Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Monday, February 24, 2003

electrifying internet

Internet access through your power lines? Looks like it's a reality. Power-line communications, as the technology is being called, is having a test run in Missouri.
a drive for business?

Slate's article Fortune 500, Meet Daytona 500 is surprisingly good.
taking paraphernalia offline

The Department of Justice is cracking down on web sites that sell drug paraphernalia. In addition to bringing criminal charges before a grand jury for eleven sites, the DOJ is applying to a district court in Pittsburgh to have the sites redirected to a DOJ site page that states:
"By application of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the Web site you are attempting to visit has been restrained by the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania pursuant to Title 21, United States Code, Section 853 (e)(1)(a)."
The article suggests that the Department of Justice may keep track of the IP addresses and other information they become privy to when visitors are redirected to that DOJ page. And, it also mentions that the DOJ privacy policy notes that the DOJ may take additional steps to identify visitors to their pages, and may turn that information over to other government agencies. Paranoia? Maybe.
the future of shopping?

Radio Frequency Retail is coming sometime in the future. Every product on a shelf will have a chip that can bounce radio signals back to an antenna, and help track location, inventory, and who is purchasing what -- and keep track of that information in databases. Test runs at a drug store in Cambridge, England, a Wal-mart in Oklahoma, and a Gap in Atlanta show a promising future for the technology -- if the prices of the chips become affordable. And, yes... there are some privacy concerns attached.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

speaking out online

When the web was first being developed, one of the hopes its creator Tim Berners-Lee had, was that it became a place where people could collaborate together. Joichi Ito's Emergent Democracy takes a look at how that collaboration could help shape our democracy, and some of the tools that might bring that about. (via Doc Searls)
microsoft on the move?

Microsoft-Watch has an interesting report online telling us that Office 2003 will have "information rights management" built into it, and that other forms of digital rights management will be integrated into more offerings from Microsoft:
Microsoft is threading DRM throughout the Office 2003 suite, allowing restrictions to be set on Outlook mail messages, as well as on Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Using "permission templates," document authors can determine restriction policies to be applied to entire categories of documents, according to Microsoft's site.
I'm going to have to cast a wider net on the web, and look for some other opinions to help me determine whether or not I should be concerned about this, or if I should be looking at applications that run on Linux.

More from the IDG News Service -- Microsoft details rights management policy.
inquisitive jurors

Of the many participants in a court case, there's a fairly silent group that is central to the process. They weigh and balance evidence. They intepret the demeanor of witnesses. They deliberate, and decide. But, they rarely speak. Colorado is considering allowing jurors the chance to ask questions (at the discretion of the Court).
flying a balloon

Just because... Balloon v1.0, via blogdex

Saturday, February 22, 2003

essential personnel?

Along with the record amounts of snow that Delaware received last weekend came a declaration of a state of emergency from Delaware's Governor Ruth Ann Minner. All drivers were to stay off Delaware's roadways unless they were "essential personnel." All others were potentially subject to fines, and possible imprisonment. There was a lot of head scratching in the State as people tried to decide whether or not they were essential personnel.
patent battle in Delaware

A trial in Delaware District Court next week sees a 74 year-old inventor taking on some large corporations. The case is over a patent that he claims is the basis for the secure sockets layer standard that a very large number of sites use to protect data sent back and forth between commercial web sites, and their customers.
The legal challenge was filed two years ago against Verisign Inc., RSA Security Inc. and four other companies by Leon Stambler, a retired electronics engineer who lives in Pompano Beach, Fla. He contends software they use to let Internet commerce companies verify customers' identities and secure communications with customers violates his patents.
Should be an interesting battle.
washington's diaries

George Washington, first president of the United States, has possibly become more part of America's mythology than history. With today being his birthday, I decided to look around and see if I could find out more about the man, and pierce though his public persona. A good place to get that glimpse into what he was like appears to be his diaries. Most of the entries are very simple, being a recitation of "Where, how, or with whom, my time is Spent." A number of them are also annotated. So, for instance, the entry for September 4, 1774 reads:
4. Breakfasted at Christeen Ferry. Dined at Chester & lodged at Doctr. Shippens's in Phila. after Supping at the New Tavern.
The annotation for that entry:
Christina (Christiana) ferry crossed Christina (Christiana) River at Wilmington on the main road from New Castle to Philadelphia (LINCOLN, 83--84).

