Tag Archives: internet

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.

Announcing SpeedForce.org!

Bart Allen as the FlashI’ve just launched SpeedForce.org, a companion blog to the website, Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning.

Since I started adding news items to the front page of Ride the Lightning, it’s started to get a bit crowded. I thought about converting it to a Delicious feed, but then I realized it really ought to be a blog. There hasn’t been a major Flash-focused blog out there since Crimson Lightning shut down, so I figured I’d step in and fill the gap. And I could use the domain I picked up last year!

I’ll be posting Flash-related news there, including a weekly round-up of Flash comics, as well as articles that might not fit into the existing site structure, and (eventually) reviews as well. Some stuff that I would have posted here will end up on the new site. Certainly Flash news, but I may start shifting more comics-related commentary over there as well.

I’ll be refining the look and features over the next couple of weeks, and cross-linking it more into Ride the Lightning. I might keep the current theme with a few tweaks, or I might try to match Ride the Lightning, or I might build something else entirely.

So please, check it out and let me know what you think! I’m open to suggestions as to content, design, etc. And of course bug reports.

Linking the Real and the Virtual

The WaSP Buzz’ article on a new mobile web browser test made mention of phones that can read QR Codes—one of several types of 2-D bar codes that you see on things like shipping labels. In this case, the idea is that you can point your phone’s camera at the QR code and it’ll decode it and send you to the appropriate URL.

My first thought was that this was just like the CueCat, which was a bar code scanner that you could plug into your computer’s USB port, then scan bar codes in magazines, or on cans of soda, or whatever, and it would tell your computer to bring up relevant information. It was marketed in the late 1990s, during the tech boom… and it was a total flop. No one wanted them. The company went under and had millions of the little scanners sitting around unsold.

But now there are multiple schemes in use for object hyperlinking. In addition to graphical codes, there are RFID tags, GPS coordinates, and short text codes that you can easily type into an SMS message or a web portal.

So why is this sort of thing working now, 10 years later? Is it a societal change? Was the CueCat ahead of its time?

I think there are two reasons:

  • CueCat was a single-purpose device. All the applications listed involve smartphones or other multi-purpose handheld devices. No one wanted a device that would only scan bar codes, but a phone/camera/browser/MP3 Player/bicycle that also scans bar codes? Sure, why not?
  • CueCat was tied to the desktop. Sure, you could plug it into a laptop computer, but you’d still have to take the object over to your computer to scan the bar code. Unless you’re a lousy typist, swiping the CueCat across your can of Coke isn’t that much easier than typing in www.coke.com. As a home user, you’re not likely to be scanning a dozen objects in a row (unless you’re cataloging all of your books for LibraryThing).

All the applications listed on that page are mobile. A tagging scheme does give you an advantage when you’re out walking down the street and see something interesting. It’s much easier to punch in a short number than to try to type a URL on most phones, easier still to point your camera at a graphic, and dead simple to pick up an RFID tag or pull in GPS coordinates.