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Posts from December 2011

Looking for last-minute tax donations? Why not support the open Internet?

As 2011 draws to a close, are you looking at what donations to make to charitable organizations for tax purposes?

Here in the USA, this is something that many of us think about in these final days. It's a last chance we have to make tax-deductible donations that can then be used to potentially lower the taxes you pay to the US government when we go through all that fun over the next few months.

Now, there are admittedly a zillion great causes and organizations out there to whom you can give donations. Local organizations, global organizations, relief organizations, churches and religious groups, arts organizations, environmental groups, sports groups, school groups, cancer and other research organizations... so, so many...

In the midst of all that, I'd also encourage you to think about possibly making donations to organizations helping in the fight to maintain an "open Internet".

2012 promises to be a challenging year for the Internet... not just with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and it's PROTECT-IP cousin here in the US... but with similar legislation cropping up all around the world. With various governments seeking to put restrictions on the Internet in their country. With upcoming global telecommunications treaties and discussions. With various industries who have been severely disrupted by the Internet. With large companies wanting to lock people in to specific platforms and systems. With... with... with... the list goes on and on...

The Internet has now become a critical communications medium with so many players out there now believing they should play a role.

We need to ensure that the Internet remains open for "permissionless innovation"... for access to the services and applications we want to use... for access to everyone all around the world...

And unfortunately, the powers that would like to close and restrict the openness of the Internet are also powers that have a ton of money and a ton of lobbyists, lawyers and more.

So if you are looking for a way to help make a difference in 2012, may I suggest please helping out some of the organizations that are out there fighting to keep the Internet open?

There are again, many such organizations fighting the good fight for the open Internet, and I'm sure all of them would welcome the contributions. If you aren't aware of any such organizations in your region, here are four I personally believe are doing valuable work:

And yes, I'm now a staff member for the Internet Society but I've been a donor to ISOC for several years prior to joining as a staff member in September. There are also many other groups helping in local areas throughout the world.


Or even more than one! If you're in the US, you have a little over 24 hours to make those final contributions.

We've got a wonderful resource in the open Internet we have today... let's keep it open!

P.S. The four organizations I list above are all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations under US tax law. If you are looking at other organizations you will want to just check to ensure that donations to them are in fact tax-deductible (if your point right now is donate for tax purposes).

P.P.S. There are, of course, many others working in complementary ways... the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is doing great work on critical privacy issues. I love all that the Sunlight Foundation is doing for open government and there are so many more. All of them could use donations!

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3 Great Posts to Read About Why Windows Phone 7 Hasn't Taken Off...

Windows Phone 7

Jumping online this morning I noticed this trio of great posts yesterday about Windows Phone 7 and why it hasn't taken off. The discussion was started off by Charlie Kindel, a former Microsoft general manager:

MG Siegler weighed in on his blog with:

And Robert Scoble posted a comment on Charlie's post that led then to his own post:

The comments on both Charlie Kindel's and Robert Scoble's posts are also worth reading. There were other articles on this theme, but these were the three I found most useful.

As to my own opinion, I'm definitely in Scoble's camp (to which Siegler also agrees):

It's ALL about the apps!

The device formerly known as a "mobile phone" is now a device to access all sorts of services, information, games, Internet sites and to send messages to people... and, oh yeah, it can make phone calls sometimes if you really want it to.

It's all about the apps... and until Microsoft is able to truly foster a strong application developer ecosystem it will remain, like RIM, a minor player in the mobile market.

Image credit: microsoftsweden on Flickr

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Voxeo Imports Snow... Into Florida??? (Video)

Kudos to my former colleagues at Voxeo for a great Holiday Letter and a truly fun video showing the making of the holiday photo. A large part of why I enjoyed working at Voxeo so much was just the wackiness that leads to doing crazy things like having a snowball fight in Florida! Keep on doing crazy things, my friends... it's awesome to see what you are doing!

P.S. And I imagine that this little bit of snow may have been more snow than a few of those Floridians had ever seen! :-)

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2 Insanely Simple Steps to Completely Bypass the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)

How completely BROKEN is the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) be?

