Frontier Communications is wack and sketchy

If you are using Frontier Communications, check your bill.

I happened to notice, randomly, not because I was looking, an article about Frontier Communications billing issues and overcharges.

People battling Frontier Communications over billing issues, overcharges—Lauren Rozyla, ABC Action News

From the start, Danielle Ferrari, has been in a battle with Frontier Communications. She owns a small clothing and consignment store in Tampa.

“The very first bill was wildly wrong,” Ferrari said.

Bills show it was more than $340. Ferrari said it was supposed to be a little more than $100. She said she called and Frontier and they promised to fix the mistake. However she said in the months that followed, she was repeatedly overcharged in various amounts.

Indeed, I’d already been planning on posting about my experience with Frontier Communications because it has been abysmal. Unfortunately, they are the only wired option for Broadband in my area.

When I called to set up an account, I asked for the fastest speed I could get. I was not sold the fastest speed I could get. Their sales script is poor at determining what a customer actually wants, and they pay more attention to the script than to what the customer says they actually want. Also, there was a whole tier of faster service than their basic offerings that I should have been told about but was not, which I qualified for but was not set up with by sales.

Also, they really, really want to sell you a bundle. And, they will find a way to sneak their bogus and bloaty “security bundle” on to your account even if you ask nothing else be added.

I had two installation dates pass by without any communication from Frontier Communications. I finally gave up trying to call them about when they would show up and just accepted they would or wouldn’t. They did finally after over a month of trying.

As I mentioned, my initial configuration was not the one I should have gotten, so after the initial install I had to wait another 3 weeks for it to be upgraded. The area sales guy was supposed to call, but didn’t. I ended up calling in myself again and crossed my fingers that there’d be an actual install on my install date.

Their network is extremely congested. I was seeing ping times in the 1000ms range and packet loss over 40% if I tried to use my service at speed. Here’s some examples, but not the most egregious I’ve seen.

Frontier Communications congestion, ping time and packet loss

Frontier Communications congestion, ping time and packet loss

It’s gotten better since, but it’s not stellar. They clearly aren’t spending on their infrastructure at the NAP I’m connected through.

Then, my first bill came. Frontier overcharged me by $200 on my first bill; including a double charge for something free & a bloatware addon.

On my first bill they charged me $323.67 but it should have been something like $131.72. Everything in a red box on this was their mistake.

Frontier Communications bill with mistakes and bloat

They charged for installation and double for equipment that should have been all free under their promotion.

And they add on, without asking, a bloatware security bundle, that no one needs, that they charge $10 for but then credit back $5 of it as a “security credit”.

I called and spent a couple hours dealing with explaining all that had gone wrong already with the service and the bill, and was told, finally, that it was all sorted out.

Then my second bill came and they hadn’t corrected it completely. They also add late fees if you don’t pay their mistake balance, because they adjust the next bill not the current one.

I called and spent a couple hours dealing with explaining all that had gone wrong already with the service and the first and second bills, and was told, finally, that it was all sorted out.

We’ll see if the third bill comes correct, with the account supposedly showing a credit currently.

It’s as if Frontier Communications is competing to be worse than Comcast. Their accounting and item descriptions are wack. Their onboarding is awful. Their service is poorly provisioned.

Be aware and wary. Frontier Communications is wack and sketchy.

Societies with secrets, security culture and online social media

There’s a post about a new Social Media Code of Conduct for Massachusetts Freemasons [PDF] (HT @Masonictraveller) over at Freemason Information, part of The Beehive series by Fred Milliken. This document mentioned is particularly interesting to me because it touches on some issues I think are important; and the reactions to the document are also interesting. (I’m also more amused than I should be that the date on the original document is May 1st, International Workers’ Day, due to the frisson between seemingly oft conservative Freemasons and the ideas of the, frankly quite often more broadly fraternal to my mind, international workers’ movement; and, also because of the connection between the ideas I’m going to talk about and the direct and indirect history of May Day.)

I should also say that I’m intentionally using the term “society with secrets” here to mean not just Freemasonry, but really any group with secrets that is publicly known. Freemasonry is not a secret society, really, after all. But, like everyone sharing a book or movie recommendation who doesn’t want to reveal the important points of the plot, let alone the ending, Freemasonry does have secrets. (I’ve been meaning to write about my thoughts around “society with secrets vs secret societies” for a long time, but, I suppose the fullness of that topic will remains one of my own secret for now.)

