a friend is in need you need to do what you can to support them. So I replied:

Dear Yahoo! Friend,

I can’t believe it happened to you again! You seem to have had some pretty bad luck travelling in the last 6 months.

I can’t spare more more than £500000 this time. You still haven’t paid me back the £1000000 that I sent you the last time you got mugged so I don’t have much at my disposal anymore.

How would you like me to get the money to you? Perhaps a wire transfer to some shady out of the way location wouldn’t be very suspicious? Please let me now how I can help.

Hope to hear from you soon,

PS. By the way. I don’t think Canada House is called the “Embassy” in London. I believe that it is considered a High Commision since we are a Commonwealth country.

PPS. I’m going to update my address book but I’m a bit confused as to which of your phone numbers I should use.

PPPS. Considering your propensity for getting mugged, I highly recommend keeping an emergency credit card somewhere safe the next time you travel. Maybe in a hotel safe.

PPPPS. I’m surprised about your trouble at the hotel. Usually they take your credit card when you first check-in and as long as you haven’t completely emptied the mini-bar you should just be able to leave. Also, I am not a lawyer (lawyers are either barristers or solicitors in the UK), but legally the hotel can’t hold you against your will.

PPPPPS. Did you empty the mini-bar?

PPPPPPS. Avoid the “park of the hotel”. It sounds like it must be a pretty dangerous place no matter where you travel. :-)

I’m still waiting to hear back. Hopefully it is only because he has managed to resolve the situation already and he is safe.

Before I say goodnight to you Yahoos I would just like to say… be careful:

  • Don’t click on dangerous links in suspicious looking emails.
  • Learn about (and use) 2-factor/step authentication.
  • Be wary while travelling both around the web and around the planet.
  • And finally, it’s bad enough that you have had to deal with all the recent and possibly still ongoing account hacking, so please don’t hang out at the “park of the hotel”.

Good night Yahoo! friends and “Bon Voyage”!

Let your MP know what you think of Bill C-11

The Canadian Coalition for Electronic Rights has a useful tool to help you reach out to MPs and express your concern about Bill C-11. I strongly urge everyone to use it and make your voice heard.  You can either write your own letter or use the boilerplate that they provide.

Here is a copy of the letter that I sent using the tool:

Jan 31, 2012

House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Ministers,

I’m replacing the boilerplate with a simple description of what is wrong with Bill C-11.

It will be illegal for me to:

1. Play my library of DVDs on my Linux based home theatre system or transcode them to watch on my phone.
2. Convert books that I purchase with my Kindle so that I can use my Kobo reader.
3. Watch movies purchased from iTunes on my Linux computer.
4. Circumvent a lock in order to do something that I am otherwise legally allowed to do.

What Bill C-11 will permit:

1. Bill C-11 will allow business models to exist that can only exist because a user isn’t free to pick the technology they wish to use in order to consume media they own.
2. Digital locks provide little protection against copyright infringement. Those determined to break copyright will still be capable of it.
3. Digital locks do and will continue to prevent consumer driven innovation. They are a barrier to legitimate alternative business models from creating alternative platforms.
4. Digital locks are used to prevent interoperability and to thwart competition.

We should do what we can to prevent infringement but we should not go beyond that and prevent activities that are legitimate and desirable.

Paul Cullum

CC: The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
CC: The Honourable Christian Paradis Minister of Industry
CC: The Honourable James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage
CC: The Honourable Geoff Regan
CC: Scott Simms
CC: Charlie Angus


“Yeah it’s a great contest! Wait! Sorry… you’re from Quebec.”

I come across this all the time and it drives me nuts and I need to have a quick rant.

First of all, I’m not the sort of person who enters contests. Most contests are only worthwhile if you feel that you don’t receive enough SPAM. I mean really.. SPAM is the only thing that you are guaranteed to win anyway.

However, some contests are more like a competition. Talent contests for example. Photography, short stories, poetry, etc… In a contest like that there is satisfaction to be found in merely taking part, seeing what others have done and seeing how you measure up against them.

Pretend for a moment that I have some talent and that I am just about to enter the best contest ever.

Dun dun dun!

Then I look at the small print:


To be eligible to enter the Contest, you must be: (1) old enough; (2) not a resident of Quebec, Hell, Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Sudan, Libya, Liberia, or Myanmar (Burma); (3) not give in to murderous fantasies

Wow… what great company we keep. Somewhere, some guy, is saying:

“We better not let Quebeckers enter any contests. If they ever won anything, they might just use it to build weapons of mass destruction.”

