Points to Ponder

Blogs that pose interesting conundrums

The Jena Six

Am I naïve when I think that racism to this degree doesn’t happen in the United States? I know that racism still exists and will for many more years. Yet, when I read this story, I feel transported back in time to world I’ve only read about.

From www.whileseated.org:

In September 2006, a group of African American high school students in Jena, Louisiana, asked the school for permission to sit beneath a ‘whites only’ shade tree. There was an unwritten rule that blacks couldn’t sit beneath the tree. The school said they didn’t care where students sat. The next day, students arrived at school to see three nooses (in school colors) hanging from the tree.

via Kottke

Read more:


1-Up’d by a 14 Year Old

I got a ping back today on the Countdown Timer page. Tobias made a plugin called “Ultimate Countdown Timer” which is based on my aforementioned Countdown Timer.

Initially I was kind of pissed. Some guy, Tobais, had gone and stolen my work and then branded his own. And then I remembered that it I who released the work under a GNU/GPL license specifically so this kind of thing could happen (people making modifications). So I really couldn’t be mad at him. So then I was mad at myself for releasing it under GNU/GPL. But then I realized that this was a good thing. Some dude has 1-up’d a plugin that I wrote. So I wasn’t pissed at anyone in the end.

I took a look at what he changed. It actually wasn’t anything much. He even made one of those little charts that lists the differences between the two. He basically added some Javascript to allow dynamic updating of the timer (which is good idea, I might have to see about adding that in).
He also internationalized the plugin; which is a good thought, but if he’d looked at the trunk copy, he would have seen that I already did it for the impending release (there are a bunch of other goodies in the new release too, but that’s for another post).

Next, I took a look at his “About Me” page. Turns out the guy is only 14 years old. Jeez, I got 1-up’d by a 14 year old. Then I realized this was good: I finally had competition in the market (albeit a very small market for a specific type of plugin for a specific publishing platform).

Unfortunately, I don’t believe his model won’t hold over time. He has to go through and rename a bunch of functions and variables each time he wants to update his version based on mine. This is a time consuming process (I’m assuming) and isn’t a realistic option over the long run. Hopefully, he’ll just treat it as a branch and continue to improve upon it instead of just adding additional functionality to every version I release.


The RIAA Pendulum

I remember Dad telling me about pendulums in the ski industry a long time ago. I think it had something to do with skiing versus snowboarding and how after many years of increasing snowboarders, skiing was making a comeback: the pendulum effect.

I think many industries can be modeled the same way, including the lawsuits being brought by the RIAA. Which reminds me, guess who won the “Worst Company in America 2007” award? Yup, the RIAA, which really equates to Warner Music, Universal Music, EMI & Sony-BMG, was voted at the worst company in 2007. Bravo guys!

I digress back to my pendulum.

In recent months, I’ve come across a number of stories that constitute a severe hampering to RIAA’s recent attempts to extort recoup money from pirated music. We’ve all head the stories of that one mom fighting off the RIAA and winning.

I use “that one mom” in a generic sense. There have been several instances of this, with the accused typically stereotyped as a “soccer mom” who can’t even check her own email; or better yet, doesn’t even own a computer. In fact, as far as I know, the RIAA has never won a case when it actually went to trial. NEVER!

A few weeks ago, there was a FoxTrot strip parodying that fact:

The pendulum isn’t swinging back the other way yet, but I think it’s certainly slowing down.

Living in Colorado, I think there’s some unwritten rule that says I must hate the Nebraska Corn Huskers. In this case, I’m making an exception:
From www.boingboing.net:

The University of Nebraska is so pissed off with the RIAA’s outrageous requests to help rat out students who file-share that it has sent the RIAA a bill for the time the University has wasted dealing with the RIAA’s demands. Go Corn Huskers!

I tip my hat to you, Huskers.

There’s also this sickening story about WB suing a disabled Florida man:
From recordingindustryvspeople.blogspot.com:

Although the defendant John Paladuk, an employee of C&N Railroad for 36 years, was living in Florida at the time of the alleged copyright suit, and had notified the RIAA that he had not engaged in any copyright infringement, and despite that the fact that Mr. Paladuk suffered a stroke last year which resulted in complete paralysis of his entire left side and severely impaired speech, rendering him disabled, and despite the fact that his disability check is his sole source of income, the RIAA commenced suit against him on February 27, 2007.

via BoingBoing

Can’t imagine there’s great public relations on that story.

