If there was ever a piece of news to frustrate the Internet community, it was this one.

Hulu, the site which broadcast TV shows and movies for free using advertising to support itself, appears to be getting ready to start charging for content. Apparently – “It’s time to start getting paid for broadcast content online” (the iTunes store seems to have been ignored in that quote). The service which so many praised for finally getting things right is about to turn away from its audience. Seems like perfect timing for me to let out my huge frustration with everything that’s currently wrong in the copyrighted and complicated world of the internet and copyright. I mean, as an Australian, I wasn’t even allowed to watch Hulu anyway.

Me and illegal downloads
As most people know, I’m a pretty moral guy. Despite being an IT student and having the ability to illegally download movies, music, software and games from the internet for free like so many others, I pay for them. I’ve refused free cracked copies of software despite not being able to afford it any other way. I like to do the right thing.

The iTunes Store
One of Hulu’s competing services which actually charges for content, the iTunes music store, definitely doesn’t make it easy to do the right thing. Whilst I download my music from iTunes and find it to be quite a good service, the DRM (digital rights management) protection they place on my downloads just treats the customer who is doing the right thing as a criminal who can’t be trusted. It places a limit on the number of computers you can have the file on, the number of copies you can make of it onto CD and so on. Upon getting a new hard drive for my PC and installing Windows again from scratch, I had to reinstall iTunes and transfer over my songs. Rather than making it easy, I was forced to authorise this “new” computer. Once again, I was the criminal who could not be trusted. How dare I try to play music I have bought legally on a new version of Windows! Sure, it wasn’t that difficult to authorise the PC, but why is it even necessary? Why should I have to prove myself every time I want to play music on a new PC?

When you can’t buy content even when you want to
Copyright issues on iTunes have even prevented me from purchasing content I willingly was going to pay for. When Channel Ten went from announcing the return of Supernatural to removing it from their schedule indefinitely 5 days later, I decided to see if I could purchase it elsewhere. Channel Ten had already put the show on hold for weeks without notice last season, so I really didn’t want to have to put up with this all over again.

Americans could watch the new season for free on CWTV but of course, due to copyright restrictions, Australians aren’t allowed to watch. Sure, I could trick the site into thinking I’m in America, but for now I have decided not to go down that path due to the whole being moral thing.

I then saw a link to download it on the iTunes store. Perfect! Or so I thought. Upon clicking the link and finding the episodes I wanted to see, I tried to log in. Rather than getting the chance to download it, I was told my account could only be used in the Australian iTunes store and was redirected back to the Australian iTunes store (felt more like I was kicked out as there was no option to stay where I was). I then searched for Supernatural in the Australian iTunes store but had no luck (of course).

I then googled to find out if I could get an account with the American iTunes store. Apparently not without having to enter in some false information, purchasing an American iTunes gift card from overseas and slightly breaching the iTunes Terms of Service.

Exclusive rights?
So even when I’m eager to pay to view these episodes, I’m not allowed just so Channel Ten can wait until they can gain the most from their exclusive rights to the show. Whilst so many around the world are enjoying the new season of Supernatural (including many in Australia illegally), I’m having to wait due to my morals and the decisions of television networks. In a digital age, do Channel Ten really have the exclusive? When so many Australians will have watched it on the Internet, where is the motivation to watch on commercial television? Sure, there are those like Hamish and Andy, who mentioned on their show that they’d illegally download these things but just don’t know how (they mention pirating stuff after the Pizza Hut bit in that link) but even those who don’t know how to find it usually know someone who do. It’s no longer an exclusive. That was exactly the point of networks “fasttracking” TV shows to show them at the same time in the US. That was a great system but I haven’t noticed Channel Ten doing it anymore.

Should I just watch it and pay later?
The simple solution I’ve heard to all this is to watch it online “illegally” now and then buy the DVD later. I’d get to watch it and keep up with the rest of the Supernatural fans and the team still get the money from the DVD sales. I’ve known people to do this and whilst not technically legal, really shouldn’t be that much of a crime? Though to be honest, people shouldn’t have to go to all this trouble. If people are downloading your shows for free, there is one simple solution – find a way to make money from people watching your shows for free. Get them to watch these shows for free from you, rather than from someone else.

