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User Journal

Journal: Youtube must pay ASCAP $1.6 mil

Journal by rfc1394
An article in Techdirt mentions an almost completely ignored story that YouTube has been ordered to pay ASCAP $1.6 million for music streamed over the service, including music in videos uploaded by YouTubers despite the provisions of the DMCA which gives a website immunity for 3rd-party provided content.
Google

Journal: Google bans tethering app from Android Market 1

Journal by rfc1394
In an article in Infoworld, apparently Google's supposed openness has ended, as it has banned an application from its Android Market. "WiFi Tether for Root Users, an application developed by Seth Lemons and a partner, has been banned from the market for violating the developer distribution agreement. The application lets users connect their G1 Android phones via Wi-Fi to their laptops and then access the Internet from the laptop using the phone's cellular connection." Apparently this functionality violates T-Mobile's terms of service. The Android Market was apparently very open, the only requirement being to submit a $25 fee to be included, as opposed to the more stringent requirements for Apple's store.
User Journal

Journal: Prediction of Barack Obama's election?

Journal by rfc1394
The BBC World Service Saturday summary of their daily radio program The Strand has a section about a book (presumably in Portugese) from Brazil, by Monteiro Lobato called "The Black President," it's the story of how a white woman and a black man are fighting it out for election as President of the United States, and the black man wins, then follows his presidency. Oh sure, a fictionalized story about the current election and the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Not really, since the book was written in 1926. As surprisingly prescient as the book was, the idea of race equality was so far fetched that in 1927 the author could not get a publisher interested in releasing an English translation in the United States; it was feared the book would have caused riots. How far we have come in 80 years. The article about the book comes about half-way (35 minutes) into the show, which you can get to listen to by the link for the show in this article.
Government

Journal: A cheap, simple method to do verified elections fast

Journal by rfc1394

I post on the politics section of my blog a method I've discovered (or invented, take your pick) to provide verifiable, auditable, fraud-resistant, reliable secret elections that can be done simply and cheaply, without fragile complicated electronics, that you can get election results in most cases in the polling place as fast as 30 seconds after the end of the election, without even having to break the seals on the ballot boxes. You can also use automated equipment to count the votes. My method will even work in places with no electricity. I have not seen anyone else propose anything as easy or as basically inexpensive as this, that produces fast, reliable results in most cases. I summarize how it works below.

All you need are some transparent boxes with seals (padlocks or cable ties that have to be cut to be opened), some tokens - these can be coins or anything with a consistent weight - a cover to conceal the contents of the boxes so the voters can't see how others have voted, a booth so the voter can't be seen as to their vote, and (optionally) a scale.

You need one transparent box for each choice for each ballot question, for each voting booth. So if you have an election of 3 offices each with 4 candidates, and 2 ballot propositions or bond issues, we'd need 5 boxes for each office (one box for "write in"), and a "yes" or "no" box for each ballot proposition. So we need 19 boxes for each voting booth, and for each voter we need 5 tokens. Tokens might be different for any specific office or proposition to keep them from voting twice on any office or they only get one token at a time for each office or ballot proposition.

The voter selects which choice they want for each office or ballot question, and puts their token in the box for their choice, either a particular candidate or a yes/no proposition. At the end of the election, the boxes are removed, and you don't have to open them, or even break the seals to count the ballots, you just weigh the boxes! As each token and each box weighs the same, you know exactly how many votes they got without even needing to open the box. As the box is transparent, you can see the vote tokens so you know they haven't stuck other things in the box. Since each vote is a token, you can break the seal on the box and count them if you want. Since there's no electronics, there's nothing to break down or need repair. You can even get rid of the scale and just count the tokens, but by weighing the boxes, you can get an immediate total as soon as the election is over, as little as the 30 seconds it would take to move the box from the voting booth to the scale. And if you use coins or similar types of tokens, you can use ordinary coin-counting equipment for that size token to do automated counting.

Outside of things to do for fraud prevention and a few fixes to cover write-ins, you could run a whole precinct on a bunch of plastic boxes with cable ties, a few thousand coins (one for each person registered to vote, for each ballot question or candidate), a scale, some labels (to mark which box is which candidate or response for a ballot issue) some blankets (to cover the boxes to keep the existing vote secret) and some partitions for the booth (to keep the voter secret) if you had to.

