Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Islanders fail the Web 2.0 test, Point Blank blackout

Important Update: Sign the Online Petition to Save Islanders Point Blank and join the Facebook Group

As you all know, I'm a huge hockey fan. In these dog days of summer it's always a little bit harder to get through the day with no real hockey stories to read about. Forget about getting a tidbit from a major news outlet about my beloved New York Islanders, sure Twitter and the Hockey Twits are nice; but sometimes you just want to be entertained. After all, the NHL is sports entertainment.

About 10 months ago, Chris Botta (picture), formerly an Islanders exec started Over the course of the blog's evolution, my addiction to it grew leaps and bounds. It wasn't long before my Google toolbar had IslandersPointBlank as my #2 recently visited site. A typical Chris Botta / IslandersPointBlank day would be about 2 - 3 posts. Mind you, nothing generic, and almost always interesting. Chris was able to provide such great coverage because he's been in and around the NHL for over 20 years. He was able to devote so much time to his articles because the Islanders were sponsoring the blog. Can independent Islanders coverage truly be independent while being sponsored by the team? It turns out the answer is yes.

Wouldn't you know it? IslandersPointBlank has developed a user base of 400,000 unique monthly visitors, so logically the next step would be to expand the blog and create a multiple user Wordpress install and hire some more bloggers right?


The next step by the New York Islanders was to discontinue sponsoring

Now I could go off on a personal tangent about how professional and awesome this blog is, listing thousands of hockey related reasons, but I want to focus on the Web 2.0 connection in pro sports, specifically the NHL.

During the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs the Washington Capitals did a great job of connecting to their fan base on Twitter, it was extreme, even the Washington Post was publishing user's Tweets of Washington Capitals games. It really got the community mobilized on Twitter and connected back to the team.

While the Islanders were able to only talk about draft picks during the playoffs, they really didn't make any type of social networking efforts to connect with their fan base. Albeit, IslandersPointBlank was really the only Internet fan connection they had, and at 400,000 unique visitors a month, a damn successful one!

So why would a pro sports team such as the Islanders who launched such league wide innovations as IsladnersTV and the Islanders blog box start holding back now? I know we're in a recession and business is business so whatever the cost of sponsoring the blog was seen as expendable. But, REALLY? Do the Islanders not see the user/investment value of a web 2.0 property such as Point Blank? It makes me a bit nervous, my beloved franchise has been acting bewitched and bewildered for the better part of my existence. Why not offer Point Blank readers discounts to Islander events to get warm bodies in the building? Their performance as of late hasn't been good enough to get people in the seats, but incentives to obvious fans (readers of an Islanders blog) could be a measurable investment used to justify the expense of sponsoring such a great web 2.0 property.

Unless the Islanders hire Chris Botta's clone to keep PointBlank going I don't know how they just write this off. Since the end of the 2007 hockey season the team just hasn't put the money where it needed to. If they can't see the value in sponsoring PointBlank for another season, what's to say they'll see the value of signing John Tavares to a long term deal in three years?

Facebook, Twitter, and blogs are the way forward for pro sports teams to connect with and expand their paying fan base, the New York Islanders didn't shoot themselves in the foot, they removed the foot in something reminiscent of a Saw movie.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We hold these truths to be self-evident ...

In reference to:

"Walker is the same judge overseeing a class-action lawsuit targeting the nation’s telecommunication companies of being complicit in Bush’s once-secret spy program. Congress, with the vote of then-Sen. Barack Obama, legalized the spy program last summer. ... The legislation authorizing the spy powers also immunized the telcos from being sued for their part in Bush’s eavesdropping program. Walker is entertaining a constitutional challenge to the immunity legislation."

Phone companies shouldn't get a free pass, I know congress legalized it, it just feels dirty.

Don't get me wrong - if there's the slightest suspicion someone is talking to bad people then by all means get the information! But really how long does it take to get the right warrants in a case like that? Wouldn't any patriotic judge gladly wake up at 3am to sign off on something like that to make it all legal?

I like how the judge got creative with the administration's "dare" a few weeks ago to reveal the document so if they lost they could appeal, and if they lost the appeal the state department could just destroy the document. I'm down for national security, but none of this would be an issue if they just did it legally.

