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Slashback

Slashback: Scramjet, Golden Ears, Preciousness 209

Slashback tonight with a followup on the Australian scramjet test, comparing audio formats with numbers (not just complaining about them), and questionably reasonable ways to sneak abuse-begging Internet laws in "for the children," (or plaintiffs, as the case may be). Read on.

Everything that rises must come down under. spam-it-to-me-baby writes: "The Australian trial of a scramjet engine has fizzed. 'The experiment at the Department of Defence's Woomera Prohibited Area, 500 kilometres north of Adelaide, was not successful because the [United States-supplied] rocket experienced flight anomalies prior to the scramjet experiment,' an analysis of what went wrong says. Not to worry, another test is tentatively scheduled for next week, assuming researchers can work out what went wrong with this one on the way up."

Not to be confused with this previous scramjet test, also unsuccessful.

Ah, much better, I thought you were being unreasonable there for a minute. After Jamie drew attention to it in a Slashdot piece on Saturday, SafeSurf changed their legislative proposal. In Jamie's words, "Woo!"

That's not all he said, of course: "Please note that, now, they ONLY want to fine you thousands of dollars for failing to label anything you write that is harmful to an 8-year-old. What a relief! "The penalty for a first offense of failing to label or mislabeling material harmful to minors shall be limited to a fine of under five thousand dollars."

Bennett Haselton passed on this commentary as well:

"If you go to http://www.safesurf.com/online.htm in Netscape and "View Document Info", it shows it was last modified on October 29, 2001. (This function doesn't work in IE.)

The original OCPA is [at google]. SafeSurf apparently removed this paragraph from section 6:

Publishers may be sued in civil court by any parent who feels their children were harmed by the data negligently published. The parents shall be given presumption in all cases and do not have to prove that the content actually produced harm to their child, only that the material was severe enough to reasonably be considered to have needed a rating label to protect children.
and replaced it with:
Publishers may be sued in civil court by any parent who feels their children were harmed by the data negligently published. The parents/plantiffs shall be given presumption, if the case involves graphic images, and do not have to prove that the content actually produced harm to their child, only that the material was severe enough to reasonably be considered to have needed a rating label to protect children.
and then added three new paragraphs listing more exemptions from this rule."

Can you hear that pea through the mattresses? For the audio objectivists, a good update to CmdrTaco's recent MP3 v. Ogg Vorbis inquiry: E1ven writes: "Everyone is always arguing about whether Vorbis sounds better than MP3, or vice versa. Here is your chance to see who is right! ff123 is doing a set of Blind Listening tests and could use your help. The more ears the better!"

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: Scramjet, Golden Ears, Preciousness

Comments Filter:
  • by Suicyco ( 88284 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:04PM (#2505052) Homepage
    How do they define harm in things like this? Is a description of what marijuana is count as harm? How about descriptions of the biological functions of humans, such as menstruation? They teach that in school, yet some bible thumpers might consider that to be harmfull. So its up to the parents to decide. So if I am a christian mother and I feel my child was harmed by reading Islamic scripture, thus poluting their pure religious experience, I can sue under these provisions?????

    I sure hate living in a police state. Do you?
    • How do they define harm in things like this?

      Harm is anything you don't like, don't agree with, or don't understand.

      I sure hate living in a police state. Do you?

      You ain't seen nothin' yet!

    • by jamie ( 78724 ) <jamie@slashdot.org> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:28PM (#2505134) Journal
      The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has an excellent paper which details exactly what "harmful to minors" means [ncac.org].
    • My mirror of their Proposed Act, with a brand new subtitle!

      http://nc.flyingbuttmonkeys.com/mirrors/safesurf-t yrrany-and-profit.html [flyingbuttmonkeys.com]

      They are calling their "anti-freedom" claptrap "The Online Cooperative Publishing Act", subtitled, "SafeSurf's Proposal for a Safe Internet Without Censorship".

      Except that it is not only not without censorship, but also would legislate fealty to them.

      I have a more accurate, but not catchy, title for their Proposed Law:

      The "We would like to legislate a healthy bottom line for ourselves, and maybe put you in jail for using your First Amdnedment free speech and press rights, because we're a bunch of greedy assholes, so will you please cooperate, Act."

      My children would be harmed by reading this act. "Why are some people so mean, daddy?" ... "I don't know, honey, but I'll sue their asses off for expressing those ideas! You wait and see!" ... "Daddy, you're scaring me."

    • From the way that paragraph was worded, it raises a few red flags without worrying what "harm" might be. If you catch your kid reading material that MIGHT be harmful to SOMEONE ELSE's kid, you aren't supposed to deal with it the same way you'd deal with your kid picking up The Joy Of Sex from the library or the bookshelf in your room.

      Instead, you sue them, and don't need to produce any evidence that your kid specifically was hurt. In other words, Third Party Syndrome is yet again getting passed as law.
    • It's an odd one. Someone in the EU is trying to bring a law in makin it an offence to expose minors to pr0n. The problem being, in certain Scandinavian countries, it's part of the school curriculum to view and discuss pr0n. Bearing in mind that these countries have the lowest rates of "sex crimes", teenage pregnancies etc., that doesn't really point in the direction of "harm".

      They do, however, have high suicide rates - this could either be to do with the lack of daylight in the winter, or kids realising that they're not hung like Ron Jeremey.
  • Does anyone know if other countries are going to be doing tests like these? I soo wanna see one in action
    =p
  • by quick_dry_3 ( 112334 ) <(ten.yrdkciuq) (ta) (nevets)> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:08PM (#2505066) Homepage
    The parents/plantiffs shall be given presumption, if the case involves graphic images, and do not have to prove that the content actually produced harm to their child

    whats going on with the land of the free? we're always told about the fact that in the US you're innocent until proven guilty.

    maybe in the economic downturn we can't afford to wait before you're guilty.

