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Jerry Pournelle jerryp@jerrypournelle.com
Copyright 2007 Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

December 31, 2007

Joe Zeff sends this:

Here's one blogger's take on upgrading from Vista to XP: Thought you might enjoy it. —

Joe Zeff
The only problem with trouble-shooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back.

I have not found as many problems with Vista as this chap has. I haven't taken the trouble to go over his account in detail. Hardware configurations will have a great effect.

Most users do find XP faster than Vista, and provided that one keeps the system entirely updated, XP security is adequate. Vista is so aggressive about permissions that most users turn off many of the security features before they go mad.

Google has a new project called KNOL that may or may not compete with Wikipedia. (Wikipedia link) There have been major articles that herald this as the end of Wikipedia. This brought about some discussion among the advisors.

I mentioned that Wikipedia often gets erroneous posts; in my case there is often incorrect information in my biography. I try to fix that when I can, and mentioned the need to police Wikipedia entries. This caused Rich Heimlich to comment:

This has happened a number of times as I'm sure won't surprise you. Case in point. The general populace, including authors who should know better, have continually made the case that Creative Labs won over the sound card market from AdLib because the Sound Blaster card included support for digital audio while the AdLib card was a music-only product. This makes all the sense in the world but it's flat-out incorrect. Digital audio didn't get supported by a single mainstream product until YEARS later when the Sound Blaster Pro was already on the market. The Sound Blaster beat the AdLib card because the Sound Blaster cost the same (or slightly less) and was fully AdLib compatible (yet another area people don't understand) and, most importantly, included a game (joystick) port. This was no small issue. In 1989 game ports took up a VALUABLE slot (many PC's like the Tandy's came with just 3 slots) and cost an additional $50. To get it on the sound card made the choice between the two competing products a no-brainer.

I've had to correct this sort of thing on countless websites over the years (yes I care about how the history of PC audio gets reported down to our kids for some reason) while having to only correct it once on Wikipedia.

So I suspect historical entries on KNOL written about sound cards from 12 different authors would include 11 incorrect entries against one correct one and the 11 suddenly drown out the 1. No thanks. I like it just the way it is.

I was somewhat involved in the Brown and Waugh campaign to replace AdLib with Sound Blaster. (Brown and Waugh represented the Singapore Sound Blaster company, and were primarily responsible for getting copies of Sound Blaster to columnists and reviewers.) One of these days I may have to go look at the Wikipedia entry and see if it mentions that I did the first major review of Sound Blaster...

Peter Glaskowsky adds

Thought I'd pass this along to this list since it responds so neatly  to the previous comments on how Knol will kill Wikipedia.

I like some of the comments, too, and I realized something while  reading them. Even Wikipedia doesn't believe Wikipedia is a primary  reference; original research is specifically disallowed there, and  all claims of fact are supposed to be referenced back to a recognized  (or at least recognizable) authority. But Knol _will_ be a primary  reference.

So when both sites are operating properly, Knol entries won't cite  Wikipedia entries, but Wikipedia entries WILL cite Knol entries.

So to me, that's how the two sites complement each other. Knol should  be used when experts are writing about their own research and  opinions. Wikipedia is a better platform for aggregating the work of  many people in order to present a complete picture.

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Dan Spisak adds

Except when people edit Wikipedia entries referencing back to Knol  entries to remove the Knol reference because the Wiki people feel that  the Knol reference is "tainted" by bias or whatever it is the Wikian's  groupthink fear that month/week/day.

-Dan S.

I suspect that can be a real problem. The Wiki people are not always well advised. Peter Glaskowsky disagrees:

That's not very likely even if the source is biased. Wikipedia's  rules allow biased references and make it difficult to remove any  references. They just have to be treated appropriately in the  article. Look at the "Holocaust denial" article, for example. It has  all kinds of references to thoroughly biased sources, links to  Holocaust-denying websites, etc. The references are put in their  proper context, but they're still there. If anyone wants to go  through all the source material to form an independent opinion, it's  possible.

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Possible but not likely: Wikipedia can be a valuable first cut at a subject. The problem comes when it is the only source of information. Of course there were plenty of such problems with one-volume encyclopedias before the Internet.

The following discussion about intellectual property and the RIAA gets disjointed and repetitive, but I found it well worth going through.

It began with Bob Thompson:

RIAA now going after people who rip tracks from their own personally-owned CDs.

Washington Post article link


"In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has _legally_ purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer."