I'd bet the farm that security people are getting real time information on overseas phone call records, couldn't they just use the record of that phone call as enough cause to legally tap the conversation?

I'm not some hippie ya know! I'm just saying we have all this great stuff in place to get the bad guys and protect everyone's liberty. I always felt liberty is what set us apart from the rest of the world. I know financial undercurrents are the real reasons behind well, mostly everything but the ideology of putting liberty front and center is priceless.

I always felt like that feeling of being free in many ways leads to innovation, a feeling of limitless potential. I think our country will always be tested as a society, but we're so free and diverse I think we'll always continue to adapt and come up with new solutions to harder problems at every level. I know this comes at great cost, but the cost should never be what makes us great.

Feeling like this entry is automatically being routed through some government server and is being archived for analysis makes me feel violated, it just doesn't feel constitutional! There are countries in the world that spy on it's own people, that limit the flow of information and suppress anything negative. (China's version of Google)

So you tell me, how's the innovation, evolution and quality of life in the part of the world where liberty isn't a founding corner stone?

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both" - Benjamin Franklin

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

Sunday, May 10, 2009

If you can't beat 'em, join em! Twitter in Newspaper?

As may have been previously known to my faithful readers, I love hockey. It's the coolest game on Earth. It's 20mph muscle meets unmovable object. So here we are in the 2009 NHL Playoffs, my beloved Islanders didn't qualify, so I've been rooting for the team my favorite hockey player is on - The Washington Capitals. (Ovi = MVP!)

What a fun team to root for! Seriously, well anyway, as you may know this a somewhat creative tech blog and I'm a big fan of Twitter. I'm a HUGE fan of Hockey on Twitter, as you can tell by the Hockey Twits and the The Twitter HOW-TO for Islander hockey fans.

I've been tweeting my hockey heart off for almost every playoff game this season, it adds to the overall experience of the game. It's instant feedback, hockey on twitter is a virtual stadium. More and more teams are officially joining Twitter to add value to their fan's experience online. You can't beat that, the Capitals even have their own web based twitter feed, and to my surprise so does the Washington Post.

This afternoon as I was tweeting away my new web site, I got a congrats from @kimsnotebook. Apparently at some point I tweeted to the Washington Post last night and I was included in today's paper along with several other tweets from the game last night. You can see it here. (I'm @thefredelement)

As soon as I saw that, my jaw dropped. For years print has been struggling with trying to stay relevant. Some newspapers want to start charging for online access, others are closing the doors and shutting down after years and years of providing excellent newspapers. The landscape is changing, with every new technological innovation traditional print media may find itself less and less relevant.

Kudos to the people at the Washington Post for embracing new technology and incorporating it in to their traditional news service. While this isn't groundbreaking, earth shattering or industry saving I think it's a step in the right direction.

Odds are I'll never read a copy of the Washington Post, I don't remember the last time I held a printed newspaper in my hands. That being said I'm not ready for print to die just yet. Something about being 14 years old and reading the sports section while eating a bowl of lucky charms is something everyone should be able to have a piece of if they want to.

Print are you paying attention? Integration = Salvation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Windows 7 Event Horizon

An event horizon is the part of a black hole where the black hole actually has enough gravitational force to pull in light. Thus the name, it's a black hole, well cause light gets sucked in and you can't see it anymore.

Windows 7 is coming, you don't even have to put your ear to the ground to hear this one, it's everywhere, it's saturated, and well to me - it doesn't mean anything.

I'm a fan of new technology, in fact I'm writing this on a PC that's running a beta copy of Windows 7. I'm a fan of pretty much every modern OS, to me, they all do the same thing these days. I'm hard pressed to think of one thing I can't do across multiple platforms. I know each major player has their share of fans. For me, it's Windows, if I was forced in to running OS X or X Windows tomorrow though, I wouldn't really freak out. I could pickup pretty much everything I do now and keep on trucking with it. I know people use different applications for work, depending upon the industry you work in, the software that's native for you at work, has a better chance of showing up on your home desktop. This is a benefit to Microsoft and PC OEMs, however the enterprise implementation of new technology is always slow. It's the nature of the beast, the almighty bottom line will hinder new technology adaption, unless that new technology can offer some great feature that will in the long run cover it's cost of implementation and in turn increase profits.

