Friday, July 22, 2005

Windows Vista

Yes, that's the new name of Microsoft's new version of Windows, formerly code-named Longhorn. Are they serious? That name sounds incredibly dumb to me. I don't know if it's just me, but the name "Vista" used in relation to a computer strikes up the image of Arnold's "Hasta la vista, baby." Maybe they intended that. Now, instead of seeing the infamous blue screen of death, it shows Arnold and plays that sound clip. If that's the case, it may be an appropriate name after all.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Aren't Activist Judges Supposed To Be Liberal?

I just read this post over at Balkinization from about a week ago. It's interesting to see these numbers to show how what conservatives say they want and what they actually want are two different things. Consider what Bush said when nominating Roberts. He said that Roberts will not "legislate from the bench." You know, those darned activist judges who continually strike down the laws that our fair Congress passes. Yeah, the ones who get in the way of the legislature's attempts to establish our rabidly capitalistic theocracy mandated by that overwhelming majority of 51%.

So, looking at the current court, who are the activists? When a law is challenged, these percentages reflect the judges' propensity to strike down the law:

Thomas 65.63%
Kennedy 64.06%
Scalia 56.25%
Rehnquist 46.88%
O’Conner 46.77%
Souter 42.19%
Stevens 39.34%
Ginsburg 39.06%
Breyer 28.13%

So the 3 extreme right-wingers (Rehnquist, Thomas, and Scalia) are far more likely to usurp the power of Congress than the most liberal (Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer). I was kind of surprised to see Kennedy ahead of both Scalia and Rehnquist, but he is also fairly conservative himself.

The interesting (but obvious) observation is that this once again demonstrates that Bush is either a fool or a liar. He wants someone who won't legislate from the bench. But Scalia and Thomas are his ideal judges. Those two are more likely to strike down legislation than to defer to Congress. Which is Bush? We here at Nameless Rantings prefer to follow the esteemed example of Fox News. We report, you decide.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Absence and a Link

Okay, so moving is a very involved process. Hence the fact that I haven't posted in a while and it'll probably be another week before I can get back to this thing. In the mean time, here's a link regarding the Roberts nomination. Some good points there...

Friday, July 08, 2005


Sven Jaschan, the author of the Sasser worm has been convicted and sentenced to 21 months' probation. No jail time. No huge fines. He did settle 4 civil suits for under 1,000 Euros each. But Jaschan does have a nice cush job with an antivirus company. Looking at comments on Slashdot, a user there says it best:

Create a Worm, cripple thousands of businesses, get convicted, no monitary fine, get a 2 year Jail sentence [suspended...probation only] and 30 Hours of Community service, do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Steal a Movie, get fined Thousands of dollars, go to Jail for dozens of years, never expect to use a computer or have any rights or freedoms again.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

But It's In The Dictionary...

I read this post and was so utterly astonished that I had to reprint the letter in question in full here. It all started with Ouachita Parish Police Juror Mack Calhoun saying, "If I ask for six trucks they came they didn't try to Jew me down." That caused a nice little brouhaha in Louisiana. But then, wordsmith J.O. Antley came to the rescue:

In reference to Mack Calhoun's statement, where he used the word "jew" in discussing the purchase price of an item, I have waited for people in his district to come out in his defense. I have known Calhoun for many years. I know he is a fine Christian man. He would never do or say anything to offend anyone.

The word "jew" in negotiation prices has been used in our family since I can remember. It is hard for me not to say it in normal conversation. The full definition of "jew" from the dictionary is as follows: 1. To persuade to take a low price by haggling: with down. 2. To get a better of a bargain.

We need more public servants like Calhoun to stand up for what is right.

J.O. Antley

West Monroe

It turns out Mr. Antley is correct. "Jew" is in the dictionary with nearly that meaning (specifically the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language):

jew (joo)
tr.v. Offensive jewed, jew·ing, jews

1. To bargain shrewdly or unfairly with. Often used with down.
2. To haggle so as to reduce (a price). Often used with down.

Obviously, Mr. Antley failed to look up "Offensive" in that same dictionary. Ignoring that, I'm going to apply Mr. Antley's logic here: Mr. Antley is an ignorant, anti-Semitic idiot. Mr. Antley couldn't possibly be offended by me saying that because those words are, after all, in the dictionary.

