January 31, 2007

zOMGWTFTERRORISTAS!

My friends, Fox News and the Boston Law Enforcement scene just fucking rule.

To paraphrase the awesome Peter Teichman, Exhibit 1.

Never mind the wonderful Fox-ish quote "Suspicious Device Diffused at Sullivan Square Not a Bomb" which is hilarious in its own right. No, let's move on to... Exhibit 2.

As Bob Green points out, too: Exhibit 3. Note that this pic, at least, has apparently been there over two weeks. Unknown if that device has been there for two weeks of nights also.

It just doesn't get much better than this.

I can't wait to see what the charges are, because of course there have to be some. You can't make official entities look this silly without getting charged.

zOMG! It's GOT LEDS! THE TERRORISTS ARE COMING!

Update: Oh, wait, it's not that we're morons, it's that these packages were a HOAX. Oh, yes, certainly. Well, I admit, I've only seen pictures of one of 'em, but was that one (referenced above) a 'hoax'? A hoax of what precisely? A 'fake viral ad for a silly movie'? Erm. Jesus.

No, Governor Deval Patrick, it's not a 'hoax.' These things have been in place for TWO WEEKS. It's an idiotic mistake, is what it is, and loudly declaiming that they were a deliberate attempt to fool people into thinking they were bombs (which is what calling them a 'hoax' is, sir) is not only stupid but makes you and yours look, well, even worse. Learn to laugh at yourselves, maybe. What the hell is it about politicians and officials that somehow, screwing up our responses to future situations like this is irrelevant compared to making sure NOBODY'S LAUGHING AT THEM?

Update update: Oh, it gets better. Here, we're told that Officials said it contained an electronic circuit board with some components that were "consistent with an improvised explosive device," but they said it had no explosives. Erm, let me guess. A battery? Maybe a light sensor so it would know when it was night time and it should switch on? GASP! A *switch*?

The problem with the phrase 'consistent with an improvised explosive device' is that by its very nature, an IED will use things that are used everywhere for all manner of other purposes.. So tagging things as suspicious because they use components that might show up in an IED is just...silly.

Again, I'm not trying to second-guess the bomb squad, here. They got called. They found something with electronics. At that point, yes, they do what they're trained to do - they detonate it in place, or (as apparently happened with the one on the police car) they decide it's not a threat and remove it. I am trying to second-guess whoever told the press 'it had components similar to an IED' - or, if they did so with the context of 'and because we couldn't move it safely, that's why procedure dictated we detonate it, which is why we can't show it to you' then FINE. But they apparently knew enough to know there weren't explosives in the things. That's the critical piece of information. It wasn't a bomb. At that point, you tell the press "Well, we know it wasn't a bomb. What was it? We'll let you know when we're sure." You don't go yammering about how similar it was to an IED, especially if you're the press!

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, brothers.

Posted by jbz at 3:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Now this is hubris.

Talking of linking performance to compensation, how *does* one put 'thumbscrews' in a contract anyway?

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This is why they put it on an unmanned platform.

Still, ow. I feel for Sea Launch. I hope this doesn't stopblock their program.

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January 26, 2007

Wow. Just...wow.

Soyburger is my hero.

Now that I think about it, I have, um, lessee...

  • Apple II+
  • Lisa
  • Mac Plus
  • Mac SE
  • Mac Classic
  • Mac IIx
  • Mac IIvx
  • Mac LC500(?)
  • Quadra 650
  • Performa somethingsomething flat
  • Performa 650
  • PowerMac 8500
  • PowerMac G3
  • PowerMac G4
  • iBook orange
  • iMac teal
  • iMac lamp
  • iMac grape
  • Powerbook G4
  • Powerbook 2300 somewhere, still inside the powered Dock
  • Newton OMP
  • Newton 120
  • Newton 2100
  • Intel iMac 20"
...whimper. I am a loser. I could probably quickly lay hands on a TAM, too.

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January 25, 2007

Hey, Dick Cheney and Glenn Reynolds!