We all know what I'm talking about here, Windows XP works, it works fine. Just as I can go cross platform, I can probably go from Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 2000 without much of a problem. (I recently tested using Windows 3.11 on a modern internet here)

Operating system innovation has in some ways hit a wall. Sure, touch devices are a big thing, and they're fun, there's more than a laundry list of features and time saving additions to new versions of operating system software. Though at the end of the day I don't really say, "thank goodness I'm on this version of Windows", I don't see much difference.

Has the feature list hit the Windows 7 Event Horizon?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Internet Psychology with Dr. Katie Miley

I spend a lot of time online. In fact for a while I made a living solely on the Internet. I love the idea of the Internet, it works. For sharing information, entertainment, 'meeting' people, selling more products, showing Grandma the Christmas pictures, etc. You get my point. I was a geek as a kid, I'm a geek as an adult. I got my first AOL account when I was 14, and yeah I admit it changed me. At first it was chat rooms (does teen chat still exist?), then it was Internet Relay Chat and Internet Explorer.

The Internet changed things, this is nothing new. I grew up playing hockey after school then spending all night in front of my computer. There are times these days when I step away from the computer. I look back on my life and wonder how being so involved with technology both professionally and personally affected me. Instead of going on with an introspective blog post I decided to send out a tweet asking for a professional opinion. Now, I'm not a journalist. Outside of a 10th grade English project I've never conducted any type of interview. I tried to come up with a few questions that would cover several bases of my curiosity, as well as hopefully provide some insight in to a society that's becoming more involved on the Internet, specifically social networks.

Dr. Katie Miley responded to my request, here's what she had to say in response to the questions I emailed her:
Fred: In regard to processing information online and offline, and how one relates to the individual. If people are 'cool' online, do they view themselves differently?

Dr. Katie Miley: This is a complex question and one has to decide if people really show their "true" selves online. Obviously, Second Life is a way that people expand the world of role-play. A psychologist might argue that we reveal our personality even when we think we are hiding it. There is little research in this area. While someone might take some satisfaction that they are projecting a better self online, it becomes much like dating. Anyone can be on their best behavior on the first date, when the relationship becomes more intense it's harder to keep up an act. I suspect that online behavior may offer some parallels.

Fred: In regard to the human effect of being part of a social network and what is healthy. Does having followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook make people less lonely, and is it healthy?

Dr. Katie Miley: When a mental health professional speaks of the benefits of being part of a social network, they mean a network that can offer mutual aid and comfort. It's the practical help of a casserole when your parent dies or a extra pair of hands when the basement floods. Can Twitter/ Facebook really purport to offer that? Yes, folks can send supportive messages, but it is not the same as having face to face human contact and support. If you distort your view of followers to think they are equivalent to more intimate human connections, you could be setting yourself up for a terrible disappointment.

Fred: Does 'living online' affect real life interactions with co-workers, significant others, or friends?

Dr. Katie Miley: Depends. If by "living online" you mean spending so much time online that it begins to crowd out those real connections one needs in life, you can reference the growing field of literature in internet addiction.

Fred: Could a person use social networking as a coping skill? Does it help or hinder?

Dr. Katie Miley: Yes. It depends. If you use social networking as an addition to your other face to face networks, it could be very helpful. It may help you connect to a wider network of people with shared interests or concerns. Imagine the potential for someone with a rare medical condition. Even in a large metropolitan area, there may only be a handful of people to form a support group and share valuable information. The potential online is much more powerful.

Fred: As more and more people become part of social networking, do you think it's important for people to unplug? Is there any type of moderation you would recommend?

Dr. Katie Miley: Absolutely! As my own mother would say, "All good things in moderation." Just as I would guide someone to explore whether alcohol or other substance use is problematic; you look at the consequences. When a partner or family member starts to complain or other life responsibilities start to slip in favor of time spent online, it's definitely time to "unplug".

