Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

31Mar/07Off

The Use Of Your Rights Involves Litigation Of Course

I'm pretty happy to hear about the lawsuit by students against Turn It In since the question they're asking is one that has bothered me for a long time. This is probably compounded by the incredibly aggressive spidering they employ to herd stuff into their databases. I've had to ban them by IP address as they do not conform to the robots.txt standard.

How do you handle something like this best? Do students suspend their copyright to submitted papers when turning them in for grading? If this is the case then graduate level work at universities that buy this software (well, it's less software than service but indulge me here) is going to become a legal minefield. This is one those questions that opens a seemingly unlimited series of canned worms. I'm sure someone more familiar with all of the copyright issues rolled into this could construct a legal textbook based on all of the questions potentially posed here.

Here are mine:

1. Do public schools who use Turnitin then require students to suspend their copyright ownership while this is being funded by public funds?

2. Who becomes the copyright holder? Does a state institution transfer the ownership of a copyrighted work created by a minor to a private corporation?

3. Because school attendance is legally mandated does a requirement like this place the onus probandi on students by insisting that they surrender legal rights in order to fulfill another legal requirement?

I'm operating under a lot of assumptions here and as IANAL I might be missing some or all of the precedent here but the situations I can imagine resulting from this are uncomfortable at very best.

Some more
In the comments attached to the news story above I found a link to collection of quotes and back story on Turnitin that has some pretty valid points and the juxtaposition of some quotes from people who run the company. Grrr.

28Mar/07Off

Typographical Errors Don’t Lie

On my annual review questionaire, among other things that erode sanity, I was asked to respond to this statement:

5. I put effort into doing their job well.

I would like to answer the question as it was miswritten but I don't really know how I would ever stop. I could write my own version of the Necronomicon by starting in on this theme. I will commit to wasting some time contemplating and meditating on it. Paid time only.

Filed under: General No Comments
28Mar/07Off

The Fox That (Sometimes) Sucks

I've always had a love/hate relationship with Firefox but lately, at least since the last holy shit! you need this update update I've seen an unusually high number of stability problems on three platforms and I've actually been defaulting towards Camino on OS X and Opera everywhere else. It lacks a few features but also seems less buggy and less frequently exhibits behavior that leads me to curse loudly at work in a room full of people. Unfortunately, I have to support browsers as well as rely on them for 85% of the crap that I do which makes me pretty acutely aware of problems with browsers.

Here's what I'm seeing lately:

1. Clipboard badness: I've seen most of this behavior on my Windows XP machine at work. Ironically, this is where most of the work I'm paid to do happens. For some reason, FF will not respect the copy buffer. It just uses whatever version it remembers or nothing at all or, sometimes when the planets are all correctly aligned, actually uses the buffer that every other fucking application on this machine seems to have no problem playing nice with. I paste a lot so this is a total show stopper for me. Enough to make me switch to Opera and stick with it for more than a couple of days at a time.

2. Loitering. Under OS X where I do most of my fun stuff at work, FF likes to slide into catatonia randomly and become completely useless. Does it show up as an unresponsive application in the Force Quit dialog? No, it just sits there and refuses to do anything useful with any clicks. You click on a link and nothing happens. This is HTML here and no pop up fanciness. I end up force quitting because the 'Quit' item in the 'File' menu has no effect either. Woo.

3. Stored gibberish. This is one that I've seen exclusively under Linux and specifically the Debian package of FF and it is beyond irritating. Saved passwords probably aren't the best idea in the world to begin with but when they are summoned up in seemingly random order I get confused. About one third of the time the saved name and (presumably since they're concealed in a password field) password don't have any relationship to the site that I'm actually attempting to login to. I have a number of different default user names that I will use if goneaway is not available. I was a little surprised when one of them popped up when I was attempting to login to the WordPress admin interface and saw one of those logins fill the login name and password spaces. Too bad because no account on WP would use an email address as the login name. Forcing a page reload makes everything all right for the moment but I've seen it happen with other sites.

The bummer about all of this, accepting the bad behavior of course, is that I'm unable to consistently reproduce it. I'm reluctant to file bugs until I can formulate a way to reproduce it but it maddens me nonetheless. The point to this more or less is to see if other folks are seeing similar bugginess with the current version. So, like, are you?

