Archive for February, 2008

absentee landlord

February 28, 2008

John Fru Ndi:

Mr. Biya is an absentee landlord. He’s never around the people. He never knows how much a market woman goes through to bring her goods to the market. He doesn’t know anything. To say that fuel is not expensive, Mr. Biya wouldn’t know because he has never gone to the gas station.

Government rule is so pretentious that when officials of significant rank (or their family members) travel by car, a large portion of the city streets are closed down. This needless interference in public life happens many times a month – often on little notice. The government of Cameroon is incredibly corrupt – not just in a Lessig sense, but through blatant bribery and extortion. The people of Cameroon deserve much more. It is sad to hear that lives are being lost in rebellion.

dean shareski sums it up…

February 26, 2008

[The safety hysteria is] a ridiculous barrier to great learning and opportunity.

I know teachers who believe that the general practice of removing photographs of students from school websites “protects” them. Apparently, there’s now research indicating that the Grade Whatever class on will very likely be OK. <sarc>I’m so shocked.</sarc>

free culture: seal of approval

February 21, 2008

Because software is work of a practical nature, users need freedoms that extend beyond works of mainly aesthetic appeal. That is, because software is functional, some normally unacceptable restrictions (derivation, commercialization) actually act as acceptable bargaining chips in the context of copyright when applied to cultural works.

While these restrictions often go against the public interest, they are not unethical and can be balanced by a reasonable time limit. Nonetheless, the impact these restrictions have on the public crosses a line worthy of definition. And for CC-licensed works not crossing that line, we now have a seal of approval.

Link via Rob Myers.

family ties

February 20, 2008

Upon hearing of Lawrence Lessig seriously considering a run for California’s 12th congressional district, I felt compelled to contribute. But as a non-American, I found myself stifled:

I confirm that […] I am a United States citizen or a permanent resident alien.

Good thing I’m married to an American. :)

Revolution OS

February 19, 2008

Recently, my Technology in a Global Society class watched Revolution OS as we began exploring Free Software and Open Source. It’s a film I’ve used to introduce this unit several times over the past few years. Though it claims to be targeted toward “the techno-illiterate” crowd, I find doing a little research in advance beneficial. Here are the links we skimmed over before viewing the film:

Linux kernel Eric Raymond Microsoft Corporation Microsoft Windows Free Software movement GNU Project Open Source Software Bruce Perens Richard Stallman Proprietary Software Free Software Foundation Linus Torvalds Bill Gates An Open Letter to Hobbyists The Cathedral and the Bazaar non-disclosure agreement Unix BSD compiler source code debugger text editor Michael Tiemann Cygnus Solutions Emacs Larry Augustin Sun Microsystems Free Software definition public domain copyleft GPL Apache Brian Behlendorf GNU Hurd Netscape Mozilla FreeBSD Red Hat Internet Explorer Jim Barksdale Open Source definition Debian GNU/Linux Steve Ballmer GNU/Linux User Groups Microsoft anti-trust lawsuits end-user license agreement IPO (Initial Public Offering)

Other great things about this DVD is that it’s Region Free, CSS-Encryption Free, comes with a 2nd DVD containing extra interview footage, and an easter egg allowing you to watch Moore’s civil war film “Shooting Creek” (my son found this by chance when playing with the remote control as a 2-year-old). About the only thing keeping it from perfection is a CC license. I’ve bought and worn out several copies over the years and highly recommend seeing it. I believe it’s available on torrent sites if you’re unable to offer the authors any monetary appreciation.

organized religion is like vendor lock-in for imagination

February 15, 2008

the “real world”

February 15, 2008

I still hear this on occasion:

Free/Open Source software is a nice idea but students need to be taught Microsoft products. If you don’t, you won’t be preparing them for the real world.

Typically, Microsoft software is proprietary so learning the inner workings of such software is verboten unless you sign an agreement not to share and cooperate with others (which is antithetical to my philosophy of education). With proprietary programs, students are forced to act only as users of software if they wish not to agree to break a social bond of goodwill. Schools that adopt free software not only teach platform/application-independent, transferable user skill sets through conceptual understanding, but also offer the opportunity for students to explore programming through the very software their institution implements and peers use. And it just so happens that the “real world” is more than ready to embrace them.

fear Factor

February 11, 2008

Michael Factor:

I have problems explaining to my 9 year old daughter that my not helping her download songs from the Internet is due to ethical issues […]

Michael “explains” to his daughter that apparently, law and ethics are synchronous movements:

I try to explain to her that copyright infringement is a crime, even if everyone does it.

Michael then “explains” the importance of how others may perceive him:

I explain that as a Patent Attorney, I help people protect their intellectual property, so I cannot have illegal software on my computer, including illegal downloads.

First, Michael should ask himself why he has trouble explaining the “ethical” problem of file-sharing. Second, he should cease fearing hypocrisy. After all, what his daughter does is a matter of copyright law, not patent law. Perhaps Michael isn’t seeing this because he’s been blinded by “intellectual property”.

Steve Tobak argues for “Intellectual Property”

February 11, 2008

Steve Tobak spreads confusion at C|NET by arguing for “Intellectual Property”. With complete disregard for commercial vs. noncommercial use, Steve states that downloading unauthorized works while criticizing those who sell unauthorized copies is a “double standard”. He then trumpets the virtues of patents in general, while failing to distinguish between software idea patents, patents on tangible objects, or patents on pharmaceutical products designed for healthcare – all of which bring up very different issues. Steve says:

By definition, a patent, a copyright, or a trademark–intellectual property–entitles the owner to reasonable compensation for its use by others. It’s the law.

The word “compensation” implies that whenever you listen to or view a copy, the original author has worked for you and that he should be compensated accordingly. This absurdly puts listening and viewing copies on par with situations resembling a live performance. However, if one were to manufacture then sell a similar but patented toy or sell a product using another’s trademark, “compensation” is an inaccurate descriptor. What has occurred here is best described as “damages”, not a situation where work deserving of “compensation” has been done. Steve sums up:

We are a nation of laws. Without them, I doubt we would have the quality of life we have. And without intellectual property rights, I doubt we’d have technology-enriched lives. It’s not a perfect system, but it works pretty well. You either buy into that or you don’t. You can’t have it both ways.

Steve demonstrates that lumping these disparate laws together often produces incoherent, misleading, and all-or-nothing arguments. Arguing either for or against “Intellectual Property” invariably spreads confusion. If we wish to construct reasonable laws then we must avoid the temptation to argue in such abstract terms (“Intellectual Property”) and acknowledge their disparity.

god delusion index

February 2, 2008

I scored zero on the humorous GDI continuum, though question #5 had me considering 5 points if not for its disagreeable meaning of “meditation”. Meditation is neither extraordinary thought (as implied by the question) nor an act of “contemplation”. Therefore, I answered “no”.