One Aging Geek

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Wired: EFF Publishes Patent Hit List

Winnowing a field of nearly 200 questionable patents, the Electronic Frontier Foundation decides to challenge 10 of what the group considers to be the most dubious and abused technology patents. By Daniel Terdiman. [Wired]

Ed Foster: The Can-Spy Act?

Oh, oh. In case you haven't noticed, there's a very familiar pattern to current legislative activity regarding anti-spyware laws. It's very reminiscent of where Congress was last year at this time on anti-spam legislation, and that ultimately led to the disastrous Can Spam Act. Are we soon to see the enactment of the "Yes, You Can Spy Act" as well?

The parallels with the situation that created the Can Spam Act are downright scary. Just as there was an all too justifiable hue-and-cry last year about spam, the politicians are now keenly feeling the need to do something about the spyware plague. The states are passing strong laws that might actually be effective, a trend that marketing and technology lobbyists are telling Congress is a bad, bad thing that requires pre-emption by federal law. And while everyone agrees that the things the worst offenders are doing are already highly illegal, for some reason our national lawmakers think the answer is to concentrate enforcement powers in an already overwhelmed Federal Trade Commission.


[Ed Foster's Radio Weblog]

OK, ok. I'm not really in favor of the death penalty for writing spyware.

How I (Finally?) Beat Spyware

How I (Finally?) Beat Spyware

I think I've finally solved the spyware infestation on my PC, at least for now. While sometimes feel like I've beaten the topic of spyware to death in the last month and a half or so, this nasty stuff has beaten the living daylights out of me. I have lost untold hours, no ... make that days in the effort to remove spyware from my primary Windows computer. Through it all, this has been a frustrating task. Every time I thought I had the nasty intruders beat, they came back, as if to say 'Nyah Ha!'

This is pretty interesting to me because I just quashed my own infestation of spyware. My wife recently switched from using Netscape to IE and within a couple of weeks her computer was a mess.

The worst offender was something that Ad-Aware called VX.BetterInternet. This little ... gem ... was always marked as in-use by Windows so Ad-Aware couldn't nuke it. And to top that it always had itself set up in the registry keys that cause a rename on reboot (stuff intended for use in software installers), so Ad-Aware's ability to take out a program at boot time was dodged. A co-worker sent me an ininstaller specifically for VX.BetterInternet from it's maker. The uninstaller is apparently only available if you threaten legal action or otherwise get in the author's face. One of VX.BetterInternet's functions was to download other spyware and hijackers. With it gone her computer is much better. And she's now using Mozilla.

SpyBot S&D was oblivious to VX.BetterInternet and Ad-Aware was toothless against it's tricks. I ran a trial copy of SpySweeper and it seemed to get rid of it, after that Ad-Aware didn't see it anyway. But it came back within 24 hours, just after I signed up for a two year subscription on SpySweeper.

Russ Lipton: Visual Blogs

I would ordinarily take it as a bad sign that blogging is now becoming the subject of academic study. Deconstructive death by analysis is a bore.

Still, this compendium might just add some light as well as noise. I learned something from Visual Blogs that might find its way into my own weblog.

[Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days]

Something more for me to read.

Jon's Radio: It's not the J in Java Virtual Machine that matters, it's the VM

During the June 18 Gillmor Gang show, I asked Hummer Winblad's Mitchell Kertzman about open source business models. Kertzman said 1 that the key factor, from his perspective, is the way in which the open source stack frees commercial software companies from the burden of "dragging around an expensive platform." He also questioned the need 2 for the JVM, citing two reasons. First, that Java's portability has become a non-issue now that there are only two platforms that matter: .NET and Linux. Second, that the rise of XML Web services has given a boost to the text-savvy scripting languages: Perl/Python/PHP, the "P" in LAMP.

[Jon's Radio]

This post by Jon Udell is interesting in two ways. One interesting thing is the subject of the post. If the VM is the platform will Microsoft become irrelevant? I think they will but haven't been able to latch on to why I think that. I think that with Longhorn Microsoft is doing the equivalent of making a better buggy whip just as automobiles are coming of age.

The other thing interesting is the "MP3 clipping service" that Jon has built. Worked perfectly for me on a Windows platform (yes, I do see the irony there). The service allows him to link to a specific clip within an MP3 stream. When I clicked on the "said" link above I got to hear the exact section of the MP3. Block quoting for MP3. Very cool. - Krugman: Case study in how not to run a country

THE formal occupation of Iraq came to an ignominious end Monday, with a furtive ceremony, held two days early to foil insurgent attacks, and a swift airborne exit for the chief administrator. In reality, the occupation will continue under another name, most likely until a hostile Iraqi populace demands that we leave. But it's already worth asking why things went so wrong.

The Iraq venture may have been doomed from the start — but we'll never know for sure because the Bush administration made such a mess of the occupation. Future historians will view it as a case study in how not to run a country.

Monday, June 28, 2004 The GMail craze ...

(The link in this post will expire in 7 days, it was emailed to me by a friend with a paid subscription)


So is Gmail worth the hype? We haven't used our accounts enough yet to say, though we do like some of the features quite a bit, such as the threaded conversations. We do wonder what to do with all this darn space. And so little spam! The controversial ads haven't been a problem yet, and the privacy concerns seem to have died down. So if Gmail is a Ripken, perhaps it's Cal instead of Bill. Either way, by the time folks make up their minds, Google's brilliantly viral scheme may have signed up half the free world.


It's always interesting to see the stuff that people think is unique or new in GMail. I've seen:

  • Single key keyboard shortcuts; my favorite Unix email client has had these for about 15 years and it's not unique in that
  • "threaded" conversations (really just grouping by subject); virtually every email program ever invented has this but it's not the default
  • Lack of spam; Well, duh. Every new email account enjoys a lack of spam. For a while.
  • Huge space; 1GB isn't all that much of a such. I'm about 1/8th full after a couple of months. My SBC-Yahoo DSL account recently raised the email limit to 2GB for the account and 100MB for each subaccount. Free Yahoo accounts have been raised to 100MB. Disk space is cheap, about $0.50/GB in retail quantities. Surely much cheaper in the quantities Google buys.
To me the cleverest thing GMail did was make it limited access and then let users invite their friends. The article refers to this as viral marketing. The ICQ program was probably the first widespread viral marketing success. The twist with GMail is that they can "throttle" the virus by controlling who and how often a user can invite friends.

