Thursday, October 11, 2007

Why not to buy a Linksys WRT55AG (and Linksys in general)

I recently bought a wireless router from Linksys, the dual-band WRT55AG. It's by far the worst wireless router I've seen.

The firmware is outdated, it takes almost a minute to power-cycle and it drops the connection at least 3 times per hour. If I try to use something like P2P to download OpenOffice or the fabulous game PlaneShift, after a while (15 to 20 minutes) the connection to the Internet will simply stop working. Most of the time I'm still connected to the router, and I'm able to reset it by connecting to the web interface and saving some unimportant configuration change; but sometimes the Laptop <-> router connection drops and I can no longer connect without power-cycling the WRT55AG.

What's even weirder is that when I'm not able to connect, my operating system complains that I don't have the correct pre-shared secret (PSK). Obviously this is a fault at the router side, since it's the same PSK I use all the time.

I've tried everything suggested at the Linksys forums, such as reducing the MTU, throttling the P2P client speeds and amount of connections, updating the firmware... All of that to NO AVAIL.

After seeing the same problem with different models from Linksys (such as the WRT54G, but many others too) and after posting on the Linksys forums and talking to their Costumer Support, I decided that Linksys simply doesn't give a damn. They won't fix their routers line, and they decline to acknowledge the problems.

Linksys used to be a good brand and their products used to be quality products. But now I see them as just a phony brand used to push us into higher grade network products (Cisco, don't hide yourself). No quality products anymore.

For the time, I would recommend anyone to select different brands for networking equipments.

I defy Linksys to prove that the problem is on my setup, and not on their crappy hardware!

Sorry this is not related to Brazil or politics, but I had to vent my frustration...

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Digital TV Fiasco

First, the Communications Minister, Mr. Hélio Costa, decided to choose the worst possible digital TV system he could. We were offered to use the American, the European and the Japanese systems and -- don't be startled -- he chose the Japanese.

Let's see what's behind this decision. The American system (ATSC) puts us close to the equipments market (USA) for buying and selling; the European format (DVB) is the most used format. Both are very friendly to new broadcasters and would give the opportunity for new content providers to come into the market.

The Japanese system (ISDB) puts us really far away from the market, it's a system used only in Japan and, surprisingly, is very unfriendly to new broadcasters. That means that the current broadcasters will be in an excellent position, since they can be assured that it will be a hard-to-get-in competition for newcomers.

Can you say -- cough -- deep -- cough -- pockets?

But this is all old news.

The new piece of information here is that after having a fine lunch with the major broadcasters' managers, the poor minister decided to change his mind about what he thinks is "unconstitutional", and allow the broadcasters to block recording of HD content at their will.

According to the minister, not being able to block recording would make it harder for broadcasters to buy international content, such as movies and sports programs, because of concerns about piracy.

That's bull----! Really!

We are talking about OPEN TV here, not Premium content. Who would pirate a 4 years old movie out of open TV?

This is total disregard to our ability to time-shift programs, or taping a movie for our kids to see again the next week. Where's our fair use?

Mr. Hélio Costa, you've made one too many idiotic decisions. We need someone with at least a clue about technology to be in your position. Can you at least program your VCR? Do you know what a VCR is?

Please resign. Have some decency. Please resign.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Our Justice Needs Some Tech Support

Last week the judge Mauro Caum Gonçalves (State Court: Rio Grande do Sul) proclaimed a sentence ordering a company that represents Google, Inc. in Brazil to pay the equivalent of 10,800 minimum wages (around US$ 2,000,000.00) to Deborah Pierini Cidade de Sá as indemnity for linking her name to that of a prostitute known as Bruna Surfistinha, who gained notoriety after publishing a book relating her sexual encounters.

According to the news, there were some pages that contained sentences like "naked fotos", "Bruna Surfistinha's sexual adventures" and "hot college girls" and Mrs. de Sá maiden name (Deborah Pierini Cidade) put toghether. These pages were not stored on Google's servers, nor was the company responsible for them.

