Should I save the internet ?

Saving “anything” sounds like superhero stuff, saving the internet sounds like saving the planet, but what is it really about. In India, this movement is underway currently following in the footsteps of similar movements in the US since the Government has asked for a public response on the issue prior to its stand on the matter.

Net neutrality in a nutshell

Of late, net neutrality has become a key word in the internet activist community. On a very high level, think about the internet as a collection of wires connecting different computers through which data packets flow around, then net neutrality means that all data packets irrespective of what they represent (an image/video/a chat message/…) and all computers which are receiving and sending these data packets will be treated equally i.e., there will be no discrimination based on the nature of the data packet and the sending and receiving computer for transferring the data packets. This is the broad sweeping definition of net neutrality. It owes its origin to the origin of telegraph where a similar interpretation required that all messages irrespective of its content and the sender/receiver must be treated equally.

Do I really want net neutrality ?

That depends on your ideals. In an ideal setting if you had wires which could carry an infinite (any amount) of data packets at the same time, then ideal net neutrality would be a goal worth settling for. However, we don’t live in an ideal world, the wires can only carry a fixed number of data packets at the same time and worse a lot of senders and receivers share the same wires. As a result, the data packets need to be prioritized. As a result data packets are prioritized (image/video over text for webpages) and senders and receivers are prioritized too (people with a higher bandwidth plan need to pay more). It could be argued that this violation of idealized net neutrality is a pragmatic solution to an infrastructure problem.

What is the problem then ?

The real problem lies in discriminating the nature of the data in order to make money. If you consume the same amount of data, whether you consume it for reading a webpage, watching a movie, reading a social networking site, writing a blog post you should pay the same. This is where the major problem lies for telecom operators since there is significant money to be gained by violating net neutrality by discriminating the nature of the data. If you use social networking for communicating with your friends instead of using SMS, the telecom operators lose the SMS money. If you use Skype/Viber for voice communication, the telecom operators lose money they can make on charging phone calls. You could argue that the telecom operators are making more money now since you are still paying data charges. That is correct but then greed  gets in the way. Historically, the telecom operators had a leverage by controlling the applications that the telecom infrastructure could be used for. Of late, they have realized the internet infrastructure can be used for applications that they have no control of and hence they have no monopoly of the telecommunication applications and so they cannot make free money from people for just using the applications which the application developers can (youtube, skype …). The telecom regulators want a piece of this money that internet applications make for free in addition to the data charges by discriminating on the nature of the data. And this is where the real problem lies.

Is it all black and white then ?

A large awareness campaign is underway which is trying to educate the public about the perils of the move the telecom operators are undertaking. While most of the points in the awareness campaign make sense, a subtle point about equality in competition between large and small companies is trying to create a hogwash of the “David versus Goliath” story. The argument goes something like this. The telecom operators by violating net neutrality are going to discriminate between data packets to lets say Amazon and Flipkart (two e-commerce websites). As a result access to one of these websites would be significantly slower than the other owing to the prioritization. In order to gain parity, the company with the slower website must pay the telecom provider the same amount of money as the other provider or the user (i.e., you must pay some money to get the same speed to both the websites). That essentially means that some computers will be put on a high speed link and some on a low speed link and someone has to foot the bill, either you or the website provider.

Now the big question is, is this fair ?

I am not going to answer this. Instead of answering, think about how is this different between different sized companies competing with each other. Large companies always had a larger money pool to play with. Also consider the fact that just like you pay differently for different MB plans, computers that are sending data packets (servers where websites are housed) pay differently based on the plan they take, more for fatter wires with more data carrying capacity. So, is different speed to different websites unfair ? Is intentional slowing down and/or speeding up of the internet fair ?

Things maybe are not completely in black and white here but are shades of grey. Think for yourselves and decide.

So what should I do ?

Take a stand for net neutrality but be careful about your stand. Sign the petition (you need to actually email it) but take the time to read and/or edit the responses before sending it so that you understand what you are really saying instead of blindly supporting someone else’s stand.

Don’t let this happen

Stupidity in the guise of Cleverness

Of late, I am just sick and tired of “sort of inspirational” or “clever” quotes which appear on pictures of famous people. And no surprises there, Einstein leads the gang there. I am completely sure that he/any of the people claimed in the picture did not say all of them or any of them because of the following reasons:

  • They would not have had any time to become famous given the volume of stuff they had to speak.
  • They do not have IQ level zero or more realistically even negative.
  • They were mostly rational human beings.
  • They absolutely hated retards championing them.

So, it completely befuddles me to see the sort of absurd stupidity being paraded under the cloaks of perceived/established cleverness/wit. At times like this, I want to go back to the stone age where drawing pictures was the only form of communication between humans :-). And with that I end my rant.

