Archive for the ‘ Internet ’ Category

2nd Annual Crystal Ball Gazing and Pundit Toss

It’s that time again – actually I’m really really late – for the 2nd Annual Crystal Ball Gazing and Pundit Toss – 2013 edition.

First – lets have the results from last year’s prognostication:

  1. 2012 doomsday – never happened.  I got that one right.
  2. SOPA-PIPA – again never happened.  I got that one wrong (thought it would pass).  That being said – congress is trying to resurrect that one again – pretty much verbatim.
  3. PC still here – but not as vibrant.  I got that basically correct.  You weren’t able to walk into Best Buy and get a high-end gaming system anymore (e.g. like I did in 2011) – and what remained was geared towards your casual users.  However, hobbyists still had options of getting some major gear through online resellers (Newegg and the like).
  4. Cloud computing – it was all the rage throughout 2012, and was the catalyst for various products and services.  However people did see some problems as their data became unavailable during network infrastructure failures – as I predicted.
  5. NASA manned space program – Kaput!  The Russians provided 4 Soyuz missions to the international space station, while the Chinese had one mission that docked with their orbiting laboratory/space station Tiangong-1.  Meanwhile unmanned flights continue unabated – with the USA #3 behind Russia and China.

My personal prediction results:

  1. CPU Cycle Pwnage – NOT!  I never did get that AMD system I wanted.  In the meantime, I did get a shiny new Nexus 7 tablet (the idea being to build software for it) – but then had it, and several other of my electronics stolen from a locked vehicle…  Given replacement costs for various things – repairs to the vehicle and other financial issues – my plans were pretty much dead in the water.  I got this one way wrong.
  2. Uber Blogger – NOT!  While I started off on a solid footing – life/work seemed to suck the time out of my dedication to blogging – and I fell well short of the 52 blog entries desired (only managed to do 8 entries).  Fail Whale!
  3. Doomsday Weight Loss Plan – goal: 100 lbs lost.  Accomplishment: GAINED 5 lbs (after losing a solid 10).  Again, I did not stick with it.
  4. Balance – goal: spend more time in meditation, doing outdoorsy stuff with family, and doing recording….no, no and no.  FAIL.

With that – I had a terrible year predicting my own behavior – but did fairly well predicting the outcome of the larger events.  As a result, I’m going to be a bit more conservative for 2013:

My personal Predictions/Goals for 2013:

  1. Computer and network: going to at least get the ‘hanger queen’ Intel i7 back online with new parts – and set it up to do development as a virtual machine host.  I will also complete building and installing my firewall – that will not only provide better security – but will also handle the buffer bloat problem, and improve my overall network performance.
  2. Development: going to make major progress on my open source project on my personal time.  Given my new job, I don’t expect to be able to announce and release/coordinate by the end of the year – but I anticipate being able to some time next year.
  3. Recording: going to start a voice blog/show on some theme I have as yet to lock down…  Shooting for one show a month for 2013.
  4. Weight loss – I will be active on a daily basis – and will have consistent wieght loss all year (won’t say how much – but will say it will be continuous).
  5. Blogging – I am shooting for writing at least one blog entry a month for 2013.  I did 8 last year – so 12 is a good round number.

Now for the big predictions for 2013:

  1. PC sales will continue to plummet – and hard core gaming will start to be threatened.  Distributors will start to report the unavailability of PC specific resources (motherboards, chipsets, peripherals) – and advancements in the technology of PC CPUs and other core components will stagnate as all efforts focus on tablets and phone form factors.
  2. Linux will go through a ‘dark age’ during 2013 – but this will set the stage for a ‘renaissance’ in 2014 that gives users more of what they want.  On a parallel note: hard core PC gaming will continue to improve under Linux as Windows falls by the wayside, but total numbers of hard core gamers will drop as consoles and casual gaming gains ground.
  3. SOPA – Round 2 – will raise the hackles of freedom loving people – and there will be another ground swell against it.  If passed, in concert with the already modified ‘no jail breaking’ rule from the librarian of the Library of Congress (under DMCA provisions) – the network will be less open to innovation using existing devices.  However, as we all know, the internet has the property of routing around log jams, and this will be no different.  I expect these rulings to impact business interests more than open source in the long run – and will provide opportunities for Kick-starter projects to fill gaps left by proprietary solutions.  We’ll see…
  4. With the death of Aaron Swartz and the backlash of Anonymous – we are already seeing an uptick in zero-day exploitation.  I expect that to continue throughout the year to make 2013 a critical year for network and systems security.