Theodore Roosevelt's calling you 'unpatriotic, servile and morally treasonable to the American public':

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

"Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star", 149
May 7, 1918

...and that was during a real war, fuckers.

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Go Maine.

You tell 'em!

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January 24, 2007

I'm a loser.

You know you're in trouble when you and your buds don't even say hi but instead:

<jyeo> ping
<jbz> pong
<jyeo> | .
<jbz> | .|
<jyeo> | : | (i hax)
<jbz> | . | .
<jbz> ...fuck
<jyeo> . | |
<jyeo> call it a draw
<jbz> heh
Yes, we read too much bash.org.

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New Translation Available

...on the impeccable MC White.

Woot.

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The Government Does Not Currently Have Any Plans to Make Monkeys Available

I love the British. Especially their civil service, for its extreme sense of humor as outwardly expressed by a complete lack thereof.

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January 23, 2007

I think it's my Treo 650

I had a Palm Bluetooth headset for my Treo 650 that *never* worked. As in, if it was more than 12 inches from the phone, or on the other side of my head from the phone, it produced torrents of static. I just assumed the BT in the Treo was ass, until I tested my co-worker's identical headset from his 650, and it worked acceptably. Several months later (last week) I purchased a Jabra BT-125 headset at a Cingular store for $40. Charged it up, paired it today, no problem. The problem: It doesn't answer calls. No matter if I 'tap,' 'press' or 'hold', the damn cell phone keeps ringing away. If I tap/press/hold in various random manners when the phone isn't ringing, eventually it will call my voice mail. A single tap will cause the BT icon to invert; a few taps later, it un-inverts, if it hasn't called the voicemail by then.

I have no idea what the hell it's doing. All I can surmise is my initial impression of the Treo; it's both a mediocre Palm and a fairly craptastic phone. Every review on the 'net I can find seems to like the BT-125 and claims not only does it work well with the Treo but does all these neat tricks like reject calls and speed dial and hoo-ha.

Yeah, well, bullshit, not on mine.

I suppose mine is just broken, or some such. Good luck getting that fixed, I guess, since it demonstrably *will* work with a Palm headset. Just not the one *I* paid for.

Fucking thing.

Where's my iPhone? Even if it is on fucking Cingular, I swear to God.

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Disaster.

The boffins at Trader Joe's have informed me that the reason I can't find their tasty frozen gyoza is because the supplier has gone out of business.

DEFCON 2!

Apparently Whole Frauds has something similar. I'm debating whether that's enough of a reason to go there.

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January 19, 2007

There is this thing called the Constitution. Some people should read it.

Holy shit. I mean, seriously. Okay, let's look at this. Either the Attorney General doesn't understand the questioning of the Senate Judiciary Committe and the Constitution of the United States of America, or (and the prior was the generous interpretation) he explicitly believes what he just said in that video. Namely, he (and, presumably, those who appointed him and support him) believe that the Constitution of the United States, despite explicitly stating that the right to habeas corpus cannot be suspended except in specific instances, does not grant that right in all other cases.

That's so, so, SO not good. We need to remove this man now.

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January 18, 2007

Nomenclature.

If the Minutemen want to consider themselves a citizen's militia, I propose we concede that point linguistically, combine the words, and heretofore refer to them only as the 'Minutia(e)'.

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More musings on the iPhone

I still hate Apple for making Cingular their cell victi...er, partner, with the iPhone. But my annoyance is tempered by a speculation that a friend and I shared while admitting to one another our carnal lust for the device. It's certainly been bandied about that Apple recently purchased some significant data center space; it had been hypothesized that this was because Apple was about to embark on MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) exploits to support the iPhone. In other words, they would be acting as a cell carrier by leasing access time on other companies' actual radio infrastructure, if I have the terminology correct. The datacenter, in that case, would be needed to perform the back-end support for a 'virtual cell network' - billing, switching, data support services especially in the high-data iPhone.

What happened?

