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Comments

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How To View the Antares Launch

langelgjm Will be watching from Connecticut (36 comments)

When I lived in Virginia, I saw two launches from Wallops - one at night, which was spectacular, and one during the day, which I could barely make out but was still fun to try and spot. Viewed them from Arlington and DC respectively. I've since moved to Connecticut, but I'm going to try and spot it tonight.

3 days ago
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Grooveshark Found Guilty of Massive Copyright Infringement

langelgjm Pre-1972 sound recordings (171 comments)

You're assuming that sound recordings are treated in the same manner as other copyrighted works. They're not. Read up on pre-1972 sound recordings. They're covered by a messy patchwork of state laws, with the result that probably neither you nor I nor anyone here can know exactly how long those recordings are protected by copyright law.

Welcome to the wacky world of intellectual property.

about 1 month ago
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Microsoft Announces Windows 10

langelgjm Re:Windows 10, huh? (644 comments)

Too bad they didn't notice OS X is currently at 10.9...

Also, isn't the rule of thumb that it's every other version of Windows that's the good one? By skipping 9, are skipping straight to another bad one?

about 1 month ago
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California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance

langelgjm Re:This is the wrong attitude (115 comments)

Can you point to a modern governor's race in which the governor does not run on a platform chock-full of legislative initiatives?

Some people say the same thing about the President - that it's Congress' job to pass laws, so the President shouldn't be proposing legislation. Technically true, but that is not how our government actually works in practice.

about 1 month ago
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California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance

langelgjm This is the wrong attitude (115 comments)

The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution.

Wait, so we reject it because it provides more protections than the bare minimum required by law?

about 1 month ago
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Google To Require As Many As 20 of Its Apps Preinstalled On Android Devices

langelgjm The alternative is not a crapware-free phone (427 comments)

The alternative is a phone filled with either the OEM's additions, or the carrier's crappy branded apps.

The cleanest phone you can buy is probably the Nexus 5.

Those of us who want more control will be smart buyers and purchase hardware that is easy to load with custom ROMs, then we can decide exactly how much of gapps we want.

about a month ago
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Miss a Payment? Your Car Stops Running

langelgjm Re:You have to have a car payment to drive? (907 comments)

In Virginia, I forget if it was state or county law, but my local Autozone or Advance has a sign in their parking lot citing an ordnance prohibiting you from doing work on your vehicle.

about a month ago
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Miss a Payment? Your Car Stops Running

langelgjm Re:You have to have a car payment to drive? (907 comments)

The GP is referring to the common provision in many rental agreements that specifically states you won't do vehicle repair on the property. They usually exempt changing flat tires. I ignored it and did all the work I wanted on my motorcycles, usually on summer weekends with a beer (literally a shadetree mechanic, did it underneath the shade of a tree). But I suspect they would have objected to serious work on a car.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

langelgjm Re:Why? (479 comments)

Thanks, I appreciate the reply. Good to know.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

langelgjm Re:Why? (479 comments)

OT, but do you see consulting firms hire social scientists? It's a career path I'd never really considered until another recent PhD from my program told me he was applying to such positions.

In my case, my work is not exclusively quantitative, but does involve some statistics, and I've published work that uses regression. I'd be applying after finishing a postdoc at a top law school.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Job After Completing Computer Science Ph.D?

langelgjm Why did you get a PhD? (479 comments)

I'm in a totally different field, but I just finished a PhD, and I'm currently in a two-year postdoc.

Why did you get a PhD? You said you already worked as a software developer before, so it's not like you went straight through school because you didn't know what else to do. You also said your thesis was on a technical topic without practical application, so it doesn't sound like you were aiming for a non-academic job.

What kind of job did you want when you started? An academic job, then changed your mind? If so, you will have to be very intentional about selling yourself to employers. Frame the PhD as giving you experience in how to do research. It's going to be the rare employer who actually cares about what you did specifically.

