Tomorrow morning – my blogging will be back to whatever passes for normal in my life

We will get our first walk in with Rally before dawn. The second right at dawn. A third about a half-hour after that – right after breakfast. This time of year, we try to get her walks in before temperatures start to climb.

Then, I can return to my usual blogging schedule here – and at the other blogs where I contribute.

I have been offline for nine hours or more. I’m just getting to bed and – peering into my study – realized the internet connection has come back up.

I don’t know if I should blame the gremlins who manage the interwebitubes at the local Comcast hub or not. I’ll call in the morning and cancel the scheduled tech visit. It took six phone calls – two of which were dropped because of the lame cell service we get from T-Mobile – running out to buy a new modem to try [which I have to return, tomorrow] to even get as far as scheduling a service call.

Looking forward to catching up with news, happenings, science, politics, opinion – and expressing my feelings online about it all.

Cat film festival to celebrate web’s furry viral videos


The internet phenomenon of sharing cute videos of cats is to be celebrated in the “world’s first” film festival dedicated to viral felines…The Internet Cat Video Film Festival is set to take place on 30 August in Minneapolis, in the US.

The event is described as a chance for people to come together and “LOL [laugh out loud] in the presence of others”…

Stand-out examples include Keyboard Cat, a clip originally recorded in 1984 showing a cat “playing” a tune on the keyboard.

It was uploaded to YouTube in 2007, and has since had over 25 million views…Thousands of remixes and reversions of the clip have seen it immortalised further, with even a dedicated website following its use…

I Can Haz Cheezburger is a blog dedicated to adding captions to pictures of cats, often adding human traits and emotions to the animals.

The site, which is said to receive more than a million hits every day, was sold in 2007 for a reported $2 million.

It has since evolved into the Cheezburger Network, a collection of other sites based on a similar format. Its owners raised $30 million in funding from investors last year.

One viral video expert told the BBC cat videos would always remain popular among internet users…

“It works across all cultures, all languages… and we are genetically tuned to have an emotional response to cute animals.”

While dogs have enjoyed considerable viral success – a “talking” dog was the most viewed YouTube clip in the UK last year – some say cats rule the internet…”There are theories that dogs are making a resurgence,” added Mr Robinson.

I admit that in my quest for relevant articles to post about, to serve as focus for political, scientific or historic comment in the blogosphere, my brain can be distracted by dog photos and videos more than any other theme. As anyone who receives email from me can attest.

The battle against SOPA comes to the fore at CES 2012

The technology community has made substantial in-roads in efforts to stop SOPA and Protect IP, two bills pending in Congress that would expand the ability of federal law enforcement and rightsholders to police the Internet for violations of intellectual-property laws.

But the fight is far from won. That was the message yesterday at a contentious panel discussion at CES’s Innovation Policy Summit, featuring Congressional staffers along with industry representatives from both Hollywood and the technology community…

As further evidence of momentum against the bill, Ryan Clough described a rancorous SOPA markup session in December that featured over 70 proposed amendments from Republicans and Democrats. The coordinated revolt led House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to abandon plans for quick passage of the bill…

Sandra Aistars, executive director of the Copyright Alliance, was the sole panelist who supported immediate passage of both bills. The Copyright Alliance…board members include the Motion Picture Association of America; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; BMI; and three of the largest content distributors–Viacom, Time Warner and NBC Universal…

I cannot define my contempt for political action couched in innocuous names – when they’re solely funded and staffed by folks with a dollar-stake in the outcome. I cannot define it adequately without obscenity.

Continue reading

State Department withholds cables that WikiLeaks published

The quarter-million confidential State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks last year have been public on the Web for months. But don’t tell the government. It is pretending otherwise.

Asked in April by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of 23 cables on Guantánamo, rendition and other matters, the State Department responded as if the confidential documents were still confidential.

