Archive for the ‘Laws/Legislation’ Category

Internet Speed Test | Speed Matters

Sigh…
And we have to pay as much or more than Cox and Charter Cable’s biggest pipe, and WAY more than Verizon ADSL (no matter what speed you get — except FiOS which will not be here till h*ll freezes over) to get that speed on Cellular Wireless and be limited monthly to a 5GB per month Cap. 😦

But at least it’s better than Dialup at 3.6kbps-4.4kbps, eh?

Which, until recently, was all there was until the Cell tower was upgraded/added around here.

Speed Test

How fast are you? Take the speed test to see how your connection measures up.

Our 2007 Speed Matters report was a great success. We received front page coverage in USA Today and in publications across the country. We helped launch statewide broadband projects in Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. And the test results helped convice the Federal Communications Commission to change its definition of broadband so that they can collect data that is more meaningful – one of the major goals of our campaign.

Take the test today so that you are included in our 2008 report.

Learn more about the speed test.

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GasBuddyGasPrices Feed Map

Just left click any where on the map to move around the map. Right click on any area’s color to get gas price info for that area.

Read it and weep.

Gasbuddy Gas Prices provided by GasBuddy.com
Click here to add this map to your website.

You think you got it bad in your area? And yes, you are right! No matter where you go in the United States, “gas prices suck” (as Jeff Dunham so comedically stated).

But scroll on over and take a peak at California! It’s on fire — in more ways than one it seems.

Hey, just noticed something else that may or may not be significant. Do you see a corridor that is green all the way from the border with Mexico all the way to the border with Canada? Reminds me of another map (direct link to the map).

EDIT: 4/26/2008 – Sorry Texas. Looks like you are now mostly yellow since I did this posting.

Speed DOES MATTER on the Internet!

If you spend time on dialup versus broadband (even at the entry level for throughput and bandwidth limitations that many providers in this country pass off for broadband), you realize very quickly that you forgot how slow it was and you are not going back there!

Well, for many of us in this once great nation, we have no choice but to daily use dialup, or have to spend hundreds of dollars per month on fractional T1s, or full T1s if fractional isn’t available, or two phone lines to the tune of believe it or not with only extended calling (and you really need extended calling to get an ISP that has even a semblance of reasonable rates) which runs about $45-$46/mo PER LINE (because there are no breaks on a second line), just to get a MAXIMUM of 3.6-4.4K+3.6-4.4K or 11.2K analog, not digital.

But wait there’s more. Then you have to pay an ISP for dual line dialup! In our area, it would put us at about $100 a month for 11.2K of analog dialup bandwidth.

This is downright idiotic. Every day you hear about another area that’s already bursting with broadband, getting even more bandwidth down the pike!!! And here we sit on dialup! Still getting the same stupid rhetoric from Verizon, “Maybe in a year or two.” At that rate, after 8-9 yrs of asking, we should be on FiOS by now, right! NOPE!

Still on dialup.

And we are trying to run a home-based business this way believe it or not!

I have talked to COX.net, and after a very nice lady said she would have someone come out for a look see and then they would get back to me, I am still waiting to hear back … it’s been at least 2 months since she said they would call back. I guess I will have to call them back.

Charter.net is only 5-6 miles down the road, Verizon about 4 miles down the road, and from what I understand Cox.net brought fiber to within 3 miles of here and turned the corner to to the schools.

Broadband is so close you can almost taste it … but they won’t come into our small town.

According to Sen. Joe Biden, although we’ve led the world in educational standards historically, in the last 20 years, the rest of the world has caught up with the U.S. with “warp speed. Some of them have gone beyond us.”

That’s why Sen. Joe Biden’s talk that I found on SpeedMatters really struck a chord with me. I am so tired of not having broadband at our home. Here’s a link to the Youtube video of Sen. Biden’s talk.

EDIT: Of course you’d need broadband to take advantage of seeing the YouTube video … unfortunately!

Single and Multi Color Printer Cartridges and Other Futility

Printer cartridges … don’t get me started!! LOL!

I was reading my WindowsSecrets Newsletter this morning (here’s the complimentary version of the issue to view) … and I was already intrigued by Brian Livingston’s article entitled, “SkipRearm doesn’t work, activation still broken,” then I started reading Scott Dunn’s article entitled, “Epson’s claims of cheaper ink are empty” and this hit a sore spot with me.