It sounds like you are just firing off online job applications. Have you networked? Does anyone from your department know folks in industry? Did you apply for postdoctoral positions, research fellowships, etc.? If you are just looking at standard development positions, you are probably going to be rejected as being overqualified.

about a month ago
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T-Mobile To Throttle Customers Who Use Unlimited LTE Data For Torrents/P2P

langelgjm It's called "puffery" (147 comments)

If I were selling a moving service, and I put out ads showing us moving an elephant, how on earth could I complain when a customer actually asked us to move an elephant? That's what was advertised, that's what they should deliver. End of story.

In your example, the ad showing the elephant would certainly be considered mere puffery and not give you a valid claim in court. See, e.g., Leonard v. Pepsico (in which a plaintiff tried to sue Pepsi for failing to deliver a Harrier jet as the prize in a contest based an a TV ad showing the jet as a prize).

The question is whether "unlimited" is a claim whose truth or falsity can be demonstrated, and what kind of expectations reasonable people have.

about 3 months ago
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Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

langelgjm Wiretap laws are anachronistic (368 comments)

Besides, would you really want this to be a prevalent feature on smartphones?

Yes. With virtually every other form of electronic communication we have today, we know that it can be (and likely is being) recorded and archived. E-mail, SMS, Facebook messages, video camera footage (without audio), license plate location details through ALPR, credit card usage information, utility usage information through smart meters... heck, even WHO you call and for how long is being recorded by the phone company and shared with law enforcement, no warrant required, since that's "just metadata" recorded by a "pen register" and doesn't fall under wiretap laws.

Now, ask yourself, who benefits from that fact that it's difficult for the average citizen to record their phone calls? And why is it that every entity with any significant power or revenue records their phone calls, and simply informs you of that fact without offering any choice? How exactly does it benefit me that all my interactions with Comcast or AT&T are recorded and kept by them and I have nothing?

Maybe you think there should be more protections for all the other forms of communication and data, but that's not going to happen. And just like it was in the interest of law enforcement for them to be able to record you, but not for you to be able to record them, I think you need to think hard about whether you really want to preserve an illusion of privacy, or actually be able level the playing field.

about 3 months ago
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The Great Taxi Upheaval

langelgjm If it's that important to you... (218 comments)

Obviously with license plate scanners driving a car doesn't solve the anonymity problem. If being anonymous is that important to you, ride a bicycle or use public transit. Even where public transit doesn't directly accept cash, you can almost always purchase the RFID or smart card with cash. There will be a record of your trips, but it won't be linked to you.

FYI, public transit is often the transportation mode of choice for the marginalized.

about 3 months ago
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The Great Taxi Upheaval

langelgjm The knowledge works both ways (218 comments)

Yes, records of the customers should make drivers safer. That knowledge also works in the other direction:

Last night I got a safety alert message from my university in DC saying that a female student had hailed a cab, and the driver had tried to sexually assault her. She escaped, and the driver took off and has not been found. The only description of the cab was a "silver van".

I've heard lots of worries that with Uber, "you don't know who's driving you" - but that's even more true with a regular cab. If this incident had happened with Uber, there would have been an electronic record of the hail, GPS tracking of the vehicle, etc. Maybe if you happen to get the cab number you can check in with the company to see which driver was operating at the time, but who is going to remember a cab number when they're being assaulted?

about 3 months ago
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Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet

langelgjm Taxicabs (928 comments)

But are you actually proposing that a carrier of human cargo not be allowed to refuse service?

The idea isn't nearly as absurd as you make it sound. Regulated taxicabs in many cities are not allowed to refuse service - they must pick you up and take you where you want to go.

about 3 months ago
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Ode To Sound Blaster: Are Discrete Audio Cards Still Worth the Investment?

langelgjm Re:Back in the day? (502 comments)

Me too. Every time a sound played on my Compaq SLT 386, the entire system would lock up until it was done playing.

about 4 months ago
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Facebook's Emotion Experiment: Too Far, Or Social Network Norm?

langelgjm Advertising =/= scientific research (219 comments)

It's different from A/B testing in that the experiment is explicitly designed to cause harm to half of the participants.