Since I thought it up, I call it the "Robinson Method."

I give more details including fraud prevention points and some types of elections where this won't work on my blog, but the idea seems so simple, easy and cheap to do, that I'm wondering what I've missed, if anything.

--
Paul Robinson - My home page
"The lessons of history teach us - if they teach us anything - that no one learns the lessons that history teaches us."

Government

Journal: A cheap, simple method to do verified elections fast 2

Journal by rfc1394

I post on the politics section of my blog a method I've discovered (or invented, take your pick) to provide verifiable, auditable, fraud-resistant, reliable secret elections that can be done simply and cheaply, without fragile complicated electronics, that you can get election results in most cases in the polling place as fast as 30 seconds after the end of the election, without even having to break the seals on the ballot boxes. You can also use automated equipment to count the votes. My method will even work in places with no electricity. I have not seen anyone else propose anything as easy or as basically inexpensive as this, that produces fast, reliable results in most cases. I summarize how it works below.

All you need are some transparent boxes with seals (padlocks or cable ties that have to be cut to be opened), some tokens - these can be coins or anything with a consistent weight - a cover to conceal the contents of the boxes so the voters can't see how others have voted, a booth so the voter can't be seen as to their vote, and (optionally) a scale.

You need one transparent box for each choice for each ballot question, for each voting booth. So if you have an election of 3 offices each with 4 candidates, and 2 ballot propositions or bond issues, we'd need 5 boxes for each office (one box for "write in"), and a "yes" or "no" box for each ballot proposition. So we need 19 boxes for each voting booth, and for each voter we need 5 tokens. Tokens might be different for any specific office or proposition to keep them from voting twice on any office or they only get one token at a time for each office or ballot proposition.

The voter selects which choice they want for each office or ballot question, and puts their token in the box for their choice, either a particular candidate or a yes/no proposition. At the end of the election, the boxes are removed, and you don't have to open them, or even break the seals to count the ballots, you just weigh the boxes! As each token and each box weighs the same, you know exactly how many votes they got without even needing to open the box. As the box is transparent, you can see the vote tokens so you know they haven't stuck other things in the box. Since each vote is a token, you can break the seal on the box and count them if you want. Since there's no electronics, there's nothing to break down or need repair. You can even get rid of the scale and just count the tokens, but by weighing the boxes, you can get an immediate total as soon as the election is over, as little as the 30 seconds it would take to move the box from the voting booth to the scale. And if you use coins or similar types of tokens, you can use ordinary coin-counting equipment for that size token to do automated counting.

Outside of things to do for fraud prevention and a few fixes to cover write-ins, you could run a whole precinct on a bunch of plastic boxes with cable ties, a few thousand coins (one for each person registered to vote, for each ballot question or candidate), a scale, some labels (to mark which box is which candidate or response for a ballot issue) some blankets (to cover the boxes to keep the existing vote secret) and some partitions for the booth (to keep the voter secret) if you had to.

Since I thought it up, I call it the "Robinson Method."

I give more details including fraud prevention points and some types of elections where this won't work on my blog, but the idea seems so simple, easy and cheap to do, that I'm wondering what I've missed, if anything.

--
Paul Robinson - My home page
"The lessons of history teach us - if they teach us anything - that no one learns the lessons that history teaches us."

Role Playing (Games)

Journal: Woman jailed after 'murdering' virtual husband

Journal by rfc1394
The Internet radio feed of the BBC World Service reported that a woman in Japan has been jailed after allegedly "murdering" her virtual husband whom she married on line. I found details which can be read in The Register at this article in which she was apparently upset at the man and allegedly decided to delete his "beloved" on-line character in the game Maple Story. She faces a fine of up to $5,000 and 5 years in jail for computer fraud. This may be the first time in recorded history - short of something involving a séance - where the victim of a "murder" could give live testimony at trial.
The Almighty Buck

