2017-07-13 Thu


As a Programmer I have lived with issues of Copyright for over fifty years. My early days were spent with others in an arena where all code was shared. It would put today’s “Open Source” to shame, if only because we made no noise about it.

When we Shaved a few Microseconds off a little routine, we told everyone about it. I well remember telling people how I had managed to fit eighty-one characters of data onto an Eighty-Column Punched Card (using what would later become known as the Buffer-Overflow effect), and how two of us reduced a two-card Bootstrap Loader to a single card by judicious use of the MCS instruction on the IBM 1401.

Ah! Those were the days.

The Mainframe, Proprietary Computer Manufacturers guarded their source code with vigor. We weren’t allowed to see their compilers or interpreters until Nova(?) broke the damn some time before 1982. In that year I was asked to modify a BASIC interpreter.

Writing my own applications for the PC-compatible machines saw me password-protecting my code until about the year 2000, and by then I had to come to terms with knowing that so much of my application code depended on contributions from other programmers through the world wide web, that it was immoral of me to hide my code from their eyes.

So. To a meeting in the Toronto Public Library the other day, a meeting not of librarians, I add, but of regular Joes like me.

Photocopies of the contents of a book were handed around for study, and one member remarked “But you’re not copying them for resale, so it doesn’t violate copyright, does it”.

Which reminded me yet again of the childlikeness of us all. The statement above was a thinly disguised child-parent encounter, with the small child seeking god-like parental assurance that the child could go ahead with some known-to-be-bad behaviour.

The sad truth is that when we make a copy of a book to avoid buying a copy, then we are depriving the author of the income that author otherwise have earned.

There remains, of course, the legitimate “copying for personal use”, and I see no problem with photographing a copy of a page of a book and emailing that page to a friend or colleague saying “You might like this book”.

And libraries have come to terms with authors – although I suspect the authors have not got a good deal out of it.

Toronto – The World-Class Clown

Christopher Greaves Home_IMG_20170704_075550984.jpg

A regular feature in the Toronto Star is a column titled “The Fixer”, but do not be misled by the column’s title.

Nothing gets fixed, really.

Toronto is a city that is the acme of The Patch.

Something broken? We’ll put an Orange Cone over it.

Something cracked? We’ll Spray-Paint it with Red Day-Glo.

A hole somewhere? We’ll send someone out to look at it. (Not “We’ll send out one of our Gravel-and-Asphalt Utility crews).

The way to fix these problems is to institute a Method At City Hall, but don’t hold your breath.

When a contract is awarded, the terms of contract should include a clause that withholds ten percent of the gross payment until digital photos are emailed in, showing a pristine site.

No piles of lumber.

No strands of yellow Do Not Cross dangling from trees.

Kerbs in place.

Detailed shots of the sidewalk tiling proving that there are no cracked tiles.

No Rubber Tyre Marks.

No Orange Cones.

No Piles of Gravel.

You get the idea.

And one in every ten contracts sees a City crew go out to check that the site really is pristine, and that the images have not been selected carefully to present a false view.

They find a false view, you lose that 10% that was withheld. It goes to pay the City crews who will finish your contract for you.

No Wait! There’s More!!

If you fail to complete the project on time, on budget, and in pristine fashion, your Contract-Rating is multiplied by 0.9. That means that your score in the next contract competition is reduced by ten percent. And it stays there until you can earn back the rating by tendering for, and winning a contract, and bringing it in not on, but under budget.

I’m tired of reading Jack Lakey’s columns.