I read this and felt that I had to agree with Mike the Mad Biologist. This is the hardcore Republican base. This is the Southern strategy. Yes, the Republican party is the party of the big tent. They have room for everyone, even anti-Semites and racists. That is why I can't vote Republican. I cannot, in clean conscience, vote for a candidate who welcomes such people as supporters.

A Moment Of Silence

...for those killed in today's brutal acts of murder in London.

Now All Together, "Well, Duh!!"

A week ago, I commented on Microsoft's talks to buy Claria. Lo and behold, what do I see today? Microsoft's AntiSpyware application has downgraded the threat rating of Claria. Now, when the AS program finds Claria, its default recommendation is "Ignore" instead of "Quarantine." Is anyone surprised by this? All I can say is watch out for Service Pack 3.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Good Sign

I applaud the American Academy of Pediatrics for this decision despite opposition from the Bush Administration and conservative groups. Personally, I give much more weight to the opinions of Drs. Jonathan Klein and S. Paige Hertweck (you know, doctors working in pediatrics and gynecology) than to Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at HHS (note the lack of "doctor" before his name).

The article mentions the Medical Institute for Sexual Health being opposed to the move. Looking at that group's web site, I find that they were founded to confront the "global epidemics of nonmarital pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease." Nonmarital pregnancy is a global epidemic? If they had said teenage pregnancy, I could have seen them as potentially a science-based group. However, the choice of the word nonmarital leads me to believe this is a Christian-based group pushing a moral agenda.

Anyways, applause for the American Academy of Pediatrics for following science instead of politics.

Be Afraid! Evil Hackers Everywhere!

So, I just finished reading this article about the new type of evil Wi-Fi hacker: the wardriver. Frankly, this article is garbage. Wardriving has been around for quite a while now. I think I first heard the term about 5 years ago. The article is filled with fear-inducing references to kiddie porn, fraud, and bank account theft. Mix that in with a few high-level details about wireless networks and you have an insightful technology article, right? Wrong.

The article gives no useful advice on security. Just a bunch of worst-case scenarios. Here's some simple advice for those of you concerned about these security issues. Use common sense!! Would you go to a coffee shop, call up your bank on a cell phone, and say (in a very loud voice where everyone can hear), "Yes, my account number is XXXXXX and my social security number is 999-99-9999." Of course not. You don't want to share private information like that. Similarly, if you're using a public network, you shouldn't even consider doing anything that you would worry about other people listening in to. You never know who is looking at the laptop screen over your shoulder.

Here's some advice for security at home. First, secure your wireless router. The instructions are in the box. They are easy to follow. If you don't, you are broadcasting everything related to any web site you are access. That include usernames, passwords, bank account numbers, etc. So secure your wireless. Or, when you're doing something where you really want more security, disable your wireless and connect through an ethernet cord. Or, if you want 100% security, don't do anything on the computer at all. There will always be a trade off between security and convenience. Accept that and move on. Securing and encrypting your wireless is probably good enough for most people.

The article above mentions Benjamin Smith III, who was parked in his Chevy Blazer outside Richard Dinon's home, "hacking" into Dinon's (open and public) wireless network. First, there was no hacking. Hacking involves bypassing security mechanisms. So how can it be hacking if there were no security mechanisms? The absolute worst part of this article is the end:

It remains unclear what Smith was using the Wi-Fi for, to surf, play online video games, send e-mail to his grandmother, or something more nefarious. Prosecutors declined to comment, and Smith could not be reached.

"I'm mainly worried about what the guy may have uploaded or downloaded, like kiddie porn," Dinon said. "But I'll probably never know."

All we know for sure is that Smith accessed the network. Now, through the inclusion of this last quote, Smith is cast as a possible kiddie porn peddler. This is sloppy reporting, getting close to slander.

