December 30, 2002

All Nighters

Category: Personal — Biella @ 3:55 am

So, it has been ages, I mean AGES since I pulled an all nighter. Yet tonight, I find myself pulling one, in part because my flight leaves in 2 hours and because, I am working on a proposal. But the cool thing is that I am working on it with two other people, on IRC, as a matter of fact, right as we speak, I mean, right as I quickly blog. They are in Italty and Austria, while I am in SF yet we can pull this proposal off and so much more elegantly too. 3 brains instead of 1 over IRC is the way to go, and speaking of going, I am nearly off to Puerto Rico.

December 29, 2002

The Myth of the Coqui

Category: Personal — Biella @ 1:55 am

I am about to head home to Puerto Rico for a couple of weeks of indulgent days on the beach. I love to go home for many reasons, one of which is to hear the endless chirps of the coqui a frog-like critter the size of my thumb. We were indoctrinated to believe that the coqui could live no where but Puerto Rico (or at least that he, and only he’s sing to pick up the ladies, of course) because the coquis are you know, nationalistic frogs through and through.

But, we can no longer really believe this myth has he has indeed overrun the island of Hawaii, striking up a largish environmental controversy. It makes me a little sad knowing my little beloved frog-like creature is causing such problems as his rhythmic singing puts me at ease. Or at least will soon put me to ease…

December 27, 2002


Category: Humor — Biella @ 12:05 pm

This was the first year that I karaoked on Christmas as was also the first holiday that I have yet to buy a present (hmmm except chocolate covered almonds but they melted, probably in the mouth of the wrong receipient). I was lazy and just not in the mood to shop but come to think of it, maybe it was because I was missing that special credit card, Hax0r Card to do my holiday shopping. It finally came in the mail today! Just in time to get some presents for my family as I leave for Puerto Rico on Monday

So, I am always saying, hackers, “they are sooooo funny.” And this ad says is a gem of humor crafted by our very own praveen (aka DMH). This sucka is licensed under the BSD License.

December 25, 2002

Pinball Wizard

Category: Personal — Biella @ 9:31 pm

Finally, I finally spent a Christmas doing what I know the j-man would want me to do: belting it out at The Mint!

December 23, 2002

Geek Week 2002

Category: Anthropology — Biella @ 1:27 am

This has to have been on of the most geeky (and diversely so) weeks of my research. It started off with the Creative Commons license kick off party, morphed into the EFF holiday party where we watched the new Lord of the Rings movie, led into finishing my interview with John Gillmore. And then on Friday night when I thought I had a break, my IRC conversations with friends turned into this trip down memory lane about the love, the life, the “holistic world” that was the BBS scene, bled the next day into a fascinating interview with Danny of NTK, Quinn and Gilbert, then it was off to celebrate the Elcomsoft acquittal organized by Don Marti and majestically ended today with a tour de force of ytalk.

Nearing the end of the interview, Danny mentioned that he thinks a lot about the necessary conditions for the existence of culture. (he really would be one kick-butt anthropologist imho thinking in these terms). This led to a smattering of opinions in which he noted that the cultural of geekdom has been more solidly constituted over the last 5 years through the continual building of a rich history and especially a much wider consciousness and use of this history, while Quinn considered the maturity of the community (being that there is now a critical mass of geeks over thirty) as an important facet, while I chimed in that perhaps the growing connections between different nodes or facets of hacking (like the kinda hardware hackers, free software folks, tech-activists, cypherpunks forged through the net and conferences) also plays a role. So all our comments point to this interesting sort of “thickening” in which there is this strong sense of past, in which a deepening of the present occurs through the interconnections of different communities of geeks, while geeks individually mature into the future, temporal processes which help to get us closer to the “cultural” in hacking.

The Elcomsoft party though small, was a visual and practical embodiment of those very things we had just been talking about during the interview. The celebratory commemoration of legal events important to the hacker community literally make the history of which Danny spoke of earlier. And this party was one among others (like to celebrate the freeing of Dmitry), that brought together people from slightly different nodes of hacking and of different generations and ages whether it be the young high school duo of debian developers, Misha and Aaron; the free software advocates and users like Rick Moen; and the contingent of cypherpunks along with a smattering of other hackers and activists at the party.

I feel sorry for people who don’t like fieldwork becaue well, mine tends to be pretty fun. What I love about these geek gatherings is that I meet the most interesting folks , like Howard Besser who was wearing a very rad tee-shirt, one among the many which can be seen in his most amazing database of shirts, shirts that he loves like children! :-)

He brought the question of geek culture to the floor when he asked me what I thought about Cyberselfish by Paulina Borsook, which happens to be my least favorite books on hackers, ever. We both hold a pretty unfavorable take on the book as it over generalizes about the “culture” of geeks taking one element, that of techno-libetarianism, and making that to be a coherent blanket of culture, that kind just came from no where to cover the entire culture of geeks in the Bay Area and beyond. She also presents a very timeless, rough notion of culture that is so very annoying especially since it is popular texts like these that propagate a certain notion of culture, one that makes me internally cringe. In her preface, she writes that despite the subjective elements of culture, it “is real, hardy, and enduring..” And then she says that “Regimes change, culture preserves.” To treat culture as this “thing” that rests above history and that is not formed is terribly naive and never lets you get into the interesting questions which have to do with the formation of and processes around cultural creation and expression.

