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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Picaroon

I should not say it, but I feel like I am never going to write another article about gaming.  Every time I sit here ready to write about another game, another subject takes its place.  Today looking over my reading list from Pulse (a phone app that allows me to read news from Internet sources) I saw a link to this video:

Now before I go into the meat of my thoughts I need to write this side note.  I do not agree with everything Henry Rollins stands for and it does not matter.  One of the problems I have seen with the world as I have grown up is the lack of growth.  What I mean by growth is trying to make ourselves better, rather then just sitting back and letting the world go by.  Moreover, this means finding common ground with people.  One of the reasons I do not really like talking politics on this blog, or when I do is mentioning political parties, because I have found in my life that we are all a mixture of many different thought processes.  We are all liberal, moderate and conservative at the same time.  In fact, I would dare say as a society we are ignorant of what those words really mean.  Labeling by itself it okay when you need classification, but it is a fine line to walk as we use labels to discriminate.  We discriminate because of what we fear.  Fear is good way to leave this side bar and get to the meat of this article.

I am a supporter of the Copyleft movement.  That is I do not believe in what Copyright has become.  The first thought that will come to some that understand copyright will be the thought that I believe in stealing and everything should be free.  The problem is, to be blunt, I don’t.  I agree with those that say you should be paid for what you do and when it comes to intellectual property, such as creative works and intellectual property there is a value to be assigned.  The problem comes down to the assignment of value to these intangible goods.

Before we go down the rabbit hole, did I ever mention that I am a creator of intangible goods?

Now here comes the problem.  Copyright started on the right foot in our country, the Founding Fathers allowed a creator a temporary monopoly so they could benefit from their work.

“Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society. It would be curious then, if an idea, the fugitive fermentation of an individual brain, could, of natural right, be claimed in exclusive and stable property. If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.”
– Thomas Jefferson

The granting of a temporary monopoly was never supposed to be forever because of what the implications what it could do to society.  Imagine someone invents a new energy source that could give us all unlimited, boundless energy with few negatives.  If a person was allowed to laud this over all of society, they could use it for power and greed.  I hate to break the news to you, we as human beings at our basest are not good, we are all hypocrites, looking out for number one.  This is not a condemnation of who we are, but a reminder that we don’t always look out for our fellow human beings.  That’s why we need law and order to make sure what we do is in line with making sure we do not step on others.  Going back to the energy invention, when you think of how a thing like an energy device would be developed, it would be built upon things that exist in the world already.  Most inventions do not live in a vacuum, while not impossible there are very few new thoughts in the world.  That is an invention starts with a thought built upon what someone else has already done.  As someone who makes board games, most of my creations come from other people’s ideas.  I see a game I like and get the urge to make it better, or have an idea for a game and draw upon my personal history of games.  In essence creation of something is a re-arranging of the present.

In literature, it has been said there are seven main plots.  In writing this article, I am using words people  long before me associated with thoughts.  In music, we see rearrangements of common strains of rhythms and beats re-done on different instruments.  It is not saying that those new stories, music, articles do not have value.  It takes time and work to make something and I am not here to say what that value is.  The world is changing, and that is the problem.

What I am seeing right now is fear, fear of what is happening.  One of the problems of the past when it came to content was that a few were in charge of what was found and seen.  A publisher chose which creators to put on display for the broader public.  If you were in any field that was creative you needed people who knew how to navigate the waters, you needed a guide to get you where you wanted to go.  These gatekeepers were the publishers, record labels and television stations.  The change that happened was the Internet, and the need for these gatekeepers became less valuable.  Now the problem of being discovered could be accomplished without the need of gatekeepers.  What we are being told and what we are being sold to the public, is older gatekeepers who say they are still relevant, and with their last dying breath they are trying to influence laws and make sure their power stays in place.  Moreover, to a lesser degree it is working, as has been shown with the constantly increasing copyright length extensions, the take down of Megaupload and the crop of laws such as SOPA and CISPA.

If I would tell you that we need to go back to the horse and buggy you might look at me funny.  However, people rarely bat an eyelash when congress passes a law to ensure that things like Mickey Mouse never go into public domain.

I feel a need to stop and say this: I do not have issues with anyone making money off what they do.  If you make a song and make, a million dollars all the better for your efforts and it also means that people like what you do.  Moreover, most in the copyleft movement feel the same way.  Nevertheless, copyright is not meant to be a guaranteed lifetime stream of money.   In addition, this is the other problem that I am seeing and that is greed.

