This shit just got serious

Gives you the heebie-jeebies, doesn't it?


(as though it weren’t serious already)

I never imagined MegaUpload would shut down. Years ago, it didn’t take much imagination for me to foresee the eventual closure of suprnova. Likewise, I was frustrated, but not terribly surprised when mininova went “legit” and lost all significance, but I never imagined MegaUpload would close its doors.

I suppose I’m naïve, but DDL sites, particularly one with a founder/mascot so bombastically confident and publicly expressive of its safety from those who would wish for its demise, always seemed to me too mainstream and even “safe” to be targeted like this. MegaUpload was, in many ways, a legitimate business. If they earned ad revenue from downloads of copyrighted content, that’s not their fault. I suppose when you make money by the sackfull off such advertising schemes, throw parties to rival those of Tracy Jordan in ostentation, and hire the most expensive ensemble of pop stars to sing the praises of your company, people take notice.

According to torrentfreak the defendants are being charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit copyright infringement. I would believe the money laundering charge, but I want to know more about the “conspiracy to commit copyright infringement” and what sort of conspiring, specifically, they are accused of. I don’t totally doubt the money laundering thing though. Of course, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be quite happy to be shown that it’s false, too.

I had rarely used MegaUpload at all, actually, but I did like it a bit more than other free DDL sites after I got FiOS because it was the only service on which I could get near 1MB/s download speed without the use of jdownloader. Fileserve usually gives me about 400kB/s, which is more than tolerably fast, of course, but if I was in a rush to get a file and there was no other source for it I was always happy when it was on MegaUpload as opposed to some slower DDL site.

Now I fear that FileServe will be next. If MegaUpload was CocaCola, FileServe is at least Pepsi.

I hate how expensive R2J DVDs are

I like Shoukoushi Cedie very much, which was surprising to me since I usually don't go for family-oriented shows unless a cute orphan girl is the protagonist, which, as it turns out, is the case often enough that I actually end up watching such shows frequently. Cedie proves though that it's not just traps and ludicrously optimistic orphan girls bereft of their parents by whom I can be moesaserareta.

Because I’m not an encoder I rarely need full DVDs. The only time I do is when good raws are not available. Sometimes I get DVDs that I never watch. Sometimes I’ll get the first disc in a multi-disc series, intending to decide if it’s worth it to get the rest only after watching the beginning. The trouble is that these DVDs sometimes sit around for months or even more than a year before I watch them, by which time the rest of the discs are often unavailable. Sometimes the rest of the discs are never available in the first place, such as with はいからさんが通る and キャンディ・キャンディ, neither of which ever had official Japanese DVD releases as far as I know.

I’ve got the first four discs of Shoukoushi Cedie. A nice bonus about the DVDs are that it’s one of the few series to have Japanese subtitles, which, other than subtitles in your native language, are about the most helpful thing in the world when, like me, you don’t speak the language in which the dialogue is spoken. All DVDs and Blu-ray discs should have subtitles in my opinion. I usually turn the subtitles on when I watch movies or TV shows in English, too. I just prefer being able to confirm what I think I’m hearing by reading it simultaneously. Either that or my English is even worse than I realise it is.

The problem is that I just can’t get the rest of the DVDs. I have similar problems with other shows that I’d like to watch, too. I want to watch 巴里のイザベル but I can’t find any DVDs. I can find it on Amazon, but the only two sellers who ship internationally on there, one with a new copy and one with a used copy, are charging JPY 30000 and 50000, respectively. The series is only 13 episodes. It should be about JPY 2000. Sometimes I see 13 episode series of relatively unpopular shows like this for JPY 500 on Yahoo! Auctions.

I wanted to watch さすらいの少女ネル very badly at one time. I looked at Amazon and saw that the only seller who ships internationally was selling a used copy of the DVD box for JPY 60000. That’s nearly USD 800. This is almost as ridiculous as the price for the Card Captor Sakura special Blu ray box set that came out recently. Yahoo! Auctions is a bit better, but I’ve only seen copies of the show on there a couple of times for JPY 10000 to 20000 and none of the sellers would ship internationally. With a proxy service I’d still be looking at USD 300+ for a lousy DVD of a feel good kids story based on a book I could buy for USD 2. Thankfully ARR released rips. I love ARR.

