The Yahoo! Berkeley Research Lab

July 15th, 2005

It’s official: Yahoo! will open a new research lab in partnership with UC Berkeley, just off campus.

Congratulations to Marc Davis, the Berkeley SIMS professor who will head up the lab, and to the other sharp SIMS folks who will work there. I can’t wait to see the goodies that will emerge from this.

Strange Advice

July 12th, 2005

I dreamt that I was sneaking through Bill Gates’ house with a friend.

We hadn’t been invited, but we hadn’t broken in and we hadn’t planned this adventure. (Looking back, I’m not sure how that could be. Perhaps we found a door that had been left open?)

As we slinked around this dark expensive house, Bill strode in and flicked on the lights. He didn’t seem surprised to see us. He offered us each a drink and showed us around the place a bit.

He said a few small-talk things. He glanced at me, offered me an opening to speak. I froze and couldn’t say anything. That’s what always happens when I’m face to face with a celebrity or a legend: I freeze up. Later I always kick myself because I didn’t say things that I should have.

As I pondered this Bill said:

“If you freeze up in front of a famous person
and you know that later you’ll remember 100 things
that you should have said,
you should say:

‘I freeze up in front of famous people.
Later I’ll think of 100 things that I should say now.

But I can’t say them now.’

That will break the roadblock.”

At “roadblock” I awakened with hot sunlight in my face.

I closed the blinds. I tried to go back to sleep and speak to Bill Gates but I couldn’t.

I’m not Bill’s biggest fan, but I’ll try those words next time I meet Jeff Bezos or Satan or Jesus.

Wi-Fi News Coverage: A Plea to the Press

July 5th, 2005

The latest from the Embarrassing Florida News Department: Police arrested a man in St. Petersburg, Florida for briefly using an open wi-fi access point in a public place.

The clueless cops charged Benjamin Smith III with “unauthorized access to a computer network, a third-degree felony,” according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Every day thousands of people do what this poor guy did. And they have no idea they’re felons. I’ll wager that most wi-fi users think that if a hotspot in a public place is open (i.e., if it announces its presence to the world via SSID broadcast and it’s not WEP encrypted or password protected), using it to access the Internet is legal and ethical. Such use is common practice.

The St. Petersburg Times article about this arrest belongs in the National Enquirer. It refers to Smith’s off-the-shelf wi-fi use as “hacking” into a computer network. (Of course the writer makes The Obligatory Greenhorn Tech-Reporter Mistake: use of the term “hacking” to mean “maliciously breaking into a computer network.” But that’s not the real problem.)

Imagine this: You’re at home. Your window’s closed. Your neighbor’s window is open. She plays a catchy tune on her stereo. You open your window to hear the song more clearly.

Now cops arrest you for opening your window.
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