The real cause of climate change.

I don’t believe that global warming, or climate change, is man-made. But if I did it would be entirely the product of blowhards like this:

There is a poetic justice to this of course. It is conservatives who are giving us the candidates who steadfastly refuse to have the nation take steps that could slow the pace of climate change, so it is appropriate that they should bear the brunt of its impact.

The important thing is that we, on the higher ground both actually and figuratively, need to remember that, when they begin their historic migration from their doomed regions, we not give them the keys to the city. They certainly should be offered assistance in their time of need, but we need to keep a firm grip on our political systems, making sure that these guilty throngs who allowed the world to go to hell are gerrymandered into political impotence in their new homes.

Because after all, his opinion is clearly the only one that matters, and those that disagree deserve to lose their rights. I guess freedom of speech only applies to some people.

Whatever will he do when he finds out that the earth isn’t getting any warmer?

Via Daimnation.

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Lies my wireless provider told me.

David Crow’s Twitter stream alerted me to this Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association’s (CWTA) micro-site focused on the upcoming 2008 Advanced Wireless Services spectrum auction in Canada. They clearly aren’t happy with the way the auction is being run and they set out to dispel some myths about wireless communications in Canada. Unfortunately their "facts" play a bit fast and loose with the actual truth. Let’s take a look at what they have to say.

Myth #1 – Canada’s wireless industry is not competitive.

Fact – There are more than two dozen (24) wireless service providers operating in Canada today, more than at any other time.

Truth – While there may be more than two dozen providers – and I’d love to see that list because they sure aren’t available where I live – the three national service providers (Bell Canada Enterprises, Rogers and TELUS) continue to dominate the wireless market, with 94% of subscribers and 95% of the revenues according to CRTC reports.

Myth #2 – Canadians feel there is not enough competition in the wireless industry.

Fact – In a 2007 survey by the Strategic Counsel, 82 per cent of people said there are “enough” or “more than enough” choices in wireless service providers in Canada.

Truth – I don’t have the report, but I do have this Rogers press release.According to that, "the survey also indicated that 82% of wireless users were satisfied or very satisfied with wireless phone coverage. Canadians also were satisfied (61%) with the features and technologies available with their wireless phones. Overall, a majority of those surveyed (59%) described good or very good value for money spent on their cell phones. Eighty one percent (81%) said that it was important that Canadian companies provide wireless service to Canadians". Not a thing about enough choices. And as Michael Geist notes, JD Power recently released a survey suggesting that Canadians are increasingly unhappy with their wireless service.

Myth #3 – Canadians pay too much for wireless service relative to other countries.

Fact – At an average of 12 cents per minute, Canada has the second lowest rates for use of wireless technology among the G7 nations.

Truth – As a US resident I paid about half of what I now pay in Canada for more services than I currently have. I also did not have to pay a monthly System Access Fee. But don’t take my word for it. The OECD Communications Outlook 2007 compared wireless prices in 30 countries. They found that the service package most comparable to what average Canadians use was more expensive in Canada than in eight other countries like the U.K., Sweden and Denmark. For other packages, Canada ranked 12th and 22nd. And Jack Kapica compares data pricing in the US and Canada, finding that Canadians would have to pay $400 for the iPhone, and to use all the iPhone features, about $300 a month in voice and data fees (the iPhone is a heavy user of mobile data transfer). By comparison, AT&T, the sole company offering the iPhone in the United States, allows a plan for $100 that includes 1,350 minutes of voice calls, unlimited data, video voice mail, 200 text messages and unlimited use nights and weekends. Just over half the Canadian population had cellphone service in 2005 — the U.S. and Europe hit that level years earlier. The Canadian sector, however, is among the most profitable anywhere. On the key benchmark of average revenue per minute, Canadian carriers make 11 cents (U.S.), according to Merrill Lynch. In the U.S., it’s 6 cents.

Myth #4 – Many Canadians do not have wireless coverage.

Fact – Today, 98 per cent of Canadians have wireless coverage.