I was looking for at least two years for a copy of the 野ばらのジュリー DVDs. There’s only four of them. It’s a short series. Someone finally made them available, by the way, but this was another series I had considered buying because it was so rare in digital form. If I had, I’d be out JPY 49000.

These aren’t even World Masterpiece Theatre shows. Those are more expensive. They don’t release DVD boxes that contain the entire series for those shows; they release a “complete version” which condenses the entire series into only a few episodes. These are actually relatively inexpensive, but why would I want them?

One show that I’ve mentioned I really like before is 風の中の少女 金髪のジェニー which is loosely based on Stephen Collins Foster’s childhood and did not, I repeat not, make me drag my morose, inconsolable Sunggie-clad self out of my desk chair, and drape myself in a comforter as I groped about in the dimly lit room for my weeping companion teddy bear Sniffles because he knows the telephone number for the Tennessee Valley Authority. That most certainly did not happen.

I did cry when I saw the price the same Marketplace seller at Amazon who had the above items for sale was charging for the Jeanie DVD boxes: JPY 64000 and 59000 for volumes one and two. That’s 1579 dollars! Of course, nobody will purchase these items. It would be much cheaper to buy from sellers who do not ship internationally and use a shipping proxy in a case like this, but even if I did, I could expect to pay more than 200 dollars. Maybe that’s reasonable for some people, but it’s still too high for to make it practical for me.

There are other shows I want, too. They all cost too much money though. Proxy shipping services are impractical for low value items like DVDs, but I must either use such a service or pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for these DVDs from the few sellers who do ship internationally.

This is one of the ways copyright infringement by duplication via Internet can be rationalized. You may think it’s immoral to duplicate some DVDs without permission and then proceed to enjoy them for free. But then, when you see that it would actually cost around USD 500 for many of these series, some of which are unpopular and short, you may no longer think it so immoral. Shoukoushi Cedie is a Sekai Meisaku Gekijou series and has 10 volumes, each of which are about JPY 3000 for domestic buyers. That’d be JPY 30000 for a domestic buyer. If I used Shopping Mall Japan service I’d pay an additional USD 35 plus various other fees for an order like that, not to mention domestic shipping and international shipping, which is always expensive with Japan Post. On the one hand I understand that international mail needs to be expensive because the transportation, inspection, and other costs are very high for any type of postal system, but I’m used to USPS prices. I can send a book from New York to Guam for USD 3.50 and probably have it arrive in less than a week. 30000 Yen is about 400 dollars, plus 35 dollars, plus a few dollars for domestic shipping, plus about 30 dollars for international shipping, plus a few more dollars for other fees, and you’ve got a pricetag of nearly 500 dollars for used DVDs of a show from the 1980s. When I think of it this way, I can’t really think of duplication of such DVDs as immoral.

Hehe, SOPA and PIPA would probably obligate us to block access to online libraries like this one

I'm starting to suspect that Lamar Smith introduced this bill as part of his sinister scheme to force libraries to close so he'll be able keep that copy of Tropic of Cancer he borrowed from the public library in 1971.

The Author’s Guild as well as a bunch of other associations of authors including some Canadian, Australian, and Swedish groups, are suing the damned library over IP infringement.

I recently read The Ark Sakura by one of my all time favourite authors, Kobo Abe. When I added it to my LibraryThing book collection I noticed that it lists among the various editions of the book “Ebooks: 1 pay”. So I clicked the link and a window with a link to HathiTrust, an organization I had never heard of before, opened up.

Nonetheless, I could tell immediately that this was something I would like. I did a quick Google search and found out that it’s an organization that has been undertaking a massive digitization process of vast quantities of both public domain and currently copyrighted content in cooperation with Google Books and their army of scanner monkeys.

The coalition of whiners claim that HathiTrust has engaged in, “…systemic, concerted, widespread and unauthorized reproduction and distribution of millions of copyrighted books and other works” All of this, they allege, “…without the permission of their authors or other copyright holders”

Yeah, according to the complaint, they have (let me suppress the drooling) 435 TB of content and 73% of their content is copyrighted.