    I must be missing something, because without proof of harm, the kids wouldn't even need to see it! make money via surfing the web, I guess the offers were true...

    • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:18PM (#2505094) Journal
      This will be laughed out of court so quickly it will make your head spin. Just because some self-serving company I never heard of proposed something doesn't give it a snowball's chance of becoming law.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Okay, fair comment, but the whole guilty/innocent thing goes away in civil court-- it's not nearly as hard to prove someone civilly liable as it is to prove them criminally guilty. That's why OJ was found not guilty of Nicole Brown's murder, but civilly liable.
    • by td ( 46763 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:28PM (#2505132) Homepage
      This proposal is about civil disputes, in which the notion of guilt (a concept of criminal law) never arises. Liability and guilt are two different things as far as the law is concerned.
    • by youngsd ( 39343 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:36PM (#2505157)

      Innocent until proven guilty applies in criminal cases only. In civil cases, the default is "preponderance of the evidence" (i.e. more likely true or not). In many areas of civil law, though, the balance can be pre-tipped in this manner.

      -Steve

    • IANAL, but as far as I know, innocent until proven guilty only applies in criminal law. In civil law, the standard is a preponderance of evidence. So, if someone makes an accusation, and a jury of your peers thinks that it probably is harmful to a child, you're guilty. IMHO, this would be a clear violation of that pesky document that keeps getting in the way of the "True Patriots(TM)". Of course, apparently, I have the rather warped view that the definition of patriotism is the defense of that same pesky document.
    • If it was really "innocent till proven guilty" then why is the US bombing Afghanistan?
      • by rcw-home ( 122017 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @12:36AM (#2505707)
        If it was really "innocent till proven guilty" then why is the US bombing Afghanistan?

        Ok, lemme spell it out for the slow people...

        The "common law" western court system as we know it is national in scope. That means that sovereign nations each independantly employ justice systems as they see fit.

        There is no such system that is international in scope. Instead, it works kind of like the playground in grade school. You make friends (allies), make agreements with them (treaties), if you're rich you can give them some lunch money (foreign aid), and if you're big/brave/foolish enough you can also bully people around (sanctions, war, etc). All these playground-like social conventions are called "international law".

        It'll be this way until sovereignity breaks down and all nations succumb to a global empire that can enforce its own laws wherever it wants. Then you won't have war, you'll just have rebels and revolutionaries. Doesn't that sound like fun?

  • All people are innocent until proved guilty by a court of law? IANAL, but I thought that such presumption of guilt would not be constitutional or something.

    Could we have a legal geek in here explain this bit please?

    I just love all of these folks who want to make the mere existance of something they dislike a crime with an instant penalty.

    • AFAIK, Innocent until Proven Guilty only holds in a criminal court. This is talking about civil.

    • IADNAL, but it's important to understand the distinction between civil court and criminal court. In criminal cases, they have to prove guilt beyond a resonable doubt. In civil court, they only have to prove the the preponderance of evidence indicates that the defendant is responsible for whatever. That's how they got OJ, and all the other people who won their criminal cases; if the criminal case doesn't work, you go for a civil suit and ask for very large damages. It doesn't even violate double jeopardy, since the courts have decided that civil cases don't count as being tried. Welcome to the land of the free, with the most fair legal system in the world! Cheers -b
  • Actually, there was a security breach at the Australian launch station the previous day, though the local news blamed it on teenagers.
  • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:13PM (#2505083) Homepage Journal

    Since Ogg Vorbis got another mention, it may be worth mentioning that Croteam [croteam.com], creators of the surprise hit 3D shooter, Serious Sam [croteam.com], have announced that their upcoming sequel will have its music encoded using Ogg Vorbis, replacing MP3. Writes Alen Ladavac, "We've tried encoding all the music for SE with Oggdrop at 64kbps and the quality was perfect even at such low bitrate."

    I submitted this to Slashdot two weeks ago, and it was rejected. (Hence, "Sore Loser" in the title.)

    Schwab

    • I submitted this to Slashdot two weeks ago, and it was rejected. (Hence, "Sore Loser" in the title.)

      Heh, i posted about Battle of Britan, a WW2 flight sim gone open source, but do you think they was interested? Nooooo. They're more interested in the rants from Loki or whoever else who promises to deliver games to the Linux platform. *sigh* This is more like freshmeat, but with comments and moderation. *double-sigh*


      Like if anybody around here would be interested in a flight simulator gone open source and could be ported to SDL. That is soooo un-interesting. Much more fun to have a debate about the last minor-point release fo Wine, yes sir.


      Get the source here [dogfighter.com]


      If you're just curious about the game [gamesfirst.com]

  • Perhaps these SafeSurf folks represent victims of child porn? If so, then they need some additional help in refining their wording. Some feedback might help them to see how to channel their anger and fear into something pass-able. But it's got to be more explicit than this, uh, clearly.
  • Scramjet (Score:1, Interesting)

    How fast, exactly, do you accelerate at takeoff with this ScramJet thing? I saw it on the news the other night, and it seems to do some serious hauling at first.

    How much acceleration does one want to be subjected to?

