September 30, 2003

Exporting Jobs

As reported on CNBC a new study by Forrester Research Inc. predicts that 3.3 million jobs will be move overseas, predominantly to India, by 2015. The sectors exporting jobs will include Computer Programming and Support (472,632 positions), Business (348,028), Management (288,281), and Office (1,659,310). Forrester predicts that as the trend grows, increasingly complex and knowledge based positions, traditionally safe from export, will be vulnerable for moving overseas. They do offer some advise for hot jobs for the short run, mostly the service sectors, and within services the financial service sector looks to be hiring most aggressively. Other possible hot jobs include health care, real estate, and security. Ironicall the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2000 to 2010 software engineering, computer support and systems administartion will add about 1 million jobs to the economy. 

The question then is how to we create more jobs domestically to replace those being exported?

It seems smaller community centric business’ tend to create and maintain jobs better than larger corporations. Local business’ also tend to provide more personalized services and understand their customers better. Large business’ can also do these things, and in fact hire far more individuals per company, but they tend to shed jobs faster and in general tend to contribute less to the local cummunity overall when examined on a per employee basis. So why have politicians and people in general courted large companies as much as they have instead of supporting local business’ more?

O’Reilly’s Andy Oram just yesterday published some interesting opinions and thoughts on the subject of falling employment. He also asked how can we reverse the trend, and offered some starting points for ideas.

Posted by Eric at 05:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WBMC

And now for something completely different, the World Beard and Moustache Championships

Making it’s first appearance in the U.S.A. the WBMC will be appearing in Carson City, Nevada on November 1st. Get out and support your favorites. Competitions occur in 17 different categories (!?) Be sure to check out the schedule, categories and gallery of contestants at their website.

memli 20613072.jpg

Thanks to Xuliland for the link

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P2P Groups Unite

Six P2P software vendors have taken a page from RIAA and formed the P2P United lobbying group. The group is taking the offensive against RIAA and is looking to educating Congress about the merits of P2P software. P2P United’s formation comes just a day before a Senate subcommittee hearing on file sharing.

“‘It is long past time for the ‘Tyrannosaurical’ recording industry to stop blaming and suing its customers to cover up the industry’s own glaring failures to adapt yet again to a new technology, one that should have already been making millions for it, and for the average artist,’ said Adam Eisgrau, P2P United’s executive director.”

RIAA’s Amy Weiss praised the group for publishing a code of conduct for it’s members adding “But, let’s face it, they need to do a whole lot more before they can claim to be legitimate businesses.” RIAA also announced the settlement of 64 individual suits with file traders and the reciept of 838 affidavits for it’s “Clean Slate” amnesty program.

P2P is not going to go away, neither are MP3s and other similar formats, the sooner RIAA accepts this and embraces the new technologies the sooner they can capitalize on it. While there is a lot of resentment against RIAA they can still come out of this better off in the long run. Right now RIAA is doing more damage to itself and sales by targeting it’s traditionally strongest audience with legal campaigns, while the indie labels are growing in number and strength—in part because of the adoption of MP3s and liberal downloads, and in part because of the backlash against RIAA.

In an ironic side note on a recent Google of RIAA the sole sponsored link on the results page was for P2P-Tracker “Free: Identify 260+ PSP Apps | Reduce Risk of RIAA Action | www.assetmetrix.com”

A list of RIAA related articles here…

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CERT: Clarify Recent Vulnerabilities in OpenSSH

I guess CERT has gotten quite a few inquiries regarding the recent Advisory for OpenSSH issues—CERT has issued an email to clarify exactly what issues there currently may be in installations of OpenSSH in the wild.

In the clarification email the referenced the following vulnerability notes:
VU#333628 - OpenSSH contains buffer management errors
VU#602204 - OpenSSH PAM challenge authentication failure
VU#209807 - Portable OpenSSH server PAM conversion stack corruption

I didn’t notice the email’s info on the CERT front page or the Vulnerability page but the OpenSSH vulnerability advisory (CA-2-2003-24) has been updated with the patch information for OpenSSH 3.7.1p1. For those folks not on the CERT advisory email list, read the extended version of this entry to see the full email.

There followed of course the obligitory PGP

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September 29, 2003

Commercial MP3 CD Collection

Another indie record label, Go-Kart Records, has embraced MP3s in a really big way. The label owner was recently interviewed on O’Reilly’s openp2p.com. They are releasing on November 4th an enhanced two disc CD set called Go-Kart MP300 Raceway. The disc is full of 300 songs from 150 bands all in MP3 (at 192k rate) format. This is the first commercially sold MP3 CD. The price is a whopping $9.99. The CD also features a browser interface (through your browser…whoops that d–-n Eolas plugin issue again) to select songs to play on the computer through a virtual MP3 player interface. Of course you can also access the songs with WinAmp or any similar MP3 software, and download the songs to any MP3 player. The browser interface also includes links to all the bands and the labels websites and key bio information etc. The CD’s will not play in most standard CD players, but will work in any MP3 capable CD player and personal computers. The label is including info sheets with detailed instruction to burn the MP3s to a standard audio CD.

According the info pages, Go-Kart is a label representing the punk and hardcore genres. The MP3 collection will feature bands such as Anti-Flag, Bouncing Souls, Avail, Dag Nasty, and Virus Nine. Not my type of music to be sure, but I’m glad to see the first MP3 CD collection released by any label. Now if RIAA would open it’s eyes.

Posted by Eric at 10:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

FCC, FTC, Bush & Do-Not-Call List

Looks like everybody is getting involved in the Do-Not-Call list. President Bush today signed the bill drafted and passed last week by congress giving the FTC the authority to enact and administer the list. A court in Denver blocked the FTC from enacting the list on issues of free speech last Thursday. In the mean time the FCC has stepped up today to enforce the list while those legal issues are ironed out. A Denver appeals court denied a request from telemarketers to block the FCC from enforcing the registry. Today the Supreme Court refused to block that decision. The FCC will begin enforcement of the list on Wednesday, right on schedule.

Posted by Eric at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

For the Exotic Coffee Lover

Firebox in England offers a unique coffee for that hard to buy for coffee lover all of us know—Weasel Cofee.

“…Weasel coffee has been eaten and regurgitated by rare Vietnamese weasels! Honestly! As you can imagine, the weasels’ gastric goings-on radically alter the taste of the coffee and the result is a stronger, smoother, heady flavoured coffee that will appeal to serious connoisseurs of the mighty bean.”

Don’t worry if you are in need of a unique tea, they have you covered there as well with Monkey Picked Tea. Remarkably the English company reports:

“The monkey-picked leaves produce a pale, golden tea that’s so fragrant and delicious it’s best served without milk. Or sugar. Or biscuits. Or cake. The point being, drinking Monkey Tea should be viewed as an important spiritual event, not to be sullied by crass diversions.”

I think I’ll pass on the coffee, but the tea might be worth a try sometime. Of course neither of these is available from Firebox for delivery outside the U.K.

Update 10-10-2003:

The local community press (Mystic River Press) had an article on a similar coffee from Indonesia that I can actually get locally—in fact the only place on the East Coast to get it is right in Groton (10 min away). Seaport Coffee Roasters has obtained 5kg of kopi luwak straight from Indonesia. Kopi luwak is an Indonesian version of mongoose—or in this case the palm civet, a member of the mongoose family—processed coffee. It will be available for sale starting this Monday. I know Joe roasts a beautiful coffee, and we have enjoyed his coffees since coming to the Mystic area in April. In the Mystic River Press article he calls kopi luwak caviar for coffee drinkers. I will let you know how it tastes!

I am also trying to get permision from Mytic River Press to post large excerpts or the entire story about kopi luwak coffee here. If anyone else knows of a store or resource for kopi luwak or any similar coffee from elsewhere please contact me.

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Magnatune: We Are Not Evil

Magnatune is a record label. But they want you to know they are not evil. Guess what… they’re right. A record Label that gets it. Magnatune allows you to listen to hundreds of MP3s from their artists, share them swap them whatever!, they also have genre-based MP3 radio. If you like what your hear, buy the CD album.

50% of the purchase price goes straight to the artist and—You Decide The Price!

They recommend 8$ for an album, but the drop down price selector on the purchase page supports $5—$18 per downloaded album. All the music is also registered on FreeDB. They also offer licensing for commercial use. Genre’s include Classical, Rock, Electronica, World, New Age, and Metal.

So far I’ve listened to samples of Andreas Haefliger (Mozart Piano Sonatas), James Edwards (Baroque guitar), Ehren Starks (piano and cello), Kourosh Zolani (hammer dulcimer), Michael Masley (hammer dulcimer) and Paul Berget (modern interpretations of Renaissance Lute). All of them were very good. Yeah I have some er, Eclectic tastes in music.

To qoute their “The Big Ideas” page:
  • all music should be shareware. Just as with software, you want to preview, evaluate, and pass along good music to others—in the process of buying it.
  • find a way of getting music from the musician to their audience that’s inexpensive and supports musicians. Otherwise, musical diversity will continue to greatly suffer under the current system where only mega-hits make money.
  • musicians need to be in control and enjoy the process of having their music released. The systematic destruction of musician’s lives is unacceptable: musicians are very close to staging a revolution (and some already have).
  • creativity needs to be encouraged: today’s copyright system of “all rights reserved” is too strict. We support the Creative Commons “some rights reserved” system, which allows derivative works, sampling and no-cost non-commercial use.

Man they really do get it! RIAA are you listening?

Posted by Eric at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

Can You Raed Tihs? Microsoft Link

In another chapter on the the “Can You Raed Tihs?” story, Microsoft’s Kevin Larson, a cognitive psychologist, dissected the main hypotheses on how we read at ATypI’s Vancouver Typography conference.

“Kevin supports the ‘parallel letter recognition’ model. People don’t he says, recognise whole-word shapes. Instead the recognise each of the letter components and then make a series of best-guesses on the information returned to assemble, first, phonemes and then words.”

In case you are not aware, recently a story spread through various email groups, weblog groups and geek news sites such as Slashdot on this topic. Although there are a few variations one common version of the letter is:

“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.”

The claim is that letter order does not matter in reading, that we can read fine even with the internal letters scrambled. This has been hailed by chronic mis-spellers, but as far as physiology, cognitive psychology and typography go it is meant to be important as a support of one hypothesis of reading method over another. This text would support the hypothesis that Kevin supported in his talk at ATypI: we read all the letter forms of a word simultaneously–in parallel— then assemble those letters into phonemes and words. Interestingly, the internal letter order is randomly scrambled and shorter words are either less scrambled, a function of their length or entirely free from scrambling.

In response to the original story being circulated, the linguistics department at University of British Columbia came up with a counter-example:

“Anidroccg to crad cniyrrag lcitsiugnis planoissefors at an uemannd, utisreviny in Bsitirh Cibmuloa, and crartnoy to the duoibus cmials of the ueticnd rcraeseh, a slpmie, macinahcel ioisrevnn of ianretnl cretcarahs araepps sneiciffut to csufnoe the eadyrevy oekoolnr.”

What the UBC Linguistics group did was to apply a highly ordered and drastic rearranging of the internal letters. This counter-example would tend to disprove the parallel letter theory, at least as far as has been openly discussed. Of course to argue or imply that any aspect of human learning and behavior is as simple as has been discussed recently—one model or the other–is to make a gross oversimplification. 

I really would like to see a transcript of Kevin’s presentation at ATypI, as he supposedly tore down and supported aspects of each of the three most common hypotheses of reading, but he supports the parallel-letter-recognition—phoneme—word model as the accurate one. I want to see if or how he meshes the models, as I feel that that is more likely what is happening for most readers. That he argued against aspects of all three of the predominant hypotheses would suggest to me that he too believes it is a synthesis of the methods.

My personal belief is that reading is an extremely complex function. There are many factors that can affect both the legibility of text and our ability to comprehend and retain the message that the symbols on the page or screen represent. Typography, physiology and psychology have all dealt with these issues as a whole and in isolation for many years. Not only how you learn the language, but also what type of learner (visual vs. auditory vs kinesthetic) you are can have a large impact on how you actually read, recognize and translate the symbols on a page or screen. I do believe that word shape (external outline shape and internal whitespace and contrast) are critical to reading. Of course, my training may prejudice me towards that belief.

In typography there are many techniques that can be employed to destroy legibility of words and passages of text without destroying individual letter legibility. Similarly there are highly effective techniques which subtly (or not so subtly) change the word shape and internal word contrast to force a reader to slow down with an increase in retention.

