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* Posts by Dave Bell

1686 posts • joined 14 Sep 2007

Windows 7 settles as Windows XP use finally starts to slip … a bit

Dave Bell
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Re: "hard core of folks"

As I recall, there was an option when I upgraded to Win7 to choose an older-style UI. It was mostly the design of UI elements.

I'm inclined to think XP has hung on because of the rather trivial changes of this sort. Touch-screens do at least give a reason for a change. But if you're still using a mouse it's fair to ask why the hell they make some of the UI changes they do. There were some huge changes to the underlying structure. They do need some changes to use them new features. But how often do you use them. Some buttons, some menu entries, we use every day. And one day they seem to vanish.

It scares people.

(An example of a significant improvement which needn't change the UI is the way the TCP/IP stack behaves under load. In WinXP that could seriously slow the whole computer. In Win 7, on the exact same hardware, stuff keeps working at a usable speed, But look at how some browsers have hidden the existence of the long-established Windows menu system. It slows me down, and I switch fairly easily between a Wondows box and a Linux box,)

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What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?

Dave Bell
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Clearly, it has to be done right.

I am not going to exclude the possibility of a filing cabinet with the printed list as back-up, but a reliable database on this scale isn't a problem that has never been solved before.

I haven't found any recent figures, but a couple of million legal guns in the UK is about right.

With multiple driving licences, a neighbour has ordinary car, motorcycle, and HGV licences, it doesn't surprise me that there may be over 60 million driving licences to keep track of. And 35 million vehicles.

Computerisation of the records looks a relatively small job. Plenty that might go wrong, but not even close to pushing the envelope.

Those are the sorts of number that Randall Munroe might use. And name-and-address info for every gun could plausibly be fitted onto one HDD, though that might be pushing it.

It's much harder to steal a filing cabinet.

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'I think photographers get TOO MUCH copyright for their work'

Dave Bell
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There are some strong arguments that current copyright terms are over-extended. And different term rules for different media add to the confusion. Music recordings had a copyright life of fifty years, and one Beatles record did drop out of copyright before a change in the law took effect. But how many records from 1963 does anyone care about? (And the copyright on the music and lyrics is different.)

It's complicated.

And how many of these copyright extensions benefit the creators rather than some undying corporate entity?

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Love XKCD? Love science? You'll love a book about science from Randall Munroe

Dave Bell
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Which award was accepted on his behalf by Cory Doctorow in XKCD cosplay.

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Ninja Pirate Zombie Vampires versus Chuck Norris and the Space Marines

Dave Bell
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Military Alternatives

There are a huge number of alternatives to the human militaries you list.

And some not-human alternatives...

The Light Company of the South Essex Regiment, under the command of Richard Sharpe.

A Landing Force detachment of the Rain Island Army Union, with air support from the Naval Syndicate.

Any battalion of the British Expeditionary Force, August 1914

Or, if you really want to be nasty, any battalion of the same army, from the Western Front in August 1918.

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Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?

Dave Bell
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People can be silly

Not every site is equal, and people can do the silliest things when picking pieces to build houses.

For example, the sewage from one village is pumped, under pressure, over a couple of hills to a neighbouring village's sewage works. A developer applied for planning permission on some land in the valley, saying that all that was needed was a simple connection to this pressurised pipe.

In the same area, the council granted planning permission for housing development on a site that was on noticeably lower ground than the sewage works. See also "flood plains".

So people will do the silliest things. And the people who decide planning applications can be just as silly. But zero controls look pretty reckless. And some of the ways in which development is distributed are questionable. It looks as though new housing is often distributed in strict proportion to existing housing, without regard to local availability of either employment or services.

The system is flawed, but can we throw away all controls to leave it to the market? The whole idea of the market assumes honesty and rational behaviour, yet we know that assumption is questionable.

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Raspberry Pi B+: PHWOAR, get a load of those pins

Dave Bell
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Re: Bus powered HDD - bump up the USB current then!

If you have a power-hungry USB drive, check the drive connector. If it's Mini-USB it likely came with a Y-cable having two A-connectors, one power only. You can use a seperate USB-power wart, or two connectors in a proper USB hub. These cables are cheap from the usual net-sources.

Powering this sort of kit is one the the reasons I bought a Pimoroni PiHub.

I bought that product when it was reviewed here, and it fully lives up to the recommendation. There's a lot of expensive crap out there. If your USB-hub is running warm, it's a bad sign. This one delivers the power, and stays cool.

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Sin COS to tan Windows? Chinese operating system to debut in autumn – report

Dave Bell
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Re: Good luck with that

If it's in every Chinese government office, what apps does it really need beyond an office suite and a web browser? They'll need Chinese Language support, and it might end up as yet another open office fork, but the idea they cannot produce a viable alternative Windows rather suggests we're all in trouble. And China does seem to do well with long-term projects. They don't seem to care about satisfying Harvard Business School graduates.

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Six of the best gaming keyboard and mouse combos

Dave Bell
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Re: citóg

I'm right-handed, but an accident of history led me to mousing left-handed, and that's what I still do.

(It was an obscure all-in-one computer that ejected 5.25 floppies from the right side, clashing with conventional mouse use.)

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Brit Sci-Fi author Alastair Reynolds says MS Word 'drives me to distraction'

Dave Bell
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Re: So they force him to use Word hmm?

People such as Charles Stross and Alistair Reynolds work with publishers. They know what they are talking about. They write stuff that is good enough to win Awards.

I think you underestimate how much Word gets used as a format. Mr. Stross has written a lot on how the process works, and I don't think you're far wrong on why it gets used. Most of the cost of producing a novel from a manuscript is in the editing, and Word is the de facto standard. Microsoft have been destroying the alternatives in the word-processing market, and nobbling the process that sets standards, and there isn't a practical alternative for what the publishers have to do.

Yes, it is possible to change file format. but if you go back and forth between Word and ODT a few times, what information about the document have you lost?

(There is, incidentally, a standard manuscript format which, within the limits of an ordinary typewriter, encodes a few format changes, such a bold and italic.)

If you just want the WYSIWYG, download Open Office or Libre Office.

Scrivener looks like a good choice for writing long texts. I use it a lot now.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that our schooling is focused on writing short, stereotyped, texts in response to exam questions. What was the longest thing you wrote at school? How many of us, when a novel today is typically 100,000 words, can judge the ability of a program to handle such a work?

Have you even tried NaNoWriMo?

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The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal

Dave Bell
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I had the fond belief that, most of the time, the law required intent. There are a few exceptions, such as child porn (and porn cases in general are full of Police crap). With all the malware and other virus-like downloads going on, even apparently from Microsoft, it's hard to be sure who decided what about a particular file on a user's computer.

And these PR departments seem to be optimised to feed stories to less-than-competent journalists who don't have the wit to ask awkward questions but are just capable of acting as another unit in the internet of things that connects the Police to a printing press. Abd it's not just the Police.

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Cracking copyright law: How a simian selfie stunt could make a monkey out of Wikipedia

Dave Bell
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It used to be that one of the ways of settling the ownership argument, in Britain, was to ask who owned the film. It's a fairly sensible rule for some kinds of dispute, such as a press photographer who wants to take some pictures on his day off. But the technology has changed. Has the law caught up?

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BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes

Dave Bell
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Re: It wouldn't be so bad...

Oh, it's a re-run of the football cock-up? That nearly killed ITV, as I recall, with the football on digital TV.

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The Register Monopoly Pubcrawl Mobile Map: VODAFONE VICTOR in LONDON

Dave Bell
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I was in London last weekend, and the O2 Network worked well, But I wasn't anywhere near the places you picked. There's a lot of London where stuff happens that isn't on the Monopoly Board. There's not of the Docklands tested, for one.

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SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk

Dave Bell
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Boffin

Spaceflight with rockets is always going to be dangerous and expensive.

Skylon

It costs less than policitians.

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Need a green traffic light all the way home? Easy with insecure street signals, say researchers

Dave Bell
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Re: Why the different standards?

Also, they can use fasteners which need a specific "secure" tool to unfasten. Like all those secure fasteners used to hold together electical gadgets.

Just go read the story again and watch how many times "default passwords" are mentioned, and left un-changed when the system is installed, and so can be used by a hacker. It's possible that manufacturers have assumed the system operators would not be stupid: this is more a stupidity problem than a standards problem.

Not that the standards in the industry are all that wonderful...

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Hello, police, El Reg here. Are we a bunch of terrorists now?

Dave Bell
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Re: imaginary friends in the sky

There I was in a bar with the Astronomer Royal and a Jesuit Vatican Astronomer, looking at the latest pictures of an asteroid, and we agreed that humans were good at picking out patterns and seeing things that didn't really exist, and part of that was asking "Why?" A lot of that is science. But many of the details of the universe have to be the way they are just so something like us can be here to see it. In a sense, the universe exists just so that we can exist.

"It's ineffable." I said.

We all nodded and ordered another round. Why do you think philosophers have a reputation for drinking a lot?

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Dave Bell
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Re: Two girls and a cup

The word "execution" suggests suggests a legal process, which isn't apparent, and it's been used in both cases. But I can understand the death of Nguyen Van Lem. This current video is something very different: I can understand why watching it might be part of a pattern, but it's also a clear record of a crime. Can we really say that anyone who watches it is a terrorist? How many investigators does that line make a terrorist?

And sure the Met understand why intent matters?

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UK mobile coverage is BETTER than EVER, networks tell Ofcom

Dave Bell
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Based on my own experience and observations, I have a suspicion that coverage maps are based on old data, though maybe current with transmitter locations, but the networks haven't noticed that trees don't need planning permission to grow.

Dead spots have appeared in places where trees are generally taller than they were a decade ago

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Microsoft: Just what the world needs – a $25 Nokia dumbphone

Dave Bell
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Re: An Old Fogey Speaks

Yes.

And no.

Computers have been around long enough that some old people have had the chance to use them for a long time. Other old people have not.

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Dave Bell
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Re: Cheap enough

I go my comfortable earphones at Tesco. They came with a choice of those plastic plug things, and the smallest is what I need. The earphones that came with my current phone don't offer that choice. Trouble is, they include a microphone for if you want to make a call.

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Gov.uk's broadband boast: Superfast fibre piped to 1 million Brits

Dave Bell
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ISP matters more than fibre

The OpenReach vans are down the street installing the new cabinet. That will reduce the non-fibre part of my internet connect to tell that a quarter of what it was.

I am not quite sure whether I need it. I switched ISP a few months ago. Some hardware at the exchange must have changed: I am getting three times the usable speed, and it hardly drops at peak time. My old ISP did a good job for a long time, but their service quality plummeted as streaming video struck.

All I can say is, ask anyone trying to sell you an internet connection what they are doing about IPv6. If they don't know what it is, if they don't have a plan. forget 'em. If they don't have a plan, if they're still supplying routers to customers which cannot handle IPv6, they're incompetent.

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World's only flyable WWII Lancaster bombers meet in Lincs

Dave Bell
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Re: Love that noise

Yep, seriously horrible weather moved into Lincolnshire from Cambridgeshire and the BBMF had to cancel flying. It was very severe rain in Cambridgeshire.

I think I might have seen Vera in the distance if the visibility hadn't been lousy.

You have to find the local news page for Lincolnshire to see any mention by the BBC. I haven't even seen a mention of the flash flooding except as local news. If it's not in London, it never happened...

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NASA tests crazytech flying saucer thruster, could reach Mars in days

Dave Bell
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Cold Fusion, at the time of the first claims, attracted some substantial research budgets. The potential pay-off was so high.

This is in some of the same territory.

Cold Fusion was given a good chance. There are potential pay-offs on this too, though it might not be powerful enough a thruster for station-keeping on a satellite. But the fuel supply is a limit on satellite lifetime.

This thruster will get a good chance. Results need replicating. That's all part of good science.

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Pentagon hacker McKinnon can't visit sick dad for fear of extradition

Dave Bell
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Re: Drive a few miles south...

