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Updated: 2008-05-22T21:24:12.991-04:00


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(image) The May issue of Linux Journal features Doc Searls' interview with me. I plan to post a pointer to the interview itself as soon as it is available to nonsubscribers. If I can I'll also post a copy of interview itself

In the meantime, alas, I'm tethered to paper.

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I wrote this in response to a small ISP who was lamenting Bit Torrent because it was an abuse of the small amount of capacity he was reselling – calling them pirates. But who are real pirates and who are the real heroes?

Piracy is indeed a big problem – or perhaps I should use the term privateers – those that the government has deputized as legitimate raiders who willfully hold capacity off the marketplace and then blame the users. Companies like ATT force you to use an entire multimegabit copper wire for a single bit and then blame those who use a thousandths of the real capacity (via modems) for tying up whole wire? Yes, these are pirates and we must put an end to such games.

Please, don't aid and abet their piracy by saying that those who make effective use of the existing abundant resources are abusers – no, they are the heroes who are using effective protocols in order to exchange information past the pirates' blockades.

Efficiency is a measure against assumptions. FTP using TCP is a fine protocol if you assume a publisher distributing content to consumers over an expensive network. But we're talking about exchanging information and we want to be good citizens so we use protocols that are more distributed and tolerant of network variations so that we can use the existing resources instead of requiring profligate spending on networks for video distribution while starving us of vital connectivity for all others purposes.

Let's accept being forced to beggars sharing our misery while the abundant and inexpensive capacity of our infrastructure lies fallow behind the pirates' blockades. Let's demand our inalienable rights.

I used Bit Torrent to copy 36GB of video lectures from MIT using both my broadband connections and taking advantage of MIT's local peering. Does that make me a pirate? I call it being responsible. Of course it happens to be a good way to share video and we have a fetish about video as if it was the Silicone Hills not Silicon Valley that drove the economy.

So we seek to vilify and punish those who innovate and create capacity. Companies like Meraki allow us to easily add capacity at the edge. Are you going to call all the heroes who innovate in using the smidgen of capacity made available to them pirates? Are those who use less than 1% of the real capacity pirates or are those holding more than 99% of the capacity aside the real pirates?

Yeah – people share video though much of the incentive to create the technology was driven by a desire to watch the movies while Hollywood seems to feel it is far more important to infest every nook and cranny with DRM no matter how much damage is done and thus HDTV is being adopted only slowly. Who are the heroes and who are the pirates? Of course don't forget that Hollywood itself was created to get past Edison's stranglehold on technology. And the RIAA killed the sheet music business.

Join us in enabling the future rather than preserving an arbitrary past. Perhaps the problem is that there isn't a role for an ISP as a gatekeeper in such a world. ISPs need to be *SPs without relying on doling out scarce Internet as their primary source of added value.

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The term "last mile" highlights the fact that we are the consumers at the end of a broadband "pipe". Saying "first mile" is a little better but the Internet is not a pipe to or from somewhere else. It's about what we can do locally and then what we can do when we interconnect with other neighborhoods. It's better to describe our neighborhood as the first square mile. Telecom is about selling us services; the Internet is about what we can do ourselves locally and then interconnecting with others everywhere. In writing the First Square Mile – Our Neighborhood essay which I just posted I came to better understand the fundamental difference between the world of telecom which is about giving you choices and the Internet which provides opportunity to discover what we can't anticipate.By taking a constructive approach we avoid having to fix problems with network neutrality and don't have to wait for that last mile of broadband. As we become more adept at doing our own networking we will no longer need ICANN to manage a Procrustean naming system – the DNS – nor will we have to get an IP address assigned. Today's Internet will have served its purpose in giving us a hint of what we can do if we aren't dependent upon others to do our networking.I've been surprised by the number of times I've been told that 500 channels of television is real choice – but it's not about choice – it's about discovery. YouTube is not a different kind of television – anyone can contribute as well as choose. The real significance is that YouTube itself was created outside of telecom. You don't know who will create the next Web, Yahoo, Google, YouTube or whatever. The odds are a million to one but those are very good odds when many millions have the opportunity to try.Skype provides us with another example of solving problems outside the network – it manages to make connections by finding its own path through the network. We don't have to wait for a network operator to provide a new feature. A Skype call looks just like a traditional phone call except that it can sound better and provide messaging and even video. But these features are not important in themselves – they are just examples of taking advantage of opportunities.What Skype is doing is the equivalent of driving your own car to a train station and then using the railroad's network to get you near your destination and then driving yourself (in another car). But you don't have to take the railroad – you can find your own path. This is especially true locally. If two computers are on the same wire or share the same access point you simply drop the packet into the Ether and all computers can see it but only the one to which it is addressed will pick it up. As the network grows we may want to be a little smarter and remember some of the paths and prevent packets from going in circles but that's relatively simple. It isn't much different for a neighborhood network.Today's inter-networking isn't really that simple – we have complex algorithms to assure efficient utilization of the entire network while minimizing what network operators have to pay each other. This is because we treat our local network as part of the vast Internet one or more miles away. The problem becomes simpler when we just need to worry about our local network and can take advantage of the abundance to focus on what we do rather than the operational details. We don't operate the networks in our homes – we just use them and it becomes easier as the software improves. Interconnecting these networks is simple when can take advantage of the abundant capacity that is currently locked up by service providers whose business models depend upon scarcity.Once we have abundant local connectivity we can start discovering what we can do with it instead of waiting for a service provider to discover what sells to the most average (or meanest) users for the highest margin. I often use the example of an emergency bracelet for people who need medical monitoring. It's not a n[...]

