Studying has its [near] dangers

I love California weather. One reason is I can study outside most of the year. As much of the midwest slips out of its indian summer and into an autumn chill, California has remained temperate and comfortable. This week in Santa Clara has been no exception.

One of my favorite places to study is on a deck behind the law school library. A wisteria vine shades the patio during summer and then sheds its leaves to let the sun through during winter. But it hasn’t been a very pleasant place this week.

The wisteria pods that have been ripening all summer long are spontaneously exploding this week. That’s right, exploding. Without being touched or molested by animal or even a light breeze, the wisteria pods suddenly pop open with a small bang and send shards of pod skin and seeds flying in a number of directions. Every few minutes a pod explodes.

The danger isn’t in being hit. I have been hit several times by seeds and pod shrapnel but am not even scratched. The danger is the distraction from studying to watch the show or watch people watching the show. The other danger is having wisteria parts fall into a drink before realizing it was left open to attack.

The snapping has even been loud enough to bring folks out of neighboring buildings to determine what all that racket is about. One older woman even stood on a table while wearing her comfortable heels (can heels ever be comfortable) to touch a pod. It didn’t explode, but she quickly retreated when one exploded several feet to her left and sent seeds far to her right.

Needless to say, I studied under the wisteria for only a short while on Monday and yesterday. Today, I walked by without stopping after I heard the familiar crackling sounds. There’s always tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

Google WiFi v. AT&T Pro DSL

I’ve been testing out Google WiFi over the past few months. I even invested in a WiFi modem to pull the signal into my humble abode. Google WiFi is surprisingly comparable to the speeds AT&T Pro DSL gives. If only it were more reliable (but that’s another issue for another day).

DSL Reports: Google WiFi

DSL Reports: AT&T

And yes, I canceled my AT&T subscription. No more phone line. No more DSL. No more $1.25/mo. to remain out of the phone book. No more AT&T knowing it was overcharging but doing it anyway even though it intended to refund the following month, for now at least. And if I ever get my way, the last mile will be provided by a true common carrier, independent company, or municipal utility. Now that would provide competition.ร‚ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Comcast to FCC: Network neutrality is DEAD

Comcast has decided to make its case against network neutrality by hindering bit torrent downloads. The problem with its policy is that the debate is far from over and this move will anger customers who are likely to have other options for broadband.

Comcast blocks some Internet traffic – Yahoo News

NEW YORK – Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.

Not to mention, Comcast’s moves are underhanded and deceitful.

Comcast’s technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user.

Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer รข?? it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: “Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye.”

By spoofing (pretending to be another computer), Comcast is undermining the credibility of its network. Its behavior resembles that of a Chinese ISP, doing its part to maintain the Great Firewall of China, rather than an American ISP (or am I giving Comcast too much credit?). Comcast is also strengthening arguments for the FCC to label it a common carrier so it doesn’t interfere with the network traffic of its customers. Ultimately, the FCC needs to step up and slap Comcast for its spoofing, which is absolutely not in the public interest.

If Comcast wishes to limit the amount of bandwidth used by its customers, it should cap download speed and total bandwidth available for X time period. It then needs to appropriately set expectations by communicating such limits with customers and providing tools for customers to monitor their usage. The last thing it should be doing is filtering or interfering with traffic based on application type, destination, recipient, etc.

A note about Bit Torrent. It is a file sharing tool that, although used for illicit purposes, does have legitimate uses. For example, Silkroad Online, a free massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), is distributed using BitTorrent. To get the game, you download a 865 MB file. Normally, you would download the game from a single server. That server would be limited by the number of simultaneous connections it has available. For sake of argument, let’s say it has 100 available connections. If 200 people try to download the same file, the first 100 will take all those connection slots. The other 100 users attempting to connect will get an error message to that effect. Each person will need to wait for a slot to free up before they can download the game. Because it takes a long time (one or two hours) for each person to completely download such a large file, those second 100 people will be waiting for quite a long time before they can begin their downloads. Making the game available as a BitTorrent distributes the game more efficiently and limits those error messages game users receive. Instead of setting up several servers to handle traffic for those few people, the company can set up a few seed computers and distribute its game to many more (theoretically, at least).

“It’ll make you paranoid!”

My seminar class this morning started with the professor asking a classmate: “[V], why don’t you introduce your friend?”

V: “This is my friend. He’s thinking about law school.”

A single snicker resonated through the room. Then the class, in unison: “Don’t do it. Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” with a few “Not worth it!” mixed with “Stay away!”

V could only sit there smiling and shaking his head.

After what seemed like a few minutes, the professor interrupted. “Now, now. It isn’t that bad. Law school is a good thing. For instance, even if you don’t practice law, you’ll find your analytical training useful and employers will seek you out. I’ve had employers tell me that they want me for a non-legal job specifically because I have a JD.” (She neglected to mention that her JD is from Yale Stanford. Her B.A. is from Yale, and she’s a Rhodes Scholar.)

K, another classmate: “It’ll make you paranoid!” Followed by a hearty round of laughter.

Professor: “Yes, it makes you paranoid, but that isn’t such a bad thing.”

FCC to ease some broadband rules for AT&T

The FCC has decided to give AT&T a break and allow it to raise rates for business customers and other companies using its facilities.

FCC eases some broadband rules on AT&T | Benton Foundation

I find the FCC’s reasoning less than compelling. For example, Commissioner McDowell suggests the deployment of wireless technologies is legitimate competition for broadband.

“As competition in the broadband market continues to grow, especially through the deployment of new wireless technologies, less regulation should be required. However, many parties allege that competition in the special access market is uneven and is limited to certain urban areas, thus creating supply bottlenecks that favor incumbent local exchange carriers in the business broadband and wireless markets. Despite requests for better data to help us resolve disputes of these material facts, the Commission still has inadequate information to determine whether allegations that competition is scarce in certain segments of the special access market have merit.”

Commissioner McDowell’s statement, particularly the reference to wireless technology, makes me think the FCC doesn’t have enough data to support assertions that legitimate broadband competition exists enough to relax broadband rules for AT&T. WiFi Networks, such as Google WiFi, are available in only a few select cities, have spotty coverage areas, are testing an unproven business model. As the industry stands today, the FCC is counting chickens before they hatch if relying upon WiFi Networks as reason to relax rules for AT&T. Coffee houses, hotels, and some other service companies provide wireless access however those are limited in scope and reach, therefore not providing any real competition in broadband. And wireless Internet access via mobile phones should not be considered broadband at this stage.

The more I learn about mass communication technologies, the FCC, and the overall regulatory environment, the more I believe the conduit (wires, cables, spectrum used by wifi and satellite, etc.) should be regulated to provide full access to competition. The companies that connect to people through those conduits should each be considered common carriers. Then competitors would be guaranteed full access to the consumer and a reasonable profit margin would be guaranteed (10% sounds about right) to the owner of the conduit. Otherwise, we end up with uncontrollable monopolies that stifle innovation and ream the pocket books of consumers, neither of which are in the public interest.

Video: A Wonderful [Shadow Puppet] World

Mix an overhead projector with Louis Armstrong. Add imagination, and voila:

The artist is Raymond Crowe. This was taped at the 2007 Helpmann Awards, held at the Capitol Theater in Sydney on August 6th, 2007. The Helpmann awards are the Australian equivalent of the Tonys. Too bad his web site doesn’t list any upcoming appearances. I think it’d be great to see his show live.

[Freecycle] OFFERED: Book: “Coping with your Difficult Older Parent”

I found this item offered in the Freecycle email humorous:

Subtitle “A Guide for Stressed Out Children.”
by Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane

Discusses ideas for handling controlling types, having trouble adjusting
to grieving, clinging, nagging, recriminations, the impaired parent,
obsessive, intolerant.. .and so many more difficult older parent issues.
I’m exhausted just reading the table of contents.

Maybe a FRIEND needs this book! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Glad to be of help…

It was spoken for very quickly.

Sorry, no Alza puppies

Alza, part of Pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, is closing its Mountain View campus and moving someplace cheaper. Its departure gave someone an opportunity to start a chain letter about Alza needing to adopt out some beagle puppies … or else. This is only one of the emails we’ve received:

ร‚ย  [X Group] “has been made aware of an urgent need for people wanting to adopt 16-month-old Beagle puppies.

We are told that the Johsnon & Johnson Mountain View facility is closing and that they have 15 beagle puppies that need to find homes WITHIN THE NEXT 10 DAYS, or they will put them to sleep (i.e. kill them); these puppies have not been used as testing animals. If you have been waiting to get a dog or know someone who has been wanting to adopt a dog, there is no better time then now.

To help, contact:”

However, Alza has posted a press release to the contrary.

ALZA Responds to Inaccurate and Misleading Information Regarding Dogs Housed at Its Campus

October 4, 2007

Unfortunately, inaccurate and misleading information has been circulating on the Internet about ALZA’s plans for dogs housed at its campus. There is no public adoption program. The animals will be properly cared for and relocated to a different facility when ALZA closes at the end of the year. We regret this unfortunate misunderstanding and appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts with us.

Time to break the chain.

That said, there really are animals looking for a place to call home. Visit the Humane Society today if you’d like to save an animal from a life behind bars.