Technology is no substitute for common sense.

Given the number of different, varied and complex technologies that goes into our everyday lives, even the simple act of reading this very post, I would be the last person to say that technology isn’t one of the most awesome things we have going for us.

Unfortunately there will also always be people who abuse it. Or simply don’t know how to use it properly:

A Czech lorry driver was stranded for three nights in south-west England after his satellite navigation system directed him down a narrow country lane, British newspapers reported Friday. – [Yahoo/AFP]

OK, obviously, there has been a large number of similar GPS navigation system related mishaps recorded, and probably even many more that we never got to hear about. And I can understand that many people rely heavily on their GPS navigation systems, but there is still one small problem I still have difficulties wrapping my head around.

Under what logical rule set would you ignore what your eyes are telling you based on what the GPS navigation system is telling you? Seriously. If you come to a bridge that says it’s out of order, but your GPS navigation says that’s the route you should take, under which common sense rules does it make sense to continue past the highly visible warning signs, and obvious construction markings, ultimately ending up in the river?

Honestly, if, as a truck driver, a given route seemed like it might be too narrow to navigate, why would what your GPS navigation systems information over ride what your own eyes are telling you? People, please remember, technology is only as useful as the people who use it. It is no replacement for using your head.

In fact most of the time, the gray matter in your old noggin is the most valuable piece of technology available to. Please use it. That’s what it’s there for.

Czech lorry stuck for three days after sat-nav blunder – [Yahoo/AFP]

Constitutional violation solves nothing…

Today I came across an article about a California judge who appears to be able to recognize when an unconstitutional law is being passed, and has the foresight to veto them. This is an unusual development from The Peoples Republic of Kalifornia, where local police, activists and Lawmakers seem to have an impressive track record of passing unreasonably draconian, even unconstitutional laws in the name of “The Public Interest”:

A federal judge ruled on Monday a California law to label violent video games and bar their sale to minors was unconstitutional, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to say he would appeal the ruling.

Of course you will.

California passed a law in 2005 regulating video games with strong support from Schwarzenegger, the former star of many violent action films. Legislators argued violent video games could bring psychological harm and spark aggressive behavior in minors.

Can anyone say “Anecdotal Evidence”?

The Video Software Dealers Association and the Entertainment Software Association promptly sued to block the law, arguing their games were protected under the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

Uh Huh. “Free speech”? That’s your reason? It would probably be mine, but the ESA and VSDA? Yeah… I don’t think so. Now cash flow… That I’d buy…

Judge Ronald Whyte, who had previously granted a preliminary injunction against the law, issued a permanent order that also cited conclusions from judges facing similar laws in other states.

“At this point, there has been no showing that violent video games as defined in the Act, in the absence of other violent media, cause injury to children,” he wrote in his decision. “In addition, the evidence does not establish that video games, because of their interactive nature or otherwise, are any more harmful than violent television, movies, Internet sites or other speech-related exposures.” – [Reuters]

Thank you. Sanity at last. Now I’m not saying the law didn’t have any value to it. The part where developers are required to label them is just common sense. We need to know what kind of content is in the games we give to our kids. But banning them? Who are they kidding? So it’s OK to let my kids watch “Saw” on video, but heaven forbid they play “ManHunt“? Come on!

OK Look. I understand that as a parent, you may be willing to do anything and everything in your power to keep your kids safe. And I agree. Anyone who doesn’t feel this way can’t really be called a parent. The problem arises when you decide that it is OK to violate the rights of others in order to achieve this.

That is a double standard don’t you think? Nobody should violate your (and, by extension, your childrens’) rights, but it’s OK to violate others? Sounds like a double standard to me. If you, as a parent, decide raise your kids on video games, you also have to take the responsibility of talking to them about what exactly they are looking at. The same applies to movies, and even music.

It seems like some parents will bend over backwards to get a movie, album, video game, etc. Off the shelves. The outrage is always fierce and unrelenting. But here’s my question. Why can’t you just talk to your kids about these things? When they leave the house they see these things everywhere. Our culture is permeated with them. We, as adults, have become so desensitized that sometimes we don’t even see it, but it is there.

If your kids don’t learn, early on, about what they are see everyday, and what is right and what is wrong, then how do you expect them to tell the difference? Banning games won’t help you one whit. Denying them TV, radios, computers and video games for the entire tenure of your custody of them won’t save you either. Unless you live in a very, very, isolated community. Instead I see people embark on epic but fruitless crusades against violence in the media, gun control, school practices, regulation, etc. As I have stated in a previous post, I think these are little more than very poor crutches.

