Don’t be Google: A battle-cry for Net Neutrality

By now you should have heard about the closed-door talks that Google isn’t having with Verizon that absolutely wouldn’t destroy Net Neutrality as we’ve known it (and Google has argued for it) for the last several years.

Here’s the rundown:

The New York Times published an article that Google and Verizon were nearing an agreement in talks that would create a tiered structure for content providers such that certain types of content providers would get faster speeds than others.  In the current model of the internet, everyone works with what we’ve got, and any speed issues are solely on how much you as a consumer are willing or able to pay.  As everyone hooks up to broadband and Google is fighting for nationwide fiber-optic, speed differences will be dependent upon the servers of the content providers for the first time, rather than how slow or fast your modem is (remember 28.8k?).

Basically, this would give some content providers (i.e. anyone who’s worked out a special deal with Google, or content providers that Google already owns, like YouTube) fast-lane speeds whereas everyone else (say, a video startup in someone’s garage to compete with YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, etc) would be stuck behind grandma.

Essentially, this means that if you are friends with Google (or Verizon), you get to be in the cool kids club.  If not, you can eat the cool kids’ dust.

Huffington Post published a great editorial yesterday that highlighted some of Google’s flip-flops in publicly-expressed attitudes toward Net Neutrality.  In particular this:

Traffic prioritization allows the broadband provider to become an unwanted gatekeeper in the middle of the Internet. Because of the market power they currently employ, broadband providers have the technical ability and economic incentives to determine which packets of Internet traffic get delivered to which consumers under what conditions. The end result is that the Internet becomes shaped in ways that serve the interests of the broadband providers, and not consumers or innovative Web entrepreneurs.

has turned into this:

People get confused about Net neutrality. I want to make sure that everybody understands what we mean about it. What we mean is that if you have one data type, like video, you don’t discriminate against one person’s video in favor of another. It’s OK to discriminate across different types…There is general agreement with Verizon and Google on this issue.

Seriously, Google?  That’s pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve been saying and arguing for.

Net Neutrality, it seems, is only worth fighting for when it’s profitable.  As soon as the time comes when Net Neutrality (or, you know, anything at all) no longer becomes profitable, Google seems to think it’s perfectly okay to switch gears with a complete reversal.  Google is no longer the scrappy underdog we all rooted for in the dotcom boom, when Microsoft was evil (and made no claims otherwise).  Google has grown to a mammoth internet behemouth able to wield huge swaths of internet real estate and tear down empires with their mighty power.  While we weren’t looking, they’ve hidden behind their “don’t be evil” slogan and made us okay with taking all our information (it’s okay because it makes search results more accurate and personalized), giving up our privacy (we don’t mind as long as we can find where we’re going), and handing over all our data to someone else (it’s so much more convenient to store our data online and access it from anywhere).  Now, they’re crowning themselves Kings of the Internet, able to rule over all that they see (which is everything), and determine what content providers or what types of content deserve special treatment and what doesn’t.  Not only that, but they’ve got us in a vice grip; like junkies, we’re addicted to their services because they work so damn well.  And Google can’t be all bad when all their applications are free (despite the millions of dollars they make shoving ads in your face).  I’d say I’m switching to Bing but even Bing can’t deliver search results that are as accurate to what I’m looking for as Google.

There’s a new meme in town.  No longer shall we say “don’t be evil”; henceforth the battle cry will be “Don’t be Google.”

Avoid holding your iPhone 4G

There’s a phenomena with the new iPhone that, since I don’t own one and have a waning interest in ever owning one, I was unaware of before reading a blog post in the New York Times.  It seems that, for many users, if you hold the iPhone in a certain way, the very act of holding the iPhone will make the signal degrade.  The technical explanation is that if you hold any cell phone a certain way, you risk covering the antenna and thereby affecting your signal.  However, Apple has — according to the post — produced specific covers for the stainless steel band along the edge of the new iPhone.  Could they be trying to profit from their own design flaw?  (Answer: Wouldn’t you?)

Expectedly, Apple brushes the problem off, saying that “gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.

However, Steve Jobs responds to the issue a bit more brusquely.

Non issue. Just avoid holding it in that way.

