2003 March 31

(entry last updated: 2003-03-31 13:48:13)

Here in Boston we realize that winter isn’t really over until we get a snowstorn during the baseball season. I’m not sure that last night’s snowfall counts, since the Red Sox season doesn’t start until today, but it sure would be nice to see the end of this winter!

Update: So what do I get for hoping? More snow!

  • Now how is DRM going to prevent piracy, exactly? Note that Radiohead’s latest album, Hail to the Thief, which was slated for a June release, is available now, in high quality, online. [via Aimee Deep’s Music Pundit]

    Update: Billboard’s got an article on the subject that just deepens the mystery:

    More than two months before its planned June 10 North American release by Capitol, Radiohead’s upcoming album, “Hail to the Thief ,” began appearing online in its entirety over the weekend. Radiohead’s past two albums, “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” were also were available online several weeks before street date, despite the fact that no advance copies were circulated and journalists were required to listen to them at the office of the band’s publicist. [emphasis added]

  • Offtopic: Margaret Atwood’s letter to America needs reading – note that this is NOT a commentary on the Iraqi war. Rather, it is a call to remember the notions upon which the republic is founded. (Maybe it’s not that far offtopic, either!) [via BoingBoing]

    If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They’ll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They’ll think you’ve abandoned the rule of law. They’ll think you’ve fouled your own nest.

    The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn’t dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; in the country’s hour of greatest peril, he would return. You, too, have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.

  • According to Slashdot, the much-bandied about Mystro service (AOL’s TiVo) is getting closer to fruition, and is expected to go online this year (Reuters via The New York Times). An earlier NYTimes article on the service; and the accompanying Slashdot discussion

    Recall from our earlier discussion that this offers up the interesting possibility of allowing AOL to narrowcast advertising, inserting particular ads based on other information collected about each Mystro user, who will be, by definition, an AOL-Time Warner cable subscriber.

  • LawMeme reports that there will be a hearing on the Massachusetts version of the so-called Super-DMCAs

  • John Palfrey ask a more fundamental question: why are ISPs defined differently in each piece of legislation in this area? How can that be a good thing?

  • The New York Times discusses artists and the Internet: A Wary But Interested Eye on the Web. the closing paragraph says it all, though:

    But there is another possible explanation for why artists from other mediums struggle so mightily with the Internet: it is just too new. “I don’t think artists quite get the Web yet,” Mr. Ligon said. “Maybe it’s too new to be thought through.”

  • The Times discusses Madonna’s upcoming record and the problems facing a diva at the close of her second decade. Another rationale for the Madonna Project?

    Her somewhat older audience poses a problem because the biggest consumers of CD’s are between the ages of 11 to 25, and they are more apt to buy records by artists like Ms. Lavigne, Ms. Aguilera and Pink, who have far surpassed Madonna in record sales. An album by Ms. Lavigne, “Let Go,” released last June by BMG’s Arista Records, has sold 5.1 million copies so far, according to SoundScan. Ms. Aguilera’s album “Stripped,” released last October by BMG’s RCA Records, has already sold 2.2 million copies, according to SoundScan.

    “People will pay attention to Madonna’s new album when it comes out,” Judy McGrath, president of MTV Networks Music Group, said. “They will be interested and curious. But I’m not sure that 17-year-olds will go out and buy her CD. And that’s the audience she really needs to capture.”

  • In conjunction with the Boston Globe’s piece (below), we have the NYTimes discussing the Clear Channel war protest song controversy in detail.

  • A provocative thought piece at Salon: Are we doomed yet?. I have tried to put out some of the most notable bits, but you really should read the whole thing:

    In crude terms, governments are deciding what to do about networks. Since the rise and fall of Napster, everyone seems to have a theory about what to do about piracy on the Internet, but piracy is the smallest of the threats waiting for us in the digital age. The real danger is the spread of dangerous technologies.

    …But we should not be surprised. The DMCA and this ruling are only the leading edge of the fight against self-replicating threats. The fact that the legal system has used such strong information-control measures to stop the relatively innocuous threat of DVD piracy indicates that similar measures will be used against the nanotech and biotech threats described by Bill Joy. “Knowledge-enabled” is the key phrase Joy uses to describe the threats; it means that to fight them governments might have to get into the business of controlling the flow of knowledge, as Kaplan did by enjoining 2600 from linking to DeCSS sites.

    The legal line between speech and action will blur dramatically during this century. The new technologies, from nanotechnology to the online economy, will be created and implemented with computer language, which by nature is both “expressive” and “functional.” How the courts untangle these two aspects of “code” will define 21st century attitudes toward new ideas and their regulation. Even Kaplan acknowledges that, legally, code must be treated as speech: “It cannot seriously be argued that any form of computer code may be regulated without reference to First Amendment doctrine. The path from idea to human language to source code to object code is a continuum.” What he painstakingly argues, however, is that in contrast to the “expressive” component, protected by the First Amendment, the “functional” component of computer code can be regulated by government. “Computer code is not purely expressive any more than the assassination of a political figure is purely a political statement,” he writes.

    …A grim future indeed, but I am cautiously optimistic for a couple of reasons. First of all, most people in the world, despite their differences, want stable, healthy lives. As we have seen with the Internet, .1 percent of the population may always try to throw a wrench into the machine, but the rest of us will scramble to fix the problem, punish the pranksters, and defend against wrench-throwing in the future. Second, I think that even among the pranksters only a very few will cross over from fun-and-games with computers to deadly real-world viruses. At the worst, we face a few crazies and, more seriously, a handful of “rogue” nations and terrorist groups.

    …Though we might be foolish to put too much faith in the romantic notion of the “citizens’ militia,” we should be very suspicious of laws that limit the creation or dissemination of knowledge. They threaten to create a privileged class of information shepherds who, though well-meaning at first, could easily abuse their dramatic power advantage over information consumers. We should not give up our freedom to know and to communicate unless we are certain that the new order would be vastly more secure than the present one — and, as I argue above, the likelihood is that it would not.

  • Declan’s back on his soapbox, using a writeup on this week’s Computing, Freedom & Privacy conference to remind us that the real purpose of technology is to develop instruments that make current legal directions impossible to implement – encrypted e-mail, etc. This is not a new tack for Declan, but I remain terribly concerned about this idea that the role of engineers is to subvert the political process. (See the Slashdot discussion of his earlier article) I am perfectly happy to agree that a little subversive tech is a good thing, but there’s always the danger that it can get painted as seditious – at which point legislatures overreact (c.f. the effects of equating file sharing with theft and the current political climate).

  • Today’s Globe continues the discussion of Internet distribution of protest songs (see this Furdlog), contrasting it with the widespread airplay songs supporting the war are getting. The paper also has a nice sidebar on how to access some of the songs.

  • BBSpot reports on that Microsoft has made their own special contribution to the war effort – donating software to the Iraqi regime:

    Microsoft’s VP of Marketing Marie Bixby explained, “All the instability, and bugs that came with the original version are still there, but as part of the psychological operations of the war, we modified the infamous Blue Screen of Death to the more patriotic red, white and blue. General Protection Fault will be marching all over the Iraqi regime, and he’ll be waving Old Glory.”

    “We have been very careful not to destroy any critical infrastructure in Iraq,” said Brigadier General Victor Hanlon. “But that is about to change. Windows 95 will destroy the information technology infrastructure of Iraq almost immediately. Microsoft even modified their license agreement to allow Iraqis to copy the software onto multiple computers without further licensing requirements.”

    …The Iraqi government was suspicious of the deal, but accepted the donation when Microsoft showed them the powerful land mine removal simulator, Minesweeper.

    …Microsoft did not receive payment from the US government as part of the operation, but does hope to profit by offering upgrades to Windows XP after the war has ended.

  • Since I’m starting off with silly stuff, here’s a Houston Chronicle article on a brouhaha underway in Texas about who can call themselves an engineer – apparently, the state legislation holds a higher standard than many other places. The Slashdot discussion is not bad, but I would think that a careful distinction between &quot’engineer" and "professional engineer" is all that’s really necessary here.