So, the conversation was a great way to end my “geek week” because it reminded me that instead of positing the total existence of this “hardness” and “oneness” of culture as Borsook does, Danny’s question about what even allows us to posit the existence of the cultural is a much better starting point. A good starting point for me, as this year comes to a close…

December 21, 2002


Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:05 am

I woke up to bright bright sun which has been a rare sight these days in SF but better than the sun, it is December 21st meaning that the days now get longer and I get happier. This is yes, my favorite day of the “holidays”.

December 20, 2002

Your Debian Name

Category: Humor — Biella @ 12:18 am

Your very own personal Debian package name

December 19, 2002

Celebrate Freedom, Literally

Category: Research — Biella @ 11:09 pm

And who says Geeks are not social?

Jury Rejects DMCA. Freedom Lovers Party.

On Saturday, December 21, 2002, freedom-loving
people will have a party in San Francisco to
celebrate a total acquital in the first criminal
prosecution under the controversial Digital
Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The “not guilty” verdict in the trial of Russian
software company Elcomsoft clearly shows that
Americans do not accept attacks on legitimate fair
use in the name of copyright. Elcomsoft made no
illegal copies of anything. Their software simply
provided for converting proprietary, restricted
“e-books” to open formats.

To quote the jury foreman, Dennis Strader, “Under
the eBook formats, you have no rights at all,
and the jury had trouble with that concept.”

We The People have spoken: It’s time to bring
moderation and sanity back to copyright law.

Who: Freedom-loving people (that’s you)

What: Party to celebrate the Elcomsoft verdict

Where: Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA

When: Saturday, December 21, 2002, 8:00 PM

Why: DMCA reform isn’t just about computer
programmers any more. 12 randomly chosen
American people say the DMCA has gone too far

December 18, 2002

Lord of the Rings

Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:08 pm

The EFF holiday party was held in two parts tonight: the first was a collective viewing of
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
on opening day and then your nice holiday party at a house with Christmas tree, firplace and all.

When Seth told me that the movie was nearly 3 hours long, I rolled my eyes and whined for like 10 minutes because I have attention issues and 3 hours seemed like way to long for one sitting. Near the end of the movie, Seth leaned over and told me that the movie was about to end and this time my eyes widened and I thought to myself : “no way I can sit here for like 3 more hours watching the great visual weaving that is the movie.”

I am not going to spoil the movie so I won’t reveal much except that I loved the “hobbit” hairdo, especially “Frodo’s” a quasi-70s head of modest curls, the bad guys all have horribly ghastly teeth, while a bad-ass fighting team is composed by mutli-specieis boyzzzzzzzzz (an elf, dwarf, and hunky-as-hell human).

So I have to admit the stark good vs evil that is typical of these movies makes me somewhat uncomfortable but I also have to admit that I let it go to watch these types of movies. I was told about a Salon article by David Brin that explore the moral representation in the movie although I have yet to read it. Maybe tomorrow.

Speaking of stark moral representations. I ordered an “educational kit” from the Business Software Alliance which came in the mail today, shipped One Day UPS Express (they certainly have money to burn because this is not something I would qualify as “urgent”). Anyway, the packet included a movie “Software Piracy: A Costly Mistake.” Should be an interesting to see and heck, order your copy today for holiday viewing, or to bemuse your hacker friend. Here is how you can get your free package: mail us here if you would like to receive a BSA information packet, educational material, BSA audit software in disk form or information via mail that cannot be found on the website. Please include your post al address.

December 17, 2002

The Creative in the Commons

Category: Other — Biella @ 4:37 pm

creativecommons unveiled their new licenses last night at a party they hosted in SF Soma’s district. It was a pretty glitzy affair with some big names (at least in the geek and legal-geek world)and a pretty clever presentation with a stark but potent speech by Lessig, a veido juxtaposition of Barlow and Valenti which was hilarious, a short technical roundup by Aaron Swartz and some music by DJ Spooky. Not a bad way to usher in these new licenses that I hope will take hold on the wider artistic community.

But if there is one thing that was a shame in the presentation was that the world of free and open source software (and especially their licenses) was never acknowledged as a key source of inspiration although it is on their website. Though it was not their role to pay tribute in any significant way to the FSF or the copyleft, Lessig had a rare opportunity to make a point about “the creative” in the commons by referring to the domain that is free and open source software. In many ways, it is the condition of possibility for projects like Creative Commons because it is a real “live” social example of alternative legal schemes already in use. It speaks to the fact that it can be done. Free and open source software production and licenses have served to inspire hundreds of others including the creative commons which is exactly what and how a commons is supposed to function. So not to acknowledge the “non-individual” (that is more social) sources of the cc during their opening event was a missed opportunity to highlight the very power of a commons.

But that is my only (small) rant and it is exciting to see such a project kick off. Their innovation in the world of alternative licenses is significant and from the looks of it, it seems like it is pretty easy to apply their licenses to one’s work.

It was also good to finally meet Chris Kelty an Anthropology professor at Rice University who does really great work on technology and society, including open source stuff, and I found out some important information: one my favorite cafe in SFAtlas Cafe has wireless where I am now blogging :-)