Archive for January, 2003


The United States of America has gone mad

John Le Carré in the London Times last week: The United States of America has gone mad.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world?s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet.

To follow up on a point in that first paragraph, something I meant to point to last week. A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union, “Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society“, tries to connect the dots between the disparate stories of just how our freedoms are being eroded (actively attacked, more like). Small stories about will appear in the mainstream press but not framed in the larger sense in which they really need to be seen.

One major hurdle is, of course, that the very people who most need to read this report are the ones least likely to see it. Many will disregard it solely because it comes from the ACLU, which has the unfortunate reputation of being just a bunch of whining commies. As if concern for civil liberty were not among the highest of American values.

Oh wait. That’s right. The idea of valuing civil liberty went out the door a long, long time ago. Silly me.

On the slightly geekier side, I thought it was pretty nifty how they have separate links to download the report and to display it in the browser — it’s available only as a PDF. I cannot tell you how often I have fielded questions from users panicking because they’re not getting whatever behavior they expect from a PDF, just because their browser either does or does not have the Acrobat Reader plugin. The ACLU‘s solution — to use different Content-Type headers — is not perfect, but it’s an interesting idea.


Eldred Loses

Damn. The US Supreme Court ruled against Eldred, 7-2. Lawrence Lessig has copies of the rulings on his weblog.

Update: I like what Dan Gillmor has to say: “Supreme Court Endorses Copyright Theft.”

The thieves are the members of the copyright cartel. Hollywood, the music industry, publishers and their vassals in Congress have continually heisted what you should already own: the words and songs and films and more of people, long dead, who have already been richly (and justly under copyright law’s original intent) rewarded for their creations.

They call it piracy now when a college student downloads an MP3. The most recent extension of copyright terms, giving huge corporations royalties on ancient art for another 20 years for no other reason than pure greed and corruption, is the single greatest act of copyright piracy in history.

On a more positive, related note, here’s an interview with Representative Rick Boucher, who’s introduced a bill to fix the DMCA: the Digital Media Consumers’ Rights Act (HR 107).

The bill is very simple. It says that if a person is bypassing for a lawful purpose, then the bypass itself is lawful. If a person bypasses for the purpose of piracy or otherwise infringing the copyright, then the bypass and the infringement would remain unlawful. The bill also says that the manufacturer of technology that has multiple uses, some of which are potentially infringing, and others of which are useful, will be permitted under the DMCA; and that the manufacturer will not be punished under the DMCA, if the technology is capable of substantial noninfringing uses.


OWASP Top Ten in PHP

Following up on yesterday’s announcement of the OWASP Top Ten, David Sklar (one of the authors of the PHP Cookbook) has posted an article about how to avoid those security vulnerabilities if you use PHP.


Your SUV supports terrorism

Sorry for the buzzword title there, but this is amazingly cool: The Detroit Project:

The idea for this project came to me while watching — for the umpteenth time — one of those outrageous drug war ads the Bush administration has flooded the airwaves with. You know, the ones that try and link using drugs to financing terrorism. . . . Why not turn the tables and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs and our national security? Thus began our campaign to create a series of TV ads designed to win the hearts and minds — and change the driving habits — of American consumers by asking them to connect the dots and think about the effect energy wastefulness is having not just on the environment, but on our foreign policy.



The Open Web Application Security Project, to which I wish I had more time to devote, have released their list of top ten web application security vulnerabilities (PDF).


Weekend roundup.

I was finally able to see The Two Towers over the weekend. Past attempts have been foiled by Kiara’s wanting to watch Fellowship again first, then by Owen’s cold. Bringing a sick baby to a three-hour movie didn’t seem like such a hot idea. Ironically, we ended up leaving him with his grandma when we went to the movie.

I liked it. It’s great. Not gonna say more.

Okay, here’s a confession: I haven’t read all the books. I haven’t even made it through The Fellowship of the Ring. I just don’t much care for Tolkien’s prose. It’s a fine world he created, I just have little patience for reading his books.

The next day, we went to the Vikings exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I had very much been looking forward to it, and I must say that on the whole it was enjoyable. What ends up happening whenever I go to a museum is I start out all excited, then before long the crowds and the exhibit begin to feel tedious and oppressive, I lose all energy, start to feel sick, and hurry through the rest of the exhibit so I can sit down and catch a breather. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday.

Too, I think there’s a good reason that there are pre-learning activities before kids go on field trips. I don’t feel that I walked out of the exhibit knowing a whole lot more about the Vikings than I did when I went in. I’m sure I would have got a lot more out of it had I prepared by studying a little first. As it is, about a third of the way through, I’d seen more than my fill of evidence for Vikings being fishermen, farmers, etc., so wasn’t terribly much in the mood for what would normally have held my interest: Viking legends/sagas and history of their exploration and travel.

Still glad I went.



iTrip: an FM transmitter for the iPod. Together with a PowerPod Auto, that’d be one cool road trip.

Now I’m one step closer to buying an iPod…


New Apple Toys

Sure, I turn my back for a few hours and actually do some work, and what do I get for it? I’m behind the times. Cool stuff announced at Macworld. Things that I care about:

  • Apple’s Safari browser is nice, if a bit rough around the edges (it is beta, hey). I love the toolbar button for submitting bugs. Too, it seems to correctly implement Digest Authentication, unlike certain other browsers. As you’d expect, Mark Pilgrim has some good notes and a page for Safari information for web designers.
  • Apple’s X11 distribution. And they actually wrote, “This one goes to 11.” Tee hee. (huh?) I wonder what this will mean for OpenOffice/NeoOffice. I’m figuring either not much, since we already have decent rootless X11, or a whole heckuva lot. There are already some comments up on the Fink site.
  • Final Cut Express. I was just talking with Jim yesterday about his desire for better video editing than iMovie offers (especially handling audio tracks) but being unwilling to shell out $1000. Maybe this will fit the bill.
  • Keynote looks great, especially as I seem to be doing more and more presenting, but if I can get a functional OpenOffice then I’ll be fine.



Checky is a Mozilla plugin for checking a page with a variety of validators and services. You can check using just one service, or configure the agent to use several at once. Validate your XHTML, CSS, and RSS, and check accessibility through one convenient interface. I love this thing.

These are the browser-based web development tools I now use on a daily basis:

All but ViewStyles are Mozilla-based. If you’re a web developer and are not using Mozilla, you’re missing out.

Of course, I’d also like to know what I’m missing. Dangit, I really need to set up comments.


Moving to RSS 2.0

I broke a bunch of stuff on this site a couple days ago and am slowly getting around to fixing it. Today it’s the RSS feed. How’s that for a lunchtime project.

After vacillating between the different RSS versions, I finally settled on RSS 2.0. While Mark Pilgrim’s arguments for 2.0 in “In praise of evolvable formats” are compelling, in the end it pretty much came down to a gut feeling: I like what’s been done in RSS 2.0. RSS 1.0 introduced greater complexity than I think is necessary for what I want to do.

Now I just can’t wait to see what happens in NetNewsWire. I’m curious whether it will display the <description> or <content:encoded>, or whether I can set that in the preferences. Dang, I wish I had my iBook with me.

While I was at it, I also upgraded to the latest Movable Type. About damn time.

Next up…spiffing up the blogroll.

« Prev - Next »