I’ve heard responses like that before.  They were in geeky tech forums by developers with little time for rudimentary questions or trolls just waiting to bag on the latest n00b.  You  might expect more (although, maybe not if you’re familiar with his history of sending terse responses to the undoubtedly hundreds of emails he receives daily) from our geek messiah, the man who single-handedly raised Apple, like Lazarus, from the dead to re-establish its place at the top of the tech industry.

Bill Gates made similar comments in the antitrust case against Microsoft about packaging Internet Explorer with Windows and he was crucified for it.  Microsoft is just barely starting to recover from the PR nightmare they lived in for a decade.

So when is the public stoning of Steve Jobs going to be held?  Surely we aren’t going to make an exception this time?  Surely the now-mammoth Apple, Inc. isn’t still the little underdog who could?

OpenOffice.org no longer the FREE alternative to Microsoft Office

it’s finally happened.

months after Oracle’s acquisition of  Sun Microsystems — developers of the free Java platform, among other things — the formerly free alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite is now the cheap alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite.

does this mean what we formerly abbreviated as OOo will now be OOOo?anyone who knew about the acquisition wouldn’t be too surprised by this, however it’s still sad to see.   OpenOffice was brilliant in that it provided a viable alternative to the Microsoft monopoly on consumer and enterprise office software.  It’s native ability to export files to Adobe PDF documents was fast and light and years before the same features would be integrated into Office.

I can’t help but feel like now the party’s over.  OOo was struggling to keep up in recent years.  they never really caught on in the non-geek market and their interface was cursed by being anti-Apple — too many confusing features getting in the way of usability.  moreover, their claim to be able to work natively with Microsoft Office files was thwarted when Microsoft created a new proprietary document system — adding an x to all their files; docx, pptx, xlsx, etc.  i stopped watching OOo around that time, but last i knew it still didn’t have full (or any) capability of reading docx and other newer xml-based Microsoft files.  and a common complaint i heard from a variety of people trying to make the crossover from Microsoft to OpenOffice was that password-protected files and files using all sorts of deep features in Word and Excel that i never used didn’t work properly in OOo.

it’s hard not to see this as yet another story of the underdog getting steamrolled by big industry and, as such, OpenOffice’s grand entrance into the Oracle store feels blasphemous.  however, there’s something else that makes this seemingly innocuous email more foreboding…

with the purchase of Sun Microsystems, Oracle was able to acquire their biggest competitor in their own market — the open source database MySQL.  MySQL is what powers the database behind many popular software platforms out there including WordPress.  while Oracle has stated they have no intention of closing (i.e. making proprietary) the open source MySQL database platform, it still raises the question; if they’re charging now for a formerly free office suite, how long before they start charging for a formerly free database platform (like the Oracle database platform they already charge to use)?  if MySQL becomes proprietary software, particularly software you need to purchase a license to use, this could negatively affect innovation in other open source software that uses MySQL.  open alternatives to MySQL exist, but current software (like WordPress, which currently only works on MySQL) would have to be adapted to work with a different database platform, and it could strongly limit other features and improvements as developers try to back-port their products to work on a different database architecture.

Microsoft wants to remember it for you wholesale

An intelligent personalized agent (e.g., guardian angel) monitors and evaluates a user’s environment to assist in decision-making processes on behalf of the user. The guardian angel can… take automated action on behalf of the user for various purposes (e.g., to compensate for memory loss, to remind a user to take medicine, to assist in social interactions by indicating whether the user has met an individual before, to gauge the appropriateness of jokes or comments given the demographics of the audience, etc.).

via Liked Microsoft’s Clippy? Then You’re Going to Love “Guardian Angel”.

the above quote is from a patent that was just granted to Microsoft for a “guardian angel.”  this guardian angel is like a personal assistant, wet nurse, researcher, personal slave, backup brain hard drive, and personal private detective (who would analyze conversations in the room and cross-reference participants with FBI wanted lists and sex offender registrations) combined into one.  i’m sort of picturing that quasi-annoying bot in Caprica only more so.

is this at all surprising?  absolutely not.  we knew this sort of stuff was coming.

is it terrifying and quite possibly a prelude to our imminent demise at the hands of a cylon/human apocalypse?  very possibly.

