It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

City Asks Your Support on Google Network Response

On Wednesday, the Austin City Council Committee for Emerging Technology and Telecommunications discussed the Google Fiber for Communities initiative. All three members (Councilmembers Laura Morrison, Randi Shade, Chris Riley) enthusiastically supported the project. They asked City staff to begin working on our response, and they promised to bring a motion for support before the full City Council. The councilmembers also directed city staff to work closely with the community, to get their support and assistance.

Today, I got the following email from Rondella Hawkins, the Manager of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs for the City of Austin. That's the department that is coordinating the City of Austin response. She is asking citizens to act in support of the RFI.

So to everybody who has been asking what you can do to bring the Google fiber network to Austin ... here you go!


As you probably already know, the City is submitting an application to Google’s RFI to build FTTH fiber network here in Austin with a fast-approaching deadline of March 26th!!! We all know that Austin is the perfect test community for Google’s fiber network pilot.

You can help support Austin by completing Google's separate on-line application for residents and community groups. This in addition to the City's application.

Please note that you will need a Google email account (

Here is link:

Don’t forget to spread the word to others! The city will launch a publicized campaign but I wanted to get the word out.


Rondella M. Hawkins
Manager of the Office of Telecommunications & Regulatory Affairs

The Untold Story of the Google Gigabit Network Project

Have you heard the one about Google wanting to come to your hometown to build a gigabit fiber network?

Google says they want to do this as an experiment. They want to trial new methods for building networks. They want to see what emerges where high-bandwidth networks are available.

That's what they say. Don't you believe it for a second.

Yes, this is indeed a trial, but what Google is trialing here isn't technology so much as policy.

The incumbent broadband providers have told the regulators that they are hobbled by old infrstructure, and can't afford to deploy new technologies such as "fiber to the home" and DOCSIS 3.0. The incumbent providers are saying that bandwidth is scarce and consumers are eating too much, so networks must be monitored and metered and managed. They are saying they cannot open their broadband networks to competitors and remain economically viable.

Google is calling bullshit on them.

Craig's List Spammer Audacity


In my last article, I posted about a stupid spammer who scraped my email from Craig's List, but failed to setup their spamming tool properly. I've had additional posts to Craig's List since then, which means even more spam.

Today, I'd like to highlight a spam that stands out not for its stupidity, but its audacity.

To: sale-3phcj-xxxxxxxxxx [at] craigslist [dot] org
Subject: Re:Ranmaru 20-piece stoneware dinnerware set - $55 (north-central Austin)
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 07:52:14 -0500
From: averyfbvnv [at] aol [dot] com

Dear Subscriber,

Thanks for joining our craigslist phone marketing membership! In about
36 hours you'll start getting phone calls from Craigslist affiliates giving
few deals.

Maximum number of promotional calls every day as choosen by the
applicant - 43

Day hours choosen by the applicant to take calls- 12:30 AM - 3:00 AM austin

In case you wish to unsubscribe from the program

This will remove your number from the program so you won't face any phone
calls from craigslist partners again.

Many regards


Craig's List Spammer Fail

Spammers are idiots. Craig's List spammers are an especially stupid and annoying breed.

To: sale-yx2eq-xxxxxxxxxx [at] craigslist [dot] org
Subject: Re #CSVFIELD(3)#
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2010 17:03:38 -0500
From: loreanrhr [at] aim [dot] com


I observed you live #CSVFIELD(2)#, I have a apartment there as well.

Anyway, I glanced at your post. Look, you do not have to be rid of #CSVFIELD(3)#.

See my weblog for better road to take.

Scan This Web Link To Read More.


I've got two current items listed on Craig's List: a computer and a wireless router. I assume this is in response to one of them.

The link in the message went to a Yahoo Search Pad page for "The Honest At Home Cash Method".

