Monthly Archives: April 2002

CFP Day Two

CFP 2002 Day Two

I blew off the BoF sessions last night in favor of attempting to get some sleep — I appear to have been successful at it, too.

We started this morning with a presentation by Patrick Bell of the AAAS presenting some of the statistical analysis he did preparing for the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia last year at the Hague. His analysis showed that the pattern of deaths and migrations did not match the pattern of NATO air strikes or Albanian insurgent activity, but that it did match, quite accurately, the activity of the Yugoslav forces. Unlike most of the discussions at this conference, Bell’s presentation showed how computers can actually be used to strike a blow for freedom.

Currently, the second plenary session is in progress: How to Hack an Election. We’ve had presentations from officials and from computer folks; after hearing all of this, I’m amazed that elections work at all!

Proxim has very kindly provided 802.11b (and 802.11a) connectivity here at the conference; unfortunately, whatever router they’re using is not particularly IPSec-friendly. I’ve been able to connect in to work a few times, but the connectivity is dubious and drops randomly. Connectivity to the rest of the world has been pretty solid, but I can’t get to my real e-mail. Hmmm…perhaps that’s actually a good thing!

Now I’m in the third plenary session, “Who Goes There? Privacy in Identity and Location Services”. Brian Arbogast, the VP at Microsoft responsible for Passport, just made an interesting observation:
“One of the nice things about working at Microsoft is we never have to make decisions on the basis of short-term profit.” He went on to say that they do, of course, worry about long-term profit.

Jason Catlett of Junkbusters just observed that, when he was young, he worried about IBM becoming the Evil Empire, but that’s no longer the case, and he looks forward to the day when he no longer has to worry about Microsoft as the Evil Empire. He also apologized to Roger Cochetti of Verisign for not believing that he has to worry about them, despite Network Solutions’ best efforts.

Appropriately enough for this session, I just noticed this:
Seattle Times: “The federal government might use Microsoft’s Passport technology to verify the online identity of America’s citizens, federal employees and businesses, according to the White House technology czar.” [via Scripting News]

Choosing a parallel session was a difficult task, but I finally settled on the Open Source session, which was held, appropriately enough, in the Cathedral Room (the hotel does not have a Bazaar Room as far as I can tell). There wasn’t a lot of new ground covered by the panelists (and again, there wasn’t much time left for audience comment), but Tim O’Reilly made one interesting observation: he worries that the continuing deluge of software patents may break the “plausibility of open development and innovation” which has characterized the Internet to date.

At lunch, Larry Irving gave an impassioned speech on the digital divide (his take: it still exists, and it’s government’s job to encourage the rest of society to take steps to close it — but the market isn’t going to do it by itself) and on media consolidation and its effect on the reduction in the number of views available to the public (AOL was the sponsor of lunch and he was travelling with an AOL VP, but he didn’t spare them in his remarks).

I skipped the first after-lunch plenary session on “Activism Online” in favor of a short walk in the open air (it’s good to know that there’s a real world).

And now I’m in the plenary session on the DMCA — it’s a play in one act and several scenes. The DMCA is a truly scary law — but it pales compared to the potential for utter stupidity which the CBDTPA would unleash.

Interesting comment from Barbara Simons (who is teaching a course, along with Ed Felten, at Stanford on Legal and Policy Perspectives on Information Technology: she pointed out that the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA weren’t activated until 2000, because they might have interfered with Y2K remediation work (and has written more about this in her Viewpoint).

All of this discussion about the DMCA is encouraging me to stop at an electronics store on the way home and buy a DVD recorder now, before they’re made illegal. I don’t have a good track record on these predictions, though — in 1981, we rushed out and bought a VCR the weekend after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Sony in the Betamax decision, which was, of course, later reversed by the U. S. Supreme Court. It was a good VCR and held us for many years, but boy, was it expensive ($1000!), and video tapes were awfully pricey, too (I remember scrimping to be able to buy a box of ten tapes to take advantage of the quantity discount — $170 was big money in 1981! It’s still not a trivial amount of cash, but it’s not quite as significant to me as it was then.).

I’m also planning to join EFF. I’ll have to wait until I get home, though; EFF would be happy to take my money over the Web, but they also want a hardcopy (I don’t know why) and I can’t print anything here. And I’m not sure I want to submit my credit card number on a non-encrypted wireless network, either!

