31 Years of the Digest ... founded August 21, 1981
The Telecom Digest for July 5, 2013
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Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2013 23:34:08 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com. Subject: U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement By RON NIXON July 3, 2013 WASHINGTON - Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home. "Show all mail to supv" - supervisor - "for copying prior to going out on the street," read the card. It included Mr. Pickering's name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word "confidential" was highlighted in green. "It was a bit of a shock to see it," said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Postal officials subsequently confirmed they were indeed tracking Mr. Pickering's mail but told him nothing else. As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service. Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States - about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images. Together, the two programs show that postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail. The mail covers program, used to monitor Mr. Pickering, is more than a century old but is still considered a powerful tool. At the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Opening the mail would require a warrant.) The information is sent to the law enforcement agency that asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us/monitoring-of-snail-mail.html ***** Moderator's Note ***** Five letters: W.A.S.T.E. Bill Horne Moderator
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2013 23:36:36 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Remedies for Better Cellphone Signal and Quality Message-ID: <email@example.com> Remedies for Better Cellphone Signal and Quality By ERIC A. TAUB June 26, 2013 One technology will typically trump another when it's an improvement over the existing one. Think of high-definition television compared with standard-definition TV, surround sound versus stereo, the word processor and a typewriter. But one technology has superseded an existing one even though it provides a far worse experience than its predecessor: cellphone voice calls. Most users will tell you they have experienced dropped calls, incomprehensible speech and voice quality that mimics speaking from the bottom of a fish tank. Of course, the reason for the cellphone's triumph over the great voice quality of traditional landline phones is obvious: the mobile phone and the smartphone, in particular, have changed the nature of communication. Convenience and capability have quite understandably trumped quality. But as more Americans drop their landline service in favor of a cellphone, the importance of a good voice connection at home grows. Unfortunately, a call that works well on the street often deteriorates significantly in the bedroom or basement. Barely adequate signals outside turn even worse once they must penetrate concrete, metal and multiple walls. Fortunately, you can take some steps to reduce weak and dropped calls. And soon, you will be able to improve the quality of the voice itself. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/technology/personaltech/remedies-to-enhance-cellphone-signal-and-sound-quality.html
Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2013 01:14:02 -0400 From: Bill Horne <bill@horneQRM.net> To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Re: Remedies for Better Cellphone Signal and Quality Message-ID: <20130705051401.GA17423@telecom.csail.mit.edu> On Wed, Jul 03, 2013 at 11:36:36PM -0400, Monty Solomon wrote: > > Remedies for Better Cellphone Signal and Quality > > By ERIC A. TAUB > June 26, 2013 > > One technology will typically trump another when it's an improvement > over the existing one. Think of high-definition television compared > with standard-definition TV, surround sound versus stereo, the word > processor and a typewriter. <RANT> That's nonsense. If improved technology "typically" triumphed, we'd all be driving electric cars that cost less than half as much to operate as what we do use, which are vehicles functionally identical to a Model "A" Ford. High-definition television was available in France thirty years ago. It didn't happen here because American TV networks and station owners and cable operators fought it tooth-and-nail, until their friends in the industry had time to amortize their patents on NTSC TV sets, and they had time to gear up for the new standard at minimal cost. If having an "improvement" was all that was needed to succeed, Micro- soft would have been out of business a year after Linus Torvalds published the operating system that became Linux. > But one technology has superseded an existing one even though it > provides a far worse experience than its predecessor: cellphone voice > calls. Oh, Ghod, that's just so far off the road that Bambi is running away at this very moment. The "predecessor" to cellphone voice calls was IMTS, which had all the problems associated with connecting a RADIO to a telephone line, coupled with the impedimenta of a trunk-mounted transceiver, a roof mounted antenna, and a gargantuan control head that took up more space than a CB set, and a special alternator to handle the current drain. > Most users will tell you they have experienced dropped calls, > incomprehensible speech and voice quality that mimics speaking from > the bottom of a fish tank. > > Of course, the reason for the cellphone's triumph over the great > voice quality of traditional landline phones is obvious: the mobile > phone and the smartphone, in particular, have changed the nature of > communication. Convenience and capability have quite understandably > trumped quality. Convenience and capability have trumped quality: we have raised a generation of cellular users who are so over-stimulated that it's a wonder they can ever form a coherent thought. In other words, the convenience of being able to give a knee-jerk reaction has allowed our children the capability to pretend that they were really doing their jobs while the quality of their responses has decreased. > But as more Americans drop their landline service in favor of a > cellphone, the importance of a good voice connection at home grows. > Unfortunately, a call that works well on the street often > deteriorates significantly in the bedroom or basement. If those who choose to use a cellular RADIO to connect to the PSTN are dissatisfied with the range or voice quality of their RADIO (which they are calling a phone), then they have a reliatble, cost-effective alternative available for less than a dollar a day. > Barely adequate signals outside turn even worse once they must > penetrate concrete, metal and multiple walls. Fortunately, you can > take some steps to reduce weak and dropped calls. And soon, you will > be able to improve the quality of the voice itself. Proving once again that the laws of physics aren't negotiable. For my part, I propose that we all start reducing weak and dropped calls by turning cellphones off, and get used to having some peace and QUIET in our homes for a change. > > http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/technology/personaltech/remedies-to-enhance-cellphone-signal-and-sound-quality.html > Now, excuse me while I complain, but I abhor one-size-fits-all comparisons when they're used to make a reporter's job easier: we all know that it's not technology that triumphs. As Howard Armstrong, Nicola Tesla, William Lear, John DeLorean, and Gary Kildall all found out the hard way, it's political muscle and bare-knuckle corporate battles that count. </RANT> Bill -- Bill Horne (Remove QRM from my address to write to me directly)
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2013 23:31:17 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Software as a Monthly Rental Message-ID: <email@example.com> Software as a Monthly Rental By DAVID POGUE July 3, 2013 There's a new reason for Photoshop to be famous. Yes, it's still the program that just about every photographer and designer on earth uses to retouch or even reimagine photos. It's still the only program whose name is a verb. But now, Photoshop is also the biggest-name software that you can't actually buy. You can only rent it, for a month or a year at a time. If you ever stop paying, you keep your files but lose the ability to edit them. You have to pay $30 a month, or $240 a year, for the privilege of using the latest Photoshop version, called Photoshop CC. Or, if you want to use the full Adobe suite (Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere and so on), you'll pay $600 a year. The price list is stunningly complex. The fees may be higher or lower depending on how many programs you rent, whether you already own an existing version and which one, whether you commit to a full year or prefer to rent one month at a time. There are also discounted first-year teaser rates, student/teacher rates and a 30-day free trial. But you get the point: the dawn of Software as a Subscription is now upon us. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/technology/personaltech/photoshop-cc-turns-software-into-a-monthly-rental.html ***** Moderator's Note ***** I work for a non-profit which uses the Adobe Creative Suite to prepare a newspaper and other printer material, but we can only afford one copy of version 6, and must make due with older versions on two other machines, all of which are constantly in demand. The only reason I can think of for Adobe to demand such high prices is that company executives have decided that they need to maximize income from a mature product line before open-source offerings take over. It's short-sighted, though: the profiteering will only hasten adoption of free alternatives, and the work is almost as portable as programming, so lower-priced overseas designers, using free software, are likely to cost Adobe its place as the PC world's graphic powerhouse. You heard it here first. Bill Horne Moderator
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