December 1, 2012

iPhone Personal Hotspot Troubles

The AT&T iPhone "personal hotspot" just doesn't work with our iPhones.

The other day I wrote about my new Nexus 7 pad. It's wonderful.

For travel with the pad I need wireless. So I switched my iPhone's AT&T plan over to the one that lets you use it as a "personal hotspot." This makes the phone into a device that receives cellular data and acts as a wireless router to which you can connect your computer and other devices.

It worked for about a day. Then it stopped working. I went to the Apple Store, they couldn't figure it out and gave me a new phone -- which also wouldn't work. At the store we called AT&T to get things started on their end. So the next day I spend about 4 hours on the phone trying everything, and they gave up and "escalated" it.

(My wife's iPhone 4s worked, mine is an iPhone 5 -- she hasn't updated the OS to the one with the terrible maps.)

About a week later AT&T said they had it fixed. And it appeared to work -- for a while. Now it only works once in a while, maybe 20% of the time. And the thing is, now hers only works about 20% of the time as well.

SOMEtimes I can trigger the hotspot to work by plugging my iPhone into my computer with the cable, which makes it work over USB and for some reason some of the time that turns on the wireless hotspot so the Nexus 7 sees it... But only sometimes.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 28, 2012

Update - I bought Nexus 7, Cant Recommend Highly Enough, Apple Is Over

The other day I wrote about almost buying an iPad Mini but the price and lack of GPS stopped me. I Came THIS Close To Buying iPad Mini!,

I went looking around today. I went to Stanford Mall, where there are Sony, Microsoft and Apple stores. I almost bought an iPad mini, but Apple talked me out of it.

... It costs too much, but I would have bought one one the spot anyway. But then I found out it doesn't have a GPS in it. To get one with a GPS you have to pay another $130 to get the cell-enabled device. ...

Apple. This is the company that charges $30 for a 5-cent cord. So, no sale. Android devices have GPS, and I have a wireless hotspot on my phone so I do not need a pad with cell service in it.

So I finally bought the Nexus 7 and I just couldn't be more impressed, especially with the new Android 4.2 OS upgrade. You can customize the OS to work the way you work, etc...

Between this and Windows 8 I feel like Apple is over, they have been leapfrogged. I'll probably get a Windows or Andriod phone next, too.

The hardware is good but their pricing ruins it. I mean, we're looking to replace a 15" Macbook Pro and I go to the Apple store and it starts at $1800 but that's with a slow 5200 RPM drive, and the lowest-available upgrade -- $10 to $20 when ordering PCs -- is $150. 512GB solid state is another $1,000, when PCs come with hybrid drives now and you can just buy a 512SSD for less than half that. Antiglare screen is another $100, etc. etc.

The "Retina Display" model runs from $2200 to $2800 before you add anything. ($3750 with more ram and a big flash drive. I don't think you can pay that much for any PC laptop anywhere.)

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:01 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

November 8, 2012

I Came THIS Close To Buying iPad Mini!

I went looking around today. I went to Stanford Mall, where there are Sony, Microsoft and Apple stores. I almost bought an iPad mini, but Apple talked me out of it.

At the mall I went through the Sony store mostly to get from the parking lot, but then saw the new Vaio Duo, which is a touchpad and computer. (This is what the new Windows 8 enables, and I love it.) My next computer will be something like this, a full computer with a touch-screen of some sort, maybe one of these tablets with a keyboard rather than a computer with a touch-screen.

Then I went to the Apple store to see the iPad mini. This is like the perfect tablet! The size and feel are just right. After playing with one I picked up an iPad, and it was this big heavy thing. I need something to read with, and instead of buying a new Kindle, figured I get some kind of tablet, this is just perfect for this.

It costs too much, but I would have bought one one the spot anyway. But then I found out it doesn't have a GPS in it. To get one with a GPS you have to pay another $130 to get the cell-enabled device. Apple wanted to both save themselves a quarter, and force people to buy the higher-priced device. I need this for use in the car, when we travel my wife likes to be the map person, this would have been perfect.

Apple. This is the company that charges $30 for a 5-cent cord. So, no sale. Android devices have GPS, and I have a wireless hotspot on my phone so I do not need a pad with cell service in it.

Then I stopped at the Microsoft store. The new Surface is beautiful. I might have bought one except I had just been holding that iPad Mini... It's a bit early for the Surface, but it going to stomp Apple when there are enough models out there and the prices are down. And all the new touch-screen ultrabooks, etc. Just wow!

As I wrote earlier,

Apple is an aggressively predatory company. (Oh, and there is no excuse for not making things in the USA, and no excuse for their aggressive tax avoidance schemes which deny the American public good schools, etc. Apple is an aggressively unpatriotic company.)

By aggressively predatory, I meant preying on their customers. Screw that, tired of it. No matter how nice the iPad Mini is, like everything else from Apple they charge too much, (and avoid paying their taxes, and use slaves instead of paying reasonable wages, etc.) and this greed is going to catch up and hurt them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:37 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 30, 2012

I Upgraded To Windows 8 And Love It

First, the excuses... We have Macs and PCs at home. I mostly use a PC laptop for legacy reasons. (Had to migrate from Mac to PC a long time ago for work, now everything is on the PC... Oh, and Macs cost 2-3 times as much for the same thing, and Apple just rips you off with no mercy. They overcharge for everything, even simple $2 connector cords can be $30. Apple is an aggressively predatory company.) (Oh, and there is no excuse for not making things in the USA, and no excuse for their aggressive tax avoidance schemes which deny the American public good schools, etc. Apple is an aggressively unpatriotic company.)

So anyway, I upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8, and I love it. I "get" it. I feel like I have been freed from the PC in the ways that the Mac made me feel that I was free to just work instead of dealing with the computer and its setting all the time.

Before you upgrade, you need to understand some things. It is not what you expect, and it is too early for most of you to do it.

Windows 8 is not really an "upgrade" to the Windows you know and understand, it is an entirely different paradigm. It will feel like you need to learn everything from scratch. Maybe, maybe not but after you have learned how to use Windows 8 it is much better. It makes the computer easy to use and gets the system out of your way.

It is going to take a while for enough people to learn Windows 8, and for the ecosystem of apps (it heavily follows an app design, like a smartphone) and programs that integrate all of Windows 8's features. So most people should just wait. Also installation can have quirks that only computer-literate people can overcome at this point. So wait.

But it's great.

And by the way, I know a few things about computers and operating systems.

Update - here's what's missing in Windows 8: a clock. On most screens you don't see the time, the way you did on older versions of Windows. Maybe there's a setting or something but not having the time visible screws me up.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

October 15, 2012

Here Is Why Google Doesn't Work Anymore

Impersonal Google Search Results Are Few And Far Between, DuckDuckGo Says | TPM Idea Lab

You are what you search. That’s definitely the case on Google, where any search query turns up a personalized set of results based upon your prior Google search history data, even if you’re completely logged out of your Google account.

They had the best product and they just had to fuck with it. Too clever by half.

For one thing, now when I search for something I have to sort through a hundred news stories about exactly the same thing...

They have figured out how to better sell ads. Like Facebook, YOU ARE NOT THE CUSTOMER, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. The advertiser is the customer.

Update - I have switched to DuckDuckGo and am getting good results so far...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:10 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 20, 2012

Apple Wants YOU To Fix Their Maps

The new Maps app in iOS6 is just terrible. Embarrassing. It is just corporate greed -- they dropped Google so they could get ad dollars for themselves -- while making the customer experience worse for us. (Another example, the smaller connector. Yes, they needed a new connector, no they do not need to charge us $30 for a little adapter -- $40 for one with a little wire! That is just squeezing the customer, nothing else, just corporate greed.)

Here is how YOU are supposed to help Apple fix their maps, so they can make ad dollars instead of Google: How to add a location or report a problem in iOS 6 Maps.

They call this "crowdsourcing" but really it is having the crowd work for free and then harvesting the returns for themselves.

Hey, here's an idea: give the people who help fix the maps some of the hundreds of millions that will be made selling $30-$40 adapters!

This has really turned me off from Apple products. Coming on the heels of the stories about how the slaves in China are treated, this really does undo the positive feelings I had about the brand.

