inside the man

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Google vs. greasemonkey

Rajat Paharia railed against Google for disabling his gmail account after he installed the "greasemonkey Gmail delete button" script.

"I installed the GreaseMonkey Gmail Delete button and now Google has locked me out of my Gmail account for 'between one minute and 24 hours'. I'm surprised - use GreaseMonkey and Google whacks you. Oh mighty and benevolent Google, can I have my freakin' email back?"

I have been using the "Gmail secure" script with greasemonkey to automatically bump Gmail http connections up to https for weeks. When I logged in today, I was allowed into my account without complaint, but the script did not work - I was left in a state of email nakedness with http! What exactly is Google's motive here?

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Freya's Elk Island Challenge

Here is an amazing six year old who has pledged to walk 91 km of park trail to raise funds for the Friends of Elk Island Society,

"Hi! My name is Freya. I am 6 years old. I live in Edmonton with my mom and dad and twin sister, Stephie, and my cat, Chicken. I like to sing, dance, hike, swim, and help people. I have decided to hike all of the eleven trails listed at Elk Island National Park. I am doing this as a fundraiser to make money for the Friends of Elk Island Society. If I hike all of the trails, I will have walked 91.2 kilometres this summer. I may not be able to hike all of trail number 9 (Tawayik Lake Trail) because in the summer it gets flooded. That's not my fault, that's the lake's fault. I am going to hike as far as I can on number 9 and then hike back when we get to the flooded part, or we could puddle jump if it is not too big. I would like people to pledge money for every kilometre I hike. So, if you pledge one cent for every kilometre, you would pay the Friends of Elk Island Society ninety-one cents. If you pledge one dollar for every kilometre I hike, you would pay the society ninety-one dollars. That would help a lot of bison!"

Alberta's big sky over Astotin Lake, Elk Island National Park


Friday, June 24, 2005

ALA (foolishly?) hiding data in Canada?

Mr. Good provides us with a quote from Eric Alterman's recent article on the Patriot Act and libraries:

"While this should be a cause for concern for any citizen, it comes with a sad addendum: It would appear that the ALA [American Library Association] doesn't trust the government enough to house its findings on a computer server anywhere in the United States. The ALA, in surveying U.S. libraries for a report on the impact of the USA Patriot Act, housed its data on a computer server in Canada, beyond the reach of U.S. authorities."

This raises an interesting legal question, does housing data in Canada allow American organizations to protect their records from disclosure to American federal authorities using the powers of the Patriot Act?

At first consideration, housing data in Canada sounds like a great way to avoid having to turn over records under an order from the foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) Court - the body with the power, under the Patriot Act, to issue secret orders for library records. However, based on the results of an unrelated public consultation in British Columbia, ALA may have acted on bad legal advice.

In 2004, The Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia initiated a 10 week long public review of the US Patriot Act, prompted by a legal challenge to a government outsourcing contract to an American health services firm. This review received and analyzed over 500 submissions from individuals and organizations. I quote from page 18 of summary of the commissioner's report (pdf - 151 pages) at length below, but the main conclusion is in bold.

"There is general consensus in the submissions to us that the FIS Court could, under FISA, order a US-located corporation to produce records held in Canada that are under the US corporation's control. US courts have, in fact, been willing over the years to order disclosure, for the purpose of US proceedings, of records held outside the US, as long as a person or corporation subject to the US court' jurisdiction has legal or practical ability to access those records.

This requires us to consider whether control over records can be avoided through practical or contractual arrangements between public bodies and service providers. Some US courts have found that, under US law, control of records exists whenever there is a US parent-Canadian subsidiary corporate relationship, regardless of the contractual or practical arrangements between a British Columbia public body and the service provider or its US parent. Other US cases suggest, however, that contractual or practical arrangements may influence a US court's findings regarding control.

Even if control over Canadian records is found, it is not known whether the FIS Court would order disclosure if our law prohibited it. Submissions to us discussed whether a statutory provision in British Columbia that prohibits compliance with such an order would be eff ective. We cannot ignore the fact that US courts have upheld subpoenas ordering corporations to disclose records located outside the US, even where a foreign law prohibits the disclosure. We nonetheless conclude, however, that the FIS Court might decline to order disclosure in the face of a clear and strong British Columbia law prohibiting disclosure. The benefit of such statutory provision is not limited to its persuasive value to a US court; its compliance and deterrence eff ect within British Columbia is of even greater significance.

