Travelex rant

Travelex Cash Passport cardWow, so Travelex managed to screw me pretty royally.  Pretty fitting considering I’m in the UK where they know a little something about royalty.  This is a pure rant so if you aren’t interested, I highly recommend the Solar roadways post instead.  Like it says in the masthead, “because if I don’t write, I’ll explode.”  Sometimes I do these just for me and this is one of those times.  However, if you travel internationally, be warned.

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Tebo, Sam, and the whitewashing of hate

I don’t watch sports.  Whatever media attention Michael Sam received never entered my sphere of awareness.  On the other hand, the backlash to it is all over my social media and news feeds.  Note I didn’t say the reaction to it, but specifically the protests.  Had it not been for these I would never have known.  Yet when I stop to read what its all about, all I see from my vantage point is the very people who have invaded my techie world complaining about all the media attention over Sam’s announcement.  From this side of my monitor the complaints about the media attention are the media attention.

One such arrived from a friend who I love and respect who posted a link to a Matt Walsh post.  From that post:

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Solar Roadways is funding – and why you should care

20140508113108-Sandpoint_1Scott and Julie Brusaw of Idaho came up with the brilliant idea of embedding solar cells into roadways.  Even with the meager conversion rates of today’s solar cells and even in the more Northern regions where the incident solar angle limits the amount of usable energy received, in this usage photocells are cost effective and capable of  generating more power than we use, assuming the majority of roads were paved with these.  This is one of those ideas that is so good and in retrospect so obvious that you have to wonder why nobody thought of it before.  Then if you look closer and discover that Scott and Julie have been working on this for over a decade you might wonder how it’s been around so long and you are still driving over potholes where asphalt used to be.  That’s a really good question.  I believe we can help them resolve that one last issue by kicking in a few dollars to their Indiegogo campaign and this post is to help explain why it’s important to do this with private funding.

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American slavery – it’s a thing

After an informal analysis of the health insurance system in the USA, I’ve come to the conclusion that while Lincoln may have freed the slaves, we haven’t actually abolished slavery here.  In fact, it is alive and well, enshrined in law, and the Affordable Care Act is one of the few things that seeks to address that situation.  Bear with me, I’ll connect the dots.

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The Peter Principle

My wife and I were watching TV this evening when I paused the show for a bio-break.  Unbeknownst to my wife, one of our cats pushed his way in whilst I was in the bathroom.  From her vantage point in the living room, this is what she heard:

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Net Neutrality – Part 2

In my yesterday’s Net Neutrality post I wrote “For your ISP, a packet is a packet is a packet.”

In another forum, Howard responds:

Speaking as an ISP engineer, no, it isn’t that simple. Set aside preferential charging of source information. No ISP can afford to engineer enough bandwidth to guarantee maximum bandwidth, at all times, to every user. Above all, the ISP _must_ guarantee that network management, routing protocol, and other packets used for its own technical management get through.

Ignoring peer-to-peer for a moment, file downloads are not interactive. If there’s a crunch on bandwidth, I’ll set the highest priority for management traffic, then delay-sensitive traffic (e.g., voice and video), then interactive traffic (Web, telnet) and then bulk downloads (FTP, SMTP, POP3, etc.)

Gaming is a huge bandwidth hog, as is entertainment downloads. Quite a few universities, in the role of ISPs to their campuses, eventually have to limit student bandwidth because gaming, peer-to-peer, and entertainment consistently will take as much bandwidth as it can get. The academic and research users are the people for whom the network was installed.

This made me realize that I needed to clarify.

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Net neutrality for the rest of us

Net Neutrality has been framed as a debate between corporate giants who can well-afford to pay to publish their content, and rightly should.  But that’s a straight-up lie.  Let’s try a thought experiment, shall we?  Imagine the public outcry if UPS suddenly announced the following:

You know, we’ve been opening all the packages from Amazon and we notice that most of those books are from a few big publishers. So, even though you have Amazon Prime and both you and Amazon have paid for 2-day service, we want Random House, Simon and Schuster and the rest of the Big 5 to pay us an access fee. Don’t worry, we won’t throttle back anybody’s service but we will prioritize the delivery of content produced by those who have paid the access fee. Oh, and by the way, we might not be able to meet the service level agreement on your other 2-day packages due to congestion.  But it’s OK because we aren’t actually throttling those down. We are just throttling everything else up.

First of all, would you not be mad about that whole “we opened up your packages” thing? The ENTIRE net neutrality debate hinges on the need for your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to know something about the content you are receiving.  If you attempt to tunnel that content through a secure connection, they already penalize you for it. So right off the bat, there’s a massive economic incentive to do online something you would NEVER do in the physical world – to run all your communication over the digital equivalent of post cards rather than sealed packages and envelopes. Net neutrality says privacy isn’t your right but something you pay for, and only those who can afford it can enjoy it. That’s about as anti-American as it gets.

The even more pernicious aspect of this hypothetical scenario is that when UPS needs to scale up due to volume, rather than adjust their price to you either directly or through Amazon, they instead decide that the publishing houses have a stake in this since it is their books that represent most of the packages being delivered.  Therefore, UPS argues, these big publishers must pay for access to the UPS delivery infrastructure. They then create a business model that coerces otherwise uninvolved 3rd parties into paying ransom, depends entirely on the practice of opening and inspecting the contents of all your packages, and then seeks to enshrine and protect this business model through legislative protection.

In real life, this scenario would die in less time than it takes for an Amazon prime package to be delivered to your door.  But unfortunately digital delivery is less well understood than is package logistics and otherwise rational people who should recognize this for the blackmail that it is end up supporting it.  I can understand that when it is a non-specialist.  But this includes your elected representatives folks.  They are supposed to gain enough specialized knowledge of the things on which they make policy to do so soundly.  That they are not doing so makes you wonder whether they are corrupt or ignorant because the recent rulings cannot have been created by competent policy makers.  Because it really is as simple as this:

For UPS, a package is a package is a package. 

For your ISP, a packet is a packet is a packet.

Or, at least it should be.  But it is not.  And there will be serious consequences, intended and otherwise, because of that.  Soon.

Update: The conversation continues in Net Neutrality – Part 2.

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