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Gallows Market Humour

MGK linked to this delightful Report on Business article on how woeful the stock market has been this week. No news flashes there, but I did find some wonderful gallows humour in this quote from Myles Zyblock, chief equity strategist at RBC Dominion Securities in Toronto:

The idea that there are floors underneath the market has rapidly evaporated. There really is only one true floor – and we don’t want to discuss that.


WALL-E Script Available On-Line, Delightful

I still don’t have my Caution, Robots wallpaper. Disney. I know, I know, you want me to buy the Blu-Ray that came out this week… and, frankly, the likelyhood of someone giving me a copy over the holiday season is almost guaranteed given my outspoken love, at which point I’ll make my own wallpaper… but I’m not HAPPY about it. If there’s a theme to WALL-E it’s that things are much more valuable when they’re just given to you as you sit on a giant floating chair, right? Right?

But just when Disney/Pixar was off my Christmas card list you both went and, as a gesture of goodwill, made the full script for the film available for download on your Walt Disney Studios “For Your Consideration” Awards Page (click “WALL-E”, then “Download Script”). Okay, it was probably less for reasons of “holiday cheer” and more because you’d like it to be nominated for a best screenplay Avademy Award. But there may indeed be method to your madness. Read more

CRTC’s Bell Ruling: Not Shaping the Future (HA HA HA)

I’ve got a (hopefully) interesting idea for my first ever “theme week” next week that I’ve been noodling on in spare minutes, but just wanted to take a minute to talk about the CRTC’s Bell decision this morning, why it should have been expected, and why nothing is actually settled yet when it comes to traffic shaping.

Time for a trademark What’s the Deal?

What’s the Backstory?
The only real national DSL ISP in the country is Bell. If you get your internet over a DSL connection it (almost always) either comes from Bell directly (Sympatico), or through a company that has bought a large block of service from Bell and resells it under their own brand (the same way that, say, calling card companies buy large blocks of long distance at a discount and then resell them).

Back in March Bell began “throttling” it’s service. Claiming that P2P (ie: BitTorrent) traffic was creating an unmanageable load across the network Bell began enforcing artificial network limitations on certain services. Not only did they impose these limits on their own (Sympatico) customers, but also on all the companies that resell through them.

What’s the Argument?
There’s really two affected parties here, the resellers and the end users.
Traffic shaping is a real slippery slope for end users, because you’re allowing you ISP to dictate the performance of (what I’ve argued before ad naseum) should be treated like a utility. While telco’s try to frame most of the current discourse as dealing with “those nasty BitTorrent pirates”, this is no longer the modern reality. This CBC article from yesterday, should be commended for pointing out not only is BitTorrent used to distribute legal material (including the CBC’s own “Canada’s Next Prime Minister” television series) Skype is a P2P service. So are elements of “World of Warcraft”, and video chat, and a slew of other modern internet applications.

Where the “Spockian eyebrow” starts to raise is when you introduce the idea of Bell introducing traffic shaping to “protect it’s network” that degrade the quality of competing services. Is Bell throttling Skype because of legitimate network load concerns, or because Skype is a competitor to Bell’s traditional phone services? Should Bell decide that, say, YouTube is placing an unusual demand on the network can it turn off access to that particular website? Can it move to a system where individual websites can pay premiums for better service to Bell’s customers? These are all the core arguments at the core of Net Neutrality.

The resellers have a slightly different issue. One of the few competitive advantages they have over Sympatico is the ability to manage their own network. A prime example is that many of the small and medium sized ISP’s market themselves on being “power user” friendly and allowing features (unlimited bandwidth, static IP’s…) to appeal to more technically savvy users. If Bell can impose “network wide policies” it limits the amount that the resellers can manage their own networks to create end-user packages all that different from Bell. The resellers argue that the responsibility of managing traffic within their “piece” of the Bell network should be theirs alone.

So What’s the Deal?
The CRTC ruling basically comes out and says that Bell has the right to apply it’s own policies to it’s resellers, provided it gives them adequate notice. Why no one should start rioting in the streets just yet is that the ruling goes out of it’s way to make no statement about the legality of traffic shaping itself. Basically it focuses entirely on the reseller/Bell side of the argument as a simple contract dispute.

Further, and more interestingly, the CRTC is launching a brand new proceeding to address the issue of traffic shaping at all.

CAIP’s application asked us to only consider the specific issue of wholesale traffic shaping within a specific context. The broader issue of Internet traffic management raises a number of questions that affect both end-users and service providers,” added (CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein). “We have decided to hold a separate proceeding to consider both wholesale and retail issues. Its main purpose will be to address the extent to which Internet service providers can manage the traffic on their networks in accordance with the Telecommunications Act.”

