The life and times of Zack Weinberg.
Wednesday, 23 October 2002
# 9:10 PM
# 6:55 AM
My mother points out that I misspelled bain Marie earlier — the first word has an I in it. This is no doubt why I couldn't find Maria the Jewess's history online. She wasn't French at all; she lived in Egypt in the third century BCE, or possibly the first century CE, sources differ.
In the "why didn't I think of that?" category, a chap name of Tkil suggests that the way to prevent your car's wheel from turning when you're trying to loosen the lug nuts is not to jack it up until they're already loose.
# 6:10 AM
more "trusted" computing
Let's back up from the technical details and talk about goals. The status quo is that if you've got a computer and a chunk of data in a computer-readable format, you can do whatever you want with the data. In particular, you can make an unlimited number of perfect copies of that chunk of data, and transfer them to other people, without any effect on the original. There are people who would like this not to be the case, and they have designed technological measures such as Palladium which could prevent it in the future.
I am perfectly happy with the status quo. In fact, I prefer the status quo to the alternative. However, it is possible that a system similar to Palladium could be designed which I would prefer to the status quo. I'm the customer; the people pushing Palladium and/or other "trusted computing" initiatives have got to convince me to buy new hardware that implements it. (Let me remind you that most corporations can be prevented from doing things by not fucking paying for the product.)
So, on the hypothesis that we are going to design a new computer architecture incorporating something similar to Palladium, what functionality should it have, and equally what functionality should it not have, to make me consider it something worth buying? Here are some examples of both categories. Features that would be useful:
Features that would be undesirable:
Now, can we design devices and primitive operation sets that permit the implementation of the desirable features, while preventing the implementation of the undesirable features? I suspect we can. However, I suspect the result doesn't look much like Palladium; I suspect it's more like a normal computer with a smart-card interface.
In this vein, I'd like to point out Richard Stallman's opinion piece on "treacherous" computing (as he styles it), and also his much earlier essay The Right to Read.
other political items of interest
This open letter encourages the FCC not to bail out failing telecoms companies.
Thirty-five questions that haven't been answered, but should be.