Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.
"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist
E-mail me: pmurray [at] despammed.com
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Spies. A co-worker was having problems with her computer today, so I took a few minutes to investigate. Her PC has been running really sluggishly, much worse than it ought to (I know because I have an identical machine). I checked to see what software was automatically loading at startup, and naturally there were a few unnecessary things that I turned off. Then the thought occurred to me that maybe I ought to run the Ad-Aware software on her machine to check for spyware, etc. Bingo. What's TimeSink? What's WebHancer? What's Flyswat? Etc. I cleaned everything I found off, which required a reboot in this case. Much better!
I decided it was worth checking my PC at home with Ad-Aware. I didn't really expect to find anything because I'm pretty wary about loading software, but I figured what the heck. Sure enough, it finds OnFlow.
Friday, April 26, 2002
How our government works. The Economist magazine explains gerrymandering (read the definition | see the original "gerrymander") and how/why it's getting worse than ever. The succinct subhead: "In a normal democracy, voters choose their representatives. In America, it is rapidly becoming the other way around." (via MetaFilter)
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
I'm sure that you already knew this. A new study shows that flattery works, regardless of whether it's true or not.
Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Traffic, no ethics. You've probably heard how porn site operators buy up URLs that have not been renewed and use them to funnel traffic to their sites. A curious Harvard student did some digging when this happened to him. He found that the porn site to which he was redirected had 4,525 web sites pointing to it.
One more thing to worry about when flying. Doctors describe a case where a flight attendant was apparently struck by lightning while inside an airplane in flight.
Monday, April 22, 2002
This explains a lot. LA Times reports that stress increases our desire for carbohydrates and fat.
Surprise, surprise. Dubya hasn't been acting conservative enough for the far right. I think in some respects Dubya is the Republican Clinton; I say that in the sense that he assigns a higher value practicality than some of his backers would prefer.
I can't pass any chance to mock Rep. Tom DeLay. DeLay told parents not to send their children to Texas A&M or Baylor because they were too permissive. What he didn't mention that he had been expelled from Baylor "for his 'extracurricular activities' and 'too vigorous a social life.'" (AP, Washington Post) (via fark.com)
Google does the right thing. I noted earlier that Google was dropping links to anti-Scientology pages when the "church" complained under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Under the DMCA, they could have been liable for copyright infringement if they had refused. But removing the links set off an uproar. Well, leave it to the clever people at Google to find a perfectly legal way to let people find this information while obeying the DMCA.
History repeats itself? This photo irritates me. (If you're too lazy to click, it's a young man at a protest in Washington with a sign reading "Capitalism must be destroyed.")
We need a term to describe people, usually young, who enjoy all the benefits of living in America but complain about how horrible it is. Capitalism gave this guy a good education, MTV and fashionable clothes. He can't see the hypocrisy of what he claims to want.
I don't mean to dismiss all the criticisms made by these people. There's something to them. But anybody who really thinks that destroying capitalism is going to solve the world's problems clearly hasn't read very much history.
I wonder if this decade is going to be another 1960s. There would be a certain irony if the baby boom generation had to deal with rebellious children.
Friday, April 19, 2002
A poor excuse for a representative. A week ago, I noted the bizarre conspiracy theory about September 11 being spun by Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). Here's more about her from Slate.
Volatile organic compounds. Automakers are trying to get rid of them, taking with them "that new car smell."
Thursday, April 18, 2002
End times. My boss claims to seriously believe that Bill Gates is the Antichrist. Wonder what he'll say when I show him that the Federal government is considering using Microsoft's Passport service to verify online identities. Between this and Larry Ellison volunteering to "donate" Oracle's services for a national identity card... shudder.
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
More Gadgetwatch. The OQO (terrible name!) claims to pack a complete Windows XP computer into a form factor the size of a thick paperback. You can plug in a keyboard or monitor, etc., as needed. Estimated price is $1000. Interesting. Read the CNET article.
Gadgetwatch. I don't know anything about it beyond the press release, but the new Logitech Pocket Digital camera looks quite interesting, including its price.
Tuesday, April 16, 2002
Thank you, deregulators. After years this being a great radio market, now Detroit radio really sucks. Based on national trends, it isn't going to get any better. If you want backup of that statement, read this. Now you understand why I really want to save Internet radio.
Are all TV executives insane? While I realize that this has long been a valid question, I think it's more true than ever. PBS and Maryland Public Television fix the not-broken "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser" by dumping the host. Now apparently (not confirmed), The Weather Channel is planning to drop the National Weather Service local forecast text in favor of pictures.
Not the answer we wanted, thank you. Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds hands out another "Airbrush Award" for someone removing a poll when they don't like the results. The new winner is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). I could describe what happened, but The Weekly Standard already does a fine job.
To elaborate: web polls are unscientific and susceptible to manipulation. (That's how Howard Stern's "Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf" won the as "the most fascinating person" or whatever in People magazine's online poll. Duh.) But once you start an online poll, you look stupid if you yank it, like CAIR did.