Fred: Younger people seem to have a big presence on social networking web sites such as Facebook and Myspace, do you think this will create a skewed perspective of the world as it compares to their local communities for these young people as they enter the work force?

Dr. Katie Miley: Yes. See the growing literature regarding work issues for Gen Y. It usually addresses this issue specifically. For example:

Fred: Over the last 10 years have you seen any positive or negative effects on people that significantly correlates to their use of the internet?

Dr. Katie Miley: Some of the negative impact are closely related to the emergence of "internet addiction". A substantial subset of the literature in this area explores the online explosion of compulsive viewing of porn. I would argue that this is the biggest negative. The numbers of people potentially jeopardizing their jobs and intimate relationships is staggering.

On the positive side, the explosion of information that is available has tremendous potential for good. I currently teach online. I was barely familiar with this idea 10 years ago. The opportunities to open the playing field to those who haven't had as much access to higher ed is a significant positive.

Fred: Does 'Googling it' create laziness? (As it pertains to expanding one's knowledge and the lengths they go to obtain that knowledge)

Dr. Katie Miley: Yes, but you're asking someone who teaches online. I expect students to search the university library and not Google.
A lot of what Dr. Miley said resonated with me as I read it. From the very first time I went online until recently, I've had what can only be described as binge sessions. I have to admit her parallel to substance abuse scared me a little! I really enjoyed her comparison of an online image being equated to a first date. I do wonder though if people who have a lot of Internet friends, if at what level they equate them to real friends. For me, I have a few 'Internet' friends I'd just call friends. But that begs the question, Am I friends with them? Or their digital representation?

Does 500 myspace friends (which I don't have) ever equate to a pat on the back? I guess it depends on personal perspective, the professional opinion above can be your own food for thought.

The information Dr. Miley referred to regarding Generation Y frankly put a bit of a scare in me. Will a bunch of Internet addicted Google dependant students be ready to face this recession and help perpetuate our economy?

Dr. Kaite Miley holds a Pys. D. in Clinical Psychology and has over 20 years of experience helping people transform their lives. You can find her on Twitter, Dr. Katie Miley's web site and Dr. Katie Miley's blog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Living on a Cloud in Windows 3.11

Here's the challenge.

Survive on the internet using Windows 3.11.

I started doing some digging to see if I could get old Win16 drivers, I didn't have any luck, I didn't really expect to find anything I could use. Luckily - I had a backup plan - Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007. Sure, Dos & Windows are no longer supported in VPC2007, but it was supported in the 2004 version. So we're off to the races!

First challenge, install Dos with CD-ROM driver.

Ah, the memories started flashing, the good old days of skipping the boot process to get right to DOS to run Doom. I digress, the point is I had a backup copy of Windows 3.11 put on to an ISO CD image. Which is no problem to mount on to the virtual machine, so long as the installation knows there's a CD-ROM drive. Ah, the CD-ROM driver. I did some research and was able to find an oakcdrom.sys file to use, luckily enough I was able to find the floppy image for DOS add-ons from Virtual PC 2004 on the web. I know it's kind of like cheating, but the point here is to get online with Windows 3.11 and survive. So I went with it.

After installing the additions to the virtual machine, it was time to install Windows 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups to be specific) Ah the memories. I remember this process taking a lot longer, but hey can't blame technology for for running up against nostalgia.

I had some experience with this install from the late 90s, when I was a teenager I thought it'd be fun, well geek fun, to install WfW311 on a Pentium Pro 200 machine, what I remembered was that I needed to get Win32s. Win32s are a subset of 32bit software designed for Windows 3x.

As you may, or may not imagine, this is a version of Windows that does not come with any type of Internet software - No TCP/IP, No Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, etc. So I had to go ahead and install a virtual network driver, ah yes please let me edit that config.sys, once more with feeling. The driver install was a lot easier than I remember, though I was surprised I was able to edit config.sys and autoexec.bat with ease, as it turns out those DOS commands are burned in to my memory.

I had to locate the TCP/IP stack for WfW3.11 (thanks Google!), this install went pretty easy and was pretty standard.

After a bit more research I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Internet Explorer 5 had a version for Windows 3.11, with eager I went ahead and downloaded and installed.

