Annoying Domain Dispute

Sunday, Aug 2, 2009 4:10 pm
William Barnes

I really don’t like the outcome of this (old) case: Freddy Adu v. Frank Fushille. The complainant is some kind of soccer player or something. The respondent is a fan. The respondent registered a domain with the intent of starting a fan site. At some point, he contacted the soccer player’s manager and said he was making a fan site and was wondering if it could be the official site (presumably, the soccer player didn’t have an official site at that time). The manager sent back an offer to buy the domain. The guy didn’t want to just sell the domain though, he wanted to run the site. So they got into a discussion over that. Apparently, the respondent got carried away during negotiations and they fell through. The manager then files to have the domain transferred, using the negotiations as evidence of bad faith registration.

That’s just wrong.

Everybody has a price. If I were running an unofficial fansite for a celebrity and the celebrity offered me a million dollars for the domain I would probably take it. The celebrity should not be able to then turn around and say: ‘Aha! Bad faith!’. Negotiations initiated by the complainant shouldn’t be evidence of registration for the purpose of sale.

Handbrake: Rip DVDs on a Mac

Monday, Jul 13, 2009 8:00 am
William Barnes

When I bought my Mac, I thought I was condemning myself to life with absolutely no useful free programs. With Windows and Linux, I was used to being able to find in seconds a tool to do whatever it was I wanted at that moment. I seldom saw Mac software and when I did it was never free. I was wrong. Finding Mac software is still tough, but I have been extremely happy with things when I found them (except Spanning Sync).

Handbrake is one of those programs. It is the greatest video conversion program I have ever used. It’s apparently also available for Windows and Linux (though I hear the Windows version is slower and buggier). I used it today to rip my Dr. Horrible DVD for my iPod. In twenty minutes (setup time + encoding time), it created an M4V file with chapters that plays perfectly on the iPod. It’s really just as simple as selecting your DVD and choosing a preset (though it has advanced options as well). I’m told it also converts just about any other type of file as well.

Handbrake

It’s astonishingly hard to find software to do this. Sure, there are plenty of programs that claim to do it and probably a lot of them actually do, but they’re always these shifty programs from link farm-y sites. Not the sort of places I’m about to download software from. The only Windows programs I ever trusted were these clunky programs that I found back in high school. But those programs didn’t convert to any format understood by my iPod. Maybe it’s just me and everybody else already has something great to do this, but if not I hope that this is useful to somebody.

Domain Name Dispute Resolution

Wednesday, Jul 8, 2009 12:00 pm
William Barnes

My latest IPilogue article What Jay Leno taught me about domain disputes should be up by now. It presented an interesting problem. Topics at IPilogue are assigned by email a few days in advance. We generally just get a link to a news article. But while the article I got on Jay Leno made it sound like a big deal, the case was actually the equivalent of a zoning dispute. There was nothing in it that hadn’t been said a thousand times before (the case was actually copy-and-pasted from an earlier case by the same panelist). Like I said, this presented me with a problem. I didn’t have time to get in touch with the editors and I didn’t have anything compelling to write about.

I solved (I think) this problem by noticing that everything had been said a thousand times before and yet I had never heard it before. There are five types of articles on domain dispute resolution: (1) celebrity gains control of HisOrHerName.com, (2) evil corporation steals Pokey.org from 12 year old kid, (3) case demonstrates that dispute resolution doesn’t work, (4) technological or social change means end to dispute resolution, (5) jokers keep control of obviously infringing website with wacky donkey argument. I did a lot of research for this article and this list is exhaustive. So I figured I could sneak in a little article on the criteria governing the process and though it might not be compelling, it might be useful.

I left out of the article a scenario that seems plausible to me but I cannot find any evidence of having occurred. What if a person registered a famous trademark and used it for a personal website? Let’s say, for a more concrete example, I registered CocaCola.com and put my blog up there. I’m not competing with Coke, but I’m getting some traffic that is meant for them. I am not sure what way that would go. There is an exception for valid commercial uses and where the domain is a nickname. But what if I just wanted to steal Coke’s traffic for my non-commercial site and had no other reason to use that domain?

