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User Journal

Journal Journal: in which i am a noob all over again 17

I haven't posted a journal here in almost three years, because I couldn't find the button to start a new entry. ...yeah, it turns out that it's at the bottom of the page.

So... hi, Slashdot. I used to be really active here, but now I mostly lurk and read. I've missed you.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why no recent journal entries?

Because I have a blog at

It kind of makes the whole journal thing redundant. If you really want to see what I have to say about random things, by all means, you're invited to the blog. If not, well, it seems you're in substantial company, if nothing else. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: a return which is long overdue (plus achievements!) 17

I've lurked at /. without posting for ages, mostly because I just don't have the time to interact like I used to.

But I've been clicking through the old RSS feed more and more lately, and when I saw the PAX Plague thread today, I came over to comment, since I'm kind of affected by the whole damn thing. I thought I'd take a look around since I haven't been here in awhile, and I saw that there are freaking ACHIEVEMENTS associated with our accounts. It's silly, and I'm sure it's been here forever, but I thought it was awesome and I was delighted when I read it.

I didn't realize how much I missed Slashdot until I spent some time here today, and I bet that anyone who joined in the last 2 years doesn't even give a shit about my stupid comments or anything, but it felt good to come back here, and feel safely among my people again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ya know, some days I kinda miss consulting.

I've just been puttering around and posting in this thred and it brings back the good, the bad, and the ugly of those long ago years of my life as a "suit".

The truth? For a few years there, with electronic publishing one of the hottest fields in all of business and me as a well-paid, respected, twenty-something hotshot who had gotten in early and was suited to the work, it was a hell of a ride.

Would I want to be a part of what consulting has become? No. And I am well aware that if I had "succeeded" then to a greater degree I would have been enmeshed in the Andersen Consulting-type bullshit that even then lurked none too far from our metastable, well-paid playground.

But it really was an amazing rush.

I miss working on things that only later hit the papers. I miss being young and in the right place in the right time, knowing that what I was playing a non-trivial role in a pioneering community of people remaking what our society was.

Anyway, I don't want to make this any more of a maudlin rant than it is already.

I just wanted to say that, yeah, I do miss it. in a hundred ways, it truly was grand.


User Journal

Journal Journal: J.K.Rowling wins $6750, and pound of flesh 17

J.K. Rowling didn't make enough money on Harry Potter, so she had to make sure that the 'Harry Potter Lexicon' was shut down. After a trial in Manhattan in Warner Bros. v. RDR Books, she won, getting the judge to agree with her (and her friends at Warner Bros. Entertainment) that the 'Lexicon' did not qualify for fair use protection. In a 68-page decision (PDF) the judge concluded that the Lexicon did a little too much 'verbatim copying', competed with Ms. Rowling's planned encyclopedia, and might compete with her exploitation of songs and poems from the Harry Potter books, although she never made any such claim in presenting her evidence. The judge awarded her $6750, and granted her an injunction that would prevent the 'Lexicon' from seeing the light of day.
User Journal

Journal Journal: U. Mich. student calls for prosecution of Safenet

An anonymous University of Michigan student targeted by the RIAA as a 'John Doe', is asking for the RIAA's investigator, Safenet (formerly MediaSentry), to be prosecuted criminally for a pattern of felonies in Michigan. Known to Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth -- the agency regulating private investigators in that state -- only as 'Case Number 162983070', the student has pointed out that the law has been clear in Michigan for years that computer forensics activities of the type practiced by Safenet require an investigator's license. This follows the submissions by other 'John Does' establishing that Safenet's changing and inconsistent excuses fail to justify its conduct, and that Michigan's legislature and governor have backed the agency's position that an investigator's license was required.
User Journal

Journal Journal: ABA Judges Get an Earful about RIAA Litigations 5

Well, I was afforded the opportunity to write for a slightly different audience -- the judges who belong to the Judicial Division of the American Bar Association. I was invited by the The Judges' Journal, their quarterly publication, to do a piece on the RIAA litigations for the ABA's Summer, 2008, 'Equal Access to Justice' issue. What I came up with was 'Large Recording Companies vs. The Defenseless : Some Common Sense Solutions to the Challenges of the RIAA Litigations', in which I describe the unfairness of these cases and make 15 suggestions as to how the courts could make it a more level playing field. I'm hoping the judges mod my article '+5 Insightful', but I'd settle for '+3 Informative'. For the actual article go here (PDF). (If anyone out there can send me a decent HTML version of it, I'll run that one up the flagpole as well.)
User Journal

