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View 386 October 31 - November 6, 2005

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Monday October 31, 2005

All Hallow's Eve

From ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord deliver us.

I have errands this morning. There was a great deal of mail, and some discussion in View over the weekend, so that ought to be good enough until I get back.

Returned. Sable is cleaned and groomed. She rather dislikes it all, mostly because she has to be muzzled: the groomers wouldn't be safe from her without that, and I'm the only one who can put a muzzle on her.

I understand we have a new candidate for US Supreme Court, and that Mr. Schumer denounces him as unqualified within seconds of his nomination. So it goes.

I have found that the State of California officially insists that all children in the public school system be educated to above average. I will explain and do a short essay on that, but I am not making it up. The D.Ed. types in Sacramento apparently were so deficient in their math education that they do not understand that this is impossible. (Continued below)


We had more than 100 kids come to the door last night, generally in parties of ten or twelve. It was a lot of fun. In future, though, in future we're going to turn out the lights at 8:30 PM. After that there came, not neighborhood kids, but teenagers from somewhere else, in large groups, not in costume. When my wife asked, as she does with all children, what costumes they were wearing, we got "I kill people," and "I rob banks." And at that point we are at the edge of harmless fun.



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Tuesday,  November 1, 2005  

  Lake Woebegon, California

This is official. (See among other places, http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/pn/im/documents/capaps.pdf )

The California State Standards for education achievement recognize 5 levels of achievement:

Below Basic
Far Below Basic

This is to substitute for the older A B C D F grades, where C is the passing grade. So far so good, and original reports on this noted that about 44% were below the "Basic" level on actual tests.

That, it turns out, is not good enough (as it is not). Nor is it good enough that all students be at Basic (C) or above. No, the official "Acceptable Standard" now is Proficient. Which is to say A or B, or "Above Average".

School principals have been so instructed. The goal now is that all will be above average.

School principals also understand that the only way to be sure no child is left behind is to make certain that no child gets ahead.

Meanwhile, all the auto mechanics and other shop classes are vanishing, in part for lack of teachers, but mostly because all children are now expected to get "world class education" which means academic preparation, not something as mundane as how to work a robotic lathe, or fix an automobile, or install an air conditioner.

And with this we are expected to compete in the world.

Of course there is one way we can compete. The Army knows how to train children to become soldiers. We can build the Army and levy tribute on the rest of the world for keeping the peace. The national mission can be "to protect the weak, and make humble the proud." We can export government. Senators can be assigned posts as overseas governors, and retiring generals can be sent as provincial governors, and they can farm the tax...

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Has anyone actual experience with a thing called PLAXO?  Has anyone ever made it work?  I have wasted a lot more time than I have on this miserable thing. It invites me to change my password, but when I do it doesn't recognize it. It's a very silly program and I am trying to figure out why anyone would use it.

I got into this when invited to do so by people I do know and have some faith in, but now I think it is a way to smuggle spyware into your computer. It sure doesn't actually do anything useful that I can discern.


Lake Woebegon, Part II

I have a commentary on my remarks on the California Standards Based Education requirements from a Northern California school board member who insists, rightly, that the standards as actually adopted were to be considered absolute, not relative, and thus it is at least mathematically possible to achieve them.

I'm sorry, but you're incorrect in your interpretation of the California pupil proficiency system. The mistake you're making is that those rankings aren't relative; they're absolute. What they describe is how well a given student understands the State's standard for the tested subject and grade level.

Saying that all students must be proficient or advanced on this scale merely means that every student must be at least proficient in material defined by the standard. It's (theoretically) possible for the entire student population to be proficient or advanced, in that sense.

The real issue is that it's unlikely 100% of the student population will rank proficient or above by the measurement date (2013, I believe). But that's not due to a mathematical impossibility; it's due to the extreme likelihood that at least some student (e.g., a special education student) won't achieve the proficient threshold.

