Is This Really January?

I just spoke with a reporter for the New Haven Register. He called to find out about our unseasonably warm weather. We didn’t just break records today – they were pulverized.

       old          2007







(as of 3:00pm EST)

Right now it’s warmer in Connecticut than Los Angeles… and much warmer here than Las Vegas!

Even I, global warming skeptic that I am, am impressed with this departure from the norm. I’ve never seen a winter like this. Still, you can’t jump to conclusions and attach one specific cause to one specific weather anomaly. Weather is not climate and the atmosphere is astoundingly complex.

One thing I did mention on the phone, and which I thought through in some detail, is how this early season weather will affect the rest of winter. At some point the past can affect the future.

With no snow over New York or much of Southern Canada, airmasses from the north will modify before reaching Connecticut. That hints at a more difficult to achieve scenario in order to bring really cold temperatures.

What I mean is, airmasses that in a normal winter might reach us at 15 degrees could instead come in at 20. Don’t dwell on those specific numbers, it’s the general concept I’m getting at.

There are hints it will be chillier… maybe even downright cold… by midweek. There’s no joy in that for me.

In a year when oil is so pricey and electric bills have skyrocketed, maybe this lack of winter isn’t such a terrible thing?

How Do You Deal With It?

I like Noah Finz, our sports guy at the TV station. I like his wife, Kendra, too. I’ve known her a lot longer than I’ve known Noah. They are both technophobes.

Actually, being a little skittish in the face of technology puts them in step with most everyone, which leads me to what happened today.

Noah’s laptop was old. He wanted to upgrade to faster hardware, especially with a two year old, infant and very nice camera for picture taking.

Most people would have unplugged the old machine, plugged in the new and then forgotten what was left on the laptop. Sure, they’re networked together, but how many people know how that works? Few!

I popped in the car and headed to Fairfield County.

His Dell desktop machine was the most quiet PC I’ve ever heard – startling, since the trend has been in the opposite direction. It needed a Firewire and wireless network card. No sweat, except it only had two slots, one of which was already filled by a dial-up modem.

“Put this away,” I told Noah as I handed it to him in an anti-static bag. Truthfully, it will never be used.

The Firewire card was effortlessly installed suing native Windows drivers. The wireless card was more trouble. It didn’t conform to Belkin’s instructions!

It finally installed because I ad libbed. How do they sell and support these things when the installation process isn’t remotely connected to what’s in the instructions?

As with Helaine’s computer, this Dell came loaded with ‘nagware.’ I don’t want programs bugging me. Some are difficult to remove. Others are confusingly described. Most have limited lifespans, meaning you’re later expected to shell out more money for the software that came on your PC!

Hats off to Cablevision, Noah’s ISP. Their Optonline cable modem service has an automated configuration tool which set up Outlook Express correctly on the first try.

We installed Picasa, MS Office, the new free AOL anti-virus suite and a few others. Then it was time to move photos and documents. I couldn’t get his computers to speak to each other. I have no idea why, nor do I know how I finally encouraged them to have limited access to each other.

It just happened.

You never accomplish 100% on a mission of mercy like this, but we came close. Again, I have no idea how Noah or Kendra could have done this themselves, and they can’t be alone.

What do most people do? Or do people like me just drive around on weekends helping out and playing with little kids – they couldn’t have been cuter.

More On Net Neutrality

I was going to write about this a few days ago, but I’m wondering if it’s getting too politicized? I have this ‘no partisan politics’ policy here. My suspicion is, this is still on the right side of my line – but close.

I have written about Network Neutrality before. Network Neutrality refers to a defining principle of the Internet – all packets are created equal. gets the same treatment as as far as your ISP goes.

As is the case when phone companies act as phone companies, they are not looking at the content of what you’re receiving. Without Network Neutrality, packets could be sniffed to assign them a priority – and you probably will have no say in what that priority is and how it’s applied.

I like Network Neutrality. Make no mistake about it, it benefits me. But I also think it’s good for the Internet. New businesses and fresh business ideas are hatched online all the time. I’d like to see the cost of entry kept low. Should new businesses have to bid against EBay or Yahoo! to get to my house on time?

AT&T, Bell South and other carriers would like to charge extra for ‘enhanced’ carriage – a guarantee of expeditious delivery through network traffic. I read some remarks from a Bell South rep… and it made sense. He made analogies to charging more for a first class airline seat.

I understand what he’s saying, but I still don’t buy in.

On one side of this argument are the ISPs, like the Baby Bells. The other side are the Googles and Microsofts and So far, in the first vote in Congress, the carriers won.

I read this on a site called

The End Of Open Internet Access?

If you want to view content on or or any website, you assume your Internet provider (probably your cable or phone company) is treating everyone alike. Right now, they probably are.

I wonder how long that will be the case? Maybe not for long. More ‘chatter’ today coming from BellSouth.

There are articles about this access issue on a number of websites, but I like the style and tone of this one from Networking Pipeline.

