What It Says and What It Does

Ars Tech­ni­ca reports that the FCC asked the pub­lic how and if the term “broad­band” (as in inter­net con­nec­tion) should be defined, after it had pro­posed that “basic broad­band” as sim­ply 768kbps to 1.5Mbps (as in con­nec­tion speed). They also seemed to think that this should be based on the actu­al speed that providers have, as opposed to what they claim in adver­tise­ments.

Sad­ly, the providers had a few issues with this. Main­ly, they’d like to define what is broad­band based on nom­i­nal speeds, not the actu­al speeds they pro­vide. They argue that it is com­pli­cat­ed to deter­mine actu­al speed (nev­er mind that there are count­less sites to assess your cur­rent con­nec­tions speed when a pro­vid­ed wants to sell you a dif­fer­ent ser­vice). Even worse, they don’t want to have the def­i­n­i­tion tied to any appli­ca­tions (that is; video, tor­rents, gam­ing, VOIP, etc.). That way, if they decide to con­ve­nient­ly turn off a ser­vice on their pipeline, they can still call it broad­band.

So what if you can’t actu­al­ly do any­thing with it? It’s still fast! Well, in the­o­ry, any­way.

Maybe McG Gets It After All

Speak­ing of sum­mer movie thrills, I’m cau­tious­ly opti­mistic about Ter­mi­na­tor: Sal­va­tion, which opens next week. Direc­tor “McG” — of Char­lies Angel’s mon­ey grab remake fame ” makes a good case for going with a PG-13 rat­ing:

“It just became clear that the things that would take it to an R or an NC-17 would be: There goes the arm, and now the blood is squirt­ing on my face,” McG said in a group inter­view last Fri­day in Bev­er­ly Hills, Calif. “That was­n’t in ser­vice of the char­ac­ter or the sto­ry. The ele­ments that would have tak­en it to R just end­ed up feel­ing gra­tu­itous in the edit­ing room. There’s a top­less scene with Moon Blood­good. I was try­ing to echo that scene in Wit­ness where Kel­ly McGillis turns and says, ‘I’m not ashamed’ to Har­ri­son Ford. But it just felt like, ‘Oh, there’s the genre stunt of the good-look­ing girl tak­ing her top off.’ And it felt coun­ter­pro­duc­tive in the spir­it of what we were look­ing to achieve on a sto­ry­telling lev­el, so way to go.”

I am in full favor of cut­ting gra­tu­itous vio­lence and nudi­ty if it can open the film to a wider audi­ence, make the movie a greater suc­cess, and ensure that good sci­ence fic­tion gets atten­tion it deserves.

DVD Ripping Should be Legal for Personal Use

Wired’s Thread Lev­el has a blog on the like­ly out­come of the Real Net­works DVD rip­ping case. The pro­vide a lit­tle back­ground on the odd­i­ty of DVDs (& Blu-Ray discs, too):

It’s OK to copy music from CDs, for exam­ple, and place it in an iPod. Yet, it’s ille­gal to do the same with a DVD. When it comes to the DVD, there’s not even a ques­tion of fair use.

How can the DVD and CD be treat­ed so dif­fer­ent­ly? Answer: The Dig­i­tal Mil­len­ni­um Copy­right Act, which pro­tects the DVD but not the CD.

I’ve yet to hear from any­one who dis­agrees with this. Frankly, when it comes to being able to rip DVDs to save from our tod­dler’s destruc­tive hands (she’s bro­ken more than one) or to save bat­tery life for watch­ing a movie on a flight, I find that valid fair use. How this part of the DMCA is remote­ly legal is total­ly beyond me.

Anoth­er rea­son this has come to light for fair use, is that the MPAA recent­ly rec­om­mend­ed a con­vo­lut­ed method for teach­ers wish­ing to show por­tions of a DVD in class: record­ed the screen with a cam­corder in a dark room. This Rube Gold­berg con­trap­tion of a solu­tion is only slight­ly worse than hold­ing my mini tape deck up to the radio when I was a kid. That is, pret­ty much worth­less.

What’s Wrong with Wall Street

Frank Rich’s excel­lent insight into the cul­ture of Wall Street that was at the core of the cur­rent reces­sion:

This was not an exact replay of the pre­ced­ing dot-com bub­ble. As a vet­er­an of the tech gold rush recent­ly observed to me, in Sil­i­con Val­ley “the mon­ey comes lat­er” and “the thing you make comes first, how­ev­er whim­si­cal, sil­ly, micro­scop­ic, recon­dite it may be.” On Wall Street over the past decade, the mon­ey usu­al­ly came first, last and in between. There was no “thing” being made at all unless you count the slic­ing and dic­ing of debt into finan­cial “prod­ucts,” the incom­pre­hen­si­ble deriv­a­tives that helped bring down the econ­o­my, cost­ing some five mil­lion Amer­i­cans their jobs (so far) and count­less more their 401(k)’s.

