How the next version of the GPL will be drafted

The Free Software Foundation -- publishers of the GPL, the Free/Open Source Software license that governs such technologies as the GIMP and the GNU/Linux operating system -- are proposing the third major revision to the GPL.

They've initiated a public process of comment on GPL3, soliciting feedback on the license draft and defining the way that comments and concerns will be addressed as the drafting proceeds. The new GPL is pretty controversial, but it could plug some major holes, like the one that allows people to use trusted computing to technically comply with the license by publishing their code, but to subvert its purpose by keeping your computer from running the code if you change it.

They're also having a public launch event at MIT on Jan 16/17, which sounds like a blast! Link (Thanks, John!)

Shaun of the Dead re-enacted with knitted dollies

Back in October, I blogged about a completely genius Flickr set showing miniature knitted zombies that reenacted the original Dawn of the Dead.

Now the same knitters have created a knitted re-enactment of the convulsively funny British zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead. What is it about zombies and knitting? They just go awesomely well together. Link (Thanks, Widgett)

No Xmas for Sony protest badge

Gisela sez, "I got tired of waiting for someone else to start the 'No Xmas for Sony' thing, so I opted to do it myself. There is an image that I have taken up using in my sig files around the Internet, linking it to Mark Russinovich's blog on the Sony rootkit debacle. So far, in less than 1 hour of it being live, it convinced someone not to buy a Vaio, so I am quite pleased with it." Link (Thanks, Gisela!)

Previous installments of the Sony Rootkit Roundup: Part I, Part II, Part III

HOWTO defeat Apple's anti-DVD-screenshot DRM

Apple disables the OS X screenshot capability while a DVD is playing (this is a giant pain in the ass if you've got a little DVD playing in the corner of the screen while blogging and you have to quit the player when you want to take a screenshot of your browser). There's a work-around, though, for those times when you want to make a (generally speaking, perfectly lawful) screenshot of your DVD player:
1) Put your DVD in your computer and open DVD Player (Applications -> DVD Player) if it does not open automatically. Go to Video -> Maximum Size, or hit Command-3. Fast forward to the frame you want to capture, or select the scene to start at.

2) Open the Terminal (Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal). Type this, or copy / paste it right in the Terminal:

screencapture -i ~/Desktop/dvd.jpg

Your mouse should turn into crosshairs. Now hit the space bar. Your mouse should now be a camera. Click the window the DVD is playing in. A file called "dvd.jpg" will appear on your desktop.

Link (via Digg)

Update: Kirk sez, "This is not entirely correct. screencapture's default image format is PNG; adding a .jpg extension does not change this. There's a flag in the man page for screencapture, but the format codes are not documented (and the man page even admits this...). (And I can't get it to work.)

You can change the default format with a simple command - see this article on Mac OS X Hints.

Photos from NYC anti-DRM demonstration, with Richard Stallman

Fred sez, "Free Culture @ NYU wanted to say thanks to everyone who came out to our second DRM demonstration at Tower Records. We handed out over 700 flyers and met tons of interested and grateful consumers. We even had a little chat with the manager of store who wasn't aware that Sony's XCP CDs were still on the shelves of his store. He was a good sport about it and told us he'd have them removed "immediately." Anyway, check out the full Flickr set here."

Free Software movement founder Richard Stallman, who had been at NYU to give a talk, tagged along and wore a sandwich board. Link, Link to announcement of the DRM demonstration (Thanks, Fred and Michael!)

EFF: DMCA exemption process is completely scr0d

EFF has published a great critique of the "safety valve" in America's digital copyright law, which is supposed to protect "consumer rights" by allowing for hearings every three years at the Copyright Office to reform the statute.

The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA, 1998) makes it a crime to break a digital lock that controls access to copyrighted works, even if you do so to enable a lawful activity. For example, you might want to break the DRM on a DVD that you bought in Europe so that you can watch it on your the DVD drive in your American laptop. No copyright law protects DVDs from being watched outside the place where they were purchased, but the cartel the controls DVD-player licensing requires manufacturers to prevent you from doing this. The DMCA makes it illegal to break the protection and do something that is perfectly lawful.

