Articles by Andrew Grossman

Andrew Grossman formerly wrote for the TLF.


Popular Mechanics speculates that Apple is on the verge of announcing a breakthrough laptop-tablet device that’ll change computing as we know it (hyperbole deliberate):

So any Apple tablet would have to be, first and foremost, a laptop—not an über-iPhone.

I’m also requesting that the MacBook Plus fall in the ultralight realm—a sorely neglected category for Apple. It could, and should, be 2.5 pounds or less. To achieve that, the tablet should offload heavy components such as the optical drive, making do with, say, a 32 GB solid-state drive rather than a hard-disk drive…. That would let it run a full Leopard OS while delivering long battery life—hopefully using a lightweightbattery. Plus, it could probably be passively cooled, meaning no noisy, bulky fans or hot spots on the lap.

Two thoughts on why an Apple tablet would be a big deal:

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Over the slow holiday season, the Internet has been alight with outrage over the Recording Industry of America’s argument in a file-sharing case that, per the Washington Post, “it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.”

But as copyright expert William Paltry explains, it simply ain’t so:

[T]he RIAA is being unfairly maligned. I have read the brief (and you can too here). On page 15 of the brief, we find the flashpoint: “Once Defendant converted Plaintiffs’ recordings into the compressed .mp3 format AND they are in his shared folder, they are no longer the authorized copies distributed by Plaintiffs.”

I have capitalized the word “and” because it is here that the RIAA is making the point that placing the mp3 files into the share folder is what makes the copy unauthorized. The RIAA is not saying that the mere format copying of a CD to an mp3 file that resides only on one’s hard drive and is never shared is infringement. This is a huge distinction…

An interesting point from Joel Johnson:

That it seems possible that the RIAA would go after people for ripped CDs says a lot about the way most people—including the Washington Post, apparently—view the organization…

This is true, but is any other course imaginable? CD sales, and record company profits, seem to be in free-fall, and it’s beyond credulity at this point to argue that online file-sharing isn’t, at least to a significant extent, to blame. Why would an industry fade without a struggle?

As the recording industry grasps desperately for revenues, it is perhaps inevitable that it will increasingly clash with record buyers, musicians, and the public. So expect more alarmism, more yellow journalism, and greater vitriol from the “copyfighters” and their allies and expect (probably) for all this to be used as further leverage to push “open culture” policies, however tenuous their connection to the source of conflict, the collateral damage of an industry’s slow collapse–which itself is no new or unique thing.

In other words, expect a lot more of these kind of stories in 2008. John Tierney’s article yesterday on the sociology climate change is a better explanation than most as to why.

Living on the Edge

by on January 2, 2008 · 0 comments

Each year, the Edge Foundation surveys a score (~160 this year) of prominent scientists and other notables for brief-essay answers to a big-picture question. This year: “What have you changed your mind about?”

Some elaboration:

When thinking changes your mind, that’s philosophy.
When God changes your mind, that’s faith.
When facts change your mind, that’s science.

WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? WHY?

Science is based on evidence. What happens when the data change? How have scientific findings or arguments changed your mind?”

With Richard Dawkins, Aubrey de Grey (less repetitive than usual), various Dysons, Denis Dutton, and Brian Eno among the respondents, there’s plenty of interest to read and consider.

And much to mock. On the existence of god as a signal of one’s above-it-all elitism, compare the trite Alan Alda (yes, him) with an unusually shrill Clay Shirky.

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Did you know that you have only 412 days left of analog-TV viewing pleasure?

Yes, it’s true (unless lawmakers change their minds in response to lobbying from, e.g., circa-1968-Zenith-owning grandmothers from the Heartland flown in by the NAB). In 412 days, your old analog set will pick up nothing but soothing, gentle static (let’s hear it for user-generated content).

For some, this may be a relief–it will be, after all, locally-produced static.