Also, while writing this I got to think about an idea I had a while back (I think I posted it on IPilogue someplace). Someone should start a username registry:

  1. Trademark owners and celebrities register their desired usernames
  2. New social networks and websites reserve those names
  3. One in a thousand social networks becomes worth joining
  4. Trademark owners pay to the network a price based on size or some other metric for the reserved name

That way, when the next Twitter comes along, CNN can be sure that newtwitter.com/CNN is available. They’ll have to pay for the privilege, but they won’t be penalized for not being early adopters. It also means a little free money for the social network.

My First Mac

Tuesday, Jun 30, 2009 2:14 pm
William Barnes

So I did it. I went over to the shiny side. A little over a week ago, Apple announced an update to the MacBook Pro line and so I went to the Apple store to check out the new computers. I always do this when Apple releases a new MacBook. I’ve thought about buying a Mac for years. OS X is close enough to Linux for me to feel comfortable and Apple products are often shiny. But the white plastic MacBook was still too clunky for me and it had the annoying one button touchpad. But then Apple came out with the unibody Macs and a new touchpad and I started seriously considering it. So when I went to check them out on Thursday, I was doing it with the intent of making a decision on whether to buy one or not. To my surprise, I came home with a brand new 15″ MacBook Pro. I’ve been using it for five days and I now have things to write about it.

The Computer

It is just beautiful. It’s shiny and solid and just looks absolutely perfect. The 15″ screen is great. I’m used to small notebooks (my first three were 13″ and my last was 12″) and I didn’t think I’d like a big one, but this Mac has changed my mind. One reason I haven’t liked large notebooks is that as the screen gets larger, manufacturers care less about the thickness and weight. But the MacBooks are all the same thickness. So while it’s much wider, it’s not bulky. It feels compact in a way 15″ notebooks seldom do. The keyboard is full-sized and comfortable. There is no delete key (although the backspace key is labeled delete). You have to press Fn+Delete/Backspace to do a “reverse delete”. The new touchpad is also great. The whole thing is one big button and if you click with two fingers it does a right click. It took them twenty years, but Apple finally invented a better mouse click.

Mac OS X

OS X is much like Gnome (or Gnome is much like OS X, it’s hard to tell). One of the reasons I didn’t switch years ago was my addiction to virtual desktops in Linux. Apple finally (even Windows XP had it) added that a year or two ago. I wish you could easily drag windows between desktops. OS X is very comfortable. My only complaint is that it is really hard to change certain behaviours. For example, hidden files are hidden by default. Fair enough, but there is no option to unhide them. The only way to do it is to type some obscure command into a terminal and restart Finder. That’s not user-friendly Apple. Another thing is that Apple apps save files to random places (desktop, home folder, documents, etc) and most of them don’t seem to have an option to change the default location. I don’t mind if they don’t give me a save dialog each time, but at least let me go into the preferences and fix it. On the other hand, it’s beautiful how everything works together. Yesterday, I got a reminder on my iPod that I have to finish signing up for courses. It almost makes you want to switch to Apple products exclusively. Except I still use multiple other computers running Windows and Linux and I want my email and schedule on them as well. I wish it would play nicer with Google, but of course if it did that then people wouldn’t need to spend $100 a year on Mobile Me.

Citizen Journalism

Thursday, Jun 25, 2009 7:00 am
William Barnes

I know I’m over a week late, but I was away. There appear to have recently been some protests in Iran. I first found out when I turned on FoxNews on the airplane but apparently some people first found out on Twitter. As it turns out, people in Iran were tweeting about the protests and violence while CNN/MSNBC/FoxNews/etc were all showing reruns. And, of course, when I listened to last week’s This Week In Tech, they were all a-twitter (see what I did there?) about the future of social media and citizen journalism.

