Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Geek Wednesday: President Hu Comes to Redmond

President Hu of China has come to America. To meet with his counterpart at the White House, you think? Well, maybe later. First, he had to meet with the President of the techno-universe to discuss a critical matter of state. Perhaps the recent allegations regarding the sale of prisoners' body organs by the state? (Does that kidney come with chicken-fried rice?) Maybe to explain why he's put a massive statue of Chairman Mao in Tibet—bigger than any Buddha you'll ever find, not to mention more deadly by a factor of a few million? Or perhaps to discuss his government's primary stake in the United States' economy, as a George Steinbrenner-type of "principal owner"? Or maybe to talk about human rights in China, one of those nagging issues that keeps coming up at these high-power meetings, somewhere between the frisson and the latte?

Nope, the big ticket item piracy. Yep, that's for real, I'm not making it up. It seems poor Uncle Bill is getting ripped off, worth only $50B and always having his $300 OS stolen from under his nose. Maybe the message for President Hu is: start cracking down on all those software thieves in your country, and guess what—you'll wind up with lots more body organs to sell! It's win-win for everybody, baby!


I have a couple of worthwhile reads to mention: the first is David Remnick's piece on Bush, Big Oil, and the attempt to silence the voice of science (and thereby more speedily kill the planet). The article is part film review, of Al Gore's documentary.

And next, how about a book review? I have one (Word doc, 44 kb), of Barbara Ehrenreich's newest book about her experiment in job-seeking among America's white-collar elite, Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream. Once you've had a look at that, it's on to...

Geek Wednesday

If anyone else out there in IT land is looking for work or to change jobs, this might be the time. Just be careful: nothing is as rosy as the government or a bunch of fat corpo-execs would like you to believe. My advice: if you've got a gig that's paying the rent and not causing you an anxiety disorder (or worse), by all means keep your resume fresh and your options open, but don't leap at anything that comes around just because it's different or pays a few extra bucks. Let the market work to your benefit, rather than the other way around.

And now it's time to introduce a topic we'll be watching regularly in GW from this point forward: net neutrality. It's a big deal—for anyone and everyone who uses a computer and cares about stopping the corporate takeover of our society, our privacy, and our economy. Josh Silver of explains why:

Here’s why net neutrality matters:

In a few years, your computer will be the same device as your TV, and nearly all video, audio, web and phone service will be delivered via broadband. This represents a revolutionary opportunity to get independent, critical journalism and other content into every home because the Internet can deliver thousands of video channels, not just the ones the cable companies choose for us. (Nearly 60% of Americans get their primary news from TV, and over 70% of TV viewers use cable.)

As a result of a disastrous FCC ruling in 2005, the law no longer requires the Internet to be open and nondiscriminatory, the foundational principle that has catalyzed the Internet boom. Today, broadband providers (cable and telephone companies) are making plans to discriminate. They’ll do this by creating a “tiered” Internet. Major content providers who cut a pay-for-play deal with the network owners will enjoy super-fast downloads, high quality of service, and the lion’s share of the audience. Everyone else will be in the slow lane. Say goodbye to online equality; say hello to Internet gatekeepers.

The largest media companies are using this policy to position themselves as the lords of tomorrow’s digital media networks. Much like current cable TV companies: they would decide what channels and websites are available at high quality. They will create a cartel of Internet giants and relegate much of today’s rich cyber-culture to second class citizenship. This maintains the conglomerates current stranglehold over media access and distribution.

If we win on network neutrality and restore the foundation of the Internet, tomorrow’s digital media platforms will remain nondiscriminatory. There will literally be infinite numbers of digital channels available, and anyone with a server can create and distribute content.

Finally today, check out the new entry on the Daily Rev blogroll, Empires Fall.

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