Monday, August 13, 2012

What does "radio" and "television" mean to you?

I was invited by eMail to join CBC's InCanada Panel, which included a series of questions. They asked about radio and television networks and my viewing/listening/reading habits.

I didn't know what to say as they didn't define the terms as clearly as I think they need to in order to get the information they need.

For instance, when asked about television I gave an estimate of video I watch on a television screen. Later questions spoke about viewing on set-top boxes, but included that as Internet which suggested the estimates I gave were wrong.

A few months ago we dropped Cable TV, with most of my viewing already being via DVD's, Netflix, or other online content. I purchased an ATSC tuner and aerial for a television we have upstairs, and other than the watching I did when I set it up I haven't watched it. That tuner sits there for that case when we might want to be watching something on a "live" broadcast (some emergency or event like we saw in Sept 11, 2001), but I doubt it will get much use.

Do I watch shows that are CBC content? The current show Rina and I are both watching together is Being Erica, which is CBC content we are watching via NetFlix. While we know the show is highly unlikely to get new episodes, we are thoroughly enjoying watching the already produced episodes. Is that something CBC was asking in their survey, or is that "internet" content that they don't consider to be related to their content?

I am a regular listener to the CBC shows The House and Spark, both automatically downloading the MP3 files via an RSS feed. I don't listen to either as over-the-air radio, but they are both "radio shows" aren't they? Or is that also not what CBC was talking about, and thus I should not have included those hours as radio listening?

If you exclude the content I access via the Internet or via non-broadcast means such as DVD's, I don't really watch TV or listen to Radio much at all. There is a radio in the car when I am riding with someone, but nearly all my transportation is via bus/train where I am listening to my own audio/video I've downloaded to my phone and/or tablet. On those infrequent occasions I'm in someone elses car (And I include Rina's car here), I am not the one who chooses the channel so is it even "my" listening at all?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Having no drivers license a source of pride

Yesterday I was called about a story a CBC Television journalist was doing on car-free living in Ottawa. This was a follow-up story sparked by Ottawa city Councillor Katherine Hobbs giving up her car after going car-free for a few months.

While my wife drives, so there is a car in the household, I do not drive it or have a drivers license. I consider myself as (or possibly more) car-free as those who don't have a car in the household, but who have memberships in car sharing services like Vrtucar. There will always be exceptions to the general rule for a car-free person, but we are all people who as a general rule don't drive.

When I was a teen in the 80's, it was a matter of laziness. I couldn't afford a car, and didn't have the motivation others did to get their drivers licenses anyway. I had a 365 (as they were called in Ontario in those days) learners permit a few times, but never bothered doing the driving test.

In the 1990's I met up with some more political folks, including a group called Auto-Free Ottawa. I was quite active with them, working to try with municipal and other levels of government to make car-free living easier in Ottawa.

In the 2000's AFO members had largely gone onto other things, myself included. We were active with the yearly Commuter Challenge, including hosting all software for many years. I also critiqued groups like Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) who wanted to increase taxes through increased subsidies to the automobile and taxpayer funded infrastructure to support the automobile. I always felt the CTF wasn't a taxpayers federation as much as they were a small group of ideologs who wanted government to focus government spending on their pet policies.

Most of my volunteer time these days is spent trying to protect the basic rights of technology owners, so I'm not active in car-free activism. That said, I realized how much pride I felt to be asked to be on this show. The journalist ended up interviewing cyclist Richard Briggs, but the initial conversation made me think about my car-free living.

Update: Councillor goes carless was the story.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Potential downtime June 8-11

I'm re-posting this here as may not be available over the weekend.


The services may be down all weekend, possibly starting some time Friday June 8 and continuing to some time on Monday June 11.


The servers (,, etc) are hosted on a service I have been receiving from, who up until recently was reselling services. The NCF decided to transition to Bell. Since I wish to minimize the services I receive from the incumbent phone/cable companies (see other articles on this blog), I am now trying to switch back to TekSavvy.

I wasn't given enough advanced notice of the timing, so I made an IP address transition on Tuesday May 29'th. Some services were likely down for people as DNS propagated across the network. Some people, ironically email users, have noticed that email messages from the mailing lists have not been able to be received as there is a routing issue between some of the static IP addresses I was assigned and the NCF.

