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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 9 declined, 5 accepted (14 total, 35.71% accepted)

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Submission + - Pushing against the surveillance state, politely

davide marney writes: I was on my way to the local cineplex, thinking about the article I'd just read about how several states had worked together to amass a database of 20,000 license plates scanned with drive-by sensors. What's with that? It seems like everyone wants to get in on the surveillance party.

Everywhere you turn people are probing you, searching you, tracking you, and it's really beginning to tick me off. As I parked my car in the lot, I said to myself, "in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they start searching people in movie theaters."

Sure enough.

After paying my ticket, a security guard comes up and asks me very politely if he can search my backpack.No, I answer equally politely, you cannot.

The guard is momentarily stunned, and repeats the question. I repeat my answer. Why? he wants to know.

Because it's my stuff. I don't let people look through my stuff just because they want to. Are you telling me I can't come to this movie theater unless you look in my backpack?

Oh no, sir, I'm not saying that. Look at me, he says very sternly, eye-to-eye. I am telling you I did NOT say you have to leave the theater. Do you understand that?

Okay. So, what ARE you saying?

I'm saying that I want to look at your backpack.

Hmm. Look, I wouldn't even let the police look in my backpack unless I was being formally charged with something. Do you have a reasonable cause to suspect me of doing something wrong?

No sir, but we have "reasonable cause" to search any bag we want, because that's company policy.

Really? What are you searching for?

We're looking for drugs.
No, I don't have any drugs.

We're looking for movie cameras.
No, I don't have a movie camera.

We're looking for guns.
I CERTAINLY don't have a gun.

We're looking for glass bottles.
No, no bottles.

Look, my movie has already started. What's it going to be? Are you going to let me see this movie or not?

OK, sir, no one has ever refused to let us search a bag before. You can go this one time, but I'm putting you on notice that the next time you come here, your bag WILL be searched, and I'm going to notify the manager.

Hmm, OK. (Off I go to my seat)

10 minutes later, the manager tracks me down in the theater and basically repeats the exchange, almost verbatim. Must be something corporate sent out as a script. At one point she says, "Nobody else has a problem with this, why do you?"

Why, indeed? I'm not entirely sure. The fact that a corporate rent-a-cop can walk up to you and demand to rifle through your belongings just sticks in my craw. We can't live with this level of security. If we don't start pushing back, where will it all end?

Of course, that movie theater completely lost my business, that pretty much goes without saying. It may be their policy to look through their patron's things, but that sure doesn't mean I have to pay for the privilege.
Your Rights Online

Submission + - SOPA makes strange bedfellows (

davide marney writes: "What do 1-800-Contacts, Adidas, Americans for Tax Reform, Comcast, the Country Music Association, Estee Lauder, Ford, Nike and Xerox all have in common? According to, they all have specifically endorsed H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. A total of 158 corporations have signed up in favor of the bill, and only 87 against. $21 Million has been donated to Congressmen who favor the bill, but only $5 Million to those against. Thanks to OpenCongress for these insights. This goes a long way towards explaining why this bill has so much traction, despite all its negative publicity."

Submission + - "Process" People vs. "Resource" People

davide marney writes: "You start an interesting new project, involving you and a handful of your friends and associates. The project initially starts out small, but it starts to catch on. Great! Now there are 10 people who all need to start coordinating their work. Time to get organized!

The geek in the group says, "hey, I can set up a Google Site and we can manage our project there. It has a place for documents, a calendar, discussion threads, everything." A few people nod their heads; yeah, they've used the web before. The rest of the group is thinking to themselves, "ok, whatever, why are we creating this whole web site just for this little, tiny project; but, go along to get along, I guess."

Half the group starts putting things into the web site. The other half ignores it completely. Things quickly start breaking down.

"Did you get my email telling you we've changed our meeting space?"
"What? Did you post that on the web?"
"No, I don't know how to use the web site."
"Well, OK, let me post that for you so the rest of the group will see it."
"Oh, no need, I'll just email everyone."
"Well, not everyone reads email; you better let me put it up for you."

. . . . . . .