Journal Journal: eBay beats Tiffany's in trademark case 2

Tiffany's has lost its bid to hold eBay liable for trademark infringement of Tiffany's brands taking place on eBay. After a lengthy bench trial (i.e. a trial where the judge, rather than the jury, decides the factual questions), Judge Richard J. Sullivan has issued a 66-page decision (PDF) carefully analyzing the facts and legal principles, ultimately concluding that 'it is the trademark owner's burden to police its mark, and companies like eBay cannot be held liable for trademark infringement based solely on their generalized knowledge that trademark infringement might be occurring on their websites'.
The Internet

Journal Journal: Now that's two hours of my life that I'll never get back.

I just wasted at least two hours of my life being one of the loons trying to make some sense among the spittle-spewing idiots dominating the thread from the just finished /. poll on the Fourth of July.

Why did I do that? I know better. Why did I sit here, hour upon hour, participating in the most monumental troll-feeding event I've seen in at least a year?

Damned if I know. I mean, yeah, the various Brit comments included quite a few funny ones. And it was nice to see so much time put into writing about history, even if most of what was written was terminally muddle-headed.

But I would have been better off watching episodes from the first season of Babylon 5. On Youtube. On a 486. That's unplugged.

All of which comes down to the eternal question: why participate in most online discussion at all? To which my only answer is that I still haven't gotten my real world life back up to speed. Well, it's sure not helping to sit here bitching about it. So, while it's been nice to have had an opportunity to clarify my thoughts and interact with my fellow /.ers and even drive at least a modicum of traffic to my new blog, I think that I'm done posting here for a while. I think that I'm going to put a stickie note on my monitor that says something like:Thinking of Posting? Don't! A Day of Work on Product To Be Published Will Change More Minds Than a Month of Writing for the Internet.

In fact, now that I think of it, I may just print it out oversized, frame it and put it on my wall.



Hardware Hacking

Journal Journal: Why don't we earth berm more? 2

In the theme of the Buckminster Fuller thred now on the front page, I've been wondering for years, why don't we earth berm far more structures than we do? Why did we ever stop? I read a lot of military history and I'm always reading about some campaign or other where soldiers were freezing in tents for months at a time and I always wonder, why the frak didn't they just pile dirt up on the sides? At least for two feet or so? They had the time, they were reliably beset by a wide range of animal pests, and when they weren't freezing, they were dying of heat.

I just don't understand it. It would be, well, dirt cheap to do, requires no special equipment or skills, and as long as the berming stops a bit below the level of the windows, in no way reduces the openness or light levels of the rooms.

I'm hoping that in the next year or two I'll be doing that classic American thing and buying a home. For various reasons I'll probably be buying a typical stick-built piece of crap, probably one built some time between 1930 and 1980, and unless I find some serious reason not to do so by then, I'll bloody well be putting supplementary cob walls over all of my exposed walls as quickly as I have the time to do so. Only ones I won't definitely cover with cob will be the ones enclosed by a greenhouse.

What possible reason, beyond "that's weird" is there not to do this? I've spoken to some few contractors and suchlike and none of them have yet given me any reason I care about not to do it. And, yeah, I'm a strange guy, but I'm not that strange. So if this is so obvious to me, surely somebody out there is doing it already.



And if not, can somebody out there please explain to me, why do we leave our walls bare?

Humans. A difficult species.



Journal Journal: Camels. What America needs is camels.

I've been doing a lot of thinking and researching on transit issues recently and I agree with the folks who are saying that, yes, we know that we need stuff like light rail and biofuels but most of those are massively capital intensive. What are we supposed to do now?

Well, there are a lot of valid responses to that but I think that, if it were up to me, one thing that we would be doing is creating a Liberty Ship-style program to optimize and standardize procedures for making what are known as "camels". These are converted bus bodies or scratch-built beasties that can be hooked up to the back of a diesel truck to make instant mass transit vehicles. They made tons of these (badly, from what I can see) in Cuba starting in 1990 when the Soviet Union fell and they needed mass transit pronto.

Now, again, I agree that the ones the Cubans built were loud, crowded, and too damn long for most streets. Typical Marxist command economy design. But the fundamental idea, done well with developed world technology, looks like a mighty good option to me. They're cheap and fast to make. They're easy as the dickens to deploy, and as better options come online, the trucks can go right back to the uses they had in the first place. Even most of the parts could be stripped and reused, one way or another.

