This is such a bad idea for blocking Internet porn I am nearly speechless

Go take a look at and see if you can collect the numerous technical reasons that assigning Internet port numbers for particular content (meaning porn and other things that kids shouldn’t see) is such a bad idea. Silly wabbit, ports are for protocols, and last time I checked, protocols don’t care about content and shouldn’t. Not only is it too much work to completely redesign TCP/IP to address this hairbrained scheme, but it is doomed to fail even if you could.

And too bad port 69 is already taken for something really ironically useful (you get extra points if you know off the top of your head what it is).

Let’s get that .xxx TLD going, not that that is much of a solution, either. Any solution is going to be more parental than technological, anyway.

Favorite comment from Annalee Newitz: The group “sadly isn’t a phalanx of uptight androids who enjoy mysteriously homoerotic relationships with mailbox-shaped companions.” Doesn’t that bring something to mind? What a wasted effort.

HP’s latest notebook — the dv5000z

The HP Pavilion dv5000z is the latest in their line of multi-media friendly notebooks. It isn’t the lightest, but could be one of the best screens that I’ve seen in a while, and in that nice widescreen 1280x 800 format too.

The issue I have is price. The base model on HP’s site goes for $749. But the model that I got was selling for more than $1800. By the time you add a better CPU, more RAM and disk, and upgrade various other components, you are spending real money.

The key takeaway on the 5000z is that it isn’t as heavy or as pricey as the larger dv8000z model, but still has some of the nicer features of the 8000 models. The 5000 comes with ATI Radeon video cards that can contain up to 128 MB of video memory and built-in Altec Lansing stereo speakers on the front panel. While not astounding for the true gamers, they deliver better video and audio performance for watching movies than the lower end models of the dv4000 and dv1000.

Steer clear of the dv4000 series — for not much more money you get a better CPU and 802.11 a/b/g networking, better graphics, better sound and a larger hard drive.

One downside is that the 5000 isn’t as media center capable as, say, the Toshiba Qosmio. HP didn’t do more than add a few bits of software to manage your media files.

Overall, this notebook is a nice compromise between the Big Bertha weight of the Qosmio and having enough features to make a $1400 (which is about where you should end up on the options when you are done configuring it) notebook worthwhile.

Things to read this weekend, 2: The year’s stories in review

Everyone has their top ten lists about this time. My former Tom’s Hardware news hound colleagues, Wolfgang Gruener and Scott M. Fulton, have put together what I think is one of the best collections on the year’s top stories in review.

From the revival of Apple, the mis-steps of Sony BMG, the rise of the Xbox 360, and the fight over HD DVD formats, this piece makes for a compelling review of where we have been over the past year.

Things to read this weekend, 1: The open source “tree museum”

Rich Mironov, who like me has found himself “between engagements” over the holidays, has written a very insightful analysis of where open source is going. Even if you don’t recall the Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi” lyrics, it is worthwhile reading here.

As Rich says in his essay, it is only a matter of time before open source becomes another opportunity for “turning into another IPO-driven, VC-backed, competitively focused economic model.”

The skinny on SSL VPNs

I recently did a survey of the major SSL Virtual Private Networking vendors for an upcoming article in CDW’s inhouse publication. That got me looking at all of the comparative hands-on reviews recently done by Network World and others. So I put together a page of links. You’ll notice that all of the hands-on reviews omit the Symantec and Cisco products — they don’t seem to find the “right” time to get their products in front of the reviewers at the leading IT publications.

Nevertheless, you can find my SSL VPN page here along with links to the vendor’s own sites and my own brief commentary on their positioning. Still Sucks

This time of year, going to the Post Office is enough to make anyone go postal. And with the upcoming rate increase for stamps to take effect the first week of the new year, I thought I would be smart and order some 2 cent stamps online and save my time to wait in other lines.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. First, I had to register. Then I had to find the login that I last used many moons ago. Then I had to find the darn 2 cent stamps — you would think the Postal Service would put a link somewhere on their home page for these puppies. (Note: After Christmas, they have put a link on their shopping home page.) Then I had to pay a $1.00 shipping fee to get the stamps sent to me. Somehow, the thought of having to pay postage on postage strikes me a little odd. All told, the time involved in this $3 transaction was close to 30-40 minutes, about what it would have taken if I went down to the physical PO itself.

Speaking of which, this is what you might have in store for yourself if you do make the trek:

Last Friday I went into a post office in Waterbury CT and asked for 200 one-cent stamps. The clerk asked me what I needed them for. Seeing as it really was none of her business, I thought I would have a little fun and told her that I was planning to put thirty-nine of them on every letter I mailed, rather than one $.39 stamp. She was not amused. Okay, I confess I have postcards that need the additional postage; a lot of postcards. I gave her the real story. She told me she could not give them all to me; that she needed to save some for other customers. Now I wasn’t amused. She has a product for sale. I have money to purchase the product. What part of this equation am I missing? Did the rules on capitalism and business profits change for 2006?

— from “Are You Done Whining?” newsletter

Guys, make it easier. Please!

Why books still win

There is nothing like two back-to-back cross country flights to make you think about what should be the next best immersive environment for personal entertainment. Especially when you are crammed into a middle seat between the Constant Squirming Woman and XL Man.

So in the interests of science and research, and in the anticipated hours of ensuing boredom, I took with me various tools to test out last week: a video iPod with a couple of Lost and Desperate Housewives episodes, an iAudio mp3 player with several dozen songs (just for variety’s sake), a Palm with the Sudoku program and a couple of books. What I found out is interesting and timely.

You can read the rest of this post here.

Turking around last month released a beta of its Mechanical Turk Web Services. In the past month, this has created a very interesting ecosystem of developers, users, and contract workers. And let’s not forget about the bloggers and commentators. The whole thing is a case study in how a simple but sophisticated programming interface can quickly grow into a life force. And BTW, empower some shut-in folks to earn a few bucks.

The idea is a simple but powerful one. Think what SETI @ home (which recently changed its own programming interfaces, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment) does. It takes a very complex task, searching for radio signal patterns in the hope of finding extra-terrestrial life, and distributes the computing and processing to complete this task amongst millions of PCs that otherwise would be idle. The software runs as a screensaver and sends the compute jobs back to the mother ship when done.

Now replace the PCs with people, yes actual real carbon life forms sitting in front of their PCs. Stir in a Web Services API that allows the people to do tiny, very tiny, bits of programming jobs when they are otherwise idle, and also compensates them with tiny, very tiny, bits of actual money when they accurately complete the task. That is what Turking is all about.

You can read more about this phenonmenon here.

Learning how to work the Web from Hef

Yes, I’ll admit that I read only for the articles. And earlier this month I had a chance to get up close and learn from Christie Hefner herself. The CEO of Playboy Enterprises was in town for a conference preaching digital entertainment to a bunch of old-world TV types and Web wannabies. Her speech was on how she has extended the world’s most famous rabbit logo into cyberspace and how she continues to make hay from those centerfolds, I mean, excellent articles.

I came to the keynote a bit skeptical about what Hef’s daughter could tell me about online media. But by the end of the hour I was impressed with her knowledge and common-sense lessons that she and her company have learned from running one of the most popular Web destinations for the past decade. Her words (and a few pictures too, I won’t deny that she is good with the illustrations on her PowerPoint slides) struck a very resonant chord with me.

You can read more about what Christie Hefner had to say here.

Finding the perfect pocket pal

Seemingly overnight, my pockets are overflowing with gear. Part of the problem is we get plenty of stuff here to try out, and I like trying them out. But the issue is that not every device is capable of satisfying every need, and they all have some fatal flaw. Here is a picture of what I am carrying around these days.

You can read more about why I carry all this gear around here.