Looking seriously at Android phones, tablets, maybe even Windows 8. (Well - talk about negative brands and corporate greed, though... Microsoft?)

P.S. Apple Maps uses Yelp for info about businesses. That's the company that allegedly shakes down business owners along the lines of: you pay us, people see good reviews but if you don't pay us, people see bad reviews. Talk about negative brand associations, wow.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:26 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

iPhone Map Fail

I downloaded iOS 6, the maps app is SO BAD that I am thinking of cancelling my iPhone 5 order, moving off iPhone ecosystem.

Update: see Apple Wants YOU To Fix Their Maps

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:25 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 2, 2012

Spam

Hey I just checked my Gmail spam filter, and so far today I'm already at about 300 spam emails! And it's noon.

What is going on? I remember it went away for a while...

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:22 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

May 6, 2012

Facebook Valued At Up To $96B For IPO

Facebook valuing itself at up to $96 billion in IPO,

Facebook Inc., the world’s most popular social-networking site, is valuing itself at as much as $96 billion in its initial public offering, the largest on record for an Internet company.

One question -- how soon will I be able to buy "puts?"

I think I know a bubble when I see one.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:14 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

February 23, 2012

The New Awful Google

Google keeps "improving" their searches. So now you just can't get what you need. Here is an example. Search for the following: foreign money donated to super pac.

Google now thinks that recent results are better, so you get page after page after page of links to what is really just the same news story. I gave up at page 31 of results...

Useless.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:35 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 13, 2012

Advertising Facebook For Free?

Why do so many websites advertise Facebook for free? When you see a "Connect with us on Facebook" or "Like us on Facebook" widget, that is a free advertisement. Facebook does have competitors, and these websites are just helping Facebook dominate and a few people get rich -- for free.

Facebook should be paying people to put these on their websites. Twitter, too.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:32 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 12, 2012

Google Getting Hard To Use - Bad Results

Have you noticed that Google is getting harder to use, and is providing poor results? I seriously need something like the old Google for research -- is there anything out there I can use?

Serious question, need to change I think.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:36 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 29, 2011

My Silicon Valley Experience

Dave Winer, in Scripting News: So you want to be an entrepreneur describes my own Silicon Valley experience, too,

I used to be a Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Back in the day, you made a product, put it in a box, put the box through distribution, helped retailers sell it, got back a little money, paid your employees, and hoped there would be enough to make some more product, boxes, etc.

If you weren't one of the BigCo's the distributors would play games with your money. Eventually the games got so sophisticated, they had it worked out so you owed them more money than you made, so there was no way to get ahead. Unless you were one of the Big Ones. But even they hit the wall, and the software-in-a-box business went by the wayside.

A few people got rich from that. Yes, it was a bubble. What you got paid for was not your ability to make money. But, rather the ability of the VCs to sell Wall Street on whatever it is they sold them on back then. We were part of the whole system that eventually hit the wall with Credit Default Swaps and huge bailouts and unrepentant bankers. There was a trickle-down. The closer you were to someone who actually made something, the less you got paid. You read that right, the less you got paid. I'll repeat it. If you made something you got paid less.

Please go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:16 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 16, 2011

Back To Chrome

Yesterday I wrote that I was switching away from Chrome to Firefox because Chrime crashed so often, and there was a new version of Firefox out.

Whoa - Firefox 8 was just awful! There was this noticeable lag time for everything, the interface is not convenient, and it just felt awkward. Especially when writing posts. Slow, catchy, sometimes it didn't even sense that I was typing...

So back to Chrome, hoping it will stop crashing all the time.

I'll try Safari soon, and report back.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:44 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

November 15, 2011

Switching Back To Firefox

After a very long run I have given up on Chrome and am switching back to Firefox. Chrome was crashing too often, becoming worse and worse. Let's see how Firefox does, now that it is at version 8...

And have you noticed that google is getting harder and harder to use, and not giving good results anymore?????

What's up with this company?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:55 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

November 3, 2011

Google Sucks Now

I've been meaning to write about how Google is getting worse and worse, and Atrios beat me to it: Eschaton: Oy

Have you noticed that it is getting harder and harder to get the info you want from Google?


Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:48 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 20, 2011

Netflix = New Coke

As I wrote yesterday, I think the reason Netflix has lost 1 million customers is that most of their customers do not yet know that anything has changed.

In 1985 the Coca Cola company, sitting on the #1 brand in the world, with a spectacular product, loyal customers and spectacular sales, decided to scrap the product and come up with a new formula. They called it "New Coke." It didn't work out, and is remembered as one of the biggest business mistakes of all time.

In 2011, having dominated the competition, Blockbuster having gone through bankruptcy, spectacular market share growth, sales growth and stock somewhere around 300 decided that being an American company and all it was too obviously being good to its customers. Netflix announced a huge price increase, and then announced they are going to make it impossible for customers to continue to do business with them by splitting the company into two separate companies, with two separate websites.

I guess it's possible that the Board and CEO could be replaced, and they go back to being the Netflix that was successful... but in the meantime there is Blockbuster, Amazon Prime (includes free 2-day shipping on all Amazon purchases), Hulu, Redbox, Comcast has XFinity, I don't know what ATT does, etc.

I mean, can you imagine being at Redbox or Blockbuster, sitting around wondering what you're going to do, and hearing these announcements? I mean, like winning the lottery?

Don't leave a comment talking about how their business model required them to ... anything. Any business model that involves screwing the customers, giving them less for more money, making it harder to get what you want... just don't justify it. I don't want to hear it. This is so stupid, it is the epitome of how MBAs destroyed Silicon Valley.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:36 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

September 19, 2011

More Netflix

I don't care WHY Netflix changed its business model, I just know that as a customer I don't like it.

All over the web are stories about how the Netflix business model moves to the future, and their DVD business wasn't growing fast enough, the content providers were asking for more, etc... I do not care. If businesses want to try to make me conform to their business model, good luck with that. I don't care how brilliant or stupid their business model is, I care what they are doing for me, if they want my money.

I think the reason Netflix has lost 1 million customers is that most of their customers do not yet know that anything has changed. The website looks the same, you get your DVD, you can stream videos. And you probably don't look at your credit card statement.

But I hear they are going to change that soon. They are going to move the DVD service to another company, with a funny name, so you won't be able to get your DVDs anymore, and it won't tell you it is available as a stream, etc. THAT is when they will start to lose customers. Maybe all of them.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:32 PM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

Netflix Alternatives

Netflix had a good thing going, was making money, moving along OK. So they just had to fuck with it. Great.

We liked the deal that Netflix offered. We got one DVD at a time through the mail, and watched some streaming movies and TV shows, especially British TV shows, because the Tivo made it easy. It was nice while it lasted.

Then they suddenly raised the price a whopping 60%, no notice, just "Ha, Got Ya!!!" And then, to top it off, they are going to SPLIT OFF the DVD from the streaming.

So, OK, I'll be exploring the alternatives. I have Comcast, and they offer some stuff. Amazon has some stuff, Hulu has some stuff. Doesn't Blockbuster do this now, too?

I guess Netflix is trying to be this generation's "New Coke." (Look it up.)

Anyway I'll be looking and posting, and please leave alternatives in the comments.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:52 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 5, 2011

Social Justice: AT&T Plows Over Tenants’ Rights to save their iPhone Business in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley’s crown jewel, Palo Alto just got mowed down last evening by AT&T. To be specific AT&T effectively tied the hands of many of the City policymakers, and then plowed through the City Council and over 35 residents leaving their bodies scattered on the sidewalks in their wake. Using the big stick approach, they bullied and threatened action in the Federal court system if their addendum to their existing site permit was not approved; and the Council caved to the mighty sword sacrificing many of their downtown rental residents. Most troubling is that with these actions of passing this addendum for the mounting of two AT&T antennas on this residential building, this City Council may have set a precedent to severely limit tenants’ rights going forward in this particular city and longer term in the state. Commercial building owners may now have enlarged rights that grant them the ability to railroad their tenants with whatever side businesses they choose. If this decision by Palo Alto holds, California may be able to rewrite the Civil Codes that govern the rights granted to landlords by allowiing them to enter the premises far beyond the scope of maintenance and/or emergency. You see the only way to get to this balcony is by gaining access through the bedrooms of the residents.