We do not exclude the possibility that policy or procedural safeguards exist in respect of FISA applications for disclosure of records located outside the US. In the absence of evidence of such safeguards, however, it is prudent to assume that US authorities are unfettered in their ability to seek such an order, that they may do so in circumstances that are not consistent with Canadian law and policy, and that the FIS Court might issue a FISA order for records located in Canada.

A final thought: We will likely never know if the FIS Court has already ordered ALA to turn over the survey data housed on a Canadian computer to the FBI, as ALA would be legal bound not to tell.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Ancient Chinese go stories

The English edition of the Korea Times has published a short collection of ancient go, a.k.a. weiqi in China and baduk in Korea, anecdotes from China. Here's the introduction:

"The 4,000 years of baduk has left ample anecdotes and lessons surrounding the most creative game invented by humans in the world. The following stories provide us with a quick glance at how Chinese have traditionally looked and enjoyed the board game. The next series is on the Korean ancient stories."
It doesn't take a breach to get the FTC's attention issues an important infosec reminder to organizations falling under FTC regulation,

"The litany of the latest database security breaches reads like a laundry list of some of the most prominent companies in the U.S. But your company doesn't have to be prominent or suffer a breach to come under the scrutiny -- and wrath -- of the Federal Trade Commission."
Big Google is watching

While this must not be news to more serious Google watchers, I let out an audible gasp when I looked up my own address in Google Maps, toggled to sattelite imagery, zoomed right in, and was able to identify the car parked in front of my house!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Spell with flickr

shpping container tBurning H PosterRAEssHOgimme an


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Four degrees of separation to ILS vendor news

First, Kenton Good mentions an ILS vendor press release gong show referring to...

Second, Paul Pival references an announcement of a SIRSI-Dynix merger on a SIRSI RSS feed, but the link is broken. However, there is a trackback to...

Third, the lbr blog, where Paul's report is initially dismissed as a potential premature information leak, only to be confirmed in an update pointing to...

Fourth, the new SirsiDynix web page.

From the new corporate website:

"We're pleased to announce the merger of Sirsi and Dynix, the two leading companies providing information technology solutions for libraries and consortia. At SirsiDynix, we believe that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Together, we're better than ever, and our customers can count on a continuing stream of new products and services."

Monday, June 20, 2005

Canadian copyright reform - a sad day for individual Canadians

The long promised amendments to the Canadian Copyright Act (Bill C-60 (pdf)) were tabled today. Based on the early reviews it sounds like copyright owners make out very well, creators are mentioned in passing, and Canadian users of copyrighted materials are the big losers. There is even unconfirmed reports that educational use of copyrighted materials has been negatively impacted - and how is that good for Canada?

Minister of Industry David Emerson's press release:

" "Canada's ability to foster an innovative economy depends on the creation, dissemination and commercialization of ideas. Innovators are rewarded, research is facilitated, and the use of technology is enhanced," said Minister Emerson. "I believe this bill will provide creators, intermediaries, and users of copyright material with the certainty and clarity that will allow them to take full advantage of the opportunities of the Internet."... Additional issues of concern in copyright law do remain, including the educational use of publicly available Internet material and private copying. "

Michael Geist's initial reaction:

"I'll have much more to say in the days ahead but my immediate impression is that the recording industry is the big winner with an enormous basket of new rights and individual Canadians are the big losers as the bill does little to address their interests."

Philippa Lawson of the CIPPIC states:

" "This is not a happy day for Canadians," states Philippa Lawson, Executive Director of CIPPIC, the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic. "The Bill calls for a massive transfer of rights and entitlements out of the hands of the Canadian public, and into the hands of copyright holders. Foreign content industries should be very, very happy with the government’s draft legislation – they are the big winners here. Losers, unfortunately, include Canadian consumers, educators, students, Canada’s security research community, Canada’s public domain and Canadian innovators and creators, whose interests have been sacrificed to the wishes of collectives and multinational entertainment companies." "

Slashdot reads:

"The Canadian government this afternoon kept one promise many could live without. It introduced new copyright legislation that will bring DMCA-style legislation to Canada."