Presumably most A/B testing would be designed to figure out which choice performs better on a set of metrics. But going in, there is little evidence to point to one or the other, and the "harm" caused would simply be in user experience. In this experiment, the researchers had a prior theory about which choice would cause harm, and the harm is emotional and psychological.

All that aside, if this was purely internal research at Facebook, it would still likely be unethical but probably nothing out of the ordinary. The fundamental different is that this is being presented as scientific research. It's published in PNAS. It involve three co-authors from various universities. There are standards, both legal and ethical, that must be followed when engaging in scientific research, and the concern is that such standards were perhaps not followed.

Manipulation and even inducing harm may be widespread throughout the advertising industry, but that's advertising, not science.

about 4 months ago
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In 2012, Facebook Altered Content To Tweak Readers' Emotions

langelgjm It's called the Common Rule (130 comments)

It's called the Common Rule, although it generally only applies to federally funded research. There is some evidence that this study was in part federally funded. I think there are serious questions about whether a click-through agreement meets the standards of informed consent.

Although the study was approved by an institutional review board, I'm surprised, and the comment from the Princeton editor makes me wonder how well they understood the research design (or how clearly it was explained to them). This would never have gotten past my IRB.

about 4 months ago
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Workaholism In America Is Hurting the Economy

langelgjm Re:Some people may not afford to work less. (710 comments)

I'm sure there are stats on this, but I was under the impression that most people working more than 40 hours a week were salaried and overtime exempt, so they don't see any extra income from the extra work.

I would be surprised if it were otherwise - employers loathe time-and-a-half overtime pay, and would consider it unaffordable to pay someone for all those extra hours.

about 4 months ago

Submissions

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When Asked, 90 Percent of Businesses Say IP is "Not Important"

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about 10 months ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In 2009, the National Science Foundation teamed up with the Census Bureau to ask U.S. businesses how important intellectual property was to them. Now, after three years of surveys, the results are in. Astonishingly, it turns out that when asked, 90 percent of businesses say intellectual property is "not important". While some very large businesses and specific sectors indicate that patents, copyrights, and trademarks are important, overall, the figures are shockingly low. What's more, the survey's results have received hardly any press. It appears that formal intellectual property protection is far less important to the vast majority of U.S. businesses than some federal agencies, such as the patent office, are willing to admit."
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How Perl and R reveal the United States' isolation in the TPP negotiations

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about a year ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "As /. reported, last Thursday Wikileaks released a draft text of the intellectual property chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Since then, many commentators have raised alarm about its contents. But what happens when you mix the leaked text together with Perl regular expressions and R's network analysis packages? You get some neat visualizations showing just how isolated the United States is in pushing for extreme copyright and patent laws."
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Supreme Court Upholds First Sale Doctrine

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about a year and a half ago

langelgjm writes "In a closely-watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court today vindicated the first-sale doctrine, declaring that it "applies to copies of a copyrighted work lawfully made abroad." The case involved a Thai graduate student in the U.S. who sold cheap foreign versions of textbooks on eBay without the publisher’s permission. The 6-3 decision has important implications for goods sold online and in discount stores. Justice Stephen Breyer said in his opinion (PDF) that the publisher lost any ability to control what happens to its books after their first sale abroad."
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Apple and Amazon flirt with a market for used digital items

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about a year and a half ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The New York Times reports (registration may be required) that Apple and Amazon are attempting to patent methods of enabling the resale of digital items like e-books and MP3s. Establishing a large marketplace for people to buy and sell used digital items has the potential to benefit consumers enormously, but copyright holders aren't happy. Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, "acknowledged it would be good for consumers — 'until there were no more authors anymore.'" But would the resale of digital items really be much different than the resale of physical items? Or is the problem that copyright holders just don't like resale?"
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Rep. Darrell Issa requests public comments on ACTA

