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Moving... To Openness

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I've been a little quiet of late, though please don't think it's anything personal. The truth is that on November 4 I relocated my family to Northern Indiana because my wife got a new job up here this summer. We had been apart since just before Labor Day, but finally the stars aligned and we were able to move into temporary housing while our home in Indianapolis awaits its sale.

As far as the computers go, the move went without incident, since they rode in the back of my car as opposed to the cargo area of the U-Haul. I'd had the cable guy out the day before we moved here, so the broadband was ready to go. Or, so I thought.

I had decided to use the same broadband carrier--Comcast--in my new location because they keep touting their easy-to-move services. You make one call, or visit one Web page, and everything's taken care of. And, it seemed, that would indeed be the case. My Internet service went down in Indianapolis around the same time it was supposed to be turned on here in South Bend. So, I figured, everything was cool.

Imagine my surprise when that didn't happen. Instead, I was linked to one single page: Comcast's Welcome to High-Speed page, where it invited me to download software. And we all know what that means. Time to call support.

What this was, according to Carl, my friendly support person, was a garden wall--a nice, safe place where new users can get their "connection software" and proceed on to the joys of the Internet. Except I wasn't a new user, I was a returning user. Why wasn't my user ID simply moved to my neighborhood netblock? That, apparently, isn't how it was done. Also, they seemed to be having trouble with the fact that my both my client and my router were non-standard (i.e., not Windows or proprietary-based router software).

Well, they'd worked before. I asked Carl if he could just simply re-establish my bona fides and have them turn off the "garden wall" and let my router grab the DHCP from the netblock. He thought that was an excellent idea--until he discovered that my original user account hadn't been logged in for ages. This blew his mind way more then the router hacks, since I was not taking advantage of all of the "cool Comcast content and e-mail," and he had trouble wrapping his head around that.

Apparently, he would have to create for me a new account, because the old one (even though I knew the ID and password) had been inactive too long. Er, right. So much for ease of transfer. Essentially they were asking me to trade privacy (logging in once in a while to keep my account "active") for convenience. The old story, once again.

A half-hour later, the connection was up and running. Despite the hassle, I still counted this one as a win, because I didn't have to fire up my wife's Windows box and install some crappy custom version of Internet Explorer just to get online. While trivial, I thought it was interesting that Carl--who really was a decent fellow--cared less about the platform I was using than the lack of interest I had in viewing their content. I mean, I know it's all about the content, but a couple of years ago, they would have thrown a fit when I mentioned Linux. Heck, I remember them blinking hard when I got my Mom's old Mac connected to DSL a few years back.

Such a trend, if it is indeed a trend, makes me a little bit hopeful. While I will be the first to protest big media trying to shove content down Joe User's throat, the recognition that there are other operating systems and browsers out there might finally get them to standardize said content to true standards that anyone can access. Not that everyone will want to view it. But it would be a big step towards leading other content providers towards open standards, too.

If, indeed, the "browser is the next platform" then I think open standards will ultimately have to be adopted. And that's good for everyone on the Internet.

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