Truth – Coverage is pretty good, though there are still pockets of poor coverage. A drive to St. Jacobs, 10 minutes from my house in Waterloo, will leave me with spotty coverage.

Myth #5 – Canada does not currently have any third generation (3G) wireless networks.

Fact – Today, 3G networks allow Canadians to use mobile phones and other wireless devices to watch live TV, download movies and music, surf the Internet, play video games, send instant messages, share photos and connect to mobile computers.

Truth – That one is completely true.

Myth #6 – Canada lags other countries in the adoption of wireless technology.

Fact – There are more than a million new wireless subscribers in Canada each year. Industry analysts forecast that wireless phone subscriptions will surpass land line subscriptions by the end of 2007.

Truth – A million new wireless subscribers has nothing to do with the adoption of wireless technology. It is the use of new technology that Canada is slow to adopt. For example, we have few data applications because of the prohibitively high wireless data rates.

Myth #7 – Canada’s wireless industry is not a world leader when it comes to innovation.

Fact – Canada has achieved a number of breakthroughs in the global wireless industry, including creating the BlackBerry® mobile device and facilitating the first text message between customers of different networks.

Truth – Canada’s wireless providers did not create the BlackBerry, though the first internetwork text message is a bigger deal. However technology such as mobile handsets lags behind the US by several months, and behind the Pacific Rim by years. When I moved to Canada my wireless provider told me that my brand new Nokia phone – not yet available in Canada – would not work on their network because it as inferior. It took a call from Nokia to straighten them out and then it worked just fine.

Myth #8 – Canada’s wireless industry does not contribute significantly to the economy.

Fact – Canada’s wireless industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on infrastructure, equipment, research and development, and employs over 25,000 Canadians in highly skilled jobs. In addition to the $1.5 billion in license fees that the federal government collected from the last spectrum auction in 2001, the wireless industry pays Ottawa more than $150 million a year in wireless licensing fees.

Truth – Yes the government collected $1.5 billion in licensing fees (substantially less than that collected in the US) but wireless licensing fees were eliminated in April 1987 in favor of selling spectrum licenses. Yet the wireless providers continue to charge a monthly System Access Fee of $7-$9 dollars. This fee has been described incorrectly as a tax or government fee until the providers were told to stop doing so. That System Access Fee alone generates revenue of $1.3-$1.5 billion annually, dwarfing that one time spectrum purchase.

I could go on and address all 15 of their "facts", but I think I’ve made my point.

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The RIAA grasps at the last straw.

This isn’t new, but the RIAA has now decided to argue that it is illegal for you to rip a song from a CD that you have legally purchased:

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

As I’ve mentioned before, that’s exactly the opposite of what was argued in MGM vs. Grokster:

…And let me clarify something I think is unclear from the amicus briefs. The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it’s been on their Website for some time now, that it’s perfectly lawful to take a CD that you’ve purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod.

So let’s assume for a second that even though they are lying scum, that they are correct. Just because you bought that physical CD, you aren’t allowed to rip a song from it. So pretty much every one of their customers is a criminal, and they’ll sue every last one of you if you don’t buy that music over again.

Of course many of you have paid for that music several times already. On records, eight-tracks, cassettes, and eventually CDs. The artists, and of course the record companies, have been compensated several times for that music that only you have listened to. But they want those artists (and themselves of course) to be compensated one more time.

So they want you to buy the digital track. And they’ll be rolling in the money once again.

But wait. You were once forced to buy a CD with two good songs and a bunch of other dreck for $10-$20. Now you can buy those two good tracks for only a couple of bucks – a huge drop in revenue for the record companies. They’re probably counting on you buying every track by all of those bands.

That’s ok, because it all about the artists getting compensated, right? Though as I’ve also noted before, that isn’t quite true:

If your deal with your record company is like The Alman Brothers, then you’re getting something like $315.50 for those same 1,000 songs (83.3 CDs worth). That works out to $0.31 cents per song, instead of the $0.045 on a digital download.

So artists only make about 15% of their regular royalty on digital downloads even though the prices haven’t decreased and there are absolutely no overhead costs, but I guess record company executives have to eat too.