There's a funny article on the net from Jeremy Zawodny about using all this free email space as archive storage. Just convert your files to email attachments and mail 'em to yourself. He predicts there will be a utility written soon to do that for you and present it as a virtual filesystem. Cute but not really likely, imo. And I don' t think JWZ is really serious.

I've got (as soon as I install my father's day present) >300GB of hard drive space with >100GB filled. Even writable DVDs at ~5GB a pop aren't big enough for backups.

A couple of gigs on someone else's server with no guarantee they won't just delete the files just isn't worth the trouble. Factor in the limits in size on a single email and the hassles of converting to and from email attachments... [update: fixed an annoying typo, changed article link to not show the whole url]

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Crimes of Others Wrecked Enron, Ex-Chief Says

HOUSTON, June 22 - There was a time when Kenneth L. Lay's close relationship with President Bush brought him power and influence in Washington that was virtually unparalleled among his colleagues in corporate America.

Now, Mr. Lay, the former chairman and chief executive of Enron, fears those ties may only serve to bring him criminal charges.

``If anything, being friends with the Bush family, including the President, has made my situation more difficult,'' Mr. Lay said in a recent interview, ``because it's probably a tougher decision not to indict me than to indict me.'' For more than two years, he has been the nation's silent pariah.

Now, on the eve of what may be the government's final decision on whether to charge him with a crime, Mr. Lay is talking for the first time about the company's collapse in 2001 and the scandal that enveloped it. In more than six hours of interviews with The New York Times, Mr. Lay remained steadfast in his expressions of innocence, even as he acknowledged, as head of the company, accountability for the debacle rests rightfully with him. ``I take full responsibility for what happened at Enron,'' said Mr. Lay, 62. ``But saying that, I know in my mind that I did nothing criminal.''

[update] Shortened URL text so it doesn't lap out of column. - High court puts curb on homeowners groups' power

High court puts curb on homeowners groups' power


The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Harris County homeowners association lacked the authority to increase assessments beyond limits imposed in deed restrictions or to foreclose on homes because of unpaid late fees. The decision in a case brought by the late Houston activist Geneva Kirk Brooks affirms important principles of homeowners' rights, said David Kahne, Brooks' lawyer. And it lays the groundwork for new efforts to change state laws that govern how homeowners groups can enforce rules and collect fines and fees, Kahne said.

About time some reasonable curbs were placed on these groups!!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Freedom to Tinker: RIAA Blowing Smoke About INDUCE Act

Today's New York Times runs a brief story by Matt Richtel and Tom Zeller, Jr. on the growing criticism of Sen. Hatch's INDUCE Act (now given a less bizarre name, and a new acronym, IICA).

Sellers of clearly legitimate products, such as those in telecom and electronics industries, argue that the bill is too broad.

The RIAA shoots back with this:

But Mitch Bainwol, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America, a recording industry lobbying group, said the legislation was meant to be narrowly tailored to address companies that build technology focused on illegal file sharing.

The RIAA is just wrong here. There is nothing in the bill that limits it to companies. There is nothing that limits it to technology. There is nothing that limits it to file sharing. Any of those limits could have been written into the bill -- but they weren't. The language of the bill is deliberately broad, and it appears to be deliberately vague as well.

Advocates of the Act have said little if anything to justify its breadth. This will be a key issue in the debate over the bill, if any serious debate is allowed to occur.

[Freedom to Tinker]

Dead on. You can't count on good intentions to limit the scope of a bad law.

bOING bOING: Ernest Miller savages Orrin Hatch's grotesque new law

Ernest Miller has posted a line-by-line, "obsessively detailed" critique of Orrin Hatch's introduction to the dumbfuck, nation-destroying new INDUCE Act, which makes it a crime to "induce infringement."
Such beliefs seem common among distributors of so-called peer-to-peer filesharing (“P2P”) software. ["So-called," indeed. Hatch isn't about define what P2P software is because it would end up including things like e-mail, IM, VoIP, HTTP and plenty of other internet protocols. P2P is how much of the internet works.] These programs are used mostly by children and college students – about half of their users are children. [You can say the same things about videogames, as well as other popular technologies like IM and SMS. It is frequently the case that the younger generation adopts new technologies sooner than older users.] Users of these programs routinely violate criminal laws relating to copyright infringement and pornography distribution. [You can say the same thing about plenty of internet protocols, such as HTTP, FTP, SMTP, and so on.] Criminal law defines “inducement” as “that which leads or tempts to the commission of crime.” [Luckily, not every temptation is a crime or there would be more people in jail than free.] Some P2P software appears to be the definition of criminal inducement captured in computer code. [Software is a tool. This is the same as saying that bolt-cutters and crowbars are inducements to burglary.]
Link (Thanks, Ernest!) [Boing Boing]

On the must read list

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

An Island to Oneself

Just finished reading this. Fascinating account of a guy who spent several years in three stretches living by himself on a Pacific atoll. Not something that'd suit me but a good read.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

SpaceShipOne blog, part 6: snapshots

Ground crew member Alan Radecki has posted his photos from the SS1 launch on his blog, here. Boing Boing pal Todd Lappin says, "I love this one (at left). It seems to capture so much of the backyard spirit of the adventure."

Reader eecue also photoblogged the scene at Mojave airport, and that's here. Plenty of news coverage and blog ruminations out there about today's launch -- the first-ever private manned space flight -- but this snip from a CNN story struck me as memorable:

[Scaled Composites co-founder Burt] Rutan mingled, talked and directed traffic with those who spent the night on the windy Mojave Desert floor across from the airstrip Sunday night. He saved one sign as a memento of the occasion: "SpaceShipOne; GovernmentZero".
Link, and link to previous BoingBoing post. [Boing Boing]
"SpaceShipOne; GovernmentZero" [chortle], love it!

komo news | A One In A Million Photo

Marc Laidlaw of Redmond was out taking photographs of last Thursday night's thunderstorm from just behind his sliding glass door on the back of his Eastside home. He got about three great lighting shots, but the fourth one might have been more than he bargained for.

