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October 31, 2001

Man in a Wireless Suitcase

By Glenn Fleishman

My New York Times article on the continued deployment of wireless 802.11b networks in U.S. and Canadian airport appears in Thursday’s Circuits section, though you can link to it now. (A secret: Circuits posts its content by mid-afternoon on Wednesday without linking to it from the Circuits home page. Enter, replacing yyyy, mm, and dd with that Thursday’s year, month, and date.)

This article arose out of some good serendipity. I continually talk to the wireless ISPs and other folks involved in this fine industry. It seemed to me the time was ripe post-Sept. 11 to talk about whether we were gaining or losing service in airports, and I found to my surprise that companies hadn’t scaled back their efforts overall. Rather, they paused, regrouped, and continued in a more conservative way. Simultaneously, the airport authorities, the government bodies that operate airports, realized that their best bet for reliable, long-term service was slow and easy, and so eased their requirements.

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By Glenn Fleishman

Watch Glenn cavort with an iPod.

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October 30, 2001

Nomad User Speaks

By Glenn Fleishman

From bump: The Nomad Jukebox eats batteries very quickly, and I got about two hours of playback at the most out of it. The interface on it for navigating music is sometimes maddening, other times barely usable. Finally, transferring music takes forever.

Yeah, I didn’t have room to rant about battery life in my column for this Sunday’s Seattle Times on the iPod. The Nomad uses four AA batteries, which it can recharge internally, to run its rated four hours of service, which Robert Occhialini says above is really two. Managing AA’s is a pain in the butt. None that I’ve seen are intelligent enough to have current levels or other markings on them to help differentiate them. They’re a commodity you’re supposed to buy in endless quantities and throw away.

Never mind that they’re full of toxic chemicals and should be disposed of as hazardous waste if we lived in a society that dealt with the real cost of its consumers’ actions.

A brand name 4-pack of rechargeables is $13.00 from Let’s say you get three sets to allow for some going bad before their time, rotation, and having an extra set. So that’s nearly $40 without a separate charger - you’re relying on the Nomad’s built-in ability. The reviews at indicate that these batteries really last through hundreds of charges. Great!

So you’re walking around for a cross-country trip with at least 12 batteries to get at least six hours of continuous play…huh, okay, maybe you need 16 or 20 judging by Robert’s description. And maybe they will last years and years: in three or four years, you’re still using the same set, still getting good life out of them. But they’ve raised the price of your “$250” 6 Gb Nomad well over $300, maybe to $350 between losing batteries, chargers, replacements, etc.

The iPod, at $400, has a 10-hour lithium battery. I was using the hell out of it this weekend on a long road drive and couldn’t run the sucker down after hours of continuous play and backlight use. The deal is that the iPod precaches about 20 minutes of music on a rotating basis in its 32 Mb of static RAM. During part of the drive, I was jumping around from album to album (don’t worry - I was the passenger - never, ever control the iPod while driving - you will die). This reduces battery life by requiring hard drive seeks and frequent spin up/spin down. Still, over a five-hour drive, I couldn’t drain it more than half.

And one more detail. Let’s say I’m travelling with my iBook, a likely combination. I’m stuck in an airport with no A/C adapter nearby and my iPod starts to reach the end of its charge. I plug it into the iBook, let it charge, and get several more hours while only winding down the iBook’s battery life by a fraction. (Even better: I also got a USB charger cable for my cell phone. Investing in a second iBook battery now makes much more sense than investing in multiple AC adapters, batteries, and cables on disparate devices.)

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I Want My eMpTy View

By Glenn Fleishman

I have a friend who works or worked at MTVi in a high-level position. Their offices were south of 14th Street in Manhattan, so after (first) the trauma of the World Trade Center disaster, they were unable to return to work until the next week. Back in the office, things were raw, apparently. The axe finally fell today, about six weeks after the disaster. MTV is folding its interactive division, once primed for a separate IPO, back into the parent firm and laying off a ton of employees. I’ll be interested to see Adam Curry’s reaction given his long-time “relationship” with MTV and his many friends and colleagues at the network.

