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Power Corrupts

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:12 AM

As any Google watcher knows, the company seems to have strayed further and further from its motto of “Don't be evil” as it has grown more powerful. That's why some news today worries me:

Handling more than 70 billion domain name system (DNS) requests each day, Google is now the largest public DNS service on earth, the Web giant announced today.

Somehow I just don't think it is good for the web that the largest search engine and advertising network is also the largest DNS provider. I'd recommend using OpenDNS instead.

Playing the System

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:41 AM

In my opinion, in the realms of technology presently available, satellite TV is at the bottom, followed by cable and finally the new fiber systems (AT&T U-Verse and Verizon FIOS) are at the top. Given that fiber has not arrived here yet, cable is the lesser of the two evils in my opinion. I like cable's bi-directional abilities, I like having access to community service channels, and I like having the local weather on TWC (call me odd, but even with a computer that can provide instant weather, I still love the Weather Channel).

Given that, every so often I call up Charter to see if they can beat my current Dish Network price. For awhile they did, then they didn't and now they can again… but there's a problem: they don't have any standard, two-tuner Moxi Box DVR's, only four tuner Moxi Box tuners that come with the Moxi Mate for a second TV (it is like a dumb terminal that works with an upgraded Moxi Box). That system is really nice, but it costs a whopping $24.95 extra a month — $10 more than a standard Moxi. It seems there is such a high demand for standard Moxi Boxes that it is impossible to get them for about 1-2 months.

Figuring that U-Verse should be here soon, I decided to call up AT&T. The benefits of AT&T are substantial, if they could beat Charter's deal for Internet and Telephony. Unlike Charter, AT&T can offer a quadruple play (land line, Cingular wireless, DSL and TV). For the moment, AT&T resells Dish Network and I found out that existing Dish customers can not get AT&T | Dish, so even switching to AT&T would not allow the “perfect” bill convergence just yet. But it is still tempting. AT&T offers a package that is $10 cheaper per month than Charter for Internet and Telephony for the first year, plus $3/month off the existing Cingular account, plus $50 in the form of a Visa Gift Card, plus $60 back if you keep the service for four months. All of this is a “buy back” promotion to bring stray customers back into the arms of Baby Ma Bell. After a year, however, the price is $28 more a month than Charter.

Of course, switching is easy, so it might make sense to play the two companies against each other: switch to AT&T now and then in a year, get whatever “buy back” promotion Charter wants to offer. Alternately, I think I'll cut to the chase and see if Charter will try to instill customer loyalty by just giving a better deal right now.

Pixel Voical Wireless Mic System

A Highly Portable Wireless Mic for Your Camera

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:53 PM

I’ve learned more than I thought I ever would about microphones this past year courtesy of the pandemic. So, why not review a few? Here’s my latest take on an oddly named microphone system:

Can an affordable and seemingly misspelled wireless mic system help you with your live streams, Zoom meetings and other audio and video projects? We’ll find out as OFB Labs puts the Pixel’s Voical (sic) Wireless Mic system to the test.

PHPNuke != Good Software

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:50 PM

Everytime I think I've got PHPNuke working on Open for Business it seems to do something new to remind me this isn't the best CMS in the world. For the obvious reasons, I don't want to reveal the current problem, but I will say this - I'm going to work up to switching to PostNuke. I'm sure there are better CMSes than PostNuke too, however it seems to offer the best upgrade path from PHPNuke.

Pebble: the e-Ink-based Watch

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:24 AM

What isn't to like about a watch that tethers with your phone's Bluetooth to give you caller id information, e-mail updates and all sorts of other things while also displaying it all on an easy-to-read e-ink screen? I can't think of much. Take a look.

Pastor's Computer Update

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:56 AM

A few months ago I wrote about moving my one pastor's computer over to GNU/Linux. I feel kind of bad I never finished the story, so I guess I will now.

I spent probably about 10 hours polishing up Fedora with updates, installing software, installing Windows inside Win4Lin, and so on. Overall, I spent about the same amount of time getting things ready as I do when setting up a fresh copy of Windows XP (because you always have umpteen apps to install, you need to do a bunch of updates, get stuff like Acrobat, AdAware, etc., etc.).