I have two co-workers who had lightning strike next to their house. The effect on electrical and electronic belongings is ... shall we say "beyond normal wear and tear". Many insurance claims ensue. Justices Overturn Patients' Rights Law

The Supreme Court struck down a Texas patients' rights law by a vote of 9 to 0 in a ruling that bars all states from letting patients sue managed-care companies whose refusal to pay for treatment allegedly results in death or injury. By Charles Lane. [ - Nation]

Bites. The accountants are in charge. Again.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Hiding Behind Certification - Making I.T. Work - CIO Magazine Jun 15,2004

PROFESSIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES have twice required me to become an 'instant expert' on certification. The first time involved grasping the byzantine ins and outs of health-care plan accreditation. The second time required understanding the politics (and economics) of how different universities granted diplomas and certificates for their business, technical and professional extension courses. I learned far more than I bargained for.


That's why I've been struck by the seemingly pathological need so many CIOs have for the certification of skills and accreditation of organizational performance. I find this craving misguided and pathetic. What does it really say when someone is Microsoft certified? Or has a certificate in "network engineering" from a quality university? Or if a development organization has a Capability Maturity Model Level 3 rating? Or is ISO 9000 compliant?

Picked this up from my old buddy, Miles. Good article.

IT Conversations: Clayton Christensen - Capturing the Upside

Every company needs to grow, and innovation is the ticket to sustainable and profitable growth. What decisions can managers take to increase their probability of successfully building innovation-driven growth businesses? Many are convinced that it is impossible to predict with confidence whether an innovation will succeed, so they feel they need to place a number of bets with the hope that some will be winners. Others believe that the best way to create new growth businesses is to meticulously search for detailed quantitative data to identify opportunities and develop a rigorous plan to attack those opportunities. But many times conclusive data is only available after the game has already been won. Professor Clayton M. Christensen of the Harvard Business School has another way. He suggests using theory. A theory is a statement of what causes what and why. Whether managers know it or not, they are voracious consumers of theory. Every action a manager takes, every plan a manager makes is based on some belief of cause and effect.

Listened to Professor Christensen's talk the other day. He's an excellent speaker and has a fascinating insight on how innovation happens. I'm going to have to hunt down copies of his two books.

bOING bOING: Free textbooks for Cisco training

A Cisco networking instructor got sick of Cisco price-gouging his students for textbooks so he wrote his own and is giving away the electronic edition and selling the print edition through Lulu for $20 -- and he gets $5 for every copy sold. Link (Thanks, Jon!) [Boing Boing]
And no, I'm not just reflecting everything posted at bOING bOING. Really. Mostly.

bOING bOING: Tunneling ssh over DNS

Dan Kaminski, the Jedi master of packet-level hacking, has figured out how to tunnel ssh over DNS, a stupendously weird and cool feat. Ever been at an airport or coffee shop with WiFi that redirects you over and over again to the same captive portal page no matter what you do? With Kaminsky's tool, you could circumvent any captive portal that allows DNS to slip through. Here's the presentation he gave at the LayerOne conference in Los Angeles. 480k Powerpoint Link (via Oblomovka) [Boing Boing]

Teleread: Copyright zealots trying to steal away even MORE of your rights

"A forthcoming bill in the U.S. Senate would, if passed, dramatically reshape copyright law by prohibiting file-trading networks and some consumer electronics devices on the grounds that they could be used for unlawful purposes." - CNET.

The TeleRead take: The bill, pushed by Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, could even help undermine the legality of VCRs. Ka-ching, ka-ching! How much more in campaign contributions will this one net Hatch and colleagues? More via Slashdot [TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home]
Cripes! Orrin ("the clueless") Hatch is at it again!

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Special BoingBoing report: Live from SpaceShip One

Paul G. Allen and Burt Rutan's SpaceShip One is scheduled to launch America's first Non-Government, privately funded manned space flight next Monday. Alan Radecki, part of the ground crew stationed at Mojave, is penning pre-flight updates and countdown info. Former BoingBoing guestblogger Todd Lappin has arranged for those first-person accounts to be blogged here.

Background: Link to Mojave airport site with launch info. Link to Rutan's press release on the June 21 launch. Link to Rutan's FAQ. And finally, Alan's first update follows:

[Boing Boing]

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Engadget: Pop goes the Gmail!

Gmail poppinPop Goes the Gmail is a program that sits between the web server and your email client, converting messages from web format into POP3 format that a program such as Outlook Express or Thunderbird can understand.



Lockergnome DOWNLOAD: PhotoFiltre v5.6.1 [1.9 M] Win98/2k/XP FREE

Click here to enlarge!

Oftentimes many of us best express ourselves digitally by doing a bit of 'pixel pushing' (image editing/creation), and though there are a plethora of great graphics editing apps available, it can be useful to discover free alternatives for the frugal among us. Some may find applications that are either limited in their functionality, or interfaces that make them inaccessible to the average user. Or, worst of all, that they are free to download but *gasp* not actually 'free' to keep and use! A friend (thanks, Kenny) recently told me about a program that really does suit the needs of both the veteran graphic artist and the novice: PhotoFiltre. Whether creating an image from scratch or importing from a source (scanner, camera, etc.), PhotoFiltre can do it via many filters and tools. Very nice interface and usage is a breeze. Best of all, it is 100% freeware! [Scott]

[Lockergnome Windows Fanatics]

Mozilla Firefox 0.9 (One Tree Hill) Release Notes

Mozilla Firefox 0.9 (One Tree Hill) Release Notes

Release Notes - Firefox 0.9 (One Tree Hill)

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

bOING bOING: Yahoo ups free email storage to 100MB in Gmail competition

Storage limit for Yahoo's free webmail service just expanded to 100MB in an apparent effort to compete with Google's yet-to-be-publicly-launched Gmail. Link (Thanks, Caines) [Boing Boing]

Not the whole story. My DSL is provided by SBC who partners with Yahoo so they don't have to provide those pesky servers. Email and web comes from Yahoo, connectivity from SBC.

The emails I got said that the "main" account now had a limit of 2GB, twice what my GMail account holds. Each "sub account" gets up to 100MB. Not sure if the 100MB comes out of the 2GB or how that works. It's possible that free Yahoo accounts now can have 100MB, I don't have one of those any more.