Alright, EPIC FAIL for IE5 on WfW3.11, no joy - I could barely get off the ground. I had a crash as soon as the browser tried to load I ventured over in to control panel, IE5 installed an Internet applet to adjust IE5's settings. I went ahead and changed the home page to Ah, no crash... but hey wait a minute - I can't click on anything! It turns out any result Google returned, I couldn't click on!

After all this tinkering about I needed to take a breather, I found an install of AIM 1.0 which was said to work on Windows 3.11, and oh boy it does! Now remember, this version of AIM stored the buddy list in a file on your computer - not on the server as the current versions do. After the install and the sign on, I had no buddies! Lucky for me, I remembered a few screen names. One person I messaged was using an IM aggregate and saw actual HTML markup on my IMs, another was using the official AIM client and was able to see my IMs without HTML markup but my text was small. No biggie, I was online, I was on AOL IM and I was surviving, in one aspect, on the web in Windows 3.11.

So back to Internet Explorer, while I couldn't click on any organic listings, to my surprise I could click on paid advertisements! Lucky for me. I did a search for Google Docs to see, well if I could do anything productive, while I could click on Google's ad for the docs web site, the page couldn't be displayed! Bummer.

Email. I knew I could chat on AOL IM, but could I get to my gmail? Yes, Yes I could! It wasn't pretty, but it worked.

When all was said and done on this test, would I recommend using WfW3.11 for anything other than a trip down memory lane? No way, it was a fail.

But it was fun to try.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Solid State Evolution

We're all familiar with solid state technology in one form or another. Whether it's the old school Nintendo games, or the compact flash card your digital SLR camera uses. Solid state technology has been around the block and then some. I almost think the evolution of solid state drives is kind of overdue, but hey we've come a long way from storing data on punch out cards and as with anything that can change the game - better late than never!

Since it's inception, the hard disk drive has long been the biggest bottleneck inside of the modern PC. A magnetic disk that spins around, on an average of 7,000 times per minute. That does seem kind of fast, you can even get 10,000RPM+ drives, there is no question, this technology that resembles a record player has been re-worked and is better than ever, but it's still physical. It's wear and tear, it's the audible crunch, it's a physical interaction and it's subject to physical failures more often than any other computer component.

Power. Speed. Size.

Solid state technology requires less power than hard drives. There are no physical devices, just memory chips and a controller. This is huge for battery life on laptops and less overall power consumption as SSDs become more common place in desktops and servers.

Speed! Yes I started off touting my cap at the bottleneck hard disk drives present in a modern PC, so what gives? Your standard SATA II disk drive will boast a 3.0Gb/s transfer rate, that translates in to 384MB/s. While there are many solid state drives to chose from for comparison, I'm going with the Intel X25-E Extreme. The X25-E has a read speed of 250MB/s and a write speed of 170MB/s.

I know what you're thinking, solid state drives are supposed to be faster, well they are! A hard drive can transfer data as fast as 384MB/s, but it has to find it first. A magnetic platter has to synch with a read/write head that finds the data and then transfers it. On an average a solid state disk can find the data 100x faster than a traditional hard disk. So while a hard disk will spend more time finding the data and transferring it, the solid state drive will already be at the data a lot sooner. As I write this, I'm sure engineers are hard at work putting the finishing touches on the next generation of solid state drives that will be able to eclipse the 384MB/s mark. (Though when they do, we'll need to replace the SATA II interface!) When you remove the physical restraints out of the equation, the possibilities are endless.

As with all new technology adaptation there are walls to overcome. The two biggest challenges facing solid state drives right now are size and price. Solid state drives aren't available in configurations over 256GB. While that is a lot of data, traditional hard disk drives are available in over 1TB setups. Whether you're a torrent freak or designing an enterprise level storage solution, for now, this is hard to overlook. The price per a GB of data varies depending upon the speed of the solid state drive, just as it does on hard disk drives. A fast 80GB Intel SSD will cost you 10x as more than a Western Digital 80GB HDD.

I do look forward to the days ahead of SSD evolution, no more platter warping, less power consumption, less noise and faster performance.