Link it, dude!

It’s 2004 for God’s sake. Why do idiots still insist on putting URL’s in plain text in a web page, so that I have to copy it and paste it into my URL bar?

Is it because they are afraid I won’t come back to their website, and want to dissuade me from visiting the other website? If that is really their attitude, I want to run away screaming from them anyway.

I want a plugin for Firebird that will scan the page and turn URLs into links. I want it to default to off, and only do its work when I choose “unfuck URL’s” from the context menu. It should work on a selection too (like the really great “View Selection Source” feature) so that if I don’t want it unfucking the entire page, I don’t have to.

DRM, cracks, and my buying habits

The iPod, WMA, and DRM get Scobleized. The point he makes is that having many players available to you is important because once you commit to buying media locked up via DRM, you are locked in to whatever platforms support the kind of DRM your content uses.

The problem with that argument is that I don’t accept the premise that content I buy should be locked up. I am responsible in the way I use and distribute digital music files. I do not share them more than I shared CD’s when I used to use them. My behavior might not be squeaky clean to the letter of the law, but I’m certain that I am not sharing my digital content more than the industry was able to bear in the early 90’s. But in order to exercise the same rights I used to enjoy with content I bought, I need it to be unlocked.

I bought my first track from iTunes only after I found out that AAC/Fairplay had been cracked. I only felt comfortable putting my money down for locked content once I was sure it could be unlocked if I wanted. When I observed my own behavior related to that purchase, I discovered an underlying personal policy forming: I will not knowingly buy DRM-locked content unless I know that the DRM technology has a readily available crack.

As an aside, it turns out I made a bit of a mistake. QTFairUse is impossible to find on the net, and cracking files from iTunes into unlocked AAC files has not become a simple common task like I expected it to be. It’s not too late for me to reconsider my DRM choice. If someone comes out with a reliable crack for WMA, I’d still be willing to jump the fence and start buying those instead.

Microsoft, if you want to get a jump on the market of people like me, you might consider leaking a crack to the world. Just a thought…

Update (1/28): Cory Doctrow agrees with me. I feel so smart.

Vegetarians Take Note

Turns out plants are thinking too.

So there’s only one non-sentient food product left on the planet: Right-wing Republican Ribs! Finger lickin’ good. (And if you happen to get Rush’s ribs, you’ll get a nice buzz from the residual oxycontin.)

Seriously, this is neat stuff. It is further proof that cellular automata are a critical part of the working of the world. Far from being simply a mathematical curiousity, they appear to be the mechanism by which complex behavior emerges from simple systems.

Free World Dialup

This posting reminded me of something I discovered last night. When you make a toll-free call to a US number using FWD, the ANI (if you’re not a telco guru, think “Caller ID”) shows up as a fixed number. This fixed number has nothing to do with your FWD account number, and it is the same for all FWD member who make outbound calls to toll free numbers. As a result, if you call a service which is personalized based on your ANI (like Tellme) you get whatever personalization someone else set up, or worse, other people can mess with your settings.

That sucks, because it means I can’t use my VoIP phone and FWD to call into a Tellme-operated toy I use and have it recognize me as Jeff Allen and let me do things like “call mom”. As it is now, I’m likely to end up calling someone else’s mom. Not good.

How am I ever going to have Dialtone 2.0 at home? If I want to find a way to do it for free, I’m going to have get more clever!

UPDATE (1/20): Jeff Pulver interpreted this posting as a complaint, and upon re-reading it, I see how that could happen. I’ve apologized to him personally, but I’d also like to make it clear, publically, that I’m a real fan of FWD. I know precisely why he’s got it configured this way, and it makes all the sense in the world to me. It just so happens it prevents me from setting up something cool I was hoping to do; that’s the nature of technology sometimes. So I’m currently thinking about another way to do this, and perhaps I can even get Jeff to help me with it, if he’s the forgiving type.

Image recognition to prevent casual forgery

This is so cool!

That explains why there are all those silly yellow “20”‘s in the background of the new US 20 dollar bills.

The political/social/freedom aspects of this story leave me totally irritated. But the technology involved is pretty nifty, and the fact that the authorities managed to get this integrated into software for image editing, photocopiers, etc without any public scrutiny is just absolutely unbelievable.

So now the countdown starts. How many days until a hacker writes a tool to fix this brain damage in Photoshop? All that is required is a program that takes a bitmap with EURion constellations in it as input and creates as output a bitmap missing the minimal amount of data so as to not trigger the EURion detection algorithm.

I guess 7 days. Any other takers?

UPDATE: My housemate found an article at ZD Net identifying the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group as the source of the technology. More as I learn more about it.

UPDATE 2: A friend (who shall remain nameless) has confirmed that if you remove enough of the 0’s so that none of the constellations survive, Adobe can open it. Lots of questions remain since it was a quickie test. For instance, if you paste in two partial images (1: bill with left half of constellations, 2: right half of each constellation only) will Adobe notice? If you do manage to make a multi-layer image like this, will the image reco stuff kick in when you flatten the image? I made one multi-layer image like this, but it was not a conclusive experiment because I changed the resolution to make it easier to work with the image.

UPDATE 3: An article at Wired points out that many people have worked around this software.

Binary Clock

Jhango is throwing a party Friday night to Saturday morning to celebrate when Unix time rolls over from 230-1 to 230. Since I can’t be there in person, I made her a binary clock that runs under Win32.

It was surprisingly easy. I had it working in under 2 hours. I’ve made a few Windows apps before, but nothing like this. Yay for good documentation and an IDE that literally forces you to do it their way. (But I’m still glad my day job is not making Win32 apps.)

Long drive home

I just got home from a long visit with kc in San Diego.

I took Highway 101 down and most of the way back. It is so much nicer than I-5. Today, on the way back, I strayed from 101 and took some back roads. I ended up coming up state route 25 from south of Pinnacles National Monument. There are some absolutely stunning vistas down there. Was nice to trade some time for some driving on twisty roads with no traffic and no sprawling wasteland on the side of the road.