Fidel likes the Internet, but does that matter?

A recent story on Fidel Castro's 87th birthday calls him a "soldier of ideas on the Internet," who, according to his biographer and book editor, Katuiska White, surfs the Internet for "personality profiles, maps, monographs, data, anecdotes and recollection of events."

This took me back to the early Internet days, when the role of the Internet was being debated in Cuba. What was Fidel's view of the Internet?

One clue is his support of the formation of the Youth Computer Clubs (YCC), several of which had email and Usenet access in the pre-Internet days. This article recounts his financial and policy support of the clubs. As shown below, he expressed his envy of the young people at the dedication of the YCC headquarters, which occupied what had been the Sears store in Havana.

Fidel Castro dedicates the YCC headquarters
This post by Omar Pérez Salomón includes several other quotes and actions indicating that Fidel continued to favor education in computer science and the use of information technology (though perhaps not the Internet).

On the other hand, government leaders like Raúl Castro and Ramiro Valdés have warned of dangers the Internet poses.

Raúl Castro and Ramiro Valdés
The state of the Internet in Cuba today leads one to conclude that, whatever Fidel may say or believe, widespread access of the citizens to the Internet has not been a priority of the government.

Tata switches from satellite to cable and Fidel likes to surf the Web

Doug Madory of Renesys, an Internet monitoring company, has reported that Cable and Wireless is no longer carrying traffic between Jamaica and Cuba, Telefonica is carrying less traffic than previously, and Tata is carrying more. Furthermore, the Tata traffic has shifted from satellite to the high-speed undersea cable, as shown in these improved traceroute times from Miami:

As we see, around June 25, Tata traceroute times from Miami dropped from about 580 milliseconds to about 130 milliseconds, indicating a shift from satellite to the undersea cable. At the same time, Telefonica traffic from Miami stopped. (The central band at around 330 milliseconds indicates asymmetric traffic which is over cable one way and satellite the other).

You should check Doug's post -- it contains several other plots and links, including one to an article on Fidel's birthday that says he likes to surf the Net. This reminded me of his early recognition of the importance of information technology, expressed at the time of the opening of the Youth Computer Club headquarters in Havana in 1991.

The undersea cable has brought faster connectivity to Fidel and a few others, but without improved domestic infrastructure, service will remain poor or nonexistent for the majority of the population.

More patents in the service of open source

Posted by Duane Valz, Senior Patent Counsel

Open-source software has accelerated the pace of innovation in computing, leading to better products and services at lower cost. But as the impact of open-source software has grown, so too has the number of patent attacks against it.

In March, we announced an Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge—committing not to sue any user, distributor or developer of open-source software on specified patents, unless first attacked. Our goal was to encourage pro-competitive, defensive uses of patents to support open-source innovation.

Today we are pleased to expand the OPN Pledge to include an additional 79 patents. These patents cover software used to efficiently operate data centers, including middleware, distributed storage management, distributed database management, and alarm monitoring.

We acquired these patents from IBM and CA Technologies, companies that in 2005 were among the first to make open-source patent pledges. The goal of the patent system is to foster innovation, and we aim to use patents, whether acquired or developed internally, in support of that goal.

You can learn more about this second group of patents and the Pledge itself on our site, which we’ve also updated to make it easier to browse and download data on pledged patents.

To date, the patents we’ve included in the Pledge have generally related to “back-end” technologies: servers, data centers, and the like. But open-source software is also transforming the development of consumer products that people use every day—so stay tuned for additional extensions to patents covering those sorts of technologies.

ALBA-1 undersea cable background documents

The ALBA-1 undersea cable was installed by a joint venture made up of Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell (ASB) and Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe (TGC). TGC is itself a joint venture between the Venezuelan and Cuban governments. It is 60% owned by state-run CVG Telecom (now Telecom Venezuela) and 40% by Cuban Transbit.

The landing points

Sketch of the terminal station
Wikileaks has a slide deck and four background documents on the proposal and contracts.

Slide deck

The slide deck, entitled "Cuba-Venezuela Submarine Project Benefits 2/2," is part of a sales pitch comparing the ASB proposal to a competing proposal from Huawei. They stress their position as a one-stop vendor with their own fleet, experienced people, and superior cable and repeaters.

