The Internet is a Cellphone

The last post I wrote was a lament that the internet-as-a-cellphone wasn’t being fully explored from a technological standpoint.

Today we have the opposite problem: The internet-as-a-cellphone is being legislated as a cultural standpoint. Specifically, Domain Seizure has become the tool of choice to shut down “infringing content”. What is this content? Movies, games, pirated apps, etc.

How did we get here?

The old mode of piracy required a fair bit of infrastructure. A person would typically mail some money though the snailmail and they would typically get a stack of CDs or floppies in return with cracked apps and games on them. Things plunked along this way for a good while as the popularity of usenet declined due to AOL and eventually things went viral to the point where IRC was the mode of distribution. The IRC bots evolved to the point where if the bot didn’t have the software you were interested in, groups had agreed to cross referencing to other bots. The decline of USENET and the rise of IRC corresponded roughly from RadioShack and Circuit City not selling software or parts anymore to advertising software being pre-loaded on the pirated applications.

The movies thing I don’t think anyone saw coming. VHS piracy was as simple as going to blockbuster and renting whatever you wanted for $1 and then going home and wiring up the VCRs. As media moved into the digital realm, it meandered back to mail order DVDs (or the guy on the street corner selling questionable copies in strange languages), CD-Video (popular in asia, never here), MPEG copies on IRC, and the unfortunately named DivX video codec. DIVX players attempted to stem the tide with their dial-up DVD service but I would guess most of them ended up cracked.

Let me digress for a second and point out we forget who or what came before. The chinese looking to circumvent the firewall could learn oodles from the old US piracy market. How many books fit on a DVD? Actual text, I’m talking about, not ebooks. How many cameras come with an SD card now? Who checks all these things versus how much electronic stuff moves in and out of china? The great firewall doesn’t currently censor email as I recall, what about a wget service or a newsnet service with UUENCODED files? This is how the US used to do it and people wrote special mail handlers to reassemble these files, it would work in china. Its how it used to work. I had a DXR2. I bought it after my alpha died with which I used to rip DVDs. Nostalgia.

Somewhere along the way someone figured out the space requirements even for compressed, pirated materials (movies, games) was somewhere around 4GB.  Things plodded along at the 4GB limit for a bit and the movie industry responded by packing “HD Content” into 9GB DVDs with double layers, and finally the whole weird push to blu-ray and HD-DVD came around and blu-ray won because Sony’s pockets are deep enough to pay for a loss leader like that.

Suddenly, things came full circle. TV stalled. Gimmicks for TVs haven’t impressed consumers much because who cares about 3D content if it’s not on demand. Movies suffer the same problem. The issue is the world simply got busier. No-one has a two hour chunk of time to go to the theatre anymore. We don’t even have time to take books off the shelf. Why should we? We read books on our laptops, then the laptop became a tablet, than the table became an ebook reader, then the ebook reader stopped existing and became software on a cellphone. We scaled up the cellphone screen to a tablet again, but these new tablets had enough bandwidth and CPU to do something interesting – they could surf the web, and they could watch video. How big is the new HD AVATAR? 1.2GB. How big is the new HD INCEPTION? 1.4GB. This for full, 1080p content. Samsung said as much with it’s cellphones with the screen, but more importantly the line-out to your actual TV.

This is the other side of the convergence that the new internet is a cellphone.

Now we look at Megaupload and GMAIL and such and 8GB is the norm. 8GB used to be just under what it took to store a DVD. Now 8GB is just enough to store 7 full movies. What’s important is that it’s the norm. It’s an artefact from a time when things were bigger and they could be bigger because we weren’t trying to consume content down small pipes. The movie companies know this but how could they legislate how much storage a particular user has? YouTube doesn’t even care. GMAIL? Why should they make it smaller? MegaUpload? 200MB, but how hard is it to keep a list of 5 URLs to unpack a RAR of a movie? Therein lies the problem. This is basically a bandwidth problem versus a content control problem. Since they (the MPAA/RIAA) can’t control the bandwidth they’ll try to control the content. What’s the best way to do that? Take away their cellphone. One man’s ZIP is another man’s video-codec, what’s the difference between cat and zcat? Compression, but they work the same way. The MPAA/RIAA already subscribes to this new model where the internet is a cellphone, and so everyone crying FREE SPEECH over the whole seizure of URLs doesn’t get it.Taking away a sites URL is like taking away their cellphone. It doesn’t impinge on their free speech, it just takes away the radio tower. Get another cellphone, learn the IPs. Your OS has a hosts file for a reason. It’s no biggie.

Just for reference: I do believe the megaupload files were seized improperly. I think everyone who was using it as a legitimate document repository should sue. I just don’t think the URL seizure is illegal nor amoral and reveals a profound misunderstanding of how the internet works.

On Catawba Grapes

There’s weirdly little history on catawba grapes. I find this incredibly strange because this particular vinaculture saved the American wine industry, wholly on accident. In a weird twist of Jonny Appleseed kind of legend, Nicholas Longworth established the cawtaba grape vine in Ohio. Similar to Maynard’s comments in Blood Into Wine, the vines had lived through temperance, prohibition and just about every major American military engagement since 1800. Why don’t we know more about him? Because no-one really has published anything about him. Wikipedia is weirdly quiet on the topic, but I think this is largely because they’d have to put the Republicans in a positive light. Wikipedia has a clear policy against this, so once again history is lost to personal agenda.

