Previous month:
October 2011
Next month:
December 2011

Posts from November 2011

SOPA Updates: Matt Cutts Summary, European Parliament Resolution, Sandia Labs, BSA

US Capital
In the ongoing debate around the controversial "Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)" bill in the US Congress (that I have covered previously here and here), there are four updates worth reading:
  • First, Matt Cutts provided a comprehensive SOPA update last week talking about all the online activism and support against the bill. Great collections of links, and I loved this part at the end:
    I thought we’d have to wait 20-25 years before a critical mass of people would defend the net. But SOPA has brought that day a lot closer. SOPA galvanized the tech community, from start-ups to venture capitalists to the largest web companies. SOPA was an unexpected shock and a wake-up call. Well, guess what? Now the internet is awake. And I don’t think it’s going back to sleep any time soon. We might need to rally again in the near future, but we can do that. The internet learns fast.
  • Sandia National Laboratories responded to a request from Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren with a letter outlining why SOPA wouldn't work and would decrease our cybersecurity.

  • The European Parliament adopted a resolution that included among its many clauses, one (#25) that spoke specifically to SOPA/Protect-IP issues:
    Stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names;
  • Finally, the Business Software Alliance (BSA), which represents many of the largest tech companies and had been promoted as supporting SOPA, clarified their position and indicated that the law as written is too broad and could have unintended consequences.

All in all a much better situation than was the case two weeks ago...

Image credit: jasonippolito on Flickr

Please note that this blog post represents my personal opinion and has no connection whatsoever to any employers or other organizations, either past or present.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Skype 5.x Beta For Mac OS X Includes Hidden "Push To Talk" Feature

Skypelogo-shadowIt turns out that the Skype 5.x Beta releases for Mac OS X have a hidden feature. In my last Skype-related post about the simultaneous release of 5.7 Beta for Windows and 5.4 Beta for Mac OS X, I mentioned that the release notes for the 5.7 Beta for Windows included a "Push To Talk" feature that was not in the Mac OS X version. From those Windows release notes:

Push to Talk

We have introduced a Push to Talk feature in Skype. Many people who are playing multiplayer games have requested this from us.

With this feature you can set a hotkey which will toggle microphone muting on Skype call.

You can set the Push to Talk up on the hotkey's selection under tools > options > advanced > hotkeys.

In my post, I mentioned that while I personally wasn't sure I saw the need for this feature, it was an example of the continued missing parity between the two products (Skype for Windows, Skype for Mac OS X).

This morning I received a nice note from Skype's product manager for the Skype for Mac product letting me know that this "Push To Talk" feature actually is included in the Skype for Mac 5.x Beta releases, albeit as a hidden feature.  To use "Push To Talk" during a Skype call, you need to press (ready for this?):

Control + Option + Command + Up Arrow

Yep... three keys with your left hand and then the up-arrow with your right hand. (or yes, you could press the command and option keys on the right side, but you still need the control key on the left side.)

It does work.  I tried it on a call and found that once I pressed the key combination the call was in "Push To Talk" mode and I had to hold down that key combination to speak.  I was also able to just click on the icon of the muted microphone in my Skype window to leave this "PTT" mode and go back to regular microphone usage.

Unfortunately, unlike the Windows version, there does not seem to be any way, yet, to configure the key combination. I don't regularly play multiplayer online games so I don't know whether this particular key combination is a problem. It just seems to me to be inefficient in that it requires both hands.  It would be great if Skype would allow the configuration of this key combo as the 5.x release for Mac OS X leaves beta.

Anyway... for those of you using the Skype 5 Beta for Mac OS X, you, too, can now use "Push To Talk"...

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:





Want a Great Weekend Project? Consider Applying for an Internet Society Job

The Internet Society is hiring! We've got about 10 open positions right now...