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 2 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "After repeated dismissals by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Congressman Darrell Issa has taken matters into his own hands by posting a copy of ACTA, online and asking for public comments. ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a secretly negotiated multilateral trade treaty with the potential for profoundly affecting the Internet. "ACTA represents as great a threat to an open Internet as SOPA and PIPA and was drafted with even less transparency and input from digital citizens," Issa said. You can comment here."
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NYC to Release Teacher Evaluation Data over Union Protests

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 2 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "Bringing a lengthy legal battle to a close, New York City's Department of Education will today release detailed evaluation reports on individual English and math teachers as a result of a request under public information laws. The city's teachers union has responded with full page ads (PDF warning) decrying the methodology used in the evaluations. The court's decision attempts to balance the public interest in this data against the rights of individual teachers. Across the country, a large number of states are moving to evaluate teachers based on student performance in attempt to raise student achievement in the U.S."
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US Supreme Court upholds removal of works from Pub

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 2 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "While much of the web is focused on the SOPA and PIPA blackout, supporters of the public domain today quietly lost a protracted struggle that began back in 2001.The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, rejected the argument that Congress did not have the power to convey copyright upon works that were already in the public domain. The suit was originally filed to challenge provisions that the U.S. adopted when signing the TRIPs agreement. Justices Breyer and Alito dissented, arguing that conveyed copyright on already existing works defied the logic of copyright law. Justice Kagan recused herself. The text of the opinions is available here (PDF)."
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Report Finds Most Piracy Driven by High Prices

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 3 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The Social Science Research Council, an independent, non-profit organization, today released a major report on music, film and software piracy in developing economies. The product of three years of work, the authors conclude that piracy is primarily driven by excessively high prices and that anti-piracy education and enforcement efforts have failed. Still, chief editor Joe Karaganis believes that businesses can survive in these high piracy environments.

The report is free to readers in low-income countries, but behind a paywall for certain high-income countries, although the SSRC notes that "For those who must have it for free anyway, you probably know where to look.""

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ACTA not about counterfeiting, official admits

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "ACTA negotiators met with a limited number of civil society representatives at an informal lunch yesterday, in Washington, D.C. Biggest news from the event? Explicit admission that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement isn't actually about counterfeiting. According to those present, Luc Devigne, a lead EU negotiator, "asked more than once how you could have an 'IP Enforcement' treaty and not include patents—and dismissed suggestions that ACTA was specifically an 'Anti-Counterfeiting' treaty rather than a broader enforcement treaty." For those unaware, yet another ACTA negotiating round is taking place this week in Washington. It was announced with little fanfare by the United States Trade Representative's office hardly a day before beginning. Even stranger, a South Korean negotiator indicated that some civil society groups in South Korea are pushing for "internet morality" provisions to combat slander. No word yet on whether a new text will be released after the round ends; now would be a good time to call up USTR and demand more transparency."
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Google & Verizon's Real Net Neutrality Proposa

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "Announced this afternoon in a joint conference call held by CEOs Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg, Google and Verizon have released a joint net neutrality proposal in the form of a "suggested legislative framework for consideration by lawmakers." This comes on the heels of last week's assertion (and subsequent denial) that Google and Verizon were close to concluding talks that would permit Verizon to prioritize certain content in exchange for pay. A look at the actual text of the framework shows some positive net neutrality principles, but there is also some more curious content: "Wireless broadband" is singled out for exclusion from most of the agreement, and providers would be permitted to prioritize "additional online services... distinguishable in scope and purpose." Public Knowledge, a watchdog group based in Washington, has criticized the agreement for these provisions."
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90+ Experts say ACTA Threatens Public Interest

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In the lead up to next week's Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations in Lucerne, a conference that drew over 90 academics and experts from six continents has released a statement issuing a harsh condemnation of both the substance and process of the agreement.

