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User Journal

Journal Journal: An open letter to Taco on Pudge's abuse of power. 6


An entry you wrote on the Slashdot FAQ states:

What sorts of anti-troll filters exist?

A handful of filters have been put into place to try to make sure that people don't abuse the system. The most important is that the same person can't post more than once every 120 seconds. Also, if a single user is moderated down several times in a short time frame, a temporary ban will be imposed on that user... a cooling off period if you will. It lasts for 72 hours, or more for users who have posted a ton.

The vast majority of you will never encounter any of these troll filters. If you do encounter one unfairly, let us know so we can fix it. This stuff is fairly beta code, so there are bound to be problems. [emph mine]

Yet Pudge can post a comment at 12:50, 12:51, 12:52 and 12:53.

In the same story, Pudge posted over 60 times (and counting!) in a five hour period, many times less than 120s since his last post.

I understand allowing the editors certain freedoms that you can't give to a wider audience, but allowing your own editors to troll the Slashdot readers and abuse the filters set to stop such behavior is frankly a little sad.

If you agree that Taco needs to revoke Pudge's editor account, please reply below.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why all the freaks? 4

I've just looked at my 'freaks' on slashdot.

Why are there so many? I just don't understand.

Wouldn't all you freaks rather be my fans instead?

User Journal

Journal Journal: A dollar for Apple is a vote for the Democrats? 65

In the long lead up to the US Presidential Elections, there is something that I'm curious about.

How do slashdotters (and particularly conservative slashdotters) feel about Apple's overt and unequivocal support for the Democrats? If you're not sure what I'm talking about, consider the following:

  • During the last election. John Kerry had Steve Jobs' personal support and friendship, including Jobs' offering himself in the position of technical/PR advisor to the Kerry campaign.
  • Jobs has had the Clintons over to his house for an intimate dinner. The Clinton's returned the favor, inviting Jobs to stay a night in the White House's Lincoln bedroom, a privilege granted to big party donors.
  • Steve Jobs organised a fund raiser for Hilary Clinton at his Palo Alto home.

Has Apple's support for the Democrats changed your purchasing decisions?

Are you more or less likely to buy Apple knowing that a non-trivial percentage of your hard earned dollars are going to make there way into Democrat campaign funds?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Google "Mac Fanboy". 1

I'd just like to thank all the other whiney mac fanboys here on slashdot for linking to my slashpage.

Your tireless efforts have resulted in the slashdot wmf homepage becoming the number one google search result for mac fanboy.

Thanks again for all your hard work.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Why is Apple afraid of being PC? 33

There is one thing I really don't understand about Apple. From the first advertisements for the Apple ][, Apple was proud to call their PC line ""Personal Computer"s". Apple continued to be proud of their PC heritage, billing the Lisa as a reinvention of the "Personal Computer".

This continued until as recently as 2000, when Apple was quite happy to advertise the powerMac G5 as the World's fastest "Personal Computer" (at least until they were ordered to pull the ads for being "misleading".)

I can understand why Mac users use the term PC. It's because of a sense of being an outsider & the feeling of superiority the term gives the user (I use a mac, it's not a generic item like a "PC"). On the other hand, I think if Apple were the company it portrayed itself as being (great products, from an ethical, honest company), it wouldn't use the term PC (in opposition to mac), as well as the term "Personal Computer" (when it suits).

Ironically (in the Alanis sense), Apple's most blatantly incorrect usage (Mac Guy / PC Guy ads) has come after Apple's shift to a far more generic PC architecture, which makes it possible to run windows on a mac or os x on non-mac hardware (the 'standard' definition for a PC used to be 'a machine capable of running windows').

What does everyone else think? In this new era where it's possible to run OS X on a Dell, or windows on a Mac, is Apple being intellectually dishonest using the term "Personal Computer" when it suits them and PC disparagingly?


Journal Journal: Are you my friend? 6

Have I made you my friend?

If I have - its because just like me you're a whiney mac fanboy!

It's good to know who's going to join in piping up in every story about how a solution using Apple products is a far better then whatever the article is discussing.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot fan

Hey, I've just noticed that I have a fan! This is great! I feel incredibly flattered...

Yes, with the slashdot system, some of the cooler users have dozens of fans and friends. But it all has to start from somewhere, and what an exciting start for me.

So what is it that makes me so attractive? It can't be my good looks because this is an Internet forum. Perhaps it was my gutsy sig that I just removed...? (Why?! Why?! Just as I was becoming cool...)

