Archive for January, 2011

Why can’t the US have REALLY fast internet?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Sorry I’ve been so infrequent in blogging lately.  I’ve been sick and I’ve largely wanted to sleep when I haven’t been doing any actual revenue-generating work.

I wasn’t sure what to think about the title to this article.  It’s not that I don’t agree, it’s how the article went on to talk about how internet traffic is generally up worldwide and also about the sources of attack traffic (you know, the bad people trying to break into things).  It’s a good read, but I want to talk about the title and the leading paragraphs.

I find it disappointing that the country where the internet started doesn’t have a lead in speeds available to its citizens.  C’mon!  The Czech Republic has a faster average speed than the United States of America.  How can this be possible?

I’m not aware of any laws or government regulations limiting how much bandwidth we may have in our homes.  That being said, the following is just going to be “pulled from a random body orifice” guessing on my part as to why we lag behind.

It’s all about the money.  As dial-up services waned, we saw an increase in our internet services being provided by telephone and cable companies.  Their primary revenue focus has never been the internet so they had no real incentive to bring more to that side of the picture.  The internet is also becoming a greater source of competition for their primary services.  There are so many low-cost options for telephone and television programming, there may be little need to subscribing to them from your local company.

You could say that I’m part of the problem here.  I subscribe to the internet from my local cable company.  That’s it.  I have an indoor antenna which gets the local PBS station with amazing clarity (in my observation, this was the only station regularly watched in my house).  I can download TV shows from iTunes and Amazon.  I can stream them directly from the network web sites and places like  I use a couple of different voice over IP services for telephone service.  Let’s not forget streaming from Netflix directly to my game console.  All of this has been cheaper than if I got television and telephone from my cable company as well.

I remember reading an article some time ago where the author told the story of how he had saved money by eliminating his cable television service and switched to iTunes for his television programming.  It spoke to me, but it still took me a few years to get everything in place to make the conversion.  There’s still some resistance from the family, but otherwise it’s been a great cost savings.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s going to be a great incentive for our broadband providers to invest in speeding up our internet (mind you, it’s faster than it was a few years ago, but not to the point of other countries like South Korea).  We’ll probably need a large government program to get that done.  Something along the lines of the old rural electrification project to give us faster speeds and get broadband out to those not in a major metropolitan area.  If something like this is going to happen, I just hope it happens soon.

Does Google give me too much power?

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

I received a call the other day from a potential client.  I was already busy with a client so I didn’t take the call.  No message was left.  However, I checked my caller ID for the number and ran it through Google.  I found a local business in the process.

Now the question becomes, what do I do with this information?  Is there anything I should do?  Should you be concerned?  I think that’s the real question.  I did not contact this potential  client out of fear that I would be considered some kind of crazed lunatic because I would try anything to find out who called me.  Really, all I did was a simple Google search on the phone number.  I do this any time I get a call I don’t recognize on my home number, why not use it on the missed calls on the work number?

Had this been a call from a client, I would have the number in my contact list and could call back and say, “I see that you called.  Is there something you need?”

Going back to the question of whether you should be concerned.  A great deal of our information is available to others on the web.  We have addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, etc.  I’m sure with a little creative searching I could come up with a great deal of information about someone.  I could even pay for a commercial service to come up with MORE information (although I question whether those that advertise as having this information actually have any accuracy).

Among the information on this missed call that I got from Google was a Facebook page.  It wasn’t a user profile, but I’m sure I could figure that out given enough time.  Given this, we should probably be teaching our children how to keep information private.  I didn’t grow in an environment where it was easy to find out whatever I wanted on someone.  If I needed the information that badly, I’d have to hire the likes of Jim Rockford.  Now, I can probably get at least 75% of the required information before needing to hire a professional.

In general, cell phone numbers don’t show up in reverse directory listings.  But with more cell phones being used instead of land lines, it’s more likely that you’d publish your cell number and someone searching could find out that it belongs to you.

You may want to take some time to run all your numbers and other identifying information through Google or some other search engine to see if you can find yourself.  After that, you can take steps to conceal any information you don’t really want public.

Your pictures tell where you are

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The vast majority of recent model digital cameras and phones which have cameras support tagging the images with GPS data as well as previously recorded information such as time, date, camera settings (shutter speed, f-stop, etc.), etc.  Most people don’t even know this information is recorded in the image or aren’t paying attention to it if they do.

“Bad” people can use this information to see where you are and when.  If you take enough pictures of where you are and what you are doing, these same people can use the information to know when you are likely not going to be home and then go about the business of relieving you of your possessions (you didn’t need them anyway, right?).

Why would you want this information in the picture anyway?  This information is useful for you own personal cataloging.  You can use the GPS feature (called geotagging) to document where you were when you took the picture.  You could even intentionally share this information by uploading your pictures to Panoramio, the service which provides images in Google Earth.  The camera information is useful to other photographers who are curious as to what you used to take the picture.

However, if you are uploading your pictures carelessly to Flikr or your favorite social networking site, you could be leaving yourself open to who knows what kind of stalker.  The can be especially dangerous if there is a reason you should be hiding from someone!

The good news is that you should be able to disable the geotagging feature of your phone or camera (some instructions can be found here, but you should check your device’s documentation for details).

My opinion is that the younger set are going to be least likely to be worried about this, but they should be.  They are growing up in a world with no privacy and don’t understand how important it can be to have some.  We need to teach them why its important to not share every little detail (such as where we’ve been and when) about our lives.

Steve Jobs is ill

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Many places (The Register, InfoWorld, New York Times) are now reporting that Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, has taken a leave of absence for medical reasons.  The big problem is that this is a private matter for Steve and everyone is wondering what this means for Apple, what’s really wrong with him, and will this prevent the iPhone from going to other carriers?  (Okay, I made that last one up.)

So far, with Mr. Jobs’s medical issues, we’ve seen Apple continue to grow and develop.  It’s not like the dark time for Apple when he was ousted and the direction for the company was less focused (although, the Newton was developed during that time so it wasn’t all bad).

I’m hoping there will be less madness from the public and the media this time around.  Steve is very involved with his company and is a vital component (especially when compared to CEOs of other companies).  I’m sure there is a plan in place and all will be well with Apple.

I like their products, but I don’t consider myself a “fanboy” in my like of them.  My world wouldn’t end if their products disappeared, but it would certainly be  less colorful.  This issue with Apple’s CEO is going to be a minor one, I am sure.

More on the Newton

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I’ve continued looking for things Newton since my previous article and have found some additional resources.

What I really wanted was a flash memory card for mine.  All I need to do is install one or two pieces of software and my Newton is pretty full.  I can’t even recall what I had on it back in the day. I found some information on flash card compatibility at Apple.  I also found a vendor that has some of the original Apple 2MB cards.  And I found another which has some cards which may work (I’m not 100% confident in these).

When looking for the linear flash memory that would work on a Newton, I found that it has some pretty cool features like true random access and faster read times.  Given how ATA flash has improved over the years, these stats may not be as impressive as they used to be.  I’m not sure linear flash has improved similarly over the years.  Not like you’d notice much performance-wise on such an old device.

If you read the comments in yesterday’s post, the author of the My Apple Newton blog posted a link to his archive of software.  I’ve also found links to Newton Connection for Mac OS X.  Drivers for ATA flash, wireless cards, and others.  I could continue, but the best list for links I’ve found thus far is at the Newton Phoenix site.

I’ll be playing with this “toy” on and off over the next few weeks.  We’ll see what it can still do.