27Mar/07Off

Maybe They Should Change That Part Of The Name To ‘Uneasy’

I should be more upset about Best Buy acquiring Speakeasy but I'm really not. Yet. I got the email about it this morning and read it with my stomach churning away about the fact that what I consider a nearly perfect ISP (other than price which is always arguable) could be fiddled with by a company all but infamous for its tenuous grip on the legal system like the MSN debacle, the strategy for placing the brunt of loss prevention on the shoulders of their customers, or any other number of rumors, substantiated or not, that seem to continually circle around the collective head of Best Buy.

I cannot say that I'm particularly excited but, if we're really lucky and think only good, positive, rainbow thought, BB will be smart enough to realize that they can sell the Speakeasy product without completely fucking it up by tampering with what is already a successful model that works for all parties involved. This is what I'm hoping. The release says that nothing will change for current customers and I'm trying really hard to drink that Koolaid. Speakeasy is really easy to deal with and allows you to use your connection however you see fit. They're also really forthcoming about outage notifications and also allow me to escape the shadow of the dark ages by having a DSL connection without necessitating a land line.

They're also fucking expensive so I expect the level of service I've grown accustomed to. I have zero complaints about either time (twice, kids, twice) that I've had to contact support directly especially since their response time seems to be something like an hour or less. That is fabulous but if that level should lapse I will go elsewhere. That is the definite downside for the consumer side of the fence: perception is part of the equation now that Speakeasy is owned by the man (who keeps us all down). As incorrect as that perception might be I can't help but feel like I'd need to move on if things became subpar. I would feel better about handing my hardly earned cash over to a struggling little guy than a little guy subsidized and controlled by a corporate entity. It's based on emotional attachment and makes zero sense but...

I'm sincerely hoping that none of the above happens. I would much rather stick with the service I have and continue to experience stellar service than I would accept limited functionality or mediocre service without the big company shit sandwich attached. They are decidedly non-delicious.

27Mar/07Off

Blogsnow Is Offline (As Of Over A Month Ago)

I just noticed that Blogsnow has been taken offline. That this happened in February is a solid measure of my inability to keep up with, well, anything. It's unfortunate that spammers have become so ubiquitous and pernicious enough to make projects like these more pain than they're worth to their creators. My hat is off to Andreas for pulling the plug when it was necessary, though and I hope we'll eventually see Blogsnow up and running again as it was one of my favorite aggregation sites if only because it was simple and to the point.

26Mar/07Off

The Apology That Wasn’t

I realized that my earlier post, a kneejerk reaction to a final paragraph that I placed into false context (reinforced by the block quoting of the paragraph I wanted to be something else), was a horrible mistake even after the faux retraction I posted below it a mere handful of minutes before I rushed off to the bus. I was thinking about this in terms of news sites like Digg and Slashdot and feeling a little embarrassed. I continually rail on both the aforementioned sites for their tendency to under-read and over-comment and the moment I steal a moment or two away from work I do something even more stupid and annoying and without the tempering of some smarter people around to mention that I'm an idiot and need to pay a bit more attention.

I guess this is an apology, sort of, without a direct recipient. This was not by design but is telling nonetheless. Oops.

26Mar/07Off

Request For The Clarification Of ‘Real’

In the American lexicon there is a flexibility when employing terms that calls out, wails with the might of a thousand damned souls at times, for some kind of narrowing of definition. I believe this NYTimes article's final paragraph sums this need up in a way that makes my stomach a little icky:

“We’re living our lives more and more in front of a screen,” Mr. Heiferman said. “You can easily go through a good part of life just looking at your iPod, your cellphone, the computer, the TV, and I think there’s a feeling of, ‘O.K., I need the real world and real people and real teddy bears and real community.’ ”

I'm feeling like I need some distance from real. I'm thinking the back slowly away while wielding a cross fashioned out of popsicle sticks sort of distance.

Oh, and there is the pink, pink miasma of amusement if you're wondering what all the hype is about or if you're a ten year old girl. Neither of those is necessarily a bad thing by itself but I'm just saying...

