failed US broadband policy – excellent lecture by Larry Lessig

There is a good article over at PCWorld titled Why America’s Telecom System Stinks. It refers to a lecture by Larry Lessig which you can view in its entirety here. The first 25 minutes or so deal with broadband policy.

I wish lawmakers took the time to view that lecture. Maybe they would come to understand the problem then – barring a few exceptions it seems that most high up in government do not have the faintest clue that broadband policy in the US is fundamentally broken.

It’s pretty bad when a big honcho from the FCC publicly states that he is not interested in returning to a competitive broadband landscape by reinstituting unbundling because it would result in lengthy legal battles with the big telcos. Can you say regulatory capture?

Posted in Broadband | Leave a comment

Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system

The Free Software Foundation has funded a documentary about the folly of software patents, titled Patent Absurdity: how software patents broke the system. The film is available in Ogg Theora format. If you have a modern browser (Firefox, Chrome, etc) it will play embedded in your browser thanks to HTML 5′s video tag. If you are stuck with IE, you can just download VLC to watch it. The film is also available for download and as a torrent.

It is just under 29 minutes long, and highly recommended.

As a personal note – it’s awesome to see the FSF bring together two of its campaigns, End Software Patents and PlayOgg, while staying true to its founding principles: the film was produced entirely with free software.

Posted in Copyright, patents, and trademarks | 1 Comment

apparently some EU telecoms are just as greedy and stupid as their US counterparts

It seems Telefónica, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom all think that somehow, they should get paid twice for the internet bandwidth they provide to their end-user customers.

An article in the Financial Times quotes leadership from those three companies saying that Google is getting a “free ride” pushing YouTube traffic to their respective customers “because they do not pay anything”.

This is not a new argument of course – SBC has claimed the same thing in the US way back in 2005. Other than generate a general disgust for SBC, not much has come from that claim.

Statements like these show these CEOs do not understand the basic principles of internet peering. Worse, they also indicate a basic dishonesty – they must realize that *their own customers* already pay for that bandwidth.

It’s time the big telcos realize that the world has changed. Their companies are not phone companies anymore, they are telecommunications companies trending towards pure data companies. They are in the business of providing internet access. That means ‘dumb pipes’.

If they do not like that, they should go find something else to do. Of course their government granted monopolies should then be taken away. And the lavish subsidies they received for network buildouts should be paid back and given to other organizations who *do* understand how the internet works.

Maybe then we wouldn’t see such ignorant and dishonest statements in the press.

Posted in Broadband, Completely clueless | Leave a comment

UNIX

UNIX

UNIX fire extinguisher

As seen in a Spanish train station, April 2002.

  • Make: Nikon
  • Model: E995
  • ExposureTime: 10/603 sec
  • FNumber: f/3
  • ISOSpeedRatings: 100
Posted in Photography | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Google’s ultra fast fiber network

Google has announced it is going to build a real broadband network in the US, to test ultra-high speed applications and networks. They intend to provide service to at least 50,000 and possibly up to 500,000 people. It will be a fiber to the home network with speeds over 1 gigabit/second.

That’s way, way, way faster than anything commonly considered ‘broadband’ in the US. It’s on par with speeds residential users can get in parts of the most advanced broadband nation in the world – Japan. If you dig statistics and want to see how pathetic the broadband situation is in the US, the OECD has a ton of numbers on this topic.

Google is going to build this as an open access network. That means they will own the fiber but they will share access to that fiber with many ISPs. Users will be able to sign up for service with an ISP of their choice, which will then presumably handle all billling and pay Google a share of proceeds for the use of the fiber.

DSL used to be operated in a similar way in the US. That changed when our regulators and legislators rolled over and allowed incumbent telephone companies (Verizon and co) to kill off most of the companies they had to share phone lines with. The incumbents did that largely by pricing the alternative ISPs (CLECs) out of business: they charge them higher wholesale prices than what they charge their own DSL end users.

The difference with other countries is stark. The countries where open access is mandated by law and heavily regulated so that the company that ‘owns’ the cable can not abuse its position tend to have far higher availability of high-speed connections, at a fraction of the cost per megabit that is common in the US.

