Digital Scribe

Writing , Technology & The Technology of Writing

Category: Technology

Downloading Dwight Yoakum

Published / by Shannon Doyle

This is part one of a series on cloud computing.  In this part I  discuss what the cloud is by comparing it to radio. In the next part I will talk about ways that writers can put some popular cloud services to work for them.

Maybe you’re too young to remember radio?  Okay that  was hyperbolic, despite my own wishful thinking, radio hasn’t yet shuffled off into oblivion.  In fact, I’ve seen stats which claim  that ninety three percent of Americans. listen to AM/FM radio.  These stats are by people who claim to know and I don’t intend to refute them.  Were  I to so intend,  I could probably  find equally compelling  stats claiming otherwise from people who claim to know differently, but who are not in the business of selling radio.

I think it is fair to say that most  of us hear radio whether we want to or not.  Radio provides the background noise in many  offices, retail stores and  bordellos across the country.  If you ever  get within seven blocks  of a construction site you hear  what radio sounds like at full volume through cheap speakers. Maybe your friend insists on having it on during the pinochle game.

If you read back you’ll  see that I said most of us hear radio  often without much choice . I intentionally did not say that most of us listen to it.  Sure, millions of people  spend portions of the day in the car en route to work  listening to car ads, political bloviating  and maybe if they are lucky that Dwight Yoakum song they love.  But, increasingly more of us are discovering that using the cloud we can skip the pundits and pushers and get right to Dwight Yoakum.

This article is not really about prevalence or perils of  radio and despite the title it’s not really about Dwight Yoakum either.  In fact, I chose radio exactly because almost everyone has  a reasonable idea of how it works.  As such it has served me well as one side of an analogy where the cloud is the other side. I Chose Dwight Yoakum for his performances in Sling Blade and Goliath, and becuase the name  fit the title well.

Before we move on to the cloud let’s torture the radio side of our analogy just a little more.

Assume that hearing Dwight Yoakum sing Fast As You  is your goal. In a radio only world you tune your radio to a station that broadcasts country music and you hope Dwight comes on when you are in your car on the way to work.  If you are feeling particularity brave one day you might even call from work and ask the station to play Dwight (and then hope you are not in the restroom when they do).

Radio is pretty simple really, but let’s simplify even further how it was  that you came to get your Yoakum groove on. Someone in a building not that far from you broadcast the song you requested using expensive machines. Because you  had your radio dial set to the proper number, you received that broadcast.  It is unlikely anyone was hurt in the process and all of this went on invisibly. Anyone who had their radio tuned to a different station or did not have the radio on, had no idea it was happening.

When it comes right down to it that mystical magic thing called the cloud is not so far removed from  radio. Think  of a cloud service as a radio station,  your computer as the radio, and your clicking on a link as your call to the DJ and you are most of the way there.  Internet radio is a great example by which to compare becuase the end result, you listening to Fast As You, is the same but you can hear it exactly  when you want and you do not have to suffer talking to a DJ. It still happens invisibly and no one gets hurt.

Even as much music as Dwight Yoakum  has turned out, I doubt a traditional radio station exists  in America which plays nothing but his songs. If one does exist but it is not close by, you can move to where it is or you are out of luck.  Using the cloud,  you can create one just for you. If you want you can share your all Dwight all the time station with others  who like him as much as you. If you don’t share it no one is the wiser.  Want to add some Lyle Lovett?  Go ahead. toss it in and add some Billy Bob Thorton while you are at it.  Meanwhile I can use the same service to  deliver Metallica, Brahms, and  Pink Floyd.

The cloud is just another name for the internet. You probably think of the internet as the thing you use to read this post, most people do.  In fact, the World Wide Web service is just one  of hundreds of cloud services. Email is another.  It is likley you use cloud services for at least some of the TV you watch.  Cloud services let you store files for your own use or to share with others. You  might converse with an old friend or make a new one using the cloud.  You might even use it to make phone calls.

Suppose you send an email to friend and attach a picture of your dog sparky doing something incredibly clever. You are taking that picture (and the message it is attached to)  and uploading it to another computer somewhere in the world.  The photo  of sparky is in the cloud.  When your friend  downloads that picture she takes it from the cloud.  Most likely she actually  takes a copy of  it from the cloud.   A cloud service (this time email)  handles all the details of getting you picture from your  computer to the  machine which hosts your email and then to your friends inbox.

