Archive for January, 2006

On Dating a Geek

Monday, January 30th, 2006

Yep I’m dating a geek. I’m about to get married to her in July actually. (See brianandruby.org) So when I saw this post by Sally Green titled The way to a geek’s heart is through his keyboard I was intrigued. She has linked to an article called The Do’s and Don’ts of Dating Geeks by Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble, who I assume is dating Robert Scoble. (Famous in the bloggosphere)

The first thing I noticed is that both these posts were by women who are dating a geek who is man. This seems to be the most common situation. Mine is a bit different in two ways. I’m a geek, who is a man, and I’m dating a woman who is a geek. We self identify as geeks. I’m not putting words in my geeks mouth at all. We like to describe this relationship we have as Geek Socialist Love. Super dorky I know.

So after reading Maryam’s post about dating geeks I wanted to say hell yes much of what she says is true. But also the feminist in me wants to say, DAMN what’s with all these “don’t tell him” and “Do make him” and “Do indulge him“? So many of these good suggestion can go both ways for geek women and geek men. I mean I could just email my partner the URL of this post and say, DO this for ME. Nope. Just too damn selfish. For just about every instant in the Do’s and Don’ts I could replace the female gender in the sentence and have very good advice for my geek partner. It’s interesting when dating advice is two way. No disrespect to Maryam. I’m VERY lucky to be with a geek who understands me as a geek.

What we need is more gender neutrality here. (I can hear people groaning already…) Yes your words and thoughts alter our existence and control the equality or lack of it. If we don’t stop thinking of MEN as the sole owners of brains and geekiness then our society is screwed. Not to mention the future of young girls who want to be programmers, scientists, engineers, physicists, etc. Show some respect. Stop looking at men as the only geeks!

(If you insist on maligning this little rant by calling it Political Correctness think about the propaganda of concervative think tanks and how they’ve planeted the desire to be perjorative in your brain. :D)

Search Google with Scroogle

Friday, January 27th, 2006

A web based search service Scroogle can take your search requests, get them from Google, and then return them back to you. The Scroogle website claims that they have “no cookies, no search-term records, and access log deleted after 7 days”. For even more convenience use the Scroogle Firefox search plugin. You can search with Scroogle right in Firefox. All you have to do is open Firefox, go-to the above link, and click on the Scroogle Scraper link. Not sure if all this scraping of Google is legal but neither is privacy invasion by creating metadata of our search habits.

The Google Watch page- from the folks who provide Scroogle – has lots of interesting info about Google and it’s supposed misdeeds. It reads like conspiracy theory but in this day and age when the President of the United States admits to spying on US citizens it just isn’t that paranoid. You can almost hear all of the theorist out there screaming, “I TOLD YOU SO!” Not me tho’. I’m not screaming at no one… :)

Public (Not Private) Internet Access for Chapel Hill

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I wrote a guest post on our local politics blog Orange Politics called Public (Not Private) Internet Access for Chapel Hill. Check out the discussion about it over on that thread. Here it is in it’s entirety.
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Chapel Hill provides many public services to its citizens. Over the years we’ve recognized the importance for all people to have equal access to basic necessities like water, sewer, electricity, telephone, transportation, roads, sidewalks, parks, etc. (The ones the town doesn’t directly provide the state regulates.) As the town moves into the twenty-first century we find that other types of access are just as important, especially in the new global economies.

One of those new types of access is Internet access. (Wi-Fi is one way to access information on the Internet.) It is steady stream of information that allows people to do all kinds of valuable and important things. In only a few years we have seen this access move from a mere toy to an extremely valuable tool. Very soon Internet access will be more than a tool but a resource that we all can not live without.

In order to assure that public Internet access is consistently provided, maintained, upgraded, and use education is made available we need a long term solution provider. This Internet access provider must have the resources to continue services well into the future. This robustness requires the service provider to function through difficult and prosperous economic times. Because of technologies swift rate of change, profit can not be the primary goal if public Internet access is to be consistently provided.

For these reasons and many others we have a public non-profit entity called OWASA provide our water access. They have the support of the town and county governments and a mandate to continue providing equal access to water resources indefinitely. This type of organization is the best kind to provide public information access to the Citizens of Chapel Hill. Let’s all work together to facilitate the creation of a new non-profit organization to provide public Internet access for all citizens of Chapel Hill.

Act Now to Preserve Network Neutrality

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

Here is something you can do to prevent cyber extortion and promote network neutrality.

What’s network neutrality?
“Network neutrality” is a voluntary but guiding principle of the Internet which ensures that all users are entitled to access content and services or run applications and devices of their choice.

Sign a letter requesting network neutrality. It’ll go to the CEOs of the largest cable and telephone companies and the member of congress that represents you. These letter writting campaigns work!