Effectively this City Council has opened a hornet’s nest that may continue to sting them as this decision raises questions of social justice for over 40% of the City’s residents, of which over 70% are management or other professionals in the tech industry. We all know that we live in a society that is fraught with corporate collusion, fraud and bad behavior. Yet it is troubling to see this kind of reprehensible behavior in our own backyard without tacit consideration for the privacy, health and/or safety of the rental residents. Palo Alto is a city that is full of bright entrepreneurs willing to risk it all to create technologies that can change the world. Sadly, none of them signed up to give away their rights. Who would have thought that liberal Palo Alto, the place of big dreams, would sink to this level! Most importantly, what is to prevent other such activities that suggest some degree of collusion between the private and public sectors? Not much with this precedent setting action, huh? Will Palo Alto become a city that only protects their landed gentry? With this decision, they are certainly well on their way to solely protecting property owners over the serfs that rent.

Taking this further, can building owners throughout the City now run either brothels or daycare centers while residents are working during the day or evening? After all given this recently enacted City precedent – building owners now have the right to discount the objections of their tenants to cut whatever side deal that want. This means that building owners can engage in mixed use and side deals regardless of the vocal protests of their tenants. As outrageous as this may seem, this is the box that has been pried open with last evening’s decision and it may prove to a gift that keeps on giving. The young, the bright and the able may now choose to take their start-ups elsewhere and be treated far better in the short and longer term. Maybe there were bigger reasons that Facebook, the symbol of all that is good in Palo Alto, has chosen to jump ship and move to a neighboring city.

Note: This post will appear in other blogs.

Posted by Michelle at 1:50 PM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

August 25, 2009

The RealDVD Situation

I have been following the story of the lawsuit over RealDVD. Here are a few: Update on RealDVD vs MPAA, RealDVD and Movie Industry Again -- And Bob Barr, Too, MPAA vs RealDVD -- Why You Care, Times Change, Some Industries Don’t Want To

So here is recent news:

• On August 11th, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel granted the movie industry's request for a preliminary injunction barring the sale of RealDVD, software designed for copying a DVD to a computer hard drive for backup and portable personal use.

• The injunction was granted on the grounds that RealDVD, despite being one of the only commercial DVD-ripping software packages that respected copyright through use and copy restrictions, technically violated the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

See: Agonist: Movie Industry Bent on Killing Itself Like Music Industry Did,

I haven't blogged about this in a dog's age, but when I realized that Real DVD had lost in court to the movie industry, I had to post something.

. . . Sure enough, as anyone could have predicted, Judge Patel ruled against Real DVD and by extension, against fair use, freedom of information and ultimately against the interest of the very media companies she ruled in favor of. When 90% of U.S. consumers believe they should be able to make backup copies of the DVDs they purchase, its a futile battle to try to prevent them from doing so.

And just as with Napster, whose centralized servers potentially gave the music industry greater control of how music was distributed online, Judge Patel has ruled illegal a product made by a legitimate company that offers STRONGER copy protection than that used on DVDs.


See also: MyDD :: Stupid Laws Written by Lobbyists Do Long Term Damage

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:25 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

April 10, 2009

The Innovative Movie Industry

I have been writing about the MPAA vs RealDVD case.

MPAA vs RealDVD goes to court April 24. This is the movie industry trying to keep a program off the market because it lets you copy your own DVDs onto your own computer. It doesn’t let you distribute copies, just put them on your computer. The MPAA is suing under the terms of the DCMA copyright law –one of those laws that was lobbied (money changed hands) through Congress giving certain kinds of already-big corporations all kinds of rights that prevented new inventions and businesses from coming along and disrupting their sweet cash flows.

At ContentAgenda they're writing about a panel put on by the Electronic Frontier Foundation,

"That happens a lot in Congress," Barr added. “You have an industry, where they basically draft the statute--which is what happened with the DMCA--and then they start using it for all kinds of things that weren’t part of the original deal. And I wish sometimes that Congress wasn’t such a patsy for it."
Meanwhile the MPAA weighs in about the poll the other day, which found that people actually want to be able to copy their DVDs onto their computers. First, "The studios' claim: The poll was bought and paid for by download advocates, calling into question the survey's findings." Right. People don't want to be able to copy their DVDs onto their computers. We're dealing with responsive, innovative companies here. (Sort of like how at exactly 25 minutes and 32 seconds into a movie we get a car chase scene with the special effects raised to exactly 102 decibels, and then at 82 minutes and 48 seconds we get an emotional reconciliation between the 58-year-old male star and the 22-year-old former model playing the female love interest. Right.)

ANYway,

Said Angela Belden Martinez, MPAA's vice president for corporate communications, "We didn't need RealNetworks—who is in the fight of its life to defend its illegal RealDVD product in federal court—to sponsor a poll telling us that consumers of entertainment want to enjoy content when, where, and how they want it. The creators of film and television shows are energized by the opportunities that new technologies offer to consumers and have been tirelessly working in collaboration with innovators to deliver them. This includes the streaming of entire popular programs on successful sites like Hulu, one-click downloadable movies on iTunes, and capabilities that enable customers to keep a free and legal digital copy of their DVDs. We will work with anyone who can continue to help creators use new technologies that exceed consumer expectations and ensure a sustainable model that supports even greater creativity in the future."
Now, there is your hint. They aren't trying to stop RealDVD, they're trying to extort license fees from the company in exchange for dropping this expensive lawsuit.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:03 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

April 6, 2009

Update on RealDVD vs MPAA

I’ve been following on my blog the story of the movie industry (MPAA) lawsuit to keep RealDVD off the market and why you care. I wrote about business models,

“If this is about stopping people from watching their movies on their computer without having to have the actual DVD present, then MPAA is trying to fit customers into their business model, not the other way around.

[. . .] By holding up RealDVD MPAA may be trying to get the company to decide to just dcqapay them a license fee to get them off their back. If that is the case this isn't an argument over the definition of piracy at all, it is an abuse of the law and court system.”


A survey commissioned by the National Consumers League was released today and it found that an overwhelming number of DVD owners watch their DVDs on their computers (69%) and want to be able to save them on their computers (90%). Not only that but “more than a third said they’ve had to rebuy lost or damaged DVDs,” And for those with children that rose to 45%.

This is called a business opportunity. An overwhelming number of people want something and RealDVD has developed a product satisfies what those customers want. So you would think MPAA would be happy that a product is out there that promotes the idea of people buying DVDs and then using them the way they want to use them.

Where is the business case for the MIAA to object to this? The product doesn’t let people give copies of the DVDs to others to the harm to MPAA isn’t clear. Maybe the MPAA has a different kind of business model in mind: Instead of making a product that people want, they’re trying that other kind of business model – the one where you get the government to force someone to hand you money (or hand you money themselves.) Maybe they see RealDVD as a money-making opportunity in which Real reaches a “settlement” of giving MPAA a fee per unit sold?
It was recently announced that the case goes to court on April 24. So keep an eye out for that.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:20 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

March 11, 2009

RealDVD and Movie Industry Again -- And Bob Barr, Too

OK I'm back on the RealDVD thing again. And I can't believe I'm going to quote Bob Barr.

Yesterday Bob Barr was in my local paper with, Movie industry's shortsighted fight,

There is now unfolding in a federal court in San Francisco a lawsuit in which several major Hollywood movie studios are suing RealNetworks - a relatively small but successful company that develops and markets Internet communications technology - in an effort to prevent the company from selling a software product that simply enables consumers to copy their DVDs to their personal computers. If the studios are successful in this Goliath-against-David legal action, [Thomas] Edison's lesson in hard work will have been effectively reduced to, "genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent permission."
The movie industry is suing to keep RealDVD off the market, claiming it violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. In my opinion the DMCA was a bought-and-paid-for law in the first place, requiring computer and other consumer electronics companies to implement hardware controls that keep you from being able to do all kinds of things with digital media. (It's the law that lets RIAA sue kids and deceased grandmothers.) But, not satisfied with those restrictions, the movie industry is now trying to control technology that is clearly not covered by DMCA. RealDVD lets you copy a DVD onto your computer. You can't even make a copy of that. It think maybe this is all about the movie industry wanting to force the company to pay them royalties.