It can't be my sense of humour.... so perhaps it's my pragmatism. This is the feature that I value most highly.

Well that and a healthy devotion to sparkles and glitter!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Slashdot .sig

Recently I noticed some commentary in a slashdot journal about a controversial sig causing comments to be modded down. Since I've had my controversial sig, I've had months-old 5s modded way down.

Oddly enough, although my comment may have originally been insightful, when put in the context of a controversial sig, it became too threatening for the moderators looking through old threads.

My new comments are also likely to be skipped over with my controversial sig.

Well, I'm going along with it. I thought a slashdot sig was a good place to start changing the world, but I guess this just proves the truth of a quote I recently found: "98% of the population is asleep. The other 2% are staring around in complete amazement, abject terror, or both."

Well, my new sig tells you what I think of all this: "All great truths begin as blasphemies." -- George Bernard Shaw

And don't you forget it!

User Journal

Journal Journal: A Job for Christmas

Well, I got what I really wanted for Christmas: a job. Having been unemployed since October (September, really, since I knew I was going), has been a real bummer, espescially since it meant having to leave the U.S. and return to Canada. The telecom bust has been particularly tough on those of us on the bleading edge of core routing -- there just isn't the demand for capacity that was expected. Not since 1933 has the stock market had three down years in a row (and a fourth is quite possible), so I view this as a sector-led depression.

In my case, my career has taken a shift from embedded telecom to automated testing for advanced digital television products, which matches well with my personal interests in set-top boxes and routing MPEG2 vides around my house.

While I am very grateful for the news of my employment offer (that I heartily accepted) on Dec. 24, I can't help feel somewhat melancholy for the candidates that were not selected, and all others seeking work. The only advice I can give is: hussle, hussle, hussle. Your present full-time job is "selling" your skills. Above all, try to not let depression sink in -- treat every job lead as a potential job.

I surely hope 2003 will be better than 2002 for all.

User Journal

Journal Journal: So long, and thanks: a Canadian's likely journey home 1

Well, it happened. I was recently informed that my last day with my employer would be in about a month. My vacation for the year was paid out and I was offered a nice severance package. Time to join the ranks of the high tech unemployed. Except, my case is different: if I don't line something up PDQ (before my employment ends), I'm on the next plane to Canada. See, I'm a Canadian high tech worker on an H1B visa, until recently hopeful of getting a "Green Card".

I know. It's tough all over, Americans should get first shot at jobs, and I knew what I was getting into. True enough. You won't hear any "why do I have to leave?" sob story from me. If I wanted to reap all the benefits of being an American, I'd have to become an American, and that meant all the INH hoops toward a Green Card, a five year year wait after that before I could become a citizen. One does not walk into a place and automatically share in all the societal infrastructure benefits. Still, I wish it didn't take so long to jump through the INS hoops: I had two approved LCs which died when I had to change jobs -- and the clock on the H1B visa runs out pretty damn close to the amount of time it take for the Green Card process to complete. O.K. Enuf of a rant against the INS.

So, here I am, scrambling to either transfer my H1B to a new employer or get a position on a TN1 visa before my present employment ends. After that, it's "So long, and thanks for a taste of the good life". I will be returning back to Canada, where the job prospects are even more dismal than here. Naturally, I'm also looking for jobs in Canada, and a place to stay there as well -- my potential address there is suddenly "inconvenient" to my would-be hosts -- completely understandable. Unless something specific turns up, I'll be looking to rent a three bedroom house or townhouse around Ottawa or Hull. I hope my unemployed status wouldn't be a problem, as I could pay a year's rent in advance, if necessary. I could return to the U.S. if a job turned up (at least on a NAFTA TN1 visa), but I really don't want to put my family through any more moves unless we wind up close to where we're we'd be leaving: Dallas, TX.

Ah, Texas. Everything is big in Texas (funny, living here hasn't affected my "size" any, though). The houses are big: we live in a 3200 square foot two story home, with 5 bedrooms, most with walk-in closets, and 3 full bathrooms. We "waste" 16000 gallons or water a month watering the lawn alone. We can afford to pay people to mow our grass, take care of our bushes, and the lawn is watered with an automated sprinkler system. We have a private pool for our subdivision (Americans are big on "subdivisions", it seams: when we lived in Illinois, for example, we lived in "Countryside West", as opposed to "Countryside". For some reason, our subdivision's snootiness garnered greater house prices, and a hotter market). We could never afford a comparable lifestyle in Canada, on a software engineer's salary. For the time we've been here, America has been good to us, and I don't regret the risks we took for one minute. It does sadden me that many Americans I meet have no idea how fortunate they are. We came here with a certain amount of m in Canada, and would likely leave with three times that after five years. A damn good ROI for any "investment", not that we really looked at it financially. But, the party, likely, is about to end. At least we can say that we gave our two year old son the gift of American citizenship: he can chose between the heavily socialist Canada, and the more "survival of the fittest" U.S. when the time comes.