I predict the RIAA is going to have a tough time with this one, not least because the RIAA itself previously stated publicly that ripping tracks from a CD is fair use.

It's nice to watch the RIAA implode.

Robert Bruce Thompson

This brought out two very different points of view. First, Rich Heimlich for the consumer view:

Read this a few days ago. This has got to become a consumer jihad. I realize that the law is such that it doesn't fully support the concept of ripping CD's but it's time for this to be put down for good.

This is, of course, related to the continuing long-term plan plan of the corporate world to have us pay-per-everything. The first step in that plan was to get the world to accept the concept of a use license. Once that was accepted it became much easier to say, "Well, you realize you don't own anything and therefore we can require anything we want in return." This sounds nice in a supposed free market but the industries where it applies have proven to be anything but true free markets. Furthermore, it was a failure of the consumer front to allow the bar to get moved that far in the first place. These guys will not be happy until we pay for every song we ever listen to, every show we ever watch, every time we read a book. Just look at books. As we discussed a couple weeks ago, books clearly seem to be the worst enemy of these guys. Digital version are appearing but are so crippled that they're a joke.

Anyway, back to the main issue.... The RIAA is clearly still working towards the overall goal of having all of us pay per listen. I'm not willing to do that. We did our part. We bought the records. We then bought the tapes. We then bought the CD's. Now we're buying those same songs digitally. I've literally bought the same music across four different mediums. Enough already. If you can't make money selling us the same song four times then clearly you need to find a new business. I don't buy the same book four times and that's the frame of reference regular people apply here. We can rip books all we like (copiers) and take those copies with us anywhere we want to go.

And this is what needs to change. Imagine if you were told you couldn't share the apples you bought with your family or friends. YOU "licensed" them. These are the work of the farmer. You have no right to them. How dare you hurt their livelihood by giving one to a visitor to your home when he should go home hungry and desirous of an apple of his own.

It's time for the RIAA to finally realize there's a limit to how far the consumer is willing to be shackled and, for this consumer, the line just got crossed.

Rich Heimlich

This prompted Peter Glaskowsky to say

These are weasel words, of course. The fact is that the law doesn't support CD ripping in ANY way. It's illegal. In fact, the term itself shows that when the practice began, those who named it knew perfectly well that it was illegal: "ripping" comes from "ripping off", as in ripping off the artist, record label, and record store.

Some people might prefer to argue whether CD ripping is "moral" but of course it isn't. We have no right to the work of others. There is only _permission_ granted by the creator or by the law.

Computer software generally must be copied in order to work, so it would make no sense for a software publisher to complain about the copies made when software is installed on a hard disk or loaded into memory. Backup copies are a practical necessity, but even so, they weren't clearly legal until they were authorized by Section 117 of the Copyright Act.

Even music must be copied in order to be heard; the bits on a CD are buffered in memory and routed through a digital-to-analog converter chip. A record label that sells a CD has effectively granted permission for this kind of copying. But it hasn't granted permission for the CD to be copied to a CD-R or hard disk or converted to MP3 format, and no law grants any such permission either.

Copyright law in the US is a mess. It was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the proper role of government in this area. It has no sensible structure, and additions like the Audio Home Recording Act and Digital Millenium Copyright Act have made it very difficult to figure out the legal status of many common activities.

The AHRA, for example, grants permission for non-commercial copying of digital audio on devices intended specifically for that purpose such as DAT and CD audio recorders. But the permission specifically doesn't apply to computers or CD-ROM drives, or to any kind of video content.

The Supreme Court would undoubtedly rule that using a CD burner to copy a CD is illegal, since Congress passed a law specifically NOT granting permission to do so. But since Congress didn't address anything similar to the process of ripping a CD to MP3 files, there's really no guidance available.

In the 1984 Betamax case, the Supreme Court ruled that a kind of copying not envisioned by Congress in the laws of the day should be viewed as Fair Use. But MP3 ripping is a different kind of copying, and this Supreme Court is a different court. There's no way to predict what will happen if the Court considers RIAA's case against Jeffrey Howell.

But let's not pretend there's some vague legal basis for what he did. Most of us do the same on a regular basis, but that doesn't make it right, it only means we believe it's right.

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Which certainly delineated two different views. There was more discussion, but most was repetitive. Rich Heimlich added

These are NOT weasel-words. These are the words of a consumer who has supported the publishers, the artists and the industry to the tune of buying more than 3,000 CD's over the years without stealing them. I buy their music, time and again, and go to see their shows. I don't bring a video camera to the concerts and share it. I don't make copies of my CD's for others. I don't download songs for free online.

