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May 31, 2006

Vic Sussman on Larry King Live (Transcript)

I remember watching Vic on Larry King with the vice president. Al Gore is a huge dude, and Larry's desk is small, so they were all crammed in right next to each other. Vic did what he could to bring up the difficult questions :)
I would love to find the video of this so I could post it on YouTube. This is just some of the transcript.
The transcript is mirrored after the jump.

                        June 15, 1994

        extracts from panel on Information Superhighway

PANEL INCLUDES:     Vic Sussman - U.S. News & World Report
                    Andy Grove  - Intel Corporation
                    Vice President Al Gore
                    Chairman of the FCC

Vic Sussman:   The Clipper Chip is essentially, I should let the
               Vice President tell you, but the Clipper Chip is
               essentially, the simplest way to think about it is
               it's a way of encrypting or making phone
               conversations private and they will be private for
               anyone.  Your neighbor will not be able to listen
               in on your phone conversations. However,..

Larry King:    They can now?

Vic Sussman:   They can now, but they won't with the Clipper Chip.
               However, the government that is law enforcement has
               to have a trap door so they can get in and listen
               to what, you know, legal wire taps.  The problem
               is, and I can't believe I'm sitting next the Vice
               President and saying this, the fact is this thing
               is loathed by everyone outside of government.  Now,
               I'll let Andy talk.

Larry King:    Loathed?

Vic Sussman:   Loathed and despised. Yes, the Clipper Chip.

Larry King:    First, we will get Andy before the gang up begins.
               Andy, what do you think of the Clipper Chip?

Andy Grove:    The reason I was laughing is because the issues of
               the Clipper Chip are the arcane of the arcane and
               discussing it with the respectable technical
               community that you have on your show and yourself
               is a little bit like discussing the technical
               merits of a speed trap.

Larry King:    Why the neanderthal here? Why?

Andy Grove:    Uh, the Clipper Chip is an implementation.  One
               particular implementation of the government's right
               to tap digital information.  The government has had
               the right to tap analog information.  The kind of
               information that is taking place between you and me
               and on the phone.  The government has that right.

Larry King:    Under different lines?

Andy Grove:    Pardon?

Larry King:    Under different lines and circumstances?

Andy Grove:    They have to get a warrant, but they can tap it.
               Now just because the information goes digitally, I
               don't see the difference.  The government for its
               own law enforcement needs should be able to tap
               digital information just as well as they have had
               the right to tap analog information forever.

Chairman of the FCC:     This isn't really the FCC he is talking
                         about.  This is law enforcement issues.

Larry King:    Do you believe that? (to Vic Sussman)

Vic Sussman:   Well, I'm a reporter.  I'm just reporting what
               people are saying.  What people are saying is that
               it is going to be hard to find any software
               manufacturers, any computer manufacturers, any
               telecommunication people who support this outside
               of the administration.

V.P. Al Gore:  This is a much misunderstood issue Larry, It is an
               issue that quickly becomes very emotional.  There
               are a lot of people who think that the government's
               ability to go to court and get a warrant and try to
               track down a terrorist or drug dealer, whatever,
               Uh, ought to be just shut off if communication is
               digital. Now, I'm stating the case a little
               parjodially but that really is what is at stake.
               Think of a future in which you have a world trade
               center bombing thirty years from now with a nuclear
               device or a threat of a nuclear device being
               exploded in an urban area or some other mass
               terror.  Do we want to live in a world where the
               FBI and other law enforcement agencies are
               prevented from being able to do their jobs.  Now,
               the government should not have the right (Gore
               laughs) to tap communication unless there is a
               legal proceeding in which there is a due cause, in
               which evidence is presented, in which a court says,
               "Look alright, you have presented enough evidence
               to meet the burden of proof, legally there is
               sufficient cause to allow you to conduct this
               criminal investigation."

Larry King:    We have run out of time.

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May 30, 2006

"Ride Recumbent Ride!" by Vic Sussman


It's nice to see that WHIRL, the recumbent rider's group that Vic wrote this piece to promote, is still going strong.

The full text of the article is mirrored below.

"Ride Recumbent, Ride!"

by Vic Sussman

Copyright 1997 by Vic Sussman. May not be reproduced or distributed
without written permission.

"You ride a WHAT?"

