Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: The Internet

The Year Flash and Real Player Arrived

In a sense, it’s the year Linux arrived. The year Flash and Real Player took Linux seriously. Flash Player 10 was released for Linux the same day as other platforms and earlier in the year Real Player 11 was released as a .deb for Linux. [via Slashdot]

Resources for Getting Your Vote Counted

Nancy Scola at TechPresident has put together a set of resources to help you vote and make sure it counts. Especially interesting are resources for college students who vote where they go to school and the large variety of rules regarding voting by felons.

US Presidential Politics and Geek Activism

When I had my idea for “a questionnaire for US Presidential candidates”: about issues important to geek activists like myself, I started reading up on the positions of the most popular candidates.

Guess what? None of them talk about the issues that matter to us directly. Even the big ones like reforming the USA PATRIOT Act aren’t being touched with a 10-foot pole- no one wants to look weak on security, I suppose.

At the same time, I have been thinking a lot about Lawrence Lessig. For those not familiar, after 10 years of leading the fight to protect a free culture among other things, “Lessig is stepping away”: to embrace a much broader issue- *corruption*. At first, this seems simplistic, naive. But in the end, isn’t that what it _all_ comes down to?

Net neutrality, copyright laws and fair use, the MPAA/RIAA, the DMCA and all the other issues that lock consumers, fans, hackers and hobbyists in a cage where the key is sold to the highest bidder. As a geek, these look like issues for _hacktivists_. In a broader sense, however, this is the oldest game in politics- the government serving the deepest pockets.

Corruption. Lessig is specific about what he means by corruption, in this quote as applied to himself:

I never promote as policy a position that I have been paid to advise about, consult upon, or write about. If payment is made to an institution that might reasonably be said to benefit me indirectly, then I will either follow the same rule, or disclose the payment.

The key word is *never*. Not sometimes. Not with disclosure. Just, plain, never.

So coming back to the issue of getting the current US Presidential contenders to answer questions about PATRIOT Act reform or Network Neutrality- shouldn’t the ultimate question be: *What would you do to remove the influence of lobbies and corporations from US politics?*

If we have an answer for that- a workable, sincere one- then we have an answer not only for problems in hackland, but also in healthcare, in energy policy, in every major social issue of this land of plenty.

Along those lines, here are links to what the major contenders have to say on Washington’s _culture of corruption_:
* Barack Obama on “Reforming Washington”:
* Hillary Clinton on “Government Reform”: and how “she is shaping up as the Privacy Candidate”:
* John Edwards’ “letter to the FCC Chairman”: regarding the upcoming 700MHz auction.
* The closest Rudy Giuliani comes is in “talking about fiscal responsibility”: but that’s a stretch. Also, here is “video of Edwards’ talk at Google”:
* Mitt Romney on “investment in technology and tort liability”:
* John McCain on “Lobbying & Ethics Reform”: and “McCain at Google”: talking policy.

(Send me more links for the rest of the candidates if you find them. Also, I’m still putting together a questionnaire for the candidates, so suggestions would be great!)

More on the iPhone Hearings: Free the iPhone!

The so-called “iPhone Hearings”: yesterday were entertaining and it seems they may only be the first shot fired on the issue of separating devices from the network.

The folks at “”: have set up “Free the iPhone”: as a ‘save the internet’ (net neutrality) and ‘save net radio’ type movement. The idea is to strike while the iPhone publicity peaks and the current 700MHz auction planned by the FCC rolls around. Also, since the FCC, Google and some “members of Congress”: seem to be showing interest in the idea of separating the Network from the Devices (“Delaminate the bastards”: says Weinberger) this seems to be the appropriate time to be pushing for separating the layers.

Free the iPhone.

Also, the folks at “Public Knowledge”: have a set of videos from the _iPhone Hearings_ including Rep. Ed Markey comparing the iPhone lock-in with Hotel California (_check out, but they can never leave_), Professor Tim Wu pointing out the tech gap between US and Europe in the wireless space, the Verizon General Counsel claiming that there is no consumer demand for delamination, and finally “Jason Devitt”: on the issues for small innovators in the business.

A few more reads:
* Om Malik on “the meaning of competition in the US”:
* Susan Crawford on “balancing public interest, security and business pressure”:
* Google’s Public Policy blog on “open access to the wireless network”:
* “Jason Devitt”: on the implications of the new spectrum auction

The iPhone Hearings

Susan Crawford, a law professor who specializes in intellectual property and cyberlaw, has a “description of the proceedings at today’s iPhone hearing“: chaired by my own representative: Rep. Ed Markey. Now Mr. Markey usually gets it on the subject of technology (e.g. net neutrality) and even when he is completely wrong (e.g. when he went after the guy who demonstrated a crucial flaw in airline security), he has the sense to very quickly apologize. Generally, however, I am pleased that he chairs the House Commerce Committee (Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet). Read the rest of this entry »

Letter to the FCC on Net Neutrality

The “FCC has solicited comments from the public”: on Net Neutrality. This was my letter:

The growth of the Internet has been during the most productive one-third of my life and the threat to Network Neutrality threatens much of what has fueled my professional, social and personal life.

