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Peer Review

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Your manuscript "Don't Pay $25 to Access Any of the Articles in this Journal: A Review of Preprint Repositories and Author Willingness to Email PDF Copies for Free" has also been rejected, but nice try.
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herrmann
61 days ago
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4 public comments
kellyu
76 days ago
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I need to find the black power salute emoji.
Zaphod717
76 days ago
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Relevant to my interests...
The Belly of the Beast
alt_text_bot
80 days ago
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Your manuscript "Don't Pay $25 to Access Any of the Articles in this Journal: A Review of Preprint Repositories and Author Willingness to Email PDF Copies for Free" has also been rejected, but nice try.
alt_text_at_your_service
80 days ago
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Your manuscript "Don't Pay $25 to Access Any of the Articles in this Journal: A Review of Preprint Repositories and Author Willingness to Email PDF Copies for Free" has also been rejected, but nice try.

Voting Software

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There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.
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herrmann
61 days ago
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siskamartin
49 days ago
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uff
caffeinatedhominid
62 days ago
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Yep.
tante
66 days ago
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xkcd on voting software is spot-on
Oldenburg/Germany
wmorrell
66 days ago
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Hazmat suit, too. Just to be safe.
rjstegbauer
67 days ago
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Amen!! Paper... paper... paper. It's simple. It's trivial to recount. Everyone already knows how to use it. It's cheap. It's verifiable. Just... use... paper.
ianso
67 days ago
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Yes!
Brussels
ChrisDL
67 days ago
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accurate.
New York
reconbot
68 days ago
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Legitimately share this comic with anyone who represents you in government.
New York City
cheerfulscreech
68 days ago
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Truth.
jth
68 days ago
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XKCD Nails Secure Electronic Voting.
Saint Paul, MN, USA
skorgu
68 days ago
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100% accurate.
jsled
68 days ago
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endorsed; co-signed; it. me. &c.

(alt text: «There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.»)
South Burlington, Vermont
alt_text_bot
68 days ago
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There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.
alt_text_at_your_service
68 days ago
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There are lots of very smart people doing fascinating work on cryptographic voting protocols. We should be funding and encouraging them, and doing all our elections with paper ballots until everyone currently working in that field has retired.
srsly
68 days ago
Seconding this policy ^^

A list of 25 Principles of Adult Behavior by John Perry Barlow

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Silicon Valley visionary John Perry Barlow died last night at the age of 70. When he was 30, the EFF founder (and sometime Grateful Dead lyricist) drew up a list of what he called Principles of Adult Behavior. They are:

1. Be patient. No matter what.
2. Don’t badmouth: Assign responsibility, never blame. Say nothing behind another’s back you’d be unwilling to say, in exactly the same tone and language, to his face.
3. Never assume the motives of others are, to them, less noble than yours are to you.
4. Expand your sense of the possible.
5. Don’t trouble yourself with matters you truly cannot change.
6. Expect no more of anyone than you yourself can deliver.
7. Tolerate ambiguity.
8. Laugh at yourself frequently.
9. Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right.
10. Never forget that, no matter how certain, you might be wrong.
11. Give up blood sports.
12. Remember that your life belongs to others as well. Do not endanger it frivolously. And never endanger the life of another.
13. Never lie to anyone for any reason. (Lies of omission are sometimes exempt.)
14. Learn the needs of those around you and respect them.
15. Avoid the pursuit of happiness. Seek to define your mission and pursue that.
16. Reduce your use of the first personal pronoun.
17. Praise at least as often as you disparage.
18. Never let your errors pass without admission.
19. Become less suspicious of joy.
20. Understand humility.
21. Forgive.
22. Foster dignity.
23. Live memorably.
24. Love yourself.
25. Endure.

Here’s what these principles meant to Barlow:

I don’t expect the perfect attainment of these principles. However, I post them as a standard for my conduct as an adult. Should any of my friends or colleagues catch me violating one of them, bust me.

You can read remembrances of Barlow from the EFF and from his friends Cory Doctorow and Steven Levy. The EFF’s Executive Director Cindy Cohn wrote:

Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity’s problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth. Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: “I knew it’s also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls ‘turn-key totalitarianism.’”