That is the reaction of most people when I tell them I ride a recumbent bicycle. Or they nod sagely and say, "Oh yes, my gym has one of those," visualizing me pedaling a stationary exercise bike. Then I explain that I ride a recumbent on the road, which confuses them even more. "it's a laid-back bicycle with a chair-like seat," I explain, "and I ride it because it’s fun, fast, and supremely comfortable." A comfortable bicycle? How radical!

Of course, when folks actually see me riding the ride, their reactions are even stronger. My first recumbent bike, for example, was the beautifully constructed Ryan Recumbent. I only had one complaint about it: Every time I braked to a stop, I drew a crowd. Kids and adults swarmed around the lipstick-red, seven-foot-long machine, firing questions. Is it hard to ride? Is it fun? And, hey, where are the handlebars? I answered No. Yes. Under the seat. ``What a cool bike!'' they murmured. ``What a weird bike!''

The gawkers were right. Recumbents are bizarre, but only because conventional bicycles are so...conventional. If a time-traveler happened to zoom from 1885 back to the future of 1997, he would instantly recognize standard bicycles, so little has their diamond frame geometry changed.

What has changed significantly over the years is bicycle ownership. Americans buy more than 10 million bikes a year for recreation and fitness, about three times more than a few decades ago. Yet these numbers are deceptive. Many adults love the idea of bike riding more than the actual riding.

The Bicycle Institute of America estimates that of the more than 110 million bicycles in the U.S., about 20 million are gathering dust. And rust. Some kids' bikes are corroding in garages, but millions more bicycles have been abandoned by adults. One reason is painfully obvious. Perching on that torture device called a bike saddle hurts. (My theory is that bike seats were invented by a sadistic proctologist.) The longer the ride, the worse the effect of gravity and the pounding vibrations of road-shock. Straddling a bike seat can chafe, rub open saddle sores and cause genital numbness. More than just uncomfortable, severe genital numbness can lead to temporary male impotence and infections in women.

Even the most gonzo riders suffer, says Bicycling magazine. Sixty-two percent of readers responding to the magazine's ``Sex Survey'' admitted to genital numbness. But 96 percent said they'd keep riding anyway, proving that more than their private parts were numb.

Bike magazine medical columns typically describe other ailments, an orthopedist's gold mine of sore arms, backs, shoulders, necks and hands. To ease this misery, the experts drone on about making sure the bike fits your body, wearing padded gloves, getting a padded seat, a gel seat, gel gloves, gel implants, and blah, blah. If this fails, well, you'll get used to it. You'll toughen up.

I believed this garbage for years. I pedaled a succession of spindly 10-speeds and owned a mountain bike I could have ridden up the side of a barn. It was fun, but I hurt. I consulted cycle experts, readjusted the handlebar and seat height, changed bike seats and wore crotch-padded biker's shorts. Still, going for long rides on my neuter scooter left me numb in all the wrong places. And worried. I finally quit busting my buns in 1989, when I first rode a recumbent.

That's a clunky word to hang on a streamlined bike, but recumbent accurately describes the semi-reclining riding position. Recumbenteers sit comfortably, their backs and bottoms supported in chair-like seats. They lean back and pedal with their legs extended in front of them. Some recumbents, like the Tour Easy, have ``easy rider'' or ``ape hanger'' handlebars, others--like the Ryan, feature handlebars under the seat.

What bliss! The bikes look wacky to the hopelessly conventional, but they feel great. Never numb, sore or stiff, my body and hands stay relaxed as I pedal for hours. At the end of a 30-mile ride, my companions riding standard bicycles limp about groaning, shaking out their legs and rubbing their aching necks, shoulders and derrieres. I continue to sit on my bike-cum-recliner, as comfortable as I was at the journey's start.

Riding a recumbent is also safe. Jam on the front brakes and the long wheelbase bikes won't lurch forward, catapulting you into space. At worst, you will fall sideways instead of flying solo, head-over-heels over handlebars. And the rider's view of the road is wide, virtually panoramic. Ride a conventional bike and you spend a lot of time hunched over, staring down at your front wheel.

Despite their benefits, recumbents and other radically different bike designs are still rare, unfairly so. Almost 60 years ago, the bureaucrats who ruled bicycling decided that a recumbent wasn't a ``real'' bicycle. In 1934, the Union Cycliste International (UCI), Europe's stuffy, high priesthood of bicycle racing, forever barred recumbents from world-wide competition after a recumbent rider smashed a 20-year-old speed record. The UCI declared la bicyclette a pedalage horizontal ``unfair competition,'' legislating it into obscurity. (They could have put it into a separate category for recumbents, but that might have encouraged its development. Heaven forbid.) In fact, every human-powered vehicle land speed record is still held by a recumbent design.

