Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Month: October, 2008

Google Tips to Reduce Home Heating Bills

From Google, in honor of Halloween (I don’t get it either).

For example:

Computing Equipment:

A lot of good links. And a calculator.

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Lessig’s Remix

Larry Lessig

Lawrence Lessig

I will pick up Lawrence Lessig’s newest (and last) book on intellectual property- Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy– pretty soon.

For more than a decade, we’ve been waging a war on our kids in the name of the 20th Century’s model of “copyright law.” In this, the last of his books about copyright, Lawrence Lessig maps both a way back to the 19th century, and to the promise of the 21st. Our past teaches us about the value in “remix.” We need to relearn the lesson. The present teaches us about the potential in a new “hybrid economy” — one where commercial entities leverage value from sharing economies. That future will benefit both commerce and community. If the lawyers could get out of the way, it could be a future we could celebrate.

Lessig also recently wrote an article called “In Defense of Piracy” (a pretty strongly worded title) for the Wall Street Journal, where he proposes the following five changes to copyright:

  • De-regulate the amateur remix.
  • De-regulate the “copy”. Instead, focus on the uses- in a digital world, we are making copies all the time.
  • Simplify
  • Restore efficiency
  • Decriminalize Gen-X

The article is typical Lessig- clear, concise and powerful. His book should also be available as a Creative Commons licensed online version on the book’s site soon. Which reminds me… I need to write about Markos Zuniga’s (of DailyKos) Taking On the System, which I recently finished (in short: good book).

The Twitter Vote Report Project

As I had mentioned a few days ago in my round-up of citizen journalism efforts for the 2008 elections here in the United States, Twitter is proving to be ground-zero for the election zeitgeist.

Now we get the Twitter Vote Report project, which has introduced a few tags for election-day reporting about voting issues.

  • #votereport- for reporting basic voting issues
  • #machine- for reporting voting machine issues
  • #registration- for registration problems
  • #wait:time- for waiting time, where ‘time’ is number of minutes
  • #EP[two letter state code]- for serious legal issues in that state (e.g. EPOH in Ohio)
  • zipcode: to denote your exact location

A lot more is being planned to mine, use and act upon this information. There is a code jamming session on the 24th of October and guides are being developed for situations in which the above codes should be used.

techPresident highlights some of the issues that still need to be worked out:

  • How do you get real people to use this, as opposed to the twitterati.
  • Do we let the response be organic or organized?
  • How to clarify the intent of this project (as opposed to the many others being organized)

And so forth. It’s all worth watching and participating in.

FBI Fakes Cybercrime Forum, Nets 56 Arrests

This is pretty awesome. The FBI ran a cybercrime forum called DarkMarket for two years, silently watching hundreds of “cybercriminals” walk in to their trap.

DarkMarket allowed buyers and sellers of stolen identities and credit card data to meet and do business in an entrepreneurial, peer-reviewed environment. It had 2,500 users at its peak, according to the FBI.[…]

The leader of the site, know online as Master Splynter, was in fact FBI cybercrime agent J. Keith Mularski, part of an elite seven-agent cybercrime unit based at the National Cyber Forensics Training Alliance in Pittsburgh.  DarkMarket members believed the site was operated from Eastern Europe, despite a 2006 warning from uber-hacker Max Ray Butler, known then as Iceman and Aphex. Butler cracked the site’s server and announced that he’d caught Master Splynter logging in from the NCFTA’s office on the banks of the Monongahela River. […]

It remains unclear whether Mularski took over the identity of a real cyberscammer, or if Master Splynter was his invention from the start.

You can’t make this stuff up! The always brilliant Threat Level blog has many more details.

EFF Challenges Constitutionality of Telecom Immunity in Federal Court

nsa_logo

No Such Agency...

EFF, fighting the good fight

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Thursday challenged the constitutionality of a law aimed at granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the president’s illegal domestic wiretapping program.

In a brief filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, EFF argues that the flawed FISA Amendments Act (FAA) violates the federal government’s separation of powers as established in the Constitution and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law. Signed into law earlier this year, the FAA allows for the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms’ participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that either the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. Attorney General Michael Mukasey filed that classified certification with the court last month.

The constitutional challenge is set to be heard on December 2. EFF has more information on the NSA spying issue.

Resources for Getting Your Vote Counted

Nancy Scola at TechPresident has put together a set of resources to help you vote and make sure it counts. Especially interesting are resources for college students who vote where they go to school and the large variety of rules regarding voting by felons.

John McCain: For and Against Net Neutrality?

I was reading John McCain’s Technology Policy page on his web site and the following stood out:

John McCain Will Preserve Consumer Freedoms. John McCain will focus on policies that leave consumers free to access the content they choose; free to use the applications and services they choose; free to attach devices they choose, if they do not harm the network; and free to chose among broadband service providers.

When Regulation Is Warranted, John McCain Acts. John McCain does not believe in prescriptive regulation like “net-neutrality,” but rather he believes that an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices is the best deterrent against unfair practices.

The problem? The first paragraph about “preserving consumer freedoms” lists four things that McCain will protect- access content, apps and services, attach devices, and choice of service providers. In the next paragraph, he says that he does not believe in net-neutrality. The problem is that those four freedoms are what the FCC and other independent activists have adopted as the four principles of Net Neutrality.

So- is McCain simply against using the word net-neutrality, while agreeing with it on the four core principles? Lawrence Lessig has a detailed video about McCain’s policy, where he makes the argument that McCain is against regulating network neutrality but would rather leave them to “faith” on the network companies. The video follows (after the jump): Read the rest of this entry »

The Wikipedia Deletion Game

Eszter Hargittai at Crooked Timber wonders about something I’ve been uncomfortable with about Wikipedia for a while now:

Currently, an entry for Joe the Plumber is being debated [for deletion]. Does it really dilute the value of Wikipedia to have entries like that? I remember when some people contested my entry (I wasn’t the one to put it up), it felt like some amateurish tenure review, except with not quite the same consequences. Would anyone care to defend the practice? I’m eager to understand the motivations better.

The Intellectual Property Enforcement Bill

This is not a love song

Mickey Mouse politics

While (still) President Bush signed the sorry Intellectual Property Enforcement Bill in to law last week, EFF reminds us of a few victories we won over the past few months that stripped it of things like:

  • Higher damages for filesharing.
  • A vast government IP enforcement bureaucracy.
  • The Attorney General’s office will no longer become “pro bono lawyers for private copyright holders regardless of their resources.”

We should always celebrate the small victories (and, in this case, thank Public Knowledge for fighting the good fight). There will still be a “Copyright Czar”, but that position will be appointed by the President. And all indications are that we might get a President who takes a bit more nuanced position on these issues. Wired’s Threat Level blog is taking votes on who should be appointed to that position. My vote is with Lessig.

Citizen Journalism Resources for Election Day

citizen journalism

in India

This election will be remembered as the first one where traditional media relied heavily on citizen journalism and new media. Take a look at Twitter’s Election 2008 live feed to get a feel for the political zeitgeist. Or how Free Press created “Rate the Debates”:http://www.freepress.net/debates to provide actual input from people before the pundits could formulate their conventional wisdom. Or how C-SPAN and NPR mined twitter for live fact checking, dialtests and general citizen journalism.

Well, election day will be no different. Twitter will probably end up being the place to gain a sense of the situation on the ground, but a lot of other web sites are hoping to provide people with the tools to report voter suppression, other problems and experiences. Here are a few resources:

SourceWatch.org’s Election Protection Wiki

The Election Protection Wiki is a non-partisan, non-profit collaboration of citizens, activists and researchers to build a one-stop-shop for reports of voter suppression and the systemic threats to election integrity. We collect just the straight facts that are fully referenced to external, verifiable sources, and we need your help.


Wired’s Election Problem Reporting Site

Over the next weeks, if you have trouble at the polls, either during early voting or on Election Day, we’d like you to add your issue to our map. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible. You may also include links to video or audio.


YouTube & PBS: Video Your Vote

YouTube’s Video Your Vote, a non-partisan program produced in partnership with PBS, encourages American voters to document their voting experiences.

Whether it’s a video shot at the polls on Election Day, an account of your early voting experience, or you filming yourself filling out an absentee ballot — we want you to upload it here.

The Video Your Vote channel is also a one-stop-shop to view exclusive videos from voter registration experts, election reform activists, and state officials, as well as video footage from the PBS archives for a historical look at voting through the years.


Voter Suppression Wiki

This site is designed to be a hub of information and action around efforts to suppress votes in the 2008 U.S. elections.


Citizen Media Law Project Blog

Has a lot of resources on the legality of documenting your vote and the areas in and around polling places.

The New York Times Polling Place Photo Project

The Polling Place Photo Project is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encourages voters to capture, post and share photographs of this years primaries, caucuses and general election. By documenting local voting experiences, participants can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.

Twitter Vote Report Project

Anyone with a Twitter.com account can use their cell phones or their computers to send a message and notify voters and election monitors around the country.

I will add more to this page as I discover them.

UPDATE: Some resources to make sure your vote gets counted.