In fact, I firmly believe your view is what's wrong with this industry. It's rebellion time. The law is not the final arbiter of right and wrong. Sometimes the law gets out of step with society and this is one of those cases and it's time that those of us who have supported this lunacy stop doing so and show THESE weasels who foots the bill here. To be completely blunt, I'm tired of people like you who have the audacity to tell people like me, that foot these bills, that we're the problem. It's what's wrong with things like overzealous copy protection in software and it's what's wrong with the situation here. The ones who want to be supportive are the ones who get are getting "ripped".


Captain Morse intervened with

Feel free to post philosophical rants, but please realize Peter is trying to get you to understand that the matter at hand is a legal case that, like it or not, will be settled as a matter of law, not according to what some non-involved party considers "right" or "wrong" on any given day.

The (alleged) perp got busted because he dumped his music into a directory shared on/by/via (whatever) Kazza. And, interestingly enough, that is what the RIAA is really taking action against.

I think you make some good points, but they are part of a broader discussion. I agree with your observation that copyright law is out of step with what some segments of our society believes is the way things should be. I am less certain the law is the party that has it wrong.

Reread Jerry's comments regarding the scribd/Doctrow/LASFFS affair. Jerry makes the point that content creators have rights, too, and one can't ignore them simply because you find such rights inconvenient.

Ron Morse

And Eric Pobirs says

Not a really functional analogy. Apples are one-time use items. You aren't going to give one to a friend and expect to get back anything later you'd want, except as fertilizer. Nor are you going to make copies of the apple without going to far more effort than simply buying more from the farmer. Since the apples are something anyone can produce by investment of effort and resources without any great talent required, the farmer can hardly object if some folks choose to have an apple tree on their own land.

The market for apples is far too large to be concerned with a few who grow their own, just as Ikea isn't threatened by the small number of individuals who choose to make their own furniture.

Nor can the origin of the term 'ripping' be simply dismissed. It says a great deal about the mindset of those who coined the term and further, those who made it widespread. It notably didn't come into use in the days when making a cassette copy of an album for a friend involved a fair amount of hassle and thus unlikely to cause much anxiety for the music industry at any level. When one CD track ripped and uploaded can become a million copies overnight, it may or may not affect the eventual revenue it generates but it sure as hell will give the publisher cause to wonder how it would have earned in the era before copying became so easy. Whenever somebody with a lot of money is given cause to question whether he shouldn't have a lot more, lawyers will soon be involved.

(I was a bit surprised when Apple ran ads with 'rip' in the slogan. But that was before the iTunes Store opened and made them care where the tracks originated.)

I'm not surprised or excited by this bit of litigation. It is a bridge that must be crossed because the issue has been left undefined until new technology changed the world it wasn't a problem. It wouldn't be the first time legal wrangling got deeper when it was realized that some of the assumptions had no firm precedent for reference.

Some of this stuff is pretty well defined. The existing licenses make it clear you can play a CD for anyone, so long as you aren't getting paid for doing so. If you're profiting on a the use of the copyrighted material, then the copyright holder expects a piece of the action. That is one aspect of the longstanding legalese. It doesn't cover the issue of copying to another medium for your own use but it makes it clear the publisher isn't going to demand payment for each person in your household who listens to the same CD.

Now, putting a copy on the iPod of each of your family members, that is less well defined territory and a place where we'll see more courtroom wrangling. Computer software has many approaches to this. Some products want a separate purchase for each machine that gets an install. Some allow sharing between a desktop and laptop with the understanding that both are not used simultaneously. Some allow multiple but limited installs for the base price. Some allow infinite installs because the service that makes the software useful is subscription based.

Eric Pobirs

Rich Heimlich wasn't through:

I understand what you're on here but understand my perspective. Consumers view this in the way they do because of the nature of their daily lives. We made the MISTAKE, as consumers, of allowing this ludicrous "licensing" concept to go unchallenged. We were given the impression that nothing would change as a result--that it was just terminology for the legal folks. Then the changes came. We take what people sell us and we use that. We buy apples and we eat them. We don't contemplate ownership. We record our shows and we watch them. We don't contemplate ownership. We take music we BOUGHT (and that bring with it clear perceptions based on countless other transactions) and we listen to it and sometimes that involves convenience. As much as you'll hate it, it'd be like Morton's complaining that I used their product to make something else. The point is that people view things based on how they interact with everything else in their lives. Why should software, music and movies be exceptions to this???