BellSouth’s new business model, a slightly more polite form of the kind of extortion practiced by Tony Soprano, is starting to pay off. The company says it is in negotiations with several Web sites willing to pay extra fees to BellSouth for more bandwidth than it provides to other sites.

BellSouth says that it shouldn’t have to bear the cost of providing bandwidth for big sites like Google. Instead, the sites should pay for them. But BellSouth ignores an inconvenient fact — it doesn’t bear those costs; its customers do. So BellSouth gets to double-dip.

What BellSouth seems to be saying to content providers is, pay us, or you’ll suffer second class delivery. That’s frightening. Of course BellSouth’s subscribers (who, as was pointed out in the article, already are paying) will be held hostage in all this.

It goes against every principle that’s guided the Internet so far, that Internet providers should be site agnostic.

What does this mean from a practical standpoint? An Internet provider could effectively block the ability to start a new business online or favor their own in-house content versus a competitor’s!

Take (a great website, with a daily video blog). Rocketboom’s content is very bandwidth intensive. If they had to pay to get to my computer… and pay before there was any chance for revenue… they would have never been born.

Much of what I like about the Internet is my ability to choose what, when and how I will view content. It seems to me, when I pay my ISP (Comcast), I’ve paid for that ability – unfettered. If I pay for 6 Mbps, then it should be my choice how I fill that pipe – not their’s.

I am guessing Google and some other producers of Internet content will chime in on this. It would be tragic is BellSouth’s wish came true.

Good Morning From Los Angeles

The sun is shining through high, thin clouds, as we begin our day in Los Angeles. The curtains in our hotel room are parted, so we can see plane after plane after plane on final for LAX.

When last I wrote, we were waiting to leave Baltimore. As with our first flight, I had a Southwest “A” boarding pass while Helaine and Stef had “B”s. I got on the plane first to look for three seats together. Usually, I can get close to the front with an “A”, but on this ISP-BWI-LAX-SAC flight, with many Islip passengers already seated, I could get no closer than row 15.

Who cares? A seat is a seat. We got 15 D-E-F. A couple with two small children slid into 15 A-B-C.

He started crying as the gear went up. He cried for much of the flight. As soon as the other babies on board heard him, they too began to cry.

Maybe cry isn’t the right word. They screamed as if being tortured. I can make that analogy because I was being tortured.

BWI to LAX is a long flight in a 737 with no entertainment, no food and really loud babies.

Helaine had bought me “Inside the Richest Poker Game of All Time,” by Michael Craig. I started it as we took off and finished it as the lights of LA showed beneath the plane. It was good, not great.

Much of the flight was fine… until we got to the Rockies. From there until the West Coast it was rough road with the seat belt signs lit.

The ‘best’ didn’t come until we landed.

First, we sat on the runway for 10-15 minutes. They were waiting for the last possible available gate (and found it).

Baggage claim was like a suburb of Hell! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Southwest with a facility like this. There were two baggage carousels and an announcement saying flight numbers would be posted above each. Both monitors were blank.

After a while a voice came on the PA saying the bag would come where the bags would come – honest. Don’t ask us – honest. Just keep looking – honest.

The curb area at LAX was disorganize chaos. Cars, buses and vans were darting in and out. Horns honked. We made our way to the “RED” sign, where hotel courtesy vans stopped.

The hotel was just a few minutes away, and was very nice. Again, we had booked on and gotten what seemed like a good deal.

This Westin is a step up from last night’s Holiday Inn. There is art work on the wall and a nice desk area. The beds were soft and firm (it is possible to be both). Even with airplanes flying nearby, it was reasonably quiet – somewhat like the sound the volcano makes in your room at the Mirage.

There are barking dogs we’re hearing. It’s possible this industrialized neighborhood is where the animal shelter is located. Most likely they’re working dogs for the TSA, Customs or other governmental agency.

Both Helaine and Steffie say if they ever look the way they look under the bathroom lightning, shoot them.

As soon as we’re all dressed, it’s off to the pier and onto our ship. We are so lucky to be here. So lucky, even with our extra day on the road, it all worked out.

If we would have stuck to our reservations, we’d be in the crying lane right now.

Something New And Cool

Unlike a ‘real’ commercial website, I can screw around with this one to my heart’s content. From time-to-time I add (then remove) neat items. Today it’s an addition.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the column on the right hand side, you’ll see an icon for BF Mapstats. No need to scroll. You can click here too!

The link goes to a page that displays the last 100 hits on my site, by location&#176, plotted on a lovely Google map. Ya’ gotta love the Internet.

Helaine feels it’s like stalking, but the links also reveal the search criteria that brought some people here.

I’m not sure which is more terrifying, what was “googled”, or the fact that those terms link back to me.

By the way – though IP addresses are revealed when you surf this and any other site, I really have no idea (in most cases) whose IP address it is. Trust me, without a court order, your ISP isn’t going to tell me and I don’t want to know.

