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Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Post-Modern Electioneering: Back to the Future

09-Feb-17 08:11 am EST Leave a comment
Robyn Urback | Columnist

Robyn Urback Columnist

Written in response to CBC News: “Millennials finally fall out of love with Justin Trudeau after he abandons electoral reform: Opinion by Robyn Urback

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s a member of the vaunted (yes and cynical) Generation-X, I’ve got to just roll my eyes once more….. Millennials are doing precisely what the generations before have done as youth – not voted as a block….at least – not for long.

But if there is really a block here to be won (and – let’s be clear – there isn’t), it would be easy to take yesteryear successes and use ’em again. We need more IT staffers (like me!) to explore service industries like software development or network engineering. And offering a bit of money for vocational training here (alongside some success stories) would really go a long way toward making up for lost ground on the FPP voting fiasco. Trudeau, God bless him, should’ve known better than to try saying “well we tried, but you know in government – you can’t always do what you thought you could before being elected” routine. Even if you believe it, it’s kind of a crappy reason to go back to the public with.

The real worry I have isn’t the loss of some fictionalized Millennial solidarity. It’s the potential for cross-demographic populism and fascism to take hold in this country! And while O’Leary isn’t Trump, maybe the best we can hope for it the short term is that fascism will pass us by and that Trudeau’s over-promise, under-deliver showing so far somehow reverses itself the more experience he gets as our Prime Minister.

I’m about the same age as he is – but it’s obvious to me while he might be better at leading the country than I’d be….his father he is not. And there is plenty for him to learn yet!

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Police Requests for New Internet Powers Could Cost You Big

19-Nov-16 07:29 pm EST Leave a comment

datalegislation

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anada’s CBC (a leading media and news organization in the country) promoted a story this past week concerning a very public request to the senior politicians for greater investigative powers.  This was followed by a poll that showed a degree of support for the police requests – seemingly predicated on a desire to curb child pornography among other crimes.  While civil libertarians and technology professionals raised the alarm on hearing this request, there was only limited consideration given to the cost of granting powers of this sort to police – tied largely to the cost of potentially onerous data warehousing by ISPs.  (As a footnote here, I want to cite the case of the UK which, this past week, saw Parliament enact legislation that would be largely in-line with the kinds of legislative change the RCMP would like to see enacted here in Canada.)

“Two parliamentary committees examined this issue.  Then there was the unanimous Supreme Court [of Canada] decision.  What part of ‘unconstitutional’ doesn’t [RCMP] Commissioner Paulson understand?”

Michael Harris, iPolitics.ca, November 25, 2016

Privacy and Internet Commerce

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anadians (and people generally) can still be very reluctant to share their personal information online.  A recent website delivered by The AppRefactory — the Edgewater Tenants’ Community Website — has been off to something of a slow start with the administration fielding questions about why an end-user’s address is needed as part of the signup process.  This is done with the awareness and limited support from the property management company that acts as the landlord which has data about every tenant’s address, yet that same information is not so readily volunteered when it takes digital form.  The information in this case is used to simply verify that an end-user signup request is for a tenant as opposed to some random user from the Internet; in order to ensure that any information a tenant elects to access or share on the site is kept within the tenant community only.  As such it is a measure intended to protect tenant privacy, but there can still be reluctance about sharing it.

This is just an example of how users have adapted over the years to safeguard their privacy.  Yet now the police want measures taken by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to circumvent privacy to such a degree that they will never again be aware of who exactly has access to their information.  (We saw in another article posted this past week how police could access computer records without appropriate authorization or authority.)  And should police officers once again demonstrate how human they can be and make a mistake, suddenly the information they’ve been entrusted with is available to parties unknown.

Such cases, once known to the public (as they will tend to be, thanks to our free press), could easily put end-users further on the defensive about their information.  And, despite poll results suggesting some support for increased police powers, there remains the likelihood the average person in Canada (which, historically, tends to be a person that trusts police authority) hasn’t thought the issue through very thoroughly and certainly not technically.  The regime Canadians will be confronted with, whatever their decision about the powers police should have online, could easily be one business is less well-able to thrive in and would find it harder to operate in without being less able to solicit end-user consent and confidence meaningfully.

And they wouldn’t know it until it really was too late.

New Powers Add Onerous Burdens on All Business (Not Just ISPs)

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he legislation in the UK does not specifically distinguish nor give license to ISPs to operate or grant any special legal distinction to them apart from providers of Internet-facing services generally.  As such it would seem to stand as a matter of law that anyone providing Internet-facing services could be compelled to maintain logs concerning end-user activity.  From a technical perspective, the law wouldn’t be all that meaningful if it couldn’t extend, for example, to providers of Virtual Private Network (VPN) services which are frequently used to both secure corporate communications online as well as anonymize network access to  BitTorrent media sharing sites or “Deep Web” network traffic.

msazurelogoSo the law must apply to businesses using the Internet equally (or at least be seen to apply as such).  And how will the small business be impacted when they’re suddenly required to maintain a database documenting (as the RCMP want) up to two years of end-user activity?  One approach we could use would be to use Microsoft Azure’s service calculator to take a service that uses a very modest 5GB of data monthly to track data transfer activity for a service, numbering just 10,000 transactions.  Without any service connections, charging just for the storage of table-based data only, we get an added cost of $409.00 per month, including a $364.00 Standard Support feature on local redundancy only.  (Nothing could immediately be found on legislative requirements for backing up this data, but a vendor support feature seemed logical to imagine in this scenario.)  That’s a not-so-inconsiderable $4,900 per year and is getting pricey for the average small business.