“No… I don’t care if it’s a contest to win a pack of gum. They’re freakin’ evil geniuses and they’ll turn that gum into a dirty bomb that will stick to anything.”

“Just add small print to the effect that they aren’t eligible and the world will be a safer place.”

What kind of crazy world is this?

My rant is perhaps only academic.  I don’t have any talent so I won’t be entering that photography contest anway.  But if I did…

Does there need to be regime change before Quebeckers are trusted with the responsibility of winning a pack of gum?

Free Server In Amazon’s Cloud For A Year

Do you need your own server on the Internet? Currently, if you sign up as a NEW Amazon Web Services customer, you will be eligible for their “Free Tier”.  You can get a free “micro” instance server for a whole year!

Amazon’s AWS Free Tier page has the following details:

AWS Free Usage Tier (Per Month): 

  • 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Linux Micro Instance usage (613 MB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – enough hours to run continuously each month*
  • 750 hours of an Elastic Load Balancer plus 15 GB data processing*
  • 10 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage, plus 1 million I/Os, 1 GB of snapshot storage, 10,000 snapshot Get Requests and 1,000 snapshot Put Requests*
  • 5 GB of Amazon S3 storage, 20,000 Get Requests, and 2,000 Put Requests*
  • 30 GB per of internet data transfer (15 GB of data transfer “in” and 15 GB of data transfer “out” across all services except Amazon CloudFront)*
  • 25 Amazon SimpleDB Machine Hours and 1 GB of Storage**
  • 100,000 Requests of Amazon Simple Queue Service**
  • 100,000 Requests, 100,000 HTTP notifications and 1,000 email notifications for Amazon Simple Notification Service**

In addition to these services, the AWS Management Console is available at no charge to help you build and manage your application on AWS.

I’ve been using Amazon EC2 since 2006 and my account isn’t eligible for this which is a shame.  A micro instance is normally $0.02/hour which works out to about $15/month or $180/year.  10GB of EBS works out to $1/month or $12/year.

It’s a pretty amazing deal.

Bill C-32 says to DMCA, “Dad?”

Here is a funny but sad cartoon that tries to make a statement about the effect and the absurdity of legal protection for DRM access controls. It was about the DMCA but it is just as applicable to Bill C-32. They seem like they must be related.

Comic demonstrating the absurdity of criminalizing DRM protection..

Don’t try this at home kids. You should not commit copyright infringement and pirate your media.  If you are going to commit one of these crimes then you should take the moral high road and commit the victim-less crime of liberating your own media that you’ve paid for. Yes companies may make it hard to do it the right way but it is wrong to infringe on the fair copyright of others. Creators need to be compensated and copying should not be the reason that they might lose a sale. I dream that someday it will be easy to buy what you want and get it in the format that you want it in without being locked into specific platforms or formats.

Sugarcoating TPM Protections in Bill C-32

Over the past little while I’ve been reading information from various viewpoints concerning Bill C-32. Common sense finds protections against TPM circumvention for non-infringing purposes to be so blatantly wrong that it is always shocking to read pro-lock view points. There seems to be a talking point amongst some proponents that our fair dealing rights will not be affected by TPM protection. That is just flat out wrong.

Access control TPMs have no direct link to copyright but they are an impediment that I regularly find myself having to circumvent for interoperability. I’ve previously blogged about how protections will impact my ability to play DVDs with my open-source HTPC system or put DRM encumbered songs on my non-iPod MP3 player.

Access control TPMs are intended to restrict platforms and allow companies an ability to create an artificial and arbitrary regime to restrict and differentiate media in ways that would otherwise not be possible. What we are talking about is artificial scarcity and exclusivity. This ability can’t co-exist with the fair dealing exceptions defined in Bill C-32.

Really… think about it. Do access controls really deserve a mention in our copyright act? Hell no! I already hate having to jump through technical hoops in order to use media that I’ve purchased on the devices of my choosing. To make it a crime to do so is a slap in the face.

Other jurisdictions see the legal quagmire that can be created by protections like this. Access control TPMs inhibit interoperability and competition. Artificial gatekeepers will end up with the final say on what media may work on with which devices and where. They don’t stop copyright infringement, they create artificial and closed business models.

