Thursday, September 30, 2004


My talk at Bellhead/Nethead conference

I was on the "Justification for Regulation" panel at Susan Crawford's Nethead/Bellhead conference last Tuesday. Even though David Weinberger blogged it better than I actually said it, for the record here are my approximate words:
It is written that Congress shall make no law abridging Freedom of the Press.

Suppose, hypothetically, that Congress passes a law that makes printing a million times more expensive than it should be; would this law be constitutional?

Maybe this law controls the price of printing presses outright. Or maybe it places requirements on printers that only established printing businesses can meet. Or maybe this hypothetical law controls the price of paper, or the price of trees that make paper. Whatever; its effect would make printing a million times more expensive. Would that law be constitutional?

Now suppose that this law made printing presses only two times more expensive. Or 25% more expensive. Would that law be constitutional?

See where I’m going? Now that we’ve established what telecom regulation is, we are only negotiating the price.

Let’s scratch away one more layer. Suppose that Congress has already passed laws that restrict our ability to get new printing press technology as it becomes available. Are these laws unconstitutional? Congress passed these laws. And these laws abridge Freedom of the Press.

When I see Americans struggling with crippled Kilobit access – when Gigabits (not Kilobits, not Megabits -- Gigabits) are deliverable for the same price as our Kilobits – I want to call the police. When I see other abridgements of the Internet’s capabilities – exclusively licensed spectrum, mandatory content flags that dictate device design, asymmetrical access, network address translation, deep packet inspection without a warrant, et cetera – I want to punish the criminals that are responsible.

The Internet puts a printing press in every user’s hands. But the Internet is about more than Freedom of the Press. It is also important to Freedom of Speech. And Freedom of Assembly, because the Internet is especially good at growing groups and supporting group interaction. And, arguably, Freedom of Religion, Due Process and other rights and freedoms.

The duty of Congress and the FCC is nothing less than to remove whatever stands between improvements in Internet technologies and the users of those improvements.
And nothing more.

Michael Powell’s FCC has set a good example with wireless. It has actively promulgated new wireless technologies and new unlicensed uses. This is a step in the right direction. But it is only one step.

Meanwhile, the United States lags the world in mobile technology; and it has fallen to fifteenth or lower in wired broadband penetration. Obsolete copper lines are replaced every day – with more copper. My Macintosh has a Gigabit interface that I can’t use. And 100 Gig technology sits on laboratory benches waiting for customer demand. This is not just wasteful, it is unconstitutional.


Pro-torture flip-flop by Bushco

The Seattle Times: Deportation provision argued:
"The Bush administration is supporting a provision in the House leadership's intelligence reform bill that would allow U.S. authorities to deport certain foreigners to countries where they are likely to be tortured or abused, an action prohibited by the international laws against torture that the United States signed 20 years ago."
This directly contradicts Bush's post-Abu Ghraib pledge to stand behind the UN Convention Against Torture. Moreover, this provision
"would apply to non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of having links to terrorist organizations but have not been tried on or convicted of any charges."
Did I hear anybody say, Due process? I didn't think so.

Dr. Weinberger writes eloquently about this story here.

More: Professor Lessig points to Making Torture Legal, by Anthony Lewis, an article that documents the Bush "torture and get away with it" policy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Kerry or Bush? On-line world-wide straw poll at

Vote here. See the results here.

Monday, September 27, 2004


First *record label* enters on-line music biz

IHT: Virgin selling music via Net

Clayton Christensen never said that The Disrupted would never get it. He just said that they wouldn't lead the market. True to form, Apple -- the non-record-label Apple -- had the first successful offering. Then Real, AOL and a host of followers, none of them recordcos.

Now, enter Virgin's Branson, a bloke who still knows how to spell "entrepreneur." Bully for him!

Re-UPDATE: Benjamin Kowarsch writes:
I hate to disappoint you but Richard Branson sold the record label business to EMI a long long time ago. At the time it was the last of the big independents throwing the towel and Branson maintains that it was a very tough decision for him but that he needed the money to fulfil his dream of Virgin Atlantic Airways . . . Branson sold the record *label* business to EMI but if I am not mistaken he kept the Virgin Record *retail* business and the Virgin that is now offering online music is what's left of his record business, still in his hands, but it ain't a record label anymore . . . the news that a record label has now entered the online music business would be wrong.


Word of the Day: misprision

Misprision, as used here.

Myself, I had to do a Google search.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Dr. Weinberger on why DRM is anti-culture

David Weinberger has a delightful rant in which he tells a crowd of entertainment professionals assembled by the World Economic Forum:
Forget every other consideration . . . and see if you can acknowledge that a world in which everyone has free access to every work of creativity in the world is a better world. Imagine your children could listen to any song ever created anywhere. What a blessing that would be!
All things being equal, a world that shares art freely is a better world than one where access to art is stifled. And that's at least as important as Sony making its quarterly numbers.
We publish stuff that gets its meaning and its reality by being read, viewed or heard . . . But readers aren't passive consumers. [Readers] reimagine the book, we complete the vision of the book. Readers appropriate works, make them their own. Stifle that appropriation and you have literally killed culture.
Let us appropriate creative works because that's what it means to be a creative work. Keep fair use as the norm and compensated use as the exception. Cut us some freaking slack, because that's where and how culture grows.

One more thing. I've been arguing for using our new, remarkble global connectedness (unevenly distributed, to be sure) to foster the growth of cullture and civilization. That would make you the barbarians, I believe.
Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

Monday, September 20, 2004


An FTTH opportunity BellSouth won't take

Tim Horan, a telecom analyst with CIBC, in his "Daily Datatimes, Sept 20, 2004," an email newsletter, says:
BellSouth Quantifies [Hurricane] Ivan Impact
BellSouth noted that Hurricane Ivan impacted about 425,000 access lines in four of the hardest-hit states.  Topping the list was Florida, where 156,700 customer lines in its northwest network area were affected by the storm, representing 47% of the lines in the area.  Other states impacted by the storm include Alabama (145,700 customer lines or 8% of lines in the state), Georgia (87,000 customer lines), and Mississippi (about 38,000 lines).
Just suppose BellSouth replaced all of those copper lines with FTTH.
(Remember, once there's right of way, almost all of the cost of FTTH is construction cost, and construction of fiber is just about equivalent to construction of copper!)

Suddenly NW Florida (and much of the rest of the "Redneck Riviera") would be the most wired region in the country.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


Remember when Bush was a pro-environmental . . .

. . . compassionate conservative?

Thanks BoingBoing

Friday, September 17, 2004


Quote of Note: Bob Frankston

Since I am asking naive questions, how did the record companies defeat the attempts by the sheet music people to get royalties from performances yet now argue that their bits smell far sweeter when "performed"?
Bob Frankston, via email, September 17, 2004

Monday, September 13, 2004


First post with "ecto"

Joi Ito has a great list of great Mac apps, one of which, ecto, sounded like it replaced w.bloggar.

We shall see . . . looks good so far. Thanks to Andy Maffei for the link.


I was feeling kind of seasick, but the crowd called out for more

"Denounce the ad! I denounce all ads! But denounce that ad! I denounce all ads! He didn't denounce the ad! I like eggs! 527s! Response ads! The ad said you lied in Vietnam! How dare that ad say such things! You must react more strongly to the ads! He's not responding strongly to the ads! Shakeup because of the response to the ads! Guard duty scandal revived to respond to the Vietnam angle in the ads! The documents are forged! No they aren't! Yes they are! Vote Bush or die! We need another ad!"
from Dumbest. Election. Ever. by William Rivers Pitt


Digium Hardware for IAX and Asterisk: Not Proprietary!

Benjamin Kowarsch [benjamin at sunrise-tel dot com] writes from Japan:
I remember you made a statement in one of your articles [my two published articles on this are here and here -- David I] that Asterisk's problem was being tied to a single vendor's hardware.

I pointed out that there are drivers for other vendors' hardware, such as Dialogic, Voicetronix and a variety of BRI ISDN cards from various vendors.

However, it turns out that Digium's hardware isn't really Digium's proprietary hardware at all. The Zapata Telephony boards are open source designs, released under the GPL by Jim Dixon, an idealistic telecom guru who is not affiliated with Digium in any way.

What this means is that anybody can download the CAD files and instructions from this site and make their own Zapata telephony cards, either for their own use, or sell them for profit.

This is what Digium did. And there are other companies who do the same, for example Varion.

To be fair though, there are two products which are solely Digium's own design from the ground up: the TDM400 analog board and the IAXy analog telephone adapter.

Meanwhile the Farfon IAX IP phone is available for ordering (shipping mid October) and the Farfon IAX ATA will be in direct competition with Digium's IAXy.

I think it would only be fair to the Asterisk community if you posted something to the effect that there is no such thing as a dependency on Digium, whatsoever since both the software and the hardware are GPL and there are other companies making hardware for Asterisk and IAX.
I am pleased and amused to learn that Digium products are largely founded on open source hardware and software -- another feather in the cap for IAX and Asterisk. Thanks, Benjamin.

Recently I thought about SIP vs IAX when I was in a meeting where somebody broached the idea that XML itself was unnecessarily complicated and cumbersome. Borrowing from Einstein, software should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Monday, September 06, 2004


Mourning for Beslan

338 innocents, at least half children, are dead from Monday's hostage taking and Wednesday's bumbling anti-terrorist attack. 200 more missing.

In today's small, global world, these are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters.

How many deaths will it take 'til we know that too many people have died?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Steal This Election -- is this Diebold's smoking gun?

Bev Harris at Black Box Voting writes:

The Diebold GEMS central tabulator contains a stunning security hole

Manipulation technique found in the Diebold central tabulator -- 1,000 of these systems are in place, and they count up to two million votes at a time.

By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location, a second set of votes is created. This set of votes can be changed, so that it no longer matches the correct votes. The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set. It takes only seconds to change the votes, and to date not a single location in the U.S. has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks.

This program is not "stupidity" or sloppiness. It was designed and tested over a series of a dozen version adjustments.
The central tabulator is far more vulnerable than the touch screen terminals. Think about it: If you were going to tamper with an election, would you rather tamper with 4,500 individual voting machines, or with just one machine, the central tabulator which receives votes from all the machines? Of course, the central tabulator is the most desirable target.

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