A pedant that hangs out in the dark corner-cases of the web.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Copyfight: Maria Cantwell's response to my concerns

Earlier this year, I sent my concerns about ACTA (and the general scorched-earth approach to copyright that puts the rights of Lady Gaga and the Transformers above consumer protections and even basic human rights) to some politicians. The feedback went something like this:

I'll be as brief as I can:

Personally, I'd like to see us return to a pre-DMCA world where copyright was a civil matter. Sadly, I've scaled back my hopes significantly, and I now just don't want you to destroy freedom to protect a specific business model.

Thank you for your time.

What I got back from Maria Cantwell in July was very disappointing.

Dear Mr. Lalonde,

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations. I appreciate hearing from you on this matter and sincerely regret the delayed response.

As you may know, the ACTA negotiations began in June 2008 with the participation of Australia, Canada, the European Union and its 27 member states, Japan, Mexico, Morcocco, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States. The negotiations, which are scheduled to conclude in 2010, have the goal of providing an international framework to improve enforcement of intellectual property right (IPR) law.

The ACTA initiative aims to create improved, international standards to fight the growing problem of counterfeiting and piracy. The effort is not intended to interfere with the fundamental rights and civil liberties of ordinary citizens, and will be consistent with the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) and the Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health.

I am aware of your concerns about the transparency of the ACTA negotiations. However, it is an accepted practice during trade negotiations not to disclose negotiating texts to the public thus enabling officials to engage in the frank exchanges necessary for agreement on complex issues.

You will be pleased to know that the USTR has taken steps to ensure an unprecedented level of transparency in the ACTA negotiations, and won endorsement of the importance of meaningful public input at the second level of negotiations in November 2009. Additionally, on April 21, 2010, the USTR released a public, pre-decisional draft text of the ACTA. It is available for your reference through the USTR website at http://www.ustr.gov/acta.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. You may also be interested in signing up for periodic updates for Washington State residents. If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

I've replied, but don't expect to hear back.

I have to say that I'm am deeply disappointed.

By bringing up public health, it seems clear that you are among those trying to conflate physical counterfeiting with unauthorized digital copying. "Consistency" is also an obvious ploy to slowly ratchet up onerous copyright law by getting excessive laws passed in "sympathetic" regimes then demanding them here.

And far from ensuring unprecedented levels of transparency, it is clear that the USTR is doing everything in his power to keep these negotiations, and the current treaty itself, secret. This is well documented.

As I rejected it when Vice President Cheney attempted to claim that secrecy was necessary to have "frank discussions" in his energy policy discussions, I reject it here. Anything that can't be said in public is shady when developing policy in a democracy.

The text of ACTA has once again leaked, and once again, it is clear that its supporters (yourself included, apparently) will not rest until all of our Internet traffic is monitored (allegedly for "infringing content"), our laptops and iPods are searched at the border, and entire families are collectively punished (counter to Genevea Convention "consistency") based on specious accusations of media companies.

Please tell me you have the integrity to dismiss the made-up losses media companies are constantly parroting, to allow us to create without the constant fear of corporate legal threat, and to protect our right to speak and assemble digitally for the future.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Senator Cantwell's second-highest contributor is Microsoft.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mini Review: Swype and SlideIt Android sliding keyboards

Sliding keyboards work amazingly well. Given a moderately practiced user typing English text and reasonably fast hardware, I suspect that a "typing" speed could be achieved that would be nearly competitive with a full-sized mechanical keyboard.

Android provides at least two sliding keyboards so far, and here are their relative strengths and weaknesses.


  • Fastest for raw text, though this difference may only be noticeable on lower-end hardware.
  • Supports custom macros, called "shortcuts" that allow for arbitrary letter combinations to expand to any arbitrary text.
  • Does not require swiping over the apostrophe for contractions.
  • Switching to the symbols keyboard then sometimes requires scrolling through rows of symbols, and automatically switches back to the regular keyboard after typing each symbol (which can be frustrating when typing pairs of parentheses or brackets), unless "pinned", which requires an additional keystroke.
  • Symbols and accented letter keys are visible and can be found easily (if not quickly) when scrolling through keyboard.
  • Has built-in voice input support. This is mostly for Android 1.x devices that do not already have this support.
  • Has built-in Graffiti (Palm-style block-letter recognition) support.
  • Limited paged-horizontal display of alternative word matches.
  • Irritatingly disables the shift key after the first letter of a word is typed.
  • More than twenty languages supported.
  • Always includes a return key.
  • Unique keys: ¬ …


  • Larger keys.
  • Much faster support for capitalization by swiping a letter up above the keyboard, then to the next letter. This makes typing "I" in particular a much faster upward flick than the more cumbersome [Shift], [i].
  • Much faster support for symbols (by long-pressing a letter for common symbols, or switching to the symbols keyboard for a more comprehensive selection).
  • Extended symbols and accented characters are not visible until long-long-pressing a key (in either symbol or regular keyboard mode). Location of symbols can be difficult to find and remember until the mnemonically understood.
  • Numeric keyboard.
  • Limited paged-vertical display of alternative word matches.
  • Contractions require swiping the apostrophe.
  • Swiping period/exclamation/question to space quickly ends a sentence.
  • Variable speed-vs.-accuracy slider setting.
  • Extra hidden keyboard for powerful cursor, selection, and clipboard control.
  • Three languages supported (English, French, Spanish).
  • Return key is often irritatingly replaced with "Done" key.
  • Unique keys: ¿ ¡ „ ð · þ ¶ ª æ œ ß