Your internet radio station works much the same.  Instead of a DJ causing the song to be broadcast, a computer somewhere opens a file and sends it a little at a time directly to your computer. This process is called streaming.  Just as your friend downloads the amazing photo of Sparky you are simply  downloading Dwight Yoakum.

 

By day Shannon is a mild mannered IT technician and business owner, who’s been shepherding bytes for three decades. When Shannon isn’t at someone’s computer he’s probably taking pictures, working on his novel, writing his blogs, walking in the woods with his dog Cooper, cooking or tinkering with something. He teaches social media, blogging and technology classes at the local college. Oh and he’s the worlds oldest beginning drummer.

A Different Kind of Animal

Published / by Shannon Doyle

The first 911 email I received about the GDPR was from fellow writer Debbie Burke. I was aware of this new set of rules from the European Union,which take effect May 25th, before Debbie reached out but I hadn’t really dug in to it.  Debbie was concerned that her website where she markets her best selling book would need immediate changes to be GDPR compliant.

Debbie’s email to me was after reading  this post  by Randy Ingermanson  from his excellent blog at advancedfictionwriting.com.  Randy’s article is worth a read, he gives some excellent tips on how you can comply with the rules.  I won’t say Randy is wrong, but I think he  – like so many others who have written on  the topic – overstates the reach of the  GDPR.

Gargling with Scope

Reading the full text of the GDPR  is an  exercise I can only recommend for policy geeks  like myself or as relief from insomnia. That said there are some parts that bear out what Randy and others are saying. Consider for example  this from Article Three, titled Territorial Scope.(emphasis is mine)

  1. This Regulation applies to the processing of personal data in the context of the activities of an establishment of a controller or a processor in the Union, regardless of whether the processing takes place in the Union or not.

That paragraph and the one that follows it do say that the entity processing the data  does not have to be in the European Union. How can that be?  How  can the European Parliament pass a law that affects companies that are completely outside it’s borders?  Furthermore, how can this be enforced?

I’ll leave those questions for the pundits, politicians  and international law wonks.  I have no doubt that high-falluting  attorneys have already rolled  up the sleeves of their Brioni shirts and gotten to the business of sussing out cracks and crevices which can be used to challenge these rules for corporate clients.  Consider though that any company can say hell no to these rules; all they have to do is never process certain kinds of data from anyone who is physically in the EU at the time of the transaction.

A different animal.

The GDPR is a regulation that says in effect if you wan’t people in the EU to do business with your company, you will need to follow the GDPR rules on how you handle the data they provide.  The issue then, is how do you know they are located in the EU.  Without getting technical  let’s assume it is possible to be fairly sure a user  of your website is somewhere physically in the EU, but is fairly sure good enough?  The GDPR provides stiff fines for violations  (again we’ll leave the enforcement of those fines for the lawyers). Knowing that,  what you really need to do is refuse to let those  in the EU do business with you, or even to interact with your web site at all. You need to put up some digital equivalent of a No Irish Need Apply sign, and you need a way to enforce it.

If it seems like it might be easier to  make your web site complaint with the GDPR  than to put a bouncer in place and  hope no undesirables flash a bit of leg to get past, that’s becuase it is. The good news is  that compliance may not be that big of a lift.  The better news is that you may not have to worry about it.

A better mousetrap

To be fair to the Europeans, if all companies followed  the the provisions of these rules the internet would be a better place for everyone, not only for those in the EU.  It boils  down to an endearing  philosophy.  Keep customer data secure, inform users of any breaches,  and make the communications you use in marketing as clear as you can.

Briefly here are the provisions of the GDPR that might affect you.

  1. No Spam – This broadens the definition of what spam is to include companies you do business with.
  2. Contact Form Changes.  If you have a contact form (who doesn’t), or any others form which asks the user to enter personal data, the form must now include a box which the user will need to check stating that they agree to the terms of your site. Another box must also be provided which  the user must check if they agree to to further communications.  If you will be contacting them in multiple ways, such as via email and text there must be a box for each.  All of these check boxes must be unchecked by default.
  3. Privacy Policy – You need to have a published  policy specifying  how you will use the data you collect. This has always been a good idea, not is required.
  4. Right to be Forgotten  –   You website must have a method for EU users to request that you delete data. The privacy policy is a good place to spell this procedure out.
  5.  Data Handling – All data for customers in the EU must be stored on servers in the EU and must be stored in an encrypted  environment.  This provision might be the most difficult for many website owners becuase it could involve switching web  hosts.