Hm. Well, let's look. Cingular is trumpeting that they have an exclusive lock on 'handset products' coming out of Apple, or in some cases they say 'cellular products.' I (and my more perspicacious friend Glen and the various analysts we droolingly read) decided that the latter is more likely correct. Apple was clear that essentially all of the back-end support tasks for the iPhone rollout are being handled by Cingular; they mentioned several times that Cingular made 'changes' to their infrastructure to properly handle the iPhone. Since it offers standard Cingular GSM service, all billing and base data infrastructure tasks will be handled by Cingular's existent (or upgraded) systems.

However, Apple also made a point to reference the iPhone's ability to hand off between cellular (EDGE) and WiFi seamlessly for data use. Therein, we think, lies the key.

Sooner or later, WiMax or truly pervasive WiFi will be available. Maybe even sooner. As soon as that happens, there is essentially nothing that stops Apple from producing an iPhone that only has a data-based connection - WiMax, WiFi, both - and using a VoIP client of their own on the iPhone to handle any voice communications tasks.

At that point, that massive data center expansion suddenly becomes key, as Apple would need to begin offering the standard services a cell provider offers its customers - voicemal storage, data accounts and pipe, billing services, etc. etc. But at the same time, you would now have an iPhone that had absolutely nothing to do with the existing cellular infrastructure.

No partners needed to provide infrastructure Apple didn't control. Or, perhaps, a variety of available partners who offer a single pervasive access technology (WiMax, let's say) rather than the lock-in and exclusionary cellular radio infrastructure they've been forced to tie themselves to with the Cingular deal. iPhones could theoretically hop networks as agilely as Apple could make them in order to support continuous VoIP services, without bothering the user - something Apple is famous for.

Apple is poised to potentially bypass, and (smaller chance) really, really slam the cellular industry monopoly on mobile communications.

Once you had the iPhone/Data, of course, and controlled the software back end gateway to it, as Apple would, then suddenly your additional business of content delivery becomes a very attractive add-on. If Verizon can (or thinks it can) make money by offering crappy content at $2 a song over cellular infrastructure, just imagine what Apple could do with a better front end, a proven content delivery solution, and an industry-ingrained consumer price of half that which still allows them to make some money.

More concrete predictions: We'll see an iPod with a hard drive using the iPhone form factor and interface, likely before the iPhone ships; probably in the next couple of months. It may have a larger screen for video use, allowing better storage/battery. It may, or its successors may, have WiFi capabilities which may be (less likely) hooked into the precursor of Apple's mobile content/communications back end system. It will be an iPod, not a phone, and will be emphasized as such by Apple. It won't have VoIP. It won't handle communications, because without the cellular component it won't be able to do so reliably enough to be a comms device. But the germ will be there.

By this time next year? I'm betting on a VoIP data-only iPhone. Maybe with a different name to sidestep both Cisco and Cingular.

Man, I love living in the future. I just wish it didn't make me into such a kool-aid swilling crack addict.

Posted by jbz at 9:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 13, 2007

Property rights in a virtuality, part II

Thunder and I were yakkin' about the whole property rights issue, and as so often happens, arguing about it with someone forced me to clarify my thinking. Heh.

There is a further division within the 'constraint of copying' part of property rights that is important. In fact, it may be critical. Specifically there is a qualitative difference between the act of first transfer (content or object being transferred to another holder) and any subsequent holders. DRM in the current sense is an attempt to control the second; an attempt to control the transfer of information once it has left the immediate possession or control of the originating party. When the iTunes Music Store restricts you from downloading music without a password, that's not technically DRM; that's normal access control. That is the first transfer, in which Apple is transferring the content to you the purchaser.

FairPlay is a system designed to control what you can do with that content after it has left the originating party (Apple in this case) and entered into your 'possession' (quotes due to the vagaries of licensing). However, the important part of this distinction is that there is no embedded technology required to prevent you from acquiring the content from Apple in the first place, simply because the structure of the Web means that that barrier is handled by access control instead. As an example, when you are 'shopping' in the iTunes Music Store, you are listening to clips of songs, not the songs themselves; the structure of the system means that the content is never presented to you in full until you have made payment.

