What the hell IS Net Neutrality?

15 Facts About Net Neutrality

Net neutrality has been part of the Internet language for years now. But recently, discussion of the sometimes difficult to grasp idea has ramped up significantly. What exactly IS, net neutrality? Why are people so worked up about it? (And if you aren’t you should be.)

John Oliver will help you understand what is really at risk. Yes, you will laugh, but he is deadly serious. But go ahead and laugh.

net-neutrality

 

Net Neutrality: Being Neutered by the FCC

12217_large_neutral-bits

IF YOU AGREE, I give you permission to send this letter to every Congressman and government official you can think of. Put your name at the beginning and the end and let them know how you feel. Go to the FCC site and make them aware of your feelings as well, while there is still time. Here is a link to finding the name and email of ANY Congressman:  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

GO FORTH AND FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE!

TO: Federal Communication Commission
FM: Thaddeus Howze

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has come to my attention you propose to alter the arrangement of internet delivery for the entire nation based on the presupposition that corporations such as Comcast and Time-Warner Cable have the best interests of the citizens of these United States.

Nothing has been further from the truth for quite some time.

Both of these companies have had nothing but contempt for the common user of their services, treating them as little more than a $200 a month bill that can neither be negotiated for (offering smaller bills or ala-carte services giving users the option to pay ONLY for what they want) nor providing them with bandwidth comparable with other nations where the US is considered not only the slowest, but the least technologically innovative of the developed countries.

Singapore for example:
In January 2001, the Broadband Media Association was formed to promote the broadband industry. By April the same year there were six broadband Internet providers, with the total number of broadband users exceeding 300,000. Pacific Internet introduced wireless broadband services in October 2001.

In December 2006, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) introduced a programme named “Wireless@SG”. It is part of its Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure initiative. It offers everyone free wireless access in high human-traffic areas, including the Central Business District, downtown shopping belts like Orchard Road, and residential town centres. The access speed has been doubled to 1 Mbit/s since 1 September 2009 and the free service will continue until 31 March 2013.

In early September 2010, internet service providers in Singapore rolled out the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) service plans. The Next Gen NBN is Singapore’s nation-wide ultra-high speed fibre network. It offers pervasive, competitively priced broadband speeds of up to 1 Gbps at comparable prices to ADSL and cable connection. Deployed 75% nationwide as of August 2011, Next Gen NBN is on track to achieve its target of 95 per cent coverage by mid-2012.

Singapore has NINE major cable company providers and the average internet speed is 100 Mbps. Citizens of this nation can get wireless communications for their technology almost anywhere. For free. They have some of the fastest connected services in the world for every citizen who has a place to live.

And just about anywhere outside of the US is faster than we are:

Net_Neutrality_US_MySpeed

Comcast is lucky when they can provide speeds at 1/10 that at anywhere near the same base cost. The government of Singapore ensures that internet monopolies like we see with Comcast and Time Warner (and their supposed merger) DO NOT HAPPEN, without giving the people of the nation an alternative. As government workers, it is incumbent upon YOU to protect the best interests of people in this nation from predation at the hands of corporations acting in collusion to exploit the vulnerability of a nation unaware of how corporate entities are able to buy access and control entities such as the FCC using lobbying.

From the point of view of common folk, it would appear that lobbyists have more say than citizens. More than 2 million citizens have spoken for Net Neutrality and yet it remains an issue for DEBATE, as if there was a MERIT TO EXTORTING THE CITIZENS OF THIS NATION for the profit of already fabulously rich corporations who act in collusion and are effectively a monopoly providing their services.

Let’s pause while we take a message from our sponsors:

screen shot 2014-05-16 at 9.55.28 am

In the case of Time Warner and Comcast, both companies act as monopolies on their separate sides of the country, strangling out innovative smaller firms by tying them up in court until they can no longer compete with them. These companies have managed to lobby their way into the Congress preventing even basic intelligent discourse about the nature of the services they provide and the people who are unable to effectively voice their concerns regarding this issue.

I am a 30 year veteran of the Information Technology Industry. From telecommunications to computer system network design, I have seen it all and I have watched the systematic manipulation of the technological infrastructure of this nation fall under the dominion of large corporations slowly and steadily, particularly as their previous means of making money (Radio and later Television) have fallen from grace as the primary sources of information retrieval for the average citizen. Every time the Telecommunication industry finds itself about to regulated as Common Carriers, they find a way to manipulate the system preventing this from happening.

I am also a speculative fiction writer. I have already written a short story where the world I am watching is playing out. The creation of a process by which companies are forced to pay to have their data accelerated while other data is slowed intentionally eventually causes an imbalance to the Internet.