Alas, while that is almost certainly true of the intent of those standards, the reality is that in transmitting them from Sacramento to local school districts in Los Angeles they were mistranslated, and came across exactly as I said: C is average and passing, and everyone must now be above that. The administrators were unhappy with this requirement, but so far it has not trickled down to the level of principal.

In one sense it doesn't matter anyway. It is impossible that everyone in the school system do "B" work; this is particularly true when you note that up to now nearly half have not been doing what we would have called "C" work when I was young. On the other hand, when school principals understand that they are accountable to people who do not understand that half the children are below average, and bristle when told this (Which half? The African-Americans or the Hispanics?), the principals tend to despair. The task they have been set is impossible in either case, but when you must convince lummoxes the task becomes harder.

The problem is a simple one: half the children are below average, and among that number as well as among quite a few of the average and above average there will be children who have no proclivity for, and no ability to profit from, a traditional college preparatory education. They are quite capable of learning skills, including a number of abstract manipulation skills, and of learning at least some literary and artistic appreciation. I am not certain that Scott's Lady of the Lake and Longfellow's Evangeline a Story of Acadia are the very best 7th and 8th grade reading assignments for cultivating a taste for good literature, although they did have that effect on me, and while there was the usual grousing I didn't notice that many of my local farm kid classmates at Capleville Consolidated were harmed for life. Indeed many of the girls, at least, enjoyed the Longfellow, and once we got to Rhoderick Dhu and James accepting the hospitality of a stranger, and the scene in the passes, there was considerable interest in Sir Walter Scott's epic poem. (Aside: I tried to find an on-line copy of this clearly public domain poem, but Project Gutenberg returns page errors when one tries to download it, and I didn't find another. I am sure there are plenty.)


Here is a link to a PDF version of the full text of Lady of the Lake


Mike Plaster]

Back to my main point: while all classes might profit from Longfellow and Scott in 7 and 8 grade (although I am quite certain that California, unlike Tennessee in 1944, doesn't actually require such difficult works) no one but a blockhead would suppose that all children of all classes can profit from education in the traditional sense. Some learn by intuition and understanding, and some learn by rote; by drills. Grouping the two together in one class is sheer torture for both: frustration for those who must learn by rote as they see others "get it" by intuition, and a hell of boredom for those who must drill on matters they already know. Back when it was important to learn some things by rote -- the multiplication and addition tables (up to 12's!), some key dates and historical events, even "the principal products of Ecuador" -- keeping the groups together wasn't so bad for either; but when you get to more abstract subjects, classroom order breaks down, and teachers spend more and more time trying to bring up the bottom of the class to "C" level, hoping that the natural A students will work hard on their own from sheer joy of learning -- usually but not always a futile wish. And some of the natural A students will learn things on their own that you didn't really want them to learn. I still tell the story of how I made nitroglycerine in my youth.

The California "Standards Based" education like most education reforms means well; but since all teachers have tenure after two years, and there are no incompetent teachers in California -- at least not provably so, on the record, since almost none are ever fired -- what Sacramento thunders probably won't matter. They can't really withhold funds from the State when the schools don't meet the standards. They'll try, but it won't work.

And meanwhile the middle classes desert the school system in droves so that the public schools, far from being a place where all classes mix, become more and more the residue basin for those whose parents can't or won't put them in a good school.

And we continue to outsource jobs to India. The latest are the various tech support positions in DSL Extreme and other such companies.

We might be able to compete if we had decent public schools, but that just isn't going to happen for a long time. If ever.

The Remedy

There isn't an actual remedy, but there is an approach: Abolish the Federal Department of Education, so that all this reverts to the states. If I were allowed to go further I would abolish most of the state structure. Break school districts into as small units as possible, set a locally elected school board over each, return to local financing for the brunt of the school costs with state finance only for special education and as subsidies to provide some balance in funding (but don't insist on equal funding across districts). Give local boards absolute power over teacher qualifications: they can insist on "credentials" or not, as they choose. It's their kids, after all. The results would be uneven, spotty, with awful districts here and there: but there would be some good ones too, and competition among them might drive the worst to see how the best do it.

