CueCat is bad news.

Brian Ristuccia has analysed the output of the CueCat (advertising barcode scanner, packed with recent issues of Forbes and free at Radio Shack), and it’s got some bad mojo. As he explained on Slashdot, everytime that you scan a barcode, it broadcasts the serial number of the CueCat that you own. When you get your CueCat at Radio Shack, they get your name and address first. Forbes, of course, knows your name and address.

So what’s really going on is that they’re collecting data on what websites that you go to and what interests you in that magazine. Very creepy.

It gets worse. A few people (Pierre-Philippe Coupard, Michael Rothwell, JP Sugarbroad, Kevin Fowlks) wrote ports of the program for Linux, and they all got a cease-and-desist-type letter yesterday. Their point (rightly) is that they never agreed to a license or terms of use, and that analysing CueCat output is fully covered under both legislative and judicial umbrellas.

Anyhow, check out the discussion on Slashdot today. I’m writing a nasty letter to Forbes demanding that they explain if and how they’re spying on their readers. I recommend y’all do the same.

Value America finally crawled into a hole and died. Thank God.

So, Value America has finally gone under. It’s about damned time. I’ve been a vocal opponent of Value America since shortly after they started, I don’t mind saying. They came into our town waving an “IPO” banner and I watched sucker after sucker line up and empty out their wallets. I had quite a few friends lose their jobs after the last round of firings when they “experienced a restructuring” a few months back. I’ve just wanted these carpetbaggers to get the hell out of our town; I guess this does it.

I saw a great letter to the editor in The C-Ville Weekly earlier in the year, in reaction to a negative article that they’d done on Value America. Some woman wrote in, arguing with C-Ville’s point that Value America was fundamentally worthless, existing solely for the purpose of an IPO. She was pointing out that surely this was inaccurate, because Craig Winn (a Value America founder) was building a really huge house out in Free Union, and where would he get the money for that if the company wasn’t worth something?

People astound me with their stupidity. It’s really breathtaking at times. But I’m happy about Value America’s long-delayed death, mostly because I’ll get a lot of points on Fucked Company.

Get Antivore and be secure from FBI snooping.

My friend Sean and his company, ChainMail, are in Wired today. They’ve launched their secure e-mail app, Mithril, and re-branded it as Antivore. (Get it? The antidote to the FBI’s Carnivore?) These guys been working for ages on Antivore, and I gather it’s pretty damned incredible. They’ve released it as an open-source program, which is great. ChainMail’s parent company, Codevelop, tanked last week (which doesn’t in any way reflect badly on ChainMail), leaving ChainMail scrambling to release their product. I hope to have time to install it next week. If you’re concerned about securing e-mail on your server, I recommend that you download Antivore.

On Digimarc’s MediaBridge: Skip it. It sucks.

So I’m beta testing Digimarc‘s new
software. They sent me a little 3Com camera and everything. The good news? Free
camera. The bad news? MediaBridge is totally lame. The idea is that you hook this
camera up to your USB port and put it on your monitor. Then, when you see an ad in
a magazine and you want more information, you just hold it up to the camera and your
system magically takes you there. But it doesn’t exactly work like there. First,
I have to run the Digimarc MediaBridge software and make sure that the camera’s focus
ring is set so that it sees things about 6″ away. (Not what you’d generally keep
your camera set to.) Then, as per their instructions, I slowly move the ad closer and
father from the camera until the software gets a lock. Then, it opens up IE5 (it doesn’t
check to see if I’m actually running Mozilla or iCab or Netscape, it just loads IE5)
and shows me the page. The whole process takes about 30 seconds. This is theoretically
simpler than, for example, typing "ey" or
"advogato into my browser. (Browsers don’t
need a TLD or a "www" these days, after all.) Anyhow, that’s the software.
Skip it and just keep on, in the words of Popular Mechanics, "scribbling
lengthy URLs on scraps of paper" and "hunting or pecking at the keyboard."
I feel that’s better than tearing a page out of a magazine and slowing waving it at
my monitor. Don’t you?

Went to the COPA Commission hearing. Here’s what I saw.

I spent yesterday in Richmond (motto: “Armpit of Virginia”) at
the morning’s sessions for the COPA Commission.
The hearings are actually still going on today, for a total of a day and a half of
testimony and eight panels. Because I have to work,
I could only go for the first two panels, "Client Side Filtering Technologies"
and "Server Side Filtering Techonologies." It was weird, interesting, and fun.
I’m not sure that much was accomplished, though. It was really cool to see how many people
smiled in recognition at "Peacefire"
on my nametag. Bennett and Peacefire have worked for so long fighting against Internet
censorship, but it’s easy to think that you’re in your own little world, not making much
of an impression on your adversaries. So to see how many people were familiar with Peacefire
(and, creepily, me) was exciting. I guess this means that we’re getting somewhere!
If you want to read my full writeup, see it on

Just for kicks, I took

Just for kicks, I took an extremist position and replied to
Pitch Your Tent and
Log On
" (yeah, half of you know where this is going, don’t you?) explaining
that individuals that bring their own technology (GPS, laptop, whatever) into the
great outdoors aren’t missing out on anything. They’re just people that treat technologically-
advanced materials the same as their more simple counterparts. Why carry a map when
you could carry a GPS with a map database in it? Why carry a pencil and paper when
you could carry a laptop? Don’t even try to explain to me why the older things are
better. I’ve done it. I know that sometimes simpler things are better. My point is
just that it’s stupid for people to accuse others of failing to properly appreciate a
wilderness experience for the particular type of technology that they choose to adorn
themselves with. Gore-Tex is really about as advanced as a GPS. Yet one is OK and
the other is not? Anyhow, read my
devil’s advocate letter
and have a laugh. I knew that if I wrote "bullshit" in a letter, Wired would
print it. :)

There’s an essay up at

There’s an essay up at Freshmeat by David Burley from Marblehorse that’s a result of a comment that I made in response to a previous essay, Jacob Moorman’s "The Importance of Non-Developer Supporters in Free Software." Burley’s essay, "Inroads to Free Software Development," is about the challenges of non-developers getting involved with free software. Although I may be a developer (PHP and other web-related languages), I really don’t have any C or Perl (or Python, or Java, or Tcl, etc.) skills that are useful for creating applications. So I see, for now, that my role in free software must be limited to non-technical assistance. But how in the world do I get into these projects? Well, David Burley helps answer that question in his piece. Give it a read.

I’m leavin’ the afternoon of

I’m leavin’ the afternoon of the 7th on a much-needed vacation to Paris. Yay.
My flight leaves Dulles at 7ish, but I’ll be at the airport way early. I want
one of those seats by the fire exit, or maybe the bulkhead. The one where you have
lots of legroom and you’re all by yourself. I want to look out of the window, but
I want an aisle seat. Maybe that will work.

Anyhow, I’ll be there for a week, staying with family friends. I’m just going
for the heck of it. ‘Cuz I want to go to France. My main regret about going is
that I’ll miss the David Gray concert
at Trax on the 10th. I was pretty psyched up
for that. Oh, well.

If I’m feeling frisky, I might take that hellacool chunnel over to London for a day,
too. I figure I’ll do all of the usual touristy stuff, the café thing,
and hopefully spent lots of time just exploring. I’m bringing my ‘blades so that
I can explore in style. I think the part that I’m most excited about is that all of
my stuff (barring the Rollerblades) fits
in a little 1900 cubic inch pack. All that backpacking
taught me a few thiings.

If you need me, you can e-mail me at waldo(at) I’ll be checking that
on the go and ignoring my other accounts. I’ll be back on Wednesday the 14th. See y’all