So once everyone has purchased the digital version of their music, is that it? After you have the MP3, what next argument can the RIAA possibly make? Once you have a digital copy of the bits with a header, what else do you need?

Of course, once you get your bits digitally – with no physical media or component of any kind – what do you need a "record" company for? Bands like Radiohead have already figured this out.

To quote Geek News Central:

Here is a message to all of the recording companies that support the RIAA “I will never ever buy an Album, Single, go to a concert or purchase anything from any of your signed artists so long as you continue to support the RIAA”.

Though I don’t think they’ll carebecause they seem to have lost the meaning of "customer" long ago.

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Shopping for pleasure.

It’s Christmas Eve and a couple of hours ago my son and I went out to shop at Future Shop (just like Best Buy if you don’t know it). We didn’t need anything; we were already done all of our shopping. I just wanted to watch White Christmas and I needed the DVD version so I thought I’d take a chance at finding it.

The store wasn’t all that busy so the experience was actually quite pleasant, though the cashiers told us how grumpy customers had been today.

It’s kid of ironic that on the cusp of Christmas shoppers would be in a bad mood. Sort of runs counter to the whole concept of the holiday, doesn’t it?

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The Telecom Trotskyites.

I usually agree with Terence Corcoran of the National Post, but today’s column "The Telecom Trotskyites" couldn’t be further off the mark. Unhappy over the fact that new draconion copyright legislation was not introduced, he has this to say:

If the iTune you download can only be used on your iPod, that’s an assault on your rights. If you can’t resend that movie you just got off the Internet to a dozen friends, your rights are being trampled on. If you want to incorporate part of a television show into your work of art or whatever, you should not have to bother with copyright issues. In this view, just about all corporate attempts to limit use of material, backed by copyright law, are viewed as fundamentally opposed to "basic consumer rights."

I don’t have any intention to resend movies on the internet, but why can’t I play the iTune I paid for on some other device?After all, I paid full price. I fact I paid more that full price considering that all I received was a stream of bits and no physical package. I pay even more too, because in Canada I pay a copyright levy on every blank CD because it is assumed that I steal music.

How would Mr. Corcoran feel if the CD he purchased played only on his home CD player but not on his car? Would he happily purchase a second CD for the car? What if he bought a Microsoft Zune and realized that his Microsoft "PlaysForSure" music no longer played on it? Would he just repurchase the same songs again?

He complains about regulations sought by net neutrality proponents:

Higher up the policy ladder, Telecom Trotskyites fight for any number of regulatory fixes to impose their open-concept plan for the Internet and telecommunications. New technologies, they claim, have created a collective commons that must be wrested from corporate control and turned over to the people.

And he does this with a straight face while asking for new regulations in the form of new copyright legislation.

He really doesn’t like net neutrality:

Another fave topic for these laptop revolutionaries is "net neutrality." The basic objective here is to turn the Internet and broadband into a wide-open system to which all users, no matter what their business or personal interests, should have more or less open access. No telecom giant should allowed to charge more for some users than others. The telecom companies may own the system, but it belongs to the consumers who use it.

Yes the telecom companies may own the system, and no it doesn’t belong to the customers, though they certainly do pay for it. It isn’t provided as a free service by benificent telecom companies. Oddly, all users, no matter what their business interests, pay the same amount for their telephone service. Is he suggesting that some phone customers be charged more than others? Wait – that already happens. Businesses are charged more for phone service than residential users – just as happens for internet service.

People like Mr. Corcoran are so concerned for the rights of business that they forget that there are even such things as consumer rights. You know, the customers?

I don’t want to steal music, but I do want to be able to take the music on the CD I paid for and put it on my iPod. I want to be able to use my TiVo to time-shift when I watch television.Again, these should not amount to breaking a law – it’s a convenience thing, not a content stealing thing.

Not only is Mr. Corcoran opposed to giving me any consumer rights, he also has no problem removing rights I already have.