We know this can work because we have done this in the past, with better results than we have now.


The wars begin:

Google www.live.com

Sorry, no information is available for the URL www.live.com

[Apparently this anomaly is the result of Google treating . differently from the way MSN search treats it. See Mail for details. Amazing how much I don't know sometimes.]


Contrast that with MSN search  www.live.com


  • live: SegmentQueue class Reference

    ... void *clientData, unsigned numBytesRead, unsigned numTruncatedBytes, struct timeval presentationTime, unsigned durationInMicroseconds) Private Attributes unsigned fHeadIndex unsigned fNextFreeIndex ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/doxygen/html/classSegmentQueue.html
    • Cached page
  • live: RTSPServer.cpp File Reference

    ... Include dependency graph for RTSPServer.cpp: Go to the source code of this file. Defines #define USE_SIGNALS 1 #define _strncasecmp strncasecmp #define RTPINFO_INCLUDE_RTPTIME 1 #define LISTEN_BACKLOG ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/doxygen/html/RTSPServer_8cpp.html
    • Cached page
  • live: ReorderingPacketBuffer class Reference

    ... will also delete fSavedPacket, because it's on the list 00432 } 00433 delete fPacketFactory ; 00434 } Member Function Documentation void ReorderingPacketBuffer::freePacket ( BufferedPacket * packet ) ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/public/doxygen/classReorderingPacketBuffer.html
    • Cached page
  • live: testProgs/vobStreamer.cpp Source File

    ... Go to the documentation of this file. 00001 /********** 00002 This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under 00003 the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/doxygen/html/vobStreamer_8cpp-source.html
    • Cached page
  • live: testProgs/playSIP.cpp Source File

    ... Go to the documentation of this file. 00001 /********** 00002 This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under 00003 the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/public/doxygen/playSIP_8cpp-source.html
    • Cached page
  • live: DummySink class Reference

    ... We were asked to return the first SCR that we saw, and we've seen one, 00238 // so we're done. (Handle this as if the input source had closed.) 00239 onSourceClosure ( this ); 00240 return ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/doxygen/html/classDummySink.html
    • Cached page
  • live: QCELPDeinterleaver class Reference

    ... indicates that we can be read again 00111 // Note that this needs to be done here, in case the "fAfterFunc" 00112 // called below tries to read another frame (which it usually will) 00113 ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/doxygen/html/classQCELPDeinterleaver.html
    • Cached page
  • live: destRecord class Reference

    ... struct in_addr const &addr, Port const &port, u_int8_t ttl, destRecord *next) virtual ~destRecord () Data Fields destRecord * fNext GroupEId fGroupEId Port fPort Constructor & Destructor Documentation destRecord ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/public/doxygen/classdestRecord.html
    • Cached page
  • live: Locale class Reference

    ... The documentation for this class was generated from the following file: liveMedia/ RTSPClient.cpp Generated on Fri Sep 23 02:16:24 2005 for live by 1.3.6

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/public/doxygen/classLocale.html
    • Cached page
  • live: AC3FrameParams class Reference

    ... kbpsIndex = (byte4&0x3E) >> 1; 00203 if (kbpsIndex > 18) kbpsIndex = 18; 00204 kbps = kbpsTable [kbpsIndex]; 00205 00206 unsigned char samplingFreqIndex = (byte4&0xC0) >> 6; 00207 switch ...

    • www.live.com/liveMedia/public/doxygen/classAC3FrameParams.html
    • Cached page

[Apparently this anomaly is the result of Google treating . differently from the way MSN search treats it. See Mail for details. Amazing how much I don't know sometimes.]

And if that's not enough to worry about:

Grandfather sued for 12-year-old's downloads.


