A Two-Tiered Internet

A American telecomms oligopolies are at it again, trying to line their already obese pockets with yet another piece of legislation that would be detrimental to the whole world other than themselves. They want to create a “two-tiered” Internet, where they can charge businesses not just for the bandwidth that they use (and charge for already), but also for the privilege of having their data carried to customers.

So customers pay the carriers to hook up their PCs and surf the web, businesses pay the carriers on their end for the bandwidth they use, yet the telecomms companies want more. Their big idea is that unless the businesss pay extra to use their “premium” routes, their packets will be sent to customers on slower, more saturated connections where nothing is guaranteed. One good analogy I read was that it’s like building two roads to every house in the country, one a well maintained smooth road that’s a pleasure to drive on, the other a dirt track. The road authority would then charge supermarkets for the privilege of letting their shoppers travel on the better roads.

What do I think of this? It sounds like nothing more than extortion to me, and I seriously doubt such a scheme could work. Unless all of the telecoms team together to put such an idea into operation (cartel, anyone?), people will start flocking to those carriers who do not do this.

Now you may think this won’t affect people outside the US, but let’s remember two things: everyone tends to copy US law for some obscure reason, and guess where most of your favourite sites are located? So if the people who run those sites don’t pay up, you’ll be paddling the web, not surfing. Fun!

Blog Spam

If you read this blog with any regularity, and especially if you comment, you’ll know that you have to be logged in to comment. I turned this on a while ago when comment spam on the blog was ridiculous and took up too much of my time trying to clear up. Well, a short while ago I decided to turn the option off to see if the situation was any better, and all hell broke loose. So it’s back on again now.

By forcing people to log in, I’m cutting off most SPAM bots from my site: so far they’re all too stupid to register a user name on my site and post a comment. However, there is still one remaining avenue for the bots to leave spam on my site, and that’s using trackbacks.

For those who don’t know, a trackback is a special type of comment on a blog entry where you actually write a post on your own blog, but reference the original blog in your post. Your blog then sends a “trackback ping” to the blog you referenced, which usually then adds part of your entry as a comment on the referenced post. Phew. With this method, there is no real way of authenticating the ping other than by manually visiting the referring URL.

And guess what entry those SPAM bots tend to leave their false trackbacks on? This one!

Maybe I should start approving some of those SPAMs, to highlight the truly idiotic nature of the medium.

Hitachi 7K100 100GB laptop hard drive

A whole month after I first ordered my new hard drive for my laptop, it arrives. First the whole palaver with DABS (see my previous post), then a bit of a wait with Misco because, for some reason, it must be hard to get hold of. Ah well, it’s here now, and it’s rather nice.

This is rather a special laptop hard drive. First of all, it’s 7200RPM, which was previously reserved to the desktop world. It’s not very easy to spin two round bits of metal at 7200RPM in a box that is 70mm wide and 9.5mm tall. To add to that, because it’s a laptop drive you need to try and keep the heat and power consumption down. Well, Hitachi have managed such a feat, and it’s powering my laptop.

The main reason I got this drive was because my old 40GB drive simply didn’t have the capacity to deal with what I carry around, and just didn’t give me the breathing room I needed to do those extra tasks I often did. The leap to 100GB solved that problem instantly and I now have plenty of spare space.

Once I knew I was after an upgrade, I looked around for reviews of drives and my old favourite sites, Storage Review, had their first Notebook Drive Roundup. Perfect timing! After a good read over the article, I chose the Hitachi 7K100 as the drive for me.

The bonus of 1.7× the RPM and an 8MB buffer really help bring my computer up to date. Mac OS X boots up in record time, and applications start up noticeably faster. The only downside I’ve noticed so far is that it’s slightly hotter than my previous drive, and definitely louder. Fortunately the heat isn’t too much of a problem, and I must admit I find the metallic clatter quite reassuring.

So all in all, it was £130 well spent and worth the wait, even though it was very frustrating.

An Interesting Proposal

Something funny happened to me last Tuesday. I was in my Neural Networks class in the late afternoon, and the lecturer approached Andy for a chat. We both expected it to be something about Bidirectional Associative Memory Networks we were talking about, but we were both unprepared for what we were about to hear…

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do after you’ve got your degrees?”

We found out there was a new member of staff who was looking for a research student, i.e. someone to do a PhD in the field of Neural Networks applied to Data Mining (I’m contracting it a bit so as not to confuse the world). Apparently, we were the only two people in the school who they thought would be both interested in and capable of doing the job.

To be honest although I find the field fascinating it’s not really my sort of thing so I left it to Andy, who really likes AI and Neural Networks. I felt so flattered though!