Daily Archives: November 29, 2010

Photo Of The Day: Starcatcher

Published November 29, 2010

Photographer Dennis H Miller submits a lot of pretty pictures to the WBUR Flickr group, but this one is just wow!

Connected (Dennis H Miller/Flickr)

Connected (Dennis H Miller/Flickr)

It’s a long exposure (almost three hours) in Sturbridge, southwest of Worcester, where the Pike meets Route 84.

I concur with one of the commenters, Dan Squires, on the Flickr page (who also suggested the title for this post): “I really like how you can see the different colors of the stars.”

Share your photographs if you want to see one featured here.

Bloggers Could Get New Access To Mass. Courtrooms

Published November 29, 2010

The John Adams Courthouse on Beacon Hill (Emmanuel Huybrechts/Flickr)

The John Adams Courthouse on Beacon Hill (Emmanuel Huybrechts/Flickr)

Massachusetts courtrooms would open up to “citizen journalists and bloggers” under new rules proposed by a subcommittee of the Supreme Judicial Court.

“The proposed rule changes are designed to accommodate the changing nature of both journalists and the way news is reported while still maintaining order and decorum in the Massachusetts Courts,” reads an overview of the changes.

The proposed changes to Rule 1:19 include:

  • Allow laptops and other Internet-connected devices inside courtrooms
  • Redefine “news media” to include citizen journalists and bloggers
  • Add another video camera position for non-mainstream media

…all subject to a judge’s discretion, of course. The rules protect jurors and prospective jurors from photography or recording.

The committee is made up of members of the state and federal judiciary and journalists in print, radio, television and the Web. One member is WBUR’s John Davidow, the executive editor of wbur.org, who recently launched a Knight Foundation-funded project called Order in the Court 2.0. The aim of the project is to experiment with new media in Quincy district court.

Project director Joe Spurr and producer Val Wang have been hired to help build a model for other courtrooms that want to open up to new media.

“We’re attempting to create an ideal environment for the way a modern courthouse should behave,” Joe tells me.

“For instance we’re aiming to set up a video stream — high upstream, high-quality camera, and will have a site that’s usable where citizens can interact. It could be a hub for any citizen journalist.”

The proposed rules are open for public comment until Jan. 28, 2011. You can send comments to Christine Burak at christine.burak@sjc.state.ma.us.

The Day The Internet Died — But Not Really

Published November 29, 2010

A young woman talks to herself on a tin can phone. (Florian Seroussi/Flickr)

This is how you communicate when the Internet goes down. (Florian Seroussi/Flickr)

If you’re one of thousands (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of Comcast Internet customers in the Northeast, you probably lost your connection for several hours last night. If you turned to Twitter to kvetch, as I did, you might have learned a bit about how your Internet connection works.

I was right in the middle of digging into the latest Wikileaks release at about 8 p.m. when the company’s DNS servers failed. Argh! I grabbed my iPhone and tweeted my frustration — and it quickly became clear that the problem affected customers throughout Massachusetts as well as the D.C. area. (iPhones, of course, use AT&T’s wireless 3G networks.)

Twitterer Matt Soleyn (@soleynm) was first with the helpful fix:

Comcast DNS servers are down. Point your computer (Google’s Public DNS) for DNS instead as a fix.

I made the change and got back online in seconds.

So what is DNS? When you open a Web browser and type in google.com, a domain name server figures out that google.com points to, an IP address. Humans use domain names because they are much easier to remember than IP addresses. During the outage, you could still type into a browser and get to Google — if you knew that.

A tricky but far easier solution was to switch to a publicly available DNS server such as one provided by Google or OpenDNS.

New York Times tech columnist David Pogue extolled the virtues of Open DNS in August:

Unfortunately, from time to time, your Internet provider’s D.N.S. computer goes down. To you, it seems that the Web itself has gone out, because you can’t pull up any sites at all. In December 2008, for example, 1.2 million Los Angeles citizens thought that the entire Web had gone offline, because of a crashed Time Warner D.N.S. computer.

That story was gleefully provided by OpenDNS, the one-of-a-kind company with a killer idea: to provide a free, alternative D.N.S. service that works better than your Internet provider’s. Faster, more reliably and with more features. You don’t pay anything, sign up for anything or install anything.

It’s a good explainer and worth the read. Soleyn also suggested specifying different providers as your primary and secondary DNS servers, in case one goes out. I set Google as my primary and OpenDNS as my secondary.

Now, I won’t get into the apparently widespread contempt of Comcast, or last night’s competing hashtags, #comcastic and #comcastrophe, or the fact that NPR host Bob Garfield channeled his Comcast rage into a website called comcastmustdie.com.

Funny, no one seemed to care when Verizon telephone service went out last month.

Police Officers And Depression

Published November 29, 2010

There is an interesting paragraph inside the Globe’s follow-up story about the suicide of Middlesex Sheriff James DiPaola:

DiPaola’s death also underscored a chillingly high rate of suicides among members of law enforcement.

In 1999, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that male police officers are more than twice as likely as the general population to suffer from depression, and that nearly a quarter of male and female officers have thoughts of suicide, compared with 13 percent of the general population.

I have searched the archives exhaustively and can’t find the paper. Does anyone know more about this?

Update: Boston.com blogger Rob Anderson at The Angle couldn’t find the study either, but he did find other interesting research on cops and depression. Data suggests suicide rates are higher among police officers than the rest of the population, but that hypothesis is not conclusive.

Monday Morning: DiPaola Mystery, At-Risk 8th Graders

Published November 29, 2010

Good morning! I’m back from a long Thanksgiving vacation and exactly 2.5 pounds heavier. (My flight to Chicago ended up being newsworthy.) A lot happened while I was out — an ex-con was charged with murdering all four victims in the Sept. 28 Mattapan killings. And the Globe opened a probe into Middlesex Sheriff James DiPaola that culminated in his suicide five days later.

What’s news on a chilly, clear Monday in Boston:

DiPaola’s suicide note is sealed for now. Friends and family are trying to understand what caused the sheriff to take his own life after 30 years of service, and they won’t be able to read his explanation until the medical examiner’s investigation is complete. It’s also unclear why DiPaola drove himself to a hotel room in Maine, since he did not appear to have any ties to the state or the resort. (Herald)

The Globe is defending its coverage of DiPaola. “Our stories were well within the boundaries of what news organizations are supposed to do in holding public officials accountable for their use of taxpayer dollars.” (Herald)

The state says thousands of eighth graders are at risk of dropping out of high school. Massachusetts has developed a “early-warning indicator index” that tracks the progress of students. “The new tracking system found that about 7,700, or 36 percent, were at risk of not graduating on time, if at all.” (Globe)

The T is trying to be more bike-friendly. The MBTA is building bicycle shelters at major transit stations. (Herald)

Boston’s NAACP chapter elects a new president today. One of the nation’s oldest branches faces criticism for not remaining active. Earlier this month, the Dorchester Reporter profiled the candidates, Michael Curry and Bill Owens.

A judge today will set a sentencing date for ex-Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges. Prosecutors plan to ask for a four-year sentence; the defense wants less than three. (AP)

A Comcast outage left Mass. customers wired-less for a few hours. I tweeted up a storm about it last night. (Universal Hub)