Ashcroft v. “Secret Court”: Court 1, Ashcroft 0

Washington Post: Secret Court Rebuffs Ashcroft. In an almost unprecedented decision, the court that oversees the Justice Department’s requests for wiretaps and search warrants refused to give the Justice Department broad powers because they’ve done such a bad job providing evidence to date. Apparently this is the first time the FISA court has ever unanimously voted to release an opinion.

According to the article, the court “alleges that Justice Department and FBI officials supplied erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps.” As a result, the court felt that giving Justice carte blanche under Ashcroft’s proposed new procedures would “would have given prosecutors too much control over counterintelligence investigations and would have effectively allowed the government to misuse intelligence information for criminal cases.”

When even your rubberstamp court of record is telling you they don’t trust you with extended powers, your brain, if you were Attorney General, might dig up something long forgotten from your civics classes. Something about checks and balances, perhaps, or limits of government power. Probably not anything about the Bill of Rights, but hey, we can always hope.

The sound of a thousand ISPs wiping their brows

Slashdot: BT Loses Case Over Hyperlink Patent. Thankfully the judge saw that what had been patented and what was being claimed as a violation were apples and oranges. I love the statement in the opinion:

“I find that as a matter of law, no jury could find that Prodigy infringes the Sargent patent, nor that Prodigy contributes to infringement of the Sargent patent, nor actively induces others to infringe that patent,” McMahon wrote in Thursday’s opinion. “I therefore grant Prodigy’s motion for summary judgment.”


Trouble with a capital T, Part II

I was thrilled to find my pre-ordered copy of Mac OS X 10.2 (“Jaguar,” or “Jag-wire” as Steve inexplicably likes to call it) sitting on my front porch when I got back from watching the game last night. Naturally I wanted to install it right away, but Lisa wanted to finish watching Fellowship of the Ring (she never saw it in the theatre), and my Powerbook is the only DVD player we have. So after the movie finished, I popped in the upgrade disk, went through the first reboot, and started the upgrade process.

The installer reported that I was about 100 MB short on my Mac OS X partition, but I deselected half a dozen language packs and the Lexmark printer drivers and kicked off the upgrade. Then I went to bed. Did I do a clean install? Did I at least opt to back up my old system? Heck no! I’m a statistical wunderkind! I won’t have trouble!

This morning I came down to find the machine on with the new gray Apple startup image and a frozen “progress ring” indicator below it. Uh-oh. I listened for disk activity–nothing. I crossed my fingers and rebooted. Nothing. I took the CD out and rebooted–nothing. No action at all. Despairing, I put the CD back in and rebooted. This time it booted the CD and went into the upgrade again. I tried to use the Installer’s built in disk repair to see if there was a problem. My hard disk didn’t show up.

A-ha, I said, or words to that effect (only more colorful), and tried to boot from an old copy of Norton. Too old for my machine, alas. Finally I powered it down and took it into work, where I tried to boot from the Apple Hardware Test CD that came with the PB. I didn’t hold down Command-C, and it booted the machine from my OS 9 partition. Thank God.

So I’m running Disk First Aid, OS 9 flava, and it’s reporting things I’ve never seen, like “MountCheck found serious errors” and “overlapped extent allocations.” The repair is going now; we’ll see what happens. When it’s done, I’m backing up my data (which I should have done to begin with, obviously), freeing up some more hard disk space somehow, and trying again.

I haven’t decided yet at which point I start making jokes about being co-dependent on this machine…

Trouble with a capital T, Part I

I watched the first half of the season opener at my coworker David’s house. Down 19-6 at the half, I went home to get dinner taken care of. I asked Lisa to switch to the game so I could check the score, but then realized our cable package didn’t include Fox Sports Network (hey, don’t look at me like that! I didn’t even think I could watch ACC games in Seattle!).

So looking at the results, it looks like we have a little quarterback controversy. To wit: one throws passes that I could pick off; the other does better but fumbles on the 1 yard line.

But this is a young team. And their ability to come back like they did in the second half is impressive. I’ll have to see if I can sneak a little Fox Sports Network under the budgetary radar. This could be a good season.

Desktop Calendar as Weblog Interface?

I haven’t had nearly enough wacky programming ideas recently. Here’s one:

  1. Apple is rolling out iCal, a free calendar application, for Mac OS X 10.2 (aka Jaguar)
  2. All weblogs have calendars
  3. What if iCal could be an interface to a weblog?

I don’t have Jaguar yet, but it might be interesting to play with this. Maybe an RSS aggregator that converts individual blog postings to vCal; maybe just a batch downloader that you run every couple of weeks that uses the Manila APIs. We’ll see where things go.

