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Open letter to the FCC 5 regarding net neutrality

Saturday, November 25, 2017 

I’m in favor of net neutrality for a lot of reasons; a personal reason is that I rely on fair and open transport of my bits to work overseas.  If you happen to find this little screed, you can also thank net neutrality for doing so as any argument for neutrality will likely be made unavailable by the ISPs that should charge exorbitant rents for their natural monopolies and would be remiss in their fiduciary responsibility should they fail to take every possible step to maximize shareholder value, for example by permitting their customers access to arguments contrary to their financial or political interests.

I sent the following to the FCC 5.  I am not, I’m sorry to say, optimistic.

Please protect Net Neutrality. It is essential to my ability to operate in Iraq, where I run a technical security business that relies on access to servers and services in the United States. If access to those services becomes subject to a maze of tiered access limitations and tariffs, rather than being treated universally as flat rate data, my business may become untenable unless I move my base of operations to a net neutrality-respecting jurisdiction. The FCC is, at the moment, the only bulwark against a balkanization of data and the collapse of the value premise of the Internet.

While I understand and am sympathetic to both a premise that less government regulation is better in principal and that less regulated markets can be more efficient; this “invisible hand” only works to the benefit in a “well regulated market.” There are significant cases where market forces cannot be beneficial, for example, where the fiduciary responsibility of a company to maximize share-holder value compels exploitation of monopoly rents to the fullest extent permitted by law and, where natural monopolies exist, only regulation prevents those rents from becoming abusive. Delivery of data services is a clear example of one such case, both due to the intrinsic monopoly of physical deployment of services through public resources and due to inherent opportunities to exert market distorting biases into those services to promote self-beneficial products and inhibit competition. That this might happen is not idle speculation: network services companies have routinely attempted to unfairly exploit their positions to their benefit and to the harm of fair and open competition and in many cases were restrained only by existing net neutrality laws that the FCC is currently considering rescinding. The consequences of rescinding net neutrality will be anti-competitive, anti-productive, and will stifle innovation and economic growth.

While it is obvious and inevitable that network companies will abuse their natural monopolies to stifle competition, as they have attempted many times restrained only by previous FCC enforcement of the principal of net neutrality, rescinding net neutrality also poses a direct risk to the validity of democracy. While one can argue that Facebook has already compromised democracy by becoming the world’s largest provider of news through an extraordinarily easily manipulated content delivery mechanism, there’s no evidence that they have yet exploited this to achieve any particular political end nor actively censored criticism of their practices. However, without net neutrality there is no legal protection to inhibit carriers from exploiting their control over content delivery to promote their corporate or political interests while censoring embarrassing or opposing information. As the vast majority of Americans now get their news from on-line resources, control over the delivery of those resources becomes an extraordinarily powerful political weapon; without net neutrality it is perfectly legal for corporations to get “their hands on those weapons” and deploy them against their economic and political adversaries.

Under an implicit doctrine of net neutrality from a naive, but then technically accurate, concept of the internet as a packet network that would survive a nuclear war and that would treat censorship as “damage” and “route around it automatically,” to 2005’s Madison River ruling, to the 2008 Comcast ruling, to 2010’s Open Internet Order the internet has flourished as an open network delivering innovative services and resources that all businesses have come to rely on fairly and equally. Overturning that historical doctrine will result in a digital communications landscape in the US that resembles AT&Ts pre-breakup telephone service: you will be permitted to buy only the services that your ISP deems most profitable to themselves. In the long run, if net neutrality is not protected, one can expect the innovation that has centered in the US since the birth of the internet, which some of us remember as the government sponsored innovation ARPAnet, to migrate to less corporatist climates, such as Europe, where net neutrality is enshrined in law.

The American people are counting on you to protect us from such a catastrophic outcome.

Do not reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order.


David Gessel


Posted at 10:27:50 UTC

Kitty Poop

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 

Many years ago (21 years, 9 months as of this post), I used some as-of-then only slightly out of date equipment to record a one week time lapse of the cats’ litter box.

I found the video on a CD-ROM (remember those?) and thought I’d see if it was still usable. It wasn’t – Quicktime had abandoned support for most of the 1990’s era codecs, and as it was pre-internet, there just wasn’t any support any more. I had to fire up my old Mac 9500, which booted just fine after years of sitting, even if most of the rubber feet on the peripherals had long since turned to goo. The OS9 version of QT let me resave as uncompressed, which of course was way too big for the massive dual 9GB drives in that machine. Youtube would eat the uncompressed format and this critical archival record is preserved for a little longer.

