Chad Perrin: SOB

21 October 2007

A Day in the Life: On the other hand, the xkcd ninjas were cool.

Filed under: Geek,Humor,Liberty — apotheon @ 03:55

Yesterday morning I did a little content updating on the Copyfree website. In particular, I completed writing enough content for the copyright page so that I could remove the parenthetical “more text forthcoming” note from the bottom of the page. I also started on something about the international implications of the site’s general content, but haven’t decided where to put it on the site yet. After that, the SigO and I headed out to run a couple errands. She got insoles for her boots, and I got new laces for mine. Specifically, I got fifty feet of OD green 550 cord that I would later cut into bootlace-length sections (and melt the ends so I’d have pseudo-aglets). 550 is the best bootlace material I’ve ever had — just one more benefit of my Army experience (an episode of otherwise somewhat mixed benefit). We also picked up a couple of trashy professional fanfic books, just for the joy of having something quick and brainless to read before November starts.

That afternoon was the first meet-and-greet gathering for the Fort Collins 2007 NaNoWriMo group. We collected at La Dolce Vita, a coffee and gelato shop in town. People talked at each other. It seems like nothing really “official” got done, but the whole point was for people to meet each other, I guess.

By the end of it, the SigO and I had made arrangements to go shooting at an outdoor range in the next town (also the next county) over with one of this year’s NaNoWriMo participants. After that we got dinner at a local Japanese and Korean take-out place, got some organic nog (technically “egg nog” is redundant, since “nog” means “egg drink”) headed home, and settled in for the evening.

While home last evening, I decided to compare a background color on a temporary web page I had made to the background color at Copyfree, and had a bit of a surprise: it was broken. The error message it gave me on the screen was one that seemed to indicate that I had either screwed up the eruby binary I had in the cgi-bin or had screwed up the code in the page — in every single page of the site, that is. I hadn’t touched the eruby binary in months, though, and the site was working just fine when I left home that morning, so something else had to be up.

Just to be safe — because it never feels good to call tech support and, halfway through the conversation, admit that I just realized I’d done something stupid and it’s all my fault, I’ll fix it, thanks — I spent some time checking out everything I could think of to make sure it was all still present and in last remembered working state. I even tried swapping out the eruby binary for another one copied from another webhosting account temporarily, just to see what would happen. Nothing changed, nothing got fixed. I called tech support at the webhost.

My first question was “Have you guys changed anything on this server in the last ten or twelve hours?” In the course of discussion, the grunt-level tech support guy mentioned that Rails had been upgraded that day. A light bulb (really more of a single light emitting diode, but close enough) flared to life in my noggin. I decided to let the guy go through all his tech support script and try all his standard tech support tricks to see if he could sort out what was going on. He stepped away from the telephone (put me on hold) a few times to confer with others and/or look things up, or whatever it is webhosting tech support flunkies do when they put me on hold. I had to re-explain what I was doing (using eruby for markup-embedded Ruby web development, and not using Rails at all — it’s not even set up on the webhosting account), because of course most of these guys are probably not exactly web development and Unix-like server platform experts. I mentioned the idea that had come to me when he mentioned they’d upgraded the Rails version: that I thought they might have also upgraded the Ruby version and/or the FastCGI version, and as such I might need to rebuild my eruby binary. He sorta glossed over that, probably because he didn’t know what I was talking about.

Finally, he ran out of steam and suggested that I submit a ticket, because he thought the problem might have something to do with a missing Rails configuration file. I thanked him, made some kind of comment about how I was going to try rebuilding the eruby binary before I submitted a ticket for higher-tier tech support, and signed off. I rebuilt the eruby binary and, voila, everything suddenly worked. I decided to be nice, and called back to tech support to let someone know there what the problem was, how their Rails upgrade had precipitated the problem with the eruby binary (since nobody told me anything was being upgraded), and how I had fixed it, so they would have a ready answer for anyone else that called with the same problem. I’m not convinced the guy I talked to knew what I was talking about.

This morning, I got up at the insane (for a weekend, especially) hour of seven in the AM. I packed up my Glock 22 (.40 S&W caliber — “22” is a model number in this case, not a caliber) and got ready to go. The SigO and I were in the living room, about at the point where we decided what jackets we’d want out of the closet, and I opened the front door to see what the morning weather was like. Big, quarter-size “flakes” of sodden snow were dumping out of the sky. It was clear enough to see for driving without any real difficulty, and the snow was melting the moment it hit the ground, but wow. I called up the guy we were meeting at eight in a McDonald’s parking lot before proceeding to the range, since I knew he didn’t have my number yet to cancel if that’s what he wanted to do, to ask if he still planned to go shooting.

