Saturday, February 23, 2008

Blog #24 Wiki Leaks, DVD Jon Strikes Again, Nightsong’s a wrap

From the Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama debate in Austin on Thursday night, at Clinton’s criticism of Obama using words from the governor of Massachusets during a rally, Obama said, “This is where we start getting into silly season in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it,” he said. Obama supporters getting discouraged? Not likely, with the delegate count running the way it is.

In her response though, Mrs. Clinton had the line of the night — which elicited a few boos from the audience: “I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in; it’s change you can Xerox.” But then she went on to praise Obama for being passionate but said we need to unite country around specific goals.
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Watching Mary Matalin, the ultraconservative Republican adviser, smooze with Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday’s Situation Room and noting how her mind works and the directions it takes, makes you wonder what she and hubby James Carville, the rabid Democratic consultant, talk about nights at home, and especially during dinner. How many would bet it’s NOT politics? Sure enough Matalin’s Wikipedia page tells us that they do NOT talk politics at home. Incidentally Matalin felt (as do I) that Hillary Clinton would be the stronger Democratic candidate, though her expressing that is subject to suspicion as so strong a Republican partisan would never truly wish for the Groan Old Party’s candidate to run against the most formidable Democratic candidate.
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I’ll bet you thought Sony’s blu-ray technology won the war against Toshiba’s HD-DVD because it held more data? Well, it does hold more, but there is a lot more to the story than that. It turns out that there is a conspiracy theory behind the blu-ray and HD-DVD war that practically ranks alongside the conspiracy to kill JFK. As it turns out, most of the movie industry lined up behind blu-ray not just because of more space on the disks, but because aligning themselves with HD-DVD would have made Microsoft a power in the high definition world, and no company in their right mind wanted to be paying endless royalties to Microsoft for inferior technologies. The full story is fascinating, and it can be be found here:
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From’s tech column’s Linkpost 2.22.2008, in response to an article describing “bloatware,” came the following charming analogy from a reader signing himself Davesmall. Are you following Microsoft?

Once upon a time there was a nifty little sports car that customers loved.
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so a family sedan replaced those neat little sports cars
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so a large SUV was born
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so the SUV became a bus
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so the Bus became a tandem axle cross country truck

And now customers are driving that truck back and forth to the super market.
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The question of the week: Can a Swiss Bank acting in an American court on behalf of a Cayman Island branch order not just an injunction against a website devoted to publishing leaks, government, corporate, etc., but actually have the entirety of the website permanently shut down? That is a question posed this week by the ars technica website and the N.Y.Times. What follows first is from ars technica signed by Nate Anderson:

“Bank Julius Baer calls itself the “leading dedicated wealth manager in Switzerland” and as we all know, it is not good for wealth managers to be linked to scandal. On Friday the bank obtained a temporary restraining order against the site Wikileaks which is currently hosting a batch of documents from inside the bank. The bank was unhappy about material hosted on Wikileaks that appears to show corruption in the bank's Cayman Islands branch.

Since filing a federal lawsuit against the site in San Francisco the bank so far has been on a roll in the case. On February 15, the bank obtained a permanent injunction against Dynadot that requires the registrar to "lock the domain name" and to "disable the domain name and account to prevent access to and any changes from being made to the domain name and account information." Rather than just put a hold on the particular documents in question, the judge has instead attempted to remove the entire site from the Internet. Wikileaks was not present at the hearing where the decision was made, saying that it was notified only by e-mail and given just a few hours' notice. As is common in such situations, the order was essentially written by the bank and then adopted by the judge. The judge’s permanent injunction against Dynadot, the registrar of Wikileaks, demands that the site’s information be locked and its domain name scoured from the internet.

The story in the NYTimes was by Adam Liptak and Brad Stone, and noted that “legal experts said (the injunction against Wikileaks) could present a major test of First Amendment rights in the Internet era. The site,, invites people to post leaked materials with the goal of discouraging “unethical behavior” by corporations and governments. It has posted documents concerning the rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq, a military manual concerning the operation of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and other evidence of what it has called corporate waste and wrongdoing.

