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.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hockey Twits

Update: 09/24/09 - TheHockeyTwits 2.0 coming soon!

I was talking to a good friend of mine, Jennifer Leggio, you may know her from such things as her social media blog over on ZDnet, or maybe you've come across her on Twitter. Anyway, we're both avid hockey fans, you can probably tell from my Twitter HOW-TO for Islander fans blog(a good read for anyone getting started on Twitter). I bleed orange and blue, Jen on the other hand bleeds teal, she loves those San Jose Sharks.

Jen has had some previous experience with organizing Twitter users together. I thought it would be a great idea to have something in place for hockey fans. So here it is, sorted by general hockey people and then by users who follow specific teams. If you want to be added, or if I got your team wrong, let me know(in comments, via facebook or Twitter) your Twitter name and favorite team and I'll get it sorted out. Eventually this will move to a Wiki, but since those Wiki Twitter lists can get messy pretty fast I wanted to start off with a clean slate.


Follow all the hockey twits you can take!

Fans of teams by their NHL division:

Atlantic Division Hockey Twits
Division Hockey Twits
Southeast Division Hockey Twits
Division Hockey Twits
Division Hockey Twits
Division Hockey Twits

Misc. hockey people or users on Twitter. (let me know your teams!)

Another great tool for hockey tweeting by @icejunkies - - !

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Digital TV Wish list

With the move to digital TV postponed from 2/17/09 to 6/12/09, I had a few ideas that should be thrown in to the next release of TV.

TV is great.

TV could be even better.

My Digital TV wish list

1. Commercial / DVR links

I thought about this a while ago, how cool would it be if you were watching something, then a commercial came on for another show you want to catch, instead of searching the guide to setup a recording you could just hit a button on your TiVo/DVR remote to schedule a recording of that program? One word: Rock.

2. Encoded Program ID

But why do you ask? Ever set your DVR for a show like Heroes and end up missing the last little bit because it aired over the last possible minute? I'd love for the TiVo/DVR to just know.

3. More Info PC link

I know, most shows you watch now have a web address somewhere during the credits, or it's even mentioned in the show (like Dirty Jobs). I would like my TV & Computer to be able to communicate over my network... well, I'd like my TV, PDA, Computer, etc. all linked. I think it'd be nice to hit a more info button and get a page full of relevant subject matter. Imagine getting a Microsoft Surface and having a bunch of pages displayed about what you're watching on TV? Awesome.

4. Don't discriminate!

I would like all traditional TV to be broadcast over any medium. I know this is not too likely to happen, but this is a wish list. Whether I'm on my mobile, PC, laptop, or PDA I want to have access to all the content I subscribe to.

5. Online DVR

I think of all the items on my wish list, this can come in to being a lot faster than the others. After all, look at the strides made with Video On Demand. We just have to pipe our DVR data back where it came from for universal storage. I'd like the ability to watch my recorded shows wherever I am, as well as unlimited storage. This kind of ties in with the "Don't Discriminate!" item, though I think if this feature came along by itself it would be celebrated by many!

We have to face it, these innovations won't come around for the general good of the TV viewing public, but these advancements could create huge revenue streams for TV studios. Alas, my marketing background meets my technological aspirations and I feel like I have to justify my wish list!

Innovate back to 1988 - The tale of the old and new digital and VoIP PBX

I got off the phone a little while ago with my cousin who works in the telecomm industry. As you can imagine, if you're so inclined, this is an industry that has scene tremendous growth given it's nature.

I was lucky enough to be part of it for a few years at the tale end of the 90s during the "PC Revolution." Sure, there weren't any "real" switches left by that time, it was mostly digital and the switching was done by way of circuit boards.

I some how struck gold working in telecomm (geek gold that is), Yup, I bet you guessed it. The IP phone. Years before Vonage or your local cable provider was advertising VoIP yours truly had it in his hands. And it was cool! They literally flew off the shelf like hot cakes at an IHOP free pancake day. The flexibility it provided satellite offices or work from people was huge. It was a great innovation and it saved a lot of companies a lot of money on toll charges. The coolest thing was probably setting up an IP handset as a test back to our office in Deer Park, NY. Why was this cool? Because the handset was in Transylvania and it got it's internet connection by way of a dial up connection being proxied through a computer. The voice quality left a lot to be desired, but it connected and just like I dialed an extension to talk to the person in the next office, I could do the same with that phone. Groovy, Innovative, VoIP was and is still a game changer.