I wrote before about copyright protections, "Of course within reason this is necessary and proper." But that's within reason, this isn't. Barr writes, "the sky would not fall on the movie industry were it to back away from its unfortunate legal action against RealDVD." Amen.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:57 PM | Comments (2) | Link Cosmos

March 2, 2009

Watch Out For Wikipedia

Try this: start or edit a Wikipedia article that includes information that might be unfavorable to conservative corporate interests, perhaps in the area of tort reform (incl medical malpractice, etc) or trade/protectionism, etc. Try adding citations to studies that show that tort reform is a corporate-funded effort to keep people from being able to sue companies that harm them... I tried it and it was removed in a few minutes.

Or try to edit the entry on Protectionism, perhaps adding something like the words "unfair competition" as in protecting America jobs from unfair competition from countries that exploit workers. Someone did this the other day and the edit lasted a few minutes before it was removed because it changed the "long accepted definition of protectionism." In other words, the idea that our standard of living should be protected from competition using exploited workers is unfair goes against the corporate-interest meaning of the term.

Try editing entries covering other issues around trade, economics or corporate issues. See how long it takes before a pro-corporate viewpoint is returned to the article. Or add an article about a progressive organization. I added an article about the Commonweal Institute, and it was immediately removed, so I put another up and it was immediately flagged for removal. (I am working to save it...) An article about me - put up and edited by others - was also removed twice. The circumstances involved a professional "leading tort-reform advocate" -- while I'm the person who wrote this report about how the tort reform movement is involved with the corporate/conservative movement. Go figure.

This is a problem at Wikipedia. It is quite possible that there are people who are paid to show up and push Wikipedia to reflect a conservative, pro-corporate viewpoint. And why wouldn't this be the case as it is in so many other areas where corporate interests are affected? (I know of one corporate-funded conservative movement insider who spends much of the normal workday and evenings editing Wikipedia.) So it seems the Wikipedia organization may be unable to sufficiently police the site to keep this from happening, and to keep new people from having unpleasant experiences and being shouted down and driven away. There are so many areas of political life where conservatives shout down or intimidate everyone else until they give up and go away. Wikipedia is fast becoming one more.

This has real-world implications. Wikipedia shows up at the top of many if not most Google searches, and people tend to believe this means it is a reliable source. This positioning implies a public-interest responsibility for accuracy and objective presentation of material. On non-controversial topics Wikipedia is a very reliable and possibly the best source for information because over time the "wisdom of crowds" effect brings increased expertise to bear.

But like so many things today, in areas where corporate resources can be focused, the subject matter increasingly reflects the viewpoint that serves the interests of the few at the top. Wikipedia's prominence is the likely reason this conservative information-purging occurs. It is also the reason Wikipedia has a responsibility to do something about it.

(Edited a bit for clarity, focus.)

PS also see this about article deletions.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:59 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

February 2, 2009

What About Microsoft?

In today's NY Times: Justice Dept. Under Obama Is Preparing for Doctrinal Shift in Policies of Bush Years

Question: Will the Obama Justice Dept reverse the Bush DOJ's dropping the Microsoft case? Eight years ago, after the Clinton administration WON a major antitrust case against Microsoft the Bush administration came in and "settled" largely on Microsoft's terms. This signaled that the Bush administration was open for businesses, and that companies who payed up and helped fund the Republican lobbyist machine could expect favors. And the floodgates of corruption opened wide.

Now we have a new administration, and Microsoft still has a near-monopoly in operating systems and a total monopoly in office software. Little has changed. (Yes, Mac has a small share of OS, but even the Mac requires MS Office to be usable in business.)

Can the antitrust suit be revived?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:42 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

January 23, 2009

Times Change, Some Industries Don’t Want To

I wrote a post yesterday, MPAA vs RealDVD -- Why You Care, about the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)’s lawsuit to keep the product RealDVD off the market. This post is a continuation of that story.

The movie industry has had a good thing going. They put movies onto DVDs, and people have to have the actual DVD in order to watch the movie. There has even been a law passed called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that makes it illegal to sell hardware or software that lets people make copies of DVDs. This grants a monopoly on a revenue stream. As far as this works to promote creativity and innovation, and makes sure that people are paid for their work, this is a good and necessary use of government power. But keep in mind that this is a use of government power to direct a revenue stream to certain people, and therefore must be closely monitored because this creates an interest to prevent innovation as well as to promote it. It’s a good thing that MPAA naturally wants to keep going – a legal monopoly that forces people and companies to pay and pay and pay. Them.

Now a company has a product, RealDVD, that lets you copy your DVD onto your computer. Not to burn it and make copies for others, just for YOU to see it yourself. With products like this, if you get a scratch or lose your DVD, you can still watch it on your computer without having to buy the DVD again.

The MPAA has sued to keep the RealDVD technology from the public. They say RealDVD violates copyright law because it lets you see a movie that you purchased or rented even after it is transferred off of the DVD. This lawsuit denies the reality that today a movie is digitized. This is what a DVD really is, a place where the digitized file is kept. It can be on a USB drive or other device that can be copied, and the DMCA outlaws this. This digitization can bring tremendous flexibility to the user in how they can choose to see the movie. And it is the foundation for innovation that brings benefits to consumers. The MPAA lawsuit fights this innovation.Engadget says, “it's sadly clear to us that Hollywood's fight here is against consumers having flexibility with their media”.

If this is about stopping people from watching their movies on their computer without having to have the actual DVD present, then MPAA is trying to fit customers into their business model, not the other way around. This blocks innovation and is not filling the needs or solving the problems for customers -- this is making customers sacrifice to solve MPAA's problems. They are saying that because there might be a way that a product could be used to make illegitimate copies, customers should be assumed to be criminals and the innovation should be blocked.

But this suit may be be about the MPAA keeping control over innovation -- in other words it may be about MPAA abusing this law to press for license fees. This is not the purpose of copyright as spelled out in our Constitution. By holding up RealDVD MPAA may be trying to get the company to decide to just pay them a license fee to get them off their back. If that is the case this isn't an argument over the definition of piracy at all, it is an abuse of the law and court system. The purpose of copyright law is to promote innovation by making sure revenue flows to the innovator.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:33 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

January 22, 2009

MPAA vs RealDVD -- Why You Care

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is suing to stop RealPlayer's RealDVD from being sold to computer owners. RealDVD lets you make backup copies of your movie DVDs onto your computer. It doesn’t let you make new DVDs or share the files from your computer with others -- it just lets you keep for yourself a backup. MPAA says this means computer users “steal” movies.

Why do you care? This affects you because it is another case of big corporations using their ability to influence our government to gain financial advantages that cost us money and convenience.

The MPAA sues people and companies that they say are “stealing” their movies. Of course within reason this is necessary and proper. But in their efforts to protect movie company profits, MPAA has been going too far, acting similarly to the infamous Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the recording industry group that sues anyone they suspect may have downloaded a tune, in order to make an example of them. (See MPAA Sues Grandfather for $600,000. His 12-year-old son had downloaded a movie.)

But fear that people are “stealing” may not be the real reason behind this lawsuit. In Why Hollywood Hates RealDVD, Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Fred von Lohmann writes that this is about a strategy to force Real and others to pay license fees to MPAA when they come up with new technologies. He writes that MPAA’s position,

“. . . forces technology companies to enter into license agreements before they build products that can play movies. . . . Those license agreements, in turn, define what the devices can and can't do, thereby protecting Hollywood business models from disruptive innovation.”
This fight traces back to the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA limits how technology can be used, even limiting researchers from studying various kinds of computer encryption and other algorithms. Basically, it says that companies can’t make products that enable people to distribute their own copies of copyrighted material. Copyrighted music and movies contain code that tells the computer that this file can’t be copied, and computers and programs have to contain code that recognizes this.

