Monopolies

December 3rd, 2003 § 1 comment § permalink

I hate monopolies — any kind of monopolies. I’d rather have a less than optimal service while still being able to choose the service provider than to be forced to buy a service from a single provider, or, worse, not even be able to buy the service I want.

For one year already I’ve been trying to get broadband Internet access installed at home. I don’t want cable. I want ADSL. I don’t own a TV, by choice, and I don’t want to buy something I don’t need just to have what I need. Here, in Brazil, you have to buy a cable TV package to be able to buy the Internet cable package. Also, I don’t want to share it with other people; if I’m paying for it, it’s fair that I get to use all the available bandwidth.

The problem is, Telemar, the only provider of ADSL services in the state I live won’t install the service in my home. Although I’ve been calling them regularly for one year, the service is still not available where I live, and there’s no estimate of when it will be available.

I always get the same answer when I call them: we don’t want you as a customer, and we don’t care about you. That’s how I feel. People living in smaller cities around my own city can buy the service. My mother’s house, three block down from where I live, can be adapted to ADSL if she wanted. My house, located in a better place in the neighborhood, can’t — in a neighborhood with the right profile for such services.

Monopolies are despicable. As Telemar is the only ADSL provider in my city, it doesn’t care about losing a few customers here and there as long as demand is still high. There is not interest in providing more access points as there’s still much profit to be made in the areas of the city that already support the service.

Everywhere I go I see billboards, ads, and commercials extolling the benefits of broadband connections — all telling me how my life would be easier if I had it. But, if Telemar doesn’t want me to have it, all I can do is to bow my head in submission to their monopoly.

Patriot II

February 18th, 2003 § Comments Off on Patriot II § permalink

Ben Hammersley points to a scary article about the legal ramifications of Patriot II, the sequel to the USA Patriot Act that granted broad powers upon the US federal government to fight against terrorism in the aftermath of September 11, but had a side effect of chilling part of the individual liberties of the USA population.

Hammersley says the article is probably the scariest thing he has ever read, and I agree. I’m impressed that a country considered the land of freedom is becoming increasingly similar to the dictatorial governments that plagued South America in the last 50 years. May God have mercy on the citizens of the United States.

Columbia Tragedy

February 1st, 2003 § Comments Off on Columbia Tragedy § permalink

I was in the phone talking to a client when he mumbled something about the NASA space shuttle. As he spoke in a low tone and didn’t pursue the subject, I assumed he was probably talking about a documentary in the TV about Challenger because it was recently in the news. But I decided to check with CNN, and unfortunately found that Columbia had indeed exploded on reentry.

One of the crew members was the first Israeli to go into space. There’s speculation about terrorism because of this fact, but this is extremely unlikely because of the shuttle’s altitute and speed.

Glenn Reynolds has a lot of information about the tragedy, and also pointed to Spaceflight Now, which provides a real-time chronology of events.

My sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the astronauts.

More information:

Congress patently lost

January 19th, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

In an ironic turn of events, the USA Congress finds itself in a delicate position regarding patents. Over the past year, its members and key staff have become reliant on Blackberry, a wireless mobile device that handles e-mail. Now, the Canadian company that produces the device was found to be violating a patent held by a USA company, and the House is trying to get both companies to settle their differences in a way that allows it to preserve the $6 million investiment in the technology.

Well, I hope the Congress can learn from this, and apply the lesson when the time comes to pass new legislation on patents.

Copyright Tax

January 18th, 2003 § Comments Off on Copyright Tax § permalink

Lawrence Lessig has a new proposal for copyrights. Fifty years after a work has been published, its copyright owner would be required to pay a small tax to keep it under copyright protection. If the tax is not paid for three years, the work is forfeit to public domain. He describes the idea and his motivations in more details in a The New York Times article and an entry in his blog. There’s also a FAQ.

It’s a nice idea that could hold some appeal to corporations. It doesn’t give us everything, as Lessig points, but it’s a good start.