Journal: An explanation of the $700 billion bailout

Journal by rfc1394
I have posted a really comprehensive entry on my blog explaining how we got into the mess that requires that banks need a huge bailout to cover their blunders. It's fairly easy to read and you might consider it a bit humorous. Some quotes:
  • Recent reports of the $700,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bailout of the U.S. banking system compels me to write a little about how finance works in the U.S.
  • The occurrence of severe local depressions caused the "Federal Reserve Act" (1913) to establish a national bank so that now, the Federal government had the power to change what would be local depressions into national ones.
  • If you ever saw the bank run as shown in Its A Wonderful Life you'll know that a bank doesn't have the deposits in the vault, they've loaned out their depositors money. Before deposit insurance, if too many depositors show up, the bank closes its doors, and the banker tries to run out of town before the angry depositors lynch him.
  • Upton Sinclair's 1907 book The Jungle tells of a scam that mortgage brokers used on unsuspecting immigrants. (That it doesn't look much different from the scams mortgage brokers use today shows how little imagination mortgage brokers have.)
  • Originally, you had to have a good job and good credit to get credit cards; if you didnt, your friendly neighborhood ghetto department store sold you junk and financed you at rates that, until now, were basically just south of usury. Today you can get over-the-phone loans from companies that advertise on TV at interest rates that would embarrass a loan shark, [who could never be anywhere near that greedy].
  • The joke [in the 1980s over the S&L crisis] was if you wanted to rob a bank, you were better off looting it, because armed robbery was a crime but using your friends to loot a bank was likely to not be prosecuted.
  • Those with money had a field day screwing around with the bankruptcy laws to make them less favorable to the debtor and more favorable to the guy who was owed money. Those of us who didnt have the money to pay lobbyists to protect us got screwed.
  • Lets you and I open a bank with $1,000 between us. If theres a 5% reserve, we have to deposit $50 with the Federal Reserve and can loan out $950. Thats how you might do it, but Im smarter than that; I figured out a way to legally loan out money we dont have, a practice that in other industries would get you 3-5 in Baltimore's Supermax prison for fraud, but perfectly legal as long as you're a bank.
User Journal

Journal: BBC Radio program on Pirates

Journal by rfc1394
A BBC World Service radio program about piracy begins with the reporter in London trying to buy a pirated DVD of Pirates of the Caribbean from a street vendor, how the studios are trying to stop this even as they do films glorifying the pirate mentality, and how typically the countries that tried the hardest to pirate material (such as the U.S. toward other countries back in the 19th century) have ended up becoming the most opposed to it as they became developers of literary and intellectual works. Includes an interview with one of the founders of The Pirate Bay and you can even pirate^H^H^H^H^H^H download a 22 minute podcast of the program from here.
User Journal

Journal: Where are the video editing tools in Open Source?

Journal by rfc1394

I have posted a video on You Tube where I spend about three minutes describing my new 30-frames-per-second video camera, but the video is done with my old 15-frames-per-second one. Why? Well, I don't want to reiterate the entire video including the rant of about four minutes I make on why, but the simple fact is that the new camera won't work as a web cam, and the files it creates on its memory card are AVI files. (I have an error in the video; Microsoft Windows Movie Maker creates WMV files; I said it makes Quicktime MOV files.) Despite that it supposedly will allow AVI files, Windows Movie Maker crashes if you try to feed it AVI files.

And I can't find any open-source tools that will allow me to do video editing with AVI files. I do not want to spend a fortune on a video editing program. But apparently video editing is one of the functions that is lacking in open source.

If you want to edit audio, there's no question: Audacity is the premiere tool for that purpose. I use it regularly and it's at least as good if not better in both functionality and in ease-of-use as any proprietary application for audio editing. When I want to develop a raster-based image (which is what SVG files are) because you can scale the image up or down and keep it sharp, I use Inkscape. But if I need to edit a bitmap image, I'm usually using Microsoft Paint or an older version of Paint Shop Pro because the learning curve for The Gimp is too high and its user interface is very difficult.

But I can find nothing in open source that is available for the purpose of doing editing of video files, specifically for AVI files. Maybe there is, but I can't find it. As I say in the video - and I'll focus on this again in a moment - I would set up a Linux partition on one of my computers and space to do this if Linux had the tools to do this as opposed to having them on Windows if they weren't available.

And so, as I (partially) point out in my video above, for those who want to really encourage people to turn to open source, good quality video editing tools available in open source, probably for Linux, would be a serious "Killer Application" that could get people to move. If they're not there, we (as in programmers who do this) need to work on them.

