U.S. Broadband Sucks

I grew up near Paris. Five years ago, only France Telecom could provide DSL access. For €50 you got 512 Kbps. Today, you can get 20-Mbps Internet access, unlimited national calls, and about 100 digital TV channels for less than €30. Anywhere you move, at least 20 DSL companies fight to have you as a customer. Now I live in L.A., and I spend $45 a month for a 3-Mbps cable connection, because the only company offering DSL in my area stops at 386 Kbps. What’s going on?

Nathan Hazout in a letter to Wired

The availability of true broadband at reasonable prices isn’t the most important issue facing this country, but it would likely help start another economic boom.

Cerf & Kahn and Intellectual Property

Dr. Cerf said part of the reason their protocols took hold quickly and widely was that he and Dr. Kahn made no intellectual property claims to their invention. They made no money from it, though it did help their careers. “It was an open standard that we would allow anyone to have access to without any constraints,” he said.

NYT: Laurels for Giving the Internet Its Language

In addition to being co-creator of TCP/IP, Cerf is a natty dresser. Geeks need not be slobs!

Suburban Utopia

My sister Carrie is living with my oldest brother in Maple Valley, a suburb about 45 minutes outside of Seattle.

Since transferring to a 92% white area high school there, she has heard the following from fellow students (paraphrasing based on her relay of these conversations and encounters):

  • The Japanese internment didn’t really happen.
  • If it did, they deserved it.
  • If it did, they were given money afterward, so they should just get over it.
  • The proper term for Japanese-Americans is “Japs”.
  • The Holocaust didn’t really happen. Devious Jews made it up.
  • “You have black friends?”

From a woman leading a church youth group she was invited to visit by a fellow student (again paraphrasing):

  • Seattle Public Schools teach kids that homosexuality is acceptable.
    I give Carrie credit for informing the woman that Seattle Public Schools teach kids to treat people equally — sexual orientation has nothing to do with it.
  • Homosexuality is a sin.
  • Homosexuality is a choice.

Those red values come shining through in all their ignorant, bigoted glory!

Was Your Stay Enjoyable?

I remained in prison for 36 days. Now I am awaiting trial. On my release I was reminded, “Be thankful to God that we arrested you. If you had been detained by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, they would surely have beaten you. Here you were our guest.”

Before I departed I was politely asked to fill out a form seeking suggestions for improving conditions in the jail.

Farouz Farzami, (pseudonym of an Iranian journalist) “Blogger’s ‘Crime’ Against the Islamic State”

The oppressive and discriminatory laws and cultural expectations in Iran are some of those the Christianist dingbats would like to see enacted here.

Salon's Manjoo on a resurgent Apple

The main points of Farhad Manjoo’s “Hallelujah, the Mac is back” and my thoughts about them:

Windows is a piece of crap

I recently helped my friend Johnny with his Windows XP SP2 laptop, which had become overrun with spyware. Being the blissfully spyware-ignorant Mac and Linux user that I am, I didn’t know which tools would actually remove all the crap. I tried several mentioned in Asa Dotzler’s scumware horror story, but even with the latest updates, they didn’t get it all. We were running out of time, so I installed Firefox for him and am hoping for the best.

My friend Brian came over several days later with his laptop. Firefox had convinced him months ago to switch browsers, but somehow, Internet Explorer now had a toolbar full of spam links. He knows he didn’t install it, but there it is. Software installation so seamless, the user doesn’t need to do anything! Wow!

Manjoo touches on a point I’ve made previously: the atrocious “security” has, for many Windows users, negated most of Microsoft’s investments in user experience. “Windows XP has a task-based interface that allows yBUY VIAGRA NOW!! CLICK HERE 4 HOT NAKED CHIXXX!!”

The Mac mini is inexpensive and includes the iLife suite

There is a case to be made for using the mini for browsing, e-mail, IM, and media management while retaining a Windows PC for gaming. Not that (higher-end) Macs are bad gaming machines. Some gamers seem to think Macs still come with Rage II+ graphics and are limited to the games of five years ago.

