Bugging Sony

Bugging Sony

Bugging Sony

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 22 2005 4:45 PM

Bugging Sony

Bloggers discuss a series of lawsuits against Sony; they also react to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and scrutinize comedian Penn Jillette's declaration of atheism.

Bugging Sony: Texas filed a class-action lawsuit against Sony BMG yesterday, accusing the company of affixing music CDs with XCP, a "spyware" that tracks users without their knowledge and makes PCs vulnerable to hackers. Sony, claiming the technology was intended to prevent illegal copying, has recalled the affected CDs. (4.7 million were issued.)

The outcry against Sony has been building over the last month. "Rootkits are black-hat hacker tools used to disguise the workings of their malicious software. Removing Sony's rootkit nukes your Windows installation," explains tech salon Boing-Boing's Cory Doctorow. He provides a timeline of Sony's responses and writes, "Sony lied about its rootkit. They said it didn't phone home with information about your deeds. It does. When they were caught in the lie, they said that they didn't pay attention to the information it sent back, so it's OK." Security Fix's Brian Krebs, a Washington Post blogger (Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co)., points out that California and New York lawyers, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit, are suing Sony too. Krebs also notes that computer security researcher Dan Kaminsky estimates that the Sony technology may pose a threat to millions of computers.

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Many are convinced that these suits will hit Sony hard. "With the Holiday season looming, all this spells very bad news for Sony and I wouldn't be surprised if their Q4 profits are hit badly by all this. I would imagine that other labels planning any such DRM scheme will shelve it," writesPC Doctor, a techie. Commenting on techie haven Slashdot, Frangible mischievously suggests the death penalty for Sony: "Assuming a computer counts as tangible, movable property, and I do believe the rootkit at least counts as 'criminal mischief', and the Texas AG has a legal duty to protect people's computers (or people ask him to), the use of lethal force against Sony BMG would be authorized." And Happiness Is a Warm Gun's Jared, a software developer, exclaims, "[F]or once, I think I can be proud of being both a nerd and a Texan."

Others are trying to figure out the easiest way to help consumers. "Sony's recall of affected CDs is a sensible start in undoing the harm and ill will XCP has caused. But for the recall to make a meaningful difference -- in actually helping ordinary users, not just in improving Sony's PR standing -- Sony needs to spread the word widely," claimsBen Edelman, a Harvard economics student. Edelman suggests that the company should use the "self-updating messaging system already built into Sony's XCP player."

Read more about Sony. Read  the suit.

Harry Potter: Bloggers are weighing in on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which took in more than $100 million worldwide in its opening weekend.

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"I thought it was extremely well done. As it's my favourite of all 6 books, I suppose I'm a little biased, but still," opinesRandy Andrade, who works in retail. "The thing that really grabs and holds the audience with these movies is that they allow - nay, even encourage - us to get emotionally attached to all of the characters in the story," claimsMental Meatloaf's Marcheline."They've kept all the main professors and other characters in the cast throughout the string of movies - something that most sequels usually don't do, whether for budget reasons or whatever."

Even Harry can't please everyone. "They cut out a helluva lot. No Ludo Bagman. No Marauder's Map. No Quidditch World Cup - aside from the intro, which was damned brief. Damn. I wanted to watch the Quidditch World Cup! Dumbledore seemed too pissed off for the movie," gripes Singapore's Halfcrazed. On I Heart Howie, a Rowling fan who hated the movie the first time (but loved it the second time) sums up a conversation with a friend: "'What??? Barty Crouch, Jr. wasn't in that scene in the book, was he?' 'Ugg.  No.  And why was Cedric in a tree?' 'I don't know.  That's not how a portkey is supposed to work!'… 'And why is that dragon scrambling around on the tower when it could just fly?' "

Read more about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Read David Edelstein's review in Slate.

No god but not god: Penn Jillette (of the comedy/magic act Penn and Teller) defended his atheism on a segment about belief on NPR's Morning Edition: "Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have."

Jillette's detractors aren't hard to find. Attacking Jillette's logic, Blogwoods' Skipper, a theist, writes, "Finally, Jillette gets to what apparently is his real point, which is the old 'If God were as good as I am, things would be much better on the earth' complaint. I don't have much to say about this for Jillette, because he just finished telling us how his life is so great precisely because he doesn't believe in God. Now he says that the lives of other people are so bad that they also demonstrate there is no God. Can you have it both ways?"

But his defenders are evangelical in their zeal. "Seriously, the clearest, most succinct, and obviously funniest explanation of life without a God. Abso-fucking-lutely nails it," enthusesEvocatuer's Daniel Stockman, a web developer. And Toonguykc, a Kansas City cartoonist, testifies,"[H]orrible world events, the pointless war, W, and hurricane devastation convinced me to become an Atheist.  But things have gotten so bad lately that I want to be something beyond those labels.  I've been wanting to get as far from what most people call 'God' as possible…This expresses exactly how I feel:  Thank you, Penn."

Read more about Penn Jillette's beliefs.

Got a question, comment, or suggestion? E-mail todaysblogs@slate.com.