This is BrainLog, a blog by Dan Sanderson. Older entries, from October 1999 through September 2010, are preserved for posterity, but are no longer maintained. See the front page and newer entries.

March 2002 Archives

March 29, 2002

Technical Standards Inc.'s 2nd annual Worst Manual Contest. Some truly horrible stuff here.

DVD Tracks gives you a chance to make and distribute your own DVD commentary track. Inspired by Roger Ebert's suggestion, the site lets you manage links to your own audio files (which you host somewhere else), and browse and access other people's commentaries. Only one commentary so far, excellent to see the site's creator leading by example.

This might go the way of The Sims Movie Challenge due to the amount of effort involved (Neale got a good amount of publicity and 0 entries), but it's still a neat idea.

Wordplayer.com, a site by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, co-screenwriters of the Academy Award-winning Shrek. I'm told it's an old site (copyright 1999), but there are plenty of archives.

spamradio. Do you want to make real money online with an in-demand product? Wilma had a very perverted idea that gave her butterflies in her stomach. You can see me hear me, talk to me, and get to know me. You never have to touch your toilet seat again. This is not spam!

Billy Wilder dies at 95. Milton Berle dies at 93. Dudley Moore dies at 66.

March 28, 2002

Where Music Will Be Coming From. "Technology is changing music. But then again, it always has."

Scannable driver's licenses are having a predictable negative effect on privacy.

How Trillian stores passwords. People don't still file-share their entire hard drives, do they?

Google threatened by Church of Scientology using the DMCA, (temporarily) suppresses other people's web sites from appearing under a search for Scientology. Google's response letter is quoted here, including links to some of the pages removed from Google's index (which Boing Boing has helpfully hyperlinked for easy browsing). Only some of the suppressed URLs contain any content copyrighted by the Church, and then mostly in obviously "fair use" amounts.

Since this first happened, Google has relisted xenu.net's home page, which they concluded is not reasonably covered by the Church's copyright claim.

Google is the primary means of accessing content on the web for which the address is not already known. Thankfully, we can all blog this incident and people researching the Church will find our links to the suppressed material-- at least until the Church threatens Google to suppress our weblogs. If an organization can have its critics removed from Google via the DMCA, then we have a serious problem. Of course, the Church of Scientology already tried to attack xenu.net's ISPs.

The Church has tried manipulating Google in other ways, as well.

March 27, 2002

The new iPod features a larger hard drive, new software with an address book and equilizer presets, and an even higher price tag than before. 10GB is certainly much cooler than 6GB, possibly even worth the $100 price difference, but $500 is a lot for an MP3 player. I continue to be suspicious of expensive portable devices that aren't also very rugged. Tiny portable things get dropped on occasion, and if they're gonna break on impact, I'd rather have something cheap that I can replace. (Not to mention theft.)

The Sims Vacation.

Writing Documentation Using DocBook.

Spiders on Drugs. (Sometimes you just gotta blog the popular stuff.)

March 26, 2002

Man alive! There are... men alive in here! Well, one man. Jon had been away so long that I stopped checking, and have missed months of sporadic Twernty goodness.

Client-side-only rules in Outlook and Exchange. I realize the Microsoft Exchange email server can't move email to folders on my desktop computer when my desktop computer is turned off (personal folders), but there's no good reason why the server can't look for specific words in the recipients' addresses to filter a message to a folder on the server. This means that all of my mailing list rules have to be client-side rules. Lame. Anyway, this list might come in handy for those trying to figure out why their rules are client-side rules.

A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. Only noting it for later reading, can't fully comment on its quality. But it's a big ol' book online.

Florida man fights for his ATHEIST license plate and wins. ("Said Miles, contentedly: 'Actually, we didn't have to fight very hard.'")

March 25, 2002

The BradLands: SXSW 2002.

