Friday, February 15, 2008

Internet Freedom Preservation Lives On

Again, sorry for the massive delay of this post. I know it's long overdue, but this week was really kind of crazy. This next week should be a lot more calm so hopefully I'll be able to make another post before the end of next week.

I've been working on my Net Neutrality video for my Contemporary Issues in CS class and it's been fun. I'm trying to get various viewpoints on net neutrality and expose the truth, my personal biases aside. A few people aren't talking on camera, so that kind of sucks, but I'd rather have a video where everyone wants to speak their mind than one where I have to pull people's arms. I actually totally forgot that censorship fell under the spectrum of what neutrality is trying to fight, and I'm reeling now to cover my bases on that end. Fortunately, How Stuff Works has a really great explanation of censorship in its many forms with tangents into net neutrality if you feel like your knowledge is deficient or could use a brush-up.

There is good news though: Congress introduced a bill earlier this week called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act that I really love: it seeks to protect the neutrality of the Internet not by regulating it but rather by empowering the FCC to investigate if companies are "blocking, thwarting, or unreasonably interfering" with consumers' consumption of online content. This could be worded a little better yet because it needs to allow them to block spam and child pornography and all that stuff, but you get the picture. Would such a provision protect illegal content? Probably not, but I'd rather live with that than tiered service and censored content. The bill additionally directs the FCC to hold several broadband summits with other countries to discuss the issues of consumer choice and protection and such with regard to broadband service. It's a really interesting bill that I think could do well if people mobilized and told their representatives to support it and maybe if it was polished up just a little bit so that it doesn't become an overbearing piece of regulation.

The House of Representatives has been really busy because another interesting bill, that was introduced recently and I even brought it up here, passed easily. It's called the College Opportunity and Affordability Act and one of its very strange provisions requires universities to provide legal alternative to P2P file sharing and that it implement network filtering. Obviously, all the IT departments are pretty pissed and have been about this issue for a while now. There's a very real fear that maybe if they don't comply they'll lose federal funding even though dealing with illegal downloading isn't their priority; providing a quality education is. You think the MPAA and/or RIAA had a hand in this? I wonder. What really upsets me about this provision isn't that it discourages stealing, I'm ok with that, but rather the fact that pushes this crap onto our universities. So basically, we don't care that this country is lagging behind in math and science graduates or that other countries, like India and China, are outpacing us in churning out really smart students but rather that our universities help out greedy labels and clueless studios in their quest to stamp out piracy. Since when did our commercial society get to the point where we value this junk over securing the future of this country. I mean come on, once these kids graduate it's not like they're going to keep pirating your nonsense if they can easily afford to just buy it. It's like burning Aladdin at the stake for stealing a loaf of bread for himself and his loveable monkey.

Anonymous has come out with yet another video:



I don't know if I talked about this back when I explained my fascination with Project Chanology, but they had a flyer on their site about gatherings in various cities on February 10 at Churches of Scientology in protest of them. I'm sure it was inspired by V for Vendetta, but that's alright because it was still a good idea. What amazes me is that people still refer to them as religious bigots. I saw someone's opinion in the local paper blasting these protesters as bigots, which is crazy because they keep emphasizing that it's the Church, not the beliefs, that they're attacking. It's no wonder that we elected George W. when people are this naive. There is proof of the Church's human rights violations and there's proof that they're the bigots in that they try to silence those who speak out against them. Not only that, but they're thieves by not paying proper taxes. Christian churches get tax breaks and, lo and behold, actually give food and clothing to the poor and conduct various services for the community. Yes, they still make money, and yes they're crazy powerful, but they don't take from the community without giving back and get tax-exempt status. Oh, did I mention people who have left the Church speaking out against the Church coercing people to work for them? You can get the big picture by watching The Bridge. I'm a big supporter of this cause, and I'm glad that they sound more focused and determined now than they did before. Oh, and Tom Cruise is crazy.

Bad news for HD-DVD: Wal-mart has decided that they're not going to be stocking up on HD-DVDs after June. Is this the nail in HD-DVD's coffin? I personally think so. Not that I'm an expert or anything, but this is a pretty big blow. Wal-mart is the world's largest corporation (by revenues) and is a huge player in selling music and movies. Couple that with Best Buy pushing Blu-ray and Netflix phasing out its selection of HD-DVD movies and you have an extremely steep battle for Toshiba. Is there any hope? I honestly don't think so. It would take something pretty miraculous for everyone to all of a sudden decide to give HD-DVD another shot. Does your mom ever admit she's wrong? Probably not, so it's not like Wal-mart is going to say "Whoops, let's start carrying HD-DVDs again" and all those studios that moved away from it also changing their minds. A format war is just bad for business, I think everyone just wants it to end sooner than later.

I know I haven't talked about the iPhone much in a while (I try to not pollute the Web with more buzz about how cool it is, even though it is rather nifty), but this is big. Gear Live has very reliable sources telling them that Flash support for the iPhone is in the very near future (I assume just a software update from iTunes), which makes sense so that it would coincide with the SDK release. It seems like what was holding it back was business negotiations, not power consumption issues, but it'd really help the iPhone if it had it, regardless.

Now for some odds and ends. Google developed Google Apps Team Edition so that company employees can collaborate with Google Apps without having to go through their IT department. I don't know/understand all the details, but it seems to me like this is kind of a security breach if people use this without their IT department knowing. These guys may be part of a bureaucracy, but it shouldn't suggest that they're useless. Six Revisions has an excellent article on using the Web Developer add-on in Firefox to bolster your web development efforts. I actually didn't realize all its advantages, I only wish that I didn't have issues using it on this computer. It'll probably work on the new computer I get in May. The last thing is this bulky list of open source alternatives to popular proprietary software. Some of the alternatives aren't so exciting, but applications like Gimp, Pidgin, and Miro (I just downloaded this one because it looks so freaking cool).

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