links for 2006-10-26

outside.in

I’ve been playing with Outside.in for a few minutes (here is the Portland feed), and my first thought was that this is exactly what friends told me to do in 2000. MetaFilter was just taking off being barely a year old, and San Francisco friends urged me to make city-specific local news hubs that interested people could find links and news for and post to. Tom Coates had a great write up in fall of 2000 asking for precisely this. I was (and still am) too busy to take on such an effort, but it’s good to see someone trying to pick up the reins and try it.

I’m surprised they didn’t use CityName.outside.in URLs instead of outside.in/City_Name though.

So you just got a Blackberry Pearl and you have a mac…

I unpacked my new Blackberry Pearl a few hours ago and after running all over the web trying to solve basic problems, I figured I should do a roundup of the basics here for other mac users, since I couldn’t find all this info in one place.

  • Charge it up the first time by plugging it into a wall. It seems buggy at first with USB charging, giving errors that you are not using a powered USB port and you are missing drivers, both which are untrue. My iMac worked fine after the first charge.
  • You can’t pair the device to your mac via OS X’s bluetooth utilities just yet. That means no iSync over bluetooth right now either. I suspect this is coming someday soon and someone can correct me on all the backstory (leave a comment).
  • update: at this point I would suggest using Missing Sync for the Blackberry Pearl. It’s much more stable and reliable than PocketMac.
  • You can use PocketMac along with the included USB cable for syncing, but don’t look for it on PocketMac’s product page, you can only get it from Blackberry directly following a link halfway down this page.
  • PocketMac 4.0 will resemble iSync and let you sync your address book, calendar, etc. Be sure to launch the app, then connect via USB, then sync everything. PocketMac refused to launch until I did it in this exact order.
  • Even though you can’t do much via bluetooth, apparently using the blackberry as a modem with bluetooth is possible and works using this modem script and set of instructions. I also hear it is free under T Mobile’s regular blackberry plans (I used to pay $20/month for the luxury on my old phone).
  • You can apparently transfer files over bluetooth but it sounds buggy.

Hopefully iSync/OSX starts fully supporting the device soon, but until then, this was all the info I needed to get started. Gmail works great on the device as does MetaFilter, so I’ll be set whenever I’m on the road and away from the keyboard.

Misadventures in Copyright

backyard, four months later Last year I moved into a new house with a big backyard, but the yard faces directly south, so it bakes in the summertime. I decided to find a local architect to help build a small shade patio off the back, and in the process I learned a lot about how far-reaching copyright law hits everyday people.

  1. After meeting with an architect, I was asked to get the plans for the house from the city building department, to use as reference. I drove down and requested them at the desk, and they said they wouldn’t give them to me as a homeowner — the builder of the house had to request them (I assume, because of copyright, so I won’t go build a duplicate house on my own?).
  2. I met up with the builder later that day, since he was building another house in the city. He was surprised and slightly annoyed he had to do this, so he called the department and told them to go ahead and let me see the plans to get copies made.
  3. The next day the City lets me pick them up, but says I must return them by 5pm the following day (or I guess they turn into a pumpkin?).
  4. I go to a large local copy shop, drop off the plans, they say they’ll be done in two hours.
  5. 1 hour and 55 minutes later, I get a call saying they can’t make the copies, due to copyright. I’m told I need written (verbal isn’t good enough) permission from the architecture firm mentioned on the plans before they would copy them. My only other choice is to come in and retrieve the plans.
  6. I scour the yellow pages online and no one else in the city has a large copier for house blueprint plans. I notice the plans have a paragraph-sized copyright notice/license on the side saying you are liable for $40,000 in damages if found copying them and the plans are only for one house built. There are also hand-stamped “COPYRIGHT” stamps on each drawing, on every page.
  7. I tell this story to my architect, who says she’d be happy to take the plans to the same copy shop that refused them, since they let her make any copies she needs.

As the owner of a home, of course I don’t “own” the design used to build it, but I don’t see why the city, the builder, the copier shop, and the original architecture firm all had to stand in my way before I could see the plans. To know where and how many windows are on the back wall before planning new construction off those walls sure seems like a legitimate use of plans that shouldn’t impede on copyright, but that’s the state of copyright matters today.

links for 2006-10-19