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Zune’s Big Innovation: Viral DRM

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 22:59 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property, Microsoft


Unfortunately Zune’s wireless music sharing is turning out to be one of those features that seemed better when it was just a rumor. While Zune users will be able share music with friends, there’s a catch (isn’t there always). As Jim noted earlier, recipients of shared songs will only be able to listen to them three times or for three days, whichever comes first. It sort of sounds like a really bad tire warranty.

Zune accomplishes this amazingly stupid feat by wrapping shared music in a proprietary layer of DRM, regardless of what format the original content may be in. If Microsoft’s claims are to be believed, this on-the-fly DRM will be seamless and automatic – which must be some kind of first for Microsoft.

What Microsoft has created is a new form of viral DRM. Zune will intentionally infect your music with the DRM virus before passing it along to one of your friends. After three listens the poor song dies a horrible DRM enabled death. Talk about innovation.

Microsoft will undoubtedly claim this limitation is designed to support artists and prevent piracy. There’s just one problem. Not all artists want their music protected by DRM. Furthermore, not all artists benefit from having their music protected by DRM.

While it may come as a surprise to Microsoft and the major labels, independent musicians frequently promote their music by posting unencrypted mp3 files on their websites in hopes of finding an audience. If Zune is really all about community, as Microsoft claims it is, then it would allow music to spread virally, instead of DRM.

[Creative Commons FAQ:]

What happens if someone tries to protect a CC-licensed work with digital rights management (DRM) tools?

If a person uses DRM tools to restrict any of the rights granted in the license, that person violates the license. All of our licenses prohibit licensees from “distributing the Work with any technological measures that control access or use of the Work in a manner inconsistent with the terms of this License Agreement.”

The contributory copyright violation in the grokster case was that they knew or expected that people would be using their technology to violate copyright and made a profit off of it. Microsoft is in exactly the same boat. Adding DRM to CC licensed work is a copyright violation and Microsoft is making money facilitating it. Take em to court RIAA!

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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 21:59 by John Sinteur in category: Great Picture



Matchstick Marvels will be taking you on an enchanted trip to J. K. Rowling’s world of Harry Potter this year. Acton will be displaying his matchstick version of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the Matchstick Marvels museum in Gladbrook, IA. The model is based on Hollywood’s version of Hogwarts seen in the Harry Potter blockbuster movies. When finished in December of this year, it will contain over a half-million matchsticks held together with 15 gallons of carpenter’s wood glue.

::waves wand:: Incendio!

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Army shuns system to combat RPGs

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 21:33 by John Sinteur in category: News


Rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs, are a favorite weapon of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are cheap, easy to use and deadly.

RPGs have killed nearly 40 Americans in Afghanistan and more than 130 in Iraq, including 21-year-old Pvt. Dennis Miller.


Last year, a special Pentagon unit thought it found a solution in Israel — a high-tech system that shoots RPGs out of the sky. But in a five-month exclusive investigation, NBC News has learned from Pentagon sources that that help for U.S. troops is now in serious jeopardy.

The system is called “Trophy,? and it is designed to fit on top of tanks and other armored vehicles like the Stryker now in use in Iraq.

Trophy works by scanning all directions and automatically detecting when an RPG is launched. The system then fires an interceptor — traveling hundreds of miles a minute — that destroys the RPG safely away from the vehicle.

The Israeli military, which recently lost a number of tanks and troops to RPGs, is rushing to deploy the system.


As a result, OFT decided to buy several Trophies — which cost $300,000-$400,000 each — for battlefield trials on Strykers in Iraq next year.

That plan immediately ran into a roadblock: Strong opposition from the U.S. Army. Why? Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the Army brass considers the Israeli system a threat to an Army program to develop an RPG defense system from scratch.



The Army insists that Raytheon won the contract fair and square based on its “systems engineering expertise and the discipline which they used in analyzing requirements, threats and potential solutions.?

But an NBC News investigation of the contract selection process reveals that at almost every turn, Raytheon was given a significant competitive advantage over other defense contractors, including an Israeli firm whose system was extensively tested and found to be highly effective.


