Archive for October, 2005

Keep your eyes off my content

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Ed Felten quotes a disturbing snippet from an interview with SBC CEO Edward Whitacre concering traffic flowing through SBC pipes:

Q: How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google, MSN, Vonage, and others?

A: How do you think they’re going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can’t be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!

Ed (Felten that is) rightly notes that calling the service free is hardly correct when SBC customers (me being one of them) pay monthly fees for it. He then goes on to discuss some other problems with the quote. But I want to focus on one particular issue having to do with SBC’s status as a common carrier.

Randy Zagar correctly points out in the comments to Ed’s post that common carriers are legally prohibited from monitoring the content of the traffic that flows through their pipes, which means that they cannot legally discriminate among content the user requests. So how could they do what CEO Ed Whitacre is suggesting? I’m not a legal scholar nor am I up-to-date on possible recent developments, but I am quite sure this law is still in effect. I welcome clarification.

The conversation on Ed’s blog regarding this matter seems to focus mostly on prices and commercial considerations. But how about political ones? What if an Internet service provider company had a leadership that was especially supportive of a certain political view (whether backing a particular political candidate or taking a certain side in a debate over, say, abortion or gay rights). Let’s say the leadership in said company was aligned enough with a particular perspective that they did not care if restricting access to certain content perhaps even led to lost revenues (in the short term or long). Let’s assume they were more interested in pushing a certain political perspective and decided to block access to Web sites that disagreed with these views. What then? If there are several players in town then the user can perhaps switch providers. That said, blocking usually happens in a way that doesn’t make it at all clear to the user what happened and why a certain site is inaccessible. So it is not clear that the user will know what alternative route to take to access the desired content.

The reason I decided to get DSL at home instead of cable is precisely because of the law concerning common carriers and their neutral stance with respect to content. I don’t want my provider to discriminate among the types of material I request. I went so far as to bother getting a land line installed just for my DSL connection despite the fact that I am already paying for basic cable anyway as part of my building’s assessment fees and so getting Internet access on cable would have been easier (and possibly cheaper). I realize this level of obsession with having guaranteed access to different types of content is probably not common, but I believed it to be an important enough distinction to bother. But what was the point if the CEO of my common carrier believes in what is articulated in the above quote?

Do head over to Ed’s post for more on problems with Whitacre’s comments.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 31st, 2005
Halloween costume

Halloween costume,
originally uploaded by eszter.

In true geek fashion I wore an Internet-related costume to class today. I put all sorts of signs on myself that said things like “Enter your password here”, “Click here to update your account”, PayPal, eBay, some login screens and emails. I also held a plastic fish in my hand. That was the main clue perhaps.

I had never dressed up as a verb before. It had its set of challenges.

In case you’re still wondering, my costume was “phishing“.

A few students also came dressed up to class. We had a mouse with ears and “right click”, “left click” buttons, which I thought was really funny. And we also had a superwoman, someone who put on an actual real costume. I supplied the candy and had posted a flash ghost animation game on the class blog a few days before so we were definitely in Halloween mode.

Ghosts and teddy bears

Friday, October 28th, 2005

In the spirit of Halloween here are two games for your weekend amusement. (Warning: both come with audio on.)

Time Sink!

  • Dark and Stormy Night starring ghost Jinx – very basic, but still cute and fun (and should be especially enjoyable for kids)
  • Transylmania – vampire with a teddy bear, very cute


Bookmarklets galore!

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

originally uploaded by eszter.

Blummy is a great little service that let’s you access several bookmarklets without having to have a separate link on your toolbar (or a bookmarks folder) for all of them. You just place one bookmark on the toolbar and can access all of them by pressing on your blummy bookmarklet that opens a little window on the page that you are viewing. You can fill out information directly from the window. (Note regarding the bookmarklet, as you put together your little window full of links, you’ll want to leave the room that is designated for as that’s where you’ll be entering the link information. This’ll make sense once you try it out.:)

I didn’t see a bookmarklet for Yahoo! My Web2.0. If someone feels like creating one (with a Yahoo! icon on it), I’d be grateful. You can add bookmarklets to the system and make them available to others.

In case you’re wondering what bookmarlets are in the first place, they are little programs that let you perform certain things online quickly. In this case, most of the bookmarklets either give you a shortcut to posting a link to your account on a social bookmarking service (like or BlinkList) or they let you forward a query to a site quickly (such as Wikipedia or, just to name a couple).

There are a few bugs, for example, the “close” link doesn’t always work. Also, there are lots of duplicated bookmarklets on the site, which is a bit of wasted time as you browse through them. But overall it’s seems like a really helpful service.


Go Chicago!

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Given that I’m a proud Chicagoland resident, it’s only appropriate to send a shoutout to the White Sox and their fans even if I’m not necessarily much of a baseball fan and despite the fact that I live north of the north side.* CONGRATS! It’s fun to see all the excitement conveyed in some of the photostreams on Flickr. Sorry, Ted. (This weekend we can forget about all this and focus on the Northwestern-Michigan football game. Go ‘Cats!)

*If I was a baseball fan and given where I live, I’d have to be a Cubs fan. Every time I go downtown I go right past Wrigley Field so it’s hard not to feel more allegiance to that team. And while I realize some Cubs fans are as bitter as can be about the White Sox victory, that’s not me.

TV: Human Trafficking

Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

I’m running around all day today, but no time to wait with this post: I want to recommend Lifetime’s Human Trafficking mini-series. It aired last night (in the U.S.), but the first part will be replayed early this evening before the second part is shown.

The NYTimes quotes an immigration and customs official from the movie:

An ounce of cocaine, wholesale: $1,200, but you can only sell it once. A woman or a child, $50 to $1,000, but you can sell them each day, every day, over and over and over again. The markup is immeasurable.

The movie is well done in many ways, I recommend it.

One question I’m left with is the best ways to educate people, and especially children, about all this. A movie like this is helpful, but it’s not clear how a 12-year-old would deal with it. And then there are areas where showing such a movie is not even an option.

The NYTimes piece has a synopsis of the first part in case you can’t spend four hours on this tonight.

Map of readers

Monday, October 24th, 2005

originally uploaded by eszter.

Frappr is a new service based on the wonderful Google Maps. People can add themselves to the map based on affiliation with the map’s theme such as a certain group membership.

Despite the fact that it seems like many E-BLOG readers are not nearly as into online geeky goodness as I am, I have started one for visitors of this blog and my Flickr account. Just go to the map and click on Add Yourself in the right-hand column. You’ll be asked to enter your name, your zip code (or city for non-U.S. locations), a comment (called “shoutout”) and a picture. If you’re not feeling inspired for the shoutout, you can just say hi.

C’mon, you can do it. You can leave a cartoon instead of your real picture if you prefer.

“Quotes in Public” group on Flickr

Sunday, October 23rd, 2005
JFK quote in Chicago Public Library

JFK quote in Chicago Public Library,
originally uploaded by eszter.

I started a new group on Flickr called “Quotes in Public”.

The idea is to bring together pictures of quotes in public places, e.g. on monuments, walls, buildings, benches, in cemeteries, and whatever other location people may find interesting quotes.

The above image is what inspired the group. A few others have already been added to the group, check it out.

Third Coast Festival

Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

I saw a great concert last night as part of the Third Coast International Audio Festival‘s events. The special guest for the evening was One Ring Zero playing music different from most of what’s usually on my playlist. As one of the members described it at some point: weird circus klezmer music. As silly or weird as that may sound, I think it was a reasonable description of at least some of their music. (If you don’t know what klezmer music is, you can check out the bit of discussion we had about the topic here on CT a while back or see what Wikipedia has to say about it.)

The group was performing pieces from their most recent album As Smart As We Are that has songs with lyrics from an impressive set of writers. See the Web site for some sample mp3s and the list of contributors to this album.

The concert also came with the special treat of watching Bob Ewards play the theremin. I had never seen a theremin played so this was interesting in general. In case you don’t know what a theremin looks like (or what someone looks like playing it), has a helpful animated image on its front page to give you an idea. (Needless to say blogs exist on the topic of theremins if you want a daily dose.:)

Thanks to my friend Ben – the trumpet player in last night’s performance – for alerting me to this event, it was definitely a treat. I’ve posted a couple of images on Flickr.

Tag-cloud set

Friday, October 21st, 2005
E-BLOG tag cloud

E-BLOG tag cloud,
originally uploaded by eszter.

I’ve started a Flickr set for tag clouds from this blog. It’ll be interesting to see how the tags change over time.

Thanks go to the ScreenGrab Firefox extension for making it so easy to generate this image from a Web page.

Picture sudoku

Friday, October 21st, 2005

Do you like to play sudoku? Do you prefer images over numbers? You may for this game. Picture sudoku lets you choose images from photo-sharing site Flickr with which to fill your sudoku puzzle. You can specify the tag and/or the user whose images you want to integrate into the game.

Chicagoland sudoku (with just my photos)
turtle sudoku (with everyone’s photos)
long-shadow sudoku (with everyone’s photos)
chocolate sudoku (with everyone’s photos)

As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

The game also gives you a “blank” with which to erase placement of photos. If you are intrigued by a picture and want to see it in full size on Flickr then just click on the asterisk next to its name in the left-hand column.

Have fun!


Better browsing

Friday, October 21st, 2005

I’ve been a big fan of Firefox since last Fall and given its wonderful features (better security, all sorts of functionality) I try to do my best to encourage others to use it as well.

In that vein, I have put together a page with a list of my favorite extensions. Firefox extensions are little programs that add features to the browser. Some of my favorites include being able to search for a street address without having to retype the address or pull up a map first, tabbed browsing, better use of browser space, etc. I know some of these features are available in other programs as well, but it’s great to have it all come together so nicely in one program. Feel free to list additional favorites in the comments to this post.

I have also put together a detailed tutorial on how to install the program (on Windows) for those who do not feel comfortable downloading programs. Feel free to pass along these page to your parents, cousins, friends, etc.

This Webuse.Info site contains some additional information so to recap:


New links feature

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

.. as in “new links” and “new feature”. I created an account (free) on BlinkList and am publishing the links I add to my accoun there on the sidebar of this blog. The section is just below the search field, which is below the Flickr photos (or “Flickr badge”) on the right.

BlinkList is a social bookmarking site like BlinkList’s site has a page devoted to explaining its advantages over It is certainly a much nicer user interface and the fact that you can publish the links on your own blog so easily is a nice feature. BlinkList also offers the option of putting selected other users’ lists on your own watch list. This is a feature I very much missed in

Let me know if you start an account so I can add you to the list of people whose list I watch.

If you are a Digg user you’ll also note the similarity regarding the “blink it” feature.

Fall is here

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005
Changing leaves

Changing leaves,
originally uploaded by eszter.

Fall has arrived and so far it’s looking great. This tree is right outside my office. I really liked the changing colors within one tree.

The accompanying weather makes for great walks by the lake.

Salami and chestnut puré

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005
Hungarian food

Hungarian food,
originally uploaded by eszter.

One of the things I miss the most from Hungary is food. Over the weekend I was cleaning up comment spam from months ago. In the process I discovered some legitimate comments people had left on this blog a while back. One of them pointed me to, a store close to Chicago that sells Hungarian food. I contemplated driving out there, but realized it would be easier to order something online. Here is what I got: Hungarian salami, pickles, sauerkraut, herring in tomato sauce, plum halves compote and chestnut puré. I put in the order over the weekend and already had the products on Tuesday. I chose the cheapest/slowest shipping option.

The winning guess

Monday, October 17th, 2005
Board notes in class

Board notes in class,
originally uploaded by eszter.

We were discussing portals and search engines in today’s Internet and Society class. I had various statistics to show the students, but first I had them guess the figures. I find that this gets them more engaged. Moreover, because I ask them to justify their guesses, I think it gets them to think about the issues more than if I were to inundate them with a bunch of data points without any discussion.

Pictured here is the prize for the winning guesses. No, there is no physical award, just the drawn prize. Today they were a car and a trip to Hawaii. No, this was not preplanned, it just evolved from the interactions.

I haven’t drawn much before in class, but students seemed to enjoy it so I may be adding more cartoons in the future.

A propos cartoons, I already start each lecture with a cartoon on the slides. I try to have them relate to the day’s material. Those cartoons are a “bit” higher quality though being drawn by professionals and all.

Halloween prep

Monday, October 17th, 2005
Halloween prep

Halloween prep,
originally uploaded by eszter.

Before you carve your pumpkin, do a practice run here to see what the outcome will look like.

My Southpark character

Sunday, October 16th, 2005
My Southpark character

My Southpark character,
originally uploaded by eszter.

A few weeks ago I had Meetro running and communicated with a few folks. One of them created this Southpark character based on the photo of me on my Meetro profile. If you know me you know that this isn’t exactly what I look like. That said, it’s a pretty good rendering of the picture.

FYI, Meetro is an instant messaging application that adds a geographical component to interactions by letting you know who from the network is in your physical proximity.

Keep track of business cards with Flickr

Saturday, October 15th, 2005
Business card

Business card,
originally uploaded by eszter.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to organize physical objects digitally. Back when I was guest-blogging at Lifehacker I posted an entry about using Flickr to help keep track of wines by taking pictures of their labels and uploading them to Flickr. While a handy tool, I’m not much of a wine fan so it’s not something I’ve been able to use myself.

But now I have thought of a way to apply this method to something that is quite present in my everydays: business cards.

Despite lots of material available about people on the Web, exchanging hard-copy business cards is still something people seem to do quite a bit. There is some value to it. If you add a few notes to the card then the card can help you remember the person. That is, the person may have a Web site with all the relevant contact info, but if you cannot recall their name then that won’t be of too much help. Business cards can help in remembering people’s names and recalling the context in which you met them.

So I started taking snapshots of business cards I have collected recently. I upload these pictures to my account on Flickr. Since people don’t necessarily want their contact info floating around publicly, I have specified these pictures as completely private.

I then add information about the context of the meeting in the notes field and info about people’s affiliation and fields in the tags.

Your wish is my command

Friday, October 14th, 2005

In an off-topic comment* (ahem;-) to this post, Jeremy requested that I make the blog spam guard flexible enough so that you can type in “Eszter” or “eszter” as the key word. Good idea, but Jeremy didn’t say how to implement this in php. Now it may seem like I know php since I pretend to know something about it whenever I’m implementing new things around here, but in reality, I don’t actually know anything about php. Jeremy must have knowns I like a geek challenge though. The request is now implemented.


* I should say that the comment was only partly off-topic since there was a thread-related note in it as well.