Ideas, Linked; Ideals, Inked.

Associated Press: “It’s Okay If WE Do It.”

I saw this article (from the AP on ESPN) today, about a push to bring the to bring a version of cricket called Twenty20 to the US. According to the article:

A Twenty20 game is a shortened version of cricket, completed in about 3½ hours to bring it closer to the length of other sports played in the United States.

Emphasis added. I wanted more information, so I went to the Wikipedia page on Twenty20 cricket, where I saw this sentence:

A Twenty20 game is completed in about three and half hours, with each innings lasting around 75 minutes, thus bringing the game closer to the timespan of other popular team sports.

Emphasis added. If you’re me, you’ll notice immediately the parallel structure of the sentences, and the fact that a thesaurus appeared to be used to change the words in the last clause (without actually changing the meaning). I cannot fathom that these are NOT copied from each other. The question is which came first.

This could have been an enthusiastic Wikipedia editor, so I checked the history page of the article, which tracks every change. It turns out that Wikipedia had it first. Here is a link to the 10 July 2009 version of the article.

Let me repeat, to be clear: Wikipedia Had It First. Which means an AP writer or editor cribbed directly from Wikipedia, changed some words, and put it in the article.

In and of itself, that is not the problem. Wikipedia is, in fact, fine with this.

The problem is copyright licenses. According to the copyright license that Wikipedia uses, if you use or re-purpose content from a Wikipedia article, the new work must have a “compatible license”.  In this case, that means the article must…

  1. Attribute Wikipedia as the source.
  2. Have a “share-alike” provision in the license which allows others to copy and re-purpose the entire adapted work as they see fit.

That means the entire AP article should, by rights, be open to re-use. However, the AP violates Wikipedia’s license – the restrictive AP copyright license is NOT compatible with Wikipedia’s open “share-alike” license. So, the AP, as far as I can reasonably tell, is violating Wikipedia’s copyright by not attributing and not having a compatible license.

Of course, in a vacuum, this is an isolated incident. But, in the real world, this flies in the face of the AP’sclaims against Shepherd Fairey, the artist who created the iconic “Obama HOPE” poster. Details of this case, in bullet form:

  • Mr. Fairey used a photo (found on Google image search) to inspire the look of the painting.
  • Nobody (Fairey included) knew the the owner of source photo of the iconic painting at first. It was thought to be a Reutrers photo for a time.
  • Someone tracked down the original, Fairey said, “yup, that one”, and the AP claimed ownership.
  • Incidentally, the photographer claims to be the owner of the photo as well, and that the AP doesn’t own it.
  • The AP claims that they deserve to “get permission”, and that the poster is a copyright violation.
  • Fairey’s lawyer and the AP’s lawyer started talking.
  • According to Fairey at a talk at the New York Public Library in March (which I attended), he was happy to pay the original usage rights he should have paid, but he did not know the identity of the owner.
  • According to Fairey, the AP had some demands (take with grain of salt, but the guy seemed like a straight shooter).
    • Demand 1: usage rights for the value of the photo after Mr. Fairey’s painting made it valuable. (Prior to that, it had one of the lowest usage rights for that type of image, which alone is anything but iconic.)
    • Demand 2: Damages.
    • Demand 3 (Possibly): A piece of the profits (since it was their photo that led to the poster).
  • Fairey claims the use of the photo was clearly within the bounds of “fair use”.
  • Fairey sued for declamatory judgement against the AP’s copyright claim on his poster.

Here’s an article on the Fairey matter.

So… The AP can crib other people’s work without following the rules, but a guy can’t use a photo in what is widely considered to be a CLEAR case of fair use? Well done, AP.

Yup… I got all that from an article on cricket in the US.


Filed under: Culture, Politics, Tech, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

How to Save Volvo

In light of political/bailout fatigue, I’m forcing myself to think of other things. Namely, my favorite car company: Volvo.

