7/24/2006

MPAA and RIAA as Instruments of Piracy

Right now software engineers and encryption specialists work tirelessly to develop a new form of digital rights management (DRM), or copy-protection, software that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) will use to encrypt their music and movies in an effort to thwart mass piracy of their content. What these industries do not realize, however, that the only people they are thwarting are the legitimate buyers of their content from using the product in mediums other than what the industries intended. Instead of the industry preventing piracy, they are actually creating more piracy by restricting the use of music and movies. The average, legitimate consumer, in order to satisfy the want to use the content they bought in the manner that they desire, must learn how to crack this type of encryption and, thus, become pirates as defined by the law.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes circumventing copy protection on any piece of intellectual property (DVDs and music CDs, for example) by the use of technology that is designed to bypass this type of encryption illegal. It also makes the production of any type of application that has the ability to bypass any form of copy protection encryption illegal as well. This law only applies to DVDs and CDs that have encryption already on them, and the music and movie industries have obligated themselves to place DRM encryption on every DVD and CD that they produce. Thus, this law makes it illegal to make a copy of virtually any CD or DVD that is sold to the average consumer.

The RIAA and MPAA want their consumers to use the DVDs and CDs they produce only in the manner in which music and movie industries dictate: movies to be played only on DVD players and music to be played only on CD players. With this wave of technology, however, the consumers now have more options to use their media. They can play movies on their laptop, portable DVD players, or even on tiny devices such as the latest iPod or the Sony PlayStation Portable. Anyone today can make a home theatre system powered by a computer that is dedicated solely to storing movies and playing them when need be. The MPAA, however, wants the consumers to buy a new movie for each individual medium. For example, if one went to the local Wal-Mart and bought a DVD of Ice Age for approximately $20, he would also have to buy a separate copy Ice Age on UMD (Universal Media Disc, the PlayStation Portable disc standard) for another $20 in order to watch it on his PlayStation Portable as well as another $10 from the iTunes movie store if he wanted to watch it on his iPod Video. By the time he has this movie on all the devices he desires, he would have paid for the same movie--just one--three times at a total of $50 (more than twice of which he originally paid for it). Should this person have to pay for one movie three times? I think not, for once one buys a movie one should be able to use however one pleases or make copies of that movie as a backup if one pleases.

This example of a man buying one movie three times is also an example of what the average, non-tech savvy consumer would think of doing. The average consumer has no idea that programs, along with tutorials on how to use them, are widely available on the Internet that have the ability to crack the encryption on any DVD on the market today and allow the consumer to make copies. DVDDecrypter, a program that is famous for its ability to copy encrypted DVDs with relative ease, is a prime example of one such program. The entry in the works cited of this paper for DVDDecrypter contains a direct link to where a copy of this notorious program can be downloaded as well as a tutorial that provides a step-by-step guide of the copying process. A simple Google search for the terms “decrypt DVD” displays several links to useful free programs available on the Internet that can copy and place an entire DVD onto a computer’s hard drive.

The MPAA does not realize that they are only hurting the average consumer by encrypting their DVDs, for people that pirate DVDs already know how the bypass the encryption and do not give a second thought to. What the MPAA is doing, in actuality, is teaching the average non-pirating consumer how to become a pirate. If the consumer wishes to use the content they bought on a different medium, then that consumer will find a way to use it the way he/she wants to. An example can be a businessman who travels by plane most of the time for his line of work. During these long flights he wishes to watch a movie or two on his laptop to help pass the time, but he doesn’t have enough space to pack the necessary DVDs that he owns with him on flight. He thinks he can copy the DVDs onto his hard drive, but finds that the discs are encrypted. He searches the internet for ways to solve this issue, perhaps using a popular web forum. From this forum he learns that he can use a program named Fair Use Wizard to decrypt and convert the DVDs that he wants to watch into video files that can be played directly off the hard drive of his laptop computer (Fair Use Wizard). To copy these DVDs onto his hard drive would violate the law as it stands presently and make this man a pirate. Because of the copy protection on these discs, the MPAA has, in essence, taught this man how to pirate a movie. Even though this is a hypothetical situation, I can say without a doubt that an even like this has taken place in reality at one time in the past. A popular radio station on the west coast of the United States called KFI AM 640 has a technology show hosted by Leo Laporte also known as the “Tech Guy.” Leo has been in the technology industry since 1985, has helped write a numerous technology books and magazine articles, and hosts Call for Help, a technology help television show that originally aired in the United States and has now aired in Canada for years. On this show he tackles many technology problems, including how to make copies of DVDs and bypassing copy protection. He shares the same view that the MPAA is turning people towards piracy instead of away from it, for the MPAA restricts access to its content so much that consumers have no other choice but to violate the law in order to use the content they bought the way they want.