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Herb Vest, CEO of the online dating service True.com, is still working hard to get the government to push background checks for those seeking love on the ‘net. The New York Times reports:

True, which conducts criminal background checks on its subscribers, is the primary force behind a two-year-old campaign to get state legislatures to require that social Web sites prominently disclose whether or not they perform such checks….

The company then tried to have laws passed in several states that would require other sites to conduct background checks or disclose that they do not…. True has had little political success so far, but is backing bills that legislators are considering in Florida, Texas and Michigan.

As the Times reports, Vest is no newcomer to lobbying government to gain an advantage over competitors.

As I noted two years ago, Vest’s preferred legislation would require matchmaking sites not conducting background checks “stamp this stark warning atop every e-mail and personal ad, in no less than 12-point type: ‘WARNING: WE HAVE NOT CONDUCTED A FELONY-CONVICTION SEARCH OR FBI SEARCH ON THIS INDIVIDUAL.’”

Is this really necessary? When I want to know for sure whether my online date is a felon, I just visit this site.

For a lawyer-in-training, watching the commenters on Slashdot, Digg, and similar techie forums debate fine points of law is a special treat–finally, a group that knows less about that law than I do. Faster than you can type “IANAL,” some dope has posted that the income tax is unconstitutional, that breaking into government computers cannot be lawfully prosecuted, or that one has a good case against Comcast when the cable installer came a day late.

Non-lawyers often treat the law as intuitive; does it seem like this is illegal or improper?, they ask. The answer, of course, frequently justifies their own behavior.

Thus I learned from Digg today that “Downloading Pirated Anything Is NOT Illegal.”

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As more and more of our consumption comes in the form of bits, how to keep all that data safe becomes a big problem. Obviously, data security is a big issue. But the bigger one, I think, is keeping good backups.

It used to be that only geeks and businesses could keep good backups. To copy everything, you had to buy a second hard drive or a stack of CDs or DVDs (or floppies or cartridges) and spend too much time setting things up and flipping disks. The really hardcore bought tape drives, and those with deep pockets signed up for network-based solutions like Retrospect.

But all at once, the market for the rest of us is heating up. The home user now has some excellent options.

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This post isn’t meant to prove anything, just to note something of some small significance–a data point, basically.

Digg is major gathering point for the pro-open source, anti-big company, anti-DRM crowd. To be sure, many others use the site, and most Diggers who hold these views are casual about their advocacy and not among the hardcore folks who hang out on more focused sites.

But sometimes I wonder whether among casual holders of this creed, the motivating factor isn’t political, philosophical, or ideological, but just to get something for nothing.

So note the current top stories on Digg:

Votes Story
2061 Windows Vista One Click Activator-BIOS Emulation Crack (Paradox and CLoNY)
1174 It has Been LEGAL to Unlock Your Cell Phone Since November 2006!
726 Walmart Sends The Consumerist A DMCA takedown notice.
621 “To whom it may concern: file-sharing is illegal”
498 The Pirate Bay’s Torrents Quadruple in a Year

Just a correlation, proof of nothing in particular.

Arguing in favor of telecom regulation, some people say that telephone networks are owned by the public, which was forced to pay for them as captive ratepayers. The upshot is that telecom firms therefore shouldn’t be able to restrict competitors from using their wires.

As my colleague and co-blogger James Gattuso has explained in some detail, this historical analysis is deeply flawed. Today’s networks are “overwhelmingly the product of recent private investment,” concludes Gattuso.

But for those seeking more proof that private investment in building network capacity continues to be robust, today’s Wall Street Journal covers Verizon’s hugely expensive effort to bring super-high-bandwidth fiber into the home.

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Today’s Wall Street Journal profiles ($) Free Press, a media activist group that opposes loosening ownership rules for broadcast stations. As the Journal reports, the group has been wildly successful in its drive to block further consolidation in local markets, organizing thousands to protest and contact the government.

Free Press’s stated concerns are “diversity of viewpoints and coverage of local issues.” But no surprise, there’s more than a bit of media elitism at work, too.

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