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After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

After Hours Reality Check Magazine A Season in Methven Our Host Send Me Mail

Home Articles STARK REALITIES About This Site My PGP Public Key

After Hours

I'm tired a lot these days. But it's honest, physical exhaustion as a result of keeping after almost five-and-a-half acres of oak trees and gopher holes.

And that's a welcome change.

Regular readers of this column -- assuming, that is, that there're any such critters -- will recall that, back in June, 1999, I revealed that I'd been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, a condition that comes in two varieties: obstructive and central. The first version occurs when your soft palate sags back into your throat and blocks your airway and in the second case, your body simply forgets to inhale.

I have both kinds. It's no laughing matter, because the symptoms of apnea include heavy snoring, chronic exhaustion, the inability to concentrate -- and sudden death.

That last symptom is one that I'd especially prefer to avoid, but the middle two are pretty major inconveniences for someone who makes his living by writing and the first one is a major nuisance for his beloved wife.

So I was glad when the problem was finally diagnosed, because, as it turns out, there's an effective treatment for the problem.

It's not surgery to reduce and tighten the soft palate, because that's rarely very effective for other than the mildest cases -- and the results are usually temporary, anyway. Instead, it's the use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) device.

A CPAP is something like a glorfied vacuum cleaner, only running in reverse. Essentially, it blows a continuous stream of air up your nose to keep your throat open and your lungs inflated while you sleep.

I've been using mine for just about exactly a year now -- it took almost eight months for the nosejob that let me breathe through my schnozz to heal enough to let me stand the pressure the CPAP exerts against my smeller -- and I can tell you that it works just fine.

It's not what I'd call "convenient" though. For one thing, the hoses that connect the device to my face have an annoying habit of disconnecting as I rutch around. For another, there's only a limited number of positions in which I can sleep without bending my nose painfully sideways or blocking the CPAP's tiny exhaust vent. And, for a third, the thing dries out my throat something fierce -- so the humidifier attachment that Kaiser Permanente made me jump through hoops to get turns out to be an absolute necessity.

But it's worth the hassle and inconvenience, because I no longer wake up exhausted after twelve or fourteen hours of restless dozing. When I go to bed now. I sleep -- and when I wake up, I'm awake, instead of half-dead from fatigue.

It doesn't fix the underlying medical problems, but it does effectively treat the symptoms -- and, for that, I'm deeply grateful, because there are more than enough other things over which I lose sleep.

Take, for instance, the evil, anti-consumer standard being contemplated by Technical Committee T13 of the National Committee on Information Technology Standards (NCITS).

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?

It was Head-Freezin' Gene, the Russo-German, quasi-Extropian, mad scientist of the Pigdog List (there's a CGI form at the bottom of http://www.pigdog.org, if you'd like to sign up and see the world from a schweinhund's perspective) who first drew Andrew Orloski's article on the subject to my attention -- but it was Baron Earl, of &TOTSE fame, who provided the T13 Committee's URL. The rest, as they say, is journalism.

T13's proposal, currently known as e00148r2 -- Content Protection for Recordable Media (CPRM) revision 2 -- amounts to revising the ATA/ATAPI hard drive interface standard so as to include the ability for vendors to copy-protect content on hard disks. And guess what?

It's our old buddies at IBM -- and their pals at Intel, Matsushita and Toshiba, the so-called 4C Entity, LLC -- who are behind this little gem.

Basically, they're eagerly doing the dirty work of the recording industry, in aid of lodged a protest against the inclusion of CPRM's proposed copy-protection capability in non-removable drives.

Now Pryor is one of their own, and he smells the same ordure as do I -- that, the spec, as written, doesn't apply exclusively to removable media. And he fears -- as do I -- that in the true spirit of Big Brother, what is not forbidden will swiftly become mandatory.

Let's face it: the cold reality is that, despite the disclaimers that compliance with the CPRM spec would theoretically be "strictly voluntary", its adoption by the Big Guys would, in practice, force it down the throats of all the other hard disk vendors.

And yours. And mine. And everyone else's.

Just think about how much fun we all would have, once software vendors decide to get in on the act. After all, there'd be nothing to prevent them from taking advantage of this present to the recording industry goons in order to "protect" their own products from "unauthorized copying".

Suppose your fileserver crashes. And suppose, for the sake of argument, that it's the CPRM-"protected" hard drive that went South. And suppose, just for giggles, that you have a spare hard drive on which you'd like to place a recent backup of your now-deceased server, so that you can go on providing service to your users.


So sorry. Thanks for playing, though. And enjoy your lovely parting gifts -- as your switchboard lights up, your backup refuses to restore and visions of bankruptcy dance in your head.

Think it can't happen?

Think again. If CPRM isn't chopped off at the knees -- and right away -- it will happen. Bank on it.

Good Night, Irene

The best place to derail this train is while it's still working up a head of steam -- that way, the crash winds up being a little less horrific and fewer people will get injured in the wreck.

What can you do about it? Several things.

First of all, subscribe to T13's moderated discussion list. Send an email to hlandis@attglobal.net. Leave the subject blank and put the word "subscribe" in the body. The actual list address is t13@tgi.com, so you don't actually have to subscribe in order to make your voice heard -- but it's the polite way to do things.

Secondly, the next plenary and working group meeting of Technical Committee T13 will be held at Seagate Technology's offices at the corner of 75th Street and Nelson Road in Longmont, Colorado from April 24 through April 27 of this year.

Plenary sessions are where the T13 folks make all their official decisions. In other words, the Longmont meeting is the next time the T13 boys will have an opportunity to formally adopt CPRM as a potential ANSI standard.

(T13 is charged with making recommendations to NCITS on the evolution of ATA/ATAPI technology. NCITS, in turn, decides whether to pass those proposed changes on to ANSI, which may or may not choose to adopt them as U.S. standards.)

Everyone -- and I mean EVERYONE -- who lives or works within 50 miles or so of Longmont should show up at that meeting. Bring old-fashioned protest signs and bullhorns and make as much noise as you can before they heave you out the door.

And they will kick you out, of course. That's okay. If you tip off the press ahead of time that there's going to be one helluva protest at Seagate, all they'll accomplish by giving you the boot is to present you with just the kind of photo opportunity that makes newspapers and TV stations salivate.

Finally, pick up the phone and call your Congressbeing at 800-972-3524 and Senators at 800-962-3524. (Don't email 'em, because politicians essentially disregard email. Most of them pay attention only to letters, telegrams and phone calls, in order of effectiveness.)

They need to be educated on the issue -- most of them have zero clue about technology and a lot of 'em are actively afraid of it. And remember that yelling probably won't help.

Between us, I'll bet a quarter we can head these buckaroos off at the pass. I'll sure sleep better if we do.

And if you don't sleep well, take a look at Doug Linder's Sleep Apnea FAQ. If you snore like a chainsaw, wake up with your heart hammering for no apparent reason and always seem to be exhausted, regardless of how much rest you get -- and especially if your significant other tells you that you stop breathing in your sleep -- please get yourself tested for apnea.

Your health insurance plan will cover the tests. And, if you turn out to be apneatic, a CPAP may, quite literally, save your life.

(Copyright© 2001 by Thom Stark--all rights reserved)