America

Fight the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 

I wrote my representatives:

The “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” introduced by Senators Leahy and Hatch to shut down internet sites accused of violating copyright is fundamentally unacceptable and must be blocked. It is predicated on three failed precepts.

First:
The law would provide for expedited prior restraint of free speech based on a claim of infringement. This extends the already over-broad powers granted by the DMCA, which has been used to silence political opposition (e.g. John McCain’s DMCA takedown of a critical video on YouTube) and shut down legitimate criticism of corporate and financial interests. This bill will further erode free speech in America and thus further delegitimize democracy itself.

Second:
The bill provides for in rem actions against a web site. In rem actions have become one of the most popular mechanisms which police forces have used to enrich themselves by taking legal action against private property (e.g. USA v. $124,700 (2006)). This has lead to massive corruption and even the murder of innocent people (e.g. Donald P. Scott 1992). In rem cases should be limited to acceptable legal situations where the owner cannot be identified, not as a method of prior restraint or as an extrajudicial shortcut that effectively extorts compliance from the target by creating an excessive cost barrier to seeking real justice.

Third:
The bill promotes the fiction that copyright law is a property law. It is not. Limited monopolies on the fruits of inventions are offered to inventors to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. These monopolies are in the form of copyrights and patents. There is no constitutional basis for creating laws to protect the privilege of copyright beyond what can be proven to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. It is an offense to democracy to privilege profits over basic civil rights. American society would not suffer meaningfully without the copyright industry, but American democracy is meaningless without free speech. Unfortunately, the copyright industry leverages profits into campaign contributions and lobbyists while free speech is, by its nature, free and thus profitless. Free speech can only be defended from profiteers by patriots.

This bill must be blocked. Please stand up for democracy.

Posted at 22:20:30 UTC

Category: politics

Working Toward Workable Time Zones

Sunday, August 22, 2010 

PIMs (Personal Information Managers, what we used to call things like Outlook, or Sunbird, or Lightning, or Zimbra before they were integrated with email) haven’t progressed much in the last 20 or so years.  Actually, neither have email clients.   Perhaps the most essential of our daily tools, these classes of products have failed to progress much at all over the decades.

Sure, email has styled text now and you can compose a message in Outlook using Word, but these wizzy tricks distract from the function of email–communicating the written word.  There’s rarely any reason to style text in email and HTML mail has only been a boon for spammers and a distraction for users.  One of the few useful enhancements is inline images which I do find useful.

The best email clients ever, Eudora and  Mulberry (the BAT might qualify too, though I haven’t used it) have failed to keep up in OS level support. Thunderbird is OK, and pimped out with extensions to enable proper formatting, forwarding, text wrapping, etc. it is usable, though it still doesn’t handle frequent IMAP disconnections all that gracefully (it pains me to admit it, but only Outlook does this really well).

PIM functionality has actually gone backwards as the years have gone by. Calendar programs have always handled reminders and notifications and scheduled events fairly well.  DateBook was great in 1990 and there’s very little useful that has been added since .  In the mid-90’s Motorola shipped a great little PIM along with their TimePort phones called TrueSync Desktop.  You could create an event in a time zone other than the one you were in.  Wow.  Amazing.  The developers actually considered the possibility that you, the user, might have some business in a time zone other than the one you’re in.  At the time, some people pointed to Outlook’s then “dual time zone” functionality as the be-all end-all.  True, two time zones are better than one, but hardly a solution suitable for the whole of the US, let alone the world and the pixel heavy dual time zone stripe precluded anything more comprehensive.   At the time, the official M$ work-around was to change your computer’s time zone to the time zone you wanted to create the event in, create the event, then change the time zone back.  Brilliant.

Lightning (for Thunderbird) and Sunbird (stand alone) Calendar programs have finally incorporated some timezone functionality, you can at least set the starting and ending time zone of an event independently and differently from the time zone you’re in:

moz-screenshot-64.png

It is a start, but the time zone picker is still pretty much unusable:

moz-screenshot-65.png

This is a huge enhancement though, one I’ve been pushing for a long time:

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=224905

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364750

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364751

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364751

The right answer is a simple pop-up menu with my favorite time zones in it.  I can use the semi-infinite list of seemingly random city names as a geography quiz along with Wikipedia to figure out what my favorite time zones are as long as I don’t have to spend 10 minutes scrolling through them every time I’m trying to find America/New York for ET or America/Los Angeles for PT (or America/Dawson Creek for MST, no DST).

Oddly, Lightning actually has a half-decent map view that shows you the time zone you’ve selected, but you can’t click on it to pick the time zone you want (!?):

moz-screenshot-66.png

I really like worldtimezone‘s view as a graphical picker:

moz-screenshot-67.png

Something like this, plus a search tool into a database of time zones for cities would be just perfect for creating my list of favorite time zones.  Even the most worldly traveler is unlikely to need more than a dozen time zones in their favorites list and thus a popup would make selecting the start and end time zones very straight-forward.  Way back at the start of 2007 I proposed something like:

moz-screenshot-68.png

Which is pretty much a copy of  Starfish’s TrueSync Desktop (though TSD didn’t support different starting and ending time zones).  Someday… maybe someday I’ll have a calendar program as advanced as they were in 1993.

Posted at 15:58:40 UTC

Category: Linuxtechnology

Obama!

Friday, November 7, 2008 

Carolyn and I were in Canada for the election. We saw it from the safety of a Russian themed bar called Pravda in Toronto, one of our favorites (the Chicken Kiev is amazing and Andrea the bartender is the best).

We watched on a projection screen as the results came in and the initial McCain victories were soon overwhelmed by a tide of… well… for once not being a land of morons.

We left once the electoral victory was inevitable and heard the results on the radio between Toronto and Guelph. We were happy but not surprised. We listened to people describing how happy they were, Canadian commentators speaking about how “The States” was now not a joke and might perhaps once again participate in the world’s stage as something other than belligerent idiots. It was good.

Now I have to admit a bit of wistfulness at the results. Not that I didn’t want Obama to win… but I’m sorry to see Palin go the way of Kathleen Harris. Palin is such a caricature of extreme white trash, of all that is idiotic and embarrassing in America: the Tonya Harding of Politics but with a body double for her sex tape. I’m sad that tonight Jon Stewart will be boring. That for the next eight (please) years the most ridiculous news will come from somewhere other than the white house. We could have had Palin there and every day would have been a delight of absurdity. I’d trade good leadership for comedy, but it is not an unmitigated win.

Today, on the way out of Canada, I saw something that demonstrated in a small way how monumental this moment of history really is. I followed a black American man through security screening. It was obvious he was used to being given a hard time for his color, for his culture. He expected it, reacted to the scan and the follow up as if it were part of the normal sweat inducing stress he had to live through every day. What broke his stride was when he collected his things after passing the secondary mass spectrograph screening and the Indian screener said to him as he turned away “Yay Obama!”
Across boarders, across centuries, across races this is a moment that renders irrelevant such trivialities as a global depression or wars.

It turned out the guy grew up about 20 blocks from me in Philadelphia. The world is interconnected and small and overnight the good people have a reason to be optimistic. Finally.

Posted at 01:00:09 UTC

Category: politics

Florida

Monday, May 12, 2008 

Homer might call it America’s Wang but Florida isn’t all bad.

IMG00293.jpg
Lunch in Dunedin, FL
Plus TPA has free WiFi and nice little business centers – they’re not quite as comfortable as the RCC, but they are equipped with desks and power and quieter announcements.
Posted at 10:00:36 UTC

Category: photoplaces