Programmer rage across the planet is unleashed and eventually the large corporations who strangle the internet are thus eventually strangled out of existence with denial of service attacks and other such network shenanigans. I don’t even want to imagine how the rest of the world will respond to the idea of balkanizing the Internet for the sake of PROFIT.

In that future, eventually the Internet becomes a place of sterile corporate control. Small voices are left to revive older technologies because they simply cannot afford to connect via the Internet. The Internet itself eventually fades as the voices that made it vibrant and alive lose connection, lose money, and lose interest in maintaining a structure they can no longer afford to use.

How many resources are we dependent on that are maintained strictly by people who would not be able to afford to work with due to rising costs with the overturn of Network Neutrality? Use Wikipedia lately? Maintain a blog? Like Youtube? How much of the web’s content is maintained by volunteers who would have none of the financial access this future speed-lane version of the Internet network would require?

The internet’s core principle (at least in theory) was that everyone who used it had the potential to use it at the same level. No one would or could control or dominate how information was seen, distributed, accessed or utilized; this gave the same amount of priority to a young web designer in Australia as to a large media firm in London. What you are proposing now says ISPs and Corporate Providers will control, throttle and decide WHO SHOULD BE SEEN AND HEARD based on their income and willingness to part from that cash.

Aren’t Americans already paying FAR too much for cable services? The average cable bill in the US is at least $100 and in some places as high as $200 a month for lackluster performance at best, promoting the idea that in America, WE PAY MORE AND GET LESS. Why should you now reward corporations who are NOT performing at their peak AND charging an outrageous fee already, to further abuse users of the internet and increasing their fees even further because when the content providers who are using this network have to pay more to get seen by through the corporate chokepoints, they will pass their costs onto their customers.

  • $200 a month for Comcast cable
  • $15 a month for Netflix riding Comcast Cable
  • $15 a month for Hulu riding Comcast Cable
  • $15 a month for Amazon riding Comcast Cable

So we are looking at $245 right now. You allow this NETWORK EXTORTION PROTOCOL to take place and here is what happens:

  • $220 a month for Comcast cable (they have no competition and now they control the providers too.)
  • $20 a month for Netflix riding Comcast Cable (pay more or be left behind, spread costs)
  • $25 a month for Hulu riding Comcast Cable (huge library, need to compete with Netflix, charges more)
  • $20 a month for Amazon riding Comcast Cable (not making money yet, wants to appear competitive)

In a month, my bill will shoot to $285 and I will have receive NOT A SINGLE BIT OF IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICE!

Since Comcast/Time-Warner has no competitors, in the next year they can and likely will raise my bill again, WITHOUT A NEED TO IMPROVE ANYTHING. Since by definition, they are a MONOPOLY and don’t have any competition to speak of. In the area I live in THERE IS NO COMPETITION for Comcast.

So in less than a year I can expect to pay even more for cable than I do already, see no improvement in my services, increase the cost of my service providers who are being forced to pay more by a company that is already so rich it can afford to tie its competition up in court using nuisance lawsuits until they go out of business.

This has become the mantra of these United State: PAY MORE, GET LESS.

THIS IS NOT A BUSINESS MODEL, IT IS AN EXTORTION RACKET. Is this the business of our government? Because if it is, you are setting not only a poor example for business, you are perpetuating a crime against the American people by allowing big business to dictate to YOU, what laws should exist and how YOU BETTER ENFORCE THE ONES THEY LIKE. Extortion is the process government is supposed to PREVENT, not abet.

It is possible you have forgotten what Net Neutrality was supposed to be doing. I have included a video in plain English of what you need to consider when you talk about this issue and its ramifications to the common man. The common man who is depending on you to PROTECT HIM FROM BEING EXTORTED UNDER THE GUISE OF BUSINESS. Watch the link, learn something you never considered and if you have, then why am I writing this letter? IT CAN’T BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.

What Net Neutrality means in plain language:

http://bit.ly/1hS66sD

I say to you as the men and women who will direct the Congress’ decision on the need for Net Neutrality: While it is easy for you to look at the words of lobbyists and hear the dollars they offer you (however indirectly they may arrive at your doorstep) and feel you are making a good decision. I say to you, NAY. You have been lied to, with the blandishments of people who know more than they are telling you, are certain they are making the decision that will make THEM the most money, while providing the least quality service for everyone ELSE involved.

It is incumbent upon you all to go outside of your circles and ask not just the citizens, but the ISPs who are the middlemen in all of this, how they have been mislead and misused by telecommunication giants who, flexing their financial muscle control who sees what and why. Is this your fight? You betcha. You, as the FCC, are obligated to watchdog the foxes who are trying to take their place in the henhouses of American’s homes taking every last egg they can find while you stand outside wondering why don’t you see any foxes.