Honestly, I don’t get the point. I already purchase music and movies legally, and subscribe to Canadian cable, telephone, and internet. The telecom companies won’t wring one more dollar out if me that they are getting already. There are no Canadian record companies to benefit either.

They’ll just have a far more upset customer than they already have. One who is already considering using a US-based mobile service provider.

If they put half the effort into better products and services that they do into trying to convince the government that we are all criminals who can’t be trusted, that might change.

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Being disconnected.

A while ago I wrote a post about the virtues of being connected (to the internet). I said this:

As we move forward into the always on, always connected world, it makes me feel very comfortable that there are people around me who get it, and who realize the collaborative power of these tools.

My friend Steve (the same friend from the dinner last night) had this response to that post:

There may well be virtues involved in being "always connected" but the posit in blogs such as yours seems to be either, or. Either you’re connected all the time (good) or not (bad). Life, as you know, is not like that. There are times for quiet contemplation, like looking at the Milky Way on a dark night in Algonquin Park. There are times to be surrounded by noise but in your own quiet space, such as reading a book on the subway. There are times to march in a protest parade rather than just write about your displeasure. There are times to hold your lover in your arms and talk (or not). There are times for a kid to have a ‘secret friend’ whom no one else can see. There are times to watch a bee squirming its way into a flower to find a few grains of pollen.

None of my examples require being "always connected" but all are essential to life. So here’s my question: In the modern, electronic world of constant connection, where’s the time for quiet, for reflection, for introspection, physical intimacy, and human companionship?

When I wrote my post I was thinking primarily of the business world but I failed to mention that. In the grander scheme of life Steve is absolutely correct. There are plenty of times when the last thing I want to do is be connected.

So to make it clear, in the business world being connected is a necessity. In life, being disconnected is generally just fine.

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Social networks.

I spent some time in a social network last night. No, I didn’t use Facebook. I actually went to dinner with my wife and thirteen friends at a local chinese buffet restaurant. We ate and we talked, occasionally at the same time, yet kept the spitting of food to a minimum. Most of us were active politically, so the cardinal rule was not politics, but we managed to find things to talk about anyway.

A brief mention of Facebook ("You only have 23 Facebook friends?") led me to recall why I generally prefer spending actual face time with real human beings, even though I do spend more than enough time interacting with their electronic alter egos. Some folks feigned surprise that I would have even that many friends. Humorously, I’ll assume. :)

A couple of friends chided me because I didn’t have my laptop; they were sure it was under the table somewhere. One friend commented that the only time he hears from me is via my blog, so he thought he shoul be checking the blog to see if I was enjoying the evening.

So for Steve, yes I enjoyed the evening. Sorry that it took me almost 24 hours to confirm that. For Benton, thanks for organizing the dinner. I hope that it becomes an annual event. And to everyone else, my wife and I had a great time, and I’d much rather hoist a glass of wine (or green tea) and enjoy some good conversation with all of you than type words onto a computer screen any day of the week.

In fact, it reminded me of something my friend David Weinberger wrote a year ago today:

I myself have been showing disturbing signs of being compulsively human. I’ve noticed that I feel an urge I simply cannot control to be social. This really began to scare me when I tried not to talk and found that after a mere seven hours – seven hours! — I said, “Howya doin’?” to the bagger at the supermarket. I didn’t want to. It just slipped out. I couldn’t control myself. Ever since, I’ve given in to my urge – yes, I know, I’m sick – answering the phone when it rings, responding not only to questions but to mere pleasantries, and even initiating conversations when they weren’t strictly required.

It’s a nightmare. And it gets worse.

it’s not just that when I’m with others, I – ugh! – participate in destructive social rituals like caring what people are saying. Even when I’m alone, kind thoughts about other people invade my consciousness. I feel an impulse to wonder what they’re thinking and what matters to them. I try to focus on computing pi or to remember the 1955 Dodgers starting lineup, but I just can’t shut out those images and feelings

.

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We’ll do what we darn well please.