Posted by Glennf at 9:06 PM | TrackBack Explains Special Order Surcharges

By Glenn Fleishman

I noticed today that has modified and raised its special order surcharge for books that require direct-from-publisher orders. Typically, these books are listed with 4-6 week availability on their site. I have written (and been quoted) extensively on the subject during’s confusing pricing tests this summer, since which the company calmed down. My colleagues at the firm expressed their surprise and concern that I was critical of the pricing test, but ultimately I think I convinced them that consumers wouldn’t be able to navigate the several changes in price, shipping, and surcharges.

The latest change comes after months of stability, and addresses all of my concerns. In the interim between summer and this change, has charged a 99-cent surcharge for special order titles, but did not note this information anywhere except as a surcharge on their shipping charges page. When you reached the checkout page, the surcharge was included in shipping and handling without an additional explanation.

When I noticed the change today, it was profoundly improved: each page that has a surcharge not only notes it (see this book, for instance), but explains it with some depth and links to a page with even more information. Since is the best and biggest fulfiller of special order titles - being the largest bookstore that orders non-mainstream titles direct from individual publishers - I find it perfectly reasonable that they’re charging something that reflects their costs involved.

Consumers may shy away and try to buy from cheaper sources, but will return when they find the wait, expectation, and follow-through is substantially worse than In my talks with bricks and mortar booksellers, it’s clear that they just hate special order books. Booksellers love to help their customers find the titles they want, and they generally love smaller presses. But ordering single books from publishers often involves a lot of paperwork, a short discount (20% or less instead of a more normal 40% or more), shipping fees (shipping is waived on large orders), and a reasonable delay (as they tend to have to aggregate orders or handle them on a batched weekly basis for the reasons above).

Small bookstores don’t make much money, or even lose money on special order titles. has always had a high volume of these titles, allowing them to get the highest discounts most of the time and have waived shipping. But it still involves a lot of human involvement except with the largest publishers. The surcharge is reasonable, and should increase their margins. If ships, say, 200,000 special order books in 2002 out of the millions of books they handle, that’s an additional nearly $4 million in revenue that’s “free” to them. It benefits consumers in that consumers get the advantage of a sophisticated order and tracking system. (It may even benefit independent booksellers in offloading these more difficult, margin-reducing titles from them.)

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October 29, 2001

iKilled my iPod

By Glenn Fleishman

In my inimitable fashion, my Apple-supplied technology preview of the iPod (see earlier posts) died on me about two days after arrival. I’m sure it was my fault. I unplugged while it was running. I stuck a too-long stereo adapter in it. I put it in my back pocket (and didn’t sit on it). Fortunately, my Apple PR contact at Edelman Worldwide is a clever dude. I called him this a.m., and he said, press Menu + play for 10 seconds and it’ll force a reboot. I do so. Little happy iPod bootup screen. Tony, you’re my savior, I say, and email his Apple contact. I deal with a lot of PR people, and they are always criticized when they don’t do what we press types want. It’s important to thank them to their clients when they do great deeds such as this one. Does his competence predispose me more to the product? A bit. More in this Sunday’s Seattle Times.

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October 27, 2001

'eLLO iPod

By Glenn Fleishman

Thanks to a generous loan from Apple Computer, I’ve been playing with an iPod since yesterday morning. It comes in a fascinating cube-shaped box that not only firmly protects the iPod with inches of foam, but splits in half in the middle to reveal components on on side and the iPod on the other - reminiscent of McDonald’s failed McDLT. (There’s a tape drive format known as DLT, but I’m not making the MacDLT joke here.)

It’s a nifty toy with all the features Apple claimed for it. It’s not entirely silent, but it’s not far off. You can hear the tiny hard drive whirr from time to time. The interface takes 20 to 60 seconds to learn based on my experience in showing it to four computer-oriented folks in my office.

Some early praise: it really does take just a few seconds to transfer a 160 kbps stereo encoded MP3 album. My initial attempts with my G4 Cube were oddly slow, but testing it with an iMac and a Titanium iBook revealed the true speed. The integration with iTunes 2 is optimal, making it seamless to manage lists.

Some displeasure: My girlfriend is deaf in her right ear, and there is no balance control, not to mention no equalization or other features. I expect these will show up in firmware upgrades, as most of this has to do with controlling an addressable DSP and processor, not in the hardware design. (The number of firmware upgrades will be interesting).

