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Monday, March 13, 2006

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED

Hey folks,

ShoutingLoudly.com is now the host of our blog. All the old posts have been carried over. We hope you'll join us at the new and improved ShoutingLoudly.

Bill

Update: Bill Herman has also posted a static website with some professional information. See BillyHerman.com for more

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

This Blog Is Not A Pipe Bomb

An Ohio University graduate student was recently charged with a misdemeanor for inducing panic when the Columbus Division of Fire's bomb squad shut down several buildings and destroyed his bicycle. The cause for concern was a sticker on the bike featuring the name of a Florida punk band, "This Bike Is Not A Pipe Bomb." Officials say that there would have been no problem had the sticker been put on a telephone pole instead. The Columbus Dispatch has the details.

On the one hand, we must recognize that context is everything, and it is probably unwise to label your personal goods as homemade explosives just as it is unwise to tell terrorist jokes in the line at the airport. On the other hand, what kind of terrorist mass-produces stickers for actual bike-shaped pipe bombs?

Update: I just noticed that the University dropped the charges today.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Times' (slow) tech news: Another example

Today, another good example supporting last night's thesis: the Times has respectable tech and tech law coverage, as long as you don't mind being a bit behind the curve and missing some of the nuance. Their stuff is uninspiring, and if you're reading it there for the first time, you'd better not need to know it, but it'll do for most people.

This article is really about network neutrality, but they don't use the phrase or tip readers off to the online resources discussing the issue. In all fairness, they did urge net neutrality in an editorial several weeks ago. Still, this has been brewing for a couple years now and the Times is just getting hip to it as it's boiling over in Congress. Another serious drawback: they fail to note Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-OR) bill to preserve network neutrality.

This is the tech law crisis of the year. In the early days, right wing groups like the Progress & Freedom Foundation described net neutrality as a problem in search of a solution (pdf). (Less tech-hip neocon groups have adopted the language, too. Here's just one example.) Nobody would ever discriminate, broadband providers insisted, so why regulate?

In the last several months, this has changed radically. In November, SBC CEO Ed Whitacre said the following in a Business Week interview:
Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?
At the time, SBC PR people and the telecomm industry generally denied that this was their new business model. Now, they're being more honest about it. FreePress has noticed this pattern of telecomm execs admitting that charging content providers is their new business model. Add Verizon Sr. VP John Thorne to that list.

In this Times story, there's no history of industry obfuscation of their long-term goal to create tiered delivery of content based on content providers' payments. There's no sense of where the legislation is at. It's just a catfight between internet big wigs, stripped of its context, with less than a full sense of what's at stake.

Again: if you read the Times for your tech news, at least you won't be clueless. You will, however, come to debates long after they have been framed by corporate, government, and advocacy group spin doctors. That just seems like a low down dirty shame.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Analysis: Times' tech news

I've long been thinking about--and linking to--Times coverage of technology and tech law; I now share that thought.

The Times is a respectable source for technology and tech law news--they don't give the blow-by-blow details of every story, and they're not always the fastest, but they cover almost all the truly big stories before they get stale and do so pretty well.

Basically, I would now recommend the Times to anybody who doesn't have the time, patience, or energy to really stay on top of tech news the "right" way--the blogosphere and tech news outlets. But if you're even reading this, you probably think I'm being ironic because you already know more about tech news than anybody who would take this advice. Just in case...

If you reeeeally want to be hip, read CNet's News.com.com, Slashdot, and BoingBoing. (These are the tip of the iceberg; other good examples include Techdirt, EFF.org, and National Journal's Telecomm Update.) If you want to be kind of hip, read a platform-specific magazine such as PCWorld, Macworld, or MacAddict. If you just don't want to be freakin' clueless, read the Times technology section.

It's nice that the nation's paper of record is serving as the backstop in the digital millennium, though they're really missing a chance to be exceptional. By the time they get around to something, most people who care already know. At least they're a good barometer that a subject has hit the national consciousness.

Two great examples were on the site today. First, there's a piece about WiFi moochers. Second up to bat, how much profit is lurking in cell phones? These articles are decent, but for whom is this stuff news?

The Times would have a shade more tech credibility, IMO, with just one change--they could offer permanent links rather than forcing bloggers to use the NYTimes Link Generator. A tangles mass of blog links will never be a substitute for their paid archives search, and they would be a more legitimate source for the blogosphere.

Okay, they've already given out the first three Oscars (Stewart is doing better on the fly than with any of his scripted stuff, which hit flat), so I'm done now.

Friday, March 03, 2006

DoJ investigates music price fixing

Here's a shock: the big 4 music labels are under investigation by the DoJ for price fixing.

Pay your bills, set off Homeland Security flags

Scripps Howard tells the story of a very ordinary married couple who paid off a large chunk of their credit card bill and thereby attracted the attention of Homeland Security.

Pay your bills, get harassed by secretive federal agency. That's awesome. In fact, that's exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment.

Three cheers for those who would keep America scared (mov).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sen. Wyden drops his net neutrality bill

Today, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced a bill mandating network neutrality today. Without it, companies like Verizon and Comcast will begin to create a tiered, even walled internet, where content providers that can pay for the delivery of their bits will get speedier access (or any access) to ISPs' customers.

In another article, Wyden talks in detail about his concerns about the future of the internet and what he hopes the bill can accomplish.

Further links here and here and here and here. Not that anybody thinks this issue is newsworthy.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Phila Weekly covers FreeCulture protest

In today's Philadelphia Weekly, on page 18, there's a picture of me holding a flyer that says "Are you buying a dangerous CD?"

Flyering in front of Tower Records

The story, Copy Cats, is another great media clipping covering the antics of FreeCulture.org.

Saturday, we were protesting outside Tower Records on South St.

We believe that the major music labels are using deceptive business practices and stealing legal rights from consumers. They cripple more and more new CDs with digital rights management technologies. In the most egregious case, Sony infected millions of computers by installing malicious, hidden software (a "rootkit") onto Windows computers of users who merely inserted a Sony music CD.

I have to publicly admit that, even though I am the one pictured, I deserve little credit for the protest. FreeCulture Swarthmore students organized it; I just showed up.

I guess I was the most menacing presence. As noted in the article, I "embarrassed" the other students and pissed off the Tower Records management.

This is just further proof that, for a group dedicated to information policy wonkdom , FCo sure is good at landing earned media.

Update: this story is now also on BoingBoing; here's the link. Thanks, Cory.

Wonderful rant: DRM stinks

Read this rant about the big DRM mistake. It's on Security Focus, which is dedicated to issues of computer security.

This is further proof that even most people who are interested in creating and refining secure computer software think that DRM is a joke.