    • It didn't take off with the scramjet, it took off using a rocket. The scramjet experiment was supposed to fire at a later stage.
    • One would like an acceleration that didn't laminate one to the back wall of one's airplane... ;-)

      But acceleration is simply how fast you get to that max speed, and that's not really an issue over long distances. You can bet that a bullet will accelerate faster than an SR-71 Blackbird, but the Blackbird's top speed is faster than a bullet. And the jet technology in a missile and in a 747 is basically the same. Over short distances though (like restricting the scramjet missile to the local patch of desert so that it doesn't land on a town 500 miles away!) you'll need high acceleration to get the thing up to speed over a shorter distance. This is also cheaper on fuel, and so allows a smaller, cheaper rocket to be used.

      Grab.
  • "was not successful because the [United States-supplied] rocket experienced flight anomalies"

    Nice dig at the U.S., as if all of our rockets were poor quality. I'm not saying all of the U.S.'s rockets are perfect, they're not, but they're pretty much as good as anything else out there.
    • "was not successful because the [United States-supplied] rocket experienced flight anomalies"
      Translation for the thin skinned:

      It wasn't our test rig that stuffed up, but this rocket we bought.

      No-one is saying that US rockets weren't good enough to get to the moon (except for some extremely weird conspiracy theorists who can ignore enormous amounts of evidence).

  • by PM4RK5 ( 265536 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:25PM (#2505116)
    Having been in school for many years, I would think many things that people would come across in school would be more harmful than a lot of the things that can be found on the net. Yes, pr0n would fall under the category of harmful (and no, its one of the few that you're not exposed to in public school). For example, my social studies teacher showed a movie about the Civil War (I want to say "Glory" was the title.), but anyway, she got yelled at by many parents because it contained graphic images of a soldier getting his head blown up.

    Welcome to the real world kiddies, violence happens and there isn't ANYTHING that you can do to stop it. I don't agree with the bill, as it would allow too many oo-they-have-money-so-lets-sue-them parents to take internet sites to court. And, it is especially bad for the children. When they get out to the real world, their parents won't be there anymore to sheild their eyes from the horrors of reality. Better let them see it while you're still there to explain it, than let them get smacked upside the head with reality when they turn 18 and/or go to college.

    Honestly, this falls under the category of "political correctness." IMO, the world could use more political incorrectness. Also, by making it an offense to publish "harmful" material, it would drive more and more web hosting out of the USA, such that they couldn't be punished under that bill. In this economy and the shaky tech market, the last thing we need is to drive more business away from the USA.

    We have freedom of speech? Not if any laws like these go into effect.

    <SARCASM> (Note: Companies may like to check into the constitution before proposing legislation) </SARCASM>
  • I'm sick of these "what happened to innocence until proven guilty?" posts. First of all, this is civil court, where the rules are less strict. Second, the violation, in this case, is not harming a child, it's not rating information that could harm a child. They must still prove that you posted the information, and that you did not rate it.


    Yes, this is a very bad proposal. Yes, it is probably censorship. No, it does not overturn the presumption of innocence.

    • Second, the violation, in this case, is not harming a child, it's not rating information that could harm a child.

      Could you give me one example where information has harmed anyone at all, child or not? Just one...
      • Could you give me one example where information has harmed anyone at all...

        I was traumatized when I learned that my parents had sex. (Can I sue them?)
      • by Anonymous Coward
        someone's strobing flash animation could give someone siezures?
        lately I've been getting the impression that overzealous censorship like this is an adult manifestation of fear of cooties.

        • Lately I've been getting the impression that overzealous censorship like this is an adult manifestation of fear of cooties.

          That's a beautiful sentence, and it needs to get some seriously wide exposure. It manages to convey the perfect sense of contempt that is the only fitting response to the "morality" brigade's attitudes.

          As I recall, through a lot of these discussions, e.g., on some of the reports from town-hall meetings regarding library-censorship proposals, a lot of us have been frustrated with trying to articulate this. Not just pointing out how unworkable censorware is from a technical standpoint (true, but reducing the argument that far is granting too much). Not even just arguing for the importance of freedom (also a vitally important argument to make, of course). But attacking the fundamental immaturity of attitudes that lies behind all of their motives.

          Why would they even want to do this? Even assuming it were technically possible (which it isn't), and granting that it were important enough to justify giving up so much freedom (which I don't) -- what kind of priorities does this indicate? Why, given all the really horrible things things in the world to which kids' "fragile litle minds" are exposed, not to even get started on the things that threaten them physically, would parents choose this to focus so much attention on?

          I can only think that it's because the parents aren't really grown up themselves in terms of being comfortable with sexuality, and they can't even begin to contemplate it for their kids. They live in absolute dread of the day they'll have to give the "birds and bees" talk and will lash out at anything that threatens to hasten that day.

          Maybe this kind of ridicule -- attributing the censors' fears to a failure to outgrow something as childish as "fear of cooties" -- could be an effective way to drive the point across in a pulic forum.
  • DejaGoogle search of Safesurf in news.admin.net-abuse.email They've be complaining about MAPS blocking them... when it's MAPS listing them for sending out spam and not reforming. Several sysadmins are now blocking them. I would *NOT* trust them with anything.
  • by Bobuhabu ( 468270 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:27PM (#2505128) Homepage
    "Not every document is required to be labeled, only the default or index document of each directory. In the case of an entire web domain being of one rating, only its default top level document needs to be labeled with instructions to apply it to the entire site."

    Whats to stop these publishers from directing people to other subdomains that aren't labeled? This sounds like a rather large loophole in their policy. I guess if I ran a pr0n site I could label the index page, advertise only unlabeled subdomains and be protected from lawsuits. Sounds like the geniuses at SafeSurf did it again!

    • I guess if I ran a pr0n site I could label the index page, advertise only unlabeled subdomains and be protected from lawsuits. There are restrictions on advertising too; I think SafeSurf intends that their filter can also ensure the kiddies never see the advertisements.

