Sunday, June 25, 2006

Net Neutrality

The US Senate is debating S 2917: Internet Freedom Preservation Act, which would prevent ISPs from giving preferential treatment to content providers that pay. They are also debating S 2686: Communications, Consumers' Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006, which would greatly reform telecommications laws and allow for a tiered Internet.

Apparently, telecom providers want to compete with cable television providers, and they want content providers to subsidize their effort. The first bill mentioned above would seek to prevent that. The second would facilitate it.

For a really well-fleshed out article on the subject, check out "Speed Bumps on the Information Highway," by Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer. This FreePress page provides more arguments in favor of Net Neutrality.

I recommend this sarcastic article, called "Net Neutrality Has Ruined the Web," for those who understand something about electronic communications.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Recommended Website: Arachnoid

"Should I have an award for good websites?" I asked myself. If I did, I'd want to give the first to Paul Lutus. Eventually, I decided that giving out awards to good websites should be left to someone a lot more prestigious than myself. So I'll just humbly recommend my favorites. The first one, Arachnoid, was created by Paul Lutus.

I first came across Arachnoid when I was looking for software to perform time synchronization. I think this was way back in 1997. A quick search brought up AboutTime, which I downloaded from Arachnoid. Other interesting downloads include the web page editor Arachnophilia, and his personal finance program, PLCash, both written in Java to be useful on many different platforms. Most downloads are neither shareware or freeware. They are Careware, an idea I very much favor.

Articles abound on Arachnoid. Find out Why are computers so hard to use?. Discover Creative Problem-Solving. Read his opinions on psychology, which include a comparison of Asperger Syndrome and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Learn more about humans from this Interview with an Extraterrestrial.

Downloads are not all you can find at Arachnoid. Check out the tutorials, which cover Calculus, HTML, C++ and even an explanation for why the night sky is dark.

What makes Arachnoid so great is the sense that its author cares a great deal about our world and its inhabitants. He works hard at making the Internet, and the world at large, a better place. Visit now!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Update on Firewalls

In my post Free Computer Security -- Firewalls, I raved about the free Sygate Personal Firewall (SPF) last year. Since then, Symantec bought Sygate. Unfortunately, this means that the free firewall product is no longer available.

I still have the old SPF install file. I could've installed it on my new computer. But using unmaintained security software is like building a fence with rotten wood and letting it fall apart.

What firewall did I install? I settled on Outpost Firewall Pro. I haven't heard many endorsements for it, but I heard no negative comments, unlike Zone Alarm. One thing about Outpost is that it is not free, although you can download it and try it for free for 30 days. The initial license fee is $39.99, and annual updates after one year is $19.99. (But if it turns out that Germany has the most shutout games in this year's World Cup, I'll get the annual updates for free. See this promotional page to understand why.)

If you're committed to using a free product, you can try Zone Alarm. You can also try Jetico Personal Firewall, which I discovered after installing Outpost. Version of Jetico was given the Gold Award by Firewall Leak Tester on March 11, 2006, based on its ability to pass leak tests. One thing Firewall Leak Tester doesn't do is give any indication of how stable each product is.

While I'm at it, let me give you some firewall testing resources.

  • Again, there's Firewall Leak Tester, which not only publishes test results, it also offers a directory of tests that you can run on your own system. And there's plenty of advice, too.

  • The home page of Gibson Research Center, and their Shields Up test in particular.

  • Various tests on the PC Flank web site.