Mason Wheeler’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 7:51am


    Oh, that's not the city's fault; the transportation budget has been crippled and shackled by Tim Eyman and all of the poor fools who fell for his con. If it weren't for I-695 and all of the aftermath in the years since it passed, there would be plenty of money available in the transportation budget, just as there was before he showed up on the scene and started throwing monkey wrenches into the machinery.

  • Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 7:49am

    Re: Re:

    So you want a real solution to the homelessness problem, and not just something silly and superficial that makes people feel good while accomplishing nothing? Try looking at one of the most conservative states in the whole country: Utah.

    They've all but eliminated homelessness by the simple expedient of providing free housing for the homeless, no questions asked. It's even turned into a net money-maker for the state, because they end up saving more on medical subsidies for indigent ER visits than they're paying on housing costs.

  • Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 7:45am

    Re: Tax-loathing? Seattle?

    Yes, tax-loathing. Just look at the way Tim Eyman conned Seattle (and the entire rest of the state) into a bad deal that lost the average commuter more money than they were saving even before 9/11 drove gas prices through the roof, and they've been defending it at every chance since then, by promising lower taxes. (Or government fees, in this case, but it's essentially the same thing.)

  • Jul 2nd, 2015 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oh, there are plenty of worse things you could to to Tetris...

  • Jul 1st, 2015 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Defamation insane, breach of contract, probably not so much...

    Most likely, as you noted below, because the contract lacked an exit clause. :P

    (Just to be clear, I'm not saying that it did. I don't know either way. But if that's true, it would be a valid reason to claim breach of contract.)

  • Jul 1st, 2015 @ 9:15am

    (untitled comment)

    This is one of the reasons I like Brandon Sanderson so much: he pushes for every new book he writes to have ebook and audiobook versions available on day 1. This is significant to me, not so much for the technical aspect, but because a close friend of mine is blind and that's the only way she can enjoy books.

  • Jul 1st, 2015 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Re: A dumb criminal goes into a cell, a smart one goes into politics or law enforcement

    If forming a corporation was about being "paid for your labor," no one would have a problem with it. But all too often these days, we see examples of people forming a corporation to be paid for someone else's labor, and it's not at all irrational to realize, and point out, that there's something very wrong with such a system.

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 4:12pm

    Re: A dumb criminal goes into a cell, a smart one goes into politics or law enforcement

    No, the smart ones go into business.

    "A criminal is a person with predatory instincts without sufficient capital to form a corporation."
    -- Howard Scott

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    But the use of them to actually hack people is.

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 2:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    "Dictate how you live your life"? Oh please. Let's lay off the melodrama a little, shall we? "Dictating how you live your life" is a positive mandate, which is far more oppressive and broader in scope than a negative mandate--dictating one specific way in which you will not live your life.

    And again, one of the most fundamental principles of civilization is that you do not have absolute liberty to do whatever you want, especially when your actions interact with the lives of others. The thing is, when it comes to addictive, mind-altering substances, just about everything you do ends up falling under that umbrella!

    For example, we ban driving under the influence because it has a higher-than-usual likelihood of screwing up someone else's life, but for some reason parenting under the influence--which comes with a certainty of screwing up someone else's life--is not held to the same standard. What kind of sense does that make? It makes far less sense to me than the concept of "government governing, safeguarding the well-being of its citizens from a long-term perspective." To me, that makes perfect sense.

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 2:05pm

    (untitled comment)

    Totally OT, but I have to wonder what a "Player Guitar" is supposed to be anyway. The brain works by association, and the first thing I think of when I hear that is a player piano, but I'm having difficulty even imagining what it would take to create an equivalent automatic guitar-playing machine...

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    What's the mandate of the US government? According to the most fundamental American philosophical document on the subject, it is to "secure" (protect/defend/uphold) the "inalienable rights" of the people, and chief among those rights are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

    Well, you aren't alive if you drink yourself to death. You aren't free if you're an addict; the phrase "slave to the bottle" exists for a very good reason. And you aren't happy if you're living in misery--not to mention the misery and destruction that it inflicts on the lives of those around you, particularly your family.

    So yes, I did say that a government doing exactly what it was explicitly supposed to do, governing and taking the long view for the good of the people, even when some people would prefer to take a short-sighted, destructive course of action, is a fundamentally good idea. What's bad about that?

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    It's not a perfect analogy. That's what happened with Prohibition, and like I said, that was the worst possible way to do it, but there's a good reason for that that doesn't apply to software: alcohol is a highly addictive substance--so addictive, in fact, that withdrawal can cause severe or even life-threatening medical problems--and it was imposed upon a populace in which a large percentage were already drinkers. Anyone could have seen that there's no way that can possibly go well.

    There is no equivalent problem with banning DRM.

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    First off, limiting the rights of people to do absolutely whatever they want--particularly at the points where they interact with other people in ways that can be harmful--is one of the most fundamental principles of civilized society. It's the concept that we believe in something higher than the law of the jungle.

    All the issues with DRM could be solved just fine by getting rid of anti-circumvention provisions.

    Not the issue of DRM itself.

    what are the issues that you think would remain after anti-circumvention rules are gone, that would require limiting people's rights to write software how they choose?

