The previous month is:
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1 March 2004
GROKLAW — Germany tells SCO to hush:
1) SCO Group GmbH (German branch of SCO) has agreed not to allege any more that Linux contains SCO’s unlawfully acquired intellectual property.
2) The settlement also forbids SCO from claiming that if end users are running Linux they might be liable for breaches of SCO’s intellectual property.
3) Also they cannot say that Linux is an unauthorized derivative of Unix.
4) Finally SCO Group GmbH is prohibited to threaten to sue Linux users unless they bought SCO Linux or Caldera Linux.
Today’s award for best use of the term matey — Virtual football bonds strangers:
But after 30 minutes’ play, they reported that they bonded much faster and felt they were far more matey than those who played similar games not requiring any sweating.
2 March 2004
A new mathematical analysis suggests that coin tossing is inherently biased: A coin is more likely to land on the same face it started out on.
The researchers’ logic goes like this. At the opposite extreme from Keller’s perfect toss is a completely biased toss, in which the coin stays flat while in the air. Since the coin never actually flips, it is guaranteed to land on the same face that it started out on.
Between the perfectly spinning toss and the flat toss lies a continuum of other possibilities, in which the coin spins around a tilted axis, precessing like an old-fashioned children’s top. Each of these possibilities is biased, the team found. The bias is most pronounced when the flip is close to being a flat toss. For a wide range of possible spins, the coin never flips at all, the team proved.
In experiments, the researchers were surprised to find that it’s difficult to tell from watching a coin whether it has flipped. A coin toss typically takes just half a second, with the circumference of the coin whizzing around at 3 meters per second. What’s more, the coin’s spin makes it wobble, often creating the illusion that the coin has flipped.
3 March 2004
There was a very funny moment around 2:00 in the afternoon. A voter complained that she was a Democrat but had been given the Republican ballot. This required both head judges to void the ballot. It turned out that this had been my mistake when I coded the smartcard. In fact, I was the only one the entire day who made such a mistake. The less than young judges had a good time constantly reminding me of who the careless judge was at this election. One of them commented to me that there are many young people who are incompetent and many old people who can manage an election just fine, thank you.
I continue to believe that the Diebold voting machines represent a huge threat to our democracy. I fundamentally believe that we have thrown our trust in the outcome of our elections in the hands of a handful of companies (Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S) who are in a position to control the final outcomes of our elections. I also believe that the outcomes can be changed without any knowledge by election judges or anyone else. Furthermore, meaningful recounts are impossible with these machines.
I also believe that we have great people working in the trenches and on the front lines. These are ordinary people, mostly elderly, who believe in our country and our democracy, and who work their butts off for 16 hours, starting at 6 a.m. to try to keep the mechanics of our elections running smoothly. It is a shame that the e-voting tidal wave has a near hypnotic effect on these judges and almost all voters. I believe that after today’s experience, I am much better equipped to make the arguments against e-voting machines with no voter verifiability, but I also have a great appreciation for how hard it is going to be to fight them, given how much voters and election officials love them.
We were not allowed to use cell phones or access email all day. On my way home from the polls, I called my voicemail at work. I had messages and requests for interviews from ABC News, the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, Wired News, CNN, several radio stations and the New York Times. So, this issue is not going away. Over the next few days, I’ll be discussing my experience and probably sparring with the usual suspects in the various media outlets. My biggest fear is that super Tuesday will be viewed as a big success. By all accounts, everyone at my precinct felt that way. The more e-voting is viewed as successful, the more it will be adopted, and the greater the risk when someone decides to actually exploit the weaknesses of these systems.
A very strong candidate for Reader of the Month emerged last night at the signing. Early in the autograph lineup a suave, courtly, urbane, distinguished (get the idea?) fellow named (I believe) Dean knelt beside the table, opened a backpack he was carrying and said, ‘Before the signature, something much more important,’ and displayed two bottles of exceptionally mature single malt. ‘Take your pick,’ he added, and held a (forgiveable) plastic cup ready.