These folks also want to stop the “Orphan Works Project” by which orphaned copyrighted works would have been made available to college kids.

HathiTrust, in its defence, said what they were doing was fair use. I have to agree with the IP holders in their basic assertion of “that dog won’t hunt”. On the other hand, suing a library is really about as close as you can get in real life to the quintessential superman villain level of nefariousness.

Of course, you could say that what these libraries are doing is no different from what people do at thepiratebay and you’d be right. The difference between what HathiTrust are doing and what brick and mortar (I hate this neologism so much) libraries do is that somebody at some point on the supply chain did purchase each and every one of those books. I don’t know how physical libraries get their books, but I suspect most of them are either bought or donated. If they’re donated, then the donator probably purchased them or received permission to donate them at some point. Those books are paid for. If there’s only one copy of the Atlas Shrugged coffee table book in the whole establishment and somebody has already borrowed it when I visit the library, I’ll be forced to seek my casual brunchtime Tea Party propaganda elsewhere.

With a digital library, Google can scan the book from one physical copy (or several so they can scan more than one page at a time…I’d love to see the setup they use at Google Books) and then HathiTrust can make that available to countless students. Even if the library is not available outside the university network, that’s still many tens of thousands of people who will have free access to the content and there wouldn’t be any problem if 50,000 of them all wanted to borrow This is Herman Cain! at once because they could easily do so.

Indeed, they wouldn’t even have to “return” the books. According to the DMCA, libraries can make digital copies of copyrighted works in their collection without permission as long as the files are not used outside the library. This sounds, to me at least, like the law is basically saying that digital copies are fine as long as they’re burdened with uncrackable DRM or some phone-home mechanism that would prevent a library patron from “borrowing” the digital book and then printing it, making a copy, backing it up, sharing it by P2P, converting it to another format, etc… As long as the copyrighted digital content the library makes available is locked down enough so that it’s not possible to distribute or alter, it sounds like everything is fine and dandy.

I know that JSTOR violates this provision of the DMCA blatantly, but that’s another story, although I do approve of it in purely ethical terms.

In any case, I just thought that this was a pretty amazing thing that’s going on. I’m always surprised by all of the digital content that my university gives us access to just by virtue of being students. They’ve never met me before; for all they know I could be archiving all the stuff they allow me to access (DRM free, I might add) and redistributing it.

Make no mistake though; I say all of this not to discourage libraries and universities from doing this. I just want to emphasize that there really are bad apples out there. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t let the reality that some people will abuse the system deter us from having libraries and other nice things in the first place (teehee: I just got a mental image wherein Internet access was declared an inalienable right and hobos gleefully fire up the computers to watch pornography in the public libraries). What these universities do may be illegal, but I think it’s ethical nonetheless. I view it as an extension of the concept of a public library. Public libraries have been exempt from some aspects of copyright law for a long time. Before widespread use of computers, libraries were still allowed to make up to three copies of copyrighted works within the library without permission from the copyright holder as long as the copy was being made to replace an old or unusable copy that would then be discarded (or maybe it had to be destroyed…I don’t remember). The point is that only a fringe minority of people think that libraries should be condemned as IP infringers. Rather few people believe that we should outlaw public libraries. In that vein, I view scanning, OCRing, and making available for free download copyrighted works via the Internet or university intranetworks as a logical extension of the concept of a public library. Again, it seems obvious that it’s illegal, but I do not think this means it’s unethical. Just like how I applaud scofflaw Aaron Swartz, I support what HathiTrust is doing here. It’s courageous and just.

My IPR on my IPR infringement scheme have been infringed upon!

"Valencia? These are juice oranges!"

I was busy vacillating over whether to use my real name and address when signing one of those most-likely-frivolous online petitions a few days ago when I learned that someone stole an idea that I’d been keeping under my hat for some time.

I recently stumbled into a situation that provided me with expansive access to JSTOR, an online service that provides access to scanned, OCR’ed, and generally nicely polished content from so-called “academic journals”, which are indistinguishable, as far as I can tell, from the more plebeian-sounding magazines they actually are. The content is great, but the prices are just disgracefully high. They’re prohibitively high, in fact. The average person cannot afford to access the content they, presumably, painstakingly digitized. You can pay for a subscription for some ungodly amount or you can pay to download individual articles. If you’re an infrequent user, I suppose the latter is the better idea, but it’s still absurdly expensive.

