Join Us in the Fight For Net Neutrality

Originally posted on WordPress.com News:

“Net Neutrality” is the simple but powerful principle that cable and broadband providers must treat all internet traffic equally. Whether you’re loading a blog post on WordPress.com, streaming House of Cards on Netflix, or browsing handcrafted tea cozies on Etsy, your internet provider can’t degrade your connection speed, block sites, or charge a toll based on the content that you’re viewing.

Net neutrality has defined the internet since its inception, and it’s hard to argue with the results: the internet is the most powerful engine of economic growth and free expression in history. Most importantly, the open internet is characterized by companies, products, and ideas that survive or fail depending on their own merit — not on whether they have preferred deals in place with a broadband service provider. Unfortunately, the principle of net neutrality, and the open internet that we know and love, is under attack.

Net Neutrality under…

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Cutting Cable : A Week Without TV

cutting-cableA week-long experiment without cable TV resulted in some real cost savings, and some interesting family observations.

Normally the annual rate increase from Cablevision results in a call to Optimum threatening to switch to FIOS.  This inevitably leads to them placing me on a one year-long promotion, after which the cycle starts again.

This time was different .  I had wondered whether cable TV was worth the money, particularly with all the streaming options available today, and this was just what I needed to look at it seriously.   This idea was based on the following thoughts:

  1. Cable TV costs have gone up significantly
  2. We don’t actually watch that much TV
  3. We almost never watch live TV and don’t have premium channels such as HBO
  4. Cutting cable would save at least $900 per year, ever after factoring in other services needed

I didn’t want to just blindly make the leap so I signed up for a one week free trial of Hulu Plus and hid the cable TV remote controls. At the end of the week I polled the family to see what their reaction was to being without TV and the results were quite startling.

  • My Daughter (the big TV watcher) hands-down prefers Hulu.  There are shows on Hulu that she likes that are not on Cable and she can choose which episode to watch.
  • My two boys literally said “We didn’t have TV this week?”  With YouTube and the Xbox available the TV is something they just don’t use.
  • Joanne and I found most of our favorite shows, plus a whole bunch of things that couldn’t be found on cable

Aside from confirming how little TV we watch as a family there were a few other items of note.

Streaming TV is an active instead of passive activity. Instead of channel surfing until you find something that you can accept you actively have to choose.  This meant less time idly watching whatever crap happened to come along and more time watching things we cared about.

Streaming changes how you think about content providers.  Hulu Plus is a good option that fills most needs but there are many more options.  Shows that Hulu doesn’t have can often be found through other channels.  e.g.

  • Big Bang Theory is not on Hulu but is on CBS.com and with the Chromecast I can send it from a PC or laptop to any of the TVs.
  • I found lots of my childhood Sci-Fi shows on YouTube and, after nearly 40 years, managed to catch up on some of the shows that I missed!  Yes…I finally found how Blake’s 7 crew was formed!  :)

Streaming changes where you watch TV.  I spend two hours per day commuting by bus. Now I can watch sci-fi without the commentary from Joanne about why something really doesn’t seem very likely.

It’s not all roses though.

  • There’s a lot of mature content on Hulu and yet they have no parental controls.  Since the kids can now watch anywhere in the house this is something we need to keep an eye on
  • Everyone watching different things in different rooms can cause ‘fracturing’.  I need to turn the wi-fi off every so often
  • If you are a big sports fan this might not be for you.  The only sport I watch with any regularity is Formula One and I haven’t found a suitable option for this yet
  • This could considerably cut my nap time on the bus

Despite the few negatives I called Optimum yesterday, cancelled the TV and returned the two cable boxes without giving it a second thought.

Note:  Hulu Plus will give me a bonus if other people sign up, so if you think that might be something you want to try can you please use this button to sign up.  Thanks!!

 

 

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Word of the Day : Warrant canary

A warrant canary is a method by which a communications service provider informs its users that the provider has not been served with a secret United States government subpoena.

Secret subpoenas, including those covered under 18 U.S.C. §2709(c) of the USA Patriot Act, provide criminal penalties for disclosing the existence of the warrant to any third party, including the service provider’s users.

A warrant canary is posted by the provider to inform users of dates that they have not been served a secret subpoena. If the canary has not been updated in the time period specified by the host, users are to assume that the host has been served with such a subpoena.

This allows the provider to inform users of the existence of a subpoena passively without disclosing to others that the government has sought or obtained access to information or records under a secret subpoena.

via Warrant canary – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Where do lost socks go?

Where do lost socks go?

May 9th was National Lost Sock day. A phenomenon so common that my family even has a special word for it.

Pung noun 

Definition of PUNG ……………………….

Plural   Pungs

1. A single unmatched sock that sits in a drawer without ever being matched to its partner

Origin of PUNG

First Known Use: before 1995

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May 10, 2014 · 9:52 am

If you love somebody…set them free

As a parent you want to help your kids – it’s only natural.  But take a step back once in a while and they might just amaze you.

Each of my kids has recently given me cause to rethink their limits and be blown away by their abilities.

