torrenting with no fear

I’ve become markedly more paranoid about bittorrent in the past few months, with all the news of systematic, widescale lawsuit shakedowns and the craven willigness of ISPs to hand over private IP address data. This is a perfect case study of how not having anonymity and privacy can lead to outright persecution, even if you are totally innocent of any copyright violations (fair use or not).

I don’t use BT for much beyond catching up on anime and various TV shows. Netflix doesn’t always have what i want, and even if it does I have to compete with the rest of my family for slots in the queue. And trying to catch things when they are broadcast is essentially impossible (no DVR, either). Ultimately I have to either be able to time shift or not watch at all; and paying more money above and beyond the cable TV and netflix subscription is just too high a barrier.

Unfortunately, the threat posed by the copyright tyrants is no longer negligible. So I do watch less and less TV nowadays (and play more Warcraft, read books, etc*). Though I did just discover CastTV which was indispensable for catching up on Doctor Who Season 5…

What I want is a way to torrent without losing my privacy. I did try PeerGuardian, which is a constantly updated realtime list of suspicious IP addresses to blacklist, but it never worked for me – the blacklist just doesn’t download from their server. I suspect the load is too high for a volunteer open source project to handle. The more compelling solution seems to be a paid proxy service, such as BTGuard, which is surprisingly affordable. If I understand BT correctly, even using a private tracker like BakaBT won’t protect your IP from the Bad Guys, so I am pretty sure I am going to have to bite the bullet on this one. BTGuard is intended primarily for torrenters, but I might as well also start using proxies for my casual browsing as well. There’s also the TOR project which purports to protect your web traffic from being intercepted… not sure I entirely understand that yet, but worth looking into.

I guess I’m not really sure how paranoid I should be. But the present system of just blindly and openly surfing and torrenting doesn’t seem sustainable.

*all these hobbies of course are competing for the tiny sliver of time I have late at night to myself, since my waking hours are dominated by family and work.

Glenn Beck’s crusade against Network Neutrality

Glenn Beck has decided Net Neutrality is the tool of the devil.

Thank god that we have a functioning techsphere, which serves as a factual counterpoint to nonsense and propaganda. The lack of any such objective source in the political blogsphere is basically the reason that I started geekblogging. Still, sometimes, the political stoopid finds you, no matter how far you run.

In a nutshell, this is why network neutrality matters.

here’s why net neutrality is important

This is the world we will live in if net neutrality fails.

net neutrality

Related: Letters from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Vint Cerf (who invented TCP), and Timothy Berners-Lee (who invented the hyperlink).

The battle lines are being drawn, with technology companies on the right side and the network/media companies on the wrong side. Luckily, the FCC commissioner looks ready to fight.

Microsoft Bing: But It ‘s Not Google!

I’ve been increasingly using Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing in lieu of Google for my casual searches. One of the things that appeals to me is how the search results are so much more organized and comprehensive than just a list of ten text items. Google’s spartan deisgn was cool and chic ten years ago but today it feels increasingly stale, and Bing is pulling from Apple’s playbook in tailoring the interface to users’ needs. Some examples: saved searches are essential for keeping track of what you’ve been researching, and the live preview of video thumbnails on mouseover saves you a click – and getting video and photos along with text links on the same search results page is a huge timesaver. I feel like I spend less time using Bing. Right now I stil have to manually decide to go to Bing but I intend to switch the default search engine on all my browsers for a few weeks – including Chrome – and see how that works out.

Bing has been getting a lot of attention lately – there’s a piece on it in the New York Times, another in USA Today, and even a website, Bing Vs Google, that lets you see searches compared side-by-side. It’s good to shake things up – and Bing certainly has its rough spots, ut just like Google these should improve over time. The mere existence of Bing ensures that Google is forced to compete and innovate as well.

WiFi and WiMax

At RWW, they ask whether WiFi will someday go away. I think that WiFi is in no danger of going away, but the ubiquitous web access is already on our doorstep and it’s called WiMax (everyone, chant with me: Xohm. Xohm. Xohm.) The future of web access will be 802.11n in the home and office (assuming it ever gets out of draft!) and WiMax everywhere else.

That said, Xohm is being designed explicitly for the embedded market, so it is possible that our toasters, TVs, and car keys will ultimately be WiMaxed instead of Wified. It really depends on the pricing model, and thats something we just cant predict how will play out yet. WiFi will probably always have an advantage in cost.

I tend to think of wifi and wimax as complementary technologies, however, in much the same way that commuter rail is complementary to a subway system. One is a heavy mover, with high capacity over long distances. The other is a short distance, low capacity transport. The analogy holds pretty well when you look at WiFi and WiMax as well.

UPDATE: hey, neat. I won the Comment of the Day at RWW for my comment. Thanks, Richard!

Microsofty! Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle

Microsoft plus Yahoo equals Microsofty!Yahoo’s board of directors is probably going to acquiesce to Microsoft’s buyout offer today:

There are only two options left. Accept the offer in principal, and try to increase the price with no negotiating leverage at all, or do a deal with Google to outsource search advertising and, likely, search itself.

The board, we’ve heard, is basically being told by outside advisors to take the Microsoft deal. But we’ve also heard that a contingent of senior executives at Yahoo, who are willing to do literally anything to thwart a Microsoft takeover, are pushing for the Google deal and will present their case at the meeting.

A deal with Google is, for various reasons, unlikely. Not least of which is antitrust concerns, whereas a Microsoft-Yahoo merger somewhat paradoxically would improve the competitive landscape (by providing a true competitor to Google;s dominance, a fact that has not been lost on Google).

There’s a lot of speculation about how the merger will affect the various brands and services offered by both Microsoft and Yahoo. It’s likely that MSN will go away, to be supplanted by the Yahoo portal (branding intact). Search will probably be a combination of technologies between Live Search and Yahoo’s own algorithms. I wager that the combo will gain more market share than merely the sum of their separate share now, because by consolidating the alternatives into one product, it’s becomes The Alternative to Google.

There’s a whole raft of other services from both MS and Y! such as maps, photos, bookmarking, email, and more that will all be integrated, combined, or weeded out. Of these, the ones of most interest to me are del.icio.us, Flickr, and Yahoo Mail (the latter of which I actually pay Yahoo $20/year for the upgraded service). It will be interesting to see if/how these services get integrated into Internet Explorer, Office, and even Windows itself.

I’ve always been a fan of Yahoo and I don’t subscribe to the Microsoft as Evil dogma. So I guess you might accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid, but I am pretty excited about this merger.

still scrabbing

The deadline came and went and Scrabulous endures. Logging in this morning, scrabbers see the following message:

Hi folks 🙂

We are really grateful to the entire Scrabulous community for the exceptional support that has been provided. It is amazing to see that a small application has touched so many people across the world! There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Scrabulous and it is currently impossible for us to comment on this matter. However, like always, we shall update you as soon as we can.

In the meantime, please click here to enjoy a song created by an anonymous Scrabulous fan. 🙂

Best Regards,
Rajat & Jayant

Since they haven’t ceased and desisted as they were ordered to by Hasbro, one assumes that they probably have sold out, and that the game will either be rebranded as official Scrabble. The alternative, that they are planning a less-infringing skin for the app (along with some changes to game mechanics, the way the analogous boggle-clone bogglific has recently done), is also possible, but means that Rajat and Jayant have probably invested in a good (expensive) lawyer who is engaging in delaying tactics. The latter strategy is actually the better business one, since rebranding the site somewhat to evade the infringement attack preserves their hefty income stream. In that regard even an expensive lawyer is still an investment in securing the future of their business model.

TripIt

I’m planning a trip to San Antonio next week, as my wife has a conference in town. I usually assemble all our various flight, hotel, car rental reservation info myself and manually create a travel summary, pulling in maps from google and whatnot. However, for this trip I am trying something new, a service called TripIt, and I am duly impressed. All you do is forward your email confirmations for your flight, hotel etc to their email address and it scrapes the data for you and assembled your itinerary, along with relevant info like weather and maps, automatically. There was some duplication but it was easy to delete the redundant items. Highly recommended if you’ve got a trip planned in the near future.