Hertzfeld thinks Open Source will break Microsoft’s stranglehold

If the Brazilian government’s intention to switch entirely to open software is any indicator, this is true. Microsoft will be around for a good while longer, but all empires fall. The combination of the freedom and developmental pace of Open Source and the seeming inability of Microsoft to deliver truly high quality software makes it likely that other developing nations (China and India come to mind) will move in that direction. Hell, even Richard Clarke thinks Microsoft will lose substantial marketshare over the next 10 years or so, largely due to the abysmal security.

The Prisoner

“God has brought many things out of oppression. He has endowed his creatures with the capacity to create – and from this capacity has flowed the sweet songs of sorrow and joy that have allowed man to cope with his environment and many different situations.

Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph. This is triumphant music.

Modern Jazz has continued in this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.

It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians. Long before the modern essayists and scholars wrote of “racial identity” as a problem for a multi-racial world, musicians were returning to their roots to affirm that which was stirring within their souls.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down. And now, Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith. In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival

As I have every year since I got the album, today I will listen to Herbie Hancock’s tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Prisoner” as a way of recognizing his contributions.

MacWorld 2005 Thoughts and Purchases

Indie-ware

  1. Delicious Library continues to improve. They would be wise to advertise the MacWorld sale price of $30 and the upgrade pricing ($22.44 for me since I already had a Chronopath Library license) on their website!
  2. TextWrangler 2.0 is free. Thanks, BareBones!
  3. I saved $10 on MacJournal.

Apple

The new, previously unannounced products are cool and all, but I’m still most looking forward to 10.4 itself, particularly because of Spotlight. Don’t miss the Spotlight Technology Preview PDF (1.3MB).

  1. Pages looks nice. It does look more like a middleweight page layout program than a word processor. I’ll have to use it to see how well it works as the later. Word (even 2004) is among the most maddening applications I have ever used; terrible performance combined with strange interface behavior and frustrating “helpful” formatting features.
  2. iPhoto 5 looks much more polished. The ability to search should have been in the first release! I’m curious as to what changes have been made to the importation process, which currently doesn’t allow you to import only specific photos.
  3. I have roughly zero interest in the iPod shuffle. Here is one reason why:

    My music library total as of January 11, 2005

    Another reason being that my 1st generation 10GB is still going strong, roughly three years after purchase.

  4. I’d wondered about the 10.4 menu bar. The initial design (still visible on the Mac OS X page when hovering over the Spotlight link) led me to believe that the Apple and Spotlight menus would finally leverage Fitts’ Law by giving them infinite depth, but apparently not. Perhaps they found that it would cause confusion with Exposé corner triggers.
  5. The new Mail buttons are gross. I understand that they are trying to more clearly group related functions, but they are fugly. They also prevent users from placing buttons exactly how they want them. For example, I frequently use Reply, but rarely use Reply to All or Forward. I don’t want buttons I don’t use on my toolbar!
  6. The Mac mini has decent specs at a price point equal to or less than the top-end iPod. If my conversation with my Windows XP lovin’ friend Nick is any indicator, this will help expand Apple’s marketshare.

On An Unrelated Note…

Seth Nickell has posted his thoughts about design and the effect of excessive focus on usability on it. The post is related to his latest GNOME Journal article, “The Experimental Culture“.

The Fibrous Future

Broadband rates in the USA are already among the highest in the world … $35 to $40 a month. And that’s for relatively slow speeds of 1 to 2 megabits a second. In Japan, consumers pay about $15 a month for speeds of 30 megabits or better, notes Raul Katz, CEO of Adventis, a Boston-based consultancy.

USA Today: Bells dig in to dominate high-speed Internet realm

That paragraph really caught my attention. $15 bucks per month for 30Mbps or better?!?! Damn.

Until fiber is widely available in this country, I highly doubt there will be another real economic boom. Next generation services are dependent on the ubiquitous availability of real bandwidth, not the anemic crap that is called “broadband” today.