The gang member running around with the gun in their waistband was/is someones kid. Just like yours. What kind of lessons do you think he/she learned growing up? Do you think they would be in the gang if they learned from childhood that doing so could easily reduce your life expectancy by 50%? Do you think they would even pick up a gun if they thought there were other, better solutions? It’s hardly the gun we should be worried about. It’s the fact that the kid doesn’t know any better. Why is that?

What they need is education and guidance. And as parents we need to give it to them. No one else can, will, or even should do it for you. Do whatever it takes. And I don’t mean waste time protesting about pointless things. Work less hours, and spend more time with your kids. Engage in more group activities. Have one parent actually stay at home. It doesn’t matter who. Move into a smaller house/apt/condo to make ends meet if you have to. You may physically have less, but I believe the quality of your kids lives will be richer. It’s not always possible, but I submit that they are worthwhile sacrifices.

This is what I believe it means to be a parent. If you really want to protect your kids, I think this is the best place to start. It is no good to provide all of our kids materialistic needs if you fail to teach them about morals, ethics, good bad, right wrong, the light, the dark, all the gray areas in between, and about life in general. I honestly believe this is where we are failing as a country.

Forget about the TV, radio, music, video games, etc. Play with your kids. Talk to your kids. Teach them something positive. That way when you let them loose, you will hopefully be able to worry less about whatever it is they encounter on the street. Yeah. I sound like a bad public service announcement. But there it is.

Judge blocks California’s violent video game law – [Reuters]

A SLAPP in the face of a fair legal system…

I read an interesting article about the MPAA and RIAA strategy for dealing with copyright infringment and, in particular, file sharing:

Going up against big guns
For insight into how tough it is to oppose the entertainment sector, consider the conclusions of some long-shot copyright cases Rothken worked on: RecordTV and ReplayTV ran out of funds before their cases were heard, and MP3Board.com settled.

There’s no telling whether the start-ups would have survived had their cases gone to trial, but Rothken argues that shouldering legal fees and bad press didn’t help.

Applying financial pressure is only part of Hollywood’s strategy, Rothken said. Another tactic is to sue founders as well as their companies. In 2000, the RIAA filed a copyright suit against MP3Board.com, a music-file search engine, as well as the company’s founders.

Instead of risking their own income, the operators of MP3Board.com settled the case and decided to stop linking to MP3 files, Rothken said.

“I can’t say what the MPAA’s strategy is,” said Gary Fung, founder of IsoHunt, a TorrentSpy rival and Rothken client who also is being sued by the MPAA for copyright infringement. “But they do know they have more time and money than we do.” – [C/Net News]

There is no doubt that file sharing technologies have contributed to the illegal piracy of music and video. I also cannot argue that the MPAA and the RIAA have a right to file suits against those who decide to share copyrighted works illegally. That being said, this is decidedly not what they are doing. They have taken the decidedly unrealistic approach of attacking the technologies rather than the people doing the file sharing.

The various entertainment associations have sued numerous torrent tracker sites, on the basis that they are helping promote illegal file sharing. Now it may just be me but this seems to me no better than suing the gun industry for the common use of firearms in the commission of crime, or automobile makers for the high incidence of drinking and driving. And as usual, those who use the technology for legitimate purposes are always the ones to suffer.

What is even more distressing to me is not simply the fact that these suits are brought at all, but rather the strategies being used to win these suits. Rather than relying on the strength of the case, the RIAA and MPAA have begun a the methodical practice of SLAPPing defendants into submission. The SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, is designed to ensure a settlement not by virtue of any legal argument, but by wearing down the defendants financial resources until they are unable to afford to continue their defense.

This to me, is the ultimate abuse of the legal system. The fact that this type of activity is legally allowed to happen should be a cause of great concern, even for law abiding American businesses and citizens, because it means that the outcome of future suit brought against you may not be determined by the validity or legal strength of the suit, but rather by who has the most money. And that situation is fundamentally anathema to the concept of a fair and equitable legal system.

TorrentSpy lawyer battling ‘copyright extremism’ – [C/Net News]

Is fair use still legal?

Given what the big entertainment companies are being allowed to do nowadays, as well as the actions of US government agencies, it makes me wonder. Consider this article:

U.S. customs agents raided 32 homes and businesses early Wednesday, searching for hardware that allows pirated video games to play on the popular PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Wii consoles.

