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Slashdot and Your Rights (16 Oct 2002 at 20:38)
I made some farily long-winded comments to slashdot recently, and I figured that perhaps some of you would like to read them. (Some people might actually be interested in my opinions, others I know simply like to hear me get fired up about stuff!)

Most recent is a rant about people imagining that the DMCA bans [everything under the sun]. (Example incorrect thought: "Hammers must be illegal under the DMCA because they can be used to break store windows!") Of course I am a strong opponent of the DMCA due to my own legal troubles with it. But I think that the level of understanding of the law and the high-profile DMCA cases is tragically low. Contains several rebuttals. If you don't know about the DMCA at all, I urge you to at least read an introduction, such as The EFF's.

Right before that, I complained more briefly about how distributed.net's RC*-cracking challenge (an internet-wide attempt to crack one of RSADSI's popular ciphers by brute force) is a [waste of time]. (This was in response to one poster's assertion that we'd be "teaching the government a valuable lesson" about encryption.)

Finally, I posted my comments I submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee (comment here) on Digital Rights Management. Believe it or not, there are currently pushes to put special hardware inside every computer to prevent you from doing things like making MP3s of CDs you own, recording digital TV to watch later, etc. Indeed, congress is considering legislation that would require all consumer electronic devices to implement such hardware controls!! My comments, of course, say that [this is a bad thing], both because it makes computer research impossible (that's just me throwing around the "PhD student" and "Carnegie Mellon" terms), and more importantly because it endangers the ability for amateur content creators to be able to distribute their works on the internet freely. Believe it or not, it wouldn't really bother me if the major content producers made it extremely difficult and expensive for me to use their products; I just wouldn't do it. But if as a by-product I can't make my own stuff, and can't enjoy content created by other people who are just in it for the love of it, then I will be really upset.


In general, you can see my most recent rants in my slashdot history, or see my oldest rants with this google search.
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Hock (p-proxy-1-int0.net.wisc.edu) – 10.18.02 18:14:04
Re RC*-cracking: It is a waste of time to you and me, but it helps convince actual people (e.g. the unenlightened masses) about the true difficulty (as it stands today) of breaking encryption. "It took eight bajillion computers eight bajillion days to break this, so I guess I can safely send my credit card info over the web." This is presumably why companies are willing to sponsor this stuff. And if I get a chance at the prize for participating, why cough at it? Then again, GIMPS also has prizes associated. Finding giant prime numbers is sort of helpful because it may help establish a pattern which will lead to a conjecture which will lead to a cool proof, which allong with a collection of other proofs will lead to a comprehensive theory which will fundamentally change the way processes are undergone and thus revolutionize people's lives. But far, far likelier than not, all of those giant primes (which are produced at an excruciatingly slow rate) will remain an intellectual curiosity to a comparatively very small set of people.

Of course, I like GIMPS much more than distributed.net.
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Tom 7 (h-64-105-108-15.phlapafg.covad.net) – 10.19.02 00:35:01
Certainly it's a good thing that RSADSI has a contest with cash prizes for cracking their cipher. But somehow the difference between "it *would* take 8 bajillion computers ..." and "it *did* take 8 bajillion computers" doesn't seem worth all that computing power. That's all I'm sayin'.
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