Here are the two steps ANY consumer can take to COMPLETELY bypass the DNS filtering proposed in SOPA:

1. Find The Computer's DNS Settings

On a Mac, go into System Preferences, then Network, select the network connection being used (typically "Wi-Fi" or "Ethernet") and then click on the "Advanced..." button in the lower right corner. On the resulting screen, click on the "DNS" tab to see a screen like this one:


On a Windows computer, go into the Control Panel and look for "Network and Sharing Center", find the adapter being used, right-click it and choose "Properties". Next click on "Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)" (or IPv6 should you use that) and press the "Properties" button. Microsoft provides step-by-step instructions on their website for changing these properties.

On mobile devices, tablets, etc, the same kind of screen can generally be found in a "preferences" or "settings" area. Linux systems likewise may have a graphical control panel/settings area or may requiring editing of a file.

2. Enter In Addresses for Public DNS Servers OUTSIDE The USA

All someone has to do is search for "list of public DNS servers outside us" in Google or other search engines. They can look at the OpenNIC list of public DNS servers or any of a zillion other web pages.

Choose one or more DNS servers outside the United States and enter them into the computer's DNS settings.

Apply those settings and... ta da... the consumer is no longer subject to any DNS filtering that is proposed as part of SOPA. (Because they are no longer using DNS servers that are subject to US law.)

That's it!


Could the entertainment industry seriously be lobbying for a filtering solution that can be defeated so easily?

Yes, it is... and yes, they are.


YES! Pretty much everyone who knows anything about the Internet has explained to SOPA proponents that this proposed mechanism will not work.

White papers have been issued, statements have been received from organizations charged with cybersecurity, a group of 83 prominent Internet inventors and engineers sent a letter to Congress...


Good question. Ask them. Perhaps they think US consumers are too dumb to follow simple steps like these above. I don't know.

Beyond simply not working, consumer's bypassing normal DNS settings from their ISP can potentially make the Internet LESS secure because consumers could be using DNS servers set up my malicious entities (and then promoted to people looking for pirated content) who could then send people to sites that download malware, engage in phishing, etc.

This is just one more reason why SOPA should NOT become a law!

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.

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2nd FCC Workshop on PSTN Transition Streaming Live at 9:30am - Taking Questions Via Email and Twitter

FCC logoToday, December 14, 2011, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding the second of two workshops on the transition of the PSTN to new technologies, as I described last week. The workshop will be streamed live today starting at 9:30am US Eastern at:

The FCC's note about the workshops mentions that people watching live can send in questions to panelists using either of two methods:

Today's sessions look to be quite interesting and contain quite a range of participants. The full schedule and list of participants is available on the FCC's web site (click on "Expand" in the lower right corner of the page), but here is the brief list:

9:30 a.m. – 9:40 a.m.
Welcome Remarks
by Zachary Katz, Chief Counsel and Senior Legal Advisor, Office of the Chairman, FCC

9:40 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.
Impact of the Transition on the Technology and Economics of the PSTN
Participants include: University of Colorado, Carnegie Mellon, George Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Gillan Associates, SIP Forum

10:45 a.m. – 11:45 p.m.
Policies of the PSTN (e.g., accessibility, reliability, affordability, and public safety)
Participants include: Tufts University, Consumer Federation of America, University of Wisconsin, Neustar

1:00 p.m. – 2:10 p.m.
Implementing the Transition to New Networks
Participants include: Verizon, Comcast, Carnegie Mellon, National Telecommunications and Information Association (NTIA), XO Communications

2:10 p.m. – 3:20 p.m.
Syncing Expectations, Emerging Technologies and the Public Good
Participants include: Georgetown University, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania – Wharton, Acme Packet, Panasonic Systems Networks

3:20 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Economic Rationales for PSTN Transition
Participants include: Queens College, Indiana University, Syracuse University, Sanford Bernstein, University of Auckland, NZ

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Internet Society Joins Chorus of Those Opposing SOPA

IsoclogoYesterday the Internet Society formally joined the opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (a.k.a. "SOPA" - background info available) with a statement from the Internet Society Board of Trustees:

The statement says in part:

The Internet Society Board of Trustees has expressed concern with a number of U.S. legislative proposals that would mandate DNS blocking and filtering by ISPs to protect the interests of copyright holders. While the Internet Society agrees that combating illicit online activity is an important public policy objective, these critical issues must be addressed in ways that do not undermine the viability of the Internet as a platform for innovation across all industries by compromising its global architecture. The Internet Society Board of Trustees does not believe that the Protect-IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are consistent with these basic principles.