      So what happens if the kiddie does somehow get hold of the URL to an unlabeled subdomain (copy bookmarks on daddy's computer, e.g.)? I think the filter would block unlabeled documents unless you worked your way down to them from an acceptably labeled domain.

      Of course, this will play hob with following URL's to MOST subdomains...
  • LAME vs. Ogg Vorbis (Score:5, Informative)

    by bbum ( 28021 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:31PM (#2505140) Homepage
    That's a pretty crappy test criteria-- limiting the input to 128kbit/sec-- for those of us itnerested in achieving as-close-to-CD-as-possible performance from our compressed music.

    I don't claim to have golden ears, but I can distinctly hear the difference between different playback engines (example; on a Mac, the Audion playback engine is considerable better sounding than iTunes) and different encoding engines with nearly the same settings (LAME is, by far and away, the best I have heard yet).

    In any case, it would be useful to have an expanded test that includes higher bitrates for those that listen to tunes on something other than crappy computer speakers.

    Ogg vs. LAME article [digit-life.com]

    An excellent Ars article [arstechnica.com] that only covers differences between mp3 encoders.

    MP3 tech [mp3-tech.org] has a bunch of useful resources.

    One of the best sites around, r3mix [r3mix.net] offers a wealth of technical information, some very well executed scientific and listening tests, and a section that destroys a lot of the myths surrounding mp3s.
    • That's a pretty crappy test criteria-- limiting the input to 128kbit/sec-- for those of us itnerested in achieving as-close-to-CD-as-possible performance from our compressed music.
      I assume 128 kbit/sec was chosen because (a) limiting the tests to a single bitrate simplifies the testing enormously, and (b) 128 kbit/sec is the most common bitrate used, thanks to the misleading claims that MP3 at 128 kbit/sec is "CD quality".

      Yes, it would be nice to have tests at 192 or 256 kbit/sec. It would also be nice to have tests at 96 or 64 kbit/sec to see which codec does best in low-bandwidth situations. But 128 kbit/sec tests are valid too. (If anything, this slants the test towards Vorbis enormously, since 128 kbit/sec MP3 sounds like crap even with a good encoder, while 128 kbit/sec Vorbis sounds pretty good.)

      Basically: don't assume that you are the target audience of every test.

      LAME is, by far and away, the best I have heard yet
      For MP3, sure. I prefer Vorbis.
      • LAME is, by far and away, the best I have heard yet

        For MP3, sure. I prefer Vorbis.

        The two are not mutually exlusive. Newer versions (I'm seeing it in version 3.86) of LAME support ogg encoding with the --ogg option.

        Has anyone here played with ogg encoding in LAME yet? I haven't tried it out and I'm wondering how it compares to oggenc.

    • At the very least a limited analisys to see how well quality improves at higher bit rates would be helpful, or testing where at what bitrate they match closest in quality.
    • Personally, I can't tell the difference between vorbis (CVS) at 128 and CDDA. I've talked to many people that feel the same way. I think you're being a little presumptuous about the 128 bitrate, and it's probably because of all the crappy (*cough*Xing*cough*) encoders out there. Vorbis has a higher quality:bitrate ratio, therefore the same quality can be acheived with a smaller size.

      Perhaps you have good ears, though, and were able to tell the difference in many of the samples. Have you taken the tests yet?
    • How do you like bladeenc compared to lame at higher bitrates? (192, 256, etc. kbits)

      I find that bladeenc encoded MP3s sound better than lame MP3s at 192+ kbit/s, but it might just be me.
    • by ReelOddeeo ( 115880 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @12:37PM (#2507373)
      4. Rate each codec against the original and comment on the defects. Listen to each of the codecs and rate each one in comparison with the original. Use a 1.0 to 5.0 scale, as described below:

      5.0 = imperceptible (not perceptible)
      4.0 = perceptible but not annoying
      3.0 = slightly annoying
      2.0 = annoying
      1.0 = very annoying

      They left out some important options. For example:

      0.0 = extremely annoying, but imperceptible
      -1.0 = the music is annoying
      -2.0 = how do I compile the decoder again?


      But it reminds me of...

      • Don't complain about lack of options. You've got to pick a few when you do multiple choice. Those are the breaks.
      • Feel free to suggest troll ideas if you're feeling creative. I'd strongly suggest reading the past trolls first.
      • This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. Decoding errors, variations in speakers, dynamic IPs, firewalls, amplifier differences. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.
  • by aiken_d ( 127097 ) <brooks.tangentry@com> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:38PM (#2505163) Homepage

    As long as they pass the PCGA (Protection of Children from Government Act) at the same time. Here's my proposed text for the PCGA:

    Individual Senators and Representatives may be sued in civil court by any parent who feels their children were harmed by a law that the Congressman voted for. The parents shall be given presumption in all cases and do not have to prove that the law actually produced harm to their child, only that the law could reasonably be considered to have the potential to harm the child.

    What do you think? Unanimous support in Congress?

    Cheers
    -b

    • How about:

      Individual parents may be sued in civil court by any offspring who feels that they were harmed by the actions of their parents. The offspring shall be given presumption in all cases and does not have to prove that their parent's actions actually resulted in any harm to them, only that those actions could reasonably be considered to have the potential to harm the offspring or the offspring's development as a child.

      What ever happened to parents parenting?