Twelve of the cables “must be withheld in full” because they are classified as secret or contain important information, Alex Galovich, of the department’s Office of Information Programs and Services, wrote to the A.C.L.U. on Oct. 21. The other 11, he concluded, “may be released with excisions.”

The accompanying documents were indeed carefully redacted — here a sentence is removed, there a whole page. But the ambassadors’ confidences that the department was intent on protecting are, meanwhile, just a click away for anyone interested.

Ben Wizner, litigation director for the A.C.L.U.’s national security project, said the group’s request for documents that were already public was “mischievous” but also had a serious point: forcing the government officially to acknowledge counterterrorism actions that it has often hidden behind a cloak of classification.

“In part the request was to expose the absurdity of the U.S. secrecy regime,” Mr. Wizner said. But he said the government had repeatedly blocked lawsuits challenging counterterrorism programs by invoking what is called the state secrets privilege and telling judges that allowing the cases to proceed would endanger national security. “The only place in the world where torture and rendition cannot be discussed is U.S. courtrooms,” he said.

Both the State Department and the Justice Department declined to comment, saying the A.C.L.U.’s request is still in litigation.

We have a government run by idiots, designed to maintain the sacrosanctity of idiots, constructed to preserve the inviolability of idiots for all time.

This is not trademark or copyright law where failure to defend your design means the loss of protection and litigation. This is simple acknowledgement of reams of crap files that didn’t justify concealment in the first place – having been exposed to the public eye. Our government pretends it isn’t so.

Juror surfs for info beyond courtroom – gets 8 months to reflect

The first juror to be prosecuted for contempt of court for using the internet has been sentenced to eight months in jail.

Joanne Fraill, 40, admitted at London’s high court using Facebook to exchange messages with Jamie Sewart, 34, a defendant already acquitted in a multimillion-pound drug trial in Manchester last year.

Fraill, from Blackley, Manchester, also admitted conducting an internet search into Sewart’s boyfriend, Gary Knox, a co-defendant, while the jury was still deliberating…

When the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, announced her eight-month sentence, Fraill said “eight months!” and put her head on the table in front of her and cried…

Sentencing Fraill, the judge said in a written ruling: “Her conduct in visiting the internet repeatedly was directly contrary to her oath as a juror, and her contact with the acquitted defendant, as well as her repeated searches on the internet, constituted flagrant breaches of the orders made by the judge for the proper conduct of the trial…”

Knox, Sewart’s 35-year-old partner, is applying for his conviction to be overturned on the basis of alleged jury misconduct. He was jailed for six years after being found guilty of paying a police officer to disclose information on drug dealers…

Fraill admitted emailing Sewart while the jury was still deliberating in the drugs trail in August last year because she felt “empathetic” and saw “considerable parallels” between their lives…

The lord chief justice, discussing the reasons for the sentence in the high court, acknowledged that Fraill was “a woman of good character” and was not involved in an attempt to pervert the course of justice. But “misuse of the internet by a juror” was always “a most serious irregularity and contempt”.

He warned that a custodial sentence for any juror committing similar contempts “is virtually inevitable”.

He added: “The sentence is intended to ensure the continuing integrity of trial by jury.”

The solicitor general made the relevant point: “Long before social networks, the courts have been in no doubt that discussions inside the jury room must stay there. The internet doesn’t make judges’ warnings not to talk about a case or research it any less important.”

Singapore, Stockholm atop Networked Societies Index

Singapore topped the Networked Society City Index… The NSCI Index [.pdf] looks at how 25 major cities are using technologies to grow and manage themselves. The index shows that cities which put technology to use more effectively are the ones that have a better grip on “environmental management, infrastructure, public security, health-care quality and education.”

The study lauds Brazil’s Sao Paulo as an up-and-coming city that has used technology very effectively. The impact of mobile too cannot be underscored, the study finds.

