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User Journal

Journal Journal: Aussie Scientologists Strike Back

Like a lot of countries, Australia doesn't quite know what to make of Scientologists. Okay, some Aussies just can't stand 'em. Australia's Daily Telegraph sends about an effort called Youth for Human Rights, a thinly veiled Scientologist front launched to teach kids about human rights. So, if L. Ron Hubbard (scifi author and founder of the Church of Scientology) made your list of Human Rights leaders, where would you put him? This "informative" resource puts him ahead of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I little bit of legwork casts more evidence of Youth for Human Rights real motives. With a whois turning up registration at 1332 L Ron Hubbard Way. Are you familiar with that address? Xenu-Directory is. So what's the problem? Well, these videos and booklets are being distributed and aimed at Year 6 students and there's absolutely no indication in the material that this is linked to the Church of Scientology. In fact, a warning has gone out to not use any of these materials inside the classroom. Perhaps Australia's inquiry by Senator Xenu ... I mean Xenophon into the CoS is long overdue and it's time everyone look more closely at their international efforts.

Music

Journal Journal: The Music Service Oddity that is BlueBeat.com 2

Back in 2007, Slashdot covered a story about Media Rights Technology suing everyone for not implementing DRM. Ha ha, weird right? Okay, fast forward to today and it looks like BlueBeat.com (owned by MRT) is under a lot of fire for selling Beatles tunes and I'll bet EMI is having a field day with that. Most interesting about that is that "The ID3 tags of the Beatles songs sold on BlueBeat.com list âoe2009 BlueBeat.comâ as the copyright holder." Okay, that's another topic entirely.

My question is simple though ... what is going on with BlueBeat.com? BlueBeat offers a large selection of MP3s for 25 cents (only 160 kbps though) and you can stream entire albums as many times as you want on their site. So I began my investigative googling looking for MRT to be owned by someone in Germany or Russia and to be completely illegal in the US. But it seems to be a legit operation out of Santa Cruz, CA. So what gives? I mean, BlueBeat has the same crazy terms of service that iTunes does which they can change at anytime but there are so many things wrong with this picture:
  1. A music service undercutting everyone else by 75%.
  2. A DRM-less product from a company that initially sued everyone for not using DRM -- a company called Media Rights Technology!
  3. You can stream whatever you want from the site, whole albums or songs!
  4. The company doing this is in the United States of America. Where individuals are fined to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for sharing songs. What then, does BlueBeat imagine will happen to them legally?

So what am I missing here? Has MRT lost it? Is this a marketing tactic where they receive a DMCA take down, adhere to it and send e-mails to users asking them to delete their MP3s as their ToS says they can do? And from there just keep hosting songs that labels are too lazy to DMCA away? Something stinks but if you bought 100 songs for 25 dollars from BlueBeat and then kept using them, who would be breaking the law? You or BlueBeat?

Patents

Journal Journal: The Patent Lawsuit Explosion in Eastern Texas

We've discussed Eastern District of Texas court in more than a few stories about patent cases. To illustrate what kind of problem we're talking about here, a local Legal Journal has given us last week's review of cases filed in regards to patents in Eastern District of Texas.

They include:
  • Aircraft Technical Publishers vs. Avantext Inc. et al which entails 'the reproduction of computer-based information and data concerning the airworthiness requirements and other directives relating to non-commercial aircraft.'
  • Realtime Data LLC dba IXO vs. Morgan Stanley et al which entails 'the rights to four U.S. patents relating to data compression.' (6,624,761, 7,161, 506, 7,400,274, 7,417,568)
  • SFA Systems LLC vs. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. et al which entails an Integrated Computerized Sales Force Automation System. And how do you infringe on that? 'By making and using supply chain methods, sales methods, sales systems, marketing methods, marketing systems and inventory systems.' SFA claims, "As a result of the above Defendants' infringement of the '525 Patent, SFA has suffered monetary damages ... in an amount not yet determined, and will continue to suffer such monetary damages in the future unless Defendants' infringing activities are permanently enjoined by this court," the complaint states."

Three cases every week should clog up the system. One has to wonder at the number of case titles ending with "et al" and also in relationship to software patents. A patent system that allows patents for data compression combined with Eastern District of Texas Court might be what we need for this powder keg to ignite and the power drunken sot that is the USPTO admit it has a problem.

User Journal

Journal Journal: iPhone not so expensive after all

So, with some trepidation given the media focus surrounding the new 3GS and pointing out how expensive it is over time, I decided to "donate" my iphone 2G to my fiancée and go for a 3GS. Since it's another 2 year contract, I figured I'd go for the top-of-the-range and wait it out again. To my (pleasant) surprise, my needs are relatively cheap...