--- Roland Dobbins

the egregious MPAA strikes again. I am no advocate of domestic terrorism, but I could understand how despicable actions like this could persuade some people that the entire regime is so corrupt that it ought to be brought down in blood. The actions of those who subvert the law to their own profit are rarely so visible and so contemptuously flaunted as this. There cannot be one ethical person in the chain of commands from the top of the MPAA to the paralegals who assist in this activity: they are not only wrong, but they must know they are wrong.

Ah well, we will not have people's courts in this land. If we did, comes the revolution, comrades, I know where their headquarters is.

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Thursday, November 3, 2005

Column time. Short shrift mode. In LA we have a direct confrontation between citizen and subject over the Orange Line: should we assume competence of citizens, or shut down the line because old ladies can't stop using cell phones while driving near transit lines?

L'affaire Plame continues to generate questions. Why was Wilson sent to Niger at public expense with a CIA assignment without having to sign a confidentiality agreement? I know of no similar case ever. And on his return he did not file a written report, nor even a PowerPoint outline, so everything about his report is subject to the vagaries of memory. He remembers now that his report debunked the notion that Saddam had tried to buy yellowcake, but some of those who heard it remember quite differently. There seems to be no way to resolve this: it's he said, they say he said, he says he said; and no written notes at all. He even remembered, for the record and in print, having seen and denounced as fakes documents that did not exist at the time of his report. In charity we can say that is merely bad memory; but what else has he failed to remember? It's downstairs and I have appointments shortly so I won't go get it to give the reference, but today's Wall Street Journal has an article by a former Senate Intelligence Committee counsel asking a number of questions about Wilson and Plame: one begins to wonder just who conspired against whom?

<black humor>There are times when I am sure the republic is dead and gone, and we ought to hasten the arrival of Caesarism. I find myself in the position of the old soldier in the Rome series: opposed to the fall of the Republic but unable to find anyone to rally around. Fortunately I am too old to be asked to stand for magistrate in a new regime. Equally fortunately I am not as well known as Cicero, and unlikely to end up on proscription lists unless the egregious Frum ends up in charge of them. That, at least, is unlikely.

A proper Empire would be jealous of the power of the MPAA and Sony and the other companies that seek to protect what they would like to own at the expense of all the rest of us. </black humor>

But see mail for discussion


Mr. Reagan used to say that it's amazing how much you can get done if you don't care who gets the credit. Perhaps that's true. In any event prizes are beginning to be discussed among the opinion leaders...


Does anyone have a simple way I can do RSS feeds of the "Highlights This Week" sections of View and Mail?


We have a lively discussion on brain drain in Africa, and on IQ, intelligence, and g, over in mail. It's not something you will see in many places, alas.


AIDS in Africa: A Political Pandemic?

I am so far behind on my reading that I am just now getting to the October issue of The American Spectator, a magazine that suffered terribly under the ownership of the high tech boomsters, but which has now been returned to its curmudgeonly editor, and is back to its old state: some really good stuff interspersed with not so very and some of interest only to those who share the editors idiosyncrasies. (I understand perfectly those who say that is a description of this place, too.)

In the October issue the indispensable Tom Bethell has a column on AIDS in Africa in which he shows that there is no AIDS pandemic in Africa. If that sounds like an outrageous statement, you need to read the column. There are terrible problems in Africa, but the definition of AIDS is different there from here. It is also likely that "heterosexual AIDS", the existence of which we infer from "AIDS infections" in Africa (because it is quite rare here), is far less of a problem in Africa than supposed.

The American Spectator (TAS) archive and search system have defeated me: I cannot find a link to Tom's actual article. If someone is kind enough to find it for me (it is entitled AIDS in Africa: A Political Epidemic) I will post it. His points are three: there is a public health crisis in Africa, and millions are sick and debilitated; the definition of AIDS has formally been changed to coincide with being sick and debilitated, and the detection of HIV is no longer required for the diagnosis -- and the very conditions of deteriorating public health make false positive detections of HIV highly probable anyway; and finally, if there is a pandemic, why are so many people still alive and populations growing? That latter is startling but apparently real: "In South Africa, growth came very close to the level projected with no AIDS at all -- even among young adult females..."