The UCI ruling discouraged most bicycle innovation for nearly 30 years. Too bad. Many people, especially aging boomers leery of standard bikes, care more about riding in comfort than they do about winning races. But the conservative bicycling industry--influenced by the prejudices of the wind-in-your-hair-bugs-in-your-teeth racing crowd--keeps peddling the same old line instead of producing imaginative designs that could get more people riding bikes.

Of course, we recumbent aficianados admit to some disadvantages. The long wheelbase models are hard to transport (I’ve used a car top tandem bike rack or a rear rack), and they are initially tougher to pedal up steep hills until you build up your thigh and hamstring muscles. (Many short wheelbase bikes will fit in a car, however, and some climb like mountain goats.) All recumbents are made by small companies, so they are pricier than mass-produced bikes. The Ryan now sells for $1895; the Gold Rush Replica, my present ‘bent, goes for $2995. These are not outrageous prices for custom-made bikes, but more than you’ll pay for a mass produced upright bike. Other recumbents start at $500, and used ones are always available. For more information see the Recumbent cyclist’s Buying Guide, the best--actually, the ONLY reliable source of overall information on ‘bents.

I rode my "weird" Ryan Recumbent happily for many years, taking the shouted huzzahs and curious questions in stride. Later, seeking a change, I moved on to a short wheelbase CounterPoint Presto, then back to a slick Gold Rush Replica, the super-fast bike of my dreams. Recumbents are slowly attracting more interest these days, thanks in part to an aging population that wants to exercise without hurting. In fact, there are signs that my "niche bike" may be going mainstream. Bicycling magazine, usually more focused on racing and riding technique, recently devoted a long, glowing article to the many benefits of getting ‘bent.

So these days, when I ride 25 miles on Saturday mornings with my non-club riding group, the serenely anarchic and enthusiastic members of Copyright 1997 by Vic Sussman. May not be reproduced or distributed without written permission.

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May 29, 2006

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May 28, 2006

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May 27, 2006

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May 26, 2006

Prototype.js cheat sheet set

These are a visual and a hypertext cheat sheet for the Prototype.js library. Prototype.js is the foundation of Script.aculo.us and Rico, among others.


More on what to do with Prototype.js after the jump.

As I said, Prototype.js is the foundation of Script.aculo.us. An overview of what's possible with this library can be gotten by reading the Script.aculo.us developer mailing list.

comp.lang.javascript is another forum where general JavaScript problems and solutions are discussed.

"To become a member of the Internet of Things"

I would like a word that means "to become part of the Internet of Things." Hopefully the Web's next generation can do better than "Web-ify," (ugh) and "go digital" doesn't cover it.

I need a single verb that means "go digital, go wireless, go mobile, become automated, begin writing log files about activity, provide surveillance capabilities, become extensible, become standardized, and become platform-independent."

John Taylor Gatto hates America's schools

I enjoyed the essay Against School, which I ran across on del.icio.us. I was interested to learn that the American school system is based in part on the repressive Prussian school system.

As someone who grew up with a lot of homeschooled kids, I'm not an advocate for home schooling. So I was disappointed to find out that that's Gatto's agenda. Nine Assumptions, Twenty-one Facts is not nearly so convincing as Against School. Gatto also makes the mistake of writing too much, so that his good points (and there are many) start to get lost.

Bruce Sterling Style Rant at SXSW

Bruce Sterling Style Rant at SXSW

Cute short rant found via beyond the beyond. In the future we will print everything out. No one will own anything, all property will be downloadable from the network!

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May 25, 2006

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May 24, 2006

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May 23, 2006

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May 22, 2006

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May 21, 2006

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May 20, 2006

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May 18, 2006

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May 17, 2006

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May 16, 2006

Laziness, Impatience and Hubris are the three virtues of a programmer

The three virtues of programming are laziness, impatience and hubris. --- Larry Wall

are domain names obsolete?

In the increasingly social Web, how much does my domain name matter? Isn't it more important that my site be positioned correctly in del.icio.us, digg? Most of my time as an entrepreneur would be spent trying to get highlyt ranked on google. Domain names seem to be dropping to the bottom of the Web presence hierachy, because what's important is one's social network.

When domain names started appearing along with copyright notices, I started to stop noticing domain names. Now I just look for a distinguishing characteristic in the media I'm viewing. Social indexing gives me the ability to search by criteria that just weren't available in the age of Search Engines. Because a computer can't sort items by "sexy."

Level 60 del.icio.us Characters

del.icio.us pioneers tracks the del.icio.us members who post the most new material which becomes a popular link. These are the level 60 del.icio.us Characters! Observation: a list of del.icio.us names looks identical to a list of names of WOW characters... like I can talk, when my name is thefangmonster ;)

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May 15, 2006

do not Meddle in the affairs of Wizards --- stop NSA domestic spying

This week, it turned out that the NSA has the world's largest database. This kind of mass surveillance is as repugnant as it is inevitable.

Inevitable or no, one has a certain emotional reaction to these kind of watershed events; and one processes such emotions through the creation of art. Thus.

do not Meddle in the affairs of Wizards --- stop NSA domestic spying

Just because it's technically feasible, doesn't mean it should be legal. Just look at Napster.

Heh, thanks for the compliment in the comments, Kate! I guess I should have clarified that it's art-as-in-Andy-Warhol not art-as-in-Michaelangelo!

I can draw, but not like Alan Lee! I gleefully appropriated that drawing, which is a production sketch from Fellowship of the Ring! But I applied a photoshop filter to it, all by myself ;)

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May 14, 2006

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May 13, 2006

Reading Quirksmode on assuring JavaScript compatibility across browsers

Today I made some notes about Quirksmode's page on cross-browser compatibility via Object detection.

Initially he says that it's better to not rely on JS that detects a particular browser. He recommends against branching code based on detecting the browser type or version; and rather testing for the functionality that is necessary to run the script. In practice, this means testing for objects.

Scroll to the bottom of the page for a discussion of which objects for which it has historically been most important to test.

I have code snippets from the 90's that I still use, which include the version number in the SCRIPT tag. But I've noticed that this practice seems to have died out, and it turns out it's because version numbers aren't really informative as to which features are available in a given browser.

I left Web development for bioinformatics research in the early part of the decade. When I came back to e-commerce, I found that cross-browser assurance had apparently evolved to become more complex, and then gotten simpler again. getElementById works in the two major browsers, but scripts still abound that use document.all and even document.layers. Thankfully I found that Quirksmode contains a good article on cross-browser issues at the beginning of the decade. Although I did skip the section on Netscape 4.

However it does seem to be the cas that document.all is no longer required (unless one expects to support IE 4). And most of my clients didnt' support Netscape 4 even when it was current. In fact, my current client still doesn't test on Netscape -- they don't get enough visitors using it to bother.

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May 12, 2006

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May 11, 2006

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May 10, 2006

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May 06, 2006

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May 05, 2006

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May 04, 2006

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May 03, 2006

Java lacks multiline string declarations and therefore sucks

Java is a fine language for functionality. But Java sucks for building browser code.

This is a function that prints a multiline block of HTML, in Java:

String cssButton (String buttonText) {
StringBuffer mine = new StringBuffer();
mine.append("<div class=\"buttonC\">");
mine.append("<div class=\"img_left border-img03L-style01\"></div>");
mine.append("<div class=\"text back01 border-img03-style05\"><input name=\"\" type=\"submit\" value=\"");
mine.append("\" class=\"submit-trans style04b\"/></div>");
mine.append("<div class=\"img_right border-img03R-style01\"></div>\n</div>");
return mine.toString();

And this is approximately what the same function looks like in Perl (or PHP, or Ruby):

cssButton (buttonText) {
my $mine = <<EOF;
<div class="buttonC">
<div class="img_left border-img03L-style01"></div>
<div class="text back01 border-img03-style05"><input name="" type="submit" value="$buttonText" class="submit-trans style04b"/></div>"
<div class="img_right border-img03R-style01"></div>
return $mine;

Obviously the second subroutine looks a lot more like HTML and is therefore easier to read. And easier to read means easier to maintain, which is what it's all about.

It's worth noting that it doesn't look like Sun even understands why the inclusion of heredocs might make a difference to client-side developers.

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May 01, 2006

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