These days a lot of PBX's are based solely on IP. Phone techs now get to fight QoS battles and less than perfect firewall installations.

So why am I puckering up to VoIP? I'm not, I wanted to set the mood. Like I wrote above, I was talking to my cousin earlier and he told me about a call he had. He happened to be on the phone with a sales engineer at a prominent PBX manufacturer. For whatever the reason he was calling, he came across a funny little discovery. This particular company stuck to their guns throughout their transition to IP telephony. Sure, you can install their enterprise level VoIP solutions and hand out IP handsets to all your work at homers or satelite offices, but the new systems are entirely based on IP. Every handset gets an IP address, yum!

Think of all the possibilities, and while engineers are hard at work bringing the next greatest innovation to fruition I found my cousin's discovery not something I could just overlook.

It seems while designing this total IP based PBX, they chose to emulate their "CPU" from their digital PBXs in to software to run the new IP based phone system. Of course I don't expect any company looking to make a profit to entirely recode something that's proven and that works. In my opinion they took it a little too far, all the VoIP data is broken back down in to time slots for the "CPU" to handle. (Think Token Ring)

What puzzles my mind, is a company that spent millions of dollars on innovation for the VoIP transport, most likely spent a good portion of that marrying the new tech to the old tech.

I think this serves as an analogy for far too many things to list here, and I am guilty as well.

Of course, I've gone to great distances on some projects to figure things out, and in the process of figuring something out I discovered my original goal could be updated by the success I've had developing something new to complete part of the project.

I think at some level this is a natural part of IT's evolution. Especially when a not so data-centric industry is forced in to adopting a standard like VoIP, and using it with a developed tried and true technology. I just hope the innovaters are insightful enough to see that in the mist of all their hard work and development, they're leaving technology chips on the table so to speak. I'm sure by now someone has said something and future implementations will be able to leverage the great technology they already put in place.

Working on something? Take a minute to see the overall benefit of your work, you may have discovered something worthwhile.

Twitter for Islander Fans (A Twitter HOW-TO)

I think it's kind of funny trying to bridge the gap between a Web 1.0 technology like a forum for hockey fans to something like twitter. For me, it's not really a transition, just something to augment pure NY Islander fan fare. I wrote this for an Islander Message board I'm a part of, so there may be some unfitting pieces here... enjoy.

An Islander's fan guide to using Twitter for Islander fun and expanding the reach of NYIslandersCountry.

This is long, I'm sorry but I tried to cover every step if you wanted to get on to Twitter and hookup with the other Islander fans around and spread the word from here.

What is Twitter?
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. (*Wiki)

Twitter is good for a lot things, you can connect with people who have similar interest and news spreads pretty fast depending who you're following. For the purpose of this post I'm just sticking to it's benefit as an Islander fan (the way I use it), you can google plenty of info on Twitter if you want.

Step 1. Signup for Twitter ( - I haven't gotten any spam from signing up, just notifications of new people following my post or direct messages.

Step 2. Download a program called TweetDeck (

There are other programs that interface with Twitter, you can browse them here ( TweetDeck is what I use for Islander tweets so I'll go with it here.

Step 3. Open TweetDeck and login with your Twitter account.

(don't like the "tweet" sounds coming from TweetDeck, click on the wrench in the upper right and you can adjust it's settings)

Step 4. Click on the Search button at the top of TweetDeck, it's the magnifying glass.

Step 5. Where it says "What are you searching for" Type in #Isles

TweetDeck will create a column for all users who post using the #Isles hashtag (a way to set a topic in a post)

Step 6. Option 1. Follow Islander fans! When you see people post in the #Isles column, you can hover your mouse over their picture, 4 buttons will pop-up. The button in the lower right is for Other Actions. Click on that and on the menu that is displayed you'll have a selection to "Follow" this will let you see the users tweets in your All Friends column - even if they don't tag their tweets with #Isles (good if you think someone is cool, you can un follow them if you don't like what they post and only see their tweets when they use the #Isles hashtag)

Step 6. Option 2. Reply to other users, Move the mouse over the persons picture and click the left pointing arrow, TweetDeck will auto fill the TweetBox with the reply information. And if you're replying from within the #Isles column, it will auto-add the #Isles tag to your tweet so other Islander fans searching on Twitter can find your posts.