The UN estimated the population of sub-Saharan Africa in 1985 to be 434 million. That is the year when the pandemic of AIDS is said to have begun. In 2004 that population was, again according to the UN, 733 million. The Population Reference Bureau says that region is the fastest growing region of the world. The New York Times repeatedly has described conditions in Africa due to AIDS to be similar to medieval Europe during the Black Death. I assure you, populations in Europe did not grow by 70% in 20 years during the plague years.

There is a crisis of public health in Africa; but shipping them condoms may do little to solve it, no more will sending in expensive drugs to treat retro-viral infections. Perhaps that is an incorrect statement: but if so there seems little effort to falsify it. The assumption is that the health problems of sub-Saharan Africa are caused primarily by AIDS and most efforts are directed at ending the AIDS crisis rather than at raising the level of public health in general.

We have readers in Africa who are likely to have personal observations. I invite evidence to show that Bethell is wrong, and to show how there can be huge population growth in the midst of a pandemic.

[I have two letters from Africa; I will post them when I have a chance to edit and make remarks. After column time. I'll put a link here when I get it done.]



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Friday, November 4, 2005

I had put up this link but not yet written the explanation when I got a message from Joanne.


Subject: You're going to LOVE this one

Some bozo has PATENTED a story line idea.


I really think patents and copyrights have gotten entirely out of sane boundaries.


And it's all true.

I'm for bed this being Thursday night after Midnight. I am still trying to get my head around this new Amazon sales pitch, and also to understand just what Microsoft Live is really about. Enlightenment appreciated.


It's column time and I have to do stories on both Microsoft Live and the Amazon/Google copyright and electronic publishing spree. I'll be working on this all weekend.


But there is some good news:

Subject: Eminent domain victory

Dr. Pournelle,

Maybe congress is good for something after all. They can't make it illegal, so they cut the funding when businesses take advantage of the courts to harm individuals. A big-govt solution to be sure and a clear sign that money is power regardless of what political theory you subscribe to, but at least this time the power is being weilded to protect homeowners.


Sean Long

I am in agreement with the Court decision that leaves such matters to the states; but I very much agree that the Federal Government ought not encourage the states to take property to facilitate planning schemes. I am also much in favor of state constitutional amendments to prohibit such takings. This isn't so much a big government solution as a small step toward sanity. Most of those government urban renewal programs ought to be abolished to begin with.



I find that the blogosphere is nowhere near as useful as everyone seems to think. Searching for an original source -- say Nick Shulz's comment on Patsy Schroeder's blast about Google -- gets you either no hits at all in Google, or in MSN search a whole bunch of aggregate web sites that quoted Schulz and added comments ranging from interesting to nonsensical to inane, most of them rife with needless obscenities. If that's the blog world I don't need much of it.

In http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/03/pat_schroeders_antig.html I find Corey Doctorow saying

On Forbes, Nick Schulz responds with an op-ed of his own, "Don't Fear Google," in which he masterfully deconstructs Schoeder and Barr's crazy-talk:
Pat Schroeder, the former Congresswoman from Colorado is now the president of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and a vigorous opponent of Google's plan.

but there's no reference to the Forbes article, and trying both Google and MSN search have been futile, directing me to other blogs saying more or less what Doctorow said but putting their own names or spin or rewrite to it. After a while I got both discouraged and bored.

Perhaps it is enough for many that Doctorow tells us that Shulz masterfully deconstructs Schroeder, and thus we do not need to see the actual deconstruction; that appears to be what passes for scholarship in some groups. And, depending on the source, I suppose I might sometimes accept that a person has been defeated in a debate without hearing the debate; but in general, I would like at least the possibility of seeing that for myself.

