Articles by PJ Doland

PJ Doland runs a web and database development company in the Washington, DC area and has developed custom content management software for numerous public policy research organizations. He dreams that one day every American will know the difference between a forward-slash and a back-slash and use the appropriate term when applicable.

One of the more puzzling changes in Apple’s newly released Mac OS X Snow Leopard operating system is that it now reports file sizes and storage capacity in base 10 units instead of base 2 units.

Until now, operating systems have always displayed file sizes in base 2 units. When measured this way, a gigabyte is 10243 bytes (1,073,741,824 bytes).

But when measured in base 10 units, a gigabyte is taken to mean 109 bytes (1,000,000,000 bytes). It’s not surprising that hard drive manufacturers generally make a practice of slapping a base 10 measurement on the outside of the product box, presumably to make the total number of gigabytes (or terabytes) appear larger.

Apple’s switch to base 10 measurement was obviously an attempt to put an end to consumer confusion. It probably seemed like an easy way to eliminate pesky calls to customer support from users wondering why the 250 GB hard drive on their new MacBook was showing less than 250 GB total capacity when measured from inside the operating system.

In fact, the consumer confusion resulting from the hardware and software industries’ inconsistency of usage has been a problem for years, even resulting in a number of class-action lawsuits.

There have been attempts to deal with the problem. Over a decade ago, the International Electrotechnical Commission created a number of new binary prefixes in IEC 60027-2. Under this system, 10243 is a gibibyte (or GiB). While this might seem like an elegant solution to an engineer or an etymologist, it fails to make things any clearer for most consumers.

There’s no easy solution to the problem, but it’s clear that all this nonsense should have been avoided in the first place.

I blame Congress.

While they have spent their time debating and legislating all manner of things clearly outside the scope of their constitutional authority, they have neglected their simple enumerated obligations. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “…To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures…”

They dropped the ball.

Yesterday this list of 11 undocumented features of Google Chrome OS was posted on Woot!. It’s too funny not to share:

  1. Your family photos are accompanied by text ads for skin care and diet plans.
  2. Removes all Falun Gong references from your files.
  3. Every month, the hard drive is automatically defragged and investigated for anti-trust violations.
  4. Invests in, develops, acquires, and abandons your best ideas.
  5. Integrated tax preparation software includes “I’m Feeling Lucky” deductible button.
  6. Changes your icons daily, forcing you to look up which obscure scientific figure is having a birthday.
  7. Spends 20% of its time not doing what you tell it to do.
  8. Prevents all evil activity unless it is deemed to be for the good of the shareholders.
  9. Masseuse comes by every Monday afternoon.
  10. Constant crashes won’t bother anybody as long as it’s labeled “Beta”.
  11. “Beta” status won’t expire until 2038.

But seriously, we love Google (so please don’t lower our PageRank for my having posted that).

It seems that Amazon has made good on their threat and terminated all Amazon Associates affiliate accounts belonging to individuals and companies located within the state of North Carolina.

Now we get to see if the state legislature will formally back off the proposal so Amazon can reinstate the affiliate accounts. This will definitely be fun to watch.

I don’t even know where to start with this AFP wire story. The writer obviously doesn’t understand that the IPv4 address shortage has nothing to do with top-level domain expansion:

With the stock of available web addresses under the current IPv4 protocol set to run out by 2011, ICANN has been under pressure to find a solution for burgeoning demand.

In theory, an infinite number of new domain names could be born, which would prove a boon for ICANN because it would receive payment for each one.

I’m half-tempted to compile a list of factually-inaccurate technology reporting from major media outlets, just so I can forward it to sanctimonious “journalists” whenever they attack the accuracy of blogs.

I subscribe to Stereophile magazine. Every month I take great pleasure in reading the latest product reviews, particularly those involving either of the following:

  1. Unobtainium plated interconnects sheathed in endangered panda skin for optimum voodoo-shielding
  2. Any devices employing any form of magnetic levitation technology

While thumbing through the June issue which arrived yesterday, I came across an ad for a new classical recording. It’s a Zenph Re-Performance™ of Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

From the ad:

Zenph takes audio recordings and turns them back into live performances, precisely replicating what was originally recorded. The software-based process extracts and encodes the details of how each note was played. The encoding is played back on an acoustic grand piano allowing listeners to experience the performance as if they were in the room when the original recording was made. This re-performance is then recorded afresh using the latest recording techniques. This release features new recordings of that experience specifically designed for surround-sound, stereo or headphone listening.

What are the copyright implications of doing this? A few things to consider:

  1. The Goldberg Variations are obviously in the public domain. Gould’s 1955 recording, as a derivative work, is not.
  2. Nothing you hear on this recording is in any way sampled. No audio from the 1955 recording persists.
  3. The original recording was essentially traced, so the exact timing and velocity of each note matches Gould’s performance perfectly.
  4. It’s being marketed as Gould’s 1955 performance.

Please post any thoughts you might have to the comments.

After all of the lobbying Disney did for the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (read as Mickey Mouse Protection Act), there’s some poetic justice in seeing them exposed to a $2 billion lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringement.

Take the Google Challenge

by on December 14, 2006 · 2 comments

We are here at the Internet, where we’ve secretly replaced the US patent database they usually serve with Google. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference!

A Series of Tubes?

by on July 3, 2006 · 4 comments

I believe there are two kinds of evil in this world.

The first and most common type was well described by Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. This is the evil of the functionary or civil servant who abdicated moral responsibility for his actions and was “just following orders.” This is the evil that helps us understand many of the large-scale atrocities of modern civilization.

I also believe that there is enough evidence in this world to justify a belief in another kind of evil–something demonic, supernatural, and otherworldly. Until today, I believed Senator Ted Stevens was the embodiment of this kind of evil–a real-life Gozer the Gozerian walking the halls of the Hart Senate Office Building.

But now, after listening to this audio clip of Stevens talking about Net Neutrality, I’ve decided that he’s really just a sad and senile old man. Stevens is Captain Queeg and he’s missing his strawberries. The people of Alaska should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to reelect him, only to make a public spectacle of his declining mental state.

Blackberry Blackout

by on December 1, 2005 · 6 comments

I really don’t care very much about the particulars of the patent battle between RIM and NTP.

But when I read yesterday that a US District Judge invalidated the $450 million settlement reached earlier this year, I was elated at the possibility, however unlikely, that an injunction might shutdown the Crackberry of every jackass lawyer in DC.

Take a look at Frank Zappa’s “Proposal for a System to Replace Ordinary Record Merchandising” from 1983. Then read the transcript of his congressional testimony from 1985, in which he attacks a proposed “Blank Tape Tax.”

Either Zappa was 20 years ahead of the curve, or we’ve spent the last two decades running in circles.