Liveblogging the Nexus One (Google Phone) Press Conference!

Thanks to Philipp of Blogoscoped for sharing access to the private webstream of the press conference with a few of us! For those of you who find it more convenient to follow on Identica or Twitter, you can follow me there, thanks.

My college essay on the problems with school

My gap year has been going well, but i've decided to apply to school at Hampshire College. here's the essay i sent in. Let me know what you think and feel free to tear it apart =]

Thoughts on school 
I'm not sure when it happened; perhaps it was a gradual transition. By the time I reached my senior year of high school, I had developed a passionate dislike for my educational experience. While my interest in school declined, my love of learning did not, and I sought education outside the classroom. My feelings are not just some slacker's discontent. They are a burning opposition to the unfair and ineffective education model, a model which has lacked any substantial innovation since its inception in ancient times. Being confronted with the increasing pressure to do what every high school student is expected to do has forced me to be able to articulate and reconcile my thoughts toward modern institutionalized education. I did not let my opposition to this system stop me from applying to college in order to try to improve it and gain what experience I can.
A fundamental problem with this conventional approach to education is concisely summed up in two lines of dialogue from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle.
"Self-taught, are you?" Julian Castle asked Newt.
"Isn't everybody?" Newt inquired.
From my perspective, school often got in the way of its own purpose. Contrary to the popular quote attributed to Mark Twain, I felt unable to keep from letting schooling get in the way of my education. Meaningless letters on pieces of paper were no motivation for me as I watched many students cheat their way through school. In this place, success was determined not by capability or effort, but by willingness and ability to play the game better than everyone else. Students, teachers, and undoubtedly the administration were all aware that the entire system is a game. How can this be a widely accepted reality? Conformity to an unnatural learning environment should not be a primary factor in one's academic success.
I learned much more from pursuing my own interests outside of school than I ever did from sitting in a classroom. Class assignments seemed to be for someone else's approval, rather than for the learning experience. I devoted most of my time instead to projects outside of school. I was able to become more than just a consumer. I became a creator. I contributed countless hours to various projects by writing or creating materials, and maintained a somewhat well-read blog, which even provided me with a small income. The people who I have been able to reach out to, from an executive at a Fortune 500 company to nomadic radical activists, have broadened my perspectives and served as invaluable connections. Outside of school, I motivated myself to work tirelessly, but in school the subjects which would normally interest me were forced upon me.
Nobody should be expected to force themselves to conform to this inadequate schooling system. A system should conform to the needs of those subject to it, not contrariwise. A government should conform to its people, a school to its students, a prison to its prisoners. Otherwise, the system is just a mold producing molds.
I don't claim to know exactly how the ideal school system would be designed, or even if such a thing exists, but I do believe our age-old system fails to fulfill the needs of students. Take grades, for example. Should they be based on quality or perhaps effort? How can they be kept accurate and unbiased? Even more basic than grades is the question of what purpose do schools serve. My own Newton North High School avoids this question in their mission statement with the empty slogan "Learning sustains the human spirit". Should schools be producing skilled workers, good citizens, or freethinking creatives Should the curriculum be broad or narrow? The generally accepted purpose, however vague it may remain, seems to be to prepare pupils for "the future". Yet, in a world which is continuously changing drastically, this seems to be the wrong job for a stagnant institution which has always been stuck, rooted in the past. It may not be possible to find answers to all of these questions, but a solution that answers none of them is not a solution at all. Education needs to be rethought from the ground up, keeping all of these questions in mind in order to effectively reinvent the structure of the system.
Deciding to apply to college has forced me to balance my ideals. When I was a young child, I made a promise to myself and embarked on an ambitious mission. I would better myself in order to better the world. I would strive to have the greatest possible positive impact; from a global level down to every individual I would encounter. I have been torn between rejecting outright a system that propagates an unhealthy reliance on meaningless standards, or taking advantage of the system in order to oppose it. My decision to apply is to keep the opportunity open for me. My desire to attend is not to acquire some degree, but for my own experience in order to fulfill my promise. I can not be confident that I will be accepted, but I can be confident that I will always make the most of my learning opportunities.
On a related note, you may be interested in this TED Talk by Ken Robinson on schools killing creativity.

Ubuntu *will* be at Anime Boston 2010!