Specifically, the Internet Society is concerned with provisions in both bills regarding Domain Name System (DNS) filtering. DNS filtering is often proposed as a way to block illegal content consumption by end users. Yet policies to mandate DNS filtering will be ineffective for that purpose and will interfere with cross-border data flows and services undermining innovation and social development across the globe.

The statement goes on in further detail to outline the organization's concerns.

The opposition of the Internet Society to SOPA is not a surprise given that the organization issued a white paper on the perils of DNS Filtering back in the spring of 2011 in response to the U.S. Senate's version of the bill, the Protect-IP Act (a.k.a. "PIPA"). Still, a formal statement of opposition is very welcome to add to the many other voices indicating that SOPA and PIPA specify the wrong solutions to the problem.

Great to see!

[Full Disclosure: I am employed by the Internet Society but NOT in the public policy section and so all opinions expressed here are entirely my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the organization.]

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Dilbert On Using Skype Versus Flying To A Meeting...

Brilliant Dilbert comic on December 8th:

Well said... in this era of so many different communications and collaboration tools, the need to fly somewhere for a "quick meeting" should hopefully be reduced. I fully understand the need for face-to-face meetings... and find them to be extremely effective when done well. But the kind of travel for a "quick meeting" that used to be routine really shouldn't need to happen so much today.

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Heading to Boston for USENIX LISA 2011 Conference Dec 8 and 9

LISA11 1
Today I'm driving about 2 hours southeast into downtown Boston to attend the USENIX Large Installation System Administration (LISA) conference. As I wrote about on an ISOC blog, the head of my team within the Internet Society, Richard Jimmerson, will be speaking today at 2pm Eastern on the topic of:
IPv6, DNSSEC, RPKI, etc.: What’s the Holdup and How Can We Help?

You’re busy. We get it. This industry moves fast and you’ve got your hands full keeping your networks updated and secure from the threat of the day. But why is it taking so long to deploy IPv6, DNSSEC, and other standards coming out of the IETF? These standards are the future of the Internet, but deployment to date has been slow.

He'll be outlining the new ISOC project of which I am a part that aims to help speed up the deployment of these standards - and asking for feedback and help. I will be there along with another team member, Megan Kruse, to talk with folks about the project and interact with people involved with IPv6, DNSSEC and other technologies.

It's been a good number of years since I last attended a USENIX conference but I'm very much looking forward to getting back with the crowd. Looks like some excellent technical talks so I'm looking forward to learning a good bit.

If you are down at LISA, please do feel free to drop me a note - or find me on Twitter. I expect I'll be tweeting out of the event and probably posting some thoughts and comments.

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What Is The Future of the PSTN? FCC Holding Workshops Dec 6th and 14th

FCC logoWhat is the future of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN)? As we transition away from traditional telecom technologies to a world based on IP communications, what are the policy, technical and economic implications?

As I recently wrote over on CircleID, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding two workshops on this topic of what comes next for the PSTN.

The first workshop, tomorrow, December 6, 2012, will cover "what obstacles and opportunities the transition may create regarding public safety, accessibility, and ubiquitous service".

The second workshop on December 14, 2012, will cover "a wide array of economic, technological, and policy issues that need to be addressed as consumers choose to subscribe to, and rely on, new technologies and services."

The FCC's Public Notice about these PSTN Transition Workshops contains information about how to attend, both in person and via the FCC's live stream at

The meeting tomorrow will begin at 9:00 am US Eastern time.

If you are in the Washington, DC, area and able to get to these workshops, it may be a great opportunity to join with others in expressing to the FCC a vision for what we want for the post-PSTN communications infrastructure.

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Today's VUC Call - Philippine Phone Phreaking Funding Terrorists

For those interested in telecommunications security, today's (Dec 2, 2011) VoIP Users Conference (VUC) call at 12 noon US Eastern will cover the recent arrests of 4 Philippine men who defrauded AT&T of close to $2 million and were employed by an alleged terrorist organization who was using the proceeds of the scam to fund their activities.

Eric Klein of Humbug Labs will be the guest on the VUC call discussing this and other fraud issues. It should be an interesting discussion.

You can join the live call via SIP, Skype or the regular old PSTN. There is also an IRC backchannel that gets heavy usage during the call. It will be recorded so you can always listen later.

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