I just read a post by James Gannon where it seems to me that he vigorously defends the viewpoint that our fair dealing won’t be compromised while at the same time stating that access control TPM must be protected. He states:

Therefore, I repeat: nothing in Bill C-32 prevents users from making fair dealing copies of works they have legally obtained.

With that line he talks about fair dealing copies but not fair dealing generally. My personal belief is that he is either being dis-ingenuous or he truly doesn’t see the draconian implications of access control TPMs on consumers and fair dealing. Access controls are by their very nature going to be a barrier to fair dealing. It is fair dealing to use ones own DIY platform for watching DVDs. It is fair use to decide to use a music player other than the iPod. The presence of access control TPMs will almost certainly affect everyone’s right to enjoy their fair dealing exceptions.

Access controls aren’t a copyright issue. They are a means to either deny access, extort additional money for something that you’ve already purchased, supporting a cartel of approved device manufacturers, preventing competition, preventing customer exodus, charge you more than they might charge someone else. Formats have always and will always evolve and change. Consumers should have the right to bring their media with them and decide on the format they wish to use when they decide to change.

Applying and then protecting access controls on media will prevent almost all meaningful fair dealing. Providing protections for access control circumvention allows companies and companies alone to make the decisions about what will be permitted. As a result, whether or not you may enjoy the fair dealing exceptions that you are entitled to, for media that you purchase, will be at the whim of the companies that produce it. Where is the balance in that?

Bill C-32 must not be allowed to pass with protections that inhibit or prevent fair dealing or inhibit companies or individuals from freely competing in the space of formats or platforms.

Perhaps while we are trying to restore some balance to this bill, we could add a requirement to put a warning label on products with access controls. Something like, “This product was intentionally broken in ways that may make it difficult to use to it’s full benefit.”

Surely the minister with the responsibility for consumer affairs and competition will want to restore balance to this bill. I don’t want to become a criminal just because I might try to access my own media.

I wish that I had bought two…

Back in September I came across what seemed like an ideal computer for my 6 year old daughter. TigerDirect was selling a netbook that seemed perfect for kids and the specs were fantastic considering that they were selling it for only $199.

When it finally showed up, it didn’t disappoint. My daughter loves it. She uses it to play games on the CBC Kids website, watch movies and listen to music. It has great battery life and the case is quite well suited for kids as it is rugged and has a unique handle for easy carrying.

We took it on our last trip. It both entertained my daughter in the car and allowed me to check my e-mail once or twice while we were on vacation. I don’t know how much she liked sharing it with me though.

Classmate PC

Touch Systems OZ-JOEY-2 Rugged Netbook – Intel Atom Atom N270 1.60GHz, 2GB DDR2, 160GB HDD, 10.1″ WSVGA, 6-Cell, Windows 7 Starter

I hadn’t heard of the Touch Systems OZ-JOEY netbook before however after looking up the part number on the Internet (E10IL2) it appears to be a re-badged ECS Classmate PC which was designed by Intel  specifically for school children.

It’s the perfect little computer for my daughter.  I only wish that I that I had bought two of them as they don’t seem to sell it anymore and Dad likes toys too.

Turning Ordinary Canadians into Criminals with Bill C-32

Most Canadians respect our laws and the spirit of the law. Most Canadians have media such as films, music and books that they have legally purchased. I believe that most Canadians would want to protect their legal right to access the media that they own and enjoy fair use of this media. Canadians need to be aware that Bill C-32 contains digital locks provisions that will make it illegal to circumvent digital locks even if your intention is to be able to use your media in what would otherwise be a perfectly legal manner. I encourage everyone to write to their MP, to Tony Clement and to James Moore to express their desire to be able to use their media fairly and without the threat of being made a criminal or of fines.

You can find e-mail addresses for all the MPs here:

Tony Clement’s e-mail addresses are:

James Moore’s e-mail addresses are:

Please write to our MPs and let them know that you don’t want ordinary Canadians being turned into criminals because of Bill C-32.