Citizen journalism is the idea that regular people will bypass the news outlets and report on breaking stories themselves using social media (blogs/Twitter/YouTube/etc). Now, this isn’t a new topic for the TWiTs. There are plenty of journalists and former journalists and media experts on the show and others like it. And all of them are all excited about the idea (though upset at the prospect of losing great investigative journalism). They say the conventional news outlets will be replaced by aggregators who are skilled in finding the best citizen journalism. And many people will just go straight to the source, reading eyewitness accounts on Twitter (or whatever replaces Twitter). People apparently want news in real time and don’t want to wait for newspapers or even TV.

And they’re probably right about some of it. I understand the appeal of live, breaking news. It’s much more exciting to be watching live video of riots or a hostage situation than to read about it in the paper the next day. Of course, the paper will probably have better information, but do people really care about that? I doubt it. The 24-hour news channels attract many people who wouldn’t have the patience to regularly read dailies and weeklies. It’s about connection with the events. Live footage is more emotionally compelling than next-day analysis. I think Twitter will have a hard time competing with video news, but combined with YouTube and USTREAM citizen journalism can probably better provide that connection.

It is cool that nowadays people have immediate access to all sorts of eyewitness accounts, but I worry about the affect that it would have on the reliability of information. Theoretically, in the case of professional journalism there is integrity and accountability (though that goes out the window when you want to scoop the other stations). But what do you have on Twitter? The TWiTs were very impressed about how they knew that the police were beating people in the streets before CNN did, but how can they be sure? I remember when they arrested the 18 alleged (not-so-alleged right now, I think) terrorists in Mississauga a few years ago. I went to my shift at the student council office the day after and it was full of people discussing it. One in particular was telling about how the RCMP busted into one family’s house, threw a baby on the floor, and threatened to shoot it unless the mother told them where her son was. Of course, I found this story completely unbelievable and no doubt most professional news outlets would too. But everybody else in the room seemed to be buying it (they were the type to believe such a thing). Twitter didn’t exist then but if it had I can imagine that story would sweep across Twitter like wildfire. There is absolutely no way to know if an “eyewitness account” on Twitter is true. Twitter only works if people can refrain from forming opinions immediately. Yet there is this mentality of rejecting the conventional news as biased and blindly accepting alternative sources. That can’t work. We badly need day- and week-after reporting and we badly need that people have the patience to read it.

Cybercrime

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 9:18 am
William Barnes

The word is starting to grow on me. I used to really dislike it. It sounded like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. Mostly it (along with “cyberspace”) just encourages people to talk about the Internet as if it were a place. The Internet isn’t a place, it’s a bunch of computers and wires that talk to each other. The whole “cyberspace” metaphor is useful for quickly explaining something, but it doesn’t really represent what is going on in your computer.

My first IPilogue article was just published: What is Cybercrime? It’s mainly a comment on another article on the same subject which basically defines cybercrimes as crimes taking place in cyberspace and then concludes that none exist: all cybercrimes are just regular crimes adapted to work in cyberspace. The author does, in a later article, express a little embarrassment at the term but she does not acknowledge its unsuitability. I say rather that cybercrimes are just unique computer crimes. They’re crimes that weren’t possible without computers but they don’t require us to invent some kind of allegory to make them fit into our existing system of criminal laws.

Dropbox: Best backup program ever

Friday, Mar 27, 2009 9:30 pm
William Barnes
drop-box-icon

I love Dropbox (referral link*). I’ve been using it since September to back up my school notes and yesterday I suddenly noticed how much easier it has made things.

Dropbox is a program that runs in the background on your computer and monitors a folder (e.g., “Documents\My Dropbox”). Everytime you make a change to a file in that folder it immediately backs it up over the Internet. The free account gives you 2GB of space. There are paid accounts that give you more, but 2GB is plenty for my purposes. So you get the peace of mind that even if your laptop gets stolen on the way home from school, or if the hard drive suddenly dies, you have a backup already. It even keeps copies of old versions of all your files so if you accidentally break or delete a file, you can recover an older version from minutes or months earlier.

