Dis an’ dat

Note: this article is the writers personal opinion. It is based upon almost 40 years of experience in small computers and communications, but it is still an opinion.It is presented AS IS. All use is at your own risk.

To end out the year, miscellaneous points.

“Dirty Dancing” A school in Cumberland, Maryland canceled the spring “Sweetheart” dance because during the fall Home Coming dance the participants disregarded their agreement not to use “Dirty Dancing” moves in the school activity. According to WikiHow.com, Dirty Dancing moves are expressly designed to evoke sexual responses, and involve “grinding”, rubbing the thighs together with your dancing partner, and so forth in what amounts to foreplay. While we realize this is a fad and youth are easily sucked into fads, it would appear the school is being responsible in denying this conversion of dance into explicit sexual activity because it could easily result in legal liability for promoting the sexual acts which the dancing causes to follow after the participants leave the dance.

“Net Neutrality” is the concept that a common carrier of Internet traffic is not allowed to analyze the content of that traffic and  alter the traffic pattern, usually for their personal profit. For example, one ISPwas caught deliberately slowing down traffic from competing services to cause those using that ISP as their On Ramp to the Internet to switch to buying their other products instead of using the competition, such as Bit-Torrent. Often the offending carrier claims slowing down their competition  is necessary to protect their network. Sometimes it probably does protect their network, sometimes it probably simply irritates their customers.

The point is that the citizen buying Internet services from Comcast, or Verizon, or Frontier, or whatever is trapped: there is no path around the offending manipulation because the manipulator is a commercial common carrier of telecommunications and has been trusted with providing a reliable connection to the Internet for that citizen. Thus the principal that if you buy Frontier services connecting to Comcast content will be unnaturally slow, and if you buy Comcast services then connecting to Frontier services will be unnaturally slow, is abhorrent to sane free persons everywhere: while the Internet culture is based upon freedom, privacy, and the right to individual choice, this business practice smacks of protectionism, censorship, invasion of privacy, and just plain dirty dealing: in legal terms, breach of fiduciary trust.

So, people got mad, and the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates common carriers, was pressured to regulate it. The Democrats on the committee were all for regulation and the Republicans were all against it: ruling passed 3-2. It would be nice to see something besides partisan politics in the realm of public policy. In FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules Despite Overall Dissatisfaction eWeek.com says that a ruling was issued which apparently satisfied no one: the consensus was that it either did not go far enough or it went too far. This is probably a good thing.

The order addressed three major issues: transparency, blocking, and discrimination. Fixed-line broadband providers such as Comcast and Qwest will be required to give subscribers information on Internet speeds and service. They are also prohibited from blocking access to sites and applications that can compete against its own products. However, there is clause allowing “reasonable” network management to enable providers to restrict access to sites that could be deemed “harmful.”

So, when they have done all this, does it mean it is illegal for a common carrier to block criminal activity, such as DDOS attacks or known Siberian or Chinese physhing scams? If it is permitted to block criminal activity, would citizens be blocked from viewing WikiLeaks because someone has labeled it a crime? What about politically motivated censorship? Isn’t this what we opposed in Socialist repression, and still oppose in China and Iran? I present several scenarios because it is a thorny proposition.

The rules “do not guarantee anyone’s right to an open Internet or ban paid prioritization” by ISPs, said the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a group that supported the much stronger net neutrality proposal from earlier this year. Even though there was no outright ban, the order contained language discouraging phone and cable companies from offering faster, priority delivery services to Internet companies willing to pay extra.

In other words, it is a ransom type thing: if you are rich enough to pay a ransom for your web site, they will let you have normal throughput, otherwise they will deliberately slow your traffic down to extort money from you. You may be wondering if this means your G4 speed will become reliable now that it is illegal to throttle bandwidth for profiteering purposes: sorry, wireless services are exempt: if you are stuck with AT&T they are still allowed to grind your $600 iPhone to a halt because you are using ‘too much’ Internet.

Android phones should be on sale now that the Christmas rush has passed. Happy New Year, guy. Some really nice tablets should also become available using the newest Droid platform 1Q11, so remind you carrier what goes around eventually comes around, and the farther it flies the thicker it gets. “Can you hear me now?”

It seems to me this is an opportunity for Google to step in with high performance Internet service sans extortion. Maybe that is why Google has been buying up all that “dark” (unused) fiber optic infrastructure. A Google-Frontier joint Internet venture (like the Droid phones Frontier now sells)  might kick AT&T in their baby bells hard enough that they need to start advertising for a White Knight to save them from themselves. Or not. Depends on if Google remembers that thing about “Don’t Be Evil”. Good marketing, anyway — never be caught in the public eye appearing to be evil. Anyway, rumblings of potential exist for a Google-Frontier alliance with the public.

Google and Verizon announced Aug. 9 their much-anticipated plan for implementing their view of net neutrality. The CEOs of both companies, Eric Schmidt of Google and Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon, announced a plan that sticks closely to a statement of principles issued jointly in October 2009. The primary principle as stated by both companies is that users should have the final say on their Web experience.

Casting the joint statement as a “way to move forward” and calling for an end to what Schmidt called a “divisive debate,” Google’s CEO reiterated the message that preserving the open Internet is very important to Google. He also requested that reporters ignore last week’s story in The New York Times, which he referred to as “completely wrong,” and read the joint public policy proposal.

In addition to making their policy statement clear, the companies specifically and repeatedly said there was no business deal involved. The CEOs also repeated that there was no place for paid prioritization of content, and that while individual carriers could provide content to their own customers, such content should not take away bandwidth or otherwise degrade traffic on the open Internet.

Both companies called on the Federal Communications Commission to create enforceable rules ensuring an open Internet with significant penalties for what they referred to as “bad actors.”

“We believe very strongly that the openness principles should be fully enforceable,” Schmidt said.

Doesn’t mater what the excuse is for harsh, manipulative, exploitation of your customers, sooner or later you will pay for hubris: look at Microsoft.

As Bob Parsons says,

The customer may not always be right, but the Customer IS ALWAYS the customer.

“Cloud Computing” Smarter Technology.com feels that “cloud” computing is more immune to DDOS attacks because it is designed to link up resources as needed. Thus, as more requests come in during an attack, more resources are automagically activated, and the “cloud” continues to float, not crash.

In fact, the whole point of cloud computing is that, since sites do not have to calculate how many servers are needed at any given time, the cloud transparently brings to bear massive computing resources to handle surges—which is why AWS calls one of its services the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
The bottom line is that DDoS attacks alone will not crash typical cloud computers, although Website owners do have to pay for all user requests—even from software bots—so DDoS could run up your cloud computing bill, but it won’t crash your site.

A “cloud” is basically a file server. File servers and web servers can be arranged to load balance — that is evenly distribute the work across the available servers. They can also be arranged to verify the health of all the servers in the group and reboot servers which crash. I still have extreme reservations about allowing private internal information to be outside my corporate envelope — things happen, servers get hacked, information gets stolen. If ti is safely locked away inside my physical premises that is less likely to happen.

That thing about charging us for every access bothers us too.

If you want a file server, put up a fiel server. If you want a web server, put one up. We’re generally talking free here. I’d rather that kind of thing be under my control, possibly augmented by expertise from my web hosting company, such as http://GoDaddy.com which provides most of the server-side security. Just about anyone can be set up in minutes hosting on GoDaddy.com and usually Pasons team will throw in your domain name for the first year free. Also, their tech support actually answers the phone, speaks understandable English, and gets me the RESULTS that I specify.

Google.com has an interesting feature that promises to allow us to call domestic telephones for free and place International calls for a few cents a minute via our GMail account. Google will continue to offer the service for free throughout next year.

“In the spirit of holiday giving and to help people keep in touch in the new year, we’re extending free calling for all of 2011,” Google software engineer Robin Schriebman said in a blog post.

To access the feature, users must download Google’s voice and video plug-in. Gmail users may then click the “Call Phone” tab in the chat section in the left menu bar.

We’re not too cool about allowing software be installed to facilitate, but it should be no more risky than installing Skype. The site suggests that the “plugin” works in Linux, which is what we use to get work done, and includes video capabilities, which we consider of growing importance.

eWeek.com has a slideshow on the Google CR-48 Notebook which runs the long awaited Chrome OS. Looks like a strictly business mobile device that has some promise.

Repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell protections which allowed homosexuals in the military service provided that they did not make a big deal about their private sexual preferences, has been repealed. This is one area President Obama and his political cronies should have just left alone: politics has not constructive place in military policy.

In a rare moment of ebullience, President Barack Obama marked the final day of public events in the first half of his term by signing into law a repeal of the ban on gays in the military, arguably the most symbolic of his legislative victories thus far — one that represents far more than a campaign promise kept to a key constituency.

The impact of this devastating affront to human rights lies more in the harm it will do to getting us out of Afghanistan than in any perceived “advance” to homosexual special ‘rights’. To some degree, moderate Muslim entities have assisted us or at least abstained from helping the Muslim terrorists murder more women and children. Now that all could change: Sodomy is punishable by death under Islam, and Muslims believe that their Islamic law is legally above all national laws. They have demonstrated this before, for example by demanding that Great Britain allow them to ignore the law of the realm and live under their own Sharia law, and in the stabbing Paris’ Mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, because he is homosexual. See here and here and here

A RADICAL Muslim group sparked outrage last night as it launched a massive campaign to impose sharia law on Britain. The fanatical group Islam4UK has ­announced plans …

and  here and here.

The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, suffered serious knife wounds to the abdomen during an assault Oct. 6. He was stabbed in the early morning hours while attending an all-night cultural festival in the Paris City Hall. Delanoe, 52, is one of the highest-ranking openly gay elected officials in the world. … The man … has a police record for theft and assault, and … a devote Muslim of Algerian background whose family lives in a depressed Paris suburb

Moderate thinking Muslims may have abstained from publicly condoning Al-Qaeda’s insane violence and mass torture murders of non-combatant women and children, including of other Muslims, but they cannot abstain from opposing the United States in its new policy of openly promoting Sodomy as an acceptable practice. The forced political validation of Sodomy as acceptable to the US Military is abhorrent to most persons, some of them women and homosexuals who would like to leave their private lives private and want to be honored for their service as a worthy soldier, not for their gender or sexual preference, and it will probably cost us the support of previously moderate Muslims who wanted us to be able to leave Afghanistan and go home as much as we would like to leave. And we can’t leave until we know that Al-Qaeda can never again murder thousands of our innocent women and children.

CPU vs. GPU vs. CPU+GPU Wall Street journal reports that Intel and AMD are talking about adding a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to CPU chips. This was done before in  the ATARI 400 and 800, and worked very nicely (those microcomputers had three processors, one of them dedicated to graphics).  In this case the GPU would be added to the CPU silicon, reducing chip count and improving performance, especially for mobile devices such as NetBooks. Maybe. At what price?

AMD expects the chips being introduced at the CES show to add much better capabilities for playing games and high-definition videos to a low-end portable category known as netbooks, a market Intel has dominated. “We are bringing just this incredible amount of visual and computing power to segments where it hasn’t been seen before,” said Rick Bergman, an AMD senior vice president who is general manager of its products group.

Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204051904576040182493365422.html#ixzz19LwC9tvm

Commodity priced PCs for offices have long included a graphics chip on the main board, so this is not a new concept, just an optimization in the electronics. My guess is that the price will likely be ridiculous at first (> $1,000 / chip) and then become rational.

iPhone to be available without a contract in China. According to the Wall Street Journal “China Unicom Ltd. plans to offer the 8-gigabyte version of Apple Inc.’s iPhone 3GS without a mobile-service contract starting Saturday, Unicom’s parent company said. The move comes as China Unicom has invested heavily in handset subsidies to compete with China Mobile Ltd. and China Telecom Corp.”

Code for America is a non-profit group that codes apps for city governments. According to Eric Knorr on InfoWorld.com

The 11-month Code for America fellowship program sounds like a fantastic way for young talent to gain experience. Fellows get a living-wage stipend, health care, and expenses-paid travel to their assigned city to network face-to-face and learn how that city’s government functions. For 2011, the first year of the program, 20 fellows were selected from 362 applicants to work on projects for four cities: Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

You can read the whole article here. I’m not sure if this is good for the world by creating open source government apps, or bad for the world by eliminating paid programming jobs.

Mobile devices can be used to spy inside corporate premises According to InfoWorld.com, smart Phones, netbook, and other devices can create security hazards.

The invasion of consumer-oriented smartphones and now tablets into business is old news. But we’re beginning to see unintended consequences of the adoption of such devices that users, businesses, and mobile platform providers should pay attention to. For example, the U.S. Army has begun educating soldiers on how to turn off the often automatic location-detection capabilities in their smartphones and digital cameras so that they don’t inadvertently reveal their locations to enemy fighters or spies.

Built-in microphone and cameras also can have unintended consequences, from inadvertant revelation of company secrets (say, a Christmas party photo that happens to include a view of a whiteboard with a product launch schedule in the background) to personal embarrassment (forgetting to end a call, then be heard talking like a sailor by a client).

The article advises a measured approach such as the US Army uses instead of simply banning all mobile devices. Recommended steps include educating users as to what the concerns are (eg. the camera includes a gps that records your location on the photo) and how to take care if it (eg. disable the camera inside the building). The article is worth a quick read. There is also a download from infoWorld.com if you care to type in your contact information first. Get it here.

Microsoft + Nokia ?= fantasic new phone or abysimal failure? InfoWorld.com reports that Microsoft and Nokia are contemplating a joint venture to overcome their past product failures and build a winning product. I know Microsoft has had problems and cut their OS prices in half compared to previous versions. See power points here.

The latest rumors in the always rumor-filled tech industry are that Nokia and Microsoft will band together to combat Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS. Both Microsoft and Nokia have foundered in recent years, and their desperate mobile straits could lead them to try a Hail Mary combination. The fact that Nokia’s new CEO hails from Microsoft gives the rumors some sense of legitimacy.

This might work, especially if attention is given to building what consumers want and selling it for a price they can afford without forcing them to buy a mobile contract from any particular vendor. Maybe they will build a tablet similar in form factor to the iPad, without the drawbacks, and sell it for closer to what I am told is the iPads actual cost to Apple, $20 per unit. And $89 tablet would sell if it was any good. For reasons of economy, they might consider using free, already developed software, such as Android, rather than re-inventing the wheel from scratch.

Many pundits have suggested that Nokia adopt Android, given that OS’s strong momentum. … The once king of mobile, Motorola, … went Android in 2010 — to strong success — so maybe Nokia should try to do the same and be a smaller fish in a large pond.

There is no law that says Microsoft can’t use Android if it wants to. They have a good reputation for making pretty, professional looking, output — eg. Word styles and such. The Linux realm leaves a lot to be desired in cosmetics. Microsoft could jump on top of the already working platform and concentrate on turning our customer friendly UI.
We hope they succeed famously: it would be good for everyone. Whether they can (or even want to) hit the same 2Q11 marketing release dates as several iPad alternate products is TBD.

Dirtiest Objects We Touch Everyday I saw a video (Myth Busters) over the Christmas Holiday at my Brother-in-laws, which ran tests analyzing just how dirty various things were supposed to be. As it turns out, the top list includes money, computer keyboards, light switches, and cell phones, with toilet seats a distant also ran. An on-line article with similar results is here. Since lots of people run out of sick days by now and take their diseases to work with them, you might consider sanitizing keyboards before you touch them.

Nuclear vs. Fossel Fuel An attempt to begin processing Uranium for power generation is running into snages, reports the NY Times.

A proposal for a new mill to process uranium ore, which would lead to the opening of long-shuttered mines in Colorado and Utah, has brought global and local concerns into collision — jobs, health, class-consciousness and historical memory among them — in ways that suggest, if the pattern here holds, a bitter national debate to come.

I don’t see how we are getting much global warming right now with all the cold here in Indiana, but nonetheless, this situation could foreshadow developments in the energy realm.

Death Panels enacted into Medicare Law Jan 1 According to the NY Times, President will begin enforcing Death Panels under Medicare regulation beginning on Jan 1. The concept of telling someone that their health care is just too expensive and they have lived long enough so they need to die now was vehemently opposed by the American citizenry, and struck from the 2,074 page healthcare “reform’ legislation. That people should be condemned to death just because they are older than 20, or have cancer, or Aides, or are mentally disadvantaged is too Hitler-esque for sane peoples anywhere to accept. Yet, a back door was found to begin doing it through Medicare regulation.

When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.
Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

This is monstrous. They are calling it “voluntary advance care planning” to reduce public awareness and side step repercussions.

The final version of the health care legislation, signed into law by President Obama in March, authorized Medicare coverage of yearly physical examinations, or wellness visits. The new rule says Medicare will cover “voluntary advance care planning,” to discuss end-of-life treatment, as part of the annual visit.

While the new law does not mention advance care planning, the Obama administration has been able to achieve its policy goal through the regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent in the next two years as the president deals with a strengthened Republican opposition in Congress.

In this case, the administration said research had shown the value of end-of-life planning.

This article (which is published in a very liberal newspaper) says that the participation is voluntary to help a person decide what health care they would receive if they became unable to make decisions for themselves.

“Advance care planning improves end-of-life care and patient and family satisfaction and reduces stress, anxiety and depression in surviving relatives,” the administration said in the preamble to the Medicare regulation, quoting research published this year in the British Medical Journal.

Section 1233 of the bill passed by the House in November 2009 — but not included in the final legislation — allowed Medicare to pay for consultations about advance care planning every five years. In contrast, the new rule allows annual discussions as part of the wellness visit.

Elizabeth D. Wickham, executive director of LifeTree, which describes itself as “a pro-life Christian educational ministry,” said she was concerned that end-of-life counseling would encourage patients to forgo or curtail care, thus hastening death.

“The infamous Section 1233 is still alive and kicking,” Ms. Wickham said. “Patients will lose the ability to control treatments at the end of life.”

After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s office celebrated “a quiet victory,” but urged supporters not to crow about it.

“While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue. “This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth.”

Moreover, the e-mail said: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

In the interview, Mr. Blumenauer said, “Lies can go viral if people use them for political purposes.”

The proposal for Medicare coverage of advance care planning was omitted from the final health care bill because of the uproar over unsubstantiated claims that it would encourage euthanasia.

Folks, if they are so afraid of public opinion that they need to keep it hidden, it probably needs to be exposed. This is likely as damming as its opponents represented last fall when they forced it to be removed from the health care ‘reform’ legislation.

For example, Dr. Silveira said, she might ask … a patient with incurable cancer … “When the time comes, do you want us to use technology to try and delay your death?”

Folks, that kind of psychological manipulation to save money is unconscionable. It needs to be removed forcefully and the manipulators behind it removed from public office.

Government Fundraising Idea — Los Angeles county coroner’s department has its own gift shop.

LOS ANGELES — Body bags go for $20. Yellow crime scene tape is $6. Toe tags are normally $5, but they were sold out this month. The merchandise comes in a white plastic shopping bag that says “Los Angeles County Department of Coroner.” … the store is quite a draw for a “certain segment of people.” It has particular cachet among foreign tour guides. During the summer, busloads of Asian and European tourists come to the out-of-the-way office a few miles east of downtown. The most popular item is the $30 beach towel with a life-size body outline.

Now you know what you could have gotten that person on your Christmas list who has everything. The skull business card holder or the beach towel with the life size outline of a body.

Renewable Power working in Africa Also from the NY Times

As small-scale renewable energy becomes cheaper and more reliable, it is providing the first drops of modern power to people far from electricity grids and fuel pipelines.

G.O.P. to Open House to Electronic Devices From the NY Times

New rules proposed by the incoming Republican majority would allow the use of electronic gadgets on the floor.

At least someone is fulfilling President Obama’s campaign promise to provide coverage of all legislative processes. Sad it has to be the Republicans to do it.

Huge Enterprise Class SSDs in test now — from eWeek.com

Samsung, the world’s largest seller of NAND flash-based storage, said Dec. 21 that it has been sampling 100GB, 200GB and 400GB multi-level-cell (MLC) solid-state drives for use as primary storage in enterprise storage systems.
Samsung claims that the new drives can process random read commands at about 43,000 input/outputs per second (IOPS) and provide random writes at 11,000 IOPS.

These speeds, as expected in most SSDs, blow conventional hard drives out of the water. Standard 15K-rpm HDDs provide a rate of about 350 IOPS; thus the new SSDs—at least in benchmark research—offer a 120 times gain in random IOPS read performance and a 30 times gain in random IOPS write performance.

They plan to start shipping drive in January.

Note: this article is the writers personal opinion. It is based upon almost 40 years of experience in small computers and communications, but it is still an opinion.It is presented AS IS. All use is at your own risk.

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