“The case in San Francisco was brought by a Cayman Islands bank, Julius Baer Bank and Trust. In court papers, the bank claimed that “a disgruntled ex-employee who has engaged in a harassment and terror campaign” provided stolen documents to Wikileaks in violation of a confidentiality agreement and banking laws. According to Wikileaks, “the documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion.”

“On Friday, Judge Jeffrey S. White (a Bush appointee, which may explain a lot) of the Federal District Court in San Francisco granted a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot of San Mateo, Calif., the site’s domain name registrar, to disable the domain name. The order had the effect of locking the front door to the site — a largely ineffectual action that kept back doors to the site, and several copies of it, available to sophisticated Web users who knows where to look. “The feebleness of the action suggests that the bank, and the judge, did not understand how the domain system works or how quickly Web communities will move to counter actions they see as hostile to free speech online.

Wikileaks maintains “mirror sites,” which are copies of itself, usually to insure against outages and this kind of legal action. These sites were registered in countries like Belgium (, Germany (, and the Christmas Islands ( through domain registrars other that Dynadot, and so were not affected by the injunction. Fans of the site and its mission rushed to publicize those alternate addresses this week. They have also distributed copies of the sensitive bank information on their own sites and via peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

“In a statement on its site, Wikileaks compared Judge White’s orders to ones eventually overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971. In that case, the federal government sought to enjoin publication of a secret history of the Vietnam War by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

“The Wikileaks injunction is the equivalent of forcing The Times’s printers to print blank pages and its power company to turn off press power,” the site said, referring to the order that sought to disable the entire site. The site said it was founded by dissidents in China and journalists, mathematicians and computer specialists in the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

“Judge White’s order disabling the entire site “is clearly not constitutional,” said David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site.” The narrower order, forbidding the dissemination of the disputed documents, is a more classic prior restraint on publication. Such orders are disfavored under the First Amendment and almost never survive appellate scrutiny.”

A followup in the NYTime’s Bits column reports: “The records for Wikileak’s I.P. address indicate that it is hosted by PRQ, based in Stockholm. PRQ’s home page offers clues that it’s not just another hosting company. It paraphrases a quote from Mike Godwin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “I worry about my children all the time. I worry that 10 years from now, they will come to me and say, ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of speech away from the Internet?’”

As it turns out, PRQ is owned by two founders of the Pirate Bay, the BitTorrent tracker site that is Hollywood’s least favorite online destination. The Pirate Bay guys have made a sport out of taunting all forms of authority, including the Swedish police, and PRQ has gone out of its way to host sites that other companies wouldn’t touch. It is perhaps the world’s least lawyer-friendly hosting company and thus a perfect home for Wikileaks, which says it is “developing an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis.”
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Are lights at night a cause for breast cancer in women? This is a question posed by Rick Weiss, a Washington Post Staff Writer. He reports: “Women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where nocturnal darkness prevails, according to an unusual study that overlaid satellite images of Earth onto cancer registries. “The finding adds credence to the hypothesis that exposure to too much light at night can raise the risk of breast cancer by interfering with the brain's production of a tumor-suppressing hormone.

"By no means are we saying that light at night is the only or the major risk factor for breast cancer," said Itai Kloog, of the University of Haifa in Israel, who led the new work. "But we found a clear and strong correlation that should be taken into consideration."

“Scientists have known for years that rats raised in cages where lights are left on for much of the night have higher cancer rates than those allowed to sleep in darkness. And epidemiological studies of nurses, flight attendants and others who work at night have found breast cancer rates 60 percent above normal, even when other factors such as differences in diet are accounted for.

