turnings :: daniel berlinger

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This URL shortener situation is officially out of control

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This URL shortener situation is officially out of control:

That’s a lot of back and forth just to get me a a web page. And getting me a web page is kind of the most important thing the web does. Redirects are being abused and I don’t see any work happening in HTTP 2.0 to change it.

[I agree. Now what?]

Written by Daniel

June 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Posted in advocacy, tech

The Internet With A Human Face

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The Internet With A Human Face:

Public and private surveillance are in a curious symbiosis with each other.

A few weeks ago, the sociologist Janet Vertesi gave a talk about her efforts to keep Facebook from learning she was pregnant. Pregnant women have to buy all kinds of things for the baby, so they are ten times more valuable to Facebook’s advertisers.

At one point, Vertesi’s husband bought a number of Amazon gift cards with cash, and the large purchase triggered a police warning. This fits a pattern where privacy-seeking behavior has become grounds for suspicion. Try to avoid the corporate tracking system, and you catch the attention of the police instead.

As a wise man once said, if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

But there are also dangerous scenarios that don’t involve government at all, and that we don’t talk enough about.

I’ll use Facebook as my example. To make the argument stronger, let’s assume that everyone currently at Facebook is committed to user privacy and doing their utmost to protect the data they’ve collected.

What happens if Facebook goes out of business, like so many of the social networks that came before it? Or if Facebook gets acquired by a credit agency? How about if it gets acquired by Rupert Murdoch, or taken private by a hedge fund?

What happens to all that data?

[Great piece. Beautifully expresses so many of my worries about the current trend in technology.]

Written by Daniel

May 29, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Anti-Net-Neutrality “Fast Lanes” Are Bullshit

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Anti-Net-Neutrality “Fast Lanes” Are Bullshit:

Be honest.

This is not building anything new — it’s discriminating and restricting what we already have.

This is not making anything faster — it’s allowing ISPs to selectively slow down traffic that they don’t strategically or financially benefit from, and only permit traffic from their partners to run at the speeds that everything runs at today.

It’s ostensibly the FCC’s job to see through this bullshit language and do what’s right for the country and the people, but only the fool who believed that ISPs are trying to build something beneficial here would believe that the FCC gives a damn about what’s best for American citizens.

And 52.9% of us were that fool for believing in another big, empty political marketing campaign.

[Our government is so biased.]

Written by Daniel

April 26, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Posted in news, tech

TV Done Right: Still A Dream

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TV Done Right: Still A Dream:

As a sharp-witted Be engineer liked to remark: “It costs more… But it does less.”

Carriers take too much money for a user-hostile experience simply because they can. In most locations, cable companies have little or no competition, so there’s no reason for them to do anything more than milk the most profit from a cheap infrastructure. As Apple Insider’s Neil Hughes reminds us, the user experience isn’t a priority for cable providers. Indeed, as I write this from Paris, I have to juggle set-top box restarts and malfunctioning secondary content subscriptions only reluctantly allowed by the main provider.

It doesn’t have to be that way. No miracle is required to make our Cable TV experience easy and gratifying.

[Maybe the Comcast deal is good one if they really want to be a technology company. They would grasp at the upside of delivering services this way and go nose to nose with Google, Apple, etc.]

Written by Daniel

March 31, 2014 at 8:13 am

Posted in tech

Telecom Giants Drag Their Feet on Broadband for the Whole Country

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Telecom Giants Drag Their Feet on Broadband for the Whole Country – Newsweek:

For almost 20 years, AT&T, Verizon and the other big players have collected hundreds of billions of dollars through rate increases and surcharges to finance that ambitious plan, but after wiring the high-density big cities, they now say it’s too expensive to connect the rest of the country. But they’d like to keep all that money they banked for the project.

In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission announced the National Broadband Plan, which promised to provide 100 million American households with high-speed cable by 2020. Verizon has been expanding FiOS in major markets, and AT&T has been expanding its U-verse service. And now, instead of spending that war chest digging up streets and laying fiber cable, the cable and telephone companies have invested in a massive and very successful lobbying push. They are persuading state legislatures and regulatory boards to quietly adopt new rules—rules written by the telecoms—to eliminate their legal obligations to provide broadband service nationwide and replace landlines with wireless. This abrupt change in plans will leave vast areas of the country with poor service, slow telecommunications and higher bills.

