Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

Archive forMarch, 2002 | back to home

31 March 2002

Another company springs up in the US (to acclaim from the tech community) to encourage people to share their broadband using their wireless network equipment. Joltage’s idea is similar to what Sputnik wants to do (except unlike Sputnik it doesn’t seem to be open source). The key (to me) is in this para from this Wired report:

“At $50 per month, a DSL line — if shared by multiple users — could easily eat up several hundreds of dollars’ worth of wholesale network traffic at the back end.

“As ISPs realize this stuff is going on, they’re going to start looking closer at the heavy traffic users,” said Mike Durkin, president of Raw Bandwidth Communications, a Belmont, California, provider of home DSL service. “Think Napster and how ISPs and universities can block it.”

I think this is where the whole concept will come unglued unless the telcos also get a slice. If they do get a slice, though, it could be a good business, especially if standard antennas start offering greater range. It might also be a good way to encourage the development of community-wide networks run by not-for-profit organizations in depressed areas (a particular interest of mine).

A depressing side note – it is possible that 802.11a – the higher speed, incompatible upgrade due in November – may have a smaller range (60 feet vs 300 feet), so if people start migrating to that then the opportunities for neighborhood-wide sharing would be less. (Another publication says that the range should be the same).

30 March 2002
Filed under:Uncategorized at10:24 am

One of my favourite directors died on Wednesday. Films of his I have loved include Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard.

29 March 2002
Filed under:Uncategorized at1:35 pm

The Economist (subscription required to read link) hits the nail on the head when it savages the government for using public private partnerships to conceal taxation.

“PFI deals are supposed to transfer risk from the public to the private sector. But with so much at stake politically, the government cannot afford to let them fail. One way or another, the railways have to work and the underground has to run. This makes it impossible genuinely to transfer risk from the public to the private sector, which undermines the purpose of PFI.

“If risk cannot genuinely be transferred, then the Treasury should own up to the actual cost of the borrowing that the private sector is undertaking on its behalf… Keeping risky investments off the books is the sort of thing that Enron did to its shareholders. It is not the sort of thing that governments should do to taxpayers. ”

The government should simply own up to the amount of money that fixing transport and health will require and raise taxes in order to pay for it.

28 March 2002
Filed under:Interesting facts,Weblogs at6:34 pm

Not only can you search what 6800 webloggers are writing about – it also lets you see what the “top 40” links of the weblog community are at the moment and even see what the most popular items are that webloggers request on the Amazon wish lists that they often provide for benevolent strangers (I have one too!).

The most popular links tend to be a little geeky but there is usually at least one interesting link in the bunch – today I read that adcritic, the site that used to bring the public streaming video of its favourite advertising (before it went bust) has been taken over by Ad Age which will be relaunching it as a subscription-only service.tone ringtone polyphonic free 16ringtones 213ringtones free nokia 2600for cent 50 ringtones sprintringtone emergency 51ringtone mobile 2 sidekick tcent do how ringtones we 50mp3 ringtone 6630 as Map

27 March 2002
Filed under:Uncategorized at3:02 pm

As this piece in Salon makes clear, even if you accept that widespread encryption would be a good idea on the Internet (I have my doubts) it won’t emerge very quickly because 1) most people don’t recognise the need and 2) the software needed to encrypt and decrypt is still too hard to use. The latter is a particular problem because at the moment the commercial company that owns the original PGP email encryption software, Network Associates, is not continuing development.

Open source developers have stepped in, but there we run into the problem with open source – most open source programmers just don’t ‘get’ useability. They write for each other, not for a wider public, so you end up with products like GNUPG that require you to type in cryptic commands to use it.

26 March 2002
Filed under:Uncategorized at11:15 pm

The European union has given the go-ahead for a Europe-run clone of the GPS system. As I said earlier I don’t think this is a good use of tax-payer’s money.

Filed under:Uncategorized at5:45 pm

You may remember back in December three special forces soldiers were killed and 20 injured by friendly fire – now we know why. The guided bomb was called in by an air force controller who used a lightweight battery powered GPS unit. The battery died on his GPS and when he replaced it, the unit reset and defaulted to its own coordinates, which the controller duly sent to the bomb!

For more about the risks to the public in computers, check out the Risks Digest.all transsexual thingsmodel teen ameliaamature call back sexblogs video amatuer sexteen remember info porn amateuradult zoo sexameatur pornfashion 2007 teenage Map

25 March 2002
Filed under:Uncategorized at4:59 pm

Well, not really hackers as “true hackers” understand them – disinterested seekers after illicit knowledge – these are just kids who steal people’s credit card numbers. Ira Glass of the terrific US radio programme This American Life interviewed two of them at a hacker convention in October 1997, asking them about their personal morality and whether they thought they were doing wrong. Hearing them struggling to define and justify their moral stance makes fascinating listening.

The feature in question is the first item of the hour-long programme, but I encourage you to dip into the show’s archives (most shows since 1995 are archived on the site) and listen to other gems, including one I mentioned earlier.card bank national credit 1stcredit card 5america creditbest credit cards 10service credit 580-223-6260affilitate creditalcona alpena union credit areaaccreditation for process seta etqa Map

Filed under:Uncategorized at11:59 am

Business 2.0 has collected quite an assortment of blunders from the world of business in 2001 (though in truth they cast the net rather wider, encompassing all sorts of Internet-related blunders).

Numbers 29 and 30 – Great Moments in Privacy – were stunning:

“Eli Lilly sends a mass e-mail in July to users of its antidepressant Prozac but neglects to use the “bcc” header, further depressing its customers by disclosing their online identities to one another.

“Trumping Eli Lilly, in October a graduate student at the University of Montana accidentally posts to the school’s website more than 400 documents relating to the psychiatric treatment of 62 children, including names, addresses, descriptions of sessions, and diagnoses.”

Number 38 also caught my eye:

“38. Excite@Home, iWon.com, and others line up to sponsor “Back the Net” day on April 3, 2001; participants are encouraged to purchase either a product or a share of stock online. The idea is “to dispel the negative stereotypes … that have sent our technological marketplace into a recession.” (Because nothing dispels negative stereotypes quite like an abject plea for charity.)”

Oh, and they were honest enough to mention their own at #11 – putting the CEO of Enron on their cover in August/September – a week before his resignation.

If you have your own tales of e-catastrophe you can add them to their site here (and read other reader-generated ones).

22 March 2002
Filed under:Uncategorized at10:05 am

Admittedly, the key to ensuring development in the poorest countries isn’t simply giving more money – as Bush and others say, good governance is important too. Nonetheless the amount the West provides in aid each year is too low by any measure.

The US government’s recent announcement that they will increase aid by 50% from 2004-2007 is therefore welcome, as is the UK’s pledge to provide a “substantial” rise.

To my surprise we in the UK already give .31% of GNP in overseas aid while Canada only provides .25% – but I suspect Canada’s may come with fewer strings attached. It would be nice to see us a bit closer to the .7% target that the UN has given, though.

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