I consider myself a patron of the arts. I buy DVD movies that I enjoy watching, and I support the directors and actors that help produce them. I also, however, make backup copies of those movies as well, for I believe in protecting my investment in the movies that I bought. Even though I backup discs I already own, I am a pirate to the MPAA. Why should I not be able to provide myself with a second copy of a movie that I already own? DVDs can, over time, become scratched to where a DVD player can no longer read them, but with a backup DVD I can preserve the original copy of a DVD that I legally purchased with legal U.S. tender. Why should this seemingly unalienable right to backup DVDs be denied by the greedy movie industry that wants consumers to pay for the same movie multiple times? Consumers do not want to pay another price for a movie that they have already bought, and they will exhaust all other options before paying more money for the same content that they already own.

7/12/2006

Computer Science Report 1st Edition

The following is a report I have written for my introductory computer science class that involves the explanation of how to display a scene captured in 3 dimensions to a 2-dimensional environment. I'm not quite sure if how I explained it works out; I may have missed a few fine details here and there, but this is the gist I got from the lecture.

Assignment 5: Multimedia

How might a 3-dimensional scene be reconstructed in a 2-dimensional environment? Well, first we must capture the 3-dimensional data. This can be done by using a controlled environment with multiple cameras at several angles called a motion-capture studio. If we need to, say, capture the motion of a human being walking, we must capture the key points of the human body as it moves. Feet, knees, elbows, arms, legs, head, neck, and other joints must be highlighted somehow so the cameras know to track only those motions.

Once the camera captures these motions in relation to some common reference point, they must be sent to a computer for processing. Now it is time to come up with some way to map the 3-dimensional information into a 2-dimensional form that the computer can process and sort. For each pivot on the joints in which we want to monitor we can map them out in an x, y, z plane in relation to that same reference point we used to capture the data, but that is still in three dimensions. We can, however, say that reference point is the origin on the x, y, z plane and then assign each point of the joints a specific coordinate value throughout the entire time of the capture session. We now have a numerical value in this three dimensional space to work with, which means we can now pinpoint one point on the graph using a set of 2-dimensional numbers – one x, one y, and one z coordinate, but how can this be done for the entire slew of data that we need to display the motions of a human walking?

The answer lies in an operator named the matrix. Matrices can store vast amounts of data in a table format and display it in a 2-dimensional environment. Since now we have three numerical values (the x, y, and z coordinates) of a certain joint we need to map at a specific time in the motion capture data (let’s say the first hundredth of a millisecond), we can place these data inside of a matrix or a series of matrices (one for each individual pivot point and joint). The columns of the matrices can display the x, y, and z coordinates of the points we want to examine, and the rows of the matrices can represent the time in milliseconds (or any time value) of the data from the motion capture process. Using this data from matrices, it can then be reconstructed back into a 3-dimensional model by the computer to display back the main motions of a human walking.

6/20/2006

Girl Gets Raped, Says it's Myspace's Fault

A 14 year old girl who was apparently assaulted by a 19 year old guy whom she met online through the popular blog site MySpace.com is now filing a lawsuit against the corporation for $30 million saying MySpace's failure to verify users' ages on their site led to her being sexually assaulted.

This is a classic case of someone who sues Starbucks because they serve their coffee hot to scorch the skin or tongue, filing suit against a fast food restaraunt for making people fat, or suing a car company that didn't specify that "cruise control" did not drive the car by itself in the user's manual. It is, sadly, the death of common sense, which has been six feet under since the dawning of popular society. It seems in today's world we must have disclaimers and warnings on anything and everything because people are too stupid to figure things out for themselves. Everytime I see a news story like this it makes me disgusted to see a person who tries to compensate for their own stupidity and lack of common sense by laying the blame on someone else. There is no feasable way that a company of MySpace's sheer capacity to physically monitor everyone that uses their service, and I do not and cannot lay any blame on them.

A girl who is in the second year of her teens, going through puberty, getting curious about the opposite sex, and growing up in this technology-oriented world met a guy online whom she knew was at least the same age as her, perhaps even older - the article does not state if the girl had prior knowledge of the guy's age, but I can safely bet $7.32 that she knew he was an older man. This adolescent then gave him her phone number, of which he, of course, called to set up a date. The moment that she gave out her phone number on the web she consented to any and every consequence that could arise from it - good or bad. Once again, this is due to her lack of brain matter and common sense that she gave out her personal information on the web. MySpace did not tell her not to share that information, but neither did they endorse sharing that type of information. Anything can happen anywhere on the web, and MySpace is far too large to monitor every tiny conversation that happens on their servers. Yes, MySpace is trying to combat and prevent assault cases like these by issuing moderators that act as a "MySpace Police Department," but this cannot garauntee the prevention of internet predators.