The follow is message that I sent to Tony Clement and Laurence Cannon (my MP) last Friday:


To: Tony Clement, Laurence Cannon
Subject: Turning Ordinary Canadians into Criminals with Bill C-32
Let me start by saying that I consider myself to be an ordinary Canadian.  So typical in fact that I don’t usually get worked up and I rarely make waves.  However I’m having a problem with the current state of Bill C-32 however and I feel compelled to speak up.
From what I’ve heard about the Conservative position on the long form census and the long gun registry, I would have assumed that they would jump out in front of a bus if it would prevent ordinary Canadians from ending up a criminal as a result of coercive government policy.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that Bill C-32 will do exactly that.
I, and many other ordinary Canadians such as myself, have a penchant for technology and for DIY projects.  Many of us who use media centre software such as MythTV and XBMC will likely end up as criminals as a result of the proposed digital locks provisions even though we won’t be infringing copyright.
Digital locks don’t prevent copying but they are intended to restrict media to approved platforms.   The pro-lock lobby has no desire for me to be able to watch DVDs on devices of my choosing.  Currently I have to circumvent the CSS encryption present on DVDs that I’ve legally obtained in order to watch them on my home theatre PC.  In order to put any of the songs afflicted with DRM (Digital Rights Management) that I’ve purchased through Apple using iTunes on my MP3 player, I’ve had to strip them of DRM before converting them to MP3s.  I don’t own an iPod which is the only music player that will play songs with Apples DRM.  I have to circumvent digital locks just to play my music on my non-Apple music player.
It is bad enough that companies put impediments in the way of me using media that I purchase on devices of my choosing but Bill C-32 will make me a criminal for trying to circumvent DRM in order to use it in a fair and non-infringing way.  If Bill C-32 passes and I continue watching DVDs as I have been, I will be a “DRM criminal”.  If I format shift, even if it is just to get my DRM protected songs from iTunes onto my MP3 player, I will be a “DRM criminal”.
I’m writing you to request that you do whatever is required to ensure that Bill C-32 does not pass into law with any protections against the circumvention digital locks for non-infringing purposes.  The fair use rights of citizens needs to be protected and the right to remove impediments to fair use should be protected and not criminalized.
I could go on and on on this topic.  In fact, in a fit of frustration I’ve already done this with a blog entry.  Feel free to read it if you care to.
Please. Don’t make criminals out of ordinary Canadians.
Paul Cullum
Chelsea, QC

The Fatal Flaw in Bill C-32 or The Wrong Form Senseless Copyright Act

I am a bit annoyed with what seems to be happening with respect to Bill C-32. There is an anti-circumvention provision for digital locks in this proposed act that is in many ways, as hard as it is to believe, worse than the US DMCA. In fit of frustration I have written something in the form of a letter to the editor or an op-ed. I’m not sure for which editor or for which newspaper but I needed to get some things out in the open. It may never appear in print anywhere else but I can guarantee that it will appear here.

Subject: The Fatal Flaw in Bill C-32 or The Wrong Form Senseless Copyright Act
I have an issue with Bill C-32. They ought to call it, “The Not Longed For, Not Entirely Dissimilar To The Long Gun Registry, Long Form Copyright Act”. The current title of Bill C-32, “The Copyright Modernization Act”, sounds too innocuous. The title for this bill should really, at the very least, contain the word “Long” in order to make it a little more obvious that it actually has something in common with both the long gun registry and the long form census.
You may ask, “What can they possibly have in common with Bill C-32?”.
It turns out that the most contentious part of Bill C-32 can have an effect quite similar to both refusing to register your closet full of rifles or refusing to complete a mandatory long form census. It will make criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens.
There are many things to like about Bill C-32. For the most part, it defines a balanced approach that considers both the rights of the consumer and of copyright holder. It clearly enshrines what common sense already understands to be fair use of copyrighted works. It is, except for a fatal flaw, a fair compromise between the different stakeholders.
This fatal flaw is that Bill C-32 will make it a crime to circumvent digital locks. At the moment, this is not a crime and it should remain this way. Let me be clear, there are legitimate reasons to circumvent digital locks. In fact, there are times when it is necessary to circumvent digital locks. Sometimes, in order to realize a fair use of something you have acquired that is encumbered with a digital lock, you may have to break it. In such a situation, Bill C-32 would make you a criminal even though your only crime would be to circumvent the lock.
Let me offer a couple of examples of activities that I currently do which will soon be examples of my future criminal behaviour.

  1. I watch my legally purchased DVDs on my HTPC (Home Theatre Personal Computer).
  2. I put songs I purchased through iTunes on my MP3 player.

You might wonder, “What could possibly be wrong with that?”. The problem is that I am watching the DVDs on a platform that I made and that I am listening to songs on my MP3 player and not on an iPod.