As to the Google plan to put everything on line and make it available at the cost of seeing a few advertisements, the fact that people as far apart on the political scene as Pat Schroeder and Bob Barr can agree on something should be informative, even if it is merely crazy-talk subject to masterful deconstruction. You can find that crazy talk here: http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/20051102-093349-7482r.htm


Here is some of it:

Not only is Google trying to rewrite copyright law, it is also crushing creativity. If publishers and authors have to spend all their time policing Google for works they have already written, it is hard to create more. Our laws say if you wish to copy someone's work, you must get their permission. Google wants to trash that.
    Google's position essentially amounts to a license to steal, so long as it returns the loot upon a formal request by their victims. This is precisely why Google's argument has no basis in U.S. intellectual property law or jurisprudence. Just because Google is huge, it should not be allowed to change the law.
    Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt has argued the "fair use" provision in copyright law allows Google to scan copyrighted books and put them on their Web site without seeking permission. He compares this to someone at home taping a television show and watching it later. Taped TV show are watched in millions of households every night and is quite legal; rebroadcasting that show to make a buck is not.

I would show you the masterful deconstruction, but so far I have been unable to find it. Meanwhile, what Schroeder is saying doesn't seem crazy to me, or to Karen Anderson who has to live on her late husband's work and hasn't the resources to keep searching for pirate copies. Perhaps we're just naive about the real future, or don't understand modern sanity.


Thanks to Monty Munro  I have found Mr. Shulz's Forbes essay.

To view it you must have patience: when I went there almost a full minute of Scotch Whiskey ads filled my screen, and then were replaced by some more ads; eventually there was a tiny button that said "Click to skip ads" and there was the essay. I am not certain I understand what a "deconstruction" is, and if this is what Doctorow calls "masterful" I fear his reading is within a very limited scope; but then I didn't think Schroeder and Barr were doing "crazy-talk" either. Shulz says that Google doesn't intend to change the copyright laws or make entire books available, and of course the example of a "snippet" that he gives is well within the "fair use" that the authors associations agreed to in the copyright laws. Again I will be dealing with much of this in the column, so I shan't exhaust myself here. Unlike Doctorow, Shulz doesn't feel he has to resort to simple name calling and personal denigrations in order to argue against the position Schroeder and most author associations have taken (I guess we'll all crazy?). Instead he says, first, that Google can't possibly intend to do what Schroeder thinks they are trying to do, and second,

But here we are faced with another way in which technology forces us--whether we’d like to or not--to revisit and refine our laws protecting creators and innovators. When notions of “fair use” first evolved, they did so before anyone would have had the ability or the incentive to make a copy of every book ever published. Fair use in this way never entered the picture.

But data storage and search technologies now make such a project a practical possibility. So these technological developments force us to reevaluate notions of fair use.

We already permit such uses of snippets for the development of book reviews. Google’s proposed technology is an extension of that. It permits much wider dissemination of relevant snippets of books--in doing so it will whet the appetite of a reading audience that is now global in scale. Authors and publishers stand to benefit greatly.
In other words, his masterful deconstruction consists of telling authors "you're wrong, and you're too dumb to see that this will make you a lot of money."  Now perhaps this is correct, but perhaps it's not. And note that although Shulz doesn't say it, Google's proposed technology permits much wider dissemination of a hell of a lot more than "relevant snippets"; it permits the widespread dissemination of the whole damned book. And libraries are already "lending" electronic copies without any DRM or copy protection whatever -- and getting government subsidies and tax breaks to do that.

It may well be that Doctorow and his crowd are right, and information needs to be free, and the only way authors will make any money is either through the "public radio" subscription process as I do -- if you don't pay for this place click here -- or through public performances as Mark Twain and Dickens had to do because of defective copyright laws. And perhaps that is all to the good. But surely those of us who wonder about that are not demented, and this is not all "crazy-talk."




I have been spending far too much time verifying this incredible story, but it is all true.

I just sent the following letter to all my subscribers:


This is a Chaos Manor Warning. I would be shouting if I were not concerned that it would trigger your spam filters.

You may or may not be familiar with the Sony Music CD Root Kit problem.

