AP, Please Improve Your Reporting

With the demise of newspapers all around us, you’d think the AP could put out better articles. Case in point is an article circulated by the AP today with a headline that screams more Americans have no religion that in years past.

First off, the headline is misleading at best. A 0.8 percent increase really isn’t the main gist of the article nor is it the most relevant factoid in the article.

More Americans say they have no religion (AP via Y! News).

“Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.”

Second, the article is poorly structured and misses key details that I expect an article like this to include. For example, what does it mean to not have a religion? Does it mean that person is an athiest and does not believe in a higher power? Does it mean a person is agnostic and chooses to not have a religion but believes in a higher power?

The article lacks a summary at the beginning to say in a nutshell what it is about or to provide a roadmap, is disjointed and provides related details in separate areas of the article, and lacks clear thought. I admit that I’m guilty of these violations at various times but I’m not a professional journalist paid to dispense the news.

Building on my first example, above, why is it that the 15 percent statement is separate from and not tied to the statement more than 8 paragraphs down about 12 percent of Americans believing in a higher power but not a personal God? It seems those stats go together but are not tied together or contrasted. So, is the 12 percent group a subset of the other? Are they separate groups? If a subset, what does that say about the remaining 3 percent? Other questions left unanswered include whether the study includes the same respondents from the earlier versions of the study, what answers respondents gave to why they changed religions, and what was done to accommodate people who did not speak English or Spanish in the sample population (is there underrepresentation in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islams as a result?).

Please, don’t make me find and read the study to better understand for myself.

Text messaging charges are all a sham!

Do you pay for text messages? If so, you are being scammed.

via Digital Domain – What Carriers Arenâ??t Eager to Tell You About Texting – NYTimes.com.

Perhaps the costs for the wireless portion at either end are high â?? spectrum is finite, after all, and carriers pay dearly for the rights to use it. But text messages are not just tiny; they are also free riders, tucked into whatâ??s called a control channel, space reserved for operation of the wireless network.

Thatâ??s why a message is so limited in length: it must not exceed the length of the message used for internal communication between tower and handset to set up a call. The channel uses space whether or not a text message is inserted.

Professor Keshav said that once a carrier invests in the centralized storage equipment â?? storing a terabyte now costs only $100 and is dropping â?? and the staff to maintain it, its costs are basically covered. â??Operating costs are relatively insensitive to volume,â? he said. â??It doesnâ??t cost the carrier much more to transmit a hundred million messages than a million.â?

Configuring Modem and Router for AT&T DSL

I found out tonight that my DSL problems are related to the default configurations for my DSL modem and router, which are not set properly for use with the AT&T DSL network.

Not once did AT&T tech support, in all of the calls I had with them during the past week, tell me that there are settings specific to the AT&T network that need to be set on both the modem and router. Its customer service representatives, both Tier 1 and Tier 2, knew: 1) I had a new DSL modem (because my old one crapped out last week); 2) the brand and model of the DSL modem (D-Link DSL-2320B); and 3) that I was able to get to some web sites but most others timed out (Google worked fine but Yahoo! didn’t).

In addition, traceroutes all made it look like the AT&T network was the culprit, but it wasn’t (at least not directly). What’s more, VPN to my work network cleared up any of my issues which made it look even more likely my problems were related to some bad switch or router in the central office or some regional switching facilities.

Here are configurations for the AT&T DSL network, based on the old SBC network. I’m not sure if the old Ameritech, SNET, or BellSouth network configurations are the same.

DSL Modem:

VPI: 0

VCI: 35

Protocol: PPPoE (PPP over Ethernet)

Note: If you have a D-Link DSL-2320B DSL modem, uncheck the “DSL auto-connect” box and click the next button to configure manually.


MTU: manual

[MTU] size: 1492

To think, it would have cost AT&T much less money to educate its reps that connection problems reported by customers who are using new modems (or routers) could have something to do with incorrect default settings and to provide those settings. What’s more, AT&T does not even list the configuration settings for DSL modems in its help site specifically created to tell customers how to set up a DSL modem.

I hope this helps at least one other person and that you do not go grey or lose all your hair attempting to get helpful information from AT&T. If only AT&T had real competition. This only strengthens my support for a layered regulatory framework for communications services, to replace a silo regulatory framework.

Why customers do not like AT&T

1) I got this screen while seeking help from AT&T this evening for a poor DSL experience.

The telephone number this screen says I can call “24 hours a day, 7 days a week for further assistance” operates close to regular business hours.

2) I cannot use AT&T’s self-help systems because its systems do not recognize my account number. I have naked DSL and the systems aren’t built for account numbers that are not legit telephone numbers. It has been this way since I got the service. Otherwise I might have been able to check if there are local outages.

3) My DSL service has been going up and down. When up, I can only see certain web sites (Google, CNN, Westlaw, Santa Clara University, Stanford, Univ. of Michigan, AT&T, my blog) I cannot see Yahoo! or other Yahoo! web sites, MSNBC, LA Times, and most other news web sites. It is not my computer because I can use Google WiFi to reach all of those web sites with no issue. Sadly, free Google WiFi is more dependable than the AT&T DSL service I pay for.

