August 12, 2004

Has Rob Enderle Stepped In It? [5:20 pm]

The Rob Enderle keynote at the recent SCO Forum was a surprisingly strident attack on — are you ready — GrokLaw. The original GrokLaw discussion of the talk seemed like it would be the end of it, but Slashdot notes that it seems to be escalating: Are You Ready for the SCO Blitz?. Basically, GrokLaw is now predicting a round of astroturfing by SCO to shore themselves up.

Notwithstanding GrokLaw’s squeamishness about linking to Enderle’s speech, it seems to me that I need to provide the link, just to see how bad it really is. Having waded through his stuff when his business was slamming OS/2, it’s interesting to see just how much worse at this he is when he has to cope with something more subtle than “four legs good, two legs bad.” I’d like to read Joe Barr’s response (who also clashed with him over OS/2 in the past) over on NewsForge, but it’s not serving requests too well right now.

Later: See Misc. Writing - Logical Critique of Rob Enderle’s “Free Software and the Idiots Who Buy It” — (Part 1 of 2); (Part 2 of 2)

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Spimes? [4:54 pm]

Bruce Sterling’s SIGGRAPH 2004 keynote, “When Blobjects Rule the Earth” is generating some weird buzz out there. See this evocative post from Functioning Form: The Future of the Object (a www “spime” reference).

Sterling presented an object-centric formula for sustainability. He began by describing the different types of objects that trace human history: artifacts (transitioned us to agriculture), machines (automated our work), products (the result of mechanical processes), gizmos (today’s objects de jour defined by their complicated nature and an over-abundance of features), and spimes (networked and self-descriptive).

Gizmos have transformed us from consumers (of products) to end-users (highly advanced consumers). We no longer merely consume objects, and as a result, user experience has become a crucial part of the development cycle. But no amount of interface simplification can keep gizmos from being “pressed up hard against the limits of usability.” Their very nature is tied to complexity. When a gizmo is made too simple it returns to being a product and personally enriching interactions that are enabled by the gizmo’s many features may be lost. As a result, there are good reasons, both financial and social, for keeping gizmos delicately “poised between chaos and simplicity” (think cell phone/camera/PDA/music player devices and the breadth and depth of interactions they enable).

All objects are defined by the culture that nourished their development: products -the mechanical age, gizmos -the digital age. Spimes (our objects of the future) are no different as they represent the composite picture of our current networked information age. Spimes are objects that have “swallowed” our past by combining social networks, RFID tags, GPS systems, self Google-ing, peer-to-peer networking, auction sites, chat applications, digital storage, and more. Spimes can reveal most anything about themselves. They are precisely located in space and time, have a history and identity, and make their nature transparent to us. Spimes are “user groups first, and objects second”. But most importantly, spimes allow us to make good on sustainability through a traceable lifecycle. Because spimes have identities and complete histories, they create accountability: we know where they end up and we know the impact they have on our world. Today’s objects are thrown away. Spimes make “away” explicit: they reveal the impact our objects have on our bloodstreams, our children, and our planet. With that kind of knowledge we’ll have no choice but to act in the interests of sustainability and self-preservation.

While reading this, I found myself considering whether Sterling suggested that an excess of complexity also turns “gizmos” into mere “products” (and end-users into consumers) (e.g., Clark’s “advanced technology and magic” quote). There are some interesting distinctions between design complexity (which I presume is meant in the cite above) versus institutional complexity (like copyright law). To a certain extent, I would argue that the consequences are the same for both (e.g. the complexity of clearing copyright or, worse, avoiding “inducing” copyright infringement leads to things like needlessly complex DRM), with the difference that institutional complexity can be bolted on (or taken away) while design complexity is intrinsic to the product. And yet, these kinds of institutional complexities can also lead to hopelessly complex product designs.

Hmmmmm. Seems like I need to find out more about this.

[On a (possibly) relate note: SIGGRAPH seems to have adopted a host of collaborative and reporting tools. The SIGGRAPH Wiki; The SIGGRAPH Blog; ACM's SIGGRAPH Blog]

Later: BoingBoing has the full text: When Blobjects Rule the Earth

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And The Answer Is: “X-patents” [4:21 pm]

Alex, the question is: What are the "the first 10,000 U.S. patents [that were] destroyed in a July 1839 fire that gutted the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington?" — an interesting story from the Nashua Telegraph [via Buzzflood] City lawyers discover early patents at Dartmouth library

In the 168 years since the fire, only about 2,800 have been recovered. No one at the office can remember the last time some of the so-called “X-patents” were discovered, until this spring.

That’s when patent lawyers and history buffs Scott Asmus and Andrew Cernota unearthed clues about some long-lost patents of the New Hampshire inventor Samuel Morey. They followed the trail to Dartmouth College, where they discovered inventor copies of 14 early patents.

Plus, we get a little commentary on the current patent system:

Asmus said he has found references to about a half-dozen more X-patents in online catalogues of university and private libraries. He hopes to recover them to gain more recognition for those early inventors.

“If you look back, technology today is standing on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “We

should recognize the contributions of those people. They did fascinating things with primitive

instruments. Nowadays, we just take existing technology and revamp it.” [emphasis added]

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A Look At Online Trust [3:01 pm]

From Mary Hodder’s Napsterization: Transparency and Trust

Note not only how highly ranked Slashdot is, but also Wired and Salon.

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A Good Look At Re-regulation of Telecomms [2:47 pm]

With a case study examination of broadband supplier Covad’s move into VoIP as a survival strategy: Covad tries an end run

Born from the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Covad has made a strong run at selling broadband DSL access to consumers and small companies. But much of this consumer business is in jeopardy because parts of the Telecom Act are being dismantled.

[...] Eight years later, the pendulum is swinging favorably for the Bells, a group that includes SBC Communications, Verizon Communications and BellSouth. Many of the rules spelled out by the Telecom Act are in preliminary stages of elimination. Most pressing for Covad is the threat to pull back “line sharing” and to remove regulated lease rates for third parties. If line sharing disappears, Covad would have to hike prices for new DSL customers.

“Covad, like any company focused on copper, has no long-term future in North America,” said Albert Lin, an analyst at American Technology Research. “If you’re not a (Baby Bell), I can’t see how you could construct any business model that works.”

[...] Covad is no longer willing to bet its future on the outcome of regulatory deal-making that is out of its control. The past 18 months have forced Covad to take a more aggressive look at crafting a future apart from the Bells–and this future begins with VoIP.

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Some TiVo Thinking [2:24 pm]

[Via Slashdot's TiVo, MS, and the War for the Living Room]: Ten things that Microsoft and TiVo must each do to win the living room

[T]he top 10 things TiVo must do to win the living room:

  1. Produce a standalone HDTV unit. The development and expected delivery of this unit should be announced immediately.

  2. Provide Ethernet connectivity to their HDTV unit and include the ability to share recorded files with a Windows-based PC. The fact that the Ethernet ports are disabled on the Hughes HR10-250 is simply ridiculous.
  3. Provide a DVD burner with all units. Copying should be as simple as selecting a program and pressing “Burn to disc” on a menu.
  4. [...]

  5. Offer a software package for sale that will run on any Windows-based PC. TiVo should leverage their name brand recognition and become a powerful software player.

  6. Create WiFi-enabled devices to access TiVo media from any television in the house. [...]

See also: Wired News: Group Warns DVRs Endangered

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Set ‘Em Up, Knock ‘Em Down [10:29 am]

I can’t get through to the original source, so here’s Cory Doctorow’s post instead: Boing Boing: Airport Express crypto broken by DVD Jon

Jon “DVD Jon” Johansen has cracked the Apple Lossless encryption used by the Airport Express to communicate with iTunes, so that programmers can write tools that use any application and any operating system to send audio to an Airport Express.

I’ve released JustePort, a tool which lets you stream MPEG4 Apple Lossless files to your AirPort Express.

The stream is encrypted with AES and the AES key is encrypted with RSA.

AirPort Express RSA Public Key, Modulus: 59dE8qLieItsH1WgjrcFRKj6eUWqi+bGLOX1HL3U3GhC/j0Qg90u3sG/1CUtwC

5vOYvfDmFI6oSFXi5ELabWJmT2dKHzBJKa3k9ok+8t9ucRqMd6DZHJ2YCCLlDR

KSKv6kDqnw4UwPdpOMXziC/AMj3Z/lUVX1G7WSHCAWKf1zNS1eLvqr+boEjXuB

OitnZ/bDzPHrTOZz0Dew0uowxf/+sG+NCK3eQJVxqcaJ/vEHKIVd2M+5qL71yJ

Q+87X6oV3eaYvt3zWZYD6z5vYTcrtij2VZ9Zmni/UAaHqn9JdsBWLUEpVviYnh

imNVvYFZeCXg/IdTQ+x4IRdiXNv5hEew==

Exponent: AQAB

See also Slashdot: Johansen Cracks Airport Express Encryption

Later: CNet News’ Hacker takes bite out of Apple’s iTunes; and Wired News’ DVD Jon Strikes Again

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Political Expression [9:54 am]

A colleague (thanks, Sharon!) points out this technology enabled mechanism for free expression during the RNC in New York: Bikes Against Bush: An Internet-Enabled Protest

Bikes Against Bush is a one-of-a-kind, interactive protest/performance occurring simultaneously online and on the streets of NYC during the upcoming Republican National Convention. Using a Wireless Internet-enabled bicycle outfitted with a custom-designed printing device, the Bikes Against Bush bicycle can print spray-chalk text messages sent from web users directly onto the streets of Manhattan.

[...] How will I know if my message is printed??

Each message printed by the Bikes Against Bush bicycle will be uploaded to the front page of the website with a webcam snapshot and a GPS generated map image marking its location.

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Rick Boucher Guest-Blogging [8:53 am]

Larry Lessig has turned his weblog over to Rick Boucher this week [via CopyFight]. The current posts include:

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All the Eggs in One Basket [8:23 am]

Roxio sells software core, adopts Napster shell

Apparently tricked by its own hype, Roxio has decided to sell off its consumer software business and focus instead on the dubious online music market. The company will go so far as to give up the Roxio name, taking on the Napster name of its music division.

Sonic Solutions has agreed to pay $80m for Roxio’s CD and DVD recording, authoring, photo and video editing applications.

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Once Good, Now Fading TV [7:57 am]

After this past season, thank goodness for NetFlix! But it’s still sad to see this interesting a show fizzle out. ‘West Wing’: Is It Facing a Struggle to Survive?

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Michael Geist’s P2P Enforcement Metaphor [7:53 am]

Big Music’s Canada p2p cure

Imagine an Ontario government initiative that responded to rising concern over speeding on provincial highways by installing hundreds of automated radar guns to identify cars that failed to obey the speed limit. Rather than sending a speeding ticket to those caught by the system, however, the government instead sent a bailiff to confiscate the car keys so that the alleged speeding car could no longer be used.

Such a system would obviously be criticized for being unfair and unworkable. Opponents would note that for every serial speeder taken off the road, there would be many more people wrongly identified. Moreover, the system would unfairly capture innocent parties, such as a parent who loses the ability to use their car to go to work due to a momentary mistake by a teenage child.

While such as scenario may seem far-fetched, it is the offline equivalent of the Canadian Recording Industry Association’s latest proposal in its battle against music file sharing on the information highway.

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