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In reading a Q&A with Verizon's Brian Whitten I found this striking Q and A:Q. With a fiber connection being symmetric, many fiber providers such as Paxio ( are providing symmetric connections such as 5Mbit, 10Mbit, 30Mbit. Why is Verizon keeping this arbitrary asymmetric limit with Fiber?A. Our products are carefully crafted based on feedback we get from our customers. Indeed, our FTTP network can easily support a symmetric data service. As market dynamics change, we would re-assess the benefit to our customers of introducing a class of symmetric data services.My reaction is "No thank you, I'd rather do it myself". To understand my reaction you need to recognize the difference between wanting to build my own bridge across a stream and asking why I'm not allowed to cross it myself using my own boat.What more could we ask for than a company being attentive to its customers needs? Of course we have a right to be cynical because it is being nice to us so we'd buy more product but that's the way markets work. Competition keeps this process in check. You can't satisfy all customers but at least you can try to satisfy most. This is the marketplace at its best.Yet if we are denied the ability to create our own solutions then this marketplace is dysfunctional. And this is the essence of the problem with today's telecommunications industry – those setting policy seem unaware of what we are being denied. Thus we fall into the trap of creating competition to give us more of what we already have while denying us the ability to do so much better. It's Hobson's choice rather than opportunity.Perhaps the lessons of FiOSTV will make it clear that in making us dependent upon service providers we risk losing what we already have. This became very clear when I recently subscribed to Verizon's FiOSTV service and discovered that their Actiontec router kept failing because of the way I use my home network to connect with the rest of the Internet. In checking online I find that I am not alone. The Actiontec router is actually a very good router and probably works very well for most people but Verizon makes the naïve assumption that the Internet is just like the phone network and beholden to rigid specifications rather than part of an ongoing process of discovery.The problem is not in the router itself but in the fact that I don't have an alternative if I am to use the broadband TV service. Fortunately, for now, I can pay extra to buy my video from Comcast while still being able to use Verizon's basic FiOS Internet connectivity. But broadband policy doesn't assure that this will remain true because the Internet is a service defined by the carriers' rather than the users as it was when we used modems. If you look at the broadband specifications it is obvious that it is indeed a service delivery system controlled by the carriers in their role as privileged service providers but is equally clear that they are not competent. According to, the Internet was designed for data not video and that's why they need to install their own old-style cumbersome coax in my house. And yet they use it to run the same Internet protocols – huh?A more realistic explanation is that they must control the network in order to assure that change is managed. While the network in my house went from modem speeds in the early 1990's to gigabit speeds while costing nothing to operate, DSL went from a few megabits in 1987 to a few megabits in 2007. As long as we must rely on a service provider we are assured that there will be little innovation.By having full control they can use the most expedient solution which has the added bonus of making us entirely dependent upon them thus undermining the key dynamic that has enabled innovation. The end-to-end principle assures that we create solutions outside the network itself thus we are not dependent upon a provider's choice of services and the price demanded for using these services. Understanding how and [...]

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Now that I can quickly post I might as well take advantage of it to quickly respond to Senators mull new taxes to fund 911 Net upgrade. Once again we have a fundamental failure to understand the basic concepts of Internet and instead assume there is a magical thing called "telecommunications" which provides us with the one solution to all problems. I keep point out that we are confusing the conversation (communications) with the transport of bits (the tele part). The absurdity should become obvious when we try to fund an emergency response system by charging for things we call "telephone calls" shows a far deeper failure to understand. Of course today we use the telephone to request assistance but we also use the telephone for just about any conversation. It's as if we taxed dictionaries because that's where words come from. I do need to control myself – there are simply too many bad analogies like putting a 5¢ tax on email to pay for postal mail or taxing yellow point to subsidize corn farming – nonsequitars like taxing phone calls to pay for 911 are funny once you see the absurdity.

It's bad enough that the 911 system itself is an ancient relic. We would do much better if we took advantage of the basic concepts of the Internet to use a common transport for many purposes rather than focusing all emergency services on a single phone number and a single responder. The article mentions IP-enabling the system but gatewaying VoIP calls doesn't change the basic chokepoint model of 911. And, even worse is the proposal to concentrate all emergency services into a single band on the radio spectrum at about 700 Mhz!

I've written about this topic a number of times so you can look at my previous posts for more details. But it's frustrating to see the same misunderstandings arise again and again and it's worrisome that we are redoubling our efforts to implement failed ideas and leaving us more vulnerable. The big lie is that we call this "homeland security" when it leaves us so vulnerable.

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I feel compelled to try out the new blogging capability in Office 2007. While the new version is pretty I'm still trying to get back to where I was – it seems as if it has more built in capabilities but it's not at all obvious how to do many of the things my way. This includes blogging – it's nice that it's easy to go to "blogger" but how do I post to instead of presume I'll get used to the new version but it's also a reminder that this is a very late stage product that is creaking along with new features bolted on the side. This becomes very apparent when I try to use Word while running Outlook. It seems as if I Word goes deaf while Outlook is polling! Putting in locks to prevent bad interactions is a way to prevent failures but it is also a sign of an architectural problem that should be addressed. But in a late stage product with many interacting elements that can be problematic.Using Outlook also reminds me of an endemic problem in Microsoft's applications and frameworks – settings don't get saved unless you properly shutdown applications. This may have made sense in decades ago when you'd run a program to completion to accomplish a task. It doesn't make sense when you have an ongoing system with interacting applications. You don't shut down applications or even the system – they may go quiet for a while but they don't get shutdown unless you have a system failure or forced restart. And when you recover you discover many of the setting changes were lost because the applications simply don't save them until they exit.There is no reason for this – years ago in floppy based systems there might have been some overhead in saving settings but no longer. Outlook will save an entire document in case the system crashes but it won't save a simply change to its list of favorites.Alas, these are the kind of details that get lost when you focus on what's "important". But these details are pervasive annoyances and thus they are important to me even if they don't make the top of the feature list. It's nice to have translucency but we also need transparency – if I change a setting I want to assume it has been changed. The application makes it look as if it did my bidding but in reality it hasn't and only will if I do everything just right and nothing goes wrooonng.The new Office is user fawning but that isn't the same as doing my bidding the way I want it. The blogging feature is an example – when you go to Microsoft site for help it lists providers but it does not provide a pointer to how to create my own server. I presume I can eventually figure it out but where is the old Microsoft that treated all users like potential and real developers?So much more to say but for now I'll just take advantage of the features I have rather than the features I want and post this …But the post failed … now wait, there is no diagnostic information – just a big "can't"!OK, got it to work by recreating the account. So obviously it was something simple but apparently Word doesn't want to bother my PLH (Pretty Little Head) with enough information to solve my problem but it doesn't provide enough for other to solve it. But maybe I should be fair in recognizing that this is a feature bolted on. Why else would the messages refer to a generic provider without even telling me which. It's as bad as using "this" in error messages that seem to appear with no context – another endemic problem.I don't want to be too negative – at least in posting blogs Word actually did what I do myself – it removed the excess formatting and just left the basic text. In fact there are many positive aspects to these features but we shouldn't let that make us forget that we need the ability to create our own solutions rather than just waiting for them to be provided to us. Now to see how I can append these comments – will I have to repost?Wow – it actually updated the po[...]