“On the basis of such studies, an arm of the World Health Organization announced in December its decision to classify shift work as a "probable carcinogen." That put the night shift in the same health-risk category as exposure to such toxic chemicals as trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

“The mechanism of such a link, if real, remains mysterious, but many scientists suspect that melatonin is key. Secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, the hormone helps prevent tumor formation. The body produces melatonin primarily at night, and levels drop precipitously in the presence of light, especially light in the blue part of the spectrum produced in quantity by computer screens and fluorescent bulbs. In keeping with the melatonin hypothesis, mice in cages with night lighting have normal cancer rates if they get shots of the hormone. And blind women, whose eyes cannot detect light and so have robust production of melatonin, have lower-than-average breast cancer rates.

“Kloog and his colleagues took a previously untried approach to testing the link. They obtained satellite data from NASA that showed in great detail how much light was emitted spaceward from neighborhoods throughout Israel. Although the light levels that reached the satellite were about one-tenth their intensity on Earth, the approach provides an accurate measure of which areas are brighter or darker than others and by how much.

“The team then overlaid that map with local statistics on cases of breast cancer and, for comparison, lung cancer, which is caused mostly by smoking and so would not be expected to be linked to light. After using neighborhood data to correct for other factors that can affect cancer rates, including wealth, ethnicity and the average number of children in families living in those localities, the researchers found no link between night lighting and lung cancer, they report in this week's online issue of the journal Chronobiology International. But the researchers found the breast cancer rate in localities with average night lighting to be 37 percent higher than in communities with the lowest amount of light; and they noted that the rate was higher by an additional 27 percent in areas with the highest amount of light.

“Abraham Haim, a University of Haifa chronobiologist involved in the study, said the findings raise questions about the recent push to switch to energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, which suppress melatonin production more than conventional incandescent bulbs. "This may be a disaster in another 20 years," Haim said, "and you won't be able to reverse what we did by mistake." He called for more research before policies favoring fluorescent lights are implemented, and for more emphasis on using less light at night.

“Jim Burch, a University of South Carolina epidemiologist and biostatistician familiar with the study, called the approach and findings "fascinating." "The study has limitations," including not measuring levels of indoor lighting, "but it supports the overall idea," Burch said. "I think there is enough evidence to suggest we ought to be thinking about this more carefully."
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And from NewsBlog comes a post by Erica Ogg that reports that DVD Jon, the man notorious for cracking the DVD code and Apple’s FairPlay DRM is turning his expertise into a legitimate business venture. Beginning Tuesday the first product from his company, DoubleTwist Ventures will enter open beta. It is called Double Twist, and it’s a free desktop client that essentially allows any kind of music, photo, or video file to be shared between a long list of portable media players, and through Web-based social networks. Instead of iTunes songs or videos taken with a Nokia N95 remaining locked on the phone, DoubleTwist software allows for dragging, dropping, and syncing of different media formats no matter the device.

“The idea, according to DoubleTwist founder and CEO Monique Farantzos, is that media files should be more like e-mail. It shouldn't matter what service you create the file in, or on what type of hardware, it all should work together seamlessly, she says. Farantzos recruited DVD Jon, or Jon Lech Johansen, and the two have been working with about 10 others for the past eight months on the DoubleTwist software. Johansen says “DoubleTwist allows him to bring the success he's found to a wider audience.

"It's one opportunity to write something for your Web site for use by a couple thousand geeks," he said in an interview. “But with DoubleTwist, the idea is to hide all the complexity of making easy transfers of files from the user so that even non-techie types will understand. The goal is to make something your parents can use," he said.

It works like this: When a device is plugged into a PC (Windows XP and Vista only right now, Mac OS X coming soon), DoubleTwist launches and recognizes all the media files on the device. Any file can be selected, dragged, and dropped into DoubleTwist to be synched up to a separate device, or shared with other users you've "friended" who also use DoubleTwist.

DoubleTwist also recognizes and imports all iTunes playlists and will read instantly which ones are protected by digital rights management technology. The software automatically plays the song files in the background (sans volume) and re-records them as MP3 files so they can be transferred to any device. Note: DoubleTwist only does this for songs you own or are authorized to play in iTunes.

Farantzos says they're not picking on any one particular brand of DRM, especially since the entire industry, led by Amazon, is leaning toward a DRM-free policy.

