Monday, December 18, 2006

Microsoft set to lock down Office docs; enforced with encryption and DMCA

Ok, this is too much. Via Linux Journal I found an article in InformationWeek about MS's new Vista OS and how it will enable MS to criminalize open document readers and consequently kill open standards computing.

The gist of it is that Vista will enable Information Rights Management (IRM), a feature available since Office 2003, to control the hardware (yes, you read right -- see "trusted computing" below) and software required to open a document created with Office running on Vista while also allowing control over whether that document can be printed, edited, copied, forwarded or any number of other possibilities. These rights can even be "managed" remotely, though I imagine that would require being on a common MS network using Outlook or the network to obtain the document.

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) is invoked by the use of encryption to enforce the IRM. In short, bypass the encrypted formatting and break the law. The IRM features can be incorporated with "trusted computing" principles to completely lock down the documents at the hardware level of your PC.

The InformationWeek article talks of losing open document standards, but the Linux Journal article predicts much more dire consequences: the possible forced obsolescence of Linux and other open standards-based OSes. If most of the computing world is standardized on Microsoft platforms and products and it is illegal to even duplicate MS functionality for common document use, how useful will Linux be?

If Microsoft successfully implements these "features" then it has truly missed the boat of the Internet with a capital "I." The value of the Internet is that it does not matter what client you use as long as it supports the common and public standards the network (i.e., "Internet") uses to move data around. Once documents created with Microsoft products can only be opened or manipulated using Microsoft-approved systems, we've reverted to the earliest Apple/IBM incompatibility headaches and corresponding lack of sharing, communication and creativity among users.

Successful implementation may also create a pseudo net neutrality advantage to Microsoft users. Imagine corporations, who are by the way huge users of MS products, which will not accept documents unless they are submitted in a protected MS Office format or will only make press releases or other company information available in that same protected format. Who cares if your Linux box has as much bandwidth as some other guy's Windows machine -- your Linux-created document simply isn't getting through.

Such a corporate lockdown is not unrealistic given the fact that corporations' IT departments like the consistent, easy-to-manage, standardized (ironic, no?) infrastructure that a MS network provides, plus Microsoft sells IRM as a "company asset" in its description of the feature. What corporation or IT manager does not want "Information privacy, control, and integrity" incorporated into network management?

Please read both of the articles mentioned in the first paragraph and become informed about what software and computing companies are doing. Even if you are only a Microsoft user you should be concerned about your shrinking choices and limits on your free use of your own property.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The new Blogger beta

Seeing as how this new beta version was declared "feature complete" as of November 2, I figured I'd jump in and convert. The process was easy, I just clicked on "Update my blog" from the old dashboard, signed in with a google account and the rest was all on google's end. The conversion took 3 to 4 minutes and I was notified at my gmail address when it was done.

So far things on the admin side look mostly similar, just more polished and with more features more easily managed. As far as I can tell, the blog's appearance to the outside world is identical to how it looked before. I look forward to organizing my posts by labels.

[UPDATE] The only suggestion I will make to potential converts is to consider whether you want to associate your new Blogger beta blog with a google account that is different from your primary gmail account. This is because unfortunately, when you sign out of Blogger beta you are signing out of your google accounts entirely, also logging you out of any other google services you are currently using.

Actually I just tried and confirmed, and this really sucks, that you can't be logged into two different google logins at the same time at all on the same computer. Well technically you can use a browser to monitor one gmail account and monitor a different gmail account via Gmail Notifier in your taskbar, but that's not really what we're talking about here. If you're like me you have gmail open all the time, you use google's personalized homepage, gcal and google maps often all at the same time, so inadvertently logging in and out of all of that is a hassle. It's best to have a separate google account solely for your Blogger beta blog so you only have to worry about that one thing.

I suppose you could use your main google/gmail account with Blogger beta so that you can stay logged into everything all the time. I hestiated to do that because I'm uncomfortable with my personal gmail data being so closely stacked in the "Google identity silo" with my blog posts.

Related post: Blogger beta hesitation

Kathy Griffin at the Crest

I'm not sure why I didn't post this earlier, but my girlfriend and I went to see Kathy Griffin here in Sacramento on December first. Griffin did two shows that night, and the later 10:00 show we went to lasted an hour and forty minutes! Great stuff, she is a hilarious stream-of-consciousness comic, mainly focusing on her interactions with "A" list celebrities as a self-proclaimed "D-lister." Topics ranged from Britney to Lohan, Clay "Gayken" (allegedly) to Kathy's parents behavior on her reality show on Bravo.

Interestingly, the stage at the show was completely bare except for a stool with several water bottles on it and a microphone stand. This is a 36' X 24' stage in a 975 person theater and the place was sold out. It made me realize just how difficult it must be to build up a routine to the level of being able to keep a paying audience entertained for a full show.

She'll be on tour in California through January 12th before heading to the Northwest and then east again if you'd like to catch a show.

Howard Stern TV media blitz this week

Stern is hitting the "Big 3" networks this week for a Sirius holiday promotional push.