Copyright, according to our constitution, is intended to "promot[ing] the progress of science and useful arts". The idea was to grant a legal monopoly on profiting from this kind of work for a few years to provide an incentive and reward for scientific research and creativity. This means the government uses its power to stop competition. As it applies to the arts this is how authors, musicians, filmmakers and others are able to make a living at all and that is why it is in the Constitution. But like so many corporate-inspired distortions of our laws and values in the last several years, the DMCA is primarily about benefiting big, established corporations and blocking rather than promoting innovation. In fact, when used like this it stifles innovation.

Something we have seen in recent years is businesses misusing legal tactics to increase profits. In other words, using their money-bought influence over our government to get special favors such as tax breaks, subsidies, grants of monopolies, “no-bid” contracts, etc.

Lawrence Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school's Center for Internet and Society. He teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, contracts, and the law of cyberspace. In 1999 he said, “This is law and code conspiring to tilt market forces quite decidedly in one direction rather than another.”

More recently Lessig has written

“. . . when the D.M.C.A. protects technology that in turn protects copyrighted material, it often protects much more broadly than copyright law does. It makes criminal what copyright law would forgive.”
So here we have MPAA suing to block people from being able to get the RealDVD program, which lets people keep a backup on their own computer in case their DVD gets scratched or lost. (Unless they pay MPAA licensing fees – wink wink, nod nod.) MPAA also wants to make people buy new DVDs. But people want to make backups in case they scratch or lose their DVDs.

This case comes to court soon, keep an eye on it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:06 AM | Comments (1) | Link Cosmos

December 14, 2008

Nuclear Power

We may be approaching climate change tipping points, where the amount of warming to date causes increases in warming that can't be stopped. For example, Arctic ice reflects sunlight back into space. But as that ice melts the sunlight is not reflected, which further warms the planet, melting even more ice. As Siberian temperatures warm CO2 is released from the permafrost, which increases the warming.

One alternative to carbon-based fossil fuels is nuclear power. We can close coal plants that put CO2 in the air by opening nuclear power plants. But nuclear power plants create very dangerous waste, and we don't know how to safely store it. So it is possible that one day this waste might cause very serious problems. We can temporarily store it today, but it is possible that this waste can one way or another escape storage and harm people.

But here's the thing. The waste from burning fossil fuels is literally destroying the planet's climate today. We are simply putting it in the air, not safely storing it.

So the question is, do we offset waste that we are putting in the air today, that is destroying the climate today, with the potential future problems of waste from nuclear power plants?

Of course we need to be doing everything we can with wind, solar and other alternatives. But I believe that it is imperative that we stop climate change and we should be building nuclear plants as well.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 6:46 PM | Comments (9) | Link Cosmos

December 8, 2008

Google Gone?

I can't get to Google. Wow. It just disappeared. Is anyone else experiencing this?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:05 AM | Comments (0) | Link Cosmos

June 23, 2008

Speak Out California Is Back Up And Running!

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.

One day your website is yours, and the next day it is someone else's. Organizations, businesses and regular people are at the mercy of a confusing deregulated system.

A little over a week ago the Speak Out California website suddenly disappeared, and viewers instead saw a website full of advertisements.

We had no way of even knowing what had happened. It was just a surprise. One day typing "speakoutca.org" into a web browser took viewers to our website, the next day it took viewers to an ad site that someone else managed.

Some of us are more sophisticated and internet-savvy than most citizens so we were eventually able to track down some information. I'm not going into details here, except to say that no one at Speak Out California received any notice that this was going to happen. It took several days to even track down where the domain name (this is what internet addresses like speakoutca.org are called) had been registered, who had registered it, and contact info for the registrar. Then it took several more days to restore the domain name to us and get it working again.

Here's the thing: the only way we were able to get this name back and get the site operating again is because some of us are much more internet-connected than most people. Most people would have no idea where to even start to look for information and help solving a problem like this.

This is certainly not an uncommon problem. My wife had a business named Dancing Woman Designs with a website at dancingwomandesigns.com, and then one day she didn't. She received no notice, nothing. It was just there one day and gone the next and if she wanted it back it was going to cost her. It was going to cost her a lot. And so she doesn't have dancingwomandesigns.com anymore and that address takes you to an ad site. A whole business that took years to get going and build is history now. It was wiped out in a minute because someone was able to get the web name.

A larger business is more likely to have the resources to hire the necessary experts to fight something like this. But it can be an expensive proposition and it can take time.

This is the difference between regulation and deregulation. Regulations protect regular people. Deregulation enables and protects scammers, schemers, and cons. The Internet is largely unregulated and is full of scammers, schemers and cons. Most of the businesses and organizations on the internet are good, honest, credible and legitimate but regular people are also left completely at the mercy of numerous cons, scams, schemes and rip-offs and the burden is on us to find a way to tell the difference.

We got Speak Out California back up and running. It only took us a week and a little money. But we are sophisticated, internet-savvy and connected -- and lucky. Hmm ... maybe some new legislation is warranted.

Click through to Speak Out California

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 15, 2008

Bush Authoritarianism Opens HUGE Corporate Security Problem

The Bush administration insists on the right to search and download to keep the contents of any memory device or hard drive taken across a border. That means that the government can now make copies of any laptop hard drive or "thumb drive" crossing the U.S. border.

Travel group warns: Corporate data at risk from laptop searches at border,

Companies need to review their policies to see if such searches will cause privacy problems for them or their customers, she said.

"For example, if you are carrying personnel information on your laptop, there are certain privacy violations that can ensue" if that data is accessed and downloaded as part of a border search, Gurley said. Other kinds of sensitive and proprietary information -- including intellectual property -- can sometimes be exposed via such searches, she said.

Many companies, especially in Europe, are having compliance officers look at the broader implications of such searches and have begun curtailing the kind of information their executives can carry on their laptops when traveling to the U.S, she said.

You can just imagine that big Republican corporate donors will see an opportunity here to get competitive info. "YCorp's patent guy is crossing the border at 11. Get us all the data on his hard drive." And if you and I can imagine it, you can be sure that YCorps' people are thinking about it, too.

So as a result of this every single corporate employee in the world is going to have to clean up everything on every device that might cross an American border. And this kind of cleanup is not easy. It is cumbersome, inconvenient, expensive, and might not be enough. I can foresee policies requiring installing fresh hard drives before any travel. (This includes Canada and Mexico.

All of a sudden corporate cronyism isn't looking so good to all those corporate types.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 29, 2008

Domain Name Scam

I checked a domain name to see if it is available. Network Solutions' Whois says it is available. So I go to my web hosting service to register it and set up a site, and they say it isn't available. I check the Whois there and it says Network Solutions registered the name FOR ITSELF right after I checked it.

What a scam. If you CHECK a domain name, they immediately take it, assuming it has some value. And, being Network Solutions they can do that without paying for it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

December 27, 2007

DownWithTyranny Banned In Burma!

Go read the whole thing: DownWithTyranny!: Update to Howie's post from Myanmar: NO MORE POSTS FROM MYANMAR,

Let's suppose you're a functionary working for a tinpot dictatorship, and you hear tell of a website called "DownWithTyranny." Do you:

(a) E-mail your friends saying, "Hmm, this sounds way cool"?

(b) Read some back posts, adding snarky comments reflecting the pro-tyrannical point of view?

(c) Block the shit out of the damn thing?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 26, 2007

GPS Question

A question - do any readers have experience with a GPS unit? I'm thinking of buying one. I have received many recommendations for a Garmin, but Costco has a good deal on a Magellan 4250 which has AAA Tour Guidebooks in it as well as lots of points of interest.

Do any readers have any suggestions?

Update - I bought a Magellan 4250 at Costco. I used it for an hour and it froze four times and wouldn't turn on one time until I pushed a pin into the reset hole (like on a PalmPilot), so I returned it. I think I'll order a Garmin Nuvi 360 from Amazon, going for the smaller screen so it is easy to carry when walking in a city... Any comments?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:16 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 23, 2007

Blank Paper Utility

At last, the product we all have been waiting for: Blank Paper Utility!

When you need a blank sheet of paper, use this product!

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 17, 2007

Gmail

Is it just me or is Gmail down everywhere?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 17, 2007

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 22, 2006

Cute - Tells Me Nothing

I'm reading this thing at HP about their DLP HDTVs. Take a look at this too-cute passage:

What is resolution-doubling technology?

Resolution-doubling technology is an HP resolution-enhancement innovation that doubles digital projection displays without increasing the cost of the projector or television. It's also called "wobulation."

What is wobulation?

Wobulation is an HP resolution-enhancement innovation that doubles digital projection displays without increasing the cost of the projector or television. It's also called "resolution-doubling technology."

Couldn't the writer have just said "I don't know" and gone and ASKED someone what it is?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

November 1, 2006

Today's Voting Machines Story - A Good Ad

This is an ad for California Secretary of State candidate Debra Bowen

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 26, 2006

Today's Voting Machines Story

Ars Technica is an online magazine for techies. They're covering the voting machines fiasco.

How to steal an election by hacking the vote,

What if I told you that it would take only one person—one highly motivated, but only moderately skilled bad apple, with either authorized or unauthorized access to the right company's internal computer network—to steal a statewide election?

[. . .] Thanks the recent and rapid adoption of direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines in states and counties across America, the two scenarios that I just outlined have now become siblings (perhaps even fraternal twins) in the same large, unhappy family of information security (infosec) challenges. Our national election infrastructure is now largely an information technology infrastructure, so the problem of keeping our elections free of vote fraud is now an information security problem. If you've been keeping track of the news in the past few years, with its weekly litany of high-profile breeches in public- and private-sector networks, then you know how well we're (not) doing on the infosec front.

The article goes into technical detail on how to accomplish the theft of an election. But then,

Finally, it's extremely important to note that, in the absence of a meaningful audit trail, like that provided by voter-verified paper receipts, it is virtually impossible to tell machine malfunction from deliberate vandalism. Pioneering election security researcher Rebecca Mercuri has told me that she's actually much more concerned about "disenfranchisement of voters due to the strategic denial-of-service that currently masquerades as malfunctions," than she is about "manipulation of election equipment and data files in order to alter election outcomes, although both remain problematic."

When you have a rash of voting machines that have their memories wiped, their votes erased, or their number of votes mysteriously inflated; when you have reports of machines that crash or refuse to respond; when many machines record a vote for the wrong candidate—all of this could just as plausibly be construed as evidence of fraud as it could be of spontaneous malfunction, because there's simply no way to tell the difference in most cases.

And, toward the end,
In conclusion, let me summarize what I hope you'll take home with you after reading this article and thinking about its contents:

* Bits and bytes are made to be manipulated; by turning votes into bits and bytes, we've made them orders of magnitude easier to manipulate during and after an election.
* By rushing to merge our nation's election infrastructure with our computing infrastructure, we have prematurely brought the fairly old and well-understood field of election security under the rubric of the new, rapidly evolving field of information security.
* In order to have confidence in the results of a paperless DRE-based election, you must first have confidence in the personnel and security practices at these institutions: the board of elections, the DRE vendor, and third-party software vendor whose product is used on the DRE.
* In the absence of the ability to conduct a meaningful audit, there is no discernable difference between DRE malfunction and deliberate tampering (either for the purpose of disenfranchisement or altering the vote record).


Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

October 13, 2006

A Software Question - Sony Clie

I have a question that maybe someone can answer. As you know I am reconstrcuting a hard drive. Does anyone know how to find the Palm Desktop that works with a Sony Clie SJ22? If I install regular Palm Desktop, will that do the HotSync with a Sony Clie or not?

And for years others with this problem can read your answer here after searching on Google.

Update -- Installing the software for my wife's Palm Zire worked just fine.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 3:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

September 15, 2006

Net Neutrality

Watch Sen. Ted Kennedy supports Net Neutrality and rate it up so more people see it.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 7:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 10, 2006

Update on Spam

I made a mistake in the numbers. I wrote yesterday that I'm getting about 8,000 spam e-mails since turning off my filters for a few days. Well, for the heck of it I didn't delete any spam for 24 hours, and checked the number. The number as of right now is 18,044, about 170 MB.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

July 9, 2006

Spam

I have a number of spam traps set up on nuthouse.com, to filter and delete unwanted e-mails. I'm testing to see if I am missing any e-mails, and turned off the spam filters for a few days to see what is filtered.

So it turns out I am getting about 8,000 spam e-mails a day now! I filled up a gig and a half mailbox on about a week. So yes I'll be turning it back on! With the filters on I only get maybe 20-40 spams a day now.

So what percentage of Internet traffic is spam now? 90%? Sheesh. What would our costs and response times be if this weren't happeneing? Is this the blessed "deregulation" that Republicans praise?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

June 5, 2006

Social Network Analysis - Quiz Tomorrow

I have been studying Social Network Analysis lately. (Much more here and here.)

This is the study of interactions in groups, discovering who the key people are who hold the group together and get the group doing things. If you track this with sophisticated computer software you can learn some very interesting things. In politics, think of the value of knowing who are the key people for reaching and influencing large numbers of voters...


What special role does Susan play in this group? And Claudia?

So read up, there WILL be a test.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:24 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 31, 2006

The Death of The Internet

A clip to watch, on Net Neutrality.

If you let the big corporations decide what you get to see on the Internet, you won't be able to see anyting but Rush Limbaugh.

Do you think I'm kidding? Turn on your radio and listen to what happened there.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 8:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 30, 2006

Other People Noticed

May 17 I left a comment to the May 13 post titled, Net Neutrality and the Blogad, saying,

Readers - I can't verify whether these anti-regulation posts are from the same person or not. If not, it might show the kind of money being put into this campaign to simulate "grassroots."
It looks like I wasn't the only one with questions.

MyDD :: Fishy Commenters and Net Neutrality links to this post, Do Broadband Providers Employ Blog Comment Shills? which notices the same thing.

Over the past four or five months, I’ve noticed that a group of commenters to blog posts related to network neutrality tend to say the same things over and over again. What’s interesting is that there’s a core group of the same commenters that show up time and again saying the same things (although not always phrased the same way) repeatedly.
At MyDD, Matt writes,
There's nothing wrong with commercial speech, and it's even questionable that financial disclosures are terribly important. But hanging around in comment threads pretending to be a gang of ordinary citizens commenting on an issue while actually operating as a paid lobbying or marketing operation is probably over some unstated ethical line.
What do YOU think?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 4:31 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 25, 2006

They're Going To Ban BuzzFlash

Update -- WE WON! Go read.


The Republicans are trying to "deregulate" the Internet. They're about to allow the big telecommunications companies to decide which websites their customers (YOU) can and can't see. This is what "Net Neutrality" is about. If you are against letting big companies decide what websites you can see, that means you are in favor of Net Neutrality.

MAKE NO MISTAKE about what this will mean. In the 1980s the Republicans "deregulated" radio and television by getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine and allowing a few big companies to buy up all the stations, and now you can't turn on the radio without hearing that conservatives are good and liberals are bad. And you will not ever see a representative of organized labor on your television telling you about the benefits of joining a union. In the South the ONLY viewpoint you ever hear is the Republican Party viewpoint. MAKE NO MISTAKE about what "deregulating" the Internet will mean. It means they will ban BuzzFlash, and DailyKos, and Digby and any other voice that speaks out against the corporate takeover of your country.

Here is what you can do today. Matt Stoller has a post up at MyDD with a list of members of Congress to call TODAY. Matt says

Urge them to support the bipartisan Sensenbrenner-Conyers Net Neutrality bill (HR 5417) in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday -- and to support it without amendment. Saying without amendment is key.
Here is the list:

Howard Berman (D-Calif. 28th)
Phone: 202-225-4695
Fax: 202-225-3196

William Delahunt (D-Mass. 10th)
Phone: (202) 225-3111
Fax: (202) 225-5658

Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas 18th)
(202) 225-3816 phone
(202) 225-3317 Fax

Marty Meehan (D-Mass. 5th)
Phone: (202) 225-3411
Fax: (202) 226-0771

Bobby Scott (D-Va. 3rd)
Phone: (202) 225-8351
Fax: (202) 225-8354

Chris Van Hollen (D-Md. 8th)
Phone: (202) 225-5341
Fax: (202) 225-0375

Maxine Waters (D-Calif. 35th)
Phone: (202) 225-2201
Fax: (202) 225-7854

Mel Watt (D-N.C. 12th)
Tel. (202) 225-1510
Fax (202) 225-1512

Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y. 9th)
Phone: (202) 225-6616
Fax: (202) 226-7253

Robert Wexler (D-Fla. 19th)
phone: (202) 225-3001
fax: (202) 225-5974

Posted by Dave Johnson at 5:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 13, 2006

Net Neutrality and the Blogad

There's an ad in the right column that reads "Don't Regulate the Internet." This ad comes from the telecoms/internet service providers who want to be able to decide which websites - and blogs - they will let you see. I initially rejected the ad, until I was reminded that I complain when TV networks reject ads because they disagree with the viewpoint. So I decided to take ATT's money -- and let you know what they're up to. I also linked to MoveOn's campaign, and put up a free Save the Internet ad. Go visit them.

