Monthly Archives: December 2002

Fits

I’ve been working hard lately on my Fill in the Site program. I’ve uploaded a new version, and added a lot of information to the web site. If you’re a network admin at a school district, and you’re interested in setting up web pages for all of your teachers, you might want to check it out.

This is all being done in anticipation of the upcoming article about me in The Paris News.

Christmas, Geek style

I just saw a funny link over on Slashdot.org, LinuxWorld.com has a page with several classic Christmas songs rewritten with a “tech spin”.

Here’s a few of my favorite lines. This one’s to the tune of Silver Bells.

Dim the hall lights, use the street lights,
Gotta save all our green
We’ve run out of all our unemployment.

It’s the big crunch, we’ve a good hunch
That our 401K
Will be empty by early next year.

And how could you not love Microsoft is Coming to Town?

You better watch out
You better not cry,
“I don’t know where all my licenses lie!”
Microsoft is coming to town

You paid for it list,
You paid for it twice;
You paid even more for legal advice.
Microsoft is coming to town

They know when you run Windows
They know when you use Word
They treat a loyal customer
Like a lying, thieving turd.

If this doesn’t get everyone in the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will.

Grades

I just remembered, today is Wednesday so grades are out. I made A’s in all three of my classes last semester. That makes my cumulative GPA 3.909. That one B is going to haunt me forever…

More DMCA Madness

Here’s another good article at News.com about the DMCA.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about how the Digital Millenium Copyright Act is being used is the fact that companies can deny me the use of things that I’ve purchased. For example, it is illegal for me to write a program that lets me watch a DVD that I’ve bought. When you buy a DVD, you aren’t really buying anything other than the right to watch that movie on an approved player.

There was a story just the other day about how you can buy DVDs in China for about $1 each. There, the disks are mass-produced by companies with disk duplicating machines just like the ones used by the movie studios. But Hollywood doesn’t seem to mind that very much. Instead of going after the big-time thieves, they chose to attack a teen-aged kid.

Jon Johansen, a Norwegian teenager, is on trial right now for writing a program to let him to watch DVD movies on Linux. This program, called DeCSS, breaks the encryption or Content Scrambling System on DVD disks. He wrote this program when he was only 15 years old. Here’s an article about that trial. The verdict has not been given yet.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), filed a complaint against Jon Johansen saying that his program allowed illegal duplication of DVD movies. But the funny thing is, DVD players only play encrypted movies. If you’re going to make a copy of a DVD, you don’t want to decrypt it. Otherwise it won’t play.

Some of the regular visitors to our site may be wondering why I’m posting all of this stuff instead of pictures of our pets. The reason is I feel like big corporations are walking away with all of our personal freedoms. The only way I know of to change this is to educate people about what’s going on in the world. Hopefully if enough people read about the DMCA, and how it’s being abused, we can make a difference.

Digital Millenium Copyright Act

All my life I’ve been curious about how things work. One of my favorite activities is tearing things apart and putting them back together. That’s how I learned everything I know about computers. The process of tearing things apart to figure out how they work is usually called reverse engineering.

Recently, Hollywood passed a law called the Digital Millenium Copyright Act or DMCA. This law supposedly provides copyright protection for digital media. What it actually does is make it illegal to reverse engineer most software. The DMCA has been very controversial from the beginning and has never been used in a court case until now.

A Russian software company called ElcomSoft had written a program to open and read eBook files. Normally this would be no big deal. For example, Microsoft Word can open WordPerfect files without violating the law. The catch is, these eBook files were encrypted in order to protect the copyright of the original document.

Instead of being praised as a clever guy, the programmer who wrote the software, Dmitry Sklyarov, was arrested and jailed as a criminal. Luckily common sense prevailed in the trial and ElcomSoft was acquitted. There’s a pretty good article at News.com about the verdict.

Star Trek – Attack of the Clone?

We finally got around to going to the movies Sunday afternoon. I like going when it’s only $2 per person, that way I don’t feel quite so bad about paying $6.25 for a medium coke and popcorn.

Anyway, we saw Star Trek – Nemesis. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was just something missing. Some reviewers have said that this was the worst Star Trek movie of the 10, but I didn’t think it was that bad. It was kind of neat to finally see Wil Wheaton on the big screen. That poor guy just can’t seem to catch a break.

I’m sure we’ll be going back to see The Two Towers sometime this week. That should be a lot of fun.

Free advice

Here’s some information that might be useful to you if you’re trying to upgrade your motherboard or move a hard drive from one computer to another. I spent most of Sunday night doing this, so maybe by posting it here I can save someone out there some grief.

Back in the “good old days” of Windows 9x, all you had to do was pull the hard drive from one machine and plug it in to the other. Of course you then had to spend a few hours installing drivers for all the new hardware, but that’s another story.

Now with Windows 2000 and XP, this procedure is a little more complicated. If you pull a Windows 2000 hard drive out of one machine and plug it into another you’ll get a nasty blue screen of death that says something like “INACCESSIBLE BOOT DEVICE”. To my knowledge, there’s no way around this message. Windows 2000’s repair process won’t fix it, and I couldn’t find a way to fix it at the recover console.

So here’s what you do. Before you remove the hard drive from the first computer or take out the old motherboard, change your IDE controller driver to Standard IDE. Here’s how to do that on Windows 2000:

Go to Start, Settings, Control Panel
Double-click System
Click the Hardware tab
Click Device Manager
Double-click IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers
Double-click the IDE controller
Click the Driver tab
Click Update Driver
Click Next
Choose Display a list…
Click Next
Choose Standard Dual Channel PCI IDE Controller
Click Next
Click Next
Click Finish

Now instead of restarting your computer, shut down and move the hard drive to your new computer or swap out your motherboard. Your computer should now boot all the way to the desktop so you can start loading all the drivers for your new hardware.

I can’t wait to see how Microsoft improves their OS next…

It’s finally over

Well, I made an 89 on my COBOL final. I thought I did better than that, but it’s hopefully still enough to get me an A in the course. I also finished up both program assignments tonight and turned them in. So I’m officially done with Fall 2002.

Now maybe we can go see some movies tomorrow and I’ll actually be able to pay attention instead of worrying about homework and tests. The big problem now is deciding what to see – Star Trek, James Bond, Analyze That?

What the…

Quick, somebody call Satan and ask him how the weather is down there.

My boss just walked into my office and showed me a report about Linux. He then went on to suggest that I start looking at using Linux on some of the computers in the district.

Of course I’m already running Linux on my desktop machine and on one of the servers at the high school. So I showed it to him and he actually seemed interested. The plan right now is to look at the K-12 Linux Terminal Server as a way to beef up our old Pentium 75’s by using them as thin clients.

The cost savings of reusing old computers, improved stability, lack of virus worries, etc. seem obvious to me. Now it’s just a matter of convincing a commitee of people from each campus. This should be a lot of fun.

The Two Towers on DVD

I meant to put this in the previous post, but I forgot so I’ll just add it here. I don’t think I’ve ever had more than one post in a single day.

There was an article on CNN the other day about how The Two Towers was available on DVD in Shanghai for about a dollar. The article says DVD, but I’m pretty sure they were actually VCDs. Anyway, Patra was in China a while back and one of her friends from the cruise ship bought a copy of it. When they got back to the room to watch it, they discovered it was actually Clash of the Titans. I guess sometimes you really do get what you pay for.