Monday, July 25, 2011


Inventing the Internet

I’m in Québec City this week for the IETF meeting. A group of us were having dinner last evening, and at the end of the meal, as we were paying, the waitress asked us what we were all in town for. We told her were were at a meeting to work on standards for how things talk to each other on the Internet.

So she tells us about a crazy lady who comes in the restaurant every afternoon. The lady claims to have invented a bunch of things, and one thing she says is that she invented the Internet. After someone makes the required Al Gore joke, I say, well, to tell you the truth, no one at this table qualifies but we do actually have some people in our group who actually did invent the Internet. She says It’s one person who did it?, and we say no, maybe eight or ten or so... and at least four of them really are here this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Number 2 and trying harder?

Yahoo news notes that LinkedIn is now the number 2 social network, behind, of course, Facebook. Brent Hailpern has an amusing way of pointing out what that means, really:

In related news, Beta is now the No. 2 video tape format after VHS.

Indeed, at what point is number 2 so far behind that it simply doesn’t matter?

In this case, LinkedIn isn’t really even relevant: its focus is entirely different from Facebook’s, and one wouldn’t really say that they compete with each other. This is really saying that MySpace has fallen so far back that it’s even gone below LinkedIn.

But another point is that the newcomer, Google+, is way down there at number 4 or lower. It’s in beta, of course, but, well, that’s just Google, where pretty much everything is in perpetual beta. But Google+ is aiming to be a Facebook competitor. Is there any hope? Should they bother? Shouldn’t they put their resources where they might do more good? Won’t Google+ just go the way of Google Wave?

It certainly happens that something new comes from way, way back there and pushes its way to the front. That can sometimes be due to the prominence of the company backing it, as happened when Microsoft Internet Explorer took over the world, to the dismay of Netscape (Who?). Google certainly has a prominent, powerful position, but it seems unlikely that that alone would bump Facebook out of the number 1 spot, or even seriously threaten to.

The other way for a newbie to move up is by providing important improvements over what’s already out there. Facebook’s recent partnership with Skype gives it immunity from Google Voice, but Google is marketing Google+ as having better privacy than Facebook — and, &deity knows, the latter has had a great deal of bad press for its handling of privacy issues and controls.

So, is Google+ a better social-networking choice from a privacy standpoint? We have one datapoint so far, and it doesn’t look good: the folks at F-Secure, a Finnish anti-malware company, note that as part of the Google+ rollout, Google will be deleting all private profiles, thus requiring you to make your profile public if you want to keep it. What’s more, they’ve done a lot of the same things that Facebook has done, quietly making new things public and/or enabled by default, so you really have to keep on top of things to be sure you avoid information leaks.

That doesn’t sound like an improvement to me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Netflix abuses its customers

In December, I complained about Netflix streaming: not enough of what I want to watch is available for streaming. But some is, and getting one DVD at a time in addition to the streaming makes up for the lack, at least somewhat. In the end, then, we decided to keep the $10 Netflix subscription.

But Netflix has just announced that it’s increasing the cost of that plan by 60%. That’s a lot!

They’re actually doing it by separating the streaming and DVD plans, and charging $8 for each. Here’s what they say about it in their email message:

We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month

Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don’t need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

The good part, I suppose, is that people who do only want one of the services can save $2 a month (let’s skip the penny here or there). But the assholes nice people at Netflix are doing a massive 60% rate hike for those who want the same package they’ve been using.

And one thing that’s particularly irritating about this is that if Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, or Verizon wanted a 60% rise in rates, they’d have to get permission for it from regulatory agencies, and they wouldn’t be allowed to dump it all on us at once. Netflix has no such restriction, and can do what it wants... it’s up to us to say No! by not buying their service.

And so I’m really undecided about what to do. On the one hand, I’ve gotten used to the streaming, despite its limitations, and it’s nice to have stuff available and to watch things on the laptop when I’m travelling (in the U.S.). It’s tempting to just drop the DVD service and continue with $8/month for the streaming.

On the other hand, I very much want to give Netflix a clear message that they can go fuck themselves, and hope they lose 80% of their customers and go out of business.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


A Trick of the Gmail?

When you’re looking at Gmail’s conversation list, it likes to show you just the first names of some of the people involved in the conversation — usually the first and last interlocutors, but sometimes others, depending upon repetitions and whatnot. It can be a bit odd sometimes. When I’m having a conversation that involves someone else called Barry, it can look like I’m talking to myself. And it’s often the case that there’s one particular Murray or Dave or Jim with whom I usually talk, but a message from a different person of the same name will throw me off.

But sometimes, the juxtapositions are just a bit amusing:

I guess it’s just that I’ve been a Genesis fan since way back.

Monday, July 04, 2011


Fourth of July, Miami Beach