A classic case of low efficiency caused by a clash of operational styles: is group work done as a series of individually-managed tasks in a personal process, or by collectively building up a common set of resources? Are you a "process" person or a "resource" person?
  • Process Person:
    • I am personally organized, but I don't expect anyone else to be
    • I have my own, customized system for managing work
    • I have my own, customized filing system
      • I use it to store my own works
      • I use it to store copies of other people's works, if they are important to my project
    • I live and die by notifications (email, etc.), to do lists, and my personal calendar
    • I am constantly updating my and other people's status
  • Resource Person:
    • I expect that everyone on the project is as organized as me
    • There should be one, central place for everything important to a shared project, and everyone should use it.
      • (Implied) There is a common process for managing work
      • (Implied) There is a common filing system
      • (Implied) There is a common event calendar
    • I'll check the resource and synchronize my status when I need to
    • Notifications are nice to have, but only for truly important changes to status or events

Submission + - Electronic Voting Deflects Recount (

davide marney writes: "According to the Virginia Board of Elections Democrat Gerald Connolly defeated Republican Keith Fimian for House District 11 in Virginia by 981 votes out of 226,951 cast, a difference of 0.4%. Even though Fimian is entitled by law to a recount at taxpayer expense, Fimian just conceded the race, stating that "In our race, we have not seen any obvious errors in the results". District 11 spans a city and parts of two counties, all of which use either touch-screen or optical scan machines. Whatever the arguments about electronic voting, in this case it produced a result that was trustworthy enough to convince a challenger not to contest a result within 0.4% of the total. If the main requirement of a voting method is to produce a clear, uncontested winner, electronic voting worked very well in this case."

Submission + - Can a garbage heap save us from global warming?

davide marney writes: "In a Washington Post opinion piece, Hugh Price argues that using a decidedly low-tech solution to sequestering excess carbon — making piles of agricultural waste — is better than any "green" technology. Sometimes the easy answer is the right answer. After all, that's how coal forms, and we know that works pretty well."

Submission + - Subtle but brilliant UI change to Google homepage (

davide marney writes: "As part of Google’s facelift, there is a new "on-demand" navigation UI:

- Go to using just the keyboard – no mouse
- Note that there are no menus, headers, footers, etc. – just the logo and the search box
- Start typing for a search term – still no navigational UI, the page is still tightly focused on search
- Now touch the mouse, and the navigational UI fades into view

I think this is a brilliant innovation. It’s a great way to show one “layer” of a UI that is stripped down, and completely task-focused, and yet still add a second layer of additional functionality without requiring the user to explicitly ask for it by clicking a button or a link."

Submission + - Comparison of Pixel Qi's Epaper+Color+Video Screen (

davide marney writes: "Pixel Qi, the commercial display technology spin-off from the OLPC project, has posted of new set side-by-side photos that compare it's new 10-inch laptop display with anti-glare and standard LCD screens in an indoor, office setting. Impressively, the Pixel Qi screen looks nearly as good with the backlight off as the others do with backlight on. This translates into a much longer battery life for a Pixel Qi-equipped laptop. The Pixel Qi screen also has terrific anti-glare characteristics, which should make it much easier on the eyes."

Submission + - Fun With Numbers

davide marney writes: "There are approximately 450,000 words in the Health Care Bill. How does that compare to other masterful works of literature?

War and Peace: 460,000 words
Lord of the Rings: 560,000 words
KJV Old Testament: 600,000 words"

Submission + - The Joys of Privoxy (

davide marney writes: "Recently, I was introduced to Privoxy, a perfect little gem of a utility that blocks the 15% or so of web content that is devoted to showing ads and tracking your behavior. Privoxy's great strengths are that it runs on a very wide range of platfoms, works with any browser, comes configured out of the box, and installs in minutes. On any given day I move from using IE on my company's WinXP box to Chrome running on my personal laptop, to Opera running on my OLPC XO-1. We don't have a Mac in the house yet, but if we did, Privoxy could run on that, too. What joy to have one, common privacy solution that "just works", across the board!

One unexpected benefit to running Privoxy was it convinced me to finally pony up for a paid subscription to Slashdot. Once I saw how many ads Slashdot is having to sneek in there to pay the bills, I decided that paying $5 for reading a thousand pages ad-free is really not too much to ask for the hours of benefit I get from reading and contributing."

Wireless Networking

Submission + - White spaces test "rigged" says Google co-

Davide Marney writes: "As reported by the Washington Post, Google co-founder Larry Page claims that an FCC field test of white space wireless devices was "rigged" to make the test device fail to detect wireless microphone broadcasts. A Google spokesman explained later that testers had hidden the wireless microphones within the same frequency as local television stations, preventing the test device from detecting them. Paige was on Capitol Hill to boost the company's "Free the Airwaves" campaign."

Submission + - States throw out electronic voting machines

Davide Marney writes: "According to the Associated Press, millions of dollars' worth of electronic voting machines banned by U.S. state legislatures are sitting unused in warehouses across the country. Many of these machines cost $3,500 to $5,000 each. Surely we can come up with a good way to re-use all that iron! The peripherals are actually pretty cool: touch screens, built-in card readers, register-paper printers, flash drives that can be sealed. The OS is typically Windows. And, as a bonus, they each come in a extremely rugged carrying case that converts into a stand."

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