I don’t discount the letter—phoneme recognition hypotheses entirely. My guess would be that we mix those two models by reading the word shape and the letter forms simultaneously. When we recognize the word shape, either by memory or by context, we move on. Otherwise we assemble the letters into phonemes and words, again using context and experience as a guide. If that fails we switch to a serialized reading of the letters of the word, this being most common for extremely long words and completely foreign words.

This theory can be observed by watching young children first learning to read. Having observed my own son, just now learning to read, he has recognized many words well before he had knowledge of the alphabet. He recognized the word by it’s shape. His recognition of the words held even when presented with the same word in fonts of diverse style and size. However if the word is presented to him in an ALL CAPS form there was no recognition. This supports the theory of word shape recognition, at least in a pre-spelling child. 

As he has learned to spell he is learning the individual letters of the word shapes he already knows. When presented with a series of words–a mix of words he recognized before learning the alphabet and new words–he instantly will read out the known words without pausing to spell it, but he must spell out new words. As these new words have been learned both the shape and the letter form construction are added to his memory, and soon are he is able read them instantly as well. Of course he is still learning.

It appears that he is synthesizing the use of word shape and letter by letter spelling into his reading. As he gains more experience with the spelling and recognition of phonemes and is able to marry that to his initial learning of language—phonemes—the phoneme into word method of reading will replace letter by letter construction as both a more efficient and more “natural” method of reading. Word shapes however will remain as a key part of reading, which makes sense as it arguably appears to be the most efficient method.

One thing that is striking is the fact that no matter which hypothesis or mesh of hypotheses are supported, the one thing we all seem to agree on is the fact that reading is a highly contextual excersise.

You may also want to look at my other entry on this subject.

Added 10/01/2003

There is a new entry detailing snopes link for this meme along with other links—especially look at the post by Matt Davis of Cambridge

Posted by Eric at 05:15 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Verisign Sued Left and Right

Verisign must be feeling a bit like Microsoft right now. It seems like everyone is lining up to sue them over their dain-bramaged SiteFinder service. ICANN may or may not have a lot of teeth when it comes to enforcement, but if they do, I wish they would step in about now. I already told you how GoDaddy filed suit over SiteFinder. Now there are at least 3 seperate suits being brought against Verisign over the SiteFinder service and it’s wildcard DNS implementation. One of them is a class-action lawsuit filed by Ira Rothken on behalf of a California e-mail software provider. Of course Verisign is no stranger to lawsuits in connection to it’s regitration and DNS services. It currently has lawsuits against it from various registrars over it’s sending of misleading domain expiration notices to other regitrar’s clients and the Domain Waiting List service.

Posted by Eric at 04:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Software Patents From Inside Antarctica

Tim Bray is the author of Ongoing. He is also the founder of a company called Antarctica that develops and implements visually rich information systems, mostly ways to present dense information webs in accessible, visual ways. In large part to secure funding, he has applied for patents on some of the software that Antarctica has developed. He offers a unique perspective on the process, the PTO and the patent system as it is. It is worth a read for people from all sides of the patent argument.

One interesting point he concludes with:

Conflict of Interest The people in the system with the worst conflict of interest are the patent attorneys and various flavors of intellectual-property expert, who are always willing to argue passionately and at great length about the importance of securing patents, and how this is an essential part of any business strategy. They seem to really believe what they’re saying, but when I listen to them my mind’s eye just can’t help seeing the fat envelopes stuffed with carefully-itemized five-figure legal bills crossing my desktop.

“A cynic would say it’s a self-perpetuating system whose costs greatly outweigh its benefits, and that we’re hopelessly stuck in it. But then, I’m a cynic.”

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ATypI Between Text & Reader

ATypI Vancouver conference, September 25-28, 2003

The ATypI 2003 conference wraps up today. It looks like it should have been a fun time for all involved. I thought when I was still in Idaho I might have been able to make this. The Keynote speaker was Robert Bringhurst, whose book The Elements of Typographic Style, I would dearly love to add to my collection. In conjunction with the conference, Microsoft, Adobe and Fontlab held two different workshops for creating OpenType fonts, and there was what I am sure was an awesome workshop for 6—7 individuals on a traditional letterpress. Wood and metal, one piece at a time, building up the words and lines. Adobe was also showing an upcoming release of Illustrator that adds Unicode and OpenType support. The list of panels and forums covers the spectrum of typography: from typographical history, to the re-emergence of the letterpress as an art-form; from Arabic to Hebrew to Chinese typographies; from digital font creation tools to hand lettering and carved letter forms; legibility to marketing.

While many of the programs really interested me, I would really have liked to see the program by Kevin Larson of Microsoft. Kevin has a PhD in psychologist from UT and his research was—word recognition and reading acquisition. His work for Microsoft is on ClearType and reading technologies. In his program he says that word recognition is not done by word shape, but that we perceive each individual letter while reading words. It is the letters that are the basis of our recognizing the word. If that is the case I’m sure there is a whole lot of allowance for context in the recognition of words from the individual letters. Hopefully Kevin’s presentation will be made available at some future date. I would love to read it. Of course this still does not necessarily put the meme running around the net in any better light—it only emphasizes that our brains are able to reconstruct, fairly seamlessly, data from context far better than we often allow for. 

Another paper I would like to see, would be from the discussion of the future of type in the design of Information and Communication Technologies, e.g. the web, cellphones. The focus appears to have been on type’s possible role to humanize these technologies, especially when, so often, the technologies have poor visual designs. Yeah, we all missed the boat badly on HTML Language and even on CSS. We really all need to get things right soon, because as WaSP and others have found, it’s going to take anywhere from 3—6 years to bring around the moment and change the way enough people are doing things with the technology.

The auction looks like it was filled with treasures and each attendee received a 48pt type cast of the conference mascot. The organizers put together some great informational material about Vancouver and if you’re visiting there soon maybe take a peek at their Restaurant Guide (non-printing PDF)

“However, do not be tempted to eat at Assam on Denman Street. This may be the worst Indian restaurant in the world: it should be demolished, and the ground where it stood sown with salt.

“…but if you want a great coffee you should go to CaffĂ© Artigiano (763 Hornby Street). This place serves some of the best tasting and most beautiful coffees in the world.

“If you’re in Yaletown, try a Japanese green tea flavoured latte while listening to Finnish pop music in the deeply surreal Don’t Show the Elephant (1201 Hamilton Street).”

I hope for all involved it was highly successful and stimulating.

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For Squidd: Cubs Make the Playoffs!

After a 14 year dry spell the Cubs have made the playoffs!

This is actually for two people, a pair of old friends who are the perennial butt of jokes by this time of the season. They love their Cubs. I’m sure you know someone like them. Before spring training they are hyped about the new signings and talking about the batting and pitching strengths, the infield the outfield even the coaching. During Spring training they start saying “this could be the year” or even “this is the year” as spring training progresses they become even more optimistic. By the end of the pre-season they are telling everyone how this year will be different. At the break if the Cubs are up so are they. If the Cubs are down they are still up, after all they’re the Cubs are only xx games back, so what if they lost –– and –– to injuries, there is still half the season left. We wink and smile all season when they’re talking about the Cubs and the playoffs, let alone the pennant. Occasionally we even shoot a friendly jab—“Yeah, they still have 20 games to blow their lead.” Year after year though the moment comes when the Cubs are mathematically eliminated, no matter how stellar their performance. Those cub fans of course would be sore for the next few days, but then it always comes out—“next year.” It’s as if it’s part of Baseball.

Well Squidd and Lloyd, this year at least, you were right. To tell you the truth I hope they go all the way. There are a lot of Cubs fans out there who have been waiting a long, long, long time—the last time the Cubs were in the World Series there were only 48 states and WWII had just ended. The entire “Baby Boomer” generation was nothing but a twinkle in the eyes of returning soldiers and sailors. Now those same Baby Boomers are starting onto Social Security! Almost 60 years from the last Series appearance, and almost a century from the last Pennant win! Just to refresh your memory a bit— the last time the Cubs won the pennant Oklahoma had just become the 46th state, and Henry Ford had just launched the Model T. If they make it into the Series, Chicago and the Cubs should offer any Chicago residents who were alive for the last Pennant win a free ticket to one of the home games—and make it one of the home games that will definitely be played—just in case Chicago sweeps it. But one thing at a time–Congrats on ending 14 year’s of no playoffs at all, especially after last year! Now go whip Atlanta’s a––.

Oh, Squidd and Lloyd– if you ever get out here, or are in NY, let me know, I owe you a beer (or two).

Posted by Eric at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 26, 2003

W3C Forms PAG to consider Eolas mess

The W3C has formed a Patent Advisory Group (PAG) in response to the Eolas mess. The group’s mission to evaluate the issues that the Eolas patent court ruling will bring to the web. So far they have (another) mailing list, a home page and a FAQ—which doesn’t really have any new answers, but then right now no one really does.

The only noteable–although not new information–from the FAQ:

“Q. Does W3C plan to ask the community for help in identifying prior art?

“A. This is under consideration, and was successfully used in the context of W3C work on P3P patent infringement allegations.”

More Eolas patent background and articles on this site.

via Zeldman

Posted by Eric at 09:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Microsoft Patent Victory

I find myself once again in the unusual position (for me) of cheering for Microsoft when it comes to an IP issue. One more of the many IP suits involving Microsoft has been settled, and it was determined by the court that Microsoft did not violate Hyperphase’s “patent”. The Judge granted Microsoft’s motion for dismissal. An earlier Judge on the case had a great sense of humor. I wish I could find more complete transcripts but there are some excerpts at the Corp Law Blog.

These are strange times...at least as far as Microsoft goes
Gates says 'Roayalty Free'
Microsoft's patent woes continue
Microsoft lobbies for repeal of patents for software!
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September 25, 2003

WayBack Machine tags my 404

Hmmm… Someone out there was obviously snooping around the Internet Archive Wayback Machine for an old iteration of this site. Out of the blue I started seeing 404 errors for a couple of images, and some flash banners that I hadn’t seen in almost 5 years. No I won’t put them back up there even if I thought I could find them—which I probably could, I still have the Jazz carts—I refuse to revisit anything from MicronPC.com. Micron Electronics was great, MicronPC was even pretty good, but by 1998 MicronPC.com came into being— all downhill from there and it was a fast and bumpy ride.

Strange what comes across your error logs.

Posted by Eric at 10:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Senate passes Do-Not-Call Legislation

The House passed the bill 412—8, the Senate passed it 95—0, President Bush says he will sign it. 51 million phones out of 166 million land line phones and 150 million cell-phones, in the US are signed up. But, wait a minute, a second Judge (this time in Denver, CO) has blocked the Do-Not-Call list on the basis of free speech. Saying that the FTC is discriminating between charitable speech and commercial speech, the FTC is possibly violating the telemarketers right to free speech. Rep Tauzin quipped that “We should probably call the bill ?This Time We Really Mean It Act? to cure any myopia in the judicial branch. The bill leaves no doubt as to the intent of Congress.?

I wonder exactly how fast a constitutional ammendment could be passed?

Other questions:
Do (should) corporations have the all the same rights as individual citizens (e.g. free speech )
Is it an issue of free speech when the system is paid for largely by the consumer ?
how is this different from prohibiting solicitors in an apartment complex or eek business complex.

Of course I also have to ask, why can’t Congress move this efficiently on other issues, many of which have far greater importance than stopping telemarketing scum from interrupting our evenings.

Full story at MSNBC found via /.

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EU Software Patents Vote

The EU voted yesterday on the Software Patent issue. This is just the first step of many towards an actual law, but it has been hotly contested with large scale demostrations, political intrigue and even threats by the EU commissioner. The result is not as clear cut as many would have liked to see, but in large part it appears that the EU Parliament has made a stand against the BSA and liberal patents of processes, business methods and software such as we are plagued with in the United States. There were so many amendments proposed, and they were all vote on in a very short period of time, so it may take a few days (especially with translation issues) to get to the bottom of it all. At this point though it appears that:
  • No pure software patents allowed-Article 3, which allowed that all software by definition was patentable, was killed
  • Business Methods can’t be patented
  • Algorithms and data processing can’t be patented
  • A patented technique is allowed to be used without authorization or license if it is needed to create or ensure interoperability or to maintain standards—as you can imagine this one was strenuously opposed by some multinationals…<cough>Microsoft<cough>.

So it looks like key amendments were made to protect the EU from descending into the quagmire that is U.S. Patent law. Everything isn’t terribly rosy—the draft needs to navigate through a convoluted process to become an actual law. The EU Commissioner may make good on his threats to withdraw the directive in it’s entirety and achieve patent “harmonization” through a renegotiation of the EPC which would not require the Parliament’s approval, and would in essence bypass—from my understanding of it—the input and wishes of the general population. Of course it’s not like anything like that ever happens on this side of the ocean…

Posted by Eric at 05:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How fast can you pass a bill?