I managed to crash the unit already by stupidly plugging in the extra-long iBook A/V plug. The dual-USB iBook has video and stereo audio out through a single micro-RCA connector. If you plug a regular stereo plug in, you get audio. If you plug the special cable in (about $15 extra), it’s got an extra centimeter or so to it that sucks the video off the end. This doesn’t interface well with the iPod. Fortunately, the iPod has some kind of automated recovery circuitry because after a while of acting slow and funky, it rebooted itself and acts normal. That’s insanely impressive.

(I’ve often through that Macs should come equipped with a micro-boot kernel in firmware. If the machine was really hosed, the machine would have some extra monitoring circuitry that would reboot it into this mode, run the latest firmware updated version of Apple Disk Tools or other recovery software, and attempt to fix problems and run diagnostics. If that failed, it would enabled simple Ethernet (DHCP-based), AirPort (DHCP-based), or a simple internal modem configuration to dial into an Apple automated help desk.)

Another small complaint: random shuffle play seems to be an overall setting across all songs on the device.

I’m about to take a short trip in a car (about 10 to 12 hours of driving over a couple days), and I’ll see how it functions as a road warrior tool. Apple has strangely not promoted this as a portable auto audio device. They could release a translucent white cassette tape with the stereo plug as another design item.

The synchronization features, by the way, are highly interesting. You can sync your whole collection, which won’t work for my 25 Gb of MP3s (all ripped from legal albums, by the way). With 5 Gb on the iPod you have to be somewhat selective, even though it will fit 1,000 160 kbps encoded songs. You can create playlists and automatically sync those, too. Or, you can manually synchronize. If you choose that last option, this means that you can use the iPod with many machines. You can also overcome what was advertised as a deficiency: you can copy songs from the iPod back to a computer, even one the song didn’t come from. But you can’t synchronize both directions automatically.

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October 26, 2001

Happy 10th, Walt

By Glenn Fleishman

The grand old man of newspaper computer columnism, Walt Mossberg, celebrates his 10th anniversary writing his column. I don’t always agree with Walt’s specific opinions, but his overall approach is consistent: computers and computing machinery intended for consumers shouldn’t be difficult, expensive, and poorly supported.

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October 25, 2001

Foldout Ads

By Glenn Fleishman

My dad emailed me to point out something I’d noticed a few days ago: Yahoo’s Finance site is using a new kind of popup ad that expands the ad above and below the small footprint when you mouse over it. Foldout ads?

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October 24, 2001

Howdy, Mr. Peabody

By Glenn Fleishman

The Internet Archive announces the Wayback Machine. Enter any URL and see what they have archived and when, then view it, in real time. This is an invaluable tool for archivists and researchers. It will almost certainly blow out copyright issues to the fore, as it has before. F’r’instance.

It just hit me that this could be a national security problem. Nuclear plants are revising their sites to move previously quite explicit information about the site location, such as maps. But then, you can use the Internet Archive to view Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the past.

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More Proof Cringely Was Right

By Glenn Fleishman

I wrote a few days ago about Robert X. Cringely declaring death of consumer broadband. I agreed reluctantly with a lot of his logic. More proof arrives. I mentioned in that post that Sprint had cancelled its Ion service and halted new Sprint Broadband (wireless 2.5 GHz) deployments. Yesterday, AT&T Fixed Wireless was eliminated in budget cutting; they apparently used the 10 GHz range. And I’ve just read that SBC plans to cut back DSL buildout.

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iPod is oneWay

By Glenn Fleishman

The New York Times reports this morning in a tidbit that the author extracted from Steve Jobs and I haven’t seen elsewhere that the company’s new iPod only synchronizes one way: that is, you can download new music from one machine to your iPod, but not from the iPod up to another machine. This makes some sense, as it’s minimal copy protection. And because you can use the iPod as a plain hard drive, you could use a simple Synchronization program and the drive side to move files from home to work to a latop and back. But it does decrease the utility, especially given the size of the drive. My girlfriend and my CD collection ripped into 128 kbps 16-bit MP3s via iTunes is 25 Gb. Maybe Apple needs to introduce the iCan iFlippin iBackup iMy iFiles with an ‘ighCapacity iTapeDrive, guvnor?