Last night Stern was on Letterman's show (CBS).

Thursday night he will be on Conan O'Brien (NBC, 12:30a Friday, technically).

Friday night he will be on Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC, 12:05a Saturday).

The Letterman appearance was cool. Howard was wearing a Santa robe with bare legs, and came bearing gifts. He gave Paul and Dave each a new Sirius Stiletto, the latest and greatest portable tuner/mp3 player from Sirius, and then gave everyone in the audience satellite radios with free three month subscriptions! No doubt a more basic model, but how cool is that?

Howard had stories about his and Beth's recent attendance at Bryant Gumbel's Christmas party, showed a video clip of Jeff the Drunk falling down, and talked about a few other things that have been going on since he moved to Sirius. Some more info is on Stern's site since they commented on it quite a bit today. Also, the Lateshow site has a transcript of the entire show. Apparently Regis Philbin heard that Dave actually shook Howard's hand backstage after the interview (a rare event as I believe both Howard and Dave are germophobic) and was so amazed by the occurrence that he may confront Dave about it when he is on Letterman tonight (Wed.).

Conan is great, though I think Howard is lukewarm about him. We'll have to see how the appearance goes. I'll be taping it for sure.

Let me just say that the official Conan O'Brien web site is woefully underutilized as far as upcoming guests go. I actually had to go to frickin' to confirm Howard's appearance tomorrow night. Further exploration on revealed listings for the whole NBC network which included Conan's upcoming guests, but logic and good sense requires that such things be right there next to Conan's smiling face. Woe be upon those who underutilize... web things. We shall never speak of this again.

Kimmel and ABC have done it right. Upcoming guests for the whole week are right there on the front page. Actually the next two weeks. Kudos to you, Kimmel, and all those who make your web presence possible. Kimmel and Howard have a great chemistry which should ensure a great appearance.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Graphological Initiative

So the October 2006 issue of Wired had a full-page ad for TUL pens paired with an additional cardstock page with a postage-prepaid postcard that could be torn out. Both pages show a "Dr. Gerard Ackerman" looking at the camera with some sort of an "I'm smarter than you" smirk on his face, holding a metal clipboard, seemingly daring readers to mail in the attached postcard for a free graphological analysis. The part of the card stock page that one doesn't tear out has text on it that says "Share your handwriting with me and discover who you really are."

What one does is write a specific phrase on the card, I truly need a new pen., include an email address and mail in the card for analysis. I knew it was just a promotion for these pens, but TUL (really OfficeMax) had already paid for the postage, so I did it. I also thought they might send me a free pen. I received the email with a link to my "results" last week and would like to share.

UPDATE: email actually received the last week of October. I've had this saved as a draft for awhile.

The email was short and pretty much just contained a link to click on. "Results" is in quotes above because what I was given is not a personalized analysis of what I actually wrote on the postcard. This was disappointing, but what could I have expected, right? It's free. The general web site is here, where you can have your own handwriting "analyzed" without mailing in anything.

The web site gives its analysis of your handwriting by asking you a series of questions about the characteristics that appear as you write the phrase I wrote on the postcard. The characteristics are 1) Slant; 2) Size; 3) Spacing; 4) your capital "I"; 5) your lowercase "t"; and 6) your lowercase "y." I won't bore you with the respective options for these characteristics, but suffice it to say there are quite a few permutations that TUL had to make separate results videos for.

My results

My handwriting slants to the right (extroverted, emotionally responsive, trusting) and is medium-sized (average) with narrow spacing (conservative, inner strength, uptight, inhibited, aloof, emotionally remote, frugal).

For my capital "I," the tail of the "I" is dominant (dominant father and a lame who's your daddy with pimp graphic joke in the video). My lowercase "t" has a short crossbar (matter-of-fact, efficient, proficient) and my lowercase "y" has a full, almost voluptuous loop (physical, imaginative, flexible, uninhibited, direct).

Putting all that together for a coherent profile is pretty much impossible. You can see from my results that I am both emotionally responsive and emotionally remote, extroverted and uptight/aloof, inhibited and uninhibited, and trusting and frugal. I'm not sure how to add in the other characteristics, but I'm sure if I consult my astrological forecast I'll be pointed in a direction.

Any direction.

Of course the good doctor uses the results to make a particular pen recommendation using his apparently summarizing title of my characteristics, "Captain of the Boardroom."

No free pen.

My favorite pen right now (yes, it changes. Past honors have gone to the Uni-ball Vision Exact and Uni-ball Vision) is one I received as a promotion from my investment advisor at a brokerage firm. Of course the firm's logo is laser engraved on the cap, but the pen is solid brass, so it has a nice weight and balance to it. It's the BL8650S: Latitud Rollerball Pen of the Basics line offered by Logomark, Inc. It has nice, smooth rollerball ink and a consistent ink flow for easy writing. And it came with a certificate for 5 free refills. The site has a "refill wizard" and appears to have refills to fit lots of different pens, not just ones from Logomark. You pay shipping, but $4.95 isn't too bad for some quality ink.

Do I think too much about pens?