Author Archives: Kelson

Battle for the Net: Help Keep the Internet Open!

The FCC wants to eliminate net neutrality, the principle that ISPs should treat all traffic the same, and not block, throttle, or promote data based on what service you’re using or who you’re connecting to. But we can stop them.

What’s Net Neutrality? Simple: your cable company shouldn’t decide where you get your news, what businesses you buy from, which video chat services and streaming services you use, or who you talk to.

Why do we need it? It used to be an unofficial rule, underlying the way the Internet was built over the years, until ISPs started to break it. For example:

  • Multiple ISPs intercepted search queries and sent them to their own portals.
  • AT&T blocked Skype on the iPhone.
  • Verizon blocked tethering apps.
  • Multiple carriers blocked Google Wallet in favor of their own payment services.

In 2015, after a public advocacy campaign, the FCC made it official: ISPs in the United States are now required to treat all traffic equally.

So what’s the problem? There’s a new chairman in charge, and he wants to remove the rule.

No doubt cable and phone companies will go back to their old tricks. Plus they could slow down access to news sites that disagree with them, or charge websites extra for the privilege of reaching their audience (when they already pay for their upload connection), or slow down services owned by competitors (consider: Verizon owns Tumblr and Flickr now, and Comcast owns NBC) in favor of their own.

That’s right: free speech, fair competition, and the price you pay for your internet service are all protected by net neutrality.

Rolling back net neutrality doesn’t help you, doesn’t help business, doesn’t help anyone but the existing carriers.

That’s why I’m joining the Battle for the Net — and you can, too. The FCC’s public comment period is still open. Contact the FCC and Congress (here’s a form), and tell them why Net Neutrality matters to you. Then spread the word.

Keeping the internet open is critical. Let’s work to keep it!

Photobucket Lockdown: Another Chunk of Internet History Dies

Back in the old days, before you could upload photos straight to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr, if you wanted to share pictures online you had to host them yourself. Or if you used something like LiveJournal, you could use their limited image galleries. But with space and bandwidth at a premium in those days, you could run into limits fast.

That’s where sites like Photobucket and Imgur came in. You could upload your images there, and then put them on your fan site, or your journal, or whatever. They were also good for posting anonymously, as in communities like Fandom!Secrets. And they’re still good for posting images in places like Ebay listings, or online forums (yes, they still exist) that don’t provide their own hosting.

But you know the problem with hosting your stuff with a third party. You can’t guarantee they’ll stick around. And while Photobucket isn’t closing up shop yet like GeoCities did (taking with it an entire generation of online fandom), they’ve suddenly blocked hotlinking (the main way people used it!)…unless you pay up $399/year for an advanced account. BuzzFeed minces no words, calling it “ransom”.

So an awful lot of images across the internet have stopped working overnight.

I’m starting to think about all my photos that are hosted on Flickr, now that Verizon owns it. I don’t think they’re likely to do something similar, and Flickr’s paid service is a lot cheaper than Photobucket’s. But Yahoo was never quite sure what to do with it, and Verizon… well…

It might be time to move my “pull in remote Flickr embeds” project off the back burner, just in case.

(Ir)replaceable?

I have a bunch of old coffee mugs from TV shows, art museums, even an apartment complex I used to live. In once sense these aren’t replaceable. If I ever break my Mozilla Coffee mug or the “I’m in the middle of fifteen things, all of them annoying” quote from Cmdr. Ivanova, or if I lose the “Venti Schmenti” travel mug from Diedrich’s (a coffee chain that has since been absorbed by Starbucks), that’s it — I can’t get another one.

But I have plenty of other coffee mugs, and there’s no shortage of mugs I could buy to replace them if I had to.

As memorabilia, they’re irreplaceable. Functionally, they’re almost expendable.

It’s interesting to think that they’re both, depending on how you’re looking at them.

Fireworks All Over LA

We went out to a hill to view last night’s Independence Day fireworks after an afternoon at a family barbecue. Some years we go down to the beach for a closer view. This year the process of getting there, finding a parking space (usually very far away), walking all the way down (and all the way back up) with a small child, finding a viewing spot, and afterward spending over an hour to get out through clogged streets just wasn’t appealing.

So we went to a hill a mile or so away, joining a standing throng of people waiting for the local show to start. To the east and southeast we could see distant fireworks lighting up the horizon from San Pedro to Norwalk. Around the corner we could see a similar view of fireworks to the northeast, including Los Angeles proper.

It’s one thing to see one fireworks show at a time. It’s another to look out and see them all along the horizon. It’s unifying, appropriately enough.

We’d only been there a few minutes when the seaside display started. The next ridge of hills blocked the lower fireworks, but we could see most of them above the hill — without the deafening booms and smoke. The wind was blowing inland off the ocean, a smoke plume trailing sideways. As the finale hit, someone nearby set off their own unsanctioned display, to considerable applause.

After it was all over, we stayed for a few minutes, looking out at the more distant displays still going, then walked down the hill to the car and drove home.

The faint boom-boom-boom continued for hours, punctuated every 15-20 minutes by some closer pop! or shriek as someone set something off nearby. Sometime around midnight, it finally tapered off enough that I drifted off to sleep.