I just saw that message today! http://www.rapidshare.com is DOWN!

There are rumors that rapidshare has been closed down due to a court order. There are also rumors that there have been attacks on RS' servers.

Whatever it is, if it goes down forever, it will make a huge hole on the Internet, considering how full RS servers are of content.

I think there must be some kind of DNS or domain-related problem. Or maybe they did receive an attack... Who knows. We can just wait and see.

For the time being, Rapidshare.de is up. One thing to note on RS.de is that the limit has been increased to 300MB. I think previously it was 100MB max upload size.

Maybe this outage is because RS are upgrading?

Another funny thing to note is that, at the time of writing, there was no "Rapidshare is down" on Digg. There was, but not with thousands of diggs. More like 2-3 diggs Wonder why.. :P

EDIT: Rapidshare.com is back up after less than a day of downtime. And no, there was no apparent upgrades. The file-size limit on rapidshare.com is still 100MB. The real reason of the downtime is unknown for now.

EDIT 2: @2h20am: Rapidshare is having issues again. I seem to be able to access and it seems to be down at other times, but after a while, I get the "Cannot establish a connection to server" message. I really think they are getting problems with their DNS now...

EDIT 3: It's back up now, stable and running. :)

Following my post on Anti-Piracy, I want to discuss an interesting article I just found off Ars Technica.

It's about filtering. Content filtering to be precise, striving to put an end to illegal downloading on all of the Internets floating around. We've never been so close to a Big Brother Watches You type of society, in my humble opinion of a caring Internet user.

We saw Comcast throttling Bittorrent traffic. We saw the MPAA and RIAA or whatever ??AA these associations are called hunting down downloaders in colleges and universities abroad. We also saw RIAA firing lawsuits everywhere with the hope of reducing illegal downloading of protected content. Now it seems another weapon surfaces: filtering.

Filtering was always here it seems. You might know about parental filters in IE. Or even child-lock on your TV? That's what it's all about: Restricting what you are allowed to do or see. Same things happen online. Google has its SafeSearch. That concerns Adult content. What about copyrighted content? It's here too.

Youtube recently implemented their own filter to prevent copyrighted content from being uploaded. TorrentSpy also implemented a hash-based content filtering, called FileRights.

Now it seems, ISPs will be implementing their own filters to prevent illegal downloading. It's begun with Comcast preventing seeding of torrents. Others will surely follow if persuaded by major labels. It seems that AT&T is leading the march, according to the Digg article below. The biggest irony in all this is that those same ISPs are offering megabit speeds to customers, FTTH and all, then tell you it's not meant for downloading stuff. What's it for then? Exclusive Youtubing? I don't think I need 8Mbps to load a page quickly, do I?

Universities are following the lead, threatened to see their funds reduced if they do not implement proper filters. I believe they would comply.

Filters are everywhere these days. I'm sure at your school or university, you are not allowed to do everything you like on their PCs. There are restrictions in place. Now it's going to be taken to a whole new level. New filtering techniques, such as the state-of-the-art, Motion-Based Filtering, are coming on scene.

Is this good? Proponents of filters cry "Die, illegal downloading!" while proponents of privacy, freedom and net-neutrality wail "No more restrictions!". IMHO, I think that the concepts of net-neutrality and freedom of information are taking a serious beating here. You are not allowed to do things in a network that supposedly has tags like "Public", "Free access", "Free flow of information", "Unrestricted knowledge and access". I'm not even sure that the net is so "unrestricted" these days. It's begun with the Great Firewall of China. And now it's going to extend to the rest of the world. Adios freedom!

I reiterate what I said in my Anti-Piracy post. Restraining mechanisms never work. What they are good at is setting revolts on. Just check the Digg comments! DRM had to kneel-over. Comcast is facing some troubles following their throttling. If universities and ISPs start their filtering campaigns, it can mean one thing: P2P will take a big blow. Downloading may be stopped, but I doubt that downloaders themselves will be happy about it. A consequence. Mass boycotts? Like this? Or this?

