Tag Archives: content-filter

Ustream Problem

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We took live calls again last night. I discovered that some of you are unable to view Ustream content – and your ISP may have some major splainin to do.

My assistant Kat knew I was about to take calls, and opened her browser to my live stream page. She wanted to follow along as she always does. However, when the page loaded, the Ustream box did not. There was nothing there at all. She shrugged and thought something was wrong with my page, so she went straight to the Ustream.tv home page. There, she was greeted with nothing more than a blank white page – and a very strange message.

Kat apologizes for the bad quality of the screenshot. She was rushing to get that, call the ISP and call me… and didn’t take the time to make sure it was high quality. She simply wanted to make sure she GOT it. The message on the screen stated: Page content cannot be displayed. Please contact your service provider.

Kat thought something odd was going on, and tried two other browsers… attempted to go through her OpenDNS account, AND tried viewing via the Adobe Air app built for my stream. Not a single method would work. Everything was blocked, giving her that same cryptic message. For those of you repeatedly asking… yes. She cleared her cache, restarted the modem herself with a hard reset, and all of the other minor things you have suggested. She’s a Microsoft MVP in Consumer Security y’all – she knows her way around computers.

She then put in a not-so-friendly call to her ISP – BrightHouse networks in Indianapolis. The tech there was extremely patronizing, according to Kat. The lady claimed they would never block anything… yet she said out loud that: “This is strange… I cannot access it here, either.” The rep called a manager over, neglecting to put Kat on hold… she could hear every word. There was something said along the lines of “Well open it up for now then.”

Shockingly, the issue was fixed moments later, via a modem reset! Isn’t that magic? Keep in mind that Kat had no issues viewing ANY other site. Her connection was fine. Her ability to view Ustream was NOT.

When she hung up with her ISP, Kat called in to my stream to tell me about this. As she’s talking, several people in our chat room started saying they’ve been having the same issues lately. Most of them were with BrightHouse also (in other parts of the country), but there were other ISPs involved, such as Time Warner.

Now, I cannot say for certain that BrightHouse (or any other ISP) was blocking Ustream. However, it sure does seem that way, does it not? This is completely and absolutely wrong. An ISP should not arbitrarily decide which content their customers can and cannot view. Yes, Ustream uses up a lot of bandwidth. Is that not why we have to pay such high prices for our services every month? If there is no limit to the amount allowed to use each month (Kat reports there is not), then why would sites such as this be blocked?

Have you run into this issue yourself, either with Ustream or another site? How have you (if you did) resolve it? Please leave us a follow-up comment here on the blog, or send me an email.

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Do You Spy on Your Children?

A thread over on Geeks caught my attention earlier. The original poster is asking for recommendations to help spy on some children while they are using a computer. The user says that he is setting up a computer for a foster child living in his sister’s home. He also explains that it’s not really “spying” they need to do. Rather, they are looking to set up content filters and parental blocks. These, to me, are more than acceptable. You definitely want to block young children from accessing adult-themed websites. However, some of the answers from our community raised my hackles. They literally want to spy on everything a child is doing.

I’m sure many of you will loudly disagree with me. I may even get flamed for my opinions, and that’s fine. I’ve developed quite a thick skin over the years. But – I am absolutely against spying on your children. There is a huge difference between blocking questionable content and outright reading everything they type or do. That is an invasion of privacy, and I don’t give a crud if they are your children… it’s still wrong, in my book.

I can already hear it: “How am I supposed to be SURE my child isn’t doing anything wrong online?” Well, perhaps you should talk to them about what they’re doing. Communication between a parent and child is critical, including discussions about Internet usage. At some point, you have to learn to trust your own parenting skills, and cut your kid some slack.

These days, the chances are that your little angel knows far more about how computers work than you do. I have read articles and comments from too many youngsters who bragged about the exact methods they use to get around every one of those blocks and restrictions you place. The harder you try to contain them, the harder they will work to bust free. It makes sense to me to give them a bit of freedom to begin with.

You won’t need content blocks when you visit our software center. All you’re going to find there are the best software and app titles available for all of your devices.

Internet Content Filtering is Allowed in a Library

Today, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that it is perfectly acceptable for a library to filter content on their Internet connections as they see fit. Six of nine justices agreed that libraries have discretion as to what Internet content to allow, just as they have control over what books they will offer. This ruling comes after a lawsuit that was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington in 2006 against the North Central Regional Library District in Eastern Washington.

There were three plaintiffs in this landmark case: a woman who was trying to research tobacco use by young people, a photographer who wasn’t allowed to check out videos on YouTube or research certain health issues, and a man who wasn’t able to access his own public blog or information relating to gun use by licensed hunters. Any library who receives federal money to provide Internet access is required to have the ability to keep underage patrons from accessing pornography and other sites that could be detrimental. The NCRL receives such government grants, and has filters beyond those required of them. This includes the blocking of content about computer hacking, gambling and personal ads on Craigslist, among other subjects.

“A public library can decide that it will not include pornography and other adult materials in its collection in accord with its mission and policies and, as explained, no unconstitutionality necessarily results,” wrote the majority, led by Chief Justice Barbara Madsen. “It can make the same choices about Internet access.” The ruling also stated that libraries could provide access to individual websites if requested by an adult without having to completely remove their Internet filters.

The dissenting votes, led by Justice Tom Chambers, argues that this ruling restricts constitutionally protected speech. He stated that a library choosing to censor the Internet is not the same as declining to purchase a particular book that the institution feels to be inappropriate. “It is more like refusing to circulate a book that is in the collection based on its content.” He feels that the entire filter should be removed if an adult requests it because the government “has no interest in protecting adults from constitutionally protected materials on the Internet. Concerns that a child might see something unfortunate on the screen must be dealt with in a less draconian manner,” he wrote.

What are your thoughts on this? Should a library be allowed to decide which types of websites and contents they will allow on their machine? This case will now be taken to the federal court level, and it will be interesting to see what happens. I’ve always been a proponent of having open access to anything we choose online. However, I can certainly understand why that isn’t viable in some settings and circumstances.

How to Email Web Pages to Yourself

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Let’s say you want to go to a website to see what’s new. You may not be able to access the site, due to content filtering. If you sign up with this free service, you can receive emails containing the contents of the web page you wanted to visit. WebToMail is a free service where you can receive web pages by e-mail. It’s simple and very easy.

All you have to do is send an email to [email protected]. In the subject line, put the URL of the website you want to get email updates from. In only a couple of minutes, you’ll receive an email with the HTML contents from that particular page!

This service is not just free, and easy-to-use. It’s a great way to keep yourself updated on what’s happening on your favorite sites without actually having to visit the sites.

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