As much as the older generation complains about the younger, they have their own set of fallacies.  Among those is pride and shortsightedness.  Too often today it is about how fast a business can make money as fast as possible, instead of being in the game for the longest period of time.  And this is why so many in the creative industries are afraid of the new reality.  Instead of allowing the change that is coming, they are trying to stifle and destroy it.

When the recession hit upon us, the thought I had at the time was that the old money (those in power, the top of business) were afraid of being left behind.  Instead of billionaires, we would see the rise of the trillionaires.  I was wrong, what they were really afraid of was the fact that the playing field was going to be equalized.  Instead of a few billionaires there would more millionaires and more people in the game with equal power.  It’s not that there isn’t money to go around, but a fair by those at the top now won’t have the same power as they did before.  It is why the government is secretly afraid of the Internet and freedom of information.  It is why they desperately want laws like CISPA to become reality.

Now what gets lost in this discussion is the fact that for society to grow and become better we have to put aside greed and lust for power.  In doing so and working together we all can gain so much more.  Until then we as a society will continue to grind through the muck of a reality where we keep going in circles.

Coming back to the creative fields, I want to wrap this up with the words of Notch, the man who created the phenomenon known as Minecraft.  When a Twitter user about not being able to afford his game approached Notch, the user asked him if it was okay to download the game.  Notch said this:

Just pirate it. If you still like it when you can afford it in the future, buy it then. Also don’t forget to feel bad. 😉
https://twitter.com/#!/notch/status/157261795139125248

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Technology

 

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Velocipede Jurisprudence

This is going to be another tricky subject to tackle.  Another article, which will leave readers, split opinion wise right down the middle.  I have hope that I can look at both sides equally, but the truth is I am as biased as anyone else is.  The subject today is the new bicycle law in Pennsylvania.  I have to admit I put this subject off for a while because I needed to do some thinking on the subject.  And even after that time it is still not an easy subject to tackle.

I will come right out and say it, the law is short sighted and wrong.  There are many reasons why.  The first issue I have with the law is the crossing of the solid yellow line.  The problem does not lie in the allowing people to cross the yellow line, but the fact that it is not allowed in common place.  That is any time the driver encounters a road blockage of some sort, from a slow driver flashing yellows to road debris.  Now before I get the “you’re wrong, you can,” let us look at the law because I did:

§ 3301. Driving on right side of roadway.
(a) General rule.–Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a
vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway
except as follows:
(1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle
proceeding in the same direction where permitted by the rules
governing such movement.
(2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to
drive to the left of the center of the roadway, provided the
driver yields the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in
the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the
roadway within such distance as to constitute a hazard.
(3) When and where official traffic-control devices are
in place designating a lane or lanes to the left side of the
center of the roadway for the movement indicated by the
devices.
(4) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.
(5) When making a left turn as provided in sections 3322
(relating to vehicle turning left) and 3331 (relating to
required position and method of turning).
(b) Vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed.–Upon all
roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of
traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then
existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available
for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb
or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing
another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when
preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley,
private road or driveway. This subsection does not apply to a
driver who must necessarily drive in a lane other than the
right-hand lane to continue on his intended route.


§ 3307. No-passing zones.
(a) Establishment and marking.–The department and local
authorities may determine those portions of any highway under
their respective jurisdictions where overtaking and passing or
driving on the left side of the roadway would be especially
hazardous and shall by appropriate signs or markings on the
roadway indicate the beginning and end of such zones and when
the signs or markings are in place and clearly visible to an
ordinarily observant person every driver of a vehicle shall obey
the directions of the signs or markings. Signs shall be placed
to indicate the beginning and end of each no-passing zone.
(b) Compliance by drivers.–Where signs and markings are in
place to define a no-passing zone as set forth in subsection
(a), no driver shall at any time drive on the left side of the
roadway roadway within the no-passing zone or on the left side of any
pavement striping designed to mark a no-passing zone throughout
its length.
(c) Application of section.–This section does not apply
under the conditions described in section 3301(a)(2) and (5)
(relating to driving on right side of roadway).

