Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The case against copyright extensions

Good link to a number of articles, arguing against the extenstion of copyrights. As is quoted, Elvis is dead, who's making money off his recordings?

On a sidenote, isn't anyone surprised at the hype the new Star Wars DVDs have got? The movies are nice, but that's about it. (Unless you saw it as a kid, and were really blown away by it - which is where most of the target audience is, i guess.)

George Lucas for all his savvy, hasn't done much of significance in terms of films (7 major films, five of them the Star Wars series, plus the Indiana Jones and maybe a few other scripts). Comparisons to Spielberg are inevitable, but I think Spielberg's a true auteur. George Lucas may yet get there, if he stops playing with his toys, and makes some real movies like his American Grafitti, which (though not one of my favorites), still manages to capture something of that time and age.


O'reilly is soon to come out with a new magazine for Do-it-yourself hobbyists and tinkerers, called "Make" . An interesting proposition. O'reilly, with its name, should bring a new credibility to this hobby. Though I am not much of a tinkerer myself, it is something that needs more promotion. Practical, fun projects can do more to further interest of science and technology among children. This country needs more people to be interested in technology and science.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Discretion, the better part of what?

Anyone interested in security should definitely read one of Bruce Schneier's CryptoGram newsletters. He offers a refreshing insight as to how most of the security measures, taken post 9/11 offer just an appearance of safety, reassuring us that things are hunky-dory. One of the points he raises, took me off on a completely different tangent. He says, that having security guys check IDs is dumb. They will only block people on the ridiculous no-fly list, but they should be trained well and given more responsibility.

For the past 15 years or so, since liberalization began in India, I think this is exactly the kind of power that we've tried to take out of the hands of the government officer. The rules are clear, and transparent. No discretionary power in the hands of anyone. One in breach of the law is out, and one complying is in.The struggle in India is on, and we might yet win.

Slight hitch. The law, or the powers that be, mess up. Case in point: No-fly list. The Hon. Senators and ex-pop stars are getting caught.(OK, this one's a bit goofy) But don't forget the unwashed masses who don't get any publicity after being booted off the next discounted flight they were trying to board. Not much can be done here.

I had the pleasure of experiencing NJ's DMV in a similar way. I go all the way to Trenton in the morning negotiating weekday rush hour traffic to get my license transferred from PA to NJ, only to find that I could have done the same at my neighborhood DMV. Only, they forgot to update the website(that's a totally different story). I pay my money, get my mug shot, and then, the computer's on the blink. Not a problem, it should get fixed anytime. I wait for an hour. No one has a fscking clue as to what is going on. I am told, I can get my job done at My Neighborhood DMV.

Next day, MN DMV says, your file opened at Trenton can be only closed there, so go back there. They were polite, but that does not make my drive back any shorter. Common sense, anyone?. Just give the poor sod his license, since his paperwork seems in order. For all their well-meaning courtesy, they couldn't . The system isn't engineered to handle a file opened in Trenton, the computer going down, and restoring the file in South Plainfield. All those transactions in my Distributed Systems class begin to make sense now. Only, when the system went down, or was down, the transaction should have been rolled back. Maybe Raj should have been designing the system. (bad joke,forget it)

Anyway, the point is , when all power has been invested in the computer, you take away the brains and the discretionary power an official has. Which is a good thing for corrupt places like India right now, because you are putting things in the hands of a neutral authority. But, when the system fails, there should be enough procedures to account for that, so that Your Neighborhood government official isn't left with that "deer caught in headlight" look in his eyes.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Indiatimes Gas

Indiatimes claims it is the largest Indian website in terms of the number of page views. Big deal. Typical BS, what you'd expect from them. The Times of India, at one time the best newspaper in the country, and the Economic Times, still the country's best financial daily, are relegated to sub-domains on the Indiatimes portal. If you separate these, it would be interesting to see which website has the top page views. Other top rated sites include, interestingly, Shaadi.com, our friendly neighborhood marriage portal. I don't know what is more ridiculous, the singles ads for these pretty girls in Piscataway that appears as a side-bar on my TOI session(I'm sure they don't exist), or that they chose the absolutely gorgeous Nauheed to model for shaadi . Well, showing an absolute nerd guy and a plain looking software engineer type girl wouldn't have worked.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Right to Read?

I'll say this,Richard Stallman has come off as being fanatical to me more than once, but hell, he is a visionary. The Right to Read is so eerily foresighted (he wrote it in 1997, mind you). Which brings me to my new topic of interest. Creativity and how it is being undermined by corporate control today. Oppose the Induce act, all!! Or, at least change it for heaven's sake, so that it allows some cool dudes to put out far-out technology that I'd find useful.(though people can use it for illegal stuff, for all I care). I hate sounding like a left-wing fanatic, but I find it increasingly true that the US Government is selling out to corporate czars, especially in intellectual property issues. I mean, the kind of software patents being issued are getting more and more ridiculous by the day. Anyone heard of prior art?


This just came up when I was talking to someone from India... isn't it
interesting how the prices for telecom services in India seem to be
dropping by the day, while prices seem to be stable in the US? I mean,
it's true that companies offer more for the same prices. But before
Virgin Mobile USA launched, there were no real pre-paid guys on the scene. Now, everyone
from AT&T to Cingular to T-Mobile is scrambling to introduce their own
pre-paid service. I haven't checked, but I am sure that their phones will be
locked, making switching between even GSM providers impossible.

heck, that is the problem with most American companies. Goddamn control is
what they want. All the free-market spiel they put out is just that - marketing BS.
All these guys are really interested in is protecting their own cosy
oligarchies. We need some serious competition here. Virgin, how about
introducing a thriving market in used cellphones, with even cheaper
air-time, and nights and weekends free?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Firefox turns 1.0

Mozilla Firefox finally gets a version that's almost 1.0 . The preview release is out, which means it won't be long before 1.0 is out. The best part is RSS integration into the browser itself. Thunderbird has RSS support too, which is brilliant.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Creative Commons

Lawrence Lessig has some fairly interesting ideas on creativity, and IP laws. His book Free Culture explains how, today, culture is being bound, and it rests in the hands of the powerful
few. I agree with this, and find the whole monopolization, dumbing-down and "safe-ness" of media mind-numbing to say the least. India had this problem due to the monopoly of Doordarshan on TV. However, cable changed all that. We're seeing more of that in the print media now. Times of India is going the yellow way, (and boosting circulation to be the largest newspaper in the world), and though regional newspapers still hold on, how long before they succumb to the lure of the lucre? We need more independent thinking, not less.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Open Source software alternatives

This link has information about open-source options to your regular
software.Old, but still useful.