Bemused, I chose, adroitly he poured an (entirely foregiveable) 4-5 ounces. It got me through a long signing session, even helped my scratchy throat (no microphone, large crowd - some up in the balcony), and there was no (significant) deterioration in the legibility of my signature as the session wore on.
Another scholar and gentleman, I’d say.
4 March 2004
- Slashdot | Leaked Memo Says Microsoft Raised $86 million for SCO
- Open Source Initiative OSI - Doc10:Halloween Documents
Excuse me, did we say in Halloween IX that Microsoft’s under-the-table payoff to SCO for attacking Linux was just eleven million dollars? Turns out we were off by an order of magnitude — it was much, much more than that.
The document below was emailed to me by an anonymous whistleblower inside SCO. He tells me the typos and syntax bobbles were in the original. I cannot certify its authenticity, but I presume that IBM’s, Red Hat’s, Novell’s, AutoZone’s, and Daimler-Chryler’s lawyers can subpoena the original.
elm RPMs for Fedora Core 1! Huzzah!
Most people who understand what ^H means must have some sense that it is somehow the same as “backspace”, right? Well, what would happen is, someone is typing on a dumb terminal*** that wasn’t configured right, and as they typed backspace, that character would go up to the server, not be interpreted as “delete the previous character”, and would be dutifully echoed back to the tty****. The tty would then itself interpret that as “delete the previous character on the screen.” So the person typing thought the characters were gone, but oh no no.
It was comedy gold, I tell you.
5 March 2004
Monday, February 2nd, 2004
more rocks. More dirt. I’ve been kinda lonely lately, although it’s really nice to be collecting everything for NASA without certain sisters wearing a lot of stupid black makeup grumbling around and piling up dust clouds on MY perfectly arranged samples. Not to mention blasting their stupid 22.84 Centimeter Nails so loud you can hear it off Olympus Mons. (Unlike SOME people, I got my units right.) I am kinda bummed that I’m totally missing out on Blink 182, though.
Hey, the sun’s rising! That is like so cool. It never looked this pretty on Earth. Of course, it’s pink here, which helps.
i’ve been staring at the same rock for two weeks.
stupid, boring rock.
this weekend i got my revenge. first i got to grind into it, then i drove right over it.
okay, i admit it, i had fun. i’d like to do more of this autonomous navigation thing. i knew i didn’t really need nasa telling me what to do.
Verizon Wireless and Verizon Airfone yesterday announced a new service for Verizon Wireless customers who travel frequently by plane. The $10/month service lets customers forward their Verizon Wireless phone number to their at-seat phone on board any of the more than 2,000 planes served by Verizon Airfone. The service also reduces the in-flight call cost to just $0.10 per minute (normally $3.99 to set up plus $3.99 per minute).
The one application that I try to stay away from more than any other is Real Player. Or Real One, or whatever the hell they call it this week. If Real Player, Real One, whatever, just did what it’s supposed to do; which is to play video streams, then that’d be great.
Unfortunately, playing video streams is only a very small aspect of what Real Player does; Real Player, most prominently, is a small application with inferiority complex and delusions of grandeur, not too different from Napoleon. Although Real Player’s task is simple and limited to a certain timeframe, Real Player defaults to running at all times, wether its limited functionality is needed or not, and claims a seat for itself in the throne commonly called the systray.
Using newly developed techniques for graphing the flow of information between blogs, the researchers have discovered that authors of popular blog sites regularly borrow topics from lesser-known bloggers — and they often do so without attribution.
These findings are important to sociologists who are interested in learning how ideas grow from isolated topics into full-blown epidemics that “infect” large populations. Such an understanding is also important to marketers, who hope to be able to pitch products and ideas directly to the most influential people in a given group.
“There is a lot of speculation that really important people are highly connected, but really, we wonder if the highly connected people just listen to the important people,” said Lada Adamic, one of the four researchers working on the project.
- Slashdot | Gates on Spam
- CNN.com - Gates: Buy stamps to send e-mail - Mar. 5, 2004
- InfoWorld: Experts question Microsoft’s Caller ID patents: March 05, 2004: By : Security
How about instead:
Between this and the recent SCO funding, I am so ready to wipe Windows off Tigana. And my work laptop. And all my families computers. And anyone else’s I can get my hands on.
