Terminally Incoherent

Utterly random, incoherent and disjointed rants and ramblings...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

This is where our tax money goes

If you were just reading boingboing you have probably seen the story about the priorities of the new interim Attorney General. It turns out that Alex Acosta does not really care about terrorism, organized crime and child abuse. These are low priority objectives for him. Check out the article linked from boingboing yourself.

According to Mr. Acosta the most important job of American law enforcement right now is fighting pornography. And please do not make a mistake. It's not child pornography we are talking about here - it's the standard, run of the mill consenting adult porn that he is after. Mr. Acosta actually ordered to take FBI agents off child pornography cases and assign them to important tasks such as closing down adult video and book stores in residential neighborhoods:

Sources say Acosta was told by the FBI officials during last month's meeting that obscenity prosecution would have to be handled by the crimes against children unit. But that unit is already overworked and would have to take agents off cases of child endangerment to work on adult porn cases. Acosta replied that this was Attorney General Gonzales' mandate.

I find this very disturbing. They wasting taxpayer money by fighting windmills. It is absolutely ridiculous. These resources should be used to fight serious crime and terrorism. I think pornography is great - and certainly it is the least of our problems. For god's sake, there are people out there strapping bombs to their chests! This is really not a good time to be chasing pornographers!

But the most disturbing fact is that, Mr. Acosta thinks that fighting pornography is more important from preventing child abuse! Next time you hear about some deranged pedophile that committed some heinous crime, and got away, remember to thank Alex Acosta. Thanks to him, the police officers and FBI agents who could have been tracking this guy were busy harassing tax paying adult industry entrepreneur! I think this is outrageous.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Talking about Google Talk

I just found this very insightful article on Google talk. It's a very interesting read. He makes a very good point. It's great that Google decided to use Jabber but, talk.google.com does not communicate with other Jabber servers.

Google has chosen not to embrace this most wonderful aspect of Jabber. Instead, they've created just another isolated IM network. As a Google Talk user, a person has a jabber address (@gmail.com, mirroring their email address) but the Google Jabber servers do not talk with the other Jabber servers on the net. A Google Talk user is just as cut off from the world as an AIM user is.

In other words, while Google uses the Jabber protocol, they do not participate in the Jabber network, nor do they plan to do it in the future. From the official release notes:

We look forward to federating with any service provider who shares our belief in enabling user choice and open communications. We do believe, however, that it is important to balance openness with ensuring that we maintain a safe and reliable service that protects user privacy and blocks spam and other abuses. We are using the federation opportunity with EarthLink and Sipphone to develop a set of guidelines by which all members of the federated network can work together to ensure that we protect our users while maximizing the reach of the network.

I don't know about you, but for me this passage above quite clearly indicate that a privately run Jabber server of Joe Shmoe will not connect to the google talk network. At least not without jumping through major hoops and possibly paying some "federation fee".

I can understand why wouldn't they want to open up their service to all Jabber servers. It does create room for abuse - for example, rogue servers set up to spim the google network. So keeping some kind of control over the communication is not a bad idea. But I do not like the "federation" system.

It would not be hard to open it to general public. You could for example register your server with google and sign an agreement to their Terms of Service. This way google could whitelist Jabber servers, and ban the ones that break TOC by allowing large amounts of spim to leak out to Google Talk. This would shift the responsibility to moderate non-google network nodes to admins who run them.

If they launch this type of operation, they could really become a major player that could crush the competition. If Joe Average can run a Jabber service in their garage and be able to connect with Google Talk, then Jabber can become the de-facto IM standard - just like SMTP became the standard for email. It could start a revolution which would send AIM, MSN and Yahoo packing - or even force some of them to work on Jabber compatibility to stay competitive.

If they keep talk.google.com sequestered from Jabber network, and simply "federate" with partnering companies, nothing will change in the IM world. In fact, they are risking being made irrelevant by the sheer amount of users subscribing to AIM. Why would anyone want to switch to a brand new IM network, if all their friends use AIM? The only way Google can crush AIM's dominance is to establish a standard in AIM communication by promoting the distributed Jabber based IM networks.

MPAA == Abusive Colonialist?

When I read this, it actually made me want to puke. Just read the quote below and tell me what you think about it:

According to this press release from the international arm of the more familiar Motion Picture Association of America, the MPA "has obtained a general search and seizure warrants order covering the entire city [of Delhi]. The order permits police to search any premises suspected of containing pirated products, and permits officers to open locked premises without delay."

Please note that general search warrants are illegal in US. They are prohibited by 4th amendment. These types of search warrants were commonly used by British colonial forces - and were one of the many reasons that prompted the Revolution. In other words, the concept of general warrants goes against everything we believe in as a nation.

It is very disturbing that an American business organization is actively sponsoring such a blatant abuse of authority. The fact that general warrants may be legal in India is not an excuse to use them. This is simply wrong.

How can we ever justify sending peace missions abroad to fight blatant abuse of human rights or civil liberties such as this in some countries, when our movie industry is actively sponsoring such practices in other parts of the world?

This is very, very wrong. Holywood should be ashamed!

Is CC bashing a new fad?

Why do people like Dvorak and Orlowski care about Creative Commons Licensing that much? They both write pages upon pages on how evil CC is without ever actually bothering to read the license itself. This is pathetic! These guys would probably love to rag on GPL too but they are most likely scared shitless of the rhetorical retribution from RMS :P

Let me spell it out for them here:

  1. CC is not about making money. People who publish under CC do not want to get rich selling their work. They are happy to give it away, as long as they can retain the bragging rights and whatnot.
  2. CC is not about control - it's about sharing.
  3. CC is not about artist's freedom to deny someone rights to his work. It is about enabling people to use this work without restrictions.
Is this that difficult to understand? Why do these people assume that everyone in the universe has to be clingy about their work, and has secret dreams of becoming the next superstar. This is dumb!

In his latest article Orlowski writes:

A Linux advocacy group emails me to ask permission for a reprint of an article, and I'm delighted to grant it. The Daily Express asks for permission, and I tell them where to shove it. Now that's a freedom I don't have by adding an unnecessary license to my work.

Ok, here is a clue: if you want to be clingy and selective about who you allow to publish your work, do not use CC. It is as simple as that. It is obvious that you do not want to share your work with everyone! You want to grant this doubtful privilege to the chosen few. And that's fine. No one is showing CC down your throat!

But I must tell you that you are mistaking freedom with control. What you want is total control over your work. It might seem like freedom to choose for you, but it is a restriction for everyone else.

When I publish under CC I do not care who users my work. I want everyone be able to benefit from it. Even my mortal enemy! As long as he attributes my work to me, and abides by the license - it's fine by me. I'm releasing work under CC to benefit everyone. On the other hand, Mr Orlowski would rather retain normal copyright to benefit himself.

But who on earth demands that culture be "Free"?

From two receive missions we conducted - purely for research purposes, of course - into Amoeba Records today and downtown midnight San Francisco last night revealed thousands of people willingly handing over their earnings to enjoy culture. Their only demand being that it be "Good Culture".

Apparently you grew up as a wealthy, spoiled brad Mr. Orlowski. Sure, there is nothing wrong with paying for "Culture" but not everyone can afford it. You do realize that there exist poor countries out there who also need this culture? Why should we prohibit access to "culture" to those people who cannot pay for it? The whole concept of "culture" is that we share this body of ideas, and notions across the whole spectrum of society.

Think about this - you might have die hard fans in some 3rd world countries. They however cannot afford to buy your work because it costs more than their monthly wage. No matter how they adore you, they can only afford to get illegal copies of your work.

If you had published under CC they can get it for free. Furthermore, they can translate your work into their native tongue and then spread it further. Maybe they can even sell it for a price that is reasonable for their economic situation, thus improving their lives a little bit. All thanks to your work. Naturally you will never see benefits from that.

Personally I would be honored if someone used my work this way. Even if I wanted to get rich, the people in 3rd world countries are not my potential clients. I would never see a cent out of them anyway. But if my work could help them find work, and improve their lives - then I would gladly give it to them for free. And I guess here is where me and Orlowski and Dworak differ.

They are both spoiled rich money grabbing whores. They simply cannot comprehend "free culture" because their parents never taught them about the value of sharing. But hey, who am I to judge them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Constantine - not a bad movie!

I just saw Constantine and I must admit that I really enjoyed it. I never read hellblazer so I was spared the "what the fuck did they do to my favorite comic book?" feeling. So I could judge this movie for what it was, and not for what it should be. The truth is that the movies based on comic books never live up to the originals. Let's count them down, shall we:

Both Spiderman flicks sucked immensely. Spider man was smart, witty and talkative. Tobey Maguire comes of as borderline retarded, brooding, mute. Wtf?

Daredevil also sucked. Ben Affleck totally destroyed a story that was very dear to my heart. DD was one of my favorite childhood superheros, and holywood just threw away everything that was cool about him and produced yet another super hero pulp.

Xmen movies were digestible for the most part. But what did they do to my beautiful, strong, independent, complicated and conflicted rogue? They turned her into a ditzy teenager. Geez!

From all the superhero movies made recently, I enjoyed only Hellboy and now Constantine. Why? Because I did not read the original books. Hence, I started with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised by both pictures. On the other hand I'm pretty sure that fans of Hellboy and Hellblazer hate these two films with passion.

I watched Constantine with no expectations whatsoever. After all, how good can a movie with Keanu Reves killing daemons be? Apparently not all that bad. Don't get me wrong though - Keanu still can't act for shit.

I find it amazing that someone who has been in this business as long as him, never picked up even a shred of acting skill. To give him credit - he can sorta emote. He can look semi-brooding, or semi-pissed off. He has the asshole look down pat, because it seems to be his usual mode of operation. This movie pretty much required him to alternate between these three - so he was doing ok for the most part.

And besides - I did watch all 3 matrix movies. After that much exposure to Keanu's lack of acting ability I barely seem to notice anymore. The rest of the cast seems to be able to route around Keanu, and pick up the slack when needed. So on average, the acting is pretty decent.

The movie starts really strong, but then kindoff looses it's momentum down the road. Still, it is interesting, and gripping up till the last scenes. Ending is predictable, but not totally obvious. Ok, I'm lying. In retrospection, it is totally obvious, but I must say I have seen worse.

The concept for the main character is very intriguing - Constantine will go to hell, because he attempted suicide in the past. He also has terminal lung cancer which will kill him in few months - which does not stop him from smoking in every single scene. Fighting demons is not a noble calling for him - he simply is trying to buy his way back into heaven. But of course this stuff was taken from the comic book.

Unfortunately, the ending is very disappointing as all this conflict, and tragedy is removed from his life. The gum chewing scene sucked... It would be much better if they had him lite a smoke in the final act. But oh well... Holywood needs to have it's happy endings.

I would recommend it, but only if you never read the Hellblazer series.

~ I just noticed that the pic I posted here is in French. Sorry... Blame Google images :P

Your perfect Linux Distro?

I took this test (very nicely done btw - the page is awesome). Here are the results:

We found 2 perfect match(es):

It seems like I nailed it :) I'm quite happy with my Kubuntu so far. My only complains are wireless issues (no surprises here) and weird lags when I use firefox (haven't figured out why it does this).

Anyway, go ahead and test yourself. This test seems to be designed to be newb friendly so even if you have never installed Linux before, and know very little about it, you can still get decent results :)

Installing Spellbound Dictionaries on Linux

Spellbound is a great extension for Firefox which allows you to spell-check your text forms. It's a great toy for people who frequently blog and post on message boards.

I installed it a while ago on the old knop hd, and forgot how painful it was. Main problem here is installing dictionaries. You can get them from here and they do seem to install just fine - but they do not work. I spent 15 minutes installing, and removing them and Spellbound simply refused to acknowledge their existence.

Turns out that these files need to be installed in "[installation folder]/components/myspell" - at least that's what they suggest on the spellbound site. What the hell does that mean?

By trial and error I finally figured out that on linux this means:


And, strangely enough I did not have that directory at all. So I did this as root:

cd /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox/components
mkdir myspell
chmod a+w myspell

You need to have write permission in the myspell folder to install the dictionaries. Once you install them you can remove the permission for security reasons. After you do this, spellbound works like a charm :)

Getting Linksys WPC54G v1.2 working under Kubuntu with ndiswrapper

I used my Linksys WPC54G v1.2 card with Linux before. I used to run a debianized Knoppix installation on the same laptop and the card worked great. This time however it didn't want to cooperate. My kubuntu did not accept the little green card :(

I actually followed the Ubuntu Nidswrapper Howto very carefully. I grabbed the source from sourceforge, compiled it into a deb and then installed it. Then I installed the windows .inf file.

Nidswrapper did not complain. Dmesg did not show me any error messages. In fact, the whole installation procedure went without a hitch.

The link light on the card even started blinking at some point but I had no internet connection. I suspect that I might have fucked up the WEP settings somehow. I will try this trick again, once I'm on a non-encrypted network.

Btw, putting ndiswrapper in /etc/modules was a really dumb idea. The system basically got stuck trying to initialize it. After 5 minutes of failed attempts to initialize wlan0 gave up, rebooted into recovery mode and commented out ndiswrapper from /etc/modules. After that the system booted just fine.

I have no clue why it didn't work for me. I think did everything correctly. There was no errors, no crashes no big issues. It simply did not connect. I hate this types of problems because they are really hard to diagnose. When you have an error message you can at least research it. When something simply does not work, even though it should - who the hell knows that happened.

I will try this again with a non WEP networks. Meanwhile I have a brand new, shiny, fully supported proxim orinoco card in the mail. They are tad on the expensive side, but hey - if it works, it will be worth every penny :)

Kubuntu kcontrol application is b0rked

I found it the hard way that kcontrol in Kubuntu does not work properly. This is due to the fucked up way Ubuntu deals with root. I wish they just be normal about this... But by default root account is disabled in this distro. Of course you can easily enable root by changing it's password using:

sudo passwd root

Which works for the most part. You can su and become root as normal after doing this. Unfortunately the messed up system restrictions stay in place and affect the system at a deeper level. KDE was never designed to run in a rootles configuration. The control panel screen for example requires you to provide root password to edit stuff like network config, wireless and etc..

But, in Ubuntu root is account is crippled in a way which prevents KDE from acknowledging it within the kcontrol dialogs. When you try to go into "Administrative Mode" from kcontrol you will be prompted for "Administrator Password". The dialog will not accept neither root or your user password. You can try all you want - it is broken.

There is a workaround though - if you run kcontrol as a root you will be fine. Try the following:

kdesu kcontrol

Kdesu will accept the root password, and will allow you to edit root only sections in the control panel. Which suggests that the only GUI based, temporary user privilege elevation scripts in KDE are b0rked.

I hope they will fix this issue in the following releases because it is annoying...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Kubuntu + Java

I finally figured out how to get Java installed with Kubuntu. Some nice people at ubuntu bakcports packaged both j2re 1.5 and j2sdk 1.5. Kub is based on Horaey so you simply need to add horaey related entries to your /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb http://ubuntu-backports.mirrormax.net/ hoary-backports main universe multiverse restricted
deb http://ubuntu-backports.mirrormax.net/ hoary-extras main universe multiverse restricted

Then just install them using apt:

apt-get install sun-j2re.15
apt-get install sun-j2sdk1.5

Please note that the whole operation takes a while. The packages are 38MB and 65MB each :P

So there. Java on kubuntu without problems.

Cylon Religion

I haven't watched BSG from the beginning but I'm intrigued by Cylon religion. I did a quick google and it seems that it was never really explained or demystified on the show. I have been thinking about this for a while now, and I think have a slightly controversial theory.

I actually believe that Cylon God is an evolved AI which transcended beyond singularity.

If you are not familiar with Vernor Vinge's theory of Singularity here is a quick rundown. Vinge theorized that if it is at all possible AI which achieves self-awareness and human-like sentience then it would be possible to improve this AI by means of faster hardware, and better software algorithms, to the point that it is smarted, and quicker than any human could ever be. In other words we can possibly produce a superhuman intelligence which is in all ways superior to homo-sapiens intellect.

This superhuman AI can then use it's beefed up brain to further improve itself. We might not be able to figure our how to augment our super computer any more, but the super-smart, super-fast thinking AI can possibly figure out technological solutions we would have to spend years developing.

Hence, we have an AI which can actively self improve, figuring out new ways to construct better hardware, better software and squeeze out the most computational power from the available resources. This machine keeps improving, and soon enough it becomes so smart that we can no longer relate to it. In relation to it, we look like modern day chimps - while intelligent, inquisitive and resourcefully compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, they would never be able to comprehend intricacies of human science. Similarly, we would never be able to comprehend the super-intelligent, self-improving AI.

This is a crude explanation, so read Vinge's paper for a clearer explanation. The main point is - what happens when an AI becomes so smart, we cannot even comprehend the full extent of it's abilities? For all incenses and purposes it is like a god to us, so logical conclusion would be for humanity to worship this seemingly omnipresent, omnipotent, infallible god-like machine.

And this is what I think happened to Cylon society. Some kind of hyper-turing inteligence evolved beyond our wildest dreams, and now it is commanding hordes of raging cylons as their "one true god".

One could ask why other Cylons did not evolve this way? They could have been many super-turing intelligences at some point, but I believe they would either fight for ascendancy at some point, or merge with each other to achieve even greater power. Therefore we can conclude that the current Cylon "god" either assimilated or destroyed all remaining AI's matching it's intelligence.

But every god needs worshipers, and zealots who would do his biding. That's why we still have the tin can centurions, and the human like clones. They are like worker and warrior bees, working together to ensure safety and well being of their super-AI queen.

But that's just my humble opinion. Feel free to disagree. I actually do not expect to be right on this at all. I doubt that BSG writers ever read Vinge. But if they did decide to use singularity to explain the Cylon god I would be really impressed!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sharon Shoots Predictably!

Disclaimer: Spoilage ahead. You have been warned.

Last week I was slightly confused about Sharon's motives. Then I talked to un4scene and she explained it quite easily: Sharon will do whatever is best for her, Helo and the baby. If it would be beneficial for her to shoot Adama, she would do it.

Armed with this knowledge, I watched todays' episode and I just knew she is not going to shoot Adama! There is no way in hell killing him again would put her in a good position. If she tried that again, she most likely would get shot on the spot. As un4scene said, she would never do anything to put her and the baby at risk so, she chose to show Adama that she is not the same person that shot him. The way they set up this scene, it was plainly obvious from the start.

Sharon gives more hints about Cylon psyche. It appears that they do implant memories on fresh clones, and they do sync up. She remembered the Chief, even though she have never met him. Interesting...

She also says she doesn't remember the assassination attempt. Which is logical. Boomer was detained and isolated after the attack, so she could not have a chance to sync up with other Cylons. If she did remember it, that would be a different story. For now, however, I think it would be safe to assume that Cylons require close proximity or maybe even physical contact to sync up. That's why Boomer couldn't share her memories with others while sitting in the brig.

There seems to be allot of speculation about the "And you ask why?" question. Allot of people are confused about this. I do not think Sharon could know about Adama asking this question over the body of Boomer. I think there are two possibilities here:

  • Boomer betrayed and attempted to assassinate Adama. You don't have to be a genius to figure out what was on Adama's head. If you were in his place, wouldn't you ask yourself why? Sharon knew Adama from boomers memories so she could have guessed that this was what he was thinking all this time.
  • The question was not aimed at Adama specifically. It could have been aimed at humanity in general as in "And you as why we Cylons pursue you?" or something among those lines. It shook Adama considerably because it was exactly what he asked Boomer in the morgue.
Most likely it is a little bit of both. She asked a very general question, and she hoped that it will also affect Adama personally.

I'm pretty sure Sharon's' loyalty lies with humans for now. At least as long as it is beneficial to her. But if someone threatens her, she will be more than willing to turn around and help the other side.

The way I see it, she knows that Helo is loyal to his own species. He does love her, but Sharon is not sure if he loves her enough to betray his own people for her. Once she turns, Helo will have to choose between staying loyal to her or to his own species. She is concerned that might not choose to stay with her and hence, for now she will do anything to avoid this situation. In other words, she will stay on the same side Helo is as long as she can.

Will she be manipulating Helo? Yes, I think she will. Because she knows as long as she stays on Battlestar she is in danger. She is the enemy, and there are plenty of people in the fleet willing to organize an angry mob and come to get her with torches and pitchforks. At some point she might need to run, or do something drastic - and she needs Helo to be there with her. Therefore she will use all available resources to condition Helo to trust her no matter what.

But then again, the exchange between Baltar and #6 at the end could be an evidence of quite the opposite. Sharon could be part of some bigger plan. The question is - does she know about it? She could be instrumental to this plan without knowing it's details. Cylons could give her the illusion of anonymity, and let her do as she pleases because they know that she will run back to Helo. This way they can deliver the hybrid baby to Baltar and #6 without Sharon even knowing that she is participating in this plan.

I'm beginning to wonder if Baltar is not a Cylon himself. Maybe they purged his memory for some reason so that he would think he is human. Sharon said she had vivid memories of life as a human, but she is aware of what she is. What if they would simply program Baltar to think he is human... An interesting question.

He apparently has no brain chip, but he does see #6. Would it be possible for them to hide the chip so well, that a MRI would not show it? Did he ever try that Cylon detector on himself? I missed many episodes from S1 so I don't know...

Kubuntu on Dell Inspiron 4000

Yay! Kubuntu has been installed!

I have an Dell Inspiron 4000 laptop. It is an old Pentium III machine (700 MHz) with 256 MB of RAM. It has the ATI Radeon Mobile card and E3 Maestro sound support. Kubuntu detected everything! It even grabbed by PCIMCIA ethernet card flawlessly.

The installation went without a hinch. I installed win2k on the first 20GB partition, and then I let Kubuntu partition the rest of the space. I ended up with a 50+ GB root partition, and 1GB for swap. I know I should have had set up a separate home partition but I just didn't feel like messing around. I wanted to see how Kubuntu will do on its own with a dual boot system.

I was surprised how easy it was. The installer was really simple and user friendly. The ncurses dialogs were clear, and explained each stage well. I was impressed!

Soon enough I booted into KDE and I found that my sound card was supported! Yes! Finally some sound on the good old lappy! I could not get the fucking Maestro soundard working under the 2.4 kernel without patching, and breaking 5 other things. Here it worked out of the box.

KDE has a nice WinXP style loader (note to self: change that shit to something more linuxy) and a beautiful plastic theme. I love it! Of course 5 minutes after loging in my mouse went apeshit. I know for a fact this has nothing to do with Kubuntu - it is my keyboard/touchpad going to shit.

Here is the rundown - some idiot at Dell decided that it would be really cool to put a little rubber knob in the middle of the keyboard, which would act as a mini joystick like mouse replacement. The idea is not that bad, but the design is flawed. Every time you close the lid, the rubber is touching the screen (especially in older laptops where the lids rubber legs are worn down, and the lid is slightly out of alignment). You end up with a nice little dented circular spot on the LCD. Which is ok - the screen is not damaged, it just looks dirty in that area.

The worst part is what the pressure applied to that rubber mouse thingy. Think about it - the way that thing works is it detects pressure applied to it, and translates it into cursor movement. Now, over the months and years the lid is constantly pressing against. Eventually the sensors go out of alignment and your mouse pointer goes apeshit every once in a while. Replacing keyboard solves this issue 98% of the time.

The distro is a little skimpy on the application side - no Firefox for example. I was used to my Knoppix based Debian distro which included oodles of useful apps straight out of the box. It just seems that I will have to configure few things, and download quite a few apps to get to be really comfortable with it. Still, having a working sound card, and seeing apt-get go through a full upgrade without some stupid dependency snag is priceless.

I was especially impressed with the flawless ACPI support. I could put the machine into standby, suspend and hibernate states with perfect recovery. I haven't been able to do that before with any other distro. Ah, this is just one more benefit of using a recent kernel release.

Now I just need to install Java on it, and then get Eclipse, Jarnal and Azureus. Only problem is that apt-cache search does not find suns Java packages. I can't remember where did I get my java packages before but I think I got them from stock Debian repositories. :P The only help I have seen so far is this - I guess I might need to do this the hard way. I hate using alien with rpm's...

Of course you can always snag java packages from debian repositories, and use them. This seems to be the optimal solution, as I feel much more comfortable using package made for Sarge, rather than one compiled for RH or Fedora.

Next step is importing my mailboxen. This should be relatively easy as I'm using KMail. I just need to grab the HD enclosure (which I left at work, of course) and move the files over.

Side note - what happened to KMail? It's no longer there! Instead we have Kontact which tries really hard to be the KDE equivalent of Evolution/Outlook. I actually don't mind - it nicely wraps up KMail, Kalendar, Knotes and the address book into one application. The barebones simplicity of Kmail is still there. I just hope it will perform as good as the stand alone KMail did.

One thing I'm concerned with is getting my linksys wireless card working on this system. I'll probably need ndiswapper and Windows drivers again. I really, really hope that I can get it working reliably before school starts. I don't have wireless here at home so I can't even try it out.

I can't get used to my laptops making sounds. It is wild! Ah! I can now take earphones to work/school and listen to podcasts! Wohoo! :P

I'll be posting updates on my adventure with Kubuntu as I go along.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Server Downtimes

Pegasus is down again! It has been down all day. When pegasus goes down on Friday, it usually means that it will stay down through Tuesday (if you are lucky that is). I have no clue what happened, because the only person I could ask is gone. So I have no clue if this was yet another power outage, or if they are doing something with the network.

I moved my newly created stylesheets to another server. They work for now. You will probably notice the lack of Fully Cully banner, my picture and the nicetitles script. All that stuff is on pegasus, and I don't feel like recreating these again... If it comes back up, I'll move that stuff over, but otherwise, screw it.

For those of you who don't know what pegasus is, let me tell you a story. MSU network is set up as an NFS network composed of various Sun Spark machines. Pegasus was the login server, a mail server and bunch of other things. There was also an application server (called smile I think) a file server, and few workstations providing various services (such as oracle server and etc...).

Anyways, pegasus had bunch of ports open to the outside world, including ftp, telnet and few other. It was not very smart, but hey - try teaching windows sheeople how to ssh. Our IT was not up to this task. But I digress. If you wanted to do anything on the network, you had to either log into pegasus or use one of the Spark machines on campus. All these machines (including Pegasus) had their /bin and /usr/bin mounted from smile and /home was mounted from the file server - so you could sit at any terminal, and you would have instant access to your home directory. Btw, I think all the workstations on campus authenticate via pegasus... Which made perfect sense when we had 30+ Spark machines in the lab... They are gone now.

Which makes this setup an instant recepie for disaster. If any part of the network goes, all the Spark machines crash horribly. If I'm wrong on the exact details here, please correct me. I never really investigated this throughly - I simply saw side effects of interrupted connection to smile or pegasus. They were not pretty.

Besides, who cares how exactly was the network set up. It was a mess - a house of cards. IT didn't care because this was not their priority. The sparc network was exclusively used by CS department meaning that they could safely ignore the complaints and do bare minimum as long as no one complained to the Dean.

As a side effect, pegasus - our overworked, login/mail/authentication server hot totally pwn3d few years ago. Someone installed a rootkit, and a few trojans. The IT guys did not touch it. For several YEARS someone else owned the server many professors used for research, and students used for email and homework. The professors knew about it, the Dean knew about it and the more cluefull students knew about it too. No one cared though. Besides, with the crazy NFS setup, it was to much hassle to even touch pegaus.

The problem unexpectedly solved itself in June (I think) when a big campus-wide power outage completely fried pegasus. It had a spectacular crash, and never came back up. IT scrapped it. The whole NFS network was fucked, and they really had to work hard to get things working again. Of course they did not have a replacement ready so students were cut off from their email and network access for most of the summer.

Recently they resurrected pegasus as a Linux machine which did logins, and email. Once you ssh to it, it slogins you into spark station called freddie. All my rsa keys went to shit, and the first time I connected I nearly got a heart attack thinking someone is pulling a man in the middle on me. But I was happy to see it back.

And now it is down once again. I have no clue when it will come back, but I'm sure as hell it won't happen over the weekend.

Pr0n Publishers try to Cash in on Gorkster Ruling

Guess what? Some schmucks just figured out that they can abuse the Gorkster ruling. We all knew this was bound to happen - ruling that technology company can be held liable for the actions of its users was a very dangerous move. And we just begin to see the implications.

A pr0n magazine publisher is now trying to sue google because google images section displays thumbnails of their copyrighted photos. Before you blurt out "dumbasses should have used robots.txt" let me finish. They are not pissed that Google is indexing images on their website - they are fine with that. What seems to irk them is that Google indexes web pages that stole their material.

There, now you can say WTF. See, before Gorkster ruling they would have no case. Google would just say "screw you, we are a search engine". But, now days this is not that easy. Now the search engine company has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it's technology was not designed to facilitate copyright infringement. I don't think any reasonable judge would rule against Google on this one but still.

The basic idea here is to siphon some money from the search engine giant using Gorkster as a loophole. The best the publisher can hope for is a settlement with google - which means a nice influx of cash for them. If they really cared about their copyright being violated they would do a RIAA and go after the individuals websites posting these images.

All that said, I still don't think they have a case. But if it involves copyright you can never be sure what will the courts rule these days...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Quiz your Google Lore

I just took the google quiz. I scored 13 out of 15 :) Messed up on the conversion problems because I picked one particular solution, rather than the "all of the above" answer. To my defense - 1 foot in meters and 1 usd in gbp are much better queries than pounds to dollars for example. But who cares :)

This is a great link to show to my 109 class when we talk about search engines. You actually can learn something from this. I will make them take this quiz in class!

Doom the Movie

I stumbled onto fubar today, and saw a link to the new Doom movie trailer. I think it has a potential to be the dumbest movie ever made in holywood.

Let's face it, the game didn't really have a story to it. It was pretty much: "You are on mars. There are lots of monsters and daemons running around. Go kill them!" How do you make that into a movie? How can you possibly hope to base a good halfway decent movie on that premise? There are so many good games on the market - they had to pick the one without any plot! Gah!

The FPS sequences are beyond dumb. I don't think they could have made this movie look more cheesy, even if they tried. Seriously, if I wanted to see cool FPS I would play Doom 3...

Winmail.dat Files

My users are whining about these stupid winmail.dat files nearly every day. I usually use Kmail for my work related stuff, so I rarely have any problems with these. I simply use ktnef to extract the attachments and go on with my life. But since 100% of my user base is windows based and Outlook bound, this was not an optimal solution.

The problem occurs when an Outlook user sends someone an email with several attachments and he has either (a) HTML enabled, (b) attached vCard or (c) all of the above. If the recipient has a different version of Outlook, or uses a different client altogether, he is most likely to receive an email with a mysterious attachment called winmail.dat

Apparently winmail.dat is used to store the formating information for HTML enabled emails and/or vcards. Don't ask my why - they just use it internally somehow. Another Outlook client is supposed to decode that file on the fly. Unfortunately, older version of Outlook often can't read the dat files issued by the newer versions - and you get these mysterious attachments.

My advice, as usual it is: don't use freakin outlook! But if you cant live without Outlook, just send messages in plain text, and never, ever attach vcards!

If some asshat sends you an email with winmail.dat here is what you do:

  1. yell at the asshat
  2. send him/her a tar file with a postscript document as an act of revenge (windows users are scared of postscript and tar files)
  3. use the TNEF viewer of choice to open the file and extract attachments.

Personally, I use ktnef. But if use windows, you might need to use something different.

For windows usage, I found a very obscure but functional command line tool called WMDecode. I guess an old rule of thumb is that good hackers are usually poor web designers... This guy must be a freakin genius then, because his website sucks! But the WMDecode tool actually works as advertised and its all that counts!

It's actually really simple to use - you just drag your file onto the WMDecode.exe and poof - the attached files magically appear in the same directory. This way it's not all scary and mysterious for stupid windows users :)

Gmail open to public? Google collecting cell phone numbers!

So, Google is opening up registration to general public. I still have like 50 invitations left, but it seems that they are pretty useless now...

Or maybe not. Apparently, Google decided to force people to use a cell phone in order to complete the authentication process. WTF? Not only do they want my email, my chats and my searches - now they want my cellphone too? I think this is retarded!

Oh, and btw - great job on cutting off the rest of the freakin world from your service! This is beyond retarded. Is is a fucking ploy to make gmail available only in rich countries where everyone owns a cell phone? No cell phone, no gmail - unless your friend has gmail and can send you an invitation. Gah! This is stupid!

But I'm still willing to forgive them, because they officially haven't taken the Beta banner from the front page yet. So, as far as I'm concerned, they are still not out of beta yet (shalsdot is wrong, as usuall). Perhaps this is just a way to open up registration to general public, while restricting it to certain demographic (middle to upper class US residents who are old enough to own cellphones) without getting flooded?

Once they finally get out of Beta they better provide a normal way to register that does not require one to live in US and own a cell!

The only good thing about this scheme would be that it could be a nice way to get around the CAPTCHA issues. But, of course they do use a fucking CAPTCHA on the page where you register your phone number (see the screenshot above). Why not, right? Agh!

And I still find the idea of Google knowing my cell phone slightly freaky. Are they on a quest to index all the information on planet earth or something?

I have another interesting question. Why do the cell phone thing, if users can easily bypass that verification and register here?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Open DRM Impossible

Last time when I was talking about the Open Media Commons crap, I did not realize what a huge stinking pile of bullshit they are trying to sell to us. If you think about it, Open DRM is actually an oxymoron! It is as ridiculous as dry water, hot ice!

Cory Doctorow makes a very good point at boingboing! What if I decide to modify the DRM software? It's Open Source, no? So I should be well within my rights to modify it to say... Allow me to copy the file without limitations?

Open Source and DRM are not compatible. Think about it - DMCA prohibits circumventing DRM, which in this case would entail modifying the code of your player/decryption software to remove undesirable restrictions. On the other hand Open Source encourages participation and modification of the code. In the end, we will end up with an open sourced set of DRM related algorithms, which will be illegal to touch or modify without permission because of DMCA. That in turn will likely violate GPL because prohibiting modification of the source code is not allowed under this license.

If you ever considered contributing to that project, please think it over! I would say it is a legal gamble. Any developer working on it will be very, very close to violating the DRM related DMCA provisions. They will also be likely to violate GPL if the software ends up with an end-to-end DMCA protection.

So I ask you, how is that supposed to work? It can't be open, and untouchable at the same time. Something has to give. And guess who has more money to spend on lawyers? If this would ever go to court, a media company would have a good chance winning a case against someone who modified the code to circumvent DRM because it was under GPL. It would be a very dangerous precedence, and it could bring the validity of GPL as a licensing scheme into question.

This project carries to many risks. It is tainted! Leave it alone people! Let it die.

Correct GAIM Configuration for Google Talk

Shit! I'm a retard. I need to get up early in the morning tomorrow, but here I am playing around with Google Talk. I actually downloaded the official client and it's spiffy, but I usually have GAIM open for AOL, and another window will simply piss me off. So I decided to figure out how to set it up for gaim.

For some time I was convinced that Google decided to block 3rd party clients which would be beyond retarded considering they are using Jabber! Unfortunately, it appears that the retarded person here is me. Ah the joys of sleep deprivation.

Anyways, look to the left for the screenshot of a correct gaim config. Note that talk.google.com is the "Connect Server" and gmail.com is the "Server". If you put talk.google.com in the "Server" box you will get 405 error upon connection.

Earlier today it was working with talk.google.com under "Server" but it stopped at some point. I'm guessing that Jabber server at talk, authenticates against the gmail server. Neat.

I'm thrilled that google decided to go with Jabber. Finally, a big IM player who uses open protocol. At least now we can have good open source clients without hacking and reverse engineering the protocol. Although the voice capability is probably some crappy proprietary extension.

Anyways, happy chatting. I'm going to bed!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Google goes Jabber

Well... I was wrong. Earlier today I said that I'm not entirely convinced that Google will be releasing an IM service. It turns out that THEY INDEED ARE launching Jabber based service tomorrow. Several places confirm it. This guy figured it out, then posted it on digg and slashdot.

I can confirm this works - I'm logged in right now with gaim, and I just IM'd the guy who found it. Everything works! Unfortunately I do not know anyone who uses Jabber so I can't really test it out :(

Update (1:29am 8/24/05):

After being idle for 20 minutes or so, I got disconnected. I was trying to reconnect at various times this evening. So far, no luck. I get a 405 error every time I try to login. Very strange...

Oh well... I guess we just have to wait for the big annoucement tomo... er... Today.

Actually, never mind: it's already here! Of course the client is windows only...

Captchas are bad?

According to boingboing, allot of people don't like the graphical turing tests called CAPTCHAS (Completely Automated Public Turing tests to tell Computers and Humans Apart). You know what they are - blogger just implemented them in their Word Verification comment feature. If you are still drawing a blank, go ahead and try to post a comment. You will be asked to type in the text from a picture - that's CAPTCHA. W3C is even drafting a paper on Inaccessibility of Visually-Oriented Anti-Robot Tests.

I find this interesting. Of course they are right - these things are a major pain for blind, and visually impaired users. On the other hand, they do serve their purpose quite well. Despite what the anti CAPTCHAnists claim, it's not that easy to defeat them. For example, they claim that "renting eyes" is the ultimate CAPTCHA killer.

Hmmm... Let's see. To flood a system without CAPTCHA all you need is a perl script and an internet connection. To successfully defeat CAPTCHA via "eye rental" method you need a server where you can host your spoof site, a script that will grab the image from the attacked website, serve it up on your site, and then pipe the user input back into the attacked site. And on top of that you need a successful pish to generate enough traffic to your spoof site to make this enterprise worthwhile. For that you will probably need a mass mailer, and few thousand valid emails - which may or may not be easy to obtain (depending on your resources and connections).

All of that of course can be set up within an hour or two, with minimum effort provided that you know what you are doing. Still, it requires much more effort and preparation than downloading and running a perl script. Which means that a simple turring test will prevent all the script kiddies and most of the lazy crackers from abusing your system. That is a major benefit, which sometimes can outweigh the risk of locking out the odd blind user.

I guess it all depends on what kind of service you are running. Most likely, a blind user won't really need a Flickr account - so that type of websites are probably pretty safe using CAPTCHA's. On the other hand, if you are a federal institution, a health provider or some sort of social service, you might be locking out visually impaired users.

The problem is that none of the proposed alternatives are any good. When you use CAPTCHA, you pose a significant disadvantage to maybe 5-10% of your potential user base. If you use any of the proposed schemes, you disadvantage much larger sections of your user base. How many users will you loose if you introduce a credit card check? How many of them will be royally pissed when you put limits on their accounts, or start banning them for "suspicious" activities. Can you afford to piss these people off?

We have to draw the line somewhere. How many blind, deaf, cognitively impaired people regularly visit your website? And if they are, how the hell are they doing it? As far as I know, some 50-60% of the web is inaccessible right now because people insist on using flash, image maps, and can't be bothered to validate their HTML. Of course, you also have to admit that most of the screen readers are total shit anyway.

I'm all for making the web more accessible. But so far, CAPTCHA's are the most effective, least intrusive and least obnoxious turing tests available. That is why they are so popular. I would love to see someone coming up with a better solution - but everything presented in the w3c paper either does not exist, or is seriously flawed. So I'm not giving up my CAPTCHA's anytime soon.

What is google releasing tomorrow?

I guess the question on everyone's mind is what the hell is google planning for tomorrow. Slashdot crowd is wildly speculating that it is the Jabber based IM service. It appears that talk.google.com is open on port 5222, and it returns an RFC jabber response stream. Which is interesting, but not necessarily informative. Essentially we don't know shit. Google might be simply running an internal jabber service for employees on that server.

So what is this mysterious communication service that Google will be unveiling tomorrow? Some people think it is that innovative, self learning translation software google was working on lately.

Personally, I don't really see how an IM service would play into Google strategy. Unless of course they will be serving live, context sensitive text adds, allowing you to search in your chat history and stuff like that. But that would just open a big nasty Pandora's box on them. People whine about privacy on gmail as it is - imagine how mad will it make them to know that google might be archiving their chats. So I don't think they are heading that way.

Translation software on the other hand sounds much more plausible. And the concept is innovative, and interesting. Instead of using rules and language templates, just feed google translations and have it learn the language by itself. Sure - if you feed it one page you will get crap, but after digesting few million pages it could really start making sense. I would probably be more excited to see a decent, self improving translation software than another IM service.

But hey, if they roll out a Jabber based IM service, with good archiving and search features it won't be half as bad either. I'm not sure if they could compete with AIM at this point - but if they release a solid, platform independent multi-protocol compatible software they could snag quite a few users from AOL if they play their cards right. And by that I mean providing GIM to AIM chat functionality, and good implementation of AIM protocol.


Every once in a while I like to go to a store and dig in the bargain bin for cheep pc games. You can really find awesome stuff. I don't really keep up with the gaming scene, so often I miss really cool games - so this is my way of catching up with the cool games from the past.

The other day I found Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind for $10 at Walmart. At this price, I really don't care if the game sucks or not - I can play it only once, and ten just throw it out, and not regret it. So I tend to take chances and experiment with these oldies. This game was not necessarily an experiment - it was an RPG with 3D graphics, and cool features. For $10 it was a no brainier. I immediately threw it into the cart.

The game is actually really cool. I'm wondering how did I miss this title when it came out for the first time. I think this was a pretty big hit back in the day.

You get complete freedom to explore the huge ass map, lot's of weapons and magic items and tons of critters to kill. I still haven't figured out how to kill the wraith things that sit in the tombs. I figured that ethereal beings will be vulnerable to magical weapons - so I got a magic sword. Still, I can't even scratch these damn things. I also can't barter for shit - I can only sell my items for like half their value, and buy them at higher prices. I tried sweet talking the bastards, but it never works.

I also get my ass kicked by anything that's even vaguely humanoid. But then again, I probably played this game for a total of 3-4 hours over the past 3 days so I'm still figuring things out.

Oh, and I'm playing some sort of cat like race. It seemed cool when I was creating the character but he comes off totally gay in the game. Who the hell purrs when he gets killed? The sound of my character dying must be one of the gayest sound effects ever recorded in the video game history!

So anyways, if you missed Morrowind and you feel like playing a cheep but fun RPG game, definitely pick it up.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Open Media Commons

Very, very strange! I'm really conflicted about this... You see, there is a project out there called Open Media Commons. They aim to develop open source technology that would become an universal standard in digital media content management.

The project is backed by Sun - and I can clearly see why they want this. Sun is very concerned about the digital media crap, because it will affect the future of the Linux based, Sun Java Desktop platform. They are afraid that without some kind of DRM scheme RIAA and MPAA will lock them out of their content. If MS DRM becomes dominant on the market, then all non MS platforms will have a really hard time getting access to RIAA and MPAA stuff. Hence, Sun wants to release a competing DRM scheme which could be used on Unix and Linux system - and thus appease the RIAA and MPAA content gods.

Why do they make in Open Source? Well, they want to give MS a run for it's money. Sun wants to establish a defacto DRM standard - or even become the official standard. For this they need allot of people jump on the bandwagon and help out. SJD does not have a large market presence, so they need the support of the rest of the Linux community on this. Someone needs to port this stuff to Debian, and make RPM's for Fedora. Sure as hell Sun is not going to do spend their resources to do that - they could possibly develop and maintain a windows port, but the competing Linux distros will have to maintain their own packages.

OSS is great for rapid development on the cheep side. If they manage to get people interested, they can get allot of work done and forward their agenda without spending a dime.

Question is - why should people help them? Is there a difference between an open source DRM and a proprietary one? In my opinion, they are both the same. Both are designed to lock you out from the content, and impose limits on what you can do with your data. It is simply a bad idea which can only be made worse by this project.

The truth is that backing Open Media Commons project is a brilliant move for Sun. They are ass kissing the content gods to make sure they stay a major player on the market when the upcoming media lock down ensues. But the DRM is bad for the consumers,

On the other hand, they always say to choose the lesser of two evils. While very evil, and hurtful an open DRM technology, is still not as bad as Microsoft controlled DRM. So instead of being royally screwed by RIAA, MPAA and Microsoft, we will be royally screwed by the first two only.

I guess the fundamental issue here is - will the concept of DRM survive more than few years. People hate DRM, and sales of DRM'd products are dropping. So, the market pressure might kill DRM within the next few years. If so, investing in an open DRM project would be foolish and counter productive. It would only help to establish common platform that could be used by many companies, prolonging the lifespan of DRM dominance. In other words, it will help the media companies and hurt us in the end.

On the other hand, if we assume there is no hope for open media in the future... If *AA organizations get their way, and DRM stays here for good, then and only then would it be beneficial for both the Linux community and OSS community to have an open standard in place to avoid being locked out and screwed over by Microsoft.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Blogger fights against Blogspam!

Finally! Blogger has decided to do something about blog spam and crapflooding. They added word verification - you know, that silly thing where they show you a picture with mangled letters and you need to type the word into a box, to post a comment.

It's easy to implement, and it is strong. You need to have good image processing software to defeat this simple trick - which means that most of the flood-script will be useless against this.

Since I had problems with crapflooding in the past, I switched it on immidiately. Yay! They also added a report button on the blogger top bar with which you can report innapropriate content.

Google is listening to our whining :) They react a little slow, but they are listening!

Linux Trademark Issues

For the last few days I have been trying to figure out what the hell was going on with the Linux trademark issues in Australia. The first slashdot article made it look like some sort of scam. The second slashdot post linked to the confusing Inquirer article which not only does not give much useful information, but also calls Linus the Open Sauce king... Ugh...

Fortunately, we have Groklaw to clear it all up for us. So these letters are legit after all.

I guest the gist of it all is that Linus does not want people using Linux in the name of their trademarked product. In other words, if your product is called Foo Linux, and you want to trademark it, and go commercial with it you have to either pay the licensing fee, or drop the Linux from the name and market it as Foo or whatever.

The trademark stuff is handled by non-profit organization, so it's not like they are extorting money from anyone. So I guess, it's all good in the Linux world. For a second there I thought that we will have to re-brand the OS to keep the openness going. Hey, we could have called it gnu/x or ginux... Or gnul :P

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Antitrust the Movie

I was watching TV late at night yesterday and an interesting movie came up. It's title was Antitrust which immediately piqued my interest. If you ever plan watching this movie and do not want to get spoiled, stop reading now - you have been warned.

The basic premise of this movie is this. Two young promising programmers want to make run a small startup from their garage. They are both open source enthusiast and are working on some sort of media compression, and transmission algorithms. The movie uses allot of buzzwords, but they never clearly say what exactly are they working on. Anyways, before they do anything they get contacted by a huge, software company which offers them jobs.

The company is a software juggernaut and a convicted monopolist. No, it's not Microsoft - but it's not like they are fooling anyone. It essentially is Microsoft, just without mentioning the name. Even the CEO has that Bill Gates look. One of the young programmers accepts the job offer, and the other one refuses it because working there would be against his principles. So far so good.

The guy goes to work at the company, and all is cool. He becomes the favorite pupil of the evil Bill Gates incarnation. After some time, he becomes suspicious as the boss keeps giving him really great code, and brilliant algorithms to use in the project. No one knows where he gets that code.

At this point I'm really excited! The movie is really skimpy on technical details, but it makes sense so far. I'm thinking - they probably didn't want to scare the average movie goer with techy details. But they have something here!

Unfortunately, from that point on the movie turns to shit. Main character's friend (the one that went to work in the startup and refused the job) gets killed. It turns out that he was working on the same type of software and was in direct competition with the big bad company. Next day, boss hands Milo (the main character) fresh batch of brilliant code - which, unmistakably comes from the dead friend. At this point he freaks out.

So he breaks into one of the buildings and finds a monitoring center which keeps track of hundreds of young programmers working on competing products. Apparently the big bad company has cameras installed in their offices and bedrooms keeping track of what they do, and stealing their code. Furthermore he finds a footage of his friends death, and evidence that his girlfriend is actually hired by the corporation to keep him in check...

Sigh... This was around the time that I lost interest and started dozing off. I think I fell asleep sometime after that because I can't remember how the movie ended. My brother said that it was a really holywood style ending with Milo bringing down the conspiracy using some suspense filled ploy, the girlfriend coming clean and helping out and etc... In other words - crap.

I hate how Holywood takes great ideas, and fucks them up beyond recognition. I was really enjoying the first half of the movie, but the spy cams in people's rooms and killings were a little to much. It seems that whoever wrote the script didn't really get what MS Antitrust case was really about. He got a general idea, but then he went for the cheep evil conspiracy crap instead of following through with a good anti-MS message.

It also appears that the creators did not really understand the concept of open source. Why did they kill the startup guy? Why did they even have a camera in his room? His project was Open Source - that means uninhibited public access to the code. They could have easily went and downloaded the code from his repository. And they could get away with it because their software was closed source!

It would be great to see them to really tackle the issue of big corporations illegally using GPL'd code. But the creators of the movie seem to have a very shady concept of GPL in general. For example - the two guys talk on the phone. The Open Source guy says something among the lines of "I can't talk to you about work... We're in direct competition now". Erm...

Ok, so he can't talk about work, despite his code being open source? I think they mixed up their lines. It should be the corporate guy being all uptight about this - after all he works on proprietary project, and leaking implementation details could cost him the job. And peeking at GPL'd solutions could "contaminate" him and they might need to take him off the project.

It was a really cool idea for the movie, but they completely missed the boat on this one. It could have been great commentary on MS monopolistic practices, and corporate ethics. It still carries some of that message, but it's half assed and diluted by the made up conspiracy and evil empire crap... Come on, MS can be ultra evil without ever killing anyone. Geez...

This movie would be so much better if they used the put more emphasis on the theft of the GPL'd code. They could have the big company run the startup out of the business by both taking their code, and then suing them into oblivion over patent infringement. And then they would get away with it, and Milo would quit in disgust and move on to do bigger and better things in Open Source world ending up being poorer but much happier with his job. But no, they had to make the boy a hero, and the Bill Gates equivalent an evil prick with world domination plans...

Strangely enough, for an obscure movie like that they did have decent cast. They somehow got Clarie Forlani, Tim Robbins and Rachel Leight Cook on it. Go figure...

Matrix Priesthood Poster

This must be the funniest, most ridiculous story that I have ever found at digg. Apparently catholic priests in Indianapolis are using this Matrix theme poster in their recruitment campaign.

All I can say is WTF? Yesterday I posted about the Pope Quote SMS campaign giving me a uneasy feeling about the Church trying to be to hip for it's own good. But this poster... If this is not a fully blown Buddy Christ syndrome then I don't know what is.

I think these posters are so popular not because kids thing they are cool - but because they are a freakin joke! I would never guess they were actually proposed and designed by the church officials.

Pleas note - the fictional move show on this poster is rater R. LOL

This is the official WTF moment of the month!

DRM is Dangerous

Kuro5in has a very interesting article about DRM and TCPA. Think about this very carefully - if the DRM trend keeps up we will be locking up all the artwork, and popular culture that our generation will produce for the next few years. Essentially we bind this work to it's media, and make it non-transferable. Some of this DRM will have expiration dates, and render the content unusable after the license expires.

In other words, some works of art from our generation will exists only in limited edition batches, on easily damaged digital media prone to deterioration. Once the distribution company which controlled the DRM goes out of business all this artwork will be essentially doomed. CD's have long, but not infinite lifespan - and they do fail, and ware out. If the DRM makes it impossible to copy the content to a new disk, and the company cannot release new edition because it does not exist - the content will be lost within few hundred years.

In effect, the next 20-30 years can become the new dark age for the civilizations down the road. In fact, all they will know about us, will come from Open Source and Creative Commons communities. Think about this - what would happen if previous generations decided to use DRM? Here are some thoughts from the article:

We would have never seen many of Da Vinci's works if he had access to technology that imposed expiration dates on his writings. We know he used encryption in his work, so just allow yourself jump a step further.

If Picasso or Matisse had websites selling their art these days, what would happen if their server crashed, or their company went under. Would we only have lame copies of "Weeping Woman I" emblazoned with VISIT PABLOPICASSO.COM in big bold letters in the middle of the painting?

Mozart's works would only be available on special players that could unencrypt the special media he used, nevermind the fact that countless budding musicans would be left out of performing his works because the media conglomorate who owns his works wanted too much money from the school.

Remember Heroes of Might and Magic? The company that made it was called New World Computing, this company was absorbed by 3DO, then 3DO went bankrupt, and closed its doors. Now the company no longer exists. Just imagine if, in order to install Heroes of Might and Magic you needed to contact the developer first. You would have useless media on your hand. As it is now, HOMM only exists in bargain bins and warez circles.

Had popular artist Metallica released all their music in a propeitary copy protected format early on in their career, you better believe a good part of all the metal heads from the 80s would have never existed.

Makes you think, huh? Some of the most influential ideas and works of art we know about today, survived because they were open, and easily replicated. DRM is only good as a short term solution. Perhaps it helps music and movie distributors to maximize their profits, but it is a deathtrap for modern musicians and movie makers. Their works will be hopelessly lost and forgotten as soon as the company that distributed them goes under.

Future generations will hate us for doing this to them. But then again, perhaps they won't know anything about us. Perhaps they will see us as this wonderful society based on sharing, and free exchange of information - because the only digital information that survives to their times, is the open, easily replicable stuff from Open Source and Creative Commons realm?

Of course, this analysis assumes that RIAA and MPAA have their way, and somehow manage to eliminate piracy. Which I think is unlikely. People will keep exchanging copies as long as it is physically possible. So the whole DRM craziness might simply be a insignificant blip on the radar of history. Perhaps in few hundred years kids in school will be learning how movie and record industry went a little nutty in the early 2000's, and locked out their content but thanks to illegal file sharing, most of the prominent works were preserved.

But perhaps this is not how things are going to go. Reading this Register article gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Pay-per-song systems are likely to be replaced by flat-fee systems, that let you download unrestricted music. As I mentioned before, DRM is not popular. The tighter the controls, the less attractive the product. It is often more profitable to charge a flat fee, than hope the pay-per-song/record services pay out.

So perhaps future is not so bad after all :)