Feb 22, 2001

Michigan Considers a Cybercourt
2/22/2001; 12:50:26 PM 'To lure technology companies to Michigan, Gov. John Engler wants to establish a separate "cybercourt" for cases involving technology and high-tech businesses, where virtually everything would be done via computer rather than in a courtroom.

'Briefs could be filed online, evidence viewed by streaming video, oral arguments delivered by teleconferencing, conferences held by e- mail. Lawyers would not have to be in Michigan or even be licensed to practice in the state. Cases could be heard any time of the day, even at night, and judges would be trained to understand the complex issues that arise in technology disputes.'

Emphasis mine. You may think the rest of the idea is silly, but that last clause alone would make up for the rest. And even if the experiment fails (and a lawsuit challenging the validity of the court is virtually inevitable, possibly ending at the US Supreme Court), we'll still have some trained judges that will be around. Benefits no matter how you slice it!

Feb 22, 2001

An Actual Weblog-Type Entry
Personal Commentary
2/22/2001; 11:22:25 AM

iRights has suffered for the last few days, but I think it's over. Windows NT is still running, LinkBack is cranking, and I'm Interneting.

Thing is, while a lot of stuff went by, I don't feel like I've missed much that's actually important enough to make it worthwhile to post. Sure, Napster is discovering that letting the music industry run it is the fast track to destruction, but hey, who other then Napster and the music industry didn't see that coming? (And to be fair, Napster may have seen it coming.) So, I thought maybe an actual weblog-type entry is in order. 

My Favorite Philosophy/Math-Computer Science Results

Philosophy is a fascinating subject, but it rarely ever actually determines anything. However, there are a few results from mathematics and computer science that, if you accept the validity of mathematics (which is not a strain for most people), have absolutely fascinating philosophical implications:

1. There are problems that you cannot solve. This is a consequence of the formalization of problem solving given to us by the great mathematician and one of the original computer scientists, Alan Turing. Here's a page that discusses the issue.

2. We will never be completely certain how the universe we live in works. This is Godel's famous incompleteness theorum, applied to the universe. Any theory that might encompass the universe will itself have unprovable statements that might still be true. Everything2 has a surprisingly good essay on this theorum.

3. Not only are there problems you can't solve, and you can't know everything about the universe, there are still things you can't learn, even if could in theory prove them. This a bit more obscure, but the field of machine learning (which I'm taking a grad-level course in now) is doing a surprisingly good job of creating a theory of what can be learned, not just by computers, but by anything, by any method. One of the results is that there are things that are too complicated to be learned. For instance, the there may be stuff at the bottom of quantum mechanics that cannot be learned, because some effect or force may be too complicated.

There's a pretty obvious theme here, isn't there? The universe tells us, in it's own impersonal way, exactly where we stand, if we know how to listen.


Feb 21, 2001

Can John Doe Stay Anonymous?
Free Speech2/21/2001; 11:14:20 AM 'What kind of lawsuit do you have when the plaintiff is happy to drop the charges and the defense attorneys wish they could have gone to trial? ...'In the suit, Rural/Metro subpoenaed Yahoo, demanding the identities of the four individuals involved in the postings. 'Rural/Metro dropped the suit Tuesday, saying it had accomplished its goal of having the messages stop. But the defense attorneys said they were disappointed the case didn't go to trial, because they hoped to set a legal precedent saying companies couldn't gain access to private information just because they allege they were wronged. 'Privacy and free speech advocates saw the Rural/Metro case as a missed opportunity. Had the case gone to trial, the court would have addressed whether, or under what circumstances, Internet Service Providers would be required to divulge private information.'The good cases never go to court, only the ones where the courts rule that large companies have the right to make money, no matter what the cost to public. I really wish that was a sour-grapes statement, rather then the truth it is.

Feb 20, 2001

More tales of Woe
Administrative2/20/2001; 9:34:48 AM Update: I think I've got it going. It's stable and working. RU was a bit tipsy but I still need to upgrade to the latest version.I did have everything working again recently, but events conspired against me and I'm now below fully functional. It'll be a little bit again (though I hope to be back up today).The long version is this: LinkBack has been running on a Windows 95 machine. Every hour on the 25, when it begins processing, the computer coughs, chokes, and becomes sluggish for a few minutes while the program runs, because Windows 95 has no ability to regulate how much of the processor a program consumes. This has been annoying my wife, justifiably so, and I like my wife unannoyed whenever possible. Call me "Whipped and Proud Of It". So I recently came across a copy of Windows NT, and I sez to myself, "Hey, self, if I install Windows NT, I can kick the priority of Radio Userland into the background, where it will happily do everything it wants to do, and we'll never even notice the computer is running it! Wouldn't that be great!" So I start installing Windows NT. And everything goes great until I get to the graphics card. *FREEZE* Well, damn! Just once, I'd like to install an operating system without having to beat it into submission."The beatings will continue until morale improves!" is no joke when you're trying to make an operating system and a motley collection of hardware play nice.I've seen conflicts between two pieces of hardware before. I've seen graphics cards that hate my COM port (back in the early days of consumer hardware acceleration), I've seen sound cards and network cards that will not stop until one has killed the other, but for the first time, I'm seeing a genuine bona fide three way incompatibility! From the update page for my motherboard:'VIA VxD v. 2.6 and newer, in combination with latest BIOS, makes i740-related problems on MVP3-based FIC motherboards such as VA-503+, PA-2013, running Windows95, appear less often. Currently there is no solution to i740 problems under WindowsNT. 'Care to guess what kind of graphics card I'm using? "Currently there is no solution" is just the sort of thing you need to see at 1 am in the morning, having spent 6-8 hours working on fixing the damn problem.So, anyhow, I'm going to see about picking up the cheapest damn non-S3 card I can find on the open market and sticking it into the system, after which I hope to get that thing up and running, after which not only should everything go back to normal, but reliability should improve as well (though I've been pleased with it overall lately). Also (hint hint) I'm working on another significant improvement, one that will hopefully encourage a lot more weblogs to join... more later, when I have time to work on it and make sure it works, but stay tuned! LinkBack is not done yet. Beta is still the truth, and I'm still learning as I go along.

Feb 20, 2001

Draconian net censorship push in Australia
Country Watch: Australia2/20/2001; 9:14:39 AM 'HARSH internet laws that give police power to prosecute anyone posting content deemed unsuitable for minors are likely to be passed by the South Australian Government next month.''The Classification Amendment Bill, which goes far beyond legislation in place in any other state, allows police officers to decide whether online material is illegal.'Emphasis mine. Of course, here's half of the root problem:'The federal law treats all internet content as film, and requires material to be rated by the Office of Film and Literature Classification accordingly.'The Internet is not a movie. As a small example, when's the last time a movie performed an adult check, no matter how rudimentary or easy to defeat, on somebody? Many Internet sites do.The other half of the problem is the abject terror embodied in the ruling.According to some local correspondants, aka "Slashdot posters" on the Slashdot article, specifically cynthetik, the government may not actually enforce the law.Still, this leaves the axe hanging over everybody's head. The power to prosecute is the power to destroy a persons life, regardless of guilt, and this law is tailor made for that use.

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