It's OK that a person may try to have her/his name preserved from whatever s/he may find shameful (in this case, Mrs. de Sá felt that being somehow linked to Bruna Surfistinha would be harmful for her reputation), but it's clearly not Google's fault. They did not make the information up, they simply gathered information from 3rd parties and compiled it.

And it's certainly not the fault of the company that represents Google in Brazil (Montaury Pimenta Machado e Lioce SC. LTDA), and takes care of proper registration of Google's intellectual property in this country.

In Google's defense, they removed the entries from their database within 24hs after their representing partner was notified. A timely response for such a large company. There is NO reason for such a large fee. The sentence against Google is simply outrageous.

I think that the lack of technical information ultimately led the judge to make this unfortunate decision. If someone put up a website today linking both names again, sooner or later Google would index it. How could Google possibly know that this is in their index?

This case reminds me of the Daniela Cicarelli fiasco. When will they learn?!

Google can still appeal against the sentence, and will hopefully win in a higher court.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

We are a deeply corrupted society

This week two elected candidates, at opposite sides of the political environment, were exposed and cleared for corruption accusations.

First, José Serra (PSDB-SP) had some irregularities regarding the funding of his campaign. His funding received money from companies related to the government. He was elected Governor of São Paulo.

Later, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT-SP) had exactly the same funding problems. About R$10 million originated in government-related companies.

The campaign funding has a clear rule: no government or government-related money can be given to any party or candidate, including that of public companies or companies that do business with the government.

Both fundings were nonetheless approved and the accusations were cleared.

Another example of "approved" corruption: almost all of the congresspeople involved in corruption in the past 4 years were also exempted of guilty. It is therefore not surprising that corruption is found deep in our society.

What kind of example does that set?

It certainly isn't a very good one! And we've been seen this kind of behavior for centuries now. Decade after decade of unpunished corruption has deeply tainted our society. We are a profoundly corrupt society, from the president all the way down to the common people.

Every where you go, you may presence someone trying to pull what has become known as the "Brazilian way". Drivers trying to bribe policemen, policemen trying to extort citizens, people breaking the rules solely for they profit.

Double parking, bribes, crime forgery, extortion, people cutting lines, lying in their tax reports, not providing (taxable) receipts, being loud after 10pm, selling their vote, the list go on... These are things you get to see every day! It's all part of our broken Brazilian way we are so fond of.

Everyone wants to outsmart the others, to get undue money, to have the felling of taking advantage of someone, to profit in their ingenuity. I don't know how to solve this... maybe it's impossible... but the least we can expect is to our leaders to give the example. Honesty must be shown as a virtue, not as ingenuity.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

The Proposal to Control Net Access

Senator Eduardo Azeredo (PSDB-MG) is the responsible for a bill that will end with Internet privacy and anonymity altogether. This bill, if passed into law, will require every ISP to store each connection performed by a user for at least 3 years.

If approved, it will be a crime, punishable with up to 4 years of jail time, to disseminate virus or trojans, unauthorizedly access data banks or networks and send e-mail, join chat, write a blog or download content anonymously. The bill states that every user must fully identify herself before using the Net, with full name, current address, phone number and the equivalent of the Social Security Number. To access the Net without providing this information, or to give false information, will also be a crime.

Senator Eduardo Azeredo wants to legally recommend every Internet user to buy the government approved certificate, and use it on every connection to the Net.

Now that's what you call a democracy.

The Senator can argue as much as he want on how this measure is going to stop cybercrime. But what does it look like to people that want to blog against the government? That's censorship by fear.

What about our right to privacy? I don't want my ISP spying on me and linking the data I access with my personal information. They already have this ability, but it's a much reduced one because they don't have all of my personal information. And some ISP's employees may be stalkers and murderers that now will have FULL INFORMATION on how to reach me.