He told me that the IPSC competition that was scheduled for today on a different range down there had been canceled, but he was still planning on going. In fact, he was already in the McDonald’s parking lot. The SigO decided that if I was hardcore enough to want to go shooting in what amounted to fluffy sleet, she’d go, so I said “We’re just about to leave to meet you there.” We jacketed up (a bit more warmly than we’d originally planned) and headed out, getting to the parking lot at McDonald’s at eight, pretty much down to the second. We went shooting.

The weather was clear in that area, luckily. The wind, however, was bitter. Counting wind chill, the weather was definitely somewhere notably below freezing. That really does a number on pistol accuracy at 25 yards, and firing a .40 in that temperature with no glove on my trigger hand hurt, dammit. Still, I at least got more shots in the paper than off it. It’s not a target I took home to admire later, though. It went in the trash. My advice: don’t go shooting in wind chill below freezing. Just don’t.

At some point after getting home, Ogre sent me a link to the Richard Stallman Debate entry at the Yale Political Union weblog. For the most part, it was pretty much what I would have expected from a bunch of politically ignorant yahoos in a prestigious Ivy league American university confronted with the very left-leaning software licensing politics of the founder of the Free Software Foundation.

Amidst hisses and applause, political activist Richard Stallman–standing barefoot behind a podium, sporting a wild beard and playing with his long, shaggy hair–discussed what he terms the “conspiracy” of companies against the consumer Wednesday night.

That sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but if you examine the words for denotative meaning (and ignore the unnecessary connotations), Stallman’s actually exactly right about that. Recording industry, motion picture industry, and software industry corporations are in fact colluding (to varying degrees of organizational solidarity, but certainly with fully conscious intent) to bend the law to their purposes, which involve inducing the buying public to purchase entertainment and software media under the most onerous and coercive circumstances they can contrive. They’re not looking for customers — they’re looking for captive consumers. They’re trying to erode the doctrine of fair use away to nothing, strengthening the corporate benefits of copyright law both on the books and in courtroom precedent, increasingly applying post-purchase notification tactics in lieu of explicitly agreed contractual terms, playing entrapment games on the Internet, suing the most unlikely of (often innocent) victims (twelve year old girls, mothers of two, elderly grandmothers, and even the dead) to create a pervasive climate of fear amongst its customers, managed to equate copyright infringement with theft in the popular perception despite the fact they are two distinct and very different violations, and — as the cherry on top — insulting and even damaging law-abiding customers by delivering the contents of distribution media with DRM included. That sounds like a conspiracy against the consumer to me.

The part where it all falls apart is about the same place it always all falls apart, of course:

The Union heard rms rage against DRM–see the minutes for the blow-by-blow–and went on to agree with him, to the surprise of many, passing the resolution “Resolved: Digital Restrictions Management should be Illegal.”

Poppycock. DRM shouldn’t be illegal. It’s insulting, technically pointless except as a form of spiteful vengeance (it certainly won’t save anyone delivering DRM any money or help them make more, especially since it doesn’t even begin to slow down “piracy”), and potentially harmful, but should not in and of itself be illegal. On the other hand, neither should circumventing DRM be illegal, unless there is a contractual agreement between seller and recipient, explicitly extended and accepted, existing prior to delivery of the covered content, provided with full disclosure of the presence and nature of the DRM measures in place and prohibiting circumvention efforts. Of course, in that case, you might as well just try to contractually bind people in that manner to pretend the legally inviolable DRM measures exist, rather than actually include them with the media.

Anyway, my point is that of all the evils perpetrated by organizations like Apple, the RIAA, the MPAA, and the MPA (among many others), DRM is not the one that should be made illegal. Stupidity should be painful, to be sure, but there’s no ethical reason to enforce that painfulness by law. Just let market forces (the economic equivalent of evolutionary pressures) administer the punishment.

On the other hand, the xkcd ninjas were cool:

But before he could even take the stage, Mr. Stallman’s way was blocked by a squad of ninjas (Picture 1, Picture 2) reenacting an XKCD webcomic.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen ninjas outside of anime and comic books with cleavage before this.

All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License