March 30, 2002

XML-enabled P2P Applications in the IEEE's Internet Computing

I just added a new update to my XML New Products column for the IEEE's Internet Computing: The World of XML Tools .

This update features XML-enabled P2P Applications, along with a table of over 52 companies in 21 different product categories.

Death To Smoochie Is A Classy Flick

I just saw Death To Smoochie last night.

What a great movie with a tight script and a great cast!

Kudos to Director Danny Devito for putting it all together!

It was also really nice to see Robin Williams branching out from his usual typecast roles. Robin has another movie coming out soon called Insomnia that looks like another high quality departure from the usual feel good shit that I, personally, can only take so much of (nothing personal Robin! I love ya man!)

Killer Jack Rabbit Terrorizes Sonoma County

March 29, 2002

Here's a nice piece by Eliot Van Buskirk for CNET on the SSSCA2 that provides a bit more background than some of the other articles to date:
Senator "Fritz" wants your bits.

Here's a NY Times article by Chris Gaither covering the latest developments in Walter Hewlett's battle to save HP's future, despite its own shareholders:
Hewlett Heir Files Lawsuit to Overturn Merger Vote,
by Chris Gaither for the NY Times.

Michelle Delio takes a look at the latest in a long history of Windows Media Player exploits. See the Wired News story:
Next Virus Exploit: Media Player?.

March 28, 2002

Democrats Get New Chief Technology Advisor

Let's hope he can figure out how to get all of the votes counted this time around!

Here's an Businessweek interview with the DNC's new head techie -- Mark Walsh:
Getting the Dems Up to Web Speed.

Businessweek Commentary Slams the SSSCA2 (CBDTPA)

See Alex Salkever's:
Guard Copyrights, Don't Jail Innovation
-- Senator Hollings' call for hardware-embedded anticopying measures is the last thing consumers and the entertainment industry need.

In this case, however, the proposed cure is far worse than the disease. Introducing copyright-protection mechanisms into almost all digital hardware clearly flouts the interests of consumers. And it's more evidence that, when it comes to delivering content in the 21st century, the entertainment industry is hell-bent on stifling technology, rather than using it in ways that eventually could become highly profitable. Hollings' proposal hands control over the innovative forces that drive tech development to some of the most change-resistant companies in the world.

This isn't the first such proposal. Similar bills have come up in the past few years. But unlike those efforts, this one may actually pass. It has the gung-ho backing of the movie industry, especially Disney, and the record labels, two of the most influential lobbying bodies in D.C. Meanwhile, the high-tech industry that fought so hard to fend off past attempts at mandatory copyright protection is distracted by its own woes and is hardly in a position to take a stand on anything, let alone a touchy issue such as piracy.

Hmmm. Here's a very interesting Plastic discussion about whatever the hell is going on right now during Bush Administration's re-org over at the INS:
Plastic: House Dems, GOP Agree to Dismantle INS, Bungling Continues.

More on the Monkey Cyborgs

Here's an article by Anne Eisenberg for the NY Times that explains why the latest results of Brown University's rhesus macaque monkey experiments are particularly significant:
Don't Point, Just Think: The Brain Wave as Joystick.

In the experiment, performed on three monkeys, the team implanted a tiny set of 100 miniature electrodes in the motor cortex, the part of the brain just under the skull that commands how the arms will move. Then they threaded the wires from the electrodes through a hole in the skull and connected them to a computer.

When the monkeys played the pinball game, their brains made characteristic signals that were recorded as the neurons fired near the electrodes. The team wrote a program that paired the spiky patterns the neurons made as they fired with the related trajectories of the monkeys' arms as they moved the cursor.

Then they were able to substitute a signal that translated brain-wave data into joystick output, so that when the monkey thought about a move, the cursor actually made that move.

Dr. Donoghue said that the electrodes tapped up to 30 neurons, and that only three or so minutes of data were needed to create a model that could interpret the brain signals as specific movements.

In the experiment, the pinball game was switched intermittently by the researchers from hand to brain control. It took slightly longer for the monkey to succeed in hitting the red dot with brain control, but the difference was negligible, he said.

Related experiments by other researchers, Dr. Donoghue said, have required extensive training for the monkeys to bring a cursor under their mental control. "In our work, we had immediate substitution of the program for hand control," he said.

The experiment demonstrates the plasticity of the brain in adapting itself to new jobs, said Dr. William Heetderks, director of the neural prosthesis program at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, one of the agencies financing the work at Brown.

Dr. Heetderks said he expected the animals to learn to control the cursor mentally. "But the speed and quality with which the monkey learned to control the movement of the cursor was a surprise," he said. "It was minutes, not weeks."

Bush Takes A Step Against Your Privacy

More on the Bush Administrations latest attack against your privacy: insisting that you to hand over your personal data right off the bat if you ever want to hope you see your reimbursement check from your health insurance provider.

See the article:
Bush Acts to Drop Core Privacy Rule on Medical Data,
by Robert Pear for the NY Times.

The Bush administration today proposed dropping a requirement at the heart of federal rules that protect the privacy of medical records. It said doctors and hospitals should not have to obtain consent from patients before using or disclosing medical information for the purpose of treatment or reimbursement.

