Archive for December, 2009
Wow talk about a huge topic to cover. This would be so vast it would make the Analog to Digital TV switchover look like a cakewalk.
Before I dive into this (I’m lucky today is a slow day) I want to clear up some minor misconceptions:
1. AT&T is NOT talking about removing physical wiring and running everything over wireless or cell networks!!!! (!!Very important misconception!!)
2. This will have no impact on your DSL or cable internet. It is merely moving analog circuit switched POTS lines to the same technology that the internet runs on.
3. POTS is technically already mostly digital from end to end. Only the final mile is converted back to analog. But it’s in a (nearly) lossless conversion and still circuit based, not packetized.
Now some quick definitions:
POTS – Plain old telephone system. Using switched circuits it creates a single end to end connection between two points (usually phones).
PSTN – Public Switched Telephone network. The network that runs the POTS.
LEC – Local Exchange Carrier. Basically your local phone company.
“Final Mile” – This refers to the connection from your neighborhood switch to your individual home. Once you leave the final mile you’re into the LEC’s network of phone connections.
Backbone – The main connections that connect all the neighborhood switches together and link all the LECs themselves together. AT&T and the few other long distance carriers control most of the backbone connections between regional LECs.
VOIP – Voice traffic that is divided into packets and transmitted in the same manner as internet data.
So where are we at?
Basically AT&T is tired of maintaining the POTS network. POTS requires an end to end connection between the two communicating points. In the past human operators connected the physical wires based off the circuit a person was calling (people over 50-60 years old might remember phone numbers that were like “KL425”). Later automatic physical switches made connections based off numeric a phone number. Most recently digital switches use computers to redirect calls based off the number. But even though it’s digitally switched the effect is still creating a single, 64kbps of data sized, end to end circuit.
This is what AT&T wants to change.
Now in the era of internet we don’t use a fixed circuit, the data stream is chopped into packets, each is individually addressed, and then sent on their way. The stream often follows the same path but doesn’t need to. It can arrive through different paths across the backbone, be put back in order and re-assembled at the other end. Any lost packets can just be resent.
Voice can be compressed and sent along the same as internet data in a VOIP connection, but some of the above situations can break VOIP. VOIP is a streaming technology, if a VOIP packet is lost that part of the conversation is lost, unlike loading a webpage you can’t wait for the data to be resent. The VOIP traffic is also compressed, depending how much it’s compressed the quality can drop significantly as parts of the voice stream are eliminated. G.711 basically just digitizes the stream and does almost no compression so the stream is 64kbps. G.723.1 can compress that down as far as 6kbps but call quality loss can be noticeable.
Now some reasons for AT&T’s desire to eliminate POTS become clear.
First is the fact that even through IP and circuit switched voice can run on the same equipment and same cables, they are two completely separate and incompatible networks. They need to go through special converters called DSP’s to be made digital and packetized (or un-packetized), and special systems need to be programmed to re-address for the new network. It’s much easier to consolidate everything into one system to maintain and monitor and adjust.
Second, compression make better use of the backbone bandwidth; instead of using up 64kbps of a fiber line per call you can get away with 16kbps or as little as 6kbps. That means for every one circuit switched call taking up fiber bandwidth you can fit 4 VOIP calls.
But there are some problems too.
Voice can be packetized into an IP network with no problem but it needs high priority to maintain the voice stream since voice needs to be a consistent stream and voice packets can’t arrive out of order or late. Too many dropped packets cause the voice call to stutter, and too much compression distorts the sound (usually sounds “tinny”). VOIP calls have a margin for error of about 200ms before the connection will likely drop.
That old POTS line has also been backwards compatible with equipment made as far back as the 1940s. If you get a simple old phone from before 1990 you’ll probably notice it doesn’t have a power cord. The power was actually provided at the phone company and backed up using massive banks of batteries in its basement. That means in a power outage most old POTS lines and phones will still work, great for emergencies and natural disasters.
Some things require high quality audio for communications, notably modems and fax machines. That squealing sound you hear when a fax or modem connects is 1s and 0s converted into an analog sound and blazing out a thousands of bits per second, usually 56 thousand per second to be exact . When VOIP compresses with the idea that it’s compressing voice data and will eliminate the sounds it doesn’t think the human ear can hear, unfortuenately modems use a much broader frequency range for data. Plus modems and faxes don’t know what to do when a stream of data arrives late or doesn’t arrive at all. A lost VOIP packet can screw up the data stream and cause the modem to disconnect.
So when AT&T talks about eliminating the POTS line we’re talking about some major changes. Not just changing how voice crosses the backbone, or how AT&T does business with other LECs but eliminating modems, faxes, and all those non-VOIP phones.
I know many people won’t mourn any of the above but let me fill you in on some of what I do for a living (for AT&T no less).