And as long as we're on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians... I have no patience with any supporter of either side who refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing by their side. Both sides are to blame for this mess. No, I don't consider this to be a brilliant insight on my part, but a lot of people refuse to grasp it, so it bears repeating.
Doing his job. I can't imagine that stories like this one are going to endear Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank to the White House any more than he already is ("By general consensus, Milbank -- one of the Post's two White House correspondents -- is the administration's least-favorite journalist.").
Saturday, April 13, 2002
Thank you. A bipartisan group of House Representatives is sponsoring a bill designed to override President's Bush Executive Order that clamps the lid on papers of former Presidents.
Friday, April 12, 2002
Don't believe the record industry. A convincing argument that falling CD sales are due to rising prices, not digital piracy. It's also a good reminder that the major record labels are fighting 28 attorneys general in a lawsuit charging them with price fixing. The Federal Trade Commission pretty much came to the same conclusion. These people are guilty -- and yet they want to eliminate legitimate and legal fair use by consumers.
Here's a common sense point that someone raised at my office. Why can I buy a DVD of a movie that cost $100 million to make for not much more -- sometimes even less -- than the cost of an audio CD?
When CDs were introduced, the record industry claimed that the higher prices resulted from an inability to keep up with demand, due to their not being enough factories producing CDs. Here we are about 20 years later, there's plenty of CD production available, and prices are still high.
It was only a matter of time. I expect crackpot theories about Sept. 11 from the French and the Middle East. But when a U.S. House Representative starts peddling one (on a Berkeley radio station, what a surprise), that's depressing. (Note the smug, carefully worded "I don't have any evidence but an investigation might find some" call for a fishing expedition.) I value healthy skepticism, but this sounds to me more like grandstanding for attention. (thanks, Neil)
Thursday, April 11, 2002
The annotated Jack Valenti. LawMeme takes a ZDNet interview with MPAA chief Jack Valenti and annotates his answers. I love this approach.
The Senate gets an earful. Somewhat good news regarding Sen. Hollings' dreadful "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act" (CBDTPA), which would mandate copyright protection for any digital media device (and sacrifice your legitimate "fair use" rights): thousands of people are contacting the Senate to criticize it.
"We haven't received one e-mail in support of the Hollings bill," said Judiciary Committee spokeswoman Mimi Devlin. "It seems like there's a groundswell of support from regular users."
But don't back off, because the movie and record industries won't. Go to DigitalConsumer.org to find out more, to contact a member of Congress, and to sign up for their mailing list (which has been extremely infrequent so far). For more background, here's a recent Business Week commentary.
Tuesday, April 09, 2002
Copyright giants plot in secret. Hollywood is obsessed with the idea that everyone wants to steal their copyrighted material. But the FCC declared that digital TV signals could not be encrypted. So Hollywood's solution is to add protection at the receiving end. They are meeting in secret with key consumer electronics and computer companies to set standards for equipment to receive digital TV. (Standards are usually set in open forums, taking input from all interested parties.) The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urges people to speak up now to protect their legitimate "fair use" rights.
The first hit is free. Later this year, Time Warner will start charging its cable modem customers when they exceed a (currently unspecified) download limit.
Monday, April 08, 2002
Entrepreneurship or profiteering? On the 34th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, debate continues over what critics charge is the selling of his legacy and mismanagement of the King Center. I have to say that I agree with them.
Copyright law running amok, cont'd. Linking could become illegal, depending upon the outcome of a case in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Sunday, April 07, 2002
Evil phone companies. Robert X. Cringley explains why your phone company hates DSL. (via camworld) I need to do a better job of keeping up with his columns.
Thursday, April 04, 2002
Was the 1937 Hollywood gossip true? With its high concentration of celebrities, money and power, Los Angeles has provided a wealth of mysteries and scandals for decades. Here's one I had never heard of: a new biography of The Three Stooges claims to have the goods on the strange death of their creator, Ted Healy. (via fark.com)
Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Alex Beam is a twit. This Boston Globe columnist (whom I've never heard of) blathered on today about how weblogs suck. A lot of what he says does apply to a lot of weblogs, I cheerfully admit that... but to criticize the entire genre is stupid. It would be as fair as if I said that Bob Greene and Larry King (and yes, Alex Beam) are lousy columnists, so ALL columnists suck.
You never know when this might come in handy: A Bible (Old Testament) family tree. (via kottke.org)
Monday, April 01, 2002
Federally funded pet health care. True story: a co-worker of mine was incensed when he heard this report on NPR. He was so enraged that he printed the story and was about to post it on our (real life) bulletin board when it occurred to him...
Not an April Fool's joke, I'm afraid. United Virtualities, the company that brought us the web ad technique of "shoshkeles" (stuff that moves across the page, like this) has a new technology that enables advertisers to change your browser's toolbar.