A 1970’s Volvo 244 DL saved my life when I drove about 50 MPH into a tree. I didn’t walk away, but survived with no lasting injuries. Car people have said that the car literally kept my legs intact (which many cars do not do at such high speeds, especially old cars like that), and therefore saved my life. I’m hoping to return the favor.


In 1998, the Ford Motor Company bought Volvo to round out its “Premier Automotive Group“, a set of distinctive higher-market brands which were managed somewhat independently of FoMoCo. The other PAG companies were Land Rover, Jaguar, and Aston Martin. Lincoln, in fact, was shifted into this group. The whole idea was that upscale cars have high margins, and Ford could make money on efficiencies while these companies maintained unique brand images. Ford, incidentally, also owns a significant portion of Mazda, as well.

Volvo was the key piece of this group…

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Tech, , , , , , ,

When Trust and Anti-Trust Collide…

Do they annihilate each other?

In a miracle of physics, no. See, there used to be this one trust, called AT&T, up until the arly 1980’s, when anti-trust rules forced them to break up. Ove the past twenty-odd years,we have learned that trust was not destroyed, but simply lying in wait.

Through machinations mostly boring, often scary, and occasionally funny (thanks, Mr. Colbert), AT&T (now at&t), is mostly back together.

Cingular Wireless follows an interesting path… Cingular was founded as a joint SBC and BellSouth venture. Cingular was a conglomeration of many small cellular companies from the 1990s. Meanwhile, AT&T decded to spinoff AT&T Wireless in 2000. Then, in 2004, Cingular bought AT&T Wireless. After acquisitions all around, including SBC taking over it’s old mama, AT&T (and renaming itself at&t). So SBC owned at&t and half of Cingular, which itself owned AT&T Wireless. Then, just recently, at&t bought BellSouth (the other half-owner of Cingular). So at&t now owns Cingular, and is re-branding them at&t.

That all make sense? Wish trust and anti-trust annilated each other now? I do.

Filed under: Culture, Tech

RFID Solution – Aluminum Foil!… Maybe

I love low-tech solutions to high-tech problems (see my previous RFID post and other post). Simply put, aluminum foil. I cannot take credit for the solution, but I think there’s something to be said for using some sort of foil protective cover to keep card info from being stolen.

First, this is not a sure thing. There is some controversy over whether doing this, basically creating a Faraday cage, will work. Assuming it does, we have a simple, inexpensive and stylish solution. Okay okay… Most people don’t want an aluminum foil wallet. If you’re female, you might carry around a bag everywhere anyway. I have a solution. Create a foil-based “bag” (using duct tape). Those with bags can use the foil-based bag as satchel. Or something.

Well, if you’re fashion conscious (realspeke: superficial about your stuff and how they look, like me) there is also the market-based solution. Buy something that doesn’t exist to protect you from something that people are creating. Basically, the companies pushing RFID are creating a niche market: RFID blockers.

Yay. More money.One such market-based solution:

There are others out there which you can find online.

Finally, there’s a brute-force solution to the RFID passport problem. Fun for your “mad at the government” moments.

Filed under: Gadgets, Philosophy, Science, Tech, Weird/Funny

RFID – Hackalicious

So… I decided to do a simple, informal test, by entering “hack rfid” into the Google search bar and see what came up. For the uninformed, see my post on what RFID is and how it works.

Here’s the search:

Note the results… Wired Magazine, Forbes, eWeek, Engadget (a respected technology blog), CNet (a respected technology news company), and more. And most of the results explain how it has been demonstrated that RFID can be hacked.


I’m on the trail of a solution, and I’ll post it once I’m sure it works.

Filed under: Philosophy, Science, Tech

Challenge: Make an Affordable Electric Car

Just saw Who Killed the Electric Car? What makes me angry is that no one thing killed the electric car more than greed profit motive.