I'm an idiot
That was actually the Meetup guy. Argh.

19Mar/07Off

Do Your Own Thing Like Everyone Else

So, mere days (okay, it's been a week or two at least) after I wondered out loud about what the hell the point of Twitter might be there have been a whole lot of people wondering similar things, Nicholas Carr's being my favorite so far. It's a sort of easy target, like making Dan Quayle jokes or something. I'll grant that weblogging in general has had a few too many moments in the sun for what amounts to a brief sizzle and spit on the grill of cultural relevance. There isn't a whole more to it than people talking and whether this is to themselves or with an audience of a hojillion it amounts to a conversation, or more properly a dialog, that people can read and gain interest in over time.

Twitter seems the opposite of this: you're famous, you dribble out soundbytes, and people who care wait there for them to drop like golden poops from heaven. Yes, there is a bit of this involved in weblogs and probably more than any of us participating would like to admit but there is at least a contextual base for what all of these words mean when collected together. Tweeting (I may actually hate this term more than 'blogging' which really says a lot since I can hardly type it without enclosing it in quotes so you can be absolutely and totally sure that it is not terminology found in my functional lexicon) assumes that you have some context as a person before anyone would be interested in your clipped output. There is nothing I could ever say in that few characters that even I would want to read.

The part that makes the whole thing somewhat creepy is the comparison that others have made to instant messaging only without an intended recipient. Yes, there are friends among twitter-ers but there isn't a relationship other than that of an eavesdropper on a web celebrity to flesh those relationships out. It is a little creepy and weirds me out more than a little but I like knowing that the piles of words amount to something, at least in my own mind, and that people can say 'Hi' or tell me that I'm completely wrong explicitly.

How much am I missing here because I would love to be proven wrong. This becomes even more important as so many folks that normally squeeze good or at least coherent things out during their 'on' hours have wasted so much brain juice on what seems like a black hole for ideas.

11Mar/07Off

Does Anyone Reading Here Use Twitter?

I'm a little curious about how people actually use Twitter and what for. My apathy versus curiosity ratio has almost reached the point where I'm ready to sign up for an account just to see what the hell the current wave of hype is all about...

Okay, so I signed up for an account. posted one LOLWTF!!!1!one!!won thing, and I believe I am cured forever.

Seriously, is this any use at all to people as opposed to larger sites that can bombard you with tinyurl URLS in order to direct you to real (read: longer than 140 characters) updates? Maybe I'm just too old and/or verbose.

Filed under: General, New To Me No Comments
11Mar/07Off

Go Daddy Is Not A Go Apparently…

If you're dumb enough to use the Go Daddy name servers your domains might not be resolving. I guess cock sure certainty beats patching or contingency plans...

Angry users:

here

and

here

and

a PCWorld article that brings us this evidence of brilliance:

"Thank you for contacting Online Support. As Daylight Savings [sic] does not apply to our servers, since we are on Arizona Time and our time zone does not change, our servers wouldn't update," reads one of the replies he received, and which he provided to IDG News Service.

He wrote back to GoDaddy, saying that despite being in Arizona, their servers needed to be patched, otherwise timestamps would be wrong when communicating with computers in other areas. He even provided them with the code he used for his test, but didn't hear back.

The Whatever
Um, okay, so apparently there are either a whole lot of fans of Go Daddy out there or some underpaid support monkeys are being drafted into the service of defending the honor of the mother ship. DST wasn't my guess either but I linked some writeups by people who gasp actually use their DNS service as opposed to just pimping it. Multiple hours of DNS failure isn't exactly convincing either.

2Mar/07Off

Came Out Feeling About Ten Pounds Lighter

How to optimize an application articles are usually deserving of the scrutiny they receive but this tip on making the Apple mail client faster really made quite a bit of difference for me. Mail actually feels responsive now and initially loads in a couple of seconds rather than the 20-30 second delay I've grown accustomed to.

Here is my net loss:

Before: 1 goneaway goneaway 110M Mar 2 04:30 /Users/goneaway/Library/Mail/Envelope Index

After: 1 goneaway goneaway 21M Mar 2 05:13 /Users/goneaway/Library/Mail/Envelope Index