Cost per page is a very slippery slope.

Depending upon what type of “picture pages” (credit to Captain Kangaroo on that one) – meaning not the different types of pages, but the various colors that those pictures will include – will determine true cost effectiveness with print cartridges at any given time.

In an ideal world (without massively overstated copyright and patent laws), since the printer companies can make the cartridges for pennies, they should sell them for much less than they currently do, IMHO.

Elsewhere, I was reading about Apple’s iPhone costing twice what it cost to make it. LOL! And this is bad. Yes, it is. But not nearly as bad as the print cartridge percentages!! Some have done costing with printing, but has no one ever REALLY questioned this oppressive problem with printing costs/cost of printer cartridges??

We have an HP Wireless All in One printer, very nice printer in many ways. Since they charge about $10 per color cartridge, and about $18 for a black cartridge, it can be an expensive proposition with 5 or 6 cartridges in a printer. Less so, to some degree, if you replace each color only as needed, since that would be $10 instead of $36-56 or more per cartridge).

On the other hand, replacing an entire color (all colors in one cartridge) cartridge ($36-$56 or more) depending upon the printer, for ONE color that is out is totally ludicrous.

Many times you run out of one color long before the others. If you could have replaced that one color for a fraction of the cost, it is certainly better than throwing away a cartridge with maybe as much as 1/2 of the other colors still in the cartridge, because you happened to print a page or pages that use more of one color than the others consistently. This actually happens quite frequently. Even so, $10 a color is still highway robbery, IMHO. How many actual prints do you get for that $10??

Compare that with the cost of film developing a few years ago? Seeing any correlation?

And God forbid that your ‘intelligent’ printer decides that today it will have a superiority complex, and won’t except your new cartridge this time for some unknown reason, and says it’s still out of ink after putting in a brand new cartridge. Believe me, it does happen! It happened to us a couple months ago.

In our older HP printers, there is no choice but to replace the entire cartridge to the tune of $36 because we ran out of red or blue or yellow, that is until we found a surplus store online that sell them for considerably less.

But there aren’t many options for the newer printers to get them at major discounts like the older printers. You will still pay 6.99-9.99 per color (more for the slightly bigger black cartridge) in the Wireless Photosmart FOR EACH COLOR – and there are about 5/6 cartridges in there. But that’s better than paying the cost of some of the other newer printers with less cartridges and some colors together in one cartridge for the $35-$50 or more range per cartridge.

The problem is not so much whether the printer has one cartridge or many, the problem is that the printer companies are sucking their customers dry. It’s like highway robbery. They hook people in with these very inexpensive printers (sold at a discount so they can make it up later on the cartridges, over and over and over) .. So they nickel and dime ya to death till the printer dies and they try another one from that company or another company that is just as inexpensive.

Throw away printers … that’s gotta be good for the environment, right? With all the electronic boards inside, etc.? I can just see them stacking up in the landfill.

Sometimes it’s almost less expensive in the long run to get a really cheap printer on sale, install the drivers, print till you run out of ink and then go buy another $49 printer … it’s cheaper than replacing the cartridges!!

This is the crazy world we live in. And hardware/electronics companies love it! Particularly printer companies.

Instead of seeing that they have the golden goose and if they would just treat customers fairly they could keep their golden goose happy and healthy, they get the greedy company syndrome, they do the same ‘ole, same ‘ole that other greedy companies seem to get themselves into….burn customers on every purchase and keep them over a barrel. It’s what I like to refer to as the ‘laundromat syndrome.’

Sometimes I think people get so fed up because they really have no choice if they like the printer they have, or maybe they don’t want to have to go through the annoyance of time and frustration installing over 300MB of drivers and software for yet another printer (and of course they all want to do that). Not only that, will they uninstall the old one first … likely not if they are not that savvy of a computer user. What a registry and hard drive and potentially compatibility nightmare over time.

I don’t know; it’s a real quandary. No matter what anyone says, you can’t seem to change the printer companies’ mentality because they are just that greedy! And amazingly enough, it is working for them! Why? Because they are ALL doing it! Every single printer company is price gouging, IMHO…Except maybe this Kodak one that Corrine is talking about in her blog posting…not bad really. Is that only for photo paper or normal pages too?

