General

What motivates us

Posted in General, Software on May 29th, 2010 by loconet – Be the first to comment

A friend of mine recently sent me an insightful animate of a talk about an MIT social experiment where somewhat surprising results were seen. The study showed that higher monetary rewards can usually lead to a decrease in performance if money is the only reward employees get for their work. It explains that money is a great incentive in repetitive mechanical tasks but when tasks require greater cognitive abilities and creativity, autonomy, mastery and purpose were far more important.

I say this is “somewhat” surprising to me not because I didn’t expect these results but rather that these results were finally found in a controlled scientific study. I had seen the behavioral patterns illustrated in the talk in myself as well as some colleagues. Looking back at my career so far, I’ve spent a lot of time doing extra “work” after work hours totally unrelated to my real job simply for the enjoyment of it. I have read and taught myself different aspects of technology not because it will eventually help me get a raise or obtain a better position but because I simply enjoy it like one might enjoy playing a musical instrument. This gives me some purpose and reaffirms the love I have for this profession even after sometimes stressful days. I am definitely not the only one who feels the same way. It is then not surprising to me that this same behavior can be seen in a more general context.

Watch the video:

3G IPhone plans are not the only pricey offerings from Rogers

Posted in General on July 2nd, 2008 by loconet – 2 Comments

Consumers might be able to get something positive out of the recent outcry over the arguably pricey 3G IPhone plans offered by Rogers. The massive attention this issue is gaining online is prompting Canadians to question the way Rogers is conducting business, something which I have personally questioned for a while. This new found interest by consumers to inform themselves about competitors and unmask what some might label as monopolistic price gouging behavior, can only help the country’s economy in the long run and secure technological progress for the future. With that spirit then let’s compare another service Rogers offers: The Home Phone.

For those not familiar with it, Roger’s Home Phone service provides residential customers with a land-line phone connection much like that of offerings from Bell, Primus, etc. The service started as two offerings: Classic landline over telephone lines, and VoIP. As of June 2008, Rogers will only be offering the VoIP option (forcing existing classical land-line consumers to switch or cancel) so let’s compare their product with other similar VoIP services: Vonage and Primus.

Since I want to keep this simple while looking at the most features available, let’s compare their high-end options for Unlimited North America calling.

Rogers

How much: $41.95 + $5.95 (System access fee – yes, that mysterious fee again) = $47.9.
Features: Free 4-6 out of 15 available ($4.00 for each additional feature).
Long distance North America: Unlimited North America (+$19.95).
Free Europe calling: None – must add as different package ($24.95).

Total: 47.9 + 19.95 + 911 fees ($0.19) Hearing Impaired Assistance (HIA) fees ($0.22) + taxes = ~$77.13

Vonage

How much: $39.99
Features: All 21 features included.
Long distance North America: Free unlimited calling.
Free Europe calling: Free unlimited calling to: Italy, France, Spain, UK and Ireland.

Total: 39.99 + taxes = $45.19

Primus

How much: $49.95
Features: All 10 features included.
Long distance North America: Free unlimited calling.
Free Europe calling: None.

Total: 49.95 + 911 Fee ($0.40) + taxes = $56.90

I realize there are many VoIP options out there, some more expensive and some cheaper than these but I just wanted to compare Roger’s offering with two of the other popular options. Additionally, I have not taken into account individual international calling rates, which in fact would support my point even further as Roger’s rates are gernally a few cents higher per minute throughout the list of countries.

In conclusion then, much like the IPhone 3G plans, Rogers is not only positioning their service at a higher price but they are offering less for higher prices! Sadly there are a lot of people blindly buying into this. Thankfully for consumers who inform themselves, Rogers is NOT the only available option for VoIP and, at least for now, we are able to choose freely from one of the competitors. Unfortunately for IPhone fans in Canada, Rogers seems to be the only option for now. Not a good idea to have let Rogers buy out the only other GSM competitor huh?

Assumptions: Taxes are for Ontario (5% GST + 8% PST for telecomunication goods), one time setup fees not taken into account. Intangibles such as customer support quality not taken into account – I personally believe Rogers would lose big on this item.

Throttling is only the beginning. Bell Canada wants to eliminate third party ISPs entirely.

