Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Do You REALLY Need to Upgrade?

All the talk of the upcoming release of Windows Vista inspired me today. My question is not necessarily related to upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista. Rather, my question is do I really need to upgrade my technology at all? For example, should I upgrade from my Centrino laptop to a dual-core? Do I really need to upgrade?

Making the decision to upgrade your software or hardware required analysis. You analyzed:

  • The level of work that you did with what you had (do you just use your computer to surf the 'net and read e-mails, or do you write graphic-intensive applications)

  • Whether it really harms your productivity (do I really need to be able to play solitaire at a faster speed, or is it taking too long to create and test my Flash cartoons?

  • Whether you had enough money in your budget

  • Whether the company decided to no longer support the product because the software life cycle has run out

Based on your analysis, you made your decision to upgrade or stay the course.

Now, software companies are making it easy for us to decide. Software life cycles are shorter now, and most companies are developing their newer, supported versions around the latest hardware requirements. In some cases, if you need to upgrade your software, you may have to upgrade your hardware as well. I can't begrudge the software companies from shortening the life cycles. Trust me - it's annoying to have to support a software version that's 7 years old. However, from an end-user perspective, it's bank-breaking because as an end-user, it's possible that I have to upgrade my hardware because the newer version of the software can't run on what I have, even though my hardware may only be about 2 years old!

When it came to upgrading, I usually followed the "2-year rule" for software and "4-year rule" for hardware. I upgraded my software versions every 2 years, and I upgraded my hardware every 4 years. Now, my rule will have to change - I may have to upgrade everything every 2 years. The bright side with the hardware is a lot of the free operating systems (like the Linux distros) will run very well on older machines, so at least I can still prolong the usage life of my machines. Now if more software and drivers are available for Linux, I can completely convert.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Could the Communications Decency Act Get Revised?

See the latest updates on the dontdatehimgirl.com case in the comments....

The Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 protects minors (people under 18 years of age) from obscene electronic communication. Another part of the CDA deals with libel and slander on the Internet. According to the CDA, if libelous or slanderous speech is published on a web site, the web site operator is not liable for the information if it is posted by someone. For example, if someone goes on the forum on my web site and publishes slanderous statements about a figure, I am not liable for what that poster said (although the victim can pursue legal action against the poster). There is a defamation lawsuit currently happening that may change that.

To summarize the case, Todd Hollis is suing Tasha Joseph, the web operator of dontdatehimgirl.com, for defamation of character. According to the case, an anonymous poster posted false, slanderous comments about Mr. Hollis, and Ms. Joseph refused to remove the comments when she was asked by Mr. Hollis to do so. It was recommended to Mr. Hollis to post a rebuttal comment or to post his own web site countering the charges.

John Seigenthaler Sr. lost a legal battle with Wikipedia over a "prankster" posting on Wikipedia that he (Mr. Seigenthaler) was involved in the assasination of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. This is the case that actually added the section (section 230) to the CDA absolving web site operators of liability from users posting information on their sites

Although there is a precedence that was already set regarding libelous information published on a web site, the lawyers for Mr. Hollis are finding holes in the law protecting web site operators. If the case is found in Mr. Hollis's favor, this could change how web site operators maintain their sites.

My Take
As a web site operator, what do I think of this situation?

The intention of Section 230 of the CDA was supposed to help promote the freedom of legal speech on the Internet. I can understand the fear of changing Section 230 because America is becoming a more litigious society. If someone decided to post an opinion of a product, service, or person on a web site, the person being critiqued could "cry foul" and sue the web site operator and the poster for defamation. Although the lawsuit would probably be dismissed because the person was expressing an opinion and not stating comments as fact, it would still cost the web site operator money and time to fight the legal battle.

However, I have two concerns regarding Section 230:

  • Even though I am not liable for what someone publishes on my site, whether it's on my forums or on this blog, I still try to practice due diligence by monitoring comments before I publish them, reviewing requests for user IDs for the forum, and monitoring the forum for inappropriate posts. There are other web site operators that perform the same due diligence to prevent situations like this. The problem is not all web site operators practice due diligence. Because they are not legally obligated to monitor third-party content on their site, they don't have to spend the time reviewing the published material. As a result, situations like Mr. Hollis's occur.

