Archive for March, 2008

More disappearing…

So, all my last minute work shizzle is for the most part done. Some guys in Cali and a guy in DC will be receiving some (entirely unrelated) totally awesome, kick ass hardware. (The latter, also a hundred-plus-page brick of a Final Report, which he in all likelihood will not read.)

So on Saturday, I am headed to South Africa for the next couple weeks! Long story why (pleasure, not much if any business), and I probably should have mentioned it earlier, but away I go. :-)

Addendum: I will be incommunicado during this time. Internet there is about as fast and reliable as Crapcast is here (or much less so), and as for phone, CDMA actually stands for “Considered Doorstop in Most Areas” (despite what industry trade groups would have you believe).

Some very bulk

OK, this has been a busy little while here, and I forgot that here is where I write what I’ve been up to so I don’t forget :-P And now I’ve forgotten. So, this is the last few months of real-life events…

We last left off with Xmas in Massena, with Kr*’s folks (and, from what I am told, her old man developing a huge man-crush because I like grilling, venison and building shit :-P). So, here is…

New Year’s
In Chicagoland with the folks. Much of the fun (the big newyears cabin party) is in the photo album, featuring a whole lot of people-getting-tipsy and Nando-passed-out-and-getting-stuff-stuck-in-his-hair (not by me!), my bro pissed off about being woken up and giving the ol’ batwing (NSFW!), and what happens when you put a big nuclear cooling pond right next to a major* road in subfreezing temperatures.

[The Obligatory Photo Album]

Also, fun facts on Chuck Norris Saturn vehicles, after one of my friends bricked one by leaving a cellphone charger in the cigarette lighter for a few days: 1) Don’t leave cell chargers (or whatever gadget) in the cig lighter overnight; unlike many vehicles who cut power to the cig lighter when off, on a Saturn it will apparently drain your battery. 2) Don’t leave the keys in the ignition when not in use (even if the car is safely locked in your own garage and this is a good place to not lose your keys), because if you ever leave a cellphone charger in the cig lighter overnight, it will brick your car! You see, for some retarded reason they decided to put the battery in the trunk, which can only be opened by a) the electric trunk opening button, or b) the ignition key, which is now permanently stuck in the ignition, because the key release mechanism is an electric solenoid powered by the battery, which is in the trunk…

Skiing at Sugarloaf
Pictures will be posted as soon as someone uploads them ;-) This was a load of fun. 3-day ski trip featuring my first actual lesson, some adventures with trees, a beautiful run all the way from the summit (nearly above tree line), and the discovery that cellphones are not good for breaking falls (as it turns out, falls are good for breaking phones. Repair will be documented separately…).

* major for rural Illinois, which means one lane in either direction, but a speed limit of 55.

LiveJournal Strike? (Don’t back-down, back-up!)

Today, I logged into LJ (that drug I joined because All my Friends were Doing It), and found out that:

a) As of yesterday (or some other near-term time), free accounts have been discontinued (new users join as Sponsored or Paid accounts)

b) As of about-same-time, some unspecified changes to “Acceptable Content” policies, with the upshot of creating a bunch of new forbidden opinions/topics and unacceptable usernames. I’d really like to know the details of these changes myself*, but they don’t seem to be officially documented and I can’t be ars inconvenienced to dig through five thousand comments on the relevant pressrelease pages to get at the details.

c) Everyone’s going to strike by not reading/writing anything to LJ from 8:00 PM Thursday until 8:00 PM Friday, Eastern Standard Time. A more detailed manifesto is given by the bolded text of this post.

I can well understand the rationale behind discontinuing free accounts**, however, I find the lack of any advance notice or discussion on the matter disturbing (not to mention my content’s wholesale purchase by this “international media company” I’ve never heard of). My main concern, though, is this retroactive “acceptable content” change. This means I and every other LJ user potentially have to go back and sanitize 4+ years’ worth of old posts or have my entire 4+ years’ worth of blog and comments deleted? …Every time they (or parent media conglomerate / ad brokering firm / whomever) decide to tweak the rules? Not to mention anyone whose username or community is now against the TOS; good luck recovering from that. Regardless, the only way a “free” service can turn up the crap and still keep you is if you’re stuck there: you know, like having built several years of content and reputation there that would be immediately forfeited by cancelling your account. Once any “free” service jumps these particular sharks, it’s time to start hedging for the future.

My personal thought is a 1-day boycott would have no more impact than those worthless “buy no gas on (date)…” chain letters – nobody produces or consumes any less, just bumps the usage profile around by a couple days***. And as astutely noted here (and again borne out by the Free Web Hosting era), organizing and participating in boycotts of a service via that service is a good way to get your account whacked.

So fuc inconvenience boycotting. Here’s what I’m doing, and I urge you to do the same. Download a utility such as LJ Backup, rescuing a safe, yours-to-keep copy of your content from the server. You know, just in case. Repeat the process frequently. This way, at some near future time when random popups start coming up on your journal, or your account gets deleted for some uncareful words about some company that’s now a sponsor, or you get a ransom letter saying your own free account is now $5.99 a month, you’re not held hostage by your own content. Spend that few-bux-a-month instead on your own Web hosting, dump the backup to the blog software of your choice and be beholden to no one! RSS feeds are the new Friends Page.

