By now, you’ve probably all heard about Mydoom, the latest trivial exploit of Microsoft vulnerabilities that is ravaging the Microsoft world and inflecting some collateral damage on the rest of us. SCO, an apparent target of the virus, is offering a $250000 reward for the arrest of the author. I also heard through the grapevine that Mydoom will not send any email to an account with a domain that contains “mozilla.”

I hope this doesn’t provoke a negative backlash against free software. I imagine SCO is going to accuse us of “not being able to police our own,” as part of their campaign to discredit the entire development model.

Slate on Linux

Slate· is running this entertaining and mildly insightful analysis· of the recent television advertisments by IBM promoting Linux· (I’d normally say GNU/Linux, but the ads just say “Linux”). If you haven’t seen the ads, check them out. Then read the commentary.

Cannot Rename Self

As it turns out, googling for “cannot rename self” returns no results. This would almost qualify as a Googlewhack, although apparently you can’t have a legitimate googlewhack that requires quotation marks. In any case, Steve recently asked me to rename myself and I replied “cannot rename self,” so you see how this all got started.

(don’t I deserve at least one truly geeky blog entry every few weeks? — what, all of them are truly geeky?)

The GPL and the Constitution

Whenever I talk with intellectual property attorneys who aren’t familiar with the particulars of the SCO v. IBM case, I mention SCO’s claim that the GPL is unconstitutional:

SCO asserts that the GPL, under which Linux is distributed, violates the United States Constitution and the U.S. copyright and patent laws.

This is a marvelous tidbit to have, because it signals the absurdity of SCO’s case. If SCO seriously intends to make this claim in court, anyone who practices copyright law understands immediately how desperate their case must be.

Larry explains quite clearly why the GPL can’t be unconstitutional. It boils down to two points:

  • No state action. The constitution restricts the federal government, and the states (primarily through the Fourteenth Amendment), but says nothing about what private parties can do. Although some people think the world might be a better place if people had constitutional rights against private entities (e.g., free speech rights in the private workplace), this certainly isn’t how the constitution has been interpretted.
  • In rare cases, the Court has held judicial enforcement of private contracts to constitute state action for constitutional purposes; e.g., racially restrictive covenants on property were held to be unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1, a 1948 Supreme Court case. But this reasoning is quite rare outside of that particular context (another salient exception is the application of the First Amendment as a limitation on civil libel suits as in New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964)), and certainly has never been applied to the enforcement of copyright licensing agreements.

If you’re ever trying to explain why SCO has little chance of winning to someone with intellectual property expertise, mention that SCO has argued that the GPL is unconstitutional. It should clarify things immediately.

Zippy the Pinhead on Paris Hilton

(maybe someday people will come to my weblog based on something other than non-existent Paris Hilton materials!)

Seeking WiFi Guru

Are there any WiFi gurus reading this? I’ve been banging my head against a problem for a couple of weeks now to no avail.

The short story is that my SMC 2632W V3 can see my WLAN perfectly; my Xircom CWE-1100· (Cisco 340 chipset) is connecting to a neighboring WLAN which (from the essid) appears to be quite far away. I’ve tried numerous network scanners (including kismet, airtraf, wavemon) and the local WLAN just doesn’t show up on the Xircom card. I have two of the Xircom cards, and they both behave identically. My local wireless access point is a USR8054 (actually a router, but set to run in access point only mode). I’m using the airo_cs Linux driver for the Xircom card, which seems to communicate fine with the device.

I’ve posted a more detailed description of my problem on debian-laptop·, as well as a request for help to linux-elitists· and a newsgroup posting on comp.networks just for good measure. I also contacted tech support at Xircom (now Intel) and USR and have not received any helpful advice from them.

Please send tips or pointers to other resources! I’d like to get these cards working and have run out of ideas. See my debian-laptop posting· for a more complete run down of my problem.

Dangerous Bassinet

I recently received an email from a “free local reuse” list offering a free bassinet.

I had no idea what a bassinet was, or whether I wanted one, so I did a quick Google search, only to find that Fischer-Price has recalled its portable Bassinets:

Fisher-Price has received 24 reports of fingers getting caught or pinched in the bassinet frame, including 10 children with cut fingertips, one infection and one broken finger.

Apparently it’s a sort of baby seat. The recall notice was quite scary. Does “cut fingertips” mean a cut on the fingertip, or that it cut the fingertip entirely off?

So my first impulse was to think of ways to spread the word about these deadly bassinets. Even though I have nothing personally to do with them, if it’s going to cut off babies’ fingers, then we should all know.

But then I remembered how I had come across the notice in the first place: it’s the top result from google. Apparently enough other people also felt that this was the most important thing to know about bassinets and had linked similarly back to the recall notice.

I think this is an example of google doing it’s job well: emulating and amplifying “word of mouth” communication. If the CPSC posts recall notices on its site and no one linked there, I doubt anyone would have ever come across the notice. I mean, how often do you check to see if any of the thousands of household items you own have been recalled? But the weight of enough people coming across this has pushed it up to the top result.

I also noticed another bassinet recall, which seemed to apply to a slightly different product: “Although the drop leaf shelf is not intended as a support shelf for infants, when used in this manner, the drop leaf shelf support mechanism will fail to support the infant. The infant could fall causing head or other bodily injury.” In fact, a search for bassinet recall reveals an extraordinary number of problems! One of them says “infants can become entrapped in an opening between the bassinet’s side and mattress platform and suffocate.” Who would have guessed?

So my advice to prospective parents: stay away from bassinets entirely. I think a traditional crib is probably the safest way to go.

Paris Hilton Takes Over

My “Popular Search Strings” section has been entirely invaded by Paris Hilton. At the moment, I see “paris hilton video”—251 referers since Sunday. That is to say, 251 people searching on for “paris hilton video” came to my weblog. And were sorely disappointed.

I’ve noticed also that I do much better in MSN’s search engine for Paris Hilton-related searches than in google. Google, as it turns out, only returns results for my site when the person is actually looking for what I have to provide: e.g., my super popular fix for the CUPS client-error-forbidden error. MSN, on the other hand, is completely content to keep referring entirely irrelevant searches to my site, perhaps solely on the basis of the words “Paris Hilton” appearing here.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Planet Debian Questions

This blog is now syndicated on Planet Debian·, a site which aggregates the blogs of Debian developers and hangers-on (I’m somewhere in between, being at the very final stages of the Debian Developer application process). The site is modeled after Planet Gnome, a similar service for Gnome· developers’ blogs.

A lot of my blog entries are not specifically related to Debian although many relate to free software generally. I noticed Scott Dier started up a separate blog for Debian related entries·—I wonder if I should do the same.

For those of you who are reading this via Planet Debian, what do you think? Would you rather have Planet Debian be full of all sorts of ramblings by Debian Developers, or only those that are “on topic” for Debian? And how broadly would you define “on topic”?

The Triplets of Belleville

The Triplets of Belleville· was the most delightful film I’ve seen in a long time. I give it my “best animated feature” award 2003-2004.

It’s best not to know too much about the story, I think, going into it, so I won’t say anything here. (Why am I even bothering to write about it at all, then? So you’ll go see it!)

My favorite little detail was in the Triplets’ apartment: just for a second or so, a poster for Jacques Tati·’s Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot· appears. The film pays homage to Tati throughout, and most likely alludes to other French films and directors that were beyond my surface knowledge.

If you want a more detailed description of the film, check out Roger Ebert’s review·. I have to agree with his hesitant characterization of the film as “Marquis de Sade meets Lance Armstrong.”