To be honest, I am ashamed of the corporate behaviors I see being enacted. They are short-sighted because when you look at the internet, the bounty it has given to everyone who has grown rich on it, has been because it has been CREATED EQUAL. That everyone using it, provided they can get access, has the same ability to communicate across it.

To undermine net neutrality is to tell everyone around the world, the alphabet may have 26 letters but you will only get to use half of them. Unless you pay us for the rest of the letters. How does America compete against a world where they have the rest of the alphabet and we don’t because Comcast, Time-Warner, Dish Networks, AT&T and any other major lobbying contributor thinks they should make money before the rest of the world should.

You want to change the world, ladies and gentlemen? You want to be remembered?

Then the decision you make today, must be the one that enables EVERYONE to continue to compete on an equal playing field with the entire alphabet, armed with the tools and the knowledge to shoot the foxes who might otherwise undermine our very nation’s future for the sake of profit.

Those corporations are unsustainable. They need an ever-increasing amount of cash to grow. Are you prepared to risk all of our futures on a corporation who by definition MUST DIE ONCE THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO EAT?

Consider the future, just this one time and tell these companies, our ability to communicate with each other, equally without being extorted, is simply not for sale EVER. At any price.

Thank you for considering my proposal. I would be happy to testify at any time if it would make this last bastion of communication able to remain free.

Sincerely,

Thaddeus Howze

22456 Sonoma Street,
Hayward CA, 94541,
510-910-3912,
ebonstorm@gmail.com

REFERENCES: WIRED Magazine: 

Websites Throttle FCC Staffers to Protest Gutting of Net Neutrality: http://www.wired.com/2014/05/fcc-throttling/

 

John Oliver will help you understand what is really at risk. Yes, you will laugh, but he is deadly serious. But go ahead and laugh. I wrote my article before he gave this skit BUT he agrees with me on almost EVERY POINT.

 

Put your phone away. Save a life.

COMMENTARY, INFOGRAPHIC, VIDEO

distracted driving

Let this picture soak in. A woman and her mother-in-law were crushed to death in the back seat by a texting, inebriated driver.

 

I hate wasting my time. So my first thousand words are that picture above. 

Telling young people anything these days is often a waste of time. They are always sure they know better than every adult around them. They are always sure they can do everything better than you can and there is nothing you can teach them.

Don’t let this be one of those times.

If this should come across your screen and you are under the age of 30, heed the messages I have included here. I believe in offering people multiple ways of learning things, so you have my personal testimonial, a documentary created which describes the lives of victims of texting and driving, an infographic bearing out in a visual format why texting and driving don’t mix, some statistics after that and a video from the mouths of young people who were involved with or affected by texting and driving.

No. You don’t have to care. Yes, you won’t make those mistakes.

Everyone of the people interviewed in these videos said the same thing. Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

A Family Missive

I received a letter from a relative a few years ago about a family member who was killed in a car accident while texting and driving. She included the police report with the line “It is the officer’s opinion that cell phone usage contributed to this accident.” There was something about that sentence that has always struck me as distancing and even a bit cold. Then I did my research and realized why it seemed that way.

Officers see far more of this than they should and from their perspective, it is one of those things that is both traumatic and yet completely avoidable. I accept that we will all die one day. If you live long enough, you have time to get used to the idea. But if you live long enough, you also realize you don’t want to risk your life because you slip in the bathtub because you were too cheap to spring for a floor mat, or have your brakes go out because you couldn’t be bothered to have your vehicle serviced at the right time. You become inclined to try and live longer and part of that is better planning. You cannot plan for other people’s behavior, however.

My cousin was a good driver, smart, a college graduate, a capable person who like so many today thought he could avoid the consequences of texting and driving.

Not anymore.

I was once told, “To be a good member of society, you have to give back more than you take.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Texting and driving is one of those problems created when technology and humanity intersected in a way that produced an unexpected consequence.

Driving requires focus, concentration, attention to detail and good reflexes. Texting requires focus, concentration and attention. Combine these two things and you realize there is a problem. How much focus, concentration and attention can you give to these two mentally challenging things at the same time? Not enough.

A car moving at 60 mph will cover 88 feet per second. The average time spent looking at a phone for texting is 4 seconds. For 352 feet or the length of the average football field, a driver may as well be wearing a blindfold. It only takes 88 feet or one second to change a person’s life forever — yours and theirs.

Share this video with everyone you know. Don’t text and drive. If you can’t do it for you, or for the person you might kill, then do it because THERE ARE OTHER SELFISH PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO YOU MIGHT WANT TO BE AWARE OF WHILE YOU DRIVE.

