Category Archives: been there, done that

stuff i did

my own googlegängers

I hadn’t previously heard the word “googlegängers”, which the American Dialect Society deemed “most creative” word last year. But I love the concept, which Stephanie Rosenbloom explored in the NYT today. Apparently lots of people follow the lives and careers of people with the same names as themselves.

Continue reading

how not to give a talk, aka how to not give a talk

I missed, last night, what promised to be a great event at Iona College: JOYWAR: Intellectual Property and the Myth of Originality an Evening with Joy Garnett. The evening lecture followed a day-long symposium on Authors, Inventors, Imposters and Thieves: Perspectives on Intellectual Property, with a number of interesting talks, and it kicked off an exhibition of Joy’s work.

So why did I miss it? Because I thought the talk was tonight (Thursday), instead of last night (Wednesday), even though the materials which had been sent to me earlier this week clearly labeled the talk as happening Wednesday night, and even though I had checked my materials multiple times to verify timing, address, and so forth.

Is this a (much premature) senior moment? A bizarre side effect of prenatal distraction? A deep-seated character flaw now revealing itself after fifteen years of giving talks and not missing them?

Frankly, it’s inexplicable to me how I was able to make such a mistake, but Joy and the coordinator, Dean Delfino, were remarkably gracious in response to my mortified apologies, and assured me that “these things happen.”

Friends observed that almost certainly everyone had a good time without me, and Joy probably had plenty to say that couldn’t fit into an hour, and that I will certainly never, ever do this again. That’s for sure. And of course Joy was really the star of the evening, so the evening, I’m sure, can still be counted a success. But I had a killer talk on “sins of the myth of originality” that I was excited to give. Oh well!

Anyway, my apologies, again, to Joy and Dean and the guests at Iona College.

barking dogs != relaxation (or security)

For the record, the menacing presence of very large german shepherds is not a plus at a train station. And when you hear their barks, whimpers, and howls nearby it makes you worry whether they’re attacking someone, upset or excited at someone’s lunch, etc. Word is they’re sniffing for bombs but I don’t think for a minute that that barking was a bomb. Pot or someone’s lunch or maybe someone traveling with a pet. I do noto feel safer, and I do not believe that this makes me safer.

Second train station this year that I’ve seen dogs — Philly and now Penn Station.

friday nights are so exciting!

free power in NYC

laptop plugged into power strip plugged into patch cable plugged into NYC city street light pole
Free Power, NYC, Feb. 3, 2008.
Photo by L. Quilter.

In NYC earlier this month, I saw someone sitting on a sidewalk with a laptop and other accoutrements. I assumed it was just a convenient (if cold) place to pick up a free wireless signal, but when I got closer I realized that the person was also picking up free power.

They kindly allowed me to photograph the setup. Simply by popping open this NYC pole — just one of the standard crosswalk poles — patching a cable, and attaching a powerstrip, voilá! City power.

Now that’s supporting the arts and technology.

tonight only — utterly total eclipse of the absolutely full moon

Well, not only tonight, but only tonight for the last several and next few years. An amazing lunar eclipse will be highly visible in North America tonight (Wed., Feb. 20) — 10-11pm Eastern time, a total eclipse of the full moon. Sky and Telescope describes it as “America’s best lunar eclipse in years”. In addition to the colors of the eclipse — which are supposed to have beautiful colors tonight — Saturn will also be in good view. So if you have a telescope, you’ll be able to see the rings without much difficulty. The star Regulus will also be nearby.

If you miss this one, you won’t have the opportunity for a total eclipse until December, 2010 — and not even partial ones over the Americas until June 2010. So, get thee out-of-doors and witness the awesomeness of our universe.

More info in the Feb. 2008 issue of Sky & Telescope or, for the subscription-impaired, online at the S&T website. Also check out bad astronomy and orbiting frog for details.

New Orleans & ALA

I just got back from ALA for a panel on RFID (“Tiny Trackers”). As usual, ALA was chock-full of stimulating folks and ideas. A few notes follow, but first a report about New Orleans.

New Orleanians were grateful for ALA’s presence. ALA was the first large conference to keep its commitment to New Orleans since Katrina. The tourist and business sections of the city feel — well, a little empty, a little recessional. More closed & out of business signs than usual. In the French Quarter, the local businesses are mostly open — but nearby on the Riverwalk shopping mall, many of the corporate-owned businesses are still closed. Make what you will of that. But walk just a bit beyond the French Quarter into the 8th and 9th Wards, and things are quite different. I walked over that way on Sunday after my talk, although I didn’t make it much past the Vieux Carré. (It’s hot in New Orleans!) But even as far as I went, it’s clear that the recovery is only partial. And the reports from locals, and ALA folks who biked or bussed around in other districts, are depressing. The country has moved on and forgotten about New Orleans — a city that is one of this country’s greatest treasures. As my partner said, it’s like the media is Vamp Willow: “Bored now.”


The Lyman Ray Patterson Award went to Prue Adler, well-deserved. Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” was, while largely a regurgitation of his schtick, very good because his schtick is very good. (As long as he stuck to his schtick, that is. A number of folks quibbled with his naive market-centric and tech-utopian view of net neutrality.) The Free Speech Buffet was great, with an Emergency Zine Reading:

* Elaine Harger, in response to a censorship attempt, gave the would-be censor a button that said: “Use your brain: the filter you were born with.”

* Amusing reading of overblown prose from romance and other novels from Alycia Sellie. (I list this for its copyright relevance.)

