January 18, 2013  Tagged with: , , , ,  Comments Off on It’s Internet Freedom Day

Today is internet freedom day. Let’s not forget what was in line to be passed into law by congress prior hearing the angry voice of the people being governed. The people who wrote those terrible bills (SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, etc.) are, for the most part, still in office. Some may have learned something, but I suspect all they might have learned was that what they are doing is unpopular enough to warrant even less transparency than the little they provide now.
Hat tip to Techdirt for this fantastic infographic. I’ll let it speak for itself.

May 23, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,

YouTube has just broken a whopping 72 hours of uploaded video per minute. Think about that. Every minute, three days of new video is added to, arguably, the largest such centralized repository of freely available video content. That is HUGE. That also brings up a few questions given the strenuous legal climate over the past decade. How such a monument to human creativity and curiosity will continue to survive without imploding under the strain of opposing human drives is largely a guessing game at this point. On the one hand, there is the self-evident natural will to create, innovate, remix, refine, renew, and share the endeavors of ourselves and others. On the other hand, there is also the similarly well intended and quite reasonable craving to retain proof and pride in the fruits of one’s labor, either through the direct capacity to demonstrate said results or via the more abstract means of equitable exchange for other produced goods. In the latter case, money usually suits the purpose rather well. In an attempt to adequately construct a balanced framework for these natural tendencies to promote a benefit to the community, the founding fathers remained intentionally vague when they wrote the copyright clause. They left it to the people to derive the meaning of “Progress of Science and the useful Arts.” At the time of writing it was meant to imply a restricted means for disseminating the labors of the booming fields of philosophy (lest we forget science began, and remains, as natural philosophy) and mechanical innovation to the public while reserving for those who labored a brief time to adequately profit from said work. Since this time, the meaning of the clause has been reinterpreted as an automatic entitlement to the use and reuse of all created works nigh in perpetuity. The copyright term for anything created today includes the life of the creator(s) plus 70 years. (/rant)

In light of this refreshed context, YouTube’s success seems a little more intimidating. While several organizations see YouTube as a threat to be sued and/or shamed out of existence (RIAA/MPAA/etc.), there are thankfully protections in place (fair use) for the rights of those they would happily squelch to see their goals met. Under the DMCA, the notice and take down system, while not perfect, has been tempered with the power of a fair use counter notice. Beyond these steps for settling a dispute over content, the accuser sues the accused in a court of law. The determination of copyright infringement, in general, has been found to require the ruling of a judge.

Now, with all of this in mind, YouTube might reasonably be wondering how cost effective it would be to work with purported defenders of artists’ rights to accommodate for the rights of copyright holders. Well, lets begin with the rate of content being uploaded, $\displaystyle R$.
$\displaystyle R=\frac{\partial t_v}{\partial t}=\frac{t_v}{t}=72\cfrac{\text{hours}}{\text{minute}}$
Converting this to its natural dimensionless units will help when it is split up.
$\displaystyle R=72\cfrac{\text{hours}}{\text{minute}}\times 60\cfrac{\text{minutes}}{\text{hours}}$

February 1, 2012  Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on I am Now a Certified Engineer in Training in Florida

I decided to swing by the Florida license website to check my application status and discovered that I’m now certified as an engineer in training (EIT). This is really exciting! Now I just need to fulfill the experience requirement and take the principles and practices of engineering exam to be certified as a professional engineer (PE). The hope is to end up working in a state that allows for submission of an awarded higher degree (such as the Ph.D. I will be pursuing later this year) in lieu of years of work experience so that I may begin the process for the PE license sooner rather than later.

January 11, 2012  Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on Quick Project: A Blackout Banner for Protesting Censorship

So, while perusing Techdirt earlier today, I saw an article about WordPress coming out against the Stopping Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  To me, this was just another tech sector company proclaiming, rightfully so, how ripe for abuse the proposed legislation is in its current form.  I noted that WordPress it quite capable of mass distributing a plugin to spread awareness and calls to action in the comments.  Another commenter pointed me to the already successful campaign by americancensorship.org and the small piece of code they provide to blackout a small portion of a website with a banner.  I saw a simple solution: wrap the aforementioned code inside a plugin and submit it myself.  This was a somewhat challenging project as I am not intimately familiar with the details of php, nor had I ever previously delved into the WordPress API.  I was able to cobble together what I feel is a stable plugin that more or less acts like an on/off switch for WordPress websites.  I have submitted my request to place the plugin into the repository, and they will eventually get back to me so I can upload it to the svn.  In the meantime, I thought it was an interesting project and I’ve placed the cleaned up bare-bones source code for the plugin below.

The majority of the effort was actually fixing minor mistakes like blacking out the dashboard where I was editing the plugin and many, many php error message frustrations caused by a single leading “?” prior the rest of the code above.   Beyond those small details it was a matter of figuring out which hook would allow me to place the banner most effectively.  After some fiddling around with different locations, I simply set the dimensions to “100%” and blacked out most of the sandbox I had setup.  So, the plugin works, I got to play with the insides of WordPress, and I was able to complete my project in just a few short hours.