The world will beat a path to their doors. parvati writes: "This is the follow-up to an unusual contest mentioned on Slashdot a few months ago. A Princeton neuroscientist, John Hopfield, created a neural network modeling how the brain interprets sensory input, posted it on a website, and invited others to deduce the basis behind the way the network "thought". There is now a winner--David MacKay's group at Cambridge University--and the results will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a bit. Preprints are available from the website that contains the information about the network."
Cuchulainn also passed on word of this NYTimes story on the two winners of the contest.
Who's spamming who, on the freeway of love? jamie passed on this email from Bennett Haselton, who runs Peacefire.org, as a followup to the recent story of his about the traffic-blocking capabilities (and implementation) of Above.Net.
I've found out why I haven't been getting any email from the gilc-plan or ifea-plan mailing lists for several weeks now.
The hosts where these mailing lists are run is connected to the Internet via HIS.com, which is connected to the AboveNet backbone. Peacefire's ISP is on AboveNet's "boycott list", which means all their downstream customers are blocked from accessing our Web site or sending email to peacefire.org addresses. (To them, it just looks like the site is down -- "the server is not responding...", or "Returned mail: host not responding...")
AboveNet does not publicize that they do this, and in fact I called AboveNet pretending to be a naive customer and asked them whether they blocked their users from accessing anything on the Web. All five employees that I talked to in sales and tech support, said "No". Although when I talked with a high-level technician and showed him the evidence, he did admit that AboveNet blocked sites on the boycott list.
I talked to several AboveNet users affected by the block, and they had no idea that AboveNet was filtering their Web access; most were pretty pissed off about it.
When Slashdot published a story about this, AboveNet immediately re-opened their customers' to our ISP's web sites: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=00/12/13/1853237 but I don't know if the un-ban is temporary or permanent. Currently we are detecting when customers connect to our site from an AboveNet-controlled IP address, and opening a separate window to warn them that AboveNet has been blocking their Internet connection for the last several months, and that they may be entitled to sue AboveNet for censoring their connection without their knowledge.
AboveNet is participating in a boycott of our ISP, organized by the Mail Abuse Prevention System, because of sites like http://188.8.131.52/ which sell mass email software (but does not spam or use spam for advertising). I think this distinction is important (there are many sites that host software programs with far less ethical uses, however, the hosting ISP's aren't the ones responsible), but never mind -- there's nothing wrong with a boycott as long as it's voluntary. AboveNet, however, is co-opting their users into the boycott involuntarily, knowing that 90% of their customers would never agree to have their Web access censored if they knew what was going on. AboveNet admitted it has nothing to do with protecting customers from spam (obviously, since they're blocking Web sites, and the targeted servers aren't spamming anyway); it's just a way of putting pressure on the ISP by threatening to cut off their customers' access to their sites.
We also contacted the boycott organizers to ask why they didn't just remove Peacefire's IP address from the list and block the others in the same range, and they said it was technically possible, but they wouldn't do it -- unless we joined the boycott by going to another ISP.
For the time being, I can get mails from the gilc-plan and ifea-plan lists. If AboveNet re-instates the ban after the controversy dies down, I'll re-subscribe to the lists under a different email address.
Anyone care to ante up 1/6 for an MP3? minard writes: "I have on my shelf an example of a wax drum (forerunner of the vinyl record) that had been sold in Britain circa 1905. I just noticed a label on the side I hadn't really paid attention to before. It says:
"This record is sold by the National Phonograh Co Ltd upon the condition that it may not be sold or offered for use by the original or any subsequent purchaser (except by an authorized factor to an authorized retail dealer) for less than 1/6 each. Upon any breach of said condition the license to use and vend this record implied from such sale immediately terminates."
1/6, by the way, would be about 10c. Not sure how much that would be today. Basically this is a license restriction that enforces pricing controls (completely legal at the time). I'd always assumed these were a new thing. Guess not."
You look a little down in the Mouth ... The seventh in our continuing reprint of Jon Katz's "Voices From the Hellmouth" series is now online.