So, assuming that Google does the right thing with this new fiber (as in, does not undercut or sabotage competitor ISPs that share its fiber), and/or regulators and legislators get the guts and sense to actually enforce open access on all access networks, this announcement is really good news for broadband competition.

Google’s looking for state, county and city officials who want their communities to participate in this project. Google’s also asking non-officials to nominate their communties.

Now, if they could be convinced to put that fiber in the ground in Somerville, MA…

Posted in Broadband | Leave a comment

CF iPod conversion to FAT32

In order to install Rockbox on an iPod, it needs to be formatted in FAT32, not HFS+. The relevant wiki page over at the Rockbox site suggest either connecting the iPod to an iTunes install on Windows, or using one of the bootsectors they have available for download from that page.

Those boot sectors assume your iPod has one of the factory disks installed. I’ve got an old 4th gen iPod that I converted to compact flash after its disk died. It happens to have an 8G CF card in there.

Since I don’t do Windows, I downloaded the 20G 4th gen bootsector, put that on the iPod, and used fdisk to change the size of the FAT32 partition. And that worked fine.

Posted in Free Software/Open Source | Leave a comment

Google bike hack

My biggest problem with exercising is how boring it is. Enter the Google bike hack which allows you to ‘cycle’ through Google maps. Awesome idea.

Link via Hack a day.

Posted in Everything else | Leave a comment

creative wiring

I’ve never understood why it is common in the US to run power, telephone and cable on poles, rather than underground. Particularly so in areas with much more extreme weather than the part of Europe that I’m from – where most utilities run underground.

Sometimes, though, the pole-and-wire people get a little bit too creative. An old pole was removed yesterday near my house. Both old and new pole had been in place next to each other for quite a while – giving the utilities the chance to move the wires from the old pole to the new pole. I’m guessing one of the utilities did not get the memo. This is how they ‘secured’ some of the wiring that was still on the old pole to the new pole.

pole and wires (1)pole and wires (2)

Posted in Everything else | 1 Comment

DRAC5 source code available for download

Dell’s DRAC5 is based on free software. The source has been rumored to be available but hard to find – until today, when this helpful e-mail popped up on the linux-poweredge list.

Here’s the link to an ISO with the DRAC5 source:

http://opensource.dell.com/releases/drac5/1.60/

(link updated 2012/12/09, thanks sync0x!)

Posted in Free Software/Open Source | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

nagios, mdadm and snmp

I found this script while looking for a simple script to monitor mdadm arrays. The script is fine, but it has a subtle bug – it will never report an error because the –detail parameter is missing in the call to mdadm. I modified the script a bit, like so:

#!/bin/sh
# (c) 2008 Jasper Spaans 

worst=0
msg=""

for dev in /dev/md?* ; do \
  mdadm --misc -t --detail $dev >/dev/null
  status=$?
  if [ $status == 0 ]; then
    msg="${msg} ${dev}: ok"
  elif [ $status == 1 ] ; then
    if [ worst != 2 ] ; then
      worst=1
    fi
    msg="${msg} ${dev}: degraded"
  elif [ $status == 2 ] ; then
    worst=2
    msg="${msg} ${dev}: degraded - unusable"
  fi
done

echo "mdadm:$msg"
exit $worst

which I saved as /usr/local/bin/check-mdadm.sh.

Add in a bit of snmpd.conf config (and set up sudo accordingly, of course):

...
exec   mdadm /usr/bin/sudo /usr/local/bin/check-mdadm.sh

and a small script on the nagios side (/usr/local/bin/nagios-check-mdadm):

#!/bin/sh

SNMP=`snmpwalk -v1 -c YOUR-PUBLIC $1 extOutput |grep mdadm`
TMP1=`echo $SNMP |grep degraded`
TMP2=`echo $SNMP |sed -e 's/^.*mdadm: //'`

if [ "$TMP1" = "" ]; then
  echo "OK: $TMP2"
  return 0
else
  echo "ERROR: $TMP2"
  return 2
fi

add a bit of nagios config:

define command {
       command_name check_mdadm
       command_line /usr/local/bin/nagios-check-mdadm $HOSTADDRESS$
}
define service {
       use      defaults
       name     check_mdadm
       description   MDADM
       check_command check_mdadm
}

And voila, nagios notifications when disks fall out of the array.

Posted in Sysadmin | 1 Comment