      -Puk
  • by cduffy ( 652 ) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @08:39PM (#2505169)
    ...that being that some bright fellow here on Slashdot (sadly, I can't find the original post) observed that, should this bill pass, he'd promptly sue SafeSurf for the harm their online material (ie any blocklist they publish) had done to his daughter! A brilliant post, that... pity they (apparently) read it.
  • Lets see... someone should be able to create an avenue of opportunity in selling shirts to newsreaders, politicians, authors, and cartoonists, with the slogan: "Warning: I may be dangerous to your 8 year olds well-being".

    Good to see that in all of this, the responsibility of the parents is being looked at so deeply as well.
    --
    Don't believe all inductive logic ;)
  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @09:04PM (#2505233) Homepage
    I wrote them a derisive (but not profane) note, which is as follows:


    From: Me
    To: safesurf@safesurf.com
    Subject: Boo hoo

    So, SafeSurf gets a taste of their own medicine from MAPS, and cries foul. How ironic.

    SafeSurf's basically saying that it's their liberty to participate in denying liberty to others. And you're upset that MAPS seems to be denying you the liberty to do this. To me, this just seems like sauce, for the goose. You sow what you reap.

    I don't like censors. I especially don't like broad censors that cause a lot of collateral damage pursuing their crusade. SafeSurf and MAPS deserve each other - they are both the same. I hope one of you sues, because the trial would be an endless source of amusement.


    To my surprise, they responded later the same day:

    From: safesurf@safesurf.com
    To: me
    Subject: Re: Boo hoo

    Thank you for your comments. What MAPS did to SafeSurf is what governments can do to you without SafeSurf.

    SafeSurf stands for openness and truth. We want both you, your family, and the Web site to participate in the open filtering process.

    Censors and MAPS stand for secret back room decisions where neither you or the affected Web site has any say or knowledge.

    SafeSurf wants you and the Web Site to know the reason for every filtering decision. MAPS and censors don't even tell you that the site is block. The only message you get is that the site is non-existent.

    SafeSurf advocates instant access with a password. MAPS and censors won't let you in until they are good and ready, maybe never.

    It is your right to oppose us, but we urge you to think over the alternatives. In the end you may find that you killed the "goose" that laid the golden eggs.

    Sincerely,
    Ray Soular
    SafeSurf


    OK, sounds good. I responded to Ray as follows (two days ago), but have not yet received a reply:

    From: me
    To: safesurf@safesurf.com
    Subject: Re: Boo hoo

    > Thank you for your comments. What MAPS did to SafeSurf is what
    > governments can do to you without SafeSurf.

    Or with SafeSurf. Many school boards (a part of government) mandate the use
    SafeSurf, am I right?

    >
    > SafeSurf stands for openness and truth.

    Excellent! May I get a copy of the list websites blocked by your currently
    shipping product, so as to evaluate its effectiveness?

    > We want both you, your
    > family, and the Web site to participate in the open filtering process.
    >
    > Censors and MAPS stand for secret back room decisions where
    > neither you or the affected Web site has any say or knowledge.

    I agree. I will no longer include you in the same category if you will
    forward to me a list of websites blocked by your product.

    > SafeSurf wants you and the Web Site to know the reason for every
    > filtering decision.

    I am sure that once I see the list of blocked websites, I will have some
    questions about the reasons some of them are listed. If this first response
    of yours is any indication of what is to come, I expect that I will be
    pleased with the answers.

    > MAPS and censors don't even tell you that
    > the site is block. The only message you get is that the site is
    > non-existent.

    This is not entirely true, but the technical details are unimportant to the
    current discussion. I'll not argue with you about this just yet. But I
    agree with you 100% that MAPS has conspired with certain ISPs to prevent some
    people from reaching your website, just as your product prevents some people
    from reaching still other websites.

    > SafeSurf advocates instant access with a password. MAPS and
    > censors won't let you in until they are good and ready, maybe never.
    >
    > It is your right to oppose us, but we urge you to think over the
    > alternatives. In the end you may find that you killed the
    > "goose" that laid the golden eggs.

    I doubt it. But I expect that how you respond to my request for the list of
    blocked websites will prove me right or wrong.

    >
    > Sincerely,
    > Ray Soular
    > SafeSurf

    And you, thanks for responding.


    Make of this what you will. I still have not seen the "open and truthful" list of websites that Safesurf's software blocks.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      SafeSurf's reply - plus a casual browsing of their site - makes your response ridiculous. As ridiculous as asking Napster for a list of all the files that have been traded on their network.


      Go to SafeSurf's site now. They describe the exact technical method by which they "block" sites. As their ref notes, sites are blocked by being marked by an administrator using a special HTML meta tag. SafeSurf do not, nor do they need to, administer a list of "blocked" sites. They don't even decide the ratings themselves. All SafeSurf do is provide the plug-in to read the metatags.


      If you really want the list, and weren't just asking for it in order to display your ignorance, write a bot to crawl the web looking for their tags. But note that what is actually blocked depends on user settings in their plugin, combined with the rating on the site. So there is no "list of blocked sites".


      Better luck next time.

    • I hope a /. editor reads your posts and allows you to submit the results as a story.
      In the man time I encourge you to grab a free web space, and post your letters and replies.
      I think a lot of people will be interested in your results.
      If I had the points, I would of modded you up.

  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @09:49PM (#2505313) Homepage
    What I want to know is whether there are any portable Ogg players out there yet? Can someone point me to one? I've got a whole music collection in MP3 that I'm ready to re-encode from CD into OGG format as soon as I can get a portable player.
    • None are officially available, but an alpha firmware for the IOmega hipzip exists that only plays Vorbis Beta4 or earlier files.
    • The HipZip has a beta firmware out that supports it, and they've promised support when 1.0 is released.