Many many thanks to everyone who has donated to the Ubuntu @ Anime Boston campaign so far. It hasn't taken us long at all to surpass our first primary target of $700 and guarantee the Ubuntu Massachusetts LoCo Team's presence at the event. We have officially secured a booth from which we can showcase and promote Free and Open Source software to thousands of convention goers! This would not be possible without your generous support, so thank you all again; your contributions are invaluable to us.

Now that we will be attending, we need printed materials to distribute. Our next primary goal is for an additional $1500 to have copies of the Ubunchu Manga to give out. After we reach this milestone, we can get a lot more for a lot less. Community marketing events of this size are a rare opportunity, so lets make the very best of it! We welcome ideas and feedback in the comments or by email.

Please donate here:

How far will they go to kill the internet?

Mainstream media feeds information to the masses and opposes independent voices over democratic-- no, dare i say it-- anarchic mediums. Copyright crusaders want to take our rights to share and sell them back to us. Think tank, Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, says that the future will be free, belonging to what they call, an "anarconomy". Such a future has great potential, and already the internet has peacefully risen as a parallel anarchic society which profoundly impacts the real world. But how far will the powers that be go to stop it? More importantly, how can we fight back?

On one front, they erected the debate, if you can call it that, over network neutrality, a straw man designed to make us believe that bandwidth caps will eventually be necessary in order to restrict video streaming online and keep cable television a monopoly. They also call us pirates and claim that copied digital content is actually stolen intellectual imaginary property. If you thought the prospect of losing network neutrality was frightening, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is far, far scarier.  So long as the internet exists, we will find ways to share; and when it comes down to darknets, they will try to legislate the internet to make it "controlled by and for big business, which can only be accessed by those willing to pay”. Even if we win on all of those fronts, they may have other tricks up their sleeve. They are still the keymasters and the gatekeepers, after all. This is entirely speculation, but without a necessary upgrade from IPv4 to IPv6 which they refuse to support, the internet may very well break down in just a couple of years. Where else could they be waging battles against the internet shaded from sunlight (said to be the best disinfectant)?

It's time to ditch cable TV. It's outdated and the internet can supply everything cable can, and do it better. Why pay pay for cable and internet when you can get everything you need online? Money talks; make a one-time investment in a home theater PC, and kick your cable box to the curb. You can build your own HTPC, that is, if you're savvy enough or, purchase one just as you would a normal computer. I personally recommend the Neuros LINK TVPC as it runs Ubuntu and supports Free and Open Source technology. The first Neuros LINK was Slashdotted three times and sold out pretty quickly, but the new ones are out. In time for the holiday season too, but of course i didn't get to posting this until Christmas Eve. Also, i have to mention the beautiful Boxee Box by D-Link, but the Boxee media center software is not entirely FOSS. The project is a fork from XBMC and uses proprietary additions.

Of course, there's more to do than just cancelling your cable subscription, but it's the first step. Really, if you give the slightest damn about these issues, why are you still giving them money for this?

New Anime Boston event page and thanks to Ad Bard!

I just put together a complete event page on the Ubuntu Massachusetts website with event details, our motivations, and ways to contribute. Check it out and let us know what you think:

With this, we ask that anybody hosting a button please change the linked address to our new event page and if you aren't already hosting the button, please use the code below!

We would like to thank Tag1 Consulting, the people behind the Ad Bard network, for donating a $250 advertisement to be displayed on all Ad Bard member websites for a month! I just added an Ad Bard snippet to this blog and i encourage others to join the network as well.

What might we see in YouTube 2.0?

Is a new YouTube on the way? If so, what changes can we expect, and is there a need for a total overhaul? What motivation does Google have to completely redesign the popular video sharing site, and what evidence is there that this will really happen?

So what is wrong with YouTube? It's still the predominant video hosting and sharing website in the world, and competition hasn't stopped it from growing. Well, let's take MySpace for example: it still has plenty of users, but we know it's just a behemoth stuck in the past that will never be able to catch up with Facebook (though that's not to say Facebook can't soon be replaced). So why hasn't YouTube been overtaken in popularity, or even lost any significant ground to competitors? In a word, Google. YouTube has more resources at their disposal than anybody else and, on top of that, they have an enormous community that's instrumental to its success.

Just because YouTube is still on top, doesn't mean that everyone is happy or that the way things are currently being run is sustainable. Innovative competitors like The Video Bay have sprung up in response to users demanding the use of HTML 5  and/or raging over suspensions due to mass-flagging, ridiculous copyright enforcement, and unfair accusations of violating the community guidelines.