From One Second to the Next

Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog directs this film. It focuses on four accidents and the lives affected by this phenomenon. http://youtu.be/_BqFkRwdFZ0

DWI: Driving While Intexticated

intexticated-teens

Texting and Driving Statistics

Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

Texting While Driving Causes:

1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Ins. Institute for Hwy Safety Fatality Facts
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents

Texting While Driving Is:

1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers

Texting While Driving:

1. Makes you 23X more likely to crash – National Hwy Transportation Safety Admin.
2. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – VA. Tech Transportation Institute
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – HumanFactors & Ergonomics Society
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road.

Research Articles

E-waste Explosion Continues…

metrofax-growing-concern-of-ewaste-lead

Having talked about E-waste in past articles on Open Salon (Forget About Saving the Earth… and on the Good Men Project in Gadgets: A Perfect Storm of Wrong) this recent info-graphic embodies more up to date information from the EPA reinforcing the idea we are not handling the development of technology in a responsible manner for the simplest of reasons: No one is being held economically culpable for the development of new devices without concern for the disposal of the old technology.

What should happen from the development of any portable technology is a disposal fee built right into the cost of the device. The provider pays a part and the customer pays a part. When it’s time to dispose of the tech it is sent to a facility to maximize its safe disposal rather than shipping it overseas and allowing the lowest paid labor to handle the disposal in the most toxic method possible, usually by burning it, releasing long-lived and deadly dioxins into the atmosphere.

Remember, this info-graphic only discusses e-waste produced in the United States. As other countries ramp up their production, these numbers will continue to skyrocket. The only thing we know about e-waste for sure is eventually it will be coming to a landfill or garbage disposal facility near you. You won’t have a choice unless we start handling this problem today.

The Overblown Death of the PC (part 2)

Stop Predicting the Death of the PC.

“The PC Market is collapsing.” –Business Insider

“Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have taken the world by storm. Apple launched theiPhone six years ago. Three years later came the iPad. Google sold its first Android phone in 2008, five years ago. Is the PC dead yet?” –Yahoo Finance with the Business Insider

In Part One of The Overblown Death of the PC we talked about the reasons people believed the personal computer to be on its way out. I disagreed with almost all of them.

But that conversation on LinkedIn continued and the overall message shifted to virtualization, thin clients, and the much ballyhooed “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD premise of bringing whatever you prefer and just connecting it to the company network.

Bring Your Own Device is not a silver bullet. BYOD is just one of a new strain of network security concerns which continue to abound in our modern age. Malware and other denial of service attacks continue to increase and are working on more sensitive integrated systems every day. As the technology for smarter devices continues to develop and as fast as new apps are being developed, malware is just as quickly propagating across this new interconnected and completely open environment.

What I hear far too little of is an understanding of the new technological ecosystem being developed. In addition to the growing iOS and Android playgrounds where few if any environmental monitoring is being done, almost no malware protections are being enacted and neither security processes, nor human awareness have kept pace with the potential for hackers to invade the privacy of billions of potential devices which lie unprotected for the most part.

Adding to this tech-soup of potential vulnerability are the complexities of virtual computing and remote desktop environments, as well as thin client systems are all becoming dependent on cloud computing technology, wide area networks and client-managed environments. Few are discussing the increasing complexity of these environments where hardware is centralized but use is distributed through a multitude of virtual environments without concern for operational capacity, network stability, and Internet connectivity.

We are seeing more outages of the Internet daily, so much so, there are applications which monitor traffic to let you know which services are currently available:http://www.isitdownrightnow.com/ . Though this tool is primarily for popular web services, Amazon has a version which is also accessible through the internet:http://status.aws.amazon.com/ . Each tool like these is predicated on the idea that no system of computer operation is infallible and the more interconnected we become the more likely we will find the opportunity to see first hand:

For Want of a Nail
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a nail.

The death of the desktop computer is built around the idea we have managed to supersede what the tool has given us.

  • That we have managed to secure our environments, to create infrastructure which will support wireless technologies, metropolitan area networks, and the inevitable planetary-area networks we are designing.
  • That we are able to effectively isolate and route around failed areas of the largest network which connects us all, the internet. The jury is out.
  • That we have greater control of our soon-to-be completely necessary planetary network in such a way, hacking vulnerabilities are a thing of the past, every system which is put on that network is aware of how to deal with potential threats, without human intervention and will do so in a fashion so humans can simply be informed without having to worry about restorations of a failed environment, first.
  • That scrupulous use of said planetary network ensures no one will be using it to unlawfully monitor its users, manipulate the users or their data, socially engineer user behavior for profit, perform acts of vandalism or terrorism, using said network as part of a control system and structure for acts of military warfare or sabotage.

So, is the desktop dead? Is that even the right question?