Also it won't stop cybercrime. It'll just make it evolve. Most hardcore cybercriminals already employ different anonymization techniques.

There are some critics against this bill, mostly from ISPs and lawyers, that argue that it's going to put too much burden on the user, slow Internet adoption and ruin privacy for the regular user, while bringing only small benefit on the war against cybercrime.

Hopefully they will be able to lobby some sense into Senator Eduardo Azeredo. If this unfortunate bill gets the green light, please start learning how to surf anonymously using TOR or similar tool.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Election Fever is Over

OK, it's time to get it over with, and stop bitching about how people IMO misused their vote. Now it is time to hope that Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva learned that he is being closely watched by the opposition; but more importantly, it is time for us to think about new strategies on how to educate the people.

I got some very interesting responses about my yesterday's post on how uneducated people should not be allowed to vote, and now I think that this really isn't the best choice after all. The clearly best choice would be to do what the government doesn't want to: teach them.

According to journalist Lourival Sant'Anna, the government spends 12.7 times more in the college education than in primary and high schools. It's no surprise then that only those who pay for they early tuition can classify to a college position.

And even worse than that, children now don't even have a stimulus to go to school. In the past, a program called "Bolsa Escola" (school grant) benefited children that went to school and successfully completed primary and high school. This program was then substituted by another one, called "Bolsa Familia" (family grant), that does not require the children to go through the education system.

While "Bolsa Escola" was a powerful tool, that could in the end raise the social condition of these children, "Bolsa Familia" is a tool to bind these families into poverty. But "Bolsa Familia" certainly wins elections!

If you want to help, please take a look at this "Adopt a Student" campaign from Solidarity in Literacy Organization. This NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) is recognized by UNESCO and won some prizes for its projects.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Global Warming: Cheaper to Solve than to Ignore It

Today I came across this very interesting article about Global Warming, and how it's cheaper to solve it now (around 1% of global GDP), than to ignore it and have to deal with it's consequences in the future:

"A report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern suggests that global warming could shrink the global economy by 20%."

Very interesting to Brazil, economically speaking. We have large areas of destroyed native forest that is in great need of being recovered. And that's exactly what it takes to enter the Carbon Market.

You see, if you have a grown tree, it's doing its job of cleaning the air, serving as habitat, etc. But if you plant a new tree, it needs carbon to grow, and this carbon is taken from the atmosphere and locked-up in the tree's trunk. Therefore, by recovering destroyed forest, we are not only creating a better environment, but also being able to make some money out of it.

Perhaps this will be the green-gold era, with Brazil as a top player!

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Two Brazils == Two Presidents?

Today we got to the end of this presidential run. As expected, Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva won the election by a large margin. But it is foolish to think that he was, indeed, re-elected through a democratic process.

While Lula got a crushing amount of ballots in the North and North-East regions, in South and South-East states (Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná and São Paulo), Geraldo Alkmin won the election.

What we see here is a clear division of the country. The South and South-East states are the top states economically, and have the greatest interest in the country's economy and welfare. But they didn't get to elect the president they needed.

On the other hand, North and North-East states, which are the least educated, least politically informed and on the receiving end of the government's misleading helping actions (we may as well call them bribe), get to elect a president that is deeply involved in corruption and murder plots.

How can we call it a democratic exercise, if the majority of the people are making uninformed choices? If they don't have the knowledge or the interest to understand politics, economy and the global conjuncture, should they be allowed to vote at all?

Maybe the country really needs to be split up. Or maybe we have to re-define who is allowed to vote. Or even easier than that, I believe that if we simply remove the obligation to vote (that's right, we are required by LAW to vote... democracy, you know?!), this uneducated parcel of the population would refrain from hindering what should be a responsible act.

For the Portuguese speaking among you, please listen to this wonderful commentary from Carlos Heitor Cony and Arthur Xexéo (WMA!) about this division.

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