Saturday, April 28, 2007

no, wait, it really is a genuine advantage

I previously wrote about MS Genuine Advantage. Turns out I had to risk installing it after all. As I was working on a paper, which is due Monday, Word crashed. It helpfully pointed out that it had crashed due to a known problem, and that an update to fix the problem exists. But the update's only available if you've installed Genuine Advantage. So, there were a few tense moments while the software examined the machine I need to use to take finals in two weeks and decided that I had, indeed, gotten a genuine copy of Windows when I paid two grand for this laptop. Now it's installing the fourteen security updates and patches it wouldn't install because it wasn't sure.

In other words, Microsoft seems to have made the decision that it's better to have insecure versions of its operating system floating around the Internet, acting as potential infection points for spam zombies, than to make the patches available. They also appear to have decided it's acceptable to risk crippling their customers' machines if Genuine Advantage screws up.[1]

Normally, I favor OpenOffice. Version 2.2 is pretty good stuff. But sometimes you need to send a Word file to someone--PDF won't cut it--and you need to know exactly what it'll look like when that person opens it. So for this job I'm tied into Word. And there's certain Windows-only software I need to run, so I'm tied to Windows. So, unfortunately, I guess Microsoft's decided correctly.

At least for now.

[1] Word just crashed on me. Why should I have any confidence Genuine Advantage will be more reliable?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

it's a blur

We're approaching the end of the semester. I've barely had time to figure out which way is up, much less to blog. Some time after Monday, I hope to have a series of blog entries on net neutrality and the AT&T / BellSouth merger drawn from a section I've contributed to a paper. May also post some lighter stuff once I have a chance to catch a breath. Until then, full steam ahead!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

going green

The NY Times has a great article by Thomas Friedman called The Power of Green. In it, he argues (convincingly, I think), that being green is patriotic and an excellent investment opportunity.
Well, I want to rename “green.” I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism.
. . .
The notion that conserving energy is a geostrategic imperative has also moved into the Pentagon, for slightly different reasons. Generals are realizing that the more energy they save in the heat of battle, the more power they can project. The Pentagon has been looking to improve its energy efficiency for several years now to save money. But the Iraq war has given birth to a new movement in the U.S. military: the “Green Hawks.”
. . .
The only way we are going to get innovations that drive energy costs down to the China price — innovations in energy-saving appliances, lights and building materials and in non-CO2-emitting power plants and fuels — is by mobilizing free-market capitalism. The only thing as powerful as Mother Nature is Father Greed.
And so on. It's a long article but definitely worth a read.

Monday, April 16, 2007

a new bluebook signal

Dear Bluebook Editors,

I would like to propose a new addition to the Bluebook's list of citation signals.  As you know, see is among the most popular support signals, indicating helpful cases, law review articles, and other sources of information which support the author's point with only a small logical step required.  But see also plays an important role showing sources that disagree with the author's point and thereby promoting healthy and vigorous debate. In addition, these signals serve the valuable secondary role of allowing authors to demonstrate they are widely read and erudite, easily able to rattle off a string of supporting and disagreeing authority.

I propose the addition of a new signal: don't seeDon't see would introduce authority that disagrees with the author's contention, and that the author has read and considers so poorly reasoned that the author advises the reader to avoid it.  Obviously, use of an explanatory parenthetical would be strongly recommended.

Consider the benefits of don't see.  It serves the purpose of making authors appear erudite because it allows them to show they have read every source, even the junky ones.  More importantly, what could foster the give-and-take of vigorous academic debate and a full airing of the issues better than citing an author's work with a don't see signal?  In fact, don't see would promote a veritable democracy of ideas: currently, an author must discriminate against those sources the author considers poorly reasoned by omitting them because the required order of authorities leaves no room for the author to tell the reader which of the listed sources the author considers helpful.  This new signal would allow the author to list sources the author regards as poorly reasoned or unhelpful, allowing the reader could make up her own mind about them.

I hope you will give serious consideration to including don't see in the next edition of the Bluebook.

False Data

I found a new word

I came across a word I hadn't seen before: recondite. So I looked it up. It means concealed or not understandable to the person of ordinary knowledge or understanding. I guess that makes it a self-descriptive word, in the same family as "pentasyllabic." Unless, of course, I'm a person of extraordinarily poor knowledge and understanding, which is certainly possible. (After all, how would I know?)