Perhaps the question should be: Is the desktop computer being killed by corporations who want to manipulate users into a cycle of:

  • Regular planned obsolescence – creating underpowered devices which need constant upgrade to deal with software bloat, development issues and a constant need for upgrades.
  • Consumerism – the technology is really being structured around pushing products, dependence and reliance on said devices (extending the reign of television advertising in the new medium).
  • Development Control: by getting rid of users ability to create information this creates a more passive audience waiting for new “products” and “fees” for receiving them. 
  • Health issues: The long-term effect of using said devices in terms of user health (eyestrain, inattention, psychological distress) and destroying the environment to feed the engine of gadget production.

Is the death of the PC being artificially hastened to sell portable digital technology, even when financial, economic, social, and technological safeguards for that technology are not currently in place? Oh yes, I would say so, just from watching the industry and its lust for profit.

The PC is not dead. But we are sealing it up alive in the coffin for profit’s sake. Think of how much money can be made while new interfaces are being developed. Think of all the planned obsolescence inherently built into each device, replacing it after only 6-12 months. Imagine all of that technological churn being done, the billions spent on advertising new versions of old devices with only minuscule differences making corporations like Apple some of the most profitable agencies on Earth. Think of the ever-expanding app industry estimated to grow to $25 billion dollars in 2013 and continuing to grow. There is so much money to be made by Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, and other device manufacturers I can’t see them NOT promoting the device/gadget over desktops. The potential profitability is absolutely astounding. Charge as much for a handheld device as you do for a laptop with 1/10 the functionality, but call it mobile. “Make a gadget cool, and the sheep will follow.”

If the PC is dying, I suspect someone is killing it; for a profit. And it’s not the butler.

See Also: Gadgets: A Perfect Storm of Wrong – Where I discuss the environmental issues around the constant proliferation of gadget/device technology.

The Overblown Death of the PC – Part 1

USIEb

A month ago Regina Pilkington posed the question “Do you envision desktop computers as obsolete in a few years?” on LinkedIn and I waited before I answered, curious what others would say. I didn’t have to wait long. What I heard surprised me. And my response will surprise you.

Most of what I heard was:

  • The PC is dead or so in decline, it may as well be dead.
  • It has no future, it is being replaced by digital devices.
  • The PC is a dinosaur and is being replaced by BYOD and virtualization.
  • In a decade or less, there will be no market for PCs, look at their inevitable decline in the market.
  • Apple is getting out of the business, Dell is shifting markets, HP is foundering, the PC’s reign is over.

There were a few more moderate voices:

  • “The obsolescence of the desktop in my opinion is held back by the effectiveness of the desktop interface.”
  • “The form factor will survive over the next 5 – 10 years. The ease and size of the system is not possible in the tablet for now.” 
  • “My feeling is it will never be obsolete, it will be one of many different ways (just not the only one) to compute.”

And then one other voice rang out with the question, I think everyone was dreading:

  • “How long ago did that dinosaur called the mainframe disappear?” (He clarified saying he was being facetious because mainframes are still not dead.)

This question irks me when I see it making the rounds on the tech journals and publications because of the weak premise and lame assumptions used to prognosticate the Death of the PC and as if to make it worse, these tech pundits want to make predictions as if they were any better at predicting long-term technology trends than religious leaders are at predicting the end of the world. Let me save you the trouble. Manufacturers are scrambling and technology is changing but it is safe to say, the personal computer will be around for quite some time to come even if it doesn’t look quite like you remember it.

My response: No. The PC era is not over. Not by a long shot. Not even in a decade.

No matter what form it takes, no matter what it will look like, (smartphone, tablet, head-up display) the era of the PC (Personal Computer) is not over and not likely to be any time soon. If it is based in silicon, it is still a personal computer.

“Big boxes of mostly air” (as they are known by PC technicians) may fall from grace for those people who think smaller and more mobile is better, but those are the same people who will be complaining when network connectivity and data transfer rates can’t keep up with the increasing demand being placed on networked devices and the networks that serve them.

Add to this equation the varying reliability of the cloud infrastructure and people who depend on their portable device for computational ability will be sorely disappointed as more devices means interruptions in service due to demand load, poor design of software and hardware, incompatibilities of design and infrastructure, malware, viruses and good old-fashioned human error.

Despite the Microsoft and Apple compulsion to squeeze out new OS every two years or less, the software infrastructure for PCs is still more robust, stable and better defended than the portable OSs being used right now.

Those portable OSs are ripe for attack because they are being developed faster than they are being protected. Yes, someone will get around to writing tools for protection, but since there is little agreement on standards and protocols, hackers and their ilk will have a field day while such agreements are being forged. If you think the transition to portable devices will be smooth and seamless, you will be disappointed, no matter what pundits predict.