Hey, wasn't I going to make a big ol' website about my cross-country road trip last Summer? I should probably get around to doing that; I have over 800 digital images and three boxes of tchotchkes and local newspapers to sort through and sculpt into some kind of site. I'm already saddened by how much of that experience I'm forgetting over time and forgot to journal. Last night I remembered that the day I was to leave Washington, D.C., I realized I lost something important, and walked all the way back to the bar where I met a dozen D.C. bloggers the night before to beg the owner to let me in and take a look around. It was important enough that I couldn't leave without it, and I didn't find it at the bar, but must have found it eventually because I left D.C. feeling relieved. But I can't remember what it was. There's a lesson in there somewhere. Especially sad that I schlepped my laptop all the way across the country to journal the experience along the way. (Indeed, the original plan was to journal it live from the road onto a web site, but I didn't find out until Boise that my modem drivers weren't installed properly. There's a lesson there, too. I learned lots of lessons that trip; maybe someday I'll tell you about them.)

glish.com: CSS layout techniques.

How piracy affects the small software company. A straightforward account from a software company, which inspired this article.

All Questions Answered by Donald Knuth [PDF].

3DOSX, the 3D file browser for OS X with OpenGL hardware. Fiddle with your files in a swimming pool!

March 23, 2002

Hollings introduces Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA). Formerly known as the SSSCA, the bill "prohibits the sale or distribution of nearly any kind of electronic device -- unless that device includes copy-protection standards to be set by the federal government." (Quote from Wired.) This page is collecting links to materials, including the text of the bill (S. 2048) and various press releases.

Slashdot links to more.

March 22, 2002

Hmmm... The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica online is nice and all, but do we really need the ads? I'm all for presenting public domain texts on a web site, and I realize web hosting is expensive, especially if the site becomes popular. But the lack of a search engine or supplementary materials, the unlicensed use of the Brittanica trademark, and the vague falsely-insinuating legal notice are all indications of disingenuousness and exploitive use of public domain materials. Of course, you're allowed to post a public domain text without mentioning it is public domain, but it seems polite to do so, especially since nowadays U.S. copyright law assigns copyright status without requiring posting notice. Their legal notice implies the contents of the encyclopedia are exclusively controlled by the site owners (Pagewise, Inc., Austin, TX), which is not true.

This is, of course, merely the Project Gutenberg Encyclopedia, the complete classic Britannica 11th edition, and is freely available for download and setting up your own encyclopedia web site. The PG Encyclopedia doesn't even mention that this used to be the Encyclopedia Britannica, for trademark reasons. From PGE's introduction:

The original publisher offered Project Gutenberg a license to use the trademark, but the terms of the license were not consistent with the volunteer noncommercial nature of Project Gutenberg or its primary goal of distributing electronic text with the fewest possible restrictions. In order to avoid the possibility of trademark infringement, all references to the original title and the original publisher have been changed or deleted.

The PGE has been absorbed into larger open-content encyclopedia projects, which deserve to be linked in better company. The fabulous Everything2 and the interminably slow but otherwise great WikiPedia are both user-edited encyclopediae that contain PGE entries. (I could be wrong: Everything2's article set on the letter A-- an excellent demonstration of Everything2's brilliance, BTW-- does not include PGE's entry, though it does contain Webster's (1913 edition, also public domain). But WikiPedia obviously worked very hard to get most of PGE into their database.)

If you haven't heard of Project Gutenberg, a very old, very famous, and very great volunteer effort to create and distribute electronic versions of public domain texts, do check them out. Their copyright explanation page is an informative summary of current public domain rules.

I don't think what Pagewise is doing is necessarily wrong; public domain is public domain, you can do whatever you want with it. It's just a bit rude to throw PGE up on a web site with little effort and insinuate that you own it. (A look around other Pagewise sites gives the distinct impression that they're repurposing lots of external encyclopedic content to build an info-portal as cheaply as possible. Not worth the look, really.) If I had the bandwidth (ay, there's the rub), I'd set up an ad-free PGE web site, with a search engine and everything. Wouldn't take more than a couple of weekends to set up a rudimentary searchable site, a page per entry with an index...

March 21, 2002

"If there is a way to make a child into a toy without horribly breaking the law, Greg Knauss has found it."

Columbia Newsblaster summarizes the news for you. Unlike other news aggregators, Newsblaster consolidates headline listings when the same story appears in several places.

Do you ever use your CapsLock key? On purpose? Shut it off with CapsLockOff for Windows. (Thanks Absolute Piffle.)

States Investing Their Tobacco Settlements In Tobacco Stocks.

March 20, 2002

Several sources have mentioned Canada raising taxes on all recordable media with new levies for digital media, including an outrageous per-megabyte tax on hard-drive-based MP3 players that would almost double the total cost of the player in some cases. We have media taxes in the U.S. from The Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, and perhaps we should worry that a similar digital media tax is in our future. Do note, however, that the Audio Home Recording Act makes personal copying legal, and the levy is the music industry's compensation. I'd be very interested to see numbers on how much the music industry gets from these levies each year. (I would hope that if the music industry gets their way and eliminates all home recording rights that these levies would be eliminated as well!)

See also the U.S. Copyright Office's Title 17 index.

I really don't care about Rosie O'Donnell's sexual orientation, especially if she's not interested in making a big public deal of it, but I'm compelled to link it because I enjoyed this bit from the article:

Her much-publicized "crush" on actor Tom Cruise wasn't an attempt to deceive. "I never once said I want him naked in a bed doing the nasty," she said. "I want him to mow my lawn and get me a lemonade."

Social Issues Research Center Guide to Flirting. (Thanks Absolute Piffle.)

eBay item 1320933653 (Ends Jan-21-02 07:36:18 PST ) - whelen flatlighter dual strobe visor light.

March 19, 2002

Good Eats, a different kind of cooking show on the Food Network, has grown on me, and so I'm amused to see Alton Brown's website (even if it is not really a personal site but the product of a media group), especially his account of being accused of shoplifting in a grocery store. (Many thanks GirlHacker, who got it from Backup Brain.)

Early adopters of widescreen televisions need to understand that most television shows in most areas are not yet available in High Definition Television, even on digital cable and satelite feeds. If your widescreen TV purchase has left you feeling cheated or misled, please do not take 40 hostages for eight hours in Philips Electronics' former headquarters using a machine gun and explosives, ending in your own death.

And yes, I know those flat plasma monitors have black-level problems, but that's just the state of the technology right now, there's no point in shooting up the place.

Typecasting. Typography movie bloopers. Yes. (Thanks GirlHacker.)

Vavatch Orbital: Conservation.

We were shown a very amusing video that showed two kids of the same age arguing over whether two equally long pencil were in fact equally long. The experimenters had placed the kids at opposite ends of a table and places the pencils perpendicular to the children, parallel but slightly staggered next to each other. This meant that each child would see that one of the pencils was slightly further away from him than the other - but of course the pencil in question would differ between the two children since they are looking from opposite directions. They were told to decide amongst themselves which pencil was longer, and when they did they would have to call their teacher and put the pencils back in the way they found them....

March 18, 2002

With all the photos and textual accounts of the happenings at South by Southwest last week, nothing has made me regret not trekking to Austin more than the complete audio from Fray Cafe 2. Hey, I know some of those folks... (This link is already a popular one, and the available audio streams are limited, so you may have to try again later. It's totally worth it.)

Information Leakage from Optical Emanations [PDF].

A previously unknown form of compromising emanations has been discovered. LED status indicators on data communication equipment, under certain conditions, are shown to carry a modulated optical signal that is significantly correlated with information being processed by the device. Physical access is not required; the attacker gains access to all data going through the decide, including plaintext in the case of data encryption systems. Experiments show that it is possible to intercept data under realistic conditions at a considerable distance. Many different sorts of devices, including modems and Internet Protocol routers, were found to be vulnerable.

There's a similar risk (see also this paper [PDF]) for CRT monitors giving away their data, even with diffused reflected light off a wall. (Thanks memepool.)

Beam Us Back, Scotty! The Nation explains what's wrong with Enterprise, the latest Star Trek TV series, with dead-on accuracy. There are a few things I like about the show-- I'm in love with the premise and how it plays in the Star Trek universe, foreshadowing trouble by showing characters that don't yet know what we know from the "future" shows. Enterprise is set 100 years before the original Trek series, and seeks to demonstrate this by turning back the clock on ideologies present in the other shows-- but in many respects, they've turned back the clock a little too far. (Thanks Matt.)

Scientist tells a bunch of strangers that nobody loves them, then forces them to take an IQ test.

March 15, 2002

Salon.com: Chained Melodies, an excellent summary of the some of the issues surrounding the DMCA/SSSCA. (Goodness, Salon is ad-intensive these days.) Part of my continuing effort to funnel all intellectual property stories from Slashdot to you.

NYTimes on SSSCA.

WSJ on the new lobbying group, DigitalConsumer.org, that's calling for a Consumer Technology Bill of Rights.

USPS dead letter office auctions off dead-letter goods on eBay. Like stealing, but not. (Thanks Boing Boing.)

SD-6 HQ, Your Source for ABC Alias Info. Looks suspiciously like a fake fan site (no offense to the author if it isn't), but it's got everything a fan would need.

I'm still looking for a good 24 fan site. Networks really need to learn to name their shows with less common words.

March 14, 2002

The Tipping Blog: How Weblogs turn an Idea into an Epidemic.

You can see just how many links have spread through the blogging world by visiting MIT's weblog aggregator, Blogdex. According to Blogdex's databases, weblogs have collectively linked to almost a million distinct links!

Anyone who has ever blogged can tell you why: it's a lot easier to blog a quick link than it is to come up with your own content! When you come across an interesting link during your surfing, just stick the link in a blog window, snippet out a quote, and (if you're up for it) add a quick comment. It may only take you a minute... but if your visitors check out the article, then they could up to half an hour of reading out of it.

Compare this to a personal blog about your life - it can take half an hour to write, but your readers only get a minute of reading out of it. With such brutal time-economics working against personal blogs, the majority of blog posts are made up of the familiar link + quote + comment.

Taming the Consumer's Computer, from the New York Times. "Last month the top executives of two of the most powerful media companies in the world traveled to Washington to testify before Congress about the most dangerous threat they face: the American consumer."

AP story on the SSSCA.

Yamaha Digital Music World has great articles and downloadable software for taking advantage of Yamaha XG-enabled instruments (like my new piano). I hastily purchased Cakewalk Home Studio 2002 before I discovered XGWorks 3.0, Yamaha's sequencing software with special functionality for XG instruments (which Cakewalk doesn't have). CHS2002 is also something of a mess, user-interface-wise, and XGWorks looks much cleaner. XGWorks even includes acoustic audio recording and syncing, the feature that caused me to jump at Cakewalk in the first place.

Also: XGWorks Yahoo! groups.

March 13, 2002

CamWorld blogs the Weblog Panel at SXSW, live. (Well, it was live yesterday. :)

Progress Quest, the first of a new breed of "fire and forget" RPG's for Windows. The Info page has all the details, including backstory and a useful keyboard quick reference.

Since time before time the Vorlak had held the Crosshutch at Thraeskamp. The ancient reckoning held that the Five Skrelkampi (and their Truebine) would return when the great Trond-feast could be held anew and the Belnap reunited. But this legend became lost to all but the Papperboxen at Horbug. One of their own was Yallow the Speldrig, who found an unlikely pupil in Torbole Understeady, the discarded illigitimate waif of Wainthane Topknox, whom Yallow renamed Grumdrig and began to school as a boar-pulmet's apprentice. ...And, as it was said by some, in aberdoxy. ...

I haven't seen such a good example of geek humor in a long time. (Thanks usr/bin/girl.)

Linux for PlayStation 2 shipping May 22. Complete kit includes hard drive, keyboard and more; will require a VESA monitor that supports "sync-on-green," at least until you figure out how to get the display drivers working with your TV. I'd be more interested if there was a direct way to use this to develop PS2 games. Linux for PS2 can control PS2 graphics hardware and whatnot, but of course everything you'll develop will require Linux for PS2, limiting your audience to your fellow hobbiests.

March 12, 2002

The Simpsons - The Complete Second Season DVD box set will be released on July 9, and is now available for pre-order. Four discs, commentary on all episodes, interviews, Bart on the American Music Awards with commentary, "Do The Bartman" and "Deep, Deep Trouble" videos with commentary (including "Do The Bartman" director's cut), Butterfinger commercials and more. And it's only $37, a nice surprise considering there are twice as many episodes as in Season 1.

Why The Simpsons are Still Alive and Well. Well, alive, anyway. I don't mean to sound like yet another disgruntled Simpsons fan (isn't the number of disgruntled fans a sign of something?), but I'm one gratuitous cameo away from cancelling my TiVo Season Pass.

Fox News notices the SSSCA. Of course, they're mostly pointing out that it's the product of entertainment-industry-bought Democrats and Republicans should take advantage. But they give props to DMCA/SSSCA-enemy Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Virginia), as "a voice in the wilderness within the Democratic Party".

379 Linux commands.

March 8, 2002

Email Virus posing as Microsoft security update, beware.