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Reading though the two posted chapters of Daly’s book resonates with my new “Perspective” essay. The newspapers fought to escape the presumption that all power descended from the throne and the proper authorities. They established an independent voice. In the US the First Amendment to the US Constitution explicitly protected the rights of a free press.

What might not be obvious is that this attitude and the protection from prior restraint had a counterpart in giving new ideas and innovation the opportunity to vie for attention.

Unfortunately today’s world of telecommunications seems eerily like the world of the 1700 newspapers with the priority being on maintaining control rather than encouraging open communication and understanding. We’re still battling against prior restraint and against a Federal Speech Commission (AKA, the Federal Communications Commission) – both at the technical level of how we communication and the social level of what we communicate.

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Prof. Chris Daly of Boston University has posted drafts of two of the chapters from his upcoming book about the history of U.S. journalism. Readers of this blog will probably find the information in those drafts of interest because (in a very readable fashion) he shows how the covering of news, its legal status, and its dissemination evolved in the United States. Knowing the history at the level of detail that he provides should be helpful when discussing the current and desired future states of Internet communication. Too many people think the state we had the last few decades is the way that it always was and that any changes brought about because of new communications technologies or philosophies must be suspect. History shows that, for example, bloggers are much closer to what our founding fathers thought of as the "press". The telegraph had a major impact on journalism, etc.

The two chapters are part of the start of Chris' blog devoted to the book and the history of journalism. If there is enough interest and useful feedback, he'll probably post more of the chapters he's already completed. He still has a few more to go, including the one covering 1990 to the present for which he'd like input.

See For more about Chris and my feelings about this, see the post on my personal blog. Please send Chris any reactions to what he's written.

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Inspired the the success of faux-ATT in its BS acquisition the owners for the power generating companies including Niagara, Quebec, TMI and others have opted out of the shared power distribution agreements and will build their own local distribution systems. They have watched as the cable and telephone companies have benefited from control and will now do their own distribution systems.

Relying on precedents from the FCC they demand the right to place their own outlets in each home on an equal basis. To avoid confusion they will color code each outlet so soon you’ll see a line up of power outlets and can choose who to subscribe to merely by plugging into the appropriate outlet. The colors choices are to be selected from the palette provided by homeland security as to take advantage of existing technology and protocols.

They will also offer Internet – the new outlets will provide not just 110V but 100V+I with I being Internet but only to the extent you use their power. No free rides they say, if you want high speed connection then you better have a honking big refrigerator or air conditioner or heat your house with all those bits. Since they can’t make any money on the bits they’ll be free – provided you use enough electricity. If you want IPTV then you better go out and buy a big CRT with lots of tubes in the circuits, otherwise you won’t be able to pull in enough bits.

You will also get a faster connection if you stay within your color – a transition like Fuchsia-Crimson will require recoloring the bits and that’s slow and expensive and they won’t be able to assure quality or color.

They remind us that this is all for our own good – after all, we need real competition not just a choice.

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This February FTC is going to host Workshop on Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy.It’s good that the FTC is showing interest in this topic but the workshop is still framed within the FCC's fictional world in which electrons have intrinsic meaning. This should be an antitrust case rather than an attempt to tweak faux competition. We should be looking for a real marketplace not more micromanagement of a dysfunctional system.The FTC should be asking a more fundamental question: Why is our vital infrastructure, our rights of way, owned by companies whose business is selling us services? It’s as if we had to lease back our streets from a delivery company like UPS or FedEx. Imagine if our sidewalks were owned by service providers.The FCC’s rules, The Regulatorium, were defined in a time when analog signaling was the norm. Analog signals degrade and you need to be very careful in building your transport in order to preserve the signal while minimizing the cost. Digital signals don’t degrade and have given us abundant capacity and have allowed us to view the transports as simply bit transports independent of the contents and the services. Radios are simply part of the mix and no radio bits are not all special.The FCC’s effort at preserving their service model has assured that we continue to pay third parties for a very limited kind of telephony. Voice over the Internet has demonstrated that we could do far better if we weren’t constrained by a turn of the century, 1900, not 2000, definition of telephony.The Internet puts a lie to the service model by demonstrating how a fungible digital transport provides abundant capacity and how even voice traffic can “just work” at essentially no incremental cost.It’s a classic folie á deux. The FTC is in the position to step back and reexamine the defining premises.The industry is very aware that the new technologies create abundance. They are explicit about their need to assure scarcity in order to preserve their existing business model.Broadband is very much in this tradition. Just as we used modem to communicate despite the carriers, we managed to repurpose a system designed for one-way television redistribution and use it to interconnect our local networks with the rest of the Internet.With Broadband we are forced to pay for redundant infrastructure. It’s as if we still had competing light companies that each ran their own wires. That alone should indicate something is very wrong in the marketplace.The legacy of service pricing is that we are paying for pieces of infrastructure out of context thus assuring high pricing and a lack of synergy. We cannot take advantage of connectivity as infrastructure if we can only lease what the carriers choose to provide.Just as we own the wires in our homes, we should own the wires in our communities. We already paid them when we funded the "natural monopoly" and continue to do as the FCC continues to grant them control.In the last ten years home networks have gone form nonexistent to gigabits over copper and hundreds of megabits without wires.Yet to communicate with your neighbor you are limited to the capacity the carriers have chosen to provide and pay a price based on the value of services not the actual cost of the local transport.Just as we know how to take advantage of the transport within our homes, we know how to take advantage of the abundant transport in our communities. It’s really our Internet—the Internet is not another television channel or service.But we will only discover what is possible if the FTC examines the FCC’s Regulatorium and asks why it still exists in 2007.Preserving a marketplace that is far far past its shelf life is more than a matter of price. It prevents the marketplace from renewing itself and it leaves us at the mercy of the carriers in times [...]