Cool, so that's all well and good for keeping up with Islander fans, but how to spread the IslanderCountry love? Easy!

Come across a great read here at IslanderCountry and want to share?
Awesome, that's a big part of twitter.

Step 1. In the What Are You Doing? box, put a brief description of the post (You only have 140 characters per post, and it's not fluid so you can't run on between tweets).

Step 2. Put the URL to the post in the Shorten URL box and click the shorten button to the right. This will create a short URL instead of a long one and will save space on the 140 character count.

Step 3. Don't forget to tag the tweet with the #Isles hashtag! This is big in bringing people who follow #Isles on twitter back to the great material here on IslanderCountry.

Hope someone finds this interesting, Us people at #Isles are lacking in a bit of Islander support on Twitter, if you have any questions feel free to PM me.

Twitter people good for the Islanders (& hockey) (this is an automated bot from the NHL or NYI that sends out game updates, currently it doesn't use the #Isles hashtag) (me)

There's a ton of other hockey people on, you can do your searching at

update: Visit Hockey Twits for a list of hockey users on twitter, separated by teams and including team hash tags!

(feel free to re-post)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Nvidia ION platform gets Microsoft Approval for Vista

Woohoo, score one for those juicy Windows 7 netbooks that I'm sure all us geeks are dying to get our hands on. Netbooks are nice, cheap hardware, out dated software - just perfect for getting online and facebooking 'til your hearts content. OK, so a linux powered netbook isn't really so bad is it? Not at all, great with power and it can really exploit that limited hardware.

So, at the present we get Microsoft certifying the Nvidia ION platform on Vista, which is simply an Intel Atom processor with an Nvidia GPU (the 9400M).

This was certified on Vista Home Premium, which is all well and good, but running Vista on a netbook is like getting a root canal trying to check your email. I shudder to think at running Aero on an Atom processor with 512MB of RAM.

This is much needed innovation and will help Microsoft get on top of Netbook industry. Windows 7 and Vista are nice and compatible unlike Vista and Windows XP. With the XP like memory footprint of Windows 7, this will help establish Windows 7 as a great netbook operating system.

Now all that's left is to get rid of that pesky licensing fee.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Passion(less) PC Hardware Evolution

Where, oh where to begin.

August, 1994

It's the middle of the summer and I'm about a month away from my first year of high school. Super Nintendo was all the rage providing mind numbing hours of entertainment. As I walked out the front door of my house with my cousin, he says, "Wow, you got a computer!" I said, "I did? Huh, what?" To the right of me on the floor were several boxes - one containing a Packard Bell 486DX2 at 50Mhz with 4MB of stock ram and a 420MB hard drive! Don't forget about the killer apps - Packard Bell Explorer running on Windows 3.11 on top of Dos 6.22 - now that's hardcore, two hardcore for one hand even.

Pay attention kids, this is where I got my "chops"

Even back in the day running Doom on a 486 w/4MB of RAM was taxing on the machine. I couldn't play it if Windows loaded, I'd have to exit out or use an old school shft+F2. Aside from my desire to play the best video game of all time - The PacBell (like they tended to do) kept crapping out, problems here and there. It really threw me in to the fire. Anyway, my quest to play Doom without booting again led me to wanting to understand memory, how does the PC control this ram? And what the hell, why is 640K so important! Conventional memory is right, this is a computer we're talking about here, with a word like "conventional" seemingly putting a hammer down on everything. So I read, I read everything that came with the PC, including the MS-DOS book. With a fundamental understanding I went to work.. c:\edit config.sys! My first step in to a new world. One where I could identify with a seldom few in the real world, I felt more of a connection with Dade from Hackers than most of my classmates. The first year was intense, experimenting with Windows3.11 shell manangers, a ton of "memory tweakers", finally having the nerve to take a screw driver to the PacBell (had to wait til no one was home, if my Dad saw me fondling the warranty sticker on a $2,500.00 PC I'd be in deep shit) and it lended a bigger, brighter, better understanding as to what this software was manipulating.

Beautiful, sexy, sleek, Made in Taiwan HARDWARE!

So this was cool - I was a kid, around 7 or 8 years old, who would rip apart old VCRs and TVs, trying to figure out how things work. Most memorable: An unshielded power supply can zap you! The PC hardware was something new and exciting! Besides that, it was really quite limiting. All this fun stuff to do on a PC, and this, this hardware was what I came to admire and despise simultaneously. But, it was fun! Setting up memory hacks, staying up in to the wee hours of the morning just trying everything and anything I can think of - remember, there was no google codebase, no fancey internet forums to ask for help. It was a list of files and DOS commands and goold old fashion tinkering.