I have been building small web sites- as a hobby at first and but now growing in to more. The ability to create tiered services on the Internet- an Internet that is increasingly controlled by very few powerful players- would be devastating to small web presences such as mine.

There is a lack of competition in the market. This, coupled with a lack of network neutrality protections, would turn the Internet in to a place where the status quo is maintained and only those new players that play by the old rules (or pay) could survive.

This is further complicated by the fact that the Internet service providers are themselves competitors in the web services space. Thus, they get to control the ‘pipes’ for their competition. This is a frightening landscape in which smaller players have little hope.

You can tell your story to the FCC as well at [Save the Internet]

10 Years of The Cathedral and The Bazaar

In May 2007, that seminal work by “Eric S. Raymond”: turned ten years old. _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ is a book about the simple notion that in software development _given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow_. Six years after Linux came on to the scene and 14 years after Richard Stallman gave birth to the GNU project, Eric Raymond put an intangible, untested concept in to words and has arguably had a phenomenal impact on software and geek culture.

When I wrote my “95 Theses of Geek Activism”: last year, I put in CatB as a required reading as thesis #12 (the order meant nothing!). It could well have been #1, because it was the book that, for me, transformed the open source model from a touchy-feely philosophy to a practical, viable and achievable ideal for software development.

When Richard Stallman introduced the GNU project, it was a philosophy. You stuck with the GNU model because you believed in truth, liberty, freedom and justice. The BSD and other licenses were less philosophically rigid and have hence been taken advantage of by companies. Apple based their operating system OS X on BSD but were not obligated to share their improvements with the BSD community. They could take, but did not have to share. The GPL aimed at changing that- sharing was a many way street.

Linux brought the truly bazaar-style development in to the (geek) mainstream- where every user was a developer and the code was _released early and released often_. These facets of Linux development were part accidental, part consequences of the GPL and part Linus’ genius. Of course, Raymond was the first to test and formally describe the theories behind the success of Linux and how to apply them to future projects. Raymond tested the bazaar philosophy on his own _fetchmail_ project and the book tracks his success with it.

* *CatB as a Manifesto*: This book changed the geek language. Phrases such as the one above about eyeballs and bugs or the fundamental ideas about how to treat your beta testers are now treated as obvious. Indeed, even Yahoo and Google use the idea of treating their users as insider beta testers for many of their products.
* *CatB and O’Reilly*: _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ was the first book published in print (by O’Reilly) with an open source document license. This allowed the book to be copied and modified as long as the resulting work had the same license- a precursor to “Creative Commons”: licenses.
* *The Open Sourcing of Netscape*: The open sourcing of the Netscape browser and the start of the Mozilla project at the end of the browser wars in the late 90s is largely attributed to this book. At the time, CTO of Netscape, Eric Nahn told Raymond, “On behalf of everyone at Netscape, I want to thank you for helping us get to this point in the first place. Your thinking and writings were fundamental inspirations to our decision.”

Eric Raymond first presented _The Cathedral and the Bazaar_ at the “Linux Kongress on May 22nd, 1997”: in Würzburg, Germany. Ten years later, Linux is more powerful than ever, Ubuntu is ready for the desktop (says me) and the bazaar model is alive and thriving.

* Read “The Cathedral and the Bazaar”:
* About the “Netscape decision”:
* Raymond’s ever-growing archive of “notes, comments, rebuttals and more”: on CatB.
* Read Linus Torvalds’ fun, light and frothy autobiography about the heady young days of Linux “Just for Fun”:
* And of course, there is the “The Circus Midget and the Fossilized Dinosaur Turd”: (don’t worry, it’s satire and it has a point)

Radio Open Source Goes Silent

The “best radio show on traditional radio and the internet”: is going on a hiatus for the summer following a series of setbacks involving loss of many of the pillars that formed its financial support- UMass Lowell, WGBH and unnamed others. A last ditch fundraising effort kept them afloat for the last few weeks, but the Christopher Lydon and Radio Open Source are off the radio for now.

How ironic that this happened the day after “Internet radio’s day of silence.”:

We’re Censored in China!

Good news, everyone- this site is censored in China! We must be doing something right…

xkcd: Blogging About My Generation

A brilliant comic from “xkcd”: for a Friday morning: