Megnut

Archive for September 2002

Software doesn't steal, people steal

Maybe my ire is up from the Gillmor article, but I can't help but respond to this sentiment I came across on Ev's site today. In regards to Kazaa Evan writes, "the software is designed to steal things." That logic just smacks of Hollywood's alarmist language and approach to technology.

Kazaa isn't designed to steal things. It doesn't go into your house and take your DVD player. It doesn't connect to an online bank and funnel funds to an off-shore account in the Cayman Islands. Kazaa connects two computers and allows people to transfer files between them. An FTP client does nearly the same thing. If Kazaa is transfering files that people have illegally placed online, the fault does not lie with Kazaa (or Napster, or LimeWire). It lies with the individuals who placed property online without appropriate permission. And it lies with individuals who download files without ascertaining whether they have the right to do so. It is possible for P2P software to be used in a legitimate fashion, for example if a muscian wants to put all her music online, or a video artist wishes to share his work with a wider audience.

Is Blogger designed to steal because people can publish copyrighted (not their copyright) material to the Web? No, of course not. An individual makes the decision to respect copyright laws. Blaming software leads down the slippery slope to controls on technology, controls that limit our digital rights and legitimate uses of software and hardware. Let's not give in to the scare-mongering language used by the Jack Valentis of the world.

Now, Kazaa redirecting affiliate links? That's just plain obnoxious, and a lot closer to stealing than anything else to date.

The Future of Life, a lecture at the Kennedy School, Cambridge MA

Another dispatch from megnut's Boston correspondent, this time at the Kennedy School on Tuesday October 1, 2002 at 8 PM:

The Future of Life: The Global Conservation Challenge, The 2002 John Sawhill Lecture by Edward O. Wilson, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science and Curator in Entomology, Harvard University.

The Civil War

Over the weekend PBS re-broadcast the entire The Civil War series by Ken Burns and of course, we've got it on TiVo now and are making our way through each episode. I'd only caught bits and pieces of this masterpiece over the years and knew it was good. But it's simply amazing, especially when the episodes are watched in order, back-to-back. I thought I knew a lot about the Civil War but I wasn't familiar with Union General George McClellan and his continued refusal to engage the enemy and requests for reinforcements when he already outnumbered the Confederates by tens of thousands of men.

Watching this documentary now, as America pushes towards a war with Iraq, raises many important questions in my mind. What does it really mean to fight for freedom? And what causes are so great that we commit men (and now women and civilians) to the inevitable destruction and slaughter of war? I won't pretend to have easy answers to those questions.

Some astonishing Civil War facts:

Confederates in the Attic

All this Civil War activity reminds me of a wonderful book I read several years ago entitled, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. It's a collection of true stories about modern-day Southerners and the current state of the Civil War. One bit that still stands out in my mind is the examination of a "southern" town that prides itself on its Confederate heritage, somehow forgetting that it was actually on the Union side during the War.

Dan Gillmor on Jack Valenti

Dan Gillmor's latest column, Studios' copyright goal is total control nails exactly what's going on with Congress, copyright, and the giant media companies. Gillmor calls Valenti & Co.'s agenda, "radical...one that overturns tradition and would ultimately wipe out the public domain, without which our culture would be vastly poorer." This is a battle we can't afford to lose.

Mag Lev in the wild

All this time, I thought mag lev trains were dead, but it looks like there's one in the wild (or almost). A 40-mile link between Shanhai and its new airport will be serviced by the mag lev train. While that's cool and all, I kinda wish they were going a little further -- maybe a train between Shanghai and Beijing, for example. 40 miles doesn't seem like enough distance to really get up to speed and appreciate the ride. Imagine going 300 mph in a train! I hope someday we get them here in the US. It'll make the Acela look like a rinky-dink freight train.

Bring Back the Happy Mac

Several readers have written to share this link about modifying your boot image in Jaguar (Mac OS X.2). This allows one to solve the problem of the missing Happy Mac icon. I haven't tried it yet, but perhaps I will once I finally upgrade.

Thomas Keller in the NY Times

How to Boil Four-Star Water: A Master Class is a New York Times' article about French Laundry chef Thomas Keller and his approach to food. Less focus this time on his perfectionism and more general details about his approach in the kitchen. And more about his use of the word "finesse."

Audioblogging Ahoy!

A really neat article on the up-and-coming meme of audioblogging that uses OS X scripting and AppleScript, AppleScript: Automated Audio Blogging. If I find some time in the next few weeks, I'd like to try this out. I've been meaning to dig into AppleScript since I got the iBook and haven't yet gotten around to it. I don't know if I'm keen on being an audioblogger myself, but it could provide an interesting alternative voice (literally!) for this site.

Get Back to Happy Mac

Fishback Research has released a program called "hello Jaguar" that returns the Happy Mac! This software installs an edited version of the boot loader found in Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" which brings back everyone's favorite friend, the Happy Mac. After installation, your computer will restart, and you can see the familiar icon smiling back at you. Woo hoo!

