Brussels, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Gigón (2006-02-24 to 2006-03-04)
The following day I gave two speeches at FOSDEM: one about software patents (because the EU is considering yet another directive which would authorize them, see ffii.org), and one about GPL version 3. After that speech, someone asked an interesting question: What if party A makes a machine that will only execute binaries released and signed by party B? Would this escape from our anti-tivoization requirements?
I had to study the question afterward, and the answer seems to be that major companies would not try such a thing without having a contract between them, and that contract would make the joint activity a clear violation of the GPL.
The following day I flew to Bilbao, and since I arrived at 11pm, I had to take a taxi to San Sebastian, an hour away. (Such extravagance makes me feel strange, but that is what my hosts advised me to do.) Once I arrived, there was no place to get any food, even a snack; all I had for dinner was a little chocolate. The next morning I gave a speech about free software, and my host drove me to Bilbao, where I stayed with my friend Txipi.
It was Txipi who, a couple of years ago, gave me a record of Basque ballads (Hiru Truku). Several of them are fascinating as music, and one of them, Aldaztorrean, also intrigued me for its story. I could read the Spanish translation provided with the record, but it was written in a style that left important things unsaid, and I could not really make sense of it. I had a long discussion with Txipi to try to interpret it. He had the second record in the series, and we listened to it, but none of them grabbed me. I guess they used the best tunes for the first record.
The next day I traveled by bus to Asturias, one of the last regions of Spain I have never spent time in. I had made two brief visits (a couple of hours) to the edges of Asturias to see the mountains, which are beautiful and snow-capped, but I had never actually stayed there. This time I visited the University of Oviedo, but not in Oviedo; this was the campus in Gijón, a distinction I did not grasp until it was time for me to get on the bus.
In fact, I never saw Oviedo, which is the principal city of Asturias. But I did have time for a luscious visit to the mountains, including a most unusual lookout point (the Mirador de Fito) at the top of a stair to nowhere, and Covadonga, reported to be the place where Christians first held off the Moors in the 8th century. Christians seem to make quite a fuss about the place now. Although I don't look at this from a Christian perspective, I found the waterfall issuing from a cave in a cliff and pouring into a lake carved out of rock intensely moving. People inclined to project their feelings into whatever triggers them would probably say that the place itself is powerful. I wonder if pagans worshiped there before Christians did.
On the way to the mountains, we ate a marvelous lunch in a restaurant which had on the menu "Chorizo de Leon", which could mean "lion sausage" but actually means sausage from Leon. The menu also listed "tigres" (which were mussel shells filled with a creamy mixture including the mussel meat and other things, then breaded). I asked the waiter for chorizo de tigre, but they had none. Tigers are endangered these days, and cannot be hunted.
A pleasant surprise about visiting Gijón was that there is a museum of bagpipes, which shows bagpipes from many different countries, and not just in Europe. Since European bagpipes were made from goatskins until a few centuries ago, the names for "bagpipe" in most European languages are derived from the word for "goat". The Spanish word "gaida" is derived from an old Germanic word "gait", which was probably brought in by the barbarians that conquered Spain in the 5th century. That word meant "goat", and I suspect it's cognate with English "goat". I got two copies of the book that describes their collection, one for me and one for Tania (since she is a bagpipe fan also).
The museum gives visitors the opportunity to play an "electronic bagpipe". This is a tube in the shape of a bagpipe-chanter, with switches instead of sound holes, and it controls a synthesizer. It was easy for me to play, given my recorder experience, far far easier than a real bagpipe, to the point that I wondered whether it was really honest to compare them. This instrument was developed by the region's star musician, Hevia.
My hosts gave me several records of bagpipe music, one of which I like fairly well, and one of which I haven't heard yet because I left it in a car in Italy. But the most important one was the Hevia record. It's important because I had to refuse it. It was a Corrupt Disk, with Digital Restrictions Management, and presumably impossible to copy. As soon as I saw this, I gave it back to my hosts, and asked them to take it back to the store, so that the record company could not keep their money. I would have been glad to listen to Hevia's music, but not on a Corrupt Disk.
A "CD" that I cannot copy is of no use to me. I always travel with a bunch of records so that I can offer my hosts the chance to listen. A year ago, when my backpack was stolen, I learned to bring only copies, not originals. If I can't copy a CD, I can't travel with it, so I don't want it.
But there is more than convenience at stake here. DRM attacks our freedom, and it attacks free software (since free software cannot access such media). Therefore, as a matter of principle, I reject all DRM media. I won't buy them, or even accept them as gifts. Please join me in a total rejection of DRM.