The fun­da­men­tal shift that this coun­try has to under­go is that our ulti­mate goal should all be to do noth­ing but let our mon­ey make us more mon­ey. Goods and ser­vices — and the skills that sup­port them — are the most impor­tant cor­ner­stone of our econ­o­my. Mon­ey laun­der­ing (basi­cal­ly what the mar­ket became with its shuf­fling of debt over the past decade) has nev­er been a sus­tain­able busi­ness. (via Tim O’Reil­ly)

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Best description/review of the Watch­men film I’ve read yet that sums up my exact feel­ings:

Ful­ly deserv­ing of its R rat­ing, this is a sad, vio­lent film about sad, vio­lent peo­ple where the only one actu­al­ly sav­ing the world is the vil­lain. While most super­hero movies are about action and dra­ma, this one’s a straight-up tragedy and def­i­nite­ly not for kids. And yet it works very well, both as a movie and as an adap­ta­tion of the com­ic book.

Sny­der is also putting out a cou­ple of sup­port­ing films: an ani­mat­ed ver­sion of the sea-pirate/hor­ror sto­ry and a live-action ver­sion of the Night Owl’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy. Though some would argue a film must be judged only on what hap­pens with­in the lim­its of it’s time-frame, I think this is more like mixed-media art or even a film trip­tych. Why should film be lim­it­ed to its for­mat when for­mats change? Hold­ing onto lim­i­ta­tions of a for­mat can be worth­while when it serves a pur­pose (like album art for an .mp3 file) but should­n’t be dog­ma.

Open Source Documentation

This is very hum­bling to me. Last week, at the Doc­Train West con­fer­ence, 25 writ­ers pro­duced a man­u­al for Fire­Fox in just two days as part of the FLOSS Man­u­als project. The man­u­al is freely avail­able online and is dis­trib­uted in a Cre­ative Com­mons CC-BY-SA license. You can pur­chase a print-on-demand copy of the man­u­al from LuLu as well, which helps to sup­port the FLOSS project. So a spe­cial thanks to all those folks who spent some time indoors (when they could have been enjoy­ing Palm Springs) to help the open source com­mu­ni­ty. I’ve already sent a link to the man­u­al to my mom, who uses Fire­Fox on her mac!

Happy 1234567890 Second

This post is set to pub­lish so the time stamp (in Unix time for­mat, which is sec­onds past since the Unix time epoch… bla, bla, bla) is 1234567890. Yes, me and every oth­er geek on the whole inter­net just pub­lished at the exact same sec­ond for the exact same rea­son.

So, this short line of code (<?php the_time('U') ?>) adds the time when I hit pub­lish:

CableCard on a Mac

A short sto­ry on Mac­world regard­ing the lack of Cable­Card sup­port on Apple com­put­ers or periph­er­als. This is a sto­ry where the com­ments seem to add as much as the sto­ry does. I agree total­ly with the TiVo users com­ment­ing about their love of the Cable­Card. As a mat­ter of fact, TiVo HD users seem to be almost the only con­sumers who pre­fer cable cards. I know that pret­ty much every Com­cast tech­ni­cian who has been to our house absolute­ly hates them (along with TiVo HD units). They have tried repeat­ed­ly to talk me out of using our M‑card. Giv­en the amount of set up time they require over just plug­ging in a set-top box, I guess I can’t blame them (techs get allot­ted a very short amount of time for instal­la­tions & ser­vice calls). But it is so much more ele­gant a solu­tion. I do real­ly wish I could just plug a Cable­Card into my mac (or some periph­er­al, like an Apple TV) in a sim­i­lar man­ner to out TiVo.

Nature Endorses Obama

Nature — One of the two lead­ing inter­na­tion­al sci­ence jour­nals — has an edi­to­r­i­al endors­ing Sen. Barack Oba­ma. Appar­ent­ly, this is the first time in the pres­ti­gious jour­nal’s 139 year his­to­ry that it has ever endorsed a can­di­date — for US pres­i­dent or oth­er­wise.

a com­mit­ment to seek­ing good advice and tak­ing seri­ous­ly the find­ings of dis­in­ter­est­ed enquiry seems an attrac­tive attribute for a chief exec­u­tive. It cer­tain­ly mat­ters more than any spe­cif­ic pledge to fund some par­tic­u­lar agency or ini­tia­tive at a cer­tain lev­el — pledges of a sort now large­ly ren­dered moot by the unpre­dictable flux of the econ­o­my.

This jour­nal does not have a vote, and does not claim any par­tic­u­lar stand­ing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Oba­ma.