These events promise a good show. Let's wait and see what comes out of it all. I bet it will be making huge waves on the web very soon.

I was reading a couple of newspapers lately, and there was mentions that MASA (Mauritian Society of Authors) is gearing up for a new round of anti-piracy campaigns this year. What's piracy all about?

Wikipedia defines Copyright Infringement (Piracy) as follows:
Copyright infringement (or copyright violation) is the unauthorized use of material which is covered by copyright law, in a manner that violates one of the original copyright owner's exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works.
Today, the term Piracy would often be used to refer to multimedia content and files obtained illegally through the Internet, or without the publisher/author/owner's consent.

Enough formality. Most of us know what it's about. Downloading stuff which you could otherwise buy. In the general jargon, you'd here people talking "Hey, I downloaded that new movie yesterday" or "Do you have the crack for that game?". That's what piracy is about. Piracy is stealing. Is it?

It may. It may not. It depends on the point of view. If you are MASA or the law, yes it's stealing. It's depriving developers and artists about their rightful gains. You are stealing their stuff. Now, if you are the average Mauritian, it's not. Why? Dunno. It's Mauritian logic. Or it's purely logic. The fundamental question is: Why buy something with cash when you can get it for free? That's the invulnerable claim that piracy-consumers make. How do you counter that argument??

Another form of piracy that we see often these days is the mass-sale of copied CDs/DVDs for ridiculously cheap prices. While strolling through Port-Louis, you'll most probably see "4 DVD pou Rs.100" or similar. That's Rs.25 per DVD, that same DVD that would be selling around Rs.1000 genuine, or a cinema ticket priced at Rs.150. Which one to choose? The Rs.1000 or the same Rs.25 priced DVD?

Can the consumer be blamed? I don't think so. Considering the actual state of affairs in Mauritius, it's fairly impossible for somebody to spend Rs.1000 on a single DVD when he/she cannot even afford basic necessities. Food and basic needs' costs have risen so much that life's real tough. Same applies to most countries. That person who buys a pirated DVD may want some entertainment during the weekend, after a long and tough work week. That student that buys a pirated Audio CD gets only Rs. 50 as pocket-money per day, and cannot afford a genuine Rs.900-priced CD.

That's for consumers. Then there are downloaders. These will scour the net, looking for the newest and hottest things, and download them off torrents, or P2P programs. Some years back, we all saw the ruckus that these two programs made: Napster and Kazaa. The fight was long and tough, and both (original Napster and Kazaa) finally bowed. Today, torrent is the new hype, with major players like ThePirateBay (TPB) and others. TPB is notorious for mocking the law when it comes to lawsuits filed against it for listing copyrighted stuff.

According to me, people buy/download pirated stuff for 2 main reasons. This applies specially to Mauritius:

- The genuine product is way too expensive
- The genuine product is not available

Wikipedia lists other reasons, but these are most applicable to Mauritius.

Genuine software is not available. That latest album from my favourite artist costs Rs.1200. That movie I wish to watch is not available. The list is long.

What can be done? In my humble opinion, what the Indians did is best. The latest movies are being sold on DVD for Rs.200 Indian Rupees. The latest albums are priced at Rs.100. That's almost the price at which pirated movies are being sold in Mauritius, but those are genuine. See for yourself. I magnified and highlighted the price. The best and most effective solution would be to lower the price of the genuine content. If it's fairly priced, I doubt that people would prefer a pirated version, when they can get the genuine one with all its features. If a movie is priced at Rs.100, people would buy it. At Rs.1000? Forget it! Rs.1000 represents almost 1/5 the monthly consumables bill of the average Mauritian home.

The second reason is more difficult to address. The solution lies with importers. One simple example I like to mention is the lack of genuine anime in Mauritius. There is a big market here, but unfortunately, genuine products are rare and overpriced (Rs.800 at least per DVD). The only remaining solution is to download fan-subs, and that's what most Mauritian anime-fans do. Same for other types of content. There is no availability, so we just go and download it for free.

Anti anti-piracy?