Then there’s this tale:
From www.boingboing.net:

A California man got out of his music-sharing lawsuit by having his lawyer send a sharply worded letter to Sony Music, the plaintiff.

The letter threatened to sue Sony for malicious prosecution, citing the crummy evidence used by record companies in other suits, and on receipt the letter it, Sony chickened out and withdrew the suit.

Remember those Microsoft Word Templates you could get to write up your last will and testament? How long until someone creates something similar for being sued by one of the RIAA members companies? (Side note/interesting fact: People aren’t sued by the RIAA, they’re sued by an individual music company that is a member of the RIAA. The RIAA more or less exists to deflect the bad PR from actual record companies).

The pendulum continues to slow down and it’s now only a matter of time before it starts swinging the other way.


Visa/Mastercard Minimum Price Rules

It’s happened to me a few times, I walk up to a counter to buy something, a bagel and some milk for example (true story!). The lady at the register points to the sign, “Minimum $3 purchase for credit cards, please!”

So far, I’ve been lucky. I usually don’t carry cash, but everytime this has happened, I’ve always had cash with me.

However, having a minimum charge (or a maximum for that matter) is against terms Visa and Mastercard have.

Here’s the actual wording from Visa, page 14 of the Rules for Visa Merchants for those playing the home game:

Always honor valid Visa cards, in your acceptance category, regardless of the dollar amount of the purchase. Imposing minimum or maximum purchase amounts is a violation.

mental_floss makes a good point:

From www.mentalfloss.com:

Now, your local merchants might argue that paying credit card fees on miniscule purchases eliminates their profit margins. And that sounds pretty reasonable.

Even with PayPal, I think it’s something like 30 cents plus 3.2% of the transaction. On a $3 transaction, PayPal would get 40 cents, just over 13% of the total transaction. That’s a pretty hefty amount for a small business, especially if lots of people charge small amounts.

Personally, I think it would be in the best interests of businesses to create a consortium for a new Open Source debit platform (I don’t think it would work for credit). No per-a-transaction fees or percentage cuts, just a yearly subscription fee based on net income to pay for the infrastructure for such a system.

via mental_floss and The Consumerist.


Well Duh

Pete Cashmore over at Mashable wrote:

From mashable.com:

Meanwhile, it emerged today as a result of SEC filings that Apple is being sued over an alleged monopoly. The allegation is that Apple’s DRM is monopolistic, since it prevents iTunes music from being played on anything apart from an iPod and vice versa (songs bought elsewhere don’t tend to work with iPods).

Well duh. DRM has always been a two fold issue. First, it supports the RIAAs infantile desire requirement to “protect” “their” music. Second, it’s a reasonably good business model: keep people locked into your system.

But there are issues.

First, DRM for the RIAAs sake is one of those things where it really only hurts the honest people. Current DRM systems suck balls because their implemented poorly. Thus, someone like DVD John is able to crack them within hours of release. The honest people don’t know how to unlock their music and the dishonest people do, causing hell for the rest of everyone else.

Locking people into your system may be a good thing. That is, until people jump ship and go to your competitors product. Then what? In a world where everything must, and I do mean MUST, communicate with EVERYTHING else, proprietary formats are doomed to failure. Case in point: Betamax, ATRAC3, UMD. Ok, actually that’s more than one and they are all Sony technologies (which I currently ban). But I think the point is still valid.

So what? Well, I hope the coming year sees the change in companies that I have been seeking for years. Much like the proverbial “Peace on Earth”, I doubt it will happen. But it’s something to consider. For any companies or persons at companies who happen to not only stumble upon this post, but also happen to read this far: I just want to let you know that my purchasing choices do tend to reflect my desire for a level of openness: open source, non-proprietary, APIs, etc.

P.S. I found the original Mashable post via Scoble’s Google Shared RSS, it’s pretty cool and picks up on a lot of things I don’t see in my limited set. Thanks Robert!


Starbucks Intimidation

You think the barista’s at Starbucks (and other places where college students study) are intimidated when they see what some of us are studying?



What is the etymology of ‘befriend’?

I split the word into ‘be’ and ‘friend’ and look them up. I know what ‘friend’ is.

‘be-‘ is:
From m-w.com:

Middle English, from Old English bi-, be-; akin to Old English bI by, near — more at BY … 5 : make : cause to be : treat as <belittle> <befool> <befriend>

That’s all well and good. But how do you get to ‘behead’? Oh, the wonders of modern English.