Held last week at American University's Washington College of Law, the attendees say "We find that the terms of the publicly released draft of ACTA threaten numerous public interests, including every concern specifically disclaimed by negotiators." The "urgent communique" covers more than the usual ACTA topics of interest on Slashdot: in addition to the agreement's effect on the Internet, it also considers the effects on access to medicines, international trade, and developing countries.

Meanwhile, Public Knowledge has an action alert where you can send a note to the White House expressing your opposition to ACTA."

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A Dream for Music, but Labels’ Nightmare

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "Michael Robertson, a "serial entrepreneur" of MP3.com fame, has made Slashdot news several times before. A recent article in the New York Times (registration may be required) discusses MP3tunes, the successor to MP3.com. MP3tunes allows you to rip your entire CD collection and store it online, whence it can be streamed to computers and various internet-equipped devices, including the iPhone and Android, and even the Playstation and Wii. However, the record industry is in the midst of a lawsuit against Robertson and his service, claiming that he should be paying licensing fees. The industry points to its blessed competitor, Catch Media, as the proper alternative: "Mark Segall, its business development adviser, says the company will soon announce which music companies will use the technology but suggests that consumers will have to pay a "convenience fee" for streaming their music from the Web, comparable to charges at an A.T.M. Won't people balk at paying again to listen to R.E.M. songs they have owned since the 1980s? Catch Media hopes not.""
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Man swallows flash drive; obstruction of justice?

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In an incident that is ripe for puns, Florin Necula, a New York City man, swallowed a flash drive in an attempt to deny investigators access to its contents. The ploy worked — at least temporarily. After four days, Necula agreed to allow doctors to remove the drive. Necula is being charged with obstruction of justice; he and three others are suspects are believed to have installed ATM skimmers on several machines in an attempt to obtain bank account information. Should've used TrueCrypt."
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Major ACTA Leak shows divison among US, EU, others

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist is reporting that the "biggest ACTA leak yet" is available today. The 44 page document (PDF) goes further than any leaks yet by discussing the individual positions of negotiating countries on particular issues. For example, "On the issue of anti-circumvention legislation and access controls, the U.S. wants it included per the DCMA, but many other countries, including the EU, Japan, and New Zealand do not, noting that the WIPO Internet treaties do not require it." Geist's blog list a number of other topics from the document, including ISP safe harbor and notice-and-takedown. The document reveals significant divisions in negotiating parties, often with the U.S. pushing for greater enforcement measures than other countries are prepared to accept.

In related news, USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk will meet with members of the Senate Finance Committee this week to discuss US trade policy. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon recently expressed concern over the lack of transparency and possible provisions of ACTA, sending a letter to Kirk about the issue. Any Oregonians should take this opportunity to call Wyden's office and ask him to question Kirk directly about ACTA."

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D.C. detective pulls gun at snowball fight

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The Washington Post reports that during Saturday's record-breaking snowfall, hundreds of twenty- and thirty-somethings gathered in a mostly-empty area of the city and proceeded to have an enormous snowball fight. Things were all fun and games until a D.C. detective in plainclothes stopped in the middle of the fight, leaving his Hummer and confronting the crowd with his gun drawn. At first, D.C. police denied the claims, but the incident was caught on tape. The detective is currently on desk duty pending an investigation. The tech angle to all of this? 25-year-old Yousef Ali, a one-time Apple Genius, said he was inspired to start the snowball fight by a friend's Facebook status and used a dormant personal blog and extensive Twitter promotion to expand the participant list: "Basically, I used a lot of my social media promotions techniques... to really push this thing pretty big.""
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Obama Sides With Blind in Copyright Treaty Debate

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "In an unexpected turn of events, Wired is reporting that the Obama administration has expressed support for a treaty that would permit cross-border sharing of copyrighted works accessible to blind and visually-impaired people. A few days ago, we discussed the nearly unanimous opposition from U.S. industries to any treaty expands copyright limitations and exceptions. A Department of Commerce advisor spoke before the World Intellectual Property Organization today, saying that "We recognize that some in the international copyright community believe that any international consensus on substantive limitations and exceptions to copyright law would weaken international copyright law. The United States does not share that point of view."According to the EFF's Eddan Katz, the move represents a "an historic paradigm shift in international technology policy." At the same time, however, the U.S. representative cautioned that the administration was willing to strengthen international copyright laws in other regards."
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Copyright Industries oppose Treaty for Blind