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October 23, 2001

Apple's Done It Again

By Glenn Fleishman

As always, the response to that statement is, “done what?” The new Apple iPod is a $400 music player sporting a 5 Gb hard drive, FireWire (IEEE 1394) port, large LCD screen, and 10-hour lithium polymer battery. It recharges itself over FireWire. If you don’t have a computer handy, you plug the FireWire cable into an included AC adapter. It combines the best features of most MP3 players into a single box. It doubles as a hard drive. It slices and dices and makes pounds of julienne potatoes. It syncs itself up with iTunes, the new 2.0 release due out simultaneously in early November. Rip in iTunes 2 (twice as fast now, Apple claims), plug the iPod in, zoom zoom zoom at 40 Mbps over FireWire. Run away and play.

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October 21, 2001

Latest Practical Mac Column

By Glenn Fleishman

My latest Practical Mac column for the Seattle Times rounds up a variety of OS X news, mentions my like for the soon-to-be-released Office v. X for Mac suite, and talks about putting 1.5 Gb of RAM in my G4 Cube for just $150 (from

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X Factor

By Glenn Fleishman

Microsoft officially releases Windows XP next week; Apple’s release a few weeks ago of OS X’s upgrade 10.1 marked its real beginning. Why X? To signify the unknown: a future in which users may experience (no pun) a consistent powerful interface with few crashes, lots of help along the way, and a general lack of the irritants of all previous consumer OS’s. I’d be very interested here (click comments) or via email to hear people’s first reactions to both systems.

October 20, 2001

Three-Layer Blog

By Glenn Fleishman

Robert Scoble pointed to Dan Gillmor blogging behind him at the Camden conference; Dan’s Web log mentions Donald Norman mentioning an essay he wrote; I have a comment on that essay. (Thought I’d never get there.)

Norman’s essay, in brief, is that our educational system promotes individual, competition-based learning and analysis, where the real world promotes cooperative, colleague-influenced collaboration. He’s right. But where he leaves off is that we need experts: the school system encourages the individual to master things through competition. Cooperative learning (which he says is mostly labeled cheating) doesn’t necessarily promote each individual’s ability to become minor experts. This system of education eventually routes people into specialization. Without specialization, we don’t have progress, which is an arguable benefit, though I’m alive because of it. Competition plus specialization equals advancement.

A related point is that not every student can become an expert. It would be more appropriate and sensitive to figure out a student’s style of learning and help them fill in the gaps where they’re weakest, but also recognize multiple modes of learning, as Norman suggests, and allow students who work in different environments to not be entirely penalized for their mode.

We shouldn’t encourage bad learning or bad teaching, but open ourselves to many kinds of intelligence. When I was younger, as an intellectual, I disparaged in a condescending way intelligence that didn’t conform to my own. After all, my kind of intelligence got me through Yale and it runs the world. Just as the victors write history, so, too, does the most economically successive intelligence select for itself.

In many countries in Europe, the educational system is divided into multiple parts: some people track to academic high school and university; others, to more practical schools; others, to the trades (sometimes the last two are the same). We don’t honor apprencticeship here except in certain unions. My brother, for instance, is a steamfitter, and he apprenticed for years and moved up through union categories to the top level he’s at today. It’s a hard, detail-oriented, technical job he performs - and it pays well.

Why shouldn’t student be encouraged in the direction in which they are most capable while being challenged in the directions they are not - rather than being failed in the directions they are not?

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(Not) Being There

By Glenn Fleishman

I was just watching the Pop!Tech conference again, and it was eerily like being there. On my home machine, for some reason over less bandwidth, I got a very clear voice and video signal via QuickTime streaming, and blew it up to be full screen. It wasn’t much different than sitting halfway back in the opera house last year. I was surprised at how immersive it was. Perhaps next year, they can have satellite conferences with the live stuff beamed in and local networking - that was what I missed. And the ice cream social, of course.

