Tuesday, June 28, 2005

P2P In Court, Part 2: A History Lesson, Or Why You Have a VCR

In 1984 a case came to the Supreme Court called Sony Versus Universal Studios (Universal Studios hereafter "US", the case herafter "SvUS"). Wanna read some about it? Go here. US was trying to claim copyright infringement against Sony for their Betamax VCR technology because it allowed people to copy copyrighted materials.

But Sony wasn't actually breaking copyright when its users did so. So what was US's beef? They were pushing for "contributory infringement", of which there was already precedent in patent law. Its not that Sony was actually infringing copyrights. They were just aiding others to do so. This was the complaint of US.

In the end, SvUS went the way of Sony. Why? Here is paragraph 29, emphasis mine:

"We recognize there are substantial differences between the patent and copyright laws. But in both areas the contributory infringement doctrine is grounded on the recognition that adequate protection of a monopoly may require the courts to look beyond actual duplication of a device or publication to the products or activities that make such duplication possible. The staple article of commerce doctrine must strike a balance between a copyright holder‘s legitimate demand for effective -- not merely symbolic -- protection of the statutory monopoly, and the rights of others freely to engage in substantially unrelated areas of commerce. Accordingly, the sale of copying equipment, like the sale of other articles of commerce, does not constitute contributory infringement if the product is widely used for legitimate, unobjectionable purposes. Indeed, it need merely be capable of substantial noninfringing uses."

That's the key point, one that will be significant in the case later. Since the Betamax was useful for substantial purposes that did not break copyright law, then it could not be held liable generally. For example, they focused on what they called "time-shifting" content with the Betamax. They meant that it was okay for someone to tape something on TV to watch later, or shift the time that they would watch it. The SC considered that fair use, and found Sony to not be contributorily liable for the copyright infringement of those who used it.

More tomorrow...

P2P In Court: MGM vs Grokster and Its Affect On Us

Part 1 of x (over the next few days) on an interesting legal issue...

I've been hearing for while about an upcoming decision in the Supreme Court (hereafter SC) on the case of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer versus Grokster. Basically, the headlines that I read and the general feel I got from podcasts and tech discussions was a little short of apocalyptic, but it was still very hyped-up. When the SC issued a summary decision basically against Grokster and for MGM, I heard groans from the tech sector everywhere. "It is the end of P2P and freedom of expression. Run for your lives!"

Okay, that's too strong. But I think my friend Mike hit it on the head: the headlines were rather shocking because it made better news. Makes sense. So, this morning he and I listened to part of a podcast from IT Conversations responding to the SC's decision and I learned that the situation is not very much like the impressions I have been getting at all.

Now an aside. So why is this important to you? You may not realize it, but it actually is. Do you have a VCR? If you do, be thankful, because a case like this came up about 20 years ago on that issue. If it would have gone the other way, you might not have one today. So what is the issue, anyway? It's all about P2P, or peer-to-peer sharing of files, or, in other words, it is technology designed to duplicate files of whatever type via direct communication between computers as opposed to downloading files from central servers. The benefit of P2P is that it takes the burden of centralized servers for downloading files from the internet. In some cases this is no big deal. In others it is. For example, hosting a podcast like Adam Curry's would cost hundreds of dollars daily just for web hosting fees alone because of the bandwidth needed to distribute his mp3 podcast to the world. You see, transfering plain text like html over the internet isn't any big deal. But transfering audio or video is a huge deal, and is enormously expensive if many people actually download your stuff. This is where P2P shines. Use a P2P program like Bittorrent and voila, instant relief from this.

But there is more to this as well. There could be serious implications for how information is spread over the web. As a general rule, copyright holders are rather uncomfortable with P2P, because it is commonly used to distribute copyrighted materials illegally. Technologist, music fans, etc., love P2P. So who will get the law to swing in their favor? Copyright holders who want to restrict technological innovations like P2P, or techies, who want to push technology along, in this area and others. We'll see. Now back to the narrative of my day...

So, like any patriotic American, I found the SC's published opinion on the issue and read it (yes, Kirk, I know you never thought I would do something like that). You can find it here:


If you only read part of it, I would recommend the official opinion of the court, done by Justice Souter (24 pages), though all of it is interesting reading. It encompasses more and, in my opinion, a slightly easier read than the other opinions expressed.

I also downloaded and read a transcript of the arguments presented by both sides back in March, found here:


This was marginally interesting, but unless you are really into this issue, I don't recommend it.

So the controversial thing today in the tech world was the SC's decision for MGM. I'm going to go against the tech grain (meaning, I haven't heard anyone at all say this), but I'm going to side with the justices on this one. Why? I'll get to that. Really, I do like P2P and technological innovation. Honest! You'll see what I mean. First, a little history.


It has been so long...

Working primarily of a new version of Christonomy.com. Should be much nicer. Plan on moving my blog there and away from Blogger. But I've got a lot of work to do. And then, when I finish that, I've got my many other projects :)

Been doing LOTS of listening to podcasts recently. I've been looking for decent biblical studies podcasts and haven't really found one yet that interests me. If you do one, or know of some good ones, let me know.