And it was great! I loved it, every minute of it. I was so stoked every day coming home from school to get back on the PC, to a) play Doom and b) see what else I could do with it! It was about the hardware, it was about exploiting every drop of performance out of it that I could. It was a competition, starting with myself and then moving to random DALnet IRC channels, it was passion and fun. More than a pastime but struggling to be a life style (remember this is before geeks were cool!) The good ole' PacBell saw it's share of hardware failures, one in the IDE controller on the soundblaster (remember when that was the norm!?!). I actually had a tech show up to my house, he couldn't fix it, had to call some PacBell support center, while he was on hold I fixed it. (Just used a different IDE controller card the guy had - I don't know why he was a tech, then again this is PacBell) The guy on the phone wanted to talk to me, so in my enthusiam I said sure - he offered me a job! Talk about an ego boost, unfortunately, or fortunately rather I think there was some labor laws preventing a 14 year old relocating for work.

Around one summer later I spent about a week downloading floppy images of Slackware 95, you can fill in the blanks from there.

I know as a productivity tools, PCs should just work, forget all the M$ this or Apple that for a minute, when you rely on tools to work to make money - they should work. I'm kind of glad they do, but I'll tell you, I miss it.

I miss the binge sessions, I miss ripping through DOS prompts, I miss win.ini (honorable mention: creditmaster4!, Shhhh). For the adventure you have to get a little bigger and better now, it's not built in to the box, you can go chase whatever dreams you want on the web, whether it's making a million bucks or hacking the sh!t out of some poor financial institution's lousy network with last century infrastructre. That's all good, but call me old fashioned - I almost miss that 486...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why FiOS Why? Have you learned from Cable companies?

Verizon's FiOS is sweet! Admittedly I'm not an early adopter by any means, but recently I took the plunge and I don't regret I did. After reading pretty extensively on I felt good about ordering up some fiber. I know, I know most cable companies in fact do use fiber themselves to a local break out where they bring coax to your house. Still for an infrastructure geek like myself, the closer the fiber the better! 1Gbit right to my dwelling, how can you beat that?

You can't, but you can screw up the fundamentals. Allow me to introduce you to MoCA (Multimedia over Coax Alliance). MoCA is a foundation dedicated to enabling ethernet data over existing coax. This is a sweet cost saving idea, why not leverage existing cabling to complete a $23 Billion dollar investment? I'll tell you why - cause you just spent $23 billion bucks and you're building a bottle neck in to this shiny new fiber optic system at the end users house. Verizon's MoCA use enables set top boxes (cable boxes, or STBs) to get their network data over coax, but in most cases it doesn't end there. The installer will most of the time (especially if you ordered FiOS Tv) use coax from the ONT (optical network terminal, where the fiber terminates on the side of your house) to your router.

How it works:

Verizon brings fiber optic to your house, to your ONT, which "converts" your fiber in to several outputs, currently used are coax, ethernet and voice. (there's an unused video connection too) Usually your ethernet port is ignored (and turned off), while your TV stations and data network are sent on the coax. So quick point here, coming out of your router is the following traffic on your coax: internet data, lan data, tv stations. Of course they are all at different frequencies on the copper pipe as to not interfere with each other.

Ok, lets review shall we? What's the transfer speed of fiber at it's current spec? 1Gbit, What's the transfer speed of Cat5e at it's current spec? 1Gbit, What's the transfer speed of MoCA at spec 1.1? 175Mbits. I know, I know, current implementation of FiOS, including VOD (which is streamed IPTV, over your data network to your STB) doesn't approach 1Gbit of data. Not even close, so why do I blog?

Because it's stupid, they develop a literal speed of light network and build a potential bottle neck right in to it... Have they learned nothing from cable companies? The ever pushing of DOCSIS which is resulting in more and more compressed (and usually crappier looking) data. Now you CAN get your data installed over the Ethernet port on the ONT, no problem, but if you're not using a MoCA device (such as a NIM100, or an Actiontec router) your STB won't be able to get guide info or video on demand (VOD). Oh, did I forget to mention the FiOS STBs have an ethernet port on them! That isn't enabled!

sigh. Does Verizon really think in the lifetime of the fiber they've hung that we won't be up to 1Gbit speeds?

