Saturday, May 26, 2007

Keeping the World Safe From Email Checking Leeches!

Can you imagine doing five years in the state penitentiary and paying $10,000.00 in fines for checking your email without buying a coffee? I can just imagine the conversation now ---

Grizzled murderer/rapist, "So what are ya in for?

Computer geek, "Checking my email without buying a coffee."

This almost happened to Sam Peterson II of Sparta, Michigan. The local police chief is apparently the Maytag repairman of crime. He has so little to do that he has to go searching for obscure victimless crimes. Peterson would check his email every day from his car outside the Re-Union Street Cafe, which provided a free unsecured wide-open wi-fi access point. Chief of Police Andrew Milanowski apparently found this suspicious and asked Peterson what he was doing every day. Peterson freely admitted that he was checking his email using the cafe's free unsecured wi-fi access point. Chief Milanowski wasn't sure what the crime was, but he had an idea that maybe this was a crime so he went looking for an excuse to bust Peterson and found an obscure Michigan law that makes it a crime to

intentionally and without authorization or by exceeding valid authorization do any of the following:

(a) Access or cause access to be made to a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network to acquire, alter, damage, delete, or destroy property or otherwise use the service of a computer program, computer, computer system, or computer network.
Full text of statute

There was no complainant, no harm done, and no victim so the Chief did what any good half wit with a badge would do. He got a warrant for Peterson's arrest and charged him with a felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000.00 fine. I'll bet the Chief can really sleep well knowing that he is protecting the people of Sparta from the likes of Peterson. I'd be embarrassed. Apparently, the local prosecutors are no better, because they actually chose to prosecute Peterson for this "crime." They've apparently never heard of prosecutorial discretion. Have any of these people ever heard of a warning, common sense, or a spine?

Worst of all is that I don't believe Peterson even violated this statute. In order to violate the statute he must access the wi-fi hotspot "without authorization" or "by exceeding valid authorization." Aren't you implying authorization to all when you set up a free unsecured wi-fi hotspot? Did the cafe have any explicit requirements to be an "authorized" user? Were any users of the wi-fi access point given passwords or told that they had to purchase a product before they could log on? If there are no distinctions between authorized users and unauthorized users, how can you ever be unauthorized? If you wish to limit the use of a free unsecured wi-fi hotspot to your customers, then you ought to explicitly say so in signage or when people log on. Peterson wasn't acquiring, altering, damaging, deleting or destroying property so he could only fall under the "otherwise use" language of the statute, which is obscenely overbroad. The way this statute is written you violate it if you merely use a computer program inconsistently with its end user license. Have I committed a felony if I access Blogger and violate the terms of service? Ninety percent of computer users must violate this overbroad statute at one point or another.

It makes me sad for America. Our justice system becomes arbitrary and capricious when legislatures create crimes that aren't obviously crimes and have no victims and involve no harm at all. Its scary and unworthy of our republic.

Full article from WOOD TV

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

John Edwards Is A Lear Jet Liberal? --- No, Duh!

Reportedly the John Edwards campaign is having to rethink its main message. Edwards likes to tout his underprivileged upbringing and portray himself as the friend of the poor. Meanwhile, he is gets $400.00 haircuts and is paid $55,000.00 to speak to college students about "poverty." Here's some perspective on those numbers --- a poor family of four could eat like kings for two weeks or just be well fed for a month on $400 while $55,000.00 would let them enjoy a middle class lifestyle for a year. Then there's his $500,000.00 annual salary from a hedge fund and the palatial mansion he is building on his baronial estate. The thing that amazes me is how anyone could be surprised at the excesses of this ultrawealthy trial lawyer. Was there ever any doubt that he's a Lear jet liberal? I don't have a problem with the fact that he is wealthy. I think he ought to embrace and enjoy it, but that's not the message he wants to send while he preaches higher taxes and increased government programs. Higher taxes and government spending won't dent his lifestyle. That's the real advantage in having more money than you can spend sensibly.

