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In Memoriam 2015

January 1: Donna Douglas: Played daughter Elly May Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies. (Age 82). 1: Mario Cuomo: Governor of New York (1983 to 1994) (Age 82). 2: James Cecil Dickens: Known as Little Jimmy Dickens, best known for his song May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up ...

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The disappearance of misc.activism.progressive and the emergence of Thought Crime Radio

Almost four years ago, the articles in the USENET newsgroup misc.activism.progressive ground to a halt, and moderator Rich Winkel has all but disappeared from the USENET, whom I learn resided in Harrisburg (up until 2010, at least), a half hour or so drive from his ...

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Sounding off on the end of CanCon and the CRTC

I guess with the recent decision to axe all cancon requirements for daytime programming in Canada, the CRTC is crawling toward its own irrelevance. Let's not be naive, Canadian culture is that much more weakened without the protection it partially enjoyed from American influence. With ...

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Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map … barely

Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map ... barely

I've written about obscure Saskatchewan communities before. Here is another community far to the north of Unity. My ancestors from France settled here. Many of my ancestors were pioneers that broke new farming ground nearest to a community called Eldred, Saskatchewan. Eldred was about 10 km ...

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Zero

Once upon a time, around the year 525 during the reign of Pope John I, a monk named Dionysius invented the idea of Anno Domini by producing a calendar which marked the time since the birth of Christ. The numbering of the years was adopted ...

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Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

Fortune Cookies for Human Rights

You know, I was minding my own business in this classy Chinese restaurant, engorging myself on their copious buffet, had my fill, and was handed the bill with an accompanying fortune cookie. This fortune cookie (the one to the left) really existed, and I never saw ...

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Getting f(x) notation to work in Maple

Getting f(x) notation to work in Maple

Maple is a robust math environment which can graph, solve equations, and solve for the unknown with the aid of its computer algebra solver (CAS), which is capable of computing exact roots of cubic functions, for example. I wanted to demonstrate for myself that Maple could ...

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Kudos to the 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Kudos to the 1050 CHUM Memorial Blog

Recently, I've been hit (my website that is) by someone possibly checking his plethora of links from his/her website, and when I back-traced it, I find this cool blog which acts as a convincing historical shrine to the late great 1050 CHUM Radio in Toronto. ...

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The Obfuscation of Electronics: The Behringer Xenyx 502

The Obfuscation of Electronics: The Behringer Xenyx 502

This is more like a meta-review. I have gone to Canada Computes where nearly the entire Behringer line is sold, and was impressed by the specs. But does it do what I want, the way I want it? I face a number of obstacles, being a ...

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USENET: Death of the Alt.* Hierarchy

The Usenet has been, and continues to be, a great source of information, where technologies that push product can easily be pushed aside using filters. There are more than 10,000 newsgroups on nearly every topic that delienates our human existence, all hierarchically arranged. The major hierarchies are known as “The Big 8”: comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.*, and talk.*.

The one hierarchy which has been the bastard child of the usenet has been the alt.* hierarchy. Like all technologies, they start off with good intentions. According to one follower of the Big 8:

The alt.* hierarchy was begun, in part, as a reaction against the management principles of what came to be known as the Big-8. It is an “alternative” approach to creating newsgroups

This meant that, in reaction to certain sites placing a “veto” on certain newsgroups and due to the political influence certain site maintainers had, why not make it possible for anyone to make any newsgroup they want, without the need for a vote? That was the idea behind “alt.*”

Most people who maintain USENET sites will freely admit that much of the alt.* hierarchy has become a moral and technological toilet. It carries nearly every nutty newsgroup bounded only by imagination, including groups no one has ever seriously posted to, as well as long-dead newsgroups that also have no posts (unless you count spam). Examples are

  • alt.swedish-chef.bork.bork.bork
  • alt.n (where “n” = monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday)
  • alt.sex.extraterrestrial
  • alt.food.pez

… you get the idea. This led the folks carrying these newsgroups to decide that: OK, maybe we’ll make the carrying of the alt.* hierarchy optional. Thus, the carrying of the alt.* hierarchy has been considered optional since its inception. I don’t know of any universities that carry it.

There is another problem with the alt.* hierarchy. It has been used as a vehicle for carrying child porn. If we censor ONLY these newsgroups, that would only mean that people can create others within alt.* that do the same thing. This is also the same for newsgroups that carry ISOs of complete software suites, mp3s of complete albums, and DVDs of movies. None of these activities are what I would call “legal”, and is easy justification for axing the whole hierarchy for reasons of freedom from liability for the ISP. That still leaves the “big 8”, which are mostly safe from illegal activity (unless it’s spam).

Verizon will be cutting alt.* from its offerings, and Time-Warner will no longer offer USENET at all later this month. It must be stated that alt.* carries a lot of worthwhile groups that are active, with their own FAQ maintainers. In light of this, many ISPs have taken the middle ground of not carrying the alt.* binary groups, leaving the text groups intact. What Verizon has done would be considered extreme by the standards of most ISPs.

There are hierarchies that are not part of the “Big 8”, having to do with gaining inexpensive (free) tech support, such as microsoft.*, corel.*, borland.*, linux.*, and so on. These are even more worthwhile, and I hope they are keeping them. They typically are relatively free of spam and have more wothwhile posts. There are knowledgeable people there who can answer your queries in a relatively short time.

Freedom of speech has historically been limited by the understanding that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” For the Internet, the argument is specious, since it was taxpayer’s money that built it in the first place.

That means that even the attempt to privatize it to various companies (Time, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, Bell, and so on) constitutes a form of corporate welfare. The questions seem to come down to: who really has the right to decide what newsgroups I can and can’t read? I suppose someone has to manage alt.*, but who gets to do this, and in who’s interest? These are really the questions that need to be explored.

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