> Jerry makes the point that content creators have rights, too, and one
> can't ignore them simply because you find such rights inconvenient.

I agree entirely. They certainly have their rights and I'm not trying to take them away. I am trying to make it a fair balance. As I said in my blog, I paid "ELO" (Electric Light Orchestra) for their "Out Of The Blue" album on LP record. I then paid for it again on cassette tape. I paid for it again on CD. I paid for it again a bit ago in digital form from Music Giants in lossless format. I saw the concert live. You'd think these guys would be happy with me as a consumer. Instead I'm now being told by the RIAA that I'm a criminal. Well forgive me, but I take issue when people bite the hand that feeds them. As a consumer I'm saying that it's time the legislators heard from us on this issue and factor in our perspectives. Short of that, it's obvious to me now that people's disdain for the industry is having a very clear impact. Just as digital sales are taking off now they're going down this path? Time to start cutting back there too I suspect.

Bottom line is that if the Supreme Court rules, at some point, that ripping is legal, the industry will experience a huge resurgence just as the movie industry did after the Sony case. We want to support these people but we do not want to be called thieves while doing it.

Rich Heimlich

I have some sympathy with the view that we made a fundamental mistake in the 70's when we allowed software licenses, rather than sales. Having said that, I am not sure what ought to have been done in place of licenses.

Peter Glaskowsky summarizes

If I write or perform a song, it reaches you only under the terms of specific laws and contractual agreements. These define how you are permitted to use it.

This is music, after all. It has no higher political purpose. It's entertainment, not political speech or freedom of association or anything like that. If you don't like the terms under which music is distributed, your only option is to not buy it. You have no right to set your own terms.

For CDs sold through the normal commercial channels today, you have permission to listen to the song when played from the original CD.

You also have the legal authority to use the song for certain Fair Use purposes. That's it.

You believe you have the right to do other things with CD music, but the simple fact is that you don't.

You believe you OUGHT to have the right to do other things, but until the law is changed or music publishers grant permission for these other things, you don't.

So if you want these rights, use the appropriate political and economic processes to get them.

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And Robert Bruce Thompson gives his reply to Glaskowsky:

An excellent job of summarizing the position of the music industry, but you gloss over the fact that much of this is not settled in case or appellate law. And much that is settled is being ignored.

For instance, the Supreme Court long ago ruled that copyright infringement does not occur in the absence of a physical copy of the protected material, which pretty clearly establishes that electronic copies do not infringe copyright. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has also ruled, in effect, that "making available" does not infringe copyright, nor does uploading a file infringe copyright. According to that ruling, copyright infringement occurs (if at all, and this is by no means settled) when someone downloads the file and writes a fixed copy of it. In other words, the person who provides the source material is not guilty of copyright infringement; it is the person who actually make the copy who is guilty.

The MAFIAA pushes hard on the concept of "contributory infringement", which again is by no means a settled area of law. If you follow that to the logical conclusion, every library is guilty of contributory infringement, as are Netflix and other DVD rental businesses, and indeed anyone else who provides a legitimate copy of protected material to anyone who has not paid for it. In fact, you're guilty of contributory infringement if you lend a CD or DVD you paid for to a friend.


Which settles nothing. Peter insists he is summarizing nothing but his own views. Rich insists the problem is that we are moving toward "Pay per listen," although it is never clear to me how that can be accomplished any more than "Pay per read" could be for books.

I could continue for pages; my point is that intelligent people, all with good will, can disagree to the point of being rude, and their positions don't change much. Users want freedom to do as they will with stuff they bought. Artists want some control over what is done with their creations. Publishers are often the enemies of both artists and consumers. This is not so much true in the book world, where publishers and authors have an uneasy alliance and mutual dependence; but in the music industry the enmity between publisher and artist has produced some very strange results, as witness the odd episode of "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," a very clever move on the part of an artist to escape a publisher's grip...

I know a lot of people think they have the answer to the question of intellectual property. I don't. I only know that it will not be long before ebooks cut drastically into the mass paperback book market. By "not long" I mean within a decade, and probably within five years. When that happens, a great part of an author's income will go away; if it isn't replaced by royalties from ebooks, there will be even fewer able to make a living from writing.

There will still be employed writers. Some will write for web sites. A number of "information wants to be free" advocates earn salaries from web columns and articles. In addition, there will be plenty of academic writers. There will be writers who receive grants. There will be writers who find rich patrons.

Whether these changes will be good for the Republic can be debated. It's pretty clear that changes are inevitable.