Nice marketing, Microsoft.
6 March 2004
For Merrystar — virus:
You must be THIS TALL to touch the mailer!
I’ve now reached the point where something like 80% of the spam I get is from “Norton Antivirus For Microsoft Exchange” letting me know that “A VIRUS WAS DETECTED IN A MESSAGE YOU DIDN’T ACTUALLY SEND.”
Apparently if you are aware that the From: field can be, and often is, forged, you are overqualified to write antivirus software.
8 March 2004
According to the study, the manufacturing of one desktop computer and 17-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor requires at least 240 kilograms of fossil fuels, 22 kilograms of chemicals and 1,500 kilograms of water. In terms of weight, the total amount of materials used is about equal to that of a mid-size car.
9 March 2004
The command line is all about dialogue. Newbies communicate with the computer by giving it commands/asking it questions and reading the response. All interaction is done via the keyboard, something familiar to the users in the CLAIT class, often from their experience of typewriters. One can give the users the mental model of writing the computer notes, or talking to it via Instant Message (depending on the experience of the newbie, quite a few middle aged newbies were familiar with MSN).
The mouse was avoided initially. The command line is one-dimensional with a single point of concentration: the cursor. The vertical axis of the screen is always time and provides the newbie with a constant reminder of what they did along with a record to show their instructor when they have problems. Introducing a mouse causes the vertical axis to be both time and space depending on the nature of the program running. Also the users must get used to using a mouse, not easy for a new user let me assure you.
Users find the model of CLI dialogue with the computer natural. Indeed one user has, when instructed in the basics of the Unix command line, said “Oh I see! I talk to the computer in text [speak]” referring to the common practise of removing vowels from SMS messages sent to and from mobile phones, especially in the UK. Once she had noticed this, she progressed rapidly in remembering the command names now pronouncing commands like ‘mkdir’ as ‘muk-dear’ as opposed to ‘em-kay-dee-eye-ah’.
Yes, there is custom code for each site, since every site in the world has their own idiosyncratic HTML layout. Yes, this is fragile, and some day, possibly this afternoon, the maintainers of these sites will change their HTML slightly and I’ll have to change my code too. Yes, this all sucks. This is the very problem that RSS is supposed to solve. The right way to fix this is to convince all those other webmasters to provide decent RSS feeds. (Good luck.)
The only effective way to deal with terrorists is through old-fashioned police and intelligence work - discovering plans before they’re implemented and then going after the plotters themselves. Every arrest of an al Qaeda member weakens the organization. Every country that’s unwilling to harbor such individuals interferes with its operation. Of course, we still need some perimeter defenses around airports and government buildings. But more damage was done to al Qaeda by disrupting its funding and communications than by all the guards and ID checks in the US combined.
Security always involves compromises. As a society we can have as much protection as we want, as long as we’re willing to sacrifice the money, time, convenience, and liberties to get it. Unfortunately, most of the government’s measures are bad trade-offs: They require significant sacrifices without providing much additional safety in return. And there’s far too much “security theater” - ways of making people feel safer without actually improving anything.
10 March 2004
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) joined five library associations, Public Knowledge, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Consumers Union in suing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week to block overbroad regulation of next-generation televisions and related devices.
“The FCC’s digital broadcast television mandate is a step in the wrong direction because it would make digital television cost more and do less, undermining innovation, fair use, and competition,” said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann, “The FCC overstepped its bounds, unduly restricting consumers and manufacturers when it issued its broadcast flag ruling.”
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled on November 4, 2003, that consumer devices capable of receiving broadcast digital television (DTV) signals must implement content control technologies demanded by the entertainment industry to restrict consumer uses of digital television. Left unchallenged, the “broadcast flag” mandate would go into effect by July 1, 2005.
The lawsuit, called ALA v. FCC, was filed in the Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., and charges that the FCC exceeded its jurisdiction, acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, and failed to point to substantial evidence in adopting a broadcast flag mandate.
I add a new entry to ~/input about once every week or three; sometimes I forget, or life gets hectic and I don’t have as much time to read as I would like, or I’m just rereading old books and don’t think they really qualify as new inputs. (Tolkien is somehow excepted from this rule; I’m not sure why.)
However, when I add two 600+ page novels on a weekday, it’s almost always means that I’ve just gotten very little or sleep, I didn’t talk to Merrystar very much last night (sorry love), and am seriously considering the benefits of crawling into a nice, dark hole and sleeping for ten hours instead of working.
Today is such a day.
What was I thinking, finishing off the last 200 pages of Harry Potter Book 4 and all of Book 5 (870 pages) last night?
Oh, that’s right. I was thinking how much more I enjoyed thinking about the story than thinking about work.
Fortunately, there aren’t any more books in the series (yet), and the ones I haven’t read (2 & 3) aren’t all that long.
11 March 2004
Of all the ways people have proposed marriage, computer nut Mike Johnson dreamed up one of the most unusual — and geekiest.
Instead of proposing on bended knee, Johnson presented his would-be bride with a special “wedding computer.”
Looking somewhat like a tiered wedding cake, the elaborately decorated computer case has Johnson’s wedding proposal etched into its side. “Will you do me the honor?” it says.
“I feel pretty special,” said the bride-to-be, Rachel Tolliver, who naturally said yes. “What girl gets a ring — and a brand-new computer?”
Forget TiVo and ReplayTV. If you want a really super-duper digital video recorder, you have to build your own.
All you need is knowledge of Linux, plenty of cash for hardware and, if anything goes wrong, hundreds of hours to troubleshoot the device.
4:45 this morning: woke up to discover that Merrystar was on page 650 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Mumbled something and went back to sleep.
13 March 2004
JACKSON: … Teal’c said to me. Well he didn’t actually say anything. He just kinda looked at me and did that eyebrow raise thing that he kinda does and I said to him, I said ‘hey, why don’t we stop by and’…
O’NEILL: Is that doughnuts?
TEAL’C: (Holds them up.) Indeed!
O’NEILL: (Doing his BEST Monty Burns imitation) Excellent.
O’NEILL: (Sam hands a red drink in a glass to Teal’C. Daniel already has a beer, and is balencing an orange on the beer bottle)You are so wrong. It’s a perfect analogy. Burns as Goa’uld.
TEAL’C: (Daniel’s looking at his orange. He looks quite drunk!) They are merely animated characters O’Neill.
O’NEILL: You are so shallow.
JACKSON: (Drops his orange) Oh Please! Teal’C’s like one of the deepest people I know. He’s so deep. (And you’re SOOO Drunk, Daniel!) Come on! Tell em how deep you are. You’ll be lucky if you understand this. (Smiling and giddy)
TEAL’C:My depth is immaterial to this conversation.
JACKSON: (Excitedly) Oh!! See?
O’NEILL: No more beer for you.
CARTER:I’m sorry sir, but I have to agree. I don’t see the connection.
O’NEILL: Alright that does it. You know the entire VHS collection was going to one of you. (Daniel puts his head down sadly) It’s going to Siler. He gets it. (Knock on door) Thank God. Pizza. (Gets up to answer door, it’s Hammond) Well you’re not the usual delivery boy.
This is a list of the most common keyboard shortcuts in Firefox, and the equivalents in Internet Explorer and Opera.
It was hard not to feel a twinge of pity for the astrophysicists who are now on display at the American Museum of Natural History.
On a platform before a crowd of curious onlookers, the scientists eagerly ripped open a box of CDs containing data from a newly released million-second-long exposure taken by two cameras onboard the Hubble telescope, and struggled to transfer the data to nearby computers as they answered a multitude of questions shouted out by reporters and middle-school students.
So began Science Live: The Race to Decode the Hubble Ultra Deep Field Image at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. There, teams of researchers from Columbia University, Stony Brook University and the American Museum of Natural History will compute, ponder and dispute the new Hubble data around the clock for six days and nights, in full view of museum visitors.