The camera I have came with a video editing tool, but it apparently won't work the the videos the camera creates. I hand it a 15-second clip and it says it can't work with video longer than 5 minutes!

If there are tools for video editing in open source, they have to be usable; they can't be junk or hard to use or they are worthless. The tools have to be at least the equivalent of what is available in proprietary applications, such as the (free as in beer) Microsoft Windows Movie Maker. That means non-linear video editing in a graphical user interface. A timeline. Ability to cut video at either any frame or for compressed video, at any key frame. Ability to insert audio, snapshots, video clips, to mute audio on a clip, to delete clips or to cut clips so I can remove things like excessive pauses, speech disfluencies (a fancy phrase I had to look up meaning use of "uh" in conversation), and errors. (I may do a gag reel containing all of my mistakes; it would definitely be Not Safe For Work. I am extremely polite in writing my blog; I can be extremely profane when I get mad when something goes wrong.)

It also needs to be able to insert titles, it probably should have effects (like various wipes and dissolves), and it would be nice if, in addition to titles, had proper captioning. I'm not deaf, but I caption all my videos. It actually takes a lot longer to add the captions (primarily because Windows Movie Maker doesn't really support them directly, I fake it with a title superimposed on the film) but I do it because it is the right thing to do: it allows those who can't hear to know what I have to say, and in case I slur my words (which sometimes when I get excited I do sometimes talk fast) someone can still understand what I'm saying.

Now if someone knows of good World Class Open Source video editing tools which are at least the equal of, say Windows Movie Maker I'd like to hear about them.

As I said in a previous article on my blog, the original Napster, if it ran only on Linux, would have been a "Killer App" that would have driven people to Linux in droves. And I suspect that if there were easy-to-use video editing tools it could also be the sort of thing that gives people a reason to take up that system, and if you can get your foot in the door you've got the chance to win people over.

iMac

Journal: Apple pulls Boot Camp downloads

Journal by rfc1394
In an Infoworld article, it's reported that "Apple has pulled the beta of Boot Camp, the application that lets Mac users run Windows XP or Vista on their Intel-powered machines, from its servers in preparation for Friday's launch of Leopard." and "Earlier this month, Apple reminded users that the license to Boot Camp would expire when Leopard shipped."
Microsoft

Journal: Microsoft must not enforce patents on Open Source projects 186

Journal by rfc1394
This article in Australia's IT News, mentions that under its antitrust agreement with the European Union, "Microsoft will publish an irrevocable pledge not to assert any patents it may have over the interoperability information against non-commercial open source software development projects." Whether M$ will claim this will only apply in the E.U. or that it will apply to Open Source projects in the U.S. is an open question in view of Microsoft's rather lackluster compliance with prior antitrust violation settlements.
Education

Journal: Hate crime victim finds assailant on Facebook

Journal by rfc1394
A Washington, D.C. student of Georgetown University has been arrested on suspicion of a hate crime, in which he allegedly beat up another man because the victim was gay. Channel 4 reports that the victim - who also goes to the same school - recognized the alleged assailant, because of his profile and photos on Facebook.
Censorship

Journal: Ohio Net-censorship law struck down 121

Journal by rfc1394
In this article, C|Net reports that a federal judge has struck down as unconstitutional a portion of an Ohio statute which attempted to prevent minors from seeing material which would be "harmful" to them, but was so overbroad that it would have covered a considerable amount of material which is legal for adults to view. Basically, if a website operator had reason to believe the material they were showing was visible to minors, and if the material was considered to be harmful to them, they would be in violation of the law. Since about 1/6 of the users of the Internet are minors, it's trivial to argue that anyone running a website would be aware that the material they have is visible to minors even if they had no intention of doing so. If the decision is upheld by an appeals court - very likely in view of similar bans which have been struck down - the state of Ohio could be liable for the plaintiffs' attorneys fees, "which amounted to a requested $488,601 in a similar Internet censorship suit in Virginia."
Communications