It’s that “dollar down and a dollar a week” mentality that started with the ‘ole ‘company store’ … “St. Peter don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store!” (credit to Tennessee Ernie Ford and his song Sixteen Tons). Except of course now in today’s society, it’s more like $100 down and a $1 a day or more!!

Every bank/credit card company, music and movie CD/DVD subscription services, magazine and book club, satellite/cable company, as well as printer and other hardware/electronics companies are trying to get you hooked on them for a dollar down and a dollar a week forever.

And why not, it worked for the utility companies and insurance companies, God knows the debt monster is working really well for the banks and credit card companies. Sheesh, it even works for charitable organizations, right? It’s only 50 cents a day, less than a cup of coffee….

But, it’s their golden goose and don’t you mess with their golden goose … they may not treat the goose well, but don’t you try to make life better for the goose by pointing out the futility.

The worst problem with so many of the “dollar down and a dollar a week plans” is that you don’t really own anything for that money. You pay, errr, overpay for the cartridges, then it’s gone. It’s hard to know what to spend all your dollar down and a dollar a week things on. If you are not careful, you will have no money to live on while you pay for everyone else’s livlihood.

Don’t get me wrong, many are very worthwhile, but even then you have to be cautious right? You can’t afford every subscription you think is worthwhile, can you?

But some ‘dollar down and a dollar a week’ things are totally gone before you know it (consumables like printer cartridges, etc.). Sad because then both the item and the money are gone forever.

I am not saying we need to cut out all consumables from our lives. If we did that we couldn’t eat now could we? 😉

I am saying we need to be cautious and we need to point out when things don’t make sense … like the cost of printer cartridges which are probably in the hundreds of percentages of mark up over cost of production … It has been said, that mark up of 45-50% is reasonable over cost. But some companies think that mark ups in the hundreds of percent are reasonable!?! Especially when the ‘consumable’ will be gone VERY quickly and they will have to feed the beast if they want to print.

Rural America roadkill on the information superhighway

Dendron, Virginia appears to be one of the unsung parts of Verizon’s Rural America roadkill on the information superhighway.

For the last eight years, I have been calling and/or checking frequently to see when Dendron, Virginia will be welcomed by Verizon into their current broadband world — to no avail.

In the last few months, we tried to work up a deal with ATT/Alliance Data Com to maybe get some form of broadband in Dendron, Virginia. Jim Mathis was great and really tried to help. He was able to get a very good deal on a T1 to bring into Dendron, Virginia, but JimmyLee and I just could not afford to pay for it alone. He also checked DSL availability, but Verizon has not updated the CO (Central Office) in our area.

Years ago, Verizon took over GTE Land (my name for our dead zone area that used to be owned by GTE Phone service), but kept the old GTE Land customers separate from the rest of their Verizon service, presumably so they wouldn’t have to count our area as being left in the dirt with only dialup being available.

One day a couple years ago, I stopped to talk to the Verizon technician that was at the CO in our area and asked when we would be getting DSL/broadband in our area. He said dialup isn’t so bad. Right! Let him live with it day in and day out! Butthead! Sure it’s better than nothing, but so are alot of distasteful things in life.

Verizon also has a very bad policy in this area, even if you want to get two phone lines and aggregate them for dialup data to get 128kpbs, it’s not doable. You pay the same price or more for that second line! I called and that’s what they told me! Plus, you still have to pay for your dual-line ISP (Internet Service Provider) as well! That would put us at over $100/mo for less than ISDN since it would be analog and not digital.

ISDN is also out of sight due to the various ongoing charges that would make it even more expensive than the dual phone lines plus Internet access charges!

I have talked about this before, but Dendron is in a very unique dead zone!

Rt 31 that goes through the heart of Dendron also goes between Rt 10 in Surry and Rt 460 in Wakefield. Cox Cable a few years back brought Cable broadband to the Surry Schools, which turns the corner on Rt 31 just about 3 miles shy of Dendron.

In Wakefield/Sussex County, Charter Cable has been there for several years, just 6 miles away, and more recently Verizon brought DSL to Wakefield and backed it down Rt 31 to just about 3-4 miles down Rt 31 away from Dendron.

This effectively creates a dead zone out of Dendron. Dendron is the last town in Surry County off Rt 31 just before it hits Sussex County with three broadband carriers coming within 3-6 miles of Dendron and no closer! They are so close you can almost taste it! But no joy!