Now, on to wireless networks for a real discussion. Wireless routers generally come setup for public access. I.e., if you buy a router and plug it in, anyone can access your network. The responsibility is yours to turn on the security mechanisms. Smith has been charged with unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony. However, Dinon had kept his router set to the public settings. So, if you advertise your network as being public, how can someone take "unauthorized access?" Dinon knew how to turn on the security features of his router, but chose not to do so. "I never did it because my neighbors are older." He, Dinon, is the one at fault. If he wanted to give his neighbors access but not others (such as Smith), he should have turned on the features, then talked to his neighbors. It is absolutely not reasonable to label the network as public then complain because the public uses it.

My favorite gem from this article, though, comes from Kena Lewis, spokeswoman for Bright House Networks in Orlando: "It's no different if I went out and bought a Microsoft program and started sharing it with everyone in my apartment. It's theft." This is describing the wardriver who latches onto someone else's network. The only problem is that the analogy does not apply. The person buying the Microsoft program and sharing it is the person not securing their wireless network, not the wardrivers. Let's borrow the RIAA's lawyers with their strong arm tactics. These owners of wireless networks are hardcore pirates who need to be threatened with tens of thousands of dollars in fines!!

Another false analogy I've seen in other places has been that your wireless network is private property. I wouldn't just walk in to your house and eat your food if you left the front door unlocked, would I? Then what right do I have to use your broadband connection? The problem with this analogy is the boundary. For me to eat the food in your kitchen, I have to cross the threshold of your property line. I have to enter your door. For me to access your wireless network to surf the web, all I have to do is sit on my couch. I.e., your network is encroaching on my living space. If you have an apple tree that crosses our property lines and it drops apples on my property, do you have the right to forbid me from eating those apples? I can't imagine there's a court anywhere that would convict me of theft for those apples. So how could it be different for wireless?

John Dvorak, a famous tech writer if you don't know him, has a great article discussing this issue. His view: "We must put the burden of responsibility on the broadcaster, not the end user. It has to be made clear that people sending open connections all over town should be responsible for them." I couldn't agree more.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

We'll Miss You Sandra D.

I saw the news last Friday right after it was posted, and my immediately felt a twinge of fear-induced nausea in the pit of my stomach. As you probably know by now, Sandra Day O'Connor announced her resignation from the Supreme Court. I have nothing but respect for Justice O'Connor, long the voice of the middle. Frequently the deciding vote on a split decision, she did a very good job of balancing the interests of society and the individual. On occasion, I disagreed with her conclusions (e.g., FCC v. Brand X), but I generally understood her views and had to respect them. The voice of compromise on the SCOTUS will be sorely missed. Her resignation is what I have been fearing for 5 years.

Her resignation begs the question of who will be her replacement. The BBC has a good rundown of some of the main contenders. This seems to be the list that I have typically seen. I can't believe that I would actually be hoping for Alberto Gonzalez. Yeah, the guy that said torture was okay. But he is the most moderate of the bunch, considered "too moderate" by many conservatives. (As side note, I always smirk when I hear "too moderate." Talk about double speak. "Too" means "excessively." But "modereate" means "not excessive." So "too moderate" means "excessively not excessive." In truth, "too moderate" is code for "we want a fucking nutjob activist.")

Consider the alternatives for the abortion issue. John G. Roberts has argued that "government-funded doctors and clinics could not talk to patients about abortion." Michael McConnell has "called for a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions." Notice, that is all abortions. What's that? You were raped? We don't care. You must care that baby to term. Quite crying. You probably deserved it for wearing that slinky red dress. Or Emilio Garza, who wrote in an opinion, "Ontological issues such as abortion are more properly decided in the political and legislative arenas." BULLSHIT! Abortion is more properly decided between a woman and her doctor.

Aside from the abortion question, consider that we could end up with J Michael Luttig. He struck down domestic violence legislation, deciding that Congress had overstepped its bounds. Luttig has been criticized by other judges for "being swayed on ideological grounds rather than judicial argument." Or McConnell, who doesn't believe the federal government should have a role in protecting civil liberties or workers' rights. Just what this country needs. Replace a moderate voice of reason guided by compromise with a radically conservative activist judge.

I was hoping that Justice O'Connor would hold on for a few more years. I could have dealt with Bush appointing a replacement for Justice Rehnquist, with whom I almost never agree. Depending on whom Bush ultimately nominates for O'Connor's successor, this could rank near the top as having the most lasting damage on the American populace.