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People tend to think of the Internet in terms of the Web but the real importance is in the basic End-to-End philosophy. You build applications at the edge of the network and don't make unnecessary assumptions about what's in the middle.Two news items reminded me of the gap between traditional practice and what is possible.The first was a television show about a series of burglaries. The technique was simple -- cut the alarm and phone wires so that the robbery can't be reported. The other is the report about the recent mid-air collision in Brazil. According to the article "A police official who has interviewed the American crew said that, in the last known voice communication with the Legacy, the pilots had been told to switch radio frequencies as they entered the jurisdiction of a different air traffic control center. But the official said they had misheard the frequency and failed to tune their radio correctly."What is striking is that both systems violate the simplest of design principles.There are historic reasons for these design decisions but there's no excuse for using early 20th century methodology in such critical situations. Why doesn't the alarm system constantly report its status? It's not just that the system is vulnerable to having the wire cut; the absence of a signal should be indicate a failure but it's treated as a nonevent. Worse, since the system isn't constantly tested you can never be sure it's operational. Given that there is a dedicated alarm wire it seems fairly trivially to use it as an IP and send regular status messages.The idea of changing frequencies makes me think of old movies with pilots looking at the stars to find their position. Even if we are using primitive frequency based systems how come there isn't some monitoring to assure there is a functional communications path.I've focused only on fairly simple aspects of these systems and the stories may not be accurate. Given an IP connection one can do far more than send a simple alarm signal. There are books such as Fatal Words by Steve Cushing which go into far more details about the short comings of signaling for aircraft.What is striking about these particular examples is that there is little excuse for not solving them in isolation without waiting for a grand redesign. Why would anyone with a modicum of understanding of security rely on open loop signaling? Why would those responsible for the lives of airline passengers (and pilots) omit a simple safety check like assuring there is a signal path?Perhaps I'm aware of these because of my experience in dealing with complex and thus unreliable systems. The power of software-based systems is that one can learn from experience and capture this learning. The Internet comes from this world -- you first have to protect from your own mistakes and assure they don't propagate. The basic end-to-end principle of the Internet allows us to design (relatively) reliable systems using unreliable components. By assuming the transport is unreliable we get a more reliable systems design by dealing with failures are common occurrences so we get practice in dealing with theme. One lesson is that when things go wrong the alarm system itself is likely to fail. These incidents are a reminder that such thinking is not yet the norm -- we are still deathly afraid of failure and focus on prevent it. If we are able to take failures in stride we are much less vulnerable. We can't deal with all eventualities but there is no excuse for not taking responsibility for systems design.It doesn't make sense that something as simple as cutting an alarm wire will defeat the system. I assume that the best systems don't have this problem but this open loop signaling seems to still be the norm.If people die because a pilot failed to change the frequency, the fau[...]

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I just posted two essays “FCC vs Us” and It's Our Infrastructure as well as my other essays. The more you understand this madness the angrier you’ll get.

For those who want to skip all the background and reasoning and go right to the conclusion . . .

I’ve been trying to understand the Regulatorium and the policy issues but the more I write the stranger it seems. Even though Regulatorium’s defining premises are false we are still debating the policies within the Regulatorium’s framing rather than asking why it exists at all.

The FCC and the industry it regulates have created a world of their own. They each reinforce each others insanity – in psychology this is called a folie à deux or a shared madness. They are like twins that have created their own language – it gives them an aura of mystery even if the words have no meaning outside their closed world. The Regulatorium has taken this madness and created an entire universe. Its acolytes spend years learning the arcane languages and rituals and get paid handsomely for their efforts. Those who question some of the precepts of the Regulatorium are beholden to their vows and have a legal obligation to honor a system that doesn’t just serve their clients’ needs but gives their clients their reason to exist.

The Regulatorium has achieved the status of “venerable institution”. Its well-dressed adherents, arcane language and comforting rituals are a sharp contrast to the scruffy mêlée that is today’s Internet. While people talk blithely about creative destruction as a good thing we rightly fear disruption. Not all systems (or marketplaces) are the same. It is important to understand what I call The Opportunity Dynamic. Open systems like the Internet and personal computers are only part of the dynamic – in order to gain the value of the disruption we must be able to contain the risk. This is true of digital systems and the Web in particular – it established a boundary between your local environment and the rest of the world thus making it safe to explore the world. We’ve compromised this boundary in order to take more advantage of the opportunities and continue to co-evolve our understanding of connectivity.

As we’ve seen the Regulatorium sees only the risks and none of the benefits of the Internet. It has managed to keep the infrastructure locked up tightly within its world. Its concession is to give us a little broadband but it has an explicit and intentional goal of preventing us from creating our own solutions—just like it has done again and again and again for the last century. It shows a depraved indifference to the needs of society.

It is indeed madness – and we’d be crazy to let it continue.

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I've been struggling to explain why we should be thinking about infrastructure and opportunity rather than just Network Neutrality.

Robert X Cringely has done a far better job than I have been able to do in summarizing the key points in his PBS column.

Too bad the FCC sees it's mission as protecting the so-called telecom industry from it's biggest threat -- it's customers, i.e. all of us.

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Dewayne's list passed on this press announcement of a new "high speed home router" that comes with its new FIOS service, allowing multiple users to access the Internet over the FIOS fiber. This router is described in the press release in terms of its speed and customer support capabilities. Verizon carefully notes that it was designed specifically for the FIOS users.But since this router is supplied, owned and controlled by Verizon, we should also be careful of any "Trojan Horses" that are embedded that might affect Internet service in a way that a standard "home router" does not. In particular, this router has features designed by the DSL industry (i.e. the LECs' captive suppliers). The major one being the "Industry Standard TR-069" touted at the top of the press release as a tool for customer support. But it can be far more than that.I would note that "Industry Standard TR-069" is not hard to find on the DSL Forum site.However, a little (though not much) careful reading is required to find the reasons why Verizon might like this standard as a tool to manage a user's use of the net.For the most worrisome example: I direct the reader to Appendix D. Appendix D describes an architecture for intercepting web page requests from the customer and redirecting them. In other words, the standard can be exploited to control World Wide Web accesses a customer (or any Internet-based equipment the customer might choose to buy at a later time) might make, since Verizon owns and controls the router frp, a remote control server.Note that this router feature does not merely "prioritize" traffic. It can meddle with web requests, redirecting some requests to special sites that are in a business relationship with the owner.From an Internet point of view, this protocol is not standard. There is no Internet RFC that has been filed for the protocol involved. Not even a draft RFC. The DSL Forum is an organization that has no standing in the Internet community.Verizon's description of the protocol as "industry standard" is deceptive, because it is incomplete. It is a standard, from a very narrow "Industry" (telephone equipment providers who sell DSL termination equipment). But it has not followed the normal route by which Internet protocols are developed and deployed on a worldwide consensus basis. As a NAT router, it violates the basic principles of the Internet architecture as well, which have created the most rapidly growing world-wide communications capability in the history of civilization.*Verizon is perfectly within its rights to develop and deploy any technology it wants to sell to customers, if that is what they choose when fully informed of what they are buying. But it mustacknowledge that this equipment and its network are not giving customers access to The Internet. Instead, Verizon is giving its customers access to a private walled garden, with limited access to The Internet when and if it suits Verizon's purposes.In my personal opinion, putting this kind of technology in the path of a service that claims to offer Internet access comes close to *misappropriating* and distorting an important public good, called The Internet, which was built by voluntary market cooperation and social contribution, for private gain, and deceiving its customers in its representations in the process.Of course, there is no evidence (other than the political opposition to neutrality taken by all of the Bells via their lobbyists) that Verizon will use this capability. But it is latent in the routers they are deploying.You may not agree, but if you do find this a bit fishy, please share this observation with your friends, and perhaps your US Senators as an example of how companies like Verizon try to decei[...]