AlterNet‘s Steve Early has an article that Tweeny/Kurt sent me entitied Rural America Is Being Left off the Information Superhighway, which shows another side of Verizon’s geed — where they are trying to sell off small (unprofitable? or maintenance intensive?) areas to — not other large broadband carriers who might be able to help — but to small companies (in New England’s case noted in the article, FairPoint Communications) that has even less money due to their small size to upgrade/maintain the areas than Verizon has. All for a tax break!

At the end of the article, AlterNet reports,

CWA has launched a website, SpeedMatters.org, which publicizes telecom reform initiatives around the country and invites users to take a “speed test” — so they can check their own connections against world standards for high-speed access.

Using creative online networking, aggressive legal intervention in state regulatory proceedings, alliances with nonlabor groups and a legislative push for a broadband build-out that would benefit all Americans, telephone unionists hope to thwart the Verizon strategy, which amounts to “dump the lines, dump the customers,” according to CWA president Larry Cohen.

In Virginia, Cohen notes, Verizon just lost a bid to eliminate all state regulatory oversight over the sale of local telephone lines — thanks to union lobbying and a gubernatorial veto. In northern New England, where the tradition of pro-consumer regulation is much stronger, state governments need to go even further — and veto any sale.

Very interesting, huh?

I thought it was pretty funny when I went to SpeedMatters.org website noted above as the page takes forever to load on dialup! Guess they just want to show that speed does in fact matter — as those of us on dialup certainly know.

It’s pretty sad when other countries will go the extra mile to get some sort of broadband – in some cases the fastest broadband available – for their countries’ citizens, and the US sits on its ‘collective’ hands while Rural America becomes roadkill on the information superhighway.

Verizon it appears is giving Capitalism a bad name!

But it seems that all this does nothing to help further our cause for broadband here in Dendron which is just a tiny little town of less than 400 souls at the edge of the world, errr, Surry County, Virginia. Where, even Surry County’s initiative to help bring Wireless to Surry County (government funded) will not be available for some time as they are only in the discovery/planning stages from what I understand.

And the ONLY other alternative is Satellite! Which for those of us who do real time streaming and chatting — ON DIALUP mind you — and FTP for websites we work on, would not be a real option due to the well-known lag at the tune of $70/mo. for that half baked option.

So we sit here with only dialup at home and wait and wait for pages and email to come in — in frustration (and SpeedMatters.org is still loading!!) … sigh…


speedmatters

Bill Gates On The Future Of DRM

A small group of influential bloggers met Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters to discuss the upcoming Mix Conference in Las Vegas. The culmination of that day’s activities on December 13th, I think, was an hour with Bill Gates himself.

Among the questions asked, was one by TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington who said one of his questions was on Bill Gate’s opinion of the long term viability of DRM.

It was really good to see that Bill Gates has no illusions about DRM and apparently is very aware how bad it is for consumers. I also thought it was great that he agrees that buying the CDs and ripping them yourself is the safest legal manner of obtaining music. I totally agree and have said so for a long time. The only drawback is when the CD has ‘copy protection’ on it. Then I don’t bother with the CD either. As those who know me will attest, I have been boycotting this whole DRM thing and the cartels that back them for some time, the RIAA and Big 4 the longest. Unfortunately as much as I love movies, I see what the MPAA has been doing and has been doing for a very long time as well. And the studios often are not much better unfortunately, particularly Sony Pictures which makes it basically impossible to fluidly watch a movie (various types of problems depending upon the DVD) on a combo DVD drive that is capable of writing DVDs (at least not the one from Sony that my Jim has and the HP one that I have). Really ticking me off, by the way, because many of the films I want to rent or buy are released by Sony Pictures. Thankfully some others are not doing that and I am very quickly gravitating to those.

But back on topic, here. Michael Arrington reported (paraphased) Bill Gates as saying:

Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which “causes too much pain for legitmate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet. There are “huge problems” with DRM, he says, and “we need more flexible models, such as the ability to “buy an artist out for life” (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.

His short term advice: “People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.”

At least for the short term anyway, until the government — that our tax dollars pay for — legally allows the entertainment cartels to fully take away our fair use rights. Which they are actively working hard to do.