I think we need a verb form of recondite. It comes from the Latin verb recondere, which suggests the English verb form "to recond," as in to make obscure except to the Mensa and academic audiences. It'd imply intent, so you could complain about someone who likes to recond his papers.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Confusing English preposition use …

English is my second language and the use of prepositions is one of the most confusing and somewhat annoying things of English language, at least to me. You say:

I want to do it this weekend (no preposition before “this weekend”)
You have time for yourself over a weekend. (“over” before “a weekend”)
You work in the weekends of April. (“in” before “the weekends”)

How confusing …. Would anyone here be able to explain which prepositions -- no-preposition, over, or in -- that I need to use with what types of conditions associated with “weekend”?

Finally, a weekend?

All the sudden, it seems like that I’ve got some time that I can use for doing what I want to do this weekend. If you feel what I just said sounds strange or funny, you are probably one of those lucky people who has time for yourself over a weekend.

I spent lots of time to do my SAS programming work in the weekends of March and April. The place that I work has a programmer-shortage, we have had so many tasks to complete, and I program SAS to some extent. Thus, I ended up taking a programming task though I have never been trained as a programmer. The task turned out to be more complicated and time-consuming than I thought. In addition, I had my own priority tasks to complete at the same time. Well, I ended up spending several weekends to do this programming work. An advantage to work on the programming task over the weekend is that I was able to pick the False Data’s brain. Thank you! You are a wonderful programmer and helper and soon-to-be a legal expert! The task was mostly done last night after the midnight.

So, what am I doing on Sunday? I cannot come up anything that I feel like to do though I know there are many things that I have to do. Therefore, here I am, just blogging … how productive I am …

Saturday, April 14, 2007

angry students stage bluebook burning

I'm in the midst of figuring out the proper way to cite an ad in the Journal of the American Medical Association that warns doctors about prescribing Accutane to pregnant patients. This article, obviously an April Fools joke that got slightly mis-dated, does my heart good.
Sources close to the students say the impromptu protest began the night before 1L Ames briefs were due. 1L Jim Johnson was attempting to figure out the proper citation in Massachusetts state court for a government report co-authored by three different agencies and posted on the Internet as an MS Word document.

When not a single one of his Hastings floor mates proved able to assist him, Johnson walked the short distance to Gannett House where he began throwing stones at the windows and shouting "Come out, you [expletive], and Bluebook this [expletive] [expletive]."
The Bluebook's citation system is irregular, occasionally contradictory, and a general mess. It should take no more than 15 pages to express a flexible, uniform citation system. Time for an overhaul, I say.

Friday, April 13, 2007

hey ISPs, consider taking on spammers

Schneier on Security has a link to an analysis that suggests there are only a few big spam operations on the Internet, rather than a whole bunch of little ones. Essentially, the analysis looks at the variations in the amount of spam each day. If there are a whole lot of little spammers, all spamming in different directions, any given Internet Service Provider should see fairly constant incoming spam. But a lot of ISPs instead see wide variations in the amount of spam, suggesting there are a few big spammers and one day they're spraying Canada, the next they're going after China, and the day after they're hitting the U.S.

Why's that interesting? Well, the CAN-SPAM act, which, unfortunately, seems to be about the best we've got to work with, normally limits enforcement to the FTC or the state attorneys general. However, § 7(g) lets an ISP sue a spammer in federal court:
      (1) ACTION AUTHORIZED- A provider of Internet access service adversely affected by a violation of section 5(a)(1), 5(b), or 5(d), or a pattern or practice that violates paragraph (2), (3), (4), or (5) of section 5(a), may bring a civil action in any district court of the United States with jurisdiction over the defendant--
        (A) to enjoin further violation by the defendant; or
        (B) to recover damages in an amount equal to the greater of--
          (i) actual monetary loss incurred by the provider of Internet access service as a result of such violation; or
          (ii) the amount determined under paragraph (3).
Their damages will be $25-$100 per individual spam message, up to a max of $1,000,000, which the court may triple in the case of certain aggravating factors (like the defendant's doing it willfully or knowingly.) The court also has discretion to award the ISP attorney's fees.