In a virtuality, however, the actual function of code and content may (and in my opinion, should) be such that there is no differentiation between 'demo' and 'use.' You have virtuality content in order to use it inside said virtuality; you wouldn't walk around with your avatar (say) in 'low rez demo mode' until someone paid you to look at it. This reflects the fact that the content in the virtuality (some of it, at least) only has value inside the virtuality itself; it is not acting as a 'placeholder' for content or goods in meatspace. Its use is, in fact, in its display.

In any case, in a virtuality whose core design does not take into account the problem of the first transfer, we have a copybot problem, essentially. Anyone can 'Polaroid' anyone else's content for their own use without their consent simply because the user does not have the right, supported by the ability (in turn granted by the structural setup of the virtuality) to voluntarily control that first transfer of content from the holder.

What are the ramifications? Essentially, I think what I'm musing is that due to the difference in the nature of the transactions (first transfer versus distant transfers) the problem of controlling transfer may be technologically solvable in the first case even if it is not in the second. While I have no objection to entities attempting to solve 'distant transfer' (classic DRM) in my virtuality, I think they're probably doomed to fail - however, ensuring that they don't try is not the duty of the structure but of a market and of the users.

Perhaps users will compensate by simply adjusting pricing, assuming that the first transfer is (rather than a single sale) the equivalent of releasing the information into the public domain, since, if music in the current model is any indication, that's the effect if not the intent. You can control to whom you release your content; you cannot control or even perfectly divine their intent, and they might always choose to strip any protections and make that content freely available in future transfers to others.

I suppose this is a really long-winded way of saying that the structural duty of the virtuality is to provide a method of controlling the first transfer - i.e. to allow users to withhold content from transfer while still utilizing it. There is no structural duty to enable, enhance or even permit functional DRM attempts; however, if the virtuality fails to provide for control of first transfer, some of most fundamental requirements of private property are absent - and the virtuality will, in my opinion, fail.

Posted by jbz at 9:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 9, 2007

More careful exploration of 'property rights' in a virtuality

I moved this to 'Idle Speculation' because it seemed to fit better. :-P

Luis Villa jerked me up short with cause. Let's see. He asked whether I meant the right to exclude - as in, get the hell offa my virtual lawn you damn kids - or the right to constrain copying - as in, don't CopyBot my house, you damn thief - or a combination of both? He avers that the two are orthogonal.

Let's take them in turn, because I was conflating them in my statement but not in my head. Bad, bad blogspew.

The Right To Exclude

This is 'property' as in 'real estate.' Be warned, IANAL, nor do I play one on TV, and my terminology sucks. Let us assume for the nonce that there exists private space in this virtuality. I'm not actually terribly concerned about this right, in this case, because it is a security problem as opposed to a rights management problem, and we have both a technological and legal framework which has been handling this for some time. The real problem will come with Gibson's famous phrase 'there's no there, there.' In other words, most of the legal framework which would otherwise be applicable to trespass and prevention of such cannot be applied until and unless the legal system decides that a virtuality does, in fact, have place - that there's a there, there - and that that place is subject to the same sorts of regulation as place in the familiar meatspace. Essentially, traveling this chain back to the end, we come to one of my favorite topics ever - that of sovereignty in a virtuality. This will deserve a post of its own - nay, many posts, likely. Of course, everything touches on this; the ability to transfer (sell) such property; the ability to legally punish trespass, or to take punitive measures to prevent trespass; the limitations on behavior of the property 'owner' towards 'visitors,' etc. etc. This is a huge topic, and one that I'll take up later. For the moment, though, let me be clear - this wasn't really what I was talking about.

The Right To Constrain Copying

This is the problem vis-a-vis DRM and copyfighting. In a virtual world, if we are to have one whose sole purpose is not to serve as a placeholder for real-world assets (i.e. a big fat Amazon.com storefront) then we will have to have things in the virtuality which we prize. If there are things we prize, then there will immediately be other items of value which we're willing to part with for them - and pretty soon you have money or at least barter. Linden Labs knows this, as do most other operating virtual spaces, and the famous Edward Castronova paper showed this conclusively.