* Ammi Emergency reading from a zine about post-Katrina looting of supermarket. “After the storm, New Orleans was even more New Orleans.” Community looters: One “incompetent neighbor” emerged with a broken bag of box wine and a rotten ham, and when it was pointed out, was upset & said “I’m no good at looting!” She was promptly consoled by another man who said, “You’re doing just fine honey.”

comedies & tragedies of fair use

5/3 update: variant version of this post (an older version of the post but marked-up with hyperlinks) + other blog commentary from Joy Garnett @ newsgrist … liveblogging the meeting and this session
@ iptablog —

The Comedies of Fair Use meeting wrapped up a few hours ago. Among the best presentations were the art panel Saturday morning, in which Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas each discussed their side of the incident that became known as JoyWar. (There were other panelists in this session too; for instance, Art Spiegelman, who was hilarious.)

“JoyWar” began when Joy Garnett appropriated a photograph she found on the Internet, and repainted it. Shortly after exhibiting it, she got a cease-and-desist letter from the photographer, Susan Meiselas. Joy’s art rapidly became a cause celebre among Internet artists and activists, who reposted Joy’s art and remixed it with many new works.

Susan and Joy had never met before the conference, but they both agreed to come and tell their story in a joint session.

Joy explained that she sought images on the Internet of people exhibiting strong emotions; she found the images, and then set them aside for a time, specifically seeking to decontextualize the images so she could later focus solely on their aesthetics. She then repainted the photo, and exhibited it as part of an exhibition called “Riot”. Mieselas’ photograph was perfect for Joy’s intended project: it showed a young man about to throw a molotov cocktail, an expression of intensity on his face.

Susan introduced herself by explaining that her goals as a photographer were precisely the opposite of Joy’s: That it was critical to her to contextualize the photograph, to embed the image in the subject, the historical and political moment in time. The photo, she explained, was of a young man on July 16, 1979, the night that Somoza was finally driven out of Nicaragua, and the Sandinistan revolution triumphed. The photograph of this young man in fact became emblematic of the entire movement, of the revolution itself, and was stenciled and appropriated by all kinds of people, with no objections (or permission) by Susan. Susan felt a strong social contract with the subjects of her photographs, and went back years later to contact them. This young man, it turned out, was still deeply committed to the movement.

The striking thing was the obvious pain that both women felt at the conflict. Though their artistic goals and methods clashed, both Susan and Joy were thoughtful and sincere. Susan, for instance, really seemed to feel that she was possibly “old-fashioned”; that she just didn’t get the new methods of appropriation. Joy, for her part, seemed to really appreciate Susan’s goals and interests; but stood firmly on her own principles. It really seemed in some respects a tragic conflict of interests, because, yes, Susan had real interests at stake. You couldn’t but respect Susan’s interests and the respect that she herself had for the subject of her work. I’m certain it took tremendous courage for Joy and Susan to come together in a public forum, after such a well-publicized conflict. And it’s a testament in particular to Susan’s courage and honesty that she presented her beliefs and reasons so articulately and passionately in the face of a potentially hostile audience.

The problem is that the interests Susan was seeking to uphold, through the tool of copyright, are not traditional copyright interests. Susan wasn’t particularly interested solely (or possibly at all) in trying to protect her licensing revenue. She was interested, rather, in protecting her right to be custodian of the image: an interest that isn’t even captured in moral rights as defined in Europe.

At the end of the day, Hank Shocklee, of Public Enemy, gave a “times they are a’changing” / “to the barricades, comrades” speech: He basically said that the old models of control are dead. It was a great moment, and I hope it’s true. There’s no question that we are paying too high a cost right now from excessive control over information. We are losing works, we are losing consumer rights, we are losing new forms of artistic expression.

But with every change, there are costs. Those who control information sometimes do it for a good reason. The hypertrophic growth of copyright law (as Jamie Boyle put it) has harmed the essential purpose of copyright law, the encouragement of creativity. But that same hypertrophic, harmful growth, nevertheless allowed Susan to pursue other interests not well protected in any other way: privacy, dignity, trust, political context and memory. I hope we find other ways — human, person-to-person ways — to protect those interests; they were never well served by copyright anyway. But it’s important to count the costs as well as the benefits for every change. I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to see Susan and Joy speaking together so that I could see and hear the messy human values and reasons behind the legal conflict.

teledildonics can only be another step away …

Today, on our way to the Fung Wah bus (we never got there, but that’s another story), my partner & I happened to stop in at a bookstore/teahouse for brunch. Then we realized that they were actually having a booksigning by Margaret Atwood. I’m in the middle of a huge deadline, and have just started a new job to boot, but my spouse was very excited and managed to persuade me that I could work while she listened to the reading & signing.

So, we’re enjoying our very delicious chai when the event begins. My spouse wanders over to the event, and about 10 minutes later comes back laughing & shaking her head.

It turns out that, in fact, Margaret Atwood isn’t here in NYC; she’s in London. No, she didn’t miss her flight; her publisher and a group called Unotchit have jointly planned the first trans-Atlantic book-signing. This miracle of modern technology apparently permits Ms. Atwood to sign a book, in London, and all the way over here in New York City, the “Long-Pen” scribes her autograph on a book here in NYC. And that’s what’s happening: there are monitors set up to show Ms. Atwood signing, and the LongPen device, and people standing around waiting to get their books autographed long-distance. (I asked, btw, and this was a true transAtlantic long-distance call. No Skype!)