*as someone who blogs stuff an entire category about selling vibrators, plenty of Hate Speech against salesmen, various openly misogynist, racist and homophobic statements under just the right moderator’s eye and/or regexp filter.

**any arguments about whether the company actually needs more money notwithstanding, this is among the most fair of many possible tried-and-true approaches, based on years of experience as a vocal opponent during the heady days when Free Web Hosting companies (and to a lesser extent Free ISPs) were the web 1.0 dot-com bubble rage. Unlike the typical approach, existing members’ pages are not suddenly serving up objectionable and vaguely pornographic popup ads…

***buying your gas a day early isn’t exactly Stickin’ It to da Man. But, if you take this day to put away the keys and air up your bike…

Disappearing act

Going to be holed up at work most of this week finishing up two projects with immediate deadlines. Returning to civilization sometime after next Monday!…

Circle stickers on cars – gettin’ hip with ISO

Sometime after moving to the east coast, I started noticing a few cars driving around with these black and white oval-shaped stickers bearing a random 3-letter code. At first I figured they were some kind of east-coast thing, maybe parking stickers identifying membership in a particular school district, etc. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then they started to multiply. It wasn’t just a “thing”, it was a phenomenon, and I was living under a rock. Was it a new secret society? The Medford Mafia broadcasting their next hits? The movement appeared to be growing so fast, there were even parody stickers of these stickers popping up. This one says ((EARTH))…this one says ((BEER)). This one I ((CAN’T REPEAT IN POLITE COMPANY)). Today I turned to the all-knowing one for an answer. Sooo…

In 1949, the Convention on Road Traffic (Geneva, 1949) came to be. Article 20 calls for “distinguishing signs of the place of registration” of vehicles. Yep, it’s a European thing. The letter code (not necessarily 3 letters) is an ISO country code (more info/pointers/rantables here). In other words, these things Over There are about on par with an emissions sticker; in the US, they mainly represent American suburbanites trying to look Euro. A few municipalities (strangely, many in Connecticut) have adopted this trend wholesale, making up their own fake ISO “country codes” representing their town and handing them out. Naturally, a cottage industry has sprung up to generate fake fake country stickers; odes to sports teams and Jesus Fish and pictures of mooses meece moosii animals.

This research jaunt is kind of a let-down. I want my secret societies, dammit! In the meantime, now I want an oval sticker of my own…

Anonymizer.com Inc. and “Trademark Delusion”

This week I got the following nastygram from Anonymizer.com Inc., a company that runs an anonymizing Web proxy, alleging trademark infringement.


Subject: Trademark infringement
From: "Jason Van Peeren" <withheld>
Date: Mon, February 25, 2008 11:43 am
To: <withheld>

http://cexx.org/anony.htm

I noticed that you are currently using our Trademark Term in a fashion that
infringes on our trademark rights. We kindly ask you to cease and desist
the use of Anonymizer and or any variations of this trademark which has been
withstanding since May 1, 1996. In place of the term "Anonymizer," please
use "anonymous web proxy".

We thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

--

Jason Van Peeren

Web Marketing Manager

Anonymizer, Inc.
Trusted / Proven / Secure

My reply:


From: Tim @ cexx <withheld>
Sent: Wednesday, February 27, 2008 10:07 AM
To: Jason Van Peeren
Subject: Re: Trademark infringement

Hi,
We have received this identical letter several years ago, and replied to it.
Please refer to http://cexx.org/anonymizer.txt
Then go away.

…Yes, the linked reply predates this letter by several years, mainly because I received the exact same letter (right down to the bizarre capitalization of “trademark”) from a different name at the same company that many years before, and already told them to piss off, in the much longer form shown.

The best part is this ruff, tuff legal shark’s reaction to my reply.


Subject: RE: Trademark infringement
From: "Jason Van Peeren" <withheld>
Date: Wed, February 27, 2008 2:24 pm
To: <withheld>

Thanks for your reply. Sorry to bug you Tim

Some additional lessons, as long as I’m mistaking this for Tim’s Law Blog:

1) Use of a(n allegedly) trademarked term in a generic way is ABSOLUTELY NOT trademark infringement. (Infringement would occur if I made shitty pants in my basement and sold them as Levis, but not if I “creamed my Levis” when I saw some new gizmo.) Dilution might be closer to the mark, but even that’s stretching the Silly Putty(R) a bit. (Actually, I think the most correct term for this is genericide, although I believe in this case use of the term generically predates this company and its use of the term as a service mark).

2) And actually yes, we’re talking about a service mark here, not a trademark (Anonymizer.com Inc.’s “The Anonymizer” is a service, not a product.)

3) Oh yes, and if you ever invent, say, the greatest new painkiller since sliced vodka, don’t name it The Painkiller.

Folks, protect your language! Don’t let companies get away with this crap.