According to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the search warrants were served in 16 states, including California, Illinois, New York, and Texas as agents looked for evidence of the importation, sale, and distribution of the modification devices made overseas and smuggled into the country.

The so-called “mod chips” and “swap discs” targeted by the searches let gamers play pirated titles or counterfeit copies on Sony’s PlayStation 2, Microsoft’s Xbox and Xbox 360, and Nintendo’s Wii video game machines. – [InfoWorld]

Now there is another possible reason to have a modded console system that the big entertainment companies, (and apparently, U.S. Customs officials) have conveniently (or intentionally) ignored. The ability to play backup copies of games you already own on your modded console station.

I find it irritating that if we legally and legitimately buy, say, a game for a console system. we cannot copy it store the original and play the backup in order to protect the original from wear, tear and other miscellaneous abuse. In other words, if the disc becomes scratched or damaged beyond repair, we are forced to buy a new copy of the game in order to play. I’m sure this works out great for game and console manufacturers, but the consumers are getting the shaft.

Why have the big entertainment industries been allowed to deny the consumers the right to engage in a common sense action that allow the consumer to protect their investment? Because of piracy? Why must the consumers be the one to bear the cost of piracy? The business is the one that is supposed to bear the risks of being in business, not the consumers.

Instead, they have become ever more restrictive and inflexible and blame piracy for their rigidity when any thinking human being can easily ascertain that there is no simple objective correlation between piracy and business losses. Piracy (even of the rampant variety) does not equate to lost sales. Pirates are not guaranteed to (and in many cases cannot afford to) buy the products they pirate, and to stipulate otherwise is simply faulty logic and wishful thinking.

And yet they get away with more and more infringements upon the fair use of their products by their legitimate consumers in the name of piracy. Where does their tyranny end, and the rights of legitimate consumers begin? That’s what I’d like to know.

Feds raid video-game ‘modders’ in 16 states – [InfoWorld]

Yet another excuse to V-parent…

Technology is great, but is not the answer to everything. Especially not parenting. So I am always skeptical when I see things like this:

The Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation Thursday asking the Federal Communications Commission to oversee the development of a super V-chip that could screen content on everything from cell phones to the Internet.

“It’s an uphill battle for parents trying to protect their kids from viewing inappropriate programming,” Pryor said. “I believe there is a whole new generation of technology that can provide an additional layer of help for these parents.”

A third bill that aims to regulate violent content much the same as indecent speech is expected to be introduced soon. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has plans to introduce the anti-violence bill, but it was unclear when. – [Reuters]

OK. For me, the biggest issue here is not what is or is not showing on the radio, TV, internet or other electronic media. It is the fact that we seem to keep coming up with new ways to “help” parents control what their kids watch, when the truth of the matter is that, unless you keep your kids locked in an RF shielded concrete bunker with no electricity, and no communication lines in or out, they will be exposed to things that you may not want them to be.

All of these things, rating systems, censorship, content screening are, at best, crutches for what I feel the real problem is. Americans don’t know how to parent any more. When I was growing up, I saw all kinds of violence (of both the real-life and gratuitous movie variety), bad language, sexually explicit movies, etc. And yet I do not swear like a sailor, drink, smoke, do drugs, have 25 kids by 7 different women, and (to my knowledge) have not stabbed, shot, run over or otherwise maimed or killed anyone lately.

And I believe I know why. Because my parents taught me not to. It is that simple. When I was growing up, I learned, by example, observation and numerous conversations, what constituted good and bad behavior, what was right, what was wrong and why. Now I’m not saying that either I or my parents were/are perfect. Far from it. We were all flawed, as humans beings often are. In fact as I grew older and learned to think for myself, I found I disagreed with many of the things they taught me. But at least they taught me the basics.

Nowadays parenting seems to be a constant struggle between working long hours to make enough money to feed the kids, and either parking them in front of a computer, video game, or TV, so you can get at a measly few hours of sleep before going back to work, or handing them off to someone else to take care of them while you are gone. We are no longer parenting our kids, we are simply housing them until they are of age. The average American doesn’t spend enough time with their kids. Not enough transfer of knowledge occurs, and as a result they don’t properly learn the lessons of right and wrong.