Initial costs are a bit steep at $415 including tax, shipping. But the monthly charges are $56 (including the data-plan) for my particular needs. I don't use the phone much for talking (450 minutes a month is overkill for me) and I rarely text people (an average of 25/month is (again) overkill, and this corresponds with the '200' dollar amount I'd otherwise have to pay for in bulk). What I *do* use on the phone is the data service. A *lot*. And that's built in as unlimited - it breaks down as $32 for the Nation 450 w/rollover, and $24 for the unlimited data plan.

That comes to a total of $1759 over two years. ($415 + 24 * $56), and I can comfortably afford that. That's also a *lot* less expensive than the $3000+ (over 2 years) that people have been bandying around. It's worth looking at the options, and seeing what suits you before coming to a decision...

Simon

Books

Journal Journal: The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem 1

Stanislaw Lem was arguably the greatest non-English science fiction writer before his death three years ago and left behind many science fiction novels with messages of satire and intrigue. The Futurological Congress is no different. The book has several motifs throughout it but I found the most prominent to be that we are living in an increasingly medicated society whereby the future may be wonderfully dystopian--in that the horrors of our existence are simply hidden by drugs on top of drugs on top of drugs. With a movie due out shortly by director Ari Folman, it seems like a good time to revisit this often overlooked short classic sci-fi work.

Our hero and narator, Ijon Tichy should be a familiar name to Lem fans or anyone familiar with Lem's Space Diaries in either English or Polish. Tichy acts as a mechanism of sanity in many of Lem's novels just trying to figure out what the devil is up with a messed up planet he lands on or a particular device/person. By this manner, Lem allows himself much discovery on the reader's behalf and by these means can relay the current state of events to the reader without jarringly interrupting the natural flow of things too much. Through this novel's course of Tichy's discoveries, I was suspended from being disturbed by spoon fed explanations most of the time but the word play that occurred in this particular story got to be a bit much and tedious for a sub-150-page paperback hence a missing point in its score.

Tichy is now a member of the Futurological Association and is invited to attend the Eighth Futurological Congress in Nounas, Costa Rica. From the get go, Lem is full of satire with the immediate lampooning of such self-appointed associations (and maybe even academia) by pointing out that there are two kinds of individuals in these associations: the ones that attend every single meeting/conference and those that don't leave their offices period.

One of the themes throughout the book is a borderline anti-American sentiment about the development of munitions and bombs. I'm familiar with Lem's ability to criticize both sides of the Cold War in a single paragraph although The Futurological Congress seems to focus more heavily on American military and pharmaceutical faults. Lem must have been well aware of kidnappings in Latin America when he wrote this book because that's one aspect he got right about the future of that area. Due to heavy activist presence in Costa Rica trying to capture and ransom Americans, a military attache is accompanying the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica to speak at the congress but in the middle of his speech an unfortunate delegate from India reaches into his breast pocket to grab a handkerchief to wipe his nose. This delegate standing next to Tichy is immediately dispensed with by the bodyguards of the ambassador and, thanks to 'humanitarian ballistics,' Tichy only gets a spattering of blood on him instead of the bullet passing through the target and injuring more people.

Some background on Lem may help you understand this satire. He was born a Catholic Pole with Jewish ancestry and seemed to run the gauntlet of oppression. He survived World War II with fake papers as a mechanic/welder and due to his "bourgeois origin" could not study at the Polytechnic during Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland after the end of the war. He became an Atheist stating, "for moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally." Knowing this, his satire and bitter critique of all things may not surprise you. On his way to the conference--aside from meeting an orgy of liberated publishers--he encounters an 'anti-papist' who is a Catholic on his way to kill the Pope with a gun of a massive caliber. The anti-papist's surprising motive is none other than The Holy Bible where Abraham is ordered to kill his son Isaac by God. Except that the anti-papist would be killing a father, the most holiest father. And this would be a great personal sacrifice and the "utmost of martyrdom" as the anti-papist "would suffer terrible torment and his soul eternal damnation." Again, Lem predicts today's world, we have no limit of people eager to misinterpret scriptures of any religion.

Back to the conference--since there's 168 attendees from 64 different countries, each person gets four minutes to present their paper. And everyone is only really interested in their own work and telling everyone else about it in a bit of a narcissistic way. This leads the first member to spend his four minutes thusly:

Stan Hazelton from the U.S. Delegation immediately threw the hall into a frenzy by emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11, and therefore 22; 5, 9 hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which it followed that 22 and only 22!! Someone jumped up, saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. I turned to the number key in his paper and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.

