I’m up to Season 4 of Stargate, which, thanks to Veronica, I have on DVD. This is the most action my mac’s built-in DVD player has seen since I borrowed Contact from Dr. Deb. Even though I have no foreign region DVD’s, I’ve begun to wonder about nasty built-in DVD annoyances, like the FBI warning and trailers you can’t fast-forward past - just because I’m a geek. I also wanted to take a couple of screenshots for the Repository, but the OS disables Grab (the mac screen capper) when the DVD player is running.
There are software and firmware hacks out there to nullify or reset the region code on a mac. The best way I discovered to skip the FBI warning or take a screenshot, however, was with VLC. VLC avoids the normal DVD hardware restrictions by reading and decoding the DVD at the software level. Presto, screenshots!
The only trouble is, it may be illegal in the US. I own the Stargate DVD’s and the mac and the mac’s DVD player, and I’m not selling, ripping, or pirating anything, or making any money. And yet, VLC comes with a warning that using the decoding library may be a violation of the DMCA. So without doing a single thing that any reasonable person would consider wrong, immoral or fattening, I could have broken a law by downloading and running VLC, provided I did so. Nothing in this blog entry should be taken as an admission of guilt.
When I took a Peter Pan bus to an undisclosed location in Connecticut, the driver said that smoking was prohibited by federal law and that cell phones should be used only in an emergency. What constituted an emergency - say, the bus going off an overpass - was not specified. When I took the Bonanza bus to and from Fall River to see Mom, the driver firmly declared that smoking, drinking (alcoholic beverages), and cell phoning were absolutely forbidden on the bus. There are only two or three places in all of Massachusetts where it’s legal to smoke, so that law was familiar to the patrons. It was Bonanza, not Greyhound, so the likelihood of people getting drunk on the bus was low to begin with. The likelihood of people cell-phoning despite the absolute cell-phone ban was about the likelihood of people cell-phoning in the absence of cell-phone bans. I overheard a lengthy conversation in Portuguese as well as several other shameless cell calls.
The point being that when you make a law that’s extreme (people need to make cell phone calls from the bus to tell people they’re arriving - you don’t want to spend one extra minute hanging around the bus station in Fall River, believe me), senseless (I could converse with Veronica when she was with me, so why shouldn’t I be able to do it over the cell as well?) and impossible to obey (people have a Pavlovian drive to answer their cell phones), all you do is destroy what respect they may have had for the rule of law. When you make one law to be broken, all laws suffer. Next thing you know, they’ll be drinking beer on the bus, just because the driver forbade it in the same sentence as he did cell phones (and not nearly as emphatically).
There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted ñ and you create a nation of law-breakers ñ and then you cash in on guilt. –Atlas Shrugged