William Shippen, Jr. (1736--1808), son of Dr. William Shippen (1712--1801) and Susannah Harrison Shippen, was a Philadelphia physician and surgeon, educated at Edinburgh. In 1765 he was appointed professor of surgery and anatomy at the new medical school connected with the College of Philadelphia, and during the Revolution he was chief physician and director general of the military hospital of the Continental Army. Shippen was married to Alice Lee Shippen, sister of GW's fellow delegate, Richard Henry Lee. Lee had undoubtedly invited GW to stay at his brother-in-law's house until suitable lodgings were obtained.

The New Tavern, or City Tavern, was on the west side of Second Street, above Walnut. Designed in the style of the best London taverns, it contained several large club rooms. Daniel Smith was the proprietor at this time (SCHARF [1],1:291).
With the annotations, the diaries take on quite a bit of meaning.
looking back

The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted. The whole continent was a garden, and from the beginning it seemed to be favored above all the other wild parks and gardens of the globe.
-- The American Forests
by John Muir, from The Atlantic Monthly, August 1897.

Many more writings from John Muir are available on the Yosemite Web Index's John Muir Exhibit pages.

Friday, February 21, 2003

bringing wilmington to life

Wilmington, Delaware, is home to some of the largest financial institutions in the country. When Fortune 500 companies come together for their shareholders' meetings, they often choose the City's Hotel duPont as a gathering point. Revitalization efforts have brought a minor league baseball stadium to Wilmington, as well as a large number of outlet shops, and a riverfront with ambitions of echoing the success of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. But, the sidewalks of the city roll up after the business day is over. Getting some students to live in town is a tremendous move.
clemency in illinois

Amid a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, and the possibility of an indictment, the story of former Illinois Governor George Ryan is surprising in many ways.
one judge on another

Federal Judge Richard A. Posner reviews a biography of William O. Douglas called Wild Bill: The Legend and Life of William O. Douglas. I'll be looking for a copy of the book.
appealing appellate web sites

If you know someone who has something to do with putting together an appellate court web site, you might want to send them a link to the law.com article Do's and Don'ts for Appellate Court Web Sites. The author, Howard Bashman of How Appealing fame, knows a thing or two about building a better web site.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

snow unsticking tip

As I was throwing all manner of heavy objects from my garage, into the trunks of my cars this morning, to give them extra traction, I ran accross a stack of replacement roofing shingles. What a cool idea! They should work nicely as traction strips in case I get stuck on a slippery roadway.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

an epidemic of lawyers

I''ve heard of a school of fish, or a gaggle of geese, (other collective nouns here), but never an "epidemic of lawyers," as a the head of a New York legal assistance group recently referred to members of the profession. And, he's happy about it. The rate of volunteerism (NY Times, reg. req'd) for lawyers has skyrocketed in New York over the past year.
bustin loose

Well, we have dug ourselves out of the snow enough to get to work today. And now we have twice as much to do and half as much time to do it in.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

invisibility

News came last week that a Tokyo professor was working on a system for making someone invisible.

This afternoon, I came across a patent for a Cloaking system using optoelectronically controlled camouflage, via Delphion's Gallery of Obscure Patents (some truly creative and amusing inventions are listed in the gallery, and the gallery's archive).

Just who will go into full scale production of their invisibility systems first? I guess we will just have to wait and see. Good question. Don't know.
feeling rather enum

One single number to identify each of us, tying together our phone numbers, email addresses, web sites, fax numbers, and instant messaging addresses. That's the recommendation of the US Department of Commerce.

USA Today reports upon the standard that will allow this convergence of personal information in an article called Consumers could get one number for phone, faxes, Net access. Frankly, the idea leaves me feeling a bit numb. I'm not sure how different this idea is from the concept of a national ID, or the data mining proposed under the Total Information Awareness program sponsored by DARPA.

A couple of articles sum up nicely many of the concerns that I have about the ENUM standard. Roger Clarke's ENUM - A Case Study in Social Irresponsibility is a thoughtful, and thought provoking analysis of the proposed standard. His abstract:
ENUM is meant to provide a means of mapping from telephone numbers to IP-addresses: "today, many addresses; with ENUM, only one", as its proponents express it.

Any such capability would be extremely dangerous, providing governments, corporations, and even individuals, with the ability to locate and to track other people, both in network space, and in physical space. The beneficiaries would be the powerful who seek to manipulate the behaviour of others. It would do immense social, sociological and democratic harm.