17 Nov 2011 Technical Outreach for Identity and Privacy
14 Nov 2011 Regional Bureau Director, North America
09 Nov 2011 Director, Development Strategy
04 Nov 2011 Membership Program Coordinator
27 Oct 2011 Sr. Manager, Next Generation Leaders Programme
18 Oct 2011 Internet Development Manager for Africa
28 Sep 2011 Application Development Specialist
27 Sep 2011 Sr. Director of Business Development and Resource Mobilization
27 Sep 2011 Administrative Assistant
09 Sep 2011 IT System Support Specialist

To apply, just follow the links here or check out the main Internet Society Careers page. I believe strongly in the mission of the Internet Society (as I explained before) and encourage you to consider the openings... we're looking for some great people to help the organization accomplish even more!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Oops... Posted to the Wrong Site... See the Correct Link here

Oops... this post about Google Wave is really over at Disruptive Conversations: (Keeping this post up because it already went out in social networks...)

3 Whitepapers You Need To Read To Understand How SOPA Could Damage DNS And Decrease Security

US Capital
How exactly will the proposed "Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA)" impact the DNS infrastructure of the Internet? What are the technical and engineering problems caused by the proposed bill? How will the bill actually DECREASE our national cybersecurity?

I covered the basics of SOPA (HR.3261) and its companion bill in the Senate, S.968, the "PROTECT-IP Act", last week and and in the time since I wrote that post the public opposition to SOPA has mounted dramatically as people have come to understand what exactly these bills will do. Like many, I applaud the intent of these bills to protect intellectual property, but am concerned that the mandated mechanism of "DNS filtering" proposed by these bills will have serious negative consequences.

If you want to understand the technical issues with the proposed mechanism, there are three whitepapers I would recommend for reading - and for sharing with your legislators. (I've sent the links in to my representatives.) I'd note that the first two documents were prepared back in the spring of 2011 to address the U.S. Senate's version, the PROTECT-IP Act, but the mechanism proposed in SOPA is essentially the same.

  • Internet Society Perspectives on Domain Name System (DNS) Filtering (direct link to English PDF)
    In this easy-to-read paper, the Internet Society explains why DNS filtering is not a solution, how the mechanism can be easily circumvented and how it will "not solve the problem, interfere with cross-border data flows and services, and undermine the Internet as a single, unified, global communications network." The document discusses the issues of "collateral damage" of website blockage, explains some of the non-technical issues and provides links to further resources.
  • Security and Other Technical Concerns Raised by the DNS Filtering Requirements in the PROTECT IP Bill (PDF)
    This whitepaper was written by 5 of the leading DNS designers, operators and researchers and dives into significant technical depth. In particular, it looks at how the proposed DNS filtering mechanism would break the implementation of DNSSEC, a newer method being deployed to help secure the DNS infrastructure. The paper, too, addresses how easily DNS filtering can be bypassed (and provides very simple examples demonstrating this) and the security issues that come with that circumvention. It also looks at the "collateral damage" issue, the impact to content delivery networks (CDNs) and the overall impact that DNS filtering would have to the Internet.
  • Cybersecurity in the Balance: Weighing the Risks of the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act
    This recent paper from Allan A. Friedman, a Fellow at the Brookings Institution, frames the SOPA/PROTECT-IP debate in terms of the impact to national cybersecurity. It again covers the issues with DNS filtering, impacts to DNSSEC, unintended consequences, etc., but does so from the point-of-view of how this will affect the cybersecurity position of the U.S., both domestically and at an international level.

All three of these papers are good to read (and share) to understand the technical weaknesses of the proposed solutions in SOPA/PROTECT-IP.

Please do pass them along so that people can understand the technical issues with these proposed solutions.

Image credit: jasonippolito on Flickr

Please note that this blog post represents my personal opinion and has no connection whatsoever to any employers or other organizations, either past or present.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

An Interesting Historical Timeline of Canadian Telecommunications

Canadian Flag

Last week I was up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the Internet Society's ION conference that was a part of the larger Canadian ISP Summit. This was only the first Canadian ISP Summit, but I've heard only excellent reports on the 3-day session and indeed we were extremely pleased by the attendance and engagement in our ION session on Monday. I was unfortunately unable to stay for the rest of the summit, but I saw this link tweeted out and had to check it out:

Historical Timeline of Canadian Telecommunications Achievements (PDF)

It turns out to be a document created for a presentation at the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly back in 2000 (hence, why the history only goes up to 1999 ;-). I'm assuming someone at the CA ISP Summit referenced this document... thus generating the tweets.