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 4 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "According to Wired, "A broad swath of American enterprise ranging from major software makers to motion picture and music companies are joining forces to oppose a new international treaty that would make books more accessible to the blind." With the exception of Google, almost every major industry player has expressed disapproval of the treaty, which would allow cross-border sharing of digitized books accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Google's chief copyright counsel believes the industry-wide opposition is mainly due to “opposition to a larger agenda of limitations and exceptions... We believe this is an unproductive approach to solving what is a discrete, long-standing problem that affects a group that needs and deserves the protections of the international community.”"
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Will books be Napsterized?

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  about 5 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "An article from yesterday's New York Times asks the question, will books be Napsterized? So far, piracy of books has not reached the degree of music or movie piracy, in part due to the lack of good equipment on which to read and enjoy pirated books. The article points to the growing adoption of e-book readers as the publishing industry's newest nemesis. With ever-cheaper ways to conveniently use pirated books, authors and publishers may be facing serious changes ahead. Interestingly, this is something I wrote about three months ago in my journal, where I called the Kindle DX an "iPod for books.""
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Wikipedia slammed for Rorschach test "cheat sh

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 5 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The New York Times reports that Wikipedia is attracting criticism from many psychologists (registration possibly required) after having published images of the ten standard Rorschach inkblots, along with the most common responses given for each. Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach created the inkblot test in the 1920s, and the test is still widely used in the mental health field.

Several vocal psychologists have argued that posting the inkblots is potentially harming scientific research. Bruce L. Smith, president of the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods, says "The more test materials are promulgated widely, the more possibility there is to game it." But James Heilman, an emergency room doctor who originally posted the inkblots on Wikipedia, counters by suggesting that "If someone had previous knowledge of the eye chart, you can go to the car people, and you could recount the chart from memory. You could get into an accident. Should we take it down from Wikipedia?"

Despite the fact that the images themselves are no longer under copyright, a German publishing company has stated that they are considering legal action against Wikimedia."

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Psychologists slam WP's Rorschach "cheat sheat

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 5 years ago

langelgjm (860756) writes "The New York Times reports that Wikipedia is attracting criticism from many psychologists after having published images of the ten standard Rorschach inkblots, along with the most common responses given for each. Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach created the inkblot test in the 1920s, and the test is still widely used in the mental health field.

Several vocal psychologists have argued that posting the inkblots is potentially harming scientific research. Bruce L. Smith, president of the International Society of the Rorschach and Projective Methods, says "The more test materials are promulgated widely, the more possibility there is to game it." But James Heilman, an emergency room doctor who originally posted the inkblots on Wikipedia, counters by suggesting that "If someone had previous knowledge of the eye chart, you can go to the car people, and you could recount the chart from memory. You could get into an accident. Should we take it down from Wikipedia?"

Despite the fact that the images themselves are no longer under copyright, a German publishing company has stated that they are considering legal action against Wikimedia."

Link to Original Source

Journals

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A Slashdotter's thoughts on the Kindle DX

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 5 years ago

I've been using the Kindle DX for about a week now, and I thought I'd post some initial thoughts about the device. There are plenty of reviews on tech sites out there, so while I will cover some of the typical review ground, I'm also going to include some other, non-review type thoughts for your consideration.

First, why bother with an e-book reader in the first place? The answer depends on the individual. If you read a lot of paperback fiction, a smaller format reader like the Kindle 2 or a Sony model might suit you; digital books seem to cost slightly less than their physical counterparts, though the difference is small enough that it might take you a long time to recoup the cost of the device.

