Market forces at work on the Internet

Last week, Bloomberg reported on a historic occurence.  For the first time, the per-viewer cost of ads for popular shows on exceeds the cost of the same ad on a traditional TV broadcast.  The article explains why this has happened, so I won’t rehash it.  What I will do is say that this goes to show how intelligent the folks at NBC, News Corp., and Providence Equity Partners are.  For years, the industry fought against the proliferation of TV shows on sites like You Tube.  With Hulu and similar sites, finally the demands of the consumer are being listened to.  Hulu has found that some people will continue to “pirate” whatever shows they desire, but a significant number will happily trade a small amount of ads in exchange for the convenience of being able to watch a show on their own schedule.

Some of the same people who argue that the free market is the solution to everything argue the strongest for the heavy-handed punishment of piracy.  Yet, here we see that the free market is pushing for making content more readily available online.  Apple’s iTunes store marked a shift from getting music from places like Napster and Audiogalaxy, to paying for music downloads.  Now iTunes revenue is in excess of a billion dollars per year.

Also last week, there was a story on Ars Technica had a story about how gaming giant EA no longer minds piracy.  Video game piracy (not to mention OS) piracy is a long-standing tradtion in gaming.  Now that the role of the Internet in the playing of games (see the popularity of World of Warcraft, Second Life, etc) has become key, the game itself is just a portal.  It makes sense for EA to ignore piracy so they can get more people paying for the online experience.  In a few years, I think we’ll see more games given away for nearly free in order to maximize the subscriptions.

It is encouraging to see the entertainment industry beginning to understand that in order to survive, they need to meet the changing demands of the consumers.  By adapting their business model to the technology available, they can continue to make money.  And who doesn’t want to make money?

Thank you, Akismet

I’d just like to take a moment to recognize the efforts of Matt Mullenweg and gang at Akismet.  When I first set this blog up, I started getting a lot of spam comments, so I set it such that each comment had to be manually approved.  What happened is that sometimes a comment would sit for a few days, making people feel unloved.  A few months ago, I installed the Akismet WordPress plug-in and trusted that I could let comments post automatically.  As it turns out, I was right.  After almost 5,000 comments have been filtered, the detection has been nearly perfect.  I’ve been amazed at how well it has done, not only with filtering spam, but also with not filtering legitimate comments (when I actually get them).  If you run your own WordPress instance, or anything else that gets input from the webosphere, I highly recommend it.

I’m a nerd

It’s true, I can’t deny my nerdiness.  How do I know this?  So yesterday I developed a fever.  When it kept going up despite taking Tylenol and using cold washcloths, I had my wife take me to the Urgent Care center.  On the way back, with my fever approaching 103 degrees, she hit the brakes a little harder than I expected.  I grabbed the handle above the door.  “Are you okay?” Angie asked.  “I’m fine, there was just more delta-p than I was expecting.”

That’s right.  Instead of saying something like “you braked too hard”, I commented about how the change in momentum was more than I expected.  What a nerd.

Fortunately, my fever has dropped considerably since last night when it peaked at 104 degrees.  Maybe later today or tomorrow I’ll be coherent enough to write the post I’ve been wanting to write about creating USB boot disks.

Upgrading to Fedora 11

All of the cool kids know that Fedora 11 was released on Tuesday.  I’d played with the Beta a bit and didn’t notice a whole lot of major differences (certainly not the big changes I found when I previously upgraded) so I figured release day was a good a time as any to upgrade.  I started with my weather data server and the process wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped.

Before I got started, I removed some packages that I don’t need.  This machine only needs to run NFS, SSH, and LDM, so anything else is a waste of resources.  It turns out I probably wasn’t very careful with my initial install of this machine, because in addition to removing a few packages, I ended up removing several groups: “KDE (K Desktop Environment)”, “MySQL Database”, “Web Server”, “Authoring and Publishing”, “Dial-up Networking Support”, and “Graphical Internet”.

The cleanup completed, it was time to upgrade.  Once again, I followed the rather helpful guidance of the Fedora Project wiki.  The first step is to update the package lists.  For whatever reason, rpm and/or the ftp server didn’t seem happy about the * in the URL, so I had to run them separately:

# rpm -Uvh
# rpm -Uvh

With that done, the next step was to do the upgrade.  Except it didn’t work.  I kept getting “Error: Cannot find a valid baseurl for repo: fedora”.  Afer a bit of Googling, I found the answer.  In /etc/yum.repos.d/fedora*repo, I had to uncomment the baseurl line.  So then I think I’m on my way, but now when I try the upgrade, ntp complains about libcrypto.  So I remove the ntp package (I didn’t really need that either, so long as I keep ntpdate installed).  Okay, now we’re good right?  No!  Now yum complains “YumRepo Error: All mirror URLs are not using ftp, http[s] or file.”

I couldn’t find much help in a Google search, so I started poking around.  The .repo file in /etc/yum.repos.d/ has a mirrorlist setting, which tells yum what the mirrors are.  I copied and pasted the URL into my web browser to verify that I could get it.  I could, and it is just a plain text listing of mirrors.  That’s when I noticed that the mirrorlist.txt in /var/cache/yum/{fedora,updates}/ was not in plain text but in XML.  So I removed the two mirrorlist files and replaced them with what I had grabbed off the web.

Finally, yum was happy to perform the upgrade.  It took a while because of all the packages that needed to be downloaded.  I actually had to run `yum upgrade` a few times because some of the packages couldn’t be downloaded.  I presume it’s because there were a lot of other people pounding on the servers.  After a reboot, everything came back happy and it was time to move on to my main desktop.

Having done this once before, I was armed with the knowledge of what to do when things didn’t go well.  And things went about as not-well as they had on the first machine.  I was able to get myself to the upgrade stage very quickly this time around, but that’s where I started having problems.  Because this machine is used as a desktop, it has a lot more stuff installed.  Doing a straight `yum upgrade` ended up requiring more space in /var than I had available.  Of course, I didn’t think to check first and it was about 90% of the way through downloading packages before it ran out of space.  So after cleaning up the last attempt, I ran `yum groupupdate Base` to get the core packages, and when that was done `yum upgrade` was small enough to work within the limits of my disk space.

So I’ve done this a few times now, and it’s never worked perfectly, but it’s always been quite manageable.  Considering that upgrading via yum is not officially supported, it works fairly reliably.  The advantages are that there’s little downtime required, and you don’t need to waste a DVD.  Upgrading via yum will continue to be my preferred method, and I’ll dink around after the rush of downloads have settled down and see if that fixes some of the issues.  If not, that’s what Bugzilla is for.

So what do I think of Fedora 11?  It’s hard to say so far.  My desktop is old enough that it can be a bit sluggish to use, and since I haven’t had much spare time lately, I’ve opted to use my MacBook Pro when I need to accomplish things.  If nothing else, KDE 4 has grown on me to the point where I actually like it.

Comcast DNS rumors

Rumors are flying around the intertubes about Comcast intercepting DNS traffic and returning replies from their own servers.  The Domain Name Service (DNS) is the Internet service that allows us to use names like “” instead of remembering that if you want to do a search, you have to go to  Most people use the DNS servers provided by their Internet Service Provider, but there are a number of reasons you might want to use a third-party service.  Regardless, an ISP intercepting DNS traffic and forcing people to use their own servers is considered shady by many people.

As a Comcast customer who happens to use Open DNS, I naturally took an interest in these rumors.  It took only a few seconds to check to see that I was not, in face, a victim of Comcast’s alleged abuses.  If the discussion on /. and is any indication, nobody else is either.  It has been suggested that only Earthlink customers who get service indirectly from Comcast are affected.  The evidence for that is scant, too.  Basically, it seems like a load of crap at the moment.