knowledge is power Last updated - May 2002

 A Weblog exploring the repository of all human knowledge

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 Archive - February 2002




Coming soon:
A poem by Patrick Gribbin. I swear. Really. Soon.

Just to give the other side a chance here's Michael Eisner's essay - Abe Lincoln and the internet pirates Eisner explains that Abe Lincoln would have hated Napster "My internet guru, Abe Lincoln, was also instrumental in setting the standard gauge for American railroads in the Pacific Railway Act of 1864, which established the gauge for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. However, it took 22 years of governmental cajoling before all the railroad companies adopted this standard. Just as we needed interstate transport standards then, we need international content protection standards now. Let us hope it will not take 22 years to achieve them. " International content protection standards? Working for Disney sure can make a man dream pretty high.

I'm reserving my response to Eisner's comparisions until I can find some more on the real motives for the Railway Act. Was it vital to the completion of the Transcontinental?, or was it vital for solving the problems transporting supplies for the Civil War? The south had a different standard and seceeded just before the passage of the Act.

The Railway Act also gave millions of acres to the Railroads for free. Many years later, as Northern Pacific sold or leased the land, their "preferential routing" clauses ran into trouble with the Sherman Act.

No, its not a new party drug, it's a short-sighted and scary bill - Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act. In essence, it'll mean you won't be able to copy mass-produced content on any new machines, and would mean heavy criminal penalties for doing so. If you read weblogs, you may have seen these links before, but they need to be repeated and broadcast across the Web over and over. I have a feeling this may be the first real test of the public voice of the Web having an impact on politics.
  • When elephants dance A good overview on copy-protected CDs, the threats to Internet radio, the history of copyrights, and who's behind the CBDTPA (and who's behind them).
  • Links to news, petitions and Senate contact info. Also Rip. Mix. Burn. Jail. A flash animation.
  • Dan Gilmour: Bleak future looms if you don't take a stand
  • Wired Article: Anti-Copy Bill Hits D.C. "The CBDTPA does say the final "encoding rules" should take into account fair-use rights, such as making backup copies or reproducing short excerpts from books, songs or movies. Copies of TV broadcasts made for one-time personal use at home are also permitted. But the CBDTPA also says that with those two exceptions, owners of digital content can encode their "directions" for use, copying and reproduction. "
  • Alex Golub's comments: Warped Wood "This is not a political issue for us, any more than warped wood is a political issue for a carpenter. Like warped wood, this law will help rather than hurt our industry. The technical complexity of information technology - combined with the notorious people-skills of most IT types - may tend to obscure this fact. But just to repeat: so many people dislike this bill not because of their politics, but because they know what is practically workable and what is not. And this bill is not pratically workable."
  • Tom Negrino's letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein "As a book author who has nearly half a million books in print, I understand the importance of copyright. But the changes facing the entertainment industries due to technological advancement will not be solved by a technological or legal Band-Aid. Instead, the answer will be for the entertainment industries to adapt their business models to embrace, not fight, technological change. Laws like the CBDTPA are merely protectionist attempts to maintain the status quo, and will ultimately be as useless as bailing water with a fork."
  • The Action Alert from the EFF "...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. "
  • The text of the bill "To regulate interstate commerce in certain devices by providing for private sector development of technological protection measures to be implementedand enforced by Federal regulations to protect digital content and promote broadband as well as the transition to digital television, and for other purposes. "
  • Seth Godin's note to Senator Hollings "Ideas that spread are worth more than those that donžt. Devices that spread ideas are both an important economic engine AND a huge opportunity for both cultural and economic growth. "
  • Leuschke distributes a potentially illegal two line program "By design, programming languages are terribly flexible. The only way to prevent software from removing do-not-copy bits from digital content would be for Congress to ban the programmable PC. And replace it, perhaps, with WebTV television-top boxes."

Web design links

More Weblogging and other links

Weblogging and other links

I've made it to the big time!
After two and a half years of doing this blog I can finally say I've made it. My Chicago's Irish Pubs list got a link on the Chicago Plumbing Code blog.

Knowledge on the Web
Some useful sites:

Just in time for St. Patty's Day
I usually take St. Patty's day off from drinking, it's too hard to get a beer, and the amateurs get messy. However I do offer this Chicago Irish Pub map for those of you venturing out with the masses. Although I'd recommend going after they mop the floors from this weekend.

Web Stuff I need to know
Haven't had time to read these articles yet:
  • Web Search Guide's Altavista Update A review of the engine's look and logic. "Searchers have been leaving AltaVista in droves. During January Jupiter Media Metrix watched where web searchers searched. Only 5.7% used AltaVista, whereas 24.5% went to Google, and 36.3% used MSN"
  • What is a k-log "Weblogs will potentially become the first new widely adopted desktop productivity tool since the browser."
  • Javascript-free CSS Image Rollovers. Now with Mozilla compatibility!
  • A List Apart also talks about CSS Rollovers without swapping images.
  • Boxes and Arrows "Boxes and Arrows is the definitive source for the complex task of bringing architecture and design to the digital landscape." Besides the interesting-looking articles, they found the only photograph that makes Jakob Nielsen look cool.

Word Shortcomings and Shortcuts
An anti-PC rant by Bill Walsh, of The Slot. Its not pro-Mac either. He's complaining because he has to give up his SII editing system and now must use Word. He's got a few good points about keyboard shortcuts, and I feel sorry for anybody who has to use Word on a deadline basis, but most of his complaints stem from the fact that he's been using SII for TWENTY YEARS! Of course you're going miss the way you're used to doing things.