The Futurologists in this novel are probably best described as each one being a less optimistic Ray Kurzweil in that they all seem to be spouting their own version of obstacles humanity is soon to face and consequently their ideas to remedy it. For instance the second delegate from Japan unveils a 10,000:1 model of a housing complex some 800 stories tall with self sustaining everything and mobile in the ocean! It's the future! In fact, everything is recycled! Even the food is recycled waste and excrement from the people. The sausage left out in the hall is actually reconstituted human waste (at which point everyone in the audience stops eating and shuffles the food underneath their seats). This sets the tone for a few of the minor themes of the novel and gives you an idea of how Lem takes subtle jabs at everyone. For example another United States delegate takes the floor to talk about population problems that are rapidly developing. He outlines seven solutions: "mass media and mass arrests, compulsory celibacy, full-sale deeroticization, onanization, sodomization, and for repeated offenders--castration." The book makes other references to population control and one character notes that continuing trends of population would eventually result in human beings exploding outward at the speed of light. Nature is addressed in an equally hilarious means as later in the book all animals have been extinct and replaced with what appear to be better controlled robots.

While in his room, Tichy makes the mistake of drinking the water and discovers that the water is spiked with a powerful hallucinogenic drug. He assumes it's the work of the revolutionaries and decides not to tell anyone but as the violence outside escalates and he mentions it to a fellow futurologist, he discovers that it is the rise of chryptochemocracy! With the hotel's staff, he quickly equips a gas mask as it becomes clear that chemical warfare is afoot ... of a psychedelic nature. Planes are called in equiped with LTN bombs. LTN stands for "Love Thy Neighbor" which is pretty indicative of today's munitions and their goals with surgical strikes. Hilariously enough, the very hotel in which the congress is convening is immediately bombed by mistake.

After pages of chemical warfare that affect the crowd's temperament and counter chemicals that affect the crowd's temperament, Tichy and a friend find oxygen tanks and masks and descend to the sewers where the hotel staff is relaxing comfortably with their own oxygen tanks and masks.

Unfortunately, Tichy and his companion do not have enough oxygen to last the night and therefore must take shifts suffering hallucinations. What follows from this point is a series of hallucinations that Tichy has ending in him coming to in the sewer. Tichy has several of these bizarre hallucinations ending in him being shot by revolutionaries in the sewer. He comes to certain that he is still hallucinating and refuses to believe anyone he is not. As a result, they freeze him until they can find a cure for his mental illness and he is unthawed many years later in a reality where 'psychemicals' keep everyone happy. This overmedicated society disgusts and frightens Tichy at times. It has gotten so bad that a company now exists where you can order a psychem that allows you the satisfaction of doing evil upon another person. Murder's no longer a problem, you just get reanimated. The worst possible offense is using psychems on an individual without their consent.

Tichy attempts to adapt and I couldn't help but be reminded of Fry in Futurama with similar humor employed nearly thirty years before it. As Tichy reconnects with his futurologist friend (people stopped dying as technology caught up a la Kurzweil), he discovers something unsettling about the drugs everyone is taking. He discovers that there's mascons that act as blockers to your senses and replace it with a superficial reality. And we start to understand why everything is so mysteriously idyllic while at the same times animals have been extinct for many years and the planet is at an overburdening 26 billion people. Tichy's friend hands him two vials that will unblock the layers of mascons. You see, the 'architects' of this current psychem reality have patched and repatched side effects of psychems and mascons with more psychems and mascons in the air and water supply! I'll leave The Matrix-like vials and harsh transition from utopia to dystopia for people interested in reading the book.

This book was a joy to read and although the very end is a bit dissatisfying to me, the satire and pessimism inherent to Lem's writings have influenced me and continue to influence me heavily. I like to think that Lem borrowed from sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick and that other science fiction authors like Douglas Adams have borrowed from Lem despite the language barrier and difference in culture. While Lem may not be the icon that Lovecraft, Clarke and Asimov have become, I certainly hope that people recognize his large corpus of works for more than just Solaris as I've enjoyed many novels by him. Lem offers a rare dark comedy in science fiction with The Futurological Congress.

You can pick up the English version of The Futurological Congress at Amazon . And catch the Ari Folman movie where the present day will be live action while the unfathomable future will be animated to adapt to the stark impossibilities the book portrays.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fan Mail from sstephenson@ecinstall.com 6

Sometimes I get fan mail and sometimes I get really awesome hate mail. Today, a man by the name of Steve Stephenson (also sent from blappo@gmail.com) at www.ecinstall.com decided to send me three pieces of mail despite my lack of response:

Subject: Why must you lie on Slashdot? Or is it that you're stupid?
So, the question is, are you just a REALLY bad reader, or are you that guy who has to lie because intelligent discourse is beyond his intellectual capability?

Subject: God, why are you such a lying piece of shit?
"Excuse me, how did we go from sarcasm and suing: (1) get another job, (2) sue people, or (3) invent some magic spell?" WE didn't, YOU did. WE understood what he meant from the start and didn't have to resort to straw men and lies like you have

Subject: God, you've PROVEN you don't read what you're responding to
HE ALREADY STATED, IN THE POST YOU ARE "REPLYING" TO THAT HE ISN'T PUBLISHED BY OREILLY.