By this time tomorrow there should be a bill signed by the President that explicitly gives the FTC the right and authority enact the “Do-Not-Call” list. A bill passed the in the House with a vote of 412—8 this afternoon and a matching bill is expected to be passed in the Senate before close of business today. The goal is to get it on the Presidents desk today so that it can be signed into law immediately. That would allow the Do-Not-Call to be enacted on October 1st, right on original schedule. Rep. Tauzin said “Fifty million Americans can’t be wrong”

Now if we can enact a similarly tough anti-spam law. Maybe the FTC could set up a Do-Not-Spam registry just so Congress can guage American feelings for that law.
Full story on CNN and Yahoo.

Yesterdays story about the court decision.

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GoDaddy Suing Verisign--DNS primer

Got an email from GoDaddy (who I use to register and manage a couple of domains) this evening explaining in pretty good layman’s terms why they have decided to sue Verisign—also recently known affectionately as VeriSlime. In a nutshell they are suing Verisign over the “SiteFinder” service which as they (rightfully) claim misdirects, misleads, costs ecommerce and visitor supported sites and damages attempts to combat spam. GoDaddy has a separate suit to stop the Verisign Wait Listing Service, another highly controversial scam that Verisign has been operating. I really wish ICANN had more enforcement powers or sharper teeth. Well actually I wish we had followed the vision of Jon Postel.

GoDaddy’s press release and the actual legal complaint are PDF and available here.
For some commentary on the “SiteFinder” hijacking scheme:

Someone recently asked me in an email why the big deal over the Verisign tactics. I’ll address that in an essay(rant) this weekend.

Posted by Eric at 07:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2003

Kazaa Sues RIAA for Copyright Infringement

Sharman Networks, makers of Kazaa file sharing software and network, has filed suit against the RIAA for copyright infringement—the RIAA aparantly used the copyright infringing “kazaa light”—and violating it’s network terms of use agreements. RIAA’s puplic comment called Sharman’s “Newfound admiration for the importance of copyright law” ironic and “self serving.” Hello, kettle? This is the pot…we think you’re using copyrights in a totally self serving manner
Spotted at Fark

Posted by Eric at 06:28 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Federal Do Not Call List Blocked by Court

A federal court in Oklahoma thinks the FTC overstepped it’s authority when it established the wildly popular national do not call list. The decision comes just a week before the list will go into effect. To date approximately 50 million phone numbers have been added to the list. The court action was prompted by a law suit filed by the Direct Marketing Association (and other marketing groups). The DMA some how thinks that the list violates free speech and discriminates against them as an industry. The FTC has only said that they have received and are reviewing the court ruling. The U.S. Representatives in large part responsible for the legislation allowing the FTC to establish the list, Reps. Tauzin and Dingell, said they were “confident this ruling will be overturned and the nearly 50 million Americans who have signed up for the do-not-call list will remain free from unwanted telemarketing calls in the privacy of their own homes.”

Can the telemarketers really be that out of touch with reality? Sorry guys, but I won’t shed any tears for you—I personally supported the legislation that made unsolicited commercial telemarketing a federal offense punishable by 50 lashes with stripped Cat5e cable. Unfortunately, that bill never made it to the floor for a vote.
via Reuters

Posted by Eric at 12:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Excellent use of Director

or–Another Cool Site That Will Be Crippled By Eolas’ Ridiculous Patent

My 3 year old loves to spend time playing on the computer. One of his favorite things to do on the computer is visit one of three sites—Playhouse Disney, Noggin, or Sesame Street. All three of these sites are very well tuned to their audiences, and all three rely heavily on Flash and Director based content to provide interactive games and learning activities. For the most part they all do an excellent job of it too. A few of the games at each site even provide me a bit of entertainment even when my son isn’t around. Tonight we found a new one–ScribbleVision—at Noggin that, although in concept not extremely complicated, was pulled off very well and really had Johann very excited. Although it has a few minor issues, they were not enough to put us off playing it for a good 40 minutes.

The concept behind the game is fairly simple. You help one character (Moose A. Moose) find his cohort by coloring in 2—3 items from a “coloring book page”. After these items are colored to your satisfaction you press a button and see Moose travel in an animated scene with the items you just colored as an integral part of the scene. There are a total of 5 scenes: horse and carriage, boat, train, planes and rocket ships. Johann has done a number of computer coloring book activities and felt at ease with the interface instantly. The controls however did frustrate him–and my wife and I–a little, because they were a little more sensitive. We were rewarded, though, when we saw our polka-dotted horse, its mane and tail trailing in the wind, pulling the carriage being chased by a rainbow-striped dog. Of course, they also have added sound effects. 

As I said, it was good for 40 minutes of our attention even with it’s over-sensitive controls—that’s a long time for a toddler. The programmers at Noggin have an excellent concept and near perfect execution. A bucket fill option and tweaking the brush controls, i.e. the mouse, to make it a bit less taxing, would help our 3 year old enjoy the game even more. Johann loved the activity even with these issues, but did grow frustrated at times with the controls. If you have a toddler through early grade-school child or just love fun uses of Director and Flash check all three of these sites out. You will need to have the Macromedia Shockwave(Director) plug-in installed for the Noggin ScribbleVision activity, and the Flash plug-in for all the sites in general.

Oh, and Mr. Doyle—it’s the loss of sites like these that will really make me curse your patent. Right now my son can open the browser, go to the site and play these games and activities without needing me to do it for him. He takes great pleasure in being able to “Work on the computer net” like his daddy. If plug-ins cease working, that’s going to get quite a bit more complicated. Obviously, there are other means of instilling independence, self-esteem and confidence in a child, but in todays world, I don’t want any opportunity for reinforcing what my wife and I have worked hard to instill in our son to be thwarted–or for our son to be deprived of any educational activity that helps make learning fun. “Daddy, who broke my net?” Hmmm…

edited @ 12:30 on 2003-09-24 for grammatical clarity.

Posted by Eric at 02:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2003

Topographic Maps online

If you ever need topographic maps, or just need to look up topo information about someplace your going to visit, then you will love Topozone. What MapQuest did for driving directions, Topozone is doing for users of topo maps.

Sometimes (often if your not in a big city) it can be a royal pain to get topographic maps of a specific area—let alone be able to preview them and make sure they are recent. Topozone lets a user display a map online from any USGS map. They have the entire USGS collection of topological maps online—an interactive topo map of the entire United States! You can get a map area by place name, decimal degrees, deg(degree)—min(minute)—sec(second), or UTM notation. You can zoom in and navigate around the map window just as in MapQuest. Really nice.

You can add topomaps to your own site with their extremely generous licensing program, e.g. up to 100 maps on one non-profit site, annotated or unaltered for the price of linking the map back to Topozone. They also offer fee based services such as creating custom topo maps for download such as a 10 ×15 mile, 1:50,000 scale map centered on Mystic Pizza. You can also have any map you use online printed as up to a 36” × 44” waterproof map through their partnership with myTopo.com and or MapCard.

Groton Long Point, 1:24000 from Topozone.com Powered by Topozone

This is a sample that is the topo closeup of one of my favorite birding spots.

Posted by Eric at 10:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

EU Vote on Software Patents

The European Union parliament is set to vote Wednesday on the issue of software patents. From what I have been following in the English speaking news and the—admittedly biased—portals at the FFII and EFF, this is going to be a very close vote. There have been a whole raft of amendments proposed—some good, some bad—and a wide range of political maneuvers and intrigues. Science, small business and technical organizations have been weighing in with opinions, most opposed to software and business patents. The original proposal was Drafted for the European Union by the BSA a predominantly US organization of the major software publishers—e.g. Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Inuit. Interestingly the BSA’s European Policy page does not mention patents at all, only their support of strong uniform copyright protection for software across Europe.

So why should you care? Especially if you’re in the U.S.? A look at the patent situation in the United States for an example of how “well” software patents work. Eolas v Microsoft (local links below) is a prime example. Software innovation is rapid and incremental. It is practiced as efficiently by small teams and independent programmers as it is by large corporations. Anyone may obtain the skills needed to practice programming art through self-study or generally available public and private institutions. Beyond any educational expense and the cost of a computer, there are no other costs to begin. In fact the direct roots of most of todays highly successful programs and web sites began as college projects or after school projects in the dorms, e.g. Yahoo, Google, Real Audio, web browsers (all of them). The sheer number of software patents that exist has become a problem for new developers as almost any new software is bound to infringe on some patent, or at least could be argued to infringe—which is enough to create a legal issue. That software patents actually impede new development in the field puts them squarely against the intent of patents—to promote new development through limited monopolies granted in exchange for public disclosure. 

The current global problem with patents (indeed all intellectual property rights) is the disparity between different nations. The issues seen in the US should be enough warning to other nations that software patents should not be adopted worldwide, but rather that efforts need to be made to eliminate software patents in the United States. In fact the adoption of software patents and business methods patents in the EU goes directly against the interests of EU citizens and companies—business method and software patents have a 20 year history in the United States whereas in the EU and it’s member states they have not been allowed, recognizing them at this time will only lead to a larger amount of EU citizens and companies having to pay licenses and legal costs to United States companies, even when those EU firms only operate with the EU borders. This will place the European software industry at a severe disadvantage. It flies in the face of the EUs goal “to become the most competitive and knowledge-based economy in the world.”

So why would the EU seek to enact software and business method patents, if they clearly do not support EU industry and goals? One clue might be that the original proposal was prepared from a proposal created by the BSA, an alliance of major software companies most of which are headquartered—as is the BSA— in the United States. It is in their interest to expand the patent system of the United States around the world, and if they can bring the EU in line with the United States, how hard will it be to have WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) enact a more globally unified patent system based largely on the policies of the US and the EU. The BSA member companies are large—many are “global” companies—with large patent portfolios in the United States. The BSA and it’s member companies are well versed in political lobbying in the United States…

My comments on Eolas v Microsoft:
  1. Microsoft lobbies for repeal of patents for software!
  2. Microsoft vs Eolas Patent update
  3. Microsoft v. Eolas-A New Twist?
  4. Eolas Claims Willing to Settle!
And a couple links here about the wonderful US patent system:
  1. Another Amazing and Obvious To Anyone Skilled in the Field Patent Awarded
  2. Microsoft’s patent woes continue
  3. The patent office has lost it’s marbles
Posted by Eric at 09:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2003

Oldest Genital Fossils in Scotland

When you are hit by this headline, what do you do?

The sub-heading lead wasn’t much better than their title–or my paraphrase of it— but it did at least clear up a bit of confusion:

“Scientists have discovered fossils of the world’s oldest genitals — belonging to 400 million-year-old insects — in ancient rocks in Scotland.”

Oh before the petrified “daddy-long-legs”, the previous record holder for oldest genital fossil— a 100 million year old ostracod (related to shrimp and crabs). Aparently this was a New Scientist Scoop from September 3rd.

Posted by Eric at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2003

Eolas Claims Willing to Settle!

According to a report in BusinessWeek, Eolas founder Mike Doyle says his company is willing to sell Microsoft a license.

“Microsoft has been representing to the world that they have no choice but to remove technology from the browser and disrupt the Internet,” Doyle said in an interview Friday. “And I want to make it very clear that that is not the case. Microsoft has had in its power the ability to settle this case, and to the extent that they’re refusing to settle, it’s their decision.”

Doyle distanced himself from some earlier comments he made, that led many to believe Eolas would be unwilling to license it’s patent to Microsoft. He said of the earlier comments that he was speculating on the hypothetical, but that Microsoft has capitalized on those remarks to spread FUD. Eolas attorney Jan Conlin reiterated that Eolas was open to settlement through licensing.

Microsoft’s response is that it would consider buying a license if it believed this patent was legitimate. MS representative Jim Desler called the Eolas Patent invalid and said that Microsoft believes it will win on appeal. He further commented that “…and we will certainly not pay for technology on the terms they’re seeking.”

Of course there are even more unanswered questions than there were before. Have any licensing offers been extended by Eolas ? When? Under what terms? Why has Microsoft not disclosed any of this to at least the W3C members—or has it–considering they pledged to keep all members informed of developments. The issue is muddier now than ever, and it still leaves plug-in developers, web developers, and corporate and end users without any hint of a resolution to what is a major issue for the next few years of web use and development.

Even if I believed software should be patented–which I don’t–I still believe that the Eolas patent should never have been issued. I would be interested in finding out how “reasonable” any terms Eolas has offered MS are. Microsoft has previously paid for licenses to other patents that MS had vehemently argued were invalid. They have also paid licenses for other IPSCO Unix licensing for instance–well before the underlying legal argument requiring the license has been settled. I am not suggesting that MS should in fact license the patent, only that it would be consistent with their past practices in this area.

