Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Something To Stew About

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Jun 07, 2014 @ 10:55 pm PDT

Observation StewThis has been another busy week, what with trying to get the truth out about the kerfluffle at the REP in Santa Clarita (#IStandWithTheREP),  my daughter Erin being in town getting ready to go off to a summer Yiddish program back east, installing and setting up a new password manager, and loads of stuff at work. Still, I grabbed a few articles of interest:

 

FacebookTwitterTumblrGoogle+LinkedInLiveJournalStumbleUponEmailPinterestMySpaceShare/Bookmark

--- *** ---

A Matter of Time: Mail, Mobile Phones, and Mainframes

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Apr 04, 2014 @ 12:23 pm PDT

userpic=anniversaryToday’s lunchtime news chum collection comes to you courtesy of Timex, for it is all about time and anniversaries. This is appropriate, as NIST is about to introduce a new, more-accurate atomic clock.

  • Mail. This week marks the 10-year anniversary of Gmail. Many of you may remember life before Gmail. I certainly remember the days of command-line email — /bin/mail, mailx, and numerous other mail readers (I was particularly fond of using email within emacs). Then we moved to nicer email clients, such as Pegasus, while the Corporate folks dealt with Outlook and Notes. Web-based email, at that time, was horrid — limited storage, limited interfaces, limited searching. Google changed all that with gigantic limits and great interfaces, all for the cost of your soul (no, that not right) your privacy (getting closer) the ability to search through your mail and sell you stuff based on it (that’s the ticket). Gmail isn’t perfect — there still isn’t the ability to work with digital certificates and encrypted mail. Hopefully we’ll get that. Otherwise, Gmail has become such a juggernaut (especially when combined with Android) that it is unstoppable.
  • Mobile Phones. Speaking of Android, this week is also the 41st anniversary of the first mobile phone call. Talk about life-changing devices. No longer can you hide anywhere — being incommunicado is now unthinkable. We’ve got from only a few having cellphones to everyone having them with them 24×7. In fact, you now no longer have just a phone, but an entire miniature computer with you. As evidence, I just added a page to my Passover Hagadah to remind people to turn off their cell phones; yet another form of escaping from slavery!
  • Mainframes. This week also is the 50th anniversary of the IBM 360 mainframe. Now, many of you youngsters (hey, you, get off my lawn) don’t even know what a mainframe is, so bear with me. Back in the 1950s, computers were one-shots — built for a specific purpose, for a specific task. Some smaller computers (such as the IBM 7090) started to come in, but they still often used plugboards and were unsuitable for the enterprise. In the 1960s, IBM introduced the 360 line — a range of computers, all running a common OS (at that time, OS/MFT) with common machine instructions that were extensible. Business could now afford computers. I programmed on a number of 360 systems: the 360/50 at LA Unified, the 360/91 and 360/75 at UCLA, and later, the 370/3033 at UCLA.

 

--- *** ---

Your Are What’s On Your Phone

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Mar 30, 2014 @ 9:15 pm PDT

userpic=verizonYesterday, I asked people to suggest some of their favorite apps on their phones. Although few fave answered directly on the blog, I have gotten responses on  Livejournal, Google+, and on Facebook. The responses have been telling, less in providing useful app suggestions, and more in showing how one’s phone reflects one personality and lifestyle.

There are people who use their phones as a media center. These folks suggested apps such as Kindle, Netflix, Pandora, and such.  This is much less important to me — my media center is my iPod Classic, which holds all my music. I’d rather not use precious bandwidth for streaming media.

Others use the phone as a tool. These folks were suggesting apps such as rulers, levels, calculators. They were also suggesting apps such as terminal emulators to give ssh access, or (apropos for where I work) satellite monitors.

Still others use the phone as a tool in a different sense — learning about the environment. These folks included traffic apps, apps to provide social connections, and even earthquake monitoring.

One might even wonder whether the collection of apps on one phones is a signature for an individual…

 

--- *** ---

Looking for a Few Good …

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 29, 2014 @ 6:51 pm PDT

userpic=verizon Thursday evening, I entered the modern world and got a smartphone, a Motorola Moto X. I’ve figured out a few apps I want (the Caltrans Quickmap app, Waze, a QR code reader, and apps from our credit unions). Still, I’d like some recommendations. What are your “must have” apps for the Droid ecosystem? One note: no bandwidth hogs, and I’m not interested in games. I don’t plan on streaming music — that’s why I have an iPod Classic!

Some additional security questions:

  • Do you encrypt your phone? (I see pros and cons)
  • Do you run a mobile virus scanner, such as Avast Mobile Security? Is this unnecessary given the Motorola capabilities?
  • Have you enabled the remote administration features for lost devices? According to Motorola, this allows you to find your device instantly when you’ve misplaced it. You can also lock and wipe your device remotely, and have it display a message asking for its safe return. To do this, however, you need to activate the device administrator?