Army documents obtained by NBC News, however, reveal that nine of the 21 technical experts — as well as all the administrative personnel — were from Raytheon. The team ultimately concluded that of the seven RPG defense systems examined, Raytheon’s was “the clear winner.?

I’ll let an former US President comment on all this:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower,

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Boing Boing: Amazon Unbox to customers: Eat shit and die

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 20:34 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property

Some people think Cory Doctorow overreacts when he’s talking about the bad sides of DRM, but even these people will have to admit he has a point with his dissection of Amazon Unbox user agreement.

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More crackpot DRM ideas

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 20:29 by John Sinteur in category: ¿ʞɔnɟ ǝɥʇ ʇɐɥʍ, Intellectual Property, What were they thinking?


What I found interesting was that (a) a room full of copyright lawyers had very little idea of the very many technical problems with TPMs and (b) those that did were busy thinking up new crackpot schemes to “protect” their clients’ 20th-century business models.

The current favourite seems to be that ISPs should be forced to monitor all exchanges of data and charge customers when a copyright work is spotted. When I asked how the spread of encryption could possibly be compatible with this scheme, they airily replied that only paedophiles use that technology and we would all be better off if it was banned.

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Rubbing XGL in Windows Vista’s Wounds

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 14:28 by John Sinteur in category: Free Software, Microsoft


Everybody went ga-ga over the video I linked to the other day – showing XGL running on KDE in some random flavor of Linux. Some of you suffered from motion sickness after watching the entire thing, but I don’t think typical usage would require or necessitate that much desktop movement in such a small amount of time.

No matter, I went on a quest to find a live CD distro with XGL pre-infused – just to see how well it would work. Because of GPL violations, most XGL-enabled live CDs have been taken offline. I tried installing XGL on my own, following “simple? instructions I found for various distros online – and wound up remembering why I dislike Linux so much in the first place: it’s not easy, no matter what anybody leads you to believe.

GNOME makes Linux easier to navigate, which is why I think so many people have fallen in love with Ubuntu. If Linux is ever going to win over the hearts and minds of the status quo, the GUI must continue to improve. I think XGL gives power users enough eye candy to give Linux another stab – but I couldn’t come close to recommending Linux over OS X for reasons other than economics at this point.

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The Gray Ooze That Ate the Indonesian Villages

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 12:39 by John Sinteur in category: News


Nothing, it seems, can stop the mud.

For more than three months, the hot, noxious goop has spewed up through a crack in the earth at a natural-gas exploration site, swamping everything in its path.

The expanding, surreal gray lake with the stench of rotten eggs has enveloped more than 10 square miles of land in eastern Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island. The flow has forced 8,000 to 10,000 people from their homes, engulfed about a dozen factories, contaminated fish farms and intermittently closed a major highway.

Confusion has reigned over how to stop it. An effort to drill a series of relief wells was slow to begin and has thus far failed. With the mud continuing to gush, emergency crews have scrambled to put up earthen barriers to contain and redirect the flow away from villages. Some of the dams already have been breached, and officials are running out of space.

In a country reeling from a string of natural disasters, this man-made fiasco has thrown a fresh, harsh light on an overwhelmed government struggling to counter accusations of corruption and ineptitude.

Nerves have frayed over the slow and uneven response to the crisis by government agencies and Lapindo Brantas, the politically connected company with a controlling stake in the exploration project. Frustration spilled over last week when displaced villagers set fire to a camp of tents used by Lapindo workers.

With images on Flickr here and here

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September 11, 2001: What We Saw

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 12:28 by John Sinteur in category: News


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100.000 nieuwe banen dankzij Vista

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 11:07 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft


De introductie van Windows Vista zorgt in Europa voor een economische stimulans van 40 miljard dollar en levert honderdduizend nieuwe banen op.

Dat stelt onderzoeksbureau IDC die de effecten van Vista op de Europese economie onderzocht in opdracht van de fabrikant van Vista: Microsoft. De softwaremaker verwacht dat Vista binnen een jaar op 30 miljoen pc’s wordt geïnstalleerd in de landen Duitsland, Frankrijk, het Verenigd Koninkrijk, Polen, Denemarken en Spanje, zo schrijft Reuters.