I got the machine back to him at the end of February. It worked, save a problem with his Palm m500. The system simply wouldn't talk to the m500. I was going to go over and look at it, but something cut the grand Linux experiment short. I get a call “Tim, what would be causing the system to do this…” It was a kernel panic. A quick consideration of the error revealed quite clearly what was wrong: the hard drive had failed.

Apparently, it would seem, the hard drive had been working on dying, and probably killed Windows ME as well. It just happened to be “well enough” to allow me to setp GNU/Linux before it failed again. Now, I did have a disk image of my tweaked Fedora configuration, but as long as we were starting over, my pastor decided he'd like to move to Windows XP.

I suspect he would have considered sticking with GNU/Linux if given the time to use it, but unfortunately, only getting to use it for about a week before the system failed prevented him from even getting a little comfortable with it before it was lost.

So, I hauled the system back home, and Dell sent us a new hard disk (and a new CD-RW, since that drive bay was sticking a bit). I then repeated the reinstall process, reinstalling all the applications again, etc., then restoring all of the data again, and finally reimaging the system again.

sigh

So, it wasn't an unsuccessful attempt of GNU/Linux, but unfortunately a big hardware problem ended the experiment all too soon.

Palm's Got It

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 6:14 AM

I plan to publish a piece on the Palm Pre soon, but for now, my title will suffice. Assuming the device lives up to the hype around it today — and early tests from Engadget give me hope — I think somebody actually figured out how to make a true iPhone competitor (something that has been sorely lacking). And, I couldn't be happier that this somebody is Palm.

It'll be exciting to see how Palm webOS shapes up. Of course, I sort of wish they'd kept the old Palm OS name. Maybe they should have called it Palm OS X. ;)

Palladium Not in Mac Dev Kits

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 3:09 AM

A source tipped me off that Apple is not including TPM/TCPA/Palladium modules in their dev kits, contrary to earlier reports. I know this is a reliable source, so this looks like it might trump the other reports that have come from questionable parts of the web. Read more here at OfB.

ownCloud

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:34 AM

This is an interesting, Free Software combination of what appears to be a upstart Dropbox competitor and an iCloud calendar and contacts syncing competitor. But, unlike those services, this one will run on your own server or hosting account. It looks like it could have the potential to be an intriguing lightweight groupware option.

Outlawed By the Cloud

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 8:58 PM

John Gruber linked to a story from Martin Kekkelund in which he tells of a friend whose Kindle was wiped and her Amazon account terminated for some alleged affiliation with another account. But, she didn't know what other account Amazon was referring to or what violation the company could have in mind — and Amazon refuses to tell her. Outrageously, she has lost her Kindle library of books and has basically no recourse:

Linn lives in Norway, far away from Amazon's jurisdiction. How will she ever find the means to get her books back? By suing a large corporation half-way round the earth?

Linn is outlawed by Amazon.

I might wonder if this is a legitimate story, save for that I have a similar one with Google. For years I ran several web sites, including Open for Business, which depended on Google AdSense for ad revenue. Google offers good rates for advertising and I liked using text based ads over the flashing garbage many ad networks put out.

It worked fine until Google decided I had violated some term of their agreement concerning the displaying of ads. But, they wouldn't tell me what I had allegedly done nor would they allow me to prove my innocence (I reviewed the terms and had violated none of them). Much as in Kekkelund's friend's case, I only received maddening replies from the company. They even refused to pay the last bit of ad revenue they owed me.

Also, as in the story I linked to, the impact was profound. It is very hard for a little web publisher to find a good quality, reputable advertising network that can generate even enough revenue to pay for site maintenance these days. Google has dominated the field for some time now with what is effectively a monopoly in actually profitable advertising, so that when Google permanently bans you from their system without any sort of corporate equivalent of “due process,” the result is crushing.

Why would Google ban my small business from its systems? Why would Kekkelund's friend receive such an unhelpful response from Amazon? In each case — and I would wager, many more — there is no good answer and that is frightening.

For many people and businesses, much of one's livelihood is tied up in just one or two cloud providers. I think the question we need to ask is this: “if any one provider shut down my account, would I be shut down?” If the answer is yes, you are too dependent on that provider.

My conversation with Google is below the fold.

You are viewing page 12 of 34.