January 30, 2012

Weekend Messing Around with CityVille/FaceBook

Load-Divs bookmarklet 1 - javascript: {divs=document.getElementsByClassName("UIActionLinks_bottom"); i =-1; punder=0; }
Open Next Div - bookmarklet 2 - javascript: {i=i+1;if(divs(i).parentElement.children(1).children(1).text == "CityVille") {button_me=divs(i).getElementsByTagName("button")(0); if(button_me.name == "like") {button_me.click(); elem_me=divs(i).getElementsByTagName("a"); if(punder) punder.close(); punder=window.open(elem_me(0),'myscript','width=400,height=500',left='-400'); punder.blur();} }}

The left=-400 doesn't work like I wanted it to - it can be left out...it's a fragment of 'try this' that is left over from playing.

January 24, 2012

Natural Rights vs Granted Rights

In Colorado, a woman being charged with fraud has been compelled by a judge to decrypt her hard drive. The woman, in arguing against this action claimed that the Fifth Amendment protected her from self-incrimination. The judge found against the woman, stating that since she had already admitted to the existence of the electronic documents, she could be forced to produce them.

As expected, I believe that there's some room for improvement on both sides of this case. I believe the judge is incorrect in his judgement that a person can be compelled to produce any evidence, even though I understand why he could come to this conclusion based on current case law (which I believe to be flawed). I also believe the defendant is wrong on several counts. One obvious count being that she has even openly discussed the case at all [she admitted to the existence of the documents!].

The Bill of Rights are not meant to be a list of rights that are given by men to men. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are linked by a core concept - a concept that we are 'endowed by [our] creator with certain unalienable rights'. The Bill of Rights embody into law that those natural rights, which we possess by our very existence, shall not be infringed by government.

In declaring independence from England, the United States of America stated that they had the right to abolish government which deprived them of these natural rights and form a new government to protect them from that deprivation. We would do well to remember this during the execution of our own government over ourselves, as we protect individual rights, we protect the rights of ourselves.

Take the First Amendment (as this lady should have). It states that we have freedom of speech (and as been held up many times - freedom of something also can mean freedom FROM something - thus the right to remain silent). This is not a right that was handed from the government to the individual. It is an ability, a natural extension of the person-hood, that the government may not take away. A person can not or should not be compelled to speak. I personally would go so far as to say that the government has no right to compel a person to act in any way, shape or form - which leads to a discussion about the right to sit-in on public by-ways.

This ability to remain silent is a very simple right to utilize - just shut your mouth. The government has certain guidelines whereby they can hold you against your will for the purpose of investigation and non-interference, but they have guidelines - and you can sit in a holding cell while they rummage through your belongings. This is definitely the tactic to take in any criminal investigation. Note that the fifth amendment also applies here, in that the government may not deprive you of 'liberty' without due process of law.

The right against self-incrimination was and is an extension of the right of freedom of speech. Reading through history, it seems to me that the point was to ensure the spoilage of evidence obtained through coercive measures.

In this particular case, where the government knows that there is evidence against the defendant, and they are attempting to 'force' her to produce access to that evidence, I think they're mistaken in what they claim can be done. To compel her to produce the necessary information, they would have to lock her up forever. At some point in that time, she will likely forcefully or absentmindedly forget the information she's been asked to produce, and there would be no route to obtain the information. She could claim immediately that she no longer remembers what the key to the information is. Depending upon password complexity and the amount of time between when she's used it last, it may even be a believable claim. How can locking someone up forever to compel them to provide detailed evidence be proper due process?

The government should utilize the woman's previous statements as evidence of the documents. A jury should be directed what assumptions they should make regarding the fact that she does not wish to produce them -- allowing negative connotations toward what they think the documents might contain. There is already case law that allows for these assumptions.

To go further than this? I think we've begun a slippery slope..

January 20, 2012


  Why do you think IP isn't already protected?  Why is MORE federal legislation needed to protect what Copyright law already protects (and for far TOO LONG - but that's a different argument).  I don't understand what it is that makes 'the Internet' such an evil, dastardly place that it requires its own legislation to prevent what our countless other laws are already in place to prevent.

  Criminalizing civil matters only costs our government more money, money that we don't have any way.  Would you rather the police be chasing down a Chinese DVD pirate or chasing down street criminals in Detroit and Chicago?  Spending federal dollars on making sure someone doesn't listen to an Al Jolsen record on his iPod or spending federal dollars on making sure corporate criminals on Wall Street aren't pocketing all of my 401k money?

  I'd suggest you spend your efforts more wisely - while I'm not in Minnesota, and I can't vote for you - you may just lose the audience that cheers you on every time you rip Comcast a new one for lying.

Peace out

Rich Gautier

On Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 7:34 PM, Al Franken <no-reply@alfranken.com> wrote:
Al Franken - U.S. Senator, Minnesota
Dear Rich,
As you may know, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided not to bring the PROTECT IP Act (the Senate’s version of SOPA) up for a vote next week. And since I’ve heard from many of you about this issue, I wanted to take a moment to share why I support copyright protection legislation – as well as why I believe holding off on this bill is the right thing to do.
As someone who has worked hard to protect net neutrality, I understand as well as anyone the importance of keeping the Internet free from undue corporate influence. There are millions of Americans who rely on a free and open Internet to learn, communicate with friends and family, and do business.
At the same time, there are millions of Americans whose livelihoods rely on strong protections for intellectual property: middle-class workers – most of them union workers – in all 50 states, thousands of them here in Minnesota, working in a variety of industries from film production to publishing to software development.
If we don’t protect our intellectual property, international criminals – as well as legitimate businesses like payment processors and ad networks – will continue to profit dishonestly from the work these Americans are doing every day. And that puts these millions of jobs at serious risk.
That’s reason enough to act. But these criminals are also putting Minnesota families in danger by flooding our nation with counterfeit products – not just bootleg movies and software, but phony medications and knockoff equipment for first responders.
We cannot simply shrug off the threat of online piracy. We cannot do nothing.
I have supported the approach Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has taken in crafting legislation to respond to the threat of online piracy – and I appreciate his leadership on this important issue.
But I’ve also been listening carefully to the debate – and to the many Minnesotans who have told me via email, Facebook, Twitter, and good old fashioned phone calls that they are worried about what this bill would mean for the future of the Internet.
Frankly, there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there: If this bill really did some of the things people have heard it would do (like shutting down YouTube), I would never have supported it.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take seriously the concerns people have shared. And if holding off on this legislation gives us an opportunity to take a step back and try to bring everybody back to the table, I think it’s the right thing to do. This is a difficult issue, and also an important one. It’s worth getting this right.
I strongly believe that we need to protect intellectual property – and protect the free and open Internet. I think most people, even those who have expressed concern about this particular bill, agree. And it’s my hope that we can now build a stronger consensus around how to accomplish these two important goals.
Thanks for reading. And for those of you who have written to me about this issue (even if it was an angry letter), thanks for being honest with me. I’ll always return the favor.


January 14, 2012

Getting Sick of 'Cloud Computing' term

I [or rather, my PC] was part of the Distributed.Net 'cloud' that first cracked a DES key in under 24 hours* via brute-force.  That effort involved computing power from PC desktops to a large specialized computing platform built just to contribute to the effort.  Computers have come a long way since then, and with it, the term 'cloud computing' has evolved.  Being in technology for 25 years, you see buzzwords come and go, and along the way, they can have a tendency to change their meaning, or get usurped by well-meaning (or profit-minded) marketeers.  Unfortunately, 'cloud computing' is just one of these buzzwords with an original meaning that had so much more importance than how the word is used today.

The original references to 'cloud computing' had a lot more to do with looking at the Internet [or Intranet] as a single unified entity, where the available resources of the entire network could be shared and made available for specific use, not reliant upon the existence of a single computer, router, or data center.  Like the distributed.net client, large, previously unsolvable problems, could be addressed and solved by the available resources in the cloud.  Like P2P technologies such as FreeNet, documents could be kept online in distributed caches that were always available and structured so that node failure would not affect availability except in extreme cases.  Idle CPU, GPU power would be used to evaluate expressions endlessly to delve into the mysteries of mankind, like the Folding@Home project or the Optimal Golomb Ruler project.  Network connectivity could even be shared to provide multiple endpoints for load-testing, or geo-distributed network analysis.

Even the spammers get it -or rather, maybe they're the first and only ones to get it.  Worm software today installs dispersed clients on vulnerable machines that are used to attack computers in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, send out SPAM email from every corner of the globe and extend the network for hackers and thieves.  They use idle time on computers, provide multiple caches for malware to be distributed throughout the network, and use network dispersity to reach every corner of the globe.  Criminals and their malware have already moved into the real cloud.

Meanwhile, in corporate and consumer industry circles, when someone discusses the 'cloud', they mean something different.  They mean a service - what used to be called an Application Hosting Service (AHS).  This isn't what cloud computing was meant to be - a third-party data center (or multiples thereof).  All of the big boys have a cloud service, Microsoft, Apple, Google.  There's even second-tier cloud service providers, such as SugarSync and DropBox, whose cloud offerings rely on the cloud offerings of others [DropBox relies upon S3 - the Amazon storage cloud offering].

As an idealist and a technologist, I am depressed, but not surprised, that the term 'cloud computing' has lost its way - probably because true cloud computing relies upon a concept of shared resources that our capitalist economy doesn't incentivize.  There's no simple way to transfer bits of money to each and every entity that provides resources in the cloud. [Well, there's BitCoin - but cloud-money may be too late to the horizon and you can't spend it at WalMart yet...]

Well, that's my rant of the day.  As usual, no solution - just randombling.

* [publicly, at least]