Update: Doh! I do too still have a free Yahoo account. I used to use it for the email address for all the random assortment of "registration" things one collects before I discovered SpamGourmet. I forgot about it because it's fetched to my Linux machine courtesy of FetchYahoo. I was reminded by it because FetchYahoo was semi-stumped by the notice that the account had been upgraded to 100MB (instructions for dealing with that are on the FetchYahoo site).

So, yes. Free accounts are upgraded to 100MB.

bOING bOING: Cool Cassini Saturn science

BoingBoing friend John Parres says:
JPL's Cassini spacecraft is making it's final approach to Saturn after seven years of whipping around our solar system. This weekend the probe flew by an outer retrograde moon, Phoebe, and based on stunning pictures unspooling today it seems Phoebe is an ice rich body, perhaps even a captured comet! If all goes well on July 1st Cassini will enter into orbit around the ringed planet and provide four years of exploration including the December landing of the 700 pound Huygens probe on Saturn's largest moon, Titan.
Link [Boing Boing]

Just remember: "All these worlds are yours except Europa, attempt no landing there."

Yes, I know Europa isn't a moon of Saturn! Still.

Tools redux

I'm doing a lot of posting using the w.bloggar plug-in to SharpReader these days. I have to try to not be lazy, though. Two keystrokes brings me from viewing an item in SharpReader to a filled-in w.bloggar item ready to post. The default stylesheet wraps the entire item I was viewing up in a blockquote. One click would then publish the quoted item to my blog. If I'm lazy that's what I do. If I'm less lazy I write a few words. If I'm still less lazy I trim down the quoted item a bit. :)

bOING bOING: Stanley Milgram's shocking new biography

The Man Who Shocked The World is a new biography about Stanley Milgram, the provocative social psychologist whose mind-blowing experiments three decades ago are still highly relevant in today's world of Abu Ghraib and Friendster. From the Milgram Web site, hosted by the book's author, Dr. Thomas Blass:
milgrambook"Controversy surrounded Stanley Milgram for much of his professional life as a result of a series of experiments on obedience to authority which he conducted at Yale University in 1961-1962. He found, surprisingly, that 65% of his subjects, ordinary residents of New Haven, were willing to give apparently harmful electric shocks-up to 450 volts-to a pitifully protesting victim, simply because a scientific authority commanded them to, and in spite of the fact that the victim did not do anything to deserve such punishment. The victim was, in reality, a good actor who did not actually receive shocks, and this fact was revealed to the subjects at the end of the experiment. But, during the experiment itself, the experience was a powerfully real and gripping one for most participants.


[Boing Boing]

Hm... 60 Minutes or a similar program did a piece maybe a year back on some psychology experiments done at a Big Name College Whose Name Escapes Me At The Moment. In those one group was placed in the role of jailer and another group was the detainees. The jailers rapidly descended to a pretty vicious level of tyranny. None of the participants were actors and both groups ended up pretty psychologically scarred.

I'll have to dig for more concrete info on that. Not sure if this was one of Milgram's or not.

Today In Alternate History

Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today

This is a really fun site. Even if the author does live way too near that other Texas college. Like all (?) blogspot blogs, it has an Atom feed, just append atom.xml to the web page address.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Chaitin, Meta Math! The Quest for Omega

Chaitin, Meta Math! The Quest for Omega

Gregory Chaitin has devoted his life to the attempt to understand what mathematics can and cannot achieve, and is a member of the digital philosophy/digital physics movement. Its members believe that the world is built out of digital information, out of 0 and 1 bits, and they view the universe as a giant information-processing machine, a giant digital computer. In this book on the history of ideas, Chaitin traces digital philosophy back to the nearly-forgotten 17th century genius Leibniz. He also tells us how he discovered the celebrated Omega number, which marks the current boundary of what mathematics can achieve. This book is an opportunity to get inside the head of a creative mathematician and see what makes him tick, and opens a window for its readers onto a glittering world of high-altitude thought that few intellectual mountain climbers can ever glimpse.

So much to read, so little time.

The Bay Area Writers League

A coworker of mine is webmaster and a member of The Bay Area Writers League. For those on the left coast, this "Bay Area" is down here on the Third Coast, a.k.a., the Gulf Coast.

SF museum site

The website for Seattle's science fiction museum is live. Link (Thanks, Fun Furde) [Boing Boing]

EFF: The Patent Busting Project

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Patent Busting Project is here to protect you from dangerously bad patents. And you can help us pick which patents we're going to bust first!

We're currently seeking nominations for ten patents that deserve to be revoked because they are invalid. Sadly, we don't have the resources to challenge every stupid patent out there. In order to qualify for our ten most-wanted list, a patent must be software or Internet-related and there must be a good reason to suspect that the patent claims are invalid. We're especially interested in patents that target tools of free expression, such as streaming media, blogging tools, and voice over IP (VoIP) technology. Most importantly, the patent-holder must be aggressively enforcing its patent and suing (or threatening to sue) alleged infringers. We're particularly interested in cases where the patent-holder is trying to force small businesses, individuals, nonprofits, and consumers to pay licensing fees. Deadline to enter is June 23.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Palm OS Developer Suite

As Palm OS devices move into a broader range of deployments, our tools strategy is evolving to address a broadening range of developers. The Palm OS Developer Suite is a new tool chain from PalmSource that provides software developers, enterprises and mature ISVs with an easier and faster path to develop robust applications, and successful business solutions. With Palm OS Developer Suite, programmers will have a parallel development path for creating ARM-native software applications, and 68K software applications that run on Palm OS 4, Palm OS Garnet and Palm OS Cobalt, through PACE (the Palm Application Compatibility Environment). No other single development tool provides these capabilities.

It's about freakin' time that Palm had a decent set of development tools. For the last n years there have been two choices, Code Warrior and a do-it-yourself toolkit using the GNU C compiler as a cross-compiler to the 68K architecture combined with a various set of half-baked free tools.

Lockergnome FAVORITE: Search Free Fonts

Click here to

We love fonts. A unique font can help your document stand out and attract attention. If you ever mess around with graphic design, then you know the importance of having an arsenal of different fonts in your toolbox. We get sick and tired of seeing Arial and Times New Roman on every document that we pass our eyes over. A perfectly suited font can help to make a design attractive and successful. Finding these high quality fonts is a task made easier with Search Free Fonts.

