Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dictionary Down

My interdictionary project server is down because the primary Windows partition somehow got corrupted (while I was using the computer ... that was an interesting experience.) I sure hope that the database was not being stored on that partition, but I don't remember. Linux is still working and I will hopefully have it back up in the next day or two. Update: The dictionary is back up with a new database. If the server is unreachable, please notify me (

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


A couple articles I've seen today make me wonder what it is certain authorities think is so horrible about hacking. Seems like when they catch one--a seemingly rare event--they want to "make an example" of him. Kevin Mitnick is probably the best-known example; he served 5 years in prison, but what did he actually do, and of what was he convicted? From what I've read, not that much. Real-life network hackers aren't like hackers in hollywood movies; for the most part they're just regular people who are far too curious for their own good.

Today I saw this article about Gary McKinnon.
The US government alleges that between February 2001 and March 2002, Mr McKinnon repeatedly hacked into dozens of computers used by the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Defense.

While Mr McKinnon has admitted that he spent years wandering round military computer networks, he denies that his hacking was ever motivated by anything other than curiosity.
I'm inclined to believe him, since I have a little bit of that spirit myself. Actually, the term "hacker" used to refer specifically to a self-motivated programmer, before hollywood and others appropriated the term to mean "one who breaks into computer networks". Indeed, the word is still used in that sense today in the free software and Linux worlds, and I think the two kinds of hackers are similar kinds of people. But don't confuse hackers with crackers, who are malicious hackers.

And that's the issue I want to bring up: was McKinnon a hacker or a cracker? The law might not make a distinction, but to me it's very important to consider an individual's intentions. If all McKinnon did was snoop around military networks out of curiosity, and never did anything with the knowledge so gained, can he be considered any worse than any of the crackers, spammers, and scammers infesting the internet these days?

Tentatively, this sounds like a minor crime at worst. It seems to me that the real story here is not some guy that pokes his nose where it doesn't belong; rather we should be disturbed that a single individual was able not only to hack into and explore the Army's, Navy's, Air Force's and DoD's networks, but that he was not caught for "years". This is the biggest and by far the most expensive military in the world--and they can't keep people out of their networks? Yeesh.

I saw another hacking story today. Three of the more traditional hackers (programmers) are trying to help people circumvent the great firewall of China.
"Hacking is an important philosophy we need to recover in our society," says Deibert, now the father of four young children, "because so many systems of control are embedded in technology, most of which we're unaware of."The more we take the screws off and understand how things work, the more we'll have citizens in control of their lives and the technological society they live in."
Kudos. I don't see how they could do much against China's censorship regime, but I certainly wish them luck.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Copy South

I'd read in a book called Information Feudalism about how the intellectual property laws of our rich countries were imposed on poor countries by an international agreement called TRIPS. This treaty, which is required to enter the WTO, hurts those countries without offering anything to them in return.

So, I was interested to hear about Copy South, which discusses the effects of copyright on the third world.
As long-time Philippines activist Roberto Verzola explained at the Copy/South workshop … there are two main competing value systems in the world and, in the current era, “the value system of monopolisation, corporatisation, and privatisation is being imposed on what I think is a better system, a system of sharing.”

From the start, it was clear to many that the TRIPS Agreement would primarily benefit already developed Northern countries far more than those in the global South. It is the multinationals of the North who already own the overwhelming percentage of ... copyright, patents, [and] trademarks; the creation, expansion, and stricter enforcement of ... intellectual property rights overwhelmingly benefits those already owning property.

Ten years have passed since TRIPS became reality ... The more common name for such treaties is ‘free trade agreements’; they follow a hypocritical (and contradictory) agenda of purporting to promote ‘freer trade’ in monopolised goods such as patented pharmaceuticals and Hollywood blockbusters. We ask, “how much ‘free trade’ in Nigerian or Cuban or Chinese films occurs within the US or Europe?” So it will be argued here that TRIPS and its component parts, such as the Berne Convention, have simply reproduced the types of economic inequalities associated with the earliest stages of colonialism and imperialism.

- The Copy/South Dossier

Has it really been that long?

It's been nearly four months since my last post. A lot had been happening in my life and it seemed like no one was reading my blog anyway. The last month of school was very hectic; in the last three weeks, I had so much to do that I withdrew from a course to reduce my workload. There were projects everywhere: the Fourth Year Design Project, the compiler project, the database project and the parallel processing project--this last project was in the course from which I had to withdraw.

In my database class we had to do a database project--a web application with a database back-end. I considered this my opportunity to finally do something I wanted to do.

The Esperanto international auxilliary language (IAL), which I've discussed before, suffers from poor-quality and incomplete English dictionaries, and I felt that a user-editable dictionary could be the solution to that problem. Wikipedia has a sister dictionary project, Wiktionary, but it's inconvenient to use Wiktionary to actually look stuff up, especially when you want a translation dictionary.

So I made Note:
  • Only the English<=>Esperanto dictionaries contain a significant number of entries.
  • It doesn't work well in Internet Explorer 6; get Firefox.
  • This site might not be up forever. used to be an alias for my home page (, but now it's an alias for my home computer ( Anyway, it was my first web application and my second database application. I would sure like to give a piece of my mind to those guys who run the database course, because they didn't teach us squat about how to write web applications or how to interface with a database. They did teach SQL, but even that seemed to be on the sidelines in this course. Anyway, I pulled through with an A, and my three other A's should make up for having dropped out of a course.

I should write some more entries now. I've got a new best friend, a new job, a new home, and new ideas for programs I want to write.

In the meantime, uhm, well, check out my bookmarks. There's lots of programming stuff but also freedom-fighting goodness... or better yet, learn from the EFF about how Big Media is having its way with the U.S. Congress:
"With so many tech mandate proposals and DRM restrictions being introduced, it's all too easy to miss how they fit together. A digital radio mandate here, an analog hole plug there, add in a little HDCP on video outputs for bad measure, and so on -- pretty soon, you've got DRM everywhere, and the whole is far more dangerous than the sum of its parts."

The Battle for Your Digital Media Devices And learn about Digital Video Restrictions