Daily Archives: May 17, 2006

Bush authorizes companies to lie

I Just found this via Atrios. Last week USA Today published a story stating that phone companies AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon helped the National Security Agency violate the law by turning over millions of of their customers calling records without any subpoenas. In case you are unaware, the CIA and NSA are both expressly forbidden from participating in intelligence gathering activities inside the United States. But the Bush administration authorized them to do it anyway. Almost immediately multi-billion dollar class action lawsuits were filed against the phone companies for violating their customers privacy. Over the past few days each of the companies has issued public statements denying that they turned over phone records. Now it appears that they and very likely Qwest too (who denied involvement immediately) lied in those statements. Because these are publicly traded companies, Securities laws forbid them from making untruthful public statements regarding things that impact the value of the company.

Well now it is revealed that on May 5, 2006 George W. Bush signed an Executive Memorandum that allows the Director of National Intelligence to authorize companies to conceal activities that are related national security. So it appears that they are telling the phone companies and who knows what other companies (banks, credit bureaus, insurance companies?) that it is OK to violate securities laws if the white house tells them to. When will congress show some backbone and start impeachment proceedings against this guy?

Free video for small devices

I recently replaced my Motorola V710 cell phone with a palm Treo 650 smart-phone. The phone came free as a result of a class action settlement with verizon wireless. The timing worked out great because although the v710 worked great for me as a phone, the batteries in both the phone and my palm tungsten T2 were at the point where they would barely hold a charge anymore. So I took the opportunity to replace 2 devices with one. After I got the new phone I remembered a site I heard about some months back shortly after the Ipod with video support came out.

There used to be a concept called public domain. When the copyright on a work expired, that work entered the public domain, so that others could use it and adapt it to create new works. This is how the Walt Disney company made most of there fortune. Movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Treasure Planet and the Hunchback of Notre Dame are based on stories that have passed into the public domain. The way intellectual property laws are going these days it is entirely possible that copyright protection may become perpetual and no more works may enter the public domain.

Anyway back to my original point. There are a lot of old movies on which the copyright has expired which are now in the public domain. There is a site called public domain torrents that has a list of almost 800 films and serials that are in the public domain and available for purchase on disk or free download via bit-torrent. If you are not familiar with bittorrent, it is a completely legal open-source technology for peer to peer file sharing. It is being used by many companies for enabling faster, cheaper downloads. It is also used for a lot of trading of copyrighted works but that does not detract from it’s legitimate uses. Azureus is an excellent cross-platform (works on windows, Linux and mac) bit-torrent client. The videos on public domain torrents are available in variety of formats (mp4 and divx) prepared for different hardware platforms, including the ipod, the playstation portable, and various pdas and smart-phones. I currently have Nosferatu, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and the original Little Shop of Horrors (including one of Jack Nicholson’s first film roles) on my 1GB SD flash card.

Of course the treo doesn’t come with software that can play these files but fortunately I found TCPMP. The core pocket media player is an open-source (there’s that term again) project that is available for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile platforms. TCPMP has codec plug-in support for most of the popular audio and video codecs including mp3, ogg, wma, divx, xvid, mpeg1, mpeg4 and many others. On the bright 320×320 screen of the treo these videos look really good. The treo and tcpmp is also great for watching video podcasts like Rocketboom a daily 5 minute video starring Amanda Congdon.