Now if you run a big business, things get interesting: scaled up to 5TB of data and 1 million transactions, the costs at the same level of support (with local redundancy only) balloon out to $5,223.68 per month or a whopping $62,684.16 per year.

These costs are certainly something to consider when it comes to determining who is paying for all this extra monitoring.  One thing is clear, it won’t be coming out of the RCMP’s budget!

And although this is the costs according to one vendor, it is an industry leader in a space oft-credited with reducing the costs associated with maintaining large warehouses of data (a main selling point behind “the cloud” movement).  One shudders to think how much more onerous these costs could become if one is required by law to maintain hardware and software of their own, in a facility that is solely under their own control.

Final Analysis: Restrain Police Powers Online

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ith passage of the UK legislation this past week, the Government of Canada may be best-advised to stay the course for now and weigh its options again at a later date if it chooses.  While I suspect both in the wake of Brexit and their now police powers law (called the “Investigatory Powers Bill”) will lead the UK (and England in particular) into a self-made socio-economic crisis, there remains the question as to what exactly the impact of their measures will have.  The opportunity here isn’t to regulate early and hopefully stop child sexual abuse — a cause I’m very sympathetic to and have even had occasion to assist police with.  Rather, it’s to gain the wisdom about whether the impacts of these measures will simply drive it further underground or make a meaningful difference (as opposed to being an issue cited simply as a political red herring to grant powers that will be used for other purposes).  To discover whether the economic impact is too burdensome.  And to learn comprehensively if there will be the promised ‘greater good’ worthy of the limits a free and democratic society — a just society — places on itself and its citizens.

Fresh New Look for The AppRefactory Inc.

03-Nov-16 09:23 am EST Leave a comment
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fter 3+ years hosted at Weebly.com, it was time to finally take The AppRefactory Inc. company website into a modern hosting environment with features and integration potential that would allow us to demonstrate, albeit in brief, what ASP.NET MVC could offer.  Dynamic product listings with breadcrumb sub-navigation, upload sections for partner contracts and résumés; and database-driven contact forms that make it easier than ever (and convenient) to stay in touch are all just the beginning.  In the days ahead we still expect to add:

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The AppRefactory Inc. website redeployment announcement graphic: http://apprefactory.ca

  • Links to customer features site (requiring login) via Office365, Visual Studio (online ed.) and SharePoint,
  • Highlights and links to ongoing software development currently being undertaken by the company,
  • Book time online with a consultant to review your software service needs or setup an in-depth remote service session online through HackHands.com,
  • Subscription for partner companies and contacts looking for email updates consultant availability and/or major site & service offering revisions, and
  • Links to WindowsStore.com and related sites for specific product integrations (Windows desktop, server and phone all to be included).

So stay tuned!  There’s much more yet to come….and you won’t want to miss any of it.

(Additional graphics related to the new website can be found on our Yelp.ca listing.)

BLOG RELOCATION ANNOUNCEMENT

02-Oct-14 11:15 pm EST Leave a comment
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ust a quick advisory to everyone concerning this blog — WE’VE MOVED!!! That’s right; as of today (October 2, 2014), The Ross Report is relocating to its new home at a new hosting provider. So don’t think for a second I’m disappearing anywhere…on the contrary. The new address is a migration off of the old wordpress.com site address because a new environment that is more in-line with the growing in-house architecture of The AppRefactory Inc. (the business I’m running) has become available. The new server also offers all the advantages that go with running one’s own WordPress.org application (PHP) server….which is to say absent all the limitations imposed on users of WordPress.com‘s space. More detailed analytics and the option to tie-into a whole bunch more apps and plug-ins are also now available and will facilitate some forthcoming development exercises in the weeks and (more accurately) months ahead.

So update your bookmarks now! The new permanent address is:

http://ross613.wp.apprefactory.ca

Look forward to seeing you there!

Help Bring Stargate: Universe Back!