Car companies were (justifiably) afraid that electric cars would net them less money. Here’s why: electric cars have many fewer moving parts, and uses a lot less of after-purchase consumables (oil, filters, plugs, etc.). Car companies ctually make much more on these parts than they do on the cars themselves. When they sell a car to you, the expectation is you will need to maintain it, and you will need their parts. All car corporatons make big bucks on these parts. If someone took the total retail cost of all the parts in a new car, I believe the number is approximately 300-400% greater than the cost of the car. Car companies would be destroyed without this true profit center.

Of course oil companies lobbied against electric cars. I don’t even need to explain why. It’s the same reason they are for hydrogen fuel cells -you still; need oil to obtain the hydrogen.

The government is complicit. The rebate you get from buying a 6,000 lb. SUV is greater than that you get from buying a 2000 lb. gas-saving electric car.

Tesla Motors has created an amazing new electric sports car. Yum. But it’s still basically $100,000 dollars

CHALLENGE: Make an affordable electric car that meets these criteria:

  1. It is fully electric, like the General Motors EV1
  2. The range is no less than 200 miles
  3. It costs no more than $30,000 (base price). Note: the range must work a this price.
  4. It is fully compliant with US regulations relating to passenger vehicles.
  5. I can buy it in the US.

I would love to be able to sponsor an award, and make this a huge pubicity thing, a la the X-Prize. I’m trying to think of a good promise to make. I can’t promise to buy one because I have very particular safety tastes for my cars, and I live in New York. Any ideas? Sponsors? Anyone?

EDIT (4 Jan 2007, 10:43): Links added. Corrected maker of EV1 (don’t know why I put Chrysler in there).

Filed under: Culture, Science, Tech

iPod Turns Five, iTunes Sales Lagging? Or not?

The iPod turned five in October. Amazing how, from 1996 to 2001, Apple went from nearly closing its doors to being a dominant player (pun vehemently intended) in the technology business. It is testament to how Steve Jobs, megalomania notwithstandng, truly does understand how to surround himself with smart people and guide smart decision-making (Lisa and Newton notwithstanding), Now Apple understands what it is like to be Microsoft, monopolizing a market. How the tables have turned.

Meanwhile, an interesting article re-frames recent headlines that iTunes is not as successful as it first was, as related to iPod sales. I tend to agree with this opinion. The nuts and bolts of it are that the media reporting this are not being very thoughtful in their analyses… 

Filed under: Gadgets, Science, Tech

What’s the Big Deal? – RFID Edition

RFID technology has been around for a while, already embedded in a lot of things, like those “EZPass” electronic toll booth time-savers. RFID “tags” are also showing up in “PayPass” credit cards and have been at “SpeedPass” gas stations for sometime. (“Pass” is jargonspeke for easy! Which means “EZPass” actually means “EZ easy”! Yay!)Long story short, RFID is a technology that allows things to communicate wirelessly with extremely low power.

Here’s a poor explanation of how typical RFID works:

1) A base station – like the tool booth – transmits signal (constantly).
2) An RFID device – like an EZPass in a car – has an RFID chip inside it, and picks up a signal on a specific frequency and reflects it back. BUT the reflection is changed, intentionally, to contain data. Here’s how:
– The power of the frequency from the base station actually transmits enough power to the RFID tag for the tag to send the signal through a chip which then sends a digital coded message in the reflection. This all happens more or less instantly (like echo-location). The distortion in the reflection is deliberate and readable by the base station, which can confirm if a signal is authentic.

People can be very specific with how they change the signal and how much data the reflection actually sends back. Recently, the US, along with several countries of the world, has been issuing “biometric” passports with RFID chips in them. These typically include biometric data on you in the coded message so officials can confirm a passport-holder’s identity. RFID signals have been proven to be insecure – someone with the right kind of technology can steal the data. It can and has been done (even with passports).