I setup and upgrade business class internet connections into AT&T EVPN MPLS cloud. Don’t worry about all the acronyms, simply put we provide connections between the multiple sites of a business. If you work at branch store or office and connect to a corporate site then we connect you together over AT&T’s backbone. Once up and running we literally are the “internet cloud” and transparent to the users. A customer doesn’t see any of our massive network, just a direct line to all their other company sites and connection out to the internet.
My job specifically is configuring the AT&T equipment on the customer site. I don’t physically go there and install it, there’s a separate onsite tech who puts it in and turns it on then my team connects in and configures the equipment.
The problem is that since the equipment isn’t setup just plugging it in and turning it on won’t connect, you need another way in that isn’t dependent on that data connection working. So by using a POTS line and a modem you can connect into a router as if you were physically there. No matter what is wrong (other than the power out) you can get access through the modem from anywhere in the world just by dialing the number (and going through massive passwords and encryption).
In fact the modem is integral to the reliable up-time for the router and is required by AT&T to have in addition to the data line itself. If any emergency or outage happens to the onsite router for the customer; first it should be able to reload and fix itself, but if for some reason it’s erased itself AT&T will see it disconnect, will connect through the modem, reload the configuration, and be back online in minutes. Without the modem we’d need a tech to go onsite, directly connect and fix the issue. Factoring in time to call for a network down, schedule a tech, travel out to the site, and fix the issue, you can be looking at anywhere from 4 hours to 48 hours of down time.
When dealing with government entities and Fortune 500 companies the difference between 10 minutes and half day downtime can millions of dollars in lost production and sales. The difference is having a modem onsite so a tech here in Utah can fix the site remotely.
So it’s pretty ironic that AT&T itself is calling for land line elimination when my AT&T department requires them for service. Obviously a situation of a company being so big the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
The switch from POTS to IP is inevitable
I do think that some day the circuit switched and packet switched networks will be merged. But a lot will need to happen to make that possible:
Everybody needs to replace their phones with VOIP phones, or providers need to put massive conversion facilities in the final mile.
Providers need to find out how to provide local 911 and emergency service when power goes out and the infrastructure is damaged.
Modems and faxes need to be replaced with a similar reliable technology that is compatible with VOIP compressions and missed packets.
Basically what AT&T wants isn’t impossible and it is inevitable. But the switchover would make the Analog to DTV switchover look like nothing. It’s one thing when you’re changing over something recreational like watching TV. POTS landline elimination is a deeply ingrained infrastructure technology that will be a pain to switch over. It’s like saying that we’re not going to use asphalt on our roads anymore, all asphalt roads would need to be changed over to concrete because new cars don’t work on them.
But the technology is there, and once a few issues are resolved it’s much better to make the switch instead of clinging to old technology.
I’ve been avoiding posting about the “Google” phone the tech world is raving about because I think its bad form to suppose too much about things that technically don’t exist yet. However more info is coming out about the supposed sales of the phone and guess what? It’s just another android phone.
When Google gave away free “Super Phones” to many of their staff the rumor mill went into high gear*. In usually fashion for new Google or Apple rumors or leaks some blogs began posting how we were on the brink of a revolution where the world of phone sales as we knew it was about to be turned on it’s head!!
You see the Google phone was rumored by these blogs and user coments (based on nothing other than their own speculation) that it would be sold at cost to the public without a carrier plan. Thus one phone would run on all networks, you could choose your own carrier and not worry about being locked into a 2 year contract. The price of the unlocked phone would still be competitive with subsidized phones and Google would lose money but would make up for it by having more people online at their sites getting ad revenue and traffic to the Google domain. It was supposed to be the beginning of many people’s dream of full access and integration into the cloud with the new Google phone as the access point.
However like most of these revolutionary rumors it bypasses a lot of basic realities of how non-techies see the world and big business do business among themselves. First off a phone needs a lot of extra crap on it to run on all phone networks crap that costs money and increases the price of the phone. Google would effectively be competing with the networks that were expected to provide service for the phone alienating the very people they’ll be relying on for the phone. And Google was competing with it own android phones already out there but not on a network.
Gizmodo today released a leaked sales page that outlines the reality of how the phone is going to be sold. Simply put, it’s being sold like any other phone by HTC; you can either pay a huge upfront price for the phone unlocked and unsubsidized then choose your carrier and plan. Or buy it on contract for a much reduced, subsidized price; but without the 2 year contract.
The good news is that it’s still a great phone and not just an experimental phone for Google employees. The market could use more good phones and more good ideas.
It’s just not going to be telecommunications revolution most people were misguidedly dreaming of.
* Case in point: Now that the revolutionize the business of smart-phones has been overturned TechCrunch is now rumoring that the phone has automatic backup software based off the sentence, “Charge your phone while streaming music and backing up your data”
Notice that that one line says nothing about automatic anything and that any phone that backs itself up can do so while in a dock to the computer.
