O Sweet Mr Math

wherein is detailed Matt's experiences as he tries to figure out what to do with his life. Right now, that means lots of thinking about math.

Friday, January 24, 2003

12:05 AM

Today's lesson is that rewriting a web page laid out with tables to be laid out with CSS is a totally thankless task. It took me hours to figure out why a DIV with a width of 80% was wider than a TABLE with a width of 80%. (Short answer: the DIV includes the margins in its width calculation, while the TABLE doesn't. This is totally stupid, because it means that a DIV of width 100% is always wider than the window, regardless of the window dimensions, unless you also add a negative margin. The fix is to put the DIV inside another DIV and put padding of about 12 pixels on the outer DIV. It doesn't help that different browsers display all this slightly differently.)

All this comes from working on a redesign of the blog. While I'm changing the layout, I'm also moving from tables to CSS. You may be wondering why, if I'm changing the layout, I'm insisting on duplicating the original layout first. It seemed like a useful exercise. Well, at least I'm learning things.

The other revelation for today is that I need a schedule. I fear that my current behavior of waking up every morning and deciding what I should do that day won't keep me moving in a useful direction for very long.


Wednesday, January 22, 2003

6:59 PM

I've done a bit of an upgrade on my RSS feed. As you may have noticed, it now includes approximately the first paragraph from each post. For long paragraphs, it only gives the beginning of the paragraph. I've also added some other useful information that unfortunately is being ignored in the aggregators I've looked at. Oh well.


5:32 PM

I had a really bad idea. For the record, my actual plan is to start an Internet based record label. One of the reasons why I started this blog is to get more html time under my belt to help me get up to speed on the technical side of the business. I realize that my plan is pure craziness, but it allows several of my interests to collide in a horrible mess, entangling myself in music, computers, and copyright law.

But that's not the really bad idea. The really bad idea is a result of my thinking about the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the Copyright Term Extension Act. For those not familiar with it, the CTEA was passed in 1998 and extended copyright on all works covered by copyright for an 20 additional years. This means that works first published in 1923 and later will enter the public domain starting in 2018, rather than 1998, as they would have under the law previously.

98% of the works that would have entered the public domain in the next 20 years are currently out of print. The original copyright holders could republish them, but it is evidently not worth their time or effort to do so. If the works entered the public domain, they could be republished by anyone. This means that 98% of works published between 1923 and 1942 are being blocked from republication for the sake of the 2% of works from that period that are still available. These are, putting it bluntly, appalling figures.

This leads to my really bad idea: start a business whose sole purpose is to republish out-of-print works on which copyright would have expired except for the CTEA. This could be fairly low tech: scan books, convert them to PDFs, and sell the PDFs for a nominal fee. Ideally it would include works in other media as well, such as movies and 78 rpm records.

This is obviously blatantly illegal, which is the point. It would be done principally as an act of civil disobedience. I'm not sure if it could make any money even if it wasn't illegal. The trick would be, if possible, to set up a shell company that has all the legal liability, so in the event that the company gets sued, it can just fold up and disappear while the operator is shielded from fines or jail time. Then the operator goes and sets up a new shell company and starts over. Ideally a significant number of people would work on this simultaneously and independently, so it would become more effort than it is worth for the copyright holders to shut down the companies, if they bothered. By deliberately only reprinting things which are already out of print, the company would be looking to avoid attention from anyone who actually cares, but at the same time make available a large number of works that are currently unavailable in any form.

I suppose I now have the time to work on this, but I don't have the money. If I thought I could make enough money doing this to pay the rent and I wouldn't go to jail as a result, I would definitely pursue it. But I just don't believe enough money is there, so it's not even worth solving the problem of legal liability. But if anyone else is interested in doing this or financing this, go for it.


Tuesday, January 21, 2003

2:54 PM

I have created an RSS feed for Matt Rolls a Hoover. The URL is http://home.att.net/~mrmorse/mattrolls.rdf. If you click on the link, you will get gobbledy-gook. However, if you give the URL to a news aggregator (I use NetNewsWire, but there are others), then any time I post here, it will show up in the aggregator, and you'll know I've updated the site. Very cool.

At this point, the feed is hand-coded. That's definitely inconvenient and I'm going to put a stop to it, but for now, it works. The downside is that if I forget to update the feed, you won't know about new posts unless you actually visit the site, and who would bother to do that? Also, it's kind of time-consuming for me.

In case anyone reading this actually cares, this feed is RSS 1.0. For the record, RSS 2.0 isn't a successor, it's a competitor. There are two different groups who are developing RSS in two different directions, to the chagrin of all. I'm using RSS 1.0, uh, basically because it seems like a good idea. I may switch in the future. Most aggregators should handle both.




What does "rolls a hoover" mean, anyway?

"Roll a hoover" was coined by Christopher Locke, aka RageBoy (not worksafe). He enumerated some Hooverian Principles, but that might not be too helpful. My interpretation is that rolling a hoover means doing something that you know is stupid without any clear sense of what the outcome will be, just to see what will happen. In my case, I quit my job in an uncertain economy to try to start a business. I'm still not sure how that will work out.

Why is the HTML for this page not valid?

BlogSpot adds the advertisement that appears at the top of this page. That advertisement is not valid HTML and is outside of my control. I believe that aside from that ad, this page is valid HTML.