"First, O'Reilly isn't really my publisher"

RIGHT THERE.

How fucking stupid are you?

Yeah, I was wrong, I would like to send my apologies to Steve Stephenson who is employed at ecinstall.com and can be reached at sstephenson@ecinstall.com.

I was confused with his publisher, I am completely straightened out thanks to your extreme language. You, truly, you sir are the epitome of "intelligent discourse" as yo put it. Never have I matched wits with someone so intelligent. I only wish more people like you would send me mail so I could finally decide to stop visiting Slashdot when I am bored.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot Ads Hit an All Time Low 1

It amazes me that Slashdot would allow an ad like this one to run on the front page of Slashdot. You know you're a credible news source when right below your headlines is "Barack the Magic Negro (Offensive?)"

Guess those trolls are willing to pay top dollar to get through to the Slashdot crowd these days. I guess if it pays the bills it's ok.
Music

Journal Journal: Massive Music Contributions to Wikimedia Commons? 2

I have a large music collection. Well over two thousand compact discs. I have also over the course of many years transferred them to a high quality lossy MP3 format--with impeccable ID3 tags. Given the recent news of Wikipedia preparing for a media explosion, I thought about exercising the fair use doctrine and may begin to methodically upload Ogg snippets of these songs--30 seconds or 10% of the length of the song (which ever is shorter). I could probably divide my music into three groups:
  1. Music with historical significance--a very small group.
  2. Music with no historical significance although popular enough that people may be interested in hearing samples of it--a very very large group.
  3. Music with not only no historical significance but so obscure that no one could ever possibly care--a decent amount (example Zager & Evans' In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) album).

So before I start this endeavor and devote a lot of time to it, I have been trying to find the answers to a few questions you might be able to help me with: Will all of this be torn down? Just from group 3? Just from group 2? Does Wikipedia care about the "encyclopedic worthiness" of audio files? If there is a page for a fairly obscure album like Thunder, Lightning, Strike by The Go! Team, would they like clips from every track on the album or just the popular tracks like "Huddle Formation?"

All the info I can find out there seems to be photo oriented and revolve around license disputes when marked for deletion ... but I feel I am sitting on a large volume of music and could spend some extra time carefully documenting it on Wikipedia for everyone's benefit. Is it worth my time or will I face an epic culling (like the anima/manga fans) in the future once word gets out about it?

Google

Journal Journal: Harvard Physicist Explains Lies on Google's Carbon Footprint 1

You might recall the article from Sunday about the cost of Google's search engine on the environment. Well, the physicist that did the original research is revealing that he made no such conclusions in his research. "I have no idea where they got those statistics," he is quoted as saying. This article takes answers from him and Google on the Times Online article that was stretching his research into the realm of fiction.
Slashback

Journal Journal: Empirical Data on the "Slashdot Effect"

You may wonder what exactly happens to a site when Slashdot sends its legions of page requests to it. Well, The Metric System blog has an analysis of what happened on November 6th when they received 31,218 page views. You see the breakdown by site and you also see an increase in traffic by 89,094%. While this may by anecdotal, it's the first time I've seen hard numbers on the Slashdot/Digg effect.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Did you get a survey re: Slashdot? 5


I had this come to me today.

Is this legit? A well crafted spam/mining operation? Sent to zillions of /.ers?

My tinfoil hat is buzzing, probably for no reason as is the norm.

Dear grub: My name is Lily Liu. I am a PhD student carrying our a project with my supervisor Christian Wagner (iscw@cityu.edu.hk) who is a professor at City University of Hong Kong. We are trying to understand the popularity of Slashdot to its active contributor, such as you. We hope you might be able to help us in our effort by answering three questions.

*Question 1:*
In your opinion, what (if so) makes Slashdot special among online discussion sites? Is it the content, the group of people it draws in, the discussion engine (e.g., content rating and filters), or possibly other factors?

*Question 2: *
Compared with other discussion sites you know or/and have used, do you consider Slashdot's technology platform to be better? In other words, does it encourage (a) more sense of community or (b) more active participation?
(In answering please also feel free to mention the other discussion site or sites you might be comparing to)

*Question 3:*
As a unique user in Slashdot, could you please rate your own reciprocity by assessing what you get from the community compared with what you contribute to it?(you can give an answer such as: i think i get more or i contribute more,of course we would be very appreciative for your explanation of detail)
**

Please let us know at your earliest convenience. We will quickly summarize results and gladly send you a summary, if you are interested (and sufficient replies are received to create a meaningful summary).

Thank You for Your Time and Valuable Feedback!

Sincerely,
Lily

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