Friday, June 17, 2005


Some readers of this blog have expressed curiosity about my professional background. Wonder no more. The inquisitive may view a brief resume that I have put up at my backpack account.
Just don't write them on yellow stickies on you monitor!

Here it is from the source. Now we can all go and update our corporate security policies to reflect this advice. Or, as Schneier has advised as an alternative, get the open source Password Safe.

"This is good advice, and I've been saying it for years. Simply, people can no longer remember passwords good enough to reliably defend against dictionary attacks, and are much more secure if they choose a password too complicated to remember and then write it down. We're all good at securing small pieces of paper. I recommend that people write their passwords down on a small piece of paper, and keep it with their other valuable small pieces of paper: in their wallet."
Today's public service announcement

The American black duck (QuickTime)

Courtesy of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Libraries and bookstores: "safe havens for terrorists and spys"

The press (here, here, etc.), the blogosphere (here, here, etc.), and everything in between (here) are abuzz with the 238-187 vote in the House of Representatives to remove powers to search library and bookstore records from the scope of the Patriot Act. The topic has yet to go before the Senate, but the White House is already issuing veto threats.

All politicking aside, this begs the question, will America be at an increased risk of terrorist attack if this amendment to the hastily drafted Patriot Act is enacted? The Reuters story quotes Assistant Attorney General William Moschella saying that, "Bookstores and libraries... 'should not be carved out as safe havens for terrorists and spies, who have, in fact, used public libraries to do research and communicate with their co-conspirators.'" Many librarians have exhibited pride at the subversive nature of public libraries, but Moschella may be taking this notion a bit too far.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Google Scholar's competitors are not impressed

Libraries would be well advised to consider this Thompson Gale review of Google Scholar that was slashdotted today.

"The Thomson Gale publishing group has put together a comprehensive review of Google Scholar, and they find it highly lacking compared with similar offerings from Highwire Press, Scopus, and The Web of Science. Will Google's overhyped offerings drive these superior services out of the market?"

While this is a detailed and useful review, of particular interest to academic librarians, it shows more than one sign of desperate FUD on the part of Gale - such as the final paragraph of the review,

"I dread the moment when ill-informed administrators at mediocre universities pushing asynchronous distance education and other ideas to cut costs will quote Mr. Velterop and others when canceling Scopus, WoS and other citation-enhanced databases because they believe that Google Scholar is better. Then they will cut library jobs and eliminate those costly libraries. And then ... you figure out the rest."

The article is correct in saying that for sophisticated users, Google Scholar pales in comparison to its two main commercial competitors Scopus and WoS. However, it is pretty darn good for a free resource. Who knows how good it will be once it is out of beta?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Rabbinically approved Torah marking

Schneier has a very interesting bit on marking and registering your Torah without violating Jewish law:

"According to Jewish law, Torahs must be identical. When you make a copy, you cannot change or add a single character. That means you can't write 'Property of....' You can't add a serial number. You can't make any kind of identifying marks. This turns out to be a problem when Torahs are stolen; it's impossible to identify that they're stolen goods. Now there's a method of identifying Torahs without violating Jewish law..."
Religion, politics and tsunami aid

Intractable religious and political differences trouble tsunami relief distribution in Sri Lanka. The BBC reports:

"Police in Sri Lanka have used teargas and batons to break up a protest by Buddhist monks opposed to a tsunami-aid deal with Tamil rebels... 'If the president thinks one life is not enough, we can offer thousands of lives,' a spokesman for the monks, Kalawelgala Chandraloka, said. "

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Montreal borough mayor 'hoodwinked' by slain photographer's son

First I would like to issue a challenge - is there another Canadian public library willing to show this exhibition in its entirety?

A few days ago I wrote about a failure of nerve on the part of the Côte Saint-Luc public library in the closure of an exhibition of photographs by slain photographer Zahra Kazemi in the library's gallery. Essentially, the library took down a number of photographs in the exhibition following complaints that they cast the Palestinian uprising in a favorable light and the Israeli government in a negative one. In response, Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, insisted that the entire exhibition be closed down. This has been reported in numerous news sources - see here, here, and here for examples. Defending intellectual freedom is difficult at the best of times, requiring sensitivity, perseverance, and hard work. However, in this case it seems the library and the local government simply folded under the pressure.