Rogers Communications, a Canadian ISP (and mine as well unfortunately) has begun a test of inserting content into web pages in order to communicate with their customers:

"Just brought to my attention today by a concerned reader who chose Google for his example, what you’re looking at is reportedly an ongoing test by Rogers in Canada, scheduled for deployment to Rogers Internet customers next quarter," Weinstein wrote in his blog.

"This is what Net Neutrality is about — it’s not just making sure that data is handled in a competitive and non-discriminatory manner, but it’s also that the data that’s sent is the data that you get — that the content is unmodified, not with messages that are woven into your data stream [from third parties]" he says in an interview.

Although in this case it just seems to be to tell you how close you are to the cap on your formerly unlimited bandwidth. But I’m sure that this "communication" will soon include ads for Rogers services, just as you must endure if you are also a Rogers cable television subscriber.

As Michael Geist notes, this clearly violates any kind of net neutrality:

The split screen raises fundamental net neutrality concerns and appears to be a clear case of interfering with content delivery (offering an opt-out is not good enough). The trend therefore continues – Canada trails the U.S. on the net neutrality legislative front, yet it has far more examples of how the dominant ISPs stand ready to interfere with neutral carriage of content and applications.

Mathew Ingramdoesn’t agree:

Contrary to what Kristen Nicole at Mashable and others are saying, Rogers is not “overwriting” Web content, it’s merely pushing the page down and inserting a message at the top. Cynthia Brumfield has an example of something Verizon does that she thinks is worse.

Lots of sites do the same thing with frames and so on. Is it ugly? Sure. But apart from that, I don’t see what everyone is getting excited about. In fact, while I’m not sure I want to make a habit of this sort of thing, I’m going to side with Seth “Bah Humbug” Finkelstein on this one. As he notes in his post, this just isn’t that big a deal. Let’s save all of the net neutrality hyperventilating for something a bit more serious, shall we?

Yeslots of sites do the same thing with frames, but that is evident when I visit the site. Google does not do that, so Rogers has chosen to alter my viewing experience – without my consent.

This certainly isn’t some crisis of epic proportions. However, it is all about net neutrality. Rogers’ pipes are no longer neutral; the content that comes from them is different that when went in in the first place, so they are clearly not neutral regardless of the definition.

So if simple innocuous "customer communication" is not a problem then when does it become a problem? When Rogers starts inserting Rogers-sponsored ads into Google’s results? Is it a problem then?

How about if they start removing some of the sponsored results? How about then?

I’d pose this simple question to Mathew. Do you mind if Rogers inserts a message at the beginning of every phone call you make? After all, it just pushes your call to a minute or so longer.

I’m paying my ISP for a transmission mechanism – a pipe. I expect that what goes into that pipe should come out the same way.

If my ISP wants to communicate with me then they should ask for my email – just like everyone else. They have my phone number but they sure aren’t in any rush to communicate with me when they have any kind of service problem. That they can’t even be bothered to put on their home page.And they sure don’t want me to communicate with them if their voice mail system is any indication.

Update: Clearly the people at Rogers just don’t get it. I just got the following comment from someone who didn’t identify themself from ip address 99.232.36.149:

It was just a pilot program to test a notification system. Relax!

And who could that be?

whois 99.232.36.149
OrgName: Rogers Cable Communications Inc.
OrgID: RCC-99
Address: One Mount Pleasant
City: Toronto
StateProv: ON
PostalCode: M4Y-2Y5
NetRange: 99.224.0.0 – 99.253.159.255

As usual, when there is any kind of issue at Rogers, it is the customer that is wrong. It would have been so simple to say "We appreciate your concern." or something like that.

Of course to do that, they might actually have to appreciate my concern.

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FunWall spam on Facebook?

As if Facebook didn’t have enough problems today, I seem to be getting spam, or I suppose bacn, from the Facebook application FunWall. This comes in the form of email messages saying that people I don’t know have posted on my FunWall even though there are no such posts.

Now this is a bit surprising since I thought that only my friends could see my full profile and therefore my email.

Is Facebook having some sort of security leak today? Just in case I’ve blocked the FunWall application, but I’d sure like to know what is going on.

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