07-May-13 01:36 pm EST 2 comments

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ring back SG:U to the Internet by signing this Netflix petition (see link). Unlike many Internet-based petitions, this one looks like it’s being taken seriously….so if you (like me) want Stargate back – access the SG:U petition on change.org and let your voice be heard!  (Do it anyway for me – ‘cuz there’s a huuuuge vacuum in sci-fi entertainment these days and it will make life suck a lot less for me and a pile of other people! )

Ontario Government Introduces Legislation to Protect Consumers from High Cellphone Bills

29-Apr-13 05:49 pm EST Leave a comment
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rotecting consumers from outrageously high cancellation fees (to now be limited to a maximum of $50) and compulsorily requiring customer consent to change cell phone contracts are just two of the measures drafted into long-awaited legislation aimed tabled in the Ontario Legislature today.  While consumers and the industry still await a code of conduct for vendors to be brought forward by the CRTC, the minority governing Liberals argue these measures are already overdue.

More details are available here.

End of Final Shuttle Mission Yields Bitter Commentary

21-Jul-11 09:47 pm EST 2 comments
This unprecedented view of the space shuttle Atlantis, appearing like a bean sprout against clouds and city lights, on its way home, was photographed by the Expedition 28 crew of the International Space Station. Airglow over Earth can be seen in the background. (Courtesy: http://www.nasa.gov)
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ox News has gained plenty of notoriety for injecting inflammatory rhetoric into its news coverage in recent years, but after seeing this recent video on the heels of watching coverage of Atlantis’ return to Earth at the end of the final shuttle mission, it seems the aim here is to turn the event into yet another political football.  The claim being that, unlike Kennedy, Obama is ending manned spaceflight in the U.S. to save money.  But, as is almost always the case where Fox commentary is concerned, there’s really more to the story.

What the authors of hundreds of Twitter messages that seem to be absorbing Fox’s take have missed is that the move is part of a larger plan to share the glory of (and hopes of profit in) with commercial entities.  Already it’s hoped that by the end of 2011 and certainly during 2012, unmanned commercial flights will take on resupply missions to the space station, with manned flights by the end of 2013.  An 18-24 month pause in manned spaceflight doesn’t seem like “an end” of any sort to me…

Still, one needs to concede that were the U.S. not sinking into a financial abyss at the moment, there’d likely not be any particular will to end shuttle flights during the hand-off to commercial enterprise; regardless of the arguments about how NASA’s presence in the open market would have made commercial manned spaceflight much less viable.  But SpaceX has already demonstrated that, flying an unmanned empty capsule aboard its Falcon 9 rocket, it and other companies are today much closer to having the capability to take over from NASA because of the decision to take it to the private sector.  NASA provided funding for some of SpaceX’s efforts as it is doing for 4 other companies which stand close to getting their own spacecraft off the ground.

In fact, I’ve seen a similar move before by government agencies with respect to privatization of previous government monopolies.  At the dawn of the Internet era, there was only a single ISP in Winnipeg, Manitoba (my home city).  A fellow named Bill Reid who directed the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) Computer Services department made a decision to take the Internet private.  Why wasn’t business doing this on its own?  Well MBNet (the ISP’s name) was offering dial-up access for free to students of the U of M and for an extremely low rate (base annual fee of $25 per account¹) which made private ISP service all but unviable.  But when MBNet kicked all its users off (or almost all) one fateful day, companies like Magic Online Services (later purchased by TotalNet of Montreal) stood ready that very day to offer service to the public.

At the time, there were those that saw MBNet’s move as being unfair – many were forced to make significant changes to their networking services in a very short period of time.  But at some point, stepping back was surely the right thing to do lest Winnipeg and even the province of Manitoba more generally make competition in the Internet services market a game played strictly by very large companies.  (Indeed, the market’ has largely gone that way in any event, but it’s quite possible the current situation would have been much worse.)  And I see the same being true for a much broader set of reasons where NASA is concerned.

Time will tell, of course — but at the very least Obama and the NASA administration shouldn’t be faulted for this effort.  The U.S. is experiencing a serious financial crisis and there’s little doubt even from the decision’s detractors that the private sector can ultimately do spaceflight more cost-effectively.  And at this point in history, surely that’s enough reason to make it a private concern…particularly when there exists a real possibility the U.S. won’t be able to afford manned missions on its own if steps aren’t taken to redress the crippling U.S. deficit.  Steps exactly like this one.  Indeed, one could well argue that this move will preserve manned spaceflight in the years ahead; and that not privatizing manned missions to space would threaten the continued ability of the U.S. to undertake such challenges.  Perhaps even threaten the existence of NASA as an agency of manned exploration anywhere but in historical texts.

Hopefully in the long run, those on Twitter who’ve thus far spared the time to barely read the lead into neocon-authored editorials will eventually find time to hear the full story.  Of course, there are a few other obstacles that stand in the way of that: the realization that a previous Republican administration deregulated the financial services sector and started a war with 2 countries creating a situation where decisions like this were inevitable.  And I’m not sure that message will ever get the kind of reception necessary for Twitter-bound hecklers to cease their de facto campaign of complaints re #nasa.

But the taste of the last shuttle’s return to Earth would sure be less bitter for it if they did.


¹ An original document containing MBNet’s fee structure was located while doing research from this story.  Based on my memory of extensive prior MBNet usage, I can testify its authenticity.

Terry Glavin

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