 

The “code of conduct” document itself offers a number of specific directives about how the Freemasonic Grand Lodge of Massachusetts wishes its members to behave online, not just in social media though that’s what the title suggests is the scope.

 

“As a Mason, he must be aware that his postings are a permanent record; therefore, his conduct may influence the world with a positive or a negative opinion about him personally and also about any organizations to which he belongs.”

As the librarian of the Hermetic Library, I can say I’ve received email from people several times wishing my help to remove, alter or obfuscate content they wrote that still appears online.

In some cases, people want their names removed. In some cases, people want the content to go away. In others, they want links to archives of their content removed so that Google stops indexing the linked to archive. In even other cases, people have contacted me to let me know they’ve removed previously written content from their site due to a new role they’ve taken in which those comments aren’t now appropriate, as if the whole of one’s history is merely, and must conform with, the current accidents of the moment (which ironically requires history to constantly be changed to make an illusion). In some cases, it’s clear that the person contacting me is embarrassed by something they’ve written in the past and wants to distance themselves from that; which motive I personally find revolting and pathetic and deceitful. In other cases, the motives are more or less clean, such as needing to manage how others might use past writing as a weapon, how others might twist and misrepresent the past to impune the present person. (You might, or not, be surprised at how much vitriol and willful harassment there is out there, sometimes hidden in back channels and sometimes not, in which cases managing access to one’s information becomes important as a defensive measure against evil, unscrupulous or stalker-y people.) So, there’s a whole gamut of reasons why people seem to want their previous work forgotten.

Interestingly, there may seem a serious disconnect in my own views on this matter. For example, I am viciously adamant about my own right to remove content from services like Facebook, but I am relatively lassez-faire about my content being permanently on display in various revisions at the Wayback Machine. Of course, the primary difference is that Facebook, and corporations like it purporting to offer a service, is in fact constantly and expansively trying to enclose and encumber not just the works of our minds but every hour of our lives in order to control and monetize both; and to that my resistance is very consistent and internally consistent.

 

“Do not identify any Freemason as a member of the Craft unless he has provided his consent, or has already identified himself as such.”

Another of the points in this code of conduct is not to reveal the identity of a member unless they’ve already done so. This point is a big one for many sub-cultures, and is an important one. “Outing” another person is a serious breach of security and etiquette. But, it should also be considered a serious breach to reveal information about not just the identity but also the location and activities of another member, especially to strangers. (This point is a hint at why personally I almost universally refuse to broadcast my future whereabouts or add instant, or even relatively contemporaneous, geolocation data to my content. I also do not participate in any service which is either dedicated to showing my instant location data or where I cannot hide that, even from “friends”, even so far as to eschew instant messaging services in favour of asynchronous email.)

Anyone with any IT security experience should be able to share strong reasons not to succumb to social engineering, revealing important details to not only strangers but even well-known people who should not have some bits of information. Anyone who’s worked in retail or the service industry should be able to confirm how dangerous it can be to reveal personal information or work schedules of co-workers, both about their time at work and their time away from work. Loose lips not only sink ships and breach internal security, but lead to things like stalking and other antisocial behaviour.

I can hardly begin to tell you the times I’ve gotten strange looks and had eyes rolled at me when I’ve tried to educate people about the dangers and dimwittedness of revealing information about not only others but about themselves to strangers. I cannot count on my fingers the number of times I’ve tried to shush someone who’s speaking on the phone to some random stranger who’s just called and to whom they are revealing all kinds of privileged information about someone else’s schedule and whereabouts … It’s just shocking and disheartening to have people I know, or moreover people I’ve cared about, be so dumb about such things. Really, the Pavlovian desperation to respond most people have to phone and electronic communications, and moreover the ease with which most people reveal information (passwords, account information or even just random particulars) to some unknown person as if merely by being on the phone or online imbues some Milgrim-like authority, is something both breathtaking and bizarre to me.

Developing security culture is not just about the security of groups, but is also protecting individuals. I hope those people prone to such information breaches are never in the situation where they learn the hard way by ending up pursued by a stalker, pursued by someone so mentally stunted or backward that they cannot understand the meaning of “no” or even the basic social contract of consent, and then to have information about their activities and whereabouts revealed by themselves or others simply because they didn’t know better. And if that ever happens I hope that nothing seriously harmful happens as a consequence other than learning to be more careful next time, though so many worse things are possible.

