Question

If Microsoft was forced to exclude Internet Explorer from Windows, how would I download Mozilla Firefox? With their arcane command-line FTP utility? Bah!

The Business Software Alliance (Boy Scouts of America?)

This post was originally in response to a Slashdot article, referring to the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and the law. I have reproduced it here (edited for length) for educational purposes. The original posting can be found by following the related link below.

Clauses in contracts of adhesion (meaning a contract where you did not get a chance to negotiate terms with the other party) are typically invalid and regularly struck down in courts. If a clause would not have been accepted by a hypothetical 'reasonable person' who had a chance to negotiate, in the opinion of the court, then it is void. Letting a third party come into your company and poke through all your computer systems with sensitive data on them is not something that the courts often regard as reasonable. Here's a key phrase from the US case law, lifted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract_of_adhesion [wikipedia.org]:

absence of meaningful choice on the part of one party due to one-sided contract provisions, together with terms which are so oppressive that no reasonable person would make them and no fair and honest person would accept them.

> Remember that, by the BSA's rules, merely having
> all the original media, license certificates and
> product keys for every single copy you've got
> installed is not sufficient.

Ah, the BSA. Here's how their little scam works: They come along to you with a bunch of impressive-looking lawyers and make all these demands. You're probably a fairly small company. You don't have legal staff in-house. You don't realise that the law is actually on your side at this point; you think that they're telling the truth, and you have to let them audit you. So you let them.

At this point you have just granted them permission to do this stuff, so you can't later claim (when your lawyer explains things to you) that their investigation was unlawful. The whole scheme is based around conning you into granting them permission without realising it.

What you should have done was:

(1) instruct them to get off your property
(2) give them the name of your lawyers, and instruct them to refer all further correspondance there
(3) if they are still here, call the police and tell them you need some trespassers removing

Then you can have a nice leisurely discussion with your lawyers and figure out what, if anything, you actually need to do. Most likely they will tell you that you don't need to do anything unless the BSA has actual evidence of infringement.

Under no circumstances should you ever allow anybody to search your premesis unless they are holding a warrant and they are an officer of the law. The BSA themselves will never, ever have the right to do this because they are not the police.

As for those 'rules' they have about having to show the invoices? They made those up. They have no legal standing. The BSA has to prove that you are breaking the law, not the other way around. Then you merely have to show anything that proves them wrong. "Innocent until proven guilty" applies.

The BSA is like a mail worm infestation: it's far better to block them at the firewall than to try and clean up the mess once you let them get onto your network.

Child Pornography Database

Yes, you read the title properly. ISPs, in league with law enforcement officials, want to create a database of child pornography images. Apparently (though I haven't made this leap of logic in my own head), this will assist them in catching perverts, because if any files that the pervert downloads, match the files in the database, then they will either be notified, or will block it, or something.

Well, this won't work. For starters, you can bypass most ISPs by using P2P technology, IRC with DCC, and so on. It's trivial to encrypt the files so that the ISPs cannot scan them. In other words, they are going about this the wrong way. It's too complex.

So, I propose the following solution, and I admit I'm being a bastard about this:

Build the database by all means, but then charge money for access to the database, and then arrest those people who pay. Then throw them into jail with "kiddie porn" emblazoned on their foreheads. The money charged can be used to pay for children's homes, AIDS research, or whatever. Maybe even a party bus for ISP officials who catch these perverts in their thousands. You could even call it the Kiddie Porn Party Bus.

UPDATE: Someone just asked me what will happen when the pornographers catch on. This is a trivial problem, because I'd hire the same people who ran the Security Police to run this database. It would have different access points, different addresses, contact details, etc., and the people who are arrested would be "going on holiday" or just disappearing. No media attention whatsoever is necessary.

Website conversion

I have this desire to convert my website from flat HTML files to database-driven content, to aid ease of use, addition of content, etc. The trouble is, even though these files come in at under 1 MB (yes, you saw it right) and there are over 170 of them, I'm not sure it's actually worth it.

Quote of the week

"I don't believe [homosexuality is a sin]. Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender.

"The Bible has a great deal to teach us about how to live as human beings. The Bible does not have so much to teach us about what sorts of food to eat, what sorts of clothes to wear – there are rules in the Bible about those that we don't observe today.

"The Bible tells us about how to treat other human beings, and that's certainly the great message of Jesus – to include the unincluded."

— Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, newly-elected leader of the US Episcopal Church

Another rugby injury

I'm going to admit it (again). I watch professional wrestling, and I enjoy it. The reason I mention this, is because I'm used to hearing in the professional wrestling arena about career- and life-ending neck injuries. People say wrestling is fake, but the falls, the moves and the injuries (and deaths) are not fake.

Now I read about SA Rugby's Schalk Burger, who suffered a cervical neck injury with nerve root compression, and I think of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels, all who have recently had similar neck injuries, some career-ending. Schalk, like the men I've mentioned, will be out for a year at least, recovering from fusion surgery.

The difference between rugby and wrestling is this: we're not encouraging dangerous high-flying, high-impact, well-choreographed professional wrestling at schools. Sure, wrestling is dangerous, but the participants know it is when they start out. World Wrestling Entertainment has a "don't try this at home" disclaimer for every television broadcast. Rugby, on the other hand, is forced on us males from the age of 12 and 13, and if you don't play rugby, you must be gay (or "moffie" in SA parlance). Quite honestly, I'm glad I'm gay. I can still walk and run.

The attitude that rugby isn't dangerous is literally killing young boys and men all over the world. The recent rule changes will not change the fact that scrumming and tackling is dangerous and can break your neck. How many more brilliant sportsmen must be injured? How many more schoolboys must die, before something is done about this ridiculous "game"?

I'm no fan of football (the soccer kind), but it's not as dangerous as rugby. Heck, even American Football isn't as dangerous as rugby, but of course I'll start calling you gay if you play it in South Africa 🙂

The point is, the game of rugby is extremely dangerous, and should be promoted as such at school level. Players must know what they're getting themselves into. It can be fatal. Soccer players have more chance of being struck by lightning than breaking their necks. Golfers know to get the hell off the greens when a storm breaks out. But, rugby players are forced into a scrum. They are encouraged to tackle someone. In the wrestling ring, the canvas and wooden floor does absorb a lot of impact when a person falls. A rugby field, in the middle of winter in South Africa, does not.

While I'm on the subject, how about letting our Springboks rest? They should only be playing 6 months in a year. Some players have been going for around 2 years solid. It's ridiculous. Schalk Burger is your proof.

Darwin Award for 2006

Well I must say that America trains them really young. According to News24 (related link), a six-year old boy plunged 27 metres (9 storeys) to his death from the top of a Ferris Wheel at the San Joaquin County Fair. The article then glosses over a minor detail: the boy, who was alone in the gondola, tried to climb out!

Now I don't know much about you, but if my child of six wanted to go on a Ferris wheel, I'd sure as hell make sure he was under adult supervision. No amount of safety will keep a six year old boy from climbing out if he wants to get down.

I guess he's down now. Took the shortcut. Splat. My nomination for the 2006 Darwin Award.