Archive for February, 2014

How bad is the Netflix – Comcast deal?

Monday, February 24th, 2014

In the new deal between Netflix and Comcast, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast to secure faster streaming of its content.  What does this mean exactly?  Well, for one, it complicates the net neutrality argument by cutting out the main pieces holding neutrality together, competition.  

I’ll try to explain. 

The connections are complicated but I’ll do my best.  Netflix pays a network hub or “Backbone” company to put its content out onto the internet.  There are many Backbone companies, so it can choose who it wants to use, that’s the first tier of competition.  When you go onto the internet, you connect through an ISP (Comcast, TimeWarner, Brighthouse, etc..)    Your ISP then connects to a backbone.  Competing backbones then connect to each other to send content you’ve requested. 

NOTE: Netflix doesn’t use an ISP to connect to its Backbone.  Backbones connect between themselves freely, with no cost to either side.  So the pay process looks like this:

Netflix pays Backbone.
You pay ISP.
ISP pays Backbone.
Backbone to Backbone is FREE.
Replace the word pay(s) with “connect(s) to” and it all makes sense on the flow of traffic.

So, what the deal does is, it cuts out the Backbone.  Netflix now connects directly to your ISP.  I bet most of you didn’t even know there was a backbone.  I mean, you never hear about the Backbone hiking up your prices, or throttling your internet speed, right?   Right, exactly.   Backbones by default serve up ALL the information to your ISP through one massive pipe…  They make their money by being able to provide the highest possible speed and most reliable service to the ISPs and to the Content Provider (Netflix).  And by doing so, this very important level of competition is what keeps prices down and speeds up, from one end to the other.  It’s these smaller backbone companies that actually keep the bigger ones in check.

Or at least they used to.  Recently both Comcast and Verizon made a move on the Backbones trying to buy them up.  Comcast was successful, Verizon wasn’t.  The FCC hasn’t made a move on regulating the takeovers of these companies.

With the FCC in limbo, and failing to win in court, the larger companies like Comcast have made their move to cut out the middle man and use strong-arm negotiations with content providers (Netflix) to strike bad deals that remove those Neutrality road blocks.  This changes the debate on Net Neutrality, and further complicates the environment of a open web.   

Once Netflix pays Comcast for direct connect, this opens a Pandora’s Box of new issues for smaller content providers that need those backbones to buffer the costs of providing their content at a fair market price, and in a SPEED NEUTRAL environment.

Yes, ultimately ISPs can throttle the network speed to your house, but as it sits now, it’s much more difficult for them to individually throttle certain packets of data.  If they become the receiver of the individual content data connections, they can then throttle individual sites or content providers much easier. 

In the end this greatly stifles innovation of smaller and independent content producers.  Hence almost ensuring that the next Netflix, may never come.

Corporate involvement in your Frustration: Adware

Monday, February 17th, 2014

It’s unfortunate how these programs continue to infiltrate our comfortable settings through seemingly harmless “updates”, even by software we trust/ed.  Most of these are due to human error, and so, we need to take a more human approach to the problem.

First, buy a second laptop or cheap computer for your family members to use.  Although this is the more extreme measure, as a cheap computer can cost you $300+, It is the most secure way to ensure your computer doesn’t reach harmful intruders.

Second, if buying a second computer isn’t in the plan, set up profiles for each user, keeping full admin rights to your own account or even an admin account that doesn’t get used at all.  To go even further, purchase a second hard drive, or patrician the hard drive you have and use a ghosting tool or Windows back-up to create a second image on your machine.

Third, BE CAREFUL!  We can’t always catch an unfriendly program, but with some care, you can greatly reduce your exposure to unwanted adware and malware.  Even the most trusted programs, like Adobe products, now come with hidden adware deep in the recesses of their updates.  As industry standards now come with some of these “helpful little pieces of Sh*t” by a hidden checkbox already checked by default, two or sometimes even four clicks deep into an updater.    Or you’ll find them in the small print of the “Recommended” selection of the “Install” process, where most people don’t want the hassle of dealing with the somewhat scary looking “Custom” button.  And as usual, NEVER click a link in your email.  I don’t care who sent it to you.  Remember, the weakest link in any security system is the human.

Lastly, get yourself some good security and protection tools.  MalwareBytes, SearchAndDestroy, along with your usual virus protection will greatly reduce your issues.

Of course you know all this already.  The key, is to stay diligent. None of these work if you relax and skip a step.  J  I myself practice all these steps.  Yes, it’s overkill and a complete inconvenience, but my computer runs smoothly.  Paranoia has its perks