Just one more story, of any number of others, about this: At one of the really big Occupy marches in Portland, OR, I have to tell you I cringed every time someone yelled out another person’s name to get their attention. Really? Serious protest foul, that, people!

But, really, the lack of awareness about security culture is a symptom of not having one in the first place. How’s that for a tautology? No, seriously, the adoption of a general security culture could be helped by having serious security culture in subcultural groups, and thus pushing out the wave of adoption by having smaller groups educate and inform their members who then end up bringing that awareness to larger groups and the overall culture in which they each participate. (So, now that you’ve read this, go and find out more so I can pretend I’ve been effective in widening the general awareness of security culture …)

 

The commentary in the post itself, and the comments by readers to that post, over at Freemason Information are interesting to me as well. Primarily the reaction is focused on how some of the points in the code of conduct are just common sense ideas about protocol and etiquette, but there’s also a perception that the code of conduct is an overreaching attempt to control the actions of members. I think this code of conduct document, while not perfect, seems to me a good first step toward building a meaningful and reasonable security culture. The worth of that, at the very least, is as a catalyst to considering and talking about meaningful and reasonable security culture for any subcultural group of people, whether that’s in, to name a few, a fraternal organization, social club, workplace, or, yes, even in one’s own home environment. But, recognizing that such ideas can be seen as unreasonable attempts to control behaviour suggests how important it is to reveal and share the reasoning behind them, and the reasons why they are being suggested.

 

There’s a lot of useful thinking and writing that’s been done on creating security culture, and this post is merely a few initial words on the topic. I wrote a setup document for GnuPG, aimed at members of a society with secrets in which I am involved which has a mandate for the use of encryption which is not supported by a culture in which use of encryption is easy for non-technical users or even has much use in spite of the mandate. In that document I tried to include some background and links to further information about security culture, by way of saying how important it is to at least think about such things in any social group with secrets. In the same way that the encryption requirement by the US Grand Lodge of Ordo Templi Orientis is essentially and largely mooted by the apparent lack of implementation among the membership, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has started down a pretty slippery slope of creating mandated behaviour and requirements that it cannot hope to maintain ahead of breaches of conduct, but rather only after the fact in selective punishment against those who happen to get caught. Without a security culture, these rules are mostly meaningless as far as stopping behaviours from happening and are really only rubrics that can be used to evaluate behaviours that have already occurred. In other words, it seems to me, these kinds of guidelines need to be part of a program of proactive education instead of taken as proscriptive measures to control behaviour, and where they are merely the later they should be transformed into the former. Guidelines like these need to create a culture in the implementation not create criminals in the breach.

But really, I think the exposure to the ideas of, and how to create, security culture can offer an essential and necessary set of skills for people in this modern day information age to understand and implement the many overlapping circles of information scope in our lives. (Just as I believe thinking about and deconstructing propaganda models and theory offer essential skills for resisting the influence of not just canonical propaganda but also in resisting the influence of pervasive and invasive marketing and advertising in this Western culture.)

For a general primer, I’d encourage you to check out check out a few documents which stand out in my memory as good initial surveys: Towards a Collective Security Culture, Affinity Groups and Why do you need PGP?.

For further reading, you may be interested in Activism and Security Culture, Security Culture, and Security Culture. Beyond those, I commend you to your favourite search engine for further study.

As a last note, I can’t help but suggest and recommend two works, in no small part because these two are on the list of works that appear in my own thoughts consistently, which I think connect to this post and the broader subject of resistance culture. First, both for the history of the resistance of but also the resistance to the international labor movement, I’d like to suggest an excellent history of Industrial Workers of the World, The Wobblies: The Story of the IWW and Syndicalism in the United States by Patrick Renshaw. And, secondly, for the history and role of Freemasonry in the resistance culture of colonial and early American periods of United States history, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 by Steven C. Bullock.

The ultimate ipad dock

A while ago, I posted my idea of the ultimate iPhone dock. and it seem only fitting that I also post the ultimate iPad dock. Honestly, I’m not nearly the first person to come up with the idea of pairing the iPad with the old-school Star Trek PADD, but I felt it needed to be done. And, for the love of all that’s good and holy, be sure it’s got blinkin’ lights, after all, I still gotta dream!

Permission Revoked

I hereby formally, officially and categorically deny, refuse and repudiate the recent changes to the Facebook Terms of Use as they apply to the unilateral, unacceptable and unconscionable claim that Facebook owns my original content in perpetuity.

I have therefore removed all imported content from my personal site and I assert my personal prior and continuing claim of copyright on my content. I also revoke permission previously given temporarily to Facebook in regard to this now removed content.

I proclaim and testify there was never a meeting of minds over the ridiculous and reprehensible notion that Facebook has the right or reason to claim philosophical or practical ownership over my, or anyone else’s, original content.

By continuing to offer service to my account, Facebook indicates that it agrees with this declaration and that it will with all effort and faithfulness uphold, protect and defend my claim of copyright and my positive and affirmative right to revoke permission in regard to any and all use of my content as per the prior Terms of Use. If Facebook choses to end its offer of service, Facebook must then still remove all content covered by our prior agreement, as per the revocability of permission in the previous Terms of Use.

For those interested, my content can still be found on my own website and blog.

Update 26feb09 @ 2:02pm:

Well done, Facebook. I applaud the comeback [also]. And, check out the ‘good’ dialog in this quote about dialogue, perhaps missing a word or two:

“We believe that good dialogue we will get us to the right place… where everyone is more involved and happy.” [via]

As I wrote, about Facebook’s initial response [also], in the comments to WHAT’S GOOD FOR FACEBOOK IS GOOD FOR AMERICA:

The problem with the response from Facebook is that a “philosophy” isn’t worth much when compared to the word of the agreement. That’s tantamount to a verbal addendum to a written contract, which by the way states that it is the “entire” agreement. In other words, it doesn’t matter what they say, because what they do is the thing that matters. This is part of a continuing lesson for those still misled to believe that corporations have anyone’s interest at heart but their own.

They must be pushed back from over reaching or they will.

I have too much respect for the function of the law to dismiss the blatant overreaching of a terms of use that claims permanent permission. Even if it’s that the corporate lawyers were being lazy using boilerplate, and the people in charge were being lazy by not double checking the lawyers’ homework, they did put it in writing.

Take a look at the terms of use at Flickr or Twitter or Virb for examples of how things can be done. The kind of wording that Facebook used isn’t excusable.

And, moreover, until corporate lawyers and their corporate masters get a clue that they are not buying and selling people but rather offering a service to people that can chose to leave with their work and value intact, they deserve to have people freak out at them when they do something stupid.

These things are growing pains. I sincerely hope that Facebook does follow through. I sincerely hope that these incidents help continue to step up every social network’s game, raises awareness, and the level of discourse about privacy and copyright for everyone.

On the other hand, go watch The West Wing’s episode “The Short List” one more time and hash it out that the right to privacy is so important, but at the same time it was the breaking of an anonymous identity that revealed the weakness on the issue of privacy of the ‘home-run’ appointee; and, created the opportunity for the ‘right’ appointee.

The ultimate iphone dock

I had an idea for the ultimate iphone dock. To heck with an iPhone pro …

First, get an iPhone and dock. Then go buy an old Apple Newton eMate on eBay. Then, gut the eMate. Yeah, I know I shudder at the thought of murdering such a cute little Newton as well, but … then wire the keyboard from the eMate into the dock, somehow. Embed the dock into the space where the touchscreen of the eMate used to be, such that the iPhone can be docked horizontally inside the clamshell of the eMate.

iPhone Pro Do-It-Yourself

Er, yeah, something like that … just be careful not to obscure the touchscreen with the tape like I did.

You’d probably have to replace the stylus with one with a squishy tip that worked on the touchscreen of the iPod, and I don’t know if there’s a way to actually wire the keyboard or not. Wire the audio out of the dock to the mini jack. Maybe there’s a way to wire the PC Card reader. Ah, it’s a bother, sure … but, you know, a guy’s gotta dream.

Update 1mar09 @ 11:50 pm:

Well, this is an interesting development: iPhone running Mac OS System 7. But, it’s not the Newton OS, which would be even more interesting.

Learn something new

I activated this accidentally when typing an e-mail and found out that it’s a feature. Who knew? (Probably everyone, right?) I mean, not that I’ll probably use it all that much, but … hit ‘esc’ while typing and get a completion list, cool!

completion.gif

Doesn’t work for in HTML forms or in the toolbar of Safari, apparently. But, it works in Mail and TextEdit …

Mirror’s Edge, Parkour-Continuum

There’s a video of game play at “Mirror’s Edge: Mirror’s Edge DLC In Motion“:

“As someone who has never had occasion to play the game, this video, with its vertigo-inducing visuals and that catchy Still Alive song has certainly got me wondering what I’ve been missing. While I’m not a big fan of Time Trials, I have been known to get excited about hopping from colored box to colored box, and there’s certainly a lot of that going on here.”

It’s like a modern mash-up of Parkour and Continuum!

I had a flashback to a game I’ve sorely missed many times over the years: Continuum. I think my first dabble with emulation of DOS was for Continuum. Ah, that was a game! Er, was it a game? Like PilotWings 64 and Tranquility [also] … it’s radical singleplayer already done right!

Come to think of it, isn’t Parkour a modern athletic re-versioning of dérive? Is this strain of “radical singleplayer” another form of drift as well? I wonder what an intentionally Situationalist video game would look like, or maybe that’s an oxymoron of sorts?

Cricket broadband at $40/mo, uncapped

Via Boing Boing Gadgets, Cricket is going to be getting a USB version EVDO modem for their wireless broadband service, and an uncapped data package at almost the same price as dial-up:

“PC card only for now, but a USB version is coming—with truly unlimited wireless data access with uncapped usage for just $35 a month.”

Now, that’s a hell of a lot better than $80/month … Only, wait a minute. It’s $40/month in Portland? No, it’s just that if you are an existing customer, you can save $5/mo. And, the PC Card modem is a one time charge of $99. And, there’s a $25 activation fee. So, there you go.

Update 7apr08 @ 8:11pm:

I’ve started to become skeptical about this.

First off, they still haven’t gotten the USB adaptors even though they occasionally show them in the graphics on the site.

But, more questionable is the way that there’s no useful technical information about the speed of the connection, instead the site relies on marketing speak and descriptive language to talk about the “broadband-like” speed. It’s all qualification without quantification.

Also, I noticed that the requirements include dial-up networking, which means the device is not treated as a network adaptor, but rather very much like a modem. That means one has to wait for the time it takes to authenticate, and to me that means unnecessary delay in connecting to resources. Also, that makes me think this is being routed not as a fast data network but rather over the normal voice path, if that makes sense.

So, buyer beware, I think, is the order of the day for this offering. It’s sounding more and more sketchy to me.

On the other hand, if one is hanging out in coffee shops in order to get online, it’s about the same cost as a cup o’ something every day, so maybe it’s still a reasonable thing for you, if it meets your needs.

Update 17jan09 @ 3:44pm:

A bunch of people are showing up on this old post. I’m still skeptical about the Cricket service. In Portland, there’s now Clear as an option.

I don’t know if Cricket will end up re-selling Clear service. As I understand it, the wireless broadband service that they’ve been re-selling has been Sprint, and Clear is partly Sprint also. Apparently the USB device is actually available now. But, Cricket’s uncapped really means limited, as it always seems to in the small print:

“Throughput may be limited if use exceeds 5GB per month. Internet browsing does not include: hosted computer applications, continuous web camera or broadcast, automatic data feeds, machine-to-machine connections, peer to peer (P2P) connections or other applications that denigrate network capacity or functionality.”

When compared to the Clear plans, Cricket’s limit of 5GB is actually pretty generous, although it would take a lot longer to suck that down over Cricket’s unadvertised speeds. Clear offers 200MB, 2GB, and unlimited plans at a variably 4 Mbps/384 Kbps connection. The same $40 bucks as Cricket will only get you a soft 2GB limit plan at Clear, and they will automatically charge you for overages. But, $50 will get you the “Unlimited” at Clear, but of course: “* Restrictions may apply.” Actually, the TOS and AUP at Clear seem to be pretty reasonable to me and don’t seem to include the small print limit, except of course for clauses which contemplate excess use that damages the service, but it’s not the same artificial ceiling.

Oh, and Clear is really pushing the special offer, but I think it’s totally bogus. From my reading you have to sign up for a 2 year contract and you only get a few bucks back for your voluntary lock-in. You save activation and $10/month for 6 months. That means you’re tied to the service for 2 years and only get a price break for 6 months? Meh. You save a total of $95 bucks and saddle yourself with 2 years and an early-termination fee? Long-term contracts are poisonous for technology, that’s one thing that Cricket has done right. Stick with Clear’s month-to-month, especially for something like broadband service.

The faster home service isn’t available in my area, apparently, so the bundles don’t apply to me yet; but, they also seem like a bad deal to me – just pay once for the service, not twice. You can use your mobile service at home, after all.

So, at least in this area, it seems like now Clear is a better option than Cricket’s service.

Oh, except for the fact that it isn’t for me. Cricket’s USB device works with Mac OS X. Cricket claims they aren’t compatible with Linux. Clear is only compatible with anything via their home although initially the rep I chatted with said neither. There’s no timetable for supporting Mac OS X over the USB device, and nothing said about Linux; and, apparently there’s some reason the connection manager software is required, which I find odd and worrisome:

[redacted] [5:29:36 PM]: There are some was to work it so the USB will work with Mac OS X. WinE or BootCamp. However, we don’t support troubleshooting the Connection Manager software when using these work arounds.

John [5:30:28 PM]: Right-o. Well, I’m out then. Is there a timetable for Mac drivers? Or, a mobile router the USB device can be plugged into?

[redacted] [5:31:35 PM]: I don’t have a projection for when we’ll have the Mac support finished, but we are working on it. As to a mobile router, nothing I’ve heard about or recommend at this time

John [5:31:42 PM]: (Wouldn’t home also be compatible with Linux? Doesn’t it offer ethernet?)

[redacted] [5:32:09 PM]: Home is plug and play, and currently works on all OS’s that we know of. Only the USB has issue currently, and that’s because it requires our Connection Manager to work correctly.

Ideally, I would want a mobile router with either and then it wouldn’t matter what devices I was using or how many. But, you know, of course they probably don’t want people to use those … Yeah.

Bento

Ah, here it is finally. I figured there would be something like this coming from inside the Apple camp. Via “Meet Bento — Learn More

Bento organizes all your important information in one place. So you can manage your contacts, coordinate events, track projects, prioritize tasks, and more — faster and easier than ever before.

Bento is designed exclusively for Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. It takes advantage of many of the new features of Leopard, including live linking to iCal data, core animation, advanced find, Time Machine backups, and multimedia features.

And, even the name seems like a swipe at Yojimbo. But, this is a move toward a first-party application that does what so many others have been working on, like Tinderbox, DevonThink, and SOHO Notes, to name a few. Seems like it was only a matter of time.

But does this qualify as the Filemaker Express product I thought might be coming? And, why, other than the fact that the product is one they made by turning on the copiers, isn’t this part of iWork or iLife?

And, why the hell is this Filemaker site running as an ASP application?!

Resist the dark side

Via Groklaw, the ruling of a court is that:

“Novell is the owner of the UNIX and UnixWare Copyrights.”

Now, for the love of all that is holy, can I dare to hope that Novell won’t slip further toward the dark side? I hope Novell heard and understood that canard: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

I wonder what this means for the Novell-Microsoft deal. I wonder what Novell’s distributing Linux via GPL means for these copyrights and any other rights that Novell may be able to demonstrate.

So many questions nag at the back of my mind while I celebrate the apparent collapse, as if they were a vampire just staked in the heart, of SCO’s narrative …

All because of spam

I don’t think this is the first time, actually, but I realized something crazy had happened today.

I got spam sent to my e-mail.

Yeah, okay, except that the subject line of one particular spam contained content that was interesting to me. Or, rather, it suggested there was content of interest to me in a place I may not have run into myself. Here’s the subject line:

“and because it’s a class in critical thinking as much as writing, I encourage open dialogue.”

I’ve gotten text from sites and books before, usually technical snips of one kind or another, but this time I decided to use google to find the source: PEDABLOGUE – A personal inquiry into the scholarship of teaching by Michael Arnzen. And, the source was interesting to me. Further, from there I found several other resources of interest to me.

So, it’s all because of spam. I found several things of interest because of, I’m assuming, random text captured from the web. The process would have been better, from my viewpoint, if the source link had been included, but that’s merely a usability issue. As spam tries more and more to socially engineer the recipient into reading, the text will appear more and more like lucid and meaningful content.

And, wasn’t the autonomous collection of content for the reader one of the primary promises of “agent” technology? So, what if spam filters also become interest filters. Right now filters like spamassassin mark things as spam. But, they could just as easily mark things as interesting also. Why not add a layer to mark content that is of interest and offer a technique that promotes it? Instead of a spam score added to the e-mail headers perhaps there would be an interest score, on which one could filter as well. Is anyone doing that, filtering e-mail as more interesting using a bayesian filter? I think I remember that being discussed, but did it get forgotten? After all, “Recognizing nonspam features may be more important than recognizing spam features.” [via, also]

(I can imagine a time when I might be able to sync my black- and white-list to a service that would use it to find new content for me and aggregate my personal filters with others … like Amazon or Netflix, but for all content types … but, such that I can export and import my filter data in a portable format. The catch is, of course, privacy and trust.)

Spammers, it turns out, are creating technology that trips toward an answer to the turing test. And, that’s an emergent quality because it’s not the outcome they really want, which is to get the recipient to signify the paid-for content.

And, that really is part of the trick:

“To the recipient, spam is easily recognizable. If you hired someone to read your mail and discard the spam, they would have little trouble doing it. How much do we have to do, short of AI, to automate this process?” [via]

It’s about creating better and better AI, on both sides. One pill to make you larger and one pill to make you small, so to speak. And, you know if that’s too hard to code, maybe we could have the gold farmers turk it for us? And, then when both sides want that labor, let the bidding war begin!

Stardock has a Cosmic Encounter

I noticed Stardock’s walkthru of Dark Avatar includes a feature that is a key part of the game design of Cosmic Encounter. [also, also]

“Each civilization has its own unique super-ablity. And they’re not afraid to use it. Here, ‘someone’ has persuaded the Altarians to go to war with the Korx. Someone has the Super Manipulator ability…”

This is such a mash-up of memories for me. Stardock was originally a developer of software for OS/2. [see, also, also] Stardock’s original Galactic Civilizations was built to take advantage of the multitasking and multithreaded environment that OS/2 provided. Back in the early 90’s, I owned the original Galactic Civilizations as well as Stardock’s Object Desktop. Those were the days before I migrated to Linux as my primary environment. (Or, maybe I have my own timeline confused and I was already using Linux by that time.) It was in part on the strength of a help document I wrote about connecting OS/2 to the Internet via dial-up that I got my job at a regional ISP in Seattle where I was re-introduced to NeXTstep and for many years used a NeXTstation as my primary work computer.

There’s a comment on the wikipedia’s page about Stardock’s reliance “on the goodwill of its previous customers, who essentially purchased Windows subscriptions for Object Desktop in anticipation of the products it would consist of.” [via] I was one of those customers. I remember buying that to support them even though I had reservations about moving to Microsoft’s environment.

Well, the memories go back even further to the previous decade. The mash-up with Cosmic Encounter revives faded memories of my first gaming group sessions. Back in the early 80’s, I had a friend that convinced me to go to a gaming group that met at a local library and one of the games I was introduced to there was … Cosmic Encounter.

Cosmic Encounter is for me one of those games. It’s stuck in my memory. But, I never play it. I have a copy of the game, but every time I try to play it some other game is chosen. It feels a bit daunting to explain the rules and get people playing when other games are so much faster to start up. But, I think in large part what is really going on is that I don’t want to ruin my memories of the game by playing it and finding that I don’t like it any more. I guess, in a way, by not playing the game now I’m trying to preserve my memory of it.

A mash up of memories and decades …

How does ZFS compare to Plan 9?

Now that Sun is being quoted as saying that the next version of Mac OS X (Leopard) will use ZFS, I thought to read a bit more about What is ZFS?:

“ZFS presents a pooled storage model that completely eliminates the concept of volumes and the associated problems of partitions, provisioning, wasted bandwidth and stranded storage. Thousands of filesystems can draw from a common storage pool, each one consuming only as much space as it actually needs. The combined I/O bandwidth of all devices in the pool is available to all filesystems at all times.”

But, that sounds kind of familiar. I remember language a lot like that in describing Plan 9. [also] I’m not finding the exact language that I remember, but I think it was in relation to the idea of network transparency and union directories:

“Plan 9 also introduced the idea of union directories, directories that combine resources across different media or across a network, binding transparently to other directories.” [via]

So, I find myself wondering how then are ZFS and Plan 9 alike and how are they different, and is there a genetic or thought relationship between them?

