June 2005

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that there was sufficient evidence of 'illegal intent' on the part of the makers of Grokster software for thier case to go to trial. (See decision.) The case against them had been thrown out in lower courts on the basis of the 1984 Supreme Court Sony-Betamax decision.

This seems like big news to me, but interestingly it doesn't appear prominently on any of the major news sites I checked (NYTimes, CNN, Google News…). Maybe I'm just fooled into thinking it's a big deal because of the folks I am around. But at the same time, the RIAA lawsuits against filesharers was big news. Hum.

Thanks again to Joe, my resident source for all things IP related, for the tip.

Nobody likes the BSOD, but the worst thing about it is when it comes sporadically and for seemingly no reason at all. When you've made a change to your system that results in errors, it's pretty easy to diagnose. Otherwise, oh god, it's awful.

Recently my IBM Thinkpad T42 (2373-3VU, for those who care), started acting erratically. It would freeze at random moments, shut down spontaneously and then fail to start up again, and sometimes not come on at all. Then, of course, I got the dreaded BSOD a couple of times. I called IBM (Lenovo) customer support and got nowhere. They did, however, inspire me to reseat my RAM. I thought that fixed the problem, but then the BSOD reappeared. I nearly cried.

The irritating thing about the BSOD is that it's full of useful information for diagnosing your problem, but it flashes off so quickly, as the computer reboots, that you have no time to read it. Thank goodness for Win XP's 'Watchdog' feature, which will log the text of each BSOD you get into text files with the extension '.wdl'. Find these in: /WINDOWS/LogFiles/Watchdog.

My latest BSOD contained the following:

// Watchdog Event Log File

LogType: Watchdog
Created: 2005-06-23 20:51:48
TimeZone: 480 – Pacific Standard Time
WindowsVersion: XP
EventType: 0xEA – Thread Stuck in Device Driver

// The driver for the display device got stuck in an infinite loop. This
// usually indicates a problem with the device itself or with the device
// driver programming the hardware incorrectly. Please check with your
// display device vendor for any driver updates.

EaRecovery: 1
ShutdownCount: 108
Shutdown: 0
EventCount: 3
BreakCount: 3
BugcheckTriggered: 1
DebuggerNotPresent: 1
DriverName: ati2dvag
EventFlag: 1
DeviceClass: Display
DeviceDescription: ATI MOBILITY RADEON 9600 Series
HardwareID: PCI\VEN_1002&DEV_4E50&SUBSYS_05501014&REV_00
Manufacturer: ATI Technologies Inc.
DriverFixedFileInfo: FEEF04BD 00010000 0006000E 000A1953 0006000E 000A1953 0000003F 00000008 00040004 00000003 00000004 00000000 00000000
DriverCompanyName: ATI Technologies Inc.
DriverFileDescription: ATI Radeon WindowsNT Display Driver
DriverInternalName: ati2dvag.dll
DriverLegalCopyright: Copyright (C) 1998-2004 ATI Technologies Inc.
DriverOriginalFilename: ati2dvag.dll
DriverProductName: ATI Radeon WindowsNT Display Driver

Most of that doesn't make sense to me, but it did help me isolate the problem down to my video driver. A quick Google search reveals that other folks have had problems with the ati2dvag driver and the BSOD. No one with a Thinkpad, though. I was optimistic about the fix I found here, but no joy. So I upgraded to the latest driver through IBM's site – that's Find the update insteller here.

So that seems to have done the trick, though I need to run it through the ringer. I'm not sure what caused the conflict, but if you're like me MS just hit you with a rash of Windows Updates. I'm guessing one of them caused the problem. Who knows.

So, hopefully this is helpful for someone out there.

Update: Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems. The problems with my machine are reoccuring. However, I've recently noticed that the erratic behavior only occurs when I'm running on battery power, and then only when I am not stationary at my desk. Is something loose? The video adapter, perhaps? I can remember a slightly unusual ding that I gave the machine by accident several days back, but it was nothing drastic. It might have been just enough, though. I'm calling IBM (Lenovo) back. I'll report!

Update (again): A more knowledgeable and well spoken IBM/Lenovo employee suggested that there could be a conflict with my embedded controller or BIOS. My embedded controller was already up to date, but my BIOS was 3 versions old. I upgraded from 3.13 to 3.16. It remains to be seen if that will solve the problem, but it's worth a try. He is also sending me a new memory chip in case that is the culprit.

Final Update: After all this, the laptop finally just died, and I took it in. They replaced my motherboard (for the 2nd time in the year that I've had this laptop), and everything's dandy now. I think, basically, when there is so much random and erratic behavior, there can be no other explanation.

Final Final Update (6.16.2006): After more than a year and many, many comments on this post, Soren seems to have come up with the first definitive cause of these problems – if we believe Lenovo knows what they're talking about. Unfortunately, it sounds like if you have the defective part, there's nothing much you can do to prevent the chance of a problem, and nothing to be done short of a new mainboard when it happens.

Well, it looks like the landmark Grokster Supreme Court decision is forthcoming, potentially on Monday. For some background on the case check out the EFF's site. Thanks to Joe for this post:

Randy Picker has set up a MobBlog which will serve as a clearinghouse for expert commentary on the Supreme Court's upcoming decision on MGM v. Grokster… commentators include: Doug Lichtman, Jessica Litman, Jim Speta, Julie Cohen, Larry Solum, Lior Strahilevitz,
Phil Weiser, Ray Ku, Tom Hazlett and Wendy Gordon.

This mode of blogging — where a group of experts convenes to address a topic and then disbands — is becoming quite popular. It's a great way to interface with the press too… they get their quotes, we don't get misquoted, etc.


EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently released their Legal Guide for Bloggers. I don't think any of us expect to have any legal trouble as a result of blogging, but it's worth a read. The fact of the matter is that blogs are more read than they have ever been, and with exposure comes risk.

I argue vehemently with folks in my department who talk about blogging like it's the wave of the future, and before long everyone will be doing it. I predict that blogging will peak sometime in the next 18 months, and then recede into more specialized uses. Having said that, though, I think it's also true that cultural conceptions of blogging are changing. Whereas people might once have dismissed something they read on a blog as meangingless and inconsequential ('it's just a stupid blog after all…'), they might now take it more seriously, if only because of the popular attention that blogging has received. The cultural conception of blogging may now be something closer to a serious, meaningful form of public expression and content production. Of course, this also increases the danger for bloggers. Hell, I'd hate it if people took all the junk I wrote on this blog seriously.

Andrea at Zerzaust published a nice list of links for those interested in the Anthropology of Science & Technology. (I commented and added a few more.)

My old friend Mike Boylan (he's not old, he's just been my friend for a long time) has started up a blog called Listen to Film. Mike is a talented filmaker living in New York, and also my most reliable source for interesting new music. Check it out.

If you haven't seen HomeStarRunner, you're in for a treat. I recommend Strong Bad E-Mails, in particular Virus, Dragon, and Japanese Cartoon.

After learning that pretty much every layout except the main page was broken (thanks to lorenz for the heads up), I decided upgrading to WordPress 1.5's theme system wasn't quite as easy as I thought. So I decided to start over with a bit of a new look. This theme is based on the winning theme in Alex King's recent contest - it's called Connections.

I hope it doesn't offend anyone too badly. :)

An important part of doing research is thinking about who the audience for research is. It's hard especially because of the interdisciplinary nature of what folks who study IT and culture tend to do. Our work is often a mix of theory, praxis, and methodology – a fact which can make it a tough fit for many audiences. Figuring out where research fits, both for grounding it in existing literatures and for finding the right journals to submit papers to, is always a challenge.

So, then, as researchers interested in anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, IT, communication, etc…what journals should we be reading? What journals should we be contributing to? Let's put together a good list – please help! I'll start:

American Anthropologist
CHI Proceedings
Communications of the ACM
Community Informatics
Current Anthropology
Field Methods
First Monday
IT & Society
Journal of Computer Mediated Communication
Practicing Anthropology
Science Technology & Human Values
Social Science Computer Review
Technology & Culture
Technology in Society
Technology Review
The New Review of Information Behavior Research

The new issue of the journal Community Informatics is out. (link)

This journal seems to do well at capturing a wide variety of current issues without the myopia of a single-discipline journal.

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