Also been listening to music from GarageBand.com. The site is like a huge collection of independently recorded and produced music. All of it can be listened to online, some of it downloaded. Some stuff is of rather low quality, but some of it is fantastic. I've been mostly listening to alternative rock and metal, but some other genres. If you like rock, check out Damsel Fly. They have one song online there you can download, but have two more on their site (link at GarageBand.com). Excellent sound. If you're into piano, check out Rob Costlow. Heard him first on Adam Curry's Daily Source Code.

And a new version of iTunes came out today, allowing you to subscribe and automatically download podcasts. Cool. I like it so sar. I'll try to remember to let you know how it is after I've had more time using it. Regardless, this is a very needed thing for those addicted to podcasts.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Process Information

Ran across this cool little app the other day via http://weblogs.asp.net/. What it does is it gets the names of all the processes running on your computer and looks up online to see if it is suspicous (spyware or virus). Quite cool. None of the processes on my machine at work or at home had any issues, so I guess that's good. But that meant I didn't get to see any warnings or anything. But, still, I guess that's good.

Batman Begins

Totally rocks. Actually knocked Spiderman 2 of its pedestal of the best comic book move ever, in my opinion. If you have any interest in such movies, it is a must-see. If you don't, and just like dark movies with good actors, good plot, and good action, you should see it too. Bravo! I want to see it again!


I was asking my friend Mike, my personal beverage expert, about Greek wine the other day. He said he hadn't heard of any Greek wines, but that there was a drink generally associated with Greece called Ouzo (see Wikipedia entry on Ouzo here). So, Mike and I dropped by and I got a bottle of "12 Ouzo" from Sigels and I tried it(since I like their language so much, shouldn't I try their drink?). It is a fairly strong liqueur, so I it's probably not a good idea to take a large gulp or drink large amounts. If you try it you'll find that it tastes like licorice(because of the anice in it), except with a very strong kick :)

I like it. More than vodka or gin (don't really like those much at all, at least not the kinds I tried) but probably a little less than brandy. So, if you're into that sort of thing, check out Ouzo.

Interesting fact: if you mix it with water, the originally clear Ouzo becomes a milky white. That's pretty cool. For more information on that, and other stuff, also check out this site.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Mono 1.1.8

New release of Mono yesterday. It's good to see that they are still making progress. I wish I could spend more time on Mono right now...

No Windows installer yet, though apparently both Linux and Mac distributions are available. Good job, guys!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Thunderbird to Outlook

Well, some stuff I really like that Mozilla puts out. Firefox, of course, is awesome. Thunderbird...I'm just not really impressed with. Actually, I want to move back to Outlook. Anybody know of any programs that will do that? If not, I guess I'll have to right something. But if there is something already out there...that would be great! So, anybody?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

VS 2005 TreeView, Bugs

The thing that I want most in ASP.NET 1.1 is the 2.0 TreeView. It seems to be a nice control. I was playing with the formatting features this morning and was very pleased with how easy it was to work with it. Very nice.

My experience with Visual Studio itself was very nice on a few fronts, and not so nice on others.
1. Intellisense now picks up local variables for method calls. That's kindof nice.
2. There is now a thin green line all the way down the left side of the code editor. When you change a line of code, the colored line next to the line of code you just changed turns yellow. It remains yellow until you save. This is a cool feature, because it gives you an easy view on your screen to what you might have just changed in your code.
3. Defaults to source view for aspx pages. Though this is really just a matter of preference, I bet this will be a widely-liked thing among ASP.NET developers.
4. Nice ASP.NET tag highlighting. For example, if you have a asp:DropDownList tag on your page, if you click on it both the opening and closing tags are in bold.

I'm sure these will be fixed by release, but here they are:
1. With great frequency (just about every time I built, and sometimes when I used the scrollbar) my cursor stopped responding to my arrow keys and backspace key. It responded to the letter keys. To remedy I just put focus on the properties tab and came back again. This would get very annoying after a while.
2. The panels were kindof flaky when it came to collapsing or expanding. I almost always have Toolbox, Properties, and Solution Explorer tabs collapsed on the sides instead of pinned into place. Sometimes they would open when I wanted them to. Sometimes they wouldn't. Also, I sometimes had trouble opening files through solution explorer when the panel wasn't pinned down. I had a class library for my test web app, and I could hardly ever (it seems) get the files in it to open.
3. Just like every ASP.NET developer I have heard say something about it, I don't really like the way they are now doing web projects (or lack thereof, really). This is no showstopper or anything, but I really don't get why this would be done.

If anybody knows of a good place to report this kindof stuff, let me know.

Cool Greek Maps

For my wedding anniversery my lovely wife bought me a really nice present, two maps of Greece set back during the Peloponnesian War (5th century BC). One is about 10x14 inches, and the other 14x18 inches. I went out and got some float frames and, voila, some nicely framed maps!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

ASP.NET and FireFox

ASP.NET does something called "adaptive rendering", which allows ASP.NET to be backwards compatible to Html 3.2 in cases where it is necessary. In other words, depending on the browser, ASP.NET will "adapt" how it "renders" its html.

As it turns out, the default configuration for ASP.NET 1.1 (hopefully they'll fix this in 2.0) currently renders Firefox (which hardly existed when 1.1 was created) in Html 3.2. This can cause problems. For example, if you have a ListBox control, for IE it is given a width via css (style="width: 250px;", for example). But, if Firefox is the browser, it renders it using Html 3.2, and does NOT include the style tag. Thus you are going to have serious display differences depending on the browser.

Fear not! You can change that by changing either the web.config or machine.config, depending on your preference. It is actually quite simple. Check out this article to find out how:

A Look at ASP.NET's Adaptive Rendering at 4GuysFromRolla.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

VS 2005, Sql Server 2005 Release Date

It is official. Visual Studio 2005 (formerly "Whidbey") and Sql Server 2005 (formerly "Yukon") will be released the week of Nov 7:


For all you Microsoft programming geeks like myself, this is good news! I wish it were sooner, but oh well.

ASP.NET State Management and Sql Server

There are a few ways to keep your session in ASP.NET. One of those ways is to setup Sql Server for state management. It is a little slower than storing state in the webserver's memory, but it will work in a web farm scenario where the other won't. I'd never actually set up session to work that way in an ASP.NET app before, so I tried it the other day.

Frankly, it just shouldn't be that easy. Seriously. All it took was running a script on my database and changing the web.config. Really, that's it. No code changes. Nothing complicated. Just run a script and change a line of xml. This is one thing I really like about .NET. It allows you to do focus more on building the application than having to worry about every detail of the plumbing. Cool stuff.

There are other ways of dealing with session in a web farm environment. This is one really great way of doing it. I highly recommend it.

NDDNUG And ASP.NET 2.0 Data Controls

Last week we had another North Dallas Dot NET User Group meeting and it was fun. Unfortunately, I didn't win anything this time. The lecture was interesting though, so it was worth going. Paul Litwin, the speaker, focused on a few of the new data controls in 2.0 and they looked pretty cool. He also talked a lot about the new data binding classes that are available, which made binding data to the data controls very easy.

Anyway, good talk, free stuff, and and free pizza. Can you ask for anything more?

Recent Movie Watchings - III, Arthur, and Kung Fu

I've recently had the pleasure of watching several movies. I'll try not to spoil anything. Here are my thoughts in brief:

Episode III - A HUGE improvement over the last two. Yes, some discussions between Anakin and Padme are still horribly done (and she's a good actress otherwise...I don't understand!). And yes, there are some other really bad lines. But it is not as bad, partially because there is a whole lot more fighting. And yes, there is quite a bit more. The action in the movie is great, and the special effects are once more stupendous. Some of the lines were genuinely great, I thought (Obi-Wan at the end in a few places). Is there some to critique. No doubt. But it's a much better flick than the last two.

King Arthur - It is a testament to my endurance and patience that I actually finished that movie. It is actually impossible for me to spoil anything in this movie, because it was just so bad. The only interesting thing in the movie was the centrality of Pelagius as Arthur's hero, and how Pelagius was a great man, teaching on the ability of man to determine his own destiny, free will, blah blah blah. What about the fact that Pelagius was a heretic? Well, that was mentioned later, that the church rejected him. Of course, this was seen as a tragic moment because of the hero's affinity with the fellow. And this was a turning point in Arthur's character in the movie, whereafter he bravely stood with the English to fight off the invading Saxons, something you saw coming 30 minutes into the movie. From a purely movie drama perspective, it really could never seem to pull it off. You could even tell all the times that the director was trying to make you have one of those moments. You know those Braveheart ("They can take our lives, but they can never take our FREEDOM!") or Gladiator ("For us, what we do in life echoes in eternity") moments (imagine cool accents) where you think "man this guy is cooler than anyone else in this movie or real life". Well, you could see them and you feel...nothing. Empty. They just couldn't pull off a real epic. So, really, don't waste your time.

Kung Fu Hustle - If you like slapstick humor and you like movies that can incredibly odd, this is the movie for you. I loved it! Very humorous with lots of fun kung-fu action. My friends and I were able to catch it at a smaller local theatre (3 tickets for $9) and we all really dug it. If you have the chance, and you like those kind of movies, check it out.

Greek Class Chat and Pimsleur

Had our pastor and his wife over for dinner last night. One of the chief topics of conversation was the Greek class, the philosophy/thinking behind how I wanted to lead the class, techniques, etc. We had a very nice discussion. He recommended coming up with a brochure about the class, which I plan on doing soon. If you are interested, or know someone who is, please contact me and I'll get you one.

On a related note, I finally got some of the lessons of my Pimsleur Modern Greek cd's onto my iPod for my listening enjoyment. Though I've spent a ton of time in biblical Greek and some outside of it, I haven't done anything in modern Greek. Well, that's going to change now. And I highly recommend the Pimsleur series for learning modern languages. I've used the German before, and when I have serious time to devote to Deutsch again, I'll be hitting those cd's once more.