All right then. The problem is this: in a virtuality, as Second Life has discovered, it can be inordinately easy to make perfect copies of not just media but objects, effortlessly. Hence the difficulty faced by an artist who does not wish to release their work into the commons is faced by anyone with any item of value. While a song may not be useful 24/7, and may only be useful to its holder those minutes when it's pleasant to hear, a carefully-crafted avatar (say) is useful every moment that user is existant within a virtuality. If that avatar has been crafted by a professional but can be CopyBotted, where is the motivation for that professional to put in the work? Certainly we can hope that wealthy individuals will provide for the common good by funding the avatar's development for all - but can we rely on this?

We can rest assured in meatspace that we are relatively uncommon sights. Our bodies are made that way by chance and nature. But in a virtuality, our image might be appropriated by anyone at anytime - perhaps not true identity theft, if we are using strong methods of protection for actual transactions, but our likeness, nonetheless. If we have spent time creating custom avatars for our own use, we will have enriched the world we're playing in via our effort as well as provided for our own pleasure - but will we bother if someone next door jacks it as soon as we walk down the street?

I don't know about you, but I really have much less interest in living in a world of Clints and Brandys, to use Neal S's archetypes.

In any case, this is the core of my point, leaving out much much much of the nuance. There are two 'paths' to an answer. Well, three, really. Two are technological. One is not. The technological ones are structural and functional, and the non-technological one is procedural.

Structural

I don't know if this is doable. However, the strongest method of protecting content in a virtuality would be, it seems to me, to separate the display and behavior of that content from its actual code. This is something that would have to be done at the core conceptual level of the virtual space. Linden Labs does this by sequestering item code on the servers; that's one method. Another might be to define a system whereby item rendering code is produced by separate modeling and behavior code, and only the rendering code for a particular view (as seen by a client) is passed to the other client- for example, a client looking at another client's avatar would not be passed a full model, capable of being articulated and/or rotated, but would be passed a snippet of descriptive rendering language which would allow the display of the current state of the avatar. As the avatar and the client's point of view moved, the rendering code passed would update. Certainly with enough time and attention, a large library of views of the avatar could be collected - but they still wouldn't be the core behavioral code of the avatar itself. For example, if the avatar had seven different routines for scratching its head, that code would never be passed along; merely (and only then after much onerous surveillance) snippets of time-frozen display code representing seven different views of the avatar, perhaps in seven different lighting conditions, scratching its head.

That's the structural method - isolate the actual content from the displayed information passed. This is more difficult for objects which are less complicated, like simple immobile shapes, but that need not be that large a problem - it puts a premium on complex, multistate objects with 'interesting' behaviors, which is what we want (at least, it's what I want).

The Functional Method

The functional method of protection is a more 'classic' (read: doomed to failure) DRM approach. That is, rather than structuring the virtuality itself to prevent abuse, technology is applied to the content in order to prevent its being copied or used without the permission of the original holder.

There are a couple of avenues to explore here. The first is of course whether this is feasible, given the history of DRM schemes to date and the determination of circumventors. I tend to doubt it would be feasible (or wise) to rely on embedded DRM for content protection in a virtuality, for much the same reasons it's silly in present day media use; if the person attempting to circumvent the protection has the content in their possession, they have everything they need including time to get around it. Eventually, you'll lose. Escalating protection means escalating layers of inconvenience to legitimate users, and given how badly I want a virtuality to work, I am completely against this.

The other problem with this is one of discrimination. I personally am vehemently against the DMCA and legislation of its ilk; however, looking at them logically, I have no trouble seeing how they came about. If functional DRM is the approach chosen, then DMCA-like legislation (assuming you have the policymaking capture available to get it passed) is a logical extrapolation of highly-inconvenient functional DRM - assume the user is an enemy and proceed accordingly.

Ergo, I have every reason to want to steer clear of functional DRM from the get-go in my ideal virtuality. If we're going to be discovering and making law as we go in this playground, I don't want that line of legislation or judicial thinking to go any further than I can stop-block it. If, indeed, functional DRM is logically followed by DMCA legislation as a result of the technological weaknesses of functional DRM, then that's another reason to avoid it.