Shortly after my post, a comment was posted to my blog by a member of the local arts community in the borough of Côte-Saint-Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West. This individual suggested that I contact Mayor Robert Libman with my concerns. So I did. I wrote him a hastily crafted email which you can read below along with Mayor Libman's response.

What strikes me about the Mayor's reply is the accusation that the borough was somehow 'hoodwinked' by Hachemi over the content of the exhibition. From my read of all available English language news reports on this event, there is no report even hinting at deceit on the part of Hachemi. If anything, he acted with nothing but integrity in insisting that his mother's exhibit be shown intact or not at all. I would be interested to know if the French language press is reporting anything different?

To: Chris Hammond-Thrasher
Subject: Réf. : Zahra Kazemi exhibition closure and intellectual freedom
Date: Thu, 09 Jun 2005 06:32:32 -0700

Dear Chris;

Unfortunately, you are unaware of some of the circumstances surrounding
what happened. We solicited the exhibition in order to support Madame
Kazemi's son's quest for justice. We were unaware however that the
exhibition, once organized with the accompanying text, sought to portray
the State of Israel as oppressiveive regime. Israel is a modern, democratic
country and the exhibition clearly equates and compares Israel to the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Mullahs in Iran. That is an
unbalanced and offensive portrait of Israel and extremely sensitive in
this community.

We were hoodwinked by her son whom we wanted to support. His refusal to
give details about the content of the exhibition in advance exposes that
he wanted to promote a secondary agenda, the demonization of Israel. We
received complaints from numerous residents and tried to reason with her
son to understand some of the sensitivity of a few of the photos. He was
unwilling to discuss striking a compromise, even though the removal of a
few of the photos would not undermine the essence of the exhibition.

Hopefully you could understand this very difficult and unfortunate

Robert Libman

"Chris Hammond-Thrasher"
2005-06-08 17:11

Pour :
cc :
Objet : Zahra Kazemi exhibition closure and intellectual freedom

Mayor Libman,

On Tuesday, June 7th, I wrote a post in my blog (see
failure-of.html) suggesting that the Côte Saint-Luc public library
had failed to uphold the intellectual freedom policies of the
Canadian Library Association by bowing to a complaint from the
public over the content of the exhibit.

While I am not one of your constituents, I am deeply troubled by
your decision to pull five photos from the exhibit based on their
political message. I have chosen to write to you at the suggestion
of one of your constituents who read my post.

Allow me to quote from the CLA policy on intellectual freedom: "It
is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate
access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity,
including those which some elements of society may consider to be
unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable... Libraries should
resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities
while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups."

I find it difficult to understand your actions as anything more
than political self interest at the expense of intellectual
freedom. Certainly freedom of artistic expression is more important
than this, and a public library is a perfect venue for Quebecers to
engage in a conversation that explores all sides of the issues
facing Israel today.


Chris Hammond-Thrasher, MLIS

Today's public service announcement

The North American bison (QuickTime)

Courtesy of the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Fujitsu Cup is once again a Korean affair

The June 6 AGA ejournal carried the following Fujitsu Cup update:

"Koreans hold onto Fujitsu Cup: For the eighth year in a row, the next winner of the international Fujitsu Cup will be a Korean. In the quarterfinals last Saturday in Seoul, all four Koreans won their games. Choi Cheolhan 9P beat O Meien 9P of Japan by 6.5 points. Song Taekon 7P surprisingly defeated China's current number one Gu Li 7P by resignation. Yoo Changhyuk 9P, who won the Fujitsu in both 1993 and 1999, beat Wang Xi 5P of China, and Lee Sedol 9P, who was the winner in 2002 and 2003, defeated Yu Bin 9P of China by 2.5 points. The last non-Korean winner was Kobayashi Koichi 9P of Japan in 1997. The all Korean semifinals will be on July 2nd in Tokyo. In a disturbing development, the game records of this round have not been released to the public at the sponsor's request. No explanation has been offered thus far."
Real-life murder in online gaming dispute

CBC reports on a virtual dispute turned very real:

"A court in China has sentenced an online gamer to death for the real-life murder of a fellow player after a confrontation over a virtual weapon."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sith hooligans vandalize St. Albert Place while horrified children's festival guests look, uh, mildly alarmed.
Quebec library gallery has a failure of nerve?

CBC reports:

"An exhibition of work by slain Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi has been shut down, following complaints it was too sympathetic to the Palestinian uprising."

Presumably, the public library in Côte Saint-Luc has books that could be perceived as sympathetic to the Palestinian uprising in its collection despite the large local Jewish community. And presumably, this library would adhere to the intellectual freedom policies of the Canadian Library Association, part of which reads as follows:

"It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable... Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups."

So what is going on here? Should not a public library gallery function under the same rules that governs the ideas in the library proper?
Copyright and amnesia

Good ol' slashdot has this post about a potential music copyright extension in the UK:

"According to TimesOnLine, the UK is considering doubling the copyright term for popular music to 100 years. That means the Beatles' 'Love Me Do' and 'Please Please Me,' scheduled to go into the public domain in 2013, would earn royalties for record companies until 2063."

These days the copyright debate has become highly polarized. On one side there is the corporate interest that would have everyone pay every time someone listened, looked, backup up, ripped and put on their mp3 player, sampled, used as a cell phone ring tone, shared with their children, brushed up against, or smelled their IP. On the other side is the "all information must be free (free both like beer and Willy)" crowd. This faction is of course known to the other faction in public discourse as "pirates."

We, as a civil society, are in dire need of a re-examination of the roots of copyright law and what exactly it was originally trying to accomplish, because we have clearly forgotten. Robert Thibadeau in a 2004 paper frames the starting point of the discussion quite well, at least from an American stand point. Copyright law needs to balance the following two competing perspectives with the goal of obtaining the greatest possible good for society as a whole:
  1. [Congress shall have the power] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries. (US Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8)
  2. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. (Thomas Jefferson, 1813)
Considering these two quotes in light of current events, it is possible to create some striking juxtapositions. It becomes possible to paint American big media, the self proclaimed voice of all that is truly American, as anti-constitutional for seemingly desiring unending exclusive rights to the creations that they own. Similarly, if the earlier mentioned former president uttered his thoughts on ideas today he would be branded a supporter of IP piracy in the public discourse along side of Lawrence Lessig. It goes without saying that neither of these gentlemen deserve this title. To me this indicates that somewhere, somehow, we have gone down the wrong path.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Google never forgets

It is interesting to see this post, as tomorrow is the one year anniversary of a local political scandal involving the Google usenet archive, a popular Canadian political blogger, and a young hopeful running for office in the Province of Alberta's legislature. Essentially, the blogger, a certain National Post collumnist Colby Cosh, posted a link to anti-semetic comments that a New Democratic Party candidate, Malcolm Azania, made in a newsgroup 10 years previously. In the end, Azania came in third in his riding.
Aga Khan to become Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada

We are in a period in history where the dialogue regarding Islam, at least in the English speaking world, is preoccupied with fundamentalism. It is refreshing and delightful to see that a prominent figure from one of the countless compassionate and moderate factions of Islam formally recognized. The following is from the citation of the Governor General of Canada:

"Personifying cherished Canadian values, His Highness the Aga Khan has devoted his life to protecting the environment and alleviating human suffering due to poverty. Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims since 1957, he has guided the spiritual growth of his followers, teaching compassion and tolerance by example. In 1967, he launched his foundation, the Aga Khan Development Network, with branches in countries around the world, including Canada. Recognizing our nation's caring spirit, he cites Canada as a role model for the world and has selected Ottawa as the home of a new Global Centre for Pluralism."

The following excerpt from an AKDN page summarizes the Islam of the Shia Imami Ismali Muslims under the Aga Khan's spiritual leadership:

"The Aga Khan has emphasized the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith, one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man, Allah's noblest creation. In the Shia tradition of Islam, it is the mandate of the Imam of the time to safeguard the individual's right to personal intellectual search and to give practical expression to the ethical vision of society that the Islamic message inspires. Addressing, the International Conference on the Example (Seerat) of the Prophet Muhammad in Karachi in 1976, the Aga Khan said that the wisdom of Allah's final Prophet in seeking new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, provides the inspiration for Muslims to conceive a truly modern and dynamic society, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam."

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Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Returned to working as a Management Consultant, specializing in risk, security, and regulatory compliance, with Fujitsu Canada after running the IT shop in the largest library in the South Pacific.

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