Check back with me at the beginning of 2014 to see how it all turns out.

Do We Need A New Political Party For The Internet?

The SOPA-PIPA and ACTA debacles are a clear indicator that our elected officials in both the Democratic and Republican parties are not merely ignorant of their civic duties, but corrupt as well.  Clearly the influence of powerful lobbying groups’ dollars resonated more than destroying the keystone of our modern freedom of speech and publication – the internet.

In private discussion with my college political professor back in the day he was of the opinion at the time, after having tried influencing things as an independent, that it was better to work within one or the other political parties – to make the most impact, and if need-be change them from within.  However, after observing several political grass root events in both parties over the years (I’m a registered Republican btw – but very disappointed with the party) – the prospect of working with and attempting to influence the people currently in positions of leadership in either party is distasteful.  I would rather try to argue with a rabid pit-bull – than spend time with these dogmatic people.  When people can’t find common ground there is no way to convince them to compromise on any issue for the greater good.

Instead I am thinking it would be better just to scrap support for either party, and instead form a new party based upon a more moderate/centrist view of things.  Ideally this party should align with the views of the 14 million Americans who are currently awake – with their antenna fully extended and listening.

What would the platform of such a party look like?  Here is my attempt:

Internet Party Platform (IP Platform)

1.  Civic responsibility is everyone’s responsibility; the population must educate themselves and make such education available (e.g. get out the vote, email/phone campaigns) on the issues and watch and respond to threats to our basic liberties.  The response to SOPA-PIPA tells me that this is possible, if not happening already.   “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” – Thomas Jefferson.  We have been silent for too long.

2.  Revolutionary Republicanism – the view that limiting corruption and greed is of utmost importance.  Virtue of our elected leaders must be restored through strict limits on monetary compensation and ‘donations’ from all parties.  Get the influence of money OUT of government.  The population has a right and a duty to remove from office by legally scheduled election and recall election those elected officials who are shown to be abusing their power to the detriment of society.  Make it so only virtuous women and men seek public office in the spirit of ensuring, ” rich and poor, magistrates and subjects, officers and people, masters and servants, the first citizen and the last, are equally subject to the laws”, to quote John Adams.

3.  The internet and the vast majority of people who spend their daily lives inhabiting, growing ‘micro’ economies in, communicating and publishing words, arts and music in, and increasing the public good through – is the heart blood of this country and the world today.  We recognize that the communications and computer technology that makes up the internet is disruptive of the previous business and political order.  We pledge to make this revolutionary transition peaceful and respectful of everyone’s human rights and civil liberties.

4.  We do not apologize to previous generations and interests for change –  “no society can make a perpetual constitution or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation.”  We will fight all attempts to stop useful public progress in the interests of private financial gain in perpetuity.  To that end we will fight to limit the length of time the assignment of monopoly (e.g. copyright)  can be applied – so that real public good within the same generation comes from invention – and America can remain a leader in innovation.

That’s about all I can think of that most people would agree upon.  Anything else would start the pendulum swinging too far right or left.  I also tried to make it general enough to cover most situations that cause the most problems – the 80/20 rule would apply – the idea here being you’ll never be able to clean up everything, but if you focus on the top 20% of issues – you’ll impact 80% of the things that effect people.  Given the core values expressed here – I think taking action on them would have the most good.

Then another thought occurred to me…

Does it even make sense to think in terms of nation-states and political boundaries in a medium that by design contains no such distinctions?  It is a great contradiction.  To ensure the continued unlimited communications medium across the world, you must play the sovereign’s game within the boundaries of the state.  But what’s to stop an association of parties with the same platform from springing up all over the world?  Think about it – helping each other in many nations to focus upon the internet problems that we are all impacted by as a community.  I would argue this is happening already in an adhoc manner – but aside from the reactive Anonymous and Occupy movements – there has not been a consistent platform put forward that is proactive.  What I’ve seen so far is a statement that there is a problem, and a list of 50,000 divergent views on how to fix it.  Maybe we just need to start with some simple values, like these here, and act upon them to get to the variegated state we desire?  Maybe we already are, and I’ve not been paying attention?

