Net Neutrality

So, there is this argument/debate going on about net neutrality.

If you are reading this, then the internet is likely a major part of your life. There is a good chance that it is involved in everything you do in some ways. If you are reading this on a two to five inch screen, then it is almost guaranteed.

I know that I am always on Facebook. I get recipes online. I use the internet to learn about everything. Even if I don’t play a lot of online games these days (time issue), the internet is where I get most of my games. Seriously, Origin and Steam take up the vast majority of a terabyte hard drive with just over a hundred gigs free on it (For those who don’t know, Origin is EA Game’s version of Steam. If you don’t know what Steam is, it has been described as “The iTunes of Games.” If you don’t know what iTunes is, I think you are probably here by accident because you are trying to figure out who left their phone laying on the bench in some public place).

Now, how does this all apply to the issue of net neutrality?

The internet is a platform that ties pretty much everything together. It is made up of a massive number of networks that are tied together by a massive backbone. That backbone, and its connections to the smaller networks, is where the battle is taking place. And it is a battle. There may not be guns involved, but the outcome will impact all of us in one way or another.

A few decades ago, it was decided that this backbone (or these backbones rather) would carry data between networks in a neutral manner. Data going to Yahoo and Google would have the same level of priority as data going to a blog or a personal web page. This simple concept built the internet as we know it. This concept was the most important building block that allowed us to build the world we have today. It is what allowed small time web developers to create empires. It is what allowed Facebook to ever become a thing. It is what allows people on AOL to access websites that are not on the AOL network (If you have been online long enough, and started out on AOL, you may have a special understanding of this one).

The concept is simple: I pay my ISP. Facebook pays their ISP. The ISP’s then pay for access to the backbone. We get access to each other (i.e. I can access Facebook). Everyone pays for what they use.

Now, enter the idea of eliminating net neutrality. Suddenly, I pay my ISP. Netflix pays their ISP. Our ISP’s pay the backbones. So far so good. Now, suddenly Netflix gets a letter from the backbone provider that goes something like this “Want to keep your bandwidth up? Send us a check, and we will make sure you get better speeds.”

Wait a minute. They ALREADY paid for that bandwidth. They shouldn’t have to pay again.

Another form that it can take, that is a little less obvious, but just as bad, say it’s not the backbone that is doing this, but MY ISP. Say, Time Warner sends Netflix a letter saying “We have a pool of customers in common. If you want them to continue to enjoy the Netflix experience, you are going to pay us.”

Wait a minute. I already paid my ISP for just that experience. I already pay a MASSIVE amount (compared to the speed we get Americans pay more for internet access than most of the rest of the world) for access to the internet, and to get good speeds. The ISP specifically said that these speeds are ideal for streaming movies.

With net neutrality, we all pay for the bandwidth we use, the ISP’s and the backbone providers get filthy rich.

Without net neutrality, we all pay for the bandwidth we use, and content providers also pay for the bandwidth we use. They pretty much have to pass that extra expense on to us if they are going to stay in business. After all, this whole most expensive crappy internet in the world thing impacts them too, not just us.

The end result is that any company large enough to be able to afford to pay the kickbacks is going to be able to keep going, but their prices are going to go up. I am probably one of the most anti-corporate people I know, but I am not likely to blame them when that happens. Some of the really large ones may be able to balance the costs in order to keep the price hike from being too much, but those in the middle won’t have an option.

The smaller companies we deal with on a day to day basis? Well, they are going to have to come up with ways to make the experience of accessing their services comfortable with sub-par speeds, because in a world where people have become accustomed to being able to download data at high speeds, a slow page load will be sufficient to kill many companies out right.

If net neutrality dies, then so does an important part of the net. Net neutrality is what keeps the internet grassroots alive. I personally have a blog (you are likely reading this either on Facebook or on that blog). My blog is hosted by a small time ISP. They have server banks in three countries, but they are still tiny as far as ISP’s go. If net neutrality dies, I hope that they can afford to pay the extra fees to keep speeds decent. If they have to raise their prices to do so, I will completely understand.

The better option though is for us to find a way to make the politicians understand that net neutrality is important to the little guy, and the little guy is who votes for them. We need to find a way to insure that the politicians feel that their stance on net neutrality can have a real impact on their electoral chances. Just as importantly though, we have to make sure that this happens while the opposition is spending massive amounts of money to make things go their way.

After all, in a post “Citizens United” America, their stance on net neutrality already impacts their chances at reelection, because the telco’s are spending money on lobbying and advertising. Guess who is going to get the big corporate bucks for their campaign war chests.

Microsoft and DRM

I am not a Microsoft fan. I use Linux on my own computers, windows mainly just at work because that is what my employer uses. Lately I have been hearing a lot of people complain about Microsoft and “their” DRM initiative. They feel that Microsoft is using DRM to strong-arm people into using their OS, since their OS is the one that can legally use the DRM enabled software. A lot of this sentiment comes from a misunderstanding of what DRM is. A lot of this post is similar to one I sent to a mailing list. It was in response to the assertion that Microsoft and Macintosh have a choice of whether or not to include DRM software in their operating systems.