It is far too easy to anonomize oneself on the net, which is why sexual predators still thrive on the net. What is missing here is the apparent lack of knowledge by ignorant girls like the one in this article. If MySpace is to blame because of their "lack of action" to prevent this girl from being sexually assaulted, then this girl's parents should be to blame as well. Her parents obviously did not educate her in how to pervceive others on the internet. These parents did not inform their beloved daughter, of which they care for oh so much, of the dangers of the internet. I know that these parents have access to news in some form or another, for if their daughter has a computer with internet then the parents would at least accept the technology of the television. People still produce news on that device, right? The television, I mean. I don't watch it all that much, but I know my parents watch it everyday - especially the news channels. These parents had to have heard and seen some featured news story about sexual predators on the internet on one of the many channels that a television set provides, and yet they were too ignorant and proud thinking "That could never happen to our daughter" to inform their daughter of the dangers of interacting with others on the internet. So shouldn't the parents be sued by their daughter as well for not providing such information? If the answer is no, then how can MySpace be held accountable? Would it be because Myspace provided the means of communication for the sexual assaulter to interact with her? If that is the case, then the parents should be held accountable as well because not only do they pay for internet access to their house which allowed the girl to contact this man, but the parents also pay for the cellular phone bill of which this girl used to talk to him as well. This girl is 14 years old, she can't hold a job currently, so how do these services get paid for? Through parents.

Parents cannot put off their own personal responsibilites to their children. Parents are abandoning their responsibilities as parents and are placing them in the hands of online companies like MySpace, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo!, etc. These companies only havve one responsibility: to provide services for their customers. They are in now way accountable nor responsible for raising someone else's children - otherwise, what are the parents' jobs? Parents today live in a very different world than what they used to, for when they were growing up gas was less than $1 and Macs hadn't even been invented yet. If their excuse is because they do not understand the technology, then they have another responsiblity to learn it. Parenting is the same as a fulltime career - it's a lifetime commitment. If the parents of this girl cannot be held to blame, then neither can MySpace.

Once again, events like these occur because of the sad death of Common Sense. It lived a good life, but the stupdity and ignorance of men, women, and children alike too arrogant and stubborn to admit that they themselves made an idiotic mistake put a swift and silent knife through Common Sense's heart. Common Sense must be resurrected by people not only educating other, but educating themselves by doing the most simplest of tasks: looking around and becoming aware of one's surroundings and one's actions.

6/15/2006

LED Suit Mod

I know I haven't made a posting in a while, mainly because I haven't worked on modding anything in a really long time. However, about a month ago, I was inspired to create the following suit in order to bypass a rule at my high school that banned the use of glowsticks at school dances. Therefore, I decided to create a suit that had LEDs embedded into it. The wristcuffs contained bright amber LEDs while my arms, collar, and pant legs contained diffused red LEDs. Not only did I have LEDs embedded in my suit, but I also wired several into my hair. Don't believe me? Watch the video:



The suit consists of 120+ LEDs, took 5 3v wristwatch batteries and 4 AA batteries to operate, yards of copper wire, cost approximately $30, and took 30+ hours to make and test. An uber special thanks goes out to my good friend Yohumbus for helping out all those long hours.

5/01/2005

GBC Mod Part 2 - The BlingBoy Version 1.0

Go here if you would like to read part 1 of the GBC belt buckle mod.

After painting the tops and side of the GBC and let them sit overnight to dry, I noticed that the bottom edges where the two plastic case pieces meet were still green, so I had to flip over the cases, prime, and paint them. But, somehow the primer got under the front piece and when I flipped it over this happened:




After shouting obscenities that would even make a pirate cringe, I calmly repainted and continued with the mod.






Much better. Now to reassemble everything and see if it works:





Everything going to plan :) Now to move onto how to attach it to the belt. Asking around a suggestion was given to me about using velcro. So, I bought a few strips of industrial strength velcro and figured out where to place the pieces. The GBC won't actually hold the belt together, because I'm making it to be detachable.



I took two pieces of velcro (the side with the small hooks on it) and placed them on the back of the GBC. I didn't place one large strip there because it would make it difficult to change the batteries. I also placed three small pieces of velcro near the head of the GBC:



Only the top and right side pieces are pictured, but I also placed another above the link cable port on the other side. Now to make what the GBC will attach to. I took the other side of the velcro (the cloth part) and marked the width of the belt on it back of the velcro and also marked where the holes were to be made.







Are you wondering what the heck that 3-pronged thingamabob is on the right end of the belt? That's the other part that the GBC will attach to.