They improve access to people, in particular family and relatives, but also help people make and save money. Mobile services, particularly in low-earning segments, enable people to become more entrepreneurial. They can increase profits by, for instance, cutting out middlemen when selling their harvests, and save money by avoiding lengthy travel…

It is part of a larger trend of putting technology to work outside the realm of corporations. The productivity revolution’s first beneficiaries were big companies, and now we beginning to see schools, consumers and even governments start to think about technology as a productivity enhancement tool.

While productivity in the business sense is about maximizing profits, productivity from a civic perspective is about better resource management. As we become more networked and our devices can generate data, we can start to look at a future where technology tries to reduce waste.

The process is a dialectic – or can become one when more than one side of the equation participates. There is a PBS special starting to appear this weekend which compares existing broadband in the Netherlands, the UK and the United States – and what the next directions of growth will be. Where there is the political will.

Currently, the Netherlands enjoys broadband on average 20 times faster than the United States. They are plowing fiber-optic into the ground as fast as possible to increase those speeds another 20-fold. The short film also examines the path in the UK from 2 non-competitive sources for Web access to hundreds of choices and the concurrent growth in speed. Companies like AT&T and Vodafone – which support the UK model in the UK – works as hard as they can in the United States to stifle competition, expansion and faster speeds outside of their own managed systems.

So, how fast are speeds growing in your neck of the prairie? What are your friendly neighborhood politicians doing to hasten access to really big internet pipes? Do they even mention expansion of business opportunities derived from real broadband?

Don’t get too bugged over filling in a “captcha” – it’s useful

In the old days, anybody interested in seeing a Mets game during a trip to New York would have to call the team, or write away, or wait to get to the city and visit the box office. No more. Now, all it takes is to find an online ticket distributor. Sign in, click “Mets,” pick the date and pay.

But before taking the money, the Web site might first present the reader with two sets of wavy, distorted letters and ask for a transcription. These things are called Captchas, and only humans can read them. Captchas ensure that robots do not hack secure Web sites.

What Web readers do not know, however, is that they have also been enlisted in a project to transform an old book, magazine, newspaper or pamphlet into an accurate, searchable and easily sortable computer text file.

One of the wavy words quite likely came from a digitized image from an old, musty text, and while the original page has already been scanned into an online database, the scanning programs made a lot of mistakes. Mets fans and other Web site users are correcting them. Buy a ticket to the ballgame, help preserve history.

The set of software tools that accomplishes this feat is called reCaptcha and was developed by a team of researchers led by Luis von Ahn, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University.

Its pilot project was to clean up the digitized archive of The New York Times. Today it has become the principal method used by Google to authenticate text in Google Books, its vast project to digitize and disseminate rare and out-of-print texts on the Internet.

RTFA. Seriously useful. I’ll never feel the same grumpiness over “captcha” requests, again.

Thanks, Mr. Fusion

Blogging Is Dead just like the Web Is Dead

Blogging is on the decline, according to a New York Times story published this weekend — citing research from the Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project — and it is declining particularly among young people, who are using social networks such as Facebook instead. Pretty straightforward, right? Except that the actual story said something quite different: even according to the figures used by the New York Times itself, blogging activity is actually increasing, not decreasing. And as the story points out, plenty of young people are still blogging via the Tumblr platform, even though they may not think of it as “blogging.” What blogging is really doing is evolving.

The NYT story notes that blogging among those aged 12 to 17 fell by half between 2006 and 2009 according to the Pew report, but among 18 to 33-year-olds it only dropped by two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier — which isn’t exactly a huge decline. And among 34 to 45-year-olds, blogging activity rose by six percentage points. The story also admits that the Blogger platform, which is owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the U.S. in December than it had a year earlier (a 2-percent decline), but globally its traffic climbed by 9 percent to 323 million.

In many ways, this “blogging is dying” theory is similar s to the “web is dead” argument that Wired magazine tried to float last year, which really was about the web evolving and expanding into different areas. It’s true that Facebook and Twitter have led many away from blogging because they are so fast and easy to use, but they have also both helped to reinforce blogging in many ways.