In-Place Windows 7 RC downgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium

a few months ago, i posted a link to a hack that revealed how to do an in-place “upgrade” (although it’s really a downgrade) from Windows 7 RC-1 to a lesser version of Windows 7.  as the nag alerts saying i need to backup my stuff and reinstall have started cropping up, i decided to finally put the copies of Windows 7 i actually purchased to use.  but i knew i was going to be in for some issues.

click here to skip the narrative and go straight to the fix.

see, what i did — which made perfect sense at the time — was i took advantage of the limited-time, special pre-order discounts that were available towards the end of the official testing period, grabbing two copies of Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade for $50 each.  i figured, someone, somewhere, would figure out how to hack them to just do an upgrade from the RC.  they figured out how to hack the beta to the RC when you weren’t supposed to be able to do that…

the problem of course (which didn’t apply to the beta → RC upgrade), is that Home Premium is a different version of Windows than RC, which uses Ultimate.  and therein lies the issue — an issue i realized would be a problem when i tried the upgrade sometime in december (before i found the hack) and it was giving me this message:

when i went to do the upgrade using the method i linked to after christmas, i still got the same message.  i didn’t get it.  yes, the hack was a pretty stupid hack, just changing a couple registry values from “Ultimate” to whatever version of Windows was less than what you were trying to install, but still, supposedly people had done it with success.

it wasn’t until i found this hack — which is based on that one — that i was able to figure out a way to get it to work.

so the original hack goes like this: open regedit, and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion and change the values for EditionID and ProductName.  The assumption is that you could change them to whatever you want, just name it the name of the operating system.  so you’d go from “Ultimate” to “Home Premium.”  the problem, of course, is that this didn’t work.  and from what i could tell in the comments for that post, it didn’t work for a lot of other people trying to downgrade to home premium.

the difference in this other hack i found, first of all, is in how the edition is named — e.g. it’s important that you use the exact name that the edition identifies itself as on the DVD, which he displays in a graphic:

so, that helped, but it still didn’t work.  i used “HOMEBASIC” and “Windows 7 HOMEBASIC” in the correct keys and still got the same message saying i can’t upgrade from Ultimate to Home Premium.

really, Microsoft?  i finally decide to spend money on your operating system and — because of a loophole in your installation process — you’re still going to try to either suck even more money out of me or force me to find a pirated copy anyway?  i started warming up my demonoid searches…

but then i notice that the post indicates that the registry values you enter need to match the version you are installing.  but that can’t be right…surely changing the values from “Ultimate” to “HOMEPREMIUM’ aren’t going to work on a Home Premium install, are they?  it works like the cversion.ini hack used to upgrade from beta to RC — you just need to make it something less than the current version…

i tried it and, whadayaknow, i saw a new screen:

so i knew i was in pretty good shape when i saw the installation actually start working.  i was a little nervous, however, when the install hung at 20% on “Gathering files, settings, and programs”.  i stopped and restarted it when i didn’t see it changing at all, and it hung again at 20%.  this time i left it alone and went away from the computer.  a while later i came back and saw it had moved to 88%, and it was fine from there.

note:  i will say that at some point the computer rebooted and brought up a screen about how the repair wizard couldn’t fix the startup error.  i closed that screen, the pc shut down, but then started windows for the first time fine after that.  it’s been working with no issues since, so i’m calling it a fluke for now.

after that, it booted up fine and asked for my product id (which, of course, i have), and has been working like a charm ever since with a retail version of windows 7 home premium.

so, once again, here’s how to downgrade from Windows 7 RC-1 (Ultimate) to Windows 7 Home Premium
(note:  presumably this would work with other versions but as i have not tested it on any other version, I can’t vouch for it personally, although the original post i used as reference indicated it would work for Home Professional as well)

1 – open the registry editor by going to Start > Run > regedit

2 – navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ WindowsNT \ CurrentVersion

3 – double click EditionID to open it and change the value from “Ultimate” to “HOMEPREMIUM”

4 – double click ProductName to open it and change the value from “Windows 7 Ultimate” to “Windows 7 HOMEPREMIUM”

you’re done.  it works without a reboot.  you should be able to just start your installation.

also note: this is still using the method that changes the cversion.ini file on the DVD image, so you’ll still need to do that first.

okay, ready, break. you’ve got about 9 days left before your computer starts shutting down.  if you waited this long to install the retail version, wait no longer, do it now.