Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Monday, August 25, 2003

  Meme wars

The California supreme court today returned the DVD Copy Control Association (DVD-CCA) v. Bunner case to a lower court.

John Borland, a staff writer for CNET News.com wrote, basically, that Free Speech has lost - sparking the usual intensive discussion on Slashdot.org, while the competing press release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation touts it as a Victory for free speech.

Which is it?

The polarized and oversimplified debate over this case does no one justice.

I have long held that previous changes to copyright law in America have been insufficiently challenged. Returning the copyright extension to what the founders meant -14 years, renewable once, and also restoring the right of reversion, lost in the 1920s, is the simplest, cleanest and most elegant way to regain balance.

See my: 444 year history of copyright in this country and England - written in a white heat just after the Bunner case came to town... R. Patterson's bit is most excellent, as are the bits on how we got into this mess in the first place with the "compromise on digital recording" that let the camel's head into the tent.....


 

  The surveillance society

The SIRTF space telescope was successfully launched this morning. Using SIRTF to see in the infrared, scientists will be able to see billions of years into the past and unlock more of the mysteries of the universe.

In other news the unmanned surveillance drone, Global Hawk, got approval to fly nearly anywhere in America. The press release stated that this "paves the way for it to support homeland defense missions in national airspace."

Great. Now America's law enforcement can see millions of people in the present and unlock their mysteries. You'll note that this aircraft can do it without even a human at the wheel. Efficient, no? We've already seen some penetrating pictures from Global Hawk when flying over Iraq... now it overflies Americans! Technology, the two edged sword!

And while this post below is more concerned with Big Brother, the TV show....I'm disturbed by how much the surveillance society has already progressed. I was on a bus in San Jose the other day and overhead was multiple dome cameras.

Now, overhead, hovering in silence, nearly invisible, will be a Global Hawk.

I know that Big Brother exists in all of us. We're all watching each other. It's a game. It has always been. There's no one "side" to it - people will always spy on other people, it seems to be human nature, and with the commoditisation of information I guess we'll get used to it, but I don't have to like it.
 
Sunday, August 24, 2003

  Howling at the moon

I howl at the moon every birthday.
My last three blog entries came from my disappointment at never making it into the space program. I dropped out of college in the early 80s and went into programming computers for a living. I thought that maybe I'd work my way into space that way, but after the Challenger disaster, I focused on becoming a Delos D. Harriman. That hasn't worked out so well either... neither has my attempt at becoming Rhysling... I just managed to secure a press pass for the upcoming Planetary Sciences conference. Engineer, songwriter, businessman, journalist... If I could just break orbit then I'd be a wanted fan!

Occasionally you do have to take a step back, get some perspective, and restore your sense of wonder. Progress in my own field, favorite design method (open source), and OS (Linux) has been amazing. I take comfort in that.

A little over a year ago the web browser mozilla hit 1.0. Since then, the product has hit a release date, every quarter, and is now at a stable 1.4 release. It "just works", in every way an advance upon Internet Explorer, but I found myself bothered this morning that it seemed to be a touch slow. Well...

I'd been running this invocation of mozilla for 14 days straight. I had 41 browser windows open. As a guess, I'd say I had 15 tabs open, on average. That's 615 web pages all open at the same time! (and several thousand read - I've done nothing but research and write these past weeks) The browser was using 809MB of RAM to do this. Simultaneously I was running open office, and the graphics editing program gimp.

I had about four blog entries planned referencing many of these tabs, and I just bookmarked them all with a few mouse clicks... Rock on Mozilla! My Linux machine may be chugging but it keeps on working...

With better software, fewer space missions will fail due to bugs like missing semi-colons, priority inversion problems, mistaken metric/english unit conversions, or bits flipped the wrong way. These are all real examples of how bad software caused failures in the space program. A missing semi-colon caused one venus mission to miss, a priority inversion problem ate at the battery of one of the Mars landers, the Mars Polar Orbiter burned because of metric confusion, and the Climate Orbiter had a single bit sensor jiggled during re-entry that stopped the motor firing early, so it crashed. I wrote about these last two software bugs in Uncle Bill's Helicopter.

I hope that Linus's Law - "With enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" - etches it's way into more minds.

I sat at my desk these past two weeks, flying from one web page to another, absorbing quantities of knowledge in a way that I would have never dreamed back when I first started working on the internet 18 years ago. To find the information - to find the information - to find the information - would have taken me decades had I started in the 80s. Sure, it took 809MB of RAM, but only a year ago mozilla would have crashed within a day, only three years ago my machine would have....

My sense of wonder is back.

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


Resume,Songs,
My new blog, NeX-6, My facebook page
Orgs I like
The EFF - keeping free speech in the world
Musical stuff I like
Jeff, Rick, Ardour, Jack
Prior Rants - Wireless and Wifi in 2015 - not what I dreamed of Saving wifi! Fixing Bufferbloat! Fighting the vend... Virgin Media - Fixing the epidemic of bufferbloat ... 49... and trying to find my navel Wheels down on mars! Tracking the landing of Curiosity, from Seattle spotting NEOs from around venus's orbit Asteroids as lunar orbit resources SOPA is bad news Departing France for England, then 'home'.
Best of the blog:
Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
Authors I like:
Doc Searls
Where's Cherie?
UrbanAgora
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
Evan Hunt
The Bay Area is talking
Brizzled
Zimnoiac Emanations
Eric Raymond
Unlocking The Air
Bob Mage
BroadBand & Me
SpaceCraft
Selenian Boondocks
My Pencil
Transterrestial Musings
Bear Waller Hollar
Callahans
Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member

If you really want to, you can poke through the below links as well.

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