Filed under: Politics, Science, Tech

Lies: Net Neutrality Attack Ad

Saw this on Food Network a few weeks ago. Not only is it dishonest, not only it is written like any political attack ad, it also tries to dismiss a relevant topic the same way polluters try to dismiss scientists – ”Mumbo-Jumbo”. Basically, anti-intellectual propaganda that ignores the issues. Net neutrality is an important topic worthy of debate – using attack-ads to dismiss its value as a topic is disingenuous (because the telcos are fighting hard against it). The claim that net neutrality will cost consumers money is at best speculative, and at worst dishonest.

Plus, it’s on the Food Network, which means they’re pushing HARD to win the uninformed viewers.

Extremely basically, net neutrality is the idea that stuff that goes over the internet (from the person who creates it to you) is not segregated based on who the sender is. It is a hot topic, worthy of serious debate. Unfortunately, the opponents of this idea are not trying to engage in the debate honestly.

One post-script – I have had conversations with someone who believes there is a difference between “the Internet” and data traveling using “internet protocol“. There is not. The Internet is an open network of computers where data is transmitted via internet protocol. Other things, like office “intranets”, also use internet protocol. Intranets, technically speaking, ARE mini-internets. The fundamental difference between an intranet and the Internet is that the Internet is open, and intranets are closed. (Note: if you use a router or wireless access of some sort, you create a mini-internet of your own, too). When anti-net-neutrality people speak, they try to create a distinction where one does not exist. Anything on the open, publically-available Internet, is part of the Internet, because it travels via internet protocol. I know that sounds self-evident, but the cable companies are trying to argue that it is not true.

Filed under: Culture, Politics, Tech

Ubuntu: Pretending to be Microsoft

For the non-technical… Linux is an operating system (like Windows) which is open-source. That means, in essence, it can be edited and modified by anyone. The license of Linux requires that all “distributions” (or builds) are free. The result is that there are several free Linux builds out there. Ubuntu is one of them (along with Red Hat, Debian, and others).

Ubuntu, however, has made my list of bad things because it messed my system royally.

The whole idea behind Ubuntu is trying to make a Linux that’s user-friendly, and not all geekified. In fact, their tagline is “Ubuntu: Linux for human beings”. Being only a semi-geek, Ubuntu appealed to both sides of my computing personality.

I went to their website, downloaded a CD image, burned the CD, threw it in, and installed it on a separate hard drive. (Note to non-geeks: ALWAYS install big things on a separate drive.) I booted, and instead of the crappy Windows XP loading screen, I got a crappier text screen, with a list of possible OS options. Ubuntu was default. XP was there, too, but wasn’t the default.

Try as I might, I couldn’t change the default. I also couldn’t get Ubuntu to recgnize my video card (an extremely common one), no matter how many different directions I followed. It was, in a word, Linux-y: geek-friendly, human-unfriendly. But here’s the kicker – it changed my master boot record. The master boot record is a spot in the main hard drive of any computer, and it tells you where to go to find the operating system(s). Every computer has one.

Ubuntu NEVER warned me that it was going to change anything. It just did it. Not very friendly. In fact, there was no simple way to undo it. I had to trawl the web searching for a way to restore the Windows booter. There was some board which said I need to put the Windows XP disc into the CD drive, boot into it, and go into the repair console… etc etc.

Side note: Getting to that answer wasn’t easy because an annoying personality trait of anyone who is religious about anything, be it food, software, or God. Several Linux people are religious about Linux. On this board (I have to trawl to find it again), someone (appropriately) asked, “How do I go back to the Windows booter?” there were approximately ten “Why would you want to replace Ubuntu with crappy Windows?” answers before the actual useful answer. Here’s the thing, evangelists: if Ubuntu told me what it was going to do to my computer, I would not be nearly as pissed. It didn’t. It went and pulled “a Microsoft” – it changed everything around and expected me to be content with it. The fix is even harder, and completely user-unfriendly. Moreover, if this is Linux for human beings, shouldn’t it be more user-friendly than Windows?

Tally: Windows XP 1, Ubuntu 0

I can’t wait to be able to afford an Apple… One day.

Filed under: Tech

Things On My Mind



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Idealink by vijtable is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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