freedom Internet politics technology

Let Congress Know How You Feel About CISPA

Internet productivity

My Firefox Extensions

Firefox with 100 extensions installed. Don’t try this at home.

I use Firefox. One of the reasons why I use it is that I can use all manor of extensions — tiny helper programs — that people create on their own time to improve the functionality of the Internet experience.

This is what is known as “open source.” The idea behind it is that you do a little bit of work for free to the benefit of humankind.

I’m not qualified to be a software developer or to otherwise make these widgets on my own, but I think that I should still participate in this noble endeavor. So, to that end, so instead here are (hopefully) helpful reviews of my favorite extensions.

  1. NoScript: This is the most useful, by far. There is so much javascript out on the web now and because it’s mostly invisible to the end user, it’s good to know that this prophylactic is protecting me from annoyance, inconvenience, and possibly infection. 5 stars.
  2. Copy Plain Text: Ever try to copy some words from the Internet into a program like Microsoft Word and end up hanging your program because you are pasting a bunch of hidden HTML? This extension makes it a lot easier to just get the raw text without all the formating. It’s simple and effective. 5 stars.
  3. post: This add-on puts a new menu and buttons in my browser so I can use the free service to manage my bookmarks. It’s a handy plug-in for a great service. The best thing about delicious is that you can add tags (keywords) to each page you bookmark. It even suggests which tags to add. 4 stars.

photo credit: hey mr glen

freedom Internet politics

RIAA Killed the Internet Radio Star

Setup for Webcast by davidking

I haven’t been following the whole battle over Internet radio because I don’t really listen to it that often and that I just figured that the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) was only shooting themselves in the foot. This morning I was asked to write a blog post for Amazon about a new development in Internet radio’s impending demise: SoundExchange decided not to enforce its crippling new royalty fees, which were due on Monday.

So, because I haven’t been paying attention to this issue, I did a little research and was surprised what I learned. According to Wikipedia, SoundExchange doesn’t just collect royalties for its members, but collects royalties for non-members as well. Gosh, that’s awfully nice of them. If I write a song and it gets played on an Internet radio station, they will collect the royalties, but for me to claim those royalties, I will have to pay them a fee for administrative expenses. Well, okay, that only seems fair.

But here’s where I gasped. There is no way to opt out of the collection. That means that Sound Exchange collects royalties on Creative Commons works! Creative Commons is a copyright alternative that allows creators to retain some rights to their work while giving away other rights for the public good. For example, the image I’m using in this blog post is covered under a Creative Commons license that allows me to use the image for free as long as I give credit for the image and don’t use the image to make money.

This is why I thought the RIAA was shooting itself in the foot. Clearly, they want to kill Internet radio. It’s a mostly hobby industry that generates little revenue and yet opens their assets to piracy. Since there is an obvious demand for Internet radio, I thought the stations could survive by playing independent acts using Creative Commons to bypass the industry, create an audience, and get their music heard.

This ruling by the Copyright Office effectively cuts off the retreat of webcasters into CC. Let that sink in for a moment. It makes it illegal for you to write and perform a song and give it to a webcaster to play for free. You can give it away as a free download, but you can’t stream a song for free.

That made me mad. It’s just one more brass-knuckle tactic that makes the RIAA so easy to dislike. They realize that their 20th century purpose as quality gatekeepers and music suppliers has been made obsolete by digital music. They’re getting desperate to hold onto their power. Media bubbles up now. It no longer trickles down.

I called local offices for my two Senators and my Congressman and urged them to support the Internet Radio Equality Act, S. 1353 in the Senate and H.R. 2060 in the House of Representatives. I hope you will, too.

Internet technology

I Heart Technology

Wired reports that Tivo is launching a way to transfer TV shows from your recorder to your PC. They said that you will also be able to record programs to a DVD soon, but not in this launch of the program. That’s pretty cool and a feature that I thought would be a part of it from the beginning.

But of course this is being announced today, in advance of the Consumer Electronics Show. I’ve never been to CES, but friends who have groan about it. It’s formidable, filling most of Las Vegas’ trade show space, and it always comes right after New Year’s. I think it’s hard for a lot of people to jump right into business after the holiday wind-down.

I watched an interesting 60 Minutes piece on Google last night. I learned that their stock price has nearly doubled since going public in the late summer. Also, it seems like they’re all still in a little bit of denial about how their success will change them. They went from being a garage start-up a couple of years ago to having a larger market capitalization than Ford and GM combined. What was most interesting was their “do no evil” approach to business. They believe that if they create great products that have never existed, products that don’t harm anyone inspire trust in people, that the money will come flooding in through your door. So far, they’re right.

That’s the pioneer spirit of the Internet that I remember. Wendy’s parents were here over Christmas, and Bill brought his computer with him because he upgraded his operating system and thought I could help with some of the bugs he was having. I was able to solve three of them by myself, but I just couldn’t get the fourth one. He and Jane were kind of astounded when, on Christmas day, I was able to find someone in a newsgroup to help me solve the problem for free.

What I love most about technology is that it gives me hope for the future.

By the way, if you have Tivo and you haven’t programmed that commercial-killing 30-second jump hack, then you’re doing things the hard way.