Now, the FTC and attorneys general have bigger fish to fry than going after spammers, but ISPs feel this pain every day. It might not be worth their while to stamp out a bunch of little individual spammers around the Internet, but if it's only four or five big operations, that prospect starts looking a lot more interesting.

more on military commissions act and citizens

Back in October, I wrote a short post about the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and its impact on citizens. I had a chance last night to ask my Representative about it, but it's hard to give a good answer in a group setting, so I sent a follow-up e-mail. We'll see what comes of it. In the meantime, I wanted to expand a bit on the reason why I raised the issue in the first place.
  • §§ 949a(1)(A) and 948d(c) of the act say one way to be an Unlawful Enemy Combatant is for a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or other competent tribunal under the President's authority to determine that you're one. The sections do not limit their scope to alien unlawful enemy combatants.
  • §§ 948c and 948d(a) limit the jurisdiction of a military commission to alien unlawful enemy combatants.
  • § 948a has separate definitions for "unlawful enemy combatant" and "alien," suggesting they're separable concepts.
  • I could not find anything in the act that specifies whether or not the jurisdiction of a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, as opposed to a military commission, extends to non-aliens.
So the act talks about two different judicial bodies, a Combatant Status Review Tribunal and a military commission. How do we know they're different? For one thing, the act spends a lot of time defining a military commission but very little defining a Combatant Status Review Tribunal. For another, tribunals usually have three people (hence the name) but the act says commissions have at least five. § 948m(a). Combatant Status Review Tribunals decide whether or not you're an unlawful enemy combatant, and their answer is "dispositive." § 948d(C).

The act says they decide whether you're an "unlawful enemy combatant," not whether you're an "alien unlawful enemy combatant," but the military commissions only have jurisdiction over alien unlawful enemy combatants. So we have this odd situation where a Combatant Status Review Tribunal can find you're an unlawful enemy combatant, but if you're a citizen you're still outside the jurisdiction of the military commissions. Why?

Now the kicker. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court's plurality said the executive branch can hold a citizen indefinitely only if the citizen has a chance to rebut the charge of being an "enemy combatant" before a neutral decisionmaker. So my question to the Representative is whether Congress, in the Military Commissions Act, handed the executive that neutral decisionmaker in the form of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

It'll be interesting to see how she responds.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I keep waiting for Zubbles to be available. For my nieces and nephew. Honest. I personally would have no interest whatsoever in, say, filling a bubble machine with brightly colored bubbles and running it on the front porch. Anyway, the wikipedia entry now claims availability in 2008.

In the meantime, I came across a recipe to make your own pink and blue soap bubbles using pH indicators. You can also find bubbles that glow gold under black light. And a bubble machine to go with. There are even machines that'll blow smoke-filled bubbles.

But nothing yet that's brightly colored.

Follow-up: there's even a wind-powered bubble machine along with directions to make your own.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

net neutrality economics reading list

Some time ago, Tim Lee was asking for a reading list on the economics of net neutrality (among other things.) Over the past week, I wound up doing a lot of reading on that subject in the context of the AT&T/BellSouth merger. In the spirit of blazing a trail for others, here's an annotated bibliography.