But I do feel sorry for him. I find the clumsiest features of Word are those that control formatting and styling, but luckily for Walsh, formatting isn't a reporter's job. Newspapers have content management systems that pull the text out of Word files anyway. I'm sure editing tasks can be streamlined in Word, and I have seen people forced to work with it become blazingly fast but I've yet to figure out how to make Word efficient. And for some reason I've never found anything on the Web to help with the more advanced tasks. Although the MS Word site does have a few helpful tutorials like Taming Unruly Formatting. There's lots of tutorials to show you how to change a font, but nothing to show you how to do anything efficiently. Luckily I really don't have to learn.

Walsh mentions User Defined Keys (UDK's), save strings and multiple find and replace features. Not having these features after having them for so long must make it seem like going back to a typewriter. I use two professional programs everyday that allow me to do minutes worth of work in a few keystrokes. Any Quark production grunt worth his kerning tables will have set-up his style sheets with keyboard shortcuts and flowing styles. Any HTML coder using BBEdit has set up his menu keys, and knows how to use and save grep patterns to edit, not just the text of one page, but of an entire site.

These aren't skills easily picked up by beginners however, and advanced shortcuts sometimes aren't even found in the menus. Also I didn't learn all these things from trial and error, or from a book. I had a guru or two actually show me how. For those of you without a guru at your disposal, here's some shortcut resources

A few great essays on cooking and food:
  • The Evolution of Cooking: A Talk with Richard Wrangham "Wrangham believes that humanity was launched by an ape learning to cook. In a burst of evolution around two million years ago, our species developed the family relations that make us such a peculiar kind of animal. Cooking made us women, men and lovers. "
  • Alton Brown from Food Network has an excellent rant on cooking anxiety and celebrity recipe homogenizing. "This sort of miasma drives us to abandon all sense of personal style and as an extension, our very personalities. Unable to trust ourselves at flea markets or antique shops, we flock to Pottery Barn to buy artificial flea market finds."
  • A beer to call your own. discusses the death of middlebrow beer, with some good beer links. "At the turn of the century, there were hundreds of independent American brewers, one or more in almost every major northeastern or midwestern city; almost all have now vanished."
Stuff I didn't know
I just recently discovered did you know?, a Chicago blog by Cinnamon, who works for a publisher and documents all the things see learns at her job. I don't know how I missed her weblog for so long. I bring this up, because once a year we research a book for a publisher and I learn a great deal while tracking down the images we want for the book. This year's book is the journal of a soldier who went on Francisco Coronado's expedition in 1540. They were looking for some lost cities of gold and they got as far as Kansas 50 years after Columbus and 40 years before the first english settlement in America. Here's what I learned in just the last few days:
  • The difference between Holland and the Netherlands "In fact the 's' in Netherlands, show you that this is a union. Holland gave up it's independence a very long time ago. So calling the Netherlands 'Holland', is like calling Great Britain 'Scotland' or 'Wales', or the U.S.A 'District Colombia'."
  • While talking to Wilson Hurley, a very prominent western artist, I learned that the horses from Coronado's expedition did not become the first wild horses to be used by the indians as many people think. Coronado's horses were heavy, large horses, able to carry a heavily armored Spanish soldier. Also Coronado apparently had only a few mares with him, and these were accounted for. Other sources back this theory up

Random info links

Google Bombing
Google loves Weblogs "Unbeknownst to most, weblogs have a significant impact on Google search results. With over "150 million search queries per day", that means that weblogs are influencing over a billion Google searches a week." One quote that really struck home - "Google page ranks are already being impacted by weblogs in more long-term ways - how else would blogger Dave Winer outrank humorist Dave Barry in a Google search for Dave?"

Does this mean that we actually have the power to make Dave Winer more popular than any other Dave? God forbid, but it does raise the question. The article also mentions googlebombing, or purposefully trying to influence the Google search engine by mass linking. The recent campaign by the excellent photoblogger David Gallagher comes to mind. While I'm influencing things, I may as well point to the best architectural rendering firm that I know of. The fact that they're a freelance client, and they're good friends and they're paying me to re-do their site and help them with their search engine ranking has nothing to do with anything. And in case Google gets upset at me for abusing my influence, I'll give their new pay for results pricing a link.

Cross platform testing
I was all excited when I saw ALA had an article on how to set-up a cross-platform testing station. It tells you what you need, where to get all the old browsers, and it walks you through the installation. The example here uses RealPC, which I've had trouble with. I use VirtualPC which is more expensive, but isn't such a bear to install, and includes a copy of Windows.

But the article doesn't really tell me what I want to know. Is there a difference between RealPC and VirtualPC when it comes to reading files and browser display? Is there anything I should know about what might not show up on the emulator, but will appear on a real windows machine?

I've tested some pages recently on my VirtualPC found them perfect, but the same pages render on a clients machine in the same browser with subtle differences (frame spacing for example). These quirks may be caused by Win95 -98 -2000 differences, but I'm not sure. Do I have to test in every version of Windows, as well as every browser? What about color palettes and Gamma? I did a site once with solid color gifs with tables and blocks that looked fine in VirtualPC but didn't match on a real windows machine. I eventually fixed it but was never able to replicate the problem on my emulator no matter how much I messed with my display.

Also, testing CD-based projects sometimes did not turn up problems that appeared on an actual Windows machine. These were mainly file format issues like invalid carriage returns, problems with file names and autorun.INF directory issues.

I'd like to trust VirtualPC for all my testing, but until I learn why it misses these little things, I'll be keeping the old Pentium under my desk.

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