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Government

+ - How Do Your Candidates Stand on Issues For Nerds?

Submitted by Trevin
Trevin (570491) writes "With the general elections coming up in the U.S., I want to know what each of the candidates' positions are regarding the issues that matter to me. But the mainstream media seems concerned only with such matters as the economy, health care, environment, and national defense. No mention is made of things like copyright and patent reform, privacy, cyber security, and scientific research. So I've written a letter to the candidates for U.S. Senator in my state (California) asking what they support.

Since the election is less than a month away I didn't have time to look up all of the issues I wanted to ask about, but following I present the letter I sent. I tried to be neutral in wording the questions in order to avoid biasing the candidate's response. I would encourage others to send similar letters of inquiry, adding or modifying questions that interest you, to encourage our candidates to investigate these topics and take informed opinions to the legislature.
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Dear U.S. Senatorial candidates,

I'm doing my research for the upcoming 2010 general elections, and for the office of United States Senator for California there are questions I have regarding the candidates' support for issues which are not covered by the mainstream media. As a computer software developer, I am mostly concerned with government policies regarding the electronic frontier. Would you please let me know where you stand on the following matters. Your feedback will help me determine how I will vote in the next few weeks.

Do you believe that the term of copyrighted works before entering the public domain at 120 years is fair, that it should be reduced, or that it should be extended? By what amount should it be changed?

Do you believe that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 is effective and sufficient for protecting copyrighted works, that it should contain more restrictions, or that it should contain fewer restrictions?

Do you support or oppose the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in its current form?

Do you support or oppose the proposed Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA)?

Do you believe Internet service providers (ISP's) should be liable for computer user's activity passing through their network which is illegal? What about for activity which is allegedly illegal? Should ISP's be required to monitor their networks for illegal activity?

Do you believe that the Transportation Security Administration should be allowed or prohibited from searching the contents of travelers' electronic devices (laptops, portable music players, personal digital assistants), with or without cause?

Do you believe that police officers and other enforcement agents should be allowed to search the contents of suspects' computers without a warrant, incident to an arrest?

Do you believe that the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 has been effective in reducing the amount of fraudulent and malicious email on the Internet? Has it been effective in reducing the amount of unwanted but otherwise legitimate unsolicited email? Has it been effective in prosecuting willful spammers?

Do you believe that peer-to-peer (P2P) computer file sharing has a legitimate purpose for the efficient mass distribution of large files over the Internet, or do you believe that P2P serves illegal purposes and should be banned?

Do you believe that computer software algorithms should be patentable either as a whole application or as individual components? Should the term for software patents be the same as for other inventions (14-20 years) or different?

What is your opinion of patent holders who do not manufacture or market any product using the patented invention, but actively prevent other companies from producing potentially infringing products?

Do you support or oppose legislation mandating the use of specific technologies on electronic equipment sold in the United States, such as the inclusion of "trusted computing" devices in computers or video equipment that checks the "broadcast flag"?

Do you believe that consumers who have purchased electronic devices (including computers, video game equipment, home entertainment components, etc.) should be allowed to use such equipment however they wish and make modifications to those devices for their own personal use, or that the manufacturer of such equipment should have control over how those devices are used and whether any modifications are allowed?

Do you support the use of industry standard formats for the electronic publication of government documents and media (such as plain text, Vorbis, and Theora) or the use of commonly used proprietary formats (such as Microsoft Word, MPEG, and AVI)?

Do you believe that hardware and software companies should be required or encouraged to use and comply with published industry standards (ISO, IEEE, ANSI, RFC, etc.) for interoperability with other vendor's products whether competing or cooperative, or that they should be allowed to use proprietary interfaces and protocols which restrict compatibility to the company's own products? Or is this a matter which the government should not legislate and let the market work out?

Do you believe that the National Security Agency has the right and duty to monitor domestic phone calls, text messaging, email, web browsing, and other electronic communication? For what purposes and under what conditions should it be allowed?

Do you support electronic voting, and if so do you believe electronic voting machines should be developed as closed-source systems (only the manufacturer knows how they work) or as open-source systems (the design and code is available for public scrutiny)?

Thank you for your time."
Communications

+ - AT&T Phone Service EULA

Submitted by
Trevin
Trevin writes "I recently received a new Residential Service Agreement for my AT&T phone service, and on reading through it noticed a couple of peculiarities. I'm wondering if there are any other readers out there who have noticed the same thing (for those of you who actually read these legal documents) in either your local AT&T or other company's phone service, and if there are any people who know whether these terms would actually hold up in court (or if I'm just reading them wrong).

First, section 6 reads more like a software disclaimer than a utility agreement. The full section (converted from all upper-case):

6. Disclaimer of Warranties
The services are provided by AT&T on as "as is","as available" bases without warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of title or implied warranties or merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose or otherwise, other than those warranties (if any) that are implied by and incapable of exclusion, restriction, or modification under the laws applicable to this agreement, all such warranties being expressly disclaimed. AT&T does not authorize anyone, including but not limited to AT&T employees, agents, or representatives, to make a warranty of any kind on AT&T's behalf, and you agree that you will not rely on any such statement. AT&T does not warrant that any services will be uninterrupted or error free.

I don't expect completely uninterrupted service — murphy's law assures that things will sometimes break down — but in my mind a warranty means that when their service breaks down, they will fix it. This section however seems to indicate that they are waiving any responsibility to fix problems that arise.

The next section which looks suspicious relates to the recent congressional debates about telecom immunity in unauthorized wiretapping. From section 9. Dispute Resolution by Binding Arbitration:

Notwithstanding the foregoing, either party may bring an individual action in small claims court, or make a complaint to the Federal Communications Commission or a state public utilities commission if the claim is within the court's or agency's juristiction. You agree that, by entering into this agreement, you and AT&T are each waiving the right to a trial by jury and to participate in a class action.

Sorry I don't have a link to the full text of the agreement on the Web; I can't seem to find it on AT&T's web site. I just have the printed notice. The latest notice on AT&T web site (as of January 1) has similar wording to the above. Is this standard operating procedure for telcoms?"

Graphics

+ - ATI vs. nVidia Hardware Technical Support->

Submitted by
Trevin Beattie
Trevin Beattie writes "Last week after rebooting my computer I noticed random red and blue dots blinking on the screen during POST. I sent a support request to ATI asking if they had any utilities to test my video RAM and whether this sounded like a problem that could be fixed. Their response: they don't support Linux video drivers!

I went back and forth with them three times on this, I even sent them photos of my screen during boot, and got the same response the second time and a boilerplate message the third time which stated, among other things: check the knowledge base (I had; the only article that mentions my problem is a broken link), upgrade your latest video drivers (irrelevant), then submit a support request (which was what I was doing).

I'm appalled at how obtuse their support people are. I suspect they aren't even really people; I feel like I'm talking to a machine with pre-programmed responses. I'm considering switching over to nVidia, but before I do, I want to know whether their technical support will be any better if I have hardware problems?

So what are your experiences with ATI and nVidia, for either gaming or workstation video cards? Please limit the discussion to actual hardware failures, not software/driver problems."

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