There is exactly one source google coughs up which I consider credible: You can read the story here. The Wine Historian has graciously transcribed Great Fortunes and How They Were Made which also has an excerpt on Longworth. If you try to read the book, which is available on google reader, it’s just badly written and can’t stick to a topic.

General Davy, of Rocky Mount, on that river, afterward Senator from North Carolina, is supposed to have given the German in whose garden Major Adlum found the grape a few of the vines to experiment upon. General Davy always regarded the bringing of this grape into notice as the greatest act of his life. “I have done my country a greater benefit in introducing this grape into public notice,” said he, in after years, “than I would have done if I had paid the national debt.”

Weirdly enough they made carbonated wine back then. Considering that the wine was generally fermented and served in barrels, actually spending it’s entire life in a barrel, this suprises me greatly. But, with the popularity and custom of making fortified wines to ensure they wouldn’t spoil from Europe, it’s not too much of a stretch to think someone looking to make a European style wine (which was the only popular style in colonial America) would toss in some sugar and bottle it. The result would be a homebrewer bottle grenade, as the newly fortified wine wouldn’t get to age on a sea vessel in a barrel for several months in the Atlantic crossing.

When I get the first six-ish pounds of grapes off these vines, I plan on doing a 1 gallon batch in the traditional colonial American style. Save those champaign bottles for me.

The Marijuana Defense

In Newark they testified, and I quote, “After two puffs on a marijuana cigarette my incisor teeth grew six inches long and dripped with blood.”

This was the craziest business you ever saw. Every one of these so-called marijuana insanity defenses were successful.

The one in New York was just outlandish. Two police officers were shot and killed in cold blood. The defendant puts on the marijuana insanity defense and, in that case, there was never even any testimony that the defendant had even used marijuana. The testimony in the New York case was that, from the time the bag of marijuana came into his room it gave off “homicidal vibrations,” so he started killing dogs, cats, and ultimately two police officers.

It is hilarious. And tragic. Especially to the world war 2 generation. But whatever, read it for the words “homicidal vibes” alone.

A Little Bit of Beer History

Shamelessly stolen from Beer Advocate:

Seattle, WA (November 2008) – Pike Entire is a blend of three beers: Pike’s XXX Extra Stout, original gravity 10.73 / alcohol 7.00%; the same beer aged for more than half a year in oak Bourbon barrels; and an Imperial Stout original gravity 10.98 / alcohol 12%. The Entire blend contains 42.7% barrel aged beer and finishes at 9.5% alcohol. The taste is complex with velvety malt tones, a coffee aroma, and a palate and finish of bitter chocolate. The biscuity character of pale and crystal malts, along with roasted barley, is balanced by a generous amount of Yakima Valley Willamette, Goldings and Columbus hops in the boil; finished with even more Willamette and Goldings. Adding complexity are the underlying wood tones perfumed by the caramel sweetness of wood-aged Kentucky Bourbon.

Pike Entire was unveiled for the first time on November 8 at the Washington Beer Lover’s (WABL) Third Anniversary Party in Seattle that featured 20 local “rare and hard to find” beers on draft. The next morning, Seattle P-I beer writer, Geoff Kaiser, commented: “this was everything I hoped it would be…. It had plenty of bourbon and oak character without being overwhelming and it still allowed the stout to do most of the work. Quite lovely, and easily my favorite of the night.”

Until the 18th century, malt was “kilned” over wood fires making most beers dark brown or black, and contributing significantly to the pollution in cities like London. The use of coal allowed brewers a little more control, but it was not until coke, a bi-product of coal, was introduced as a fuel that pale malt could be made. Pale malt yielded more sugar than black malt. Because the Thames was polluted, soft water was drawn from wells, ideal for dark beers, but yielding unpleasant flavor to black beers unless they were blended with the paler beers made by country brewers who had access to hard water. These country brewers also bought dark beers from London and aged them in large oak casks. After aging they sold them back to the London brew pubs as highly desirable, “stale” (aged) beer. Home brew houses then began to blend the black, pale, and stale beers and the result became known as “three threads”, a corruption of “three thirds.” Ralph Harwood’s Bell Brewhouse, one of London’s original common brewers and was the first to market an already blended beer to other pubs, called “Entire”. It is believed that he blended his own black beer with purchased pale and stale. Since it saved publicans the chore of blending their own three threads, it became an immediate success and the beer style of choice that was sold by London’s train porters. Ultimately the style became known as Porter. As brewing moved away from the brew pub to common brewers, Harwood’s creation became London’s great contribution to beer. As the British Empire expanded, “Porter,” later known as “Stout Porter,” then simply “Stout,” became the world’s most widely distributed beer style.

In order to brew a beer in keeping with the original style but still distinctly American, Pike acquired oak Bourbon barrels last year and filled them with Pike XXX Extra Stout in April 2008 to be blended back. Pike Head Brewer, Drew Cluley, describes the beer as “complex and chocolaty with a great vanilla wood overtone.”

On Monday, November 24, 2008, Pike Entire, in wax-dipped 22 oz. bottles, will be released. It will have very limited availabilty at the Pike Pub and in select bottle shops, primarily in the Seattle area. A few quarter-barrels will be released for sale on draft. The Pike Pub will tap its one and only quarter-barrel of Pike Entire on Friday, November 28.

The Pike Brewing Company is a family-owned gravity flow craft steam brewery and pub in the heart of Seattle next door to the entrance to historic Pike Place Public Market. Founded in 1989, it was one of the earliest American craft breweries to offer styles like Imperial Stout, IPA, and Barley Wine.