Posted in General on April 4th, 2008 by loconet – Be the first to comment

McDonald’s menu style Internet offerings in the future? Here is an interesting (and scary) update:

I have been following the ongoing news regarding Bell Canada’s decision to throttle their reseller’s traffic. To those arriving late, Bell Canada owns the lines used by third party ISPs such as TekSavvy and recently decided to throttle bandwidth usage on those lines much like they throttle traffic from their own internet customers. Bell cites “fine print” in their Fair Usage Policy which, according to the company, allows them to do this if they see “excessive” use of their network. Why don’t they upgrade their infrastructure with the capital from all those record profits instead of giving us the story that someone is downloading too many movies. Oh, that’s right, it wouldn’t be profit anymore. Everyone can clearly see that the true reason Bell decided to throttle ISPs such as TekSavvy was to stop the move of costumers away from Bell services to more quality service where you get what you paid for, that is, the bandwidth you were promised.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. Bell Canada is now is now lobbying to scrap mandated access by competitors to its network. That is, they want to get rid of a whole chunk of their competition all together. It would ultimately leave us with Rogers and Bell to choose from for Internet access. It is easy to see how this would translate into very bad news for consumers and economical progress in Ontario, and Canada as a whole. Without competition, the “free” market simply does not work. Consumers will not be able to vote with their wallets and the monopoly that is Bell and Rogers will dictate how things play out from then on.

If they can get away with this how can we determine where this will stop? Say good bye to VoIP. VoIP must run through your ISPs network, and if that ISP is Bell or Rogers (i.e. direct competitors to VoIP providers) who is to say they will not choke out the competition in the same manner they are planning to do it with internet wholesalers? Who is to say they will not consider things such as the upcoming high quality Youtube streams as “abusive” use of their network? Afterall, Youtube competes in one way or another with Bell’s and Roger’s TV service. Will we get to the point where internet service is tiered and chopped into nicely designed marketing-approved McDonald’s menu style offerings where I have to pay extra if I want to use SSH or attach large attachments to my e-mail? Will I have to pay extra if I want to use gmail instead of Sympatico’s own web mail? Would you like FTP traffic with that order?

As a software developer, avid internet user, and consumer, the potential for a future as described above scares the living crap out of me. The majority of people see the issue of Netneutrality as something that matters only to geeks. Sadly, what they don’t realize is that this wonderful progress the Internet has brought to the world is largely due to the existence of that openness, of that “neutrality” of the service. The ability for my neighbor to listen to online radio stations or play online games while I surf the web or e-mail clients without our service providers “deciding” for us what form of usage is more “valuable” is what keeps this wonderful progress going. Bell Canada’s move to eliminate competition this way introduces a slippery slope that will see this progress come to a halt.

I am not a fan of the government stepping into citizens’ lives and setting unnecessary and damaging market roadblocks, however, when one considers that the free market cannot work under this conditions, I think it is time for the Canadian government to step in and put an end to this. To many, the Internet has become a utility with importance almost as high as that of the telephone system, gas, water, and electricity. Considering that Bell’s infrastructure was largely paid by tax payers dollars, I think it is time we decide how we use those lines and for Bell to stay off OUR Internet!.

lget for Firefox 3.0 b3

Posted in General on March 3rd, 2008 by loconet – Be the first to comment

For those using the latest ff 3.0 b3 release and interested in updating their lget installation, you can get the latest version from mozilla’s official addons site. Note that the linked version will only work on Firefox 3.0 b3.

The most requested feature is to get rid of the download window after submitting the URL (and I agree, it can be annoying). I will address that as soon as I get some free time.

UPDATE: lget 0.4.1 for Firefox 3.0 final is released. Click here for more info.

Canadian version of the American DMCA considered the worst copyright law in the developed world.

Posted in General on November 29th, 2007 by loconet – Be the first to comment

The government of Canada is preparing to attempt to bring a new DMCA-modeled copyright law in Canada in order to comply with the WIPO treaties the country signed in 1997. These treaties were also the base of the American DMCA. The new Canadian law will be even more restrictive in nature than the American version and worse than the last Canadian copyright proposal, the defeated Bill C-60. Amongst the many restrictive clauses, in this new law – as Michael Geist explains – is the total abolishment of the concept of fair use, “No parody exception. No time shifting exception. No device shifting exception. No expanded backup provision. Nothing.”. This new draconian law has the potential of reshaping the whole technology industry and leave consumers at the mercy of copyright owners. Michael Geist provides a list of 30 things that can be done to address the issue.