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But We Needed The Eggs

By Glenn Fleishman

I’ve been working through a problem on the moderated Adobe GoLive discussion list I run with my co-author of Real World Adobe GoLive. The list has been running for nearly two years now and is healthy and happy with about 700 paricipants, but we exercise a fairly tight moderation policy, rejecting a minority of posts that are off-topic, offensive, or just too repetitive.

But the real problem on an ongoing basis is posts that quote too much content from the message they’re replying to. Most list members subscribe to the digest form of the list and too-long quotations mean more frequent digests, and a lower words:new content ratio. I tried explaining this on the list only to get a “Glenn, go read your Orwell” e-mail back from one member. I told her that the list was a volunteer effort, and moderated for a reason. Others lists exist, including an unmoderated GoLive Talk list. To no avail: another nasty response.

So I wrote a message to the entire list, reminding them of the purpose of the list and the fact that alternatives exist. When I started the Internet Marketing Discussion List (archives, 1994-1996), I had some complaints about my moderation in the early days. Fine, I said: start another list that’s unmoderated and I’ll point to it. I did. It lasted weeks before spam and ad hominem attacks brought it down. I proved my point.

I received many, many appreciative responses from list members who enjoyed the fact that the list contained mostly relevant, mostly informative posts, even when their own messages had been rejected. I find that the anger from those who get rejected tends to focus on the quality of the forum: they view it as a public resource, where it’s in fact a private labor donated to the good of the community. Jeff and I might sell a few books as a result of it, but it’s not without a few hours a week of work.

This all reminded me of a story my grandfather told me. He ran a furniture store, Fleishman’s Fine Furniture, in Poughkeepsie, NY, and its environs for over 50 years. (My great-grandfather, great-uncles, grandmother, and father were all involved at different points in it.) A woman comes in one day and buys a mattress. She refuses to pay and returns it. But because it was opened or delivered, it couldn’t be resold. This might have been 60 or 70 years ago, and that was still the law back then to protect people against lice and disease.

So they take a loss, probably at a time when they were still paying bills during the Depression. (They paid every cent they owed from the 20s during the 30s, and helped convince General Electric to start GE Capital - true story!) A week later, the woman comes back in! The sales staff alert my grandfather, who goes out and tells the woman they won’t ever sell to her again. She says, “But Mr. Fleishman! You have the best prices in town!”

Yeah, and the woman whose husband thought he was a chicken refused to take him to the doctor, too.

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October 19, 2001

A Part of the Maine

By Glenn Fleishman

I forgot to mention in my post below on the Camden conference about the article I wrote a few weeks ago for O’Reilly Networks’s Wireless DevCenter about an ISP on the coast of Maine that’s extended its already good dial-up presence with wireless links offering high-speed service around the coast. Even better, they use wireless to create satellite (no joke intended) offices with local dial-up in smaller towns to which it would be a toll call for residents to reach them, or where they otherwise couldn’t afford to place a POP (point of presence).

The reason you don’t see more local numbers in rural or less-populated areas is that the ISP must pay the local telco that does long-haul fees to carry its traffic from an office in the small town (the local exchange) back to the ISP’s HQ or onto the ISP’s ATM network. Otherwise, residents must make a long-distance call.

This ISP’s tactic for inching their way inland is to put up wireless towers to carry traffic to and from the smaller exchange. They can relay this, too, running tower after tower to bridge traffic up to some reasonable maximum - which could be as much as a couple hundred miles. Latency would be high at that distance. Latency is the time it takes for water to get from one end of the pipe to other when you turn on the tap, not the amount of water you get once it arrives.

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OS X minus 1

By Glenn Fleishman

I’ve had my first Mac OS X 10.1 blowout. I was minding my own business, using the OS, and suddenly icons stop working, hard drives disappear, and the system starts to fall apart. I try to Restart - no luck. Reboot - the system startup screen shows a progress bar, but no text beneath it describing the startup procedure. The Desktop login doesn’t work.

I boot back into OS 9.2.1 - thank God for the dual-boot, backwards compatible options - and run Norton Disk Doctor. Lots of serious errors. Fix ‘em. Reboot. Same problem. Dig out the OS X 10.1 upgrade disk. Boot off it. Select an upgrade. Let it run for a half hour. Reboot. I get my Desktop - and then stuff starts to hang.

It’s Unix, so I should be able to use the Terminal window to type ‘kill -9 ’ where process number is the internal record that uniquely labels a specific running application or service, like Internet Explorer. No luck: can’t kill anything, which just plain shouldn’t happen under Unix unless there’s real kernel/system problem.

I then notice that all the applications that I had set up to launch automatically at login are the ones in trouble. I use System Preferences’s Login pane to remove all startup applications. This is a hassle, but I can cope. I try to Restart through the software, but no luck. Hardware switch reboot.

Now we’re back in business. Time lost? About 2 hours. And, of course, my Practical Macintosh column for this weekend’s Seattle Times extols the virtues of OS X 10.1. Time for a follow-up already. I mean, if I weren’t a tech guy and were an average user: where would I be right now? In hell, yes, in hell.

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Watching Maine

By Glenn Fleishman

I’m using the live QuickTime feed from the Camden Technology Conference or Pop!Tech to watch Simson Garfinkel and Nadine Stosser talk about freedom, privacy, and surveillance in Camden, Maine. The sound isn’t great, but the video is just fine, and it’s very very superb to watch. There’s something about watching people who you read or read about actually speak and interact with questions.

I attended the event last year, covering it in about 5,000 words for an online publication. Last year’s topic excited me a bit more - “Being Human in the Digital Age” - and many of the speakers this year overlap. So it’s great to be able to watch some of it (for free, too!) without making the trek.

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October 18, 2001

Ion Storm

By Glenn Fleishman

Just after posting the below item on Cringely’s column, word comes that Sprint is shutting down its Ion service. This service combined very high-speed ADSL (8 Mbps up/1 Mbps) with a block of long-distance and local service. Ostensibly, they had a box that they fed over a DSL-style connection that handled voice both at the customer premises and at the c.o. to split out into the PSTN (public switched telephone network) and Sprint’s ATM network.

One poster on Slashdot commenting on this noted that voice long-distance was routed digitally over Sprint’s ATM network, which means Sprint was pushing its ATM essentially out to customer equipment. Smart. But obviously not profitable.

Sprint has a much better idea in its Sprint Broadband service, which uses the 2.5 GHz licensed band to offer high-speed line-of-sight service. But when I just visited their page, this service is also suspending acquisition of new customers. S.BB was smarter because they could acquire exclusive licenses to frequencies in the 2.5 GHz band and broadcast at higher powers than are allowed in the 2.4 GHz unlicensed band that 802.11b works in.

The HomeRF Working Group has put out a line for quite a while that their competing 2.4 GHz wireless offering could work in a superior manner in the home to 802.11b because it had voice priority built into the basic protocol. That is, the protocol schedules slots for voice packets every X milliseconds to prevent voice breakup or delay. But HomeRF’s real push was a feed from telcos like the Ion feed: integrated data and voice and other services that a box in the home with a HomeRF access point in it. Ah, well.

Posted by Glennf at 5:09 PM | TrackBack

Broadband Blowout

By Glenn Fleishman

Robert X. Cringely, the pseudonymous writer who pens a column for PBS Online, said last week that broadband was dead. I found myself bristling until I read the essay, which was very reasonable and highly depressing. His main point: companies are going out of business selling service that delivers more than they can afford to offer at the price point they offer it at. Broadband was sold on the notion that we’d get teevee over the Internet; instead, most people want (and all they really get and all that’s really available) is faster Web page downloads.

This week, he addressed readers who expressed dismay and rejected his premises. My only quibble is that he writes in this week’s essay:

The answer has to do with both proximity and reality. In order to qualify for that 1.1 megabit DSL line, you have to be quite near to the telephone company central office. DSL bandwidth drops off with distance, while T1 bandwidth does not.

That’s not quite the full explanation. You can push 8 Mbps or higher over DSL at distances that can range several thousand feet or further from a central office. But DSL service doesn’t come with a quality and throughput guarantee. T1 is sold as a business-grade service almost always. It can run for miles, depending on the equipment available along the way. It’s a dedicated and guaranteed speed, along with the kinds of things business needs: 24 x 7 service, response, etc. Whether the phone companies actually provide that successfully is separate from the fact that it’s offered. (My experience with T1s is that the phone company usually comes through very well, or catastrophically fails to respond well at all. Hardly any middling response.)

