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"Wishlist Revisited"

Sorry for posting this week's article late. This is a regular occurrence, but this time, my reason was that I moved back to Austin for the spring semester at UT.

Approximately one year ago, I published a Christmas wish list for things I'd like to see on the 'Net. Now, reading back on that collection of ideas and brainstorms, I chuckle a bit as they're all stuff I don't remember thinking about. It's also neat to see how many of my wishes have been granted in a year.

Pessimists can moan and bitch all they want, but I'm afraid things do change and evolve. The world does shift and improve, at least in certain ways. Pessimism and cynicism are merely products of narrow-minded thinking, of not seeing the whole picture, of not experiencing life at an at least normal level. I was pessimistic about life at one point, too, but then I grew up.

Enough about that. In the past year, I've integrated my life further with the computer, and I know much more about how computers and the 'Net work. I understand much more about programming and scripting, noticing how their development and progression follow a natural evolution to a predictable final product. Just as we can figure out at least partly how a language has evolved, we can do the same for programming languages. We can't really modify this progression -- we don't understand the evolution until it's almost, I think. We never understand the time period we live in, but we understand past time periods.

I guess I'm shooting out ideas like Wilt Chamberlain threw out women because this week's Soapbox is more of a look back than the customary here's-another-way-of-looking-at-life ranting that you've come to know and despise or love. If you don't like techie talk, you'll just have to wait until next week.

First of all, I'd like to see faster links, using telecable links. I know this is available in some areas, but I want to see it easy to use and affordable.

When that was written, I think 14.4kbps was the standard for modems. T1s/T3s weren't readily available for businesses. Now modem companies like US Robotics are bringing us faster modems (I'll be upgrading to 57.6kbps soon, the maximum speed for data modems) and ISPs are upgrading faster in response to the demand for more bandwidth. 28.8kbps is the standard speed now, and it's relatively affordable. Cable modems are still hard to find and are only available in the original test markets and some new markets. T1s and T3s are easier to find these days, so people playing at work are always happy to dust you at Quake or show off their fast download times.

All the technology found in television should be used for the Internet; ...

WebTV is giving recreational Web/e-mail users access to the 'Net through the TV. Although WebTV isn't a product I'd endorse (I'd only get one if I had some money to spend), it is useful for specific people, but will disappear if it doesn't become more versatile and flexible soon. WebTV still uses a 33.6kbps modem, and speed was the issue I was getting at in the above quote. I want the coaxial cable lines used to get those stupid cable channels like the Home Schlopping Network to download my news and shareware demos instead. In short, the increase of speed on the 'Net was disappointing last year. Perhaps it'll improve in the next year to a less stressed network of computers.

NO censorship, period. If parents feel that they need to restrict the viewing privileges of their children, then there's adequate software out there (you won't be able to screen out everything, but easy-to-find places like Playboy will be restricted). If the parents are too lazy to restrict their children, that's their fault, not everyone's.

Although the Communications Decency Act was signed, two or three judges decided to block its effects. Censorship is how it should be on the 'Net: sysadmins and Internet providers make up their own guidelines on how their users should use their services. If a sysadmin finds out a user is spamming, uploading porn, or violating the terms of service, then they are kicked. No laws do it. WebTV is shipped with parental control, so sites with topics such as sex and violence are censored. The parents have the choice, not the government.

Sadly, though, the big networks like AOL have been poor role models for freedom of speech. AOL has repeatedly censored its users, always kneeling down to the same users after they complain. AOL doesn't have interest in freedom of speech. Just recently, they made censoring junk mail automatic, instead of letting the users decide whether they were offended by it. Sure, junk e-mail is bad, but the user should still have a choice of whether he wants to receive it.

I'm still allowed to fucking swear if I want.

This is done in some coffeehouses, but I'd like to see Internet hookups everywhere for curious and on-the-go people.

Haven't seen it anywhere myself, but I hear these cyberpubs are pretty common in some places. Phone companies are working on adding Internet kiosks in airports so you can check your e-mail and use the Web to make sure you're not missing anything important while traveling. Laptops are more common and some hotels have Internet ports in the rooms.

An easy-to-use network where people can meet and decide if they want to play a game, talk, or meet somewhere else.