Well, that’s a blast from the past. I haven’t thought about Plan 9 for a long time. I still wish I’d been able to get it running on my old NeXT boxen, but that never happened.

Game developer gets gamed by players

So there’s a recent kerfuffle involving accusations of corruption in EVE Online, the game not the ecofeminism. There were some accusations of the developer colluding with favored players that created a stir. Then, after a delay, the game company responds that they’ve been framed; via Slashdot:

“The objective of this scheme was to permanently paint CCP as a biased and corrupt company that favors a select group of players over the rest of our community. In this particular case, instead of receiving notification of a possible problem and sufficient time to examine and address it, we faced a coordinated and hostile attack executed on our forums, Digg, Wikipedia, Slashdot, and other outlets at the beginning of a three-day weekend.”

Now, to pull in a thread: this was that game that got press back in 2005 for having a wildly deep in-game conspiracy that took 12 months to arrange. There were scanned magazine pages that are online describing the caper. [cache, also]

Back to the present, there’s a conspiracy involving a group of players that embroils the game developers of the game in which complex capers are enacted in a real life caper. Now, that’s ironic and deeply interesting.

I was pretty impressed by the 12 month quest that the players created for themselves back in 2005, but today I find myself reflecting that this is a game where the players have forced the developers to play a part in a game-related quest designed by the players. The players gamed the developers and nerfed the game and the developers in real life.

mmorpg, eve online, quests, conspiracy, irony, petard

Icebreaker 2 is new old

The pending release of Icebreaker 2, a video game that is a sequel to an old 3DO console game that features the virtual pre-cursor to Icehouse pyramids, snuck up on me and yelled, “Boo!”

Sorry for this tangent, but this is a game that might have been lost behind obsolete copy protection if that protection scheme had not been broken. Score one more for the anti-DRM team, and there’s now a poster child for the need to be able to circumvent DRM schemes to, actually, protect copyright holders and to, actually, encourage economic development. So, one of the real reasons for DRM is revealed: to kill old software behind obsolete barriers in order to create artificial scarcity and build in planned unilateral obsolescence.

Okay, now, back to the main topic:

Andy Looney included the news in this week’s weekly news, naturally:

Icebreaker 2 will make its official debut on July 28th at the tenth Classic Gaming Expo, held at the Riviera casino in Las Vegas. (Pre-orders not picked up at the show will be mailed out immediately afterwards.)

There’s a video preview of the game Andy posted:

I guess it’s time to dust off that 3DO again!

As another aside, while browsing around grabbing URLs for this, I was gandering are a page about pyramid obsession and scrolled down to find Andy’s “across” navigation:

It’s a bit synchronicity that I was browsing through some Xanadu information last night, but I like the idea of putting asynchronous navigation where there’s major tangents to the primary organization. Deep down, I feel like there the “across” that points northeast should occur before the “next” that points east, but I like it.

Using various “across” navigational icons, I might use them to mean thinks like “more general,” “more specific,” “see also,” and “see instead.” But, while it’s a good scheme, the main issue is that the navigation icons should be clear and concise and a taxonomy like I’m thinking is too complex to be represented by single icons. For example, the navigation would get immediately cluttered and confused if there were, say, two “see also” links.

Wake me when the ambient sound is live

Over at Slashdot, there’s a post about a new mash-up:

“The BBC is reporting that a Californian company has created software that can layer relevant recorded sounds over locations in Google Earth.”

But here’s the thing:

The analog to the high resolution images of the real earth would be to layer those images with the actual ambient sounds of the same location. I mean live, real sound.

In fact, I’d go further an say that what I want is a tool that layers the actual ambient sound of a location as it would sound from the scaled distance that location is zoomed to. I mean, if I’m zoomed so that the image appears to be couple hundred feet in the air, then I should be able to see and hear a location as that location would be heard from 100 feet in the air.

So, some company need to wire into all those spy and surveilance cameras all over the globe and add those sounds to the visual environment of Google Earth.

Also, I want a “police scanner” option that automatically pans to loud sounds at some surface distance setting. So, if I’m hanging out I want the app to zoom and pan to nearby shouts or other loud noises, and then continue to play the current ambient sound of that location after panning there.

Now, if that’s not an argument for broad implementation of multicast, or for Google to finally use all that dark fibre in order to transmit audio data …

And then, I want Maxis to use the simcity engine to model buildings, people and cars using the same visual and audio data …