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I've tried to cool the politics on this page lately. I get too stressed, and it isn't what people come here for anyway. But this is just too much to let pass. First, the GOP gave (nominal) Democrat Zell Miller a prime time speaking slot at the party's national convention. He responded with a bitter, angry, scare-mongering speech that among other things equated criticism of the administration's policy in Iraq with appeasement, cowardice, and disloyalty. Unfortunately, either he or his speechwriter apparently neglected to verify whether Kerry actually did the horrible things Miller accused him of. (He didn't.)
All of this was red meat for the diehard Republican convention delegates, of course, but it doesn't seem to have played quite so well in the rest of the country. Even conservatives from Andrew Sullivan to Laura Bush and John McCain are disavowing his remarks as fast as they can.
The problem is that his speech came straight from the GOP talking points for this election: Bush is a strong leader, Kerry is not. Never mind that maybe a little more thought and a little less machismo would have been in order before the invasion of Iraq. Never mind that most of the challenges facing the US -- terrorism, the economy, education, healthcare -- are not going to be solved by strength alone. Miller's sin was not that he deviated from the script, but that he followed it too well and read it too effectively.
The law of unintended consequences strikes again. The music industry's attack on file-sharing technology forced file-sharing software to evolve. The multi-headed hydra that resulted is probably unkillable.
I usually use a print dictionary, not an electronic one, but OneLook may persuade me to change my mind. It's a combined index to nearly a thousand online dictionaries, with nifty additional features like wildcards and a reverse dictionary.
Just a minor template tweak that you may notice. I've changed the Google search box code as part of joining Google's AdSense program. Google has always served ads along with its results, so the only functional change is that I'll now get a share of any ad revenue generated from the search pages. I do not, and don't plan to, run ads on the content pages of the site.
This is incredibly convoluted, but I think it's good news.
Chamberlain makes garage door openers. Skylink makes third party remotes for those garage door openers. Chamberlain attempted to sue Skylink, claiming that Skylink violated the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) by circumventing technological protection measures on Chamberlain's software.
The Federal Circuit Court held that Skylink had done no such thing. Here's where the reasoning becomes convoluted, but the court basically held that Chamberlain's customers are entitled to access the software driving the garage door opener by whatever means they like, whether authorized by Chamberlain or not. The DMCA creates no new rights for copyright owners, and the copyright law says that once you buy a book, the copyright owner can't keep you from reading it.
Which is wonderful news, except that another case held that unauthorized devices to read legitimately purchased DVDs do violate the DMCA. I'm not a lawyer, but the reasoning the court used to avoid contradiction between the two cases appears to hinge on the difference between accessing a work (fair use) and copying it (not fair use). Except that the DVD case was about a piece of software that no one ever proved was used for illegal copying.
The underlying problem is that the DMCA is a bad law. One proposed reform, H.R. 107 would explicitly allow circumvention of technology controls in order to exercise a fair use right.
A business plan is, first and foremost, a strategic document for the business. It doesn't do any good if it sits on the shelf. Here's a quick guide to writing a plan that actually gets used.
The Federal Reserve has published an interesting, though very dense, analysis of the relationship between wealth and entrepreneurship. Among other things, they found that most businesses are started with less than $10,000, an investment well within the reach of many non-wealthy households. On the other hand, wealthy households appear to be less risk averse, perhaps because they are more able to tolerate the erratic income flow typical of new businesses.
I haven't been updating the rest of the site much lately, but I do try to keep the Reference Section current. It tracks the equipment book-to-bill ratio and DRAM prices.
There's an interesting and important debate going on at Corante and elsewhere about whether projects like Wikipedia are or can be authoritative. (For those not familiar with it, Wikipedia is a collaboratively edited online encyclopedia.)
The underlying question is as old as humanity: what is truth, and how do we know? Before the internet, we relied on gatekeepers to tell us the truth and protect us from false information: shamans, priests, scientists, philosophers, editors. We still rely on gatekeepers--no one can personally verify all the facts that might be important to them--but evaluating them has become much more difficult.
The important metrics are the same as they've always been. Reputation matters. Verifiable credentials matter. Fact-checking matters. The most trustworthy sources are likely the ones who make it easy for you to know who they are and why you should trust them.
The Wall Street Journal has a good review of the boom in flat screen fabrication plants. (Paid subscribers only.) Ten plants are now under construction worldwide, trying to serve a market that has tripled since 2001.
This article is a couple years old, but still accurate. Clay Shirky talks about the impact of online publishing, particularly weblogs, on publishing business models.
But the vast majority of weblogs are amateur and will stay amateur, because a medium where someone can publish globally for no cost is ideal for those who do it for the love of the thing.
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