T1 bandwidth doesn’t drop off with distance because you can either condition a line for T1 and have it work or not. You can’t ratchet it up or down. Most T1 service these days uses a DSL style system and has for several years. This encoding system, HDSL, made it possible to deliver 1.544 Mbps over four wires (two copper pairs) instead of 25 pairs (24 x 64 = 1.536 Mbps plus a control circuit). T1s typically have a more robust central office equipment presence, while DSL circuits are almost always handled in aggregation with multiple circuits on a single DSLAM (DSL aggregator/multiplexor) card.

As far as I understand it, and I may be wrong, there’s nothing better or worse about using ADSL or SDSL or any other DSL flavor when it’s plugged in to enough bandwidth on the other end versus using a T1 circuit. You should still get the same amount throughput, packet success, and other measures that define a working circuit. It’s all about the upstream, as Cringely very astutely points out.

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October 17, 2001

Obscuring Identity

By Glenn Fleishman

Unfortunately, the groundswell continues to grow for a national identification card. People supporting the idea cite a number of factors: less hassle for people because they’re already pre-approved as legal citizens, less racial profiling says Alan Dershowitz because the card shows that people are pre-vetted, hardly a change from existing driver’s licenses.

The point is missed, however, that virtually all current identification schemes in the U.S., including military I.D. cited in the above article, are voluntary. You join the military these days of your own free will. You get a driver’s license if you want. Of course, society makes it necessary to have valid photo I.D. to fly, to buy beer if you look young, to rent a car, to cash checks, and to perform a variety of other normal tasks.

The variety of driver’s licenses, and the non-connectedness of this system with IRS records and social security records is a good thing. Simson Garfinkel has argued in his book Database Nation that the biggest mistake the country made in the 1960s was not establishing a national database of personal information. Rather than allow each company to collect and create errors in our personal data, the government would benignly monitor and control it with our permission. Huh. I guess he forgot about what Nixon did with private data.

The more access government has to information about people, the more likely that individuals in government (not the structure itself necessarily) will misuse that information, especially in smaller venues. With a national I.D., who will have access? Your town office? City hall? The governor? The military?

There is no good justification in this country for allowing indiscriminate, coordinated tracking of people’s movements and identity. There is plenty of good justification for developing systems that allow people to be vetted in a way that protects their identity and that can be used predictively and retrospectively.

For instance, a national I.D. card doesn’t have to actually directly store all of our information in an accessible manner, nor does it have to track our whereabouts. Just as the FBI contends it does with Carnivore, double-blind systems can separate information from pointers, allowing escrow-style hands-off approaches to identity and storage.

Need to find out where person X was for the last five years? Great: let’s see a subpoena. Need to bar person Y from entry? Fine. File court papers. But any system in which an agent in any location can take an ID card and turn it into a set of information without any real restriction beyond that agent’s own identification will be misused almost immediately.

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October 16, 2001

A self-consistent statement

By Glenn Fleishman

Dr. Muqtedar Khan wrote a beautiful open letter to his fellow Muslims about the hypocrisy of justifying any part of the WTC/Pentagon actions. He picks apart several issues to address separately, rather then lumping them into the same pot. One point he raises that I have seen discussed almost nowhere else:

The Israeli occupation of Palestine is perhaps central to Muslim grievance against the West. While acknowledging that, I must remind you that Israel treats its one million Arab citizens with greater respect and dignity than most Arab nations treat their citizens. Today Palestinian refugees can settle and become citizens of the United States but in spite of all the tall rhetoric of the Arab world and Quranic injunctions (24:22) no Muslim country except Jordan extends this support to them.

This has always been a personally difficult point for me. As badly as Israel has and continues to behave, and as tragically as Palestinians have suffered and responded, I have never understood why other Muslim and Arab states consistently refused to give Palestinians citizenship and permanent refuge. Given the number of Palestinians who have settled in the U.S., there must be some number greater than zero who would gladly give up the strife.

Posted by Glennf at 4:29 PM | TrackBack


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