 

--- *** ---

Technical Items of Yore

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 15, 2014 @ 9:04 am PDT

userpic=televisionIn my continuing question to clear off my accumulated news chum list, here is a collection of links related to technical items of olden days (like, say, when I was young :-) ):

 

--- *** ---

What’s Missing in This Article?

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 20, 2013 @ 11:44 am PDT

userpic=verizonWhile eating my lunch and reading the news, news.google.com highlighted an interesting article (alas, from Fox News): “FCC announces plans to upgrade century-old phone system“. In short, currently 1/3 of people use cell phones, 1/3 use digital services from cable providers, and 1/3 use what is called POTS – Plain Old Telephone Service. This is the century-old copper wire switching network. Of course, eventually, both the cell phones and digital services end up on that copper as well.

What happened is that yesterday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to expedite the largest change to the nation’s phone system in decades — a move away from the circuit-switched system that sends those analog signals over copper cables to a digital, IP-based network that largely relies on fiber optics. Once tests prove that the new system works in localized trials, the system will be rolled out nationwide, and the copper wires that have been the basis of POSE for over a century will be turned off.

Be scared, be very very scared.

According to the article, the FCC is expected to begin in January “a diverse set of experiments” in order to figure out how to transition to the new IP-based system, a transition certain to take years. FoxNews was told that the initial experiments will likely include regional tests of an IP-based system to ascertain reliability, scalability and so on. The commission’s technological advisory committee set a goal of 2018, which is likely too ambitious, he said. But expect localized trials as soon as 2015. The upgrade may mean introducing the age of video calling to landlines. An IP landline network, unlike current copper wires can handle much larger amounts of data that could be used to make video calls.

What’s missing in the above? Security.

One of the facts I remember from studying for the CISSP is that Federal wiretap laws apply only to telephone (read: POTS) communication. It does not apply to VOIP (which is one reason I don’t do digital phone systems). Once our copper lines move to all digital…

Further, there is no mention of using encryption — or giving the provision for encryption. Ideally, if we’re going digital, it would great to be able to be able to use public-key encryption for the payloads of the messages (not routing), where the user controlled the key (for one thing, this would allow you to sign over the phone). Will it be there?

What about analog devices? Is this the death of the modem? What about all the technologies that depend on analog signals over copper (many medical devices do; fax machines may)? Does this mean (using an IP-based service) that a side-benefit is instant internet connectivity? What does that do to the ISPs?

One big advantage of copper is that it provided its own power infrastructure. If your electricity went down, often your phones would continue to work. That’s not true for VOIP, where you require additional power adapters. Further, the phone system was very simple — which also made it robust. Yes, the Internet was designed for robust switching, but I’m not sure it will have the resiliency we’ll need for nationwide telephone service in emergencies. One wonders, in fact, if they’ve actually figured out all the requirements properly.

Much as I can see the benefits to moving away from copper, I’ve got the increasing feeling that these benefits are not necessarily for the end users. They will lower costs for the telcos, and may make things easier for, umm, other parties, but the end consumer?

Your thoughts are welcome.

--- *** ---

Things That Aren’t Around/Will Not Be Around Anymore, Plus Friday News Chum

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Dec 14, 2012 @ 11:34 am PDT

userpic=dr-georgeToday’s lunchtime news chum post is mostly about things that either aren’t around anymore, or are going away. But, as it is Friday, there are a few “clearing the links” items at the end….

In other items:

  • Brain Food. I meant to post this with yesterday’s post, but the link was a work. Evidently, eating too much fructose can make it harder to think. According to research by UCLA biology professor Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, binging on soda, candy and sugary snacks for as little as six weeks may reduce brain function. The study, which was conducted on rats, is the first to show that a diet high in fructose slows the brain, which hampers memory and learning. The article fails to note they wanted to conduct the experiment on UCLA students, but they couldn’t find a control group.
  • Junk Food. Things that make you go “huh?”: Pepsi-Cola and Chicken flavored Potato Chips.
  • Thinks You Need to Know. Did you ever wonder why . . . – – – . . . (better known as “SOS”) became an international emergency code? Wonder no more.

And lastly, I wrote about the updated UC logo earlier this week. Well, it has been suspended from use.

--- *** ---

Friday News Chum: Periodic Table of Tech, USS Enterprise, Kickstarter, Disney+Lucas, Sitcom Spinoffs, and Robocalls

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 02, 2012 @ 11:22 am PDT

Well, it’s Friday at lunch (well, really, it is Thursday evening, but you know how things go), and it is time to clear out the accumulated links of the week. There’s a bunch of real interesting stuff here folks, so let’s dive in…

 

--- *** ---