This will be the hearing for all the marbles, and the one that end users should watch very closely as it will have a major influence on all internet services in this country for the foreseeable future, moreso than any recent government initative I can think of – even perhaps, the much discussed copyright legislation.

If we can take heart in anything, it’s that the FCC in the US seems to have come down fairly clearly on the side of Net Neutrality in a similar case in the US, ruling that Comcast couldn’t continue traffic shaping in a way almost identical to what Bell is doing. I actually think the FCC approach (where, with cause, ISP’s can throttle individuals who are using large amounts of network resources – but not make blanket policy against services) is preferable. No one would argue that ISP’s need to be able to protect the integrity of their networks, but it removes the spectre of them making decisions based on corporate interest, not end user experience.

[Amusing Sidenote – I wrote this this morning and have been unable to post it for hours because my office’s Bell-based internet decided to shut down completely… I guess that’s one form of “traffic shaping”]

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Looks like martian Winter finally caught up with the Phoenix lander. But hey, discovering water ice on Mars, plus another two months of data beyond one’s mission is nothing to sneeze at. Some rake at slashdot suggested we pour some carbon dioxide on the curb in memoriam.

In other news, Spirit and Opportunity still kicking ass, taking names.

Just as an aside – where is our civilization’s sense of exploratory wonder, at the awesomeness of our technology? We are driving robots around Mars. There robots have arms, and claws, and ovens, and cameras, and microphones. They are powered by the sun. They are on Mars. Heck we can get copies of photos taken on Mars on our phones with very little effort. Jules Verne would shit the proverbial brick. We are truly living in an age of wonders society! Be more appreciative!

I Survived the Couchathon!

Anyone following the sidebar has likely seen that my last week was consumed with the 30-hour non-stop telethon webcast called “The Couchathon” for Sick Kids Foundation and Child’s Play. It was long, and it was a logistical headache, but it was a *lot* of fun. There’s a smattering of “Best of” videos starting to get posted to, but the one above (from around hour 19) is pretty much what my recollection of the entire event is like.

As a kid who spent some time in children’s hospitals growing up, the Couchathon was certainly very personally gratifying – but it was also the last major “event” on my calendar this year… which feels tremendously freeing… and hopefully means more blogging! I’ve really enjoyed trying to get a little more regular with updates here, but I’ll be the first to admit, things have been a little lean since the Film Festival.

“I shall be released” indeed!

Incidentally if you missed out on the Couchathon, the donation buttons are still active, so why not throw a couple of bucks toward’s a good cause, and start building the totals for *next years* Couchathon?

The Most Important Thing That Will Happen In the World Today…

Hey, I won a free small rootbeer in the McDonald’s Monopoly contest!

What were you thinking I was going to write about?

Levity aside, I’m a big political junkie both Canadian and US (the domestic and foreign policies of the guys and gals down south often having as big… if not a bigger… impact on this country than our own body politic). Around last March I was just starting to pay attention to the US primaries and was kind of falling into a bit of a malaise. I was actually a big McCain fan going way back, and the prospect of a McCain / Clinton race seemed like a nominal win-win as either would be better than the current status quo – although if I was really honest with myself, I wasn’t enthralled with either option. Clinton always struck me as a big subscriber to Bill’s “old school” of heavyweight political influence (which probably was borne out over the campaign), and McCain always struck me as “old” (hey, I’m two for two).

Then one night in March, as I was no doubt plugging away on some project or other, I happened to have the TV on CNN as primary results were coming in and managed to catch the speech by the junior senator from Illinois. It was though provoking. It was insightful. It made me challenge some beliefs, long and tightly held, and find them wanting and cynical. It made me realize that I could hope for an outcome to a US election cycle that was not only “less crummy” but “revolutionary”.
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Gourdy the pumpkin says…

“Happy Halloween, Everyone!”

(The preceding message has been approved and paid for by the Gourdy Pumpkin Political Action Committee, and WordPress for iPhone)

Seven days until the COUCHATHON!

Like all the best ventures in mankind’s short history, there may have been drinking involved in the conception of the Couchathon.

See, as much as I love The Imponderables (purveyors of fine viral comedy styling over at RocketAce), they have really, really, short attention spans.

During one shoot with them someone commented trying to get the four of them to focus on something at the same time was like trying to “herd wind-up cymbal-monkeys”. So we always used to joke the cruelest thing we could ever do to them is stick them in a small room together for more than an hour.

And then the joke turned into a charity telethon concept.

And then the joke became real.

Won’t you join me next Thursday at 11am for the WORST IDEA EVER, as we try to raise ph4t l3w7 for Sick Kids Foundation and Child’s Play?

It’s pretty much your best bet of the day to watch four of Canada’s hottest comedic talents murder each other, live, on the Internet. Plus I’ll be running the broadcast… so… man…