February 19, 2005

Municipal Wireless Proposals Beyond Philadelphia [4:06 pm]

Municipal: Texas Fights; Indiana Bill Dies; NYT Covers; Philly Councilman Shills; Colorado Suppresses

The bill under consideration in Texas would impose one of the most extreme bans on municipal involvement in any form of communications—free or otherwise—of any state bill I’m aware of. But the fight is joined. The EFF (that’s EFF-Austin not the national organization) will help fight the bill, according to Esme Vos of Muniwireless.org. Esme also points to an anti-anti-municipal wireless Web site, Savemuniwireless.org set up by Chip Rosenthal. Esme notes and a commenter on Rosenthal site queries that this bill would ban free library access among other broad statements.

Slashdot: Municipal Wi-Fi Battle Moves to Texas

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Server Logging Issues Go Beyond P2P [1:44 pm]

How much does your online retailer elect to remember about your transactions? Smokers asked to cough up taxes for Web buys

Hundreds of Michigan residents are getting a big surprise this tax season–hefty tax bills for cigarettes they bought online over the past four years.

The state sent the bills to 553 residents last week after subpoenaing 13 online tobacco shops for names of Michigan customers and their order histories, a Michigan Treasury Department spokesman Caleb Buhs said on Friday. The tax bills are based on information from just one store, and the state expects to collect more names from the others.

Collectively, the people receiving this first round of bills owe the state $1.4 million, an average of $2,500 per person, Buhs said. They have until March 14 to pay.

Related: A review of Robert O’Harrow’s No Place To Hide - They’re Watching You . . . [pdf]

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Blocking Vonage? Not Me — For Now [1:40 pm]

SBC, Verizon Not Blocking Vonage — For Now

Taking the next logical step past this week’s news of a service provider blocking Vonage’s Voice over IP service is pretty easy: The squeeze is coming, and Vonage and other independent VoIP players better be ready.

Be ready for more dirty tricks, that is. And be ready for the full force of the RBOC lobbyist army, which now doesn’t have to fight AT&T anymore, and can spend time trying to fend off newcomers. The guess here is that bandwidth-shaping, packet-slowing actions will only increase in the near-term future, as the RBOCs (and maybe cable providers as well) do their best to hobble any momentum Vonage has in the market.

[...] The bottom line? Until there is some actual prohibitive legislation — or punitive FCC action — expect the dirty networking tricks to continue, and even get more sophisticated. (Another rumored one I’ve heard recently is service providers refusing to sell Skype bandwidth for its Skypeout service that connects to the PSTN.) So Vonage and its brethren need to be prepared for the battle ahead. As one great warrior would say, “So it begins.”

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OT: Instead Of Lawsuits, What? [1:30 pm]

Funny - it’s been received wisdom that one can’t reject a policy without a suitable substitute to address the problems that the rejected policy is addressing. Yet, as I read this article, it seems like the kind of things that I would expect would be effective replacements (better information, peer monitoring, more careful framing of legislation) went unremarked: Bush Signs Class-Action Changes Into Law [pdf]. I’m no fan of lawsuits, but I can’t figure out what provisions remain for those who end up really harmed.

President Bush today signed legislation that rewrites the rules for class-action lawsuits, opening a second-term campaign he said was aimed at “ending the lawsuit culture in our country.”

In a ceremony to sign the Class Action Fairness Act, which was passed by the House yesterday and became the first bill to be signed by the president in 2005, Bush vowed to work for passage of “meaningful legal reforms” to curb medical malpractice and asbestos lawsuits.

As I recall, the “lawsuit culture” is a consequence of our legislators’ unwillingness to get into the details of their legislative initiatives. By speaking in high-level generalities and sweeping policy language, legislation can get passed, leaving the messy details of implementation to the regulators and the courts. Will that grinning bunch standing with the president in the picture suddenly change the way they write legislation? Somehow, I don’t feel terribly sanguine about that scenario.

Wonder what policy alternatives this administration has in mind to provide the necessary monitoring of performance in malpractice, for example? The market again? Say, instead of the AMA actually penalizing doctors whose incompetence is well-known among their peers?

As Theodoric of York says (more frequently it seems in this blog), “Naaaahhhh!”

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Viruses Move To A New Platform [1:05 pm]

Mobile Phone Virus Found in United States [pdf]

The world’s first mobile phone virus “in the wild” has spread to the United States from its birthplace in the Philippines eight months ago, a security research firm said on Friday.

The virus, called Cabir, has spread slowly into 12 countries and marks the beginning of the mobile phone virus era, which could one day disrupt the lives of many of the world’s 1.5 billion mobile phone users.

The biggest impact of the relatively innocuous virus, found in about 15 variations so far, is draining mobile phone batteries, said Mikko Hypponen, director of Finnish anti-virus research company F-Secure .

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Trademarks and Color: Orange [12:54 pm]

In a British Mobile Phone Suit, the Color of Money Is Orange

As a noun, it is the bane of rhyming poets. As a fruit, it is a widely enjoyed source of vitamin C. But as a color, orange could one day become the legal property of Orange, the British mobile phone company.

Orange said yesterday evening that it would sue easyMobile, a wireless start-up founded by the entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who also founded the easyJet discount airline. Orange wants to keep easyMobile from ever using its signature color in advertisements.

The crux of the argument is that ads for Orange prominently feature its namesake color. Its shade of orange is similar to the one used by all the easyGroup brands, and to the one that easyMobile plans to use in advertisements of its own.

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It’s Saturday! [12:42 pm]

OK - I try to post something goofy on Fridays and, while I’m sure that some would say that I did so already, this article from the NYTimes is too funny to leave unremarked: With $3.50 and a Dream, the ‘Anti-Christo’ Is Born at http://www.not-rocket-science.com/gates.htm

You’ve seen Christo’s “Gates” in Central Park. But what about Hargo’s “Gates” in Somerville, Mass.? Sure, Hargo is unabashedly riding on the coattails of Christo and Jeanne-Claude. But it did take him some time to make his gates: 0.002 years, he estimates. That’s a good chunk of a day. You may as well take a look: www.not-rocket-science.com/gates.htm.

Just who is Hargo? Is he some kind of genius wrapper? His name is Geoff Hargadon, he is 50 and, in a telephone interview, he would only say, enigmatically, “Art is not my profession.” His last installation was a studio full of discarded ATM receipts. The show was called “Balance.” It was about “people, privacy and money,” he said, adding: “You want to know how much people have? Here it is.”

Like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Hargo used recyclable materials for “The Somerville Gates.” Unlike them, he accepts donations to defray the cost of his installation, which was $3.50. The mayor of Somerville did not come to the unveiling, on Valentine’s Day.

Later: Somerville recognizes Hargo - Tiny takeoff on Christo proves gateway to glory [pdf]

Another parody Christo “The Gates” parodies: “The Crackers”

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SmartTags Redux [12:36 pm]

Google landgrab raises online ire

When Web surfers install the toolbar in their Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser and click the AutoLink button, Web pages with street addresses suddenly sprout links to Google’s map service by default. Book publishers’ ISBN numbers trigger links to Amazon.com, potentially luring shoppers away from competing book sellers such as BarnesandNoble.com. Vehicle ID licenses spawn links to Carfax.com, while package tracking numbers connect automatically to shippers’ Web sites.

Google, the world’s most widely used search engine, denied that the AutoLink feature is an attempt to control which destinations Web surfers visit. [...]

Nevertheless, some critics charge that AutoLink takes the liberty of modifying Web pages to direct people the way Google sees fit. Microsoft took the same approach with its Smart Tags feature years ago and eventually pulled it because of trust and trademark concerns.

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