if ( knowledge ) {

A place for thought, progress, and dissent.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Where's the Law?

Silicon Valley millionaire John Gilmore, of Sun and EFF fame, refuses to show an ID to get on an airline.
The gate agent asked for his ID.

Gilmore asked her why.

It is the law, she said.

Gilmore asked to see the law.

Nobody could produce a copy.

To date, nobody has. The regulation that mandates ID at airports is "Sensitive Security Information." The law, as it turns out, is unavailable for inspection.

GIlmore raises a good point on the dichotomy of the desire for privacy vs. the desire for security.
The elegance of Gilmore's thinking is that knowing someone's ID does not prevent the person from committing a terrorist act. The 9/11 hijackers had driver's licenses. Knowing someone's identity, as Gilmore argues it, adds less to a security than it takes away from a traveler's protection from authority that might oppress simply because it can.

It's good that Gilmore is standing up himself and it will be fascinating to see the outcome of his legal argument.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Coding for Fun and Profit

I spent most of the day working on a very useful, reusable chunk of PHP code. I'll be able to use it in many current, future and even past projects, so I developed it off-the-clock. It is not fair to charge one client for code I will directly use in others' projects. It's also not fair to spend extra time on something that doesn't directly benefit the client.

So I spent a day off-the-clock, writing code to save me on-the-clock time. It just seems silly.

How Conservatives Work

Ahh, back to politics. Over in the diaries at Daily Kos, Palladiate writes on how liberals are clueless and tries to explain the difference between the conservative and liberal mind.

Its a long article, but one of the most interesting I've read in a while. Read the whole thing. I'd love to hear what some conservatives think.

Proposal for Simple EULAs

7-March-2006: I have expanded the idea of an EasyEULA at easyeula.org

Update You know those boring, ugly licenses that you click through before you use new software? Did you know those are legally binding contracts, and that many companies slip in sections that you might not approve of if you actually read it. The most common is that you agree to let companies collect personal information, or install spyware.

To prove that almost nobody reads these End User License Agreements, or EULAs, one company gave $1000 to a man who read the agreement and followed the instructions to receive compensation.

So what do you do? Software makers want the legal protection an EULA provides, and consumers don't want to waste time reading legalese. We clearly need something simpler.

Enter the Easy EULA
What if a non-profit came along with a Creative Commons-style model? You make some easily-recognized symbols for common EULA terms such as "No Warranty" and "collect personal info", all similar (or at least as coherant) as the Creative Commons symbols. It would probably be best to trademark these symbols, so people don't misuse them.

The next step is to make a common, short form for our Easy EULA. Again, I'll use the Commons' as an example.

What I envision is, opening up that new copy of Tiger, seeing the Easy EULA, quickly understanding it, having the option of viewing the full license, clicking "accept" and installing.

Finally, I assume you would have to have some sort of agreement for companies to agree to in order to use the Easy EULA. That way, they are held responsible for making the Easy EULA accurately represent the terms of the full EULA. This is where we hire a lawyer.

So would this work? I'd love to hear thoughts.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Different Town

I'm back home in the UP for a few days.

Its a different world than my daily Holland existence. I world of middle school basketball games, a world where broadband doesn't exist, a simpler world (no offense intended to anyone) where life just moves slower.

Much slower for me. As soon as I arrived, I was hit with a nasty cold. I've finally got my energy back, but my head still feels icky.

So I'm off for some time with my little brother, but he has a friend over so maybe I'll try to get some work done instead. Then, it'll be time to order my favorite greasy pizza... mmmmmm....

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Get excited, but not yet.

The big news of the day is that Microsoft has committed to release a version of IE 7 for Windows XP (and possibly Windows 2000)!

Microsoft Press Release
IEBlog - Developer's Thoughts
Web Standards Project's take

The Good
Security. This will (in theory) make IE much more secure. Also, more users will benefit and quicker. Without this release, you would have to upgrade to Longhorn to gain any benefits. That would take a while, and many people won't want to pay.

The Worry
Standards. Here are a couple scenarios:
  1. Standards-compliance stays about the same. This really isn't much of an issue, though it would be disappointing. It would simply mean IE 7 is irrelevant and people keep switching to alternatives.
  2. Slightly better compliance. In my opinion, this is actually the worst option. If web developers have to add new hacks to filter out IE 7 bugs, it makes everyones' lives harder, and hurts the web.
  3. Almost Perfect. FireFox isn't perfect. Neither is Safari or Opera. They have two things in common: They are close to perfect, and they are working toward perfection. For IE 7 to be a competitor, it must follow standards competitively with FireFox. I'd welcome the competition - it would make all the browsers better.

The Possibility
IE 7 could leapfrog all the current browsers, and fully support CSS3, DOM 2, and other emerging standards. This would be amazing. I don't expect it.

This sounds like great news, but I'm still hesitant. Lets hope, when we see the beta this summer, that we're excited!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Fox has four legs.

I started responding to a comment by Anonymous (Mike?) but I think it warrants an upgrade to a full post.

Anonymous asks:
I wonder if we see IE share continue to fall, we will simultaneously see more virus/spyware targeted at firefox, opera, etc...

...the bad code out there is largely written for IE because everybody uses IE...

...could we be digging our own graves if you will, as we encourage writers of malicious code to target programs like Firefox?

Do I think virus writers will start targeting FireFox? Absolutely. But I'm convinced that FF is saver from the outset, so we will never have the volume of problems we have with IE. Also, there is more chance for improvement. FF has a great team of programmers eager to crank out patches and new versions. IE won't be updated significantly until Longhorn, and then only for Longhorn.

»Insert obligatory rant about standards-compliance, and how IE is so horrible that it needed to be updated years ago.

Security walks in parallel with standards, and the basic solution is the same: Diversity. For a few years, IE was truly the best browser, (Mozilla was just to kludgy, and Opera doesn't count because it wasn't totally free) but now FireFox has impressive speed, security and standards-compliance. Also, on the Mac side, Apple's Safari browser is almost as standards-compliant as FF, and probably more secure. All Safari code gets dumped back to the open-source KHTML project which will benefit Linux browsers.

With three major browsers (I'll count Opera here, to be nice) striving for standards-compliance, we can be sure that we have a diverse gene pool. See, I'm not a zealot for any browser (I use Safari, but I generally have FF running too). Instead, I want strong standards-compliance across the board, so we can all use the browser we like best. The web is the API of the decade (and will be more-so as move further toward XML). If you don't believe that, just look at Google (gmail, Google Maps, etc.). If we have many browsers that work, the web platform is stronger and a better experience for all. The security comes through attention to detail, not getting carried away (ActiveX?), and a diverse browser population.

Are we shooting ourselves in the foot? Far from it. We're giving ourselves more legs, and we'll be much sturdier as a result.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Please, if you have any compassion.

Stop using Internet Explorer.

The web could be a much cooler, safer, happier place, if IE would die off. That will only happen in average users make the switch. Its happening, but not fast enough for me.

Browse Happy

Sunday, February 06, 2005

High School Flashback

I'm spending a portion of the day installing Windows 98 on my Mac. Good old Virtual PC lets me do this, and I've found I need a PC around to test websites. I have been using friends or walking to the Library, but it hasn't been cutting it. I thought about getting an old PC to use, but in the interest of space, power, and karma, I decided that Virtual PC was the best option. Plus I already have a copy, and a Win98 CD.

Then I remembered how annoying Windows really is. First, it takes too long to install, though I'll give it a break for being emulated. Then I had install problems. The kind where it says it can't find some .dll file on the CD, even though its should be there. Then IE (the only program I want to run) decides to perform an illegal operation every time it opens.

So as I attempt a reinstall, I'm left wondering how many times I've installed Windows in my lifetime. Far too many, is the answer. I think of hours spent in the Server Room at Pickford High installing copy after copy of Windows. Yuck.