Naturally I thought this was hilarious. I mean, first the serendipity: that a cafe we happened into almost randomly is having a signing by Margaret Atwood, an author I tremendously respect and enjoy. But then, o brave new world that hath such [wonders] in’t, it’s not just any ordinary book-signing! It’s an experiment in virtual presence! And it’s trans-Atlantic–what more needs to be said?

The LongPen company, Unotchit, has provided a whole packet of info, with a promotional DVD, a special cartoon by Margaret Atwood, and a photocopy of a hand-written note:

This is my actual handwriting — a sample so you can compare it with what the LongPen™ does–and assure yourself that the spikiness, illegibility, and peculiarity is a property of the actual writing, and has not been added by the LongPen.™.
Margaret Atwood

As it turns out, Ms. Atwood is the President of the company (Unotchit), which explains why she was such an enthusiastic participant in the demonstration, and so respectful of the company’s trademarks. Good for her for coming up with something innovative in response to her own exhaustion from book tours.

Unfortunately the system didn’t actually work for the performance, although we were assured that it had worked in the trials just a few minutes before, and had worked successfully city-to-city. I’m sure it will start working, though, and then we can look forward to some of these listed applications:

  • “The signing of their books by authors.” (and lots of other celebrity/fan autographic applications)
  • “The signing of legal documents (in most instances).” plus real estate business, banks, government signatures like passports, marriages, divorces.
  • Banks, real estate business, and financial applications like cheque-cashing facilities and prevention of credit card fraud.
  • And “of special interest for languages that do not use phonic writing but have many characters. For such languages, it is sometimes easier to write than to type.”

I’m not sure I get the language thing, but okay. I’m also a little skeptical as to whether or not autograph-seekers will really be quite satisfied with remote autographs. I think part of the thrill is getting the tiny particles of author/athlete oil & grease along with the signature. Plus actually getting to stammer a few words in the presence of the great one.

But the proposed legal / financial applications raise questions of a somewhat more serious nature. I’ll be going thru that DVD as soon as I get a chance (not till next weekend, for sure), but some questions occurred to me off the top of my head. Among them:

  • What is the authentication procedure for making sure that the item signed by the robotic pen has the same content as the item signed in the presence of and by the signer? For instance, if you’re signing a contract on page 4, how are you going to know that page 3-New York is the same as page 3-London?
  • How do you prevent the signature transmission from being captured & replicated somewhere else? For instance, A is signing a cheque check in New York, and a check cheque is being signed in London. But I’ve captured the signature transmission and am using it to sign a check in Boston — a check made out to me, perhaps, or to a local pimp or skanky political party.
  • For that matter, if the signal is unencrypted, how do you prevent it from being captured & interfered with, so that it becomes less likely to be validated? There’s a visual read-out of it on both sides, but you could capture the video transmission as it comes from London, and mirror it back so it looks like it’s coming from New York, but in the meantime send something slightly different to New York. Or if the signature was only slightly different it might not be apparent over the transmission, but still not pass a handwriting expert signature.
  • And, how good *are* these pens, anyway? Can they really replicate the changes in pressure and angle that a real pen does? Even if it can do pressure & angle, what is the original pen that the author holds actually like? Does it feel like a real pen? Or is it held rigidly in place? Which would certainly affect the signature, and I wonder what a handwriting expert would think about it.

The answers to these questions will no doubt become clearer when I go through the materials. Stay tuned for more.

In the meantime, more info available at:

the kindness of strangers

So, tonight I was in a NYC restaurant with a dear friend, when I got a call from an unknown number in Boston. The unknown number turned out to be a library science professor at Simmons College, whom I have never met, and he wanted to know if I’ve lost my wallet. I found this very peculiar, since although I live in Boston, I’ve been in New York for the past few days, and I’ve definitely been using my wallet — in fact, I used my wallet just a couple of hours ago to buy groceries.

“I don’t think so,” I replied, “unless you’re in New York.”

“Well, I’m not in New York, I’m in Boston, but I got a call from New York a couple of hours ago while I was teaching, from someone who says he found your wallet. Then I looked you up on the Internet & got your number. You have an interesting resumé.”

I’m really pretty amazed, but thinking back I realize that I last used my wallet about three hours ago, coming out of the grocery store and crossing the street to my friend’s apartment building — literally, probably only about a hundred feet. It turns out that in my wallet I had a scrap of paper with this professor’s contact information on it, from a chance meeting with one of his students at a cafe a couple of days ago. The student thought the professor and I should talk, and since I hadn’t had a chance to write him yet, his email was still on the scrap of paper in my wallet. I hastily explain this, not very clearly, and the professor, a bit bemused, gives me the New York number of the person who claims to have found my wallet, and I ring off, to call the New York number.


“Umm … my name is Laura Quilter; are you the person who found my wallet?”

“Yeah, I did — where are you?”

“I’m at the Trattoria Dante at [somewhere nearby].”

“I’m right around the corner; I’ll be there in two minutes. I know what you look like from your driver’s license.” He paused. “Umm, I’m not a detective, so I had to go through your wallet; I hope you’re not pissed.”

“No, no, of course not — just amazed that you’ve taken all this trouble.”

Two minutes later, indeed, he was there. I said I was extremely impressed by New Yorkers; it turns out he was actually from San Diego (but is apparently a New Yorker now). He wouldn’t take any money; wouldn’t even let me buy him a drink. He had spent god knows how much time trying to find me. My wallet wasn’t exactly very helpful, I realized afterwards, looking through it with a stranger’s eyes. Zipcar membership, health insurance, Trader Joe’s gift certificate, bar membership cards, picture of my spouse from a photobooth, espresso club card … My driver’s license — which I blush to admit is still a California license, even though I’ve been in Boston for almost a year — turned out to be more confusing than helpful since he thought perhaps I still lived near Berkeley. But he saw a Boston Public Library card, and the phone number of the professor in Boston.

Then, the professor in Boston, who also had never heard of me, and had no idea why his name might be in my wallet, spent who knows what amount of time looking me up on the Internet, tracking me down, and talking with me. It turns out there were only a couple of degrees of separation between him and me — my friend that I’m staying with knows several of the professor’s colleagues. The unknown benefactor, however, remains unknown. But greatly appreciated.

jetblue blocking daily show segments?

Coming home on JetBlue on Thursday 12/29, we had an interesting experience with the TV programming. One entire “Daily Show” segment was wiped out. The program did one segment, then skipped straight to the interview with Howard Stern, and then ‘programming was temporarily unavailable due to normal motion of the aircraft’. Pretty much until the next show started when programming magically resumed. Other channels were not affected.

crooks & liars has the video of the gaywatch segment.

chilling effects from the DMCA

We’re finally finished with the summary report for our DMCA 512 study, which is officially released today. The final report will follow shortly. [pdf & html]

Marjorie Heins @ The Free Expression Project is doing a complementary study; she released her preliminary report in early October and the full report will hopefully be out soon. Her report looks at trademark as well as copyright.

on file sharing “the daily show”

Okay, I’m sneaking a little break away from visiting family in Virginia to breathe the fresh air of the Internet. I wouldn’t exactly call Virginia a hellhole (at least not in front of the family who lives here), but the Internet cafe (Panera Bakery) I’m surfing at blocks arthur silber’s the light of reason and poor man as Forbidden Category “Adult/Mature Content”. Sigh.

Anyway, one of the sites I can read is Wired. In the recent interview with Jon Stewart & Ben Karlin (Daily Show’s Exec Producer) (“Reinventing Television”) I noticed this commentary:

WIRED: [“The Daily Show”] is among the most popular shows traded online. People download and watch the whole thing, every day. Were you guys aware of that?

Karlin: Not only am I not aware of that, I don’t want to be aware of that.

WIRED: Well, don’t go shutting it down.

Stewart: We’re not going to shut it down – we don’t even know what it is. I’m having enough trouble just getting porn.

Karlin: If people want to take the show in various forms, I’d say go. But when you’re a part of something successful and meaningful, the rule book says don’t try to analyze it too much or dissect it. You shouldn’t say: “I really want to know what fans think. I really want to understand how people are digesting our show.” Because that is one of those things that you truly have no control over. The one thing that you have control over is the content of the show. But how people are reacting to it, how it’s being shared, how it’s being discussed, all that other stuff, is absolutely beyond your ability to control.

Stewart: I’m surprised people don’t have cables coming out of their asses, because that’s going to be a new thing. You’re just going to get it directly fed into you. I look at systems like the Internet as a convenience. I look at it as the same as cable or anything else. Everything is geared toward more individualized consumption. Getting it off the Internet is no different than getting it off TV.

WIRED: Isn’t that going to pose a challenge to the traditional network model?

Stewart: But we’re not on a traditional network: We’re on the goofy, juvenile-delinquent network to begin with. We get an opportunity to produce this stuff because they make enough money selling beer that it’s worth their while to do it. I mean, we know that’s the game. I’m not suggesting we’re going to beam it out to the heavens, man, and whoever gets it, great. If they’re not making their money, we ain’t doing our show.

And on the famous clip of Stewart on CNN:

WIRED: [T]he show was a total sensation: Something like 3 million people saw that – but mostly online. Less than a quarter of them saw it on CNN proper. It was huge, phenomenal viral video.

Stewart: It was definitely viral. I felt nauseous afterward.

WIRED: It was one of the most downloaded clips ever.

Stewart: Really? That’s not true. Pamela and Tommy Lee?

WIRED: OK, maybe that was bigger. But it was amazing that CNN was so clueless about what you gave them. Suddenly, for once, everybody wanted to see Crossfire. They could have taken the show and put it on their Web site, said Click Here, and gotten all this traffic. Instead, everyone had to go through these other sites and back doors to find it.

Stewart: That’s really half the fun, isn’t it? If CNN had put it on its Web site, it would have lost some of its allure.

Karlin: It’s people going, “Holy shit, did you see this?”

And, last but not least, my favorite quote:

Stewart: The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom.

how the personal became political

How I Became a Freedom Fighter — A story in two parts:

Part 1: As a teenager in the 80s, I knew libraries were pretty cool. I used them to pursue various odd interests too embarrassing to blog (e.g., the various sequels to The Scarlet Pimpernel). When things were unspeakably tough for me at home, libraries were a refuge. When my friend’s parents burned her science fiction and fantasy out of fears of ‘satanism’, and forbade her to read anything not assigned by church or school, libraries were more than a refuge: they saved her sanity. When I read in history and newspapers alike about librarians or the American Library Association standing up against would-be book-burners or book-banners, librarians seemed actually heroic as well as sane: Defenders of Freedom! Purveyors of Knowledge! Keepers of the Light! And so on.