Every three years, the Copyright Office holds hearings to determine whether they should allow some exceptions to this law. But the process is so tortured and the criteria are so absurd that this process practically never grants an exemption:

* No Tools. You can get an exemption for acts of circumvention, but the Copyright Office lacks the power to legalize circumvention tools. So, unless you are an engineer, a computer scientists, or can afford to hire them, you're not likely to be able to take advantage of any exemptions granted.

* Impenetrable Complexity, Impossible Burdens. In order to effectively participate in the rulemaking, you need to wade through >200 pages of bureaucratic legalese and have graduate level understanding of copyright law. You have to persuade the Copyright Office that your activity is noninfringing and gather evidence that demonstrates a "substantially adverse effect" on noninfringing uses beyond “mere inconveniences or individual cases."

* "Mere Inconvenience" = Ignoring Consumers. Where consumers are concerned, the Copyright Office discounts their concerns as "mere inconveniences." So region coding is no problem, according to the Copyright Office, because you could just buy a separate DVD player from every region. Copy-protected CDs are no problem because you can play them on CD players, even if they won't work in your computer. Where the copyright industries are concerned, in contrast, the Copyright Office presumes that DRM is the only thing that stands between them and financial ruin.

Link (Thanks, Seth!)

Grateful Dead recordings to be reinstated to Internet Archive?

Grateful Dead fan-recordings may return to the Internet Archive, following disavowals by surviving band members of the threats that caused them to be taken down. Last week, I blogged about how the Internet Archive had taken down their repository of fan-recordings of Grateful Dead shows after a set-to with one of Jerry Garcia's widows, and Xeni followed up with a saddened statement from GD lyricist John Perry Barlow.

Now there's an open letter from Phil Lesh, former bassist for the band endorsing the Internet Archive's repository, saying "I was not part of this decision making process...I have enjoyed using Archive.org and found it invaluable during the writing of my book."

A spokesman for the Grateful Dead has attributed the takedown of the recordings to a "communications SNAFU" and promised that they would be reinstated shortly: "It is my understanding that by the end of the day, the audience tapes will be restored to archive.org" Link to article, Link to Lesh letter (Thanks, Breon and Dan!)

Homebrew MarioWeen game blends Mario canon

Super Mario: Blue Twilight (MarioWeen for short) is a homebrew, Hallowe'en themed Super Mario game that combines elements of various Mario 2D and 3D games into a new, noncommercial game that includes such niceties as a "text-based directors' commentary" and "date-activated secrets." Link (via Digg)

Scratchless CD blanks keep data from touching your desk

Scratchless Discs are blank CDs with small raised bumps around their perimiters that keep the disc's data from coming into contact with your desk when you set it down, reducing the likelihood of scratches that render discs unreadable. The discs have some other clever features, like a bevelled edge to make it easier to lift them off of flat surfaces. The manufacturer claims compatibility with 99 percent of CD burners and says that the remaining one percent (PDF merely have some problems ejecting the discs. Link, Link to Manufacturer's Page (via Gizmodo)

Nose cells may repair spinal injuries

It may be that previously inoperablee nerve damage can be repaired with cells taken from the patient's nose. Nerve fibers in the nose are in constant growth, and because they are from the patient's own body, they don't get rejected by the patient's immune-system.
At least ten operations will be carried out to test in humans a technique pioneered in animals by the neuroscientist Geoffrey Raisman, who heads the spinal repair unit of University College, London. He discovered 20 years ago that cells from the lining of the nose constantly regenerate themselves. Professor Raisman's team believes that if those cells were implanted at the site of the damage they would build a bridge across the break, allowing the nerve fibres to knit back together.
Link (via /.)

Pesco's Salon article on big ideas in technology

As part of their Big Idea series, Salon asked me to describe several tech developments that I find intriguing. I had a lot of fun writing the article, but of course the real credit goes to the amazing people who are actually doing the research! The Big Ideas I cover include:
1. Robugs: Swarms of tiny robotic insects.

2. Hacking DNA: Creating life one BioBrick at a time

3. Location, location, location: The GeoWeb

4. Maker mindset: DIY technology

5. Biology as art: Genetic creativity

6. Desktop manufacturing: 3D printing and inkjet electronics
Link (Thanks, Jeanne Carstensen!)

Tiki mug to benefit Katrina victim

A talented tiki designer, Purple Jade, lost her house and everything in it when it was hit by Hurricane Katrina. The kind folks at Tiki Farm are donating 100% of the profits from the sale of this cool mug (designed by Purple Jade herself) to Purple Jade. It costs $25 and will be on sale for only 48 hours beginning 6pm Pacific time.
Picture 1-56 The mug is inspired by the Comedy/Tragedy masks aesthetic. It is a 3-tone mug in purple, gold & green which are the official colors of the Mardi Gras. One side of the mug features the Remember frowning face, and the othe side features the Rebuild smiling face. The nose design on the mug is the Fleur de Lis, the official symbol of New Orleans. Also, notice the general contours of the mug… it is shaped like a Hurricane glass.
Link

Amateur photographer's bad online experience with a NYC camera shop

Thomas Hawk, a dedicated amateur photographer, thought he was getting a good deal on a Canon EOS 5D camera when he ordered it online for $3000. But Hawk says the owner "went ballistic" when hawk refused to buy a bunch of accessories, and that the owner refused to sell him the camera as promised.

Alex Ravenel says: "[Hawk's] post is currently in the 'Popular' list on del.icio.us, has hundreds of comments, and upwards of 4300 Diggs. The scammer has been reported to the NYAG office and the BBB, negative feedback has been listed on every review site the author could find, and the the scammer's office has been flooded with phonecalls and emails."

"I will make sure you will never be able to place an order on the internet again." "I'm an attorney, I will sue you." "I will call the CEO of your company and play him the tape of this phone call." "I'm going to call your local police and have two officers come over and arrest you." "You'd better get this through your thick skull." "You have no idea who you are dealing with."

These are all direct threats that I received today from an individual who identified himself as Steve Phillips, the manager of PriceRitePhoto in Brooklyn, New York when I called to inquire about my order with them. My crime? Telling him that I planned to write an article about my unfortunate experience with his company regarding the camera order I had placed with him yesterday.

Link

Unlimited 3G services are... eh, not so much.

Recently here on BoingBoing, I've posted threads in which Glenn Fleishman and others analyze the surprisingly restrictive legalese that accompanies some cellular data service agreements. Glenn has a great piece in CMP's Mobile Pipeline newsletter summing up the issues:
If you're tempted by what some cellular operators are calling "unlimited" 3G cellular data service, read the fine print.

Three U.S. cellular operators that currently offer fixed-price 3G service -- Verizon Wireless, Cingular and Sprint -- typically use terms like "unlimited" in their marketing material to describe the nature of your access. However, a close look at the fine print makes it clear that the cellular operators are putting significant limits on their so-called unlimited service.

These limits are stated in the terms of use documents that the operators apply to their 3G service, documents that strictly spell out what you can -- and can't -- use 3G service for. Reading those documents, it is obvious that the operators are imposing these limitations to make sure you don't use too much 3G service or use 3G to replace existing wired broadband and Wi-Fi hotspot services.

Link

Study reveals security holes for evading wiretaps

In the NYT, John Markoff and John Schwartz report:
The technology used for decades by law enforcement agents to wiretap telephones has a security flaw that allows the person being wiretapped to stop the recorder remotely, according to research by computer security experts who studied the system. It is also possible to falsify the numbers dialed, they said.

Someone being wiretapped can easily employ these "devastating countermeasures" with off-the-shelf equipment, said the lead researcher, Matt Blaze, an associate professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania.

"This has implications not only for the accuracy of the intelligence that can be obtained from these taps, but also for the acceptability and weight of legal evidence derived from it," Mr. Blaze and his colleagues wrote in a paper that will be published today in Security & Privacy, a journal of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Link