Thursday, July 30, 2009


The 8 most important papers on the Internet . . .

. . . includes "The Rise of the Stupid Network" by the skin of its teeth. Not bad for a 12 year old piece of punditry. The other seven are . . . [link]

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009


West Marine fights Ocean Acidification

I got email this morning from Randy Repass, the founder of the boating supply chain West Marine. Amazingly, it began by apologizing -- for three paragraphs -- for not being a sales pitch! But then it got to the point:
What would you do if you knew that many species of fish and other marine life in the ocean will be gone within 30 years if levels of C02 continue increasing at their present rate?
Ocean Acidification is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels. When carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ends up in the ocean it changes the pH, making the sea acidic and less hospitable to life. Over time, C02 reduces calcium carbonate, which prevents creatures from forming shells and building reefs. In fact, existing shells will start to dissolve. Oysters and mussels will not be able to build shells. Crabs and lobsters? Your great-grandchildren may wonder what they tasted like. Carbon dioxide concentrated in the oceans is making seawater acidic.

Many of the zooplankton, small animals at the base of the food web, have skeletons that won't form in these conditions, and sea-life further up the food chain - fish, mammals and seabirds that rely on zooplankton for food will also perish. No food - no life.
The letter continues
Ocean Acidification is causing irreversible loss to species and habitats, and acidification trends are happening up to ten times faster than projected. We want you to know what this means, how it affects all of us, and what we can do about it. Today, the atmospheric concentration of C02 is about 387 parts per million (ppm) and increasing at 2 ppm per year.

If left unaddressed, by 2040 it is projected to be over 450 ppm, and marine scientists believe the collapse of many ocean ecosystems will be irreversible. Acidification has other physiological effects on marine life as well, including changes in reproduction, growth rates, and even respiration in fish.
The last two days have been a crash course for me on Ocean Acidification. I just saw this most excellent movie, A Sea Change, about it. One key fact: in November 2006, the film maker Googled "ocean acidification" and got six hits. No wonder I didn't know anything about it. I just Googled it again -- 194,000 hits.

In one powerful scene, the Sea Change movie shows a science experiment where pteropods, a beautiful type of plankton, are subject to CO2 bubbled through the sea water in their tanks. CO2 and H2O make carbolic acid. As the acidity rises just a bit further than today's oceans are now, they get horribly deformed as their shells dissolve.

One of my Woods Hole scientist friends says that the precipitous decline of species diversity now underway is likely to bite us way before global climate change does. If life in the oceans have a catastrophe, the scary consequences are certain to crawl ashore. The cause -- and the cure -- are CO2, the same as climate change. We humans need to stop burning fossil fuel. Now.

The Waxman-Markey bill that just passed the house is a baby step in the right direction. Now the Senate is considering the issue. The West Marine letter suggests that you go to to send a letter to your senator. Good idea.

[Note on sourcing: I don't see this letter on line, so I've FTP'd the text of this important email here.]

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Sunday, July 26, 2009


Videos against clueless corporations

This morning a review of my usual morning infosources yielded two charming videos with a common theme . . .

h/t Scobleizer for the AT&T video. I couldn't reconstruct where I found the United video.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009


Quote of Note: Stanley Fish

[Harvard Professor Henry Lewis] "Gates and Obama are not only friends; they are in the same position, suspected of occupying a majestic residence under false pretenses. And Obama is a double offender. Not only is he guilty of being Housed While Black; he is the first in American history guilty of being P.W.B., President While Black."


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Friday, July 24, 2009


Associated Press digs own grave

After DRM failed in music and film, after the New York Times abandoned its paywall, with one DRM fiasco after another, The Financial Times headline says, AP lays groundwork for content protection, and says,

The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest news wires, took a decisive step to protect its content on Thursday by approving construction of a system that will tag and track all its content across the internet.

The content registry system is a first step in a strategy announced in April to stop text, pictures and videos from proliferating across the internet without permission or pay.
Here's the most interesting paragraph in the story:

Bloggers and news aggregators are likely to be enraged. At present they do not pay to use extracts of news agencies’ content. They believe they are within their rights under “fair use” laws that also permit limited use of copyrighted material without consent for artists and the news media.
A belief. Like the tooth fairy. When will these bloggers grow up?

The story continues:

AP, which is owned by a consortium of 1,500 US newspapers, will begin testing the registry by November and offer a service to member publishers by the first half of next year.

AP has invested $55m to develop the core technologies and will spend a further $10m on other projects.
AP's own Web site for this project says:

The Associated Press . . .spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year gathering and sharing news of public interest from around the world. Licensing of this content by our members is critical to support our news operations. In the new digital content economy, however, a significant amount of AP news and news from AP members is used without permission or fair compensation. This situation has serious consequences: it dilutes the value of news for licensors and advertisers; it fragments and disperses content so widely that consumers end up relying on fragmented coverage to get their news despite the availability of comprehensive and authoritative coverage on a 24-hour basis.
I wish AP all the best on its endeavor to keep its news from being used. It's too bad its consumers customers have eyeballs, brains, fingers, and the public, unfiltered Internet.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009


Franken & his Senate colleagues

[Source] h/t Andrew Villeneuve.

I don't have permission to post this, but I'm pretty sure (in an IANAL kind of way) it's fair use to reproduce this here.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


License to Lie

The Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) [website here] for the $7.2 billion allocated for broadband by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act seems, on its face, to be a license to lie.

The NOFA defines broadband in terms of advertised speed (p. 18, lines 384-387):
Broadband means providing two-way data transmission with advertised speeds of at least 768 kilobits per second (kbps) downstream and at least 200 kbps upstream to end users . . .
The NOFA couches its definitions of "unserved" and "underserved" in terms of availability of the advertised-speed of so-called broadband.

The NOFA (pp. 22-23, lines 476-482) says
Specifically, a proposed funded service area may qualify as underserved for last mile projects if at least one of the following factors is met, though the presumption will be that more than one factor is present: 1. no more than 50 percent of the households in the proposed funded service area have access to facilities-based, terrestrial broadband service at greater than the minimum broadband transmission speed (set forth in the definition of broadband above); 2. no fixed or mobile broadband service provider advertises broadband transmission speeds of at least three megabits per second (“mbps”) downstream in the proposed funded service area; or 3. the rate of broadband subscribership for the proposed funded service area is 40 percent of households or less.
So if you're an incumbent telco or cableco that doesn't want competition in your territory, you simply advertise that 3 megabit downloads and 200 kilobit uploads are available to all, and poof! all ARRA-funded competition disappears. No new equipment needed. Just run the ad.

The answer to the obvious question is, No, there's no requirement in the NOFA that advertised speeds have any relationship to actual speeds -- or anything else.

Applicants for ARRA money are also encouraged to lie. The NOFA (p. 66, lines 1449-1451) says
Applications will be scored for the extent to which the advertised speed for the network's highest offered speed tier exceeds the minimum speed requirement for broadband service (768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream).
In other words, if you are applying for ARRA funds to serve a place so godforsaken that no incumbent will even advertise that it already serves 50% of the population with 200 kilobit uploads, then it helps you win if you lie, i.e., if you advertise hyper-turbo-whizabits.

We don't trust gasoline companies to certify that the gallon they pump into your tank is actually one gallon. Town officials do that. At a federal level, we have the National Bureau of Standards Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) [thanks, Bob] to certify that a pint is a pound the world around. If the funds awarded under the ARRA depend so much on speed, why not put the NBS NIST to the task of developing metrics for actual performance, and couching qualification in those same terms.

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Monday, July 06, 2009


Renonymization: An example

An article in Wired, titled Social Security Numbers Deduced From Public Data, says,
By analyzing a public data set called the “Death Master File,” which contains SSNs and birth information for people who have died, computer scientists from Carnegie Mellon University discovered distinct patterns in how the numbers are assigned. In many cases, knowing the date and state of an individual’s birth was enough to predict a person’s SSN.
This is a great example of renonymization, or, as one commentator suggested, renomynization.

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Rise of Internet Video

We've seen it coming for a decade. It's not quite here yet, but the New York Times reports that CommScore reports that 150 million U.S. Internet users now watch an average of 97 videos per month with an average duration of 3.4 minutes per video.

With the writing on the wall, do U.S. cablecos have full time teams working on their future business? If not, they might as well start a calisthenics program so they are able to kiss their own ass goodbye.

Or are the cablecos supposing that inaction-based scarcity, and law based on same, will provide the equivalent of a government bailout?

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Sunday, July 05, 2009


This is your mayor on Skype

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg could not be at Personal Democracy Forum last week, so he Skyped in for an engaging talk. Meanwhile, net guru Dewayne Hendricks, who was responsible for the almost flawless, screamin' fast PDF Wi-Fi service, reported that his 45 Mbit connection was maxing out. The result was lol-funny.

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