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I heard an interesting talk by Richard Adelstein that SATN readers might find of interest. Richard is an MIT grad and now a professor of economics at Wesleyan University. He kindly sent me a copy of his notes and I reproduce them here with permission. (All rights reserved by him.)He was talking about some history of transportation in the USA and the importance of the railroads. What struck me was his statement that many things we now take for granted in business organization and business law were invented for railroads and their specific needs. The early railroad people were engineers and they created what we now think of as organizations just as they built locomotives.Why do I include this here on SATN? As we look to the new type of transportation, bits in packets on a network, there is precedence in creating new business structures, new societal structures, and new legal boundaries. We don’t have to make things the same as the railroads any more than the railroads needed to be created in the image of the guilds and craftspeople that preceded them.I think there may be other interesting things to learn from the history of transportation (not just railroads), especially with regards to where the line should be drawn between public and private investment and ownership, and how to create the dynamic markets that have grown society by providing basic infrastructure that benefited all.= = = =Railroads in the Nineteenth CenturyNotes by Prof. Richard Adelstein, Professor of Economics, Wesleyan University1.) Impact of transport on US economic, political and legal institutions, from the start has been profound and lasting.a.) At a time when corporations were distrusted and rare, and chartered by state legislatures, the first US corps were primarily created to build roads, canals, and bridges. Success of these fueled Jacksonians' drive to liberalize incorporation laws through the 1840s.b.) The railroads were the site of controversial experiments in the 1850s in eminent domain for the benefit of private enterprises -- a preview of the Kelo problem of today.2.) But this deep cultural impact was largely due to the railroads. They, along with the telegraph and the steamship, made the Industrial Revolution possible by opening vast new markets, which led to massive investment after Civil War in all kinds of industries to meet the anticipated new demand. More important and less appreciated is that RRs were the first American "big businesses." In 1855, Erie RR employs 4,000. By 1893, when total strength of US military was 35,000, Penn RR alone employed 110,000. The US govt took in $385M in revenues, spent $387M and had a national debt of $997M; Penn RR alone took in $135M, spent $95M (quite a profit!) and was capitalized at $842M.3.) RRs became prototypes of all the huge manufacturing enterprises to follow, and shaped the development of the American political economy in three defining aspects:a.) The costs of building the RRs were immense and required finance on an unprecedented scale. Between 1815-1860, $188M spent on canals across US, largely financed by state and local governments. But by 1859, $1.1 billion had been invested in RRs, $700M after 1850. Much early investment undertaken by governments, but after 1840, burden shifted to private investors, which led to the rapid development of the NYSE to organize trade in RR securities and the development of modern investment banking, including J.P. Morgan's firm, to sell their bonds. When new industries needed capital, institutions were in place to supply it.b.) RRs were extremely complicated organizational enterprises, requiring detailed and precise coordination of scheduling, connections with other lines, main[...]

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Some researchers posted the results of their effort to figure out how Skype works -- It is useful to be able to understand how Skype works in detail in order to trust the code. I'm glad to see that the authors noted that it is difficult to block Skype traffic.The more important result is to understand Skype's Edge-connectivity. It's an example of how communities can stay connected independent on the accidental properties of the Internet and the gatekeepers. Because the relationships are maintained at the edge mobility is fundamental. You don't need the network to do meshing when the applications maintain their own relationships. Meshing then becomes a low level technique for pooling routers rather than a way to make applications mobile.This edge approach can also allow the Internet itself to be simplified since the IP address can be used to facilitate routing rather than being overly constrained by having to also serve the role of stable (and dynamic) identifier. Since the identifiers are stable you don't need a mechanism like the DNS to provide stability. Unlike the DNS, the Skype directory is a directory though it also maps identifiers into handles to facilitate rendezvous.A more general implementation would distribute this mapping. If the applications themselves are able to participate in finding dynamic paths we can start to move beyond the current Internet's single omniscient backbone that interconnects local LANs. The applications would find a path through a network consisting of way stations. Unlike a router a way station can be a visible transit point or an invisible. We see this kind of choice in airline flights. A flight might have a single identifier that allows one to be indifferent to the path or the user can choose explicit routing or a combination of the two.Both end points are mobile so rendezvousing can be a challenge butt doable as the current cellular network demonstrates. But unlike the cellular network the relationships are not in danger of being lost if there is a temporary failure to connect. Algorithms like sending extra packets ahead and router pooling allow for maintain packet flows even in very dynamic environments.Skype's encrypted communications is vital because it allows connectivity without having to trust intermediaries and, even better -- it frustrates attempts to block the traffic even if some corporate IT managers view that as a deficiency.Encrypting the code itself is less important. It serves mainly to prevent third parties from vetting the code for simple bugs or maliciousness. Perhaps the real value is in the four billion dollars eBay paid. But biggest value to eBay may not be in the voice business but in creating a trust community that frustrates phishing and local gatekeepers. The basic concepts should work fine even with the code fully exposed -- that's a basic tenet of secure communications.The Skype approach doesn't solve all problems of edge relationships. For example, how do you know the JohnSmith you are trying to reach is the one you think it is? Of course you have the same problem in the real world in recognizing friend vs foe so we must tolerate surprises.The authors of the paper focused on the crypto aspects. The real importance is in helping others understand how to create communities that operate at the edge of the network independent. The next challenge is how to make these communities more distributed and interoperable.Skype, not "Internet 2" represents the future of connectivity. As I keep trying to explain (mostly on we have to create connectivity from the edge rath[...]