Journal: FCC Requests Comments on New Spectrum Auction

Journal by rfc1394
In an article on Computerworld, it's noted the FCC is requesting comments on its 700MHZ spectrum auction proposed for January 16, 2008, "which is expected to yield more than $10 billion." If you have some spare cash lying around, the minimum bid for the largest chunk, 22MHZ of spectrum which is open across the entire country, is a mere $4.6 billion, the exact amount Google had said it would be willing to offer for a minimum bid if the conditions it wanted on the auction were met. While most of the conditions of the auction are what it asked for, it's not clear if Google will actually bid - bidding will be secret during each round to "improve competition" - and even if it does, it will probably lease spectrum to actual operators who will do the build-out, as comments from the company most likely indicate it's interested more in some form of bulk access.
User Journal

Journal: Question on use of someone else's credit card 1

Journal by rfc1394

I have had a problem involving use of someone else's credit card over the Internet. I want to post this because I want to advise people of a potential problem and/or risk and perhaps ask if someone else noticed something like this, or, in the alternative, make it known what happened so that people can be aware of it. Or maybe someone can tell me how this happened.

Another roommate who stays at the house I rent a room in uses my computer to handle his business, basically for surfing the net and such. If I'm at the computer I'm willing to help him find things or enter details. On occasion, typically for his customers he will book airline tickets, and he uses one specific credit card for that purpose. On occasion he's had me enter his information into the computer.

I do not know, and have never saved or captured his credit card information (I have my own cards). Well, what is wierd is, there were two things I ordered which were charged to his card number. I haven't the slightest idea how. The last 4 digits of both cards are different, the issuers are not the same (the credit card I use belongs to a family member and is a major East-Coast bank, his has his name and is some bank in the Midwest), and as I don't even know his number there's no way I could have used it intentionally.

My ATM card is on the Visa network from a third bank different from either of the two others, and if I hit a website that refused debit cards, I have a regular credit card which is issued to a family member, so I did not need to use someone else's card. And if I did need a credit card and did not have one around, I would have asked him first if I didn't have a credit card available.

I use Netscape version 7.2 "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.7.2) Gecko/20040804 Netscape/7.2 (ax)" on a Windows XP machine with Service Pack 2 for browsing because I do not trust Internet Explorer and its security holes. I have a hardware firewall between this computer and the Internet, so I can't argue some hacker broke in and switched one of my charges to his credit card. (Which is ridiculous to say the least.)

The only possible answer I can think of is that on one of the form fields used by one of the airline websites, is using the same field name as the two companies I ordered things from, and somehow they are capturing the same values from each other. (One was Vista Print, where I ordered two rubber stamps, and the other was AAA where I ordered a membership. I think the tickets he ordered were from Southwest Airlines.)

When I placed his legitimate order on Southwest, I typed in his number as he read it to me. I did not copy the number into the clipboard or otherwise save the number. Later when he saw his bill for two items he did not recognize and asked me about it, I discovered that the purchases he has on his bill exactly match the two I made, but should have gone on my credit card number. And I haven't the slightest idea how.

I went to Vistaprint's website, and tried a fake transaction. When I got to the payment page, where it asks for credit card number, the field is blank. I double-clicked on the credit card number field, and the previous value came up, with the correct card number (the one I would have used).

I don't know his number, didn't save it and did not attempt to use it. I couldn't have used his card number by mistake by typing in off of it if, I had, say, found it on the desk because he left it behind and I mistook it for one of the credit cards someone in my family has (first, the name would have been wrong and even if I didn't notice that, I would have spotted the credit cards as being wrong because I do not and have never used his bank.) But somehow I did use his card number and I haven't the slightest idea how. The only possible explanation I have is that some how form fields used on three different web sites are somehow cross-collecting information by pre-populating them, or something.

The two transactions together come to less than $90, so it wasn't a huge issue, but it frightens me because I haven't the slightest idea how it happened or how I could have prevented it.

The solution I am going to use is that if I ever do anything for him that involves ordering something, I will use Internet Explorer (for accessing a specific known and trusted website, it is okay), and I will not use Netscape for anything he's using, as I only use Netscape for anything I order. The only possible answer I can come up with is some form of cross-website contamination, which I do not believe could happen if I'm not using the same browser for any of his transactions, so I think this will solve the problem. I've also suggested he get his bank to issue him a new card with a different number.

This kind of thing scares me; if it wasn't for the fact he was understanding about it, I could technically have been looking at charges for credit card fraud! The thing that bothers me most is that I'll be damned if I can figure out how the hell this happened.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman

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