My friend Gabriel has a blog

Gabriel_Cheifetz.gif I set my friend Gabriel up with a blog today. Naturally, he’s using the same toolset I’ve got: MovableType hosted on NetSpace. Setting him up took me about 15 minutes, including a workaround for NetSpace’s broken copy of Digest::MD5.

Gabriel was my college roommate and is the co-founder of DoTheGood, which provides philanthropy management solutions to financial institutions.

I look forward to seeing what he writes about.

What a long day!

I’m exhausted. I just got back home from a very long day in Sunnyvale. LAX to SJC to LAX. 16 hours of travel, caffeine, meetings, a bunch of phone calls, a ton of email, and some more meetings. I don’t think I wrote a single line of code today.

A few quickies before I light Chanukah candles with Ariella:

  • story.kosher.oysters.jpg Is it kosher to sell ‘kosher’ oysters? My brother-in-law forwarded me a link about a story on CNN about a guy in Louisiana selling “Certified Kosher” oysters. Hilarious.

  • For the first time in a long time, a spam email message slipped through my SpamAssassin filter. “Create Professional 3D eBooks” got a score of 4.0. Just one more point and it would’ve been neatly procmailed into my ~/mail/possible-spam folder. Oh well. Can’t win all the time.
  • I spent about 45 minutes chatting with one of my co-workers late this afternoon about the world of search engines (Google, AltaVista, Inktomi). Great technical discussion.
  • I met my folks for dinner at a Mexican restaurant off Castro St. in Mountain View. They got us a Chanukah present from Crate & Barrel. I can’t wait to open it!
  • CARAVA28.jpg Returned the stupid mini-van I rented from Dollar this morning. I won’t be renting from them at SJC ever again for two reasons. First, I’m sick and tired of reserving an Economy, Compact, or Mid-Size car and getting stuck with a minivan. Second, our travel policy indicates that our preferred vendor is Avis. Even though I’m saving the company money (getting the $32.99/day rate from Dollar vs. $50-something even with the Avis corporate discount), apparently I’m not being a good corporate citizen. Next time I’m going to just take taxis to/from SJC.

I’m off to light some candles!

International Abolition of Slavery Day

handcuffs.jpg Today (December 2nd) is International Abolition of Slavery Day. According to the iAbolish Freedom Action Network,

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the international community’s decision to abolish slavery everywhere, through the adoption of the Slavery Convention in 1927. Though the legal argument against slavery has been won, slavery persists and even thrives in some parts of the world. By conservative estimates, 30 million people are enslaved today — more than any time in history.

To do your part to help to end slavery, visit iAbolish.

Information wants to be free?

This graphic is Copyright (c) 2002 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.  Should I be re-publishing it here? I spend a lot of time thinking about IP. No, I’m not talking about Internet Protocol; I’m talking about the other IP. Intellectual Property. Some day before I get too old, I’m going to put my career as a software guy on hold and go to law school to study this stuff more seriously.

I was talking about blogs with my friend Gabriel last night on the phone, and the subject of images came up. I mentioned to him that I was trying to put graphics next to each blog entry that I write because it’s entertaining and it makes the page easier to read (too much text and people won’t bother to read my blog). I often go to http://images.google.com/ and search for something then grab whatever graphic happens to look the best. So I mentioned to Gabriel that I’m worried about the copyright implications of re-publishing someone else’s clipart/photo/graphic without their permission.

“Whatever, dude. Information wants to be free,” he said. “Plus, it’s fair use.”

Actually, the reason I’m worried about it is that I’m pretty sure it’s not covered under the fair use doctrine. Writing a blog is pretty clearly a form of publication, and fair use certainly doesn’t cover republication. It might allow you to rent a movie from Blockbuster and show it to a dozen of your friends at home, but it doesn’t allow you to display that movie in a public place (like a restaurant or bar) without paying royalties to the movie studio. Since blogs are a public medium (it’s not just my family friends that read this, but also a bunch of people I don’t even know), to be 100% legal I probably should avoid using random images I grab off the web (or I should specifically seek out unencumbered graphics, such as the dreidel I found when searching for “free chanukah clipart”).

Don’t get me wrong. I do think that copyright law can be taken too far. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act perhaps gets the most attention of the copyright-laws-gone-awry. And I haven’t even begun to understand the implications of the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act.

free-the-mouse.gif The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act is also really misguided; Mickey Mouse belongs in the public domain as much as American Gothic and Uncle Sam do.

But I have a strong respect for copyright law because artists deserve a right to make a living. If you’re selling a product (like bars of soap or ink jet printers) then you’ve got a steady revenue stream because your product eventually wears out and people need to buy more. When you’re providing a service (like helping people with their income taxes) you get paid for that, too.

But Intellectual Property is different. It’s not a tangible product that you can buy, but it’s something that we still find valuable (otherwise we wouldn’t pay 9 bucks to see a first-run movie). In the digital age, we need to be especially diligent with IP. Digital copies of creative works are essentially free to copy (thanks to 19 cent blank CD-Rs and fast Internet connections). When you write a book, compose some music, direct a movie, or even write code, your work can be copied an infinite number of times without you getting paid for it. We all have families to support. Copyright law was originally intended to ensure that creative individuals would get compensated for their work.

Gabriel pointed out that the Open Source Software movement is trying to turn copyright upside-down. But if you look at the key people in the OSS movement, they benefit tremendously from copyright law. Many of them write code for free, but they make their living by authoring books and magazine articles, and getting paid to speak at conferences. Some of them run consulting and support companies. The very lucky ones are employed by a generous and open-minded corporation that pays their engineering salary but donates their time to the Open Source world.

I agree that information wants to be free. We all want a free lunch.

Pastrami on Rye

pastrami-sandw.jpg After a pretty awful day of working in the garden, we went to Pico Kosher Deli for dinner and I ate a big pastrami sandwich. It was incredible. I’m still in a bad mood, but my stomach is full.

I spent many years being an almost-vegetarian (I never gave up eating fish) but about a year and a half ago I broke down during Pesach and started eating kosher meat. I still eat vegetarian most of the time; we’ve got a milchig-only kitchen at home, and I don’t eat meat in non-kosher restaurants. But every once in a while I actually take advantage of the LA kosher food industry and eat some fleishigs.

Ariella had a bite. We said Shehecheyanu.