Regardless of the lack of recent info, it's an interesting history of telecom in Canada... and gives an intriguing view into the wiring of a large country. Worth a read for those interested in the history of telecom.

Image credit: dr_opulentfish on Flickr

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

OMG! Skype Simultaneously Releases (Almost) The Same Version on Windows and Mac OS X

when pigs fly

Yesterday I sat in such utter shock that I had to look out my window to see if, in fact, we were witnessing porcine aviation. My brain was having a hard time processing something I had just read online. I literally was speechless, which, if you know anything about me, is a very hard state for me to attain. :-)

What created this cognitive dissonance?

You see...

Skype just announced the simultaneous release of new versions of Skype for BOTH Windows and Mac OS X.

Even more, the two versions almost have feature parity.

Yes, indeed, you can now get the Skype 5.7 beta for Windows and the Skype 5.4 beta for Mac OS X, both of which introduce a "Facebook video calling" feature, and both of which bring the two releases closer to "feature parity".

Why is this a big deal?

If you have been reading this site for any length of time, you have probably seen some of these posts:

I - and others - have continually asked the question for years now of why Skype couldn't release its product simultaneously on at least Windows and Mac OS X. The answers always given were the lame corporate-speak about "delivering the best experience on each platform", blah, blah, blah...

But the truth is that the siloed development of each platform meant that Windows users would get some features, then Mac users would get some features, then Windows users some more, then Mac users some more... and the net result was that whenever a new feature was released, you couldn't try it with people who were on the other platform.

Meanwhile, many other products from web browsers even to softphones (from Counterpath) were all able to come out with a simultaneous product release across multiple operating systems.

I admit that I had come to expect that we'd probably see a full deployment of IPv6 on the public Internet before we'd see a simultaneous product release out of Skype...

Kudos to Skype for finally getting it (almost) right with this release, even if it is still a "beta" release!

(And with apologies to the users of Skype on Linux who pretty much have to accept at this point that their chance of getting feature parity with Windows and Mac OSX are right up there with the odds of the Pope converting to Judaism.)

The (Almost) Caveat

Of course, you'll notice that I keep using "almost" here... the fact is that this is NOT the same product brought out on two different operating systems, but rather the coordination of the release of two different products.

Remote-Control Flying Pig

As Jim Courtney notes in his own post on these new releases the user interfaces are still different in ways that make it challenging to explain to someone on the other platform how to do something in Skype. There are still terminology differences ('categories' versus 'tags'). On the Mac version I still can't pop a chat out into a separate window as I'm told you can do in the Windows version (and we used to be able to do with Skype 2.8 for the Mac). Even in these announcements, the 5.7 beta for Windows mentions a "Push to Talk" feature which I don't see in the 5.4 beta for Mac. (Indeed I can't find any way to set "hot keys" on my Mac, which actually could be useful.)

Not that I personally really want the "Push to Talk" feature... but it's an example of the continued fragmentation of the two products.

So I celebrate the fact that Skype finally delivered a new feature simultaneously across both platforms - great work to all involved!

And yes, now I naturally want the rest of the parity between platforms... ;-)

Image credits: kiss kiss bang bang and eric_liu76 on Flickr

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

The US Congress, PROTECT IP, SOPA, E-PARASITES... and the War For the Open Internet

US Capital
If you are a U.S. citizen and have NOT been paying attention to the madness going on in the US Congress right now with regard to the Internet, you really NEED to take a look...

If you have a website, you need to be paying attention...

If you own a domain name, you need to be paying attention...

