The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

An Open Letter to Rich Sheridan regarding the proposed insertion of spam by the Wireless Washtenaw Project

The following was written in response to the pricing plan for Wireless Washtenaw.

Rich Sheridan has served on the steering committee of the Wireless Washtenaw Project for some time. Rich is someone for whom I have done work in the past and I am surprised by his poor judgment and lack of knowledge of the issues in this particular instance.

An Open Letter to Rich Sheridan regarding the proposed insertion of spam by the Wireless Washtenaw Project:


Thanks for the interesting conversation today regarding Wireless Washtenaw. You told me, “The Internet was built by business”. When I disagreed and asked you if you had ever heard of Prof. Jon Postel, you finally (after asking the third time) admitted you had not heard of him. Here’s a link to the wikipedia article on Prof. Jon Postel.

Here’s Jon Postel’s tribute page from the Information Sciences Institute at USC.

When Jon died, he received the some of the most moving tributes from around the world that I have seen for any person, recent or historical. Many of the founders of the Internet are among the eulogists recorded at the Internet Society pages about Jon.

The Internet did not come about through the profit motive. Not at all. The Net is possibly the single most complex and valuable piece of engineering ever accomplished by humans, and it came about through the efforts of selfless individuals working for the betterment of all mankind. People like JCR Licklider, Bob Kahn, Larry Roberts, Steve Crocker, Vint Cerf, and Dr. Postel are the people we should be seeking to emulate personally and professionally.

To take the surplus value in the Net created by all these selfless patriots and try to monetize it in the way that 20/20 is doing through the public face of the Wireless Washtenaw project, is not a good thing. Having third parties who just happen to own one of the dozen or so routers between sender and receiver insert into the datastream their own or third-party ads degrades the Net for both sender and receiver, and breaks the unwritten compact whereby anyone with an upstream router on the Net passes along third-party traffic in a manner similar to a common carrier, without intercepting or interfering by, for instance, adding spam advertising content to that communication. This principle is sometimes referred to as “Net Neutrality”.

There are also legal issues revolving around this approach to funding Wireless Washtenaw regarding the Electronic Communications Privacy Act 18 USC § 2510.

Also pertinent is the General Prohibition Against Traces and Traps 18 USC § 3121.

I also think this deliberate insertion of spam into the network may fall afoul of the Michigan statue Fraudulent Access to Computers, Computer Systems, and Computer Networks, MCL 795.791 et passim.

What you all are talking about doing with this Wireless Washtenaw “free” service is filling the web browsers of people using the free, public service with third-party spam. Adding banner ads to a content provider’s web page without their consent or inserting interstitial ads between content provider and subscriber is leveraging the intellectual property of that content provider without their permission. This is analogous to sneaking into the Washtenaw News warehouse on S. Industrial and slipping additional advertising into the Sunday Times inserts without their permission. This Wireless Washtenaw “free” service with spam added is not a public service at all, but a fundamental attack on the integrity, security and utility of the Net itself.


Henry Edward Hardy

see also: Seven Questions on ‘Net Neutrality’ for Ann Arbor City Councilman Ron Suarez

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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23 May, 2007 Posted by | 20/20 Communications, Ann Arbor, bad idea, categorical imperative, common carrier, ethics, freedom, government, greed, history, internet, Jon Postel, law, liberty, Michigan, morality, Net, net neutrality, public access, Rich Sheridan, scanlyze, spam, Washtenaw, Wireless Washtenaw | Leave a comment

Review of The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar

by Henry Edward Hardy

Aficionados of Professor J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings may enjoy the online multi-player role-playing game Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (LOTRO) from Turbine, Inc. and Midway Games. Based on the best-selling novel The Fellowship of the Ring and succeeding volumes by the late Tolkien, LOTRO traces the quest to evade the minions of the evil Witch-king of Angmar and aid the Fellowship of the Ring to destroy the evil One Ring.

Players may choose to be a rotund but clever Hobbit, dour-handed Dwarf, lithe Elf or a male or female Man (human). The world of Middle-Earth is lovingly rendered from the Maxfield Parrish-like gazebos and towers of the High Elves to the stinking fens of Midgewater and the red rock hills of Rhudaur. The medieval town of Bree is strikingly detailed with its ancient monumental arches, aged courses of stonework and Tudor-style housing and inns.

The LOTRO client program is small and efficient, using about 50 MB of memory. Server operation is generally stable, and the client crashes infrequently compared with other online games.

In LOTRO, characters can’t die. Instead, they lose their morale and must withdraw from combat to regroup. Morale is primarily maintained and restored by the minstrel and captain classes. Crafts professions available include mining, farming, and smithing. One can cultivate special varieties of “pipeweed” for spectacular smoke-ring-blowing effects. Musical instruments such as lute and clarinet can be improvised with in-game.

Tolkien’s book, The Fellowship of the Ring, emphasizes the majesty, ancientry and heart-felt longing for the past inspired by the abandoned ruins encountered by the protagonists. In LOTRO, such areas are oft overrun with competing factions of adventurers, quarreling over mining rights or the initiative to kill a favored foe.

The opportunity to “meet” representations of beloved characters such as Gandalf, Aragorn the Ranger and the mysterious leaping, poetry-spouting Tom Bombadil is not to be missed. The great underlying story, innovative game systems, stable game platform and stupendous, awe-inspiring graphics make Lord of the Rings Online a superior Internet role-playing game.

A version of this review was previously published in Current and Electric Current.

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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9 May, 2007 Posted by | dwarf, elf, fantasy, Fellowship of the Ring, games, hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Rings Online, LOTRO, review, role-playing, Tolkien | Leave a comment