Broadcasters want to take away your VCR

OK, that’s not quite true.  But there is an idea being pushed by broadcasters to close what is called the analog hole.  This speaks to the fact that anyone can copy regular TV and share/distribute/re-mix/mash-up what they have copied.  An example of this is the VCR, which happily records whatever analog signal comes through it if directed to.  Another example is video capture cards used in many PCs and video recorders like Tivo or ReplayTV.

Over at Freedom to Tinker, Ed Felton has written up a very good brief on the technology new bill the broadcasters are trying to get passed would use.My own sensationalist headline aside (it won’t take away your VCR, but would impact future sales of video recorders), this is another example of big business trying to restrict users’ rights because some users abuse those rights.  And to be honest, I’m not so sure why it is wrong for me to get a copy of a show from a friend when I missed the show and my friend recorded it.  But if this new bill becomes law, that could very well be impossible in the future.

Security company using rootkits?

Hey, it’s my hobby, although I hope to make it my vocation again.  After all the recent fuss over Sony’s use of a rootkit to protect honest consumers from doing things they have a legal right to do, I expect we’ll see more stories like the following come to light.  Apparently, Symantec (aka Norton) uses rootkit technology to “protect” users from themselves when said users run Systemworks.  Now I get the whole idea of wanting to help users avoid problems from accidentally screwing their systems up.  I know that Symantec is just trying to help.  But using technology to hide things from a user on their own system, without specifically spelling out that this will be done is just wrong.  I understand it can be turned on and off, but I get the impression that the functionality of this feature is not spelled out in advance, and it really should be.

As the author of the linked column notes, there’s no known misuse of this rootkit technology to harm systems (that is, there are no known exploits of this “feature” by malware writers).  But that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen.  It doesn’t even mean it hasn’t happened.  As with the Sony fiasco, F-Secure appears to be the consumer protector we would like all security companies to be.  This is a company that is getting my dollars when I next shop for security software.  They just do things right.  And they have a great security blog, too.

Bad judge!! Bad!

OK, how’s this for bad? A judge sentenced a man to 60 days in prison for repeatedly raping a young girl over a four year period from when she was 7 until she was 10. His reasoning? Well, let’s get a quote from the fine judge:

“The one message I want to get through is that anger doesn’t solve anything. It just corrodes your soul.”

Apparently, Mark Hulett, the offender, is considered low-risk for repeat offense. Let me just say, that if I had a daughter, I’d never want him to babysit for me, no matter how unlikely he is to offend again. I’m sure someone will tell me how wrong I am to hold a person’s past against them, and blah, blah, blah, and so on. I don’t care. You want to make this scumbag unlikely to repeat the offense, you castrate him and lock him up for 10, 20, maybe 30 years. Rape is a horrid thing. Child abuse is almost unspeakably bad. Put the two together and you can just write the offender out of the books, in my opinion.

Odd thing is, the judge use to give harsh punishment for crap like this. He doesn’t believe in it any more, though. Are you wondering why? Well, let’s just give the fine gentleman a chance to speak again:

“I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value;it doesn’t make anything better;it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger.”

Not good enough for me. If you are interested in letting the judge know how you feel about his sentencing, try writing him at:

Edward J Cashman
29 Lamoille St
Essex Junction, VT 05452-3729
(802) 872-0615

Videogame journalism

I planned on pointing out this article titled “The Pointlessness of Current Videogame Journalism” tonight.  The article starts with the author saying “I hate the videogame press.”  It doesn’t really improve much from there.  I was going to write on the problems with this article, but the fine folks at Joystiq beat me to it.  Vladimir Cole’s write-up is much better than what I was going to do.  Read his.  Let me just say I agree with and had planned to write about one point in particular.  Don’t write an article saying how bad the gaming press is, then not give any examples of just what you are talking about.  Especially when your reason for not giving examples is because, apparently, you are looking to get work in the future with exactly those sources you think are so bad.  It’s not really a great article, except for using as a focus of what’s wrong with gaming journalism.

NOTE: The fact that my writing is not really any better than the article in question is not lost on me.  But I’m also not going around saying “Videogame writer’s are bad!  I won’t tell you who, though, because I hope to work with them soon.”

Things that matter

I dislike most politicians. In general, I think they are corrupt people, and mostly liars. Sure, there are some good ones, but my guess is that there are more not-so-good ones. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the things some of our great “leaders” have done to further convince me they are criminals and not worthy of the offices where they are.

First, hit Salon for an interesting story on Jack Abramoff. To read the whole article, you have to subscribeto Salon. Alternatively, you can get a one-day subscription by watching a short advertisement. I’ve done this before. It is simple, and for this story, worth doing. Then, further up the political food chain we find this story of investigations into recent leaks of classified information. I believe you need a membership to this site (the New York Times in this case) to read the article, but you can get one for free just by signing up.

The first story above shows a large spread of corruption at a high level in congress. The second shows our executive branch trying to distract Americans from the real issue of illegal happenings in that branch by focusing on the illegal, but less serious, leaks regarding the wrong-doings. We, as Americans who want our government to do right by and for us, should be angered by the current administration’s attempt to remove attention from the real issue of executive abuse and disregard for the law. I’m not saying that finding the source of the leak is unimportant. I’m just pointing out that seeing how far this dictatorial activity by the current administration went and removing an individual who is clearly not fit for office is more important.

Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death.” Simple, to the point. He did not say “Give me liberty, unless, you know, you think you might save me a little inconvenience if you take some of it away.” As Benjamin Franklin put it, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Allowing the current administration to take away our rights and legal protections under the veil of protecting us from some nebulous threat is tantamount to saying we’ll give up liberty for temporary safety. I won’t agree to that, and I hope more people who read this feel the same.

By the way, don’t think this article means I only dislike the conservatives – I have no qualms pointing out the bad the liberals do, as well. Any politician, really. We are obligated to keep up with what they are doing wrong, to encourage them to do what is right. I just happen to see more wrongs being committed by the conservatives at this point in time.

Braking at green lights?

Anyone care to explain to me why so many people brake just as the enter an intersection when the light is green and there is no traffic in front of them? I could almost understand if they did this before getting to the intersection, when they might possibly be able to stop if someone suddenly ran the red light, but I’m seeing people do it as they enter the intersection, or from 15-20 feet away from the intersection. Seems a bit late to do any good, and is a bit annoying.