Googlecooking

We've got Googlewhacking, Googlebombing and now we can add Googlecooking to our lexicon. My mother types whatever ingredients she has on hand into Google and then picks the most appealing recipe returned in the results. What a good idea!

What's funny is I've always wanted a database of all my cookbooks so I could do just this. It never occurred to me to use Google instead. If I didn't have dinner plans, I'd try it tonight. I wonder what it would return for rotten basil and an onion?

The Lords of Dogtown

Greg Beato wrote in with a bunch of background information about the Dogtown film I talked about last week. Back in 1999, Greg wrote an article for SPIN magazine entitled, The Lords of Dogtown. The literary rights were eventually optioned by a studio with the intent to create a fictionalized film, and many featured skaters optioned their life rights as well, but not Stacy Peralta. Peralta decided to write and direct a documentary on the early days instead, scrounged up funding, dug up old archival footage of all of them skating and surfing back in the day, and the result was Dogtown and Z-Boys. Rad, as they say.

Vegas Baby!

Vegas, baby! I'm here in Las Vegas, enjoying a few days of sun and fun before the Web Builder conference starts tomorrow. I'll be speaking on Tuesday: a panel on content management systems and a session on microcontent management systems. If you're in town for the conference, be sure and come by, at least to say hi!

Desert Silence

Vista from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Vista from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Vista from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Vista from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Back from Las Vegas and I have re-affirmed my love of the high desert country. Driving for hours across vast expanses of Joshua trees, through parts of the Mojave and up and over the mountains and past the windfarms of Tehachapi was soothing and almost meditative. Hiking around Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, I experienced the splendor first-hand. And the quiet and stillness of the surroundings encouraged my reflections on everything -- life, love, the vast and varied beauty of America -- these last few days. I feel like I'm still carrying some desert silence within me.

Challenging Mass Media and Society panel

Next Tuesday (September 17th) I'll be speaking on a panel at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism entitled, Weblogs: Challenging Mass Media and Society. It's free and open to the public, and it starts at 6:30 PM. The panel is chock-full of interesting folks, so I anticipate a good time will be had by all. Please join us if you can.

Mis-float

I'm aware that my design is messed up because I haven't been posting enough. I never could figure out how to get the green footer bar to float properly. Perhaps a redesign is in order at some point. Or maybe just more posting...

Panel write-ups

Christian over at Radio Free Blogistan has written up lots of thoughts on our panel the other day. All in all it went well and was a good time. The audience had lots of good questions to ask as well. Alas, I'll leave the write-ups to others with more time.

Hot SF = Cold Latte

It's been so warm in San Francisco these past few days (even here in my foggy part of town) and today I finally cracked -- I made an iced latte for myself this morning rather than my usually "hot" latte (I guess we just call that a latte). Usually I open the curtains to let the sun flood my room and warm my "office" but today I've got them closed to ward off the hot rays.

San Francisco is trying to tempt me, "See how nice it is here? See how sunny and warm? It's summer, in September!" she says. But I won't have any of it. I remember your cold foggy days, lady. Nearly every month you enshrouded me and mine with a fog so thick I felt the mist on my face as I walked outside. The streets were wet -- it looked like it had rained. You were especially cruel through July and August as my friends elsewhere frolicked in t-shirts and shorts while I sat bundled in wool sweaters and scarves, drinking hot water for warmth. Nice try, City by the Bay, but you're not fooling me. You're just a tease, and as soon as I decide I like this sunny warmth, you'll shock me with a big misty rolling cloud of fog and send me scurrying back indoors.

Separating Design from Management

Joel on Software has some good comments about the "offshore design" problem, as he calls it. In my experience, the biggest problem with offshore design (hiring cheaper labor to do your work remotely rather than pay higher rates to hire someone local) or any remote project development is the time zone difference. No matter how detailed your spec is, no matter how "signed-off" everyone is on the prototype, inevitably changes and questions arise.

When you have easy access to people to communicate changes, whether through IM, phone, or around the water cooler, it's a lot easier to keep on time and budget. But even an 8-hour time zone difference means one team is mostly working while the other is not, and that's where the trouble lies. Open, continuous channels of communication are essential on development projects. I don't think you need to have everyone in the same office to achieve this. But having teams with large time zone differences can wreak havoc on a project schedule.

Thomas Friedman in Santa Clara

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman will be giving a free talk on "How globalization is changing our world" on September 25 at Santa Clara University (in Santa Clara, CA). "Friedman will outline his vision of a healthy global society and discuss the balance needed to achieve that dream." Sounds like it could be very informative.

Also, if you're looking for great speakers in the Bay Area, check out the rest of the page. The Commonwealth Club consistently offers fascinating talks by public figures. They recently sponsored Dick Cheney, and September 23 Al Gore is coming. Some very good looking stuff...

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