Let wel, in opdracht van microsoft. Je kan de resultaten namelijk ook zo presenteren: Vista gaat Europese bedrijven 40 miljard euro per jaar aan extra kosten bezorgen zonder dat daar een productverbetering tegenover staat.

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NSA Bill Performs a Patriot Act

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 10:28 by John Sinteur in category: Security


A bill radically redefining and expanding the government’s ability to eavesdrop and search the houses of U.S. citizens without court approval passed a key Senate committee Wednesday, and may be voted on by the full Senate as early as next week.

By a 10-8 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB2453, the National Security Surveillance Act (.pdf), which was co-written by committee’s chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) in concert with the White House.

Specter’s bill concedes the government’s right to wiretap Americans without warrants, and allows the U.S. Attorney General to authorize, on his own, dragnet surveillance of Americans so long as the stated purpose of the surveillance is to monitor suspected terrorists or spies.


Specter has moved to have his bill voted upon next week by voice vote, called a unanimous consent motion, according to the ACLU’s Graves. Such a procedure would leave no record of who voted for or against the bill.

No accountability. No oversight. No definition of ‘terrorist.’ No record of who voted for what.

Do you feel safer yet?

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Microsoft launches the Zune

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 10:05 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft

What is Black, white, brown and bland all over?

That brown color is really ugly – cue the “turdcast” jokes…


Brown? Microsoft’s design director for the project, Chris Stephenson, explained the shape and scheme is “to make it less cool and sleek, but actually warm and silky.”

Chris, if you think that brown is “warm and silky” I for one do not want to know where your nose has been. But it does explain the location of the photo-shoot for the white version. East river, New York City. That’s the Manhattan bridge in the background, and they’re esentially right below and slightly west of the Brooklyn Bridge. The water itself is unbelievably polluted, and unless the pic is doctored, or somebody spent a month cleaning up the area, the dude is walking on broken glass, rusted everything, and what may very well be the source of the color brown they’re using.

And note the lack of news on pricing and battery life. At least they got the look of the box correct.. as opposed to this

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U.S. official questions regulatory scrutiny of Apple

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 9:37 by John Sinteur in category: Intellectual Property


A top U.S. antitrust official on Wednesday urged foreign governments to think twice before interfering with popular new technologies, singling out overseas scrutiny of Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes online music service as an example of misguided enforcement.

Justice Department antitrust chief Thomas Barnett cited proposals by some officials overseas to impose restrictions on iTunes as an example of overzealous regulation that he said could discourage innovation and hurt consumers.

So he wants to restrict governments from restricting industry from restricting people? Can somebody restrict this guy?

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Diebold rebuts Princeton study

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 8:40 by John Sinteur in category: Indecision 2008


Diebold Election Systems Inc. issued a statement last night rebutting the Princeton University computer research team that said it found flaws with an electronic-voting machine made by the company.

The Princeton researchers said their examination of a Diebold AccuVote TS machine suggested that malicious software code could be introduced into a machine and allow someone to manipulate election results.

In its press release, the company explained why, in its view, such manipulation would be impossible.

“The unit has security software that was two generations old, and to our knowledge, is not used anywhere in the country,” said Dave Byrd, president of Diebold Election Systems in a written statement.

In other words, you’re admitting that the machines used in 2004 (and to lesser extent in 2000) were security sieves? That the machines that decided the last Presidential Elections were fatally flawed? And you’re also not giving Princeton a few of your most recent machines to demonstrate that those admitted problems are, like, actually fixed?

And I’m supposed to find that reassuring?

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  1. There are ways to secure the software on these machines, but it is expensive. One place that it is done is in casino gaming machines. Perhaps not the best thing to compare with voting machines, but the problems at the software level are the same – there needs to be continuous monitoring to make sure that it has not been tampered with.

    Their ideal case is that they only run code out of mask programmed ROM (‘execute in place’). It can only be changed by physically changing the ROM chip(s) on the board; they are not reprogrammable at all. RAM use is monitored as well, making sure that only the areas expected to be in use are changing. Of course, in this case the casino is the party interested in making sure the machine has not been touched, not the user.