I am not alone at blogging CFP as it’s happening — hi, Thomas! (PS: I’m on the left side of the room as you face the stage, three rows behind the last row of tables.) Michael is also blogging CFP, but not in real time, at least not yet.

Ahh, it’s beginning to look like a real CFP — the panel is debating one another’s positions instead of just giving their prepared talks, and, even though it’s still several minutes before the audience will get their turn, the lines at the microphones are already several people deep…probably deep enough that not everyone already standing will get to rant…err, ask questions.

And the last question of the session was, in best CFP form, a loud and impassioned rant. But it was on-topic, which hasn’t always been the case in the past!

The final plenary session of the day is underway, a formal debate on future of intellectual property. So far, there haven’t been any surprises; John Perry Barlow of the EFF is against the DMCA and its ilk, while Steve Metalitz of the International Intellectual Property Alliance is for it (and said that the DMCA was necessary to comply with [unnamed] international agreements, which is somewhat surprising to me. He also said that the extension of copyright term and increased enforcement of copyright is good because it significantly improves the US balance of payment — these two statements seem to be somewhat at odds to me).

Karen Coyle just made an important point, which John Perry Barlow is reinforcing — putting the history of our times at the risk of technological and legal obsolescence is nothing short of criminal. We risk creating an electronic Dark Ages in pursuit of short-term gain for IP owners (media monopolies).

After the final plenary session of the day, Privacy International presented the Twentieth Big Brother Awards, as well as the Brandeis Awards for those who work for privacy. I had to leave before the Brandeis Awards were presented, but the Big Brother Award ceremony was witty and thought-provoking, as always.

I had to leave because I had a dinner appointment
at Zare Restaurant in the financial district; the food was excellent (though the room was a bit on the noisy side at times). I am glad I didn’t have to pay for dinner out of my own pocket this time, but if I wanted to splurge on a fine meal, I’d give Zare serious consideration.

By the time we were finished with dinner and back at the hotel, it was quite late; I suspect that the BoFs were still going, but I decided to declare victory and go to bed.

Have they no shame?

Trading cards created that portray 9/11 victims [USA Today]

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CFP 2002 Day One

CFP 2002 Day One

I’m not sure that “jet lag” is really properly named. I’m spending the next few days at the Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco, about an hour from home. The conference goes till midnight tonight and tomorrow, so I think I’m spending IBM’s money wisely by taking a hotel room instead of driving home at night — but I sure wish that I actually had gained some sleep by staying here.

Instead, I’m suffering from a severe case of hotel lag — it was very difficult to get to sleep last night. I’m sure it was partially due to having a big, late dinner at Stars (tasty, and good conversation…but big and late nonetheless), but it didn’t help that my room is noisy (looking over Van Ness Avenue) and it was difficult to get the temperature at all close to what I wanted.

It’s pretty obvious that this is an older hotel — the phone is hardwired to the wall by the bed, nowhere near the desk, and there aren’t many power outlets (and most of the ones are two-prong, something I thought was obsolete everywhere but my house!). But the location is pretty good, and it wasn’t too hard to make my way through afternoon traffic to get here.

CFP itself seems more predictable than in past years; the topics have changed slightly (there’s a lot of discussion of post-9/11 issues), but when someone goes up to the mike, I can bet what he or she is going to say. Maybe I’ll find it more interesting tomorrow if I’m more awake…I managed to escape the hotel for a few minutes during the last break, and that seems to have helped, already.

One last CFP note for now: tonight, Dan Gillmor will be receiving a well-deserved EFF Pioneer Award (as will Beth Givens and the DeCSS authors, but I don’t think they have weblogs). The Pioneer Award ceremony is open to the public, so if you happen to read this before 8pm Pacific today, come on by!

The last plenary session of the day, “Biometrics Face-Off: Can Biometrics Promise Better Security without Destroying Privacy and Civil Rights?”, didn’t answer the question in its title. The speakers mostly gave their prepared presentations and the audience gave their prepared questions (some of which were off the topic). But there were two presenters I found especially interesting: Captain Ron Davis of the Oakland Police, who would be a user of biometric technology (as a cop) and might well be a victim of it (as a black man), and Roger Clarke from Xamax Consultancy in Australia (a long-time CFP participant), who pointed out that if you don’t design your system to answer specific questions (for example, “should this person be allowed into an area?”), you will wind up with a system which probably is ineffective but probably is privacy-hostile.