      Also, i would suggest you don't re-encode mp3 to vorbis, you'll only lose more quality, and especially so because oggenc will be working hard to match the mp3 artifacts. Encode all your rips into vorbis by all means, but mp3s are generally better left alone.
      • I own the original CD for every MP3 I have so that's no problem... It's a very big job, though (about 400 CDs here) so I don't want to do it until I know that I'll be using the new format for a while!

        What is the quality like on the HipZip? When MP3 first happened, I discovered that there can be HUGE quality differences between devices when I bought a D-Link MP3 player that (a) cut off the first four seconds of every file during playback, (b) added its own "pops" and "skips" which didn't occur when playing the same MP3 file back on a PC and (c) started dropping plastic parts on the floor within two or three months.

        With Iomega's track record (i.e. ZipClicks) I'm a little wary about using another product based on the same fundamental technology... Do you (or does anyone) who has a HipZip have any complaints and/or endorsements, durability or quality-wise?
        • I've never used the hipzip, so I couldn't tell you. sorry. Personally, I'd wait on the 400-CD re-ripping process until vorbis has become the best codec it can be- probably 1.0 or later. Although vorbis certainly beats mp3 now, I would certainly hate to have such a huge collection encoded just to see a new version that does even better.
  • Instead of forcing everyone to included a rating, or be assumed to be a child safe rating. It think that the content of the internet at this time warrents that all content be assumed to be non-child safe.

    Then if a site has verified that it is child safe it should be given a rating accordingly. This of course woul change the litigation was handled since it would be impossible to litigate for accidently stumbling across adult content. This would have to be changed, because as we all know America DEMANDS litigation.

    So we would change the proposal to allow people who were searching for adult content to sue if they stumbled across pages without tits that were not properly down rated from the default XXX rating.

    This model seems to suit the internet audience much better than the safesurf act. It would require far less change to the existing structure as everyone knows most sites are porn sites and most people just use the internet to browse porn.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <`delirium-slashdot' `at' `hackish.org'> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @10:10PM (#2505345)
    While the audio test they're doing is good for "decent" audio, which is what Vorbis excels at, it's not a good test for what most of us are interested in - high (so-called "archival") quality audio compression. To do this testing LAME's -abr 134 vs. Vorbis's 128kbps is simply laughable; the current standards for LAME encoding are usually using either the "--r3mix" command line (as defined by www.r3mix.net) or the "--dm-preset standard" command-line. These typically average around 200-250kbps for rock music, and so far are indistinguishable from CD quality in the tests that have been done.

    What would be interesting is if Vorbis can achieve these same results at lower bitrates; then I would agree it's better. If it can beat mp3 at 128kbps, then that's nice, but it's pretty irrelevant to me if it still sounds like crap (just not *as* crappy).
    • I personally can't tell vorbis (CVS!) 128 clips from CDDA, and have talked to many that agree. Have you tried it yet?
  • Presently MP3 is the de-facto near-CD-quality audio format. I initially believed Vorbis would fade into obscurity as PNG [libpng.org] has, requiring special plug-ins to view. However, the opposite seems to be true. A survey at raw42 [raw42.com] revealed that 80.3% of users prefer Ogg Vorbis over MP3 (5.2%). I've beginnning to change my views too, considering that Fraunhofer owns the rights to MP3 [linuxjournal.com].
  • "If you go to http://www.safesurf.com/online.htm in Netscape and "View Document Info", it shows it was last modified on October 29, 2001. (This function doesn't work in IE.)
    Ah, always so quick to bash IE... I guess its too dificult to right click on the page and look at the properties...
  • scramjets (Score:4, Interesting)

    by child_of_mercy ( 168861 ) <johnboy@@@the-riotact...com> on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @10:52PM (#2505465) Homepage
    It's worth noting that Scramjets have no real civilian use.

    Even the Passenger aircraft is a red herring, once you've boosted to Mach 8 why stay in the atmosphere?

    Why not do a sub-orbital shot? be much quicker and easier.

    Scramjets may get used for reconnaisance, but the only obvious application is super-fast cruise missiles, not bound by ballistic missile treaties.

    Yes it's cool whizz-bang tech

    But only in the same way an H-Bomb is.

    • Re:scramjets (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why stay in the atmosphere once you've hit Mach 8? Because it means you have strap a rocket to your ass, which means carrying more fuel, and all kinds of other moving parts that can go wrong. Jets, whether turbo-, ram-, or scramjets, can be refueled and re-ran with minimal maintenance between flights. The maing engines on the Shuttle (not the SRB's) are a prime example of 'reusable' rockets; the bell needs to be replaced every 7 or 8 launches, and the whole damn engine every 15. A scramjet could be refueled, and because it has no moving parts, would be VERY reliable.

      As for just going suborbital, remember just how hard it is to get that high in the first place; it takes large, heavy rockets, burning huge amounts of fuel. Really, the best way to do a suborbital (hell, even an orbital) flight would be to use a scramjet to get most of the way up, where the rocket is least efficient, then fire the rocket for the final boost.
      • but the scramjet won't fire till u've already got to mach 8, so u've already done almost all the heavy lifting, and are already in very thin atmosphere, where a normal rocket is fine.
    • child_of_mercy wrote:
      It's worth noting that Scramjets have no real civilian use.
      {..mercysnip..}
      Yes it's cool whizz-bang tech
      But only in the same way an H-Bomb is.


      H-bombs have their civilian uses. If you use a lead instead of a U-238 liner, it becomes a clean nuke (the lead absorbs the neutron radiation -- the U-238 would have absorbed the neutron radiation also and would have amplified the blast power but at the expense of creating radioactive fission products) and can be used for civil engineering projects. The former USSR used one of these to construct a reservoir, IIRC.

      -nb
      • ok, and the chinese are planning to use them to turn the himalayan rivers back into china instead of flowing into Assam,

        but it's a good comparison, these unusual, esoteric non-military uses are about as common for each technology.
    • It's worth noting that Scramjets have no real civilian use.

      How about satellite launches?


      We already have missiles faster than scramjet speeds with long ranges. The cold war is over, live with it.

      • ok,

        please explain to me the use for satellite launches of a complicated secondary stage that will only kick in when the thing hits mach 8 and then cuts out when it leaves the atmosphere?

        Single Stage To Orbit is widely considered the future of space launch, not fiddly second stages requiring a third stage.

        On the other hand the scramjet's weight advantage from getting it's O2 from the atmosphere is just dandy for a missile.

        And while you're at it can you name me a single long distance weapon (non-ballistic), missile that runs over mach 8?

        Non-Ballistic is important because you're very limited in what you can do with even conventional ballistic weapons without tripping off the early warning systems of a whole bunch of people who live on hair triggers, even today.

        The Russian "sunburn" sea-skimming supersonic missiles are considered exceptional and they don't get close to that speed.

        To summarise,

        The scramjet is of almost no peaceful use, but will make a fine missile engine.

        P.S. the world we live in now is a lot more unstable than the cold war ever was, turn on your TV.
  • by c_chimelis ( 120443 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @11:11PM (#2505517) Homepage

    If SafeSurf somehow manages to get a politician's ear on this, I say that every web designer out there label ALL of their pages as obscene. This would basically nullify their software's effectiveness and have the side benefit of minimising suits against web designers under the premises of their proposal. At the very least, it'll put a gaping hole in the argument that their software should be required and isn't a form of censorship. I especially like how they are preaching voluntary labeling in their FAQ while proposing a compulsory system in that document. Truly classic...

    What they seem to forget is that the existing ratings schemes (motion pictures, music, and video games) are largely voluntary and industry driven. The only penalties that are imposed on products in those markets are that some stores may not carry their product if they aren't labeled. What SafeSurf wants is a mandatory rating by law, which is just ridiculous, especially given the international nature of the net.

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Wednesday October 31, 2001 @11:38PM (#2505588) Journal
    OK, we've known for a while that Safesurf, like many of their competitors, is confused about what freedom of speech is about and what the Constitutional protections for it are about, and they've got random difficulties with English grammar and basic logic as well.
    The Safesurf MAPS rant complains about them stealth-blocking websites that may contain important information, and people won't know they're being censored. But they've got the technology wrong: MAPS doesn't block websites - they provide tools that are normally used for blocking emails and furthermore, sites that implement MAPS tools properly normally provide bouncegrams telling people they block how and why their email was rejected, so they can fix their problems. The only way a company like Safesurf would be "censored" by a MAPS-using mailbox service would be if they sent out email to people - and since they'd find out they had a problem the first time they tried to send mail, they could put a notice on their website about it and tell people who want followup communications from them how to contact them.


    Furthermore, Safesurf's web site [safesurf.com] violates Safesurf's proposed law creating (and mixing up) civil and criminal penalties and tort liability for mislabeling or failing to label web sites. Their original proposal was more aggressive than their current one, but it still doesn't require any actual harm to any actual child, as long as there are graphic images on the site (logos and decorations may not be harmful, but they're graphics, so we're covered there.) Plaintiffs can sue if the site doesn't provide appropriate ratings labels on material severe enough to be potentially harmful to children. Certainly, any proposal to throw people in jail for what they write on the net is pretty severe, and could cause harm to children who write things without labeling them if such a law were passed, and telling kids that people want to do that kind of harm to them just for what they write, even if there's no law passed, can also be pretty scary. www.safesurf.com's label says

    "CONTENT='(PICS-1.1 "http://www.classify.org/safesurf/" l r (SS~~000 1))'"

    which if you look it up on the explanatory web site [classify.org] doesn't have any indication of what the rating means. It does point to a site that tells you how to download a ".rat" file into your browser, and if you open up that file with a text editor instead of installing it, the file indicates something about "all ages", but doesn't indicate whether it's appropriate or inappropriate for all ages, so that a web browser could be set to do the appropriate thing with it, though it clearly implies that the really scary material complained about above should be appropriate for all ages....

    "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-PICS-services" [w3.org] has more PICS explanations.

    Update - their web page indicates that MAPS has now unblocked them.

  • There seems to be something missing from the Golden Ears test: a control. Shouldn't there be a perfect quality never-compressed WAV of each of the samples to compare them against?
  • The limit on the size of Slashdot comment signatures is a little on the low side for a disclaimer, but my new one should cover most of the recent crap. I can change it back to something pithy after this blows over (because if it doesn't blow over there's not going to be a single public forum on the 'Net ever again).

    Maybe we should just stamp "Parental Guidance Recommended in permanent ink on each child's forehead when they're born -- include a bar code and removing it would probably be a violation of the DCMA.