Procedural

Procedural measures include both social norms and legal means of constraining copy. Social norms you can't legislate, and perhaps can't even design, although you can aspire to them and describe them, certainly. Legal means, however, you can indeed design with careful forethought. There exists a body of law intended to manage the problem of rampant copying; that of existing copyright law. The problem is that (as many claim on both sides of the line) it is out of date and unable to cope with 'modern situations.' Very well then. Here we come to the core of my objection to the copyfight position on DRM as well as the RIAA/MPAA position on the matter. These may be pictured as extremes; pretty much the only thing they agree on is that the law is broken. However, their proposed 'solutions' differ wildly, and, I aver, are equally harmful to the 'healthy' virtuality that I want to see.

The Copyfighter ideal, one of 'free information' and 'no DRM' removes protection from content that will be required for healthy investment by both corporate and personal contributors to a diverse and rich virtual world, and will be required for the maintenance of tradeable value since all 'objects' in this virtual world, if this virtual world is to have a 'there, there' must rest on retaining value within the virtuality itself rather than simply representing 'real-world value items.'

The RIAA/MPAA ideal of functional DRM and its accompanying legislative capture arising from the well-demonstrated (by the copyfighters, more power to them) technological failure of DRM threatens to taint the very foundation of a 'there, there' virtuality with a legal framework poisoned by the corporate criminalization of the end user which even now is on the verge of tearing apart content marketing and distribution systems in the 'real world.' It furthermore endangers the very potential of the virtuality by explicitly criminalizing activities (security testing, circumvention testing, etc.) which will be absolutely critical to providing property holders with the confidence necessary for the virtuality to attract and retain value.

Posted by jbz at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Steve Jobs, I hate you.

Mostly my wallet does, actually.

Sigh.

Well, let's see. The AppleTV - I don't know. On the one hand, it's exactly what I want to make my TV usable again, given that I mostly download TV show episodes and have ripped my DVDs onto my computer. On the other hand, if it wll only watch H.264 and MPEG-4 format video, that's going to be a problem if the newly-announced SlingCatcher is $100 less and doesn't care what video codec I'm using. We'll see.

The iPhone. Oh dear Darwin. This is what I want, yes, yes, yes. OS X. Yes. Multitouch screen, iPod functions, Wifi, bluetooth, GPS enabled, sensors, YES he said YES! Oh, fuck me, wait, Cingular? *whimper*. If I absolutely have to, but for fuck's sake, drive a stake through me, why don't you, it's easier. I live in Cambridge, MA and those fuckers still can't get a signal into my apartment. I can see the famous Jobsian ego coming up against the Verizon Phone Company arrogance and there never ever being an iPhone that worked with CDMA - and even approving - but that doesn't mean I gotta like it. At least that network works, here.

Shit.

Posted by jbz at 2:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Linden Labs, Free Software, DRM and the state of the world

Jacked in yesterday and saw that Linden Labs had GPLed the source to the Second Life client. Via Luis Villa, I meandered over to sogrady's take on the subject and started musing. I'm not a Second Life fan, mostly for the reasons that others have articulated with much more clarity than I could - it bores me, it crashes, and I refuse to put all my eggs in someone else's basket. But there's something here which does interest me.

Linden may be running up against something which I and several of my friends spent a great deal of time thinking about.

If you have a virtual environment, that is, one which is compelling and pervasive - or if you're going to have one, you're going to need a draw. You're going to need a reason for it to be there, and a reason for people to come play there. The web came into its own not because it was technically sweet, not because it allowed people to share knowledge (which was its original purpose) but because of commerce. A persistent multiple user virtuality is a much more complex undertaking. I posit (and freely admit that indeed, my PoV is colored by my upbringing and background) that here, too, you will need commerce and value in order to bring people and organizations into this brave new world.

Linden knows that. That's why they have an economy, after all.