PowWow, CyberBabble, and some IP notifiers (which let you see if your friends are online) allow you to chat with people. PowWow's the most popular, easy to find and easy to use. However, there's no built-in program to chat with the Win95 dialer or anything. Now that would be ideal.

Newsgroups which are moderated only to weed out junk advertisements and articles posted out of context with the group's topic.

We still don't have this. I usually just forward junk e-mail and Usenet posts to the appropriate sysadmin instead of ignoring the spam. Usenet is so chaotic this improvement is unlikely to be added. Maybe it's better off that way. That way people won't quibble over what "inappropriate" means.

An easier way to screen out junk e-mail.

I'm not sure if the intended result is even possible. New companies show up all the time and if you censor certain words, you may lose an e-mail from a friend who happened to use the same word.

Eudora 3.0 has filters, so it can filter your e-mails into certain mailboxes if you want. You could set it up as a partial junk e-mail screener, I guess.

Perhaps if companies were allowed to spam us with e-mail, as long as they attached something to the post along the lines of "USENET: FILTER(ADVERTISEMENT)", we could then filter out that string. It would have to be a standardized thing, and therefore probably wouldn't work too well on the 'Net. But the user would be sure to block out e-mail, on the good side of the coin.

Freeware/shareware programs which check all the links on your page for any dead links.

HomeSite 2.5 does this, checking the specified root address for invalid links. HomeSite is an HTML editor, btw, and is intended for creating documents, not verifying links.

LinkBot specializes in link verification. I tried it out on my site and it compiled a very nice directory tree of my web site. Too bad it is shareware and costs a lot of money. ;)

At any rate, the demand has been identified and analysis features like these have been written. That's what independent software programming gives you, folks. With a restricted 'Net, such freedom may not be permitted.

More creative projects on the 'Net. We must make sure that the Internet doesn't turn into a blob of useless information with no creativity.

I've explored a lot of the good stuff on the Web, although there's still a heckuva lot still out there. The need for actual content never ends, but it doesn't seem to be weakening. MIT always has fun stuff to play with. And I'm able to find the information I need on the 'Net these days relatively quickly. That's a change from the past, when there weren't informative sites like online dictionaries and antivirus databases.

Easier ways for sysadmins to find people who have been harassing/hacking their systems.

Last year was when the hackers showed they had a lot of weight on the Internet. What with SYN flood attacks on certain servers and hacking into government systems, sysadmins were in a bind. I don't think there's any way to stop hackers, and we as users may be better off that way. If the 'Net is run properly, that is, unrestricted and open, then the hackers may be able to help more than hurt. To be honest, I agree with what most of the hackers say about censorship and powertripping sysadmins.

More standardized systems for fingering, pinging, etc... Every place has a different method...

Not sure why I wrote that. There are basic standards for each command listed and my software lets me ping and finger to my heart's delight. I guess I just thought they were cryptic and nonsensical commands, which for most people, are. They're not really necessary commands, except for techno-dweebs like me. ;)

I don't really have a wishlist this year. I'm able to log in and leave my connection open, getting mail periodically while downloading anything from info on the latest site analysis software to hacker files. I'm not restricted from doing anything I want to do. Overall, I'm satisfied with the 'Net and I see the many companies and independent authors creating the software consumers want. Service is getting cheaper and technology is getting more advanced. The Internet is making lives easier, at least from my point of view. The only things I want from the 'Net are faster connection speeds (through cable modem) and the continuation of freedom of speech. Connection speed and faster backbones for the 'Net allow people to put their imaginations to work and create what they really want to. Some people may be confined by the 28.8kbps restriction, and many ideas are dismissed solely because the 'Net can't support them. The 'Net must support more bandwidth so we can think freely. As for freedom of speech, we must be able to say what we want to think freely, whether others like it or not, and Internet access and content should be controlled by individual Internet providers, not the government. With the Internet, laissez faire is the best policy -- it easily avoids differences in culture and government throughout the world.

Remember, folks, progress is being made. The Internet is not spinning into oblivion. It has not yet even begun to hit its stride. It's just a mere child! Live with it. Or enjoy it and study it intensely, like I am.

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