Even better, though, is that you can run it on multiple computers at the same time. I like my laptop most of the time. But my home computer has a much larger screen and a better keyboard. Before Dropbox, I used to do everything bent over my laptop even when I was at home. It was just too much trouble to copy files back and forth or to try to work on an essay at school and realize that the latest version is on my computer at home. Dropbox fixed that. Now when I press save at school, within seconds the file is updated on my computer at home. And within a few seconds of starting my laptop, any changes I made on my home computer are synchronized to the laptop. This is what hit me yesterday. I sat down at my computer to continue working on an essay I had been working on at school half an hour earlier and realized how I just take it for granted that whatever computer I sit down at has all my notes and essays already there. No network transfers, emailing, or USB keys. It’s so great.

Anyway, I cannot recommend this enough. Even if you only have one computer, the instant backup is still worthwhile. And it’s free anyway, so there’s no harm. Runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux so you can even synchronize the files if you own both a Mac and a PC.

In the interests of journalistic integrity or something, I should also mention Syncplicity. It does more or less the same thing but does not support Linux and the free trial limits you to two computers (I have Dropbox installed in three operating systems including Linux on each of two computers, Syncplicity won’t let me do that for free). Choose Dropbox instead.

* You get extra space if you refer somebody, if you don’t want to use the referral link go to http://www.getdropbox.com.

Scheduling a meeting

Tuesday, Mar 24, 2009 4:26 pm
William Barnes

Ever try to schedule a meeting with a group of people? It is really hard to find a time that works for everybody. I looked around a bit and found two promising services: Tungle and TimeToMeet (there are just no good .com names left).

screenshot-11

Both allow you to mark your availability on a calendar and then send an email to all attendees. The attendees then mark their own availability. Tungle restricts the available times each time an attendee replies and the final person to reply picks the time. TimeToMeet allows each attendee to mark their availability separately and emails the administrator with all overlapping times. I prefer the interface on Tungle—although I chose to include a screenshot of TimeToMeet—but I dislike that the last attendee gets to pick the time. I’m not sure which I will end up using.

Another solution I had thought of: Google Calendar (and others) has the ability to share your calendar with free/busy information so a friend/coworker can see when you are busy and (in theory) not bother you. There are two problems with that. First, you have to share each calendar separately. I have six calendars. Sharing six calendars which five or six people (and presumably adding six from each of them) seems like a lot of work. Second, I don’t necessarily want all these people to always know whether I have plans or not. Solution: create a group availability calendar that merges availability from all the members and just blocks off time whenever any member of the group is busy without saying which one it is. While it wouldn’t be perfect (since it merely says when people aren’t busy which isn’t quite the same as saying they are available for a meeting) it would give a good overview of when people have time to meet. Combined with a bit of knowledge of your group it would be a great help when organizing many meetings with a group of people.

[Update 5:40pm] I sent a message to Tungle using their feedback form regarding the last person gets to choose functionality. 41 minutes later I got a reply: “Thanks for the feedback, and we agree completely with you. We’re making changes over the next couple of months to the whole scheduling process so it’ll allow you (the organizer) the book the meeting based on your participants times.” It’s nice to get such a fast reply. Although, they have only had about 450 requests so far. I remember getting a same-day reply from Twitter and multiple follow-ups when I had an issue a year ago while this year my new problem hasn’t even been assigned to a representative a week later.

Gmail Undo

Sunday, Mar 22, 2009 1:54 pm
William Barnes

undo

Very nice new feature in Gmail Labs: undo sent email. Gives you a few seconds after sending an email to change your mind and cancel it. Now we just need some way to reach into somebody’s email a few minutes or hours later and delete poorly thought out messages. I wonder if anyone would object if Gmail let you recall messages sent to another Gmail account at any point up until they are read. AOL used to let people do that (it wasn’t a bug it was a feature).