Here comes the problem. In order to have property, you have to have property rights. In order to have property rights in a digital environment, you need to have digital rights management. This is not news, zillions of other people have said the same thing. I am struck, though, at how few decent answers to this conundrum there seem to have been presented, and how many of the 'copyfight crew' seem to also be ardent pushers of the Second Life world. The take-no-prisoners fight against DRM as a technology, a concept and a practice runs directly counter to one of the most powerful motivating factors of there ever being a worthy persistent and pervasive virtuality that we can all play in.

It's fairly easy to rail against DRM on the Web, because the use of said information occurs in a space other than on the Web itself - consumption of digital media by a consumer occurs in a private space, usually, since 'use' on the web is akin to 'publishing' - there's no interaction. Plagiarism, after all, is much more clearly identifiable as 'bad use.' But in a persistent virtuality, a user might 'use' a piece of information in much the same way as they do in meatspace - by listening to music, or watching flat video - for their personal consumption, making the question much much hazier. In other words, the existence of electronic data inside this virtual environment is suddenly directly problematic, as opposed to the web, where it was mostly a publishing and transport problem. Now, it's not just publishing and transport (which is fairly easy to litigate, regulate, monitor and lock down either legally or technologically). It's the very existence and utilization of this material at the endpoint which matters.

So. Where does this leave me, in my rambling state? I guess what I'm trying to say is that while the uses DRM is being put to may suck just as badly as those decrying it say it does, and while DRM may be just as technologically futile in its present forms as they say, the very existence and goals of DRM may not be unremittingly evil (as it's being presented). I think what worries me is that at some level, the cry against DRM, and the copyfight movement in general, taken to extremes, can be seen as a cry against the notion of property rights in general when applied to electronic media. That's a problem for me, because in my vision of the future there is, in fact, a persistent and pervasive virtuality that I want to play in, and it's supported and built because various people and entities think there's value to be had there. That value is realized based on the notion of the existence of property rights in a virtual space. If the current fashionable trend of the decrying of copyright protection continues, those very property rights, which might attract the investment and effort required to make that playground a reality, may be threatened.

There are indeed, in my opinion, massive problems with how copyright law and DRM is being used and interpreted today. The DMCA is a prime example. However, trying to 'fix' the problem by attacking the very concept itself is, in my opinion, counterproductive. Working to fix the law, and working to fix the abuses, is better and safer; while using extreme responses to an extreme problem is always tempting, it runs the risk of creating situations just as hard to recover from later. If we end up with a world with no RIAA, but where no corporate entity is willing to invest in a virtual world because everyone using it thinks CopyBot is perfectly normal behavior, what then will we do?

Posted by jbz at 10:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 5, 2007

Google and the Reality Filter

This is interesting. I just went to Google News and saw a big white area on the page. Investigation showed that my 'World News' section was...blank. I opened the prefs and told it I wanted 9 stories in the World section, refreshed...nothing, still empty. I clicked 'World' on the left hand bar, and got a full-page of the 'World News' feed...and it was blank, empty.

Bemused, I logged out of the current Google account I had logged in in my browser for GMail access.

The World news reappeared.

What the hell?

I have no idea what's going on. My prefs on that user (in Google News) all show that I'm asking for World news to be my first (after the Top) visible section, and that I want 9 stories. The only thing that strikes me is that there's a notice which says 'New! Search History now includes News Items' or some such, implying that my search history might be used to select News of interest or vice versa, and that it's a new feature. I can imagine that a bug in that algorithm might cause a user profile from a GMail account I use for specific purposes (read: Google Analytics and some website registration) to show up as 'completely disinterested in world news.' I suppose.

Er?

Posted by jbz at 4:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hooray! The Return of the Secret Life!

...The Secret Life Of Machines, that is...one of my all-time favorite British television documentary series. A quirktastic edutainment spin. Thanks to BoingBoing for pointing this one out! I tried to find that series on DVD for ages.

Posted by jbz at 1:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 1, 2007

Who understands those 'rap guys' anyway.

Ever wonder what the hell they mean? No matter how good your street cred, you gotta give props to MC White for trying to make hiphop comprehensible (linguistically) to the poker-inserted set.

Posted by jbz at 10:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack