Tuesday, November 29, 2005

More online identity info

Fascinating. This is an area of study that may help truly break the web open to the masses. Just think how many more people would do things like shop, browse, update and maintain if they had complete control over how much of their identity was revealed to sites they visit.

As a starting point, here are The Laws of Identity as compiled and stated by Kim Cameron, Identity and Access Architect at Microsoft Corporation.

Identity 2.0 shown using Presentation 3.0 skillz

A link to this keynote presentation by Dick Hardt of Sxip Identity at the 2005 O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON) was forwarded to me by Guy Kawasaki's mailing list. I know Guy's name from the "old Mac" days when I used a Mac SE and read his columns in MacUser magazine. Now Guy is involved in a VC company he founded called Garage Technology Ventures and he is apparently quite a champion of entrepreneurial ventures.

This keynote presentation is great for two reasons:
  1. It reveals a useful "why didn't I think of that?" epiphanic thought process for analyzing society's shift of information and resources from the "real" to the "virtual;" and
  2. If that's not enough, the revelation is done in a compelling presentation style that you can't stop watching.
The main topic is "Identity 2.0" for our interactions on the Internet, or Intertron, as some have called it. The gist is that current interactions on the web with various web sites is fairly stilted and awkward because we have to authenticate ourselves individually with each site and few sites share individual identity authentication information at all, let alone in a way that users would be comfortable with. In short, our online identities are not user-centric the way they are in the physical world. Mr. Hardt proposes a solution (not wholly original, but he is actually implementing it and moving forward) and does a terrific job of explaining it in the video, as his company very well may have invented the Identity 2.0 moniker.

The epiphanic thought process I referred to above is quite simple. One merely looks at a real-world process and maps it on top of a virtual process to see what lines up and what doesn't. This can greatly simplify the discussion of Intertron processes by removing all of the "high tech" flibberty-floo to reveal real-world analogues that we already understand. It also helps to reveal "high tech" solutions in the virtual world that would be obvious in the more familiar "real" world.

"Presentation 3.0" is my creation arrived at thus:
  • Presentation 1.0 - speaking in front of a group, as people have done throughout history;
  • Presentation 2.0 - speaking in front of a group using an overhead projector and markers;
  • Presentation 2.1 - speaking in front of a group using PowerPoint, generic clipart, bullet lists and frightening/annoying sound effects;
  • Presentation 3.0 - speaking in front of a group using presentation software to incorporate text and graphics that convey an idea intuitively in an interesting and humorous way.
Sometimes bullet lists aren't so bad.


Monday, November 28, 2005

Star Wars fans, remember your sense of humor...

A friend found this never-released preview for a slightly different version of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. A bit more uptempo, this one is.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Xbox 360 launches in U.S.

Cool. I don't plan on buying one until next spring when things have settled down and more games are available, but it's still exciting to read about the launch day craziness. The staff of several news sites have done reviews of the hardware, but the most detailed and interesting is from the guys at [H]ard|OCP, known mainly for their PC-oriented reviews. They have terrific pictures, taken incrementally during the unpacking process so it's almost like you're unwrapping a next-gen console of your very own. Also, great pics comparing the size of the 360 and its new controllers to the original Xbox and its controllers. Even more -- full hardware specs and a walkthru of the Microsoft Marketplace, a new feature of Microsoft's "Live" service that allows purchase of software and customized graphics, among other things. They even go through a couple of game reviews, Kameo and Project Gotham Racing 3. When I have more time I'll have to actually read the whole article in detail (it's five, count'em, five long pages with numerous external links).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Judge revokes Thompson's pro hac vice admission

Wow, what a great development. Gamepolitics is reporting that attorney Jack Thompson's pro hac vice admission in Alabama has been revoked by the judge in the Sony v. Strickland case.

Prior to Thompson withdrawing, attorneys for the defense made a pre-trial motion to have his pro hac vice admission revoked for a variety of reasons, primarily because of alleged ethical misconduct having to do with public press releases about the case and statements made about the defendants in the case. The judge did not rule on this pre-trial motion at the time it was made, but has done so now.

Apparently the judge issued an 18-page decision on the motion for revocation of Thompson's pro hac vice admission, rejecting Thompson's prior attempt to withdraw and revoking his pro hac vice admission. 18 pages is quite a lot for a pre-trial motion. Usually they are either approved or rejected with 4 or 5 pages of reasoning, if that. I await with bated breath for details of the decision and hope for a link to a .pdf.

I applaud the judge in this case for not allowing Mr. Thompson to escape the consequences of his behavior in and out of the courtroom. Revoking his pro hac vice admission means not only that Thompson is off of the Strickland case, but he can also no longer represent his clients in that Alabama court's jurisdiction in the Strickland case in any fashion whatsoever. If Thompson had been allowed to merely withdraw he could presumably inject himself back into the proceedings at a later point. Now he would have to reapply for admission to (temporarily) practice in that jurisdiction and I have a feeling the judge would be unlikely to grant such an application.

Cornstarch, water and an acceleration ramp

Wow, this is fascinating. Apparently, shaking a cornstarch and water solution at various frequencies produces some amazing results and reveals principles of a liquid that don't seem physically possible. This confirms for me the idea that we really don't know all that much about how things, in general, work. If merely applying simple forces to a liquid causes such bizarre behavior, what else in the universe may be explained by some simple principle or application that just hasn't occurred to us? And what might we be able to accomplish or reveal by just being curious and creative as opposed to only pursuing rigorous high-level scientific research?

This story courtesy of Soni Pitts and her blog. She's also a Scalzi Whatever fan and that's how I found her blog.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Saturday, November 12, 2005

BeOS equals obscure geek

Yes, if you hadn't already intuited from the links and stories to be found here, not to mention my profile, I am a geek. However, the addition of two new ".gif badges" at the bottom of the right margin will now reveal to you, gentle readers, that I am not just any geek. I am of that special subset known ironically yet somehow intuitively as the obscure geek.

BeOS was and is a great operating system (OS). I say "was" because the company that created it, Be, Inc., no longer exists (be.com is now a search portal). I also say "is" because I still have a BeOS bootable partition on an old computer that I occasionally use and because there is still a user base for this OS with an online presence, however small. Be, Inc. was founded by an ex-Apple executive named Jean-Louis Gassée.

I jumped on the BeOS bandwagon back in 1995-96 using R3, the latest incarnation at the time. I updated and kept using the OS for about 3 more years and now have R5 installed on a partition in an old intel box that also has Windows 98 on it. BeOS was fun and functional, but it sure helped to have a hobbyist mentality and a sense of adventure because many applications and compatibility conveniences that Windows users take for granted simply weren't available. This meant downloading user-created applications and implementing workarounds to make some things work. I'm not a programmer, so I wasn't involved in creating functionality, but I can generally figure out what needs to happen to enable that functionality and then find, download, install and configure an application someone else wrote.

Since I was not capable of making improvements to the OS myself I had to rely on the engineers at Be to keep releasing updates that would support newer hardware and software and increase functionality. Unfortunately Be was not able to survive as a company and Be's intellectual property was sold to Palm, Inc. in 2001. That was the end of official development and improvements to the OS. It was too bad because BeOS is truly elegant and efficient, but without updates its functionality stagnated and I reverted back to Windows.

I used BeOS today to retrieve something I had done years ago and decided to explore a bit with the OS, pining for the good old days when it looked as if BeOS could survive as an alternate "media OS" to Windows. Days of idealism, practicality and for me, a hint of guerrilla-computing whereby one could achieve the goals of email, web browsing and document creation without engaging the corporate powers-that-be.

I was delighted to see some of the old Be-oriented sites were still up and people continuing to work on the OS. Several groups have tried to develop an open source version or other variation, and many individuals continue to develop applications. Their spirit is inspiring.

The .gif badges I added to my site are for:

-BeOS Radio: a still active Internet radio site. It plays a truly eclectic and refreshing variety of artists and music, interspersed with a few ads and news. The site's radio feeds are hosted on a server running a version of BeOS.

-BeBits: a software portal for developers and users. It's actually quite amazing how much is available here. The last official release of BeOS is still available here, for free download.

So there's a window into my soul.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pat Robertson unwittingly undermines the ID argument

Good god -- how is it this man is still taken seriously as some sort of authority?

The citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania voted their school board out of office because the board tried to introduce the concept of "intelligent design" into the high school science curriculum. In response, Robertson criticized the citizens of Dover on his show, "The 700 Club:"

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city ... [a]nd don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there[.]"

First of all, it's difficult to believe anyone can even think like this, let alone say it out loud on a national and worldwide (sadly, this message is widespread) television broadcast. This type of statement can't pass the straight face test. Second, Pat Robertson just confirmed that the concept of intelligent design is based on religious beliefs. Not just any religious beliefs, oh no, but conservative, fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs.

Proponents of intelligent design want that concept presented as an alternative to the theory of evolution, they want children to know that evolution is not a fact and is not proven. Ironically, these same proponents will not question their own religious beliefs and assumptions which lead them to the conclusion that some aspects of nature are so complex that they never could have just evolved -- that some intelligence must have designed (created?) them.

The United States' future as a country depends on the education of its children. I'm all for questioning established thought and theories, but if children are taught that the concept of intelligent design has any basis in science they will be at a distinct disadvantage once their education progresses beyond high school. They'll be at a distinct disadvantage in life. When people, especially children, stop questioning the observations and evidence of reality around them, they stop thinking. They stop growing.

Just once I'd like to see proof that intelligent design is a valid explanation for natural complexity. Just pointing to something in nature and saying "that's impossibly complex, it must have had a designer" is not proof. The thing is, one cannot prove one way or the other whether a designer was responsible for anything in the natural world. At least not without meeting this designer or seeing this designer's blueprints. This is where what is required to believe that intelligent design is valid reveals itself: one must have faith.

There's nothing wrong with faith. It is a necessary part of life to have faith in one's own abilities and those of others. Faith is required to love, to trust, to take risks. Faith, however, cannot be used to prove anything. One cannot argue or rationally justify faith.

It just is.

So let's please stop this charade that squeezes intelligent design into the definition of "scientific theory" by redefining what science means. Call it a modern evolution of the idea of creationism and leave it at that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A beer haiku

Beer the tasty treat
Malty hops and yeast dumpage
Make us feel so nice

This was inspired by a friend of mine who sent me this one:

Beer is good for us
I love the taste and flavor
Don't stop drinking it

Please add your own in the comments if you are so inclined. Just to remind everyone who may not have written haiku since grade school, the form is 5-7-5: 5 syllables, 7 syllables and 5 syllables again.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Star wars and politics collide: still funny

I found this site while looking for Emperor Palpatine's quote about a fully operational battle station to modify for my own use as comment moderator. More funny than the actual quotes is the fact that someone thought to compare Palpatine and Bush and make a web page about it. I laughed out loud when I saw the summary in google's results.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Finally some sense -- from Jack Thompson?!

Jack Thompson has reportedly confirmed to Gamepolitics.com that he has withdrawn himself as attorney in the Strickland v. Sony case in Alabama. The Strickland case was brought by Thompson's clients as a result of the murder of two police officers and a police dispatcher by an individual who is currently on death row in Alabama for the killings. This civil suit names as defendants Sony, Take2 Interactive, Rockstar Games, Wal-Mart and GameStop, alleging that the killer's obsessive playing of the Grand Theft Auto series of videogames (developed by Rockstar and published by Take2) was a direct cause of the murders.

I won't comment on the underlying crimes involved or speculate on what may happen next as I have very little information to go on. Jack Thompson's irrational and paranoid courtroom and media antics were a distraction from the plaintiffs' case and plaintiffs are better off now that he has withdrawn.

The best thing sensible people can do about Jack Thompson, and the worst thing for him, is to ignore him.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

IP protection comes close to a chilling effect

Thanks to Brandy for this story.

CafePress is an online service that allows visitors to upload their own artwork that can then be printed, for a price, on various things like t-shirts and mugs. Often, the artwork created and uploaded by visitors parodies commercial advertising, political figures, or is just plain funny.

Places like this need to be aware of any creative works uploaded to its servers that may infringe on existing copyrights or trademarks because such places may themselves be held responsible for contributory infringement or under a vicarious liability theory, separate and apart from the individual who submitted the work for reproduction, if subsequent works using the questionable IP are sold by that place. --(How's that for a sentence?)-- Owners of such works have every right to stop someone profiting from a copyrighted work without prior permission or misusing a trademark. Interestingly, CafePress was apparently zealously enforcing its "Copyright, Trademark and Intellectual Property Guidelines," specifically the provisions related to prohibited content, when it removed merchandise using the logo of an entirely fictional product and company. The fake site is well done and really quite funny, especially the "IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION." I always admire someone who really puts effort and thought into poking fun at the unquestioned norm.

After a brief email exchange later from the creators of the fake product and logo, CafePress allowed the artwork back on its site. Apparently "no harm, no foul," since the product is back up for sale, but I wonder if the creators lost any potential revenue from the products not being available. Also, would anyone who reads about this story be discouraged from doing something similar in the future for fear of being "taken down" or otherwise pursued for IP infringement?

The creators of the artwork in question apparently do a lot of parody both in actual print and online, so I doubt they'll be discouraged from doing this again in the future. Since the artwork depicts an entirely made-up product, the only copyright or trademark the creators are exploiting is their own.

-- a quick aside -- don't you hate it when you germinate an idea for a blog post, develop and nurture it, and then realize that the initial point you want to make as summarized in your always witty and descriptive post title isn't really a point at all? anyway, I'm going with it. we can't withdraw now, or the blog will collapse upon itself in the throes of civil war!

My point is that in the current litigation-happy culture in which we live, entities that sell and publish products and works must necessarily police their content, lest owners of IP come knocking with cease-and-desist orders, subpoenas or lawsuits. CafePress was certainly within its rights to question whether any IP right was being infringed by the artwork above, especially considering how well-done and professional the product and background appears to be, but how about doing just a bit of reading after a quick online search before pulling product down, eh?