The best broadband in the world

I ran the Speedmatters test on my Comcast connection today, just for the fun of it (OK, I’m bored with this Obama vs. the Moose Hunter stuff.) This test is sponsored by the Communication Workers union, as an argument for taxpayer subsidies for broadband. The results I got are not what they’re hoping for:

So my little Comcast account is faster than all that fiber in Japan and Korea.

So why all the whining?

What was McCain thinking?

Hmmm. (Skip the first 8 minutes, it’s just the old man rambling.) She’s young, good-looking, inexperienced, a bit ideological, and a member of a marginal group; just like Barack Obama, actually. But she’s running for VP, not to be the big dog. She’s not at all embarrassing, not a Katherine Harris, Harriet Miers, or Dan Quayle. All in all, a good contrast to Biden who’s tainted with the scent of corruption.

This just might work for McCain.

UPDATE: But seriously, what was McCain thinking? Palin is a nice woman, but there’s no way in hell she should be allowed inside the White House if not on a tour. McCain has effectively conceded the election. Welcome to the Oval Office, President Obama, listen to Sen. Biden carefully and don’t screw too many things up.

Comcast defines “excessive use”

Comcast has modified its terms of use to clarify that “excessive use” is 250 GB per month. If you download more than this, and are on the list of heaviest users, you’ll get a letter from Comcast telling you to dial it back. If you don’t you’ll be canned. Over-limit fees are not part of the deal:

In May when the cap was first rumored, there was also buzz that Comcast might try to charge customers $15 for every 10GB they went over the limit. As far as we can tell from Comcast’s announcement and the accompanying FAQ page, that is not the case… yet, anyway. Even so, Comcast’s honesty with the 250GB cap will probably only go so far, and customers with the option to do so may end up turning to an ISP such as AT&T, Verizon, or Qwest that has the infrastructure available to offer broadband without bandwidth limits.

Most people will never come anywhere close to 250 GB, but there’s a lot of adverse reaction to this plan, mainly on the issue of Comcast making it hard for you to know how much you’ve used in the current month. You may be able to get this info from your home router, but there’s no guarantee.

Regarding the threat of heaviest users to take their business elsewhere, I;m guessing Comcast won’t miss them a whole lot.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Summing-up the Beijing Games

The LA Times boils China’s Olympics down to their real essence:

Yet what planners in Beijing miscalculated is that no matter how well you teach performers to smile, the strain behind the lips is still detectable. The near-hysterical drive by Chinese leaders to put on the biggest, most spectacular sporting event ever, and to engineer a generation of Chinese medalists regardless of the financial or human costs, is rather more disconcerting to the outside world than convincing. If it was Beijing’s intention to prove China’s greatness via the Games, what it has demonstrated instead is the fragility of its ego.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. So what does this say for the London Games?

British officials are no doubt wondering how they can possibly top the spectacle of Beijing when London hosts the Summer Games in 2012. They shouldn’t even try. The British have nothing to prove, and it will be refreshing to watch an event in which athleticism matters more than image. The London Olympics will probably be messier and less awe-inspiring than the Chinese Games, but it’s a good bet they’ll be more fun

Sports is supposed to be fun, you know.

That being said, an opening ceremony featuring Daleks and Cybermen would be welcome.

Like I said

I hate to say “I told you so” (actually, I love it, but play along), but the director of the Beijing games’ opening and closing ceremonies touts the obedience of his countrymen in boosting his own work:

China’s most famous film director, Zhang Yimou, who directed both ceremonies, said only Chinese performers were skilled, disciplined and obedient enough to lay on the sort of song and dance display seen on Sunday night and admired around the world…

He also showed little concern for the few critical voices who found the mass organisation of thousands of performers reminiscent of the Soviet era.

“I often joke with (foreign interviewers) and say that our level of human performance is second in the world,” he said. “Number one is North Korea. Their performances are totally uniform, and uniformity in this way brings beauty. We Chinese can do it too. After hard training and strict discipline, Chinese achieve that as well.”

It takes a peculiar aesthetic taste to find thousands of people acting in perfect unison beautiful, and there’s no accounting for it. Either you do or you don’t, and I’m among those who would rather see individual talent than such displays. The Brit segment during the closing stressed individualism and was therefore much more enjoyable.

The Beijing Games were certainly well organized, with a minimum of cheating outside of boxing and women’s gymnastics, and flowed well except for problems caused by the climate in Beijing and Hong Kong. Of course it rains in London as well, but it won’t be so hot and muggy, and the equestrian events won’t be shortened. It’s kinda sad that baseball and softball won’t be played, but all the events outside the core track and field competitions should be regarded as optional fluff anyhow; the Greeks didn’t tumble and play ping-pong, because Britain didn’t invent ping-pong until the 19th century.