[Lockergnome Windows Fanatics]

Bookmarking this for later.

BuzzMachine: TV's exploding before our very eyes. Can't wait.

Explode your TV

: TV is about to explode, just as publishing is exploding thanks to the web and weblogs.

Many elements are coming together that will mean the barrier to entry to TV is dropped to the ground. Anybody can produce TV. Anybody can distribute TV. And TV will thus be able to serve any interest. Just as you no longer need a printing press to publish, you no longer need a tower (or cable or satellite) to broadcast.


For example, you could with one camera person and one host and a little editing create a house remake show like the ones my wife and I now love to watch. You could create local shows about sports or politics. You could review movies. You could test drive cars or gadgets. You could teach people how to use, oh, PowerPoint. Or you could create source material: Tape the board of ed meeting and put it online. And then you can distribute it. And then you can get people to watch it.

Here's how it comes together:



Some interesting tools to look into here.

My wife has been producing some simple videos from still pics and DV video for family and church events. The stuff you can do on a $500 computer is pretty amazing. The problem, as I see it, is that it's very very time consuming. A citizen-reporter can do it but those of us with jobs that require well north of 50 hours a week plus commute time really don't have the hours and hours it takes to assemble raw footage into something that tells a story.

Copyfight: Monolith - An Uninteresting Experiment in Copyright (Ernest Miller)

BoingBoing links to a new "copyright experiment" (Monolith and digital copyright). The software project, called Monolith, takes two digital files and XOR's them (what the author refers to as "munging"), creating a third file. The author calls the two input files "element" and "basis." I think many people might call them "plaintext" and "key." The output file (aka the "monolith" file) would be called the "cryptotext."

The conceit of the concept is that neither the cryptotext nor the key is copyrighted. Thus, it should be legal to distribute both. Otherwise, the author of Monolith claims, everything is copyrighted and nothing can be distributed because there is always a number such that, if XOR'd with another number, will produce a copyrighted work.

This argument is not new and it not terrible interesting. It basically postulates that any encrypted transmission of information is actually not a transmission of information at all.


Dead on. BFD. Just because you've encrypted something doesn't make it uncopyrighted or uncopyrightable. Even if you use a Beatle's tune as the encryption key or manipulate the key so that the ciphertext is a Beatle's tune.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

WIPO Broadcast Treaty: consolidated three-day notes

The Broadcast Treaty is a proposal from a WIPO Subcommittee that's supposedly about stopping "signal theft." But along the way, this proposal has turned into a huge, convoluted hairball that threatens to make the PC illegal, trash the public domain, break copyleft and put a Broadcast Flag on the Internet. The treaty negotiation process is unbelievably convoluted and hard-to-follow, and they've just wrapped up the latest round in Geneva. But for the first time, a really large group of "civil society" orgs were accredited to attend. Me and another EFF staffer and the Coordinator of the Union for the Public Domain created a heavily editorialized impressionistic transcript of the meeting (EFF mirror, UPD mirror), trying to untie the knots in the negotiation. This is the first time that a really exhaustive peek inside a WIPO treaty negotiation has ever been published -- get it while it's legal! [Boing Boing]
Got it!

Ow! My brain!

#define _ -F<00||--F-OO--;
int F=00,OO=00;main(){F_OO();printf("%1.3f\n",4.*-F/OO/OO);}F_OO()

An oldie but a goodie.

bOING bOING: Broadcast Treaty negotiations (day 2/3)

We've just wrapped up the second day of Broadcast Treaty negotations at the UN in Geneva, and once again, two colleagues and I took really extensive notes on the proceeding. Brazil and India gave amazing testimony today, and I was able to address the UN on DRM -- it was screamingly cool. We did a lot more editorializing today -- it's still hard to follow, but damn this is important. If we lose here, it's a disaster for the Internet and the PC. Link [Boing Boing]

The rest of the post are comments from Brazilian rep(s?). Why is the voice of reason from Brazil here?!?!? I remember when such things would have come from America. I am often reminded of the novel The Space Merchants by C.M. Kornbluth and Frederick Pohl. Business has become the true government.

bOING bOING: History of the Universe in Seven Snoozes

Web art site Locus Novus is run by a Pasadena, California-based designer who does amazing things with hypertext. A Flash-based presentation of writer Jim Ruland's short piece "History of the Universe in Seven Snoozes" just went live today, and I think it is sublime.
Link, and here is another one of my favorite pieces from Ruland at McSweeney's. Link [Boing Boing]
Xeni says sublime. I think more like a very disturbed mind and possibly several anchovy pizzas before bedtime.

Evolution of a Programmer

20 END

Hilarious. Even if you don't know a word of code, you should be able to get it ... and it's Dilbert-ly true to life.

[Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days]

Too funny, too true.

DRM guidance for large publishers

Jon NoringDRM overkill is costing publishers many millions in lost e-book sales, and big houses have especially suffered. Just what is a sensible DRM policy if you're a giant of the book trade? For the smallfry, the question is much simpler since their books are less likely to be pirated. But suppose you're a house brimming with valuable best-sellers--just how far can you go in protecting them without scaring off readers? Jon Noring, an invited expert to the Open eBook Forum, main cofounder of the OpenReader Consortium and moderator of the eBook Community list, shares some thoughts in an essay. An earlier version of the material appeared on TEBC. [TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home]

Another one for the reading queue.

Google Hires Ph.D.'s; Times Surprised

Yesterday's New York Times ran a story by Randall Stross, marveling at the number of Ph.D.'s working at Google. Indeed, the story marveled about Google wanting to hire Ph.D.'s at all. Many other companies shun Ph.D.'s.

The article also hints at Google's success in integrating research with production. The usual model in the industry is to hire a small number of eggheads and send them off to some distant building to Think Deep Thoughts, so as not to disturb the mass of employees who make products. By contrast, Google generally uses the very same people to do research and create products. They do this by letting every employee spend 20% of their time doing anything they like that might be useful to the company. Doing this ensures that the research is done by people who understand the problems that come up in the company's day-to-day business.