A couple of items ripped from They Might Be Giants' newsletter: Gigantic, the full-length documentary about TMBG, premieres at South by Southwest this year (which starts today, BTW, so if you're reading this, you're probably not there); TMBG will be there as well. Also, TMBG's first children's album, No!, will be released in May.

I really was going to go to SXSW this year, but I, uh, decided to get a piano. John Sayles, TMBG, Bruce Sterling, and I actually know over a dozen people attending Interactive this year. Sometimes I wish I were actually rich instead of merely living below my means enough to be dangerous. (Well, that's one way to put it.) But hey, just because I could have done both SXSW and the Sondheim festival in D.C. for the price of the piano doesn't mean the piano wasn't worth it. :P

Oh, and TMBG? When are you going to do your Seattle make-up concert? Will it be part of this new U.S. tour that starts in Austin? (Their Seattle concert was cancelled due to Sept. 11, with the promise of a make-up.)

John Ashcroft, pushy songwriter. See John sing one of his own compositions.

You know that spammers are being highly disingenuous when they mention that their spam is "in compliance with Section 301, Paragraph (a)(2)(C) of S. 1618." But let's just make sure, shall we?

Via my dad: Gates explains the "640k" quote.

March 7, 2002

The Customer Is Always Wrong: Steven Levy on the SSSCA.

The Kennedy Center Sondheim Celebration, in Washington, D.C., consists of six Sondheim shows performed in reperatory over the course of six months-- and all six shows in two weekends for out-of-towners (though it looks like those are mostly sold out). If only I hadn't spent all my money on a piano.

What Would Betty Do: How to Succeed at the Expense of Others in This World--And the Next, By Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, the new book from Landover Baptist, is now available for just $10.

Jason asks for advice on self-contained non-bloated calendaring programs that aren't Outlook. I've been meaning to ask this question for years. Some answers include Task Plus, Calendarscope, Time & Chaos, Corporate Time, several votes for Palm Desktop of all things, web-server-based phpGroupWare (with possible future Mozilla Calendar integration, though Mozilla Calendar itself is perhaps too buggy to use at the moment), and even Yahoo! Calendar which has notification support in Yahoo! Messenger (I think).

I'd just use Outlook to check email and use the calendar features if I could figure out how to keep my filtered mail folders in order. The solution probably involves recreating all my Pine filters as procmail recipes, with perhaps some magic to make sure my folders stay intact with IMAP. Not sure if it's worth it.

March 6, 2002

Andante is an online magazine and reference library for classical music, including a searchable music and video collection. Pretty much all of the supposedly cool bits are only available by subscription, for $10/mo or $99/year. They're also a record label, with restorations of old recordings as well as new ones and a mission to build an archive of a thousand CDs. (Their About page.)

A Library as Big as the World. Brewster Kahle has the technology to assemble the ultimate archive of human knowledge. What's stopping him? What do you think is stopping him?

What does "SOS" mean?

March 5, 2002

Content Spat Split on Party Lines. The SSSCA would require copy protection features on all digital devices. At first I thought the SSSCA was so outlandish and ridiculous that it couldn't possibly survive this long, and took comfort in the fact that the technology industry opposes the idea. I should have realized that the tech industry is not at all opposed to the idea of putting copy protection into everything, it's just opposed to the idea of writing this into law. (See also Intel's letter to the Senate committee.) As I understand it, the tech industry wants private copy protection standards so one company can own and profit from the technology; writing it into law would encourage a public standard and more even dispersal of the profits from the installation of such technology.

Scott Kim's Inversions gallery. (Thanks qJason.) I used to draw inversions for my friends in high school, which is especially difficult to do by hand without practice. Only a few of them looked any good, mostly by virtue of the nature of the name I was drawing.

The Challenges of Making a Multiplayer Game.

Hold on, please. (Thanks Jish.)

This Internet card trick is obvious when you think about it, but is pretty clever nonetheless. (Thanks plasticbag.org.)

March 1, 2002

They Have a Word for It. (Thanks rebecca.)

Lord Of the Games: Red Herring on id.

The Broadway Theatre Archive Series, on DVD. As if my Amazon Wish List weren't long enough. (Thanks Brad.)

Conway's Game of Life for Microsoft Windows. (Thanks David.)