Easy-Peasy

My website is built using WordPress, in fact all my websites are,  so is Debbie’s.  Your’s might be as well. If it is the news get’s even better.  WordPress made some changes to it’s software which help you deal with the data retention rules.  WordPress plugins, which make the software do things it doesn’t normally do such as web forms, have jumped on the GDPR hay wagon  too. if you are not on WordPress no reason to panic. many websites are on one of the many platforms that have done similar things to hep you have a compliant  web site.

There are web services such as this one  which help you craft a privacy policy  as well  as several good guides to help you get going including this one from techradar .  If making these changes seems to be beyond your skill set you may need to get help from whoever designed your site. I am available for this kind of work. Click the contact link here  to get in touch .

Not For Everyone

I mentioned a few hundred words ago (seems like only yesterday)  that I thought Randy over stated who is subject to these rules. I make this claim based on my thorough reading of the GDPR and other  sources such as this piece in Forbes  and  this article at newsmediaalliance.com.

The Title of the Forbes article suggests that you will need to get busy, but  a few paragraphs in it says that the company would only be subject to compliance requirements if it targets users in the EU.  A user simply browsing to your site  becuase you came up in Google  does not put you n danger of a fine according to Yaki Faitelson who wrote  that article.

The other article I linked gets into  a bit more detail as to why you may not be subject to the law.  First its it seems to back up that compliance is required.

“It is intended to cover any company, anywhere in the world, that either (1) offers “goods or services” to EU users or (2) “monitors the behavior” of EU data subjects.”;;

The paragraphs which follow this one draw the conclusion that you don’t need to worry unless you:

  1. Target people in EU member states.   Recital 23 of the GDPR it says that “mere accessibility” of a digital service from Europe is “insufficient” to confer EU jurisdiction over that service.
    OR
  2. Extensively track people in the EU.  Again casual use of your site and the placement on a cookie on the users machine is not enough.

Getting compliant with the rules of the GDPR is not that difficult and it’s a good idea, but  it may not be something you need to worry about,   That said under no circumstance should you  mistake anything I say for legal advice.

 

By day Shannon is a mild mannered IT technician and business owner, who’s been shepherding bytes for three decades. When Shannon isn’t at someone’s computer he’s probably taking pictures, working on his novel, writing his blogs, walking in the woods with his dog Cooper, cooking or tinkering with something. He teaches social media, blogging and technology classes at the local college. Oh and he’s the worlds oldest beginning drummer.

Cooper and The Creative Commons.

Published / by Shannon Doyle / 1 Comment on Cooper and The Creative Commons.

Meet Cooper

Wet Yellow Lab head shot

Cooper, is a pretty typical lab, meaning he’s lazy unless there’s a walk to be taken or interesting  work to be done. He loves everybody, is loyal to a fault and we haven’t yet discovered what he is a afraid of. Like most labs, he loves the water and is a strong swimmer He’s the kind of dog that might very well save a life. But, unless he is living a secret life he never has.

Why then is Cooper, who lives in Montana full time, credited on the web site of this radio station and on this national news site  for the rescue of a drowning swimmer in South Carolina?  Actually the story properly credits a Hilton Head area yellow lab named Woody with the heroics;  way to go Woody!  But why is it a picture of my dog that accompanies the story?

I take a lot of pictures, of …. well of a lot of things, including Cooper, who is very photogenic. Some months ago I uploaded a few of my pictures – including the one shown of Cooper – to the picture sharing site pixabay.com   This site allows people to download the pictures, which contributors like me share, free of charge and applies a Creative Commons license. I’ll talk more about Creative  Commons later and in other posts , but for now suffice it to say it means  the usage of my image by those news sites as well as that by others  – which include iheartdog.com (he’s is number three), a dog care salon and others, including one Spanish language article about dog care – was perfectly legal.

What if it hadn’t been legal use?

I can’t tell you the number of times i have encountered web designers or writers who think they can just  steal a photo that someone else created.  Yep, I said steal, because that is what they are doing, and I said  created. Or, maybe you thought that picture just happened?  After all anyone can make a picture, right?

