DSL/Cable Modem Bandwidth

If you're not sure whether you're getting the full bandwidth you're paying for, try dslreports.com speedtest.This site http://home1.gte.net/awiner/ has good information about Windows 95/98/NT/2000 issues with high-speed internet connections. It also has good links to other resources.

My DSL bandwidth experience

When I first moved from dial-up to DSL I had some odd performance problems. Content from my ISP's own servers (ftp, pop3, mail) was high speed, but content from internet sites was consistently still at dial-up speeds. After no significant progress with tech support, I checked the comp.dcom.xdsl newsgroup and found my problem — I'd used a program called MTUSpeed to tweak some TCP/IP settings to maximize my modem dial-up. Those old settings were screwing up my DSL session. I reset to Win95 defaults, and presto, now I'm getting the full bandwidth.If you're on DSL and you ever messed with things like Max MTU size or TCP receive window, or you've used dial-up optimizing programs (like MTUSpeed), you should undo your changes to get back to the default windows settings.

BTW, if you're still on dial-up or know anyone who is, I do recommend MTUSpeed to get 25% better performance with your current modem..

Thoughts on privacy

Much of the current debate over privacy concerns focuses on paper tigers. The real problems are more about accountability and confusing identity with authorization.Businesses should be accountable for how they use my information. This lets you track down where the junk mail came from and ask them to stop. Governments should be accountable, too. This prevents "Big Brother" type scenarios. Accountability should be completely two-way: if some company knows my home address and phone number, then I should be able to easily find out the address and phone numbers of the managers & executives in the company. Basically, I'll show you mine if you show my yours. At that point I don't care if you know where I live or what my favorite color is, because I can find out the exact same information about you.

The lack of good authorization is masquerading as a privacy issue. Why are people concerned about the privacy of their Social Security Number (SSN) or their mother's maiden name? It's because of the rising occurrence of identity theft where people with bits of information like these can get credit cards in your name and run up bills in your name. They can also get things like driver's licenses which combined with credit cards let them commit crimes in your name. The problem is that prior to the information age we're living in now things like your SSN were hard for other's to discover. So companies used your SSN as a form of authorization. As far as the company is concerned, if the person on the other end of the phone knows your SSN then that's good enough for the company. The fundamental problem is things like your SSN are about identity, not authorization. Just because someone identifies them self as me (with an SSN) doesn't mean that a bank should go ahead and issue a credit card. Instead the bank should require authorization before issuing the credit card. With the free flow of information, previously obscure bits of identity like your SSN are no longer a good form of authorization. Companies should be using more secure forms of authorization like passwords and biometrics (e.g. fingerprints). At that point it doesn't matter if you know my social security number because that won't let you get a credit card in my name.

The problem with too much privacy is that it cuts both ways. When governments, companies, or powerful individuals have too much privacy it's easier for them to commit atrocious acts secure in the knowledge that their privacy means they may never be held accountable for their actions.

Many of my ideas and opinions about privacy have been influenced by David Brin. Although he's more well known as a science fiction writer, he's recently published The Transparent Society, a non-fiction book about privacy issues. You can read the first chapter online.

Thoughts on Copyright and Patents

I write software for a living which means people basically people pay me for my ideas. I'm all in favor of compensating people for their work, but I think current laws protecting big corporations rather than providing benefits to the the general public.

Copyrights and patents were intended to encourage people to create and invent when they otherwise might not. But eventually those creations are supposed to become available to the public. Lately, the view seems to be that copyrights and patents exist for the inventor, when in fact they exist for the public. The basis of copyright and patent law comes from section 8 of the US Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

The term "intellectual property" has arisen in the modern world. However it's a mistake to think that ideas can be treated as property in the same way that physical things are property.
I'd like to see some balance come back into copyright and patent system. Continue reading "Thoughts on Copyright and Patents"