If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it is that the our kids (9 y.o. daughter, and 2 y.o. son) will learn that life is not all roses. As many parents, we have spoiled our kids, though often inadvertantly, as we too have come to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

So, the future remains uncertain -- if there are any employers in the Dallas, TX area or anywhere in Canada, I'd like to hear from you (If you're really intersted you can find my resume on my home page via slashdot -- I didn't intend for this reflection to be a plug for my services: I hit the job sites and network with people I know for that). Perhaps now, I can update this journal more frequently. I don't know what the future will bring yet, but it will likely be interesting.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A rant to remember

I thought this rant worth preserving.

An unlocked door does NOT imply a "big honking sign that says 'enter'".

Ah, but it certainly does, as far as the Internet is concerned. You are making the traditional mistake of comparing cyberspace to meatspace, where your statement would be true.

The internet may not have been intended to be designed in the spirit of an open community, but that's how it turned out: it was used as a collaborative research tool for the exchange of information. Things were made available with the implicit cultural assumption that copies were free to be taken and examined. The meatspace analogy would be a community where the norm was that people were free to wander into any house, and look around, just not damage anything. If there was a door, just jiggle the lock if it's stuck. People asking about FTP passwords weren't rebuffed, they were told about "anonymous" and were gently asked to leave their "email address at the door", as it were.

While some security was available, in terms of password-protected telnet access, the general rule was that you didn't put stuff on an internet connected computer that you'd mind becoming public.

This culture extended to the development of the WWW: it was designed as a way to facilitate the sharing of information enhanced with links to related stuff: all pages were equal. The concept of "deep-linking" didn't make sense -- it mattered more that you could get to a page of interest.

Fast forward to commercialization, constrained-navigation (so you're forced to see ads), and the desire to use the open community's communication mechanism for virtual private communication (VPN, duh, but also plain old SSL and IPSec encrypted traffic). Enhanced privacy, security, and constrained site navigation are exceptions, not the rule. There are legitimate reasons to support these, you can beef up security if you wish, but, and this is the kicker, when it comes to "old-net culture", the onus is on you to lock things down and not presume that the norm is "stay away unless invited". Rather than a community of homes, the analogy is a mall of stores, public libraries, and free art exhibits, inviting and open to all.

This is why I wrote "If you don't understand the Internet, stay the fuck away."

Here was a peaceful, cooperative community, that helped provide the means for secure communication to those that wanted it, and wound up getting culturally hijacked by people who refuse to accept that there are certain customs to follow if you really want people to not look and stay away.

We gave them an "Http-Referrer" field for <insert deity here>'s sake. How arrogant of the "thou shalt not deep link" hounds to not use it. It's like someone building a two-way road and a bunch of idiots insisting on driving on the "wrong" side because it's the "right" side where they came from. Funny, Yanks drive on the left in the U.K., Brits drive on the right in the U.S.A. Perhaps when someone whines about the curious seeing what they oughtn't in an ignorantly open site, the data should be blown to a bunch of mirror sites, like car parts thrown from an auto collision.

You know, those that designed the internet protocols should have patented them (you can patent a protocol, I think), and used the clout to take away the right to play on the net from those that refused to adapt to the lingua franca's idioms. Of course, they probably would have to assign such patents to the DoD and others, so that dream is a bit foolish, but the lesson should be learned: if you don't want others to pollute and poison what you make, you need to protect it from those that would try while making it available to all others (which is why the GPL is so brilliant a concept, though it appear we need to get some clue-clubs to help enforce it).

O.K., I'm out of breath, so this rant is over. Mod me down as you will.

User Journal

Journal Journal: It's been a while -- been awfully busy. 3

Yeah, I've let this journal go by the wayside. Stuff has happened, of course, but tending to it has been a higher priority than writing about it.

OTOH, I recently posted a comment in response to a DRM Conference article on /., and thought it worth preserving. So, here it is (the hyperlinks and some of the highlighting is lost):

The case FOR DRM

<flame suit on>

No. Really, a case can be made for DRM... just not the DRM envisioned by the cronies at the various AAs out there.