This is good news if you own stock in Verizon, but very bad news if you have a small business that’s not in a city already wired up.

The federal government’s official broadband map shows vast areas of America still have little or no service, and many areas will never get it under the current plan. “Small business customers, people who work at home and rural communities across the country need to wake up before it is too late,” says Regina Costa, telecommunications research director for the Utility Reform Network in California. “Verizon and AT&T are aggressively moving to dump a large percentage of their landlines and force customers to wireless networks [that] are expensive, restrictive, incompatible with medic-alert services, less reliable for 911 calls and will not hold up during power outages—and in a lot of places wireless just won’t work.”

[It ought to be criminal, but it’s nothing if not corrupt. I’m not a big fan of the Feds taking on projects, but this is one they should. Take the money back form the telcos that aren’t interested, and like the rural telephone work, get the whole country wired with fiber. Probably can be done with a rounding error off the budget… how stupid can we be?]

Written by Daniel

March 14, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Posted in advocacy, tech

Haunted Empire review – great title, shame about the contents

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Haunted Empire review – great title, shame about the contents | Technology | theguardian.com:

I found the bizarre attribution of meaning to events which didn’t seem to have meaning more and more intrusive. I also found it incongruous to have an American journalist from the WSJ offering her own interpretations; I thought it was an article of faith in that trade to get someone else to express your opinions – just choose carefully so they’re the ones you wanted to express anyway. But hardly any experts are quoted in the whole book; a pity, as they could have provided a narrative framework.

More to the point, didn’t any of Kane’s 200 interviewees or her time on the WSJ team reporting on Apple uncover anything about the tension inside the company about the iPhone 5? It simultaneously changed the screen size and dumped the 30-pin connector it had used since 2003, replacing it with a thinner 8-pin one that was incompatible with hundreds of millions of third-party boom boxes. For third-party developers, it meant rewriting their apps just to fit the iPhone 5 screen, which was longer but not wider. For makers of music players, it meant redesigns and inventory headaches. Would Steve Jobs have done that? Post-Jobs Apple did, with the same lack of compunction with which Jobs used to hand out mandates. Does that mean it’s haunted by the spirit of Jobs (would he had done it)? Or not?

[Clearly… not a fan.]

Written by Daniel

March 11, 2014 at 11:39 am

Posted in news, reviews

Surveillance by Algorithm

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Surveillance by Algorithm:

Indeed, ever since Snowden provided reporters with a trove of top secret documents, we’ve been subjected to all sorts of NSA word games. And the word “collect” has a very special definition, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). A 1982 procedures manual (pdf; page 15) says: “information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties.” And “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likened the NSA’s accumulation of data to a library. All those books are stored on the shelves, but very few are actually read. “So the task for us in the interest of preserving security and preserving civil liberties and privacy,” says Clapper, “is to be as precise as we possibly can be when we go in that library and look for the books that we need to open up and actually read.” Only when an individual book is read does it count as “collection,” in government parlance.

So, think of that friend of yours who has thousands of books in his house. According to the NSA, he’s not actually “collecting” books. He’s doing something else with them, and the only books he can claim to have “collected” are the ones he’s actually read.

This is why Clapper claims — to this day — that he didn’t lie in a Senate hearing when he replied “no” to this question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

If the NSA collects — I’m using the everyday definition of the word here — all of the contents of everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms until someone reads it. And if it collects — I’m sorry, but that’s really the correct word — everyone’s phone records or location information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count as being collected — NSA definition — until someone looks at it. If the agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or correlates that location information for relationships between people, it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit out a particular person has the data — in NSA terms — actually been collected.

[How broken is a system that allows people to hide behind lies of omission rather than demanding common use, or explain their definition. Sad.]

Written by Daniel

March 5, 2014 at 8:09 am

Posted in ethics, news, security

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