    What are the issues that you think would remain if people had the legal right to self-defense against vigilantes, that would require limiting people's rights to act as vigilantes if they choose to?

    Well, other than the fact that we would have vigilantes all over dispensing "justice" as they see fit, and an arms race between them and the ordinary citizens they'd be victimizing left and right as a matter of course, not all that much, really. But isn't that plenty bad enough in and of itself?

    Here's one more question, just out of curiosity: would free trial versions of software that disable after a given number of days also be illegal?

    Most likely, and everyone hates those anyway. It would provide an opportunity for innovation, to develop a better model for demo software. :)

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 11:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    This is probably going to drive you up the wall but... do you realize you're talking about something that's caused more senseless, completely unnecessary death and misery than every war in human history put together?

    Just as a bad solution can discredit a good explanation of a problem in the eyes of the masses due to guilt by association, so can a bad implementation of a good idea. One of the classic examples is Prohibition. Heck, I'm an engineer and I literally don't think I could design a worse way to implement it than the way the USA did if I tried! It was still fundamentally a good idea, though.

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    But how do you outlaw DRM in the first place without also outlawing my example?

    That's a pretty good point. Not being a lawyer, I'm not sure exactly how to word the law to get it right on that point. But I do believe it could be done.

    It doesn't even have to be so outlandish. What if I create a privacy/security control program of some kind, say one for parents to install when they want to limit young children's access to certain functions or programs? Sounds to me like that would also be an illegal virus under your definition.

    As I've said before, and been completely consistent about the whole time, ultimate control of a computer's functionality should rest in the hands of its owner... which in this case would almost certainly be the parent even if they do colloquially refer to it as the kid's computer.

    Putting such software on a system you don't own (or without being authorized to do so by the owner) would indeed be illegal under my definition.

    That's fine I guess, but it's also ridiculous. The law is not going to use a right that people have as the definition of something they cannot attempt to do.

    Why not? It already does, in a manner that's completely relevant to this discussion: you are legally prohibited from taking the enforcement of the law into your own hands. That's known as vigilantism, and it's highly illegal for any number of reasons, especially when the alleged victim and the vigilante are one and the same.

    ...except when the crime is copyright infringement. Then we throw literally millennia of precedent and common sense right out the window. My position is as simple as saying "no, we should not do that; copyright infringement needs to be decided in a court of law, with due process and the presumption of innocence just like anything else." Is there really anything at all ridiculous about that?

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 11:11am

    (untitled comment)

    This is saddening, but not surprising considering the current Supreme Court. These are the same people who brought us Citizens United. They love ruling in favor of big-money incumbents and screwing over the little guy. (And no, before anyone starts freaking out in response to that, Google isn't a "little guy" here, but the Android ecosystem that Oracle is trying to gain leverage over is, and that's the real victim of a bad ruling like this.)

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    There's a very important distinction with the SETI program. It's not "agreed to by the user"; it's invited by the user. (It's kinda like the difference between you having a guest over who eats food out of your fridge, and a burglar sneaking in and eating food out of your fridge.) If I downloaded the SETI software, I'm still in control: I can turn it off or even uninstall it, whenever I want to. I've simply chosen to donate unused computing resources to a worthy cause.

    No one buys software for the DRM, and no one truly assents to installing it; it's forced upon them by what can be at best considered a leonine contract, though I would prefer to use the words "under duress" to describe the process: you've paid good money for something that you know full well is not going to be refunded (because you might be a pirate!) and the only way you're going to get to use it involves a parasite that you're not even supposed to know about, that doesn't look anything like "informed consent" to me. (And you're not supposed to know about it. Remember, "If consumers even know there's a DRM, what it is, and how it works, we've already failed").

    The fact that those users are then legally prevented from using their own devices and other software to circumvent that DRM is a huge problem that we need to fix — but the fact that the company was permitted to create and openly sell the DRM is, as far as I can see, impossible to prevent.

    Maybe that would look as ridiculous to you as it does to me if I applied an analogy to the biological world:

    "The fact that those people are legally prevented from using their own money and medicine to cure poisoning is a huge problem that we need to fix — but the fact that the company was permitted to create and openly distribute poison is, as far as I can see, impossible to prevent."

    Can you imagine what a ridiculously dystopian world we would have to be living in for the above to be something anyone would actually say? But when it happens in computing, far too many people accept it as "just the way it it."

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    No, I do not believe that giving the government more authority to declare what sort of software is legal or illegal is a good idea.

    I don't see it as "giving the government more authority." They've already declared that malware is illegal--the judges already are in the position of ruling on that matter--and AFAICT we both agree that this is correct. I simply believe that the footnote that says "except for DRM, because highly influential companies like using it" needs to be expunged.

  • Jun 29th, 2015 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:Re:

    You are just mad that we won't join you on your absolutist bandwagon of criminalizing all DRM as though it's a virus.

    I'm frustrated, because here you appear to implicitly agree that it's a good idea to criminalize viruses, and also to draw a distinction between malware and DRM, one that's apparently so obvious that you feel no need to explain it. But as I explained above, DRM is functionally identical to a hacking tool.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If it looks like a malware and quacks like a malware, the burden of proof is on the person claiming that it should not be legally recognized as malware to back up their position.

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