I signed up to receive a new service from TekSavvy, which I consider to be a transition back to TekSavvy as I never intended or wanted to move from their service that had been working well for years. Unfortunately I had to set a cancellation date for the new NCF/Bell service before TekSavvy could set an install date. Based on the conversation with a person at TekSavvy I set a cancel date for Friday June 8.

Today when I called TekSavvy to confirm that everything was set for Friday, I was told that the date had moved to Monday. Annoying as I had not been informed, and don't know when I would have been told if I had not called. I have now left an Office message with the NCF in the (unfortunately faint) hope that they can hold off the cancellation at their end until Monday.

It is quite possible that Bell techs will disable the DSL on the line some time Friday only to re-connect the service on Monday. I don't have any control over this, and I apologize for any inconvenience.

It is frustrating that a transition from TekSavvy to Bell happened without my permission or anything other than reconnecting my PPPoE connection to my router, but the transition back to TekSavvy has involved considerable time in trying to negotiate things between NCF and TekSavvy.

Friday, June 1, 2012

DSL transition frustration

Very frustrated with Internet services today.

My DSL service with that was previously a reselling of TekSavvy transitioned to Bell on Tuesday.  I didn't have time to transition direct to TekSavvy, only being told the transition date at the end of the work day last Friday (April 25'th).

Reverse DNS is still not working with Bell, which means email from my servers are likely being rejected as untrustworthy. I have quite a few mailing lists hosted on these servers...

I figured my transition back to TekSavvy was a good time to upgrade service, so I tried to sign up for the DSL25 service which has a 7M uplink.  Seems that this is not available in my location, so I'm signing up with a DSL12 which has a 1M uplink. A 1M uplink is mildly better than the 800K of the current service.

TekSavvy this afternoon contacted me to let me know I had to cancel my current service before TekSavvy could enable the new service.   Funny that there was no permission required to switch to Bell, but that extra paperwork needs to be done to switch away.  I have a cancellation date of June 8 now, which hopefully will allow TekSavvy to get in and have the new service enabled right away.  I'm worried that there will be yet more downtime for my servers.

Wish I knew how quickly NCF was moving to Bell, so I could transition quicker and avoid the extra steps.

I realize Bell is still involved in the last mile of the DSL service, due to the last-mile right-of-way monopolies and all that.  I want to have minimal services from Bell, Rogers, or Telus who I consider to be in conflict of interest with provision of Internet services. I can't avoid them entirely, but I can transition as far away from them as possible. TekSavvy has also shown they are willing to lobby the government to try to minimize the harm from the various monopolies the government has granted BellUsOgers.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Status of my move away from legacy phone/cable companies

The subject of my post comes from a May 20, 2010 post of the same title where I discussed my progress with moving away from legacy phone/cable companies.

Last weekend I returned my rented Rogers Digital Cable tuner, and cancelled my cable service. The stations are still there until the end of the next billing period next month, but the decision is finally made and paperwork done.

Since 2010 I decided to experiment with something between Rogers Digital cable and what I would ideally have considered. I obviously don't like technology that is "sold" to me that I don't really own (IE: that I as the owner aren't given all the keys to), but I made a compromise between that ideal and the many wrongs of Rogers and Rogers Digital Cable.

In May 2011 I ordered a Boxee Box (made by D-Link), which was the most open of the Netflix compatible devices at the time. Since we have an older TV I ordered an HDMI to Composite /S-Video Converter so I could use regular audio/S-Video analog inputs. Since that time Netflix has been made available on Android and other Google Devices, so I also watch on my ASUS Transformer, Google Nexus 1 and Rina watches on her Google Chromebook.

This is not the ideal in that these devices are all infected in some way with non-owner locks, but they are far more free/open market than what Rogers was offering.

Obviously not all television we previously watched will be available online through Netflix or the websites of the networks. That is fine, as we have far more TV and movies available to us than we have time to watch. We may now allocate the time to -- gasp -- read books :-)

For those making TV shows who aren't distributing online, please recognize that we aren't alone in what we are doing. If you want us to be audiences for your content then you need to make it available to us in a format we are interested in.