Have you given any thought to offshoring any of your development? If not, is it because you would prefer not to or because it would not benefit fog creek’s bottom line?
A teacher has translated the first Harry Potter book into classical Greek.
Classics teacher Andrew Wilson, from Bedford, says it is the longest text to have been translated into the ancient language in 1,500 years.
Mr Wilson spent a year on the project, which was commissioned by the publishers.
The book will come out later this year, along with the Irish Gaelic version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
14 March 2004
So, we discovered on Thursday that Microsoft talked to BayStar Capital on SCO’s behalf months before the investment house brokered a deal that led to SCO getting a cool $50 million round of funding. Well, well, well.
And recently, when SCO finally announced a real, live customer for its Linux (news - web sites) IP license, it turned out that the company, EV1Servers.Net, is promoting Windows Server 2003 over Linux for its customers and is featured in a case study showing how Windows is better than Linux at Microsoft’s Get the Facts Web site.
OK, before these revelations I was willing to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt. But I was wrong. Microsoft is behind SCO.
They always turn them off just when I learn about them — Wired News: Bush Site Unplugs Poster Tool:
The Bush-Cheney presidential campaign disabled features of a tool on its website Thursday that pranksters were using to mock the Republican presidential ticket.
The tool originally let users generate a full-size campaign poster in PDF format, customized with a short slogan of their choice. But Bush critics began using the site to place their own snarky political messages above a Bush-Cheney ‘04 logo and a disclaimer stating that the poster was paid for by Bush-Cheney ‘04, Inc.
Cox scoffed. “No one’s going to have a substantive dialog of any kind on a poster,” she said. Besides, she argued, many of the humorous slogans were more thoughtful than anything the tool was designed to create.
She cited her own slogan, which she admitted was one of her favorites: “But not if you’re gay!”
“’But not if you’re gay!’ has more intellectual weight behind it and says more about the Bush campaign than ‘Ohioans for Bush’ or ‘Hunters for Bush,’” she said.
Cox, who counts herself neither a Bush nor a Kerry supporter, admitted that it would be a trivial matter to mock up the same posters in Photoshop. The attraction, she said, was somewhat childish.
“If someone made up a bunch of posters and did them on Photoshop no one would care. It’s the juvenile glee of having the campaign be the ones to do it,” she said. “But just because it’s juvenile doesn’t mean it’s wrong and doesn’t mean that it’s not an expression of some kind of legitimate political grievance and opinion.”
She read from a recent submission: “’Five hundred dead soldiers support Bush-Cheney ‘04.’ See? Substantive political debate. That is an incredibly powerful political message. It may not be a discussion, but posters rarely are.”
I just hope the earthbound observatories don’t get wind of this. My life’s confusing enough as it is.
FUSE reflects on Mir and the value of using one’s time before re-entry wisely:
Anyhow, Mir taught me a lot. From the time I first got up here, I remember the big friendly Russian giant who’d come along and talk to me as our orbits crossed. He was down low, under 500 km, and in a higher inclination orbit. So sometimes I’d see him several orbits in a row, and other times it’d be a week or so before we got over each other’s horizon.
Mir was old before I met him. He had a lot of problems with system failures, and he had to learn how to recover and keep going. Other spacecraft would have been bitter, but he wasn’t. He loved the cosmonauts who came to stay, and he loved all of us who shared his orbit space. He could do damn near anything, from astronomy to weather imaging to particle monitoring; and he was always encouraging each of us to do our best at whatever we’d been designed to do.
He went in - reentered - deliberately back in March of 2001, just about 3 years ago. I was devastated. It took me a long, long time to come to terms with his reentry. Now that I’ve read about what was going on down on the ground, I understand a little more of what happened. But I want you all to understand just how fine, and how brave he was. One of your writers, who kind of understood us, wrote that courage was bravery in the face of fear. If that’s so, then Mir was the very image of courage.
So what’s my point in telling you all this? Well, I know I have a date with destiny in October of 2038. That’s when I’ll burn. All of you, reading this, have something like that in your future, whether you can calculate the date or not. You humans all face death, and the landers will eventually lose awareness as the circuits break down. The deep space probes will lose their power as their nuclear generators run down. We all must go, sometime. But I want you all to know that something survives, and that in the time we have given to us, we should strive to be our best, like Mir.
15 March 2004
I really should know better.
I was booking a business trip out to San Jose and made the mistake of looking up Merrystar’s and my favorite vacation spot, The Chrysalis Inn:
I didn’t need a reminder of how much I don’t enjoy living in Washington D.C.. Not tonight.
Hey, remember this window seat?
In time, discussions in the seeded newsgroups and discussions seemed to show a lower incidence of the Nazi-comparison meme. And the counter-meme mutated into even more useful forms. (As Cuckoo’s Egg author Cliff Stoll once said to me: “Godwin’s Law? Isn’t that the law that states that once a discussion reaches a comparison to Nazis or Hitler, its usefulness is over?”) By my (admittedly low) standards, the experiment was a success.
But its success had given me much to reflect on. If it’s possible to generate effective counter-memes, is there any moral imperative to do so? When we see a bad or false meme go by, should we take pains to chase it with a counter-meme? Do we have an obligation to improve our informational environment? Our social environment?
Citing California’s security breach disclosure law, Texas-based Allegiance Telecom notified 4,000 Web hosting customers this week of a recent computer intrusion that exposed their usernames and passwords, in a case that experts say illustrates the security sunshine law’s national influence.
The law, called SB 1386, took effect July 1st. It obligates companies doing business in California to warn their customers in “the most expedient time possible” about any security breach that exposes certain types of information: specifically, customers’ names in association with their social security number, drivers license number, or a credit card or bank account number.
4 webcam views from the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility:
- West image shows Subaru at left and the twin Kecks at right
- South image shows UH 24” at left and Mauna Loa at right
- Northwest image shows the IRTF entrance at right overlooking Kohala and Maui
- North image shows west entrance of IRTF building
Images update every 3 minutes during daylight hours
26 March 2004
Illness + business travel = blank periods in log.
29 March 2004
So, problems on the laptop front tonight.
Tigana / Lower Corte’s battery has been going more and more quickly. I originally wrote that there wasn’t much life left in it, but then Merrystar looked over and corrected me - she said she’d been working for an hour and a half and running the usb optical mouse and wireless card. So I sit corrected.
However, my laptop’s a different story.
Al-Rassan’s battery’s been all but dead since I got her. In and of itself, that’s not a problem; I don’t take my laptop outside the house, so I just use the power cord. But now the cord’s getting flaky, so I have to balance Al-Rassan and hope that I don’t let the orange power light go out.
Why can’t things just work and keep working?
Next big project: flooring.
Ooo. Recycled glass pavers.
30 March 2004
Crashes, viruses and headaches. You have had it with Windows and you want to switch to Linux. Where to begin? How do you save your documents? Will my hardware work?
Slow down… take a deep breath, because you have a lot of work ahead of you. Millions of people have made the same switch before you, so it’s not impossible. We are going to take you step-by-step through a whole migration from Windows to Linux, covering everything from picking the right Linux distribution to installing Linux applications.
31 March 2004
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - April 1, 2004 UTC - Amidst rampant media speculation, Google Inc. today announced it is testing a preview release of Gmail – a free search-based webmail service with a storage capacity of up to eight billion bits of information, the equivalent of 500,000 pages of email. Per user.
The inspiration for Gmail came from a Google user complaining about the poor quality of existing email services, recalled Larry Page, Google co-founder and president, Products. “She kvetched about spending all her time filing messages or trying to find them,” Page said. “And when she’s not doing that, she has to delete email like crazy to stay under the obligatory four megabyte limit. So she asked, ‘Can’t you people fix this?’”
The idea that there could be a better way to handle email caught the attention of a Google engineer who thought it might be a good “20 percent time” project. (Google requires engineers to spend a day a week on projects that interest them, unrelated to their day jobs). Millions of M&Ms later, Gmail was born.