You’re not alone in your concern. According to a poll by the Free Press Assoication, the Consumers Union, and Consumer Federation of America:

Two-thirds of Internet users have serious concerns about practices by Internet network owners to block or impair their access to information and services, and the majority of those surveyed support congressional action to prevent this practice, according to a new poll released today by consumer and public interest groups.

From New Survey: Consumers Want Congress to Protect Right to Access Information, Services on Internet

via: J.D. Lascica, Timothy Karr

Stop Corporate Cyberextortion

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

How do we organize ourselves to prevent corporate cyberextortion? It’s only a matter of time before they threaten individual users. Even more importantly how do we get the average non-blog reading Internet user to know and care about this issue?

The Issue
Basically big corporations who provide Internet access to companies such as Google and Yahoo want to charge them extra for “preferred services”. This could speed up, slow down, or block an individual users access to search services Google and Yahoo provide. Imagine not being able to find what you want via a Google search. In essence Bell South and Verizon want to put a traffic cop at the Internet spigot and control what SPECIFIC data goes through, how much, how often, and at what quality. This is not the free flow of information that the Internet was built upon.

Read what other people have to say about attempts at corporate cyberextortion by big telcos like Bell South.

From Preston Gralla:

“BellSouth and Verizon have been trying to force big Web sites to pay extortion-type fees if the sites want adequate bandwidth, with Google a prime target. But Google has news for them: It won’t pay.”

“Google’s Barry Schnitt told Paul in an email: “Google is not discussing sharing of the costs of broadband networks with any carrier. We believe consumers are already paying to support broadband access to the Internet through subscription fees and, as a result, consumers should have the freedom to use this connection without limitations.”

From Cory Doctorow:

“Google has rebuffed to an outrageous demand by BellSouth, in which the phone company proposed to charge Google for access to its customers. Bill Smith of Bell South told reporters that he wanted “to charge Yahoo Inc. for the opportunity to have its search site load faster than that of Google Inc.” Google has responded with an unequivocal no — a flat refusal to pay blood-money to carriers to keep them from discriminating against its services. Honestly, what the hell is BellSouth thinking? The whole point of an ISP is that it delivers the same packets as every other ISP; anything else is substandard. There’s only one Google, but T1s come and go.”

From Doc Searls: (Thanks for all the links Doc!)

“BellSouth wasn’t thinking. They were doing what big carriers usually do, which is look for ways to make big money with tiered service to big customers. Dumb, perhaps, in this case; but predictable.”

[ Doc wins the best blog post title of the year (so far) IMHO: Google to BellSouth: Go Tier Yourself a New One ]

For LOTs of context read Doc’s Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes.

Washington Post:
Executive Wants to Charge for Web Speed and The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet

I wrote a post called Angry BellSouth and Anti-Public Good Chapel Hill Business, about similar issues with the data access war here in Chapel Hill,NC.

Thanks to Ed Cone for reminding me about this serious subject.

Interview with Mike Hachey of Student Action with Workers

Saturday, January 21st, 2006

Emiliano ZapataThis podcast is an interview with undergraduate Mike Hachey of Student Action with Workers. We discussed the circumstances leading up to a march and rally they held last wednesday at the Lenoir Dining hall at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Students are mobilizing support for worker-led campaigns to achieve collective bargaining and a living wage. They’re working at the request of dining hall workers, who are employees of the subcontractor Aramark corporation and not the University (an important distinction since state employees have limited collective bargaining rights).

We also discussed the specifics of “team cleaning,” a new unfair management practice that forces workers to perform one repetitive task for eight hours straight. It’s stated goal in company literature is to increase revenue for the University by eliminating jobs, despite the promise to workers from management that it won’t.

We discussed what students, staff, and faculty can do to join the workers in their struggle and lots more. I hope to record more conversations with Mike in the future. Check out the UNC labor history time line on Wikipedia.

MP3 25m 28s 11.7MB 64Kbps 44.1Mhz

Continue to Refuse Request for Records Google!

Friday, January 20th, 2006

Thank you Google for refusing to turn over search records to the US government. We are behind you and thank you for protecting our privacy. (Even if you’re more concerned about your trade secrets.) For SHAME AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo for turning over the records. How ever you want to spin this situation the US government should not have free and open access to metadata about how we all search the web! [For more information on what’s going on read The Mercury News article, “Google sparks privacy fight: BUT YAHOO, MICROSOFT, AOL TURNED OVER RECORDS FEDS SOUGHT”

Search for Keywords in Audio

Friday, January 20th, 2006

One of the concerns with audio content on the web, especially voice podcasts, is that it isn’t easy to search for specific content, such as keywords. We want to be able to search inside audio and video content like we search html. With out this keyword search ability spoken content data is locked up. This makes it near impossible to create metadata from the content inside audio files. One way around this problem is to manually create transcripts. Once you have the transcript text machines can search it. Doing this for all the audio and video content on the web could take a while. You can imagine the magnitude of the problem.