On top of everything else, those more portable devices are still not as powerful, not as expandable, not as configurable as a current desktop or well-made laptop, nor do they offer as many options for use.

  • They cannot be used in tandem, compounding their power and effectiveness. 
  • You will not see a server farm made with iPhones any time soon. 
  • They cannot be programmed or developed from, easily, if at all. 
  • They are primarily tools of data use, information viewing and consumption 
  • Devices are the digital equivalent of a television, a phone, and a piece of paper. 
  • Until they get an interface which integrates voice and gesture into an effective interface, they will always be substandard tools to do any advanced work such as design.

What smaller devices offer flexibility and portability. They are still PCs, now more personal than ever. They will still require powerful servers to coordinate their data, access search engines, and store data for use by these smaller RPC (remote personal computers). The PC era is not dead and will not likely be dead until such time as we are producing computers that are biological in nature and do not require the use of any technologies which currently resemble anything we do today.

The PC is transformed (again) it is now the Remote Personal Computer, it is the Server Computer, it is the distributed computing system (another aspect of ‘the cloud’.) This penchant for imagining the death of the PC is the same as when cars appeared and the death of the bicycle or the train were predicted. I still see trains and they are as vital a technology as they have ever been. I am still running over bike messengers on my way to work.

Instead of alarmist (and futile) predictions of the end of the PC as we know it, let’s instead predict how the PC will be transformed into a tool of greater utility and diversity, how we will make it easier to store, utilize and share information effectively without creating larger, slower, less efficient networks. Then we can talk about creating the next generation of computers which might truly lay the PC as we know it today, in all of its iterations, to rest.

What happened to funding real innovation?

apps

Is real technological innovation being overshadowed by gimmicky social media sites and apps posing as real advances in technology?

A post from the Red Shoe Agency asks the above question and then follows with the following statement: Now, before you answer this, think about it. Everything works in cycles and eventually leads to a bubble. The tech industry is no different. It seems, per media reporting, that all you have to do is create some silly app (like send a fart to your enemy or something of that nature) or set up the next Facebook killer social media site and you’re a tech darling who’s innovating and getting tons of VC money thrown at you. But are those really “tech” companies?

I can understand why this would make some techies a bit resentful. Granted, Facebook is one of the creations that changed the way we communicate. But if it shut down tomorrow, lives would not be lost (I hope). There are some real companies creating real products that qualify as tech. 

Will technology ever shift back to innovation and creation that actually contributes to changing the world, situations, lives? Why does it seem that VC is willing to continue throwing money into gimmicks?

My response: 

Yes, technology has jumped its own shark and instead of being a boon to humanity, we have become caught up in the “development” of toys (apps) which cater to the venture capitalists need to make money without actually providing society with any useful developments.

Yes, technology developers will say I am avoiding the most important part of this idea, which is the making of money. And to them, I say, nay, you are missing the most important part of this equation, innovation which moves the species (humanity) along the path toward actualization.

I suspect in this, the final century of humanity we will have to make difficult choices. One of them will be to decide what we want to develop in terms of our technology. We can continue to fritter away intellectual capacity (which seems to be stagnating overall) on toys, apps and gadgets which, while often profitable, using social conditioning to create need, do not address any real issues in our society.

We have no problem finding money for gadgets and less useful software but true research, of the kind which once allowed NASA to create a variety of technologies we use without even being aware of it, becomes harder and harder to secure. (NASA’s spin-off technologies – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off_technologies).

Venture capitalists will say the creation of money is the most important endeavor humans can make today and software development of the kind we are seeing may certainly be profitable, but in a world with a plethora of problems, what people are focusing their time and energy on will only be significant if we resolve the greater technological and sociological issues surrounding our society first.

What issues? Here is a quick and dirty list:

  • reasonable and affordable health care,
  • a collapsing economic structure that needs a complete retooling,
  • reducing military interactions in foreign countries,
  • feeding and caring for the disenfranchised members of our societies,
  • our failing education system and improving its quality,
  • economic disparity between the rich and poor,
  • the digital divide all over the world and in all layers of economic strata,
  • effective socio-economic relationships with other sovereign nations,
  • global climate control and management,
  • toxic waste and overall waste management,
  • desertification of our food producing areas on our planet,
  • destruction of our planet’s rain forests at 20 square miles a day,
  • eradication of cancer,
  • HIV, AIDS, and management of growing list of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, 
  • renewable energy development,
  • loss of fossil fuels and what that means to our lifestyles,
  • failing infrastructures of power and roads and
  • corporate malfeasance just to name the few I could think of in about 30 seconds. 

There is nothing wrong with making money. Except when making money overshadows making anything else. As sea levels rise, 200 million people all over the Earth will be forced to move, causing the greatest mass migration in human history. Find any shoreline or island, find a city within 25 miles and you can see the scope of just this one thing (climate change, rise of the seas) can cause. I can assure you, there is no app for that.

Technology can solve problems or cause them. It’s how you use it, develop it, adapt it, utilize it and innovate it that makes the difference. Choose wisely.

Thaddeus Howze
A Matter of Scale

The New Age of Malware (courtesy of BYOD)

BYOD: We can't repel malware of that magnitude! -- Admiral Ackbar

As I have mentioned in other articles, [http://exm.nr/x8dv4p] malware is not going away. If anything it is going to explode in the coming years due to the continued erosion of IT standards in the workplace. Technologies such as cloud computing, social media and memes such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device [to the workplace]) are prepared to compromise enterprise security by:

1. Allowing devices that cannot be managed or secured into the workplace environment and allowing users to store company data on those devices. Such devices can easily be lost, stolen and the information vulnerable due to a lack of viable security measures or even the ability to be wiped remotely.

2. Devices such as smartphones or other mobile technology often has limited wireless security or protection, making grabbing data from such technology the next logical step from the cracking community. Do you remember Firesheep? A tool that allowed a remote hacker to grab information from Mozilla browsers in unsecure environments such as coffee shops. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firesheep]

3. As the rise of BYOD continues and resistance to standardization grows, malware will continue to be a rising threat for Android and iDevices alike, [http://zd.net/w20FMG - Android users hit by scareware scam], for the simple reason that apps created for both devices, while monitored loosely, are not absolutely guaranteed of being without sinister purposes in addition to providing whatever resource information they APPEAR to be providing. So while it may be providing you a map to downtown Boston, it could also be monitoring your credit card or online bank information at different locations as well.

4. Social media has not stopped being both a productivity time sink, costing the nation billions in lost productivity (neither commenting for the good or the bad of this, noting it, nothing more) and a vector for virus transmission, personal information gathering, and credit information hacking. Facebook, Twitter, Sony, Google and Amazon have all experienced theft, leaks, loss or outright sale of personal data in 2010-2011 and this trend show no sign of slowing.

5. While the cloud offers the option of being a means of creating virtual environments that are claimed to be safer than your current environment, it means relying increasing on an internet whose services are either being turned into commodities (allowing their prices to be changed, usually higher, without warning or recourse) or those services will be subject to powerful new government interventions such as SOPA or Protect IP [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act], which may make working with materials and providers who will be forced to increase the costs of their service to offset their increases caused by having to improve monitoring of their technology for copyright infringement. This cost is always directed at the user of the technology.

6. Nor does SOPA actually ensure you are any safer from hacking, indeed it may simply be another way such activity is lost in the shuffle as hackers are far more agile in their ability to develop their responses to technology than mainstream users. During the transition to SOPA standards, systems will be more vulnerable than ever.

7. It appears IT is losing the battle for standardization as a means of protecting the enterprise. New technologies such as virtualization promise the ability to deliver the PC experience to any device but most of those are also dependent on the Internet as the deliverer of service. This only means one thing. The cost of protecting your enterprise will increase as the vectors — devices, browsers, clients, cloud, virtualization, continue to proliferate.

In summary: Our enterprise networks have never truly been safe. The threats ranged from:

  • Inadequate layered defenses against attacks: There are still numerous environments especially in small to medium size businesses that do not have firewalls of any kind, any sort of data protection, backup, or redeployment procedure in case of equipment failure, anti-malware, or anti-virus technology in place.
  • Social engineering: manipulating users in an environment to release information about the systems they use to make hacking easier
  • Poor Password Management: Not creating standards for the effective use, configuration or dissemination of difficult to crack passwords
  • Poor standardization of environments: reducing the number of potential holes in the environment by reducing the number of different versions of operating systems, programs and infrastructure support systems
  • Poor policy management: The inability of environments to create usable, enforceable policies designed to make repair, replication, storage, service agreements, backup and responsible use of the office technology to protect company assets from theft, loss, or accidental erasure.

There are many other threats, but our environments have been safer than before many of these ideas were enacted, but the truth of the matter has been our virus software is always at least one day behind the release of any new virus, malware or exploit. Indeed, the zero day release of a virus or exploit could allow thousands or even millions of devices to be infected before anyone is aware the problem has occurred.