Bad Practices Continue at Zango

Bad Practices Continue at Zango, Notwithstanding Proposed FTC Settlement and Zango’s Claims

Ben Edelman and Eric Howes teamed up on this very strong message to users and to the FTC about ongoing bad practices by Zango.

The FTC proposed in January 2006 an excellent start for a settlement with Zango, however Ben and Eric, as well as Chris Boyd/Paperghost at VitalSecurity.org have all shown that despite the claims by Zango of compliance, this is not the case.

Enforcement of the settlement as it stands will be costly and necessary if the FTC intends to actually send the right message. If monitoring and enforcement are not maintained, Zango will continue to do what they have been doing currently despite their claims to the contrary, some of which are clearly outlined in the article by Ben and Eric (link at the top of this posting).

I also wonder at the numbers game with profits versus revenue that appears to be going on and discussed in Ben and Eric’s article on this and if statements by Zango reflect differently than the numbers given to the FTC to base their ‘settlement’ on, maybe the FTC should be looking much closer at that?

Back in December 2005 we posted BetaNews | 180solutions Tries to Clean Up its Act where 180Solutions and Zango are linked, and this year several postings: February 2006 we posted When Spyware Performs as Advertised, and in June 2006, we posted about this as well in 180Solutions Plus HotBar Equals Zango and again in August 2006 An Interview with Zango Myspace Affiliate, Mark Arruda.

And that’s just since December 2005. Many others including Ben Edelman and Eric Howes, as well as Suzi Turner/Spyware Warrior, paperGhost, SunbeltBlog, to name only a few! So many others have carried the torch much much longer than I have since my blog is relatively new in the scheme of things. But I have kept tabs on this through all of the spyware/adware researchers’ postings for many years.

To make matters, n-Case is back in the picture in addition to the combination of 180Solutions and HotBar as noted in the postings above and in one of many industry news outlets like InformationWeek’s article November 6, 2006 entitled Spyware Researcher Claims Zango Hasn’t Mended Its Ways. This combination goes back at the very least April 2005 where Spyware Warrior posted Scratch a Lie, Find a Thief.

Mending their ways are they? I think not. They have no respect for anything but the almighty dollar. And that should be a clue as to why Ben Edelman and Eric Howes are suggesting the following recommendations regarding this very tough nut to crack:

Zango’s Statements and the Need for Enforcement

In its November 3 press release, Zango claims its reforms are already in place. “Every consumer downloading Zango’s desktop advertising software sees a fully and conspicuously disclosed, plain-language notice and consent process,” Zango’s press release proclaims. This claim is exactly contrary to the numerous examples we present above. Zango further claims that it “has met or exceeded the key notice and consent standards detailed in the FTC consent order since at least January 1, 2006” — again contrary to our findings that nonconsensual and deceptive installations remain ongoing.

From the FTC’s press release and from recent statements of FTC commissioners and staff, it appears the FTC intends to send a tough message to makers of advertising software. We commend the FTC’s goal. The proposed settlement, if appropriately enforced, might send such a message. But we worry the FTC will send exactly the opposite message if it allows Zango to claim compliance without actually doing what the proposed settlement requires.

As a first step, we endorse CDT’s suggestion that the FTC require Zango to retract its claim of compliance with the proposed settlement. Zango’s statement is false, and the FTC should not stand by while Zango mischaracterizes its behavior vis-a-vis the proposed settlement.

More broadly, we believe intensive ongoing monitoring will be required to assure that Zango actually complies with the settlement. We have spent 3+ years following Zango’s repeated promises of “reform,” and we have first-hand experience with the wide variety of techniques Zango and its partners have used to place software onto users’ PCs. Testing these methods requires more than black-letter contracts and agreements; it requires hands-on testing of actual infected PCs and the scores of diverse infection mechanisms Zango’s partners devise. To assure that Zango actually complies with the agreement, we think the FTC will need to allocate its investigatory resources accordingly. We’ve spent approximately roughly 10 hours on the investigations leading to the results above, and we’ve uncovered these examples as well as various others. With dozens or hundreds of hours, we think we could find many more surviving Zango installations in violation of the proposed settlement’s requirements. We think the FTC ought to find these installations, or require that Zango do so, and then ought to see that the associated files are entirely removed from the web.

Thanks go out to TeMerc in a posting at ScotsNewsletter Forums on this latest research by Ben Edelman and Eric Howes.

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