Tag Archives | US

Effects of SOPA on non-Americans

Few weeks ago, after small and major web sites blacked out in protest of SOPA, the US congress decided to pause it. Note, they did not throw it out completely but until they can come up with changes to make it pass. So the battle is not exactly over, even though the Internet won the first round. Those outside the US may think that American law does not affect them, but in reality it does, directly and indirectly. The latest victim was the file upload service Megaupload that was used both legitimately and illegitimately by users. The owner lived in New Zealand, had servers in many locations including places that were considered to be "safe" such as the Netherlands. They were also incorporated in Hong Kong. If you visit Megaupload (and its associated services) you will come across the following on its page (known as an ICE take down):

dojbanner 300x225 Effects of SOPA on non Americans

So how does SOPA affect those outside of US jurisdiction?

  • If it does pass in the US, what prevents it from spreading to other countries? DMCA take downs are even enforced by hosting providers outside the US with no business ties in the US.
  • People will stop being creative. No more video, music and images sharing to name a few. The mentality will be "if it looks illegal it probably is" even though it might be completely original content that publishers are willing to share.
  • A large portion of services used in the US are used by those outside. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and much, much more.
  • Do you have a website? There is a chance you are hosting it on an American web hosting company. Something you put on that is not illegal in your country, might be in the US. This blog is hosted in the UK, but the company providing the service is incorporated in the US, thus coming under US jurisdiction.
  • Do you own a domain operated by a US entity? .com and .net are run by Verisign (a US based company), .org is US based as well. Look at what the Department of Justice did to Megaupload's page. All it takes is a change in the nameservers.
  • If you use something like PayPal to receive payments, you may have your account suspended and frozen. Even if you were selling stuff legal in your country or region.
  • Search engines could start censoring results. Google provide search results based on location, but come under US laws, so they may not show you results to services legal in your country but illegal in the US.

This is by far not an exhaustive list. The list goes on and on and on. So in case SOPA comes up again, think how it might affect you living outside the US. Every little bit of support helps.


Menatelecom Website Revamp

It has been a few days since Menatelecom have revamped their website to look more like the changing times. It appears like they have opted to go for a more white theme, which is refreshing given that their red was a bit dark and in some way would look like Batelco's site if it weren't for the information being not about Batelco.

Just about everything you need is now available right on the home page: home and business packages, new products and services, support, downloads and a speed test facility. Its cool how the elements on the page react as you mouse over them.

menasite 1024x700 Menatelecom Website Revamp

At the bottom, to the right of the Menatelecom logo you will probably notice an item called "Lifestyle" with the description "customize your Mena page". I'm assuming this is still a work in progress since the page it links to contains a bunch of little mini elements (much like the home page), from sites like YouTube, their Twitter feed etc… What really caught my eye on this page is the "Check Coverage" item, which I hope is really coming soon since it would really give potential customers the ability to know what quality of service they should expect in their area.

menalifestyle 1024x700 Menatelecom Website Revamp

They have also taken customer support to a new level, probably trying to match what other ISPs in Europe and US do: add a public forum. I'm all into the idea IF and ONLY IF they manage to properly make use of forums, such as interacting with customers and addressing their concerns. Otherwise it might paint the wrong image: a forum full of complaints but no replies from support. The site is up only a few days and someone has already made use of the forums. I guess by Monday we will see if someone replies ;-).

menaforum 1024x700 Menatelecom Website Revamp

It should also be a bit more easier for someone to look for a branch nearby. Menatelecom have decided to use Google Maps to add the location of their branches. The locations are quite accurate when you zoom in, up to the street name and where it is relatively on that street.

menabranches 1024x700 Menatelecom Website Revamp

They have opted for the popular Ookla speed test, to be more specific the mini version. I hope the speed test files are hosted on a server on their network and not their site's host, Rackspace. They also have another site that runs a speed test hosted on their network at http://www.mena-speedtest.com.

menaspdtest Menatelecom Website Revamp

Given that their website is still in some way a work in progress, I believe they have done a pretty good job. At least its not as old school as their previous site!

menaold 1024x700 Menatelecom Website Revamp

1 Comment

Review: BurstNET VPS Hosting

I thought I would leave a review about my previous host (BurstNET) which hosted this website reliably for just under a year (from last December till the mid of this month, November). BurstNET provide a wide variety of services, however their most popular services are dedicated servers and virtual private servers (VPS). They are a well known, budget provider in the hosting market, running since the 90s. Many are put off by their website design, but don't judge a book by its cover! They provide services in multiple locations, in the US they have their own datacenter in Scranton (Pennsylvania) and (I believe) they lease space in datacenters in Los Angeles (California), Miami (Florida) and in Manchester in the UK.

The primary reason I got a VPS from them was to host this blog, but eventually it also turned into a test box for some application development, VoIP, VPN and other stuff I wanted to experiment. At one point I even added the popular cPanel control panel (did you know that cPanel's lead developer used to work at BurstNET?). Even though they are a budget provider, I've had only a single downtime caused by some problem in the host node's hard drive which did not last long (I'm guessing they did a drive swap). Their network is pretty good as well (BGP info here) and from Bahrain I was able to max out my connection (from Menatelecom it routes through Flagtel > Highwinds > BurstNET).

For $5.95 a month (entry budget Linux VPS) I was getting an OpenVZ VPS with 20GB storage, 512MB RAM, 1TB transfer, 2 IPs (at this price others usually provide 1 IP) and IPv6 on request. The control panel they give to manage the VPS is not the most popular one around: vePortal, but it does its job. Support is great as well, most replies within minutes, the longest was a few hours due to an external licensing issue.

Public relations wise in forums etc (such as in WHT)… the representatives are honest and put it all on the table if they must, to defend their actions ("the customer is always right" is overhyped when the customer is doing something bad…). Most of the complaints are from people who either do not know how to manage a VPS (they are an UNMANAGED provider, basic management means keeping things running, not holding your hand), abuse their allocated resources or are doing something illegal. If you are not doing any of the latter, then you shouldn't have a problem with the service they provide.

If it weren't for me wanting to try out Xen (and cutting down on my VPS addiction…) I would have kept my service with them. I hope they keep it up, I'm sure I'll find a reason to go back to them sooner rather than later :-P!


Aramex Launches Online Payment

Great news for those out there that use Aramex’s Shop and Ship service. Actually two bits of news. Firstly, they have moved away from their old URL (http://www.aramex.com/shopandship) to a more meaningful one (http://www.shopandship.com), not to mention a brand new look and design.

The other good news is that they have launched an online payment service where you can pay for the shipments you get from your US and/or UK boxes. They accept all major credit cards (yes, that includes American Express, which some sites reluctantly accept!). The process is fairly simple, login to your Shop and Ship account, track the shipment and lo and behold you get a “Pay Now” button right next to the amount they are going to charge.

There are only a couple of gripes with the service however. The biggest is security, the page where you enter your card details is not secured (aka not https), solved by simple adding https in front of the URL of the page (change THAT only!). The other is that they charge your card in USD, depending on your card and bank policies they may charge an exchange rate fee.

Other than that the service is pretty convenient, its usually a dangerous sprint to my wallet, on one side of the house, to the door on the other :P!


SEA-ME-WE 4 Damaged…

The Middle East is known for many things, just a few off the top of my head: wars, oil, riches and heat. I guess I should now add one more to the list, the most disconnected region!

Apparently one of the most important cable in the region, SEA-ME-WE 4 that accounts for around 89% of traffic, suffered a shunt fault somewhere around Italy. This happened around the 15th of April. The Internet around here has been slow as hell (depending on the ISP… and the time of the day), packets are getting lost like a primitive post office.

The repair was supposed to be around the 25th, and to be complete by today (27th), unfortunately it seems like conditions aren’t right (arr matey the seas are treacherous!!), and it seems the repair window has been extended until Friday the 30th

ISPs around here are rerouting traffic or sending them over different cables. I see that Batelco are starting to use FLAG a bit more, and sending TATA traffic the other way across the globe: India>Singapore>Japan>US>Europe. Menatelecom (my new ISP) unfortunately seems to be routing around 89% of traffic through this damaged route (TATA is part of the SEA-ME-WE 4 group) according to Robtex.

I’ve lost count of major disruptions to the Internet in the Middle East,  the worst being in 2008. Guess its time to relax and read some books.