What’s really happening, as Toni Schneider of Automattic — the corporate parent of the WordPress publishing platform (see disclosure behind the article link) — noted in the NYT piece, is that what blogging represented even four or five years ago has evolved into much more of a continuum of publishing. People post content on their blogs, or their “Tumblrs,” and then share links to it via Twitter and Facebook; or they may post thoughts via social networks and then collect those thoughts into a longer post on a blog. Blog networks such as The Huffington Post get a lot of attention, but plenty of individuals are still making use of the longer-form publishing abilities that blogs allow…

So what we really have now is a multitude of platforms: there are the “micro-blogging” ones like Twitter, then there are those that allow for more interaction or multimedia content like Facebook, and both of those in turn can enhance existing blogging tools like WordPress and Blogger. And then there is Tumblr, which is like a combination of multiple formats. The fact that there are so many different choices means there is even more opportunity for people to find a publishing method they like. So while “blogging” may be on the decline, personal publishing has arguably never been healthier.

I guess Mathew is inspired to post his comments as a reaction to the ancient newspaper practice of having someone write headlines other than the journalist who wrote the article. The NY TIMES article contains a boatload of contradictions to the headline. Something that always trips my trigger.

“…internet users in Gen X (those ages 34-45) and older cohorts are more likely than Millennials to engage in several online activities, including visiting government websites and getting financial information online.” and in the PR release accompanying the report – “the biggest online trend is that, while the very youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key internet uses are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups. These online activities include seeking health information, purchasing products, making travel reservations, and downloading podcasts.”

Even the analysis of growing use of social networks is incorrect – since the fastest growth is among geezers my age. Damned if I know why, though. 🙂

Egypt turned off the Internet one phone call at a time

Egypt’s shutdown of the Internet within its borders is an action unlike any other in the history of the World Wide Web and it might have only taken a few phone calls to do it.

“It’s something I’ve never seen; it’s totally unprecedented,” said James Cowie, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Renesys, an IT company in New Hampshire that helps Internet service providers monitor the security of Web networks and infrastructure.

“Over a period a period of about 20 minutes, it’s as if each of the primary service providers started pulling the routes that lead to them. It wasn’t like a simultaneous withdrawal.

“Nobody flipped an off switch or hit a big red button. It was one by one until they were all gone.”

The Egyptian government cut off nearly all online services between midnight and 12:30 a.m., Egyptian time, on Friday, Cowie said — something he noted on his company’s blog as he witnessed the blackout…

“Egypt is a modern country; the government doesn’t own the Internet,” Cowie said. “There are private companies of varying sizes that own and operate their own infrastructure. But it seems that they got a call and so they turned it off.”

This is perfectly legal according to the laws of some countries. And if ISPs wish to do business in such countries they will sign contracts that agree to the laws of the land.

We don’t have laws like this in the United States. Yet.

Some members of Congress are trying to change that.

Google will offer TV services in U.S. this autumn

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Google will launch its service to bring the Web to TV screens in the United States this autumn and worldwide next year, its chief executive said, as it extends its reach from the desktop to the living room.

CEO Eric Schmidt said the service, which will allow full Internet browsing via the television, would be free, and Google would work with a variety of programme makers and electronics manufacturers to bring it to consumers.

“We will work with content providers, but it is very unlikely that we will get into actual content production,” Schmidt told journalists after a keynote speech to the IFA consumer electronics trade fair in Berlin…

Schmidt also said Google would announce partnerships later this year with makers of tablet computers that would use Google’s Chrome operating system, due to be launched soon, rather than its Android phone software, which has been used for mobile devices until now…

The world’s No.1 search engine is hunting for new revenue opportunities as growth in its core Internet business slows and as new technologies such as smartphones and social networking services transform the way consumers access the Web.

Schmidt declined to comment on Google’s plans for a social network of its own, and while he said there were plans to expand in music, he would not elaborate.

Something more for me to explore and experiment with. Though I spend more time as computer geek, I started down this primrose path as a TV geek.

We always can use more convergence.