To Grok, or not to Grok – That is the Question

I’m still working on the article that is supposed to be here  – so in the interests of providing a more consistent output – I give you this expansion on a brief comment I wrote on another blog regarding how I learn and the epiphany I had when I stopped gazing at my own navel:

When I was young, and by young I mean 39 (LOL), I couldn’t grasp that people just didn’t think the way I do about learning. For me – when I want to learn something, I research everything I can about the subject in books. In fact, I’m fat, dumb, and happy when I have an excellent book on the subject, and a computer at hand to try things out for myself just to see how it really works.  My stint in the military also had a similar pattern, both as a student and as an instructor the method of study was always 1) read the manual, 2) get some hands on to verify your knowledge; as an instructor the pattern was 1) lecture, 2) give the students hands on – the only difference being in an instructor lead course the instructor can critique and show the students proper methods as well as answer questions to help them clarify their knowledge.   As a student, I rarely if ever had to ask questions, or needed the instructor to verify my work – I was an autonomous learner – and could never quite understand why others around me needed help in this way.

One day it started to click for me. It was the day my wife decided to take a C++ programming course. Now, I’ve been trying to get her interested in geeky things – including programming for years – and I gave her reading lists and some of the best books on the subject – things I wish someone had done for me back when I was just getting started.  As much as she tried – she just never got it alone… or especially, it seems when I would try to explain it to her. For her the ideal learning experience is in a formal classroom setting with a emotionally distant teacher she can ask questions without feeling she was being judged, and a solid curriculum with homework and all the rest – the works.  90% of communications is nonverbal – and try as I might, she would detect or think she detected a scolding when I would attempt to explain.  I won’t go into all the reasons she may have come to that impasse.  Suffice to say – she required a different approach than I was capable of giving.

I knew something significant was going on when she started talking to me with excitement about her first project – the archetypical hello world program. When she came home with an ‘A’ in the subject – I knew there was a qualitative difference between the different modes of learning – and those modes are different and unique for every person.  Everyone is capable of learning just about anything – the key is to put them in the right learning environment for them.  When that occurs, they will be more likely to be motivated, and the subject matter will be more accessible to them.

After sulking for several years, I have now come to accept that reality – and by doing so it has helped me communicate with and help others find their best way in spite of my own limitations in this area.

So the upshot of my torturous journey is to tailor education for the students – and today we have more than enough CPU cycles to go around to make that happen technologically at least.  So – how can we do that for the large majority of students who are not autonomous learners?

I need to think about that – and I’ll get back to you.  In the meantime – let me know what you think should be done, both in terms of technology and the practice of teaching, in the comments section below.

SOPA, PIPA and My Internet Story

I was going to blog about the State of the Metaverse in this blog, but instead I chose to postpone that article until a later date due to the impending SOPA Blackout as we come down to the wire on the vote for the SOPA/PIPA bills in Congress.  Instead, I am going to provide my own internet story, because in some ways what I am today is a direct result of my experiences in this medium that is now threatened.

1981 was the beginning of my journey – my junior year in high school – I was failing chemistry class miserably, and decided to transfer to a new class that was being offered: computer programming.  It piqued my interest, and soon I was hooked.  I learned Fortran and Basic on NCR and the Apple ][ machines respectively, but more importantly we also had access to a timeshare system composed of two CRT terminals and a teleprinter (typewriter keyboard built into a printer that itself could serve as a terminal in addition to spewing printed output upon copious and what we would consider grotesque amounts of fan-fold tractor fed printer paper) connected mysteriously via wires through the wall to some minicomputer somewhere else.  It could have been in a closet next door or across town – I never did see that system (I want to say it was VMS based Vax/PDP perhaps?).  Ostensibly this system was to be used to print out the listings of our assigned programs that we carefully transcribed into the CRT terminals and saved in our named accounts and the output, but one day I found a classmate playing a game called ‘Advent’.  Soon I began playing it too – it was one of the first text based dungeon games; inspired by Tolkien novels.  This is when it first hit me that this medium could be a place to explore – not only the file systems and machines it was composed of, but more importantly worlds we could imagine and recreate in software ourselves.  Popular media soon saw the patterns – movies  Tron (1982), Blade Runner (1983), War Games (1983) – and literature – Neuromancer (1984) – gave words and imagery to what we were experiencing and inventing – and became part of the internet lexicon we take for granted today.