Sure, almost anyone can point a phone or camera at something and push the button, then again almost anyone can put words on the page too.  That photo is no less an accident than your latest chapter. You find that  photo appealing enough to use on your cover largely for the same reason the reader finds the opening of your novel intriguing enough to continue to chapter two.  Yes, it might have taken the photographer less time to make the picture than it takes you to write the blog post you want to use it on, but that’s doesn’t make it any less important.

Imagine you are reading a best selling novel and realize the author stole chapter one from you. Even if the lawsuit isn’t a nice payday for you, the bad publicity probably won’t be helpful to the writers career. People might turn a critical eye toward finding what else is stolen.  How is that any different than a person using a picture that doesn’t belong to them on the cover?   But, what if it’s not a best selling novel? What if it’s a blog or the web page for a hardware store?  How would you even know it  was used?

Meet Google image search

It wasn’t by accident that I found out about the radio station, the dog salon or any of the other web sites which are using Cooper’s head shot. After I noticed that the image had been downloaded 148 times from Pixabay, I deliberately went looking. Thanks to Google image search I was able to  do it quicker than Cooper can devour a treat.

Google image quickly search searches the web for images that match your’s and it is so easy to use even a photographer can do it.

First the caveats

1) As far as I can find this is only available in Google’s Chrome web browser which makes sense. This isn’t much of a caveat since you should be using Chrome anyway.

2)  The only real trick is that you’ll need to get the image someplace where you can open it in a web browser. The simplest way would be to upload the file to your Google Drive or other cloud drive.

Right click menu in the Chrome web browser
Chrome’s image right click menu

Once you have the image loaded into your web browser here are the steps:

1) Right click on the image (CTRL-click on a Mac)
2) Choose Search Google for Image fro the popup menu.

That’s it!

Chrome will open a page of search results and include any sites that have used that image.  A clip from the page for my picture of Cooper is shown here.

Partial results from image search.
Search Results

All but one of the four images I shared on pixabay.com had been used at least once.

by the wayt there are several tools which can check to see if your written work  has been stolen.  I will cover these is a later post.

Meet  The Creative Commons

Earlier in this post I  said that the usage of my photos by others was legal. This is becuase Pixabay  makes any images shared using their service available for others to download and use, according to the Creative Commons (CC) license.

I have already burned your eyeballs enough  on this post so I’ll leave a full unwinding of the Creative Commons for another article.  Think of it as Philosophy that creative work should be shared according to the terms of the creator.  There are a number of licensing levels within the Creative Commons, each defines a different set of rights the end user has to the work.  In the case of  my photo of Copper the license that applied was Creative Commons zero (CC0)  which is  the most open,  CC0  says the picture   can be used personally of commercially and that no attribution is required.

There are many web services which allow you to buy images either one at a time or on an all you can take subscription service.  Depending on where you plan to use the work you may need to make sure that you are allowed  commercial use.  The standard is that images are royalty free, meaning you pay once for the rights. If it is free images that you are after, besides Pixabay there are a number of sites that offer free images. I mean free, not free to download, or free for non commercial use but true free.

However you go about getting images for your web site or writing project make sure you know what rights  you are getting to the image.  Just becuase an image is not marked as copyrighted doesn’t mean it isn’t. Just as written work is copyrighted as soon as it is put on paper, images are copyrighted as soon as they are processed, which in today’s digital world means as as soon as you press the button  If you can’t find what the copyright allows, consider a different image. Also even when the site does not require an attribution, see if you can find out who took the picture and  give them  a photo credit or a link to their site.  Pixabay tells you the username of the person and allows you to buy that person a coffee. Alas, although my images have been downloaded over 200 times I have yet to have received any coffee.

I don’t have recourse against any of those who used the  photo of Cooper, nor would I want it.  However, had any of these sites ‘just used’ any of the many photos I have shared on other services such as Facebook or gurushots, I would have the right to take legal action.  Thanks to Google image search finding out is easy.

Note: I have asked those who used my photo for a  photo credit and / or a link back to my site, according to the terms of the CC0 license they are under no obligation to do this and as of this writing none have responded.

 

 

By day Shannon is a mild mannered IT technician and business owner, who’s been shepherding bytes for three decades. When Shannon isn’t at someone’s computer he’s probably taking pictures, working on his novel, writing his blogs, walking in the woods with his dog Cooper, cooking or tinkering with something. He teaches social media, blogging and technology classes at the local college. Oh and he’s the worlds oldest beginning drummer.