However, if you find yourself having to read a lot of PDFs, an e-book reader becomes more attractive. In academia, journal articles are distributed as PDFs; often professors distribute scanned materials as PDFs; dissertations and book chapters circulate as PDFs. Outside academia, lots of government and industry reports are distributed as PDFs. In other words, there's simply a lot of PDF reading material. Typically, your options for reading this are: 1) read it on a computer screen, or 2) print it out and read it. Option 1 becomes tiring after about 10 pages, and also requires having a computer. Option 2 costs time and money, and either results in a significant amount of paper waste, or a lot of paper that needs to be catalogued and stored somewhere.

Enter the e-book reader. E-ink displays are not backlit, are fairly glare-free, and provide a contrast comparable to a newspaper. This means, for example, that they can be read outside in direct sunlight (try that with a laptop). Eye fatigue is no longer an issue (I've read about 500 paper-back size pages on the DX so far without any issue); waste is avoided; storage and cataloguing are made infinitely easier.

Second, why the Kindle DX? Quite simply because it is a large-format, (relatively) high-resolution reader. The DX's screen measures 9.7" diagonally, with a resolution of 824 x 1200. Compare this with the typical small-format e-book reader, which sports a 6" screen, and a 600 x 800 resolution. The only products I am aware of that compete with the DX in screen size and resolution are manufactured by iRex; they appear to be superior feature-wise, but they are also significantly more expensive, and there are numerous complaints about iRex's products and support (or at least enough to make one very nervous about plopping down the cash - see the iRex fora for details.). While the DX is not cheap, iRex's products range from EU 600 to EU 700. Furthermore, the DX is Amazon's first Kindle to natively support PDFs. In this respect, Amazon is somewhat late to the game; competing devices such as Sony's PRS-505 have offered native PDF support for about a year already.

The DX's PDF rendering is, frankly, superb. I have viewed about a hundred documents from various sources and distiller versions, and so far, only one has rendered improperly, and even that was only a font issue (it was a local government report, so I'm not confident of the quality of the original document, either). Images look surprisingly good, despite being shown in a mere 16 shades of gray. Anything other than rendering, however, is hit-or-miss. Full-text searching depends on whether the original document contains searchable text, of course. While the screen is large enough to mostly obviate the need for zooming, it is unfortunate that the only way to enlarge the size of a PDF is to rotate the DX to landscape mode, and even this only seems to work with about 75% of the documents I have. Links within PDFs do not function. In keeping with the nature of PDFs, text size cannot be automatically adjusted. In spite of these flaws, for me, the PDF rendering is the killer feature. Journal articles, many of which are printed on less than letter size paper in the first place, fit perfectly on the DX's screen.

Another touted feature of the DX (as well as other Kindles) is Sprint's 3G Whispernet service. This essentially functions as a free internet connection, primarily designed to allow you to browse and purchase selections from the Amazon Kindle store; however, the DX also includes a basic web browser that is fairly capable. I have used it to read Slashdot and the New York Times, search Wikipedia and Google Maps, and to browse Project Gutenberg. The latter is particularly exciting; the DX can directly download certain file formats, such as the MOBI format e-books offered by Project Gutenberg, through the Whispernet service. All this comes with the caveat that Amazon reserves the right at any time to change the terms of service regarding Whispernet. I can only hope that DX users do not abuse the service and cause Amazon to begin charging for its use.

Many of you will have heard of the debates over the Kindle 2 and DX's text-to-speech feature, which allows the device to read documents aloud. Suffice it to say that I do not anticipate using this feature much, and don't feel like discussing the issues of copyright and accessibility raised by publisher-imposed limitations on the feature (at least not in this review). The DX can play MP3 files, but I find this also to be mostly a novelty, since you cannot feasibly control the order in which they are played. If this feature were improved, the DX might be useful for people who wish to listen to music while reading sheet music (and sheet music looks pretty good on here, though it's probably a bit too small to be used while playing).