My school, however, has a subscription to JSTOR, as well as other similar services, such as Springerlink. As soon as I found this out I noticed that they’re doing something sneaky where they’ve got a proxy server set up that students can use to remotely access the school JSTOR account and download content from anywhere. In other words, the school is not-so-subtly encouraging its students to engage in disingenuous behaviour, if not blatantly illegal copyright infringement.

I had known of the existence of JSTOR and some other similar services before enrolling in this school, but I never imagined I would be able to access the content. For that matter, I was sceptical of whether the content even existed, since JSTOR and Springerlink are invariably the top search results on Google when you search for the title of an article or the name of an author on Google Scholar. It seemed similar to the phenomenon by which you’re searching for a DDL link or torrent of some obscure object of desire and Google presents you with links to torrent indexers like Bitsnoop and torrentz.eu or DDL site search services like Filestube, which you click only to see that it just leads to a page informing you that no results were found for whatever you typed into Google. In other words, just an SEO tactic used to steer visitors looking for thing X to the JSTOR website where they procceed to sell you things Y and Z.

Having said that, I now know that JSTOR is a legitimate service that actually has the media they purport to have available.

Seeing how great the service apparently was, it seemed like a given that I could just go on over to my favourite torrent indexer or private tracker and download gigabytes of PDFs harvested from JSTOR for free. No dice though. I was very surprised, since it seemed like the sort of content to which the benefit of piracy would extend greatly, due to its ridiculous price. That is, it seems to me that the benefit of pirating, for example, a $15 music CD is relatively low when compared to the risk and discomfort of the moral qualms it may arouse, whereas pirating a PDF of academic materials that would have cost you $250 to purchase is a better risk to take. Educational content seems to be more expensive than popular content. I don’t know why; they’re printed on the same paper and pressed on the same CDs and DVDs as popular media. Perhaps it’s not that they’re more expensive because they’re educational but rather that niche stuff is always more expensive and many educational materials are considered niche enough to render a price comparable to popular materials unviable.

I’m digressing though.

Finding that, on the one hand, I couldn’t afford to purchase the materials I wanted legally, while, on the other, I couldn’t even acquire them illicitly if I wanted to, I was in a bind. That’s why I was happy when I enrolled in this school and learned of how they’re basically encouraging us to download content from JSTOR with reckless abandon (and, implicitly, do with it what we will).

You’d have to be an idiot or someone with absolutely no sense of opportunism at all not to think about making some script or other that downloads everything available to you from JSTOR and then publishing a torrent of it. Of course, let me make clear that I am a law abiding citizen and would never actually do that; I’m just emphasizing that you’d have to be pretty dense not to take notice of an opportunity that presents itself quite so flamboyantly.

But, to my simultaneous chagrin and moral endorsement — distinct from practical endorsement (read: I do not endorse this) — the founder of DemandProgress.org, Aaron Swartz, stole my idea, as people seem to have a penchant for doing. He was promptly arrested, it seems, but, to JSTOR’s credit, they did not pursue a civil suit against him, though the gummint threw the book at him.

This all happened in July, but I didn’t know anything about it until the other day, when I was signing one of those ubiquitous petitions against SOPA and PIPA. I didn’t want to give my name and address on a website run by some PAC I knew nothing about. For all I knew DemandProgress.org was run by American Crossroads. But it’s not; it’s run by an east coast pirate redditor whiner hipster-doofus troublemaker who stole my idea and I’m okay with that.

I think I encountered a cpanel bug

My host moved the mysql server a week or so ago so I expected to have some downtime. I feel stupid that it took me so long to realise that they had finished the move due to what I believe is a cpanel bug. They finished the move a long time ago but I couldn’t log in because of this bug (and intermittent ddos didn’t help either). Even though my login credentials hadn’t changed, I still kept getting an error message at the phpmyadmin login screen as well as this error from WordPress, which I had never seen before:

We were able to connect to the database server (which means your username and password is okay) but not able to select the “databasename” database

It turns out that all I had to do was change my password by clicking “Change Password” in cpanel and then everything worked. It also still worked when I tried changing it to something else and then changing it back immediately. But if I hadn’t read about this bug on a forum somewhere I never would have known. I would have just sat here twiddling my thumbs assuming that the problem was due to residual issues from the move. I’m very happy now though, in any case.

