Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If You Love the iPhone, Set It Free

Do you want to get the new iPhone?

If so, you're in for a disappointment. If not, you should be worried anyway.

Apple just released the new iPhone in a hail of hype, promising that it would be "the Internet in your pocket." If only. The smart phone's groundbreaking technology has been hijacked by AT&T. In a move reminiscent of old Ma Bell, the telephone giant has struck an exclusive agreement with Apple that ties the hands of all iPhone users, restricts their Internet use and prohibits access to any other network.

And the iPhone is not alone. Nine of the 10 most popular phones are locked into exclusive deals with the few wireless carriers that dominate the market. That means that as long as carriers reserve the right to cripple the phone's best features, block full access to the Internet and stick customers with astronomical bills, you're not getting the real Internet from your shiny new handheld.
Congress Examines Handset Shackling

Exclusivity Sucks

These carrier restrictions are also why there's a growing consumer revolt to free the iPhone and other "smart" phones like it from the control of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The controversy revolves around this simple question:
If we can access the free-flowing Internet via a wireless laptop or desktop computer, why can't we do the same with our new handheld computers?
These "exclusive deals" recall the days when AT&T held a monopoly over all phone communications. For decades, Ma Bell controlled every phone on its grid and banned other companies from connecting new devices or services.

A groundbreaking 1968 policy change, known among tech wonks as the "Carterfone decision," pried open the device marketplace so that numerous new phone products could be introduced -- including answering machines, fax machines, cordless phones and early computer modems. This in turn spawned a flood of innovation in services that greatly benefited consumers.

In 2009, we need to take a serious look at the ways Carterfone rules would open the wireless marketplace to the next wave of innovation. Free Press on Wednesday launched FreeMyPhone, a campaign designed to give new "smart" phone users more control over their handheld Internet experience.

The Mobile Internet

This work is vital because wireless devices are now in the hands of more than 270 million Americans -- that's 87 percent of the population. But as more phones become "Web-enabled," more users are tied to carriers that promise the Internet but don't actually deliver the openness that's its founding principle.

AT&T is a case in point. The carrier just decided to allow Major League Baseball to stream video live to the new iPhone 3Gnetwork, but is blocking consumers from accessing other video services. Had AT&T done the same via it's wired-line services, it would be a stark violation of Net Neutrality, the principle that guarantees users can access any legal application, Web site or service they choose.

Late last year, AT&T's top lobbyist told the Washington Post that open Internet principles should govern wireless communications and that consumers expect unfettered mobile access.

"The same principals [sic] should apply across the board," Jim Cicconi said. "As people migrate to the use of wireless devices to access the Internet, they... certainly expect that we treat these services the same way."

Why then is AT&T now deciding what online video its iPhone customers can and can't watch?

So here we are -- at the dawn of the era of a true mobile Internet with AT&T and the other carriers still playing gatekeepers to the next generation of innovation.

Imagine what the new iPhone would really be if we only set it free.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bill O'Reilly 'Applauds' Cold-Blooded Murderers

David Neiwert of Crooks & Liars reports on a chilling double-murder allegedly committed by members of the "Minutemen" the loose-knit organization of armed citizens who "guard" our borders.

The killings are chilling enough -- as evidenced by the 911 recording of the mother as she witnessed the execution of her 9-year-old daughter and husband. But what's even more infuriating is the way many prominent right-wing media pundits have made this group the darlings of 21st century patriotism.

Neiwert writes:
Remember how all those right-wing pundits proclaimed the Minutemen as being just like a neighborhood watch? Michelle Malkin called it "the mother of all neighborhood watches." Lou Dobbs labeled it "this country's biggest neighborhood watch program". Bill O'Reilly declared: "Talking Points applauds the Minutemen. They are in the great tradition of neighborhood watch groups."
The accused ringleader is Shawna Forde, who is the executive director of Minutemen American Defense and often served as spokesperson for the Minutemen movement. Here she is in that role, dishing up the hatred in a video for German television.

Frank Rich's most recent New York Times column explains how crimes of this sort are part of a bigger problem egged on by right-wing media:
This homicide-saturated vituperation is endemic among mini-Limbaughs. Glenn Beck has dipped into O’Reilly’s Holocaust analogies to liken Obama’s policy on stem-cell research to the eugenics that led to "the final solution" and the quest for "a master race." After James von Brunn’s rampage at the Holocaust museum, Beck rushed onto Fox News to describe the Obama-hating killer as a "lone gunman nutjob." Yet in the same show Beck also said von Brunn was a symptom that "the pot in America is boiling," as if Beck himself were not the boiling pot cheering the kettle on.
We have a real right-wing media accountability moment. Ask yourself how this compares to the mainstream media's current obsession over David Letterman's apology to Palin.

Shouldn't they be more concerned about the harm caused by the shrill pundits of the right?

I would say there's a strange double standard in effect, but this crime (and the rhetoric that fueled the murderers) is so horrible that it's silly to have to compare it to the Letterman-Palin affair.

And yet the mainstream media seems to think that one deserves more attention than the other.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Grassroots vs. Machine

The machine was in full today as it seemed half of the city's police and fire departments took time off from protecting and serving to pass out glossies of Peter Cammarano.

Some donned blue (the Cammarano campaign T-shirt that is) while others had their Hoboken Police and Fire Department baseball caps, decals and shirts on show.

It's a formidable force for the campaign, though some officers didn't do their candidate well by loitering around ferry and PATH terminals, and NJTransit bus stops in packs of five or six.

Let me paint the scene: four to five guys standing around shooting the bull; one guy actually handing out campaign material.

Does that inspire you to vote Cammarano on Tuesday?

For me it offered up a glimpse into the future of a Cammarano administration. As local resident Oanh Nguyen pointed out in her own flier to citizens: "Cammarano says that he will work towards lowering taxes, but I do not understand how that will happen if in his history as councilman, he has not done much that has helped the City save money."

Nguyen, who like me is getting involved in local Hoboken politics for the first time, has done so by passing out fliers to her neighbors (She slid one under the door of my apartment this evening).

"I am concerned that Peter Cammarano and his machine may fool people into voting for him," she wrote. "And a vote for him is a vote to continue the same old politics as in the past."

I wish I had a link or pdf file to share you the whole of Nguyen's handout. She makes a sincere case for voting down the machine, one that's far more convincing than the blue scrum of Cammarano guys hanging out at the bus stop.

Others should follow Nguyen's example, pick up their phones, call 5 friends and urge them to vote. Nguyen inspired me to do more. Now it's your turn.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Blog Banning an Unexpected Birthday Gift from the Mainland

Mainland China has banned MediaCitizen, according to local browser tests in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

Not certain how I triggered the Great Firewall, but pleased nonetheless.

You can still read from Hongkong though!