Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The real truth about Net Neutrality

You've probably heard and read a lot about this hot button topic. Lots of ads on TV and Radio, in News Papers and, OC, all over the 'Net. Seems everyone has an opinion on it. After doing some serious, and hopefully impartial, research, I have whittled away all the hype, misinformation and outright lies to get at the real truth of the matter. You don't have to believe me. You don't have to agree with me. But what I'm going to say it the real underlying truth no matter what you believe in or agree with. The Earth is the Earth, the Sun is the Sun and this is the real, undeniable, irrefutable deal.

Let's start with a definition of what Net Neutrality means. Well, this is our first hurdle. The term means different things depending on which side of the fence you are sitting. So what are the sides to this fence? This is a better place to begin.

There was a good article in the Washington Post yesterday that did a really good job of explaining the who and what [free registration required] of this touchy topic. I'll give the dime version of the article here.

The bottom line is who will foot the bigass bill for the future infrastructure of the Internet. No, that's not quite right, it's who will be the one to gouge the hell out of us users for the future infrastructure of the Internet. The two camps that are fighting this war are the Telcos, AT&T and BellSouth Corp., among others, and the big content providers, like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, etc. Their two respective "Grassroots Sites" are http://www.handsoff.org and http://itsournet.org. If you dig around these sights it's not an easy link to make, but it is there. So what happens if one side wins over the other? If the Telcos win, they jack up the rates we users pay. If it's the content providers, they'll implement tiered and/or metered pricing for premium services like VOD, VoIP, etc. Either way, we're screwed.

Some other areas of influence are exerting themselves, too. SavetheInternet.com is interesting in that it's backed by what would normally be blood enemies. MoveOn.org Civic Action on the political left to the Christian Coalition of America on the right. Throw in the nonpartisan group Free Press and you have a hodgepodge of disparate organizations tell you to do something or other about this crucial issue. What that might be? Your guess is a good as mine. It's also likely that the FSF and EFF are in on this as well. I'm to lazy to look up their stuff, though.

One organization you might not know of is the US Internet Industry Association. This is an organization that has been around for over a decade fighting directly in Congress and on Capitol Hill. They are the only organization, and do mean ONLY, that has been consistently fighting for common sense and reason in the legal system of the US. If you are donating any funds, either by direct donation or membership dues, to any of the other organizations I've mentioned then I strongly encourage you to join the USIIA. They are the only ones (have I mentioned that before?) that are actually making changes as opposed to headlines. Not that the EFF or FSF aren't trying to do something. They just aren't actually having any impact on anything outside of the tech community.

And that's it. Everything you never wanted to know about the whole mess euphemistically called Net Neutrality. It doesn't matter what happens, the users will get the bill and that's the bottom line. If you still feel like tilting at windmills don't let me stop you. But it might be easier to spend the energy doing something more constructive. Like basket weaving.

Monday, June 26, 2006

My desktop running Xfce 4.4 beta 1

My Xfce Desktop This is a screen shot of my laptop running the Desktop Environment Xfce 4.4 beta 1. The window decorations and layout are CDE-like but the task bar on the bottom is currently in the standard WinXX/GNOME/KDE configuration. If/when the ability to have a CDE-like setup I'll do that and post an update screenie.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My quick review of Fedora Core 5

This is my initial take on FC5 shortly after doing a very messy upgrade from FC4. Once I've had more time with it I might do a more in depth one. Or not. Who knows?

Ok, this upgrade was not as smooth as it could have been. In fact it was down right scary. This was in no way due to FC5 or anything related to Fedora. See, my laptop's DVD/CD-RW combo drive decided it didn't want to play nice anymore a few months ago. The only way I had to upgrade the thing was to do a "yum upgrade". This isn't recommended but it's been known to work if you prepare for it. Well, all was going fine (i.e. the thing had been running for about 8 or 10 hours) when a T-storm decided to blip the power. It had d/l'ed just about all the rpm files and hadn't yet started the actual upgrade so I was a bit lucky. So, what to do now?

Running "yum upgrade" again just spit out pages of dependency problems. It was time to make like Jimmy Neutron and have a brain blast. Lo and behold, I had one. I went to the yum package directories for the repositories and ran the ugly and dangerous "rpm -Uvh --nodeps --force *.rpm" command. Oh the fun you can have with that specific combination of rpm options and switches. I used the "rpm -Fvh --nodeps --force *.rpm" variation for the other repositories, like dreis and livna. After doing this voodoo magic it was time to reboot and see what happened.

Well, I must have done something right in a past life 'cause the system came up and seemed to run quite nicely. So now I have a working FC5 system despite all my attempts to sabotage it. What's the bad boy look like?

It looks good. I made sure to update things again and also to make sure that the new toys like Beagle and F-spot were installed. As soon as I find the charger for my digital camera I'll try the latter out. But the really important things I need are email and web. Firefox is, as always, sweet and nice. But then there's Evolution. I have a very strong love/hate relationship with Evolution. In FC4's Evolution 2.2 it was 60% love and 40% hate. Now, with Evolution 2.6, it's closer to 35% love and 65% hate. Ever since version 1.x of this app I have found that each upgrade added a few nice things but always, without fail, had more thing bad/broken/stupid than good things. Now, the bad/broken/stupid things outweigh the good stuff. Whoever had the idea to make the trash and junk folders virtual was definitely on crack. And now, my INBOX is no longer recognized as a special folder but as one I had to resubscribe to. There are other little things that have changed which went from useful and easy to use to now being really crippled. I haven't looked at Outlook in ages but I have a bad feeling that if I did I'd see the exact same UI. Thus I have moved to Thunderbird. Now Thunderbird isn't perfect but it sure is a world better than Evolution, now.

Oh, if anyone can tell me how to get T-bird to sort the folders in normal, intelligent order (numbers then capital letters in alphabetical order then lower case letters alphabetical order) instead of the insane order (numbers then case insensitive alphabetical order) I promise to reward them with something special and unique (or maybe a cheap trinket thingy from the Dollar Store).

The last bit of work I need to do is to get Xfce installed so I have a decent desktop environment that's much more usable for me than GNOME or KDE. Hopefully Xfce 4.4 will be out soon. That will make things really nice.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Fussball-Weltmeisterschaft: ITALIEN - USA

Right now it's halftime in the US vs Italy game. The significants of this game, besides it being contested by my home country team against my #1 favorite team, is the fact that they are playing in Kaiserslautern. This is the town where I spent most of my youth, from the age of 13 to 19. I went to the American High School in Vogelweh. I lived 3 years in the little village of Rodenbach. Spent a couple of years living and working on Ramstein AB, home of the 86th Alirlift Wing (AW). When I was there in the 70's the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing was also there. The 86th AW used to fly the C-5s, though now it seems to be home for C-130s, C-40s, C-20s and C-21s. Just up the way at Bitberg AB, the 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron was based. They flew the F-15s. Oh man, what a bird.

Well, the 2nd half is starting. The game is tied 1-1 (which is a big accomplishment for the USians). I'm watching the game on Univision because the announcing is better. Not in what they say, I can't understand a word they're saying, but they call the game with the right cadence and feel. The US announcers call the games like they do baseball and football. You can't feel the game that way.

And there's nothing that beats: GoooooOOOOOOOoOOOoooooooAAAAAAAAaaaaaalllllLLLLLLLLLL!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Heavy Metal: I was there

Last month VH1 declared it to be Metal Month in preparation to the first annual Rock Honors Award. One of the things they had on was a four part documentary called "Heavy: The Story of Metal." It started with the pre-metal days featuring acts that were the genesis of what became known as Heavy Metal. Then moved onto the "rebirth" of Metal after it was almost crushed by Punk in Europe and Disco in the US. From there it highlights the West Coast wave of what would come to be known as "Hair Bands" finally ending with the current state of diverse artists and genres that can be classified as being under the Metal umbrella. The time line for this is from the late 60's and early 70's to today.

Watching this I was hit by a very strong feeling of nostalgia. You see, I was there at the rebirth of Metal. My family lived in Germany and we got to see and hear about bands that were hitting big there three or four years before they hit the States. Being 20 years old in 1981/1982 in Europe was an incredible thing. The feeling of energy, the power of anti-establishment and alienation yet with the feeling of belonging and brotherhood... You can't imagine it. At that time I practically lived in the local Rock Bars meeting people and even local bands who all shared the same feelings. It was a paradoxical time of disillusionment and hopefulness. The world sucked but the future, carried on the power cords of Metal, was bright and optimistic. All of these feelings came back to me as I watched the parade of artists and bands on the screen.

Zeppelin, Purple, Sabbath, Priest, Motörhead, Maiden, Van Halen, Metallica... There are to many to mention. It was all a fantastic ride that hasn't slowed down. It occasionally gets overshadowed by other trends in music; Grunge, Hip-Hop, Boy Bands, Brittany/Christina/Blahblahblah. But in the end you will find that in 20 years people will still be buying Judas Priest albums while asking, "Brittany who?"

But this feeling expands ever further than Metal. If you look at the summer concert series you'll see bands like Styx, Journey, Def Leopard, AC/DC, et. al., all packing in the concert halls. Why? Simple, they are purveyors of good music. Music that can touch the heart and soul of people from 68 to 43 to 9 (that would be my mother, me and my son). And while it's true that we all have our differences in other parts of our musical tastes (Grandma loves the Standards and my son likes Hip-Hop, two genres I am not likely to have in abundance on my iTunes playlist) we will always come together the minute those first notes of "Breakin' the Law" explode out from the speakers.

AC/DC explained it best, though, in the the last song of the "Back in Black" album, Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution -

"Rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution
Rock 'n' roll, it'll never die
Rock 'n' roll ain't noise pollution
Rock 'n' roll
Oh, rock 'n' roll
Is just rock 'n' roll, yeah

And that's all it is.
It's just Rock 'n' Roll.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is just Rock 'n' Roll.
Heavy Metal is Rock 'n' Roll.
Rock 'n' Roll is just Rock 'n' Roll.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

BofA: Train your replacement, or no severance pay for you

BofA: Train your replacement, or no severance pay for you: "Bank of America has been steadily moving thousands of tech jobs to India. The latest to go are about 100 positions that handle BofA's internal tech support.

While many of the bank's Bay Area techies accept the inevitability of their jobs heading abroad, what rankles them is the fact that, in many cases, they're being told they have to first train the Indians who are getting their gigs."

While this is not a new phenomenon, it's been going on for nearly a decade, the fact that this is my bank is just to much. I'm going to move all of my money and finances to a local Credit Union.