There is one big issue. There are still a LOT of people among the average consumer that thinks of their computer as a “DVD Player Plus.” If Microsoft and/or Intel cannot provide them with that, then they lose a rather large chunk of the consumer base. They are too Large, and in the media too often to do this illegally without major repercussions. This means doing it legally, which means, sorry for the vulgarity, Hollywood has them by the short hairs. This is the same reason that the Packaged distros no longer ship with full DVD support built in. It is not because they do not have the ability, it is because they do not wish to face the legal firestorm that would result if they did so. Hollywood is watching us. They see us as a threat. 😛 They are convinced that we will watch DVD’s under Linux in an unlicensed manner. >:)

From a purely moral standpoint, I personally feel that watching DVD’s under whatever platform is a Fair Use matter, as long as you have a legal copy of the DVD. I wish the courts still felt that way. :/ Instead, the organization producing your software has to pay out the nose for you to be able to use it legally.

I wonder how hard it would be to start a fund geared specifically towards raising the money for licensing of a DVD player program. The only problem is that while the majority of the code could be open sourced, the Important part, the part that actually decodes the video stream, could not.

Basically though, Hollywood is driving the DRM issue. 😛

In order to continue providing legal DVD playback under windows, they have to shell out the cash for the license. Under the terms of the license, it is revocable under most any reason that the corporation wishes. The thing is easily as bad as one of MS’s EULA’s.

I would say though that there are plenty of reasons to dislike Microsoft even without the DRM issue. ^^;; Yes, it is an agitation, but we cannot focus directly on MS if we hope to solve that problem. That will have to become an issue of dealing with the media industry.

We can encouraged MS to fight it, and if they choose to do so (and more importantly hold their ground) Then they can be a strong ally in that one area. They made noises in that direction once, but it only took a few threats from Hollywood lawyers to get them to back down. That WAS their decision, but it was a business decision based on how much it could cost them in the long run, and the fact that the courts they would have to deal with were already a bit angry with them anyway.

*grins* All it takes is one agitated lawyer to cause problems for a long time. ^^;; If you ever go to court, Don’t tell the judge he is computer illiterate.

Things we can target MS on. 😛 Lousy performance. Strong-arm tactics (though we need more support from the computer manufacturers for this one), frivolous patent suits, jacked up standards. These things alone (especially performance issues, and jacked up code) are more than enough reason to dislike MS. Most of the reasons people apply to them work just fine. 😛 We just need to make sure to keep each issue in proportion.

So Far This Week

Status report on the computer:
I now have Xfce4 installed and working. The system is running much more smoothly, and is much easier to use now that I have a complete desktop environment in place, instead of the addhock measures I was using while I built it to that point.
Next, I think I will install kate or gedit before moving on to install anything else. Vim is great. It is an awesome console based editor, but I like to be able to point and click. I have gotten used to GUI based text editors, and they make things much easier for me. I think I actually like kate a bit better than gedit, because of it’s extendibility.
After I install kate, I will check over all the dependencies and install Gimp, Ogre, and Blender. That order may be best for completeness.
After that, I will install 2.x, and that will bring me up to speed with the minimum requirements I posted in my prior post.
From there I will research into other graphics programs, and perhaps music creation programs. I will see what I find. 🙂

Status Report

Ok, this is what I have been up too, and what my status is.
I have been doing a total rebuild of the Linux system on my laptop.
    “What distro is the lazy blogger using this week?” one might ask.
    “Why LFS of course!”
Now, for those who know what LFS is, the thought of attempting it on a mostly modern laptop probably seems a little foolish.  For those who don’t know what it is, check out The LFS Website.  It is a great concept, but not for the squeamish or weak of heart.
Imagine, installing Linux on your computer without a package manager such as emerge or apt.  For that matter, imagine installing Linux on your computer without a distro all together.  >:P  That my friend is the point to LFS.  Linux From Scratch is a guide to building a functional GNU/Linux system from the ground up.  The first step is to build a temporary tool chain, then use it to chroot into a encapsulated environment and build the system from the bottom up starting with glibc, and the compiler package and going from there.
It is not as hard as it sounds, but the initial setup from c-lib to X is time consuming.  Now for the status report:
My system will now boot, and load into Xorg with twm (Tab Window Manager).  It is a rather horrid looking interface, but it works.  The only glitch I am now having is that my touchpad works just fine, but the USB mouse I am trying to use is not properly detecting.  Everything else seems fine.
The next step of course is to get that mouse to work.  After the mouse is working, I will move on to installing the GTK libraries and their dependencies.  From there I will move on to install Xfce and it’s dependencies.  Hopefully by the time I  have GTK working properly, I will have most of those covered already.
Of course somewhere in there, I will install FireFox, just as quick as all of it’s dependencies are met.  I may even make it higher priority than Xfce.  As I said, twm is rather horrid to look at, but it is sufficiently functional for my purposes for the moment.  However, once I have installed Xfce, and maybe Window Maker, I will likely never log into twm again unless I absolutely have to for some bizarre reason.
Once I get the above items installed and functioning, I intend to insure that Mesa is functional, and then install the newest stable versions (and in some cases the development versions) of my favorite office and graphical apps.
Packages I intend to install (at a minimum): (Newest stable release)
Ogrelib (Newest stable release)
Blender (Newest available release)
Gimp (Newest Stable)
Before installing Blender of course, I will insure that my Python interpreter is up to date.
My goal is to have my development environment properly set up before I go offline the next time.   The next offline period may be a long one.  Having a proper development environment to play with will help to keep me distracted. 🙂