Once again, pardon the fuzziness of the pictures, but hopefully what I'll be talking about can be made out in the picture. I cut a strap from the shoulder-strap of one of my old backpacks, measured the length it was from one of the top velcro pieces near the head of the GBC, across the back of the GBC, and to the other side and cut a strap that length. I seared the edges of the straps after I cut them so that they wouldn't unravel. I also measured how far it was from the top piece of velcro on the GBC to the strap travelling across the sides of the GBC and cut that distance out of the strap as well, and I then sewed the two pieces together. I attached velcro pieces of approximate dimensions of their GBC counterparts to ends of the straps. Now I had to attach it to the belt. I used another section of strap to fashion together a belt loop and I then sewed it onto the back of the head attachment I had just made (resulting in what you see above).

Now all I have to do is put all the pieces of the big GBC belt buckle mod puzzle together to get this:





I present the BlingBoy! Fully functional and ready to play:





All you have to do is detach it and you're good to go. I've been walking around in it all day and it stays together nicely.

Mind you this is only version 1.0, and much is in line for improvement (maybe an upgrade to where it's the actual belt buckle). If you have suggestions/ideas that can help me in the development process, please send me an e-mail at franklid[at]gmail[dot]com.


*Edit* I just realized how hard it is to tell what I've done for the final product, so here's another picture of me wearing something OTHER than black to show it looks:



*Edit 2* I've placed the pictures on a second host (my photobucket bandwith was exceeded). Thanks for pointing that out one of the anonymous readers, and thanks for the suggestion of ImageShack, Mazz.

4/27/2005

GameBoy Color Mod Part 1 - The Painting

Right now I'm working on a GameBoy Color (GBC) mod I've thought about for some time now. Since it's not finished I'm not going to state what it is (and those of you who do know, please refrain from commenting on what the final product will be). This entry will be the beginning of the log of the mod.


First, I had to take off the casing of the GBC to get to the insides. It wasn't hard to get past the three-side-headed screws that Nintendo is infamous for. I took an eyeglasses flathead screw driver and, despite some bending of the flathead, unscrewed the casing off.


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I apologize for the fuzziness of most of my pictures. My camera isn't all that great and I tried to get as close as I could. I'll describe the location of certain objects I had to bypass in order to gut this thing.

Now, the first obstacles I saw were the three screws holding down the main board of the GBC. Luckily, these screws are Philips head. Apparently Nintendo thought they were out of the clear of modders when the put those ingenious three-headed screws on the outside. In case you can't find them in the picture, all three are located in in the white portion of the GBC. One is located almost directly in the center of the white portion (the copper-colored dot) and the other two are located above and below it. Those are the only screws I encountered on the main board. The other obstacle was the connector that went from the main board to the LCD screen on the front of the GBC (look on the right side of the picture. Do you see the large brown object with a white stripe running parallel to it? That's it). This wasn't all that tricky, either, for there are two plastic pins on each side of the white foundation that holds the connector to the main board. I simply slid the pins out until they locked in place (I couldn't pull them all the way out, but then again they probably weren't designed to). I then gave a slight tug on the brown connector and it popped right out. Not so hard, right? With that out of the way I stored the main board of the GBC in an anti-static bag to protect it until I'm done with the outer casing. I also gathered the loose items that were under the main board (D-pad, A, B, Start, and Select buttons) and put those in a safe place as well.

Now that that problem was out of the way, a new one followed. The LCD screen that the connector was attached to was adhered to the front GBC case itself. I searched on the net for a way to take off the LCD screen and possibly the clear panel of platic in front of it, but after an hour or so of searching I gave up and decided to do it my own way. I grabbed a roll of electrical tape and taped everything that was clear, smooth, and shiny. I didn't want any paint to get onto the screen now did I? Since the screen was curved in the corners and on the bottom edge and I had tape that only traveled in strait lines, I had to improvise by cutting specific shapes for the corners and bottom. I also had to use the end of a flathead screw driver to push the tape down on the edges to get into the grooves in between the plastic casing and the clear screen. That took a good 30 minutes or so, but I'm happy with the result:

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I was almost ready for painting when I noticed a lone piece of metal in the battery compartment of the GBC. It was to complete the circuit between the two AA batteries, and with some prying of a handy-dandy safety pin I was able to get it out.

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Now I was ready. Plastic is a tricky thing to paint on, and not any regular old paint will do (especially when trying to spraypaint it). I primed the GBC with a can of American Tradition Plastic Primer (I bought my can at Lowe's, but you can buy it at any home-improvement or paint store). After allowing it to dry for about an hour (I placed the case pieces under a fan), I used chrome spraypaint to finish it off. I don't know if I'll do a second coat or not. We'll see.

Product so far:

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Current status: Drying.

To be continued...

4/26/2005

Windows Longhorn 5048 Screenshots

Here are a few pictures of the new OS from Microsoft. It looks a whole lot like Windows XP except that it has a new grey/metal color scheme to it. WindowBlinds will probably have a skin of it available for XP soon if one's not out already.

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