Branford starts a label

From my old stomping grounds: Marsalis Music opens its doors. What’s interesting is that Branford explicitly bitchslaps the record labels in the press release:

“The consolidation of the record industry into major conglomerates has turned the business into a mega-hit pop music machine with a very short term focus. Artists who want to be musicians, not marketing creations, have very few places to record anymore,” Branford notes. “We formed Marsalis music to provide a real alternative. This is a very exciting time and I am thrilled to be doing this.”

This probably explains why “Footsteps of Our Fathers” was in pre-release so long…

Going back, not returning

Looks like I’ll be heading back to Sloan in early October for company recruiting. I wondered when I accepted HR’s request to help out how it would feel to go back to my school so soon. Now I think I know: familiar and strange. I still have a ton of friends in the greater Boston area and it will be good to hang out with them—but my home and my job are out here now.

Also, Sloan was the center of my emotional and intellectual energy for two years, and now that center is moving. I’ve postponed thinking about the effects of that, but you can’t avoid the emotional ramifications of a major life change forever.

X-Men 2 Trailer is Up

Just watched the X-Men 2 trailer. I think it looks already like the sequel will do a much better job of capturing the gripping paranoia that underlaid so much of the brilliant storytelling in the best days of the comic (“Days of Future Past,” for instance).

Now, the question is: Will the creators cop out and not make the connection between raiding Xavier’s School for a mutant round-up and the holding of Arab Americans without charges under the Patriot Act?

Long night’s journey into day

Couldn’t sleep last night for a lot of reasons. Part is the ongoing transition from school and short semester horizons to work and the long series of relational interactions. (Can’t say more, really, right now.) Part was an ill-conceived decision to go to a happy hour with some fellow returning interns—not that that was so wrong, but it resulted in my eating a dinner consisting of fried calimari and one oyster Rockefeller, washed down with a couple beers. Not the best thing to try to go to sleep after.

So I’m trying to regain some perspective this morning, and found this line from Huey in today’s Boondocks helpful: “Relaxing thoughts? … Can I think about Al Gore and Joe Lieberman beating each other silly in a pay-per-view steel cage death match to determine who’s the biggest loser of all time?” Not that far away from what I was trying to think about to relax me.

The Scandal Map

Lance Knobel: Scandal map. Draws the lines between Enron, Worldcom, Merrill Lynch, Martha Stewart, the California Energy Crisis, and emerging financial scandals. Dense and engrossing. Needs dice and cute player tokens (“no, I want to play as the decoupage! OK, then I’ll be the big oil barrel!”).

Georgia landslide

Greg points to the primary results in Georgia. Of particular note: “Cynthia McKinney, a 10-year incumbent, lost her primary by 16 points.” My question to Greg: Now that she’s out of the picture, what are you going to do next? (Other than play Soup Dragons–oh, and I suppose Jesus Jones, if you must, though I ceased being a fan about 10 years ago.)

Seriously, there are a couple of worthy candidates in need of serious campaign savvy, including Tara Sue Grubb, who’s running against the infamous Rep. Howard Coble (of Berman and Coble) for a House seat and may be the first candidate to run her own blog (Sheila Lennon’s coverage of Tara Sue is good). I’d love to see you working with her.

.Mac – A little more, but why?

Judging from an email in my inbox, Apple is starting to recognize that they need to put a little more push into converting free iTools subscribers to paid .Mac subscribers. I ponied up for the service because my various forwarding addresses point to my email address, and because I was getting ready to buy virus software protection and web hosting space anyway.

Today I received the following email:

Dear .Mac member,

Since we launched .Mac in July, we’ve welcomed thousands of new members into the .Mac community, and we can’t wait to add more. As an additional thank you to our former iTools members, we are announcing that when they convert to a paid .Mac membership before September 30, 2002, their first year of .Mac membership will automatically be extended to September 30, 2003.

As a full member, you’ve already qualified. Your membership will now extend to September 30, 2003, well past your original renewal date. And stay tuned for more membership benefits coming soon! Thank you for joining the .Mac community.

[signed–The .Mac Team] Apple Computer

The extension for me is about two months; for a non-converted subscriber it would be one month, or $99/12 = $8.25, about an 8% bonus. It’s not especially compelling as a “special offer.” What it feels like is an end of quarter sales push. It will be interesting to see in early October what the conversion numbers actually look like — and, since Apple hasn’t offered a plan to its investors to set expectations, how the Street will react.