December 10, 2005
Katrina Email from Louisiana Governor Online
The Times-Picayune has placed the archive of unedited email from Governor Kathleen Blanco online. This mail was generated during the Hurricane Katrina crisis. Earlier emails examined by Congress from FEMA were somewhat embarrassing for that agency. The Governor's archive of approximately 100,000 documents represents another chapter in handling this disaster.
The archive is here.
December 9, 2005
Bell South Miffed Over Free New Orleans Wi-Fi
Miffed enough that when the project went live, the company rescinded an offer to donate one of its damaged buildings to serve as the new police headquarters. The motivation for the city was to help draw citizens back to their homes by making Internet access free. Reports are that the donation was conditional on the city wide network not going live.
Verizon Gets Tough With Telemarketers
The Washington Post is reporting that Verizon has won two cases against telemarketers who made unsolicited calls to Verizon customers. Courts in New Jersey and California banned defendants from using autodialers and pre-recorded messages. Resort Marketing Trends made 200,000 calls before being banned by the New Jersey Superior Court. Intelligent Alternatives made more than 1,000,000 calls to customers before being stopped by the California Superior Court. The company invoked the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and state laws.
More details about these lawsuits and others filed by Verizon are here.
December 8, 2005
Sony Fixes Another Security Hole
Sony has patched a patch in digital rights management software again, but this time the software was from SunnComm, Sony's other DRM software provider. Sony worked with Princeton University computer scientist Ed Felten and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to verify and the security risk and produce a patch that took care of it. This patch is apparently a patch to one produced in the last few days.
What's Up With Blackberry?
Gartner is advising that Blackberry users should consider having a Plan B now that a federal judge has ruled that Research In Motion and NTP did not have a valid settlement agreement AND he would not stay the proceedings pending a Patent Office review of the infringed patents owned by NTP. RIM has lost appeals up and down the legal food chain and is in a difficult position.
Recent news indicates that the company is in talks with NTP via an arbitrator, but NTP denies this. Gartner's research brief suggested that users stop or delay mission critical Blackberry deployments until RIM's legal position has been clarified. An alternative is to seek other platforms or devices that provide similar functionality. RIM has indicated that the company does have a work-around that would prevent the service from shutting down. However, there hasn't been any reports as to what shape that would take, or how it would affect users.
More on this from PC World is here.
December 7, 2005
Spotlight on Wikilaw
There is a new legal wikipedia called Wikilaw. The site was established by two New York law school graduates "with the hope that legal information could be created collaboratively and freely shared among lawyers and other interested individuals." The site features collaborative spaces for treatises, a law dictionary, sample motions from the states, a law review, and probably the most interesting concept, Democracy 2.0. Conceptually, this section would offer the ability for anyone to help design law as if it was being rewritten from the ground up. Some of the ultimate content may mirror existing law, such as homicide statutes and other criminal laws. But there is always room for imagination. Even voter initiatives in states such as California are drafted by "experts." Conceivably, law drafted collectively may not match law designed through the political process involving special interests.
The site is located at http://www.wiki-law.org. There is no advertising on the site.
Here is more information on the site from one of the founders:
Wikilaw's goal is to build the largest open-content legal resource in the world. Wikilaw hopes to tap into the knowledge of the roughly 1,000,000 lawyers in the United States to build one of the largest libraries or legal information in the world. The Wiki is published under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which means that all the information found on the site can be copied, modified, and redistributed so long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges the authors of the Wikilaw article used.
Wikilaw has several different areas where collaborative development can occur:
(1) Wiki-Treatises: Wiki-Treatises are collaborative documents created by the Wikilaw community on various different aspects of the law.
(2) Wiki-Law-Review: allows anyone to post a "thesis" for an article, which is freely editable by other users. Alternatively, anyone can post a completed law review article and have other users contribute and edit the article, subject to the GFDL license.
(3) Wiki-Law-Dictionary: seeks to collaboratively produce a comprehensive law dictionary that is easily searchable and free.
(4) Wiki-Legislate: is an experiment that hypothesizes that a wide range of individuals, not just politicians and special interest groups, can contribute to the creation of our nation's laws. When Wiki-Legislate was launched, it began in a vacuum with no laws. From scratch, the Wikilaw community can construct laws that it feels should be imposed on society. Initially, Wiki-Legistlate started with no laws. It assumed that no laws existed in the world. All laws listed in this section are the collaborative effort of the Wikilaw community. Wiki-Legislate is an aggregator of viewpoints, which allows users to get together and decide what law should be imposed on society. Wiki-Legislate hopes to become a filter to accurately gauge social norms, and transform those norms into
(5) Wiki-Motions: seeks to provide give practitioners a resource to help them drafting memos in support of their motions.
The larger the community grows, the more useful this resource will be.
December 6, 2005
Wikipedia Vandalism is Debated
Wikipedia is an interesting encyclopedic resource in that it is managed by volunteers who create and edit articles. Anyone can contribute and can do so anonymously. But what happens when anonymous editors get it wrong? Or, more importantly, get it wrong deliberately? That question was raised by journalist John Seigenthaler when contributors posted information claiming he'd been implicated in the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. Other statements labeled him a Nazi along with other false accusations.
Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, will now require registration to create articles, but not to edit existing articles. Essentially, this action will likely limit the number of new articles but will not necessarily affect the contribution of false or misleading information getting into the site. With fewer articles, regular volunteers should be better able to police the site for wrong information.
Siegenthaler is the founding editor of USA Today and a former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. He wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today about the false information which prompted changes to his entry.
There's a lot of discussion on the web about the value of Wikipedia ranging from praising it for pulling together collective wisdom to being horribly inaccurate for even simple things. Episodes such as this have to be a factor in the site's credibility.
The Latest in Phishing Tricks
The latest is using allegedly secure sites to fool people into thinking they are the genuine article. The SSL padlock appears because some phishers use self-generating secure Sockets Layer certificates. This can be detected by scanning the security certificate. If it says self issued or unknown certificate authority, then the site is a fake.
The story is here on ABCNews.
December 5, 2005
Illinois Game Law Goes the Way of All Others (so far): Unconstitutional
Federal Judge Matthew Kennelly of the Northern District of Illinois declared the law that prohibited minors from purchasing violent or pornographic video games unconstitutional last Friday. The state had argued that this law was another valid exercise in regulating products available to minors such as alcohol, tobacco, sexual material, and other adult products. The judge, however, did not see it that way. Judge Kennelly was quoted as saying "In this country, the state lacks the authority to ban protected speech on the ground that it affects the listener's or observer's thoughts and attitudes." The law was to go into effect on January 1st. There is no word yet as to whether the state will appeal to the 7th Circuit. So far, all challenges to similar laws have been successful. A suit in California has yet to be resolved.
More on this from the AP via CNN is here.
Buying TV by the Channel
Spurred by indecency on cable and radio, the FCC is considering proposals that would turn the market for cable and satellite television upside-down. The idea is to let consumers by television by the channel rather than by the tier. Cable and satellite prices tend to rise, often with the justification that the costs of adding new channels is responsible. The question is whether the consumer absorbs the cost appreciating the new content. Given the variety of content, from sports, news, shopping, entertainment, educational, religious and other programming, do consumers get the value from the variety of channels pushed by media companies? While some households are offended by cutting edge programming from Comedy Central, surely religious programming is not prime viewing in others.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin recently embraced the concept of a la carte programming in statements made recently before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He comes from the position that consumers seeking family friendly programming are forced to buy family unfriendly programming in order to get what they want.
A la carte programming in theory would let consumers purchase only those channels in which they are interested. An FCC report not yet made public indicates that per channel pricing could bring the cost to consumers down while letting them control what comes into their homes. Cable and satellite operators claim otherwise, stating that fewer channels means fewer advertising dollars, which means cost per channel will go up.
Telephone companies such as AT&T (the former SBC Communications) are primed for a la carte programming as they are reading their fiber networks for programming on demand. Their complaint is that media content providers do not sell individual shows or channels. Essentially, while the technology is there, the economics are apparently not there.
Another question mark is that there are no reports, however, that gauge which channels might gain the most or least subscriptions. Cable show rankings are not necessarily a good guide as ratings are fragmented somewhat by which demographics score higher with advertisers, and at what times.
One good story that goes into more detail on this subject is at CNET News. Read it here.