People who research this problem call this data on the Internet Unstructured Data.

Unstructured data refers to masses of (usually) computerized information which do not have a data structure which is easily readable by a machine. Examples of unstructured data may include audio, video and unstructured text such as the body of an email or word processor document.

[wikipedia]

The Internet has become a treasure trove of FREE data waiting to be mined and turned into metadata. Once you have the metadata you can make predictions. These predictions can turn into actions. Those actions can create change. Groups using this type of data mining include banks, governments, media, advertisers, and yes… even activists.

Now we have a free search service called Podzinger. It’s the first tool, to my knowledge, that actually makes it easy to successfully search for keywords in spoken audio. (Other services like this just didn’t work for me.) I’ve put the search box on the right side of this site. Try it. It works quite well. Let me know if you were able to successfully search for something on AudioActivism.org. Unfortunatly they’ve only index the last nine podcasts. Not all of my audio. If it isn’t useful I might take it down.

Something to keep in mind with these services is that you aren’t really getting it for free. In other words your not paying up front. You’re “leasing” your audio content for this service. By signing up you’re giving permission to Podzinger to analyze the audio, create text transcripts, and then create metadata from your content. (and who know what else) They’re mining it and supposedly acting on what they find. In return you get to use and provide a service to the visitors to your website. It’s possible one reason they let you put the search box on your site is for advertisement and collecting keywords. The more keywords they collect from the search boxes the more accurate their algorithms become at searching audio data. At least this is how I think they are doing it.

It is very important for everyone using the Internet to know about data mining. The most well know is the invasive spy bots and cookies. But we do have other kinds that aren’t so annoying. This is really an ethics issue. What is more important your data privacy or corporate financial profit? Is there a ethical compromise between the two? Many Internet companies would say yes. I’m not so sure…

Many people are more than happy to trade their data and the potential for metadata to be created from it for valuable services. I’m one of those people. But the more I learn about how metadata is mined and watch billion dollar businesses like Google rise to power the more concerned I become. What all Internet surfers need is leverage to negotiate better payment for our data. Data created from our actions, email, blogs, podcasts, forums, etc. Google and others are taking all of us for a serious ride. So far I’m ok with the ride but for how long?

The End of Privacy: for Real This Time!

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

The sad reality is that the US Government has been spying on it’s citizens for decades. (ex. Operation Shamrock where the US Gov. gathered telegraphs) But finally George W. Bush has admited to it. [?!?] Learn more about this subject by reading the following, the NY Times article that broke the story, CNN comments on it, Security Focus links to all kinds of stuff. Sadly the media really isn’t serving us very well with this story. The NY Times says they knew about the story for more than a YEAR but chose not to release it citing national security.

Organizations are now doing somthing about this. The ACLU is suing the NSA! [Wow!] There is something you can do about it. Sign the Move On Pettition to Restore the Rule of Law. Here is the letter that will be sent to your elected representative and the Justice Department. Public pressure works. Especially during a election year.

YOUR COMMENT TO CONGRESS AND THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

TO: Your Senators
CC: (Attorney General Alberto Gonzales)
FROM: (Your Name and Email)
SUBJECT: Thoroughly Investigate the Wiretapping Program
__________

Dear (Senator/Attorney General),

(Your personal note)

President Bush admitted to personally authorizing thousands of potentially illegal wiretaps, and he doesn’t plan to stop. This abuse of power threatens the very core of our Constitution.

We demand a thorough and independent investigation of the Bush administration’s allegedly illegal wiretapping activities, including: (1) appointment of an independent counsel to respond to any criminal activity that may have taken place, (2) a thorough, meaningful and open Congressional investigation, (3) protection for all whistleblowers who come forward with evidence of wrongdoing in this program.

Sincerely,
(Your name)
(Your address)

Onion Radio News Still Making Me Laugh

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

Arensb over at ooblick.com posted a link in an old thread that The Onion Radio News finally has a podcast feed. Yeah! It’s a iTunes store link. :( Where is the straight RSS 2.0? What about other podcatching software? Always got to monetize everything huh? Ok. Whatever… I have a iTunes link too. Lots of new podacst listeners are going to the iTunes cause it’s trusted and easy. Why does it take a big corproation to inspire trust in people? Ok, end of rant. More about the laughing.

I just listened to Scientists Say Venom Taken From Politicians Could Provide Medical Benefits and laughed out LOUD!

Note to self: Never eat or drink while listening to The Onion Radio News. Unless you want it spit all over your monitor. :D (I’m serious this shit is funny. Depressed cause that Shrub is a sadistic criminal? Get your releaf from the sound of Doyle Redland.)