The DX includes a dictionary which will be extensive enough for most users. Other features include the ability to insert bookmarks and various annotations. Excerpts can also be "clipped" and saved to a file which can be retrieved when the DX is attached to a computer. When the DX is attached, it functions as a simple USB mass storage device, meaning it is essentially platform independent. No special software or drivers are required (or available). These annotation features appear to be fairly rudimentary, and the tiny chiclet-style keys force me to emphasize that the DX cannot function as a note-taking device.

Flaws include a total lack of organizational ability, which Amazon, in perennial mulishness, refuses to address. The solution would be a firmware update that allows the DX to browse the directory structure. One of their developers could fix this in an afternoon, but instead they have chosen to ignore repeated requests, a fact which is costing them sales (seriously - I read one review where the professor returned the DX because of the lack of folders). My less-than-ideal solution involves manually renaming files with tags, which are then alphabetically sorted and can be searched.

In short, the DX is first and foremost a reader. It does this job well, and well enough that someone who does a good deal of large-format or PDF reading may be able to justify its cost.

Now to other thoughts. I can sum these up simply: the DX is an iPod for books.

Think carefully about what that means. What are most people's iPods filled with? We'll not kid ourselves: pirated music. Of course pirated books and texts have been on the Internet for years, long before the MP3 reached its zenith. But just as the iPod made listening to those MP3s simple and enjoyable, to really enjoy a pirated book, you'll need an e-book reader, unless you want to read on the computer or print it out. Now, even e-book readers have been around a while; however, there are a variety of formats, and conversion between them is not always simple. PDF, on the other hand, is an extremely common and widely used format. This means that one could load up their DX with hundreds of pirated PDF books, all in one portable, simple to use package.

I won't be bold enough to call this a prediction, but rather a possibility: with the increasing adoption of e-book readers, particularly those capable of reading PDFs, we might witness digital book piracy on a much wider scale than before. I doubt it will ever reach the levels of music piracy, since books require a much larger investment of time to digest, but I do think it will increase markedly. The interesting thing about this is that while music piracy seems to cluster around recent and highly popular works, I don't think this will be as much the case with book piracy. Don't get me wrong; you can find all of J. K. Rowling's or Stephanie Meyer's works on The Pirate Bay, but you can also find the works of Isaac Asimov and Ayn Rand. Slightly older books such as the latter, despite not being classics of all time, still elicit continued interest. So, when book piracy increases, sure, we'll see this year's bestsellers being shared, but we'll also see a lot more books published between 1923 and 1980 being shared than we see music from that time. This also means that we'll see a lot of books that, while still under copyright, were written by authors who are now dead. And if the copyright debate turns toward digital book piracy with even partially the same furor it has over music piracy, it's going to be a lot harder to convince people to feel bad about violating the copyrights of dead authors.

If there are any Star Trek fans reading this, you'll recall the PADD - an e-book like device ubiquitous enough to be carried in stacks, lent to friends, and forgotten carelessly. The DX is the first step in that direction. Like all consumer electronics, the price will drop eventually (remember how expensive the first VCRs and DVD players were?). And the idea of having free, wireless access anywhere in the U.S. to a sizable library of public domain works at Project Gutenberg is pretty inspiring. Imagine expanding that idea so that anyone with an e-book reader had access to a universal library of books. It'll be possible... let's hope that copyright doesn't stand in the way.

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Meta: Total Number of Comments?

langelgjm langelgjm writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Before all the changes to /.'s system, user's comment pages used to display the last 24 comments that had been posted (subscribers could see more). On that page, there was a heading that read "User's last 24 of X comments", where X was the total number of comments that the user had ever posted under that nick.

However, this disappeared a while ago, and as far as I can tell, there is now no way to ascertain the total number of comments that a user has posted. This is mildly annoying, because it was an interesting way to see how much someone has participated in discussions over their /. lifetime.

Does anyone know where/how to find this information? I e-mailed help one time and got a response, but I don't think they understood what I was asking, as they simply directed me to the user comment page.

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