Customs of Scotland do check you when you leave Scotland, to ensure you have the required amount of whisky, haggis, and porridge. If you don't, they force a White Heather Club DVD on you.

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Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more

Dave Bell
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We pay Hachette for their good judgement

The traditional publisher and the author do a lot of work together that ends up giving us a better book. I am not sure that Amazon deserves a similar share for the work it does to deliver an ebook.

Hachette, and all the other traditional publishers. know they are taking risks, and giving us a better text, filtering the drivel-storm, is something they have to do to limit their risk.

Amazon doesn't do any filtering with the Kindle Direct model, and, believe me, you can see it. All you have to do is buy a few cheap ebooks and you will see it. There is a filter that comes from forcing the author to deal with the US tax system. but that's no effort for them.

It's a waste of my time to try to sell my writing through Amazon. I get better filtering from giving my stories away on fan-fiction sites. The Kindle is a nice enough tool, and Amazon run a decent, wide-ranging, internet retail operation, but no way are they a publishing company.

Dare I post a link, even a weird one? What's the point? The problem is finding stories that you like. I think that Google might matter more to authors than Amazon ever can.

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LOHAN's stirring motto: Ad Astra Tabernamque

Dave Bell
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A Bicycle Built for Brew

Poul Anderson wrote the seminal beer-in-space story, published in 1958.

A Bicycle Built for Brew

It was his collaborator Gordy Dickson who wrote the seminal bear-in-space stories. Don't confuse them.

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Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins

Dave Bell
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A Prediction

You seem to be covering everything.

My prediction: you'll see this math in a proprietary video streaming service using UDP packets.

(I don't think it is tech yet. One of those little boxes plugged into your TV, something new, rather than replacing a huge installed base, that's when it will be tech.)

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Say goodbye to the noughties: Yesterday’s hi-fi biz is BUSTED, bro

Dave Bell
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Re: hi-res audio bullshit

Valve or solid state, the problem when they're in the mass-market is poor design, and some elements of that aren't the same as cheap design. And since the speakers add far more bad things than a good amplifier does, that's the place that rewards careful thought.

Some things, like soundbars, can be an easy upgrade. The speakers built into a TV can, for various reasons, be not very good. There are better answers. Much better.

There's a bit too much fashion in some of the stuff people are swooning over, there always has been.There's a place for a Bluetooth connection, but some things sound more than a little silly. It's fashion.

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Dave Bell
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Re: The benefit of being slightly tone deaf?

I'm inclined to agree, though I put my limits down to age and Massey-Ferguson. But a decent amp and speakers makes a difference I can still hear, and that is what matters. I don't want to throw money at the problems without thinking, but I can hear the difference spending a few quid more on the speakers can make.

Some of the stuff they're selling these days is a rip-off. Like everything, the bottom end of the price range has to be almost zero-cost to cover the sales and distribution cost and leave a profit. I'd like some of my money to be spent on my ears.

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UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

Dave Bell
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Re: Hasty ?? @ Titus Technophobe

The whole thing is looking a bit odd, but I'll concede the need for some legislation. I'm not lawyer enough to be sure whether RIPA provides any real protection for anyone. I don't have much confidence in the current government and their intentions. If there's a way to screw us, they'll use it.

But I do know you're missing one thing. This law will operate until 2016, and then it stops working. That's a good idea for this sort of emergency law. That doesn't mean we have to live with it until then. The next parliament could replace it before then, no legal problem at all. We need to watch they don't amend away the sunset clause, but whoever wins the election could start work on the long-term replacement as soon as they take over. And I hope we elect a government that is willing to listen to us, as well as the Americans.

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Beer in SPAAAACE! London Pride soars to 28,000m

Dave Bell
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Re: Legonaut!?!?

I hope that your trusty Playmonaut is now demanding unionisation?

He'll only fly if he isn't charged.

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TalkTalk talks itself into trouble with budget broadband package fibs

Dave Bell
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I used to be a Talk-Talk customer.

I came to doubt their competence. In the last year or so of my time with them, while there was no throttling, is was clear that their total provision was inadequate. When everybody was home, data-rates delivered were derisory.