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The land line carriers put a lot of pressure on the FCC to require that the VoIP providers support 9-1-1. While they say it’s about safety it’s more about trying to put hurdles in front of competitors. VoIP phones are very mobile. Landline phones rely on static tables to map phone numbers to location – though they tables aren’t necessarily accurate. Cellular phone support for 9-1-1 is lagging because of the difficulty of adding new capabilities to such a complex system.

The VoIP providers have complied and require that you update your location their web sites. fauxATT seems to have taken the 9-1-1 so seriously that if you lose power it will ask you if you changed location. Really smart. If you have an auto-dialer for emergencies and press 9-1-1 you get the long recording explaining that you seem to have lost power and asking you to verify that your location has or has not changed … if you live that long. It doesn’t just place the call (at least for normal calls).

We should stop this political nonsense and move towards a real emergency signaling system based on simple IP protocols. The location information should be provided by direct observation via GPS or a local server. There may be some design challenges but at least it’s better than using 9-1-1 as a pawn by the carriers to disadvantage competition

This is the message I get when I go online. Why are they blocking my calls just because I had to reinit their stupid interface that gets addled by any change to my router. Is it possible that fATT wants to sabotage voice over IP?? This is why we must get rid of the phoney companies because they know there is only one proper way to use a telephone. That's stupid and offsensive and a direct attempt to limit my choices! Why am I not allowed to make my own decisions! They were born in the 19th century and are still there! They require a human being listen to their stupid mesage and respond. If you use an auto-dialer for emergencies you die because there were no auto dialers in the 1800's! And in 2005 there should be no phone companies! The telegraph is gone -- why do we still a special purpose smart-assed phone network?

We have detected that your Telephone Adapter recently lost power. For 911 Service to work properly, outgoing calls will be blocked for all phone lines on this account until you confirm and/or update your 911 Service Address. Incomng calls will not be blocked.

911 Services will be provided, but can only be routed to your confirmed, registered 911 Service Address. Failure to keep your Service Address current will result in your 911 calls being misdirected. Your call will be sent to emergency responders servicing your previously registered 911 Service Address. Unless you advise them otherwise, they will dispatch services such as an ambulance to that incorrect address as well. In the event you or anyone in your household makes a call to 911 before registering a new 911 Service Address, please make sure you tell the emergency operator your current location.

To remove the restriction on outgoing calls, and confirm your eligibility for 911 Service, please make a selection from the choices below. If you are certain that your 911 Service Address information is correct as shown, simply select the "No Address Change" option, below.

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In looking though Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Consultation Paper On Issues pertaining to Next Generation Networks (NGN) 12th January 2006 I came across a comment on QoS:

QoS obligations on VoIP are becoming an exception i.e. many regulators are going for forbearance on this. The general view is that consumers are best judges of quality. Also, in the long-term, due to technological development in IP, the QOS is not going to remain an issue any more.

This is very well said. People are starting to understand connectivity. Arguing about regulatory policy is frustrating but as more people start to understand the issues we're going to see major changes. The longer we continue the current policies the more difficult transition will be -- at least for those vested and invested in the past.

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Amatrya Sen: no famine has ever occurred in a democratic country with a free press and regular elections. The Internet can deliver on the promise of a free press and more -- it gives everyone a voice. It gives them a chance to contribute and prosper in a world economy. Why are we continuing to accept policies not only mired in the past, but policies designed to keep us there simply to support a pretend-industry created by a now falsified regulatory traditional.Getting Connected is about policy. There is ongoing debate about "Net Neutrality" in an effort to assure that the carriers do not abuse their control of the rights of way. It's reminiscent of the old notion of a "common carrier". I argue that setting such rules is likely to provide protection for the carrier by allowing them to comply with the letter of the law but not the spirit. The Internet is something very different than the phone network. The Internet is a proven success -- we should be framing policy in terms of connectivity rather than treating it as just another service as if it were just another television channel. Dana Blankenhorn has posted his own comments. Dana is far more practiced at writing to a general audience and many readers may find his presentation more accessible.You should also read Bruce Kushnick's "$200 Billion Broadband Scandal". Connectivity threatens the carriers' ability to charge for the value of their services. There problems are structural so we shouldn't be surprised that they are doing "whatever necessary" to try to forestall the inevitable but it doesn't mean we can condone it.Assuring Scarcity is an examination of cellular carriers' policies. Today's digital cellular system is borne of the very same technologies that gave us the Internet but turned 180°and used to maintain total control. I'm excited by the document because it makes my case for me. They come right out and say the Internet will give us abundant connectivity at a low price. But to them it is not a chance to fulfill Amatrya Sen's vision -- to them it's a danger. It threatens their revenue and they must redouble their efforts to assert control in the best tradition of the railroad robber barons in the United States a century ago.My January column in Von Magazine was a titled And Now with Billability. It was a satire about the carriers' plan to extend this cellular strategy to land line service. It's called IMS and, it's not a fantasy -- it's part of this same GSMA strategy.I use the term "connectivity" rather than speaking about the Internet as such because the Internet is a specific implementation of a particular set of protocols. The word "Internet" itself has a lot of semantic overloading with many people confusing the Internet with particular modes of use such as the web.The Internet is about the idea that anyone can create solutions without having to depend on others. Unlike traditional networks the Internet doesn't promise reliable delivery yet we can create reliable services at the edge anyway. It's a very powerful concept I consider on a par with Copernicus message that the Earth was not at the center of the universe or even the solar system. There are a number of ways to describe this dynamic.The Internet is based on the "End-to-End Principle". Unfortunately this is easily misinterpreted as just the opposite -- womb-to-tomb in which the intermediary takes responsibility for all aspects of the service. This also means they get to define the services and set the rules. This confusion frustrates the creation of effective policy. The Internet provides opportunity but does[...]