Sustaining this model requires at least three things. First, you have to have employees who will use the unstructured research time productively; this is where the Ph.D.'s and other very smart people come in. Second, you need to maintain a work environment that is attractive to these people, because they'll have no trouble finding work elsewhere if they want to leave. Third, management has to have the discipline to avoid constantly canceling the 20% research time in order to meet the deadline du jour.

[Freedom to Tinker]

It amazes me that such a place exists in this universe. In addition to the three things that Edward Felton mentions, or perhaps overarching them is that management must be committed to the long term occasionally at the expense of this quarters "numbers". As Early as Age 40, Genes in the Brain Begin to Deteriorate,,SB108679908876732732-IFjfYNnlaJ3nZytZHSHb6WIm5,00.html

Harvard University researchers found that 20 genes critical for learning and memory begin to decline in function as early as age 40, pointing the way for further research aimed at tackling the mental infirmities that come with growing old.

The Harvard work, released yesterday in the online edition of Nature, is the first major study to use a "genetic signature" to study brain-function decline in normal aging.

A genetic signature is a recent scientific innovation that measures the activity level of thousands of genes -- determining which are working hard, which are minimally active, and which are idle in controlling the production of proteins, which are the main actors in all microscopic bodily functions, including work performed by the brain.

This link was sent to me by someone who has a paid subscription and it will expire 7 days from today.

Great. I'm doomed. My brain is rotting away.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

bOINGbOING: Danny O'Brien's Life Hacks

Here are my running notes from Danny O'Brien's NotCon recapulation of his "Life Hacks" talk. Danny interviewed a bunch of prolific geeks and asked them how they do it: this is his distillation of the habits of the geeks who spew the most code, words and such. Wish he'd turn this into a book already!
People use todo.txt (Ford's is 27,000 lines long)

* Don't use complicated apps

* Use Word, BBEdit, Notepad, emacs, vi, whatever

* Why?

* If you want to organize yourself, take the stuff you're going to forget quickly and dump it just as quickly -- if it's in your short-term memory, you have to put it somewhere

* You need to be able to find and enter text fast

* Can cut, paste and find text fast

* XML Guy: "Not interested in tagging my behavior with metadata -- just want to find stuff. Google shows that text cna be found quick"

* Text editors have incremental search (Mozilla: type slash and begin typing for your search string) -- quick way to lock-in on your desired text

* In Moz, Panther, Launchbar, Quicksilver, etc

* Text can be trusted

* Power users trust software as far as they've thrown them in the past

* Power users know that the bigger an app, the flakier it is

* They've upgraded and crossgraded a lot, which means that they need text, which can run on every platform

Link [Boing Boing]

I wish I could say this was obvious before I read it.

BuzzMachine: FeedDemon

I saw that somewhere

: FeedDemon 1.1 is out and it includes my favorite feature: search of recent feeds. This is the perfect answer to the hmmm-I-saw-that-somewhere problem.


OK, somebody 'splain to me why FeedDemon is worth $30 when there are several free aggregators. Nothing here to lure me away from SharpReader.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

bOINGbOING: Recording industry to demand fingerprints of music listeners

Isn't the recording industry silly for trying this? I'm glad it's wasting its time on this fool's errand. I hope Veritouch gets millions from the RIAA for this rotten idea, which has a zero percent chance of catching on.
The RIAA is hoping that a new breed of music player which requires biometric authentication will put an end to file sharing. Established biometric vendor Veritouch has teamed up with Swedish design company to produce iVue: a wireless media player that allows content producers to lock down media files with biometric security. This week Veritouch announced that it had demonstrated the device to the RIAA and MPAA.
Link (via /.) [Boing Boing]

Let's see. Suing 12 year old kids. Now demanding fingerprint identification to listen to music. Um. OK. Maybe this will be the point where "the public" realizes just how the RIAA thinks.

20 lectures on science fiction as MP3s

The University of Minnesota has posted the audio from 20 lectures from its "Studies in Narrative: Science Fiction and Fantasy" distance-ed course. I haven't listened to them yet, but I've put 'em on my iPod for long plane-trips. Link (Thanks, Justin!) [Boing Boing]

These are going on my listening queue and will wend their way to my minidisc player for listening while commuting.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Lockergnome: Complete RSS

Click here to enlarge!

How many RSS feeds are you subscribed to: 5... 50... 600? There are an abundance of feeds on the Internet that are just waiting to be consumed, but depending on your acceptance of RSS, you may have hardly any. If you're reading this review in your aggregator right now, you're probably the type of person who is always on the prowl for new content. Content junkies will be able to get some use out of the RSS search engine, CompleteRSS.


[Lockergnome Windows Fanatics]

BoingBoing: Gallery of movie copyright warnings

The folks at Monochrom have set up a group photo-gallery site for flash photos of the insulting copyright warnings at the start of movies. I saw Day After Tomorrow last night at the Camden Odeon and the new copyright warning there was so ghastly I was frozen in place and didn't get a pic. I'll have to capture it next time and send it in. Link (Thanks, Johannes!) [Boing Boing]

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Dan Gillmor: We Don't Need No Stinking Constitution

  • Dahlia Lithwick (Slate): Proof, Negative: The Justice Department's triumphant victory over the Constitution. The evidence in this document was collected during a two-year detention, in which Padilla was in solitary confinement, never charged with a crime, and only given access to his attorney this spring. Certainly his confessions might still be reliable, along with the confessions of Abu Zubaydah and other confederates being interrogated in secret. Or they might not. Without a trial we can never know, and as Phil Carter recently observed, there can now be no trial on the strength of this evidence since it was obtained unconstitutionally.

  • Jonathan Turley (LA Times): You Have Rights -- if Bush Says You Do. In a moment of extraordinary and chilling honesty, (Dep. Attorney General) Comey explained that Padilla had to be stripped of his civil liberties because, if he used them (including his right to remain silent or his right to a lawyer), he might have been able to win his freedom. Thus, the government had to keep him away from lawyers and judges at all costs. Gone was the pretense of legality or principle. The Justice Department had finally found its natural moral resting point: Civil liberties are tolerated only to the extent that they will not interfere with the government's actions. Meanwhile, Zacarias Moussaoui, a foreign citizen accused of terrorism, was presumably given his rights in federal court because, given the case against him, the government thought those rights would do him little good.
  • First the Bush administration jails a man solely on its say-so, allowing no access to a lawyer or a chance to defend himself. It extracts, apparently, a "confession" of some sort. (Did it use the same tactics as in Iraq and Afghanistan lockups?)