Gentle Reader, I became a Librarian, and eventually an Internet Evangelist. Libraries and librarians are an obvious and unqualified good: they provide access to information. They let people make their own choices. I started using email and bulletin boards as a student in the late 80s, and was thrilled by these new communication technologies. As a librarian in the 90s it was obvious that what we now call the Internet was a tremendous multiplier: people would ultimately be able to access anything, but more than that, they would be able to publish anything. Democracy! Printing Presses! Gutenberg! Revolution! The Ultimate Fulfillment of Human Potential! And so on.

Part 2: In the late 90s, I was a tech educator & librarian, in San Francisco. I ran an educational center at the Exploratorium, one of the coolest museums ever, dedicated to letting people learn how to learn. I was all about experiential learning. Plus I got to play with a lot of cool media technology.

Unfortunately, it seemed that despite the best efforts of librarians, Human Potential hadn’t been quite fulfilled yet. The censorware wars were raging as states and universities and localities tried to ‘protect’ their citizens and employees from information. Congress passed the Telecommunications Reform Act in 1996, simultaneously banning ‘indecent’ communications and lowering media ownership limits — the sole nod toward Human Potential in that benighted legislation was the establishment of the E-Rate program to pass some money to libraries and schools for Internet access. Two years later Congress passed the Mickey Mouse Protection Act (aka the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act) and the wretched Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Watching all this legal and political maneuvering with frustration, I was increasingly interested in the details of the seemingly arbitrary rules, and how the grand principles were oftentimes frustrated by those details. So I applied to law school, and was thrilled to be accepted at Boalt — at that time, the only law school that really did public interest IP. I knew of Professor Pam Samuelson’s work, and found out that she had just endowed a law clinic to work on issues of law, technology & public policy — I couldn’t be happier. So I went to law school, and worked on a bunch of cool projects before and since. With any luck, I’ll keep on figuring out ways to get by in the world, using my skills & knowledge, and trying to be a net positive. Pretty much what most people do, I guess.

On my best days, I love people. As a species we’re just unbelievably brilliant. We’re good at talking & thinking. We’re so good at it, in fact, that we constantly devise new ways to do it, better and more efficiently and more often and in different funky ways and over different media. From art to science to household gossip, it’s all about us communicating to each other, using movement, sound, vision; different languages for different messages in different media. Speaking, writing, printing, broadcasting, blogging: using every sense and every force of nature we shape the world around us, just to talk to one another. “Information wants to be free” is a canard. Information has no wants or desires. People want information to be free. It seems to be human nature — maybe animal nature, maybe the nature of all life — to communicate, to communicate freely.

It’s probably only natural that some would feel threatened by this human urge to communicate, and others would see it as a potential resource for exploitation. Any force of nature can be dammed for profit or the pleasures of control. Hundreds of years ago, the efforts of governments to control printing presses led to copyright statutes and sedition laws. And in response, people said No! We want to increase and share information, and in this country these revolutionaries devised the First Amendment and assigned copyrights to Authors, not printers.

Today, the struggles continue: governments pass laws regulating speech, punish people for sharing information, and hand the control of information to media corporations. And in response, 15 years ago, some people got together and formed the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The staff at EFF work to protect our rights to talk, to listen, and to share information using the tremendous power of communications technology. Because of their labors, in part, people have more opportunities to stand up and speak, write, print, broadcast, and blog. So happy 15th birthday, EFF. May there be many more.

download legally … somewhere

I saw this on 125th St. in Harlem the other day:

RIAA Ad, Seen in Harlem on 125th St - Feed a Musician, Download Legally

The RIAA has begun their new ad campaign (leading a new front group called “Music United”). Apparently it’s important for the RIAA to pump money into promoting a trend that is already happening even without ads. (Could it be … that legal downloading is finally happening just because the friggin’ recording industry finally started licensing its catalogs with semi-reasonable terms and price points?)

I found it particularly ironic given the relative dearth of wireless in Harlem. Starbucks and McDonald’s offer the usual paid access, but otherwise, Harlem is still essentially a wireless dead zone — just as it was in 2002 when Elisa Batista surveyed Manhattan.

Hey, RIAA, I bet the kids in Harlem would like to download legally! Why don’t you get behind some of the community wireless initiatives to help them do it? That might be a little more useful than promoting something people are already doing in a neighborhood where they have relatively few opportunities to do it.

update 2005/8/15: The RIAA campaign has sparked a lot of annoyance out there in the blog-o-sphere. Here’s a sampling: The vitriolic monkey says that The RIAA Wipes Its Dick On The Curtains. I don’t know what that means but it sounds icky. Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing snapped a couple of shots of posts in LA and posted on Flickr; a few other commentators have added other spotted locations. Jason Schultz posted on Flickr a couple of altered posters in SF. (“Fair Use Has a Posse”, which, while I must surely be counted among the members of whatever posse fair use has, I must admit just doesn’t ring quite as well as Andre the Giant or Charles Darwin.). Reasoner notes the Sticker Wars with the RIAA in San Francisco, and points out “the unfortunate truth … that many of the major record labels are screwing over all but the most ‘successful’ musicians”. Terminally Incoherent saw the same from BoingBoing and described it as RIAA Brainwashing Continues. … But in all of this I still haven’t seen any other new poster snapshots, which makes me sad. Surely more people out there are taking snapshots of these posters?

copying DVDs (part 2)

Well, I took a 2-week hiatus from trying to recover my lost mail archives from a DVD that failed its burning process. (Mac OS 10.3). But yesterday & today I’ve been on the problem again, downloading a slew of tools and digging out info on mounting unmountable discs and digging data off the disks.And the winner is … Data Rescue! from ProSoft! which can see the files on my incompletely-burned DVD backup of personal & professional email. Hurrah!

Overall comments: A winner!
User interface: Simple but virtually inscrutable without the user manual.
User manual: Very good.
Price & marketing:
Not free, but at $99 ($89 + $10 s/h) probably worth it for almost anybody who’s lost data. Marketing method was very smart: Allow the whole program to download & allow users to scan all media, and recover a limited number of files (1 or 15 files, I don’t remember) for free. In the world of data recovery software, there is a lot of hype, a lot of jargon, and a lot of deliberately vague terminology. Do you really want to shell out money only to find that the program you’ve purchased only recovers .jpgs from thumb drives? No, you do not. ProSoft lets you play with the program to figure out if it will work for you — and then buy it. I’m sure some people are motivated enough at that point to hack the serial number. But if they’re that motivated and skilled, then they are either a) so broke that who cares? it’s a kindness to them to let them have it; or b) so skilled that they probably could have recovered the files on their own anyway. Me, I was happy — happy! — to spend the money and support the folks who wrote the software that recovered the data on the disk that failed from the computer that failed in the house that Jack built.

Moral of the story: If you know the problem is intractable to begin with, don’t fuck around; jump right into the data recovery process & spend the money. OTOH, if time is not of the essence (as in optical media, where you’re not going to re-use it anyway, and there’s no real risk of re-writing over the data) then take some time & explore.In the interests of documenting this process, I’ll go ahead & include all notes from other attempts & programs, and will alphabetize most of the downloads for ease of reference.

  1. disk utility (the one that comes with OS X): The good news is that disk utility sees the disk. The bad news is that it claims the disk is unmountable.
  2. dd: briefly described their disk recovery process (discouragingly titled: Dead, Dead, Dead…). The comments by Richard Soderberg included the dd command:dd if=/dev/disk0s9 of=$HOME/disk0s9.dmg bs=512 conv=noerrorI used disk utility to get the disk identifier (disk1s2) of the unreadable data partion. The dd command then did process through what seemed like the right amount of data, building a .dmg file. At a certain point though, bang, it started hanging, and I had to CTRL-C out of the process. The .dmg file looks fine but won’t mount. Now, though, I have two things to work with — a burn-crashed DVD and a poorly created .dmg file. From the standpoint of THIS IS FUCKING HOPELESS, well, that’s an improvement.
  3. hdiutil: Still trying to get the .dmg file to mount. Hitting hdiutil directly on the new .dmg file doesn’t work either:$ sudo hdituil attach filename.dmgjust returns a read/write error.
  4. very nicely detailed their (failed) disk recovery process including a number of product names.
  5. Typing this up, I am disconcerted by the periodic spinning of the DVD drive, in response, apparently, to nothing. Disk utility is open but nothing else. Is Disk Utility periodically hitting the drive? Or what?
  6. Back to Google and to to try to dig out more programs that might help.
    • BurnItAgainNow. This program claimed to enable easy creation of linked multi-sessions. That’s not my problem, but what the hell, maybe it’ll show me something interesting, or maybe its multisessionness will let it skip past badly burned sesssions. Nope. Nothing.
    • CarbonCopyCloner. A HD backup program. Looks only for mounted disks. Not helpful.
    • CDRestore. One of the SubRosaSoft programs (mentioned below). No trial version, so I’m not going to try it.
    • DataRescue 10.4.3. Available at mac.softpedia and I can’t figure if this will help or not: it recovers “general” files from HDs (HFS file systems, which my DVD is) and “media” files from “removable media”. I’ll give it a shot, since you can “test” it for free: scan for files and recover one. I agree to the license terms and choose DEMO mode.It’s completely unclear from the cryptic buttons what the options are. So I crack open the manual which, to my very great surprise, is actually helpful. Not only does it explain the button options, but it explains how it is attempting to recover the files, by describing the catalogs and how they’re structured. So — two types of searches are available: Catalog scans (quick & thorough), which rely on undamaged portions of the catalog; and Content Scans, which ignore the catalog. I’ll start with a Thorough Catalog scan. (If there’s a catalog to scan, then I assume that means that a catalog is written at the beginning of the burning process; or, less likely, contemporaneously. If there is no catalog to scan then I assume it means the catalog is written at the end of the burning process. See? I’m learning things. This process isn’t a complete waste. Right? I’m trying to persuade myself.)… As it’s scanning, things look hopeful: It’s seeing “16860 items” which sounds like it could be a chunk of my mail files. Going pretty quickly too — maybe 5 minutes total to scan the 1.5G that was successfully burned. The 16860 were found in the first couple of minutes and nothing since then. I’m starting to feel hopeful, so I’ll stomp those feelings down right now — hope can only lead to disappointment. Even if it recovers the files they’re probably just duplicates of the files that were successfully backed up, and not the grail of files that are lost…. The program is now doing something called “Calibration: 35 files found, need 165 more.” Huh? This process is scheduled to take around 5 minutes…. Up pops a window: “Files were found! You should now blah blah blah.” The exclamation point shows that DataRescue is as excited as I am! “I am happy to serve you!”… 2 minutes later, after I select a file, recover it, and test it: Oh! Oh! Oh! Data Rescue, I love you! I will immediately go plonk down $89 or whatever to purchase you…. 5 minutes later I have begun the actual full data recovery process, which will take more than an hour apparently. Data Rescue is retrieving the file structure too which is nice. I am still filled with love for Data Rescue. Once I see what is actually successfully recovered, I will be able to then mourn what was not recovered, and of course the 6 weeks of data since this failed DVD burn. Sigh. Still — 6 weeks, versus some number of years (0-6 depending on the state of my CD archives back in California) — I’m not complaining!… maybe half an hour later it comes back & tells me that it’s recovered everything but there were errors. Indeed. Out of 16000+ files there were 12000+ errors of the ominous “Block number out-of-range” sort. My suspicion is that the catalog was written first and these errors are telling the system that the catalog refers to the part of the disk that was not burned — not the 1.5G but the other 2.9G that didn’t get burned…. indeed as I go through the files that’s what it looks like. I have recovered about half the personal files, A-M, and mid-way through the M’s the files crap out — 0 bytes, 0 bytes, 0 bytes. Maybe the disk was burning sequentially and made its way first into the “personal” folder, but never made it into “personal-business” or “professional”. Very deep sigh. Some puzzlement, though: could those A-M personal files really be 1.4G of mail? No — they are about 100+MB. Looking through I see that some of the archives further down were partially recovered — in fact it looks like the other folders had files at the top level hierarchy recovered, but files lower down in the hierarchy were not recovered. Weird. So maybe Apple’s burner goes through one hierarchy level at a time.Of course, the files that were most important to me were also the most organized, and the most likely to be included in sub-folders and organized hierarchies. And most of the 1.5G turns out to have been in the “lists” folder which was almost completely recoverable, but which was also recovered from the failed hard drive. Grrr…. Content Scan is turning up something similar. Except it turns up 2021 files, and without the catalog info, all of them are crudely organized into “audio”, “images”, “movies”, “documents”, “misc”, and are named things like D1.doc, D2.doc, etc. Ooof. This will be painful. wtf, I may recover a little more. It’ll take a long long time to sort through the recovered files and see what they are, though, so it’ll probably be weeks before I dedicate this many hours to it again…. Well, this will be a hard & painful file loss to recover from. All my personal mail from the early M’s on; lots of personal mail that was in special subfolders (like all the wedding email); all my professional mail; most of my projects email (for instance, 10 years of feedback from the femsf website). But I am happy enough to have gotten back some portion of the data, and to have a disk recovery program.
    • Disk Copy
    • DiskWarrior. You gotta pay money! I will try every free solution first, by god. This should be something you can do for free!
    • DMG Fixer for OS X claims to fix DMGs that were downloaded in ascii/text format rather than binary. Won’t be useful but I downloaded it anyway just in case it has some interesting recognition capability that’s not mentioned.
    • DMG Tool 3. Never got to it.
    • DockDisks. Mounts disks to your dock instead of on the desktop. For folks who (like me) place their dock on the right edge of the screen, where the mac wants to place the icons of mounted volumes. I’m interested enough to download this and try it out, not for my current disk recovery problem of course, but to see if it’s an improvement. Actually what would be better would be a prefpanel to let you choose where on the Desktop to place volume icons.
    • DropDMG. Another DMG creation utility. Claimed to have some interesting features to enable reading DMGs. But didn’t. However, can pull up information about DMG files, and the set of data is slightly different than Disk Utility generated.
    • DVDBackup 1.3. Requires a mounted DVD. What kind of a lame backup program is that? I know what kind, of course, but really — you can’t only write software for horse-still-in-the-barn kinds of folks. What about those of us whose barn is smoldering ashes and whose horses are out in the meadow somewhere, frighened? [ahem. you either get it or you google.]
    • DVD Extractor. Never got to it.
    • FileSalvage. Never got to it.
    • FindFile. Never got to it.
    • ImageMounter. SubRosaSoft lists a product called ImageMounter 1.0.1 in a few key places, but when you click the download [], it takes you to their page of various other downloads that are not extremely helpful. Is the program still out there somewhere? Or was it a scam all along to get you to clickthrough to their website? I am suspicious.
    • IMount. A GUI interface for the diskutil command, to see partitions & get info about them.
    • ISOBuster keeps coming up in the searches even though it’s a W1nd0ws program, because it can read & recover mac files. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my half-dozen old computers of various kinds & OS last fall, that might help me now. Dammit! Damn the cross-country move that caused me to become efficient and ultimately to lose all this data! The cross-country move is what caused me to consolidate all my data onto one computer and one backup hard drive, thus leading to the problem when the computer’s DVD burner fails, Applecare wipes its HD (unnecessarily! so unnecessarily!), and the backup is discovered to have screwed up, replacing a complete set of files with an incomplete set of files. Yes it’s all my fault. Damn damn damn.
    • ISOlator for Mac. Uses dd to make copies of disks. Hmm. Since I know fuck-all about dd, other than the cookbook command I typed in earlier, I wonder if this program will have interesting ability to display error files etc., and maybe I’ll get some more info out of the dd program.
    • LaCie Silverkeeper. Someone on a message board said they had success mounting a drive with Silverkeeper, and then after futzing had further success. So worth a try. Negative points for nondescriptive product-based name.
    • Mac DVD Rip Tutorial. Taught me nothing.
    • Mac the Ripper. As previously stated, requires a mounted disk. Points for good name.
    • Media Recover Image Recovery. Another of these programs dedicated to dragging off jpgs, mpgs, and the like off of thumb drives & memory cards & sticks.
    • MountMe. Very funny title. Claims to force-mount physical disks (like my DVD) that refuse to mount on your system, or you ocan drop image files to have them mounted. So I’m trying to get it, but all apparent sites are down. versiontracker,, mac.softpedia
    • RecoverDM. Never got to it.
    • Special Move 1.0. Lets you enable/disable the auto-extraction feature of .dmg files. This really won’t help me, but I’m intrigued enough to download it — what does it do? why do you want to disable auto-extraction?
    • wwDVD. Some sort of session manager. Requires a mounted disk.

copying dvds

I have now descended into the blinking flashing pseudonymous off-coast world of DVD copying programs.Short story:

  1. 2 Computer problems: 1 SuperDrive failure & 1 power problem
  2. AppleCare
  3. “Me? I don’t need to pay for a disk backup; there’s no reason for Apple to wipe my HD because the problem is with the power management unit & I know for a 100% fact that the HD is just fine. And if worst comes to worst, I have a HD backup from 2 weeks ago.”
  4. Apple imaged my HD back to virgin state ANYWAY & shipped it back to me sans applications, sans personalized settings & files, sans all data, sans OS upgrades.
  5. I crack open my backup HD & with some effort re-install all the important mail, grieving for 2 weeks + of data (I’m an obsessive librarian / archivist; I keep everything.) This was a considerably more detailed process than it sounds, since this HD is now showing signs of failure and/or my mac is complaining about recognizing it. It involved a new HD enclosure, testing another HD, getting the original HD to mount on my partner’s machine, backing up to the new HD, and mounting the new HD on my machine.
  6. Next day I crack open my mail program (Eudora) & begin the process of reconfiguring my many email accounts & complex set of filters. Only to discover that my backup-to-HD had apparently crashed in the middle of copying the mail files. Now I see that things are much, much worse than two weeks of data — I am missing *all* my professional AND personal mail files, from 1991 to present. [Prior to 1991 I only had mainframe & BBS accounts, and I printed backups.] Yes, there are miscellaneous CD backups — back in California, and buried in a box in a mound of many other boxes of books. No way to ask the in-laws to dig through; those CDs will just have to wait until I get back to California — probably several months from now. And they will certainly be missing the last 7 months of data, and likely incomplete & sporadic before that.
  7. What about optical backups? Before the computer problems, I was in the middle of backing up the HD to DVD, and had successfully backed up almost all of our 80G+ of music files (ripped from our CD collection, also stored back in California), and was working on other data (work files, for instance). So that should have been a good secondary backup, although the backups are from early/mid April — so if it is backed up, I’ll still lose a couple of months’ worth of mail.
  8. The optical backups aren’t complete. My DVD drive failed midway thru the process of backing up some 125G of data, so that set of backups was partial. As it turned out, though, there is a DVD backup disk with mail on it.
  9. But the mail DVD backup disc is one of the scrapped ones, that cancelled out mid-burn. Darwin shows it in /Volumes but won’t mount it. Who knows what’s actually on it, but I should at least try to recover the data from it.
  10. So now I’m spending big chunks of precious & rare time trying to find the kinds of programs that the MPAA is most concerned with — programs that will copy DVDs regardless of how the data is arranged or misarranged or concealed or indexed. And reflecting on the fact that 3-2-1 Studios might have been able to help me with this one had they not been driven into bankruptcy by litigation.
    • Favorite program so far: Mac the Ripper, which makes me think of both Mack the Knife and of course Jack. It has a click-thru agreement at the beginning requiring the user to agree that she is neither a cop nor an MPAA affiliate. But, I don’t think this program is going to help me, because it requires a mounted DVD, and mine won’t mount. So I need some unix-based tool that I can operate out of Darwin, or else something that will recognize an unmounted disc in /Volumes. Sigh.

part 2, july 3, in which many hours are invested, a solution is found, and the magnitude of the loss becomes apparent.

emma goldman documentary

A good friend taped the Emma Goldman documentary a few months ago, but I hadn’t watched it until this weekend — I was captive in a TV room while packing, and didn’t want to take a VHS tape to my new home which will have neither a VCR nor a TV.

A few nits to pick:

  • One, no anarchists interviewed! Nice to have some social activists (velvet revolution guy) and commentators (Tony Kushner, playwright) interviewed, but no self-defined anarchists?
  • Two, so funny how they have to do the free love re-creation with actual nekkid sex.
  • No discussion of Emma’s visit to Spain during the Spanish Civil War and revolutionary period. Which impressed her and, I think, rejuvenated her spirits in the post-Bolshevik disappointment.

Still, though. Emma Goldman documentary. Cool.

high stakes

me & some friends, on sunday, celebrating with joss whedon & hoping to get bush out

whump (the organizer) has pictures. so does the high stakes 2004 website.

i had promised to bring one of our anti-war posters from last year [“Buffy, help! there’s a vampire in the White House!”] but since everything i own is in boxes or storage, it didn’t really work out. but the village voice is helping me out. [thanks to americablog for linking to the cover.]

future of ip clinics

I’m out in DC, attending an IP Clinics meeting. Interesting how there are so many “access” clinics now, dedicated to small business / entrepreneurship — helping people get IP. Will the policy-oriented clinics be outweighed by the transactional clinics? Are we even the same kinds of clinics? I’m not sure.

update 2006/2/7: I should have posted this a while back, but one of the outcomes of this meeting was the nascent IP Clinics Network, which now has a website — . Like any other network of nonprofits & public interest & public services orgs, it needs a lot of work, but it’s a good start.