Apr 24, 2010

Domain'ing is Annoying

The way in which domain names are allocated seems broken to me.  Speculators register domain names for a very small amount of money ($6/yr for .com's, sometimes pennies for some ccTLDs) and then refuse to give up the rights for anything less than $10,000.  The domains are worth more than the registration cost to someone who would actually use them, but less than the squatter price.  As a result, excellent domain names go unused (parked) while good content creators with low budgets end up with stupid domain names that nobody wants but which are affordable.

A strawman proposal for fixing this:
Instead of a flat $/yr charge for domain names, charge based on demand.  If a user comes along to the registrar and wants to buy an already used domain name, they can file a bid with the registrar.  The registrar records and authorizes the charge for the bid, perhaps even taking the money into escrow.  At the same time, the current owner is contacted.  The current owner can now choose:

  1. Accept the offer, sell the domain name.
  2. Accept an immediate increase in the annual registration fee for that domain name of 5% of the offer price.
So for example, I might bid $1,000 for greg.com.  The owner of greg.com doesn't have to accept my bid, but if they don't, the registration cost rises to $50/yr.  This should make them less inclined to squat.  More valuable domain names will end up with a higher registration cost and worthless domain names will end up with a potentially lower registration cost.

The 5% is just a random number.  Tweaks might include a some cap at $500, or having the percentage decrease as the offer increases so that the registration fee for google.com or whatever isn't astronomical.  Perhaps reduce the percentage the longer the current owner has owned the domain as changes in identity are undesirable.  It also seems like you might want to have registration fee hike exceptions in some cases, such as trademarks.  Lots of options available.

Where should the extra registration money go?  The registrars don't deserve most of this.  I'd probably put it towards public projects to build better planet-wide network infrastructure (fiber in the ground) or something.

Apr 13, 2010

Preloading Hard Drives with Movies - Sneakernet

The financial times has an article yesterday about Seagate preloading USB hard drives with movies.  Apparently the drives will come with around 20 popular movies already present, but reading between the lines they are encrypted.  If you want to watch them, you can do so by buying the decryption key online.  I'm sure there is more DRM to it so that you can't easily share the movies, but the basic idea is kinda neat.  Essentially, you are bypassing the biggest issue of digital delivery of movies (bandwidth and the latency of waiting for the download) by having the access to the movie controlled by a download of only a few kb encryption key.

I think this approach has potential beyond what Seagate is doing.  Imagine if your Netflix subscription, instead of shipping you DVDs one at a time, just shipped you a hard drive with your entire movie queue on it in encrypted form.  When you are ready to view the next movie in the queue, you just log into your netflix account and download the encryption key in a few seconds.  Instead of having X DVD's out at a time, you could have X encryption keys per month or something.  The advantage is that there's much less shipping involved and you can rearrange your queue however you want and start watching any of the movies immediately with no wait for the mail or slow internet download.  Even a HD movie is probably only around 10GB, so a cheap 500GB hard drive should be able to hold around 50 movies, and moore's law will only improve on this.

Going a step further, using the MPAA's own statistics, there are roughly 600 big movies released to theaters a year, not all that many.  At 10GB per movie, that's only 6TB of space required, or 500GB per month.  Lets say all of these movies were "finished" at least 1 month before release.  You could buy a 500GB drive for way less than the cost of a month of a cable subscription and by sending this back and forth to netflix, you'd have continuous on-demand access to any of the blockbusters the day that they are released and for roughly a month to follow.  The producers could simply not sell the decryption keys until the chosen release date.

This is just the latency/bandwidth tradeoff of using the sneakernet.

Apr 8, 2010

Rock Climbing at Red Rock

Cristin and I just returned from an action-packed rock climbing trip/tweetup at Red Rock outside Las Vegas.  We spent 2 days climbing rocks, leaving our hotel around 8am and heading back around 5pm each day.  The original plan was to climb for 4 days, but after day 2 we were a bit worn out and took a day off, and on day 4, rain clouds rolled in at about the same time we did so we had to bail and take advantage of the local indoor climbing gym instead where we found several other disappointed red rock climbers-to-be.

There were about a dozen total climbers in our crew, I met about half of them for the first time on the trip. Hello to @eleddy, @sudarkoff, @adrienneknits, @rockgrrl, @voden, @katiebeth, @tiffanymroyal, @joshuamontague, @chadcat, @JeremyShapiro, and @pwcarey, who took the above photo of me above on the 2nd day.

The trip was fantastic.  I'd driven through red rock once before, but this was a different way to experience the park.  There were unmarked trails in guidebooks which once followed led to hidden cracks chock full of other climbers, it felt like "the secret world" of Red Rock.  This was only our third trip climbing outside of the gym, so it was even more of an experience for us.

On Day 1, we started out the morning climbing several routes at the Magic Bus area, which is actually one of the less red of the red rocks.  A pretty vertical flat face, a great way to warm up.  We heard some thunder in the distance, ate some lunch and as the area started to get crowded we headed on to Black Corridor for the afternoon.  Black Corridor is a area with two vertical walls facing each other, like if you cut a loaf of bread in half and pulled the halves apart just a little bit.  There were a ton of people already here, but there were also a ton of different routes available.  It was a perfect afternoon spot as the two walls gave you plenty of shade when you weren't on the rock.  I tried a fun route that was giving everyone trouble, a 5.10 (in theory) with a specific move about halfway up that none of us could get past.  It required pulling up on a ledge not deep enough to get a whole finger joint onto.

On Day 2, we hit up Panty Wall in the morning whose base was a wide flat ledge above another vertical cliff, so it was a bit nerve wracking for several of us, myself included, when looking down at the drop below.  But the view of the canyon was georgeous and the routes on the wall were lots of fun.  For the afternoon, the group decided to head over to Calico Basin, on the flip side of Red Rock's best formation, but technically outside the park.  We climbed around on Cannibal Crag, a massive boulder with routes on both sides.  Jeremy showed me how to do a pitched route (although only 1 pitch) as well as how to lead belay, as we climbed the route "you are what you eat" with the big crack you can see in the picture to the left.

There were a few people with camera's going all the time, namely Cristin and Peter.  Lots of photos available for anyone interested.  I'm the guy usually in the blue jacket and orange helmet.

After we departed Red Rock, Cristin and I took a side trip to Death Valley for 2 nights.  We did a couple fun hikes, including one through a canyon with extremely smooth marbled walls that get cut by waterfalls in the rainy months, making for some fun little rock slides.  Another hike took us to the base of a small ice melt waterfall at a higher elevation, something I never expected to find in Death Valley.  It was literally a desert oasis.  Wherever the water flowed there was tons of life, but only a few feet away it was dry desert terrain.  There are more photos of death valley here: http://picasaweb.google.com/jennifer.mccain/DeathValleyApril2010