I've looked at plenty of pictures and some diagrams of camels and afaict, they're pretty much a box on wheels with a standard connector to the truck and seats and windows to make them practical as passenger vehicles. Now, as I wrote on my blog a while back, old schoolbuses (working) go for a couple thousand bucks out there, so we could get plenty of seats, windows, doors, etc. cheap. Yes, the prices would go up some, but even if they did, I just can't see us having a legitimate reason to complain about putting U.S. workers back to work to make bus seats. Not exactly a capital-intensive business for a company to go into.

Do I understand issues with ADA compliance and such? Yes, actually, I do. And the cost of keeping such a vehicle going long-term if it's not built with the kind of massively expensive materials and techniques that streetcars and buses usually use and that make them so expensive.

But that's the beauty part. There is no long term for these. These just need to get out on the roads and last for a few years. If they start to fall apart after then, if the shocks aren't heavy-duty enough, the seats starting to sag, and so on, who cares? It's all just a temporary measure. And it will cost a hell of a lot less than trying to implement more sophisticated mass-transit systems soon enough to deal with some of the circumstances we may be facing soon.

And, as all of us who have managed projects with lots of users know, it's damn near impossible to do a good job for a reasonable budget for anything mission critical that can't get deployed until your work is done. It's much cheaper to build out anything if there is some existing service that keeps the users (pretty much) taken care of in the meantime.

Anyway, that's it. Let me know what you think.


User Journal

Journal Journal: Dow Jones MarketWatch likens RIAA to the Mafia 11

According to commentator Therese Polletti at Dow Jones MarketWatch, "the RIAA's tactics are nearly as bad as the actions of mobsters, real or fictional. The analogy comes up easily and frequently in any discussion of the RIAA's maneuvers." Among other things she cites the extortionate nature of their 'settlement negotiations' pointed out by Prof. Bob Talbot of the University of San Francisco School of Law IP Law Clinic, whose student attorneys are helping private practitioners fight the RIAA, the illegality of the RIAA's use of unlicensed investigators, the flawed evidence it uses, and the fact that the RIAA thinks nothing of jeopardizing a student's college education in order to make their point, as support for the MAFIAA/Mafia analogy.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Class action complaint against RIAA available online 4

Recommended reading for all interested in the RIAA's litigation war against p2p file sharing is the amended class action complaint just filed in Oregon in Andersen v. Atlantic. This landmark 109-page document (pdf) tells both the general story of the RIAA's campaign against ordinary folks, and the specific story of its harassment of Tanya Andersen, and even of her young daughter. The complaint includes federal and state RICO claims, as well as other legal theories, and alleges that "The world's four major recording studios had devised an illegal enterprise intent on maintaining their virtually complete monopoly over the distribution of recorded music." The point has been made by one commentator that the RIAA won't be able to weasel its out of this one by simply withdrawing it; this one, they will have to answer for. If the relief requested in the complaint is granted, the RIAA's entire campaign will be shut down for good.
User Journal

Journal Journal: EFF travels to Arizona to argue Howell case

Although based in San Francisco, and only an amicus curiae in the Phoenix, Arizona, case of Atlantic v. Howell, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is sending its senior intellectual property lawyer Fred Von Lohmann to Phoenix to argue the Howell case, on behalf of the defendant, who is not represented by counsel. Due to the RIAA's attempt to take advantage of Mr. Howell's being undefended to try to convince the judge that merely 'making files available for distribution' -- i.e., just having them on one's computer in a manner that is accessible to sharing -- and that copying files from one's cd onto one's computer in mp3 format is itself "unlawful", EFF filed an amicus brief in January. Now it's taking the unusual step of actually sending someone to the courthouse to orally argue the motion.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Should RIAA's investigator have to disclose backup? 12

A technology battle is raging in UMG v. Lindor in Brooklyn over whether the RIAA's investigator, SafeNet (formerly known as MediaSentry), which has produced certain *txt printouts, now needs to disclose its digital files, validation methodology, testing procedures, failure rates, software manuals, protocols, packet logs, source code, and other materials, so that the validity of its methods can be evaluated by the other side. SafeNet and the RIAA say no, the information is "proprietary and confidential". Ms. Lindor says yes, if you're going to testify in federal court the other side has a right to test your evidence. A list of what is being sought is here (pdf). MediaSentry has produced 'none of the above'. "Put up or shut up" says one commentator to MediaSentry. What do you say?

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