As a matter of principle, I would like to see Microsoft continue the legal battle and succeed in invalidating this patent–as I would like to see all software patents invalidated. As a matter of practicality though, if Eolas terms are in any way reasonable, then obtaining a license to end this debacle now might prove to be the most affordable course to take. As I commented in my original entry on Microsoft vs. Eolas, “if the appeals process fails, Microsoft will offer to pay, and probably pay dearly to get a license from Eolas.”

For more background here see:
Microsoft lobbies for repeal of patents for software!
Microsoft vs Eolas Patent update
Microsoft v. Eolas-A New Twist?
also worth checking out:
IE, Flash, and patents: here comes trouble
Does Microsoft want to lose the plug-in patent case?
Saving the Browser

Posted by Eric at 07:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 20, 2003

Enter The Ping-Pong Matrix

This is too funny! I don’t remember where I found this one, I think it was from a mail list for VFX and animation. Enter the Matrix and Crouching Tiger meets Live Theater and Ping-Pong. Definitely worth a look especially if you like ping-pong, martial arts, live theater or VFX. Anyone know if there is a larger version of this somewhere out there ?
Requires Macromedia Flash- It’s flash embedded video.
Yes another of the fine embedded web objects that the Eolas patent covers….

Posted by Eric at 06:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 19, 2003

Gates says 'Royalty Free'

…and the trumpets sounded, fire and brimstone rained down amidst a great gnashing—ok a bit over the top. Still for Bill Gates to embrace royalty free protocols and standards even in the smallest way is a major event. Maybe the days of embrace and extend protocols and standards are finally over. In New York Bill promised Microsoft’s full support for XML, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI as well as a number of other standards and protocols currently under development.

Bill was in New York promoting web services across all operating systems right beside IBM. The web service demonstration showed an application connection between a Windows 2003 server, an IBM WebSphere server running on Linux and a Linux hand held device. I applaud him and Microsoft accepting that, especially in networking and the web, open standards are beneficial, even if they do level the playing field. Bill even had a sense of humor when the press questioned his use of the phrase “royalty-free” responding: “I can’t believe I just said that.” Read the Wall Street and Tech report of the event for more…

Posted by Eric at 08:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Captain Kidd, Block Island

Don’t know where exactly I stumbled across this, but today is Talk Like A Pirate Day…ok…sure. No harm in a little fun. But it did make me think about some of the local lore, so I decided to look into it online. Seems the Connecticut coast—or at least this part of it—likes to talk from time to time about Captain Kidd and buried treasure.

Captain Kidd, in fact did visit the area in the 1680’s as a buccaneer and again just before his capture and return to England. It is known that he stopped at Block Island and tried to use the influence and friends he had in New York to gain a pardon from England. His efforts failed and he was captured in June of 1699 and jailed in Boston to await return to England and trial.

From his 1690’s visit Kidd was rumored to have sailed far up the Connecticut river. There are many tales of buried pirate treasure on islands in the Connecticut River, Block Island, the Mystic coast, even Boston Harbor. There was in fact some buried treasure of Kidd’s recovered from Gardiners Island, just after his arrest in 1699.

All good fun, and a bit of history—or legend—from Mystic.

Posted by Eric at 05:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Netscape 4 Horror!

So I’m designing a new site for a local small business, but I haven’t yet checked what browser the business owner is using. (Note to self: Always check browser used in first meet with client!) I’m at their location when I offer to show a few sample sites that I have done and a web mock-up of what we had discussed previously–they’re using Netscape 4!

Ouch… only one of the sites—and a pre-historic one at that–will work in their preferred browser! Ok…It’s Win98 so they have IE 5 on the system also. I offer to show one of the newer sites in IE 5 with nice CSS presentational elements and in Netscape 4–in other words plain text, no presentational style at all. They get it right away! Luckily for me they realized that they were using an ancient browser, and they like that their message will still be seen even by the oldest of browsers. Whew! I show them some stats from a few pages that show NN4 as a 1—2% hold-out browser, while Mozilla and derivatives are increasing in use as non-IE, PC based browsers. Of course, I do need to upgrade their browser now. Small price to pay!

Posted by Eric at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BBC Gets It!

The BBC announced about a month ago that they were looking to make all or a considerable amount of their archives available online–for free. While much of the traditional media infrastucture is rebelling against net technologies, the Beeb is openly embracing it. Further evidence that they get it–they are looking to use exiasting or create a new P2P application to help distribute the archives. BBC’s new media director Ashley Highfield announced at IBC Amsterdam this past weekend that BBC was developing a new platform neutral program to play downloaded or streamed programs, and be able to record them like a PVR. BBC would use P2P networks to provide a cost effective method of providing content to users.

“A fully flexible, platform-neutral, super EPG is in development that will allow TV content to be recorded TiVo-style. It’ll enable shows being broadcast now to be downloaded or streamed, and most significantly TV shows that went out recently to be recalled from our archive and downloaded.

“To save on the huge bandwidth load this will place on us, we’re exploring legitimate P2P models to get users to share our content on our behalf transparently.”

–Ashley Highfield

Posted by Eric at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Worms, Spam and Privacy

I’ve been getting alot of email that falls into Worm and Identity theft categories lately, the latest are eBay and Microsoft related. 

First up is the ebay one which warns that “During our regular udpate and verification of the accounts, we couldn’t verify your current information. Either your information has changed or it is incomplete.” The email then advises that in order to continue selling and buying you will need to update all your information (including credit card) by visiting a secure server with the provided link. Dont do it! If you examine the emails html source you will find that the link does not point to an ebay server but is a redirect, to an insecure computer. Also in the source is the following:

How’s life? VdO That’s lovely, ‘Grind’ stars: in 1870 in 1845 vXzTWpL zTZhyMqPqAr to as follows I am I’ll take it like this 179 VIEW RESULTS 6 When she 909 I enjoy it… It takes me only

This part is set by the HTML tags to be white on white background so you will not see it normally. Not the type of content one would find in a real message from ebay.

The second email making it’s rounds yesterday and today is a Worm in an email that looks to be a genuine message from Microsoft warning of the need to apply a security update. The sender shows in an email client as “MS Public Services” (at least in the 10 that I’ve recieved) with a subject line of “Net Critical Patch” Here is a screenshot of the HTML email:

w32.swen.a@mm.8.gif

If you follow the directions of the email, you will end up getting the W32.Swen worm. For more information, including removal instrauctions check Symantecs entry for this worm.

Posted by Eric at 12:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

D.C. On Top Again

If you’re from D.C. or the surrounding area this will be funny. Otherwise…
The Onion: D.C. Once Again Murder Capital, Mayor Brags

Posted by Eric at 12:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pay Peanuts Get Grumpy Monkeys

From Nature News:
Researchers Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal of Emory University recently published the results of a study focused on Capuchin monkey behavior. They taught the monkeys to trade plastic tokens for food. According to the article in Nature the monkeys were happy to trade the plastic token for cucumber, but if they saw a neighbor getting a grape in trade for the token, the short changed monkey was upset. About 80% openly rebelled if they saw a neighbor getting a grape for free. Rebellion often included refusing to make any trades or even throwing the token or cucumber clear of the cage. This behavior was primarily in the female monkeys. Primatologist Charles Janson explains that “Males care about sex, and females care about food. The males might not consider the food differences worth worrying about.”

“You need a sense of fairness to live in large, complex groups.”

Posted by Eric at 12:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2003

ExcelEverywhere Offers Eolas Free Solution

ExcelEverywhere is looking to get some profit out of the web nightmare surrounding Microsoft v Eolas. The specifically advertise —with Google Ads, so a search of eolas patents will bring up their ad— to solve the plug-in problem for developers and web masters who use the ActiveX Excel component to display Excel files on line. As they say on their page “instead_of_plugins.html”:

“ExcelEverywhere builds one single web page. All the calculations are done by JavaScript. No plug-in is required. The generated web page does not infringe, since the patent does not cover HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, JavaScript/ECMAScript, the DOM, or other web standards [Zeldman].”

Personally I love the link to Jeffrey Zeldman in there, although the way it’s presented seems to me to imply Jeffrey is supporting or endorsing their service.

Not that it’s a bad service really, and you have to applaud their quick movement to capitalize on the situation. There are a lot of companies out there without web coders and designers to take care of this issue for them, but who need to plan and move their web applications to work in a non-plug-in environment. If they need online ROI calculators,or expense report applications and reports then this promises to replace those ActiveX Excel components. Problem—well part of it at least—solved.

They also nicely include a Google search link for Eolas and Patent on their page— the price for all this— $99 after a 30 day trial period. Of course to replace all of those ActiveX components, FrontPage authors, designers and part time designers are going to need a whole lot more of these Javascript solutions. Many of the ActiveX components will not be replaceable with Javascript solutions and will require a great deal of time converting the document to well formed html—well, many apps have built in HTML conversions but they are notoriously horrible, even by FrontPage standards—to load to a site.

So from every “crises” come opportunity, and boy is there going to be a ton of opportunity here (said with dripping wet sarcasm). Zeldman said it in his article on the 12th,

“If the patent ruling stands, it will hurt web users, site owners and designers, and software companies (possibly ruining some of those companies) and will chill web development in untold ways. We find ourselves in the unaccustomed position of rooting for Microsoft.”

I have also said much the same on August 30th, September 13th and just yesterday. As for ExcelEverywhere, I have no idea if their service is good or bad—they are just the first of what I figure will be many companies and services that are going to appear in the next weeks and months. Some will be great services at affordable prices, others, well…

Posted by Eric at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Australia Cracks Down On Spam

Good on ya mates! Tipped by User Friendly comment:
Australia introduced laws to their parliment today to crack down on email spam. They recognize it will have little effect on spam that originates outside of Australia, but domestic spammers could be hit with fines in excess of $1 million (australian dollars). The law has little opposition and is expected to pass smoothly. Now what about US?

Posted by Eric at 02:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 17, 2003

Microsoft v. Eolas-A New Twist?

Well it looks like the mainstream media is picking up steam and “getting it” more regarding the Eolas v Microsoft debacle. Much of the press appears to be taking a more paranoid or conspiratorial spin on the news. I will admit I am not a big Microsoft fan, but I think this time the conspiracy theories—while tempting to buy into, especially considering MS history miss the target.

Mike at Techdirt pointed out a ZDNet article in which David Berlind hypothesizes that Microsoft lost the case on purpose:

“Never in Bill Gates’ or Steve Ballmer’s wildest dreams could Microsoft have hatched such a dastardly plan where a tiny company successfully sues for patent infringement and, as a result, Microsoft has to turn off access to its competitors’ technologies for almost every user of the Web (since most use Internet Explorer). At the very least, to keep Web-based content that was designed for the Windows Media Player from being interrupted, Microsoft could hardwire the Windows Media Player into Internet Explorer.

“Imagine that. The world’s dominant Web browser supporting nothing but Microsoft technologies. After several governments, hundreds of lawyers, and still more trustbusters worked for nearly a decade to put an end to Microsoft’s monopolistic behavior and predation, a federal court in Chicago hands a cornerstone of the Web experience to Microsoft on a silver platter.”

Like I said, very tempting to buy into, especially if you are in any way anti-Microsoft. Even Microsoft knows that this is a no-win proposition. Microsoft could easily build windows media player right into the browser, but at this point it too is a plug-in, and it wouldn’t solve the problem. Windows update services are a browser—server based ActiveX system too. Then there is the active-desktop system… where does the “browser” end and the desktop or operating system begin. Currently for IE almost all rich media is handled by plug-ins, e.g. Flash, Quicktime, PDF, Director, Authorware, RealOne, Windows Media, ActiveX, Java. Go to a site like MSN, Weather Channel, CNN or ESPN and integrated plug-in based rich media accounts for up to half of the content, especially for broadband audiences. Much of this content could not be delivered exclusively through Windows Media, even if it was built into the browser. Oh, and let’s not forget that Windows Media is currently the subject of another patent infringement lawsuit, one that is not going Microsoft’s way either.

Sure, Microsoft could license the technology from all those companies to be able to integrate those plug-ins directly in IE, but that would be a nightmare not just in keeping the software updates in synch. Memory and code bloat issues would also tend to rule out that option, all assuming of course that all of those companies would be willing to license the technology in the first place. It could be argued that Microsoft would replace PDF with embedded word documents, but that’s another plug-in via ActiveX right now… don’t even think about adding Word’s bloat to the browser! The fact is that Microsoft relies on plug-ins and ActiveX plug-ins for much of the functionality in IE and for significant functionality behind Longhorn which takes browser and web services integration to a whole new level in the operating system. If Microsoft did lose intentionally, then the way I see it they are taking a monumental gamble.

Whether or not Microsoft is taking such a gamble, I have no idea— but right now Windows media is not an answer for them, neither is Longhorn. What I do know is that this is going to present a big mess for everyone involved—except Eolas. Users are going to be confused, frustrated and angry. Some will blame Microsoft, some will blame web developers and some might blame Eolas. Most will not change to a non-MS browser just because IE quits working like they want and expect it to. Even if we could get everyone to use another browser we still have no way of knowing whether or not Eolas will pursue the other browsers after their victory against MS. Web developers are going to be pulling their hair out trying to navigate the new restriction while trying to continue to provide some semblance of the rich web users and corporations have come to expect. Those corporations are going to have to spend an inordinate amount of time and money to re-design what should be perfectly functional websites. Plug-in makers such as Macromedia, Adobe, RealOne and Apple will lose big. As far as I can see right now the only winner in this is Eolas. The best hope for the rest of us is to hope that someone can conclusively show prior art that will invalidate the patent itself.

I’ve said it before, and I firmly believe it: Software patents do not promote progress in science and art of the field. Mathematical methods, schemes and rules for mental activity, methods of doing business and programs for computers are not patentable inventions.

For my previous rants on this:
Microsoft lobbies for repeal of patents for software!
Microsoft vs Eolas Patent Update

Posted by Eric at 03:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Power to Bind

Go ISC! They have released a patch to circumvent Verisign’s attempt to hijack domain name typo’s. For those not big on the underpinnings of the net, ISC is an organization that writes and maintains several key pieces of open source software that make the net work. In this case the relevant piece of software is BIND which most ISPs and the root nameservices use to translate www.heupel.com into the numerical IP notation that computers, routers etc. can understand. Verisign recently introduced a service to “assist” when you type in a domain wrong in the .com or .net TLD’s. On the surface it’s not a bad thing, but there are two problems with it—first it promotes paid placement suggestions to the top of any possible suggestions, and second is it completely negates one of the main techniques for fighting spam. One easy way to identify spam as such is to check whether the domain it claims to originate from is a genuine active domain. This is an inexpensive (computationally) and quick check as a first line of spam defense. Unfortunately because of the new Verisign service, any checks against a .com or .net domain will now return as valid. In response to the second issue ISC felt it must release an emergency patch. 

Posted by Eric at 03:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Isabel and Wilmington

Looks like Isabel has decided to visit beautiful Wilmington, N.C. I hope the storm lessens before land fall. Wilmington has seen it’s fair share of major storms… Dub, Sally et al. our prayers are with you. It looks like we will only catch some of the effects of the very edge of the system— high winds and heavy surf. Luckily our building is far enough in from the estuary and about 15’ about sea level so all we should have to worry about is the wind. Most of the smaller boats have been secured and all floating docks and piers have been pulled out. Just in case. They are predicting 40—50mph winds late tonight and tomorrow with slightly higher gusts.

Posted by Eric at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CERT Advisory OpenSSH

Looks like there’s a vulnerability in OpenSSH versions prior to 3.7 — the vulnerability may also affect any code/products based on OpenSSH code. A patch is available from OpenSSH. Check your SSH and if you need it get patched.

Posted by Eric at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2003

Try Asking a Typographer

For some reason there is a story currently running through email and a number of sites. They all begin with:

RDIAENG.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.

This has sparked quite a bit of discussion. Some of it centers on who the actual researchers are–UC or Cambridge or whatever. The research done by the psychologists that is often cited as a source for this was on the cognitive ability to unscramble and restore reversed speech–a very interesting subject to be sure, but not the same as what is happening here. Lots of commentary is the “Wow that’s neat” type, while some people try to figure out the outer bounds of conditions that this works within. Fortunately there is a source for many of the answers to such questions: typographers.

Typographers have long held that reading, at least of western languages, is not done letter-form by letter-form, but rather by seeing the shape of the words through whitespace and contrast. Psychologists studying writing systems and how we read and learn have a long history of research that supports this. Psychological and physiological research has gone so far as to measure exactly how our eyes “read” a page and then the lines and words.

After reading the “image” of the page (which can give us clues as to content and context) we begin reading the lines with our eyes fixating on each word for very short durations of 50 to 200 milli-seconds. In this short time we are able to recognize a span of about 20 letters. In English language natives this is 4-5 letters left and 14-16 letters to the right of focus. We don’t read the actual letters in this time frame but rather we read the color–the contrast created by the internal weight and shape of the letters–and shape of the word. Our eyes usually skip over single and two letter words, and even many three letter words, unless they are set in a manner to draw attention to them— such as using a different type face or CAPS for abbreviation. We still “read” those short words but it is a cognitive function of reading from context as opposed to our eyes focusing on the word. Our eyes revisit longer words, or those that are unfamiliar or foreign. Only with the unfamiliar or foreign words do our eyes revisit a word repeatedly to follow and allow letter by letter reading of the word.

The net result of all the psychological and physiological research is that we read the shape of the word–a premise that typographers have accepted and operated from for hundreds of years. More, we mainly recognize the word shape by it’s top half. A traditional typography exercise involves reading a passage of prose in which the bottom half of each line was masked out. Reading speed and comprehension generally does not suffer at all. The exercise is repeated with the top half masked out–the passage is usually rendered illegible. From experience typographers know that the word shape can vary somewhat and we can still recognize the word both from the retained shape and through context. Even when the shape is altered enough to prevent the initial recognition, cognitively we are able to fill in the blanks from context. We could even change the letters used in the interior of words and maintain legibility–by taking care to maintain the shape and as much of the contrast of the original letter. This would be easier to accomplish in some type faces than in others, sans-serif in general would be easier than serif.

What does present us with difficulty is setting words or entire passages into “hard to read” type faces. Try reading a long passage set in an italic or SMALL CAPITALS type. Or maybe you would prefer to read an entire article in gebrochene Schriften (Black Letter or “Gothic”). Each of these affects legibility, though in each of them the individual letter-forms are easily and perfectly recognizable when viewed alone. Small capitals (or the ALL CAPITAL INTERNET YELLING FORM – ugh!) is actually the least readable of the three examples–all word shapes become rectangles, the only variance is in length. In black letter and italic faces the word shapes are changed enough to slow reading speeds significantly–in order to maintain comprehension at least — although after a little time reading in them we are able to speed up a little. If first and last letter being in the correct position was all that mattered for reading a word, in other words, if we read a word by the first and last letters only— not by shape, then we should be able to read text set in small capitals as well, and as fast, as we read anu other text. The first and last letters are critical aspects of the word shape. Interior letters affect shape also, just not to the same degree.

Granted it is a very interesting exercise when you first encounter it. I remember a number of years ago when a typography professor first introduced this one to the class I was in. He observed our reaction and commented that when his typography professor first showed him this one in a class over 30 years before, his reaction was the same. It may not be new, but it is neat.

Added 10/01/2003

Updated and additional entries on this meme can be found under these entries:

Posted by Eric at 11:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Gentle Art of the Onsen

I’ve linked to Jeremy before and I love to check in at Antipixel every few days (or even daily). Jeremy Hedley often has wonderful images of Japan— from every-day life, festivals and landscapes to textural details such as temple carvings and old houses. Occasionally he also covers an aspect of life in Japan in greater detail, such as his report of onsen with pictures. 

As soon as I saw the posting with the pictures I was taken back to my visit to my parents in Japan. We went to a few traditional inn’s as we toured part of Japan. It was during the late fall that I visited, the evenings were cold and crisp, and the outdoor baths were especially refreshing and enjoyable. I can’t help but think that no matter what else one may think of the Japanese culture, they have one thing right… onsen. Jeremy’s onsen pictures are absolutely wonderful, especially the first one and midway down the same page Takaragawa Onsen. Any one care to sponsor me to try and sample all the onsen of Japan ? I will bring back pictures and reports… in the mean time I will continue to visit Antipixel often.

Posted by Eric at 01:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 15, 2003

Blues Harmonica: Amazing Grace

Pianist and harmonica player Howard Levy has recorded a 3 minute harmonica solo of Amazing Grace to be released as a free download. Go, listen, again and again, then check out his appearance on Prairie Home Companion. If you like what you hear, visit Howard’s home page and recording company. This is just such a sweet track. 

Found at Joho the Blog— thanks D. Weinberger.

Posted by Eric at 01:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 14, 2003

True Insanity Weather

Just got back from the local True Value hardware store. Had to pick up a variety of little things — you know, a couple of mortar screws to hang a picture on the brick wall, some plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal the space around the air conditioner in the closet (don’t ask), extra flashlights for the next blackout, and naturally some Dave’s Insanity Salsa. Unfortunately they were out of the Hurtin’ Habanero Honey Mustard.

Of course everyone else there was buying plywood and generators… something about a hurricane???

Posted by Eric at 07:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 13, 2003

CERT Advisory for Microsoft Windows RPC Services

This week CERT and Microsoft released some new security info—
CERT Advisory CA-2003-23 RPCSS Vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows affects Windows NT, Windows 200, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. Microsoft has released a patch to prevent buffer overrun in the RPCSS that could allow code execution. Read the advisories and patch your system. Oh, and if you use Microsoft’s scanning tool this patch will require that you upgrade that tool as it will now report that a previous RPC buffer overrun patch has not been applied and report a vulnerability.

Posted by Eric at 02:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Microsoft vs Eolas Patent update

Zeldman pointed out that a federal judge has “rejected Microsoft’s post-trial claim that Eolas misrepresented the facts in the case…ending Microsoft’s first attempt to challenge the result.”

There are many news and commentary posts on this subject out there today and there will be more in the next few days. Thankfully far more people are talking about it this time around than when the suit first ended or when the W3C conference was held. This decision will affect everyone who uses the web, not just the companies and individuals which own or develop the browsers and web sites. Eolas has offered little information about it’s future plans regarding this patent. Will it go after Opera and Mozilla(Netscape)? Opera and Mozilla cannot afford to recode or pay fines. If Eolas pursues them with this patent it is likely that they will cease producing a browser, so much for competition and choice.

Microsoft is not going to succeed in the courts, unless they can invalidate the patent. The current legal moves appear to be stalling tactics. They will run out of time by the end of November. At that point they will have 30 days to fulfill the injunction. Of course maybe Lotus Notes could help them. Ray Ozzie thinks Lotus Notes 3.0 clearly qualifies as prior art, invalidating the Eolas patent. That UC— guardians of BSD — are behind Eolas provides only minor comfort that Eolas may provide a multi-tiered licensing structure that is compatible with the open source movement (and thus usable by Mozilla).

Software patents are quickly becoming an issue for everyone. We need to make them go away now, call it a failed intellectual exercise.

Posted by Eric at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 11, 2003

A day for rememberance

Any words I could produce would be too sad or angry to be productive to anyone but myself, they can be expressed only in quill and ink and ragged paper.

Today is, for me at least, a day to spend with my family— remembering the victims, the soldiers and their families, and being thankful for the future and the present that we have.

If you have quicktime, you may be interested in the QTVR Panorama of the Tribute in Light. Thanks to What Do I Know

Posted by Eric at 12:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 10, 2003

There's a sucker born every 1.5 seconds

Stevenf is noticing a Spamnation.

“I think what shocks me the most is not the scam itself but the sheer amount of traffic that is coming in from it. I mean, I see a site that says “FREE whatever! JUST CLICK THESE ELEVENTY-THOUSAND BANNERS!” and I roll my eyes. And until now, I would have expected most people to do the same.

“But here they all come, 1 to 2 per second, all from different IPs.”

I don’t know what’s scarier, the number of people falling for this or the number of deceptive, dishonest, scum “thinking” up new ways to “trick” people.

Posted by Eric at 08:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

To: Webmaster just returned from Mars

Please catch up with all the news, quickly. You seem to have been gone for quite some time. Just to fill you in: Worm attacks MS based systems, DOJ Sues Microsoft, RIAA suing mad, Worm infects MS based systems, Worm infects MS systems, Apache gains popularity as web server, Worm infects MS based systems, Worm attacks Apache systems, Microsoft settle DOJ case, Multiple worms attack MS systems, Mars close approach, RIAA still suing mad, Worm infects MS systems, End of the world,Worm infects MS systems.

Ok all caught up? Good now kindly go on over to CERT read your advisories (you do subscribe to the advisory email list don’t you?) and then PATCH YOUR @$#% SYSTEM or pull it offline.

