Friday, May 4, 2007

pwning a number

So, as I was reviewing for this class's final, a story piqued my interest. The MPAA is claiming they own a number. While the number is a key to unlocking proprietary data on HD-DVD's, that is still just about the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Other people seem to agree. I have read numerous news stories about people revolting against web sites such as Digg for taking the number down.

So, in honor of the MPAA's decision to claim they own the rights to a number, I am going to claim I own the rights to the number 3,397. This means you are now disallowed from doing calculations such as 43 * 79 and 2592 + 805. Thank you for your cooperation.

Monday, April 23, 2007

mp3 business

Did you know that the company that holds the patent to the MP3 compression algorithm makes nearly $140 million a year in licensing revenues? That's a lot of money the Fraunhofer Society in Germany makes. It is a legitimate gold mine of a patent that they have. I have been pretty interested in the music industry for a little while now and have been following the news about struggling record companies. The RIAA keeps blaming the Internet for their problems. It really just seems like they are reacting to a changing set of rules instead of going out and trying to create a legitimate solution. Their thinking seems to be backward.

After looking at the amount of money made off the MP3 compression algorithm, the proliferation of Apple's iTunes, and the success of portable music players, it seems clear that the music industry has had plenty of chances to expand their revenue, but they have just not had the foresight to do so. If they had just come up with one of these ideas first and executed it well, they could have displaced at least a little of the revenue they say they have lost.

Instead of spending millions of dollars attacking their customers, maybe the record companies should focus on finding new avenues for creating revenue. In short, they should be more proactive instead of reactive.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Technorati Profile

This is pretty crazy/cool. I was just looking at the Wired news feed on my Google home page, and I was checking out an article I linked to earlier today when I noticed a link to "Technorati" the story. Technorati finds all the blogs that link to that site and lists them out for anyone to see who blogged about that story. I found my blog at the top of the list. That was pretty cool... but it was kind of disheartening to see that my blog only has eight links to it, while the others had many hundreds of links.

Anyways, I thought this was pretty interesting - web democracy at its best.

university policy

I was reading this article on a computer hacker at a university who, unbeknownst to him, had his files rooted through by a system administrator at the school, and it got me curious about USC's Internet usage policy.

I came across this here: 4.1.1 Use of university computers and networks may be subject to monitoring. The privacy of activities on these systems cannot be ensured.

While the policy continues saying these powers will not be used capriciously, it is still disconcerting to know that legally someone can look at anybody's computer without a search warrant and without consent. I personally don't like that. The worst part about it is that they don't even need a search warrant. If I remember correctly from my law class last semester, only individuals acting on behalf of a governmental body legally are required to get search warrants to look at something. USC is private, so should anyone challenge the legality of their stuff being looked at by anyone on the ITS staff, they would probably lose. Don't quote me on that, but I think I'm right.

Well, after reading this I think I will be using my Internet connection through new eyes - you never know who might be looking.

Monday, April 2, 2007


While browsing through the news from the last couple weeks from, The Los Angeles Times, CNET News and other places, I found an overwhelming number of hits on articles that were tagged with the word "hack." When did hacking hit the big time? When did this phenomenon of hackers being big news start? Probably when computer hacking started having a wide impact on everyone from the average person to the biggest businesses out there.

Here are the results from a cursory LEXIS-NEXIS search from different time periods I did with the keyword "hacker" and "computer" within major papers:

2005: 740
2004: 689
2003: 790
2002: 646
2001: more than 1,000

As I am doing this, I am kinda surprised that the number of hits for my search is not trending downward as I expected it would. Interesting. Continuing on...

2000: more than 1,000
1999: 968
1998: 677
1997: 449
1996: 447

I know this is a very and amateur way to go about doing this, but I think a trend is starting to show. I guess the Internet boom from 2000-2001 really peaked people's interest in computers and computer culture, which of course would have led to more news stories.

Anyways, the point of this is to show that hacking and computer culture has hit the mainstream. All a person has to do is pick up the paper, and on any given day there is probably going to be a story somewhere about hacking.


There is a new culture of learning and academia around the world largely based on the notion of two heads being better than one. Hasn't this always been true throughout history? I mean, the saying must have originated because it has at least some truth to it.

At least in my experiences I have found this to be true. Group projects always seem to turn out better when everyone is working towards a common goal. On the contrary, when one person takes the lead and never gives anything to any leeway for doing anything to anyone else, the project can suffer. Wikipedia is the ultimate group project. It encapsulates the whole essence of cooperative learning into one website and one piece of software. The results of this project have been astounding, as Daniel H. Pink's article "The Book Stops Here" points out. Wikipedia has more articles than any established, respected, printed encyclopedia has and probably will ever have - and the information is not that much less accurate.

My question is, how long will it take for wiki software to expand to business? There are already some companies that run on user-generated material, but not in very efficient forms. People can go somewhere and submit a design for a t-shirt, but nobody else can go there, change it and repost it, perhaps creating a better t-shirt. I think it would be cool for a business to try something like this out. Let users create their own products and let them modify other peoples' products to satiate their own fancies.

I know it's not very well thought out yet, but maybe someone can implement it somewhere.

Friday, March 16, 2007


I thought this was a particularly provocative section of Farhad Manjoo's article called Throwing Google at the Book. The whole article is about Google's proposed plan to create an online searchable archive of every single book printed since the invention of... well... the printing press. This quote just made a lot of sense to me, as I agree with the theory that more exposure to intellectual property will equate to more revenue for the creator as long as the exposure is done in a tasteful, fair use-y way.
Tim O'Reilly, a computer book publisher and sponsor of influential tech conferences, points out that in 2004 only 1.2 million different book titles were sold in the United States, according to Nielsen Bookscan. This means that while a significant number of library books are protected by copyright, they are also out of print -- 70 percent or more, O'Reilly estimates. These books, he says, represent the "twilight zone" of the publishing world; someone owns them, but since they're perceived to have no commercial value (because they're no longer sold in stores), publishers don't have any incentive to promote and market them, let alone to go through the expense of scanning them and making them searchable online.

If the material is not being used anyways, someone might as well do something with it. I think Google's initiative to do this is brilliant. It will bring light to material that otherwise could be commercially buried for the rest of time. I don't see how any author could be against something that gives new life to their work work. Isn't one of the main goals of publishing something to disseminate the work to the greatest extent possible (along with being handsomely compensated)? Google Books does this, and it does not jeopardize the ability of the work to make money either.

The article actually points out that authors would most likely see a new windfall from Google's efforts. I agree. Good work, Google.