The embargo is also an issue. ASB emphasizes freedom from embargo conflicts arising from US patents in the equipment Huawei proposes using. They also point out that a US company makes the power feed equipment used during cable laying and repair operations in the Huawei proposal.

(I could not find Part 1 of the presentation).

Background documents
Here is an excerpt from a summary of the documents written by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange:
Documents released by Wikileaks reveal that Cuba and Venezuela signed a confidential contract in 2006 to lay an undersea fibre-optic cable that bypasses the United States. The cable is to be completed by 2010.

The contract between the two countries, which has been independently verified, adds weight to Cuban statements that the United States economic embargo of the island has forced it to rely on slow and expensive satellite links for Internet connectivity. Cuba is situated a mere 120 kilometres off the coast of Florida. The proposed 1,500 kilometre cable will connect Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad to the rest of the world via La Guaira, Venezuela.

Carrying out the work are CVG Telecom (Corporación Venezolana de Guyana) and ETC (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba).

The leaked documents have technical details and pictures of the cable, maps, and systems to be used, parties signing the agreement, terms and conditions, costs, and a schedule of charges and compromises. The connection allows for the transmission of data, video and voice (VoIP). According to the contract, the agreement is designed to build a relationship of "strategic value" which will permit Cuba and Venezuela to, among other matters:
  • Increase interchange between the two governments.
  • Foster science, cultural and social development.
  • Increase the volume and variety of relationships between country members of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for America) and the South American MERCOSUR trading block.
  • Help serve the increasing demand of commercial traffic between Cuba, Venezuela and the rest of the world.
The contract parties state that given the diversity of foreign affairs, they wish to build a new international order, multi-polar, based in sustainability, equity and common good and that an international cable with maximum security protected by international organizations (ITU/ICPC) is crucial.

The documents disclose plans to separate commercial traffic and governmental traffic upon data arrival.

We now know that the planned schedule shown below was overly optimistic.

The cable was not operational until 2013.  There has been speculation on the causes of the delay, but one cannot overlook finances as a contributing factor.  A subsequent Wikileak document on a meeting of financial officers from several Cuban embassies, including China, reveals frustration over Cuban debt.

The goals listed by Assange have not yet been achieved either.  Again, part of the explanation for that is financial -- the government cannot afford domestic infrastructure to complement the cable and foreign investors are not willing to come to Cuba.  One way to pursue the goals Assange lists would be to focus on key sectors like education and health care.

Dude, where’s my phone? Simple steps to protect your Android device this summer.

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

With summer vacation in full swing, you’re likely out and about, using your smartphone or tablet to get answers on the go or check out the latest cool apps and games. But you don’t have to leave safety at home! In this post, we’re sharing a few tips and tools that you can easily set up if you’re on an Android phone or tablet to keep your device—and the contents inside—safe and secure, including a new service that makes it easy to locate a misplaced device.

1. Lock your device screen. Whether you’re on a phone or a tablet, it’s easy to set up a screen lock. This is important to do in case your device gets left in the back of a car, or you’re worried about someone picking up your phone and scrolling through your stuff. You can lock your device with a pin, password, pattern (or even your face!) by going to Settings > Personal > Security > Screen Lock.

2. Protect your phone from suspicious apps. We automatically scan Google Play to block and remove harmful apps. That makes Google Play the safest place to get Android apps. But Google Play can also help protect you even for apps you get elsewhere, like the web or a third-party app store. The first time you start to install an app from an unknown source, a message will pop up asking if you’d like Google to scan the file to make sure it’s not harmful. Tap “OK” to let Google help protect you from harmful apps.

3. Locate, ring and wipe a misplaced device. Have you ever lost your phone in between the couch cushions or left it in a restaurant? Later this month, you will be able to use a new service called Android Device Manager, which can quickly ring your phone at maximum volume so you can find it (even if it’s been silenced), or locate it on a map, in real time, using Android Device Manager. If your phone can’t be recovered, or has been stolen, you can quickly and securely erase all of the data on your device to keep your data from ending up in the wrong hands. The Android Device Manager will be available for devices running Android 2.2 and above, as part of Google Play. You can read the full announcement on the Android blog.

For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, and stay tuned for more posts in our security series.