I switched to another ISP. The physical line suddenly delivered twice the capacity, and maintains that with real data delivered (There are small variations with time of day, but they are small). With the Rural Broadband rollout looming, I'm now not sure I will need it, but I am much more confident that the speed increase possible, on the local loop, will be matched by the ISP's network.

The Stock Market seems to like Tiscali. They don't seem to care whether an ISP actually delivers. They're just hunting short-term profit, and that has become the business Tiscali is in.

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Doctor Who season eight scripts leak online

Dave Bell
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There's something odd about the whole story. The staffer whose name is on the scripts which leaked night have been dropped in it by the people on the IT side. This might have been a how a script was passed on to a translator, in the past, without any problems. Why was it different this time?

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Dave Bell
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Re: It's for kids

You might be surprised how complicated some of the "for kids" stuff can be. In a culture where anyone under 18 is classed, in significant ways, as still a child, such sneers are misleading. How much drama even tried to deal with the issues of loss and aging which permeate a Doctor Who story such as "The Girl Who Waited"?

Yet you say it is "just for kids".

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Google de-listing of BBC article 'broke UK and Euro public interest laws' - So WHY do it?

Dave Bell
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It does seem odd that Google doesn't tell the BBC the relevant name, but that comes down to the reputation of the site. Some news sites have, for a long time, removed problematic comments, leaving a placeholder marker. And if a news site did that, shouldn't the commenter ask the news site first?

But if you might trust the BBC enough to talk to them first, that isn't a universal. What do you do about 4chan?

I'll venture that, when this settles down, reputable news sites might take down comments. But there will be a lot where your only chance is Google. And rich and poor alike will be prohibited from sleeping under the bridges of Paris.

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Royal Navy parks 470 double-decker buses on Queen Elizabeth

Dave Bell
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Re: I name this ship White Elephant.....

Carries sonar, carries anti-sub helicopters, carries a 4.5-inch gun, and some will carry Harpoon (why not all?), so it's not that useless. It's optimised for air-defence, and could end up with Tomahawk as well, but it does look as though paying for the carriers has compromised the outfitting of the Type 45 ships.

The carriers aren't quite tail wagging the dog, but add the plan for new Trident subs, and you wonder if the Admirals and Politicians are trying to compensate for certain anatomical defects.

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Booze in SPAAAACE! Brit rocket boffin preps bold stratobeer mission

Dave Bell
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It sounds as though Chris has his own copy of "Ignition" by John D. Clark.

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We need to talk about SPEAKERS: Sorry, 'audiophiles', only IT will break the sound barrier

Dave Bell
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Re: Bamboo pickup arm

My reaction to what you say is to suggest that what matters here is the distortion introduced by the loudspeaker. We can throw away frequency information—with my ears you can throw away a lot—but there are other elements in the signal, and the designers don't look at the whole picture. Loudspeakers are the place with the big distortions, and the fixes are the low-hanging fruit of audio technology.

My late father, who had terrible hearing, did get something from digital surround sound. It helped him distinguish the background sound from the speech. And sometimes the sound of footsteps had a direction which mattered, and which he could hear.

That just needed an amplifier and a bunch of ordinary speakers. but it was timing information that plain old stereo systems lose.

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NSA man says agency can track you through POWER LINES

Dave Bell
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It's possible that a battery-power device could pick up radiated mains hum from the surroundings, but blocking such interference is part of designing professional recording equipment, things like using a balanced line microphone lead.

But what will your digital recording module do to these very low strength signals that do get through the screening?

It may be that the Police still record on cassette tapes because they know it doesn't lose that background signal. And so they can give a court an assurance. Their recorded evidence can be tested with tests that are known to the court system. But how much does the digital recording technology already used by the news media fit in with those tests?

If I were a future Edward Snowden, I'd be worried more about whether the compressor program had been hacked. Can you trust the companies which make the hardware? Have we already forgotten the Sony BMG copy protection rootkit scandal?

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Microsoft's anti-malware crusade knackers '4 MILLION' No-IP users

Dave Bell
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There are things we don't know, like just what Microsoft was saying and doing before they went to court, and why US law-enforcement doesn't seem to be involved.