Many users, even many very popular ones, proclaim that YouTube is dying, but it's just in a very long transition period. Since Google acquired the company, i suspect YouTube has mainly been maintained and operated separate from the rest of Google as the site still looks more like it did pre-aquisition than it looks like a pure Google project. This is completely reasonable. For one thing, users hate change, even if it ends up growing on them after the fact (see Facebook and the new YouTube channel layout). Also, the site is so large and holds such a high volume of data that simply maintaining the site as it's been growing as fast as it has is surely a challenging project as it is: it isn't uncommon for YouTube to display a banner in light green about undergoing routine maintenance or even completely shutting down briefly on occasion with a similar message. "A lot" doesn't even begin to describe the amount of work cleaning out and rebuilding YouTube's infrastructure needed to make things "Googley", but that doesn't mean there isn't much being done behind the scenes.

Google is all about speed, efficiency, and usefulness. While it may be a huge undertaking, reconstructing the underlying framework behind YouTube has a huge long-term benefit to these core focuses. So, what might be coming?

HTML5 Open Web Video

New features like 1080p and 3D videos present a greater case for HTML 5 as higher resolution exacerbates the already unreasonably CPU intensive Adobe Flash player and 3D playback could much better be done using the many capabilities of HTML 5. Google is already supportive of the new HTML 5 open web video standard and has a demo in TestTube. Many, myself included, have been pushing for this to happen with the Free (not patent-encumbered) formats, Ogg Theora and Vorbis and have embarked upon endless debates that in the end are a complete waste of time. Google's currently pending acquisition of On2 Technologies, which incidentally created the VP3 codec which Theora is derived from, opens up the possibility of something much, much better. The new expectation is that Google will open up On2's codecs which are higher in quality than the H.264 standard, and use that with HTML5. Can you really imagine Google keeping them closed and making money off of royalties?

Invite-Only Beta

Orkut is the only major service offered by Google that is not just sub-par but downright shameful for them, showing no foresight or direction and holding no real promise-- until recently, that is. The new version of Orkut will pave the way for real improvements. While by no means is it a solid final product, especially by the standards to which we hold Google, it is a major improvement and the first shift toward a solid platform that they can really begin to expand on. Now YouTube has taken Orkut's place as the least Googley-looking service and putting aside the task of actually fixing it, getting users to warm up to change is damn near impossible. Google already has a way around this though, and you should be quite familiar with it. Their well-known tactic of making new services invite-only to make upscaling easier has the added benefit of dramatically altering users' perception of the service. Instead of approaching with fear and anxiety, the exclusivity of invitations produces an excitement and curiosity toward the product. This open mind is essential to get the vast majority of users to appreciate a new service-- otherwise, users who are currently ignorantly content would riot over any major change.

New Look

With a complete overhaul in order, a brand new look would be the most obvious thing you'd notice upon visiting the revamped site. While YouTube has cleaned up fairly well, it still hasn't reached a level of beauty expected of Google. Compared to other Google services, YouTube is ugly, cluttered, and disorganized. We should expect that YouTube's many features be balanced by a clean interface. The colors, while in line with the brand image, are not clean and basic; use of space is very very very inefficient; and things like "Featured videos" (not to be confused with promoted/sponsored videos) should not exist. Google's way of doing things is automated using algorithms, not by hand-picking content to showcase.

In a possibly related experiment, TestTube has a new "Feather" beta which aims to serve YouTube video watch pages with the lowest latency possible by severely limiting the features available to the viewer and using techniques to reduce the total amount of bytes downloaded by the browser. A new video player would be sleeker and do away with all of the loading problems that users frequently encounter: slow loading times, buffering getting stuck, not being able to seek to an exact point in a video, etc. A new look should also solve the problem of increasingly obtrusive advertising and find a satisfying balance to provide a much better user experience. Not too long ago there was a press conference scheduled and cancelled where YouTube was supposed to unveil its new look, but Google claims it was merely a miscommunication.

Multiple channels per user

Channels and users should be entirely separate things, especially now that YouTube uses Google Accounts. One should be able to have multiple channels and channels should support multiple admins. I should not need a new account if i want to create another channel for a different focus. What if Blogger only allowed one blog per user? This can already be seen changing through YouTube Groups. Groups are actually channels and you cannot have a group with the same identifier as a channel because it is a channel. This is the beginning of channels having multiple uploaders and permissions management. Of course, this functionality is pretty shabby right now, but things are moving in the right direction.

