I Feel Great

Via Steve: you’ve got to see this advertisement—I feel great. I don’t quite know where it came from or whether it was actually created for real use. If you like that one, check out the Pinata Ad as well.

I expect these links will be making quick rounds of the blogosphere. A Google search on turnpikefilms turns up very little at the moment (only 117 results, most of which are “meta” type content). Let’s check back again in a week.

A Good Law School Class

I’m just finishing studying for my penultimate law school exam ever (my last one is on Thursday), and I realized what makes a law school class great.

A great law school class doesn’t try to cram all of the doctrine from a particular area of the law down your throat. There’s no way you’re going to remember all the rules and details anyway. For many attorneys, much of their real work is legal research. As long as you know the general contours of the rules and where to look, you should be fine.

Instead, a great law school class has a small set of themes, and it attempts to show how those themes run throughout the cases you study. Those themes should be in tension with each other, and there should be instances where a given theme is, itself, self-contradictory. The class should show you how those themes developed historically, and the general “momentum” of the law at present, so you might be able to predict how a court will decide an as-yet undecided issue.

The course should push you to explore those tensions, because that’s exactly where there is an opportunity for creative lawyering.

Karl Klare·, who teaches advanced labor law, presents precisely that kind of course. I wish all law school classes could have been this good.

You might get a little bit of a sense of the course from my class notes, which I put online along with notes from almost every other law school class I’ve taken.

Grey Tuesday

Today is Grey Tuesday·, a protest against the negative impacts of copyright law on artists. Unfortunately, I’m in my last set of final exams and haven’t even had time to make my site grey or post the MP3s. Steve·, however, has a nice little piece and links explaining the whole business·. See also Larry Lessig’s· The Black and White about Grey Tuesday·.

At Last, ajkessel@debian.org!

After eight months, I finally completed the Debian New Maintainer process a few minutes ago. I am now ajkessel@debian.org, at least for Debian purposes. I once asked an employer who took 6 months to hire me whether they did hiring by attrition. I think Debian might have a similar process, but it’s probably the only way to weed out people who won’t be sufficiently committed to the project.

Kernel Source Here

Brian McGroarty· (who has a very sparse web page) writes on Linux-Elitists·: Microsoft goes after Linux kernel downloaders?·.

In the wake of the recent accidental leak of the Microsoft Windows Source Code to the Internet·, McGroarty started a BitTorrent· torrent entitled “Kernel source here,” serving up the Linux Kernel·. McGroarty writes:

Imagine my surprise when my DSL stops working this morning, I call my provider, and I learn that I’ve been accused of copyright infringement.
Now, admittedly I was just asking for it by hinting at something that might offend the big giant. Still, it took them three or four days to issue this letter. In the meantime, shouldn’t they have been able to find someone capable of cracking open a .tar.bz2? Did nobody raise the question of how a leaked CD fits into a 32m file?

Microsoft must be using batch “take down” tactics, similar to the recording industry. You’d think they’d be clever enough to devise a script that could differentiate actual copies of its leaked source code from things that are totally unrelated. Crying wolf could have predictable consequences.

If people really want to make things hard for Microsoft, they would post articles and files all over the Internet entitled “kernel source here.”

The Gray Album

DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album· is great. Get it while its available, and spread the word.

Also check out the New Yorker· story on the making of the album: The Mouse That Remixed. Also, from EMI stomps Grey Album·:

So why did EMI yesterday demand that the handful of stores that were selling the album destroy it, and send Cease and Desist letters to Danger Mouse?

EMI rigidly controls all Beatles sound recordings for Capitol Records. Sony Music/ATV Publishing controls the publishing side. And both are, of course, founding members of Big Music whose avowed purpose in life is to make sure all music ‘products’ are the sole property of its members.

It’s good to see such a salient conflict between copyright and creativity. The more frequently this occurs, the harder it is to ignore the fact that copyright law so frequently works against its original purpose.

Microsoft Marriott

The Marriott Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California provides a host of services through the television in the rooms. These include “movies on demand” at $14 a pop and Sony Playstation 2 for $8 per hour. I can’t imagine anyone paying that much for Playstation unless: (1) someone else is paying their costs (business travellers); (2) their kids are driving them crazy; or (3) money is no object. It’s incredibly frustrating to be charged an amount totally unrelated to the marginal cost of providing a service, but maybe Marriott enjoys a price-insensitive clientele.

My favorite part was when I tried to use the wireless keyboard to access the menu of services. I got the following message:

A required DLL was not found: FILTERS.DLL was not found.

The wireless keyboard provided no way to cancel the error message. In fact, there was no way to make any selections on the menu in the background. All you could do was look at this clever Microsoft error message.

You would think that a simple “black box” type program like a menu of services served over a television would be pretty rock solid. But not when the television server is running Windows NT!

Useful Information Update

Whenever I discover a solution to a computer-related problem that isn’t easily found on google, I post it on my useful linux page, in the hopes of saving other people time with the same problem. I’m always trying to figure out the best way to present the problem and solution so that people will find what they’re looking for. Right now, I’ve just got a laundry list of problems and solutions on that page, which seems to work pretty well based on my traffic analysis (particularly for people searching for the cups client-error-forbidden message, which has brought thousands of visitors to my site).

In any case, here’s my most recent batch of useful stuff:

  • I’ve written a few times about my wireless woes. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my Xircom CWE-1120 card couldn’t connect to my Access Point. As it turns out, the card was set to the French Channel Set, which is different from the North American Channel Set, except on Channels 10 and 11. So I set my Access Point to Channel 10, and now I can finally access my network. There is, allegedly, a DOS command line tool that allows you to reprogram the EEPROM on Cisco cards to switch the channel set to North American, but I was unable to locate it. In fact, Intel (who purchased Xircom, which produced the card) was very wary of the whole topic. I suspect it might be illegal to have/use this tool, since it might permit you to set your card to a mode that violates FCC regulations. Intel was actually pretty spooked that I even had the cards (which I purchased legitimately in the United States, thinking they were North American cards). Thanks to Dan Lanciani on the airo-linux-gen80211 list for finally pointing this out to me.
  • I’ve been trying to set up GNU/Linux (remotely) on my brother’s Toshiba p25-s477 (one of a seemingly endless number of obscurely named Toshiba laptops). Almost everything worked fine, except the sound was almost inaudible, and substantially distorted with external amplified speakers. It turns out I needed to go into the alsamixer (ncurses GUI) program and set “External Amp Power Down” to “Mute.” This is far from intuitive: first, that “external amp power down” would be “on” by default, and second, that you need to “mute” this setting to have “power down” turned “off.” But that’s how it works. (solution posted by someone in the aesthetically weird tlinux-users mailing list.)
  • I’ve been looking for functional Debian Java packages that work with latest Mozilla in sid. I tried downloading several Java binaries from sun and elsewhere and either it didn’t register in Mozilla or crashed immediately. I finally discovered José Fonseca’s excellent Java packages that actually work. Add the following to your /etc/apt/sources.list to get these packages:

    deb http://jrfonseca.dyndns.org/debian ./

    As a side note, does anyone have any idea why so many webmail interfaces are hooked on unnecessary Java? I provide SquirrelMail as the webmail interface for bostoncoop.net, and it seems to do quite well without Java, Flash, streaming video, or any other silliness. Do makers of webmail software just get a kick out of making their software not work with standard browser installations?

Bush in 41.2 Seconds

I feel some obligation to perpetuate the Bush in 41.2 Seconds meme. Maybe I’m a little late. (Thanks to UG for the link).

Internet Pestilence

I’ve written about my tribulations with “Paris Hilton” related referrer spam before. Since my weblog tracks “inbound links” on the right side, spammers create spurious inbound links into my site so that their site will be linked from mine and thus have greater visibility and a higher Google PageRank. My solution has been to ban anything with the words “paris,” “hilton,” and a host of other porn-related terms from the list.

Starting today, I’m starting to get a new breed of referrer spam: Janet Jackson superbowl video referrers. Maybe it’s a bad idea to track inbound links at all. Or maybe the solution is to have my referrer tracker actually look at the supposed inbound link and make sure that it does, in fact, link to my site. In any case, I’ve now added a bunch of Janet Jackson related terms to my banned list.

How will this arms race end?

While I’m talking about scourges of the Internet, what’s the deal with autoreply virus/worm detectors? A huge number of corporate and educational mailservers scan incoming email for worms and viruses, and if they detect a worm or virus send a message to the sender telling them the message was subscribed and that they are infected. Usually, the autoreply also includes a plug for the email scanner software itself.

So how is it that the developers of this software are smart enough to include the distinctive signatures of all these email worms, but not smart enough to realize that those same worms always forge the “from:” part of the header. That means if the apparent sender actually is infected, it’s at best a total coincidence. There is no connection, with most worms, between the “sender” of an email and the person who is actually infected with the worm. (other than some third person who is infected might have the apparent sender in their address book). Presumably these software developers are smart people and spend some time trying to understand email worms and viruses, and send out frequent updates of the distinctive signatures of worms and viruses.

Does anyone have a rational explanation? Even better, can someone educate these software developers and the people who purchase their software to end this scourge of false “virus detected” emails?