Moreover, here comes in the problem of interpretation, it is just that interpretation.  As I was told in truck training one should take the strictest interpretation to be safe, that is if the road is saying don’t pass, then don’t pass.  Hence why when a solid yellow line means in law “No Passing” you do not pass unless it is necessary.  That is the problem, the new bicycle law creates a contradiction in the law, giving one vehicle precedence over the other yet at the same says they are the same on the road, yet they are not.

In addition, that is one of the bigger issues coming from this law, it points out how loosely our laws are written when it comes to safety on the road.  One of the issues I am a big advocate for is one set of laws for the road period.  I never understood why if safety is such an issue why the same laws cannot apply from state to state.  I know this will upset the state’s rights people but when it comes to driving, especially interstate, what good does it do to have multiple interpretations of what is safe?  In addition, what good does the flavors of law really push?  Even those who do not travel interstate run into the problem when it comes to something simple as cell phone usage across county lines.

But I digress.

Back to the law of bicycles I have to wonder if the people who wrote this really understand the nightmare they foisted on the public.  I fully understand that people use bicycles to get around and it is not very safe for them at times.  However, as pointed out before putting two vehicles at war is never a good idea.  This is split-speed limits all over again; putting two vehicles that are at different speed differentials on the road creates a safety nightmare.  We already have laws that prohibit a bicyclist from highways and freeways because simply put the speed differential is too dangerous of the bicyclist.  At the same point, there are other roadways where it is simply not safe for bicyclist to travel.  Roadways where there is barely enough room for two motor vehicles should be off limits to bicyclists as they are simply not safe enough for them.

That leads to the question if bicycles are the same as motor vehicles then why do we not license those who want to ride their bicycle on the road.  If we require a motor license for people to drive cars because we want everyone to prove they know the laws of the road, why is this not required for bicyclists?  Moreover, if they are not required a license for driving on the road why should they have the advantage of a roadway designed for those who are tested?

Laws should always be weighed and debated because humans are fallible, we do not always get it right.  The problem with legislation like the bicycle one in question, and the texting law, is do we have the right leadership in place who really understand the complexity of a law.  As with texting, this seems to be a knee jerk reaction to a bigger problem.  And the law doesn’t do anything to solve the root of the issue, that being that putting two vehicles with varying speeds at conflict with each other.  In addition, when solving an issue we need to look at the root of the problem and solve that.  Looking at that will lead to a proper solution guaranteed not to be popular.  But then again is it not what we elect representatives in government to do?

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Driving, Law

 

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Etyocuppology

Often times you will hear complaints about younger people’s languages and most of the time it will boil down to the older generation being upset with the younger generations’ language.  I am talking about what is more commonly known as the four-letter variety.  Interestingly I was having a conversation yesterday about this very subject.  I was challenged to prove language is fluid and being I needed to get my mind off some things, I took it up.  Moreover, I learned a lot about the vulgar history of language.

Now you might ask what this has to do with technology and my blog, and I can say it does have lot to do with technology and how it is shaping the future of our language.  As the Internet is bringing us more and more together, cultures are starting to merge and shape in ways not seen before.  And one of the things in language that has always been true, those younger creating their own forms of words and slangs has been accelerated with access to a bigger community.  Language is changing, and most likely going through some of the most rapid changes we have ever seen.   In addition, those who cannot or choose not to keep up are being left behind.  Even the rules to language are being shaped in new and different ways.  Language is now more fluid then it every has been.

Hold on one second…

Hopefully

Now I feel much better…

Being who I am I rather not go into naming the actual language in this article, but nonetheless I learned that most of our vulgar language came from commonplace terms that morphed and changed meanings over time.  The first thing to understand that the term vulgar used to mean a blasphemy against God, in terms of when we came to identify vulgarity with sex and body parts came from Victorianism.  But it all still comes down to shock, and as one period of time culture and people find one thing shocking (Blasphemy) another finds something else shocking (behind closed door acts.)  However, this also proves that language changes over time and once the culture no longer deems something vulgar it moves away from being vulgar.

And in bigger terms if the younger generations deem something  not to have a certain connotation and meaning, as the older generation dies off, the meaning that is no longer enforced is placated to history.  Then the older meanings of words become only known to the scholars of future generations who choose to study them.  Even more ironic is that as certain language has slipped into commonplace older generations will claim that the younger generations are too loose in their language.  When the truth is every generation plays with language in their youth.

So are we “cool” with that?

Now part of my challenge was to find a word that is commonplace today and no longer vulgar.  I found such a word.

Occupy

mid-14c., “to take possession of,” also “to take up space or time, employ (someone),” from O.Fr. occuper, from L. occupare “take over, seize, possess, occupy,” from ob “over” + intensive form of capere “to grasp, seize” (see capable). During 16c.-17c. a euphemism for “have sexual intercourse with,” which caused it to fall from polite usage.
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=occupy

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Technology

 

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All your education are belong to us

Monday I sat down to write this article, I just could not finish it.  As you are going to read, as some thoughts in my head that I have, this one has very good arguments on both sides.  So let’s just get into it.

One of the issues that arise with major changes to the world in revolution is the disruption of the old.  When the Industrial Revolution happened, machinery started to replace human and as is human history things always come around again.  I am sure before I die I will see something comparable to what is happening.  Moreover, as with that revolution, this one is causing great panic and fear in those that have control now.  It also causes fear with those that have “made” it, that is those who have jobs and a life they don’t want to change.  As the fear of change causes uncertainty, the grasping of straws has begun.

One of the areas I had hoped to see technology have a bigger impact on was education.  As a College graduate, I went through the experience of buying textbooks.  As those that go through College discover versus those who do not , the cost of textbooks is one of the most expensive parts of education wise, as far as dollars go.  Over the past few years, it has become one of the most controversial issues in higher education.  I personally discovered the lowest cost options were to buy the textbooks overseas and wait the extra week in shipping to get a paperback version of a hardbound book.  To my amazement I found that, a PDF (electronic) version of hardbound books was even more expensive.  Moreover, to add to the monetary costs these versions of the books turned out to be semester rentals.  One of the sites I purchased a PDF from, only granted me access to the PDF until a week before my finals.   Not only was the PDF more expensive then the physical version but now I would lose access at a time when I most needed the book.

This is not the future I was promised growing up…

As many who have been in my shoes know most of the material available in textbooks for the basic classes (Math, English, etc.)  does not drastically change from year to year.  In fact, most of these basic classes the information has not changed in decades.  So one would think the cost of material would come down over time.  I rather not spend this post explaining the reasons why this is happening, but as some can guess ($) you probably know the reasons why.  What I rather spend my writing time on is the excitement of a future where all can enjoy a great education that we in society find so dearly.

It amazes me that with so much talk of the cost of education, that there is not a real push towards using technology to solve some of those issues.  Now let me stop and state that I understand the costs of implementing such technology.  Nevertheless, what we would be cutting in future costs would be immense.  In addition, one cost cutting measure would be the ability to go with electronic versions of textbooks, which would only require digital updates from time to time.  The benefit would be the same textbook for all children with the same material.

However, visions of a better future come with the smell of reality.  The other day I read of a lawsuit against a new start-up.

A group of three large academic publishers has sued the start-up Boundless Learning in federal court, alleging that the young company, which produces open-education alternatives to printed textbooks, has stolen the creative expression of their authors and editors, violating their intellectual-property rights. The publishers Pearson, Cengage Learning, and Macmillan Higher Education filed their joint complaint last month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/3-major-publishers-sue-open-education-textbook-start-up

Boundless Learning was doing something that is typical of this period in time.  They were disrupting the old guard and gatekeepers.  Boundless Learning offers users open-source textbooks for their courses.  Simply pick a course and they will put together a textbook tailored to your course, and a textbook that is much cheaper than other player’s in the game.  I have not read into all the nuances of the lawsuit yet, but my first knee-jerk reaction was that of no surprise.  Nevertheless, it was also one of a normality I am seeing that is troubling.

In my short time on this earth I have seen causes come and go.  Some issues are trivial, some are important; they vary between these two realities.  One thing I think we all agree with is that education is one of those issues that is important.  In addition, as said before the cost of education has been a controversial issue for a long time, and intensified with the recession.  What I do not understand, and not with this issue alone, is that when an issue like education is considered of high importance to society we do not implement the solutions that will solve the problems surrounding it.

Now let me step back again and say I understand the costs involved.  Not only will there be infrastructure costs, re-training costs, but that of the loss of jobs for publishers.  However, I have to ask if the issue is so important to the future of society why we are not pushing forward with things that can solve some of the root issues in education.  Issues like needing to carry backpacks would be solved.

Here is the bigger issue that goes beyond technology.  So many times we see causes that are considered of grave concern, those issues we are told must be solved now to avert future problems.  The problem comes down to cost, to implement those solutions someone has to pay the cost.  If we as a human race are to grow, we have to overcome the monetary value incentive.  That is the value of doing for us alone but for the betterment of all.  Online I have seen this with the open source software movement in software.  Open Source is people coming together to make software for the benefit of all without the push towards the monetary end first.

This is not a blanket no one should be paid statement; people should be paid for what they do.  However, where do we draw the line?  I don’t have the issue with someone becoming rich as much as money becoming the stumbling block for entry to something we consider so essential to life.  As I find with most things in life when you put monetary gain over important things in life such as education and safety, you ultimately lose sight of the real purpose.  That is if the purpose of education is education and the heart of the matter becomes who is getting paid the most then is the heart of the matter education?  As the old adage goes “You get what you pay for…”

This is also a question of leadership and the best possible use of our resources.    Do we have the right leaders in place who are putting value to the issues that truly matter to the goals we want as a society?  On the other hand, are they playing lip service because they really are not the leaders we need?

Now as I said in the beginning this is not an easy topic because when it boils down is putting people of work.  Going to, a sort of, Open Source textbooks will cause the loss of jobs.  And that is the question that truly is hard to answer.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2012 in Technology

 

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Rascals of the Plebeian Times

Today is a 2 for 1 special.  What started with a thought on commented spiraled into a whole set of thoughts I never saw coming.  And this is going to be one of the times I go off the beaten track, that is venture into a topic that doesn’t really have to do with tech, driving or gaming.  But in an odd way they do connect in some weird ways.

Last week when I was interview by Jason Kahl for the Reading Eagle, we had an interesting side discussion about online comments.  I found myself having to bite my toungue to a certain degree but I did what I found hard to do: I listened to him.  Yes me the great “thinker” does find it hard to listen to people, I struggle with it.  Especially when I get a feeling like something is wrong with a thought.  See I had told Jason that I was told that some people were posting negative, trolling, comments on stories about my brother’s death.  And what I was told these comments weren’t very nice to say the least.  To be honest I hadn’t seen the comments nor do I have a care to.  And maybe to the surprise of many, I don’t care for them to be monitored or deleted.  As I said before about commenting, what exists in the world of the Internet exists in the real world.

As Jason expressed to me that his paper would not let negative comments be posted, as they monitored them and used Facebook to stem the tide of negativity.  While it sounds in practice a thought came to me later last week that even surprised me, a thought I was surprised I hadn’t thought of a while back, especially when I wrote the first article on the subject.  Sites of the old media, like Newspapers, Magazines, etc. in coming to the online world of things are having trouble adapting, not only is there loss of control, but lack of understanding of how things now work.  Now at the same time I say that, I also understand the reaction to the modern world is an attempt at control in itself.  In addition, I’m not talking about Spam, I understand wanting to control Spam.  To further add I myself employ my own form of moderation on this blog.  Therefore, I understand both sides of the fight.

The thought I had was this: Old media fights so hard to control others thoughts, but would be the first to cry First Amendment violation if they were controlled.

The problem is while I understand that you have to setup ground rules with a community, the line must still be walked carefully, especially when you want the same protections this country offers people.  In addition, as I noted before, the key to success online involves commenting, even that which we consider bad.  Moreover, as I expressed in Thoughts for a Cell, my question is how far do we take this.

Which brings me to the unlikely second part of the 2 for 1 deal today and that is the crusade (more on this later) on Bullying today.  And for this let me give a little background; every decade in this country we go through a period where some “thing” becomes established as “evil” destroying our children, and the cries of “for the children” soon begin.  Rock ‘n’ Roll, Dungeons & Dragons, Music again, Video Games is just a few hits on the list some group said was destroying the youth.  Years ago I got to thinking of what the new crusade would be and what object of “evil” would be named.  Then I deemed it to be Technophobia, that is that technology gadgets and things like the Internet would be that new “evil” destroying the youth of today.  Moreover, for a while my thought was playing itself out true with the bans on technology at schools and comments (ironic ain’t it?) from parents saying that kids shouldn’t be glued to Facebook and Smart Phones.

Then the movie Bully was slapped with an NC-17 rating, and I saw the light.

