June 26, 2008
Charter Calls Off Deep Packet Advertising Scheme, For Now
Charter Communications has suspended the controversial program where partner NebuAd would deep-scan packets to send targeted advertising to Charter customers. While some reports consider the program dead, that may not be the case. There were some rumblings that Charter would proceed once the privacy issues were sorted out. That may be a big undertaking given the concerns raised by Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Joe Barton (R-Tex) and the several public advocacy groups that attacked the plan.
Even talk of an opt-out mechanism did not seem assuring given that it would have to be exercised per browser per computer. Should anyone clean out cookies, the opt out would have to be performed all over again. The method of tracking users was also a bit icky as scripts were inserted into pages that would silently take the user to a hidden page that would set or read the cookie. The methodology had the same transparency used by hackers to install malevolent software. One could make the argument that the object here wasn't "malicious" given the notice that would be provided to Charter customers. Still, one would expect that marketing such as this could be done with more up-front options for the consumer instead of making management easy for Charter and NebuAd and hard for the customer.
New Top Level Domains on the Way
ICANN voted to create any number of top-level domains as the imagination could conceive. It will only cost between $100,000 and $500,000 and the expense of being responsible for everything running on that domain. Does this mean there will be a resurrection of the .xxx or a .porno top level domain?
June 24, 2008
Defining Obscenity By Search Terms Within a Community
Obscenity is always one of those conundrums for the courts, what with contemporary community standards as the measuring stick. But how is the measuring stick measured? Usually it's by testimony and the biases of the jurors trying the case. As with anything going on in a juror's mind, are they deciding on what they actually believe, or what they think the community expects them to decide? Well, as usual, the Internet has a way of breaking through this problem.
Ars Technica is reporting on two cases, one from Utah and another from Florida, that rely on defining the contemporary community standard by using common search terms in the local area. It is no secret that porn and related adult materials are popular on the Internet. What a representative sample of the community as expressed in a jury box may be quite different from what people seek in the privacy of their own homes. The Utah case involved rentals of X-Rated movies. The lawyers obtained statistics of pay per view porn from cable and satellite services and found that porn was popular enough in Provo to get an acquittal.
The Florida case is just as novel. The defendants produced multiple-participant pay per view porn and were charged with obscenity, prostitution, and a host of other charges. The lawyers are now looking to get community search statistics on similar adult materials as a way of defining contemporary community standards. Ars includes a chart with sample search terms and frequency over time. Porn consumption is one of the hardest things to measure since most people do it in private. Now it may be measurable as a market. It's a fascinating concept as evidence used in court.
ICANN Holds Conference on Globalizing Domain System
Globalizing the domain name system isn't going to be easy. It's not just a matter of non-roman alphabets. There are dialects within a language and the politics associated with those dialects. The issues are being discussed at an ICANN conference in Paris between June 23-15. Business Week highlights the problems with making the Internet truly global.
June 23, 2008
XP: Soon To Be Gone, But Hardly Forgotten
Microsoft cuts off XP to the world on June 30, and Dell is willing to sell you a machine with XP through June 26th. After that, you can buy Vista with an XP downgrade. The difference is that you will have to pay for both operating systems.
My impression of Vista after having used it since last November is that the release copy is vastly superior to the betas that were out there. The speed, stability, and performance is solid provided it is on a machine with enough power and video memory. Hardware costs in a manufactured computer may have gone up somewhat to compensate for a practical Vista based machine, but it is still affordable for the power.
The Aero desktop is pretty, but completely unnecessary. The Media Center is a nice feature, but one really needs an XBox Extender or some tie in to cable and/or a large TV to make more than casual use of it. Managing an MP3 collection doesn't require the program as there are other alternatives out there. The ability to tag photos is a good feature for those who do that kind of stuff. I can't say much about search as I don't use it that often, but I notice that whenever I read articles about Vista, search isn't mentioned very often. I can't say much about the sidebar either, as I turned that feature off within a few days of firing up the system. I guess I'm not much into software gadgets. The user control is not as annoying as some reviewers make it out to be. It just becomes background noise after the first few days. The nicest thing about Vista is the ability to use a jump drive as fake memory. Bottom line, you can turn off most of the Vista features that use up resources. Compared to XP, it's not that special and not that annoying. It's just there.