I'm hoping some of the speciality networks will look into this. I'd love to have a more full online version of the Space network which would stream online at the same time as the television. I might also consider HBO if that were available to me, as I keep hearing about interesting shows.

Interesting to me would be if Netflix moved into offering premium content. They are already creating original content, and I can predict when Netflix Canada generates and distributes more Canadian content than the so-called "Canadian" broadcasters (with the exception of CBC -- for however long they will remain around). A distribution deal between Netflix and HBO seems quite obvious to me.

I don't mind paying a premium for this type of service, and I suspect there would be a market for this if it is made available using appropriate technology. And by appropriate technology, I mean on the devices I own. As an example, I'm never going to own an Apple product, so if you are like CBC that sends some content only to the Apple iTunes then you aren't relevant to me. If you want to maximize your revenue and audiences you will move away from closed content delivery platforms, and enable your services to work on every device.

To those who still think DRM has anything to do with reducing copyright infringement, remember that the output of my set-top setup is analog video. I can plug the output directly into a VCR/PVR as people have been able to do for decades, meaning Netflix and the online video made available by Canada's television networks have no more "copy control" than any other television programming did since the 1980's and VCRs were first being sold to consumers. All that these technological measures which tie access to specific brands of technology do is reduce audiences (and thus revenue), not reduce infringement.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thoughts on Liberal Party of Canada during their 2012 convention

Federal political news this weekend is focused on the Liberal party convention, as expected. They are speaking of renewal, having been pushed to 3'rd party in the house during the last election.

Since I was voting age I've been a member of the Progressive Conservative party of Canada and Green Party of Canada, donated money to individual NDP MPs and campaigns, and voted Liberal. There are things I agree and disagree with each of the parties with seats in the house, and there are individual MPs I respect and some I don't that are not dependant on party lines.

I believe that the Liberal party, as it was in the past, will no longer work. If their intention is to regain what they once had, they have no future.

They focused on trying to build their Big Red Tent, inviting everyone inside. There was nothing other than their tribal colours that could be said about this group. They had people that crossed nearly all political philosophies. This meant you had to focus on the individual MPs to see if you could stand that individual, knowing that this likely back-bench MP wouldn't have sway if the leadership of the party headed in another direction. You really had no idea what you were voting for, or if your vote would end up contradicting your own political beliefs.

The party became very arrogant, and there are still people from that mindset steering the party. Likely the most arrogant MP I ever met in person (see list if curious) was Sheila Copps. I met her in person in the context of the Minister's Forum on Copyright, April 4th, 2003, when she was Heritage Minister. She had very superficial ideas on the impact of copyright on creators, creativity and innovation. She would walk away and/or argue with anyone who had any depth to their thinking. I observed her speaking on other policy in other forums, and she seemed to carry this unjustified arrogance with her there as well.

I feel that Sheila Copps is a representative of what went wrong with the Liberal Party of Canada. This weekend the party will be electing a president, and Sheila Copps is one of the top contenders. I believe it will be telling of whether they will be a backward facing party without a future, or a forward facing one recognising the need to change, by who they elect as president.

Ms. Copps is not the only Liberal that I felt ignored the "evidence based policy" thinking that appears to be the theme of this convention. When Copps was pushed out by the Martin Liberals (riding boundary readjustments they said.....), Sam Bulte (Parkdale - High Park) took her place, and when she lost her seat (partly due to controversy with her opposing evidence based policy), Dan McTeague (Pickering - Scarborough East) took over. While they all had ideological positions that lacked evidence on the areas of policy I was most closely watching, it was not an ideological position that was party based or that was consistent with other MPs or representatives of the party. Given some of the least evidence based thinking MPs were Liberals, it made it hard for anyone following these issues to vote Liberal.

Is the focus on "evidence based policy" thinking a recognition that this was lacking in the Liberals in the past, or is this an attempt at a partisan attack another political party? Does the Liberal party recognise its faulty past and are looking to make large changes to become more relevant in the future, or are they looking to regain their past? I'll be watching....