Let me begin with the warning: do not buy or install any Sony Music CD on your PC. The records play just fine on other systems. There's no problem with Mac or Linux or with self contained music players.

But if you try to play that record on your CD, it will tell you that you must install the Sony CD player codec (you can't play the record through Microsoft Media Player or any other stuff you have installed on your system).

DO NOT INSTALL THAT SOFTWARE. If you do you may never be able to get it off there short of scrubbing your system down to bare iron, reformatting, and reinstalling everything. I wish I were spoofing you, but I am not. This is a serious warning.

Moreover, if you have given a Sony Music CD to anyone as a gift, and they have tried to play that music on their PC (not Mac, not a standalone player, not Linux, but Windows PC) then their systems are infected, and it is exceedingly difficult -- exceedingly difficult -- to remove that infection in a way that doesn't blue screen of death the PC.


I have heard nothing about Sony movie DVD's having any such infection, but it's possible. So far all my Sony DVD's have played with Power DVD and I have not been asked or required to install any special Sony software to play a Sony movie DVD; if I am asked to do so I will refuse, and so should you.

Understand that the Root Kit on the Sony Music CD is a deliberate installation by Sony as part of a Digital Rights Management scheme. They will now, if you jump through enough hoops, send you a patch that will make their scheme visible -- like all root kits, their original installation so infects your operating system as to hide in a directory your operating system literally cannot see or access -- but it still does not remove it.

I'll have more on removal in the column and at another time this being column time. I will also have a


warning in my Christmas Shopping List in the column.

This is a serious infection: the scheme has actually been used by third parties to hide other malware on systems that have the Sony root kit installed, and others have used the Sony root kit to hide cheat software for World of Warcraft. Even if you think you know what you are doing, you should not fool around with this stuff. It's dangerous, it's very difficult to remove, and there is a very real risk that you will have to reformat your disk and reinstall your OS and everything else.

For more information see:




The last reference is to the Sysinternals page where an incredulous Mark Russinovich relates how he found the root kit on his system: the root kit has been out for months, and this is the first indication of it's existence.

Sony did a splendid job of stealthing this.

I will have more in the column and on the web page. If you have bought and installed a Sony Music CD on your PC, *you need more help than I can give you*. Start with the Sysinternals page, and *proceed with extreme caution*.

And the best of British Luck to you.

Best regards,

Jerry Pournelle

Chaos Manor

And an addendum: The system "Phones Home".  See


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Saturday, November 5, 2005

Regarding rootkits:

At least it asked and let me say no.

In any case, I thought I'd pass along a tool I found to help deal with the Sony disks.

http://www.smart-projects.net/  offers a freeware tool to read CD's called ISO Buster that sees the disk layout and allows extraction of the WAV files.


I understand there is a land office business in collecting tools to deal with these matters, since technically at least removing the Sony Rootkit or telling people how to do that is illegal under the DMCA. Note that I have not tested this remedy, and do not tell you to use it. I figure you have the intelligence to make the right decisions.




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Sunday, November 6, 2005

They're Rioting In Europe...

Paris is still burning. There remain "abandoned areas" as described by Mr. Heinlein in I Will Fear No Evil (he gives me credit for the idea, in correspondence we had in 1960-1964). At the moment these are in France, but you will see them in the United States soon enough.

The French Muslim rebels say all they want is to be left alone, but being "left alone" does not mean a cessation of the welfare checks and other services provided by the French state at the expense of the taxpayers.

If you have not been following the story, we have a number of letters from Europe, where much of the story is not being reported (as a matter of policy) so that many Europeans are aware of events around them, but not of the extent of this new civil war. As news spreads, the Dutch and Danes are beginning to worry, and with good reason. As are the Swedes. And while there is some coverage in the United States, it is not consistent.

How long before this is a picture of conditions in the United States? Twenty years? Ten? Detroit last weekend although not reported widely?

In the palace, the king is sleeping...




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