Sony, Hulu, and Net Neutrality

Neither Sony nor Hulu are Internet Service Providers, so you might wonder how they can be involved in the Net Neutrality dispute. Let me explain how they relate.

I purchased Hulu Plus today, with the understanding that a Hulu Plus membership is required in order to view Hulu-streamed content on my television via my Sony Playstation 3. (This is already a fair-use stretch for me, because I paid money for my Playstation, and think I should be able to use it like any other computer I own.) When I went to try to use it, I discovered that in addition to a Hulu Plus membership, you must also have a Playstation Plus membership to view the content from Hulu on a PS3.

“OK,” you might ask, “I see how that’s annoying, but what does it have to do with Net Neutrality?”

From Wikipedia, “The [Network neutrality] principle states that if a given user pays for a certain level of Internet access, and another user pays for the same level of access, then the two users should be able to connect to each other at the subscribed level of access.”

I’ve paid for my Hulu Plus membership. Hulu is providing the same level of access to people using other devices, but not to me. I would need to pay for an additional tier of access to receive that content on a device that I own. Keep in mind here, nobody is asking me to pay for software or hardware that makes my Playstation able to view content it would otherwise be unable to view. That would be fair. But my Playstation 3 is capable of playing content from Hulu. In fact, Playstations used to do that and were later blocked deliberately. Asking me to pay more for services available to others who are not paying more: that is unfair and should be illegal.

Reply to this rant on Twitter — @michaelasmith.

Arbitrary-sort XSLT

I wanted to see if it’s possible to use xslt to sort an xml document in an order specified by another document. It is, but I’m not satisfied with my solution yet.

The problem is it takes too many iterations to sort in that order. I have to loop through the sortOrder document and then loop through the context document for each node. I should be able to just look up a node by some value. Those of you who know XSLT will say “of course you can look up a node by its name! That’s what xsl:key is for!”

You’d be right, too, except for the fact that to do this sort requires a loop over the sortOrder document, and inside the scope of that loop you cannot access the key! doh!

Anyway, I’m still thinking about this, but I’d love to hear it if anyone comes up with a solution. Just post it in a forum somewhere and I’ll find it. 😉

Apples and Oranges

In response to eWeek’s review of a few Linux distributions. [Update: eweek link no longer available?]

This sort of review (and there are a lot of them) is misleading because there’s no sense making a comparison between the release schedules of binary-based and source-based distributions. Fedora and Ubuntu don’t have strict requirements for a build toolchain, so they have less stringent requirements for, say, gcc.

For Gentoo, stabilizing a toolchain package means it has to be able to complete several cycles of building every system package in addition to closing the bugs in a tracker bug like this.

I don’t object to descriptions like “Gentoo isn’t for the everyday user” or “Gentoo exchanges transparency for configurability,” but I get defensive when I’m told it doesn’t keep up with distributions who have fewer tests to do on a much smaller range of hardware.


I had an interesting discussion with Joyce’s parents about the current state of North Korea. That led to a discussion of their childhood in Cultural Revolution China.

It’s frightening how effective brainwashing is. Joyce’s mom said everyone at that time loved Chairman Mao and would do anything for him. At the same time, many people in China were starving, while China devoted most of its resources to weapons proliferation and improving ties with Africa.

On the other hand, my wife and her parents are well-adjusted critical-thinkers now, so I should be heartened that brainwashing is not a permanent state-of-being.

All this comes just ahead of the State of the Union address, which I’ve recorded, but haven’t watched. I don’t really think I’m brainwashed, not while my opinion seems to be distant from that of our Head of State.

…but then you never know, do you?


I have two Macs, three Windows machines, and a Linux box. My hosting company uses FreeBSD. Therefore I feel somewhat qualified to discuss multiplatform development and administration.

I’m not impressed with Windows Vista. It doesn’t really seem to bring anything new to the table for the end users. It requires a lot more work on the computers’ ends, and there are more editions of Windows Vista than any earlier Windows release. The attempt to make it secure by allowing users to run it without administrative privileges has fallen short of ideal. I can’t even get my antivirus software to automatically update without entering the admin password.

I guess I’ll wait on buying Windows Vista. Maybe I’ll have two Windows machines and two Linux machines after the Vista trial expires. I’ll keep you posted.

Convenient Security

SSH has been a world-class solution for secure administration over untrusted networks since its inception. Remote administration connectivity tools fall into two categories: Commandline and graphical. (SSH transcends this boundary and is well able to handle graphical administration, but that’s beyond the intended scope of this post.) No other commandline tool is encrypted, and no graphical tool can compete in terms of speed over a slow connection. SSH encrypts the entire connection, so your password is protected from snoopers, but it’s a hassle to have to remember and type several passwords when you’re working with many remote machines.

I recently set up most of my ssh connections with ssh public key authentication. It’s exciting: My connection is secure. I only have to enter my password once, when I log in to my local machine. In fact, my password is never sent over the ’net at all, even in encrypted full film All Nighter 2017 online

Passwordless logins is not a hard concept to implement. You could accomplish the same thing with a key on a USB stick, for example. Now instead of forgetting your password you can just lose your keys.

Still, for someone with many computers, it’d be a delight to have to type a little less, especially given the obscure, unergonomic nature of good passwords.