Remarks to Merkel’s video podcast

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 at 14:47 | Posted in computer, Germany, internet, it, technology | 14 Comments

I happened to see the latest video podcast of the German chancellor Angela Merkel. Her manuscript is also available as a pdf file. Which brings me to my first remark.

Why on earth would somebody publish a text in the web as a pdf file? The file format is only motivated when communicating with a printing house where the exact layout of a document is crucial. That is not the case with most texts published in the web and certainly not with the chancellor’s speech, unless she suggests that the form of it is more important than what she has to say.

As a web user I have to download the document and open it with a separate software. It is particulary odd that elementary user accessibility is so thoughtlessly ignored as the chancellor is actually speaking about high IT in context of an IT top meeting that the German government is organizing in Potsdam-Babelsberg. How could you trust on somebody’s competence in the area if they do not even know how to publish text in HTML format in the web?

Who would you say is the inventor of the computer? There is obviously no easy answer to the question, just as no particular person can be credited for inventing radio, television or cure for Alzheimer’s (which is yet to be invented). Nevertheless, the chancellor is bold enough to claim the honor of inventing the computer to Germans. I wonder if her speech writers were thinking of Wilhelm Schickard who constructed a mechanical calculating device as early as 1623.

Ms Merkel mentions several usages for computers and modern cell phones, including that it is possible to hook up to the Internet with them and even watch her video podcast. She does nevertheless not suggest that watching TV or listening to the radio would be one of the prime usages for these devices. Then why is it that her government is imposing a public broadcasting fee for computers to take effect in less than two weeks?

According to the chancellor, several work shops and brain trusts are already processing ideas for the IT top meeting. Among the ideas is inventing a brand new search engine:

Und wir werden eine neue Suchmaschine entwickeln, damit auch Deutschland hier besser an die Spitze kommt.

Challenging Google is ambitious indeed. One wonders, though, if the real purpose of reinventing the wheel would not be to produce a search engine that would automatically censor off all critical web contents. So far German courts and business men like Andreas Kodsi have failed to impose censorship on Google’s search results.

The chancellor is unhappy that many of the high tech products that are being bought in Germany have been produced in USA and a number of Asian countries. Would that by any chance be because it is cheaper to produce them elsewhere? It is positive per se that Ms Merkel announced allocation of six billion additional euros for research and development within IT field. But her remark in that context makes one wonder:

Aber das reicht natürlich nicht, sondern wir müssen in den einzelnen Bereichen dafür sorgen, dass auch die rechtlichen Bedingungen so stimmig sind, dass Nutzer und Entwickler, dass Politiker und diejenigen, die ein Interesse an neuen Produkten haben, die richtigen Rahmenbedingungen vorfinden.

Surely, the chancellor is not referring to German made computers with preinstalled government trojans and other spyware which would make it so much easier for the government to surveil the usage of computers and cell phones under pretence of fighting terrorism? Then again, she might be thinking of precisely that.



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  1. “her government is imposing a public broadcasting fee for computers” – I am not absolutely sure, but I think that it is the Ministerpräsidentenkonferenz who is responsible.

  2. I am using the word “government” in a broader context. It does not exactly matter which branch of the government adopted the formal decision. The premiers of provinces could possibly not have made it in case the federal government had expressed their opposition.

    Most of the provincial premiers are members of one or the other of the two coalition parties of the federal government. Hiding behind the backs of the premiers is of course a comfortable approach for the chancellor and her cabinet colleagues since they are not formally responsible. The concept of political responsibility does not always fit exactly with formal judicial responsibility.

  3. Just why do I think her speech is just another bit of hot air without much content? I can’t really think of a reason for my impression 😉

  4. Just why did I not come to the idea of writing my remarks as you did instead of putting up a lengthy post? Can’t really think of a difference between your one sentence and my output. 😉

  5. Well, I’m probably more tired than you.

  6. Maybe, for the time being but it is bound to change soon. 🙂

  7. For members of GFW it’s not allowed to watch Merkel’s podcast ;-). It’s awful!

  8. I plead not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity. Since I am totally recovered by now, there is no reason to sentence me to mental care. I am also not likely to commit the same crime again. At tops, I might download her video or audio file as a software experiment (without watching) an edit it into a funnycast. 😛

  9. Okay, I’m looking forward to it.

  10. Congratulation, Thomas! Your comment above is number 750 in this blog. 🙂

  11. Oh, you’re doing a funnycast? Don’t forget to create a RSS feed for iPod compatible files. I’ll then get them into my iTunes.

  12. I am not quite there as yet. Right now I am testing different video and audio editing software to get the grip of it. I’ll load up occasional practice files to YouTube and my own server as a side product.

    I also need to replace my microphone, just in case I am going to record something of my own to go with it. But you’ll get to know when the time gets there and I’ll figure out how to compose the feed.

  13. Oh, I feel honored to be 750th.

  14. Congratulation again! And Heil Blogosphere! 😉

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