Archive for March, 2000

Returning From CA

We had spicyfood ™.

We Laughed, we cried, it was better than cats.


Goin’ to California

With an achin in my heart. Or rather my arms. I helped move my office today, into a new space with 6x the bandwith and about 6x the space for servers. Mmmmmmmm rack mount. You know, computers are heavy, even the fruity colored ones with handles.

Tomorrow: Flight to CA, to Cupertino for ManilaPalooza. Sunday, flight back, missing the Kingdome implosion. Bummer. Tape it for me…

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this is a test

This is only a test


Spring. Finally.

60 degrees Old Picture from 1996(?) a turn at the distric championship criterium.

Blue Skies

Birds Chirping.

It smells like spring. I climbed Madrona for the first time this year today. And still had a little bit of strength left at the end for the climb home. This day is repayment for about a week of this winter.

And only 2 months to racing season.

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Legal Updates

st helens bridgeA mixed bag really.

I-695 was struck down as being unconstitutional on 4 different fronts. Tim Eyman decried the decision as “political”, while the peanut gallery writes letters to the Seattle Times saying “The people have spoken”.

Here’s a clue. We have a constitution for a reason. That reason is to protect the people from themselves and their legislators. The fact that at some point in time, 58% of the people who decide to vote want something Does not make it constitutional. The constitution protects against tyranny of the majority.

Here’s another free clue. If something is being attacked on it’s merits from one group of people and the best rebuttals the supporters can some up with are personal attacks; There’s a good chance that the arguments on substance are more valid. The greatest fool in the world can say the sun is shining, but that doesn’t make it dark outside.

The Washington State anti-spam law was judged unconstitutional on the grounds that it is an unreasonable restraint on interstate commerce. I find it hard to believe that any company has a right to advertise to me through a mechanisim that I pay for. No telemarketing on my cell phone, no ads on the fax, no ads in my email. Period. I would also like to add that 95% of the spam that I get is apparently advertising for scams and other illegal things.

A judge issued an injunction in the Mattel (CyberPatrol) vs. CPHack case. According to NPR, the ruling is that CPhack violates copyright since it allows users to bypass CyberPatrol. A spokesman for Mattel said something to the effect of: “People rely on this program, so it’s not right that people can get around it.” According to the very detailed analysis of the code mirrored here, the methods of hashing the passwords were severly inadequate. The hashes are described as “cargo cult crypto”. (cargo Cult Crypto is a reference to cargo cult science. The full .zip of the cphack archive can be found here

Further analysis of CyberPatrol showed that anti-filtering sites are filtered out in categories such as “Sex” and “Porn”. And that a large percentage of the blocked sites are 404s. Perhaps Mattel is trying to protect the image that they are competent.

Free Clue #3. Any program that provides security via “cargo cult crypto” is not security, and the company distributing it should be liable for damages caused by trusting that program.

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Dangerous Meta




















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Moron Amazon’s Net Patents

Wow. This net.patent thing is coming on big time. Bezos has responded. Richard Stallman, the FSF guru has spoken. Tim O’Reilly. James Gleick. Dave Winer. This is so big time that Tim’s picture made it onto After Y2K!

My take is still that patents in the internet field do not encourage innovation. I don’t see where anything on the internet needs to have a a protected monopoly on an idea. Ideas are not scarce, time to implement ideas is scarce.

I have lots of ideas. Every project generates twice as many ideas as I use. As long as I am working, I will never run out of ideas. My ideas can inspire others, and their ideas inspire me. Since there are a lot of people out there, some of us end up having similar ideas at the same time. Lawyers aren’t necessary, the internet is big enough to survive without them.

In the end, the net will route around patents, just as it has routed around other damage.

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Amazon’s Net Patents

Snowqualmie FallsAmazon.com has obtained a couple of patents on business methods that seem like a simple implementation of a database+cookie scheme. From my cursory reading of the patent, it appears that these are reasonably basic items that someone skilled in the art could come up with rather easily.

My own limited knowlege of the extant software patents would seem to suggest that there are very few that would be considered valid from a novelty or prior art point of view. The legal system being what it is, that view has little or no bearing on the realities of the situation.

The purpose of the patent system was to encourage innovation by granting a monopoly to the inventor to exploit the invention for a limited period of time. There are several reasons that this is not the effect when patents are granted for software.

In the software world, it is reasonably obvious that a tremendous amount of innovation is occuring without the patent system interfering. In addition, the patents that are granted are at least 2 years behind the leading edge of innovation. Since the pace of change is such that entire industries change between the application and awarding of a patent; the chance that a patent will still be an innovation is low and the chance that others will have independantly arrived at the same end is high.

Many of the arguments that have been put forward in defense of software patents allude to the amount of time spent on the idea Unfortunately, the time to generate the idea and the time required for the implementation of the idea are entertwined. Implementations are already protected by copyright, so there is no need for a patent there.

Patents prevent some reverse engineering efforts to ensure compatibility. Since a patent covers a process, even if you independently create every piece of that process in a clean room, you can still be infringing on a patent. This is an important consideration when there is a possibility for submarine patents.

Finally, the process of patents and patent defenses distract from the process of innovating. The effort required to get a patent puts it out of the reach of lone hackers, and puts a tremendous drag on small companies.

But in today’s climate, there are software patents, and they appear to be legally valid. In this sort of climate, Amazon is acting as they have to. They are protecting core business methods from being attacked by a patent poacher. This is a necessary step for one other legal reason.

Amazon.com has lots of minority shareholders, and their stock has been falling. In today’s legal climate, there’s a significant possibly that they will have to defend against minority shareholder lawsuits.

Not defending their patents is probably a good way to lose these lawsuits. If the patents aren’t defended, especially against direct competitors, it can be held as an example of management not excercising due diligence.

My conclusion is that there are too many lawyers (Hi Sis!) promoting a climate of litigation that prevents companies and individuals from doing what is right.

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