Linux at the Supreme Court

I believe Justice Breyer’s concurrence in the Grokster case is likely the first time Linux has been mentioned in a Supreme Court opinion. That’s some kind of milestone.

Grokster Loses

I’ll just join the chorus in linking to SCOTUSblog, which reports that Grokster and StreamCast have lost their case. I’m not sure how SCOTUSblog found out before the opinion was posted, but it should appear here in the next few hours. Apparently the opinion was unanimous.

Update: Souter opinion, Ginsburg concurrence (with Rehnquist and Kennedy), Breyer concurrence (with Stevens and O’Connor).

Open Source Summit

I’ll be attending an open source “summit” this Friday at Babson College in Wellesley (in my capacity as “lawyer”). The door gift is a video entitled “A Developer’s Introduction to Copyright and Open Source: Why a Lawyer is a Developer’s Friend.”

If anyone reading this will be there, keep an eye out for me—you can recognize me by my hackergotchi. I’d be happy to do keysignings, particularly with any Debian developers. Drop me a note if you’ll be there.

In the iRiver…

New in circulation on my iRiver iFP-799:

If you’re like me, you’ll like all these albums.

I’ve been quite happy with my iRiver MP3 player (which I’ve taken to calling “my iPod” which tends to confuse people). It’s tiny, holds 1G of music, and plays ogg files. I only yesterday discovered its great flaw: you can’t move files off of the device. According to the FAQ:

Why can’t I upload my MP3 / WMA files from my iFP player?

A. Due to copyright protection laws that apply towards our technology, media files (MP3 / WMA files) cannot be uploaded from an iFP player to a PC. All other non-media files (documents, images, etc.) can be uploaded to a PC from the iFP player.

This restriction is in the firmware, so there is no trivial workaround. Apparently one workaround is to rename your files so they don’t have a music extension before moving them off the device, but that didn’t work for me, and is also terribly inconvenient.

I suppose iRiver implemented this control to avoid liability for contributory infringement, but it just seems damn silly to me. My Neuros Audio Player had no such restriction, and my impression is most portable music players let you move music on and off as desired. There is also apparently an alternative firmware that turns the device into a simple USB storage drive (while still functioning as a music player) that eliminates the restriction.

My biggest fear is that, by implementing this sort of unnecessary and unhelpful copy protection technology, hardware makers who fail to implement such controls will be accused of contributory infringement because they didn’t meet “industry standards.” is a scam (?)

Update (6/21/05): someone actually tried to purchase a Powerbook from this outfit; here is his story which seems to confirm that it is a scam as expected.

My cousin Rachel· pointed me to·, which appears to offer “rock bottom” prices on Apple laptops and desktops. The thing is, it’s pretty hard to find much variation in Apple prices—I think Apple keeps a pretty tight lid on new Apples, and last time I looked there wasn’t more than a 5% variation in top and bottom prices for the same new machine.

Which leads me to suspect that “” is a scam. Interestingly, a google search on the domain comes up with nothing relevant at all. The whois record is funny (in the odd sort of way): a California mailing address, but a Ukrainian email address and phone number. Not to be xenophobic, but my recent experience is that anything coming from a former Soviet Republic and relating to Internet commerce is…. sketchy.

It’s also worth noting that the domain name was just registered this month, and appropriates much of the look of the official Apple website.

I thus must reluctantly conclude that is a scam, unless anyone can present evidence to the contrary. Hopefully, this blog entry can serve as a tip-off to future searchers.

In any case, could you ever really trust a company with this as their emblem?

I suspect it will now be less than a week before Apple files a UDRP complaint, or perhaps something more aggressive.

Update: the site seems to have changed its prices from dollars to euros, which makes them slightly more reasonable. Still not sure if it’s legit, though.

No Grokster Today

No opinion in the Grokster case today. Guess we’ll have to check back next week.

Geek Humour of the Day

You know you’re a geek when… a comparison of mail readers makes you laugh out loud.


Thinkpad X40 Discoveries

A couple of extremely useful recent discoveries on my IBM Thinkpad X40:

  • /proc/acpi/ibm, provided by the ibm-acpi package. You can control all sorts of Thinkpad-specific behaviors in here—including my favorite, which is the automatic display switching when you open and close the lid or dock/undock. You can turn off automatic display switching with:

     echo auto_disable > /proc/acpi/ibm/video 

    You can also turn the light keyboard light on and off with:

     echo on > /proc/acpi/ibm/light echo off > /proc/acpi/ibm/light 

    Etc. Go IBM!

  • Display corruption: this brings me to my biggest problem running GNU/Linux on the Thinkpad X40—display corruption. When you switch from internal LCD to external CRT, or sleep and resume, or close/open the lid (with the automatic switch behavior described above), the display moves down 15-20 pixels and the top lines are corrupted garbage. I’d post a screenshot, but of course the screen doesn’t realize it’s corrupted, so it would have to be a digital photo. In any case, I just discovered this experimental driver to replace i810_drv.o· which makes the problem go away entirely. Just drop it in over the i810_drv.o in /usr/X11R6/lib/modules/drivers/ (bad behavior for Debian—will be overwritten by an upgrade of course). Hopefully this driver will make its way into the mainline X drivers and eventually back into Debian. This makes using my Thinkpad at least 20% less annoying.

Now if only someone would write a driver for the internal SD card reader (apparently no one has gotten it to work·), I think I would have 100% usage of my laptop’s features.

Google Maps Glitches

Is it just me, or does the Free Software Foundation show up as a result in a Google Maps ‘local search’ for Lowe’s Home Improvement?

Here’s a screenshot in case people think I’m losing my mind.

At least it’s the last result—I suppose it is the least relevant of all the choices.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has noticed that Google has a predilection for the Free Software Foundation.

Normal Conversations

Having thrown another obscure reference that was nearly immediately understood in email correspondence with Steve, I pondered how it was possible to have normal conversations before google. As it turns out, the answer is inherently unknowable. (At least for another few days).