Matt Stoller writes about this,

This time it's a negative hit piece, backed by a massive blogad campaign. The telcos, so you know, are spending millions of dollars a week on this fight. This ad is an example of it, repeating the lie that the government had no role in the internet's success and that bloggers are a bunch of irresponsible rabble.

... The ad makes a couple of claims. One, that web site operators don't pay for the internet. That is a lie. They pay massive sums of money for bandwidth, on the order of $10 billion last year alone. So does the public in tax subsidies for telecom companies, perhaps as high as $200 billion over the years (though it's hard to tell with all the mergers and weird accounting). Yes, that you read that right. Two, they claim they have never degraded a web site or service. Of course, executives for these companies are on record discussing their plans to do precisely that. The telco sponsored legislation would strip the FCC from being able to deal with degraded service or blocked web sites. Three, the telecom companies claim that net neutrality means intrusive government regulation. This claim is a bit harder to unpack, but it's worth following me here since what they are saying is in fact 180 degrees from the truth.

Go read the rest.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:09 AM | Comments (15) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

May 2, 2006

New Telecom Bill

How many remember the 1996 Telecom Bill? This was the "deregulation" bill that dramatically increased cable TV rates and increased concentration of owership of media outlets.

Well, they're at it again, this time going after your right to record radio and TV broadcasts: Net neutrality missing from sweeping telecom bill,

ncluded in the massive proposal is, however, one requirement sure to please the recording industry: authorization for the FCC to start the process of outlawing digital over-the-air radio and digital satellite receivers sold today that permit users to record broadcasts. Those would be supplanted with receivers that will treat as copy-protected anything with an "audio broadcast flag" in the future.

... His legislation would order the FCC to ban digital TV tuners, such as ElGato's EyeTV 500, that let users record over-the-air broadcasts and save them without copy protection.

Also in the bill, changes that would allow telecom companies to control what you see on the internet:
Net neutrality, for instance, has become a rallying cry recently for Internet and software firms and liberal advocacy groups (and even one or two conservative ones) that say strict FCC regulations are necessary to protect the Internet. Net neutrality refers to the idea of the federal government preventing broadband providers from favoring some Web sites or video streams' connection speeds over others.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:56 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 9, 2006

Buying Music Online

My wife said this the other day:

"I will never buy another album online again. I feel ripped off. All I got are some lines on my iTunes. When I buy a CD I have the CD and I can do what I want with it. I don't want to look at pictures of albums someone is trying to get me to buy. I don't want anything where people are trying to get me to buy something and I don't want to pay another subscription fee. I want to see and feel the music I have."
That was all BEFORE what happened last night.

My wife is in a belly-dance troupe and they rehearse at our house. Each week she burns a CD of the night's dance music and puts in into the little stereo in the rehearsal room because the speakers are loud enough for the dance practice, and the buttons for replay, advance, etc. are easy to use. But last night the computer refused to make the CD. It said she had already burned seven CDs with a certain tune on them. She had purchased the album containing that tune at iTunes. 'Rented' might be a better term than purchased, I guess. Or maybe I should say that she was alowed to listen to it a few times, for her money.

Do I need to add that now she is even less thrilled with the idea of getting her music online?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 10:26 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

February 2, 2006

End of an era

Western Union Stops Sending Telegrams

I've never sent a telegram in my life, nor received one, to my knowledge... but I still think this is worth noting.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at 6:57 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 24, 2006

Microsoft Campaign Check is Late

Here's a huge surprise: Microsoft lags in antitrust compliance, U.S. says,

Microsoft is falling behind in meeting certain obligations under its antitrust agreement with the U.S. government, the Bush administration said.
Of course, this being the Bush administration, this only means that Microsoft has fallen behind in its payments to the Republican Party.

A question, has the Bush administration "settlement" - effectively letting Microsoft off the hook in the anti-trust case after the Government had won in court - led to increased competition? Increased investment in companies trying to compete?

Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 5, 2006

Warp Drive

What do you think about this? Welcome to Mars express: only a three hour trip,

The theoretical engine works by creating an intense magnetic field that, according to ideas first developed by the late scientist Burkhard Heim in the 1950s, would produce a gravitational field and result in thrust for a spacecraft.

Also, if a large enough magnetic field was created, the craft would slip into a different dimension, where the speed of light is faster, allowing incredible speeds to be reached. Switching off the magnetic field would result in the engine reappearing in our current dimension.

See also here for more details.

Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:07 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

January 1, 2006

Clipper Chip Again Again

We now know that the Bush administration is scanning every conversation and e-mail with computers, looking for interesting information, and doing this without warrants or any other kind of legal authorization. (Note - The Bush people say they are only scanning communications into and out of the country, and say they are only looking for "terrorists.") So I have been looking back at President Clinton's controversial "Clipper Chip" proposal. This was a standardized chip that would go into computers and phones and would encrypt (securely code) every message and call made by anyone in the US, so no one could eavesdrop.

Opponents said the Clipper Chip would have led to the government monitoring our communications. I say it would have prevented what is happening now, and that is why the Right mounted a campaign of disinformation to kill it.

In the comments to Clipper Chip Again, Alice (of the great blog GOTV) wrote,

Essentially the clipper chip would have given the NSA a back door into every computer in the US. For that reason alone it would have killed our computer industry. It also would have been the defacto end of the fourth amendment.
And later
Under Clinton's proposal the legal requirements for wiretap would have been untouched. However, the idea that you would put something like that in place and future governments would respect it is laughable. Besides, who is going to buy IT equipment from the US if it is known that it all comes with a NSA compatible clipper chip? The end of any exports we might have.
I think this reflects a very high level of disinformation that was spread about this initiative. (Disinformation spread by Republicans! Imagine that!) (Update - I certainly don't mean Alice, I mean what she wrote reflects what people were led to believe.)

Today, no one needs a "back door" of any kind to monitor our e-mails or phone calls because no phones or computers have encryption built in. Anyone can currently listen in on any voice or email communications in. Not just our government -- anyone. That is WHY Bush is able to scan every email and phone communication. Again, computer and phone communications are wide open NOW because there is no encryption whatsoever. Once more, just to make it clear, with the system we have in place now ANYONE can tap into ANY conversation without requiring any "back door." And currently there are non-American business and intelligence interests doing just that.

The Clipper Chip was a device that would be built into every computer and phone. It would have SECURED all voice and email communications by encrypting them before they went out over the wires. It would have made EVERY voice and e-mail communication impossible to tap. The reason this is needed is because non-American business and intelligence interests ARE listening in.

But this high level of security on every single call and email would have prevented law enforcement from being able to listen in, even with a warrant. And we want law enforcement to be able to eavesdrop on bad guys, like terrorists - and corrupt guys like Abramoff - as long as they get warrants first. So Clinton proposed a complicated system for placing the "keys" to unlock the messages that each chip encoded in escrow, for use when a warrant is obtained. The system was complicated because there were several steps involved in keeping anyone from getting any chip's key without a warrant. However there would have been nothing to prevent people from encrypting messages themelves before it went through the Clipper Chip, so even with the keys the government would not be able to eavesdrop on those communications any more than they can eavesdrop now on encrypted messages.

But there is another thing about this idea of people being able to do their own encrypting of messages before they went out through the Clipper Chip. Currently anyone using encryption stands out just because they are using encryption when no one else is. This actually makes them targets of surveillance because encrypted messages stand out in the flow of voice and e-mail. Of course, spy agencies want to look at those encrypted messages in particular to see why the senders think they need to keep others from listening in. So these messages are singled out and sent to powerful computers for analysis. But WITH the Clipper chip there would be no way for interested parties to know who was adding their own encryption, so they would not know who to focus in on.

I found a good summary of the Clipper Chip initiative at this web page. It summarized the arguments against the initiative as follows: (Keep in mind as you read them that without such a device NO communications are secure and anyone can tap in.)

Privacy and Security Concerns

  • Failed to protect privacy rights of individuals. Placing sensitive private keys in the hands of the government violated the privacy of individuals. Moreover, procedures to obtain keys raised concerns. To obtain access to a key, the law enforcement official would have had to obtain a warrant to perform a wiretap. However, they were permitted to fax a request to the key escrow agents merely claiming to have a warrant, without having to present actual documentation of the wiretapping order. Furthermore, there were no requirements for the destruction of the key after wiretapping was completed. Obtaining the key would have allowed those law enforcement officials to access all conversations for as long as that particular phone was operational.
  • Created risky key escrow system. The Clipper Chip initiative proposed placing all keys for all encrypted communications into the hands of only two or three agencies. This scenerio provided an opportunity for corruption and abuse of power.
  • Used potentially insecure algorithm. The encoding algorithm, known as "Skipjack", was developed in secret by the National Security Agency (NSA). Cryptographic experts viewed the secrecy surrounding Skipjack with skepticism, because algorithms are usually submitted for peer review to identify weaknesses. On June 24, 1998, the NSA finally declassified Skipjack.
  • Violated principles behind Computer Security Act of 1987. Congress passed the Computer Security Act in 1987, limiting the role of the NSA in developing standards for civilian communications. Despite this law, the NSA was still integrally involved in developing the Clipper Chip, a civilian communications device.
  • So here we are. Opponents said that the Clipper initiative would have led to the government listening in on our communications. And now the government IS listening in on our communications. So I guess it is all Clinton's fault again.

    But what gets me about this is that it is the people who blocked the Clipper Chip who are now listening in on our calls and e-mails. And they can do it because there is no Clipper Chip. In 1997 then-Senator John Ashcroft said of Clipper,

    "The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad -- all in the name of national security. To accomplish this, President Clinton would like government agencies to have the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications."
    Read his whole speech and keep in mind as you read it that that the communications he is talking about were and are NOT encrypted, so there is nothing to decode. And also remember that Ashcroft was Bush's Attorney General when Bush started the government listening in on our calls and e-mails, which they could do BECAUSE there is no Clipper Chip. Ashcroft was accusing Clinton of proposing the opposite of what Clinton was proposing, and of what Ashcroft himself DID do once in office.

    A note about the keys - EVERY encryption system uses keys. So the question is, where do you want to get your encryption system from? A major corporation? The Japanese or Chinese? Or a system the government guarantees no one can listen to without a warrant?

    Update - I've been digging around for who led the opposition to Clipper. Ashcroft was the leader in the Congress. Here's a transcript from a show on Clipper on Pat Robertson Christian Coalition's 700 Club, (keep in mind while reading this, the chip would have encrypted every comunication, while phones and computers as they were and are are completely open to anyone listening in)

    ...And if you're a big fan of large government, this tiny computer chip could now give the government, Big Brother, instant access to every detail of your private life.

    [. . .] Privacy advocates like Jerry Berman point out the government has been known to spy on citizens when it believes they hold dangerous political opinions.

    From the Libertarian Reason Online,

    ...In February, the administration officially adopted "Clipper Chip" technology that will make it possible for government agencies to read all coded telephone and computer communications.

    ... Although the administration maintains that any back-door access offered by the Clipper Chip will require a court order and the use of two digital keys kept by separate, still-to-be-determined federal agencies, past governmental abuses of less-sophisticated surveillance techniques undercut any guarantees of privacy.

    ... Even if the NSA's role is not contrary to the letter of the law, it remains profoundly unsettling to see the Clinton administration embrace a technology as insidious as it is highly classified. One of the great achievements of the United States has been an unparalleled freedom of expression, not just between citizens and government but among private individuals. The Clipper Chip, with its potential for unlimited and undetectable eavesdropping, threatens the free flow of information that is the precondition of all democratic societies. Who can talk freely--or conduct business--with a third party listening in?

    Once citizens cannot talk openly among themselves, they cannot speak openly in public, either. As George Orwell pointed out in 1984, the mere possibility of extensive governmental surveillance curtails individual liberty: "They could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

    NewsMax,
    The Clipper chip contained advanced "key recovery" surveillance technology, allowing the government to secretly tap phone conversations and monitor computer communications.
    NewsMax again,

    Al Gore wanted to be Big Brother. In 1993, Vice President Al Gore spearheaded a project called "Clipper" which was designed to monitor America. Gore's leadership in this scheme to allow the Feds to have easy access to bug American telephones is all too well documented for him to deny.
    Lots of stuff like this,
    In 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno tasked Mr. Hubbell to encryption under the CLIPPER encryption chip project. Hubbell had access to highly classified materials on encryption chip design, including algorithms and software. Hubbell met often in the White House with now CIA Director George Tenet on the CLIPPER project.

    According to a Republican Capitol Hill staff member the "NSA does not want Hubbell investigated." The NSA has quietly threatened to "out any congressional member like (Congressman) Burton" who mentions Hubbell with encryption and China.

    ... NASA administrator Benita Cooper wrote in 1993 that "compromise of the NSA keys, such as in the Walker case, could compromise the entire EES (CLIPPER) system." Ms. Cooper at NASA knew convicted spy John Walker sent tons of materials on U.S. secret code systems to Russia for years during the Cold War. One breach of CLIPPER in a NASA computer could kill many and ruin the agency.

    In 1994 President Clinton began personally authorizing the export of advanced, nuclear hardened, encryption technology directly to communist China.


    Posted by Dave Johnson at 2:31 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    November 11, 2005

    Ridiculous Patent of the Day

    Amazon Gets Patents on Consumer Reviews,

    The patent covers methods of forming circles and marketing to them, for example, by showing one person looking at a book detail page and who else in the circle has bought that book.

    The second patent covers a method of discovering and delivering as search results related products from multiple categories, such as books written by Steve Martin, as well as DVDs of movies in which he appeared.

    The third patent is the real kicker. It covers methods for encouraging consumers to write reviews of items they've purchased by determining the optimal times to send them e-mails or reminders.
    . . . the patent even covers collecting reviews by letting visitors to a Web site fill out a form. [emphasis added]

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 12:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    October 9, 2005

    Webcam Reviews

    So I'm looking for a webcam to use for videoconferencing with friends, and maybe to set up on a server so we can see if the dogs are getting on the couch when we're at work. (The next step is setting up a speaker.) I was cruising around the web looking for comparisons and reviews and came across this great Webcam Reviews site. I am recommending the site, even if you aren't looking for a webcam just because of what this guy is doing.

    Meanwhile, does anyone have any recommendations? What about the Logitech QuickCam Orbit MP? Is the wide-angle too wide? Does it work? Does it have a good quality picture? Any other recommendations?

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 11:04 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos

    September 22, 2005

    The End Of Tivo?

    TiVo Users Fear Recording Restrictions,

    Among the functions included in TiVo's latest software upgrade is the ability to allow broadcasters to erase material recorded by TiVo's 3.6 million users after a certain date. That ability was demonstrated recently when some TiVo customers complained on TiVo community sites that episodes of "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill" they recorded were "red-flagged" for deletion by the copyright holder.

    [. . .] skeptics among TiVo users questioned why TiVo would own such a technology unless the company planned to one day use it.

    [. . .] "TiVo would be of limited utility in the future if the studios were allowed to do this with regular broadcast content," Haughey said. "This is like cell-phone jammers. What if you couldn't talk on your cell phone? If customers can't do something with their TiVo that they could in the past, they will stop using it."

    Tivo has to decide who to serve -- their customers or the entertainment industry. If they can get the entertainment industry to pay them enough to compensate for losing all their customers, great. Otherwise...

    Posted by Dave Johnson at 9:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Link Cosmos