Monday, February 27, 2006

Whither Revere wireless?

It looks like Boston is closer to going wireless city-wide, and that got me thinking: Should Revere (where I live) and other surrounding communities try to make the same jump now? I know that it's a bit of a jump, but the ultimate benefits to residents is potentially huge, and it helps a city already struggling to snatch a piece of the Boston business market keep pace. Plus, if a group of cities bordering Boston all jump on, it should help reduce some cost, right? I mean, I have no idea if that's true, but it seems true. Ah well.

Then again, this is Revere's Web site, so I don't know how much the powers that be here value the information age...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A couple of things

  • It's official: frat boys and college freshman burnouts have ruined Bob Marley for everyone else.
  • My friend Gienna has a crazy neighbor who lives upstairs. Said crazy neighbor is fixing up her place to sell, and all the crazy is tumbling down the stairs to Gienna's house. Learn about the lamp here, and well meaning but not so swift Carlos here.
  • Larry Summers is out at Harvard, and all of a sudden, there are throngs of folk out there defending the guy. Where were they last week? The Globe ran one last jab at Summers yesterday. Harvard people are such friggin' navel gazers. I only thing I want to hear about Harvard is that they'll finally stop killing locals.
  • You've seen the trilogy, now see the real story of two men who fight hate and fear, and ultimately find love: Brokeback to the Future

Monday, February 13, 2006

Have you seen the news? There was a snow storm this weekend!

Seriously, if it wasn't for the good people at channels 4, 5, and 7, I would never have known and likely died of exposure. Fortunately, these guys have weather coverage down pat, and follow some simple but reassuring rules to keep me, the guy in the middle of the snow storm, informed that , yes, it is snowing.

My buddy Jason at Happy Scrappy mentioned some of the more annoying aspects of local news weather coverage, but he's from Florida and doesn't understand that these things, which he complains about, are as woven into the fabric of New England as the Puritans, Red Sox, and bussing violence.

So for all you people not from around here, I give you the 10 immutable laws of local news storm coverage:
  1. Send out reporters to at least two of the following four coastal areas: Revere/Winthrop, Hull, Scituate or Gloucester. At at least one location a wave will clear the sea wall. Run clip 743 times.
  2. Send a reporter to somewhere along Route 128. During the blizzard of '78, motorists died as they became stuck on the clogged road and snow covered their vehicles' exhaust pipes. That will never happen again, but there needs to be a reporter on the scene for the possibility of a corpse interview.
  3. If the station has a bigger budget, send someone to Worcester City Hall, which serves as a reminder that there is some form of civilization in Baja Vermont after all.
  4. Doppler radar: This is a new entry to the weather coverage. It's no longer good enough to get radar information from the National Weather Service. Each station must have its own doppler radar tower that will provide "up to the minute" coverage of a 36 hour Snow Event.
  5. Call the storm a Snow Event. This is mandatory.
  6. Keep at least two weathermen (ahem, meteorologists) inside the station at all times. It makes the team look rugged, like one is on the air while the other is catching 10 minutes of sleep on a cot set up in a broom closet somewhere. Like firefighters or Jerry Lewis during the telethon.
  7. The anchors get to wear sweaters, like they just came in unexpectedly, and were't aware they were working the weekend shift like four days ago. No blazer or otherwise professional clothing. If I can't believe that Ed Harding was at home splitting firewood when he was called for the extended coverage, then clearly NewsCenter Five doesn't care about the Snow Event.
  8. Nothing is a bigger story than the Snow Event, even when the Vice President shoots a man.
  9. The following events, if captured on film, must be shown at least 743 times: A man falls, a car fishtails, water clears the sea wall (see rule #1), close-up of plows clearing the highway, kids with shovels trying to make some extra cash, a reporter losing their hat or hood in the wind. There are others, but these are your meat and potatoes.
  10. At least one meteorologist must wonder out load "Will we get to official blizzard status?" and then remind us of the rules of a blizzard as defined by blah blah blah.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Farewell, Arrested Development

A show truly before its time. Matthew Gilbert gives Arrested a proper send-off in today's Globe.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Ipods can save the world

I've long held the position that legislation and court decisions regarding technology and its uses will generally skew towards the reactionary and restrictive, because judges and senators are generally out of touch with cutting edge devices and concepts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these are the same people who still think it's funny that they can't program a VCR's clock. With a senator, it's even worse. I'd love to poll the senate to find out how many of the 100 have their secretaries print out e-mails for them to read.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that when you give an Ipod to an 82-year-old senator, he starts to take a more common sense position on piracy, fair use and copyright protections.

The Senate Commerce Committee has been mulling the concept of broadcast flags, which are Digital Rights Management script sent by the content provider with the show/movie/song. The bill would allow the FCC to require device makers to build flag recognition into their products, and thus allow the content provider to have veto power on what you can and can't do with the show/song/movie. In essence, the flags would take today's technology and trap it in amber. New technologies would be unable to accept the content you want to use. If this happened 20 years ago, there would be no VCR. Ten years ago, and there's be no Ipod.

Sen. Ted Stevens, an enormously powerful and kinda crazy Senator, had been a vocal proponent of the crippling technology. Then his daughter bought him an Ipod, and his tone has changed considerably. Once he got his hands on the technology and saw how easy it became to listen to his favorite music or watch a favorite show on his own schedule, the idea of banning such convenience made less sense to him.

That's a startling development, and it proves that the unknown is a powerful factor in technological disputes. Now there's an organization that's fundraising to buy Ipods for every senator, so a Stevens-like awakening can happen on all front. If you got a little cash to spare, send it their way. Your TiVo will thank you.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's the Globe's fault, so why do I have to watch an ad?

The Boston Globe and Worcester T&G sent out the credit card and bank information of 240,000 customers with the bundles of papers delivered Sunday. It's a stunning error, and one that deserves a great amount of scrutiny. I'm amazed that the Herald's largely held fire, even though the Globe deserves a smack for this.*

I went over to the publisher's letter on the Web to see his explanation. I wanted to read the Globe's explanation about why the confidential information of a quarter million people was betrayed.

Instead, I had to watch a splash ad and click on "go directly to" to read the damn letter. That's good planning, guys.

Next up, I went to the actual Globe article online. I read and read and read for an explanation, and instead got boilerplate about how this happened to a bunch of other companies, too. Then, finally, the last four grafs explained what happened to allow this:

Officials of the newspapers said they are recovering as many of the toppers as possible, although most have probably been discarded. The T&G has ended the practice of using any recycled paper for toppers. The Globe does not recycle paper in this fashion.

The newspapers have also added a safeguard to the computer system so only the last four numbers of credit and debit cards can be printed.

The Globe and T&G share a computer system. Larkin said the data was printed out on two occasions over the past few weeks by T&G business office employees. In one instance, an employee inadvertently hit the print button, aborted the job before the run was complete, and discarded the paper. In the other instance, another employee began printing a report, but soon realized it was the wrong one, aborted that print job, and discarded the paper.

Larkin said the newspapers are still investigating the T&G's procedures for handling confidential customer information. But he said the employees weren't disciplined because the errors were inadvertent. ''There's no reason to believe this was intentional," he said.

How exacty was this paper discarded if it ended up in a pile to print out bundle toppers? Clearly, they just threw it in a recycling bin. If the employee inadvertantly printed out sensitive financial information of customers, why wasn't a manager notified, or special precautions taken to destroy the information?

The Globe and T&G can't let this die today. Neither paper would allow such a flimsy answer pass as the final word if this happened to another company.

*I used to work for Communicty Newspaper Company, which is owned by Herald Media.