Mao’s Little Helper

John Schwartz generally works the tech beat at the New York Times, but he’s written a fine review of “Snow Falling in Spring”, a children’s book about Mao’s China. We join the narrative in the middle of the account of the Great Leap Forward:

…Neighbors contribute their cooking pots and cutlery for the cause. When Li’s grandmother asks if anyone has seen her cleaver, the little girl proudly responds, “Yes, I helped our country with it.” The family retrieves the big kettle and some spoons from the pile, but the cleaver, as she recalls, “had joined its comrades in the burning fire, doing its share for China.” Everyone has a good laugh over that one.

Then there is the war on the sparrows, a crusade to eliminate the accused scourge of crops. Li and her brother, Di Di, cheer lustily as her father’s pellet gun fells one feathered threat after another.

But things do not go as hoped. Making good steel, it turns out, is more difficult than it looks, and the government rejects the lot, leaving the neighbors downhearted and decidedly less well equipped in their kitchens.

As for the sparrows, well, the government had not considered the fact that sparrows eat insects. Crops are ravaged. In coming years, as a result of natural and man-made disasters, millions die.

And then things really begin to get bad.

I don’t suppose China’s youngsters are reading this book.

And speaking of the Times’ tech beat, Ashlee Vance has jumped to the Grey Lady from The Register. My condolences on the demotion.

Guardian takes on the Google myth

David Smith confronts the Google myth for The Observer, including accounts of the pilgramages politicians take to Google HQ:

Shortly after Obama’s pilgrimage to the ‘Googleplex’, it was the turn of David Cameron. Cameron was accompanied there by Steve Hilton, his director of strategy, who has since moved permanently to California with his wife, Rachel Whetstone, Google’s vice-president of global communications and public affairs (she is also godmother to Cameron’s eldest son, Ivan). Andrew Orlowski, executive editor of the technology website The Register, says: ‘The web is a secular religion at the moment and politicians go to pray at events like the Google Zeitgeist conference. Any politician who wants to brand himself as a forward-looking person will get himself photographed with the Google boys.’

Washington, also, is keen to bathe in Google’s golden light. Al Gore, the former Vice-President, is a long-time senior adviser at the company. Obama has been taking economic advice from Google CEO Eric Schmidt and received generous donations from Google and its staff. Google will be omnipresent at the Democratic and Republican national conventions, providing software for delegates such as calendars, email and graphics. ‘Google has moved into the political world this year,’ says its director of policy communications, Bob Boorstin, a former member of the Clinton administration.

Google’s staff in Washington include five lobbyists, among them Pablo Chavez, former general counsel for John McCain. This year Google moved into new 27,000-square-foot headquarters in one of Washington’s most fashionable, eco-friendly buildings. Visiting senators and congressmen can now share in the famed ‘googly’ experience of free gourmet lunches, giant plasma screens and a game room, named ‘Camp David’, stocked with an Xbox 360 and pingpong.

None of this much impressed Jeff Chester, the executive director of the small but influential Center for Digital Democracy, when he was invited there. ‘It puts all the other lobbying operations to shame,’ he says. ‘They invite politicians into their Washington HQ to give advice on using Google to win re-election. It is the darling of the Democratic Party and there’s no doubt that a win by Obama will strengthen Google’s position in Washington.’

Undeterred by criticisms of his benefactor, Google’s professor of piracy rights, Larry Lessig, congratulates Google’s boys at the FCC for protecting the Google monopoly in a rare foray into the world of the written word. It’s quite amusing and utterly deranged.

Technorati Tags: , , .

UK government’s viral video

If you don’t know who Jeremy Clarkson is, or don’t have a sense of humor, you won’t get this, so go read The Guardian:

Downing Street always posts responses to petitions and normally the replies to the jokey ones are pretty terse. But last night, in response to the Clarkson request, it put up this.

Okay, it’s not quite Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. But I thought it hit the right note. It’s already had 40,000 hits and at LabourHome someone has praised it as “Gordon Brown’s first truly viral video”.

Right wing blogs in the UK are not amused, sadly, but it’s very au courant and Web 2.0 and all.

FCC finally issues Comcast memo

Kevin Martin and his Democratic Party colleagues at the FCC have issued their Comcast order, available at this link. They find some novel sources of authority and apply some interesting interpretations of the facts. I’ll have some detailed commentary after I’ve read it all and checked the footnotes. It’s an amusing exercise, if you like that sort of thing.

For a good summary of the order, see IP Democracy.