July 18, 2002

Cool Shift Interview With R.U. Sirius

--One of the earliest adopters of cyberculture, the co-founder of Mondo 2000 has drifted away from tech-chic. Klint Finley asks him about then and now.

S: To change the subject somewhat, where do we stand on the war on drugs right now? Is it more or less important than it was, say, two years ago?

RU: It’s all sort of integrated into the war on terror, and there’s a lot of complex connections there. It’s amazing that it’s all happening in Afghanistan, which is sort of a nexus for the drug underground and also turns out to be the nexus for Al Quaeda and the place where America wants to build an oil pipeline and the place where we have our troops and bombs. And all those things converge. Narcopolitics, as much as class, is at the center of politics in our time. I don’t think any of that has changed. You also see this integration in Columbia where they’re fighting over drugs and they’re also fighting against leftists and they’re fighting for their oil interests -- it’s still rather the same story. On the positive side of course, Europeans almost uniformly are liberalizing drug laws. I don’t know how things are in Canada... I think Vancouver is pretty liberal.

S: Do you think there’s a potential use for psychedelics in psychotherapy?

RU: Yeah, I’ve always thought it was a useful tool. The great thing about having a guide, rather than doing it on your own or in a party, is that it grants permission to take a pretty walloping, great massive dose and go through changes without having to worry about what kind of incursions might occur during the trip. I think if it could be approved for psychotherapy, that would be a tremendous step in the right direction. There’s basically two schools of thought on ending the drug war. One is the libertarian point of view, which is that it should be legalized because it’s a cognitive liberty, a matter of personal choice. And then there’s the attempt to medicalize the situation... harm reduction and so forth. And while I agree with the libertarian view on that, I think medicalization is more likely to be allowed.

Artificial Blood Not Quite Here Yet

See the Wired article by Wil McCarthy:
Strange Blood
--Cataclysmic shortages. Tainted supplies. There is a solution: artificial blood..

To truly end blood shortages and the fears that help produce them, hospitals would need a fluid that's laboratory pure, universally compatible with any human blood or tissue type, and indefinitely storable at room temperature. Most important, it would have to perform the function of oxygen delivery, so far the most elusive function to mimic in efforts to create fake blood. Simply adding oxygen-carrying hemoglobin to a substance like saline won't work - the raw hemoglobin molecule turns out to be both short-lived and toxic to the kidneys and liver unless surrounded by the fatty envelope of the red cell. And numerous other creative workarounds - like encapsulating the molecules in tiny globs of fat or chaining them together into polymers - have failed. Oxygen and CO2 can be dissolved directly into droplets of liquid perfluorocarbon, which holds and releases the two gases about as efficiently as hemoglobin does; when oxygenated, this liquid is even breathable - remember the rat in The Abyss ? This approach too, however, produces side effects, from toxicity to allergies to exhaling an ozone-depleting gas.

Only one oxygen-carrying blood substitute has ever been approved by the FDA. That was Fluosol, a perfluorocarbon additive developed in the US and marketed by Japan's Green Cross corporation from 1989 to 1993, during which time it was infused into some 13,000 patients in the US annually. Unfortunately, Fluosol was a frozen, two-part drug that had to be thawed and mixed immediately prior to use, and in large doses it required patients to breathe pure oxygen (potentially toxic) for the weeks it took their natural blood supply to recover. Meanwhile, doctors had to keep pumping the stuff in every 12 hours or the patient would die, bloodless in a cloud of exhaled fluorocarbons. Fluosol was eventually pulled off the market.

That hasn't stopped others from trying. Today around 10 companies are pushing blood substitutes through the FDA approval process.

Elcomsoft Explains The Awful Truth About Adobe's E-Book Encryption. Again.

From The Shifted Librarian and 24-hour Drive Thru Weblog

Here's the actual email posting from Vladamir Katalov

I've created another copy of the email on my own website for safe keeping.

July 17, 2002

Broadcasters Take A Stand Against CARP!

Radio stations appeal Internet royalty decision

Radio stations have asked a federal appeals court to rule that they do not have to pay musicians and recording companies when they play music on the Internet because they do not pay royalties for regular, over-the-air broadcasts.