Let us step back once more.  Years ago when I first entered college and was told I needed to take the “well rounding of a person” courses, in other world liberal arts courses, I chose to use these courses to my advantage.  I had some choice to what general courses I could take so when it came to History I decided to learn something about the Medieval Ages and the crusades.  What I had been told about that period of history was not true and over-exaggerations of the truth of those time periods.  As it turned out the Witch Hunts were not about evil women doing evil things with nature, but towns that did not want to shoulder the costs of the elderly.  In addition, the Crusades were not about the promotion of Christianity, but that of power, money and control.  What may be looked as legitimate concerns by a vocal few, soon becomes manipulated towards the end of the few.  And eventually the issue reaches a point where the means can’t justify the ends.

And the same is true of these things people claim are “evil.”  Legitimate concerns become manipulated for the few to have a grand stage to promote themselves and the real issue that probably cannot be solved in the first place takes a back seat to the “Crusade.”  Moreover, this is why it became clear to me the new “Crusade” of the decade was Bullying and not Technophobia.   Bullying at the core is similar to an issue like smoking, while you can get most of the people to find the idea of smoking wrong, but at some point, you cannot stop it.  The only way to stop it is to ban it, and as we know with prohibition, that does not work.  And again the scary thought I have is where does it end, do we lock people up for having bad thoughts for verbal tirades?

And the insidious thing about the whole sorry mess is how the “Crusade” of Bullying allows certain people to look good and have platforms to act good.  It is not fair to blanket the whole movement as wrong, but after the point of saying it is wrong, what good can be accomplished by doing more than having society say we do not accept it.  I have to ponder then if these things are such “evils” why do they fade into obscurity and become a non-issue when people are tired of the movement.  It is not like Dungeons & Dragons is not still played and The Beatles are not listened to still.  So I have to ask do the means justify the ends and who truly benefits from a movement after it reaches the point of no return.

The final blow comes in the form of legitimate issues that lose meaning and become pawns for other’s means.

One final thought – If the movie Bully is so important; Why is it not released on the Internet for free?

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Technology

 

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Let my bytes go!

I figured now was the time for me to ease back into blogging.  I first want to say a big thank you to all who have sent their condolences, thoughts and prayers over the tragedy of losing my brother last week.  I was not sure what topic I wanted to take up this week.  This past week many subjects came up, for example the new law concerning bicycles on the road, an explanation of Doctor Who or CISPA.  Seeing as I didn’t want to delve too deeply into any one subject as I still have my entry for the game contest going on.   As with many other subjects, I like to take my time explaining my reasoning and side on my positions.  I also like to ease people into subjects they might not understand.  Therefore, it is time to tackle the subject of Net Neutrality.

I know that there are those that read those two words and instantly have negative connotations.  One of the reasons I decided to take up writing a blog in conjunction with a The Mercury, was because I wanted to correct the misinformation I see out there when it comes to technology subjects.  I know personally my wife had come up to me and asked me what the internet blackout day was about.   So let us start with the subject that brought some of these technology issues to the public; Net Neutrality.

A couple years back when this issue was framed for the public, by certain talking heads, it was done in a negative light.  I try to steer clear of politics because of the decisiveness and segregating it brings about.  Net Neutrality was associated with one side of the political spectrum, that side was trying to control us, and therefore Net Neutrality was a bad thing.  The polar opposite could not be truer then what was presented.

A little history lesson, for a long time those of us who understand the internet and how it functions were very aware of how Internet Service Providers (ISP) were controlling our traffic flow.  That is they were deciding what priorities of services would be given free use of the pipe they controlled.  In 2006/2007 concrete proof was presented that major ISPs were limiting traffic they did not like.  Mainly this pertained to Peer 2 Peer (P2P) file transfers.  What was scary about this was none of this information was readily available to the consumer.  What started with imaginary caps (you could only use so much of your “unlimited” service) that were never told until you received a phone call that you used too much of that “unlimited” service and were going to be cut off.  This continued with ISPs now slowing down traffic they did not like.

One important point to understand about the Internet is that anyone can look at your data streaming to and from your connection and see exactly what you are doing.  Video streaming, data transfers and web browsing can be segmented.  ISPs have the ability to give priority to any of these things, along with shutting off access to certain websites.  In my own home, I have a gateway setup that allows me to filter and control what sites my children have access to on the Internet, ISPs have this same ability.