    Then, just as the Supreme Court gets ready to rule on whether the president can overrule the Bill of Rights on his whim, this information is suddenly made public. As Turley notes, this is a press release aimed at the justices as much as the American people.

    Padilla may indeed be the scum of the earth. But if they can do this to him, they can do this to innocent people. People like you. Think about it.

    [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

    What can I say about this. Makes a kid who came of age in the 60s (well, OK, the 70s... but the 60s didn't get to North Dakota until the 70s) want to ... break something? cry? sigh deeply?

    Lockergnome: CSS Creator

    Click here to enlarge!

    If I had a nickel for every Web developer in the world, I'd have exactly 3.2 billion dollars. Seriously, there are so many budding Web site creators floating around on the Internet. Most of these people are (hopefully) already familiar with HTML, but some may not know how to get stylin' with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS is becoming the next big thing for developers wanting to organize layouts and site styles in an easy way. While some developers may shy away from it, there's no denying that a little knowledge of it will go a long way. CSS Creator will get you started on your quest.


    [Lockergnome Windows Fanatics]

    Need to spend more time understanding CSS.

    Russ Lipton: Stop Bugging Us


    It's certainly legal to bypass the exquisitely irritating use of registration to collect data on us for 'free' sites. Is it ethical?

    (I don't see why not, though I'm open to counter-arguments. Click to read their FAQ and see what you think.)

    [Coffeehouse at the End-Of-Days]

    Even better than throw-down email addresses!

    Jay Cross' Talk at ASTD

    This is the third in a series of reports on the 2004 ASTD Conference. Collaboration Supercharges Performance Fifteen minutes before the last breakout session of the Conference, I found myself at the front of a nearly empty room with seating for several hundred. When the... [Internet Time Blog]
    Added to listening/watching queue. Sure would be nice if I could download the flash to my Clié

    Arch for CVS Users

    CVS users, don't let the next-generation version control system scare you. The basic functionality in Arch can be just as simple as CVS. Nick covers the basic commands you need to get started [Linux Journal]

    As a long time CVS user, I'm afeered of new fangled version control thingummies. No, seriously.

    And the winner is...

    ... the w.bloggar plugin for SharpReader

    That was the only one that gave me a clean minimal fuss ability to post non-ASCII characters.

    The BlogThis button on the Google Toolbar using IE failed miserably.

    The BlogThis extension for Firefox wasn't much better. I had to separately copy/paste the non-ASCII text into the blog posting window. And what went out in email was... wrong ... possibly missing the proper encoding tag.

    Third, Rarefied Heights Part Two, Plus Some Random Short Takes

    Rarefied Heights Part Two, Plus Some Random Short Takes

    My teenaged cousin has apparently accidentally reinvented pseudolocalization. I was chatting with him the other day and I noticed that his MSN Instant Messenger screen name was “ŁıppэяŦ."

    And posted via the BlogThis extension of Firefox. This may look good in the final form but the originally selected snippet was truncated just before the first non-ASCII character.

    Again Rarefied Heights Part Two, Plus Some Random Short Takes

    Rarefied Heights Part Two, Plus Some Random Short Takes

    My teenaged cousin has apparently accidentally reinvented pseudolocalization. I was chatting with him the other day and I noticed that his MSN Instant Messenger screen name was �Lipp??T.

    A snippet of the same article blogged via the BlogThis button on the Google Toolbar.

    Rarefied Heights Part Two, Plus Some Random Short Takes

    A few short takes today before I get into the actual subject of today's entry.


    Kids Today

    My teenaged cousin has apparently accidentally reinvented pseudolocalization.  I was chatting with him the other day and I noticed that his MSN Instant Messenger screen name was “ŁıppэяŦ. 

    D00D, W00T! Kids today have it so easy.  Back in my day we didn't have Unicode; when we wanted to be 3L1T3 on a BBS we had to be content with using numbers in the place of vowels, aggressive use of capitalization, and deliberate mispellings. 


    Same To You, Buddy

    This true story happened oh, about fifteen minutes ago.   

    I am walking into building 41.  A guy is sitting by the front door.  The guy looks a lot like Chris Sells.  I smile and nod as I pass by.  The guy says in response "You know what you should do?  I'll tell you what you should do!" 

    I shoot him an extremely quizzical and rather startled look.  Then I realized that he is in fact on a hands free cellphone and only appears to be responding to me.

    I'm still not used to modern technology.


    A Natural Theory Of Programming Languages

    Stanley Lippman has a wonderful post today that crams the history, theory and practice of language development into a small space.  It's called Towards a Natural Theory of Programming Languages.  The key takeaway is this: programming languages are tools built at a specific time to solve a specific class of problems on a specific class of hardware.  Many flame wars could have been ended by both sides recognizing this rather basic fact.  I'm looking forward to more posts in this vein, as I think there is a lot more to say on the subject.


    Rarefied Heights Revisited

    I miss mathematics.  My degree was a joint degree in both applied mathematics and computer science, but over the last few years I've gradually been losing the math skills as they've gone unused.  I think I might delve into some of the theoretical-yet-recreational aspects of mathematics in computer science from time to time.  (And just to be clear, by mathematics I mean coming up with proofs of theorems, not solving practical problems -- that's arithmetic.)

    Case in point: a while back I pulled the weak form of Stirling's Approximation out of thin air in order to justify the claim that any comparison sort of n elements requires O(n log n) comparisons. 

    n! > (n/e)n 

    This is quite weak.  The strong form of Stirling's Approximation is

    n! =  √(2nπ) (n/e)n (1 + O(1/n))

    Note the "big O" notation in there.  We're saying that we're not sure exactly how close this approximation is, but that the approximation gets really good on a percentage basis for big values of n.

    I feel bad about pulling that result out and using it with no justification whatsoever.  Proving the strong form is kind of a pain in the rear but proving the weak form is really easy.  Since that's all we need, just for the heck of it let's prove the weak form.