But an even more disturbing trend is that, even when there is sufficient time to engage the children, they often learn the wrong lessons. I come across a video on YouTube the other day showing a father video taping himself insulting someone, with some rather salty language, in front of his kids. Now I recognize that everyones parenting style is different, but I can assure you that if we all adopt the “anything goes” approach in the parenting of our kids, and pay no regard to how we behave around them, then what they see on the TV will be the least of our problems as a nation. We cannot teach our kids tolerance, patience, kindness, generosity, love or any of the values we claim to hold dear, if we do not practice these values ourselves.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. School massacres, snipers, gang violence, kids killing kids, these things do not occur in a vacuum. It is the culture that we have created that is breeding these kids. And as much as I hate to say it, it is not the fault of the media. It is our society that is at fault. And the sooner we recognize that and stop wasting energy on trying to control the inconsequential byproducts of our warped society, like violence in the media, and focus on ourselves and our issues, the sooner we will properly be able to figure out, as a nation, how to handle this growing crises.

IMHO, these silly “V-chips” are yet another useless weapon in an endless battle that we will never win, because we have failed to properly identify our enemy: Ourselves.

It’s super V-chip to the rescue of kids – [Reuters]

Forget OLPC! Wealthy mexican man does OSPV…

OK so OSPV is my made up acronym for “One School Per village.” But this article, I think, demonstrates the right way to help developing or impoverished nations learn to stand on thier own. And interestingly, it does not involve every child getting a laptop…

Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim, who is estimated by some calculations to be wealthier than Microsoft founder Bill Gates, said Thursday he did not care if he was the world’s richest person.

“It’s water off a duck’s back to me,” the cigar-smoking Slim told foreign correspondents. “I don’t know if I’m No. 1, No. 20, or No. 2,000. It doesn’t matter.”

 Slim, 67, told foreign journalists at a luncheon on Thursday that making sure his job was compatible with his family or personal life was more important than his wealth.

 Slim said Thursday his charitable foundations planned to invest $300 million in the next few years to build 100 schools in poor regions of Mexico that will focus on digital education. The plan would later be expanded throughout Latin America. – [Reuters]

Mr. Slim appears to be a man who is in touch with the people he is trying to help and has  a good understanding of what is truly needed. No gimmicks, no fancy schmancy technological baubles, nothing that is not self sustainable. Just straight-up education. That’s is what is really needed. A tip of the hat to you sir, a tip of the hat…

I don’t care if I’m richest in world… – [Reuters]

U.S. Patents “Out of Bounds” or “Sheer lunacy”?

A recent article attempted to describe the procedural war zone that the patent process has become:

 The U.S. patent system has veered off course and is being abused, executives of three top technology companies said Wednesday.

The problems include damages that are too great, patents for insignificant innovations and poor quality patents that haven’t been researched enough, participants said in a panel discussion at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit in Palo Alto, California.

“The patent system, right now, is tilting out of bounds,” said Chip Lutton, chief patent counsel at Apple Inc. He compared the situation to a bubble market, as companies buy up patents just to use them to get overinflated awards. Courts have failed to rein in these speculators, he said. – [Yahoo/PCWorld]

The patent process in the US has simply failed to keep up with the technology. More importantly, it has failed to properly address the specifics of what defines new technology, and what criteria needs to be met in order for a company to be able to patent these new technologies. As a result, the patent system has been the target of unbelievable levels of abuse.

As I pointed out in a recent post. There are some companies whose only purpose is to patent as many ideas as possible, wait for another company to invest the time, energy and funds to make the idea work, then make a healthy payday by filing patent infringement suits.

The entire patent system needs an overhaul. I believe there is a use and place for patents, but as it currently stands, the patent system no longer functions, and no longer protects the risk takers and true industry innovators. It has been turned into an easy way for those who can’t to make money of the backs of those who do.

I don’t think the phrase “tilting out of bounds” properly captures what is going on. I think the patent process is far beyond bounds. I think it as crossed over to the realm of lunacy, and been completely out of control and for at least a decade and half now…

U.S. Patent System ‘Tilting Out of Bounds’ – [Yahoo/PCWorld]

Anonymous on Fox11… It’s Lulzeriffic…

I just saw a video on YouTube that kinda made me LOL… I know that the topic is probably one of great emotional pain for some, and I’m not a big fan of some of the emotional damage that some of the more malevolent hackers cause, but Fox news’ portrayal of the whole thing was rather… off-base.

I mean, the bomb threat was taken entirely out of context, and yet they had to show some random van blowing up… twice no less… As if to display one of the heinous terrorist acts of malicious hackers. And LOLS “Corrupted” (by evil hackers I assume) = LULZ? Seriously? Either nobody did any real homework for this piece or they intentionally skewed the facts in order to maximize the sensationalism of the story. What happened to unbiased and objective reporting? They have elevated a group of Internet pranksters to the level of violent international terrorists.