Personal Video Storage

Personal video storage has not been a focus of YouTube so far, but Google wants you to move your data to the cloud, so you can bet it will be. Cosmo, previously Google Web Drive (GDrive), originally codenamed "Platypus", as discovered in a leaked document, will become part of Google Docs. Icons have already been found for videos and Google Video closed off uploads long ago. Videos currently hosted on Google Video will likely be moved, and other Google hosted videos that use the Google Video player like Picasa Web Albums, for example, will likely be put in a new YouTube player. With changes like this happening, a complete re-branding including a change of name isn't completely out of the question.

Live Streaming

Currently, TestTube has "streams", but that's just real-time sharing of YouTube videos which lets you chat with other users in the room. YouTubers are still forced to use other sites for live video broadcasts. YouTube has experimented with streaming events live starting in late 2008 so it's safe to assume they've been working on adding this capability for some time.

AdSense for Everyone

Most people that apply to for the YouTube Partner Program get an email which open up with this: "Thank you for your interest in the YouTube Partner Program. Our goal is to extend invitations to as many partners as we can. Unfortunately we are unable to accept your application at this time. The current level of viewership of your account has not met our threshold for acceptance." If YouTube really wanted to extend this program to as many partners as possible, why is there even a viewership threshold? Anybody eligible for an AdSense account should be able to make money off of ads displayed with their videos. It's mutually beneficial. YouTube must do away with its partner program as it exists today.

More Mainstream Media, Less Copyright Craziness

Google will work hard to get major content companies to put their videos on YouTube and make money off of them. Once this happens, there will be less reason to attack users for uploading copyrighted content since users are more likely to get it from the source anyways. Then, Google could also lift the painfully restrictive 10 minute length limit for videos which is said to have been put in place to hinder copyrighted uploads. In addition, it should be easy for users to specify their copyright and license videos with copyleft licenses such as Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike (CC-BY-SA), Creative Commons Zero (CC0)-- which is a "stronger" Public Domain dedication that functions internationally--, GNU FDL, Artists License, Kopimi, etc. Picasa Web Albums already supports Creative Commons licensing.


It should be made much easier to download videos with permission of the uploader. With better codecs used for HTML 5 and Free Content licenses, it would just be silly not to make downloading videos easy. Just like The Internet Archive, users should be able to download the original file and anything YouTube transcodes it into.

Small but Significant Changes

I imagine that few, if any aspects of the site would be spared from replacement, at least not without significant reworking. Some small but significant changes might include, but are not limited to:

  • View count and ratings should update immediately and users whould be able to change the rating they've given a video. 
  • The rating system is inherently flawed and might disappear completely to be replaced with a "like" button, as expressing approval is all it's used for anyways. 
  • Comments are stupid and should require a capcha for repeat and short posts (filtered to a similar effect as of ROBOT9000) as well as allowing URLs with a capcha
  • Better search options, perhaps using Google Video search and searchable inboxes
  • Instead of importing contacts from Gmail, YouTube should be using Google Contacts


I'm sure you're itching find out how much of this will materialize or not, but there's really no telling how soon we'll see. A YouTube help article says that they will only allow logins using Google Account passwords, May 2009, but i can still sign in using my YouTube account and password. Perhaps this outdated article indicates that the new YouTube is behind schedule, and we could see it any day now, whenever it's ready.

Ubunchu! on BBC Radio and other exciting news

First i'd like to say that anyone who wants to follow this blog only for updates on the Ubuntu at Anime Boston campaign can filter out all of the unrelated posts by subscribing to the "Ubuntu" tag.

Our local team leader, Martin Owens, was just interviewed by BBC Radio Live’s Pods and Blogs show where he talked about Ubuntu, the Ubunchu manga, and the up and coming Anime Boston event.

In other exciting news:

  • We've been slashdotted! 
  • There is a new website for Ubunchu at
  • Chapter 3 of Ubunchu has been released in Japanese and the translating, transcribing, and editing process has begun
  • We are on track to surpass our initial fundraising goal thanks to many generous donors
  • We have at least one hardware supplier to provide us with demo machines at the event
I'll post updates for more details on these developments and more!

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