"Digital media is dominated by two players, Windows Media and iTunes, and they each have their own agenda ... we see ourselves as the Swiss Army Knife of digital media. We are format and device agnostic."
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In other Little Eddy news, Nightsong as a Podcast (the first issue of which is called Nightsong Yet Again) is a wrap, and cd copies of it have been sent out to family, sons Daniel in Seattle, Washington, and Joel in La Mesas, Arizona, and in Houston Susannah, Dave, and Emma Nix (Susannah gets top billing here because she’s my niece, my late sister’s only daughter, and the mother of her only granddaughter.) Joel tells me that it’s now my job to find some site that posts podcasts so that both of you out there in cyberland (or is it cyberspace?) who might wish to listen to it can access it. The minute I do find a place to post it I will add a link to it. Meantime I thought I might throw a teaser or two out from the notes I wrote to go along with the cd of the Podcast.

It took two whole weeks to put Nightsong together but that’s not so long when you consider I had to learn to handle a whole new media, digital music, and a new computer program to handle it, Apple’s GarageBand. GarageBand looks impossible when you first check it out, but it is deceptively easy once you know what the hell you’re doing, and there’s nothing like finding out the hard way by just diving in and trying it out. Several PDF’s gave much needed guidance on how to make a GarageBand Podcast and they were very helpful, so I didn’t have to operate completely on my own.

The trick is finding your music in iTunes, and once you do you simply drag the piece you want to one of the tracks in the timeline. GarageBand then copies it onto the timeline. The same goes with sounds, and when you record voice, that goes onto another strip in the timeline. Once you get your material in you find you have perfect control of your material, setting volumes, fades, etc. just as if you had real turntables and real faders.

Digital music technology is amazing. Gone are the occasional pops of vinyl recordings, and the hiss and wave deterioration of tape. Copies in this digital age no longer carry the baggage of noise and quality loss. Much to the dismay of Cary Sherman and the RIAA, it is quite possible to reproduce music time and time again, exactly as it was recorded, with absolutely no loss by passing it through a computer. Since the computer is copying data rather than sound waves each copy is a perfect clone of the original.

At first the idea of doing radio without turntables and tape decks seemed a little strange, but after giving the result a careful listen I feel I was able to do virtually everything that I used to do in a well equipped radio studio with just an iMac computer and a microphone. And that even includes playing two performances at one time, one slightly behind the other, making the second one sound like an echo. At KPFT I had to use two turntables to have the Silly Sisters sing a duet with themselves, and when I did it on the air I didn’t have the luxury of having a chance to practice it beforehand; although through some miracle I somehow managed to pull it off live. But it was a lot easier to pull it off in GarageBand because each track lies in a visible space, and you can drag the echo track a bit this way or that until you get it at precisely the right spot in the time line.

GarageBand lets you save your creations seamlessly to iTunes, and I must say I was impressed when the computer at GarageBand’s direction sailed through the entire 57 minute timeline in about seven minutes, mixing the songs precisely according to my settings and with no further assistance needed from me. And after the conversion when I played this little baby in iTunes for the first time, my mind was thoroughly blown.

Listening to Nightsong is a trip that’s best taken at dusk or later, when you have a free hour on your hands and few distractions. Nightsong is like chocolate for the imagination, 57 minutes of music and audio stimulation. Rhythms pulse, voices purr and together they conjur up images and dreams, and just as you begin to hypnotically to nod out things happen, unexpected things. And you’re jolted awake again. Any decent stereo system will do fine for playback, but better is better. Little earphones and an iPod (or other mobile music player) makes for a nice mobility, you can listen outdoors while gazing at the stars. If you happen to have an Apple computer you can play it on your computer and run the iTunes visualizer while you listen, its spiraling many colored images make for a rare visual treat.

Note: the video embeds have appeared again. If you drop down to the bottom of the last post in this string, you can watch "Waterboarding U.S.A." And that’s a wrap. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy

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