Also, proving something technical to the satisfaction of the judge could be a safeguard, but what does the judge know about computers in general?

We have a rather one-sided story here. I suspect from the article, though I am not sure, that I used to use this service. The example domain names are suggestive, but the operation I used cut off a whole bunch of cheap services. and since I didn't need that sort of service I didn't switch.

There's too many unknowns here.

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New research: Flash is DEAD. Yet resistance isn't futile - it's key

Dave Bell
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There have been similar Great White Hopes in the past. Not all have worked out.

I shall believe this when I see it in Lidl.

Well, maybe that is an exaggeration.

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BBC offers briefest of teasers for the next Doctor Who

Dave Bell
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That's more of August pinned down: World Science Fiction Convention, sleep, and wake in time for Doctor Who ( nearly a dead cert for a Hugo Award this year)

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We got behind the wheel of a Tesla S electric car. We didn't hate it

Dave Bell
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Re: Google maps? Really?

I've come across stories of real-time data effectively warning of such things as Police speed traps because of their effects on traffic flow.

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Dave Bell
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Re: A quick couple of points ...

There are two rival measures. It's either fuel/distance or distance/fuel, and we're used to miles per gallon.

Using the inverse, and plotting against vehicle weight, gives a straight-line graph. Getting that straight line needs a bit of clever math to get the best fit. but it's a simple end result. You can't get that simple result from miles per gallon.

I think the alternative used in Europe is liters per hundred kilometers. We buy our petrol in liters now, and if I wanted to figure out how much petrol I needed, calling 100km 60 miles would be near enough, with a margin. Since we don't buy petrol in gallons any more, and we don't measure distances in km, either way it's more complicated than it needs to be.

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Dave Bell
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All the practical reviews of electric, even the sometimes risible Top Gear report of a couple of years ago, seem to agree that recharging is the big problem. They made a joke out of Clarkson and Co. hanging around in Lincoln while the battery recharged, but it's a real problem.

Around 15 years ago there was some of the same problem with LPG, a cleaner alternative to petrol and diesel. It had already been around as an alternative for a long time, but getting filled up needed a bit of planning ahead.

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BBC: Bumpkins, hobbits need fairer coverage

Dave Bell
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Most people living in the countryside work in towns.

If I have a job in the countryside I might be working with a machine that is worth more than the house I live in, and spends most of the year in a shed.

I do get usable broadband, but the mobile coverage around here is getting patchy. I suspect the phone companies don't know that trees grow, and they are bigger than they were when the coverage was calculated.

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BOFH: You can take our lives, but you'll never take OUR MACROS

Dave Bell
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I would venture that the bean-counter knows about as much about computer programming as the BOFH and PFY know about bookkeeping.

A spreadsheet is pretty close to a physical accounts book in appearance, It's not a dreadful general-purpose tool. But it's limited in scale. I wouldn't use Excel, but a spreadsheet for storing data such as the details of a video collection should work.

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27 Data-Slurping Facts BuzzFeed Doesn't Want You To Know!

Dave Bell
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Re: What's the problem?

I am inclining to the view that Amazon are a little crazy. After all, they're trying not to sell me books.

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EU copyright chief: We could SMASH these infinite copyright contracts... just wait

Dave Bell
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Re: How about some background?

That sort of distinction certainly used to exist in the UK. If you were a photographer was held by who owned the film. Not a perfect rule, but a simple enough distinction between a newspaper employee and a member of the public. In the age of digital cameras, the difference is less clear.

What matters most of the time is the licensing of the copyright. Why should a social media site need to own the copyright? All they need is a license to use the material?

Some of the stuff, on both sides of the arguments, seems to come from lawyers who know very little of what the technology does.

And at least some of these claims struggle to be consistent with statute law.

The details vary, but the same things keep on happening about different material. The US requirement to register copyright to get any protection ended in the 1970, but you still see cases of companies claiming your work isn't protected, (US registration adds to the protection: for one thing, it proves a date for the work)

And the "(c)" doesn't work. Use "©".

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