It started a few weeks back when my 13 yr old was making a music video for a school project.  He had already selected his music, found a karaoke version and written his own lyrics.  He asked for help mixing his audio on top of the music but then refused any other help.  A few days later he showed me the finished result – all his own work – and I was totally blown away.  You can see the results of his efforts here and I’ll let you be the judge.

ImageNext up…my eleven year old daughter.  Her old iPhone would no longer hold a charge and so I ordered a new battery from iFixit.com.

I was all set to replace the battery – not a task that Apple makes easy – when she asked me not to start without her.  She then proceeded to take on the entire procedure, following the on-screen instructions in a calm, methodical manner that would have been beyond many adults.  30 minutes later she had a fully restored iPhone and I was in awe of this young lady.

 

Finally my older son has been helping out with a local charity shop by taking pictures for them every weekend and posting items for sale on their website.

ImageWhen he started this he was all fingers and thumbs.  He was shy, awkward, forgot the camera once and turned up with a dead camera another time.

Yesterday he strolled into the office, picked up the camera and checked it over with a practiced air.   I had a little time so I went with him to give the dog a much-needed walk.

When we arrived at the store I was amazed to see the calm and easy way with which he interacted with everyone, and how warmly they received him.  This wasn’t my little boy anymore, this was a young man making his way in the world and I couldn’t help but feel proud for him.

It’s easy to forget that the role of children is to push limits.  For them limits change on a daily basis – one day they can’t reach the faucet and the next they can.

Challenging limits; physical,mental or imposed by other, is not only normal but to be expected.  Think on that they next time they challenge your authority. Children need boundaries or they feel adrift, but as parents we have to recognize that those boundaries change every day and we need to change with them.

The next time you are doing something for your kids take a step back and consider whether by “helping” them you are actually them holding back.  I guarantee they will blow your mind if you would just let them.

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How to love your job (even if you hate it)

Barry Houldsworth:

Fantastic advice. I can’t remember who said it but the quote “Your grass would be just as green if you watered it” springs to mind.

Originally posted on John Stepper:

Punching the clock  (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS) When I asked her “What’s the best part of your job?” she looked at me wistfully and said “Nothing, really.”

She was smart, young, and creative, but somehow her spark had gone out. She told me she didn’t want it to be that way but, given the environment she was in – the people around her and the way things were – she didn’t know how to feel better about work.

I tried to show her she had more control than she thought.

A Job, a Career, or a Calling?

It turns out that fulfillment and meaning at work aren’t correlated to our specific jobs as much as they’re correlated to how we approach our jobs and the conditions in which we do them. The job of a surgeon isn’t innately more or less fulfilling than the job of a factory worker. What matters more is their very subjective view of…

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One Year Ago…

One year ago my wife was on a long anticipated trip to Paris with a good friend while I was at home being “Mr. Mom” and temporarily between jobs.

I say temporarily because the company I had been with for the past three years was converting me to a consultant – just one more in a series of broken promises and management shuffles since I had joined them – 7 different managers in 3 years surely has to be some sort of record – no?  

This situation had resulted in what has to be one of the most bizarre conversation I had ever had.  It went something like this.

HR: “Since you are part of the RIF you’re no longer eligible for a bonus this year because you’re no longer considered an employee.  But we want you to stay until March next year at which point we will convert you to a consultant in a different part of the bank.

Me:  “But since bonuses are paid in February I’d still be eligible for that right?”

HR: “No, because your on the RIF list and therefore not considered an employee.   However you will be receiving a severance package.

Me: “OK.”

HR: “But once you join the new company as a consultant you will have to give back the severance package because you would then be considered an employee.

Me:  “OK, so then I get the bonus back in that case right?”

HR: “No. Because you’re not considered an employee…

It was now April and I was out of the office for 2 weeks so that they could hire me back again – HR policy doesn’t allow people to leave and then immediately come back as a consultant (sic).

Needless to say I had stewed over this situation for several months. Part of me was saying that “The money is good so suck it up so that the bills get paid.Another part of me, which was growing louder by the day, was saying “Get out of there!  They are sucking your soul dry!

The phone rang and I heard the dulcet tones of my wife who had clearly been indulging in the local vino.  I don’t think she even said hello.  As soon as I answered the phone she said “We’ve been talking about [your company] and decided that you shouldn’t go back there.  They don’t deserve you.”

I can’t tell you what those word meant to me.  It was as though a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and the clouds had parted.  Suddenly the decision was just so clear – she was right.  Going back there could never be the right choice.

The next day I called the office and told them that I wasn’t coming back – oh, and I was keeping the severance package thank you very much.

I felt terrible for the people who I was leaving behind as, despite the company being screwed up, they had some amazing individuals.  But I had to do what was right for me.

One year later I can say that was absolutely the right decision.  I spent some time indulging my passion for building websites, getting closer to my kids and learning what being a stay at home Mom is like.  I took a motorcycle trip that had been on the bucket list for some time and then landed a job with a company where my contributions are recognized and rewarded.

It’s been an amazingly fun, exciting, fulfilling and empowering year and…as is so often the case…it all started with my best friend…my soul mate…my wife.

 

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