The proposal, favored by the health care industry, was announced by Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, who said the process of obtaining consent could have "serious unintended consequences" and could impair access to quality health care.

The sweeping privacy rules were issued by President Bill Clinton in December 2000. When Mr. Bush allowed them to take effect last April, consumer advocates cheered, while much of the health care industry expressed dismay.

Today's proposal would repeal a provision widely viewed as the core of the Clinton rules: a requirement that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers obtain written consent from patients before using or disclosing medical information for treatment, the payment of claims or any of a long list of "health care operations," like setting insurance premiums and measuring the competence of doctors.

Low Tar Cigarettes Still Kill You

The title of the LA Times article by Henry Weinstein says it all:
Oregon Jury Finds Against Philip Morris.

Napster Decision Lowdown

Here's an LA Times piece by Jon Healy about one of Monday's important developments in the Napster case (the other one being the Anti-trust investigation OK):
Napster Ruling Is Upheld.

Napster Bertlesman Deal On Hold

What an exciting week in the Napster case!

Here's an LA Times piece by Joseph Menn:
Napster Dispute Puts Bid on Hold.

Declan Covers All of the Bases: The CBDTPA (SSSCA2) Sucks!

Declan McCullah was impressively at his post first thing last Monday morning* with three excellent stories on the SSSCA2 (the CBDTPA) for Wired News.
(*Unlike some people I know that couldn't get to writing about it until today :-)

What Hollings' Bill Would Do

Anti-Copy Bill Slams Coders

Anti-Copy Bill Hits D.C.

Bush Administration Trying To Toss Patients' Privacy Rights

The Bush administration has proposed to eliminate the U.S. medical privacy rules that require patients to give consent for disclosure of their health information prior to receiving care.

The American Medical Association is crying foul.

See the Reuters article by Lisa Richwine:
 Feds Urge Medical Privacy Changes, Advocates Upset.

That modification "strikes at the very heart of the privacy regulation. Without a prior consent requirement, patients will have no control over how their health care information is used or disclosed," said Georgetown University's Health Privacy Project, an advocacy group for medical privacy rights.

The American Medical Association, which had urged the federal government to make the consent requirement less burdensome for doctors, said it too thought the administration was going too far.

"We knew it had to be fixed. Just to remove it completely is a serious problem," said Dr. Donald Palmisano, the AMA's secretary-treasurer.

New Name, Same Bad Law: SSSCA becomes the CBDTPA (SSSCA2)

Quote from the EFF's Effector on the subject:

Imagine a world where all digital media technology is either mandatory or forbidden -- Senator Fritz Hollings and a cabal of Hollywood entertainment interests are cooking up a set of laws aimed at conjuring this apocalyptic world into existence.

Today, Senator Hollings introduced the alarming Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), which will give Hollywood plutocrats the power to stall new digital media technologies for a year, negotiating a phony "consensus" at lawyer-point with technologists. This "consensus" will receive the force of law, prescribing which user-hostile features are mandatory and which innovative features are forbidden. CBDTPA is derived from the draft SSSCA (Security Systems & Standards Certification Act), the subject of our last alert.

Both the House and the Senate have called for comments on the future of digital music, an issue that is deeply entwined with technology mandates.

Send your comments to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Chairman Patrick Leahy and Ranking Republican Member Orrin Hatch via form at:

You can also send your comments by email and fax to The Hon. Howard Coble, Chair of the The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet & Intellectual Property at:
Fax: +1 202-225-3673
(I'm emailing AND faxing!)

I sure hope we can get Congress to listen to reason, so I don't have to go to Washington DC and participate in a Million Geek March!

I'd rather focus on my work, but my livelihood depends on innovation, and innovation will be effectively stifled if this legislation goes through.

For more information about contacting your legislators and other government officials, see the EFF's "Contacting Congress and Other Policymakers" guide.

March 26, 2002

Back from the depths...

Of the large pile o' tasks that I'm behind do a little blogging and rant about some of the less finer things in life...

March 24, 2002

Real Life Cyborgs

Professor Kevin Warwick has become the world's first cyborg.

A device has been implanted into his arm to both record the day-to-day impulses of normal muscle use and record the reactions his arm has to stimuli coming from the device.

See the article by Polly Curtis for the Unlimited Guardian:
Scientist becomes world's first cyborg


the article in CNN by the usual faceless, nameless author:
Scientists test first human cyborg.

Here's a clip from the Unlimited Guardian piece:

he implant was designed by Professor Brian Andrews, from the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, in Buckinghamshire.

It is hoped the experiment will help scientists better understand the nervous system, and restore movement in people after spinal injuries. "The big aim is hopefully about helping people move around again and to control their bodies more," said Professor Warwick.

There is also scope for enhancing the sensory system. One of the laboratory experiments planned over the next three months - the length the device will be in the professor's arm - is designed to give him a sixth sense. By attaching an electronic ultra sound sensor to the device, it is hoped that Professor Warwick will be able to develop the sensory capabilities of a bat, through his arm.

"For me that could be fun," he explained, "but for someone who is blind, it could be immediately useful, it could give them the chance to sense space like a bat. Another application could be for someone with arthritis - we could put a chip in them and electronically remove the pain."