27 May, 2006

Net Neutrality: More

Net Neutrality is continuing to get a lot press, so I have attempted to gather various sources of information that I have found and put it all here.

Adam Livingstone of BBC Newsnight recently wrote an article, "BitTorrent: Shedding no tiers," where he made several good points. First he starts with an analogy about driving your car down the road, and as you get closer to a place of business, your car begins to slow down. And if you turn around, it speeds back up. Later Mr. Livingstone puts a different twist on the analogy -- instead of losing speed going to the same store, when you go to a rival store, your car goes faster. From that perspective, as long as the speed to the first store is reasonable -- but it's not resonable to take my broadband speed and slow it down to dial up or worse.

Mr Livingstone also introduced a new, interesting concept,
Cachelogic, which is used to speed up content delivery in a P2P environment. I wont go into the details here, but it may be worth searching Google or go to http://www.cachelogic.com/ to learn more.

I found an organization, Hands Off the Internet, that is against Net Neutrality. They are pushing for no government regulation. I beleive I understand their position, which sounds reasonable, but the way I understand it, regulation around Net Neutrality would be better for consumers than no regulation. The Hands Off position points out that the current no regulation has worked fine, which I wont argue. But from my understanding, consumers are starting to see an increase in their Internet access fee structures. I already pay too much for Internet access, I cannot afford to have it go higher. You can visit the
Hands Off the Internet website to read more about their position.

There is another site that may be of interest, Wikipedia. The Net Neutrality article on Wikipedia provides a wealth of information. It covers terms, theory, history, and advocates and opponents, among other topics.

Finally, on May 26th, Wired News reported:
The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation aimed at preventing broadband providers from discriminating against unaffiliated services, content and applications.
Wired quoted Judiciary chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) in their article:
The lack of competition in the broadband marketplace presents a clear incentive for providers to leverage dominant market power over the broadband bottleneck to pre-select, favor or prioritize internet content over their networks.
Which is exactly why I fear the Hands Off position -- there is not enough competition.

Let me know what you think.

25 May, 2006

Blocked for Spam

By the time you read these, I will have gotten this problem fixed... I recieved a notice in my email that my Blog has been disabled to to suspecting that my blog is spam.
This system has detected that your blog has characteristics that resemble spam. Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerly apologize for this erroneous result.

Though I guess I can understand that spammers can consume a lot of bandwidth and storage, so a mechanism is required to protect against it, I find it hard to beleive that this blog fit into the suspicion category.

Tell me, for the few who are reading this, does it feel like spam?

18 May, 2006

Skype-d Voice Over IP

Have you heard of Skype? Now owned by eBay, Skype is a cheap or free way to make phone calls using the Internet as the transport (VOIP). Think of it as instant messaging, but with audio. Many Podcasters are using Skype to record interviews, as the quality is as good or better than recording a traditional phone call. (Right now I am in the process of trying different techniques for recording the Skype calls for use in Podcasts -- once I feel confident in my solution, I will post it here.)

Cheap or free you ask? If you and the party you are calling have Skype installed on your computers, then the call is completely free. If you want to call a landline (a phone number - Skype calls this SkypeOut), from the U.S. and Canada to the U.S. and Canada, it is also free until the end of the year. The posted rates are $0.021 per minute after the end of the year. So if you like this service, and want to continue at no cost in 2007, you will need to convince you family and friends to put Skype on their computer. Skype's posted rates also indicate that U.S. toll calls are free, which makes it a good option if you want to record business conference calls.

You can also use Skype for conference calls with up to 4 participants plus yourself, or if you are using an Intel dual-core microprocessor, then you can get a total of 10 people in your conference. Mind you, this is not a feature enabled because of the extra processing power, but rather it is a business agreement between Skype and Intel.

Other feautes of Skype include its own instant messaging client, video support, voice mail, and getting your own phone number (SkypeIn). And of course Skype is getting into the ringtone business, so you can customize your own ringtone, just like your cellphone.

Finally, Skype has recently started a new service called Skypecast, which is bringing people together to talk about common interests. Skype is advertising that they can get up to 100 people on one Skypecast call.

So, if you make any long distance calls, Skype may be a good alternative to saving you a few dollars every month. Or, if you want to see a friend or family member while you talk, such as those who you do not see often, all you need is Skype with a web cam. And of course, if your home phone is tied up by the kids, Skype can also work as a second line.

One last note, bottlenecks on the Internet can, of course, affect the quality of your call, but also having a good microphone is important too. I use the Plantronics DSP-400 at work, and am very pleased with the quality. The DSP-400 plugs into my USB port, has a noise cancelling mic, and it folds up nicely. Expect to pay about $75 for it at Fry's. If you're looking for something cheaper, I think it's a bit of a gamble, as I had a $20 Radio Shack headset that was useless, yet a found a no-name brand at Fred Meyers for $20 that works fine. So, you can try an inexpensive headset, but prepare yourself to take it back, just in case it's too noisy.