Google Craps on RSS Again

Google keeps cutting off RSS for its various services. The biggest shot at RSS was when Google shut down Google Reader. Now they are shutting down RSS for YouTube. According to Ars Technica:

If you’re a news junky, you probably use an RSS reader like Feed.ly to keep up with stuff on the Web. One of the nicest ways to consume YouTube subscriptions was to use an RSS feed of new videos, allowing them to show up just like news articles do. You might not have noticed yet, but Google quietly shut down this feature a few days ago.

This is not good for an open and decentralized web. Instead of using apps or applications of our choosing we’re being corralled like cattle into using what the big online services want us to use.

 

Quadcopters Are Not Drones

Quadcopters (when did they stop calling them quadrocopters?) are remote controlled model helicopters. They are not “drones” in the traditional sense of the word. I wish the general public and the news media would stop referring to them as such.

The use of the word drone has a negative connotation because of the military’s use of them to bomb people in other countries.

U.S. seeks new bases for drones targeting Al Qaeda in Pakistan

US drone kills seven in east Afghanistan

When you see a headline that says, “Drone Strikes Downtown St. Louis Building“, it conjures up the image of a military drone crashing into a skyscraper. This is wrong and misleading.

If you read the news story above (which I suspect many people do not) you’ll find out that the “drone” in question was actually a quadcopter that looks something like this:

Phantom 2 Vision

The news report didn’t even use the correct picture for the quadcopter. It still looks a little scary though, until you see it in context. Here’s a video from the company’s web site showing off some features of this quadcopter.

It’s small. Really small. It looks nothing like a military drone. Here’s a picture of what I consider a traditional drone.

Predator Drone

I know that I’m one man whispering in a screaming stadium here, but please,  for the love of Pete, can we stop calling quadcopters drones?

FCC May Institute Internet Discrimination


There are several stories today that are talking about a new FCC net neutrality proposal that will be coming out tomorrow. If the sources of the stories are accurate we are witnessing another nail in the coffin of the free and open Internet.

People in power (mostly politicians and large corporations) like the things that keep them in power and don’t like things they can’t control. The Internet and the World Wide Web are two of them.

The Internet allows the free flow of information from network to network and the Web is a front end that makes using the Internet easy peasy for us normal people. These simple and cheap tools can be used by anyone with a connected computer. That means regardless of means as long as you can physically get yourself to your local library or any other publicly connected computer you too can start a blog, open a web store that sells a product, start a service for some unfilled niche, or get a high level education.

Government and large corporations have been trying to put up road blocks to this since they saw what happened to the music industry when it refused to change with the times. Digital music files proliferated across the Internet threatening the life blood of record labels. Instead of embracing the new technology and selling us more music at lower prices they started taking legal action against sites like Napster and against the people who used it. Imagine how the music industry could have benefited if it had changed its model to selling albums for $2.00 or $3.00 and launching all-can-eat subscriptions. We’re almost there now but it has taken almost 15 years to get to this point.

A major road block that is being proposed that will severely stifle free speech is the proposal to define a bonafide journalist. This “media shield law” will shield the media (major TV and cable networks and large news organizations) from the surge of competition that has come from the Internet and the Web. All the current sites you read now will be grandfathered in but what about the next drudgereport.com? That won’t be possible because you won’t be able to be defined as a “bonafide journalist” unless you get hired by one of the existing large news organizations. A person with a point of view posting links and writing about current events that he/she finds important could result in hefty fines and penalties for not being “bonafide”. We already have a law in place that protects ANYONE reporting  news and that’s the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The latest is the battle over what’s called net neutrality. The reports coming out today from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and many others say that the FCC will come out with proposed regulations that will allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to sell priority access to companies. This will mean that traffic from places like Netflix or NBC or YouTube may get priority over others if they pay for the guaranteed quality of service. This is particularly bad for anyone looking to start up the next YouTube, TWiT.tv, or ITpro.tv. Those future startups won’t be able to afford the speeds that make using those sites enjoyable. How long will a new venture be able to compete when the user is experiencing long load times for music or video? The user will just move on to something that works.

If the FCC is to regulate the Internet at all it should be to only ensure that no bits are discriminated and that Internet access speeds that we pay for is what we get. Data is data and that goes for whether it’s video, audio, or text. If I am a heavy Netflix user then I should have to pay for the bandwidth that allows a smooth Netflix experience. If I’m a user of mostly sites like Facebook and other social networks then I don’t need huge bandwidth and I can pay for less.

The FCC should not regulate which bits get treated with priority over others. Nor should they get into regulating what they deem to be reasonable costs of access. Who are they to decide what is a reasonable cost? Who are they to decide what is a priority for you or for me?

But it would also allow providers to give preferential treatment to traffic from some content providers, as long as such arrangements are available on “commercially reasonable” terms for all interested content companies. Whether the terms are commercially reasonable would be decided by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.
(Wall Street Journal)


F.C.C. officials defended the proposal, saying the rules would still protect an open Internet because the agency would evaluate on a case-by-case basis whether particular charges by Internet service providers were fair to consumers and allowed for adequate competition.

The providers would have to disclose how they treat all Internet traffic and on what terms they offer more rapid lanes, and would be required to act “in a commercially reasonable manner,” agency officials said. That standard would be fleshed out as the agency seeks public comment.
(New York Times)


The reality is that any competitor that wants to enforce the “commercially reasonable” rule will first have to wade through a slow and expensive legal swamp and, in any case, only the biggest of the big will have the means to sue in the first place. A small site that wants those “commercially reasonable terms?” Forget about it.
(GigaOm)


Dear tech leaders if we don’t defend net neutrality now it will all come and bite us in the back soon. please do whatever you can
— Om Malik (@om) April 24, 2014

Om Malik tweeted the above tonight. I’m willing to bet many of the “tech leaders” he’s referring to voted for the current administration. The administration headed by the man who said;

What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…so you could get much better quality from the Fox News site and you’d be getting rotten service from the mom and pop sites, And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet–which is that there is this incredible equality there.
(C|net – President Obama circa 2007)

We need to regularly vote our representatives out. When they spend too long in government they get too cozy with the industries they regulate.  Obviously President Obama is in his final term so my previous statement doesn’t apply to him, but, it certainly applies to Congress. We also need to hold them accountable for what they say. It’s ridiculous for President Obama to make the campaign speech above and then appoint a wireless industry lobbyist to head the agency he used to lobby. It’s just not right.

Blog Explosion… almost

Big KaboomI seem to have a habit of blowing up this blog. Sometimes intentional and other times not. This last time I wanted to change the theme as I was bored with my last one.

If you’re a WordPress user you know how simple it is to install a new theme and activate it so you’re site takes on a totally new look. Well I decided to do things in the not so simple way and somehow screwed the pooch so bad that I could not access my site or the WordPress dashboard. I couldn’t not for the life of me remember what the Hell I changed to screw things up so royally.

Then it hit me. I changed one setting on the General Settings page in the dashboard which told WordPress that it was in a directory that it wasn’t actually in. Stupid stupid stupid. And to top it off I definitely know better.

All it took was one simple line of text in a configuration file to regain control of things. This took me hours to finally figure out what text to put where. Suffice it to say that the blog is back with a new look.

Read it or don’t. But, it’s back.

Online Video: Second Class Service

Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp. speaks during a news conference on June 11, 2013. Bloomberg News

It’s becoming more and more clear that Internet broadband providers like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and more are cleverly shaping Internet traffic to hide how they throttle online video to home consumers. A great example in the linked article at GigaOm.com shows the writer streaming an episode of The Good Wife that is having bandwidth issues while she is simultaneously measuring her download speeds at speedtest.net. Speedtest.net shows she has download speeds of 28 mbps while her provide showed a paltry 1.9 mbps for streaming The Good Wife. The only way that can happen is if her Internet provider is purposely segregating packets that contain video and slowing their delivery.

All information that flows over the Internet are simply 1’s and 0’s, otherwise known as bits. It doesn’t matter what the bits become when they reach your computer. To have an Internet service provider prioritize some bits over other bits is discrimination and should be illegal. It is also a huge myth that video traffic is any different than someone reading this blog, listening to Spotify, or sending instant messages. All these things are the same bits being sent through wires across the Internet. There is no limit on the supply of these bits. There are only fast speeds and slow speeds at which the bits are delivered.

This news is even worse now that it has come out that Comcast made a deal to buy Time Warner Cable. This would make Comcast the biggest ISP. Cable companies are monopolies. There will be nowhere else to go for your Internet connection.

http://gigaom.com/2014/02/06/theres-something-rotten-in-the-state-of-online-video-streaming-and-the-data-is-starting-to-emerge/

http://gigaom.com/2014/02/12/comcast-and-time-warner-cable-forget-tv-it-is-all-about-broadband/

($$) http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304434104579380553437485142?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

Santa Trackers – Another Christmas Tradition Ruined

Bing Santa TrackerAdvances in technology by and large improve our lives. These advances also have a habit of ruining long running traditions. Take the Santa tracker for instance. Way back when there was a phone number you would call and a recording would tell you Santa’s location. There was a mystique and kitschiness to the entire idea. It was quaint. No more.

The history of how this began is similar to another great Christmas tradition (the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) in that one of Americas great retailers, in this case Sears, decided to create a promotion to drive sales. Wikipedia has a good synopsis of how it all started:

The program began on December 24, 1955, when a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Harry Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children who called in a “current location” for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958.

NORAD Santa TrackerGoogle Santa TrackerNow NORAD has partnered with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Google has set up a rival site all to track the location of Santa. Somehow looking at a map or faux satellite image of Santa’s location complete with last location, presents delivered, and estimated time to his next stop takes the fun out of the entire affair. It makes Santa boring. I guess the real tradition here is that great American businesses continue the promotional effort.

Bah humbug!

Euphemistically Speaking – Micro-Apartment

SROI ran across this article in the Wall Street Journal today with the headline, “Cities Try to Lure Young Professionals With Cheap ‘Micro’ Units”. Aside from the base prostitution type jokes that ran through my head my second thought was, “Aren’t those SROs?” In case you haven’t heard of it SRO stands for Single Room Occupancy and these were/are buildings that were much like hotels except people rented them for the month rather than the day. Anyone who remembers the term knows that an SRO connotes kind of a “lower class”. That’s why the term “Micro Units” in the headline interested me.

In recent years, officials in many of the nation’s most expensive housing markets have embraced “micro apartments” as a way to provide less-expensive housing for young renters.

They are betting that the tiny apartments—generally the size of a hotel room for about half the rent of a full-size apartment—will attract young professionals and recent college graduates, helping to revitalize city centers.

Micro apartments are about 300 square feet or smaller, though some developers and cities define them as large as 500 square feet. They sometimes lack a separate kitchen or bedroom.

Doesn’t that sound like an SRO? I must admit that “micro-apartment” sounds much nicer than a “single room occupancy apartment” but it is the exact same thing. I guess we need to make people feel better that wages are low and rents are high and people can’t afford a “normal” style apartment.

Source: Wall Street Journal

I Guess I Have Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)

image

Who knew that all it would take is an aspirin to keep me calm.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10527035/Aspirin-may-help-in-fight-against-anger-syndrome.html