  • My concern is the double standard regarding how published media is treated. According to Section 230, Ms. Joseph is not responsible for what someone posts about others because it was published on the Internet. If Ms. Joseph was a publisher of print media (a newspaper or a magazine), and if the same information about Mr. Hollis was published in the print media, she is liable for what was published, and she can be sued for libel.

If the case is found in Mr. Hollis's favor, this could cause a review of the Section 230. If Section 230 is revised, it will make web site operators more aware of what gets published on their web site. While, in general, I think that Section 230 does need to be revised, the only concern that I have is that it could trigger frivolous lawsuits because someone didn't like the opinion that someone else published.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Raketu - the next big thing?

For More Information

 Raketu Web Site
 From VoIP News: Making A Raketu About Peer-to-Peer Voice and Everything Else

I've been reading in a few VoIP journals about how Raketu may give VoIP (particularly Skype) a run for it's money. I decided to take a look at the product myself.


  • Raketu is a peer-to-peer service that provides voice calling, messaging and other services over the Internet

  • Unlike other P2P software, Raketu does not install additional spyware, malware, or adware

  • Unlike other P2P software, Raketu does not use supernodes in their architecture (Raketu's documentation on their architecture)

  • Raketu is looking to be an all-in-one media center. It either provides or is planning on providing the following services:

    • Podcasts

    • Video player

    • SMS text messaging

    • Social networking services

    • Free setup of your own radio show (best way I can explain it is YouTube for radio)

System Requirements

  • Microsoft Windows 98/ME/2000/XP - Note that RakOut does not work for Windows 98. Raketu may work on Windows 2003, but there is nothing in their documentation that indicates that they support that platform.

  • Install file is 3.4MB; Installed product is 11.5MB

  • If you have an Intel-based Mac, you can use Raketu if you are running the BOOTCAMP software on your machine

  • Raketu is not supported on Linux, although according to their site, they are working on a Linux version of the software

Things I Liked

  • No supernodes and no additional software installed on your machine.

  • Interfaces will all the major IMs. One of the things that I liked about this product is it integrated my IMs into Raketu, so I don't need to run all my IMs while I'm running Raketu. It lets me know whether I received any messages from my other IMs.

  • Free calls to anywhere in the US and up to 40 countries with limitations. You need to have at least $0.01 in your account.

  • The "all-in-one" package is a good concept. I, personally, don't like to have a ton of applications open when I'm trying to do my work. Keeping everything in an "all in one" package makes it easy for me.

  • I can send SMS text messages without having my phone with me. However, I do have issues with how it works (see the "needs improvement" section).

  • Good tutorial movies to explain how to use the software.

Things that Need Improvement

  • According to their published rates, they charge you approximately $0.61/minute when you make a call to a toll-free number. I didn't see anything in their support pages nor do I know of any FCC regulations to explain why they charge for toll-free calls.

  • I had trouble playing podcasts using Raketu. Raketu reads the RSS file and lists the podcasts from the service to which I subscribed, but when I try to play the podcasts, it doesn't play because the URL is malformed (it drops the address). In Raketu's defense, this could be a "bug" in the RSS feed they received from StationCaster (the provider) rather than their parser. I reported this to Raketu support.

  • The SMS interface needs work. Before you start using the SMS messaging services, you have to set up the address in your contact list. You can't just enter the destination when you send a message like you can when you are using rakOut.

Additional Notes

  • Raketu is not intended to replace your existing phone service. You can only make outbound calls, and you cannot make emergency calls (ex: calling 911 in the US) in this system.

  • If the destination number (the number your calling to) has caller ID, the number that appears in the caller ID is 555-555-5555.

  • When you are talking on the telephone using rakOut, there is about a 1-2 second communication delay

  • For their phone service, when you pre-pay, the balance expires after 180 days.

  • I'm really excited about their "free radio show" service.


Raketu has a lot of potential. The "all in one" process integration concept and the P2P architecture that they use is very good.

However, I think that they tried to release too much too soon, and it shows in the product. The interface is clunky and inconsistent (some functions stay within Raketu, while other functions open your web browser or your e-mail software), and some of the additional features that are there, like the picture viewer, are too basic to be considered as a valuable substitute for other packages.

Do I think that it's a viable competitor to VoIP? Not yet, because you can only make outgoing calls, but you cannot receive incoming calls. Do I think that it's a good product? This is a brand-new product, and there are going to be some growing pains, but I do think that it is a good product overall, and it does have the potential to be amazing.