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

Google Calendar and Gmail are no longer “quietly” sneaking up on Exchange   1 comment

Follow up to this post, here’s a bit of slightly outdated news… USC has partnered up with Google to give their students access to google apps and gmail in a non “ad-infected” portal. I’d heard noise about this, but I didn’t realize that deals were already being cut with organizations the size of USC.

If I’m Microsoft, I’m worried about this… oh, roughly 100 times more than I’m worried about anything else that Google has done. Microsoft’s cash cow is Office, and if this works out well for USC in the next four years you can bet that Suh-Pyng Ku and Ilee Rhimes are going to be talking it up at every conference they attend. Hooking up educational institutions with your computing platform was a back and forth battle between Microsoft and Apple in the early days of the personal computer, a skirmish which Microsoft eventually won out. It’s been 20 years since they had to fight that battle, however, and they’re coming to this one facing an entirely different opponent.

Round One… Ready… FIGHT!


Posted February 13, 2008 by padraic2112 in software, tech

Warrantless Wiretapping Update   2 comments

Since Congress’s website is always a day behind, I got these results from the Washington Post. Likely the new updated FISA bill is going to sail through Congress. Boy, it’s a good thing the Democrats got into control of Congress so that they could… continue to do whatever Bush told them to do, just like the Republicans whose jobs they took. Go here to throw spitballs at the battleship.

I do not claim to be a bona-fide expert in this area, as I’m not on the Senate Intelligence Committee or a member of the Bush Administration and as such I cannot evaluate the veracity of all of the claims I’ve read regarding the wholesale surveillance of the telecommunications network by the NSA. I don’t know how many serious terrorist plots have been disrupted by this program (there have been claims of “many”), I don’t know exactly what the possibility is for misuse for information gathered by this program (although the capabilities of the technology are pretty staggering, and the mind boggles with the consequences of the misuse could be, there is no real way to evaluate the checks and balances in place).

I do know, however, that one of the central arguments against the Dodd-Feingold amendment to this bill is heavily flawed. I heard today one senator (Democratic, unfortunately I did not catch the name) quoted as saying, “If we don’t include the immunity provision, in the future companies will be reluctant to cooperate with the government.”

This is demonstrably false. Not all telecommunications companies complied with the government’s request to tap their lines, but the majority did so. Those who did so have very, very competent legal departments staffed by lawyers who are intimately aware of federal communications law. It is simply inconceivable that these companies would provide this level of access to the government without being fully aware of the fact that they were violating those laws.

Moreover, it’s a false dichotomy: we want companies to adhere to the law, don’t we? If someone representing a federal agency shows up at your doctor’s office and demands to see your medical records without a warrant, wouldn’t you want your doctor to refuse? Isn’t that the whole point of having illegal search and seizure laws in the first place?

In the interests of full disclosure, it’s my firm belief that the entire bill is bad, and that the push to “updating FISA” is a bunch of baloney. However, I recognize that this is just a belief, and I cannot state this as a solid intellectual position precisely because much of the relevant evidence is being withheld on the basis of “National Security”. Take my complaints about this particular amendment with that in mind. Also, there is a subtle additional point to this whole discussion in that some of the people who voted “no” may have voted for Arlen Specter’s alternative amendment (I’ll try to dig those up later edited -> they’re here, the only differences are that Specter voted for his amendment and “no” on Dodd; and Bacus, Biden, Dodd, Dorgan, and Klobuchar all voted “no” on Specter and “yes” on Dodd; and McCaskill, Nelson, Stabenow, and Webb voted “yes” on Specter and “no” on Dodd), which allows the lawsuits to continue but takes all the liability off of the telecom companies and puts in on the federal government. Personally, I can’t see any reason to vote “no” on that one, even if you buy into the whole “reluctance” argument.

As a tangent off on the topic of political hypocrisy, it is intellectually fascinating that if you intersect the list of “no” voters with a list of senators who voted against immigration reform solely on the position, “I don’t believe in amnesty, they broke the law, they should suffer the consequences” you’ll find more than one commonality…




Not Voting



Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby




Lisa Murkowski, Ted Stevens




Jon Kyl, John McCain




Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor



Barbara Boxer

Dianne Feinstein




Wayne Allard, Kenneth Salazar



Christopher Dodd

Joseph Lieberman



Joseph Biden

Thomas Carper




Mel Martinez, Bill Nelson




Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson



Daniel Akaka

Daniel Inouye




Larry Craig, Michael Crapo



Dick Durbin, Barack Obama




Evan Bayh, Richard Lugar



Tom Harkin

Charles Grassley




Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts




Jim Bunning, Mitch McConnell




Mary Landrieu, David Vitter




Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe



Ben Cardin

Barbara Mikulski



Edward Kennedy, John Kerry



Carl Levin

Debbie Stabenow



Amy Klobuchar

Norm Coleman




Thad Cochran, Roger Wicker




Kit Bond, Claire McCaskill



Max Baucus, Jon Tester




Chuck Hagel, Ben Nelson



Harry Reid

John Ensign


New Hampshire


Judd Gregg, John Sununu


New Jersey

Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menéndez


New Mexico

Jeff Bingaman

Pete Domenici


New York

Chuck Schumer


Hillary Clinton

North Carolina


Richard Burr, Elizabeth Dole


North Dakota

Byron Dorgan

Kent Conrad



Sherrod Brown

George Voinovich




Tom Coburn, James Inhofe



Ron Wyden

Gordon Smith



Bob Casey

Arlen Specter


Rhode Island

Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse


South Carolina


Jim DeMint

Lindsey Graham

South Dakota


Tim Johnson, John Thune




Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker




John Cornyn, Kay Bailey Hutchison




Robert Bennett, Orrin Hatch



Patrick Leahy, Bernard Sanders




John Warner, Jim Webb



Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray


West Virginia

Robert Byrd

Jay Rockefeller



Russell Feingold

Herb Kohl




John Barrasso, Michael Enzi



Posted February 13, 2008 by padraic2112 in politics, security

Identifying A True Fan   2 comments

If you don’t care for American football, you might not be aware that the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots yesterday in the Superbowl, 17-14. The game was remarkable for a few reasons: the Giants were a wild-card team and significant underdogs (12 points), the New England Patriots were undefeated (18-0) up until the Superbowl and winners of three Superbowls in the 2000s decade.

It was a good game, and I’m not going to bother to write a post about the game, as this isn’t a sports blog and there’s a million posts already on the blogosphere detailing the game so exhaustively that you don’t need to read another one.

This post is about fandom.

A great number of people were rooting for the Patriots yesterday. A large chunk of them, of course, are fans of the team. One of the interesting things about professional sports in general, though, is that people can be fans of “the game” in addition to being fans of “a team”, not to mention the fact that the Superbowl is a bona fide TV Event, in and of itself. This means that during the Superbowl, you have four classes of people who are watching the game: Fans of the AFC Champions, Fans of the NFC Champions, general Fans of Football, and people who are just watching the Superbowl (usually for the commercials).

Some of the people who are watching the game, therefore, aren’t Fans of either team. They might be general fans of football, or they might just be people who are just watching the game because of its TV Event status. They probably have some sort of professed loyalty to some other football team.

Yesterday’s game presented an infrequent opportunity: the chance to see who really has team loyalties. The New England Patriots had an opportunity to make football history with the first 19-0 record. Now, you can be a fan of the game of football, and you can be excited for the opportunity to see something that had never been done before, but if you were rooting for the Patriots to win, you’re either a fan of the Patriots, or you’re no true fan of any team.

See, I’m a 49er fan. As far as I’m concerned, the 1994-1995 San Francisco 49ers were the best team in the history of the game (largely because they were likely egregiously violating the salary cap rules, a misbehavior that paid off in one colossal stomping of a Superbowl followed by over a decade of seriously bad teams). Steve Young was the toughest running QB (overall toughness has to go to that crazy fool Brett Favre, though), Joe Montana was the best 4th quarter quarterback in playoff history, Jerry Rice is hands down the best receiver ever, Ronnie Lott is one of my favorite defensive players. Roger Craig, Freddie Solomon, Fred Dean, Dwight Clark, Hacksaw Reynolds, Brent Jones, John Taylor, the list of guys who played for the 49ers on one of their five championship teams is a collection of some pretty remarkable players.

If it comes time for a team to accomplish something new, I want it to be My Team, by gum. Not some other collection of bums, whoever they are. If some team is in place to accomplishing something that’s never been done before, it’s going to be the 49ers… or I’m going to be pulling for the other team. Boo on the Patriots for going undefeated in a 16 game season. Boo on the Steelers and the Cowboys if they get back to the Superbowl before the 49ers do (I want My Team to be the first team to win 6 Superbowls, too). Boo on anybody getting 206 touchdowns, or 1550 receptions, or 22,896 yards in their career, or 15 seasons with 1,000 yards receiving, or 1,849 yards in a season, or 23 receiving touchdowns in a season, or 14 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown, or 9 touchdowns in the Superbowl in their career (those are all Jerry Rice, by the way, and he’s got more records than that)… unless they wear red and gold.

No self-respecting Dallas fan should have been rooting for the Patriots yesterday. Any person who claims to be a Cheesehead who was pulling for the Patriots should have their headgear privileges revoked. I won’t even get into any so-called Miami fan who would be so crass as to pull for some other team to go undefeated for a season.

If it’s going into the record book as something never accomplished, it’s My Team, or nobody. And if you don’t feel the same way, you ain’t no True Fan.

Posted February 4, 2008 by padraic2112 in humor