    Instead of proving the inequality directly, we'll prove that

    ln n! > ln (n/e)n 

    Which I'm sure you'll agree is basically the same thing -- if one quantity is larger than another, then the log is larger than the log of the other, and vice versa. 

    Let's start with the left side.  Clearly

    ln n! = ln 1 + ln 2 + ln 3 + ... + ln n   

    which is a little cumbersome to write, so I'll use big-sigma notation for the sum.

    = Σln x,   for x from 1 to n.

    This next step is a bit of a hand-wave -- I want to use the fact that this sum is the area of a "stair step" function, and that the area of a stair-step function is always larger than the area under a function which it dominates.  Rather than proving that formally, I'll give a graphical justification.

    Let's consider n = 4.  I've graphed out ln x, and I'm sure that you will agree that this sum is equal to the total area bounded by the three red boxes.  (ln 1 is zero, so we can ignore it -- it's "red box" would have zero height and hence zero area.) 

    Let's call the area computed by adding together a bunch of rectangles the "quadrature".  Clearly the quadrature is larger than the (blue) area under the curve not just for n = 4 but for all n.  We can compute the blue area by integrating, so let's declare this inequality.

    Σln x  >= ln x dx,   for x from 1 to n.

    The antiderivative of ln x is x ln x - x, so we have

    ln n!
    = Σln x 
    >= ln x dx
    = (n ln n - n) - (1 ln 1 - 1)
    = n ln n - n + 1
    > n ln n - n
    = ln (n/e)n 

    And we're done!  The weak form of Stirling's approximation is justified. 

    Didn't that feel good?  How often do you get to use calculus to prove a fact about the performance characteristics of sorting lists?


    [Eric Lippert]
    Just curious how all those non-ASCII symbols will survive a trip thru the w.bloggar posting plugin for SharpReader and thence on to the blog itself.

    ICANN Releases Draft Whois Privacy Reports

    Three task forces at ICANN, the domain name coordination group, have released for public comment reports on policy issues surrounding the Whois database of domain name registration information. The reports examine the mining of Whois domain name holder data by advertisers, privacy protections for Whois data, and the accuracy of Whois information. CDT has called for a balanced Whois policy that does more to protect the private information of individuals who register domain names - an approach endorsed by one of the task force reports. June 2, 2004 [Center for Democracy and Technology]

    Privacy!? We don't got no steeking privacy!

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004


    I'm an operating-system-agnostic kinda guy. I'd own a Mac if someone else paid for it. One of those big freakin' 17-inch PowerBooks.

    But being on too tight a budget to buy one of my own and being employed by a company that doesn't do anything with Macs, I own a Windows machine of my own and have Windows and Linux machines for work.

    So that brackets my choice of blogging tools.

    I'm fond of free stuff. You could guess that since my blog lives on Blog*Spot and uses pretty much a stock Blogger template. I post using either w.bloggar or BlogThis. BlogThis is launched from either the Google Toolbar in IE or via the BlogThis extension of Firefox

    I read blogs via SharpReader. Miles pointed me at RssReader but I didn't like the way it kept everything from a given feed seperate from other feeds. I like to group feeds and then sort by date. Seems to let me skim thru duplicates and such more quickly.


    My old college friend, Miles has finally found time to look into this blogging stuff that I've been dunning him about for months.

    After one faux-pas where he mistakenly claimed he was older than me, he's off and trotting.

    Perhaps he'll find more time to write than I have managed.

    U.S. Army to Prevent Troops' Egress (

    Thousands of soldiers who had expected to retire or otherwise leave the military will be required to stay if their units are ordered to Iraq or Afghanistan

    The announcement Wednesday, an expansion of a program called "stop-loss," affects units that are 90 days or less from deploying, said Lt. Gen. Frank L. "Buster" Hagenbeck, the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel.

    Commanders can make exceptions for soldiers with special circumstances. Otherwise, soldiers won't be able to leave the service or transfer from their units until they return to their home bases after their deployments end.

    The Army is struggling to find fresh units to continue the occupation of Iraq. Almost every combat unit has faced or will face duty there or in Afghanistan, and increased violence has forced the deployment of an additional 20,000 troops to the Iraq region, straining units even further.

    Wow, that's a whole new kind of "stop loss" order.

    But it's OK, we're giving the country back on June 30th. Right? Aren't we?

    The Code Project - Introduction to ACF (Another C Framework) - Libraries

    This article provides an introduction to ACF, a C framework which brings the .NET framework to standard C . Knowledge of C and the .NET Framework is assumed.

    Might be useful. Might be a sad attempt.

    Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    OpenReader™ Consortium Home Page

    OpenReader™ is a cooperative project to create next-generation software for reading digital publications. The software and accompanying format are for books, periodicals, newspapers, business documents, and other similar types of publications -- most any type of content best presented in a page-based manner. The OpenReader System will be open source, built upon XML and related open standards.

    One Reader to Rule Them All.

    Dan Gillmor: The Worst Passcode in History

  • Bruce Blair: The Case of the Missing “Permissive Action Links. The Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha quietly decided to set the “locks” to all zeros in order to circumvent this safeguard. During the early to mid-1970s, during my stint as a Minuteman launch officer, they still had not been changed. Our launch checklist in fact instructed us, the firing crew, to double-check the locking panel in our underground launch bunker to ensure that no digits other than zero had been inadvertently dialed into the panel. SAC remained far less concerned about unauthorized launches than about the potential of these safeguards to interfere with the implementation of wartime launch orders. And so the “secret unlock code” during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War remained constant at OOOOOOOO.
  • [Dan Gillmor's eJournal]
    Oh. my. God.

    Copyfight: Canada to Embrace Permission Culture?

    Michael Geist's latest column on copyright law in Canada contains yet another argument for the necessity of Creative Commons licenses: Toronto-area MP Sarmite Bulte is pushing for an interpretation of the law that embraces and codifies permission culture:

    Although [Bulte's committee] acknowledges that some work on the Internet is intended to be freely available, the committee recommends the adoption of the narrowest possible definition of publicly available. Its vision of publicly-available includes only those works that are not technologically or password protected and contain an explicit notice that the material can be used without prior payment or permission.

    This despite the fact that our Northern neighbors are world leaders in affirming the public's side of copyright bargain.

    Et tu, Canada?