Posted at 15:16:46 UTC

Category: catsfilmsfunnyoddself-publishingvanity sitesvideo

Is it time to leave FaceBook

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 

So somebody added me to a FaceBook group – I haven’t yet looked into how, but facebook lets me opt out later (rather than opt in) which means I’m getting dozens of messages a day and I’ll have to get around to unsubscribing when I can.

Wow…. this is amazing. Somebody you don’t like? Subscribe them to high volume facebook groups. Their inboxes will fill with random crap. That’s awesome – other people can put you in a group and you have to opt out. That’s even better than G+ leaking “circle” names; fortunately, I read about that one before populating my “annoying morons I follow only because I have to for business reasons” circle. Now where are those “Fans of Pedobear” and “10% For Al Queda” groups? Lets see how long it takes to get all the FaceBook employees on the no fly list.

Seems like Facebook is responding badly to the perceived pressure from G+ (isn’t that dead yet?). I have no idea how long the groups opt out has been in place, but one of my favorite recent moves is the mobile snarf function whereby your facebook mobile app scrapes your mobile phone directory to populate everyone’s mobile phone numbers in their database and then default suggest that direct messages be sent to mobile devices. If nothing else convinced people that facebook messaging is a horrible substitute for email, this should.

This is a great example of why putting information in the “cloud” means ceding all control to entities who’s motivations may not align with yours. Facebook has decided that their best interests are served by snarfing mobile numbers, running up phone bills, and stuffing inboxes and there’s nothing you can do but write a whiny letter. They have your data on their hardware, so they own it.

Posted at 14:46:01 UTC

Category: technologyvanity sites

FB vs. G+

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 

An interesting artifact of the FB vs. G+ debate is the justification by a lot of tech-savvy people in moving to G+ from FB because they believe Google to be less evil.  It is an odd comparison to make, both companies are in essentially the same business: putting out honey pots of desirable web properties, attracting users, harvesting them, and selling their data.

Distinguishing between grades of evil in companies that harvest and sell user data seems a little arbitrary.  I’d think it would make more sense to use each resource for what it does well rather than arbitrarily announce that you’re one or the other.

However, if one is making the choice as to what service to call home on the basis of least “evil” and assuming that metric is derived in some way from the degree to which the company in question harvests your data and sells it, then it is somewhat illuminating to look at real numbers.  One can assume that the more deeply one probes each user captured by the honey pot, the more data extracted, the more aggressively sold, the more money one makes. The company that makes the most money per user is probing the deepest and selling the hardest.

From Technology Review May/June 2011, annual revenue per monthly unique US visitor:

Facebook: $ 12.10
Google:     $163.60

Google squeezes out and sells more than 13.5x the data per user. Google wins. But Facebook is gathering $12.10 worth of user data, why should Google allow Facebook to have it? If Google wins that last morsel of data to take to market and takes out Facebook, Google can increase their gross revenue by 7%.

I’ve also heard people argue that Zuckerberg seems more personally avaricious, mean, or evil than Google’s founders, comparing Google’s marketing spin to “The Social Network”

Zuckerberg’s only newsworthy purchase was a $7m house in Palo Alto. Google co-founders were in the news over a lawsuit between them over whether their 767 “party plane” (Eric Schmidt) could house Brin’s California king bed. This is in addition to their 757 and two Gulfstream Vs they talked NASA into letting them park at Moffet under the pretense that the planes would be retrofit with instruments for NASA. When they couldn’t do that (FAA regs, who knew?), they bought a Dornier Alpha, but still get to park their jumbo jets and gulfstreams inside NASA hangers for some reason. Suck on that, Ellison!

Posted at 01:25:13 UTC

Category: technologyvanity sites

Radioactive Mudworms

Monday, May 23, 2011 

[quicktime width=”250″ height=”126″][/quicktime]

I animated Radioactive Mudworms in 1991 with a program called Infini-D.  The soundtrack was courtesy of David Lenat. It was first published on the QuickTime Beta CD to Apple Developers and then in 1992 re-rendered on a Mac IIfx 40mhz 68040 with a massive 16MB of RAM in this version for the FigTime commercial CD. As I remember it, this took about a week to render on that massive machine.  I’m pretty sure I ray-traced it, but I output to “thousands” of colors as required by the CODEC and so it is hard to see some of the details.

The file is so old that the “animation” CODEC used is no longer supported.  I had to boot my old Mac 8600 to read the CD and convert the file to uncompressed, so I could re-compress it with a modern version of QuickTime.  I was greeted with an alert that my last backup was in 2003.  Time flies, but the mac still runs and that OS 9 operating system is still a nostalgic pleasure.  I used it regularly from 1987-ish to 2003-ish, and it is still the OS I’ve spent the most hours in front of.

Digital obsolescence is starting to consume my work history as the past has already eaten the DECstation streaming tapes my MIT work was “archived” on.  Of course, I can still read my preschool notebooks and I’m sure I could still read my parents notebooks.

Infini-D was my favorite 3D program of the time, though it was supplanted by StrataStudio 3D, Turbo-3D, and finally ProEngineer. It had a nice combination of modelling, rendering, and animation tools and was part of a brief “golden era” of 3D most remarkable for VPL and the existential excitement around Virtual Reality.

I was reminded of Radioactive Mudworms as I spent the weekend trying to teach the basics of video compression remotely to some coworkers who may not have been born when I made this.

The video was encoded at Valley Green 6, in the cube farm for the Advanced Technology Group at Apple.

Posted at 04:21:18 UTC

Category: technologyvanity sitesvideo

Shipley is a Rock Star

Monday, February 14, 2011 

Who would’a thunk a little site like, the on-line clubhouse for a few bay area computer types, would make both the barracuda block list and the UAE block list. How cool is that?

If you’re not in the UAE: here’s the block list

And if you’re inappropriately blocked:

shipley is a rockstar.jpg
Posted at 10:58:54 UTC

Category: oddpoliticstechnologyvanity sites

Facebook Open Graph Fun

Thursday, April 22, 2010 

00_Facebook Developers_1271963840892.png

More detailed instructions about how to access facebook’s new Open Graph (below). Open Graph is an interesting OAuth based mechanism by which facebook is opening their database to “select” third parties and allowing those parties to read FB cookies and automatically connect to FB and read “engagement enhancing” information about the user such as their social graph, their profile, their news feed, the groups they belong to, their pictures (including all that they’ve been tagged in): just about everything FB knows about them. The details are at this URL.

It is not 100% clear to me yet whether giving the third party access to the facebook cookies, but if the techcrunch article is correct, then third parties can read FB cookies, which are all under the domain and all “send for: Any type of connection” including the “lxe” cookie which is the user’s sign-in email address.

To experiment with Open Graph, first log in to facebook… Read more…

Posted at 14:45:33 UTC

Category: Negativereviewstechnologyvanity sites

WordPress Twitter Integration

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 

I discovered TwitterFeed and I was happy.  It does a nice job of formatting blog entries to tweets.  I set it up then went back to it later after I changed my login for twitter and whoops.  You can only log in with OpenID.

Uh oh.  OpenID. Why?  Why do this?  It is a solution in search of a problem.  It is very clever and worse than useless.  It must be a support nightmare.  So instead of having my browser automagically insert my passwords (and instead of having my browser’s convenient password store “show passwords” option to help me figure out what they are all in one convenient place) I have to remember some random URL from a totally random company I’ve never heard of, do not have any reason to trust, and would never use for anything else.


Security!  Plus they use some idiotic picture picker thing instead of a password.  Why?  Why?

These things are great in theory, but worse than useless in practice.

Time to find another blog->twitter tool.  Hello

Simple username/password login.  Browser remembers it for me.  Sign up once, done.

Of course this makes me enter my username and password for my twitter account, but I’m signing up with hellotxt so I’m already trusting them with a user/pass combination and at least I know something about them and I’m trading some security for some function, unlike the OpenID provider that’s just creepily asking to be my Big Id Brother to vouch for me when I go to the bar (and what happens when vidoop’s lights get turned out or the servers fail? No more logins?)

Anyway, hellotxt has a service called hellotxtfeed which uses a feed as input and then like syndicates it out to all your hungry fans on every service who are just waiting with baited breath to hear how your most recent poop came out.

In the end though, I prefer having things run on my own servers because even if hellotxt isn’t a single point of failure like vidoop yearns to be, most “pre-revenue” companies don’t make it.  So I use a nice clean open source solution:  Alex King’s excellent TwitterTools plug in.   It has a lot of great features for bidirection integration between blogs and twitter including the digest posts it is creating on this site.  The only bug I’ve found is that sometimes seems to reject login.   For me it has just cleared up randomly, so I’m happy enough to assume it is, at least as long as it continues working.

Posted at 01:19:09 UTC