Our Big Frakking Brother

Our Big Frakking Brother (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 2-28-13)

It’s getting late as our hero sits at his terminal.  C-Bucks lost again, and another thousand cubits lost betting on Pyrimid.  

“Frak!  How could they possibly lose to the Panthers?” our hero thinks.  Of course, it’s not so much the money.  Let’s face it…the way things are going, cubits are going to be pretty frakking useless anyway.  No, it’s the incessant trash talk that comes with another loss to Picon.  “Looks like we’ll spend tomorrow listening to them run their frakking mouths.”

Our hero finds another stream on his terminal.  Looks like the new Holly Legrand movie has finally made it to stream.  With a click of the control, the opening scene appears on the terminal.

“What the frak!”

The stream freezes, and a window appears.

“This is a notice from the Center for Copyright Information.  Our monitoring system has detected that your account may have been misused for online content theft.  Further misuse will result in the reduction of services.  If you believe you have received this alert in error, please contact the Center for Copyright Information.  One of our arbitrators will be happy to judge your claims.  You must acknowledge the receipt of this alert.  Please acknowledge this alert by clicking here.”


Seems a bit outlandish, doesn’t it?  The continuous monitoring of video channels in an effort to detect undesired activity.  Fortunately, U. S. citizens are protected from such surveillance by the 4th amendment.  You remember it from your civics class; that’s the one that protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures.  Basically, it says that a government organization must have probable cause and a warrant before a search may be conducted and private property seized.

There’s just one small problem.  It doesn’t apply to us.  At least in terms of monitoring Internet usage.

You see, the Center for Copyright Information is a real organization that was formed by the Recording Industry and Internet Service Providers for the sole purpose of policing online copyright infringement.   This surveillance program, known as the Copyright Alert System, requires Internet providers to monitor all peer-to-peer connections, and provide alerts if suspected copyright infringement is detected.  Alerts from the Internet provider may range from email notifications, redirection to landing pages for educational purposes, or temporary reduction of Internet bandwidth.  A board of Recording Industry and ISP representatives governs the organization and maintains significant control over the arbitrators in the event that an alert is challenged.  No appeal of the Center’s final decision is permitted.

Now one may argue that the Center for Copyright Information is a private organization, and the Copyright Alert System is created through the mutual contract between private organizations.  While technically true, it’s not difficult to argue that the communication industry is so heavily regulated that no program like this would ever be able to move forward without at least the tacit approval of the regulatory bodies.  Indeed, many political organizations, including the White House, have lined up behind this program.  Also, the nature of the collusion between the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the major Internet Service Providers – Comcast, AT&T, Cablevision, Time Warner and Verizon, representing 75 percent of broadband Internet customers – would seem to raise concern regarding cronyism and possible anti-trust infringements.  But I’m not holding my breath that anyone is going to care too much about that.

The Copyright Alert System formally launched this past week.  For more information on this program and copyright law as it relates to electronic media, please see the Electronic Frontier Foundation at eff.org.

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker




Please Help

Please Help (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 2-21-13)

Yes?  Hello?  I need to talk to someone about my printer. … Well, the darn thing doesn’t print … More specific?  Well – let’s see – I’m in my Word, and I click on the printer button, and nothing happens.  It usually does, but I just can’t get it to work this time.  ….  Well, I’ve only tried in my Word, so no, I don’t know if it’s the same problem in other programs.  Is that important?  You don’t think my computer is broke too?  It can’t be broke.  I just got the thing last week.  How could a brand new computer be broken already?  …  No, I’m sure it’s probably the computer.  The printer was working fine with my old computer.  But ever since we brought the new printer, nothing has worked.  …  Yes, I said new printer.  …  The new printer is connected to the computer.  …  No, the new printer works OK, I guess.  We were hoping it would speed things up.  Everything just runs so slow. …  No, no, no, sorry, it’s not my computer.  You see last week my boss got a great deal on a new computer from his brother-in-law who didn’t need it anymore.  He had gotten one of those new iPhones or something.  Anyway, my boss brought it in here and hooked it up.  We were sure hoping it would help.  …  I’m sorry – did I get all-scatterbrained again!  My kids tell me that I do that from time to time.  Yes, you’re right – the printer still doesn’t work. …  OK.  That’s fine. I’ll start over.  When I click on the printer button, no paper comes out of the printer.  …  No, that’s the only problem I’m having right now.  …  Yes, this is the first time I’ve called you. …  Sylvia.  My name is Sylvia.  Thank you so much.  You are being such a great help.  … You need to send someone here to look at it?  Well, I was hoping someone could take a look at it today.  We close in a couple of hours, and I really got to get this report printed.  …  Oh, thank you so much for checking!  …  Yes, I’ll wait right here.  …  (hold music) …  Hello?  Are you back?  …  Oh my goodness,  I was telling that other person about my printer and how I need to get my report printed.  Are you going to be able to help me?  …  Well, like I said before, it isn’t printing.  …  More specific?  Well, I’m doing everything that I normally do, it’s just now this time when I press the button it doesn’t print.  …  I’m using my Word program.  …  Yes, I’ve tried in all my programs.  It’s just now nothing works.  …  No, no, I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to be getting frustrated.  …  I know, Sweetie, you’re going to do everything you can. … When did it stop working? …  Well, like I was saying before, a few weeks ago, my brother-in-law gave my boss a great deal on his old computer.  Now I don’t know what he wanted that old computer for, but he got it hooked up.  Just between you and me, I really don’t think my boss is that good with computers.  Lordy it took him almost 2 hours to get it all put together!  …  Now I don’t know that.  That’s his computer after all.  I wouldn’t want to be printing anything on that computer.  …  No, of course not.  I must be getting scatterbrained again.  My kids are going to love to hear about this!  This computer printer right here is the one that won’t print.  …  We’ll it looks like it’s connected to some wires that run across the floor.  …  It looks like they both go into the wall.  …  You want me to go to my computer?  But isn’t it the printer that’s not working?  …  OK.  If that’s what you say.  But is it important that the printer’s lights aren’t on?  …  No, I don’t see any lights.  …  Hold on for a second.  I’ll check.  …  Well look at that.  Miss Scatterbrained again!  Thank you so much!  You’ve been such a wonderful help!