Really !!

 

 

Emailing just got more complicated

The department of computer science has been long under the pressure of moving their email systems from diku.dk to di.ku.dk . A couple of weeks ago SCIENCE-IT finally did the migration. So the old postfix email servers were discarded for new shiny Microsoft Exchange solution. As a result I found out last week, that old solution of automatically forwarding / re-directing emails were discontinued on “legal” reasons (which as a user I have no clue of). This means my earlier solution of using another email address mailbox as a backup mailbox to archive incoming emails by forwarding all incoming emails does not work unless I use POP on another server with my passwords (which I would never dream of doing). The old solution was a mind boggling simple and flexible one. What we have currently achieved is to give up the simpler and logical solution for an inflexible and legal solution. All this just begs the question, what is the purpose of the migration ? Make the system easier for users or easier to administrate for admins ignoring the users ?

And thats what its all about

A little bit of winter dumbness

The other week I had gone to the Fotex store in Lyngby storcenter for my grocery trip. I came across a superb offer on Pancake mix. If you buy one you pay 22 kr. but if you buy 2 you only pay 26 kr. Given my love for pancakes buying 2 pancake mixes was just a no-brainer. I bought my stuff and came back home happier than ever. The next day I noticed I had only brought one pancake mix and the other must have got left behind in the shopping bag. I checked my bill to confirm and I saw that I had paid for 1 pancake mix for 22 kr.

That was not a happy feeling, but knowing how awesome the people in Fotex are I figured I could go the next day and pick another mix and pay just 4 kr. and be done with it. So I went. I went to the counter and explained the situation the girl at the counter and asked if its ok to pick up another and pay 4 kr. She rolled her eyes as she looked at another girl she was happily chatting with and asked me to explain it again. I did so dutifully taking all the pauses in the world and making sure I left no cryptic PhD talk in it. The girl at the counter again looked at the girl she was chatting with, rolled eyes, and said “No, that’s not possible. Its a new day”. Now that did not seem to make any sense.

I did not want to argue with her so I went over to another guy and asked whats the return policy. He told me if you have the bill and return the stuff within 30 days, we would accept it. So, I went to the counter again and politely asked the girl if I could return the pancake mix I bought. She said, “Yes”. I said, “Great, then please take it back”. I also told her that if this is so, isnt it exactly the same thing I suggested earlier ? That I return the stuff get 22 kr. back and then go buy 2 pancake mixes for 26 kr which is the same as paying 4 kr. for the other mix. The girl just made a weird face and said, “Please give the  mix and the bill”.

That I did, she went to her computer and did some stuff and came back and told me that the mix I was returning was not on the bill. The bar code on the mix did not seem to match with what the computer showed for the mix purchased in the bill. I just stared incredulously. I told her that was the bill and I have not bought any other mixes and the mix must be on the bill as otherwise the machines which detect if you have paid for stuff you are taking out of the store would have beeped when I took it the other day. How am I supposed to know what bar codes get put on the bill or not ? Am I not supposed to trust people on the counter ? Am I supposed to go check bar codes on bill after every purchase ? Her reaction was, “I am sorry” and she walked off. It really felt insulting the way the entire episode panned out. I am not being stingy about the money, I had just gone to correct an honest mistake. Given my past brushes with people in the stores here I was more than certain that the solution would just be eked out in a matter of seconds. It did not matter if I would have got the other mix for 4 kr. if the whole situation was handled with more care and understanding than plain rude, insulting behavior. What actually panned out was an episode of rude nonsensical behavior which has made me a bit wary of what to expect in stores. Maybe I was just lucky so far and this was just a jolt to restore the normalcy of day to day life.

Looks like this is what they did to me as well

And I survived a mayhem

I went for a ritual haircut to Copenhagen Frisorskole where I have been going for the past 2 years. But this time it was different, the hairdresser who was cutting my hair had different ideas for my hair than what I wanted. And his supervisor also went for what he said instead of listening to what I was saying. And that is how I got a haircut disaster. Although in the end I managed to salvage the situation a bit by instructing them how to abandon what they were doing and do what I wanted. Will I go back again ? I think I will since its really really cheap and well worth the money as it has always been for me except this time.

Oh dear !! What did I do wrong ?

Free S train rides, where are you ?

Dear DSB,

               I so miss the free S train rides on the first Sunday of every month. They were the ideal opportunities for poor students like me to make those long forays into the Danish countryside. If you can, it would be nice even to have subsidized tickets on the first Sunday of every month if not completely free. After all, the best things in life are usually  free.

Yours really really sincerely,

Just another student who loves to travel and explore

Hope it doesn’t come to this