Sunday, 23 November 2008

Web Is Not A Babysitter

It's always sad when someone passes away, even more sad when someone commits suicide.  And the recent suicide of the boy who webcast his suicide is extremely sad and concerning.  I'm the first person to say that suicides belong in two classes, the ones who do so out of necessity and the ones who do so for attention  and assistance, but it's hard to see where this boy's death fits.

What I AM sure of, though, is that blaming the Internet is just wrong.  Sorry Mr Biggs Sr - but the people who attempt suicide for attention, that is usually due to not enough attention being paid to them.  And you even say you weren't aware of his "Internet presence" so one can see pretty clearly where the attention shortfall was.  Please don't balme "website operators" - they don't watch the videos, they just run the servers.  Don't blame the people on the other end - they are online for entertainment and socialising, not as counsellors of troubled teens who are lacking the attention of their family.

So please - I know it's easy to strike out and blame the first thing that springs to mind.  But instead, you need to evaluate your own position first, and only when you're really really sure, should you look anywhere but your own backyard.

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K-Rudd Can't Even Fix Broadband

While the Australian Broadband Guarantee has been around longer than the Rudd government, you'd think with all his bullshit promises he could at least make sure the ABG is applicable and used appropriately.  Here's what we pensioners living in caravans or mobile homes cop as the bullshit excuse to not have to bother to fulfill that guarantee:

" Dear Mr Russ

Thank you for your email dated 7 November 2008 concerning eligibility for a subsidised broadband service under the  Australian Broadband Guarantee.

The Australian Broadband Guarantee works by paying a subsidy to registered providers to connect either a land or satellite‑based broadband service for those Australians who are unable to receive a metro‑comparable service at their principal place of residence or small business.

I note that your principal place of residence is your caravan and that it is not permanently located at a caravan park.    Under the guidelines c) any mobile premises (for example, boat, caravan or bus) or a demountable or other temporary building that is not permanently located in a particlar location, are excluded from the program.  Therefore you are not eligible to receive a subsidised broadband service under the Australian Broadband Guarantee.

If you have any further enquiries or would like more information you can contact the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on freecall 1800 883 488 weekdays between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm and a consumer support officer will be happy to assist you.


and here's my just-sent reply, let's see if there's any justice in Australia:

" Do you know, that is total and utter discrimination against a large and growing segment of the population who are forced by economic constraints to live in one of those "any mobile premises (for example, boat, caravan or bus) or a demountable or other temporary building that is not permanently located in a particlar location" and is not acceptable to me as a solution. It's inherently unfair to assume that anyone living in a caravan is a carefree million-dollar-a-year-earning playboy who's just out to have a holiday and rort the government, because dammit these ARE our homes, our "residences" as you call them. We don't have anything else, and now you're washing your hands of us and leaving us in the lurch with broadband.

I'd like to ask you to have some discussions with managers and directors about people whose ONLY address is a mobile premises, and see if there can't be a solution for us.  You're talking battlers in these cases, either people trying to make a living in the workforce but unable to afford the sky-high rents, or pensioners trying to get by on what is now well known to be an amount well under the poverty line. Because we live in what to you is a holiday home, we're discriminated against, treated like second class citizens.  I didn't think that was what Australia is about...

You can't fix things, nor are you doing your job properly, if you just quote guideline  Life isn't like that... 

In these modern times (yes, every bit of that sarcasm is intended) there are marvels like mobile broadband.  There are sad signs of the times such as pensioners living in their caravans or buses and (gasp!) not permanently rooted to one caravan park.  And there are unfortunately still petty bureaucrats who will spend their lives pushing guideline c and thinking they're doing the job we're paying them to do...  

I've just spent over 20 minutes on opportunistic wifi which is right at the limit of being useable to edit this article and watch it publish.  I can't afford to activate or use the mobile broadband USB modem I have here, because I'm on a pension and it's not subsidised for me, which would be the quickest way to fix the ABG.  If I could pay the same as I paid for my landline ADSL and still get my 2 - 5 Gb a month at a speed a bit over the 1500 bits/second I'm curently enjoying, that would be sufficient.  