This is a prime case of letting speculation get ahead of itself. The phone may automatically back itself up or it may not even come with integrated backup software, but because of a major tech blog’s speculation much of the tech community will assume that it now has automatic backup.
They’re also trying to keep the revolution line open with another article saying that the unlocked Nexus will work on any network. Again this is speculation based of an already sketchy leaked document. The document mentions working with T-mobile, so the hardware will only work with T-Mobile and AT&T but likely not AT&T’s high speed HSDPA network which runs on a different technology from T-Mobiles 3G network. That would relegate the google phone which relies highly on internet access for cloud based services to dial up speeds.
Like I’ve said again and again, don’t let rumors outpace common sense. Right now all we likely have is a nice new HTC Android phone for T-Mobile.
XKCD has a cool infographic showing what it takes to escape the gravity well of the major bodies of the solar system.
Astronomy has been a passing interest of mine since childhood, so it’s always cool to see a simplified version of the dynamics of gravity so it’s a bit easier to wrap your head around.
I like the description of Deimos and Phobos, if man ever makes it out there I think being the first person to throw a baseball into Phobos’ orbit is just as cool as being the first person to land on the moon or a planet.
The Earth has a huge moon for its size and is pretty unique in that regard. All other minor planets have little more than rocks orbiting them. The only other heavenly body with a closer ratio of planet to moon is Pluto which technically isn’t a planet anymore.
Pluto and Charon are so closely matched in size that the center of gravity between them is above the surface of Pluto. Imagine linking hands with somebody twice your weight and then the two of you spinning around. Your hefty friend will orbit the center of gravity in a smaller loop than you will.
Jupiter is sometimes referred to as the “Star that almost was.” Its gravity isn’t quite enough to compress hydrogen enough to begin the process of fusion. Gas Giants between the size of Jupiter and actual stars are referred to as “Brown Dwarfs”, referring to the fact that they don’t have high enough gravity to sustain fusion. If additional mass falls into them they can “ignite” and become stars; this was used as a plot device in 2010: Odyssey Two, where the Monoliths reproduce in Jupiter lowering the density and causing the planet to ignite into a second sun.
Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine are technically retired now, Dick is doing some other projects and is basically taking a year off so his music and influence isn’t gone, just on hiatus or in transition to a new project depending on your interpretation.
However there are still some new CDs coming out in the next few months including the new studio album “Ok Bartender”. Hearing this I ran to his site to pick it up directly and found out they have a great deal going to join his “Super Fan Fun Club”.
I know you’re rolling your eyes hearing the word “fan club” so let me translate it to something you’ll understand.
6 Richard Cheese CDs for $41. Or $6.80 a CD.
(The site looks like it was made in 1997, I’m not sure if that’s fitting RC’s comic mentality or indie nature of the group.)
Now I’ve been meaning to buy his CDs for a long time. I have two at home, but I admit I have his entire works in mp3 form as well. Sorry Richard, but as I stated in a treatise at last.fm once, online downloads are my music preview method. The whole reason I bought 2 CDs in the first place was because I liked what I heard online, now I’m collecting the entire discography as I can find CDs.
Which brings me back to the Super Fun Fan Club. The price for 6 CDs is cheaper than any store you can get them from unless you get them used, and Richard Cheese is too popular to ever be in the used bin. On the rare occurrence you find a used CD is you’ll likely be paying more than $6. They throw in some stickers and stuff too because it’s a “fan club” thing but the CDs that are out will ship ASAP, the new ones are shipped before official release dates.
The main point is $41 for 6 CDs purchased directly from the man himself, to support the band and their endeavors. I know a lot more than just me have their music already but few have taken the extra step to support the band they found the love.
So act now, deal runs out Jan 5th.
PS for those who haven’t heard of Richard Cheese, head over to last.fm, youtube or your favorite preview site and check out a few tracks. The band does covers in a hilarious lounge act style. Kick up your feet with a martini, pretend you’re in the Las Vegas Holiday Inn Lounge, and enjoy the music.
One thing I miss from Japan was the themed
restaurants bars shopping centers pachinko parlors love hotels gaming centers.
The weird drinks in the bottom right looks like the strange “cure all” vitamin C drinks they sell there. The commercials claim results similar to taking some Mentats.
Time for a twitter “what I’m eating now” style post.
Chicken Pesto Pasta, with Roma tomatoes, fried mushrooms and asiago cheese. $10 at Faustina.
Spend Black Friday doing something fun.
A few weeks ago one of my favorite
Japanese bands, Polysics, said they’re touring the US on a new tour, unfortunately they’re not passing though here. The closest shows are about 650 miles ($120 in gas) away by car ($250 by air).
I wasn’t really sure if I was going to go but they just announced Kayo (the girl doing weird synth voices and playing keyboard) is leaving the band, now I’m thinking I might go since this will be their last major tour before a farewell/10th anniversary concert in Tokyo.
Kayo is not my favorite member (Fumi rocks the bass!), but she’s an integral part. A lot of their unique sounds comes from her influence, however some of their more “unique” songs aren’t my favorite I prefer the more recent mainstream punk style they’ve been getting. The question is how much more will they drift into the mainstream without Kayo? They very easily can go from innovative to boring depending on how much she influenced the band.
On the plus side, I’ve wanted to go on a long distance road trip in the new car for a while, this would be a fun way to do that, escape the freezing Utah winter, and see a good concert in one fell swoop. And with car camping I could probably keep the price under $200.
I’m a treehugger. I love going out into the wilderness and getting away from all forms of human development from time to time. However I’m also a realist, I know that as much as I’d like to freeze unneeded human expansion and preserver every acre of the little remaining undeveloped land we have, that will never happen.
Next best thing is that if an area is gong to be developed that we do it in a way that has as little environmental impact possible. In fact I see that as the new great development challenge for humanity. We’ve proven that we can forcibly carve out our comfort zone by making Nature bow to our demands. Now we need to find a way to create the same comfort zone we currently have in the developed world but do it in a way that has virtually no impact on nature.
Now a lot of people say that no impact means that we should all live in huts made out mud, clay, and cow pies. That we should only eat food grown, cultivated, and picked by hand. And that anything that uses any carbon or energy be eliminated. Ok, maybe that’s the extreme “straw-man” viewpoint but a lot of people lean that way in their arguments, and they piss me off because their unrealistic goals and self righteous attitudes create a backlash where people go out of their way to waste resources more. Seriously, I met a guy who doesn’t just want to leave an environmental imprint and carbon footprint, he wants to leave a “Carbon Crater, just to piss [environmentalists] off” as he puts it. This is the group of people who put “People Eating Tasty Animals” stickers on their bumpers and get outraged when the hear that some person doesn’t believe in eating meat.
So let’s be realistic, the world will never give up all the progress made in the last 2000 years and go back to living off berries in lean-tos in the forest. That’s why I’m always excited to see projects like this one by resort architects ReardonSmith, that creates a 200 room hotel under a golf club in Surrey UK.
I’ve always liked the architecture of building underground. There are a lot of benefits to ecology and efficiency in building underground. The ground is warmer than air in winter and colder than air in summer, not to mention an amazing insulator to ambient heat and sound, It’s like having a house that is in constant 48 degree weather, just add a little heat as necessary. The obvious glaring issue is getting natural light in but that is usually solved by building the structure in a circle around a well that lets light in (think Luke Skywalker’s home in Star Wars). There are all kinds of cool articles about this stuff online, including a soldier in Afghanistan inspired to come home and build a green house with reinforced HESCO earthen barriers surrounding the structure to reduce the stress of dirt leaning against the walls.
But I’m getting off topic. As cool as it seems to finally see people designing our living environment to better sync with nature rather than fight it this new resort is catching flak from some of the least likely sources. You’d think treehuggers and eco friendly people would be onboard, but the problem is that the resort will be in a London’s “Green Belt” an area around the city zoned to keep urban sprawl contained and to provide a green buffer to help keep the environment air clear and fresh for the nearby city.
This brings us back to the issue I began with. Some people can get a little extreme in their environmentalism. If this was a golf resort going into a protected Wilderness area I’d understand but this is the area surrounding the densest urban area in the UK. I hate to be the realist but that land is going to be touched by the hand of man eventually; if only every city were to build their sprawl in such an eco friendly way we’d be a lot better off by now.
I think this is a situation where people should meet half way. I bet a lot of people in the “Carbon Crater” camp would be quite impressed to see how nice it is when development works with the environment instead of against it, enough that we might bring more of them over to our cause. And certainly more than if we just tell them “No! The line in the sand has been drawn and progress and development stops here!”
Maybe in the future we can all live in some prettier, eco friendly cities. We may never be able to erase our impact to the point where our homes are indistinguishable from the wilderness but we have the technology now to at least work with the environment from hear on out.
hate the future usually has some funny posts. Unfortunately I don’t think this one is a joke.
Inspired by posts from “Get Rich Slowly“.
“The charge is bank robbery. Now, my caddie’s chauffeur informs me that a bank is a place where people put money that isn’t properly invested. Therefore, robbing a bank is tantamount to that most heinous of crimes, theft of money.” – Judge Whitey (Futurama)
Maybe that quote is a bit extreme. It is after all a joke made by a fictitious pompous rich WASP judge from the future; but it sticks in the back of my head when people tell me they plan for their future by stashing money under their mattress or buying gold coins.
I’m not a fool when it comes to money. My parents had a lot of financial issues while I was growing up and through their mistakes I was able to learn how to be responsible with my money even before I had enough money to worry about.