The "San Francisco Gate" article refers to the "devastating effects of poverty in America." There are some who would argue that there are no poor people in America by world standards. Drive through a poor neighborhood sometime (even a public housing project) and count the cars, satellite dishes, and color TVs. Sure they're poor compared to many Americans, but on a world level the American poor live better than most people. A lot of those "devastating effects" are the result of alcoholism, drugs, and other poor choices and not necessarily the lack of money.

The original article appeared in the "San Francisco Gate".

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Flock Browser

Leo Laporte of the This Week in Tech (TWiT) podcast mentioned a browser named Flock. So I, of course, just had to check it out. I found a clean looking interface built around Web 2.0 social networking. Its tag line is "The Social Web Browser." It is kind of hard to explain and I've only just downloaded it so I don't have much practice with it yet, but it allows you to comment on pictures, has a built in newsreader for your RSS feeds, and lets you blog from within the browser. In fact, I'm writing this entry from within the Flock browser without going to Blogspot. Of course, it allows tabbed browsing. It couldn't compete without tabs these days. It even lets you drag and drop pictures like this one:

That is the world sunlight map from my iGoogle homepage.

Hey, it is what was handy! And it is the first time I've dragged and dropped a picture into a post using Flock. What were you expecting? It was either the world sunlight map or the weather map.

Now it will be really easy to rip off copyrighted photographs for blogs. I guess I'll have to watch that and be careful. It even lets you tag your post and publish it to your blog from within your browser. It will then open your blog for you too if you want so you can view your new post on your blog. Anyway, it is a pretty handy application for blogging. I'm sure that I'll be writing more about Flock as I use it.

You can check it out for yourself at the Flock website.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

I was listening to Episode 66 of the East Meets West podcast and they relayed a message from a listener. He said that Twitter let's people feel they're part of the "in crowd" by following people like Tom Merritt, and Robert Scoble. In fact, that's why he had a Twitter account even though none of his friends had one and none of them seemed to "get it." I can't say the same for myself. Although I do follow Leo Laporte on Jaiku and I've joined the Buzz Out Loud and TWiT channels. I haven't joined to feel like I'm part of the "in crowd." I'm just kind of along for the ride to see where it leads. I love technology and think we're living in the best of times. This stuff is part of that and I want to see where it goes. I have a real sense that this is changing our lives (or at least the lives of today's teens and twenty somethings) I want to play along too. However, like that fellow, I don't have any friends or family with Twitter or Jaiku accounts and I'm not sure they'd "get it." But Tom Merritt also made a very profound statement on the same podcast that went something like this "In today's society, it is easier than ever for like minded people to find each other." Hhhhmmm... That sounds like the true significance of Web 2.0 and social networking sites. Like minded people with common interests can find each other regardless of time or geography; e.g., the gentleman who commented on my walking the dog every night. Maybe that's just a small connection, but I'm sure there are many bigger connections out there. That's new and that's cool.

As I follow along and consider the possibilities, I'm also thinking of some very practical, productive uses for the likes of Jaiku and Twitter, which I'll talk more about in future posts.

Ruminations on Internet Friends

A more accurate title for this post might be "Keeping Up with Old Meat Space Friends on the Internet." But the title I gave it goes with the last post's title, and the point is to consider the most social aspect of the Internet or at least of email. The best or most social aspect of the Internet is the ability to keep up with your friends no matter where they are. I've never missed a high school reunion in twenty-nine years. For the tenth, I saw lots of people that I hadn't seen or spoken to in ten years, caught up, went home, and lost contact again. Ten years later it was 1998 and things were a little different. Email and the Internet had come on the scene in a big way. Now it was possible to get in touch with old friends via email before the event and to stay in touch afterwards. I reestablished contact with some old friends, including some that I would not see at the reunion itself. Those friends ranged from Europe to California. Our "Reunion Queen" Sally was able to use email and IMs to keep up with the farflung reunion committee from her home in Philadelphia even though the reunion itself would be in Broward County. After the reunion, I could continue to keep up with my old friends via email. I kept up with several for quite awhile. Sometimes the conversation petered out, but I take comfort in knowing that Sally has their email addresses and I could start again anytime.

For the twenty-fifth reunion I got reacquainted with my old friend Jacki. It was almost like picking up where we left off. We still haven't seen or spoken to each other because she didn't come to the reunion and we never call each other. I don't even think I know the number to call Thanks to email we can communicate asynchronously when the mood strikes at any time of the day or night. The other can read and respond whenever. It works. A highlight of our exchanges had to be when her teenage daughter developed a crush on the new boy next door. Jacki freaked out, and I got to remind her that once upon a time, she was a teenage girl just like her daughter and she never did anything that would have embarassed her mother. How many people could have reminded her of that based on personal observation? What are the chances that I would have been there to do it, if it weren't for the Internet and email. After all, she lives in Pennsylvania while I live in Florida and we haven't seen each other in at least twenty years. We would never be pen pals if we had to write letters and an exchange like that would not have had the same timeliness via mail. The telephone might have had more timeliness, but I seriously doubt that we would ever have chatted regularly on the phone. We've both got families to chat with so who has time to do it via phone?

Then there's my best high school pal, Danny, or as he is known these days, Dan. He's a doctor and lives three quarters of the way across the country in Scottsdale. We're both busy with work and families, but thanks to email we exchange the occasional note, joke, picture, or e-card. We've even seen each other when he came here for a medical convention and my family went there for his kids' bar and bat mitzvahs.

Now I've taken the next step with a blog, Jaiku, and Twitter. Today I discovered a Google Gadget that let's me create a gadget with my picture and some comments that can be posted on a friends custom Google page. I've sent it to my wife for her page, but I could see a tab on my iGoogle devoted to these gadgets from my closest friends. Then we could really keep up with each other as we changed what is, in effect, a collection of mini-blogs. We'll see if any of my friends and family follow.

Ruminations on Internet Acquaintances

Web 2.0 is supposedly all about social interaction and connections. Through this blog, Jaiku, and Twitter, I'm exploring how true that is, or isn't. I started Jaiku, Twitter, and Blogger accounts on a lark. At first I figured (rightly so I'm sure) that I was just sending my blatherings out into the ether (hence the name of this blog). I figured that I would just be that tree that falls in the forest that no one ever hears. There appeared to be no point to this, but I decided to stick it out for awhile and see what happened. Well, what happened was that I've acquired my first "follower/friend" on Twitter, my first comment to a post on Twitter, and my first blog comment. Cool, I guess. Actually, I'm not sure what to make of it, but let me explain.

I received a direct message on Twitter that I'd been added as someone's "friend." It was not a name that I recognized. Naturally, I checked out her Twitter page. It turned out my new "friend" was a woman stationed on an Army base in Korea. I decided that since she was following me that I'd follow her too. I've since learned she's married because she mentions her "hubby" from time to time. Her bio says she's a soldier but I haven't seen any particularly soldierly posts yet. I messaged her back thanking her for adding me and wondering why anyone would want to do that. She replied that she'd seen me on the Twitter public page and just thought I might be interesting. Fair enough I replied, and we've left it at that. Now a few times a day I get to find out what some lady stationed in Korea is up to and vice-versa. I'm not sure what to make of it yet, but it is different.

About the same time, I got the first notice of a comment to a post of mine. Most nights I walk my English Springer Spaniel, Holly, just before I go to bed. I mentioned this several nights on Twitter via my cell phone. Well, one gentleman commented that my life sounded a lot like his, as every day he started and ended the day walking the dog. His life does sound a lot like mine. And maybe that is part of the point here ---- we're really not all that different and we all have many points in our life in common. The Internet and these social networking sites just make that more apparent. Maybe the long term consequence of this will be a more peaceful world just as international trade reduces the likelihood of war as countries become more interdependent. But maybe I think to much.

That same day (when it rains it pours) I got my first blog comment. It came from our family friend, Regina. She posted a comment to my favorite movie review sites in which she suggested a movie for the family. Thanks, Regina!

Today, I apparently kicked off some discussions when I mentioned that I was watching the Veronica Belmont Prize Fight between Jaiku and Twitter. Twitter beat Jaiku by one point! I said that I smelled a rat. Apparently, this got people's attention and kicked off a flurry of comments. That was kind of fun! You have to keep in mind that Veronica Belmont appears to be a Twitter fan although her "Buzz Out Loud" podcast has a Jaiku channel. On the other hand, Leo Laporte is a Jaiku fan and I suspect if he were to compare the two that Jaiku would win. I, however, am what Leo calls a commitment phobe. I belong to both and have my Twitter feed show up on Jaiku. He says that if you do that you're just "mailing it in" and not participating in the community. I disagree and like that my Twitter posts will appear in Jaiku.

By the way, if you want to check out what I'm doing on Jaiku or Twitter, there are links to both on this page in the upper right corner.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Fraud Alert

The most recent edition of "The Florida Bar News" contains a warning that scam artists are posing as lawyers. The scammer claims to have large amount of money that belongs to the intended victim and that they will help the victim recover it for a "finder's fee." They leave a contact number for the individual to call them back. The scammer uses the name of a real Florida lawyer who does not have a telephone listing on the Florida Bar's website; therefore, the potential victim cannot verify the telephone number left for them at the Bar's website. There are not legitimate services that ask for "finder's fees" when they locate a lost heir, for example, but generally lawyers do not operate this way. What can you do to protect yourself? First, go to and at least verify that there is a lawyer by the name of the person calling you by clicking on the "Find A Lawyer" button. Of course, this does not mean that the person calling is really a lawyer. It may be someone using the name of a real lawyer. Next, verify the telephone number by using the yellow pages or one of the web based yellow pages services and doing a web search for the lawyer to see if he or she has a web page or web listing. Most lawyers are not hiding and their telephone numbers can be verified. If you cannot verify that there is a real lawyer with the telephone number given to you, contact the office of the State Attorney General toll free at (866) 966-7226 or file a complaint at .

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Blogger Number 12,000,001

Today I heard on the NPR Technology podcast that there are 12,000,000 adult American bloggers. I guess that makes me blogger number 12,000,001. The Pew study cited also said that most bloggers are younger than 30, which makes me an old fart among bloggers. You can find the NPR Technology podcast website at . You can subscribe via iTunes or other podcasting service. You can find a link to the pdf of the Pew Report at .

Rest in Peace Reverend Falwell

I received the news that Jerry Falwell had been taken to a hospital in the most modern of ways -- via a CNN Twitter alert on my cell phone. I received the news that he had died in the old fashioned way from my mother, but it was still via cell phone. I’m always sad to learn that someone has died suddenly although, as my wife said, going suddenly beats slower more painful alternatives.

I was not a fan of the Reverend. That may surprise some people because I am politically conservative and my children attend a private religious school. However, I am a small government libertarian conservative. Much of what the Reverend Falwell thought was the business of government is not the business of government in my opinion. However, I do believe he was sincere in his beliefs and not an opportunistic charlatan. I can respect those with sincerely held beliefs even if I disagree with those beliefs.

I read that in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle just ten years before he founded the Moral Majority, the Reverend was preaching that Christians should stay off the streets and out of politics.,8599,1621300,00.html Apparently his viewpoint evolved and changed over the next ten years. If the questions is “What would Jesus do?” when it comes to politics, then I know the answer because Jesus actually did it. Jesus eschewed political power to lead by example and prayer. When taken to the mountain top and tempted, Jesus declined Satan’s invitation to seize absolute control of all that he could see. He declined to impose his will through the rule of law even though, if you believe he was God incarnate as the Reverend Falwell must have believed, he could have done so. Likewise,the Founding Fathers could have established a theocracy or a national religion if they wanted to do so. Why then do the so-called Religious Right and the Religious Left (See, e.g., Martin Sheen, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton), think that they can impose their values and beliefs through the rule of law? Are they smarter than Jesus or the Founding Fathers? I think not.

Still there is no denying that a ‘great man” of many accomplishments has passed. He was a “great man” in the sense that he did what few men or women ever do --- he influenced and shaped world events through his impact on American politics. “Great men’ and “great women” can be good or evil. They are “great” by virtue of their great influence on events. Amazingly, he accomplished this from the pulpit of a single church without ever really leaving Lynchburg, Virginia, and without ever being elected to office. Yes, he will be remembered in part as the man who "outed" the Teletubby Tinky Winky as "gay", and as the man who blamed "abortionists" and others for 9/11. We should not forget that he is also the man who mobilized millions who previously avoided politics. He harnessed the power of television and the mass media early in his career to spread his views and gain influence. That makes him a technological pioneer. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that today we lost an influential man who tirelessly pursued his sincere beliefs. Rest in peace Reverend Falwell.

Favorite Movie Review Sites

There are some movie sites that I like to check out before taking the family to a movie. For general reviews, I like to use because it aggregates many different reviews and attempts to deliver the consensus. You can also read the individual reviews as well. I like to decide whether a movie is suitable for the whole family. The nice thing about Screen It is that they don't leave things to your imagination. They tell you exactly what was said and how many times as well as what you'll see that might be offensive. It is very detailed and then you can tell from that whether it is suitable for your family or not. I'll admit that sometimes you can see a movie that sounded borderline and it isn't so bad in its totality. On the other hand, I've never seen one that looked squeaky clean that wasn't. I find that the G, PG, PG-13, and R rating system doesn't work all that well below R. There are things in some PG-13s these days that would have made them "R"s in my day. You have to be careful.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Here's an aerial shot of the neighborhood taken by my good friend, Kevin, as he flew overhead. When we moved here in 1990, they were just beginning to build and this was a forested area with some roads. As you can see, they did a good job of building around the trees so the neighborhood has many mature oaks. Our lot is heavily shaded by some large old oaks. This year we had a mild winter so the oak pollen has been a nightmare.

A Brief Review of Spider Man 3

The family went to see Spider Man 3 last Friday. I can sum up everything that is wrong with it in four simple words --- It is too long! The darn thing is two and a half hours. Sam Raimi needs to become familiar with a process called editing. He easily could have cut thirty minutes to an hour from the movie and nobody would have missed it. The end result would have been a compact, fast paced action film instead of a slow paced, muddled action-romance. Still it is entertaining and could have been worse.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I've Gone and Done It Now!

Well, I've done it. I've jumped into Web 2.0 and exposed myself on the Internet. Of course, I've had a web page on the internet for years so I guess this is just a natural extension of that. Lately I've become intrigued by Web 2.0 as I've come to appreciate the fact that it is all about the social networking. I'm inspired by foks like Leo Laporte, Veronica Belmont, and Tom Merritt who seem to live their lives in the open on the Net. I'll bet Veronica Belmont gets her share of weirdo email.

I checked out My Space and came to the conclusion that it was a bit too heavy on the "meeting people" aspects for a happily married middle aged father of two and just a bit juvenile too. Facebook seemed to want to know too much for me to just check it out. I actually created an account in LinkedIn, but it tried to "up sell" me from the beginning. I could see that was going to get annoying. Blogging seemed like the better option for someone like me. I also read some negatives about the overwhelming spam, stalkers, and assorted weirdos on My Space. I'm afraid that is why you'll never see the actual names of my children on this page or their pictures. They're gorgeous kids, which is why I'll never post their pictures on the Internet. You'll also never see my birth date, my exact address, or other personal information. If you know me, then you know my kids' names. If you don't know me, then you don't need to know. Of course, I realize that you can find all this out easily enough these days, but I don't need to help you.

I hope I have something interesting to say. You can expect to read details of my travels, interesting legal topics, tips for living in Florida, and some general musings.

Mother's Day Salute

I'm starting this blog on Mother's Day 2007 so I guess it is only appropriate to honor all those loving mom's out there. Thank you moms of the world! Of course, not every mom is a loving mom, as they pointed out on CBS Sunday Morning today. Some mother's are horrors! I guess that makes me and my kids that much luckier than some. My Mom and Dad gave me a very happy childhood. In fact, my childhood was the happiest time of my life, which is as it should be, but my kids are having the childhood I only dreamed of. The funny thing is that I think they know it. They're good kids and that is a testament to their Mom. My wife devotes most of her time to volunteering at their school, cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, driving them to lessons, and doing all that "mom stuff."

We spent a quiet day at home. Sue's a very practical woman who has no desire to battle the crowds just because it is a Hallmark holiday so we ordered out and brought dinner home. As usual, she wants something for the house so she'll even get her present later.