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This is a follow up to my last post titled "Microsoft Ignores Massachusetts Again":A recording was recently posted on ITConversations of a panel discussion last October that included Microsoft's Ray Ozzie (co-CTO), Yusuf Mehdi (MSN), and Gary Flake (now head of one of the new Microsoft labs I discussed). At about 4 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording Ray mentions the word "ecosystem" -- which is part of a major point in the ad I discussed. At 7:10 Gary Flake talks further about the developer ecosystem and the "indirect network effect" and (at about 8:00) "the ecosystem of developers [Microsoft] helped empower". Gary goes on to say the Internet ecosystem is even bigger.With the advertisement in the Boston Globe (also posted as an essay -- not a blog post -- on the Microsoft website linked to in my last post), Microsoft seems to be making it official that they want the people (and by extension, the government) of Massachusetts to value Microsoft as having economic value to the state measured by their ecosystem of local software developers that make use of their products. The money that leaves the state and goes off to Redmond is to be ignored in this equation. More important is the money that goes to local developers and companies through those company's sales and service income as they sell to the rest of the world.I can see this as a valuable argument to try to make around the world to governments everywhere. Don't worry about those billions of dollars building up near Seattle, Washington, USA. Look instead at other companies who build on our platforms. Many are your brethren and we are merely tools to help them make money. Ignore the money we make in the process.OK. I guess we need to look at that model. Ignore the revenues and profits of the platform developers. That doesn't matter. Look at the jobs and revenues of the users of the platforms who produce products and services for others based on those platforms.Using this model we should look at open standards and open source. How valuable are they to all of us? As Microsoft's Dr. Flake says (at 8:05) the Internet is bigger than Microsoft, Google, or Yahoo. What is the Internet? It's an agreement among many parties to follow certain open standards to interoperate (it's an "Interoperating set of networks"). So, measured by this model, what about Open Standards like HTML, HTTP, SMTP, and RSS? What about Open Source Software like Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl, PHP, and GCC? How many "partners" does Linux have? Apache? How many devices have Linux in them or C code compiled with GCC? How important are they to society? By Microsoft's measure I'm sure they are quite important. More important than any company. These open platforms need more protection by governments (who are hopefully the stewards of society) than Microsoft does (Microsoft has billions of dollars to help defend itself, the Open world does not -- remember we are ignoring payment to the platform creators in Microsoft's new model of measuring worth).So, as I see it, Microsoft in their advertisement has told the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to start looking at ecosystems. Don't look at the revenues Red Hat makes, look at the revenue of local software developers that use Linux and Apache. Look at the value of the educational institutions that use Linux. I wonder how things measure up? I wonder which direction things are going?[...]

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For many years I used to run into Bill Gates at Stewart Alsop's Agenda conference. I'd ask him about setting up a research group in the Boston area. (I started asking before the DOJ lawsuit as I recall.) He'd always say no. They like to keep all their R&D in Redmond or something he'd say. Of course, I knew they were doing work in the SF Bay Area, and later in Cambridge -- but the one overseas in England not the Cambridge here in New England.

This is kind of strange. Spreadsheets were invented here. A lot of word processing and the precusor to desktop publishing were developed here. Groupware had a large start here (Ray Ozzie's Notes). The first inter-network email and the use of the "@" in email were here. And that's just in office applications. We have had strong work in lots of software areas. The telephone was invented here. We have great universities turning out lots of innovative engineers. This is a very fertile area. Always has been and will continue to be. And Microsoft has needed new applications.

Other companies have R&D labs here: Novell, Sun, Red Hat, Intuit, and more. The W3C is here. The Free Software Foundation is here (maybe that's helped Open Source and Free Software do so well...). But no big Microsoft lab, just a sales office.

Finally, Microsoft did buy a good sized software company here -- Groove. But Groove's Ray Ozzie seems to be spending more and more time in Redmond. You'd think they'd use that as an opportunity to build a world-class R&D lab here instead.

Microsoft just announced some new R&D labs. Ray announced it today on his blog (along with more of his neat advancement of RSS). Again not in Massachusetts. Another one in the Bay Area and another one in Redmond. What did we get? An advertisement on the op-ed page of the Boston Globe (not an op-ed, an ad clearly labeled as such) under the by-line of Ray Ozzie talking about our baseball teams and how many companies here are in their "partner ecosystem" and how much they help our economy and therefore Microsoft helps us, too, indirectly. Of course, if you think about it, EMC is a "partner" but they also are partnered with IBM, Red Hat, Novell, etc., and they are the second largest company in the state according to the newspaper this morning. Lots of other companies are "partners", but not just with Microsoft. That's not investing in our Commonwealth. That's trickle down. And lots of the money (paid to Microsoft for their products) goes out of the state to Redmond. I found it strange that they ran the ad with Ray in it the same day as his blog post with the lab announcement.

Sigh. One of these days they will open a lab here, not just sales offices. Until then, it's their loss.

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Om Malik posted a provocative essay "Need For Speed … How Real?".I agree that there is "Too Much Bandwidth" for the carriers to maintain the fiction they are special but the glut really represents an opportunity to do new kinds of applications.For now, though, I agree that there is indeed a bandwidth glut compared with our current applications and thus our current needs. We are in a situation in which the carriers are racing to provide capacity to meet competitive pressures created by the fungible connectivity. If you can't distinguish between services than all you have to compete on is quantity -- hence the need for speed as a marketing checkbox item). Because the costs are actually negligible there is no reason to hold back on speed -- unless the carriers look ahead at a stark future in which their customers are better equipped to create new services than they are.The carriers can only survive by creating billable events and they can't do that if they don't have privileged access to high capacity connectivity. They talk of keeping some of the capacity aside and using what they are calling a higher speed Internet for their own use but even the lower tier is enough to challenge their business model and thus their existence.We see this with FIOS. I like my 15mbps service even though it is only one percent of the capacity of the fiber. But even with that one percent I can compete with the other gigabit! Thanks to the power of the video chips in our PCs I can do good video at 1mbps -- the speed of the original 1980's version of ADSL. Verizon is finding that they have to keep increasing the speed of DSL to compete which further demonstrates that their rational for building out fiber -- the need for speed -- is overstated.It's not that I don't want to speed available with a fiber connection -- I just question whether it's compatible with their business model. The capacity glut is even worse when we realize that each carrier is building out its own high capacity infrastructure.The tragedy is that this focus on speed misses the more important point -- we need connectivity. If the government policies weren't so fixated on "broadband" we could quickly provide everyone in the country with 24x7 connectivity using existing infrastructure and extending it with short distance wireless connectivity using Wi-Fi and other technologies. Instead of saddling ourselves with an obsolescent 1960's vintage E911 system we could we could be providing vital services rather than just limited emergency services.Thirty five years ago I was excited by speed of 300bps (or .0003 mbps). Twenty five years ago I tried to explain to a newspaper service provider that 1200 bps wasn't enough even though it was faster than reading speed. Today we do have a glut in the sense that we are not yet taking advantage of the potential.The carriers' business model is defined by scarcity. The glut means there is no scarcity and the users create their own services without have to give up a portion of the value to the carriers.Our public policy must come to terms with abundant capacity. Rather than trying to incent the carriers to provide more of the "broadband channel", we should recognize that the capacity is real. What is missing is availability. Our goal should be to provide everyone in the country with connectivity as a fundamental right just like roads and electricity.Rather than putting billions of dollars into building redundant infrastructure we do far better to make 24x7 connectivity a priority eve[...]