In a motion filed late Monday, a group of radio stations said a federal court in Philadelphia and the U.S. Copyright Office had misinterpreted the law when they said that radio stations had to to pay musicians and recording companies when they "stream" their songs over the Internet.

RIAA Decides To Criminalize Its Best Customers

Here's the LawMeme discussion along with a nice synopsis by Lisa M. Bowman for CNET:
File-traders in the crosshairs.

From CNET article:

Jennison thinks the RIAA will target people in their late 20s or early 30s who are making available massive numbers of files that are current and popular. The RIAA may also look for people who could otherwise afford to buy CDs but instead choose to play the free-swapping game, she speculated.

Others suggest that the industry would pursue, as University of Wisconsin's Vaidhyanathan called them, "hacker types," or people who look like they might spell trouble to mainstream Americans. Already, similar tactics have been put in play by the movie industry, which successfully convinced several judges that the operators of hacker publication 2600 aided copyright infringement by providing links to code that could be used to crack copyright protections on DVDs.

The record industry also could lean on law enforcement to do its dirty work for it, said P.J. McNealy, a research director at Gartner. "One of the problems with file-sharing right now is consumers aren't afraid of police knocking in doors and seizing computers," he said. However, criminal copyright charges, which usually must involve monetary losses or an intent to make money, often are hard to prove in cases involving individuals.

July 15, 2002

Rockin' Chair Planet

So I know what you're thinking: "Well Lisa, are you going to spend all of your blogging time on shameless self promotion, complaining about the Shrub and whining about the rapid demise of our constitutional freedoms?" (Blah, blah, blah blah-blah blah.)

Well I suppose I could lighten up long enough to watch a nice Shockwave Animation from my friend John Gentry that really helps put it all into perspective:
Rockin' Chair Planet.

Ray-zing Arizona

I spent the weekend in Tuscon, Arizona -- my first time to the anywhere in the "Southwest." (Not counting Las Vegas -- although one thing that both cities have in common is that I'd last about 10 minutes in the outside heat in July :-)

Anyway, my friend put the car top down on the way back to the airport this morning (4:30 am) -- and I had a chance to see what a totally beautiful place it can be at night! It's pretty in the daytime too, but you can't tell, really, because you're either inside breathing cool air or outside trying to make it to your car, or to a pool or lake or some other kind of water source -- which makes everything OK again untill you get out of the water.

What if you don't have air conditioning or a water source? Wow. I'm pretty sure I'd be dead before long.

I hear you can go outside in the Winter, though.

(Later that morning...)

Of Interest: the Tuscon and LAX airports still don't have wireless networks. Bummer. Get with the program guys.

Sony's New Alienated Bookshelf Stereo CD Ripper System (sans Internet Connectivity or Digital Output)

Sony has announced a CMT-L7HD bookshelf stereo system that automatically copies the CDs you play on to a hard drive for future plays (you can also RIP them faster than playing speed in a handy "silent mode".) You can also program ahead of time to record your favorite radio programs on to the device's hard drive (not your computer's hard drive) -- just like a Tivo for broadcast radio (not webcasts).

Great idea, great product: once it has a digital output jack and wireless connection.

I certainly hope that this device's lack of a digital output bus and Internet connectivity don't count as copy protection mechanisms. Seems like there could be a big market for third parties to develop peripherals for these puppies. (Or perhaps that's what Sony plans to do itself?)

See the NY Times article by David Pogue:
A Stereo That's Small and Digital

Sony's latest gamble is a case in point: a bookshelf stereo system called the CMT-L7HD. (All right, so Sony ran out of ideas when it came time to name this thing.) Its ingenious mission is to bring the convenience of digital music files to an everyday bookshelf system ˜ without requiring a computer.

Every time you play a CD, the machine automatically copies its tracks onto its built-in 20-gigabyte hard drive. (If time is of the essence, you can also dump an entire CD to the hard drive in 20 minutes using a silent copying mode.) Thereafter, you can play back those songs without having to insert the original CD. The hard drive holds 300 CD's worth of music, turning this handsome unit into a self-contained jukebox...