    In the case of voting there should be a paper trail. I don’t know why that is even a debate. Everything else we do has a paper trail, even those slot machines. With coin based slot machines, this was handled by the staff writing in the log book inside each machine whenever they added or removed coins. On the paper slip based machines that they use now, they have the slips, whether they’re fed into another slot machine or a redemption machine, creating a paper trail that can be verified but remains anonymous. Just what you need for a voting machine.

  2. “…and to our knowledge, is not used anywhere in the country…” Sound a lot like people believing in securtiy through secrecy to me. Why would you want “unproven” security. It would be impressive if they were using the exact same security as the gambling machines John mentioned. Esp. if the software was “open”. Will they ever learn? Will “the people” ever care enough to make them change?

  3. Why would they close it?
    You can sell the hole to the highest bidder.

Even Dating Is Perilous In Polarized Baghdad

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 7:38 by John Sinteur in category: Mess O'Potamia


He was a dashing young computer engineer. She was a shy student at his alma mater. They fell in love over lunch last year in the university cafeteria and promptly became engaged.

As they prepared for a future together, the couple barely discussed a subject that, under Saddam Hussein’s rule, amounted to a footnote in matters of the heart: He was a Shiite Muslim; she was a Sunni Kurd.

But now those labels are tearing the couple apart. Barred by their families from marrying anyone of the opposite sect, the couple has erased one another’s cellphone numbers and stopped speaking.

“There is no hope in this country anymore for Sunnis and Shiites to fall in love,” said Husham al-Gizzy, a 25-year-old engineer, as he buried his face in his hands and recounted the story.

For decades, marriages between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq were as ordinary as the daily call to prayer. But the sectarian warfare gripping the country has created a powerful barrier to Sunni-Shiite romances.

Married couples have filed for divorce rather than face the scorn of their neighbors. Fiances have split up as a result of death threats. And, increasingly, young single Iraqis have concluded that it is simply easier to stick to their own kind when it comes to love and family.

In a country where intermarriage was long considered the glue that held a fragile multi-ethnic society together, the romantic segregation of Sunnis and Shiites is more than just a reflection of the ever more hate-filled chasm between the two groups. It is also a grim foreboding of the future.

“Everyone is just taking sides to prepare for a big civil war,” said Adnan Abdul Kareem Enad, manager of Sot al-Jamayaa, a radio station that has aired tales of star-crossed Sunni and Shiite lovers. “You can see the polarization of Iraq in the tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in marriage and dating.”

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  1. Sounds a little like the protestant/catholic divide that existed in N. Ireland back when the fighting was at its worst. Heard similar stories back then. Religion is so good at dividing people.

  2. Northen Ireland is indeed a valid comparison:


    It wasn’t unusual for a mixed-marriage couple in Northern Ireland (one spouse Catholic…the other Protestant) to relocate out of the sectarian communities and either to another country–England, Ireland, Australia, US or a middle class neighborhood where the divisions are far less apparent and avoid the problem that:

    “In working-class districts, the partner from outside will always be perceived as a threat.–link

    The external pressures on a mixed-marriage family, living in the midst of a world wracked with sectarian violence, are immense. In Northern Ireland, these couples/families

    have been targeted for violence throughout the Troubles in Northern Ireland. As much of the violence has been directed toward couples in the privacy of their own homes.–link

    Not all of the marginalization was/is felt through violence. Some of it is/was institutional with

    One might think that it would be natural to go to one’s church or minister for advice and guidance. There is marriage advice counseling available through some of the churches. Unfortunately, the need is far greater than the available services. In the past some denominations have directly and indirectly discouraged mixed couples from marrying. Elaborate bureaucratic processes and procedures serve to discourage couples from marrying in the church of their religious tradition. Consequently, they find themselves further isolated and marginalized by the very organizations and agencies that are logically thought to offer support.–link

    There are many more stories that have gone undocumented as have been reported with regards to retribution and reaction re: mixed marriages in Northern Ireland. In 1996 the issue was such a topic for discussion that it was one of the major plot points in a BBC television show I watched a few times while living in Dublin. Can’t remember the name of the show, but I do remember that the young woman from, I assume, one of the nationalit enclaves in Northern Ireland–living in Britain–had to keep quiet about the fact her husband/love interest was a British soldier lest her father have a cow the size of Babe the Blue Ox. In Northern Ireland, the issue of mixed-marriages continues to be a hot topic. In Iraq, it’s a new hot button issue and a possible indicator re: civil war.

