Om Malik’s book on the bubble, Broadbandits, sounds moderately interesting:

WorldCom in bankrupt, Global Crossing is decimated, PSINet sold for peanuts, and Genuity sold its assets for a mere $250 million, a fraction of its one-time worth. With over 100 companies bankrupt and equal number that have shut shop, as many as 600, 000 telecommunications workers are now without a paycheck, these are staggering numbers for an industry that accounts for a sixth of the U.S. economy. But they are not as staggering as the amounts of money that hard-working employees at these broadband companies have lost.

As executives were cashing out on their own holdings, they encouraged employees to put their 401(k) dollars into company stock. The telecom industry is perhaps the worst culprit in the spate of financial dirty dealings that have been splashed across the business pages and yet the rewards reaped by the top executives at many of these failed, or failing, companies have been inversely proportionate to their decline.

Can somebody who’s read it comment on whether it’s worth the time?

The dustbin of history

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy and Steven Rosenfeld of are worried that capitalism is Stealing The Internet:

The Internet’s early promise as a medium where text, audio, video and data can be freely exchanged and the public interest can be served is increasingly being relegated to history’s dustbin. Today, the part of the Net that is public and accessible is shrinking, while the part of the Net tied to round-the-clock billing is poised to grow exponentially.

I’m going to have to hurry up and publish my critique of “The Future of Ideas” because this kind of crap gets more and more common. For the record, and because I don’t have much time today, let me remind my readers that the Internet, at the time TCP/IP was rolled-out in 1982, consisted of a half-dozen computers connected by 56Kbps modems on leased liines, and nobody was exchanging any video or audio over it. It’s become what it is today because capitalist enterprises were willing to invest money in upgrading the infrastructure, which they did on the expectation that they could make some money off it. It already costs more to get a broadband connection than a dialup, and that’s as it should be. As we go to more metered services, the richness of the overall environment will improve, not decline.

So no, the socialist vision of the Internet as something as free as air has never been true, the Internet is not dying, and we don’t need more government regulation of the Net, thank you very much.

I wish these dudes would go and find themselves an issue they can understand.

Whither techno-populism?

It strikes me as odd that techno-populist Larry Lessig and his many disciples (Weinberger, Searls, Gillmor, Ito, Winer, et. al.) are are bitterly opposed to the recall. If you believe in grass-roots democracy, emergent democracy, and self-organizing movements, why stomp your feet and hurl angry insults about right-wing coups when the people have mobilized to make their voices heard? It just makes no sense. Lessig even tries to use some fuzzy math to invalidate the successor election:

So if this California recall succeeds, then more likely than not the Governor who replaces Gray Davis will have received fewer votes than Gray Davis. Davis could get, say, 49.9% of the vote, and would be “recalled.” But his replacement is chosen with a simple plurality. Thus, in a field of 200 candidates, it is more likely than not that the replacement governor will have gotten fewer votes than the governor he replaces.

This is what we call an “apples to oranges” comparison, since we have one election with a field of one and another election with field of a hundred or so. But even accepting Lessig’s handicap, Arnie’s polling better than the governor right now, 48 – 26.

One upside of the recall is that it’s taken both Kobe Bryant and the Nine Dwarves of the Democratic Party off page one for a while, and maybe that’s what’s got the TechPops upset: they’re mainly hardcore Deanies, after all.

And who’s advising Weinberger?

David Weinberger announces he’s joined Howard Dean’s campaign:

I now have an official title — “Senior Internet Advisor” — so I figure I should come out of the closet entirely.

I was going to leave this comment on Weinberger’s blog, but thought better of it:

It’s great that you’re advising Dean on the Internet, David, as he clearly needs to understand it.

Now the question that pops into my little mind is: “who’s advising you?”

That would have been rude, of course. But the point is that Weinberger, as a card-carrying, charter member of the Larry Lessig “End of the Internet” club has consistently demonstrated a lack of understanding of what the Internet is, how it’s put together, and where it’s going. In this job, that’s not a disadvantage, as all he needs to do is rail against Big Everything to advance the Little Guy’s campaign.

So good luck to all concerned.

Playing “gotcha” with GPL

Rob Flickenger, a sysadmin for O’Reilly who doesn’t make his living writing code, thought he caught Linksys shirking the GPL, except he didn’t:

As far as I can tell without having exhaustively looked at every piece of available code, Linksys appears to be trying to comply with the terms of the GPL (as I understand them anyway), and putting many customizations into BSD code, which doesn’t require source distribution.

This is really disappointing to Mr. Flickenger, because he so wanted to stomp one of them capitalist enterprises that was dumb enough to use GPL’ed code.

There’s an interesting remark from Brett Glass in the Flickenger’s comments section, to wit:

This whole affair demonstrates the true nature of the GPL. It’s designed to sabotage businesses. In particular, it’s intended to strip them of the ability to add unique value to their products — which, in turn, is an essential element of success. VA Linux had to drop out of the hardware business because they couldn’t get a competitive edge — which happened, in turn, because they embraced GPLed code. Linksys, if the GPL zealots have their way, will go the same route.

Linksys was foolish indeed to use GPLed code at all. Instead, they should have used BSD-licensed code, which is friendly to programmers and to the businesses which issue their paychecks. The BSD and MIT licenses, as well as other truly free licenses, promote innovation and allow programmers to be rewarded for innovating. The viral, spiteful, anti-business, anti-programmer GPL does the opposite.

Is GPL “viral and spiteful”? Clearly, there’s a lot of spite on Flickenger’s part, but that’s just a personal issue, not a legal one. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using GPL’ed code, as long as you don’t actually need to modify it. For everything important, there’s the BSD license.