What line? Cloud productivity = Digital DNA

Digital DNA focused marketing.

First some history...

What line exist between your online life and your real life? Think for a minute about the online apps you use and the social networks you visit. Do you blog? Do you share photos, maybe use a popular free online email service? Ever share some docs or photos?

Do you draw a line in the sand, or did you when you first started using the web as something more than a porn or research tool?

Around the time that Google became a verb, when myspace took down friendster (does anyone use that anymore?) When MSN messenger introduced status updates my line became so blurred it didn't really exist anymore. I never really said to myself, "OK, I"m Fred in real life, and online I'm thefredelement." Things like that just kind of naturally happened, depending on what site I was on or what I was doing, I'd use real info, or more of an online persona.

Fast forward to 2009.

Now, my friends both in RL (real life, for those of you who weren't around during the AOL revolution) and online know me as both Fred, and thefredelement. I'm OK with that to a point, or I was ok with that. Now that Google Latitude is here and is garnering more famous blogger recogniztion upon it's release, well - this seems a bit too close to home. Long gone are the days of when would just tell you the closest place to your house to get 24hour pizza deliveries. (and in doing so didn't ask for your email address and probably didn't log your IP, forget about any type of analytics past an access log file)

Now, you can login to your google account and see where your friends are physically.

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that is a little scary.

Not so new is the social networking sites that have become common pastime for millions. (What's the longest you've gone without getting a facebook update, myspace message or a message from twitter?) I'm sure you've noticed the bombardment of advertisement on your favorite sites, contextual advertising and social networking is nothing new (relatively speaking), but where does any amount of privacy kick in?

Really it's up to you, how you choose to present yourself online, in both a professional and personal image. In some ways it's as simple as an old school radio, don't want to hear it? Change the channel or turn it off. The choice isn't so black and white anymore, more and more your job will require you to have some online type of presence, not to mention the social norm of being online - everything from sending Grandma pictures from Christmas to IMing that hottie you met at the bar. Forget leaving a digital fingerprint of what you do the web, you're now being marketed down to your DNA.

Google, and the Google copycats. Google is at the forefront of new and cool and online. Google is a verb and a digital way of life. Sure as I write this on a blogspot blog, signed in with my gmail account. Google is also making money hand over fist. Thanks to you! (and me) For sure we'd be less productive without Google leading the way with so many different productivity tools. Google leverages new technology (from software development to mobile computing) to drive paid for clicks. It's simple and sweet and at the heart of 21st century capitalism. So what's my gripe?

Google, has hoarded tons of data! Don't like it? Don't use it - easy enough, almost, that's getting harder and harder to do. I use a Google service at least 20 times a day on an average. It sure does make life easier, can you imagine life without email? Sure, you say you stay away from Google, but do you click on a Google context ad while visiting a web site? I'm not singling out Google here, though it sounds like it - to Google's credit, Google is the brightest star for this example.

So with Google latitude, plus Google analytic data of ad's you maybe clicked on, sites you visited, the data storage center that is gmail, picasa, youtube/google video, google docs, not to mention all the Google searches - are we that far from a Google employee walking up to you on the street with a laptop showing you a list of web sites you probably would be interested in? Sarcasm aside, who knows what Google is doing with that data, imagine the ability they have to create a "user profile" on their end? They could probably extrapolate data to a point of averaging out your day, if you're on from work or home, what tv shows you watch (coming from me, the guy who made the "What's on your TiVO/DVR" facebook group), maybe even in some cases what you had for dinner! (There is a google analytic tag on Twitter fyi, that's not saying much, but still with off site hosted javascript you can shove anything in there, if you wanted).

I'm not even saying this a bad thing, this type of marketing can only help our flailing economy, my point is I'm 28 years old now, I started out 14 years ago with a PacBell 486 running AOL and things have evolved in a way where almost everything is "big brother" based.

Are you the same person online as you are in real life? Do you jump around between facebook, myspace, twitter, youtube with a Google toolbar telling you when you have new mail?

In real life, you don't have to really do anything for anyone, sure you may be captured on video 100 times a day as you go about your life. But you only truly give up your privacy at your consent or when the boys in blue get a warrant. Why? Cause your privacy is protected in the U. S. of A. Who is looking after your digital DNA? You are!

Take a breath and just be aware of the information you put out there on a daily basis.