First Look at the Neuros LINK

I built my first home media computer over four years ago. Its primary uses were web streaming video, local music files, and the occasional communal web surfing during living room gatherings. Unfortunately, the system had reached an age where ATI dropped support for the display in their accelerated (proprietary) drivers, and the open source drivers couldn't keep up with full screen video. To make matters worse, in that time I've upgraded the display from an 800x600 Sony picture tube to a 1360x768 Samsung high def LCD.

The old computer was choking to keep up. It was time for an upgrade.

This weekend I replaced the old media computer with a Neuros LINK. The LINK is an open source media computer. It's constructed of standard, off-the-shelf OEM components. It runs on Linux, configured and tuned for media center operations. It costs $299.

Kindle Total Cost of Ownership: Calculating the DRM Tax

I want to buy some technical books before the end of the year. Before I did, I thought I'd investigate the current state of e-reader products.

My primary interest is portability of my technical books library. There are always a couple of books I want to keep beside my desk when I'm working. Unfortunately, the books I want beside me varies, depending on the current context and project.

Further, "my desk" is not a fixed location. It's wherever I happen to be working that day: at home, at a client site, or at a Starbucks. This means I'm often caught without my desired reference material at hand. Or, when I have the books I want, I'm lugging around an extra 10 pounds. An e-reader loaded up with my technical books would be a great solution.

Phone Apps as the Badge of FAIL

I'll give you an easy out: you can write off this rant as a case of iPhone envy. You can do that, but you'll be wrong.

Phone apps are, for the most part, a bad idea. Once upon a time, a long time ago, online services lived in little walled gardens, with names such as Compuserve and AOL. Then it was discovered that open, common standards, namely the Internet and the Web, were far superior. The walls crumbled and openness prevailed.

Phone apps are an attempt to recreate the walled garden. That's bad and wrong. When developing for a phone, a platform specific app should be the last choice. The first choice should be a standard web application, optimized for mobile use (which means smaller screen and limited input capability).

There are four reasons to develop a phone app instead of a mobile web app. Two of them are good. Two of them are bad -- but are the predominant reason why phone apps proliferate.

Proposed Changes to Texting Ordinance a Disappointment

In October, the Austin City Council considered a new ordinance to ban texting while driving. Numerous concerns were raised. The ordinance passed, but enactment was delayed until January 1, 2010. That was to allow for public education, and to review the concerns raised.

Discussion since then has focused on two primary problems with the ordinance.

First, the ordinance is vague and confusing. It isn't entirely clear what is prohibited and what is permitted. For instance, if you sync a note to your iPhone and glance at it later while driving, would that be a violation or not? It's hard to say.

Much of the confusion is based in the atrocious – borderline nonsensical – definition of an "electronic message" (§ 12-1-1) that was adopted:

I Heart IMAP

I am finally ready to leave the email technology of the 80s and embrace the technology of the 90s.

I was, many years ago, a prolific contributor to the Elm mail project. Elm was groundbreaking in that it was one of the first, user-friendly, "screen oriented" email programs. Although it was text based, you could arrow around the screen to read your mailbox and page through messages.

Elm spawned two main successors, the Pine mail program (which tried to dumb down Elm) and the Mutt mail program (which tried to smarten it up). I have, until recently, been using Mutt.

(Interestingly, the Mutt email program appeared because Michael Elkins offered changes to Elm that were not accepted. It's not that the changes were bad. The problem is that they needed memory, and that would have prevented Elm from working on small memory machines. That was a big deal in those pre-virtual-memory days, but probably sealed the deal for Elm's doomed future.)

Proposed Fix for the Austin Texting Ban

Last October, the Austin City Council passed an ordinance that would outlaw texting while driving. The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect beginning of January.

Several people (including myself) raised concerns at the time of passage. Mayor Pro Tem Martinez postponed enactment from November to January to give the City an opportunity to do a public outreach campaign, as well as allow the community to review those concerns.

During this time, the ordinance has been discussed three times before various committees and commissions. Tonight it's scheduled to be discussed at the Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission meeting.