That’s Not a Fan!

I’ve been doing some overdue hardware upgrades on my little server/community ISP. 500GB drives have dropped to the $200 range, and while they’re not necessarily the cheapest per gigabyte storage, it’s a so much more efficient use of space and electricity that it seems a waste to buy a smaller capacity drive. So I bought two internal 500GB drives and one external 500GB so I can have a backup some place other than the backup server in my basement, in case the house burns down or someone decides to break in and steal all the computers (note to thieves: please don’t do this).

Since I’ve been burning through hard drives (literally!) at a rate of about one every six months, I decided to do something about the temperature in the case. The CPU has been hovering dangerously around 60 degrees celcius for a long while, and the drives well into the 50’s — except the one drive with its own personal fan, which is happy to hang out in the 30’s. (I’ve got three more hard drive fans en route).

In any event, I’ve never bought a CPU fan before, so I just picked out a random one that seemed better than what I had. Little did I know what I was getting. When I took the new fan and heatsink out of the box, I was reminded of Crocodile Dundee: That’s not a CPU fan, mate. This is a CPU fan.

Pictured below is the TITAN TTC-NK15TB/SC(RB) I bought for the low price of $31. Although this image doesn’t show the Japanese anime decoration on the top, it captures the size. The old fan/heatsink combination was about 20% the size of this one, and not nearly as shiny.

I realize for all you case-modder/overclocker/slashdot/gamer types, this is probably a puny cooling apparatus, but for me it was pretty exciting. Now my hands are apparently permanently covered with blue thermal grease, and my CPU is running at a cool 40 degrees.

Oh, well, here is the top view:

Of course, no one ever sees that, except the person installing it.

Zune v. iTunes

David Robinson, guest-blogging on Ed Felten’s Freedom to Tinker blog, makes an interesting observation about Microsoft’s offer to relicense and retrieve mp3s already purchased on iTunes for free. The market actually works:

Will copyright holders be getting the same amount from Microsoft, when their songs are re-purchased on behalf of migrating iTunes users, as they will get when a user makes a normal purchase of the same track in the Zune system? The copyright holders have a substantial incentive to offer Microsoft a discount on this kind of “buy out” mass purchasing. As Ed pointed out to me, it is unlikely that users would otherwise choose to re-purchase all of their music, at full price, out of their own pockets simply in order to be able to move from iTunes to Zune. By discounting their tracks to enable migration to a new service, the copyright holders would be helping create a second viable mass platform for online music sales — a move that would, in the long run, probably increase their sales.


Bottom line: Markets are often surprisingly good at sorting out this kind of thing. Technology policy watchers underestimate the power of competition at our peril. It’s easy to see Microsoft or Apple as established firms coasting on their vertically integrated dominance, but the Zune buyout is a powerful reminder that that’s not what it feels like to be in this or most any other business. These firms, even the biggest, best and most dominant, are constantly working hard to outdo one another. Consumers often do very well as a result — even in a world of DRM.

What’s neat about this move is that it shows that there are more degrees of flexibility that most of us had thought. Critics viewed iTunes/iTunes Music Store as a monolithic lock-in system, but here a clever market participant figured out a combination of contractual and technological measures to work around it and create competition.

Homophobic Airplanes in Boston

Airplanes pulling anti-gay marriage banners have been circling my building much of today, apparently in an attempt to sway public (or legislative) opinion during today’s constitutional convention (liveblog here).

The banners don’t cast the organizers as the brightest bulbs. Two of the banners are opaque references to the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Margaret Marshall — the messages were “Marshall’s Courts Are A Disaster” and “Marshall Incompetent Says Judge Sosman.” Unless you are already a rabid member of the anti-Goodridge crowd, these aren’t going to mean a whole lot to you. The other one is printed too small to read, although after twelve or thirteen time circling past my window, I could make out that it said something like “let the people vote on marriage,” which at least is a little clearer on the message (if not the font). All three had a URL that was too small to read, at least from my vantage point.

I finally pieced together that the banners were referring to (I hesitate to link to the site and boost its PageRank, but ultimately I think the contents are so poorly written and reasoned that it probably advances the cause of gay marriage more than anything). The articles on that site really make these guys look like loonies. A great example is this article. Although apparently written by an attorney, the article demonstrates near total ignorance of how legal reasoning and constitutional principles.


When Justice Sosman discussed who else could be applying for marriage after May if the decision is allowed to stand, she had to include the “buzz” words that Marshall and other judges and lawyers use to intimidate everyone else — even including most lawyers who know nothing about this arcane language.

The “arcane” language the article refers to are the standard terms of art in equal protection law: suspect classification, scrict scrutiny, rational basis, etc.. (See this wikipedia article). Any first year law student should be quite familiar with this sort of discourse. (See my class notes from my first year constitutional law course and search for strict scrutiny or suspect classification). “Most lawyers” know nothing about this “arcane” language?

Similarly — the following apparently forms the basis of the writer’s claim that Justice Marshall does not have the intelligence necessary to be the Chief Justice of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court:

Justice Marshall was incapable of answering Justice Sosman. She felt it necessary to insert an unusual footnote to say she was unable to understand or to answer Sosman’s erudite critique. “In any event, we fail to understand why the separate opinion [of Justice Sosman] chastises us for adopting the constitutional test (rational basis) …”

“Failing to understand” in a court opinion (or brief) does not mean “we’re just not smart enough to get it.” It is a standard idiom used to criticize another position as lacking support. It is far from unusual to make that sort of statement in a footnote. It is generally a sign that the point being criticized is so weak that it does not merit full treatment in the main text of the decision.

In any event, I’m happy to see the anti-gay marriage movement leadership so totally marginalized. In a few years, I expect we will wonder what all the fuss was about.