&#176 – If it looks like Meriden, CT is over represented, I think that’s a product of our local phone company’s DSL service being based there. If you’re using SBC DSL, more than likely it looks like you’re in Meriden.

Is Internet Access About To Change?

Last week I wrote about concerns Internet providers might some day change the unfettered access we currently have. You can understand their worry about providing me a workaround to services they’d like me to buy from them, like local telephone and pay-per-view video.

In the past Helaine and I bought Major League Baseball’s web package. It’s delivered by Comcast on my high speed Internet connection and competes with Comcast’s own video-on-demand service. Comcast is the passive carrier and gets nothing from this sale. My gain is Comcast’s loss – literally.

If you read this article from the Washington Post you can hear toes being stuck in the water. Bell South wants this to change. I’m sure they’re not alone.

Of course it makes sense for providers to try and monetize their service. But my selfish concern is me, not them. I want to be able to decide what I want, when I want it, and then get it with all the speed I’ve paid for.

Unless my ISP is currently holding back (and I don’t think it is), the only way to make some services faster is to throttle back the non-favored while allowing the others free access.

This is a very complex issue, as cable and phone companies watch their core businesses get cannabilized by ‘fat pipes’ they themselves provide!

You haven’t heard the last of this. The fact that it’s in the Washington Post as a news and not tech story, written by a staff writer, says it’s already on the mainstream radar.

Blogger’s note: I own a very small amount of Comcast stock as part of my retirement plan.

Why SNET/SBC Won’t Rat on You

Over the past few months, the recording industry has reached out and sued dozens of people who downloaded songs (probably) illegally from sites like Napster and Kazaa. All the RIAA can tell is the IP address of the file swapper.

An IP address is the main way a computer is identified on the Internet. For instance, you probably came to this site by going to Your Internet service provider, using a DNS server, translates that for you into a series of numbers (4 groups of numbers 0-255). is really… click it and see.

This computer I’m on now also has an IP address, as does the one you’re using. Every computer on the Internet has an IP address.

If the RIAA knows a file swapper had IP address, they can go to a central registry and see who the address is owned by. Most likely it’s not owned by the user, but by an Internet Service Provider, like SNET/SBC here in Connecticut. So, to find the culprit, they the have to ask SNET/SBC – and they have been saying no.

There’s a very interesting opinion piece in this morning’s New Haven Register about why SNET/SBC won’t squeal on you.

In the article, they take the high road. God bless them. But, I think there is something else at stake here as well. If companies and individuals are going to start using cable providers, phone companies and ISP’s as their private investigators, there will be lots of money spent and ill will received by the cable companies, telcos and ISP’s. I don’t think they want the responsibility nor do they want to be put in the position of being forced to monitor their customers movements across the net.

There is still a great deal of misinformation, with people thinking their anonymous when they surf or email. It’s just not so. You leave a trail much more easily followed than bread crumbs for all to see.

One more thing – off the topic a bit. If you’re not in Connecticut, you probably don’t recognize SNET, Southern New England Telephone. It is a very old name, associated with the earliest telephone interconnections. It was not a Bell company. Its name will soon disappear beneath the banner of SBC. That will be our small loss in Connecticut.

A few years ago, when dealing with an out of state vendor, who needed to know my phone company, he kept referring to them as “S-NET”, as if it were some Silicon Valley high tech startup. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I will miss the name when it disappears; another sign of the ‘nationalizing’ of big business.

Continue reading “Why SNET/SBC Won’t Rat on You”

Broadband – How Broad?

I read an article on c/net earlier today. It’s about broband ISP’s, like Comcast which I use, limiting bandwidth.

The article was interesting in that some customers had been kicked off line, unsubscribed to the service, for violating an unpublished limit which Comcast will not divulge. Just don’t go over it!

What seems to be missing from this article, and what worries me about broadband, is the people selling the service are selling it at their own peril.

Comcast and other cable companies make good money on pay-per-view and premium services. But, with a good broadband connection, there’s a case to be made for getting your premium entertainment directly off the net and eliiminating the middleman (Comcast). Comcast’s profit on PPV and premium channels comes from being the gatekeeper. If they’re bypassed, that’s gone.

A perfect example already exists in sports. Both MLB and the NFL sell Internet packages. Those packages compete with other premium channels available on some cable systems. Comcast gets nothing extra for providing the pipe that brings basbeball to my house. And, I don’t buy games on PPV.

Are the cable companies and/or phone companies the right companies to be our broadband gatekeeprs (After all, even phone companies are now seeing competition from VOIP carriers like Vonage)? Certainly, they have an advantage with much of the infrastructure already in place because of ther more mature businesses.

It’s going to be interesting to see this play out over time. At this point the FCC is not exactly pro-consumer, so I don’t expect outside pressure, yet.

(As part of my retirement portfolio, I own a little Comcast stock)