Archive for August, 2007

Passing remote web data to attachment_fu

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

This week I have been mostly discovering what a wonderful Rails plugin attachment_fu is for handling image uploads. You just hand it the contents of an upload field on a form, and it takes care of everything else – checking that it’s a valid image, working out its file type, choosing a sensible filename for it, resizing it appropriately, and sticking the resulting image file into either the filesystem, the database, or Amazon S3.

That last feature has been particularly handy on Demozoo, which is currently hosted in borrowed space on a server that doesn’t really have 100-odd megabytes of free space for demo screenshots. However, attachment_fu comes a bit unstuck when you’re dealing with files that don’t come from a form upload – for instance, in my case I’m planning to have a scheduled task that leeches new productions and their screenshots from Pouët, and I’d quite like to take advantage of the Imagemagick-and-S3 goodness that attachment_fu brings. A bit of digging around was in order.
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“best not publish your work on the internet, someone might steal it”

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

In 2005, record producer Timbaland found a piece of music by young Finnish musician Janne Suni on the internet, took it without permission to use in his own work, made a lot of money out of it, and shrugged it off with a sarcastic comment when confronted about it. This hasn’t been covered by BBC News yet.

In 2007, adult DVD producer TVX Films found a picture by young British photographer Lara Jade Coton on the internet, took it without permission to use as the cover of one of their DVDs, made a lot of money out of it, and shrugged it off with a sarcastic comment when confronted about it. This was covered on BBC News yesterday, in a report that concluded with the reporter saying something to the effect of “The case is still ongoing, but for now this underlines the dangers of posting pictures on the internet.”

No. It. Damn. Well. Doesn’t.

Clearly, when putting a photograph or any other personal information online people need to consider the possibility of it falling into the wrong hands and being spread further than intended, but “what if some thieving scum come along and illegally repurpose it in a way that I don’t approve of” should not have to be part of those considerations. Ms Coton did nothing irresponsible in posting that photo. It wasn’t pornographic in any way – it was an elegant, professionally made shot. Good enough to be put on the cover of a DVD, in fact. Definitely not something she should regret putting her name to on the internet.

So what does that BBC reporter think she should have done? Just stuck to taking photos of bunnies and flowers? Or better, just stayed in and watched MTV? This is what copyright law is for, guys. You use someone’s work without permission, and you get your ass handed to you in court – as I sincerely hope will happen in both these cases. Don’t try to paint it as if the original artist did anything wrong by publishing that work for free on the internet… the suggestion that they should curb their artistic expression, just because there are a bunch of law breakers freeloading off it, is just offensive.

Demozoo

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

I’m back from Assembly Summer 2007, where I launched my long-promised demoscene database site Demozoo to not very much fanfare at all. It’s been in development on and off for at least two years – I ambitiously chose it as my ‘hello world’ project to learn Ruby On Rails with, subsequently aborted and restarted it about seven times over as I learned more and more Right Ways To Do Things, and eventually reached the stage of hacking on Rails internals to make it do what I wanted (most significantly the Nested has_many_through patch/plugin, which lets you achieve simple and yet bizarrely normally-impossible relationships like ‘all productions made by members of this group’).

The initial reception of the site has been mixed; there have been excited noises from people who have immediately seen its potential, and it’s already been useful for filling in those ‘dammit, what group is he in again’ memory lapses at the pub (as well as a cunning way to startle Smash on AssemblyTV, by introducing him as “Smash of jecoute” rather than his rather more well-known role in Fairlight). It’s also attracted some (not entirely unfair) comments that it’s basically a very unfinished clone of Pouët, to which I have three replies:

  • Yes. Deadlines, party coding etc, mumble mumble, not enough time to add much data at all besides Pouët / add whizzy features other than the minimum necessary to make it work. *shuffles feet*
  • Yes. But the massively important and really subtle difference is that it can handle individual people’s nicknames properly, even where they’re duplicated all over the place. (And that’s what’s taken two years to get right, pretty much.) For example, there are at least three people on the scene who go by the name of Simon and at least two groups called CPU, but if you enter a production by “Simon / CPU” then it knows exactly who you mean. And once you’ve got individual authors in the database, you can start indexing graphics and music. And if you don’t have to pick authors from a dropdown every single time, it becomes viable to enter a whole heap of complete party results in one sitting. Which will happen, soon.
  • Yes. How about I stop trying to justify its existence right now, and work on it some more until it speaks for itself?

I like answer number 3 best.

Assembly Summer 2007

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

Assembly Summer 2007 – the beer garden mountain has gone, but the demoparty rages on in Helsinki