The digital locks that I’m talking about, and that most of us are afflicted with, are part of a scheme known as Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM doesn’t have anything directly to do with copy protection. What DRM is intended to do is restrict the platform you use. It is meant to take the choice away from the consumer.

Without circumventing a digital lock, most DVDs may only be played upon approved devices in approved regions. When you buy a DVD it will come with the added bonus of being encumbered by a scheme known as CSS (Content Scramble System). This ensures that you won’t be able to play that movie you bought while visiting the UK, on your sanctioned DVD player that you purchased in Ottawa. We all know that you wouldn’t want to do that. It will also be more difficult to play in your Linux based home theatre computer. Don’t worry. Usually DRM is an impediment that can be overcome and then the choice can be yours again.

Some of the first songs that I purchased from iTunes were blessed with DRM. I have a Sansa MP3 player. In order to play my songs on my device I have to first strip the DRM from the songs and convert the songs to MP3 format. Apple DRM only allows songs to be played on Apple devices or with iTunes. It is there to protect their platform and provide a beachhead against competition. You are likely to keep using iTunes and Apple if your music has to stay with Apple.

The irony is that it is easy to make exact copies of DVDs and iTunes songs without having to circumvent DRM at all. I only need to circumvent DRM in order to change platforms and use devices of my choice. You can copy encrypted data easily. You may not know what is being “protected” but you can still copy it and the copy will play quite well with an officially sanctioned device.

Write this down: GUP LV ZURQJ

Congratulations! You’ve just made a perfect copy of something that was protected. Even your copy can be decrypted by an approved device with the correct key. I will now give you the key (it is a simple Caesar cypher) so that you can decrypt your new copy as if it was the original, and you yourself were an industry approved DVD player. You’ll find that your copy is just as good as the original. Here is the key:


It is bad enough that companies make it difficult for me to enjoy content that I pay for, using my own devices. But now my own government is going to make it a crime for me to try to circumvent those impediments. This can’t be the same government that thinks it shouldn’t be a crime to not report one’s inventory of firearms. There are going to be far more ordinary Canadians who are made criminals by Bill C-32 than there could ever be as a result of the census or the gun registry. Where is the balance in this bill if it’s anti-circumvention provisions make it a crime to try to make use of media in what would otherwise be a fair and acceptable way?

DRM provides little benefit to society or consumers. Trapping media within particular delivery platforms reduces choice, decreases innovation and will make it a victim of obsolescence. What will you do with your Blue-Ray discs after the last Blue Ray player has been sold? If you can’t pick your platforms then they will be decided for you. If you can’t move your media then you will either lose access to it or you will end up buying it again. If you even can. If your library has a 100 year old book in it’s collection, you may check it out and read it. In 100 years from now you may find it difficult to read a 100 year old DRM encumbered eBook from their collection. In fact, you may have trouble reading that eBook from the library in our current time. If it becomes a crime to circumvent DRM in order to play a movie that was legally purchased then it will become more enticing to copy a pirated version of that movie which will be far easier to play. There will be less respect for the law when the law stops respecting consumers.

When Tony Clement was talking about the long form census he said, “Even if there’s one complaint, if it’s a legitimate complaint, even if there’s one complaint from a Canadian about the coercive tactics used by a government agency we have to consider that complaint a valid question about public policy.” I hope this applies to their intent to criminalize circumvention of impediments to fair use. Despite their position on the long form census I would hope that the government still values information from the public.

Regarding the title of Bill C-32. Maybe we shouldn’t use the word “Long”. Perhaps a better word is “Wrong”. They should call it “The Wrong Form Senseless Copyright Act”. What is the point of enshrining our consumer rights in law and then making it so that companies become the gatekeepers who can and will decide to never let us exercise them? In Brazil’s proposed copyright reform they actually intend to have penalties and sanctions for those who are found to be hindering fair use. That actually sounds like it makes sense. There is no need to make circumvention for non-infringing purposes illegal. No need has ever been demonstrated. Making circumvention for non-infringing purposes illegal is akin to making gun ownership and gun use illegal even if it isn’t for the purpose of committing a crime. If anything should be protected, it should be fair use and freedom above all else. There is far more public good in that. Let’s not make criminals out of ordinary Canadians, no matter how many, no matter how few. Even if it is just me.


Paul Cullum
Ordinary Canadian and Future DRM Criminal
Chelsea, QC

PS. If you have no intention of decrypting my message then I’ll provide you with the answer. DRM IS WRONG.