But because I haven't taken the wheels off the bus and become a permanent resident at a caravan park, I'm not eligible.  So what if I said I was permanent, and subsequently had to move to a new caravan park?  Would I get sued, ridiculous as it sounds to sue a pensioner?  Would I have to go through the whole application process and all this shit again?  

Or would it be fair to say that if I have no other address than the registration plate of my caravan or motorhome, then perhaps that is my "permanent residence" and realise that the game has to change a bit, and supplying a mobile broadband service would be cheaper simpler and more effective than supplying a satellite broadband service?

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Friday, 21 November 2008

Moved: One Teddles

The domestic news:  I've pretty much moved to a little cottage about 19km east of Mandurah, on the Murray river, and got the bus settled and Ghostie settled and some veges growing.  It now feels a lot more like home.

Has been a series of Karmic coincidences, all good, all positive, so I feel quite happy.  And I'll have a bit more room to work on the bus' last few modifications I want to make.

It's a small 1br ex beach shack cottage, no I haven't been fishing yet, yes I intend to rectify that soon... %)  Lovely and peaceful and quiet, only problem is that Telstra is taking so long to connect a phone line for me so I'm using "opportunistic WiFi" which is very flakey and patchy.  And once I do have a phone, it may turn out that the area is borderline for ADSL again.

At least I've managed to update my blog, that's a Good Thing I guess.

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Monday, 10 November 2008

"Well-tanned" Barak Gets "Green-Rolled"

Gawd but this story makes Obama much more real to me.  Right down to the wry laugh during the actual interview.  Yep, greenwash will come up and bite ya at any time.  How Barak dealt with it shows a lot of patience and humour.

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Sunday, 9 November 2008

Thus Bringing The Death Toll

... to 205 ...

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Can Someone Tell Us What Flavour The DNA Was?

So is this a tacit admission, a nice quiet way to make the whole story go away?  Or is it just designed to shut the Whytes up?  Can someone please tell us the results of the DNA tests on that "gel-ass-o?"  Inquisitive people need to know!  I mean, The Coogee hotel is still in manure until those results are published - because, if, as they say, the Whytes didn't "do" the icecream, and they deny that any of their staff did, then they are by tacit default implying that their gelato supplier is full of it.

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Saturday, 8 November 2008

So Much So, It's Still Spinning!

When is spin doctoring not so much spin doctoring, as drilling right through the planet and landing on some alien landscape?

When it's the GOP trying to salvage a shred of dignity out of that whole Sarah Palin thing:

"The candidacy of Sarah Palin was immensely helpful, absolutely essential to making this a reasonably close race," said Morton Blackwell, Republican National Committee member from Virginia. "  SFGate Article

"Reasonably close?"  OMG they would have done better if McCain had run the entire campaign himself - on foot.  Palin aggravated millions of voters into voting Democrat, attracted maybe a paltry few hundreds of thousands to the Republican side.  Had it not been for Palin, the result might have become "close." How did that make her "absolutely essential?"

Q: "What's closer, the ex USSR or the moon?"
A: (a blonde) "The moon, dummy.  I mean, can you SEE Russia from here?"
A: (Sarah Palin) "Please explain?"

UPDATE: (Sort of)
You can put any amount of makeup and clothes on it, but in the end...  She lied outright, about not asking anyone to buy those clothes for her - aides were asked, by her directly, to buy clothes for her using their own credit cards.  She also directly bought, or asked to have bought, clothes for members of her family.  Look, if she wanted to do that I'm sure she could have used her own personal credit card - but she did not, she used campaign funds to do those things.  Me, I would buy the stuff myself and then ask for a reimbursement of those items that were directly and legitimately campaign related.  That's what I consider the responsible way to deal with taxpayers' money... 

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Thursday, 6 November 2008

Broadband For Grey Nomads? Not Guaranteed.

Did you know we have a Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy? Well, we do.  You can contact them here - I've done the link finding for you.

Why would you want to contact them?  Well, DBCDE agrees that broadband is these days a necessity of life, and they have a thing called the Broadband Guarantee.  Basically they say that if you're in an area that's disadvantaged, they will provide some way to get broadband to you, at an equivalent rate and speed as someone in an urban area.

Around the world, broadband is acknowledged as a necessity rather than a luxury, as evidenced by this article - and others like it.  People often buy property now based on availability of broadband rather than proximity to shops or transport.

And so I thought to myself  - what about us Grey Nomads and Winter Drifters in our buses and caravans, what broadband guarantee do we have?  And there's really none.  Despite the fact that mobile broadband is available all along the major routes and cheap enough to provide to us, we seem to be in a (pardon the ageist joke) a "grey" area...

Meanwhile, I've developed a few tips and tricks for getting wireless inside caravans and buses, I'll take a few pictures and put together a few articles over the next few weeks.

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Monday, 3 November 2008

Open Letter: Objection to Mandatory Internet Filtering

Dear Senator Conroy

As an Australian and an internet user, I have serious concerns about your mandatory Internet filtering initiative.

Given the importance our Government has attached to modernising Australia's broadband network, pursuing a policy that will slow down and increase the costs of internet access seems misguided at best. Australian households are diverse, and most do not have young children, so mandating a one-size-fits-all filter will not serve the public well. Nor do I think it is the Government's role to decide what's appropriate for me, and neither do most Australians.

Given the amount of Internet content available, no filter will ever be able to classify it all - and filters will always result in an unacceptable level of over-blocking. That alone is a price too high to pay, for all those using the Internet as a research tool for studies, technological development, or health and medical reasons.

I feel that the time and money could be spent in better ways to improve Australia's digital infrastructure. Trying to rid the Internet of what the government decides is objectionable or censored content is futile, and can only distract from that mission, and lead to further erosions of our rights.

As a voter and Australian ecologically aware citizen, your plan strikes me as very overly simplistic, worrying, and irresponsible.  

Why Simplistic?  Because I know children in primary schools who regularly and routinely already employ various means to circumvent content filters.  You seem to want to waste time, money, and our already scarce resources to put in place a system any child knows to circumvent.

Worrying? From the point of view of eco-friendliness, this plan is a disaster.  At a time when ISPs are working to sustain the load from Australian Internet traffic while at the same time trying to reduce their footprint on resources such as electricity, air conditioning, and space, this filter will make it a requirement for them to put in place another array of servers to cope with the filtering process.  (Which, as we just established, won't work anyway.)  This will cost dearly because there need to be extra machines built over and above the normal expansion, these machines will have to be powered, and housed in airconditioned data centres, and this will have to scale up with increasing Internet use.

Not all our ISPs are going to be able to absorb that extra cost.  The smaller ISPs in particular will fall by the wayside, and we'll effectively end up with a situation similar to having had Telstra as a monopoly for almost a century.  Look how well *that*  turned out, with Australia now having a very high tariffs for cellphone voice, data, and SMS usage compared to many countries.

Of those ISPs that are left, their performance will suffer a hit of 25% (and up to maybe 75%) in speed and performance.  On top of that, they will probably charge me 15% - 30% more for that privilege.  In a time when our economy is already in trouble, do you actually want to cause this kind of financial turmoil among an entire industry sector and its customers, this kind of wholesale waste of resources on something which will be bypassed by 75% of your target demographic?

Which probably also covers my next point.  Irresponsible.  

I seem to remember that few years ago now, the government had already put in place a scheme whereby anyone who felt that they or their family needed to be filtered, could freely download filter software and assistance, provided by the government.  Thus saving the kinds of environmental and economic and political costs which you propose now to impose with your filtering scheme.  It's a system that is already in place and working right now.  You could spend one tenth of the budget for the Clean Feed Filter on advertising the existing software and assigning a tech support contact in each capital city.  

It seems irresponsible to me that money is being spent on an unwanted and unwarranted system when there's already a system in place, to put in place that  new system that will cost Australia economically, ecologically, socially, educationally, technologically, and worst of all, will make us no better than a dictatorship or communist country in the eyes of the world.  