Let's examine all the bad things about DRM:

1. It kills fair use. Well, yes, but that's an implementation detail. It need not have to. In fact, I'd argue that it should be legislated that any mandatory DRM mechanism should protect fair use rights (and I generally hate more laws). That this scenario is unlikely is an attribute of the political climate and intense content provider lobbying rather than a defect of the principles of DRM. But, imagine a DRM mechanism which automatically releases copyright material into the public domain when the copyright term expires.

2. It stifles "sharing" and enforces "property" rights on things which shouldn't be property. True, but that is a legal and philosophical debate. The fact is that people are generally willing to accept restricted licenses for using something in order to pay less to have access. IOW, I can either pay an artist big bucks to record an album for me, or hope he records one, and don't undercut his efforts to sell them for $10 a pop once I have my copy. A third option, popular in the 1950s for classical music recordings, is to have content produced by prior subscription: when enough subscriptions are sold, the recording is made and distributed to the subscribers. This strikes at the nature of copyright itself, and whether it should have a moral and legal basis. While the existing terms are outrageous, and the music industry probably does gouge artists, DRM is nothing more than a tool for enforcing an agreement. It is the reasonableness of the agreement that should be examined, not the tool.

3. DRM stifles creation of independent content and raises the barrier to entry for independent artists. This is true if (a) DRM use is always mandated, (b) content is difficult or expensive to protect, and/or (c) content designed for mass distribution is difficult or expensive to protect. If this is the case, then clearly DRM is being exploited to restrict access to production and distribution channels: it may prevent you from making an unprotected video for your grandmother or it may prevent you from streaming samples of your music free to anyone in order to get recognized. I don't discount this as a goal of the nefarious AAs out there. However, that's clearly abuse of a monopoly or oligopoly and should be exposed as such.

4. People are too stupid to realize what they are about to lose -- they don't understand how bad DRM could be. Yes, people are stupid. Just look at what leaders democracies elect. But if we "hacking 3l337e" are incapable of educating them, then some of the blame falls on our shoulders. It may be tough, but replacing "stupid" above with "ignorant" (which is a curable condition) would not be a bad start. I am not suggesting this is easy: the public has been conditioned to accept restrictions of civil liberties in the name of preventing future crime (witness the whole DMCA fiasco and post-9/11/2001 "bend over while I rape your rights" hysteria). Yet, when it comes to accepting legislation regarding potentially very oppressive technologies, the state is generally "trusted". Nevertheless, attempts have to be made, including educating what few legislators may not have been bought yet, and are sympathetic to our concerns.

5. DRM will cause me to lose control of my computer. It will become a glorified TV. Again, this is certainly possible. However, DRM could also permit your computer to cache content that you have not yet licensed but are likely to, or keep secure other people's content. The issue isn't so much, Digital Rights ement, but rather the scope of what is Managed. No, it shouldn't be the whole computer.

That's still a lot of reasons to be wary about DRM as it's envisioned today. All the responses to concerns above are of the "yeah, but it doesn't have to be that way" form, and until we are sure it won't be that way, we are wise to be distrustful. But, it helps to look at a case where DRM would make perfect sense.

Webcam Now [] offers free hosting and download of webcam images, and text and voice chat services. Their site caters to "Friends and Family" (hmm, I smell a trademark infringement suit) as well as "Unmonitored" sections (yes, mostly free amateur exhibitionist porn). Anyone can get an account and upload images to their heart's content, to be served up to Java applets in viewers' browsers. The "free" view rate is 6 frames per minute, and a "pay" rate of 60 frames per minute is available for (I think) US$9.95 a month. This is rather generous, Jennicam [] updates free images at the rate of once every 15 minutes. Smart move, actually -- they're basically selling bandwidth on the basis of desired content that costs them nothing.

The (black) hack potential is obvious: say I don't want to pay $10 a month, but still want a frame per second refresh or I want to roll my own client (white hack). How can Webcam Now throttle access to their data? More importantly, how can they prevent me from redistributing the images I get?

The obvious answer is an authenticated communication channel that permits faster request rates and an encrypted channel between their image servers and my display. This does not make it impossible to capture what the display shows, but likely makes it difficult enough to thwart casual infringement and severely affect the resolution of what I capture.

Without DRM used to keep the image data secret between their servers and my display, those images could be redistributed anywhere. What if someone scrapes them for their own paid "amateur porn" site outside of the legal jurisdictions where Webcam Now operates? While I'm sure the exhibitionists who use Webcam Now's services don't mind being seen, they'd probably be pretty miffed if someone's making a tidy profit from their free shows: the $9.95 a month probably seems reasonable for Webcam Now to collect per fast viewer to pay for the bandwidth, but heck, if the viewership justifies image scrapers, why not set up their own adult site? They'd leave Webcam Now, and much of the fast-streaming revenue would dry up. While some might exploit the exposure in order to break into the professional porn industry, the true amateurs would probably be upset: somehow being presented as an "unmonitored" video is different than being scraped and represented as "hard core slutty filth". I'd bet that paid fast-streaming porn subsidizes much of the free slow-streaming parts of that site, including the "family" stuff.

On a related note, what if a couple want to do a private long-distance "show" for eachother? Whether they chose to record their cyber-sexcapades or not, they'd probably like the content to remain unviewable except on certain equipment, lest it be redistributed. DRM to the rescue.

Given that the pornography industry seams to be one of the early adopters of new technology (it is rumoured that it fueled the demand for VCRs), perhaps it should drive how DRM is implemented and deployed.

The other aspect of this is controlled access to bandwidth. As it stands, Webcam Now uses trivial encryption on their images, and trusted Java applets to not pull images faster than permitted. While an authenticated session could result in traffic throttled at the source, this requires the server to enforce the stream-throttling policy. As anyone knows, the less a server has to do, the better it scales. Letting the client enforce the access rate policy is a step in this direction. However, once the client application is cracked, it's game over. The current solution involves either accepting the policy enforcement on the part of each server, or a multi-tiered approach where dedicated aggregation and policy servers sit between client machines and data servers. This works rather well, but increases operating costs: the more work you can off-load to the client, the cheaper your operation becomes. However, securely off-loading access policies to client PCs is not possible without DRM.

So, where does this leave us? DRM certainly has legitimate uses, and need not be overbearing or invasive. In fact, it should be deployed in very restricted areas, where secure computing or encrypted content needs to be managed. Example include secure client-side web proxies, display, and audio devices (though it's value in the latter is questionable since "adequate" resolution analog recording is so easy). It should not be a ubiquitious part of a central processor, nor should it enforce draconian measures that are unconstitutional. The burden of complying with constitutional fair use rights should lie with the DRM implementer.

<flame suit off>

User Journal

Journal Journal: Subwooferitis!

Well, trying to mate a sub to my new B&G Radia 520dx speakers has proven to be a hassle. See, I'm too cheap to spring for a Velo HGS-12.

But, I came across a fellow that designs and builds subs, with a good reputation, to boot: kyle AT (Please don't spam him, but he welcomes inquiries). With his help, and an on-line crash course in speaker acoustics (I now understand Fs and Qtc, among others), we came up with an 85l (19" cubed, outside) enclosure (Qtc = 0.6 for tight bass) for a 12" Dayton Titanic Mk. II driven by a Hypix HS 200 plate amp. Should go down to around 18Hz, room loaded.

The HS-200 is nice in it's own right: Linkwitz-Reilly cross-over, with adjustibe high and low pass frequencies (though 80 Hz for the mains is fine), infrasonic filter, and adjustable bass boost. This should be a breeze to mate with my main speakers. (Perhaps I should get two and run a stereo pair! -- nah, let's start with one).

Best part is price: under (significantly under) $1000, assembled, and shipped to my front door.

Oh yeah, the people at Bohlender Graebener are REAL nice: I ordered a set of spiking kits (they DO make a difference, esp. in tightening up what little base the Radias have). Well, instead of standard shipping, they Fedexed them second day air, but only charged me standard shipping. The difference was only around $4, and I was happy to get them sooner, but still: this is customer service at it's best (i.e. "we made a small mistake, you don't pay for it") Great company.

User Journal

Journal Journal: I got my speakers!

Yay! My Bohlender Graebner Radia 520dx speakers arrived last night!!

They are very nice, just as described. The seller was willing to drive the 25 miles to deliver them personally so I agreed to pay him what the estimated shipping charges would have been, over and above, the agreed upon price. It seamed only fair, and avoided the need for escrowed payment. So, I paid immediately with a certified cheque upon delivery and satisfactory inspection.

While being full-range speakers, they do roll off at 80 Hz, and would do well to be crossed over to a decent subwoofer for more demanding pieces.

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