Via : http://www.boingboing.net/2007/11/27/canadas-coming-dmca.html

The Canadian government is about to bring down Canada’s version of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and it promises to be the worst copyright law in the developed world. It will contain an “anti-circumvention” clause that prohibits breaking the locks off your music and movies in order to move them to new devices or watch them after the company that made them goes out of business — and it will follow the US’s disastrous lead with the DMCA in that there will be no exceptions to the ban on circumvention, not even for parody, fair dealing, time shifting, or other legal uses.

This will be even worse than the last Canadian copyright proposal, the defeated Bill C-60.

But there’s hope. The last two Ministers who tried to push through a US-style copyright bill in Canada lost their jobs, thanks in large part to Canada’s coalition of artists, educators, archivists, and public-interest activists. Selling Canada’s digital future out to a handful of US companies is a bad career move for Canadian politicians.

Gear up for a fight in the New Year. The American record labels, in particular, are said to be well organised and ready to push this through on a fast track (even though they’ve abandoned DRM in the rest of the world, they view Canada as a weak sister they can push around).

If this law passes, it will mean that as soon as a device has any anti-copying stuff in it (say, a Vista PC, a set-top cable box, a console, an iPod, a Kindle, etc), it will be illegal for Canadians to modify it, improve it, or make products that interact with it unless they have permission from the (almost always US-based) manufacturer. This puts the whole Canadian tech industry at the mercy of the US industry, unable to innovate or start new businesses that interact with the existing pool of devices and media without getting a license from the States.

If this law passes, it will render all of the made-in-Canada exceptions to copyright for education, archiving, free speech and personal use will be irrelevant: if a technology has a lock that prohibits a use, your right to make that use falls by the wayside. Nevermind that you’ve got the right to record a show to watch later — or to record a politician’s speech so you can hold him to account later — the policeman in the device can take that right away with no appeal.

If this law passes, it will make Canada into a backwards nation, lagging behind the UK, Israel and other countries that are passing new copyright laws that dismantle the idea of maximum copyright forever and in all things.

Ubuntu desktop eye candy

Posted in General on October 29th, 2007 by loconet – 2 Comments

I took a little break today to play around with Avant Window Manager and installed it on my Gutsy installation. Like any other piece of software in development, it has a lot of issues that need to be addressed before it can be called “ready” but what is available so far is superb. Projects like this and Compiz will be major players in getting more people to experience Linux on the desktop.

Screenshot of my desktop:
Ubuntu screenshot

New theme

Posted in General on September 22nd, 2007 by loconet – 7 Comments

New theme installed, testing…

reCAPTCHA

Posted in General on September 15th, 2007 by loconet – 2 Comments

A pretty cool project was brought to my attention today by a co-worker as well as digg. The project is reCAPTCHA, a project from Carnegie Mellon University, and Luis von Ahn, one of the pioneer CAPTCHA developers. reCAPTCHA aims at “recycling” human brain power used when we are forced to enter CAPTCHA text on websites. reCAPTCHA does this by providing website developers with a library, which instead of presenting a random piece of text to the user for processing, uses previously scanned pieces of text from books being digitized. reCAPTCHA creates CAPTCHA images from text the OCR system was unable to identify successfully, essentially leaving the recognizing to the experts, us humans. As a result, CAPTCHA’s ability is extended to aiding in the accurate digitalization of books, ultimately killing two bird with one stone. Brilliant stuff.

Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software – MIT Press

Posted in General on March 20th, 2007 by loconet – 2 Comments

MIT Press has released a book covering topics of motivation behind the Open and Free Source movement from technical, economical, social, and legal views. This should be a fantastic read for those unfamiliar with what it is that drives Free/Open Source. Where it gets its strength from, and why it is becoming more and more a viable alternative to closed and proprietary software.

What is even better, in true free/open fashion, you can download the entire book for free.

Microsoft’s Linux’s Personas

Posted in General on March 19th, 2007 by loconet – 1 Comment

This one is for those out there who keep bring up the argument that nobody really uses Linux and that big companies, specifically Microsoft, don’t really care about Linux and what it does. Well let me show you the extend of their “indifference” towards Linux via this little project started by Microsoft to study Linux users in order to attempt to drive customers away from the “temptation” of using Linux. “Winning the Against Linux the Smart Way” Microsoft says. Well, hopefully this time they are smarter than in the past because Linux is only growing.

It is obvious that at this point in time whoever believes that nobody notices Linux is living in a vacuum under a cloud of denial which won’t even let them see their cereal at breakfast. More than noticing Linux, Microsoft is, for lack of better term, pooping their pants…

Link – Linux Personas: http://www.linuxpersonas.com/

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.”
  —  Mahatma Gandhi