Who's screwed up worst?

Several organizations, including parts of the US government, have successfully screwed things up, or promised to screw things up, this week:

  • The USPTO granted a patent to Amazon.com for charging for computing resources on an as-used basis.  This is similar to the chargebacks of mainframe computers beginning in the 1960s.  Apparently patent examiners are not familiar with the term "prior art" or "obviousness."
  • White House cyber-security czar Peter Schmidt is considering rules that would put computers with viruses into a "walled garden."  There is, of course, no discussion of how this will work -- agents on your computer?  IDS?  Either way, false positives, SSL, and public wifi hotspots are sure to only make this a headache for legitimate users.
  • ASCAP has shown themselves to be ass-hats.  Not only do they want to charge royalties that are crippling to non-profit organizations, but now they want to prohibit artists from using their choice of license for the media they produce.  They won't be happy until they have control over the entire music market.  Apparently choice and freedom aren't options for musical artists.

Attack of the Cosmic Rays!

KSplice has posted an interesting article regarding the consequences of a single flipped erroneous bit in RAM.

It’s a well-documented fact that RAM in modern computers is susceptible to occasional random bit flips due to various sources of noise, most commonly high-energy cosmic rays. By some estimates, you can even expect error rates as high as one error per 4GB of RAM per day! Many servers these days have ECC RAM, which uses extra bits to store error-correcting codes that let them correct most bit errors, but ECC RAM is still fairly rare in desktops, and unheard-of in laptops.

Makes me want to build my next desktop with ECC RAM.  Of course, that requires a motherboard that supports it, among other things.  When you're using encryption, a single bit error can result in the inability to decrypt an entire file.  I wonder what steps could be taken to mitigate those sort of issues.

Twitter banned from misleading consumers 'for 20 years'

Twitter has been, among other things, "barred for 20 years from misleading consumers about the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information..."  I believe that Twitter should not be misleading consumers about any aspect of their security, but it almost seems that a specific bar of this nature, and with a specific duration, seems like an implicit permission for other companies to mislead consumers (as they have not been so barred) and that, after 20 years, Twitter can mislead consumers all they want.  Seems like a bit of common sense that the FTC has felt the need to spell out...

AOL prevents use of Shoutcast

AOL has apparently served the VideoLAN developers with an injunction preventing any ShoutCAST functionality from being included in VLC, or any other application that uses Open Source components or software.  I appreciate this greatly, as the next time I'm tasked with exploring streaming media solutions at work, I'll have one less contender that I will consider.  To be specific, as far as I'm concerned, ShoutCAST is not a viable solution for any form of streaming media, and must be avoided like the proprietary plague it is.

Needing more focus...

I've come to the conclusion that I need to become more focused in some areas of my life.  I want to be able to contribute to open-source projects, including Ubuntu, but I realized that I don't know enough about any single project to really dive in and work on the code.  I need to find a single project to contribute (codewise) to.

I sometimes feel that there's this technological void in my life, with a desire to work on a project of some sort.  The big problem is that I have diverse interests: user experience, information security, embedded systems/robotics, etc.  I know it's a ridiculous statement to make, but even at 25, I feel like I'm behind where I'd like to be in my life.

How do you all find your niche, and satisfy that urge?  Anyone got a favorite project that needs some love?