In days to come, the already existing suite of issues will only be added to with the continued threat of cloud computing downtime, legitimate accessibility as well as unwanted attacks from outside sources, rising costs both in terms of energy use and costs from service providers and the increasing vulnerability BYOD will bring to the enterprise as hackers/crackers begin to exploit the weaknesses of said devices while under-staffed, overworked and under-appreciated IT departments attempt to stem the tide while providing these new and highly desired services and technologies users feel empower them, without understanding the consequences of that empowerment. It empowers the Dark Side as well. [http://www.csoonline.com/article/print/696325]

@ebonstorm – Thaddeus Howze Atreides

Blacks In Technology podcast episode 18

In this podcast Greg Greenlee talks with Thaddeus Howze AKA @ebonstorm.

Thaddeus has over 25 years of experience in the I.T. field. He is an expert in Business I.T. Development, digital design and educational technology. He’s worked as a network administrator, an IT instructor, an IT manager, CIO/VP of IT for JFK University and is now working as a small business technology consultant in northern California. Thaddeus is also an author. He writes science fiction and also for several blogs including A Matter of Scale, and The Examiner. He is also a host on several Blog TalkRadio shows: WaveFront, and Afterthoughts.

We talk about Cloud computing, science fiction writing, comics, and much more. You can follow Thaddeus on twitter @ebonstorm.

Greg Greenlee, the webmaster and entrepreneur of Blacks in Technology interviewed me on his podcast. It was one of those general interest kind of interviews where we talk about a variety of topics including politics, writing, science fiction, autism and our personal passion, technology. While it is not completely tech related, it is definitely a no-holds barred conversation about the future of Blacks in technology and may not always be politically-correct, but I stand by everything I said. The only way to know if you agree, is to listen for yourself. This is an unedited opportunity to hear my thoughts about a myriad of topics. If you read my blog though, you won’t be too surprised, after all, you know there is no cow so sacred I can’t be convinced NOT to shoot at it.

Thank you for the interview Greg, I enjoyed giving it as much as I enjoy our casual conversations. Always spirited and in good fun. When I am done with my novel, I will be back.

Thaddeus Howze featured on Black Enterprise

Featured on Black Enterprise

IT experts Thaddeus Howze (@ebonstorm) and Kevin Michael (@kevinvmichael) to faced off on BlackEnterprise.com with their two differing perspectives on cloud computing.

I am not opposed to cloud computing. Computers connected together tend to be more useful and more capable than computers isolated. But with every technology paradigm there are things you do not expect. Networked computers gave rise to spam, malware and botnets, three of the greatest scourges of the networked world today. They are such problems they absorb billions of dollars in performance lost, damaged or destroyed technology and time wasted by employees worldwide. But we do not abolish networks despite these things because the network is simply too useful and too profitable to be without.

The cloud, one day, may offer similar benefits to businesses and people everywhere. But we are not there yet. There are hurdles that need to be addressed and issues people need to understand to make informed decisions.

Reliability

The ‘cloud’ is being sold as a mature technology that is robust, trouble-free, easy to use, easy to configure, and far less expensive than owning your own platform for the service. While this may be true for certain applications like, Salesforce, it does not mean it is all of those things for every application of the cloud technology.  The underlying Internet infrastructure is, in my mind, far less reliable, stable, or capable of supporting this glut of technology which includes:
•    phones and internet capable devices,
•    the increasing burden of millions of new sites,
•    billions of new users and exobytes of constantly moving data
•    video streams, dedicated connections, torrents, botnets, spam and malware generation and propagation.

As China and India (and to a lesser extent Africa and South America) adopt new technology and enter the Internet, how will this affect this over-stretched behemoth of technological wonder?

Security
Security is one of many issues underlying the configuration of the Internet. The Internet was designed as an open environment. Now we are trying to secure an environment designed to be open, and as such there will be unintended consequences to layering security measures. For example, the ever-increasing complexities of these new security measures add to the already unstable configuration of the Internet protocols. Do these security technologies complement each other or do they compete with each other?

Business Autonomy
There was a time when IT was a utility and providers like WANG and Intel provided you with your technology choices and you liked it. You paid and that was it. Once companies have you where they want you, they don’t ever try and take advantage of you and jack up their rates to unreasonable levels, or do they? They certainly do; think Comcast, AT&T, and Pacific Bell for examples.

With Cloud computing that ‘utility-style’ of business is trying to be make a comeback and I don’t think I like it. If you use cloud computing, you may be required to use tools recommended by your service provider which may make it impossible for you to move your data at a later time. I dislike the idea of losing control of my applications, data, software and information regarding my business.

Thaddeus Howze is an IT consultant with thirty years of experience working with all forms of technology including the military, advertising, banking, financial and educational sectors.  He is A+, CCNA, and MSCE Certified, and currently working toward a Project Management Certification (PMP). He is the owner and founder of Ebonstorm Media and Have Flash Drive, Will Travel and provides technical development and consulting services in the San Francisco, Bay Area.

You can read Kevin Micheal’s point of view on Black Enterprise’s site.