4) When I finally reached someone, via an instant message client, I was sent a link that I’m glad I couldn’t see at the time: http://helpme.att.net/article.php?item=1. I can get to att.com but not att.net.

The rep ultimately told me to move my DSL modem away from anything that might cause interference and if that does not work to call the AT&T line repair team.

“The following are a few of the possible causes of Electromagnetic Interference on a DSL line: Halogen desk lamps near the DSL modem or telephone line, especially those with dimmers Any electrical dimmer switch Electronic devices, such as stereo speakers, PC speakers, televisions, monitors, microwave ovens, etc. Routing the telephone line parallel to an AC power cord for more than a few inches Electronic insect electrocution devices (bug zappers) Low quality 900MHz cordless telephones Any other emitter of high frequency electromagnetic radiation Placement of DSL equipment directly on a carpeted surface.”

I do not think that’s my problem. Still can’t get to certain web sites.

Dislike is probably an understatement.

Update: I pulled out my work computer and connected to its network through VPN. My work computer has none of the problems I’m having with my personal computers. They are sitting side-by-side, connected to the Internet through the same router. My work computer loads pages with blazing fast speed including all of those that I cannot access at all with my home computer. I’m afraid the lines might melt with that kind of speed. My work computer is brought down to earth when I disconnect it from VPN.  🙁

Update #2: Turns out my new dsl modem is configured improperly, but AT&T’s Customer Service reps and help site were mum on the subject of configuring it. Read more about it on Configuring a Modem and Router for AT&T DSL.

NBC has a good start at ruining the Olympic Games

NBC has decided that it is still 1950 and it is still in control. Back then there was very little competition for eyeballs and radio was the only real alternative to quickly get news.

So, as a result, NBC forced most US viewers to sit through more than 12 hours of news reports, photos, and video clips from the opening ceremony before they could actually watch it. While the rest of the world (and US locales, like Detroit, that also get Canadian CBC stations) watched it live, as it happened, most of the US was subject to a poorly executed ruse to make us think nothing had happened. No matter how much demand there was in the marketplace, NBC resisted and ignored the resentment it engendered with such a move.

But this is 2008, during the beginnings of the Internet Age. There are already several ways around blackouts and more will come. The New York Times wrote an article about some primitive attempts to get around NBC’s attempts at blacking out the US market but ignored a couple of other key technologies that will play a greater role in the future.

Tape Delay by NBC Faces End Run by Online Fans – NYTimes.com
NBCâ??s decision to delay broadcasting the opening ceremonies by 12 hours sent people across the country to their computers to poke holes in NBCâ??s technological wall â?? by finding newsfeeds on foreign broadcastersâ?? Web sites and by watching clips of the ceremonies on YouTube and other sites.

The NY Times article missed out on two very important technologies that worked effectively: proxies and torrents.

Proxies are computers set up to relay internet traffic through. By routing your Internet traffic through a proxy, the web site you’re visiting thinks you are the proxy. I was able to use a proxy based in the UK to watch some BBC coverage of the Olympics intended solely for a UK audience.

Torrent is a peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing protocol. It is even more decentralized than other, previous p2p networks such as Napster. And, unlike Napster, the torrent technology is likely to not violate copyright laws. It has legitimate purposes and its use for copyright infringement is incidental to the technology.

A quick search with Y! Search found a few different torrents of the opening ceremony, including :

If the television industry does not change soon it will be hurting as much as the big music labels. Like the music labels, the television industry is no longer in control of the distribution. The Internet and other new technologies have disrupted that part of its business model. To survive, it must deliver on what people demand. Otherwise it will lose even more people to other media and distribution methods.

In four years, Olympic events will need to be broadcast in nearly real time. Otherwise, viewers will look elsewhere to satisfy their demands. Those who were foiled at watching on YouTube and other online video sites will prepare ahead of time and arrange for torrents from those viewing the events live. Technology will improve between now and then. I predict that an open source p2p streaming service will debut before then, intended to serve as an alternative broadcast outlet, but it will used to also share events with a friend in a blacked out area.

BTW: Beyond making viewers wait for old-news, NBC blew its actual coverage of the opening ceremonies in many ways, including its intense focus on getting close-ups of performers during a show meant for viewing from a distance, its badly executed cuts for commercials, its ridiculous and irrelevant color commentary throughout the show, and its lazy choice to paraphrase a speech at the end by the head of the Chinese Olympic committee instead of providing a translation (they had enough time and money to find an hire a real translator).

the man in the big hat has walked away, for now

It appears that the man in the ten gallon hat has gotten back into his car and driven away. This of course is after he huffed, puffed and made crazy threats and the ranchers likewise made threats of their own including scorched earth.

Whatever analysts and the blogosphere might think of Microsoft walking away from it’s offer for Yahoo!, we are happy it has. Primarily, we think the deal would likely have killed off both companies. This is better for Yahoo! and Microsoft, their shareholders (including us), and the Internet industry as a whole. And we are glad it is over this early instead of a bloody fight that drags on for months and years. Now it is time for both sides to get back to business and battle where it matters, the marketplace.

We don’t doubt for a moment that Microsoft won’t be back. Like the man in the ten gallon hat, it will bide its time and take the risk that Yahoo! fails to deliver the numbers it has promised to shareholders over the next few quarters and years. It will also use its leverage to make life as difficult for Yahoo! in the mean time.

Charlie Rose Interviews … Charlie Rose (regarding Yahoo! and Microsoft)

This video is likely entertaining only to folks who are forced to live with Microsoft hovering over Yahoo!, who are into video mashing and editing, or who like making fun of the first two groups. Even if you aren’t in those groups, watch anyway; it is short enough for everyone to watch and ponder.

I’ve wanted to post and comment on this video since I saw it a few weeks ago. Now I get my chance, as I work through some of my copyrights outline (test tomorrow).

I assume the Charlie Rose show is copyrighted. I also assume, Charlie Rose or the owner of his show can make out a prima facie case (this means they showed infringement of their copyrighted work). In that case, the maker of this video will need to argue a Fair Use defense under section 107 of the copyright statute.

Section 107 of the copyright act (usc title 17, section 107) provides four factors for courts to assess a fair use claim. It requires a court to consider: (1) the purpose and character of the use; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

First, a court must consider the purpose and character of the use, analyzed along two axes: commercial versus non-commercial; and the superseding object of the original versus transformative uses. The commercial nature of a work is generally not dispositive and is given very little weight. Courts frequently provide this quote from an old case: “no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” It isn’t entirely true, but sums up U.S. courts’ opinions about how they regard this requirement. Along the second axis, the video appears to be transformative because, to me, it appears to “add something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning, or message.” Is it a parody? In which case it is given more deference. Is it only satire? If so, it gets less deference. I think that because the video’s creator adds another meaning, that of this philosophical conversation with self, it likely passes as transformative.

Second, the nature of the copyrighted work is as a published video of non-fiction. I’m assuming that the video was taken from archived copies of the Charlie Rose show. This part of the analysis matters very little unless it was an unpublished work that was intended to be sold for money. This was the case in the late 1970’s when the Nation Magazine scooped the juicy details that were to the “very heart” of former President Gerald Ford’s memoirs of his time in office. The Nation acquired a copy of the manuscript before it was published, and caused Time Magazine to cancel out on the advance it had paid to have first dibs on a review. D’oh! Here, if the video clips were taken from previously broadcast Charlie Rose episodes, Obi Wan Kenobi is not needed to say “There is nothing here. Move along.”

Third, a court will look at the amount ans substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. It seems this video takes very little of two separate shows. It is a toss-up how a court will come down on this. A court will not let someone take the heart of a work, as in the Nation Magazine scooping Gerry Ford’s story, even though it used a few hundred words of a 300 or more page book. I think it is unlikely they would consider this went to the heart of the Charlie Rose episodes in question because it was changed so much so that I’m not sure what was discussed beyond Yahoo! and Microsoft.

Fourth, a court will look at the effect upon the market value of the original, copyrighted work. It isn’t clear to me, but I doubt it will have much impact. The new video does not substitute for the original. In fact, I think it might lead people to want to view the shows to see what was said originally.

All said, I think this video will likely qualify as fair use.

Why I love the Internet

Because geeky professors can feel empowered to make videos in which they sound alarms and spread their message virally, while they enjoy their morning coffee.

Very cool, however the message given in the video isn’t. The professor, Brad DeLong, rings the alarm, saying evasive action taken by the Fed may not work and that government needs to start talking about solutions before we get another depression with deflation or the inverse, inflation.


I took a few minutes here and there over the past week to do some house keeping on this blog.

1) Open ID: This blog now uses Open ID. Since most people have Yahoo! Accounts (Y! Mail, Flickr, Y! Groups, etc.) I set the default to yahoo.com.

Open ID is an open standard that lets you use one account to log in across the web. Many web sites are starting to use it and the big guns (Y!, G, MS) have put their weight behind it.

If you choose to use Open ID through your Y! account, then the most important thing for you to do is to set your security image. That way you know you are on the Y! site when you give your password. Make sure it is something unique to you. I use my wife’s beautiful face on one computer and a very cool and unique photo of a flower on another.

Login with your Open ID today. (creates an account on my site)

2) Comments: I didn’t realize you needed an account to leave comments. I have since opened up comments to anyone. All you need to do is give your nickname (such as ‘db’) and an email address. Only your nickname is publicly available. Your email is confidential and available to only the admins for this blog (me and my wife).


3) Random Stuff: I also made some other random updates to the interface and how the page looks, now use tags, and include My Blog Log.