What It Says and What It Does

Ars Technica reports that the FCC asked the public how and if the term "broadband" (as in internet connection) should be defined, after it had proposed that "basic broadband" as simply 768kbps to 1.5Mbps (as in connection speed). They also seemed to think that this should be based on the actual speed that providers have, as opposed to what they claim in advertisements.

Sadly, the providers had a few issues with this. Mainly, they’d like to define what is broadband based on nominal speeds, not the actual speeds they provide. They argue that it is complicated to determine actual speed (never mind that there are countless sites to assess your current connections speed when a provided wants to sell you a different service). Even worse, they don’t want to have the definition tied to any applications (that is; video, torrents, gaming, VOIP, etc.). That way, if they decide to conveniently turn off a service on their pipeline, they can still call it broadband.

So what if you can’t actually do anything with it? It’s still fast! Well, in theory, anyway.

Maybe McG Gets It After All

Speaking of summer movie thrills, I’m cautiously optimistic about Terminator: Salvation, which opens next week. Director "McG" — of Charlies Angel’s money grab remake fame " makes a good case for going with a PG-13 rating:

“It just became clear that the things that would take it to an R or an NC-17 would be: There goes the arm, and now the blood is squirting on my face,” McG said in a group interview last Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif. “That wasn’t in service of the character or the story. The elements that would have taken it to R just ended up feeling gratuitous in the editing room. There’s a topless scene with Moon Bloodgood. I was trying to echo that scene in Witness where Kelly McGillis turns and says, ‘I’m not ashamed’ to Harrison Ford. But it just felt like, ‘Oh, there’s the genre stunt of the good-looking girl taking her top off.’ And it felt counterproductive in the spirit of what we were looking to achieve on a storytelling level, so way to go.”

I am in full favor of cutting gratuitous violence and nudity if it can open the film to a wider audience, make the movie a greater success, and ensure that good science fiction gets attention it deserves.

DVD Ripping Should be Legal for Personal Use

Wired‘s Thread Level has a blog on the likely outcome of the Real Networks DVD ripping case. The provide a little background on the oddity of DVDs (& Blu-Ray discs, too):

It’s OK to copy music from CDs, for example, and place it in an iPod. Yet, it’s illegal to do the same with a DVD. When it comes to the DVD, there’s not even a question of fair use.

How can the DVD and CD be treated so differently? Answer: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which protects the DVD but not the CD.

I’ve yet to hear from anyone who disagrees with this. Frankly, when it comes to being able to rip DVDs to save from our toddler’s destructive hands (she’s broken more than one) or to save battery life for watching a movie on a flight, I find that valid fair use. How this part of the DMCA is remotely legal is totally beyond me.

Another reason this has come to light for fair use, is that the MPAA recently recommended a convoluted method for teachers wishing to show portions of a DVD in class: recorded the screen with a camcorder in a dark room. This Rube Goldberg contraption of a solution is only slightly worse than holding my mini tape deck up to the radio when I was a kid. That is, pretty much worthless.

What’s Wrong with Wall Street

Frank Rich’s excellent insight into the culture of Wall Street that was at the core of the current recession:

This was not an exact replay of the preceding dot-com bubble. As a veteran of the tech gold rush recently observed to me, in Silicon Valley “the money comes later” and “the thing you make comes first, however whimsical, silly, microscopic, recondite it may be.” On Wall Street over the past decade, the money usually came first, last and in between. There was no “thing” being made at all unless you count the slicing and dicing of debt into financial “products,” the incomprehensible derivatives that helped bring down the economy, costing some five million Americans their jobs (so far) and countless more their 401(k)’s.

The fundamental shift that this country has to undergo is that our ultimate goal should all be to do nothing but let our money make us more money. Goods and services — and the skills that support them — are the most important cornerstone of our economy. Money laundering (basically what the market became with its shuffling of debt over the past decade) has never been a sustainable business. (via Tim O’Reilly)

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Best description/review of the Watchmen film I’ve read yet that sums up my exact feelings:

Fully deserving of its R rating, this is a sad, violent film about sad, violent people where the only one actually saving the world is the villain. While most superhero movies are about action and drama, this one’s a straight-up tragedy and definitely not for kids. And yet it works very well, both as a movie and as an adaptation of the comic book.

Snyder is also putting out a couple of supporting films: an animated version of the sea-pirate/horror story and a live-action version of the Night Owl’s autobiography. Though some would argue a film must be judged only on what happens within the limits of it’s time-frame, I think this is more like mixed-media art or even a film triptych. Why should film be limited to its format when formats change? Holding onto limitations of a format can be worthwhile when it serves a purpose (like album art for an .mp3 file) but shouldn’t be dogma.

Open Source Documentation

This is very humbling to me. Last week, at the DocTrain West conference, 25 writers produced a manual for FireFox in just two days as part of the FLOSS Manuals project. The manual is freely available online and is distributed in a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. You can purchase a print-on-demand copy of the manual from LuLu as well, which helps to support the FLOSS project. So a special thanks to all those folks who spent some time indoors (when they could have been enjoying Palm Springs) to help the open source community. I’ve already sent a link to the manual to my mom, who uses FireFox on her mac!

Happy 1234567890 Second

This post is set to publish so the time stamp (in Unix time format, which is seconds past since the Unix time epoch… bla, bla, bla) is 1234567890. Yes, me and every other geek on the whole internet just published at the exact same second for the exact same reason.

So, this short line of code (<?php the_time('U') ?>) adds the time when I hit publish: 1234546280

CableCard on a Mac

A short story on Macworld regarding the lack of CableCard support on Apple computers or peripherals. This is a story where the comments seem to add as much as the story does. I agree totally with the TiVo users commenting about their love of the CableCard. As a matter of fact, TiVo HD users seem to be almost the only consumers who prefer cable cards. I know that pretty much every Comcast technician who has been to our house absolutely hates them (along with TiVo HD units). They have tried repeatedly to talk me out of using our M-card. Given the amount of set up time they require over just plugging in a set-top box, I guess I can’t blame them (techs get allotted a very short amount of time for installations & service calls). But it is so much more elegant a solution. I do really wish I could just plug a CableCard into my mac (or some peripheral, like an Apple TV) in a similar manner to out TiVo.

Nature Endorses Obama

Nature – One of the two leading international science journals – has an editorial endorsing Sen. Barack Obama. Apparently, this is the first time in the prestigious journal’s 139 year history that it has ever endorsed a candidate – for US president or otherwise.

a commitment to seeking good advice and taking seriously the findings of disinterested enquiry seems an attractive attribute for a chief executive. It certainly matters more than any specific pledge to fund some particular agency or initiative at a certain level — pledges of a sort now largely rendered moot by the unpredictable flux of the economy.

This journal does not have a vote, and does not claim any particular standing from which to instruct those who do. But if it did, it would cast its vote for Barack Obama.