Sunday, October 15, 2006


Net neutrality's double standard I have to disagree strongly with Bill Machrone's opinion piece ("Demand Net Neutrality!," August 22, page 58). I shouldn't be surprised that you, as a tech industry magazine, have a self-serving, knee-jerk reaction in support of the online giants on Net neutrality, Your parochial interests aside, Net neutrality is hugely hypocritical for an industry that has long opposed government regulation of tech and the Internet as unnecessary and contrary to market forces. Now when the entrenched online giants fear the emergence of broadband competition, they change their tune and run to hide behind the government's regulatory skirt for protection from competition.

In its rawest sense, the effect of Net neutrality is a blatant competitive double standard. eBay with Skype, Microsoft with its collaboration software. Yahoo! with its voice product, and Google with click-to-call all want the business freedom to compete, converge, and integrate into communications, but want to make it illegal for communications companies to compete, converge, and integrate into tech and the Internet. How does one-way competition serve consumers or innovation? How is it good for the government to choose market winners and losers instead of consumers choosing them through the marketplace?

The tech industry's naïveté and shortsightedness on Net neutrality is staggering. They think they can invite the government into their sector to hyper-regulate an emerging adjacent industry-competitor, and that the same regulatory appetite won't threaten tech and the Internet. It's playing with fire. I guess regulatory ignorance is bliss.

Be careful what you wish for….

— Scott Cleland

Scott Cleland is the chairman of Netcom, which he describes as a Net neutrality e-forum funded by broadband companies.

Regarding Lance Ulanoff's "Top Tips for Energy Saving" (, my dad worked for 44 years for the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO) starting in 1934. I was born in 1936 and heard the "turn out the lights" song all my life. I sing it to my wife, sang it to my kids, and still sing it when they visit. (Kids who once knew enough to turn out lights develop bad habits in college where no one seems to care; they also believe that dad will support the college-learned 20- to 30-minute shower habit for them, their spouses, and their kids. He won't.)

I have also replaced my incandescent bulbs with fluorescent screw-ins. But in doing so, I encountered one problem. One 20+-watt fluorescent is in our timer-controlled lamp. One day we smelled a terrible odor, like something that was burning. We looked through the house and discovered that the innards of the 20+-watt fluorescent bulb were boiling up around the bulb's tubes. Unlike an incandescent bulb, this fluorescent did not burn out. It burned! Just what might have happened had we been away from home, I don't know. But people should be aware that such a thing can happen.

— Lowell D. Taylor

Wow, Lowell, that's a scary story. I think I'll go double-check all my fluorescent bulbs. — LU

Regarding Lance Ulanoff's column, "Technology for Idiots" (, I don't think technology creates an epidemic of stupidity, nor do I believe that it is ruining anyone's life by stripping them of their privacy or their security. The problem is human nature. There are a small number of basic human flaws that apply whether you use technology or not:

People tend to be intellectually lazy. They don't want to have to learn anything new, they don't want to study or read, and in fact, they don't even want to have to think about anything. I'm not talking about technologists here — we're a different breed. We like to learn. But most people actively resist anything new or different.
People tend to enjoy being bad. If a scammer can get away with something, it's likely that he'll at least try. There's an inbuilt tendency toward mischief in a large number of people.
People like new, interesting, shiny things. They want them for the status these things are perceived to supply. Of course (see #1), people can't be bothered to learn how to use their shiny toys properly. Most people are using equipment that is way outside their skill level.
I believe that technology isn't causing stupidity; it's acting as a "canary in a coal mine" and drawing our attention to the stupidity that already surrounds us. "Hey!" we ask, "where did all this stupidity come from all of a sudden???" It was here all along, we just didn't notice it until the complexity of modern life made it impossible to ignore.

As to what we can do, I'm not sure that there's anything we can do. We might just have to wait until a younger generation gets old enough to take over the reins. Having been raised in our complex society, they're more adaptable. Until then, I suspect that things will be a little bit hairy.

— Philip Perry

You make some very good points, Philip, although I'd tend to disagree with you on #2. I believe that people would rather be good.

— LU

The caption under the whale photo in Connected Traveler (September 5, page 24) claims that the San Diego zoo is the home to the only giant pandas in the U.S. I already knew that Atlanta has two, and a quick Google search reveals that there are nine giant pandas in four zoos in the U.S. — Frank Eskridge

Thank you for pointing this out, Frank, We have also received letters on the subject from irate pandas in Atlanta, Memphis, and Washington.

The picture on page 68 of our August 22 issue identified as the Sennheiser PX 100 (which are supraural headphones, not earbuds as the text calls them) actually shows Shure E4c earbuds.

By: Clelend, Scott, Taylor, Lowell D., L. U., Perry, Philip, Eskridge, Frank, PC Magazine, 10/3/2006

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