But one thing I always dragged my feet on was planning for retirement. What kid in their 20’s plans for what they’ll be doing half a decade in the future? We’re worried about getting a cool car, socializing with beautiful women, and finding out where the party is at Friday night (new lesson learned, the appeal of a cool car wears off early but the need having reasonable transportation will stay).
There is a lot of good financial advice out there but let’s face it, your attitude to financial planning at “25 and single” is a worlds different from your financial planning at “45 and married with kids”. I even try more than my peers to listen to all the advice given but retirement seems like such a small problem when I’m busy trying to figure how to get the bank to give me a loan so I can purchase some transportation to work. I’m not worried about retirement if I can’t even maintain my job to begin with.
A few years ago when my father was trying to organize his financial mess I learned a key item about retirement accounts I never knew. My parents had been slowly digging themselves out of decades of debt and the future looked bright but some emergency issues had cropped up and the only way to cover them had been to pay by credit card (new lesson learned, keep a healthy emergency fund for emergencies over $1000). It would take over a year to make up the credit debt and the 25% interest rates in that time would be murder to the newly balanced budget. My dad told me he was going to take money out of his 401k.
I didn’t know much about retirement accounts but I did know that pulling money out early leads to massive fees. I told him that losing money in early retirement fees wasn’t any better than losing money in credit interest, plus with retirement only a few years away it was damaging for his already small retirement (he had started saving late, another lesson learned), and that if he could just hold out a few years he’d have more help.
Then he told me he wasn’t withdrawing his 401k, he was pulling out a loan against the 401k.
It’s a key difference. In one case you completely remove the money, it’s taxed; and if it’s early additional fees are tacked on. The loan is not taxed, and there are no fees; the key point being that you will pay it back into the 401k like any other loan.
This allowed me to see retirement accounts in a different light. I’d always thought of them as basically like a big savings account that you can put money into but you can’t touch until you’re 65. And while treating it like this is ideal for retirement, when you’re 25 taking $60 out of your paycheck and not seeing it for another 40 years is a big deal. I could seriously use that money now.
So dad got the loan, there is no approval process and no loan officer to beg for money. If you want it it’s yours so long as you pay it back before retirement. Having learned this I finally took the plunge and started my retirement account while in my 20s. Of course now that I’m in I don’t know why I didn’t start earlier, I barely miss the $60 a paycheck and employer matching has caused the 401k to balloon faster than I ever imagined. And the fact that I now have a pool of money I can responsibly loan to myself makes it mind boggling that people still don’t immediately start building their own retirement accounts.
The loan is really like any other (I have Fidelity but most companies are similar):
-You arrange a payment plan of X dollars a month over Y years and the money is automatically deducted from your paycheck before you touch it, removing the temptation to spend it and the problem of not paying on time.
-You still pay interest but you get a decent rate, usually better than any bank will give you.
-The interest you pay goes back into your own retirement account.
That’s worth saying again.
-The interest you pay goes back into your own account, not the bank and not the company holding your 401k. It goes back into your own pocket, even if you don’t really get to pull it out of that pocket it until retirement.
-Than means that the only money unrecovered is the ~$30 processing fee to make the loan.
-And depending on who your 401k is through all this can be done online.
Now obviously this isn’t something you want to make a habit of using but it’s an excellent tool to have at your disposal when compared to paying 25%+ interest to a credit card or paying hundreds of dollars in interest to a bank loaning you money.
There are caveats of course:
-You can only have two loans at a time.
-You can’t take out more than 50% of your 401k in loans.
-If you lose your employment with an outstanding loan the company holding the account has the right to demand immediate payment (but will usually work out a payment plan with you).
-You can’t make extra incremental payments, but you can pay the entire remaining balance early.
-Unless you stop it, you will still be withdrawing X percentage to you retirement as usual, in addition to the loan payment.
-While your loan is out that money is not invested, same as if it was withdrawn from your 401k completely.
A lot of people say that that last caveat is the reason you should avoid 401k loans, as the money that is loaned out it is not invested, thus hurting your future retirement.
However the door swings both ways in this case. In the summer of 2008 I had my own emergency; a few weeks before a 3 week vacation to Japan a relatively trivial medical emergency cleaned out my vacation fund. Rather than let a poor healthcare plan stop me I pushed onward and went on my trip…
Paid mostly on credit.
I got home and had my chance to put the 401k to the test. In less than a week had tapped my now $8,000 401k for a $4000 loan avoiding the interest fees from the credit card. Before you freakout I knew I had about $1500 in reimbursed school funds coming soon, and calculated the other $2500 could be paid in about 8-6 months if I buckled down. I had set my repayment options to the bare minimum stretching out the loan to a few years but with small withdrawals per paycheck but planning on paying it off early. Various things cropped up and I still had a lot of that money out on loan in September 2008 when the market nose-dived.
I decided to follow the old adage of “Buy Low” and waited till the market plunge leveled out in April before paying off the loan with money I had been saving in the intervening months. As the market bounced back that $2500 loan pay off multiplied along with it.
So yes money on loan isn’t invested but in some cases that’s not a bad thing, especially if it’s being put to good use eliminating a more pressing financial emergency. Obviously I was lucky in my circumstance and nobody should try to game their retirement accounts playing with loans to get the same outcome. But it does prove that a negative can be turned into a positive with a little bit of planning.
The main thing I hope people take away from all this, especially those of us in the under 35 age group, is that not only is it good to plan for retirement now but that your retirement account can still be useful in the intervening 40 years. The quicker you start the bigger that cushion will be to help you out of a jam.
As long as you’re responsible and don’t abuse it you have a source you can loan to yourself, pocket your own interest during the payback, and have it all waiting for you as a retirement account when you reach 65.
I agree, everybody who uses a computer claims to be a Geek now which is a bit tiresome since most are just morons trying to not to be morons (but hey at least they’re trying). So here’s the definition I’ve been going by for the last few years on what is a geek and what is a nerd.
Nerd = Somebody who goes to Star Trek conventions in full Klingon regalia and/or Spock Ears. May also be a WoW addict or other shut-in. Japanophile versions refer to themselves as “Otaku” thinking it’s a compliment or Japanese for “Geek” (see below).
Geek = Somebody who goes to E3 and tech conventions. Builds computers for nerds and morons. May also program their own apps and software. Usually pompous and feign exasperation when asked to help fix computers although it’s what they live for.
Moron = Person who thinks the internet was invented sometime around 2000 by Google. Refers to a computer tower as the “Hard Drive”. May be a Facebook or twitter addict but simple html is a foreign concept. May own an iPhone or other smartphone but only because it’s trendy, they need a geek to help them get it working.
Kat’s post was inspired by a story that David Anderegg a professor at Bennington College says that the words Nerd and Geek should be avoided saying that they’re akin to racial epithets.
I couldn’t disagree with him more, for one thing it’s not that big of a deal, I mean saying that nerd is on par with the n-bomb?! Even in the 80’s when being a nerd guaranteed an atomic wedgie or a beating by jocks it wasn’t as bad as spewing racial hatred.
I’d equally consider myself Nerd, Geek, and Moron depending on the situation and circumstance (although I aim for Geek). I don’t think that the problem is in calling a person a nerd, I think the problem is in thinking that that person is ONLY a nerd.
Maybe if we took the time to get to know them a bit more we’d see that’s just one facet of who they are, and maybe even learn why being a nerd, dressing up and going to a sci-fi conventions isn’t always a bad thing.
A lot of people have been predicting the demise of the Netbook as a fad of the economic downturn. I’m just the opposite, I think they’re great and I love mine but they’re only great at doing the job most of us USED to use a laptop for. That it, a second, mobile computer to use when away from our main high powered computer. And now that the price point for a fully capable mobile computing device has hit the $200 mark it’s about to usher in the advent of marketable tablet PCs, (even if it’s about 6 years later than Bill Gates prediction of the tablet revolution).
However even though they’ve come along way since the initial lame Asus 7” 4GB XP driven machines, they’ve still got a little ways to go before they reach their full potential. The frustrating thing is that all the technology for creating the ultimate netbook/mobile computer is available, but for whatever reasons it’s not currently being marketed.
There are a slew of new netbooks coming out now that the pinetrail chips are finally being released but they’re not really stepping up the capabilities of netbooks, it’s just a minor power efficiency upgrade.
So here’s my wish list to create the perfect netbook, and as I alluded above, this is something that is do-able, not some half sci-fi wishlist of a computer with direct to brain interface that is the size of a pen the expands to the size of a desktop with glassy Minority report multi-touch capabilities.
First of all let’s get a starting point with a current netbook. I have an Asus 1005HA, I love it and it’s great, there are just a few things that need upgrading. However in less than 30 days it will supplanted with a new version, so as our foundation let’s use its replacement the 1005PE.
Features that we’ll keep:
1. 10” screen. 9” leads to a keyboard too small for frequent use. 11” leads to a device where its size discourages casually carrying it around; which is the main flaw to using a fullsize laptop as a second computer. If it’s so heavy and bulky you don’t use it, it’s worthless.
2. 1024×600 resolution. This doesn’t need to be upgraded, the screen is small enough that higher resolution is unneeded (but I wouldn’t complain about a small upgrade either…).
3. 802.11n wireless. I don’t have N at home but the natural upgrade from G so it’s nice to future proof my wireless capabilities. I’m sure most free wifi points will make the same upgrade in the future.
4. Bluetooth. I don’t use it frequently but it’s so cheap and small to integrate that it should be there. ESPECIALLY for a mobile unit.
4. Hard Drive storage. Solid state is cool but the benefits don’t outweigh the price, there is little or no difference in speed and battery life. Most importantly is size, when you’re mobile you don’t want to have to carry a bunch of external drives, you want all your music, movies, and programs fully on disk.
5. SD Card reader. I hardly use it but it’s nice to have just in case.
6. Camera+mic. I think these should be standard in mobile devices, thanks to Mac for making a camera above the screen common.
6. Touchpad, headphone+mic, 3 USB, etc. Pretty much standard in all mobile computers and for good reason.
Feature that need upgrading:
1. 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. Ok people it’s time to start upgrading everything to gigabit, 10/100 was tolerable for the first decade of the millennium but it won’t be for the second. Even if you don’t always use it having it there for the times you do makes up for the additional $3 manufacturing costs that it takes to install it.
2. 2GB RAM standard. Non-ultra light Linux OS’s shouldn’t be shoe-horned into 1GB. I’d require that every current netbook start shipping with 2GB as well. The added performance is worth the price.
3 VGA+ HDMI out. HDMI needs to be added with the HD playback capabilities below.
1. High def playback from NVIDA Ion chipset.
Even if the screen can’t playback high def the computer needs to be able to play high def content and down-process for the screen (I’m not reformatting all my HD content just to play it on a computer). And it needs to be able to export the HD video to an external screen through the HDMI port. This way the tiny netbook becomes a mobile player when out and about. I was hoping the new pinetrail chips from Intel would support HD video but all they do is take the low output integrated graphics and move them onboard. So a separate Nvidia Ion chip needs to be added.
!!!!This is worth the extra cost and lower battery life!!!!
Best scenario would be software that runs normal low graphics intensive programs through the PineTrail and only fires up the GPU for high intensity processing.
2. Netbook to Tablet Conversion.
This is really icing on the cake but a netbook that has a rotating screen that can become a tablet will allow it to bridge two close but separate markets. A netbook that can convert becomes a netbook+tablet+PMP+ebook all in one. That makes this another feature that would be worth the higher price for the conversion.
Regardless of the Apple rumors tablets target=blank>are coming. But most are using low complexity OS’s not full bodied computer OS’s like Windows, OSX, and Linux. A netbook can not just tap into this market but be at the top of it by the added capabilities given by a full OS, keyboard, and traditional computer. This would also involve upgrading the screen to a touch screen for more complex interaction whiule in netbook mode.
3. A fingerprint reader.
Ok this one doesn’t really need to be there, but on business laptops like the Lenovo T60 laptops it was a really cool feature for locking and unlocking a computer. For mobile devices that may be accidentally left in a public place some added security locking is a nice touch.
It pay upwards of $700 for a 1005PE with added Ion and swivel screen. But even the Ion addition should be in netbooks. The few that have it are 12” or larger, however those of us with smaller screens still want to watch our HD movies without converting all of them. Or god forbid watch a flash video without it freezing up the system.
I’ve always had an interest in advertising, to me its just a commercial form of propaganda which I find fascinating. How simple imagery and words can influence people so much.
Abercrombie and Fitch ads always bothered me. It’s not just the fact that all the guys are half naked, it just seems ironic using unclothed people to sell clothes.
If you’re out and about shopping on the last Saturday before Christmas and happen pass an A&F store, look at the pictures in the windows and notice that the guys never wear the clothes. In some cases it’s actually hard to find where the clothes being advertised are at. Sometimes draped over a shoulder, other times out of focus in the background.
A few years ago there was a Frontline episode about advertising to the modern generation. It mentioned that direct advertising no longer works in America, if you tell people to “Buy Mountain Dew! It’s great!” people will be more likely to avoid it. Instead to advertise now you do it subconsciously. Show four extreme snowboarders doing all the wild tricks in stunts that you wish you could do. And hey! They’re drinking Mtn.Dew, maybe if you drink it you’ll be more like them.
It seems silly but it works even when you know about it and try to avoid it. About the same time Mtn.Dew started their new “Do the DEW!” advertising I started drinking it more. I don’t know why and to this day I can’t be 100% sure if it was just that I liked it more, or I was brainwashed to like it more. If you drink Mtn.Dew think back to when you started drinking it a lot, was it round about the late 90’s 1997-2000? Maybe they got you too.
Anyway it’s obvious that A&F’s message is: buy our shirts, throw them on a chair in the background, you’ll get a ripped 6-pack, and hot girls in t-shirts and bikini bottoms will glance over your shoulder running their hands over your chest while you stare off into the distance in that “Confused Jock” sort of way. It’s either that or they have found a way to ship free soft core porn to girls through the mail and call it a “catalog”.
All of this is interesting to me because A&F just opened their first Japan store and it’s not doing so well. Apparently half naked guys without shirts isn’t the best way to sell overpriced shirts there. It’s interesting that the now annoying sales technique used buy brands such as A&F and Hollister aren’t as successful over there.
I think A&F just needs to find a way to bend this into some kind of fetish café for females. You know that’d make money there.
Update: Danny Choo went there and posted about it too. I think it’s funny that he’s confused as to why the guys are naked. He even mentioned mentioned getting gassed from too much perfume, just like Maddox’s post about Hollister. Yes Danny, all “trendy” US clothes shops suck that bad.
Also he mentions and even has some pics of the outside of the store where the windows are boarded up so you can’t see the clothes for sale without going in. It goes along with what I was saying, what’s the point of advertising if you hide your clothes from sight?
Personally if the business isn’t going to take the effort to advertise their product I’m not going to go out of my way to check them out.
I like my women mysterious, but not my retailers.
As linked on FG recent performances are nothing like they were in their hey-day. Her vocals are flat now.
I used to like ELT but you could tell back then that from the way she sings, even though it creates and interesting and unique sound it’s killing her vocal chords and has been all along. The comparison to then and now is about the same as listening to hear somebody sing before and after they go through puberty. And even though you can force your voice to reach pitches it did before you really have to strain to do so.
It’s not really known generally among many music listeners but singing is a lot like any other workout, if you don’t have good form it puts you through more stress. Stress that can eventually wear you down before your time.
is was a huge pop singer and should have been exposed to many professional voice trainers that could help her maintain her singing in a way that is less destructive to her vocal chords. But being one of the main draws for the label she was likely pushed to keep straining to keep albums sales high without worrying about the long term effects. A prime example of a label riding their talent hard to bleed them dry.
And considering ELT is part of Avex that’s hardly a surprise; they have been riding the Ayumi train so long they’ve let a lot of good talent fall under the wheels. Talent that could have stepped up to take the reign now that Ayumi and Kaori are fading stars.
Recently Every Little Thing has been less prolific than they used to be, the only time they get air time is for 1 or two songs during A-Nation and the occasional TV appearance. I’m not sure if it’s because Kaori knew her vocals were going and is fading out or if Avex has seen ELT’s sales drop and are shuffling her off to pasture but lack of practice and a high strain method of singing has taken it’s toll. It’s too bad to see somebody who had a lot of talent get used up and discarded due to burnout.
I’m guessing Avex’s cash cow Ayumi will be next, she’s already lost hearing in one ear due to the “Rock and Roll” lifestyle of constant performance with no break. I hope they can both get good gigs as TV tarento where they can reminisce with viewers back to the new millennium when they dominated Japanese music.
I was more of a fan of the more upbeat songs rather than the ballads.
4Force was the album that first got me interested.
But I like the Super Eurobeat remixes the best.
Or just hedge your bets and get the Best Singles compilation.
Besides the “Google phone” and the Iranian Twitter hack it seems that the iPhone sales news in Japan is blowing up all over the place.
The news is that iPhone now makes up 46% of the Japanese smartphone market.
This sounds amazing considering that Japan is so phone centric that Apple could dominate the market in just a couple years. The problem is that the sample was only taken by what Impress considers “smartphones.” The ubiquitous Japanese keitai that EVERYBODY in Japan has wasn’t factored in.
So really the article heading should be that the iPhone makes up 46% of 5% of the Japanese phone market, hardly a market dominator.
“But it’s 46% of smartphones, not Dumbphones.” Keep in mind that the “Dumbphones” that weren’t included in the above percentage have features such as:
-Turn by Turn GPS directions
-2D Barcode scanning
-RFID payment systems
-2 way video calling
-MMS (the iPhone still doesn’t have that!)
In reality it should be the other way around, the iPhone has 46% of the dumbphone market. But that’s nothing to blow off, it means it’s got a good chunk of the market over Windows mobile, Android, Palm, and RIM. Pretty decent. But instead of looking at these skewed numbers lets look at the big picture.
46% of the smartphone market is 3 million phones. Pretty good for a year an a half.
But as of 2 weeks ago there are 110 million phones in Japan.
That means the iPhone makes up 2.7 of the phones in Japan. If you gather 50 random phone users in Japan ONE of them will have an iPhone.
This is really just another case of not seeing the forest for the trees; a problem that is common if you’re deeply entrenched in the tech news world (to be fair not all blogs got hung up on the 46%). For all the news we hear about the iPhone it’s only been out (in the US) for a couple years. Most non-tech people hold onto their for long than that so as rabidly popular the iPhone is it’s still not a market dominator.
The same thing happened yesterday when news came out that iPhone had just recently passed Windows Mobile in the number of smartphones in use. People were amazed that this hadn’t happened a year ago. It’s not shocking at all, RIM and Windows Mobile (and quickly Android) are on many handsets and all carriers. Plus RIM and WM have been on sale for more than twice as long as the iPhone. Joe Wilcox has a good breakdown of that data.
So as in most things before you freak out when somebody put out amazing numbers like “It’s over 46(9000)%!!!” take it with a grain of salt and look at it from the perspective the average person and not the tech blog angle.