In the intervening years between my high school graduation and entry in the university, I continued to program, even as I worked in my first real job, which while not directly related to programming, allowed me to visit foreign lands.  I taught myself  C, Intel 8088 assembler, and gained exposure to different systems including the Commodore Amiga, IBM PC, DOS – and learned the intricacies of modems and modem connection command strings.  I quickly found BBS systems and connected to as many as I could.  In this process of exploration, I stumbled upon the FIDONET – a parallel network that contained discussion threads and messaging systems that was distributed coast to coast through regional nodes that shared with the collective.  The network I found contained a vibrant social milieu where anything was possible and expression and experimentation was tolerated, if not rejoiced.  I also continued to experiment with different virtual experiences – starting with the SubLogic Flight Simulator, Zork series of text based adventures and so on – but these were single player games and the computer was not a viable opponent.

When I joined the university in 1992 as a computer science undergraduate, I was exposed to the internet, Unix and deeper critical thinking on various topics available in newsgroups from a wide range of scholars and students alike.  The internet was in its infancy, and at that time the way to find resources was to use Archie, Gopher, and anonymous FTP to find and retrieve files on the subjects you wanted.  There was also an extensive email system and newsgroup system going at that time.  I felt right at home as this mode contained essentially the same elements I found in FIDONET – but it was ‘always on’ in the computer science lab, just sit down at a console and login – we take for granted today – that wasn’t that common back then.  But there was a buzz about this thing called ‘html’ and the ‘world wide web’ that culminated in the availability of NSF Mosaic – the first graphical http client (web browser), and the term ‘web surfing’ entered the jargon.  By the end of 1993 there were only 623 http sites on the web – and over 1,000,000 systems connected to the internet.  That year WWW traffic would grow 341,634% annually.  I had arrived just at the right time to straddle the old and new access paradigms, and get my fingers into both.  In between all that excitement, I was learning how to program systems, databases, and client-server applications via BSD sockets.  I also loaded my first Linux installation in these years (Slackware! Got Slack?), so I could do my work at home to avoid waiting in line for a console in the lab – and upload it to one of the servers via modem.  Games became more sophisticated and we saw the first multiplayer online games in this decade.

Upon leaving the university, I joined the business world and plied my trade with all the knowledge and experience at my disposal.  The internet and the technologies associated with it became the lingua franca of my career – and most of you lived through and are well aware of the innovations that have followed – with the culmination of the internet spread to mobile platforms, phones, and IP technology beginning to replace the old voice switched network.  The mobile internet is here and growing in size.  These advances and the free flow of information and social coordination that ensued is fueling a sea-change exemplified by the Arab spring,  Occupy Wall Street, and other movements.  I am happy to say I played a small part behind the scenes of those advances.

But in the next few days the Congress will be voting on bills that could endanger all that we have collectively worked for and built – directly affecting my livelihood and the lives of millions of other people who work in the information industries.  In the past, I have been on the fence when it came to open systems, independent artists and I was often at odds with the more militant views of these issues – such as the views of the Free Software Foundation.  With this crisis, it seems powers of greed are rolling back the clock – taking away the progress that we have managed to make in the interim.  I can see now the dangers overly proprietary systems can have, and now, more than ever, will make efforts to find and build open alternatives.

The hope we have is this: we have the power to end this – by boycotting the business entities supporting this, and by pledging ourselves to voting out of Congress all those who supported this when faced with the overwhelming evidence of the technically untenable and ethically questionable support for these bills entails.  Finally we can do something even more important in the long run: take the money you would have spent on an RIAA record album, or an MPAA movie – and seek out independent and self published artists of all types.  If the majority of us did this collectively, we would change the face of the arts and put the money were it really needs to go – into the hands of the artists.