    Looking for love and winding up on the wrong end of the death squad’s gun is no way to promote Family Values.

    What can be done? One idea is to look at the role of institutions and how those bodies react and engage with the young people as “[e]ach thwarted Sunni-Shiite relationship etches the gulf between the two groups a little deeper and foils another opportunity to produce the next generation of children with mixed backgrounds — those living testaments to the not-so-distant peace between the sects.”  This has the potential of spiraling out of control even as:

    lonely Iraqi souls manage to find a potential mate, an increasingly daunting proposition in a country with curfews, limited mobility and the constant threat of death squads.

    After doing a great deal of research on the issue of mixed-marriage families, the writers of Mixed Marriages in Northern Ireland: Institutional Response, have put forward a series of recommendations they believe important with regards to institutional responses to mixed-marriage families as “these processes of necessity force us to reflect on the significance of mixed marriage in any understanding of what constitutes a good and healthy society or democracy.”


       1. The major churches should continue the development of dialogue on the provision of support for mixed marriage couples and families, and should strengthen the structures through which such support is provided.

       2. Each of the major churches should ensure that all clergy receive training in work with mixed marriage couples and families, either in their initial preparation for ordination or as part of on-going training.

       3. The laity within the churches should he given clear information about the position of their church and the ways in which it ministers to mixed marriage couples and families. Clear simply stated published materials would provide a useful resource.

       4. Where individual clergy or congregations do not feel able, for whatever reason, to support a mixed marriage couple. for example by participating in a marriage service, there should be clear procedures in each church by which the couple can be referred to clergy who are able to support them and who have experience of problems associated with mixed marriage.

       5. The training of teachers, both at pre-service and in-service levels, should include discussion of the needs of parents and children from mixed marriage families and the problems they may encounter in the education system.

       6. Consideration should be given to ways in which pupils, especially older secondary level pupils, can be made aware of and sensitive to these issues. This might be possible through the EMU or Cultural Heritage aspects of the curriculum, or through programmes which specifically address controversial issues.

       7. Since a considerable number of children from mixed marriage families attend integrated schools, these schools have a body of experience in supporting the pupils and handling sensitive situations. It would be valuable if this could be formalised and shared with teachers in the controlled and maintained schools.

       8. A number of schools outside the integrated sector, in particular some voluntary grammar schools, have considerable numbers of pupils from ‘the other’ section of the community or from mixed marriage backgrounds. In these cases, consideration should be given to developing a school policy to support such pupils. It might be valuable if one or more members of staff had specific responsibility in this area.

       9. The Housing executive should use the data now being collected on religious affiliation of housing applicants to monitor levels of segregation in different areas: this could constitute a basis for developing a policy both on allocating housing to mixed marriage families and on responding to any problems which such families encounter.–link

    While there are a few holes in the recommendations, steps that are being taken in Northern Ireland to change the dynamic for mixed marriage families are underway.

    At the moment, this has the potential to become multi-generational. And it leaves me with a huge question:

    So…exactly who is free now?

Ohio Congressman Is Said to Agree to Plead Guilty

Posted on September 15th, 2006 at 7:26 by John Sinteur in category: News


Representative Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio, has agreed to plead guilty to federal criminal charges related to his dealings with the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, lawyers and others with knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.

A guilty plea would make Mr. Ney, a six-term congressman, the first member of Congress to admit to criminal charges in the Abramoff investigation, which has focused on the actions of several current and former Republican lawmakers who had been close to the former lobbyist.

People with detailed knowledge of the investigation said Mr. Ney had entered an in-patient rehabilitation center in recent days for treatment of alcoholism, making it uncertain whether he would appear at a court hearing to announce the plea. Lawyers and others would speak only anonymously because of concern that they would anger prosecutors.

And with a little bit of irony, this news:

House of Representatives records show that Ney missed all votes on Wednesday and Thursday, including one on a bill to restrict off-reservation gambling at Indian casinos. The gaming measure failed to gain the majority needed for passage.

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