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker



Taxing Begins at Home

Taxing Begins at Home (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 2-14-13)

Taxing Begins At Home – In honor of my good friend Josh Ruffin, this week I wanted to write some sort of commemorative piece on the 100th anniversary of the income tax.  In short, the 16th Amendment was ratified February 3, 1913.  The income tax was, and still is, a key tool of the progressive agenda.  Any social justice program must be well funded in order to ensure an equitable distribution of outcomes.  Over the last 100 years, we’ve done a great job of creating systems designed to produce equal social outcomes:  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare, just to name a few.  Unfortunately, our country is beginning to encounter the major flaw in liberal politics that was best expressed by Margaret Thatcher almost 40 years ago: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

Now I’m not going to bore you with all the political cliché’s or class warfare propaganda.  You can turn on MSNBC, the Daily Show or even read Josh’s column to get that.  I would like to point out something a bit subtler.  If you heard some of the local history types around town, you’ll understand that a young Woodrow Wilson spent his formative years in Augusta.  During that time, he began to demonstrate the traits and habits that followed him his entire life.  Am I saying Augusta is responsible for the progressive income tax?  Of course not, but it is interesting to think what influence our city may have had.

Dick Tracy At Last – Rumors are circulating that Apple is poised to jump into the wearable computer market with a smartwatch design.  I know what you are thinking – “Huh?”  But it actually makes a good play for Apple.  Market predictions project sales of 90 million wearables by 2017.  Right now, Apple has a hole in that space since it recently dropped its wrist-wearable, square-shaped iPod nano.  The whole wrist-computer idea also plays well with Apple’s investment in curved display technology.

Apple’s reputation for revolutionizing market segments is consistent.  The iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad all redefined the market of each item.  Interestingly, Apple is not typically the first in the market, but rather waits for the right time and right technology to enter a promising market.  Such may be the case with smartwatches as well.

The market leader is a successful Kickstarter project called Pebble.  The Pebble features a 144×168 ePaper display, vibrating motor, 3-axis accelerometer and Bluetooth for connecting to your Android or Apple phone.  We’re still in Wild, Wild West land for use cases, and more are being created everyday.  A typical use case involves connecting the watch with your phone using Bluetooth and using the phone to display alerts, email, texts, etc. The watch possesses an SDK that allows users to develop apps directly against the watch.

Pre-orders for the Pebble should start shipping in April and May 2013.  Any Apple smartwatch, if one exists, would not start hipping until later in the year.  Stay Tuned!

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker

Geek Humor

Geek Humor (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 2-7-13)

Geek Humor – A physicist, a biologist and a mathematician are sitting in a street café watching people entering and leaving the house on the other side of the street.  First they see two people entering the house.  Time passes.  After a while they notice three people leaving the house.  The physicist says, “The measurement wasn’t accurate.”  The biologist says, “They must have reproduced.”  The mathematician says, “If one more person enters the house then it will be empty.”  –Anonymous

Who Do You Trust? – The Ponemon Institute released its annual survey of the Most Trusted Companies for Privacy.  The study asks consumers to name and rate organizations that they believe are committed to protecting personal privacy.   For the 6th year in a row, American Express was rated the Most Trusted Company, followed by HP, Amazon, IBM and the U.S. Postal Service.  Health Care was rated the top industry, with WebMD being the top company within that sector.

The study also held a couple of nuggets with regards to consumer behavior.  To start, 78% of respondents stated they believe protection of their personal information as important or very important.  However, the behavior indicates otherwise as 63% admitted to sharing sensitive personal information with an organization they DID NOT KNOW OR TRUST!  (D’oh!)  Of those that admitted sharing, 60% did this SIMPLY FOR CONVENIENCE!

I dare any of these folk to ask me why they get so much spam.

Super Tweet – Currently, I am sitting in my office with a glass of milk and a box of Oreo’s.  The lights are off.  While my first attempt was a miss, I can confirm the Superbowl tweet:  You can dunk in the dark. 

BuzzFeed Clip of the Week – Valentine’s Day is only a week away.  All you singles know exactly what that means – Seven days to bad mouth your couple friends while secretly wishing to find someone to hook-up and hang-out with.  Check out BuzzFeed for their list of top dating sites to help you find that special someone.  “There Really Is A Dating Site for Everyone.”  Just a few of the many…

 Geek Humor (Part 10) – There’s only 10 types of people in the world – those that understand binary and those that don’t.  –Anonymous

 Until next time, I am off the grid.  @gregory_a_baker