Boîte de Pain

This cartoon is so old and clichéd -- dig the size and edgy modern design of the "monitor" atop the "computer" -- that the original must have been inscribed on the walls of the tech support unit at Lascaux or Altamira since the days when there wasn't even any Hollywood:


Today, A.C. Douglas delivers a blow by blow, first person account of a real-life contemporary equivalent.

[I recently experienced the extraordinary non-obviousness of the new Microsoft boxes firsthand when we acquired a set of the new Microsoft Expression web design tools.  After some headscratching, I managed to obtain access to the box's interior without resorting to the tool chest.  For reference, and so that you may henceforth follow the path of nonviolence, here is a a handy illustrated how-to.]

You May Firefox When Ready, Gridley

I'm sold. I'm sold. After three weeks' use I am prepared to declare that Mozilla Firefox is a clearly superior browser to The Moribund Thing From Redmond known as IE [pronounced "Aieeee!"]. Get it [Firefox] right here if you don't have it already. As one who is Not Your Lawyer, I so advise you anyway.

What did it lack until now that I most missed? A right-click option to post to a weblog. But wait: thanks to Brother Advocate Dave Stratton's Insurance Defense Blog, I learn of JustBlogIt, a dandy little Firefox extension that ... gives you a right-click option to post to a weblog. Joy joy joy.

Ooooh. Lookie here: it works!

Dubious Achievements in Legal Drafting

Stanford law professor and intellectual property zealot Lawrence Lessig has put up a longish post on Wal-Mart's new online music venture. In addition to noting some technical glitches -- downloaded songs wouldn't play on his system -- he emphasizes the highly restrictive terms of the agreement that a consumer must accept before downloading, and the manner in which that agreement contradicts the expectations that consumers have historically had when purchasing music (e.g., the expectation that you can make "fair use" of music you have legally acquired, such as by using it as a soundtrack for home videos, incorporating portions into a personal mix tape, and so on). For connoisseurs of legal draftsmanship, however, the highlight of the piece has to be this splendidly self-contradictory sentence, drawn from deep within the Terms of Service agreement:

All Products are sublicensed to you and not sold, notwithstanding the use of the terms 'sell,' 'purchase,' 'order,' or 'buy' on the Service or in this Agreement.
This is cutting-edge stuff. Consider the possibilities if this approach to contractual language were to catch on. For example:
The Product will consist of a bag of small rocks and not an automobile, notwithstanding the use of the terms "automobile," "motor," "vehicle," "motor vehicle" and "BMW" in this Agreement and on signage at any facility at which this Agreement may be executed.
The Worker shall become the property of the Boss, to be dealt with at the Boss's sole discretion and transferable by sale to any other Boss of the Boss's choosing, and shall receive money, food, rest and shelter only when the Boss is so inclined, notwithstanding the use of the terms "employ," "employee," "wages", "benefits" and "freedom" elsewhere in this agreement.
Parse that, if you will, and despair.

The Free Things in Life Are Best

All praise the Pasadena Public Library which, in addition to many other virtues, graciously offers its patrons free wireless access to the Net. This service permits one to, say, pick up a copy of Amphigorey and, emulating Our Girl in Chicago, post an accurate version of a favorite Edward Gorey limerick:

There was a young sportsman named Peel
Who went for a trip on his wheel;
He pedalled for days
Through crepuscular haze,
And returned feeling somewhat unreal.

Mr. Publisher, Tear Down This Wall!

Doc Searls is critiquing Business 2.0 magazine for hiding content behind a paid-subscription barrier.

What little you gain in subsriber leverage and sales of old articles by putting your "content" behind a costwall is far more than offset by lost authority. When none of your stuff can be found on the Web — either by search engine crawlers or by the countless writers who are denied the chance to link to your good stuff, you fail to exist in the largest and most vital business environment civilization has ever known. Links are what make the Web a web. Preventing them is the height of folly.
Hmm. Sounds a lot like this Fool's Pet Peeve with his own Local Paper.

New Blogging Tools to Spawn New Blogs

I am reading about this now in several places, but I first found it through Ernie the Attorney: Six Apart, the folks responsible for the popular and well regarded Moveable Type blogging software, have now launched TypePad, an inexpensive and feature-filled alternative to Blogger and Blogspot.

I've given TypePad the once-over and have signed up for the free 30-day trial period, with the result that next week will finally see the launch of my promised "serious" blog on California insurance law and related topics. Stay tuned for the premier of Declarations and Exclusions, coming to a server near you.