There is, of course, the unscrupulous downloader who doesn't care about developers or artists. What matters is that they get the product they want, no matter if it means stealing it. We should always remember that piracy, at its core, is theft.

Switching sides, piracy is a real head-ache for law-enforcers. Campaigns are varied. Warnings are seen everywhere. Nag-screens are... annoying. There are even anti anti-piracy campaigns! At one point in time, restrictions were even placed on consumers, in the form of DRM. This measure however, proved to be very very unproductive, to such extent that it is finally abandoned. Amazon has recently started offering DRM-free tracks at reasonable prices, following the move from Apple via its ITunes Store.

As if it was not enough, RIAA acquired some kind of lawsuit-firing cannon, and arbitrarily assaulted people for illegal downloading, even 12-year old kids!

The biggest trick is this: offer the consumer things at a very reasonable prices, and they will willingly buy. Try to restrain them, or try to purely make profits, and you can be sure that they'll do everything to annoy the hell out of you. You can't fight a Hydra by sheer brute-force.

You can't fight piracy. It's like a Hydra. Cut one head, another one pops up. Here, it's not one head. It's like zillions of heads pop out. Napster and Kazaa went down. Shareza, Ares, Limewire and countless others replaced it. Annoy TPB, and they want to buy Sealand! That's not the way to fight. You will need to convince consumers. Tempt them. Attract them. Not restrain their freedom through DRM. They will hate you for that. You can't just walk in with your lawsuits and tell consumers "Hey buy my stuff, even if it's available for free on torrents and hosting sites! To hell! BUY! Or lawsuits!" And the result? Declining sales. Offer competitive prices? Rising sales!

There is no for or against piracy. Consumers just go wherever the prices are lowest. Developers and artists, I know you work hard. I respect your work. But if your creations are unaffordable, what can I do? For software, there exists Open-Source. For music, there is public-domain, and artists like Radiohead who offer albums almost for free. The Piracy war won't be won by violence. Repression never works. The anime industry knows that well. Instead of firing lawsuits everywhere, publishers humbly request hosting sites to take down their products. It works!

Time to stop. And time for you to comment! :P

And as the saying goes on the net: "If you like it, buy it. Support the developers."

2007 is over, and 2008 is now on scene. It's also my first blog post for 2008, and I will use this post as MBB Theme of the Week #5: Most Promising 2008 Event. Here goes, and a long one at that!

What I hope will happen in 2008 is this: Our Mauritian Internet (read: outdated) gets FASTER! Every Mauritian Internet user's dream! Or that we do get FTTH.

Yes yes! I know. I'm sure (if you are Mauritian), you will say that whatever connection you have, "IT'S SLOWWWWW!!! ARGHH!". Right! Mine's like that too. However, before we start blaming ISPs and other people, we need to consider that the number of Internet users in Mauritius is low (less than 100k) and they have to work on tight resources. Ok, maybe not so tight, seeing the profits some companies are making.

But that's not the point today. I'm not complaining about services being offered, be it ADSL, MyT, MTML's 144Kbps Dial-Up, DCL's packages, Nomad or Emtel's wireless. What I'd say is that, they are all deprecated, save maybe for Emtel's newest offer.

Come'on folks, many of us still have 56K dial-up. This thing is ridiculously slow, making things like "Youtube" virtually impossible to use. Online gaming on dial-up is almost a myth. Online apps? Forget it! This thing called dial-up, this "pay-per-use/minute" service is only good for people that only browse for around 20 mins a day to check their mail. Who does that nowadays? Even the busiest of people, or the most basic computer-illiterate will try to access some video site at least once to check something, or listen to music.

Multimedia is everywhere on the Internets nowadays! Flash animations, Flash videos (youtube, metacafe, dailyvideo and the countless others), music and other streaming content are flooding websites across the globe. The famous Hi5 is overflowing with multimedia content. Try browsing any female's profile with dial-up and see the results. Useless. Downloading and interactive content are non-existent in the dial-up world.

(Unless you make use of it for specific purposes like VPN. Those COULD justify it, although much better solutions exist.)

I excluded MTML's 144Kbps dial-up above. It's worth considering if you are a light user, since it's pay-per-usage. However, it offers fairly decent speeds (16KBps down) considering it's price, and it being wireless. Do not think you'll be downloading massive files with this, unless you want your bills going through the roof! It's wireless btw (portable!). Pretty cool! If only it was unlimited usage...

Next target: ADSL. This service is considered to be "fast" by many Mauritians. We all desire that golden 128K ADSL when we are stuck with 56Kbps dial-up. When we have 128K, we want 512K, and then we want 1Mbps, but then we can't get it since it's priced at a whooping Rs.5990+VAT. Unless your daddy is Bill Gates or nicknamed "Deep-Pockets", I doubt you'll be taking it. With oldish ADSL, you will be stuck with speeds like 14KBps and 55KBps. Ok, 55KBps is a pretty big number, but it's slow. Trust me. You'll see why.

ADSL is fairly fast, I admit. Have you ever tried using ANY Internet connection in Mauritius during the day? Whatever ISP, whatever connection, it's awfully slow! I saw my 512K going like 3-10KBps during the day, instead of its top 55KBps. I can agree that during the day, businesses are booming and are given bandwidth priority. But come'on! That's less than 1/4 of what I should get! I still pay full-price btw!

MyT is another interesting service. It's a combined Internet-Video-Telephony package. It's cool actually, giving you 256K for the price of 128K. I dunno why people don't like it. Maybe because of the tons of "MyT is SLOWWW!" articles I see popping everywhere from time to time. I haven't tested it personally, so I cannot say. My friends who do have it say it's slow. Go ask them. :P

Next we have the wireless ones, that is Nomad and Emtel's packages. I've tested none of them, so I can't accurately describe how they are. I know loads of people using Nomad who keep complaining about slowness and loss of connection. I think it's normal, considering it's wireless. The connection can easy be affected by weather conditions, and Mauritius is not the flattest of countries. Mountains create shadow-zones. I've got nothing against Nomad. I never used it, though was very tempted for a time. But whenever I see Nomad mentioned, I tend to see other people using the word "slow".Go figure if it's true or not. I still give them a thumbs up for being MT's main competitor regarding Internet. It's not easy to compete against a big boy like MT, but seriously, the people at Nomad need to be applauded.

Emtel recently launched a new wireless Internet package. I haven't read any reviews of it yet, nor have heard anybody mentioning it. IMHO, it's more suited for business-people who are constantly on the move, rather than home users. The price of its "modem" should also be considered. Priced at Rs.6000+, I doubt it'd find many home users.

Long, huh? You still with me? Good! :P Now comes the good part.

I mentioned that Mauritian Internet is outdated. Yes it is. Dial-up and ADSL are things of the past. Nowadays, people talk in terms of VDSL, ADSL 2, cable, combined packages and FTTH. Oh the greatness! What does this mean? Megabit speeds, baby! In excess of 1Mbps usually! 2Mbps, 8Mbps, 16Mbps, 24Mbps! That's the speeds we are talking about! FTTH? 50+ Mbps! That's the beginning! Comcast wants to offer 150Mbps through channel-bonding! Universities abroad have GIGABIT speeds!

A rapid check here shows a very interesting thing: you can get 8Mbps at sub-10 pounds prices! This means 8Mbps at less than Rs.1000, while you pay Rs.5990+ for 1Mbps. You pay around 6 times more, for 8 times less speed. See any logic in this? I don't. Unless I consider that UK has many more Internet users than Mauritius! Feast your eyes on these Speeds/Price comparisons!

With 512K at max speed (55K or so in Mauritius), you can download a 5MB audio clip in around 2 minutes. If you had 1Mbps (priced at Rs.5990 - omphh!), you could download that same clip in under 45 seconds. If you had 8Mbps or more? It'd take less than 10 secs. More? It'd be instantaneous. That's the importance of speed. If you wanna time it yourself, here. Now we are talking about streaming HD (High Definition) content off Internet? Forget it if you have less-than-megabit speeds.

This is what I'd call a decent Internet connection, one that does not need to buffer my youtube videos every second or so, that does not take ages (~1hr at max speed, but I once waited almost 7hrs for 100Mbps to download - at 10KBps speeds) to download a 100Mb file and that doesn't lag my online gaming sessions. This is the type of connection required if you want to participate in the web 2.0 revolution, the social and multimedia Internet. Alright, you don't need 24Mbps to do most things, but a 2Mbps priced at less than Rs.1000 does help! Specially considering that 512Kbps (1/4 of 2Mbps, and 16x less than 8Mbps) is priced at Rs.1360+VAT.

Still need proof? Check the pictures below. Click for a larger version. They show the average price/megabit in other countries.

Mauritius is being promoted as a Cyber Island, and temping major IT players to come and invest in Mauritius and do business and employ our people. I seriously doubt that any major company will come if they see the crappy Internet we have here. No seriously! Would you come to a small island, almost lost in the Indian Ocean? Maybe. To invest? Maybe. Knowing it only offers max. 1Mbps or 2Mbps? Overpriced? You are kidding! They won't! The only folks that will come are call centres. They have already flocked in, and are doing a good job soaking in the unemployed.

Thousands of call centres do not make a cyber island. Programming companies do. Data centres do. Specialized services do. Development and research companies do. And I doubt any of those would come knowing the state of our Internet infrastructure. We need to realise that our Internet connection service is what links us to the real world out there. It's like a highway that leads to development. Unfortunately, the highway looks like the small lane that my dog dug near the mango tree! It's nothing! We need something big! Like this:

Oh we had hopes! Oh yes we did! When? When UCL said they'd be bringing FTTH in Mauritius. When the rumor said that MTML would be offering high-speed, uncapped Internet services at Rs.500. Whenever there is a decrease in prices. All these boosted our hopes. For a time. Price decreases are nice. They make Internet available to the people, but in no way help existing power users, who hunger to surf on the newer and bigger waves of the Internet. It's time to change. It's time ISPs and the government decides to act. I knowwwww! "We don't have enough Internet users." "The investment will not be justified." bla bla bla!

What's that? If there are 5 people living in a village, does this mean that CWA will not put pipelining there, justified by "there are not enough water users there"? Same reasoning! Ok, water is a life necessity. Internet is rapidly becoming one. We are more and more connected, and it's already very apparent.

I am adding this section following a comment from Carrotmadman6, reminding me of EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) cable. Will this be the ultimate solution to our oldish Internet services? Maybe, maybe not. I've not heard about Eassy for almost 3 years now. Governments have apparently approved of the project, but so far, nothing new has emerged. More information about EASSy can be found here. Note: the map doesn't show the cable connected to Mauritius, since this addition is quite recent and the map is not up-to-date. It's here to give a general idea. EASSy is in red.

For now, we only have 2 lonely Cyber Towers in Ebene. The Two Towers only cannot grant us the name. We need to act, then we can call ourselves a Cyber Island. For now? Let's be humble and call us: Prehistoric Internet Services Island.

To conclude, an event that I'd like to see occur in 2008 would be that the quality and speed of our Internet services increase. Time to update. Quoting Benjamin Franklin, "You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again."

Furthur reading:

Nomadcom - Europe vs Asia - Broadband Price Comparison

And this concludes the 1st post of 2008, and MTW#5. Comments appreciated. :D

The new year is here folks! So I will use this post to wish you, guys and gals, humans and aliens and whomever/whatever you are:


May your wishes be fulfilled, and that you are met with prosperity!
That your path be lit by an unerring light.
And that you have success in whatever you do.

As with every year, we got some "new year resolutions" so I thought I might post my top #5, though I doubt that only 1-2 will be fulfilled! It's good to hope, I heard! :P

#1 = Become more creative in things I do.
#2 = Become less addicted to computers. (I'm a technoholic)
#3 = Find somebody for myself. (A geekette?)
#4 = Learn a music instrument // Sleep earlier. No more online at 3am. (Tie)
#5 = Develop a more outgoing personality.

As always comments appreciated, and I'd like to know what your resolutions are! :P


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