I can’t believe after all the news, all the worms, after all the doom and gloom, all the warnings, all the information WIDELY distributed by Microsoft, CERT and the Media, and after everything else, that I’m still seeing /default.ida comming up so bloody common in my server logs. It’s been over 2 years now for Code Red…Wake Up!

Of course maybe I’m also ticked because it’s made it into the top ten requests to my site at all.

Posted by Eric at 06:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

P2P, Music Industries biggest focus group

Well now, isn’t that interesting–turns out that the music industry does have a valid use for P2P networks. BigChampion is watching the P2P search activity, by region, city, music category, artist and song. They are using this data along with radio play information to let the big labels know when they should be pushing a song more–High P2P scores and low airplay means they need to push radio play in that market. Kazaa et al are now the Neilson ratings of the music industry.

‘“It’s fantastic,” says Jeremy Welt, head of new media at Maverick Records, an AOL Time Warner label. “It actually shows us what people are doing of their own accord.” And because radio is beginning to take BigChampagne seriously, Welt says, Maverick can use the figures to persuade stations to increase spins.’

I can’t blame them really, in fact it’s a tactic I would actually applaud, if they did it in the open and if it weren’t for all the public b__ching and litigation. Of course this same type of information could just as effectively be gathered if RIAA would support a non—overly-restrictive online music download store, especially a cross-platform one. For instance more like iTunes, not like the doomed BuyMusic. That would really cut file-sharing down to a minimum. Of course now I really, really want to write a Kazaa bot to spam search for William Shatner’s Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and Leonard Nimoy’s If I Had A Hammer. I would provide links…but I consider it a form of torture to make anyone listen to those songs. But all you have to do is Google it, or if you must hear it, comment or email me for the links.

Posted by Eric at 05:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What music slump?

I kept looking for one of the multiple sources I remembered seeing about the steady climb of Indie artist music sales, alas I couldn’t find the online source, and two of them were from print only publications. Luckily I stumbled across Ken Layne who pointed me to a Lynne Margolis article.

“While executives at those labels wail about the industry’s imminent collapse, indie labels and artists are singing a much happier tune. Profits are up - in some cases by 50 to 100 percent. That’s in contrast to overall album sales, which dropped about 11 percent in 2002.”

Of course my favorite line–

“Another secret of their success is that the labels target consumers - namely, adults - who are still willing to pay for their music, rather than download it for free.”

A few online resources if you’re looking to discover some indie label music online:

  • RIAA Radar — Check to see if an album is supporting RIAA. Or check a category or maybe the Top 100 Indies to find RIAA free artists and albums.
  • Kris Delmhorst — I mentioned her in a previous entry, but I will mention it again because I am really enjoying her music. (thanks Phil)
  • Epiphanycorp.comRIAA free net-radio “call it downtempo, triphop, ambient groove, ambient techno, intelligent dance music ? the best of this music is a great mix of many flavors. It?s all just good groove.”
  • Six Degrees Records — ”eclectic, independent music label that produces and markets genre-bending, accessible recordings that explore world music, ambient, folk, contemporary classical and intelligent pop music”
  • Epitonic.com — “goth, noise, electronica, techno, punk, indie rock, darkwave, no wave, jungle, hardcore, world music, and things we would dare never even classify”
  • Proost - Indie Christian Music

I really hope this trend continues… RIAA might become more and more irrellevant as consumers and artists route around the problem.

Posted by Eric at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 09, 2003

RIAA Sues12 year old "Major Offender"

12 year old honor student part of the ring of computer users that have made sales drop 30%. The 12 year old will be liable for up to $150,000 for each track downloaded, including such Chart topping hits as TV Them songs “Family Matters” and “Full House” as well as that multi-platinum nursery song hit “If You’re Happy And You Know It.” For more read NY Daily News - front - Sued for a song, found via Todd Dominey at What Do I Know

Posted by Eric at 05:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Farewell Mr. Zevon

You will be missed…

Thanks to Whump.com for the link.

Posted by Eric at 03:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The right to criticize

Margaret Chase Smith Library - Library

“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism —

“The right to criticize;

“The right to hold unpopular beliefs;

“The right to protest;

“The right of independent thought.

“The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood nor should he be in danger of losing his reputation or livelihood merely because he happens to know some one who holds unpopular beliefs. Who of us doesn’t? Otherwise none of us could call our souls our own. Otherwise thought control would have set in.”

Just as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, perhaps even more so.

Posted by Eric at 03:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Apple comments: right of first sale

From the Shifted Librarian comes news that Apple has commented on the right of first sale issues with iTunes files. Among other things Apple’s Lowe said that since iTunes is selling the songs for 99 cents he doesn’t see any market for resold music. Apple doesn’t consider right of first sale an issue, that it is impractical, though perhaps within someone’s rights. Of course this doesn’t, from my understanding, in any way resolve the legal issue. Lowe and Apple nicely (although not subtly), sidestepped actually giving their blessing to resale, appearing to defer to the markets and the courts. As far as the market that Lowe and Apple don’t see for resold songs… have you folks looked at Amazon.com Marketplace lately?

There are hundreds of thousands of books up there that originally retailed (and some that are still available new in print from Amazon) for $15 — $50 that are selling in like new condition for $1 — $3. Of course a digital AAC music file doesn’t suffer from dust and shelf wear like a book does, I would gladly pay 25—50 cents for a resold track. It saves me 50—75% over getting it “new”, and there is absolutely no difference between the “used” and “new” files. I think there is indeed a market.

Posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Scott Adams Foods- Dilberito

Dilbert creator Scott Adam’s has another venture out there…Dilberito from Scott Adams Foods. 

“Scott Adams Foods started as a personal quest to find foods that were nutritious, fast and easy to make, and most important, taste great. When I found that it was impossible to find anything like that, I knew that we could do something to make the world a better place, and make some money in the process. It’s called enlightened capitalism. —Scott Adams”

Fo a sample of the vegan fare available try the Mexican Meatless Dilberito. No sugar, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and I actually recognize all of the ingredients! 

Posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 08, 2003

Music Industry Still In Denial

Dave Winer popped this on his Scripting News site today, an entry from 3 years ago about his conversation with music industry insiders— DaveNet : Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt

“The best advice I can offer the music industry based on my experience in tech is to give the users what they want. Don’t try to negotiate. Just give it to them.”

And they still don’t get it.

“Your users want control. They’ve found out how wonderful it is when they can do what they want. Now find a place to fit in. The more lawsuits you file, the more headlines you grab, the more your relationship with your users is poisoned. The technology industry learned this lesson over copy protection, now you’re part of the technology industry too. The lesson is that we exist to serve the users. When they ask for a feature, compete to give it to them. This means ripping up the rail every ten years and doing it all over again. Get used to it. This is not the end of the road, for sure.”

How prophetic, but then again, one would think the music industry (a.k.a. RIAA and it’s members) would have learned from previous technology revolutions that have impacted the entertainment industry. Yet RIAA decided to go against the advice of Dave and countless others, what a long 3 years this must have been for them. Sales have plummeted, and they show no signs of recovering. Indie music artists are grabbing more market share, primarily by embracing the internet by providing free tracks in MP3 format and relying on the best and oldest form of marketing available, word of mouth recommendations in personal networks. Now there is dissention in the ranks of the RIAA membership — Universal is dropping wholesale and suggested retail pricing of new CD’s, and Sony is entering the online music sales business to compete with iTunes. RIAA really needs to revisit Dave’s advice or three years from now it may find itself wondering how it lost it’s members, the consumers and it’s relevance.
Posted by Eric at 09:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CERT Summary - It Sounded Good

CERT has released its quarterly summary— CERT Summary CS-2003-03. No big surprises — except…

The past quarter had response teams dealing with the follwing:

Well the last one might as well become the standard sign off of all future CERT Summaries. Use Anti-virus software, keep it updated, keep your OS / Applications updated. But wait what is W32/Welchia ? No advisories or vulnerability reports on that that I remember. 

Turns out, Welchia was sort of an anti-worm. Using the same exploit as W32/Blaster it would “infect a system” and “kill and remove the msblast.exe artifact left behind by W32/Blaster, perform ICMP scanning to identify systems to target for exploitation, apply the patch from Microsoft (described in MS03 - 026), and reboot the system.” Of course there are ethical issues with the whole idea, but it also could potentially cause DOS as a bunch of systems all ICMP’ing, and downloading the patch— not to mention systems rebooting themselves. Of course someone somewhere is saying “Hey it sounded good at the time.”

Posted by Eric at 06:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Old tradition, new purpose

An age old Japanese tradition, especially in the summer months, is to sprinkle water onto the dirt paths and walkways at house and shop entrances as well as central gardens. In the country this tradition continues, but in the cities it has generally been abandoned except at some temples. Primarily it ‘s done in the morning to lessen the dust. It seems however that the sprinkling of the ground is being revived in the cities, as a way to possibly help cool the pavements and lower ambient temperatures a degree or two. Interesting to see the a mostly new application of an ancient tradition.

Posted by Eric at 03:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Death Of A Web Team - asterisk*

D. Keith Robinson has a painfully funny entry that I found via my web statistics page (how that came to be is something I must look into) called Death Of A Web Team. I say painfully funny, because his story sounds exactly like what happened to me at my last full-time Fortune 1000 corporate job. To say that this story mirrors my experience there is an understatement. His story is fictional, but based on true stories, and yes it does happen all the time. Oh, and DKR— it’s not too over the top, in fact, it’s pretty dead on. My experience soured me on doing web design for well over two years and still has me extremely leary of working for any corporation. Of course, I also know a couple of engineers who have had very similar experiences, so it’s not restricted to web teams, but rather seems to be a funtion of corporate leadership — or should I say, mis-management?

Posted by Eric at 01:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A Good Mailman

One thing Tammy and I miss from Boise is our old mailman. He was not a post mail carrier. He was a mailman — George. It seems that a really good mailman is hard to find these days. George was just such a mailman. I’m sure he wasn’t the fastest on the route, but he had something else. He knew his route by the people themselves, not by the address numbers or just even the last names. He rarely mis-delivered the mail, even though we were in an apartment block with 20 mailboxes all stacked in a 2’ × 2’ cube. I think in 18 months we had mis-delivered mail 8-10 times, which mainly happened when he was sick or on a 1 week vacation to Maine. He often checked on the elderly residents, asking me about them if he hadn’t seen them in a few days. His route was part of his community, and he was a part of ours. We enjoyed seeing him, even if we were having a bad day and didn’t want to see the inevitable bills and junk mail he brought. Every Christmas Tammy made him treats and she actually timed them to be fresh out of the oven when he came by.

We knew even while in Boise that we would miss George if he retired or we moved. Sure enough we miss him all the more, as our current PMC is nothing like George. Ok, for the record they are both men, they are (or were, I believe George has retired) both employed by the US Postal Service, and they are both from New England. Our current PMC never has a pleasant greeting. He is short and brusque if you try to ask him a question— including, “How are you?” Of course, if the mail was always delivered early and correctly that wouldn’t be such a big deal, but, the basic fact is, in the 8 weeks we’ve been here, he hasn’t delivered a single week without sticking our mail in someone else’s box and other’s mail in ours. There are 24 actual apartments in the old mill/foundry we live in, no harder or easier a task than George’s was. The difference appears to be in caring and taking the time to do it right. We really miss George.

And if you really need to get a letter or package to us– send it UPS. George is our UPS man — a different George, but cut from the same cloth as George of Boise.

Posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2003

Such are the values of our times

Lawrence Lessig provides another very interesting read about FERC settlement against “energy companies accused of manipulating markets during the California energy crisis.?

“So defraud Californians of $9 billion, pay $1 million. But develop a new technology to make it easier for people to get access to music that they have presumptively purchased: pay more than $54 million.”

Posted by Eric at 02:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The patent office has lost it's marbles

I can’t even comment, except to say I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
No, no, I do know…sob

Patented: Method of swinging on a swing
Date? November 17 2000

Posted by Eric at 04:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Asterix and Obelix vs. MobiliX.org

“It’s AD 2003, and all the Internet is occupied by the powerful IP empire. All? No, a little village of indomitable freedom fighters still hold out, assisted by their druid Getafix’s magic potion.”

Unfortunately the spoof above comes from the Asterix series of comics, and this time Asterix, Getafix et. al. are the ones spreading the empire.. I can’t believe my favorite pair of Gauls have taken this road. I would never have thought that Asterix, Obelix, Getafix , and Dogmatix would stand for something like this. I fail to see how a trademark for a comic character could possibly be harmed or diluted by a domain name and web site specifically organized to provide centralized information about mobile Linux implementation and mobile linux devices and applications. The connection here escapes me.

In case you don’t know, Asterix and Obelix are the main characters of a great comic book. One that I grew up on. Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo created the Adventures of Asterix the Gaul as a strip for a French Magazine back in 1959. They worked on the strip on and off for 10 years. In 1968 Uderzo droped all his other projects (both men had worked on many projects through the 50’s and 60’s) and dedicated himself to working on Asterix. By 1977 Asterix was a major French comic hero and extremely popular throughout Europe. When Rene passed away in 1977, Uderzo founded Les Editions Albert Rene, which as far as I can tell he still runs, to continue producing and marketing Asterix comics and related material. How big is Asterix ? There are 31 full color Asterix books, translated into 107 languages and dialects, 8 films, a liesure park(!) and assorted toys, board games, clothing etc. Pretty big.

So where does Obelix come in? Obelix is the dim, but lovable, trusty sidekick for hero Asterix. Together they create as much comedy and havoc as possible for the invading Romans (mind you this is all set circa 54 BC.) The funny thing is when you look at all the names they are all word plays and all the male, Gaulish characters names end in “ix”. Only Asterix and Obelix retain their names through all language editions (at least the ones I’ve read — German, French, English -Great Britain, and English - US) all the other characters names are “localized” to have more meaning in the language of the edition. The roster includes: Asterix, Obelix, Dogmatix(a dog), Getafix(The Druid), Cacaphonix(the troubador), Geriatrix(The old man of the villiage) and a whole host of others. It was, and still is a great comic book, and I will introduce Johann to the series in a few short years, but now it seems tainted. Whenever I go to mobelix.org oops thats now tuxmobil.org I will be reminded of what my favorite childhood hero’s did.

Posted by Eric at 02:55 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

RIAA plans to give amnesty to file sharers... Right!

According to this report at Yahoo news in Australia, RIAA is planning to announce an amnesty program. Hmmmm… I smell a rat. Of course this is all a PR stunt. Reading past the cheery headline we see that basically RIAA wants people to submit a signed and notarized document admitting to a crime they haven’t been accused of. In return for? Immunity? No. If RIAA feels that you cross their line ever again they will prosecute for willful copyright infringement, and you’ve already slammed the door to the cell with an affidavit that they now have. RIAA is attempting to win a PR battle while at the same time trying to collect the personal information of anyone who is foolish enough to submit to this.

If this were a real offer of amnesty it would run counter to everything they have been doing and saying for over 4 years now. It is diametrically opposed to the activities of the past 3-6 months. Maybe someone over there will start to “get it.” I mean for the past 3 months sharing has been down over 25% while CD sales continued to plummet. I wish they would realize that digital delivery of music and video is ready for prime time, in fact, it has been for over two years. Maybe they should look back at their resistance to prior technological advances and the fact that once they accepted those new technologies their markets and profit margins exploded. Maybe this is their idea of a genuine good faith effort to bring balance back… and maybe when Mars passed as close as it did, ghosts of Mars took over the collective minds of the RIAA. Or maybe RIAA is worried it really is the end of the world, at least for them.

Posted by Eric at 07:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Cherry Pies, Heaven and Japan

I stumbled across a funny essay the other day. Anyone who has visited or lived in Japan will identify with this one. It’s written by Robert Brady, an American living in Japan.

In response to Robert’s observation that a Japanese expat may have similar yearnings for a particular dish that is simply hard to find in the US (or at least was) — Natto. I have seen a few discussions about the lack of good quality Natto in the United States, unless of course to make it yourself.

Posted by Eric at 01:38 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weird Music News

Emailed from a friend:

“I get this newsletter every few days from Red Trumpet, a mail order music place. They have a “this week in music history” bit each time. For some reason, this one really seemed, well, strange.”

Department of Delicious Irony
September 5, 1965: The Who’s equipment van is stolen outside the Battersea Dog’s Home in England, while the band is inside purchasing a guard dog.

Oh, sure, today’s music is just as good
Singles charts, September 4, 1965: The Beatles’ “Help!” hits #1 on the pop chart, while Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” peaks at #2. James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, Part 1” peaks at #8 and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears” peaks at #16; Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” peaks at #21.

Aw, come on, everybody’s album has a catchy name these days
The Grateful Dead’s second live LP is released September 2, 1971, with the not-very-clever title “Grateful Dead”, but it’s not as if they don’t care. They originally wanted it called “Skullfuck.” It becomes the band’s first Top 25 album.

Hey, I just want to give something back to my fan
David Bowie appears on the cover of Architectural Digest on September 3, 1992, the first human to do so in four years. He tells the magazine that, “my ambition is to make music so uncompromising that I will have no audience left.”

Dept. of We Can’t Explain it Either
Elton John is introduced at the Hollywood Bowl by the show’s emcee, porn star Linda Lovelace, September 7, 1973: “Here he is, the biggest, largest, most gigantic and fantastic man, the costar of my next movie….Elton John.”

Now if THAT doesn’t just about sum up the entire decade…
Steven Ford, the President’s son, invites Peter Frampton, Frampton’s girlfriend Penny McCall, and manager Dee Hall to the White House, September 8, 1976. The trio get the grand tour and the day concludes with a visit to the First Family’s living quarters, mostly spent watching television with the President.

Oh, and for anyone who cares, Chrissie Hynde’s 52nd birthday is Sunday. No? I didn’t think so.

Posted by Eric at 01:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

Right of First Sale in the Digital Age

George Hotelling is purposely testing whether the right of first sale applies to a digital tune as it does with physical CD’s. He’s selling an iTunes song (a legitimately purchased iTunes AAC file) The ebay auction has been removed, but at one point legitimate bidding, with all proceeds to go to EFF - eBay costs, rose to $15,099. EBay has pulled the auction, contending in email to George that it violated the Downloadable Media Policy, although he stated in the auction that delivery method was contingent on not violating any of eBay’s policies. Luckily, as with most web sites that get pulled, there is an archive.

So whats the fuss? Well it’s an important thing to push forward, especially with new media and DRM. What are we, as consumers, giving up with new marketing schemes and mediums. Ideally we should be able to resell the original purchase if at some time we no longer desire to keep it. I regularly re-sell my books both online and to used book stores. The same goes for CD’s, video tapes, DVDs etc. Does the same right of first sale apply to a digial file such as an e-book, iTunes music, or video file?

Posted by Eric at 10:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

New Security Updates from Microsoft

Covering Windows, Word, Office, VBA, and Access… including one critical update.
Get em here….

Posted by Eric at 07:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BSA raids and audits prompt moves to open source software

Another example of draconian enforcement efforts driving clients away: Greplaw.org had an article I missed yesterday about guitar string manufacturer Ernie Ball being raided by the BSA a few years ago. Ernie Ball is now an Open Source Software only shop.

Posted by Eric at 07:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Firefly may come to the Big Screen

According to an article at The Hollywood Reporter, the short lived but popular ‘Firefly’ series is going to enter production in 2004 for a movie! Universal acquired the rights from 20th Century Fox and teemed with Joss Whedon to bring it to the big screen.
Way to go Universal. I just hope Wheedon sticks with the same awesome team of effects artists — ZOIC Studios. Cheers Emil!

Posted by Eric at 07:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IBM airing new ad promoting Linux

Set to air during the US Open Finals and the NFL kick-off a new ad by IBM, promotes Linux and closes with the slogan : “Linux. The Future is Open. IBM.“ The commercial will also have Henry Louis Gates Jr. advising “Collecting data is only the first step toward wisdom, but sharing data is the first step toward community.” That’s been the mantra of the Unix and open source communities for so long it seems as basic as breathing, but Gates says is so much better.

[Edit: September 06, 2003]
Finally got to actually see the Prodigy ad. 
Wow.
I really like it.
They have some heavy hitters in there…I watched it a few times to make sure but I here’s what I found (in order of appearance):
Coach Wooden, Professor Gates, Sylvia Nasar, Penny Marshall, and Mohammed Ali
The rest I don’t recognize at all, anyone know? The guitarist? The business man? Pilot?

Posted by Eric at 07:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

SCO must pay for violating German court order.

A German regional court has declared (Google Translation) that SCO has violated the provisional order (in essence an injunction) against them in Germany. Specifically SCO was prohibited from claiming that Linux contains any illegitimate code from Unix until they have proven it in court. The injunction only prevents the German office/branch of SCO from making such claims. However the court did find that the German branch did in fact violate the provisional order and has fined the company 10,000 Euro’s (about $11,000 US).

Posted by Eric at 06:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Crackdown hitting RIAA where it hurts: CD sales decline accelerating

You’re most likely familiar with the background: RIAA claims that the decline in CD sales since mid-2000 (and before) is solely because of P2P file sharing. The economy has nothing to do with it, nor do the high prices, price-fixing etc. RIAA has for the past couple of months been openly at war with file sharing, and it seems, with it’s own customer base. According to an article at the San Fransisco Chronicle, recorded music sales for the first 6 months of 2003 are down 15.8% over the same period last year. That makes music sales down 31% since mid 2000.

What RIAA doesn’t seem to be looking at is that P2P file sharing dropped 25% since they began their crackdown. Now admittedly much of that drop in p2p sharing is the Summer vacation of college student, but that has traditionally been only a 15% drop in activity. So who/what are they going to blame now? They are suing college students left and right, claiming that their activities are destroying the Empire, yet when the sharing drops 25%, RIAA associates sales continue to drop another 15%. Wait I thought they said if the pirates were gone they would be back to the good old days? What happened?

Of course at the end of the day RIAA head Cary Sherman says:

“(The) issue is not the decline in CDs; it’s the decline in people paying for the music that they acquire. We need to get people back into the habit of paying for music, whether it’s from record stores or a legal online service.”

Until recently RIAA was dead set against any on line music services. What they still don’t understand is that most of the digital consumers want to reward the artist by paying for the music. What we also want however, is to be able to transfer that music to any of our playback devices. Listen to them through the entertainment center, on my desktop, on the road with my laptop, in the car CD/MP3 player and on an MP3 Walkman. With the DRM and licensing schemes that are being used and proposed I would not be able to do that with any music I buy from an RIAA approved service. So I won’t buy.

My personal CD purchasing has declined by about 90% since mid 2000. The few CD’s I do buy are generally either for my toddler, or from an Indie artist. So RIAA now you know where some of your sales are disappearing to. Very few of us can afford to buy 2—3(or more) CD’s a week like some of my friends did some years ago. We now have to budget for every one of those $14—17 dollar CD’s far more carefully, which also means we are far less likely to impulse buy, and far more likely to buy the CD only if we are able to hear more than one track and we know that the majority of those tracks will be enjoyable. ROI you know. How many CD’s do you have that only have 1 or 2 decent or good tracks on them. 

Posted by Eric at 05:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Another Amazing and Obvious To Anyone Skilled in the Field Patent Awarded

Amazon wins patent for ordering forms | CNET News.com
From the actual patent filing:

“An embodiment of the present invention provides a method and system for ordering an item from a client system. The client system is provided with an identifier that identifies a customer. The client system displays information that identifies the item and displays an indication of an action (e.g., a single action such as clicking a mouse button) that a purchaser is to perform to order the identified item. In response to the indicated action being performed, the client system sends to a server system the provided identifier and a request to order the identified item. The server system uses the identifier to identify additional information needed to generate an order for the item and then generates the order.

“The server system receives and stores the additional information for customers using various computer systems so that the server system can generate such orders. The server system stores the received additional information in association with an identifier of the customer and provides the identifier to the client system. When requested by the client system, the server system provides information describing the item to the requesting client system. When the server system receives a request from a client system, the server system combines the additional information stored in association with the identifier included in the request to effect the ordering of the item.

“An embodiment of the present invention also provides a hierarchical technique for displaying information in a form. Also, an embodiment provides an editing mode in which the contents of a form are displayed and when selected an editing window is presented so that the contents of the field can be edited. After editing, a form is displayed with the edited contents of the field”

Posted by Eric at 04:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Paying a musician, not the RIAA etc

Thanks to a post by Phil Ringnalda, I went am currently listening to Open Road a great track by Kris Delmhorst. I know what the next CD purchase is going to be! What’s more I feel like my purchase will help support Kris’ being a musician instead of supporting hoards of IP lawyers and a collection of draconian corporations who have resisted every technological change of the past, screaming chicken little predictions all the way. 

Kris has a couple of tracks available for download from 4 of her albums. Do yourself a favor and check them out. If you like what you hear, buy some of her albums, or check out one of her live performances.

Posted by Eric at 12:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Disturbing Ebay Auction Pictures Become Art

Steven Frank operates (among other things) a web site “dedicated to the research and study of the most bizarre items found for sale on internet auction sites” called DisturningAuction . He recently found one image from an Auction that may actually transcend from disturbing auction product snapshot to disturbing but sublime art.