On the other hand…

January 18th, 2003 § Comments Off on On the other hand… § permalink

James Robertson called my attention to a positive side of the Eldred decision. Jack M. Balkin, who is a professor of constitutional law and the first amendment at Yale, posted an entry in his blog talking about the possibility of the DMCA being unconstitutional under Eldred v. Ashcroft (via Gojomo).

This is a really interesting thought, and may yet prove itself a great argument in the fight against the DMCA. Read Balkin’s post and judge yourself.

Bad news in the copyright front

January 15th, 2003 § 2 comments § permalink

Bad news in the copyright front. Unfortunately, Eric Eldred was defeated: the Supreme Court upheld the 1998 Sonny Bono Act extending copyright protection by 20 years.

Cory Doctorow changed his blog’s background to black in protest against the ruling. He says:

This blog will be wearing a black arm-band for the next day in mourning for our shared cultural heritage, as the Library of Alexandria burns anew.

The Supreme Court opinions are available in PDF: majority and two dissents by Justices Stevens and Breyer.

On a related note, read this story about the possibility that we will run out of non-copyrighted works.

(Thanks to Cris Dias for the first news.)

Fat cities, fat people

January 13th, 2003 § Comments Off on Fat cities, fat people § permalink

According a USA Today article (via Adriana), Houston is the fattest city in the USA, followed by Chicago and Detroit. The article also talks about how obesity is becoming epidemic not only in the USA, but on the whole world altogether.

I’ve certainly noticed how waistlines are getting rounder and rounder around here — mine is. Some years ago, I read a report on this issue on a local scientific newspaper describing a bleak future of human potatoes lying on their couches, unable to lead a normal life after our modern lifestyle spoiled us.

Well, I guess it’s time to heed my wife warnings and start that exercise program she’s been nagging me about for a long time. I’m not much above the ideal weight for my height, but I’m too close to the obesity limit to be comfortable.

Four years of DMCA

January 13th, 2003 § Comments Off on Four years of DMCA § permalink

The EFF reviews the four years of DMCA existence, noting its unintended effects on various legitimate activities in the USA. The report analyzes how the Section 1201 provisions are a threat to three main areas of public policy. Specifically:

  • It chills Free Expression and Scientific Research;
  • It jeopardizes Fair Use;
  • It impedes Competition and Innovation.

The report also notes that the DMCA will probably be applied in unforeseen contexts in the future, further hindering technological and scientific progress. Considering Lexmark recent use of the DMCA against a rival, the EFF’s fears are well-founded.

As a Brazilian, I’m worried about our government adopting similar legislation. Piracy and copyright breaches are two of Brazil’s great problems concerning the technology market. As the country opens its market to foreign investment, pressure will build to address those issues. However, given Brazil past record on laws governing technology, I fear a DMCA-like solution.

At least the new government seems to be better advised on the technology and scientific research fronts, and I hope that a better solution can be achieved.

Chinese censorship

January 11th, 2003 § Comments Off on Chinese censorship § permalink

A lot of people are reporting on the Chinese censorship of Blogspot. The Chinese bloggers can post to their blogs, but can’t read them, or any others for the matter. Ben Hammersley and Shelley Powers have commented on the issue and indicated a few workarounds like proxy networks and mirroring; this last, using either already existing services or the blog network we have to provide temporary hosting to blocked sites.

I’m all for mirroring, but I worry about how far the Chinese government would go to block content. Shelley pointed to another article about the Chinese censorship in which we can see that the Chinese government wants to control every single byte that goes through the Chinese webspace. If more bloggers get blocked because they are hosting other blogs the damage could be bigger. On the other hand, the article also talks about how anonymous P2P networks can help to counter blocking. Maybe something similar could be done for RSS feeds.

Anyway, anything we can do to help in minimizing the effects of censorship in dictatorial countries is obviously good. It’s fortunate that the Internet has grown big enough so that individuals around the world can join to fight such attacks to freedom.

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