    • Maybe we should just stamp "Parental Guidance Recommended in permanent ink on each child's forehead when they're born -- include a bar code and removing it would probably be a violation of the [DMCA].
      Hmm. Maybe you should patent that idea. There's prior art in Revelation, but it should still get past the US patent office.
  • Scramjet tests (Score:5, Informative)

    by tony_gardner ( 533494 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @05:33AM (#2506230) Homepage
    Just a general note on those scramjet tests. The guy in charge of these (Allan Paull) is my PhD supervisor, and I've been working in this area for about 4 years, though I'm not working on this project (I'm in Germany at the moment).
    1. The tests were a failure in that supersonic combustion did not happen- That is, the engine operated as a ramjet rather than a scramjet. The first thought is that this was caused by the failure of the rocket turning manoeuvre, so that the air was entering the engine at a large angle from the main axis of the engine. Since the engine used has been tested up to 4 degrees of deviation, the angle was probably more than 4 degrees. The rocket needs to be turned so that it is facing downwards with the engine on the front. It should be able to do this due to the atmospheric pressure, but it turns out that it doesn't happen quickly enough. The rocket is a spin-stabilised type (Where the whole rocket spins, rather than have a separate gyroscope), and this means that the turning manoeuvre is a difficult problem in 3-D geometry.
    2. Generally speaking, nobody (That I've heard of) in the scientific world is seriously looking at scramjets for a passenger plane. Amongst other thing, rockets have an unacceptable failure rate for general civilian flight.
    3. The main proposal that I've heard is for a lifter of payloads in the one tonne range to near earth orbits. For that, scramjets should be cheaper than rockets. For the large payloads, rockets are still cheaper. There is a slight advantage with scramjets in that since most of the acceleration is done horizontally in the atmosphere, that a polar orbit is no more difficult to achieve than one on the equatorial plane.
    4. In addition, though I'm sure there is research into scramjets for missiles (Of course it's not published in the open literature), there's not really a burning need to build faster missiles, since nobody is building faster planes or faster houses. Note also, that due to the air inlets, that a scramjet missile is inherently less stealthy than a rocket missile.
    5. Somebody mentioned some tests in Russia. If these are the CIAM/NASA tests, then the papers I've read show all three flights operating primarily, in subsonic combustion mode. As ramjets.
    6. One good reason for working in this field is because it is a discipline which brings together a lot of things that are also of use elsewhere. A lot of work is done on understanding the basic science, which feeds back into other areas. It's not really a field with a purely practical thrust at present, due to a continuing problem of not really understanding the aerodynamics at these speeds.
    7. Thus the experiment which just failed was never really meant to be a working engine, but more a simplified example to use as a calibration for wind tunnels, and computer codes.
    8. They used the terrier-orion rockets because Astrotech offered two of them for free. They have to get two tests under their belt before they can be generally licensed for testing in Australia. C/F new launch port at Christmas Island.

    That's about all I can think of for the moment. The URL for the Hyshot project is:
    http://www.mech.uq.edu.au/hyper/hyshot/
  • by David H ( 139673 ) on Thursday November 01, 2001 @01:29PM (#2507682)
    I have a better idea. Why not consider all internet content as inappropriate for children unless otherwise indicated. Then only go after the people who say their content is safe for children but isn't.
  • by Nyarly ( 104096 ) <nyarly.redfivellc@com> on Thursday November 01, 2001 @01:45PM (#2507776) Homepage Journal
    In meatspace, in the US, pornography (for instance) is not defined. It is specifically up to each community to determine what is pornographic. (I think if there were restrictions on displays of violence, they ought to be defined similarly.) IANAL, so I can't point to the specific USSC ruling, but it amounts to "I can't define art, but I know it when I see it."

    This has always struck me as ideal. If you don't like how pornography is defined in your community, find a new one. There will always be a place for the puritans and the purient.

    The Internet is great for that sort of thing. Whatever you want, you can find, from DADV to wwjd.org. Except that, lacking any boundaries at all, it's ridiculously easy to stumble into other communities, where you aren't a member, and aren't comfortable.

    A great many people, (and I certainly don't think Slashdotters are immune) react to areas of the public Internet they don't like with anger, fear and loathing. I'm especially impressed by the irony of seeing these two sentiments in the same page (which is possibly the only justification for this Slashback):

    • Evil people want to eliminate that which they don't understand.
    • These tests are bogus! I encode things at far more than 128b/s!
    I take away the feeling that on the one hand we recognize that the correct response to information for which one isn't the audience is to ignore it, but we still resent the idea that there is information for which we aren't the audience.

    Much as we might despise them, the MPAA solved a similar problem to this decades ago with a nifty little idea called "self-regulation." Granted the movie rating system isn't very descriptive (the US TV ratings are much more descriptive; isn't it great to see if any Adult Content:Nudity is on?)

    Yes, Safeweb is going at this in an utterly braindead way. But, rating based web regulation would cope with much of the "For The Children" acts facing the US and the world at large. It seems to me that either a rating system (technically already existant) needs to be generally adopted, and browsers support it by default, even treating Unrated paged as if they were Drugs-Sex-Dismemberment-Adult-Themes, and allowing a simple browser level config. (I can see it now, as part of the Internet Setup Wizard: "How do you feel about pornography?"), or it should be included in the next batch of web standards, with the default of "horribly awful" being specified.

    The pressure, then (at the cost of the collective headache of web designers everywhere) is to rate your site appropriately, because unrated sites will have a smaller audience (similar to the reasoning that leads to websites supporting IE first). But a lax rating will lead to complaints, and so on. Besides, imagine google searches by rating. It's in my interest to describe my site appropriately, since it'll bring the audience that wants my services, (At google picture: "rating:porn=MAX"). In general, I tend to see ratings not as censorship, but as a screen, because it takes away the "for the kids" argument of censors. You can say "well, it can be rated unsuitable" and demonstrate that parents can protect their children using ratings, rather than censorship.

    Then they have to admit that they want to force everyone to live by their values, and that's just not in the realm of acceptability these days.

Mathematics deals exclusively with the relations of concepts to each other without consideration of their relation to experience. -- Albert Einstein

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