Jury – round 2

I sitting in the parking lot of the Brazoria county courthouse at the moment. I’m visiting it for the 2nd time this week. On Monday I was selected for a pannel. For those of you fortunate enough not to have had jury duty yet, a pannel is a larger “pre-jury”, meaning you’ve been selected but not assigned yet. You still have a slim chance to go actually sit through the trial, you might be an alternate, you might be dismissed all together.

So, being picked for a pannel on Monday brings me to today. The trial starts this morning and jury selection is immediatly before hand. Why they couldn’t have picked the jury when we were all here on Monday is beyond me. Regardless, we all had to come back today.

Part of me kinda wants to see the actual trial, since I drove all this way. The other half of me calls that first half a raving lunitic and wants to go back to bed.

Oh, I’m off to serve the public, or some crap like that.

Just my luck

After a long week of work, a party last night and church tomorrow, I was looking forward to relaxing on Monday. I was all excited when I opened the mail box too. Sitting there were my copies of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Computer Games and Computer Gaming World… but tucked between copies of video game goodness was a small manila card with my full name printed on it and a logo declairing it official from Brazoria County. I have jury duty.

“Isn’t that just swell” I thought to myself as I looked at it again. But it get’s better. Not only do I have jury duty, I have jury duty THIS MONDAY. Lucky me.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be home at a reasonable time. The last time Lauren went for jury duty she waited around all day and then had to come back the next day because she was selected. Sigh. Well, here’s hoping I don’t get a 3 month murder trial.

Two Best Movies of the Year

Jarhead and Goodnight & Goodluck.

I was able to catch both of these over the weekend and was entertained and impressed by both. Jarhead is getting battered a bit by reviews, mostly for being a “war movie” without actually having battle scenes and for lack of a better term, a “war”. I would be inclined to agree if I was watching a Platoon or a Full Metal Jacket. But this wasn’t a movie about war, this was a movie about how we’ve trained these guys to be soldiers, snipers, etc and then we let them sit there bored for 6 months. It’s a movie about whats going on in someone’s mind when they’ve been trained to do something and are completely unable to do it. It’s also a perfect example of satire and sarcasm. The opening 10 minutes are a perfect example. Be warned however, that the movie is very much in the same style as American Beauty. It’s very funny and tongue-in-cheek but it’s also laden with first-person voice over naratives. I’ve hear people complain that those were reasons they didn’t like American Beauty. I thought both movies were brilliant and Jarhead is definatly going to be in my DVD collection.

Before I move on to GN&GL I wanted to mention the main reason I never listen to movie critics. Let’s take Mr. Scott of the New York Times for example. Quote: “Jarhead is a movie that walks up to some of the most urgent and painful issues of our present circumstance, clears its throat loudly and says nothing.” I see… so, Mr Scott, what painful issues would that be? The movie didn’t talk about the politics of war, about the justification for/against war, didn’t mention the war on terrorism at all (the movie was 1st Gulf War). It didn’t talk about soldiers dying in Iraq, helping mid-east locals rebuild, the lact of equipment our forces have, roadside explosives, etc. You see what I’m getting at? Mr.Scott has taken a movie about war and applied his own stance about the current gulf war to it without actually giving us any clue what he’s talking about. How about another? Larry Ratliff for the San Antonio News said “There’s not a whole lot going on. This is a war movie without a major battle. … Mendes, a director of indisputable talent, just can’t seem to find his footing.” I’ll give you the fact that there wan’t a major battle Larry, but perhaps, as a reviewer of movies PROFESSIONALLY, you should have grasped the fact that that was THE POINT. Anyways, you can read more reviews if you like. I for one can’t take it any more.

Hell, I don’t know why I like to review movies. Maybe it’s because I consider myself an average guy and consider myself to be both bullshit free and vaguely intelligent. I’m sure that there’s some who would argue both points with me.

Moving right along, Goodnight & Goodluck was a friggin masterpiece. Beautifully filmed, but I love black and white movies, perfectly acted, and the guy they got to play Edward Murrow was so good it was creepy. The main thrust of this, George Clooney’s directoral debute, is a retelling of the McCarthy era battle between the Senator and news man Edward Murrow. I could go into the whole background myself, but I’m far from an expert on it and there are far more helpful resources should you be interested in the subject. Surfice it to say that the movie details the events from a historical perspective while giving us insight into the minds of the characters through their off screen (off tv) personalities and conversations. You really feel that Murrow is concerned for the well-being of people as well as himself and realizes that this struggle is more important that him and that, for the greater good, these things can not continue as they are and that it’s the resonsibility of the people with the power to take action.

I was going to quote another review for disagreeing with me but I can’t seem to find any. I can however, find a few that although they liked the movie, completely missed the point. Stephen Whitty (nice name) from the Newark Star (what a surprise, he’s from Jersey) said “Good Night, and Good Luck says two things, at least, and they are worth repeating: There is always the chance for one good man to make a difference. And in 1954, Edward R. Murrow did.” No, if GN&GL said two things it would be that responsibilty lies with those who have the power to affect change and that persecution based in rumor and not in fact is unjust. If it said three things it would be about the roll media plays in our daily lives. Maybe Mr. Whitty came late and left early, because Murrow SAYS these things as the intro and exit to the movie. That if we become a society based on the placation of the media, that we take out all the icky things in the world and never show people the truth, that it won’t be a society worth living in. I could offer the same challenge to governing bodies like the FCC today. THIS is what Murrow was talking about. And no Mr Whitty, the fact that Murrow was the persion that did it wouldn’t make a 2nd point. I’m sure if he were he here he’d say that it was something that had to be done and that was that. I would contest that Murrow had the courage to do what others wouldn’t but that it was a selfless act. The movie did not glorify HIS achivement as the single reason McCarthy was ultimately denoucned, merely cronicle the events in a beautiful and stylistic manner befitting the subject matter. The movie was strait forward and not trying to preach down to people. I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. Another for the collection.

Maybe I should be done with movie reviews for a while. But, that would take all the fun out of it don’t you think? So, if anyone’s seen either flick, I’d like to know what you thought. I’m open to thoughts about Jarhead being a bit tedious, but GN&GL was fucking genious.



Chris did a great job of mentioning a new CD-protection scheme in his journal the other day and I’d like to take it a step further and elaborate on it a bit. Let me give you the basic behind this first. Sony, the most evil of the music companies, has made use of a new copy-protection scheme for their CDs. This protection involves not only DRM technology but something called a RootKit to HIDE that technology. Basically, they use a DRM scheme to limit how many times you can use that CD in a computer, if you can/can not copy it, make MP3s out of it, etc. That DRM software isn’t noticable by the end user because it’s hidden from Windows by the Rootkit. A Rootkit is basically cloaking technology that hides files, registry entries, running processes, etc. The thinking is if the end user can’t find it, they can’t shut it off. I won’t get into how much I think this is complete and total bullshit, but you can probably already guess my displeasure.

The main problem here is that this RootKit doesn’t exist ON the CD, no no, that would make sense, no, this baby is INSTALLED AND HIDDEN on your computer. Meaning, if you buy a Sony copy-protected CD, this Rootkit is being installed, activated and hidden without your knowledge. You can read more about the specific hiding/revealing, software aspects of this over at Mark’s SysInternals Blog (thanks to Chris for the original link).

Ok, so copy-protected music is evil, right, everyone with me? Good, cause here comes the next leap. The software makes very slight changes to the things it wants to hide. Basically, after you’ve listened to Madona for a few minutes and this thing is up and running on your system, all you (or anyone) would have to do to USE IT, would be to add “$sys$” to the front of a file. Windows will NEVER see it. So, viruses, trojans, hacks, etc, can be completely and totally hidden from EVERYTHING by adding a few characters to the front of the filename. Now, this would only work for those of use who have put a Sony CD in our computers, but still, the implications are frightening. Anti-Virus programs couldn’t find’em, system scans, etc. No running processes to be detected. Totally stealthy.

So, now we have a) a program that hides things completely from windows and everything else for that matter and b) a way to hide things OURSELVES.

Yup, that’s right kids. WE could hide things. Think about it this way… if you’re a hardcore cheater in online games, what’s the one thing you fear? Your cheat being detected right? How is that cheat detected? The most common checks are for file size/date/origin/manipulation and for running processes. Now, cheaters have gotten smart over the past few years. Now they’re way beyond simply editing a DLL or hacking the registry. Now the newest trend is creating “code caves”, essentially making a bubble in the code while it’s running, injecting their cheat, using it, they collapsing the bubble so it’s undetectable. The process works because the code is inserted into memory randomly and so quickly that most active scanners won’t detect it. What if you could have that process running 24/7/365 and it would NEVER be detected? That’s what Sony just gave to cheaters everywhere. A simply way to hide a running process from even Windows itself. If it’s hidden it can’t be seen as running and if it isn’t running it can’t be detected and if it can’t be detected, cheating just got easy.

Now, I play BF2. I enjoy it. But it’s anti-cheat system is Punk Buster, a mediocre at best system for scanning active processes/drivers and information sent to and from game servers. All I would have to do to cheat is to go buy the latest Santana CD, add “$sys$” to my hack and fire up the game. How fucking sick is that?

Way to go Sony. I hope you realize exactly what you’ve done. You’re not only evil for using a method like this to rob honest paying customers of their right to use the music they bought, but you’ve also given millions of people a relatively easy way to rob the rest of us out of good clean video gaming fun.

Is this all theoretical, is Matt worried over nothing, could this really happen? Yeah, it could, and has: World of Warcraft hackers using Sony BMG rootkit.

Way to go guys. Fucktards.

SideKick Updates

Sweet. Danger and T-mobile have rolled out a new firmware version via their over-the-air update system. Moving from v2.0 of the phone to 2.3. The new and improved include:

-Customize your key guard screen using a photo from your Gallery.
-Create a new item from the splash screens (Ctrl-N, basically)
-Support for JavaScript on Web pages
-Use live email, URL, and phone number links on Web pages.
-AIM: Choose your buddy icon from your Photo Gallery.
-AIM: Use live email, URL, and phone number links in conversations.
-Email: Select multiple messages from the Browse Messages screen.
-Address Book: each contact can store up to five IM names, plus launch conversations from the menu.
-Camera: Create a slideshow from your photos.
-Camera: Rotate a photo.
-Camera: New “List” and “zoom” views.

…and about 100 other things. Most of them pretty substantial improvements to the system and the device. My theory being that they’re making an update like this as a step between OSs as they transition from a proprietary DangerOS to a Java based system. The announcement of their partnership with Sun came last year but this is the first signifigant upgrade to the device since I’ve had it. Also, rumors put a completely Java based Sidekick 3 in comsumer hands by early next year. That would be fantastic. I’d love a java capable machine that has access to T-mobile hotspots, bluetooth and an improved camera. Those are my three main compaints with the sidekick as it is. Anything else would be gravy.