Archive for February 2008

Irony.   1 comment

To be clear, I don’t believe in piracy.  I don’t really think our (ie, the US’s) current concept of intellectual property makes any sense whatsoever, but I’m totally content to pay $4-9 for a used CD and rip my own music files, buy books and movies I want to see, etc.  If something is retailing at $19.95 I’m simply not going to buy it.  Sorry, musicians, but I was paying less than $10 for an album in 1983, and in my opinion the cost of production should have gone down more than enough to compensate for any inflationary forces -> if you’re charging more than $10, I probably don’t think your stuff is worth it.  I won’t make illicit copies of it, but I’m not going to buy it, either.

That said, this story makes me chuckle.  It appears that the RIAA has kept the several hundred million dollars they’ve collected in lawsuit settlements, and not compensated the artists who presumably have at least some legal right to at least some portion of said compensation.

From the link:

Typically, the labels see it a different way. An EMI spokeperson said that it was “sharing proceeds from the Napster and Kazaa settlements with artists and writers whose work was infringed upon” while Warner’s said the label is “sharing the Napster settlement with its recording artists and songwriters, and at this stage nearly all settlement monies have been disbursed.”

The Universal spokesman spoke only of the label’s ‘policy’ of sharing “its portion of various settlements with its artists, regardless of whether their contracts require it” with no mention of whether it had actually done this or not.

But typically, when money is involved, things start to get murky. The same sources who suggested the reasons for the delay in making payments are also suggesting that there might not be much money to even give to the artists.

It’s being claimed that after legal bills were subtracted from the hundreds of millions in settlements, there wasn’t much left over to hand out.

Wow, I would love to see an audit of that legal bill.


Posted February 28, 2008 by padraic2112 in social

Online Predators: Actually, pretty rare   2 comments

For quite some time now it’s been bandied about as “common knowledge” that “one in five children on the Internet has been approached by a predator”. You can buy entire books on the subject of how to protect your children.

I’ve long thought that the study that most of these reports are based upon warranted a bit more in the way of rigorous evaluation. I haven’t seen the survey questions that Mitchell, Finkelhor, and Wolak used in their survey, but the various write-ups I’ve read use language that leads me to believe that their conclusions greatly exaggerate the actual risk to children and teenagers. For example, I can classify random porn spam as “a sexual solicitation” (who hasn’t gotten an email with, “Lonely? Come see my pictures!” in the body somewhere). This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take steps to keep your children’s email clean of porn spam, but it hardly represents an attack or real solicitation by a sexual predator.

Bruce wrote a post today that linked to a new study that appears to approach the question of online predation with a different slant that comes to a dramatically different result: turns out that using the Internet isn’t as horrifyingly dangerous as you may have previously thought. Some practical information and advice for parents on how to communicate the real risks to your children available here.


Posted February 26, 2008 by padraic2112 in parenting, security, social

Encryption is not a magic lotion   1 comment

You can’t rub it on your hardware and just assume you’re secure… here is yet another illustration of why. Organizations can’t just adopt encryption technologies and assume that they can then give any employee access to any data. Real data protection policies don’t begin with technology, they begin by limiting access to data.

Here’s the full paper.

Also mentioned here and here.


Posted February 21, 2008 by padraic2112 in hardware, security, software, tech

I feel this way sometimes   1 comment

There is Something Wrong on the Internet

Posted February 20, 2008 by padraic2112 in humor, noise, web sites

There’s oil in them thar hills   Leave a comment

The hills of Titan, that is. Or rather, there isn’t so much oil “in” the hills, as oil “raining down on the hills”. Hydrocarbon rain, to be precise.

This raises the question of non-biologically originated hydrocarbons – currently accepted knowledge is that hydrocarbons that we slurp out of the ground have a biological origin (although “Oil comes from Dinosaurs” is a vast oversimplification), but there has been research to indicate that some of the hydrocarbons in the mantle of the earth originate from non-biological sources (thanks to Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope for succinct summaries). I’m not a geologist, it would be interesting to hear what sort of an influence the extraterrestrial data of the space program is having on current geologic theory.


Posted February 19, 2008 by padraic2112 in astronomy, geology, science

Oddities   1 comment

One interesting side effect of blogging is the intellectual questions that start bothering you when you look at your logs.

Apparently Bruce linked to my Rudy Giuliani posts in the last Crypto-gram (thanks, Bruce), and I had a sudden flood of visits to those two posts on the 15th (the date that the Crypto-gram goes out). Aside from finally blowing a day from last December off its standing as my “best day ever”, it’s also introduced three consecutive days of multiple posts hitting double-digit views. I’m not exactly crippling WordPress’s bandwidth bills, here.

The odd thing is that I now have 151 visits to part I and 157 visits to part II of that two-part article. Six more people have read the second part than the first. WordPress records page visits no matter how long the viewer stays at the page, so this isn’t because someone got bored reading through the admittedly very long analysis and skipped to the end… 6 people have come to the site directly to the second half, and never read the first.

The nerd part of my brain is wondering why, and will forever be perplexed by this interesting anomaly. Since you can’t force people to comment on your blog, I’ll be unlikely to ever be able to gather any data that can provide illustration as to the cause of this. It’s one of those small brain itches I suppose I’ll just have to learn to live with…

Posted February 18, 2008 by padraic2112 in noise

A Plea to the Blogging Community   3 comments

Dear Fellow Bloggers:

For the love of whatever deity or spiritual or universal force you hold in regard (or, for the agnostics and athiests among us, for the love of Reason), please either learn how to argue, or stop pretending you’re doing it.

I’m not talking about “taking up a contrary position” or “having an opinion and expressing it”. I’m talking about argument. Logic. You know, that thing that we don’t teach anymore in the US educational system. You need to understand what fallacies are. You don’t have to get into semantic diagrams, and you don’t have to study logic so much that you find yourself discussing the fine points of various logical systems with other people. I don’t ask quite that much.

What I ask is that you understand that 99.99% of what passes for “political talking points” in this country (for both The Left and The Right) is in fact not argument at all. Political talking points are generally fallacies of one sort or another. If you want to spout fallacies, it works great in rhetoric (just google a guy named Cicero for some wonderful examples).

Do not claim that you’re arguing with me because you are not arguing.

I’m engaging in argument (which is actually an established process that predates the English language). You’re engaging in rhetoric. It is impossible for us to come to any sort of agreement, because we’re not following the same set of rules. The rules of argument are intended to produce an advancement in thought leading two parties closer to an acceptable cooperative truth, the rules of rhetoric are intended to make people look bad or sway people to your opinion. It’s a skill in and of itself, and I don’t mind when people actually do it in the proper context. What I mind is when they engage in rhetoric and claim that they’re arguing.

I understand that occasionally I will brush up against people who have fundamental beliefs that are incompatible with mine. Usually I get along with people like this in spite of our differences, because on the whole people are fairly decent. However, it is not going to be constructive for us to discuss topics upon which we have differing opinions unless you are willing to sit down with me and engage in the process of argument.

By doing so, we can find out why our opinions are different. We can learn what fundamental beliefs we each have, and which ones of them are in conflict. It will enable us to better understand each other as human beings. Occasionally it will lead one of us to discover that we are basing our opinion upon a fundamental belief that perhaps we don’t find ourselves very comfortable acknowledging, or (much to our surprise) inconsistent with one of our other fundamental beliefs. We can grow as intellectual beings. This is what puts us apart from the other animals that inhabit this ball of dirt. This is all good stuff, right?

On the other hand, if you’re just going to spout rhetoric and not admit that you have beliefs that are fundamental, or you refuse to acknowledge that you don’t actually have anything resembling a cogent argument to present, please go find a soapbox to stand on rather than pollute the Internet with your drivel. There is enough of it, already!

Your fellow blogger and human,



Posted February 15, 2008 by padraic2112 in noise