The problem is simply this; ISPs for a long time have not been advertising these facts.  For example when Comcast started actively enforcing a bandwidth cap (limiting how much Internet you could use,) their commercials were still espousing the fact that they had unlimited Internet services.   Add to this in the beginning of their enforcing of the bandwidth cap there was no official meter, or access to a meter that would allow you to see how much bandwidth you had used.  On top of all of this the definition on what a byte truly was has never been defined.  This is as dangerous as letting the water company define what a gallon of water is.  In addition, add to the top of this that most of the public do not have adequate access to a properly diverse ISP marketplace.  Most of us have one choice when it comes to Internet access.

By the way, our tax money also paid for the pipe these ISPs want to lay claim over.

The core of Net Neutrality was a way to set some balance back into the system.  It was to say that no ISP could segment and control traffic.  They were to be a dumb pipe that would only be there to serve to rent us access to the pipe.  Now you may still be asking why this is needed.  Simply put it would not allow an ISP like Comcast to restrict access to any part of the Internet they may not like.  Comcast as an owner of NBC could deem that Fox is bad for business and therefore cut off access to all their services online.  Net Neutrality was a way of telling Comcast clearly no you cannot.

For further proof look no further then what is actively going on with Comcast’s triple play bundle.  Comcast offers Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and so does Vonage.  Difference is Comcast’s VOIP is not counted against your bandwidth cap, while Vonage is.  To spell it out clearly, ISPs have a competitive advantage over those offering competing products.  In other words by allowing ISPs complete control over the pipe they become a monopoly, where they will use the pipe to their complete advantage for profit motives while consumers suffer.  This is why Net Neutrality is so important to the future of the Internet.

This is only one piece of the puzzle of understanding why the Internet Blackout day happened.  I have more to say on the subject so look for more writings on the subject soon.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Technology

 

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In Memorial

For many bloggers consistent updates is an important part of the process.  For my own personal goal when I took on the challenge of writing this blog, I wanted to stick to a consistent schedule.  The past two weeks I fell off the horse, and this week will be no different.  While the last two weeks I had been distracted by a game design contest entry I am working on, yesterday put the rest of the week in a loop.

Yesterday I received the news that my brother was struck by a stray bullet in his apartment and passed away.

Some may wonder why I would blog this subject, and I questioned this myself, but felt it important to.  We all have to find our own way to cope with tragedy and I figure I can try my best with words on this page.  Moreover, maybe someday these words will help someone else cope who is in a similar situation.

My brother was a quiet man.  He loved Sci-Fi, Comic Books and read many fantasy novels.  I actually introduced him to comic books when we were younger and he introduced me to the world of gaming.  My brother was older than I was, five years to be exact, and we enjoyed the typical brother relationship.  The type of brotherly relationship where the younger brother was the brat and loved antagonizing the older by being a tag-along brother.  Of course, time moves on and we all grow up.  He eventually moved to Reading.

When I got the news that he had been hit by a stray bullet from a gang related shooting, it was not shocking.  After the news started getting back to my family I found out the full extent of what happened.  I learned he was alone at the time and there was no one by his side when he passed away.  I personally went through the emotions (and still have many to go through) of shock, anger and grief.  This is all part of the human process and one that we will all face in our lifetime.  Death is natural as much as we do not like it.

My only hope is that those who did shoot the bullet would have heard the news of my brother’s death.  That they could hopefully learn from the consequence of their actions and grow.  I truly have no hatred in my heart for those that caused this and what law enforcement does is not my concern.  I can only have hope that only good can come from this.  Wishing hatred and vengeance on others will never solve or change what has happened.  For the healing of all involved, the best outcome is to grow and learn.

For now I’m going to sign off for the week with this song that I have always found a comfort in hard times.

You slipped from my arms, I knew you had to go
Such a heavy heart, who could hope to hold
And I know where you’re going, and that’s the hardest part
No matter where tonight ends, you won’t escape your broken heart

Stay a while

Helpless for the words, and it tightens up the air
It’s not what you deserve, it’s not for lack of care
Inside of me is screaming out, I’m praying for my prayers
Distracting and unworthy of each and every burning tear

Seems insincere

Do I see God in all of this, maybe all along
It’s just that we’re so small, and simply not as strong
Strong like wings of silver, and feathers made of gold
To carry heavy hearts, to cover all our helpless souls

To cover all of us

Under wings of Gold and Silver sometimes we have to hide
For shelter from this bitter winter at least tonight

If it were mine to give I’d give you your own time
Turn it back or forward whatever you decide

Stay a while

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Blog

 

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