At dinner, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer gave an interesting and funny talk; he didn’t go into depth on anything, but touched on spam, states’ rights, the Federal system, computers in the criminal justice system, and pecan pie, which he likened to George W. Bush: a sweet presentation hiding a low-value Texas nut. The latter point helped me a bit at the EFF Pioneer Awards dessert reception, by encouraging me to avoid the pecan pie…but I made up for hit by eating the chocolate cheesecake.

A few other sites blogging CFP:

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Communications Breakdown

Communication breakdown its always the same

I’m havin’ a nervous breakdown .. drive me insane

— Led Zeppelin

Fortunately, it’s just the electronics and the Internet, not anything important.

When I left home last Monday, everything was working fine. By the time I got to Toronto, all hell had broken loose — apparently Linkline (my ex-ISP) and Level3 (their ex-upstream-ISP) were into a serious hissy fit, and as a result, all of their Northern California customers on Verizon were cut off.

But I didn’t know this, and I told Diane to power-cycle the router and the DSL modem, which usually fixes this kind of problem. But, since the problem was upstream, it didn’t help — but now, she couldn’t even connect to the router!

When I got home on Friday, I found a note from my new ISP (DSL Designs) giving me my new IP address and routing, but I, too, couldn’t get into the router to set it up. So I dug out the router manual and discovered that the yellow light on the front of the router meant the router’s brain was fried…just too late in the day to call Nexland for support.

So first I plugged the Ethernet from the modem directly into my laptop to make sure I had connectivity, then ran to a local electronics superstore to buy a new router (at least temporarily). And all was well again.

This afternoon, I came home a bit early and connected to the Internet; then I had to run an errand, and when I returned, I’d lost connectivity. I can talk to the router from my local LAN, but it can’t see anything upstream; I dialed to work and found I can ping the upstream router I’ve been assigned, but can’t ping my address (or any of the nearby addresses in the same subnet).

So I’ve called DSL Designs and am waiting for them to either fix the problem or call back…preferably both.

[I had to call DSL Designs a second time, but then I got a tech who worked with me until we figured out the problem — they had the MAC address of my old router in their tables, and so their system squashed my connection. I set the LinkSys up to masquerade as my old router, and my connection returned instantly. Why it ever worked is a question, of course.]

The point of all this? To apologize for not having read any of your excellent weblogs for a week or so (connectivity in Toronto was painful and expensive). If I ever get connectivity back, I might be able to catch up — but probably not till next week, since I’ll be at Computers, Freedom, and Privacy this week and will be burning the candle at both ends just to pretend to scan my work e-mail.

Yom HaZikaron

Today is Israel’s annual Remembrance Day, honoring those who have fallen in defense of Israel. As of sundown (Jerusalem time) tonight, when the holiday began, the total since the earliest Zionist settlements was 21,182. Haaretz‘s English edition has more details (and they also have a Hebrew version).

Are you a friend of Israel?

If so, visit this site and add your name to the honor roll.

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Today, I am a fountain pen!

Well, not quite.

But it was a very good day for me at work today, because my appointment as an IBM Distinguished Engineer was [finally] announced; I found out about it in late February, but was under a vow of silence until today. Interestingly enough, the appointment became effective last Monday — yes, that was April Fool’s Day — I hope they’re not trying to tell me something!

I wasn’t alone at being named a Distinguished Engineer; 62 of my colleagues were promoted at the same time. I don’t know all of them, but I feel honored to be in the same group as the ones I do know.

Knowledge Management is a mystery

I’m in Toronto this week at the IBM Knowledge Management conference. Tonight, we had the conference dinner at Mysteriously Yours on Yonge Street; a fine time was had by all, and the food was pretty good, too (though I could do without a banana leaf under my salmon in the future). I can also cheerfully recommend the Upper Canada Dark Ale, which struck me as a far superior choice to the random Chilean wine they were serving.