Before realizing that this was such a trivial thing to fix, I tried visiting some of the other sites hosted on this server (in a virtual machine, of course) to see if they were having problems too and, sure enough, most of them just throw out “Error establishing a database connection”.

Blargh… midterms are hard (and days 6 and 7)

If only I could be more carefree and forget about highfalutin status symbols like good grades and literacy I could spend more time watching Enlightened, Bored to Death , and all the terrible anime airing this season that I can’t resist and I’d finally be able to buy and play Tales of Xilia. But alas, I’m stuck here trying to learn the difference between a taisha zukuri and a shinmei zukuri while keeping track of these loony characters:

With all these names, I almost feel as though showing them in kanji would actually help me learn them. Even if I don’t know how to read them, the kanji could at least help memorization, if only because it would allow me to devise some mnemonic devices. I don’t know who Sarutakhiko is, but if I saw his name in kanji and saw the 猿田毘古 I’d assume he was a monkey or if I saw Ame no Wakahiko, 天若日子, I’d assume he was some young guy sent from the heavens, which is actually partially correct since he came from “high up heavenly place”, 高天原, and married Shitateruhime according to the Nihon Shoki. Even if you’re like me and can’t read, if you know a few basic kanji you can make some bullshit guesses that might be good enough for an exam if you can see the names written out in Japanese. You don’t need to be able to know that it’s phonetically “Takamagahara” to deduce that it’s some kind of heavenly realm. In romaji though you can’t even take a wild guess like that except for the most obvious distinctions like the safe assumption that names ending in -hiko are probably male gods. Some of those names, moreover, aren’t even spelled correctly. Ignoring for a moment the differences between traditional and modified Hepburn, Taka-Mikazuchi no Kami should be Take-Mikazuchi no Kami, Sukuna-hikona no Kami and Sukuna-bikona no Kami are the same kami and thus shouldn’t be listed twice or separately, and I’m not sure who Tokoshiro nushi no Kami is supposed to be. It’s probably supposed to be Kotoshiro nushi no Kami, 事代主神, and may be the same as Ebisu in some contexts, who was a son of Ookuni nushi no Mikoto and is a god of fishing or something like that.

Thankfully I don’t actually need to know all these names, least of all Ame Nigishi Kuni Nigishi Amatsu Hiko Hiko Ho no Ninigi no Mikoto, who I think is supposed to be the father of Emperor Jinmu. I just enjoy complaining. I must know the important ones though. The question, of course, is deciding which are important. I think that any names that I hadn’t heard of before enrolling in this class are unimportant enough to not bother remembering; that’s just the kind of hubris I need to muster up to avoid getting melted hippocampus all over my shirt collar. Any name that’s famous enough for me to have known about the god or place before entering the class must be important enough to warrant focus. I didn’t know who Sarutakhiko was and he’s apparently pretty important.

If only there were a Chinese cartoon that could solidify their identities in my mind…that’s how I learned all about Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Eventually I’ll read Water Margin too. I can get a cheap copy of the nice boxset from Foreign Language Press from eBay.

Anyway, here are days 6 and 7:
Abstract here

Day #Offences for male students (within 5 minutes of start of class) #Total offences for male students (inclusive)
6 0 0
7 3 4
Day #Offences for female students (within 5 minutes of start of class) #Total offences for female students (inclusive)
6 7 12
7 8 11
Day #Total offences(Male + Female) %Offenders [%Offenders(adjusted)]
6 12 24% [40%]
7 15 30% [50%]

Why does Fileserve do this?

A superscript? Me not engineer...

I’ve seen ß and Ñ too but at least in these cases, if you used a German or Spanish keyboard layout you could actually type them easily, whereas I don’t think most commonly used keyboard layouts have an easy way to type superscripts. Or perhaps I only think that’s the case because I so rarely need to use them…