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Christmas Cheer

Extreme Christmas Lights In Orlando 318

tripmine writes "The Orlando Sentinel has a story about a geek who can't get enough Christmas light. 'This Christmas, tech-savvy people such as Hansen are increasingly building the biggest, most elaborate holiday lights in neighborhoods across Central Florida and throughout the country. They typically work in fields such as computer programming, Web development, engineering or audio and visual services and are armed with a technical knowledge that the average person lacks. They trade tips and stories on message boards and set up Web sites with step-by-step descriptions of how they installed their lights as well as pictures and videos of the finished product.'" Many cities have neighborhoods where the spectacle takes up blocks at a time, not just individual houses, too, as anyone who's strolled down Austin's 37th Street can attest. Links invited (in comments) to the best / worst light-spectacles you know of.
United States

Copy That Floppy, Lose Your Computer 766

Over the weekend we posted a story about a new copyright bill that creates a new govt. agency in charge of copyright enforcement. Kevin Way writes "In particular, the bill grants this new agency the right to seize any computer or network hardware used to "facilitate" a copyright crime and auction it off. You would not need to be found guilty at trial to face this penalty. You may want to read a justification of it, and criticism presented by Declan McCullagh and Public Knowledge." Lots of good followup there on a really crazy development.

France Leading Charge Against OOXML 242

Bergkamp10 writes "As Microsoft's Office Open XML document format waits in ISO limbo, South Africa, Korea, and the Netherlands are now actively pursuing the alternative Open Document Format instead, said the ODF Alliance. The Alliance now claims 500 members, and by their count 13 nations have announced laws or rules that favor the use ODF over Microsoft's Office formats. Those nations include Russia, Malaysia, Japan, France, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, and Norway. The French have been the most aggressive in their rejection of Microsoft's standard; nearly half a million French government employees are being switched to OpenOffice. There has been no similar move in the US, though in a speech at Google last week Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for data to be stored in 'universally accessible formats.'"

Everyday Copyright Violations 431

Schneier has pointed out a great law review article about the problems with copyright. The author takes a look at normal daily practices and how many commonplace actions actually result in what can be considered copyright violations. "By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John's activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing."

DHS to Send Widespread Alerts 265

MarsGov writes "The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up to be able to periodic test 'alerts' to cable television stations, satellite radio, as well as any text-capable device — PDAs, cell phones, and web sites." From the article: Some glitches remain as telephone companies and other networks grapple with potentially trying to alert all of their customers at the same time without jamming their systems, Lawson said. But the alerts could be transmitted by text messages, audio recordings, video or graphics, he said, opening the possibility of sending out additional detailed information to specific sectors, like hospitals or emergency responders."

Bill Gates to Step Down from Microsoft 742

Geoffreyerffoeg writes "According to Microsoft PressPass, Bill Gates will be leaving his role at Microsoft in July 2008. He'll be staying with the company, but is also moving to a more fulltime position with the Gates Foundation. 'Microsoft Corp. today announced that effective July 2008 Bill Gates, chairman, will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The company announced a two-year transition process to ensure that there is a smooth and orderly transfer of Gates' daily responsibilities, and said that after July 2008 Gates would continue to serve as the company's chairman and an adviser on key development projects.' CTO Ray Ozzie will assume Gates' role of Chief Software Architect, and CTO Craig Mundie will also take on more leadership responsibility."

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