None of these papers gets into heavy economics. If you're seeking quantitative models, confidence intervals, and empirical data, you won't find it among these articles, though you might find it in their citations. The lack of empirical data sometimes causes problems for the articles, such as when the author tries to compare the magnitude of two separate effects.
  • Tim Wu, The Broadband Debate, A User's Guide, 3 Journal on Telecommunications & High Technology Law 69 (2004), available at This paper is a good starting point. It does a reasonable job of laying out the various positions and identifying the main points of contention.
  • Christopher S. Yoo, Beyond Net Neutrality, 19 Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 1 (2005). A good second article. Lays out many of the economic objections to net neutrality.
  • Christopher S. Yoo, Would Mandating Broadband Network Neutrality Help or Hurt Competition, 3 Journal on Telecommunications & High Technology Law 23 (2004), available at Yoo's later Beyond Net Neutrality restates and expands most of the arguments in this paper--including paraphrasing the opening sentences--so I would suggest reading it, instead. But I couldn't find a copy of Beyond Net Neutrality on the Internet. So if you can't get to a law library to pick up an actual, paper copy of a journal, you can get many of the arguments here.
  • Rob Frieden, Network Neutrality or Bias?--Handicapping the Odds for a Tiered and Branded Internet, 29 Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal 171 (2007), draft available at Does a good job of discussing peering and transit agreements and the billing concerns behind them.
  • Barbara van Schewick, Torwards and Economic Framework for Network Neutrality Regulation, 5 Journal on Telecommunications & High Technonology Law 329 (2007), available at Contains an interesting discussion of effects a network provider with market power can have on complimentary markets and the associated incentives.
  • Christopher S. Yoo, Network Neutrality and the Economics of Congestion, 94 Georgetown Law Journal 1847 (2006). I would have liked deeper analysis. The article's thesis relies heavily on the economic effects of congestion, but it provides very little evidence that congestion in the network (as opposed to throttling at the endpoints) occurs often enough to be significant. I lost patience about the time the author began claiming that content delivery systems (i.e. akamizing) constitute putting functionality into the core of the network. I think you can safely skip this one unless you're seriously into congestive effects and economics.
  • Adam Thierer, Are "Dumb Pipe" Mandates Smart Public Policy? Vertical Integration, Net Neutrality, and the Network Layers Model, 3 Journal on Telecommunications & High Technology Law 275 (2005). Strong on advocacy, short on economic analysis. The author is both Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Media Freedom at the Progress & Freedom Foundation, which bills itself as a think tank. If it's economics you seek, this is probably not the article for you.
While looking for web sources for some of these articles, I also came across the Net Neutrality Reading Room at the Center for Democracy and Technology which also links to a number of sources and annotates many of them.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

that's life in the big network

We run a home server, a Linux machine that handles e-mail, network printing, and backups for us, plus the occasional things-Unix-does-best tools. Because it has a few ports open to the Internet, it sees daily break-in attempts. For instance, here are a couple someones trying to get in last night:
Authentication Failures:
unknown ( 1522 Time(s)
root ( 426 Time(s)
unknown ( 32 Time(s)
root ( 8 Time(s)
lp ( 2 Time(s)
cyrus ( 1 Time(s)
postfix ( 1 Time(s)
smmsp ( 1 Time(s)
uucp ( 1 Time(s)
Invalid Users:
Unknown Account: 1554 Time(s)
I couldn't find a host name for either address, so I'm guessing they're probably some infected Windows machines hanging out on a DSL or cable modem connection.

I just checked our server's logs and, lo and behold, we have another contestant trying to break in right now. The Real-Time IP Locator puts them somewhere in China. Out of mild curiosity, I ran a quick scan. It's a Linux machine. They have open ports 22 (ssh), 80 (web), and 3306 (MySQL). Since they were kind enough to put up a web server, you can see our attacker's web page by clicking here. (English semi-translation, courtesy of Google, here.)

I've been calling them our attacker, but in fairness it's not the people who own the machine--they were just clueless enough to put the machine on the Internet without properly securing it. Someone else scanned it, found it vulnerable, took it over, and turned it around to start scanning and attacking other machines. Anyone who speaks some variant of Chinese and has an international calling plan is more than welcome to phone them up--their number's on their web page--and tell them their machine's been cracked and is creating a nuisance.

Friday, April 06, 2007

strange goings-on in the neighborhood of late

This neighborhood is getting odd. Not the 'net neighborhood, the physical one. Events so far this week:
  • A paramedic and fire truck pull up in front of the neighbors late at night. No evidence of smoke. After a while, they leave.
  • There's a high-speed chase down the street, complete with squealing tires as the pursue-ee makes a hard right turn three houses down, closely followed by at least one pursuing cop car and a helicopter.
  • Three cops show up at the neighbor's place (same neighboring apartment complex as for the paramedics, not sure if it's the same apartment). One knocks on the door, two others stand low on the stairs to be out of view from the peephole. They go inside and, after a while, come back out and leave.
Someone with Partners for Safe Neighborhoods came by yesterday, going door to door to promote safety. He mentioned possibly forming a neighborhood watch. It's beginning to look like that might be a good idea. This whole area is transitory renters, so anything to increase the sense of community would be welcome. Does anyone know how much of a time commitment organizing a watch takes?

Monday, April 02, 2007

skateboarding bulldog

This video's been making the rounds. A skateboarding dog! Too cool!

(Yeah, that's about as insightful as it's gonna get right now. I'm just not up to tackling Massachusetts v. EPA till the head and stomach settle down. Lujan and Chevron and statutes, oh my!)