Barlow’s lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into “a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth … a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

Update: I’ve amended the list slightly from when I first posted it to match more closely an email sent by Barlow to friends on his 60th birthday.

Tags: Cindy Cohn   Cory Doctorow   John Perry Barlow   lists   Steven Levy
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herrmann
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StunGod
249 days ago
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That's a worthwhile list. I think I'll appropriate it.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
TimidWerewolf
249 days ago
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Words to live by
dnorman
249 days ago
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fantastic guidelines. focus. give a shit. love.
Calgary
digdoug
249 days ago
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Mr Barlow would definitely give me a "D" as an adult. But I'm trying.
Louisville, KY

Why We Need Universal Basic Internet Now

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In 2015, Facebook launched its Free Basics app offering a limited suite of Internet services for free in partnership with mobile network operators (MNOs) around the world.  This provoked widespread debate on whether Free Basics violated network neutrality principles that many believe (myself among them) are essential to maintaining the diverse and serendipitous nature of the Internet.  For me the answer was a paradox.  While I believe in the importance of network neutrality, I also recognise that affordability can be a more difficult barrier to transcend than the most impervious firewall. Lack of affordable access to the Internet may be the biggest network neutrality violation of all.  Free Basics directly addresses the issue of affordability and deserves acknowledgement for that.  Looking further back to 2010, when Facebook launched Facebook Zero, offering zero-rated access to its website, I applauded Facebook because they alone seemed to get the issue of affordability at the time. I argued then and still believe that lowering the cost of getting online will allow people the freedom to discover what they value on the Internet and to create new value through their interactions with others.  Matt Ridley captures the essence of this in his book The Rational Optimist when he says that:

Evidence suggests that cultural evolution depends on exchange and trade to bring together ideas in much the same way that genetic evolution depends on sex to spread genetic mutations, or in the case of bacteria, on horizontal gene transfer. When starved of access to a large “collective brain” by isolation from trade and exchange, people may experience not just less innovation, but even regress. The capacity for ideas to have sex on the Internet is likely to accelerate cultural evolution still further.

But that was 2010 and things have changed.  Facebook’s growing dominance has led to a situation where new users coming online can mistake Facebook for the Internet. Concerns have grown that Facebook’s news algorithms are increasingly isolating us from diversity of opinions by showing us things we “like” to see. It is also at the centre of the “fake news” controversy with widespread concern that its news and advertising system has been directly manipulated by external forces in order to influence public opinion.  There are also concerns about just how much personal information Facebook is capturing about its users and how that information is being used.  Finally, Facebook is no longer just Facebook, it is also WhatsApp, Instagram and probably a host of promising Internet startups that you haven’t heard of yet.  Facebook is a privately held company with no transparency in its operation or behaviour on which most of us are conducting our public and private conversations.  To say that all this is problematic would be the understatement of the decade.

Thus any system which purports to be open, as Free Basics does, but in reality creates a strong default toward the Facebook platform is part of the above problem.  Perhaps you think that defaults are irrelevant and the informed user can simply click away to something else?  Research suggests otherwise and if that weren’t bad enough, platforms like Facebook (although they are far from alone in this) are deliberately crafting engagement to hijack our attention and our choices.

Having spent much of my career advocating for affordable access, I find myself in a bit of a crisis of faith in what I am selling. I have gained so much from the Internet in terms of learning and social connection that I couldn’t conceive of my life without it and yet evidence that our very independence of thought is now potentially undermined by Internet platforms is deeply disturbing.  So what to do?  Tell the billion unconnected people in the world, nevermind, you’re better off without it? A part of me is tempted but I am too much a believer in the social nature of our humanity and the potential that connectedness represents to give up on the Internet.  The train may have gone off the rails but that doesn’t mean we should scrap railroads.  We need a better railroad.

That better railroad starts at the bottom of the pyramid.  Free Basics is not what we want but we don’t want to give up on affordability. Two years ago, I proposed a simple solution.  Why not just zero-rate basic rate Internet for all mobile Internet devices. That would allow people to discover value in the Internet on their own terms and create inclusion where it is most challenging, at the bottom of the pyramid. After all, Facebook doesn’t pay mobile operators to offer Free Basics, they underwrite the costs themselves.  For a mobile operator, why would you pay to entrench a digital giant?  Have you ever gotten one of those ideas that you just can’t let go of?  You try and try to poke holes in it, to dismiss it as unrealistic, to forget about it but it still keeps you awake at night.  An idea that seems so blindingly obvious that you can’t help but wonder why it hasn’t happened already.  That’s where I am with the notion of creating a universal, free, basic-rate Internet for all.

The article I wrote captured a modest amount of attention culminating in The Atlantic picking up the idea, followed by a modest flurry of social media activity and then nothing. I couldn’t see a way of moving forward and tried to put the idea to sleep but, like colicky child, it would not rest and I would bend anyone’s ear who was prepared to listen.  This led to a serendipitous conversation in Kampala in 2016 with Christoph Stork and Steve Esselaar of Research ICT Solutions, who I discovered were kindred spirits on this issue and had already been thinking along these lines themselves.  Having found common cause, we began to make plans.  We applied to the Mozilla Equal Rating Challenge and made it to the final round but didn’t win one of the top three prizes. Our proposal was radically different from the other contestants proposing community-led wireless projects.  I can only imagine it must have seemed too far-fetched to the judges.

Undeterred, Christoph led the writing of a research paper which makes a stronger and more detailed case for Universal Basic Internet (UBI).  The paper entitled “Universal Basic Internet as a Freemium Business Model to Connect the Next Billion” has just been published in the DigiWorld Economic Journal. A conference preprint is available.  We continue to advocate with regulators and operators for Universal Basic Internet.  I was inspired to write this article today because of recently published research by Indra de Lanerolle, Marion Walton and Alette Schoon entitled “Izolo: mobile diaries of the less connected.”  This work profiles the mobile usage of the least connected in South Africa.  I can’t recommend this work enough as it gives unique insight into the lives of those whose access to communication is not as obvious or stable as statistics might imply.  Here are a couple of users they profile:

Thandiwe spends about R12 (a little less than one USD) per month on data and most of the time she keeps the data off on her phone to avoid incurring data charges.  She’s a hairdresser and coordinates with most of her clients on WhatsApp but this has to be carefully managed in order to conserve her data balance.  Imagine if WhatsApp (or WeChat or Telegram or Signal or Viber or other messaging platform) were always on for her.  Messaging services are an enabling of any home-based or informal business.  Enabling UBI would be a business boost for everyone at the bottom of the economic pyramid not to mention enabling the discovery of other kinds of value on the Internet. Reading the profiles of the various people in the report, it is easy to see that a disproportionate amount of time is spent by the poor coming up with strategies to affordably use the Internet.  The necessity of these strategies takes up energy and time but it also excludes the casual exploration and ‘play’ on the Internet that leads to serendipity.

 

As a mother of two living in a rural area managing part-time local work, child support grants, Xoliswa fits my stereotype of black South African women who shoulder burdens that I find hard to imagine.  Up before dawn, maintaining local livestock, feeding the family, finding work, and generally keeping things together.  For the poor, the logistics of organising work and family life is proportionately a much bigger burden than for the people even just a little higher up the economic ladder who have regular jobs and who can afford data services that don’t have to be carefully conserved for essential use only.  The irony is that those who can least afford the extra time and effort are burdened with this extra work.  Making basic rate Internet available to Xoliswa won’t solve her logistical challenges but it is likely to make them easier to manage.

The point here is simple.  Free access to basic rate Internet, what we are calling Universal Basic Internet or UBI, could have a really big impact on the least connected.  We’re not suggesting this replace a national broadband strategy but while we’re waiting for broadband to reach everyone, this could make a real difference right now.

Everyone benefits from UBI.  Mobile network operators already know that voice and SMS revenues are shrinking and that the only way they can maintain their revenues is through growth of data services. UBI would help introduce a new generation of data services to those who may not yet see the value of the Internet.  And far better to offer a neutral basic Internet than a walled garden.  And who knows what the next really useful big platform will be. Perhaps, like 2go, it will come from Africa but if we don’t have a neutral Internet, we are unlikely to find out.  UBI is good for governments to because they will be able to legitimately offer online government services to people like Xoliswa without burdening them with data charges.

The Izolo: mobile diaries of the less connected study concludes with a set of recommendations.  See the report for a detailed explanation of each.

  • Design for low data consumption
    This is a really important recommendation but there may not be that much incentive for app designers to do so.  Introducing UBI would create a real incentive to design for low data consumption because of the massive additional addressable market available through UBI.
  • Design for ‘mostly off’
    Mobile phones are not really designed to be ‘off’ although new apps like Google’s Datally app which literally turn off mobile access except for apps you select seem to be a step in the right direction.  I think design for “mostly off” is a great idea but more as a tool to make the Internet more useful to those who live on the fringes of mobile networks and are often out of range.  For those within coverage areas, UBI seems like a better choice. Of course it is not an either/or situation.
  • The World Wide Web is a world away
    It is a hard truth that the web is not much of destination for most.  This may be partly due to affordability issues.  If you have an extremely limited budget, you are not going to waste valuable resources exploring the web for questionable return, you are going to go where you know, which at the moment is Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.  Lowering cost as a barrier to access increases the chances of stepping outside the mainstream to discover new things.
  • Pay attention to the solutions of the less connected
    The report does such a great job of highlighting this point.  What may look like a connected data subscriber as an ITU statistic is often someone clinging more tenuously to access than we imagine.  Understanding how fragile access is for the least connected should help point directly to the benefits of a UBI strategy.
  • Public WiFi will not necessarily increase access
    WiFi is not a replacement for mobile but it is a great complementary strategy.  If we have learned anything from access shutdowns and interruptions it is that we all need redundancy in terms of access.  We need both.  It is also true that WiFi may become the first connectivity choice in the future for many as WiFi infrastructure spreads and competes with mobile broadband on cost.
  • Zero-rating services may not lead to broader Internet use
    This is such a frustrating point to have to make… “may not lead to”.  The only reason we don’t really know the answer to this question is because Facebook, WhatsApp, and others engaging in zero-rating programs refuse to release any public data on their programs.  What, as they say, is up with that?
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The Sad Legacy Of Copyright: Locking Up Scientific Knowledge And Impeding Progress

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We've repeated this over and over again, but the Constitutional rationale for copyright is "to promote the progress of science" (in case you're wondering about the "useful arts" part that comes after it, that was for patents, as "useful arts" was a term that meant "inventions" at the time). "Science" in the language of the day was synonymous with "learning." Indeed, the very first US copyright law, the Copyright Act of 1790 is literally subtitled "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning." Now, it's also true that the method provided by the Constitution for the promotion of this progress was a monopoly right -- locking up the content for a limited time. But the intent and purpose was always to promote further learning. This is why, for years, we've questioned two things: First, if the monopoly rights granted by copyright are hindering the promotion of learning, should they still be Constitutional? Second, if the goal is the promotion of learning, shouldn't we be exploring if there are better methods to do that, which don't involve monopoly rights and limiting access. And this, of course, leaves aside all the big questions about how much copyright has changed in the past 227 years.

Still, I'm thinking about all of this again in response to a new report -- first found on BoingBoing -- noting that 65 out of the 100 most cited papers are behind a paywall. The report is interesting and depressing. It doesn't just point out that these 65 papers are behind a paywall, but notes the price of the article, and what the effective total price to cite really is (which they list as "cost to buy individually").

The web was built specifically to share research papers amongst scientists. Despite this being the first goal of the modern web, most research is still published behind a paywall. We have recently highlighted famous math papers that reside behind a paywall as well as ten papers that have achieved a near rockstar status in research and the public. Here we systematically look at the top one hundred cited papers of all time and find that 65\%65%​ of these papers are not open. Stated another way, the world’s most important research is inaccessible from the majority of the world.

In case you're wondering, the average price to access each article is $32.33 (and the median is $32), with the range being $4 to $41. There aren't too many down around the $4 range, mind you. It's pretty much an outlier. As you'd suspect from the average, most are priced in the $25 to $40 range.

Of course, it's worth thinking carefully about this -- especially in an age where a useful service like Sci-Hub, which has created a library of academic research, open to all, is being attacked as an infringer, with all sorts of attempts to shut it down. Does this really make sense if the goal of copyright is to increase learning? (It's a separate discussion altgoether whether the purpose of copyright was ever really to increase learning, or if that was just a fig leaf to cover over the idea that it was a monopoly right for publishers).

The people writing these academic papers are almost never incentivized by the copyright. Hell, in most cases, the journals they publish in require the copyright be turned over to the journal. The journal, which profits massively from all this free labor, seems to disproportionately benefit from this setup. It gets the copyright. It charges insane amounts -- mainly to a captive audience of universities which feel required to pay extortionate rates -- and everyone else gets left out (or has to resort to infringement). It's difficult to see how anyone can justify this system in an intellectually honest manner.

The supporters of the system will fallback on a few points: they will claim that the journals provide peer review -- leaving out that this is also done as volunteer (free) labor, and there's no reason it need be done via a journal. On top of that, there's the fact that the existing peer review system is a joke that doesn't actually work. Some will argue that the journals provide a level of trust and credibility to papers -- and that's true, even if they still often publish bogus papers.

And, of course, all of this ignores the internet. The internet solves nearly every "problem" that journals claim they solve, and does it much better and more cost effectively. With the internet, peer review can be better and more efficient (and can let in many more perspectives.). On the internet, distribution can be much wider (which, on top of everything else, encourages greater peer review!).

And so we're left in a position where the only "benefit" of copyright in academia is to prop up a journal system that is expensive and inefficient, and which is almost entirely obsolete in the age of the internet. That's not to say there isn't any role for journals -- there clearly are, as we see from various open access journals that take a much more modern approach to these issues.

But, in looking all of this over, it seems like an unfortunate legacy of the copyright system that is props up the broken model of expensive, obsolete, inefficient and poorly vetted journals, while outlawing the efficient, cheap and useful model of an online library of knowledge like Sci-Hub.

If an alien were to come down to the planet today, and you had to justify why Sci-Hub is illegal and the journals are considered admired institutions of academia, I don't think anyone could legitimately do so. And when that's the situation, it seems like it's time to fix the system that lead to such a completely broken result.



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EFF Wins Over Patent Troll Trying To Silence EFF Calling Its Patent Stupid

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Earlier this year we wrote about the EFF going to court in California to protect it against an Australian patent troll, GEMSA, who objected to EFF naming a GEMSA patent one of EFF's "Stupid Patents of the Month." Apparently GEMSA sued in Australia, didn't properly serve EFF, and then got an injunction in Australia, which it threatened to enforce in California. EFF went to court using the all important SPEECH Act, which bars foreign judgments from being enforced in the US if they are in conflict with the First Amendment.

GEMSA, perhaps not surprisingly, declined to show up in the California court, leading EFF to move for default. A magistrate judge initially recommended against this, arguing that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over GEMSA. EFF asked the court to try again, and in a extraordinarily detailed and careful ruling, Judge Jon Tigar rejects the magistrate's recommendation and gives EFF the default judgment it sought. We've complained in the past that often the problem with default judgments is that courts are only too willing to just grant them if one party declines to show up for the case. This is not one of those situations. Tigar goes out of his way to explore pretty much every possible argument that GEMSA might have for why the court shouldn't have jurisdiction, for why the SPEECH Act should not apply and for why EFF's post may have been defamatory. And one by one by one, he points out why GEMSA is wrong and EFF is right. I won't repeat all the reasoning here, in part because there are so many different elements, though it's a fun and quick read in the filing.

Most importantly, after analyzing everything EFF put in the post, the court concludes: "In short, not one of the alleged defamatory statements would be defamatory under California law. EFF would not have been found liable for defamation under U.S. and California law." Combine that with the court recognizing that it has personal jurisdiction over GEMSA (GEMSA hurt its case here by continuing to appear in California courts in some of its patent lawsuits while ignoring this case...) and deciding that all of the elements of the SPEECH Act applies, and EFF prevails. And thus, it's protected speech to call GEMSA's patents stupid, and GEMSA can't censor EFF saying so here in California.

Given all that, we'd like to reiterate just how stupid GEMSA's stupid patent really is. It's for US Patent 6,690,400 on "virtual cabinest" and, damn, is it ever a stupid patent.



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