Backed by the traditional media industries (and all their lobbying $$$) the U.S. Senate and House are considering legislation that would seriously break the Internet as we know it. Rather than the DMCA "takedown notices" that have been used to date, these new bills would require ISPs to disable access to websites.

Basically it would give corporations the ability to manipulate (through ISPs) the DNS system to block access to content that they feel is objectionable or violates their copyrights, etc.

I think we all can generally agree that stopping online piracy and illegal activities is a good goal. As well as being a consumer of online content, I am also a creator of online content, and sure, I don't want my content pirated and mis-used by others...

but a "simple" technical solution is NOT the answer!

On a purely technical point-of-view, the Internet Society has issued a DNS Filtering White Paper on why this type of filtering is not a solution to combating illegal activities... and the danger such filtering has to the fabric of the Internet and to users themselves.

In the US Senate, the bill is S.968, the "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (PROTECT IP)" Act (also known as "PIPA") while over in the house it was first known as the "E-PARASITE bill (the Enforcing and Protecting American Rights Against Sites Intent on Theft and Exploitation Act)" and now has been introduced as H.3261, the "Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)".

There has been a great amount of online content generated around this issue. Some of the articles I found useful include:

PopVox has an interesting comparison of the organizations supporting and opposing S.968 and HR.3261. Look at the "Organizations Supporting" and "Organizations Opposing" tabs, although I believe there are more opposing orgs than simply those listed... still, it gives a view of the players involved.

The battle is going on right now with one of the latest updates being that tech industry reps were denied a seat at next week's House hearings and that now the 4 presenters to the committee will all be pro-SOPA entities.

Please... take a moment to read these links above... read even more... educate yourself on what the issues are - and let your opinion be known to your representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. Please spread the word online, too, as we who are users of the Internet need to let our voices be heard...

Image credit: jasonippolito on Flickr

UPDATE #1: Alex Howard has a great collection of SOPA/PIPA-related links, including a video of Senator Ron Wyden (the senator currently putting a "hold" on the PROTECT IP bill in the Senate).

UPDATE #2: While I began this post "If you are a U.S. citizen", Neville Hobson correctly pointed out that those outside the U.S. need to be concerned, too, as this type of government intervention in the Internet by the US government, if successful, will certainly spread to other governments. Plus, any issues affecting DNS will naturally have impacts outside the USA.

Please note that this blog post represents my personal opinion and has no connection whatsoever to any employers or other organizations, either past or present.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Sweet! Apple iOS 5.0.1 Is Available Over-The-Air (OTA) - Faster and No iTunes Required!

For those of use with iOS devices, news of today's iOS 5.0.1 that fixes battery issues was welcome... and along with it the news that this update is available "over-the-air" (OTA). NO iTUNES SYNC REQUIRED!

Just go into Settings, then General, then Software Update. Per this article on Mashable, your device needs to either be plugged in or have over 50% battery.

Here's what it looked like on my iPad:

Ios501 ota

The Mashable piece said that the OTA update was faster and I can personally attest to that. I started the process to update my iPhone 4S via iTunes and the first step was to download the update from Apple. Several minutes later I decided to do the OTA process on my iPad2. The iPad2 finished the update process before iTunes had even finished downloading the update!

So yes, the OTA process is definitely faster!

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

IETF Journal for October 2011 Digs into DNSSEC, Port Control Protocol, Internet Evolution

Ietfjournal oct2011
Want to learn more about what is happening with regard to standards in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)?  Want to understand the details about new proposals to offer another way to secure domains using DNSSEC? Never heard of the "Port Control Protocol" before and wonder how it may (or may not) help you? Want to understand some of the latest thoughts from Internet leaders about where the Internet is evolving?

The October 2011 edition of the IETF Journal gets into all of that and more. Here's the Table of Contents  (a PDF is also available for printing or ebook reading):

The IETF Journal is published three times a year and past (and future) versions can be found at:

If you would like to be alerted to future editions - or would like to contribute articles - more information can be found on that page.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: