brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


Robby the Robot

Robby the Robot

Robby the Robot,
originally uploaded by brainwagon.

Just celebrity spotting in SF.

Addendum: Check out the Robby the Robot Fan Site.

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Education on the meaning of the word “public domain”

Dan put me onto Turtle's 78 RPM Jukebox, a site which contains some very nice recordings of old 78 RPM records which are in the public domain. Some very cool stuff, but it contains the following puzzling disclaimer:

All original recordings are understood to be in the public domain.
All selections in this jukebox are the sole property of Turtle Services Limited.
Each contains a unique signature.
Enjoy each for your personal pleasure but do not use any for a commercial purpose!

If something is in the public domain, you can't put any restrictions on its use. From the Copyright FAQ:

Where is the public domain?

The public domain is not a place. A work of authorship is in the public domain if it is no longer under copyright protection or if it failed to meet the requirements for copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be used freely without the permission of the former copyright owner.

You can't claim that a work is in the public domain and then turn around and pretend like you have copyright on it without creating a new derivative work out of it. The courts have pretty consistently upheld that mastering old material into new formats does not qualify because typically such transcriptions involve purely technical as opposed to artistic decisions.

Nolo has an excellent book on the subject that can help educate you on issues relating to this.

Addendum: To back up my claim, check out this page, section 496.03(b)(2) Noncopyrightable elements for a list of modifications which do not justify the claim of copyright.


Gnuplot usage

Lisa uses her weblog to remind her of things that are hard to remember like the instructions to her watch. I have done a few things like that (like the command line for burning DVDs on my FreeBSD box) and I thought I'd also put a couple of gnuplot reminders here. (I use gnuplot for all sorts of things, mostly as a quick data visualization tool).

You can insure that the output is a square by typing:

set size square

If you want a certain aspect ratio, use:

set size ratio n

If n is negative, then it ensures that the units of each axis is that ratio. For instance, to plot some orthographic map data, I used:

set size ratio -1
set xrange [-1:1]
set yrange [-1:1]
plot "map.dat" with lines

I'm sure this will be useful sometime in the future.

Unique visitors to

Here's a graph of the number of visitors to over the last 140 days, with a quadratic curve fit.

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Five reasons social networking doesn’t work –

Molly Wood has an article on CNET detailing Five reasons social networking doesn't work. I think it's worth reading. Her top reason:

There's nothing to do there.

Amen. The real problem is that once you bother going to a social networking networking website, there is nothing to actually do except email and posting, and we already have perfectly good ways of doing that without them.

It's also interesting to note how her opinions may differ from those of men. There is a definite undercurrent of sexual harrassment that should not be ignored.

Addendum: I just tried to log into orkut for the first time in months. I suddenly remembered why I stopped using it. Within 30 seconds I got an error message indicating that there server had "done something unexpected". Uh, yeah. Bite me.