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Everything is relative

I’m in Toronto this week for an IBM conference on Knowledge Management (so far, it’s been great). The hotel is a little bit behind the times technologically and doesn’t have Ethernet in the rooms…and the PBX limits connect speeds to 21.8kbps or slower. So I was a bit upset about being cut off (or almost cut off) from the world, and having to pay for the slow connections I get (and pay even more if I stay online for more than 30 minutes at a time).

But then I talked with Diane, who told me that she’s been completely without connectivity at home since I left; I talked her through resetting the router and DSL modem, to no avail. So I sent a note to my ISP to find out what’s going on — their reply said that all of their Northern California customers have been without service since Monday morning but they “hope” to have it fixed tomorrow. Sheesh.

Somehow, 21.8kpbs doesn’t sound so bad after all….

Showing my support

Ilana at Inner Balance made a wonderful suggestion — that “proud Jewish people” who support Israel add the Israeli flag to their weblogs, and, as you may have already noticed, I’ve done so. That does not mean I approve of all of the actions of the Sharon government — I don’t. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Israel needs to be preserved as a Jewish state (we can argue some other time about how much power the religious right should have in the Israeli government…less than they do today, that’s for sure).

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RFC 3251 – more real than I thought!

This year, RFC 3251, Electricity over IP, was one of the April 1st RFCs.  Diane sent a copy to her brother who works for Avaya, and got this reply:

The really scary part is people really ARE working on how do distribute electricity over IP! This is needed to power IP telephones.

I’ll have to send this to our power group :-)

Boldly going…

[Everything in this section blatantly ripped off from Brad‘s Must See HTTP]

DOGS. IN. SPAAAAAACE! A fanpage for Porthos, Captain Archer’s faithful beagle from Enterprise. [hat tip to The Cabal]

LCARS HICCOUGH: Meanwhile, these missives from the official Star Trek news site, stardate:04012002…

The foolishness continues…

I spent too long on the phone today with Experian, Equifax, and Linkline, but it looks like I made some progress; Experian and Equifax took my corrections and will be sending us updated reports, and Linkline is still working with Verizon to clean up the mess (which, apparently, got started when I tried to consolidate my two phone bills into one — for some reason, Verizon took that as a decision to terminate my DSL service, and it’s been confused ever since). And I won’t know if I’ve beaten the X-10 box into submission until tomorrow morning; I tried to fix it yesterday, but made a subtle programming error which meant nothing turned itself on this morning.

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It seemed awfully dark, though, as if Daylight Savings Time had started already. But that’s not till next weekend, so I just assumed that there were clouds outside or something and got out of bed to do my business.

Then Diane called out, asking why the radio had gone off when it was only 5:10am, an hour early. I had no good explanation, but I was relieved to know that it was, indeed, dark outside and went back to bed.

An hour later, there was no click; we woke up a few minutes later than usual, less refreshed than usual.

I’ve never had my home electronics play an April Fool’s trick on me before. I think I could have skipped the opportunity today, too.

More foolishness

When I got home, today’s mail brought copies of our credit records from two of the three credit bureaus. It’s amazing that the credit bureau system works at all.

  • Experian lists Diane’s birth year incorrectly in the main part of the report, but correctly on the form to send back to dispute errors.
  • Experian’s dispute reporting form gets my last name wrong on Diane’s form, and her last name wrong on my form.
  • Experian shows some interesting variations on our names (middle initials in error).
  • Equifax got both of our birthdates wrong.

For what it’s worth, Experian’s report is much easier to read, and to their credit, they do not print our Social Security Numbers on the report; Equifax’s report is much more cryptic, and they print the SSN right on the report and the dispute form, making the document itself more dangerous.

The good news, though, is that neither report shows anything untoward.

Yet more foolishness

I also got my phone bill today. Apparently some mysterious agency generated a request for Verizon to start billing me directly for my DSL line starting in mid-February, which, strangely enough, is when my DSL line was going up and down like a yo-yo due to mysterious orders to Verizon to cancel the line. My ISP is, of course, also billing me for the line. And, of course, I can’t call them except between 9am and 5pm. *sigh*

Hi, David!

David Singer of South Africa found my weblog and posted a message to the discussion group; he and I are clearly not twins, since he’s planning a trans-Atlantic sail, and after my one and only experience with a sailboat (in Biscayne Bay), I’m a confirmed landlubber.

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