The unit's ability to save audio onto its hard drive is not limited to CD's, either. It can just as easily store the music on your tapes or even vinyl records, thanks to the analog and digital audio inputs on the back, or even from the built-in radio. (The L7HD stores audio in Sony's own Atrac3 format rather than the more common MP3 format. But since you can copy music only onto the hard drive, never off it, the storage format makes no practical difference.)

Even M-crew, however, doesn't let you copy MP3 files from your PC to the L7HD ˜ no surprise, really, when you consider that Sony is also a record company with a vested interest in stifling the casual trading of MP3 music. (The only way to transfer MP3 files is to play them on your PC, in real time, as the L7HD records them.) But that's O.K. The very act of connecting the L7HD to a PC somehow violates the purity of this stereo's conception as a self-contained, PC-free jukebox.

The Boss Implements Effective Copy Protections

Broadband Wi-Fi On the Way

See the Redherring Story by Mark Mowrey:
Coming soon to your cable box Providers are bringing wireless connectivity to your set-top

Cable providers are upping the ante in the competition for broadband subscribers. By combining cable TV, broadband service, and wireless connectivity in one set-top box, cable companies could soon offer consumers value that DSL firms won't be able to match.

The Shrub Attempts to TIPS the Scales of Justice Back to 1984

The Shrub is hoping to have 1 in 24 Americans spying on each others' everyday lives in the name of fighting terrorism.

Why should we all become volunteer spies and hand over what little freedoms we have left by cashing in our friends' and neighbors' rights to privacy? What if there's no TIPS program at all? (But what if there is! -- Aha! Fear! The ultimate controller of the masses rears its ugly head yet again.)

This is most likely just an attempt to fragment the public by making us all paranoid of each other. Don't fall for it friends.

If memory serves me correctly, to date, the Bush Administration hasn't been too great about telling us much of anything.

See the story by Ritt Goldstein for The Sydney Morning Herald:
US planning to recruit one in 24 Americans as citizen spies.

The Bush Administration aims to recruit millions of United States citizens as domestic informants in a program likely to alarm civil liberties groups.

The Terrorism Information and Prevention System, or TIPS, means the US will have a higher percentage of citizen informants than the former East Germany through the infamous Stasi secret police. The program would use a minimum of 4 per cent of Americans to report "suspicious activity".

Tracking the Origin and Royalty History of Tetris

You might enjoy this very interesting account of the History of Tetris.

July 14, 2002

Unintended Consequences of the DMCA Explained

The EFF has published a great paper that summarizes the Unintended Consequences of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).

It is available as a PDF file or as a Googled HTML document.

Since they were enacted in 1998, the “anti-circumvention” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), codified in section 1201 of the Copyright Act, have not been used as Congress envisioned. Congress meant to stop copyright pirates from defeating anti-piracy protections added to copyrighted works, and to ban “black box” devices intended for that purpose.

In practice, the anti-circumvention provisions have been used to stifle a wide array of legitimate activities, rather than to stop copyright piracy. As a result, the DMCA has developed into a serious threat to three important public policy priorities:

Section 1201 Chills Free Expression and Scientific Research.

Experience with section 1201 demonstrates that it is being used to stifle free speech and scientific research. The lawsuit against 2600 magazine, threats against Princeton Professor Edward Felten’s team of researchers, and prosecution of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov have chilled the legitimate activities of journalists, publishers, scientists, students, programmers, and members of the public.

Section 1201 Jeopardizes Fair Use.

By banning all acts of circumvention, and all technologies and tools that can be used for circumvention, section 1201 grants to copyright owners the power to unilaterally eliminate the public’s fair use rights. Already, the music industry has begun deploying “copy-protected CDs” that promise to curtail consumers’ ability to make legitimate, personal copies of music they have purchased.

Section 1201 Impedes Competition and Innovation.

Rather than focusing on pirates, many copyright owners have chosen to use the DMCA to hinder their legitimate competitors. For example, Sony has invoked section 1201 to protect their monopoly on Playstation video game consoles, as well as their “regionalization” system limiting users in one country from playing games legitimately purchased in another.

This document collects a number of reported cases where the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA have been invoked not against pirates, but against consumers, scientists, and legitimate competitors. It will be updated from time to time as additional cases come to light.