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And now for a lighter post (though you can look at for more current "issues" posts).

(image) Browsing MSN's Virtual Earth I happened across their high resolution aerial photos. One contains the first three places I lived in when I moved to Boston. Nice to have them framed in a single view.

Note that if you clink the link you'll see the road view -- in the current beta of Virtual Earth you'll need to ask for the bird's eye view separately to see the image. You still might not get quite the view I've thumbnailed here -- you may have to pan around and rotate and explore. You can zoom in also see the neighborhood. That's nice but I would like the ability to point to exactly the image I'm trying to write about. Maybe in a future version ... but we shouldn't let these details get in the way of our imagination.

While it's nice to be able to look at my past in the present, I also want the dimension of time. I would like to know when this particular photograph was taken and also be look at images from when I lived there.

Though keywords such as those used to tag photos on flickr are nice I also want to be to link on various axes. Some links may be direct to a particular photo and others would be linked by a desciption or common characteristic. Tags are a crude start but we haven't even begun to understand how to richness that comes from in the information already available. The richness is not inherent. It comes from what people see in what they see and in what else they can contribute.

While the "social web" is exciting, we already relate to things and concepts because they represent our past and future and trigger the imagination.

Well, better not let myself to get too distracted -- there are so many other interesting things (and places and people) to discover, to create and to do. But first, gotta get back to what I have to get done.

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Some musings regarding the _._One of the sources of difficulty with proposals like the CDC's here is that there is a knee-jerk reflex in systems that contain networks (here the airline transport network) to assign functional responsiblity to the network for functions that are fundamentally "end-to-end" goals.Though the end-to-end argument is well-understood in the Internet community (though still the subject of amazingly hotheaded controversy, as I can attest based on the flame mail I and others get), it is rarely applied outside the context of the Internet.Tasking the airline systems with solving epidemic health issues has all kinds of side-effects (not just privacy, though its advocates will be the first to react, I'm sure).The fundamental problem is that while contact tracing is a valuable tool for epidemic tracking and control, nevertheless the airlines are just a small part of the system, and the problem cannot be defined as a function of the airline net alone.An end-to-end style analysis of the best way to manage epidemic transmission would not start with the airline network. Instead, it would start with the assumption that the functions placed in the airline network should be viewed as optimizations only of the epidemic detection and control process. As an optimization only, the impact of the airline's role on its function should be both small and as generally useful to ALL of the functions of the airline network as possible. And if that implementation does not integrate with or enhance current "edge-based" epidemic transmission control mechanisms, the function should definitely NOT be included. (I.e. contact tracing only works for some epidemic processes and some epidemic control techniques, which we are largely unable to execute because of lack of capability in our current PHS and WHO).This proposal is clearly subject to "mission creep" as it is way overbroad in the data it collects. All that should be required is for the airlines to be able to quickly reconstruct a list of contact traces, *after the fact*, and only in the case where an epidemic is in its early stages (late stage epidemics do not even USE contact tracing) and only in the case where the epidemic is actually transmissible by air in the context of an airline trip (very few epidemics have this property).Maintaining a vast database of all travelers all the time is fairly inexpensive in $, but has a huge cost in the potential for misuse or expanded functionality, of course, but also in reducing the flexibility for new and better solutions to the underlying public health problems (new systems create new bureaucracies that have a stake in keeping themselves funded).Contact tracing that involves where a passenger comes from (as opposed to who shared the airplane with him/her) is already quite straightforward, and has less broad implications.Unfortunately, and this is frustrating to me, there are many, many people in government (and this is not partisan), who argue from social benefits (managing epidemics) to "obvious" solutions that scale vary badly. The "end-to-end" style of systems thinking doesn't deny that solutions exist, but like the early designers of the Internet, by focusing on simple, scalable solutions that push solutions away from the core of the network as much as possible, it is possible to address problems in a way that has lower impact and is far more scalable and efficient.It seems likely that we could be far safer and h[...]

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Watching the Sunday morning interview shows with their corporate ads, I was struck by the alternate ways you could hear their tag lines in light of other discussions about those companies.

Every week there seems to be another example of Microsoft being involved in some effort to stop the adoption of Open Document Format in Massachusetts. They appear so passionate in their zeal to find a way, any way, to prevent the change or discourage others from making a similar change. I also read press reports about the great potential ODF has for advancing things through interoperability, etc. What's Microsoft's tag line? "Your Potential. Our Passion." I see their visuals showing a tiny start up with the potential Microsoft sees to grow into something big. I couldn't help but think Netscape. Hmm. Microsoft wants you to grow, just don't do it in their backyard. Maybe "our tools help you grow" is more of what they meant to say. Strange thoughts -- I guess too much time on the elipitical exercising in front of the TV got to me.

Then there was Verizon. There has been talk about how they are moving to an all-fiber optic network so that they can have pathways into the home that they don't have to share like copper due to some regulatory fine print. Pipes that they can exploit any way they want because they control them. Not the open Internet but rather Verizon controlled paths. You'd think they'd want to counter that with a slogan like "We make you part of the world" or something else open sounding. No such luck. They go with "Our People. Our Network." Sounded to me like "we built it, it's ours, we will do with it what we want." Sigh. Must drink more water while exercising...