The astounding thing is that the engineers responsible for it are still adopting the naïve position that its impact and implications are someone else's problem. With converged computing-and-communications technologies becoming ever more powerful and ever more pervasive, engineers have to be shaken out of their cosy cocoon, and forced to confront the implications, along with the technology and its applications.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) also takes a hard cold look at ENUM, and their analysis of the privacy protection controls in the standard is equally as harsh as Roger Clarke's.
national service

From the Congress of the United States, the Universal National Service Act of 2003:
To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.

Monday, February 10, 2003

chronically ill river needs new medical coverage

The State of Delaware has declared a portion of the Delaware River, chronically ill. DuPont Co. opposes this declaration, and can you wonder why?

I suspect this will take more than two asprin.

I guess you can't just put factories up and down both sides of a river, pumping toxic chemicals into the water, without killing the river.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Intellectual property run wild

I'm sure that there's a bit of good business sense applied here, but I was kind of saddened when I saw the following. What we can't copyright, we patent. What we can't patent, we trademark. What we can't trademark, we copyright.

Next time you throw together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, remember that if you had applied for the patent before 1995, you could have been there first.

And while a lighter manufacturer was able to get a trademark for the shape of their lighters, you wonder who else will follow that route. Maybe a tire manufacturer can get a trademark for the shape of their tires?

If copyright law can be used to keep people from making replacement toner cartridges for printers, why not?

It strikes me that any of the above could have easily been used five years ago as companion pieces to a 1998 Onion article called Microsoft patents Ones, Zeros.

I am inspired to come out with a new line of foods after reading them though. One package would contain milk and cookies. Another would have donuts and coffee. I'm thinking of calling them "dunkables." I hope someone doesn't have the patent yet. Don't worry, you'll still be able to dunk in the privacy of your own home without having to send me a check.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

six sigma

Not a fraternity... at least not in the traditional sense. Six Sigma is a statistical term indicating a miniscule error rate. It is being used as an initiative by the DuPont Legal Model to strive for an enlightened efficiency.

Well then, what is the Du Pont Legal Model? It is an effort to provide a standardization to the legal services provided to the Du Pont entities, improving efficiency while cutting costs. I can see only two Delaware firms that are so affiliated: Morris, James, Hitchens & Williams LLP ; and Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP. I am all for cutting costs and improving efficiency! Where do I sign up?

Smart move on the part of DuPont, and a nice inclusion in our profession.
molly

Our Molly is in the arms of an angel (for puppies). May she find some comfort there.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

online sales taxes

A number of large online retailers are beginning to collect sales taxes online from people located in states which have sales taxes in their laws.
The companies are among the first in the nation to collect sales taxes from online shoppers across the country, not just shoppers who live in the states where the companies maintain actual stores or distribution centers.
While that won't affect us in Delaware (billboards on highways on the State's border herald Delaware as the "Home of Tax-Free Shopping"), it will be a bit of a change to many.
hijacking .gov

The Access One Network Northwest (AONN) is a cyberwarfare unit that employs 2,000 people and has the support of the Department of Defense. It says so right on their website "aonn.gov." Or, it used to, until it was pulled by the General Services Administration which oversees the .gov domain. As far as anyone can tell, the agency doesn't exist.

Monday, February 03, 2003

frauds and scams inc

Here is an informative "museum" of scams and frauds. Cool!

I know Bill is gonna like their spam policy. :-)

Although, from an attorney's perspective, I think "death to spammers" could be a problem. Although I understand and to some degree share in the underlying sentiment, I cannot condone the suggestion of violence as an appropriate response to junk mail.
likenesses and rights

Imagine that someone took an image that resembles you, and created an cartoon character based upon it. What would you do? Is it libel? Is it parody?

Findlaw's Julie Hilden looks at the flap over an animated elf from Harry Potter, a President from Russia, and a potential "right of publicity" lawsuit in California.
how safe is your data?

A class action lawsuit in Canada illustrates the potentially fragile nature of data protection. A laptop which contained confidential information about possibly a million or so people, was apparantly stolen, and the data is now presumed to be in unknown hands. What steps do you take to protect your personal or business information?
the digital counterculture needs a name

Motherjones.com has a thoughtful interview with John Perry Barlow, who discusses a number of issues, including:
  • the Total Information Awareness Project
  • Whether Google has too much power
  • how he feels, as a songwriter, about file sharing
  • online activism
The former Grateful Dead songwriter and cattle rancher, and present day co-founder and representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a knack for being colorful, entertaining, opinionated, and educational. This interview is no exception.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

columbia

May our thoughts and prayers be with the families of the crew. We appreciate the sacrifices of those in the pursuit of the exploration and utilization of space. It is costly. Those who have died believed that it is worth it. As do I.