Please go here and here if you are a citizen and wish to 
register your discontent with mandatory filtering.

Perth, Third Most Liveable City In The World.

A bow and a nod to Australian cities, as Mr Murdoch said in his first Boyer lecture this year, Australia has four of the top ten spots, with five of our cities in that bracket.

Mega-nod to Perth for ranking third in the world!

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Australia Is "Unprepared."

Rupert Murdoch says Australia just isn't prepared.  Much as I love Australia, I have to agree with him. We're used to the idea of "them" fixing everything for us.  By "them" we tend to mean the government but also insurance companies, banks, restaurants, councils, committees, and the lawn mower bloke.  We tend to think that external things control and moderate our lives, when in fact that's a myth created by decades of "nanny-state" mentality, which the government sought to actively promulgate and bolster at every opportunity.  Like every other chicken the government ever laid, this one to is now going to come home to roost, as hundreds of thousands of Australians sit back, live the lifestyle, and expect the government to "fix it all, a bit down the track..."

K-Rudd, much as he is showing us that he's environment-savvy and ecologically cool and an economic saviour, is continuing to try and both stay on as the moderating nanny, and at the same time, make businesses responsible for being the nanny also.  The one person he's discounting is the general voter.  Our part is to sit back and take what they shove into the trough in front of us...

I will hammer and hammer this point - take personal responsibility.  Don't - under any circumstances - leave it all to the government and businesses.  Whose interests will they have in mind?  Do you think that you're important to the company accountant of a big supermarket?  Really?  The CFO is only there to care for one group of people - the shareholders who pay him.

Imagine this - purely imaginary! - scenario:
In another three years, and knowing about the melamine poisoning scare, if you and 5,000 people die from melamine poisoning because the supermarket bought the cheapest shit milk products it could source worldwide, that's collateral damage to the CFO and to the people in the supermarket making money from your purchases.  Tough.  People will sue the supermarket for damages but that's small potatoes compared to the profits the company made selling 5c/litre milk for $3.00 for the last three years before people started dying...

But if you take a personal responsibility for yourself, do some research, and decide not to just take whatever crap that supermarket shoves at you, they will drop that product like it's hot, and not only will you have saved yourself, you'll have saved other people who might not be into reading labels as closely as you, and you've also saved the cost of all that litigation...  It may not amount to much if you only boycott milk - but if you apply this personal responsibility ethic to all your purchases, the effect will quickly turn into a habit.  And a lot of people with this habit will quickly turn into a tsunami of activism.  And that will prepare us better than anything else.

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Sunday, 2 November 2008

Spam Figures Confuse Me

I wonder what this figure means, exactly.  "One in 416" - that's about 0.25%, right?  So they are saying one quarter of a percent of all email is spam.  And they are bemoaning it.  "Oh that's so much worse a result than one in 3,333!  Oh woe is us!"

A year or two ago, these same firms were bemoaning that they figured between 25% and 95% (depending which firm you listened to) of all email was spam.  There's something a bit fishy fishy fishy here.  My email quantity has been increasing at about a linear rate over the last four years, no major blips or dips.

If I turn off spam filters on all my email programs and let them fill up for a day, I get a few hundred.  Say I get 240 emails across the four accounts I use.  That's a rough figure, but tends to be close to the lower end of the quantity.  About ten (10) per account are real emails sent by real people, let's say 12 to get to a round figure that will divide nicely into that 240 figure.  That's 15% of my mail is stuff that are real emails.  I'd say another 24 to 36 (to stick with round figures) per account are what was briefly called bacn, i.e. emails sent by supplier listbots, security systems, jokes lists, etc.  That's about 48 emails per account that I can say are not spam.  Out of an average of 60 emails, that's at least another 20% of my emails that is, by definition, spam.

And I'm being generous indeed there - because the amount of solicited email (i.e. the stuff I want or have requested) stays about the same from day to day, while the maximum number of emails I receive generally goes much higher, some days double, very rarely lower than 150.

So I'm blessed if I can figure out where they got their figures from.

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