The solution
Already when networks like Channel Ten show repeats of shows online, they make sure to put advertising in between. Surely it wouldn’t be so hard to broadcast shows online to a global audience and target advertising to suit each region. The only issue in all this is getting the television production studio rights to all of this content. I’d assume it would be nearly impossible – iTunes still can’t do this globally despite requiring users to pay for their content.

What logical reason is there for regional restrictions? Why doesn’t globalisation apply to television? Why not have one single release date for a show globally? Is it solely because the networks are holding onto giving traditional TV networks around the world first chance at broadcasting? If so, shouldn’t you take this chance away if they don’t use it effectively?

In summary
If people can’t see the shows they’re looking to see (e.g. Supernatural) and are turning to the internet, then the traditional TV networks in Australia are obviously failing in their job to deliver this content when people want it.

If moral people like me turn to the Internet and still can’t legally acquire the shows they want (whether for free or not), then television production studios are failing to pick up where these traditional TV networks are failing.

Is the point of copyright law to make things so difficult with restrictions? Or is it to ensure the author gets their fair share for uses of their work?

In the end, I’ve gone without seeing these new episodes of Supernatural with no idea when Channel Ten plans on actually broadcasting them (likely to be next year) despite the fact I could easily watch them if I found it illegally right now. Why be moral when every effort to do so seems to discourage it? How much longer will people like me be patient enough to wait and put up with it all to change?

After all my frustrations with Windows Vista on my laptop, I jumped on the opportunity to get a free copy of Windows 7 from MSDN:AA. While most of the most frustrating issues I had with Vista were because of third party programs (e.g. the ASUS stuff that came default on the laptop, ZoneAlarm and Firefox not playing nice with each other in Vista), there were some frustrations with Vista too.

I thought I’d list my favourite things about Windows 7 first, then move onto the dislikes.

Things I like about Windows 7

  • Can change the colour of the taskbar and windows whilst keeping the Aero look – Whilst this isn’t a big thing to some, for me this was really irritating in Vista. The Aero look was great, but from what I remember, you had a choice between black and black. In Windows 7, you can adjust the colour to whatever you’d like whilst keeping that look. You can even adjust transparency to full so you don’t need a colour and the background comes through (looks quite nice like that in my opinion!).
  • Desktop background rotation in themes – Whilst this was possible through third party apps, I don’t think it was possible on Vista without them. In Windows 7, you can have various background images on rotation. Themes which have come with Windows 7 even have sets of high quality images pre packaged. Once again, this might not be something people care too much about but for me, aesthetics is a huge thing on a PC I’ll be using all day.
  • Shutdown button on start menu again – The one thing which really annoyed me about Windows Vista was the shutdown button was on a separate menu (you had to click an arrow and then choose it). This led to me clicking whatever was below shutdown on the menu quite often (I think it was sleep, which my laptop didn’t do very well). This drove me insane. In Windows 7, it’s back to common sense with the button on the start menu again. Note: Upon googling this, you can apparently fix the Vista button to have shutdown on the start menu (http://www.vista4beginners.com/shut-down-button-start-menu). If only I’d googled it before! Though it’s a tad annoying for a default setting to be completely against how users expect it to be. How’d that pass usability testing?
  • Nice transparency effect on Alt-Tab – Windows 7 does a nice effect where it hides other windows whilst you are Alt-Tabbing (seems to only do it sometimes though?). I liked it and thought it was a nice touch.
  • Windows Media Center looks pretty cool – I liked it in Vista but in Windows 7 it has another nice look to it.
  • Feels more stable – It could just be my imagination but my laptop actually feels like it’s running better and has less issues.
  • ASUS and ZoneAlarm issues gone – In Vista, much of the time when my laptop started I couldn’t click in the middle of the screen without putting my volume up/down (to bring up the volume animation in the center). This was an ASUS thing (from what I could tell) which irritated me but I could never find out exactly what was doing it. Thanks to installing Windows 7, all those programs aren’t installed any more and I could install the ASUS programs I wanted. The middle of the screen issue is now gone. The Firefox and ZoneAlarm issue is gone too (used to crash Firefox quite often), but that’s because I’ve installed PC Tools Firewall Plus instead. I don’t think ZoneAlarm is compatible with Windows 7 yet. So in the end, changing to Windows 7 was like a formatting of all the junk preinstalled on my PC by ASUS and the ZoneAlarm/Firefox issue was a bonus which I guess Microsoft can take credit for if they want.

Things I dislike about Windows 7

  • I couldn’t upgrade directly from Vista Home Premium – My laptop had Vista Home Premium, whilst I was installing Windows 7 Professional. Apparently you can’t upgrade directly, you’ve got to install on top of it. So all your installed programs are no longer installed… etc as you get a new registry and new user folder (could copy your documents and such if you really wanted). This worked in my favour a bit in terms of fixing issues with programs I had installed as it was like a formatting of my hard drive without actually losing all my data. It did force me to have to backup everything just in case and didn’t really tell me that my files would be okay – I got the impression everything was going to be formatted. My files were all still there after the install but the Windows folder and Users folder were placed in a Windows.old folder (convenient I guess).
  • XP mode not out yet – Yeah, so i’m being a bit impatient here… but the XP mode for Windows 7 (let’s you run programs which would otherwise not work in Windows 7) isn’t released yet. It’s being released with the official release of Windows 7 from what I read. I’m eagerly awaiting it so I can see if I can run Flash MX 2004 on Windows 7 (doesn’t work right on Vista, ruining my hopes of doing Flash work easily on my laptop).
  • Weird issue with my wireless encryption – For some reason my wireless’s encryption wouldn’t let me connect using Windows 7. I had to change my wireless router’s settings and security before it would let me on. The old settings worked fine in Windows Vista and even on Ubuntu and my brother’s PSP, just not Windows 7.
  • How do you shorten Windows 7’s name? – With Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME (ew.), XP, Vista, you could generally refer to them with one word (e.g. “I’m using XP”). With Windows 7, it feels kinda wrong? “I’m using 7” just sounds too short and weird. Needs one extra syllable I think. Everyone seems to refer to it as “Windows 7” which sounds way too formal.
  • Took about 30 minutes to try to shut down then BSOD appeared – Only happened once but was enough to irritate me and hope it never happens again. I’d tried to shut it down but it struggled on the “shutting down” screen. Took about 30 minutes, then blue screened. How do you fail shutting down a PC? Hope it doesn’t happen again.
  • Decides to install updates on shutting down without asking – In XP, it gives you an option to shut down with/without installing updates. In Windows 7, it decides to install them without asking. Apparently Microsoft decided we were all not to be trusted with this choice. Not a good thing for a uni student who needs to shut down his laptop quickly after a lecture is finished. Or for a laptop which is about to run out of battery. After a quick rush to shut down my laptop due to it having pretty much no battery left, Windows 7 decided that it needed to install updates before shutting down (whilst telling you not to shut down the power in the process). I had to run to a power point and plug it in just to ensure my PC didn’t damage itself.

Things I’m still unsure about

  • The new taskbar – Well, it hasn’t grown on me yet. It groups items on the taskbar by program and has a separate popup for each individual window selection. It seems to add to the clicks needed to switch windows and often made me forget I had things open (similar to when I’m using a Mac). It is kinda cool though, that might just be because it’s something new. I did like the Windows Media Player button which shows play/pause/stop functionality when you hover over the icon though. Definitely some possibilities there.
  • UPDATE: After changing the Windows 7 taskbar to separate each window away from the default application groupings and display labels again (like it looks in XP) I’ve found it to be really useful! It still has the additional Windows 7 functionality, just without the grouping which was getting a little irritating to me.

Overall verdict: So far, Windows 7 hasn’t really bugged me much at all. As soon as I got wireless working I was pretty happy. The two shutdown issues were definitely irritating at the time but have only happened once each. The aesthetics look pretty great (which are a huge part of my judgement of an OS as I’m sure you can tell). I’m quite happy with the level of customisation that is inbuilt. Really looking forward to seeing how XP mode works.

I’d give Windows 7 about a 9/10 so far. In comparison to Vista (6/10) and XP (9.8/10). A perfectly working XP mode would possibly be enough to push the rating up to about a 9.5.

Finally, after quite a while of not actually having a website – I have created and put up my own PatrickCatanzariti.com website for all to see!

It’s still in a relative draft, there’s heaps I’d like to fix up/expand on but sadly don’t have the time just yet. The site will serve as a testing ground for new ideas and such that I want to try, so hopefully it’ll slowly improve as time goes on. The blog here will be my little spot where I can give out my thoughts to whoever wants to read them.

Anyway, have a look around and try not to break anything 🙂