~ Archive for Random ~

Traveling

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Today was mostly spent traveling back to Memphis, so not a lot to report. I spent a while trying to track down Edward Walterscheid to ask his permission to post a chapter of one of his books to the online IP reading group, but the only email address I managed to get for him bounced. Anyone happen to have his contact info? If so, please let me know.

Telecommuting

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For personal reasons, I decided to move from Boston to Memphis about three months ago. I finally made the move two weeks ago and am now living in Memphis more or less full time. I am, however, still working in mostly the same position at the Berkman Center. I will be telecommuting most of the time but returning to Cambridge for a couple of days twice a month so that folks will remember what I look like.

I took the past couple of weeks off to settle down in Memphis, and today was my first day back at the center since moving, though I was actually in Cambridge for this my first day of telecommuting. Tomorrow I’ll fly back down to Memphis and start the telecommunting thing for real. A big part of the challenge of this arrangement will be keeping in touch with the day to day happenings at the center and giving folks at the center a sense of what I’m up to each day. To help that process as well as to document the progress of this experiment in work arrangement, I’ll be keeping a daily journal on this blog with the probably mostly boring details of what I’ve spent each day doing. This entry is the beginning of that journal.

Today was spent as I imagine most of these Cambridge return days will be — in meetings nearly the entire day with much of the non-meeting time spent casually chatting with people around the center (and thereby remembering why I love working with these folks so much!). I managed to get in early enough today to work on my email a bit before my first meeting at 9:00. I’ve been triaging my email for a couple of weeks, only dealing with the easiest / most important stuff and saving the rest for my return to full time work (today!). I made a good pass at getting rid of another wave of emails today, so I’ve mostly got only medium to long term tasks left.

I spent my little amount of non-email / non-meeting time today getting the History of IP in the US online reading group setup on H2O and announced through the various Berkman channels. We’ve got 11 great mostly Berkman folks signed up so far, and lots of others tried to sign up but were foiled by a bad link in the announcement on the front page (now fixed!). I’ve also included the Internet & Society project in the first week’s discussion, so it should have critical mass to start.

Meetings today included: a meeting in the server room to figure out why a server we’re running with a partner center was rebooting randomly (bad hard drive); a meeting with Robyn to agree on what more needs to be done to the Internet Law Program site; a meeting with Mary Bridges to go over some issues with the Digital Media Project, AudioBerkman, and Berkman Briefings sites; the luncheon speakers series with John Palfrey and Susan Crawford presenting their work on the accountable Internet; a meeting with the H2O crew about the status of the Rotisserie Ring project and implementation plans to fix the mess that currently is the idea exchange part of H2O (more to follow in another post); and a meeting with the Berkman fellows to figure out how we staff can better help them to continue doing the terrific work that they do.

As planned, I’ve got reams of notes from the various meetings, all very productive in their own ways, to make sense of tomorrow and to keep me busy working on the for the next couple of weeks. My next return to Cambridge will be from Wednesday, 3/3, to Friday, 3/5.

Everyone Loves Firebird

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I helped a student yesterday whose Windows ME computer was utterly infested with some horrible spyware. She got these things installed, as usual, through careless use of Internet Explorer. She said, “I just click OK when I see things!”

I installed Mozilla Firebird for her, which is a little less trigger-happy about auto-installing software than IE is, and spent five minutes showing her the popup blocking and a few other tricks for minimizing ads in one’s life. She loved it!

Most people I show Firebird to like it, and some are totally effusive. It’s a good program. The only drawbacks I can think of are that it’s still not at version 1, and changes might confuse people (though in practice they seem not to be a problem), and that (in Windows) you have to install it from a zip file, which confuses people these days. But if you’re up for that extremely simple but slightly unusual installation method, or can con someone else into doing it for you, my experience suggests you may find it very likable.

Bloggercon is Going On

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Hey, check out our webcast!

 http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/bloggercon

emusic.com lists

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 emusic.com now has user created album lists. I’m a huge fan of emusic (all of the unencumbered 128kb mp3s you can download for $15 or $10 per month!), but the one drawback to the system has been the lack of community features that make the process of finding new music easier and more fun. They have staff reviews of some of the albums, and a few genre based discussion boards, but that’s been it. It’s very hard to browse for music with no information about what other folks like. Where are the user reviews and ratings? Where are the ‘People who like this album/artist also like this album/artist’ links? These are the key features that make the process of finding music a fun experience rather than a frustrating chore (and keep them coming back to the site and paying the subscription!). None of these features is particularly hard to implement (a summer intern could add user reviews in a couple of months, for instance), so I’ve always been puzzled about why they aren’t there.

They seem to have made a first step in the right direction recently, however, by adding user album lists. Any user can make a list of related / interesting / whatever albums, including a small note with each album. When looking at a given album, you see what lists that album is on and therefore, only a click away, what other albums folks associate with the one you are browsing. This is a great feature, and led me to download about 8 new albums yesterday for the first time in a month or so.

Let’s hope emusic.com keep moving in this direction. I desperately want emusic.com to succeed. Its financial success could solve a huge number of the fights over the future of the music industry, since it would show that there need not be a conflict between commercial and consumer interests.

fill your hard drive with porn – porn software

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I just got a piece of spam with the above title, which I of course excitedly opened to find out how to fill my drive with porn. I was horribly disappointed that the body of the email was actually about “Bullet Proof Bulk Email”. Come on. It’s bad enough that you spam me. It’s bad enough that you send me an email that includes ‘porn’ in the title at work. But then you don’t even deliver on the title’s promise. At least give me the porn tool! It’s the decent thing to do.

Florida House Spam

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I’ve just gotten yet another piece of spam from the Florida House of Representatives. What could possibly motivate an elected representative to indisctiminately spam his constituents? First, I don’t live in Florida and never plan on doing so, so this spam clearly doesn’t help the Florida House (though it also doesn’t hurt them, since I can’t vote in Florida). If I was a Florida citizen, though, the spam would upset me even more, since it would have been sent by *my* elected representative. The spam would definitely give me a strongly negative opinion of whoever is responsible (seems to be Johnnie Byrd, the speaker of the house, just from poking at the http://myfloridahouse.com/ web site linked from the spam). My being upset at the speaker would have a direcly negative effect on him (I would be less likely to vote for him).

The fact that I could so affect the spammer fundamentally changes the economics of spamming for the spammer. Most spammers spam becuase even though the number of people upset by the spam is much greater than the number of people who respond, the upset folks can’t hurt the spammer in any way. Spammers don’t care that they piss of 999 recipients for every 1 recipient that actually responds, because the 999 pissed off recpients can’t hurt them. For an elected official, those 999 pissed off folks are their constituents, so the spam has a hugely net negative effect on their electability. Spamming the folks who need to vote for you seems to me to be a monumentally stupid act. Leaving alone the personal animosity over having fotten spammed, I’d be less likely to vote for a political spammer simply because to send political spam demonstrates either a terrible ignorance about technology and digital issues or just plain stupidity, neither of which are qualities I appreciate in a representative.

I have graciously written several emails explaining this fact to Johnnie Byrd, but he evidently disagress because he keeps spewing out the spam.

Vim Cursor Movement

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I love the obscurity and gradualness of vim – I’m still finding really basic new tricks after three years of using it pretty exclusively. I suppose it’s the same with any text editor; this must be why people get religious about them.

I’m constantly searching off to somewhere in a program to check the order variables go in or something. But then, how do I easily get my cursor back exactly where it was before? I now know it’s by hitting “ (backtick backtick). Another useful thing I learned today was *. It’s the opposite of #, which I already knew. And then there’s slash, crtl-r, ctrl-w. Useful stuff. Here’s a forum full of vim geeks showing off their mystical incantations. It’s neat how excited people get:

“that is definitely a life changing tip.”
“Damn, this saves me about 1000 keystrokes a day.”
“This is really great. I feel I’ve entered into a new world of VIm “

Stanford ILAW Video

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Sun has done a great job at the painfully long process of encoding the video for the Stanford 2003 ILAW conference.

Enjoy!

“The baking industry’s hairy little secret” …

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Geekroom topic of conversation of the day: scary ingredients used in mass produced foods, as described in this Fortune article. Apparently there is a “scatological fragrance family” in the flavoring industry. Rotting insects, maggots, and human hair are also covered.

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