The modus operandi of pretty much every hacker I have come across has been to demonstrate their intellectual superiority, not execute hits on people. Unfortunately they do so by messing with peoples heads. Griefing, and other miscellaneous on-line harassment, especially in on-line games and social networking sites are usually their favorite haunts. They do not, as a rule, go out and physically assault people. I mean honestly, how many times has any of you heard of any hacker group killing anyone?

The poor schlub who got his MySpace account hacked in the piece was an easy and unfortunate target. And I’m willing to bet he (or his mom), teed someone off, because in general, that subsequent level of harassment is more work than the average sporadic prankster would be willing to put into it. One more question popped into my head while watching… how many of you honestly believe that this guy lost his girlfriend simply because she believed that he was cheating on her with guys? Yeah… I had to ask…

Fox News 11 covers Anonymous – [YouTube]

Government intelligence goes P2P (and is apparently also an oxymoron…)

Just read a jaw dropping article that described how government employees had inadvertently shared sensitive documents on a P2P network:

Robert Boback, CEO of P-to-P monitoring service vendor Tiversa Inc., and retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, a Tiversa board member, said the company found more than 200 sensitive U.S. government documents during a recent scan of three popular P-to-P networks. The two testified earlier this week before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee. …

… Many lawmakers directed their criticism toward the Lime Group LLC, distributor of the popular P-to-P software Lime Wire, during a contentious hearing Tuesday. But Boback, in a later interview, said his testimony wasn’t intended to cast blame on Lime Wire.

In many cases, P-to-P users override the default security settings in the software. In Lime Wire, the default setting allows users to share files only from a “shared” folder, but many users apparently override the default settings, ignore warnings from the software, and share their entire “my documents” folder or other folders, Lime Group CEO Mark Gorton testified.

In other cases, government employees or contractors apparently ignore policies prohibiting the use of P-to-P software on computers containing sensitive government information, witnesses testified. – [Yahoo/PCWorld.com]

And to top it off, some government officials tried to blame the P2P provider for the breach in security. You know what? I’ve got nuthin’. Just dunno what to say. Either someone has been slippin’ crazy pills into my food, or people are actually thinking less these days. I would much prefer the first alternative to be true…

P-to-P Users Expose U.S. Government Secrets – [Yahoo/PCWorld.com]

The Internet is NOT JackA$$ protection…

The Internet is a great thing. It has brought people from diverse cultures together in ways that could never have even been dreamed of 10 years ago. And I believe that one of the reasons that this has been so positive is the ability to communicate without the racist, sexist, or plethora of other cultural barriers that tend to automatically (and often subconsciously) rise when dealing with people with different backgrounds on a face to face basis. The Internet tends to anonymize us, forcing us to deal with others as they are, not as we assume they might be.

However as with everything, this anonymity also has a down side. There are those who, emboldened by the safety of the computer screen, tend to become more disrespectful, rude and insensitive, and are more likely to mouth-off than they would had they been engaged in a one on one conversation with someone in real life.

[Begin: Rod Serling from”The Twilight Zone“] :

Allow me to submit, for you consideration, a story of two men, and two computers, connected by naught but over 1330 miles of combined copper and fiber, whose virtual conflict transcended the bounds of the virtual world, and ultimately ended in incarceration and flame:

A Navy man who got mad when someone mocked him as a “nerd” over the Internet climbed into his car and drove 1,300 miles from Virginia to Texas to teach the other guy a lesson.

As he made his way toward Texas, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Petty Officer Russell Tavares posted photos online showing the welcome signs at several states’ borders, as if to prove to his Internet friends that he meant business.

When he finally arrived, Tavares burned the guy’s trailer down.

This week, Tavares, 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading no contest to arson and admitting he set the blaze. – [Yahoo/AP]

These two men, as a result of their insensitivity and lack of respect for each other, each paid a terrible price, in spite of the gulf between them, perhaps proving that, even in an age of circuits and virtual interaction, there is still a place for tolerance, courtesy, respect and consideration for our fellow human beings.

More importantly, it is hoped that all will heed the lesson in this: That the Internet is no protection against idiocy. Even here, In The Twilight Zone…

[End: Rod Serling Impression]

Man burns down trailer in online feud – [Yahoo/AP]

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