“The look of sheer terror on the two dolls, cornered, hair-on-end, the girl peeking out from behind, as the brain-excavated monster doll lurches toward them, flowers concealed behind the back. “Friend or foe?” they shout! Friend or foe?”

Too funny.

Posted by Eric at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

Security counting: 2+2=5

I was reading Anil Dash’s dead on commentary of Jupiter Analyst Michael Gartenberg wanting to throw the book at Jeffrey Lee Parson, when I decided to see a few of the analyst’s, well analysis. One page over and he is “observing”

“If you look around a bit, you find that The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) released data showing that 16 of the 29 security advisories it released last year involved Linux or open-source products. Perhaps Linux isn’t the silver bullet to solve security issues.”

Hmmmm… a couple of problems here.

First problem — Nobody who understands the issues even superficially, and especially nobody in the security or computer science fields, believes that there is a silver-bullet, short of disconnecting all computers from the net/each other and disallowing removable media use. This is practiced in extremely sensitive situations and it works, but its a PITA – not practical for mainstream use.

The second problem is one that is more factual in nature. Mr. Gartenberg believes, or wants us to believe, that CERT issued 29 security advisories last year, and that 16 of those were advisories on Linux or open-source products. Not True. In fact CERT lists all the advisories for anyone to view. They have for a very long time in fact. Also there is a CERT security notification mail list and an RSS feed.

In 2002 CERT issued 37 separate Advisories, incidentally the same number as in 2001. So far this year they have issued 22. So where does Mr. Gartenberg get 29? Why does he choose 2002 instead of choosing the current year to date?

Well I don’t know, but I do think it is disingenuous to cite a source without providing any link, while misrepresenting the sources data to fit his purposes. To be perfectly fair it is possible that he recalled an old newsclipping or Byte.com article from near the end of 2002, when it genuinely was 29 advisories. I have no way of knowing and should not presume that he is massaging the data… I would be interested to find out.

I did go through the CERT advisory notices from 2001 to present.
Short story— no “vendor” is perfect, it’s up to users/administrators and vendors to keep working to secure systems and employ best practices for deployment, updates and education. Advisories are only one indicator of a system/platform’s overall securability.

Long story— Here is how I checked:
Using CERT’s own advisories archive from January 2001 to the present, I briefly scanned the advisory title, the “Affected” and the “Vendor” sections looking only for the brief description of the vulnurability, and whether MS or Linux/open-source was directly involved. If the title said Microsoft, or had MS in it it, and in the “affected” or “vendors” it listed Microsoft and did not list any open-source products/vendors then it was a Microsoft advisory. If the title or the “affected” or the “vendors” listed any open-source product or company but not Microsoft, it was an open-source advisory. If the title, affected and vendors did not list an open source product/company or Microsoft, it was an “other” advisory. Similarly if the “affected” or “vendors” indicated a vulnerability for Microsoft and open source companies, I filed it as an “other” advisory. (For example a cross platform standards based vulnerability) Whew!  To the unofficial, hopefully relatively unbiased, results1:

Summary of advisories January 2001—present
Year/Camp 2003 2002 2001
Microsoft 10 7 15
Linux / open-source 7 16 5
“other” 5 14 17

It should be noted that with the exception of the one apache worm I don’t recall any widespread damages or system outages from any of the advisories attributable to open-source. The recent and historical worm issues under Windows have typically cased large scale issue for the internet in general and often mail and domain outages for specific hard hit areas.

The number of advisories a software platform has is really a crude indicator of that platform’s security, and it is only one of many indicators. There are many aspects of system security, and none of them should be glossed over or ignored. For my money Linux, Unix (any flavor I’ve used) and related open-source products are the safest route, especially for exposed servers. One of the main reasons is the granular level of control over what ports and services are exposed to untrusted networks. It is entirely possible to setup a server with only one port exposed. No application on an exposed server (or any system for that matter) should run with more rights than it absolutely needs to get the job done. In unix/linux this is a rule followed by most applications, even for those that do not follow the rule or that need high levels of system access they can be run in a chroot jail to severely limit the damage any exploited vulnerability can do. Linux has extremely flexible and capable firewalling built into in that is by default enabled at a very strong level.

Some of these ideas are starting to be absorbed by Microsoft, and I applaud Microsoft’s recent emphasis on security, track record of releasing patches and security vulnerability information. Yet there is very little that an administratorcan do to control what ports are exposed to untrusted networks from within windows itself. There is better control allowed over what user/system rights a program runs as in XP and the latest Server betas, than in prior versions, but it still falls far short of Linux/Unix. AFAIK there is no way to effect the equivelent of a chroot jail for a program which insists on running as administrator or a superuser. At least Windows XP has a built in firewall (that is not enable by default and does not allow much control over how it behaves) it is not a very capable firewall though. Any broadband connected windows box relying on the built in lightweight firewall to protect them from port attacks and other insecurities is rolling the dice. Maybe more to the point it’s like having unprotected sex, it’s not a matter of if, just when. Do yourself a favor, get a dedicated broadband router/firewall from any of the companies out there. Oh, and guess what operating system most of those little boxes are running… Linux1.

1 Yes I am a linux advocate, but I also use Windows XP daily for both fun and profit. Each operating system has uses (so doe Mac OSX) , strengths and weaknesses. Use what works for you: it allows you to be as productive as possible without the operating system getting in your way or providing too many liabilities, within a budget you can support. For me this means Windows XP for 3D animation, graphics and video editing, Linux for everything else. For you the answer may be very different.

Posted by Eric at 06:18 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 02, 2003

Old Tech Giveaway

Over at superfluousbanter.org there is an Old Technology Giveaway. Man, and I just threw away those three classic Macs. I’ll have to dig through the stuff that made it through storage and the move and see what my oldest most curious technology item is. Off the top of my head I’d say the Amiga 1000 (still in the box) and a unique Micron Technologies produced memory sidecar for same. Before I left Idaho I got rid of a Data General AViiON (based on the Motorola 88000 chips) Maybe I can find a pictures of that beast.

Posted by Eric at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ooooh, Shiny, Flashy, want!

A Deeper Look at the Tiqit and Windows XP Handhelds basically its a HPC on steroids. Size of PDA but with most of the capability of a tablet. Yummy! I’m a gadget type of geek, of course the fact that I could put Linux on this is just icing on the cake. It’s not perfect- heavy for a PDA (although much lighter than any tablet), runs warm, slow boot times and no built in Wi-Fi (!) It does boast a 640×480 screen, which is over double what is available on most similarly sized PDAs.

Tiqit is one of many XP handhelds coming down the pike. Hopefully one will be equipped with Wi-Fi and an 800×600 screen. Oh, but then again all this is really just a pipe-dream about a nice gadget when it costs in the $1500-$2500 range. I could never justify that one past Tammy.

Posted by Eric at 08:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Goodbye Microsoft IM service

In PCWorld.com - Microsoft Charges for IM Interoperability it is revealed that Microsoft is going after 3rd party IM clients. Specifically they appear to be targeting Cerulean Studios’ Trillian. I’ve used this client now for over 3 years. It seamlessly integrates all the major IM networks together in one client. Now I don’t use IM a whole lot, but I do use it to stay in touch with old buddies from my Micron days, and to participate in some rather lively discussions about Lightwave and video editing. They offer two versions of the capable client free and Pro ($25). Unfortunately MS has decided to lock out any “unlicensed or unauthorized” third party clients. Microsoft specifically names Trillian as a target. The problem is that neither the MS or AOL IM networks are open standard. They would have only their clients on the network.

Considering that the clients are free, whats the harm then in Trillian accessing the network? What does MS or AOL gain if I have their client installed on my machine over my using Trillian or Gaim (an open source multi-network IM client). The truth is IM “concentrators” as Gaim and Trillian, among others, are called are very convenient. Instead of having a separate client for AOL, MSN, and Yahoo’s IM networks running simultaneously, I have one client running. This uses less resources, and allows for a unified interface. Trillian has been the most successful concentrator in part because it also adds additional functionality such as stock tickers, weather etc. through plug-ins. Both Trillian and Gaim are hopefully that a solution can be reached with MS. The soon to be released Trillian 2.0 and the next version of Gaim will support Microsoft’s MSNP9 IM protocol.

Posted by Eric at 06:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amazing Shushing Action

Thanks to jenett.radio for pointing the way to The Librarian Action Figure! So if you know a librarian, someone involved in IA or a kid who maybe dreams of being one of those… you need to check this out. This super-hero action figure is modeled after Nancy Pearl, influential Director of Library Programming and the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library.

“The role of a librarian is to make sense of the world of information. If that’s not a qualification for superhero-dom, what is? - Nancy Pearl”

Posted by Eric at 11:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Getting there - slowly

If you have somehow discovered this site (I have only let a few know about it) then I guess I should let you know, that it is a very early work. Still very much unfinished. In software parlance I would term this as a 0.1alpha release.

I am using this site mostly to get up to speed with Movable Type as I have found it from earlier experiments to be the best compromise between power and ease of use for a lightweight CMS tool. There are a lot of fine examples of powerful CMS tools out there that are open source or low cost. Then there are some CMS systems that cost an arm and a leg, among all CMS systems support of web standards and ease of use varies greatly, and surprisingly many of the proprietary enterprise priced systems are most lacking. MT is actually fairly adept at handling general CMS duties for a small to medium sized site. It is very actively developed, with a strong public support forums and and there are a wide range of plug-in developers who contribute to the functionality of the base code. For what I need it is flexible, affordable and extremely capable. Right now I am working to develop a couple of web sites for small business owners who have no desire to learn any code, but want to be able to have a hands on part in delivering their message, including updating the site semi-regularly, without learning code, or having another application on their systems. MT fits the bill with a browser based update/publishing system that is not overly complicated.

I debated creating a PHP / MySQL solution from scratch of modifying one of the other systems out there, but the build up time would have been to long to build, test, refactor, test etc etc before I could even begin building a clients site in it. I would really rather have the luxury of building a more custom application in a lot of ways, but I am finding that MT fits most of the needs right “out of the box.” Where it doesn’t quite work I have already found answers and plug-ins in the very active community.

So why am I writing all of this, especially for an audience of two, both of which understandably don’t care about most of what I just said? 

Mostly because I am trying to document my process to some degree. While I will continue to update the site with personal opinions etc. I will also add to the MT category those bits that I find interesting or useful. In particular I will add entries with a keyword of colophon that relate to the architectural design of this site. For instance creating yearly archives. While Brad came up with it quite some time ago, his solution was extremely useful to me now, as I sought to solve the exact same problem. If I find a solution or plug-in I will enter it in the MT category with a keyword of colophon. If I create a solution to an issue in the design of the site, or a solution to a issue with getting MT to do what I want/need it to do I will likewise post it. If for some reason I stop using a solution/plug-in I will annotate the original entry to show it is no longer being used and why.

This way I have a running diary of the design of the site. It should be relatively easy at a later time to write up a comprehensive how-to or a detailed colophon directly from these entries. As (if) the site find wider readership, others can benefit from my journey.

Posted by Eric at 12:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

Traditional Japanese Architecture

Didn’t see the original posting but Jeremy has put a beautiful picture up on his site, Antipixel | Blog. There is another one, currently also on the front page of his blog. I have got to spend some time in his photo gallery! Traditional architecture, of any culture — but especially of Japan, has always been something that I have loved. Maybe that is also part of why Tammy and I love Mystic. There are a number of houses and buildings here that date to the 1700’s. Quite a bit of the town’s buildings (especially residences) date from the early to mid 1800’s. Even the place where we live an apartment “complex” was originally a textile mill in the 1800’s. There is so much texture…

I never was able to go to Kyoto to see some of the marvelous houses that still exist in that town, but I will never forget going to Nikko in the mountains to the north of Tokyo. The temples of the Rinno-ji and other structures were absolutely incredible. As stunning as the temples were and are, I have always enjoyed the architecture of the traditional house even more.

Listening to: VeggieTales - His Cheeseburger
Posted by Eric at 07:52 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Year Archives

Automated Year Archives for MT compliments of Brad Choate.

It sorta bothered me that MT can be set up to create archives by category, day, week and month but not year. To me it destroys the url tracing feature of having the entries and archives in the form of “http://abc.not/archives/year/month/day/title”. Fortunately Brad Choate has taken all the work out of creating rebuildable annual archives in Year Archives in MT. Brad is good enough to provide all the code and directions making this a cut and paste implementation. It does requires his PerlScript Plugin.

Posted by Eric at 05:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack