John Edwards on Lessig

Presidential Candidate John Edwards· has been a guest blogger this week on Larry Lessig’s weblog·. I hadn’t given him much consideration before, but I was actually impressed by his understanding of some important intellectual property issues (particularly the problems with the pharmaceutical patent regime·. In his final entry·, he squarely addressed the importance of open source licensing:

When a government official stepped forward and opposed an international forum on open source, that was a mistake—just as it would be a mistake to oppose a discussion of proprietary licensing. As I said, the role of government is to establish a level playing field, not pick a winner.

It probably helps that he represents the home state of Red Hat·, but so far he’s the only candidate who seems to know anything about the Free Software movement.

Howard Dean was also a guest blogger back in July·, and Dennis Kucinich in August·. Both Dean· and Kucinich have “personal” blogs as well. Although it’s all a little gimmicky, much of the blog writing has a slightly more sophisticated flavour than what you see in the debates, campaign speeches, and TV ads. This can only be a good thing.

Maxfield’s House of Caffeine

In the tradition of people who like to say “I’m currently blogging from [x]” where x is some location other than [home]—

I’m currently blogging from Maxfield’s House of Caffeine·, on the corner of Dolores and 17th in the Mission. I highly recommend it. Features include:

  • Spacious interior, well spaced tables and comfy couches. Counter seating if you don’t want to look at anyone (or look out the window); also several outdoor tables on a relatively quiet street.
  • Well lit, tastefully decorated, lots of plants.
  • ATM in the shop, if you care about that.
  • Excellent wireless signal, no hassles joining the free LAN. Getting approximately 140kB/s at the moment.
  • Decent ecletic music targetted at people like me (note Miles Davis and the Flaming Lips in the same set).
  • Very respectable coffee prices in this Starbucks age. Regular coffee for $1.25, and an espresso is only $0.25 more. Single Cappuccino for $1.75; double for $2.00. How can you not get a double under these circumstances?
  • Pleasant, unharried staff. The whole place oozes chill.
  • They appear to, at least informally, allow pets.
  • Live music performances in the evenings, looks like primarily jazz and bluegrass variety.
  • With a name like Maxfield’s House of Caffeine, it’s got to be good. Lots of newspaper articles on the walls about the healthful effects of caffeine (possibly prevents tumors from sun exposure, delays menopause, improves complexion, etc.).

Diebold Update

Box Cutter Tests

Nathaniel Heatwole, a 20-year-old college student who told authorities he placed box cutters and other banned items aboard two airliners to test security was charged Monday with taking a dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft. He faces up to 10 years in prison on federal charges. (interesting trivia: apparently Heatwole has received an amateur radio scholarship).

What’s interesting is that the article notes:

The discoveries prompted the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security to order security inspections of all U.S. commercial airliners.

The discovery being Heatwole’s email to the TSA about his accomplishments.

There is a long history in the hacker world of testing security measures to see if they work, and if they don’t either notifying the people responsible or leaving some sort of indication that you’ve been there. This sort of activity has never been well received by the powers that be, and is now subject to increasingly harsh criminal sanctions.

It seems to me that the arguments for permitting this sort of “white hat” hacking (vs. cracking) are just as good when applied to real world physical security as to computer and Internet security. After all, Heatwole’s actions did provoke an investigation. If someone had just called the TSA and said, “hey, are you sure nobody can bring box cutters on board?” there would likely have been no response. Demonstrating a “proof of concept” as here may ultimately result in improved security for all of us.

Interestingly, federal prosecutors recently they made a mistake when they obtained the conviction of a computer administrator who exposed flaws in his employer’s computer system to customers. The prosecutors are actually seeking an appeal to reverse the conviction that they themselves got. Although you would hope they would have thought this through before prosecuting the guy, it’s something of a testament to their honesty that now they’re trying to get him out.

Friendster Guide

I’m guessing this will propagate through the meme pool· pretty rapidly, but check out The Buttafly Guide to Interpreting Friendster Photos· (and An Ode to Friendster·) if you have spent any time perusing the zeitgeist indicator known as Friendster·.