Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FCC: 25% of Cell Towers Hit by Sandy Still Down

I've had to resort to text messaging to communicate with my wife and daughter. Interestingly, friends with Verizon (we have AT & T) are having fewer issues.

From Alex Fitzpatrick ...25% of Cell Towers Hit by Sandy Still Down:

A quarter of the cell phone towers damaged by Superstorm Sandy are still down, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission told reporters in a press call this afternoon. The affected towers lie in 158 counties across 10 states, from Massachusetts down to Virginia.

If you're in a badly-hit area with little-to-no cell service, don't expect things to get better quickly: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski noted during the call that many cell towers in areas without electricity are running on backup generators -- generators which will begin failing in the near future as batteries run dry.

Free Wi-Fi for those Impacted by Sandy


Find hotspots here … from Marguerite Reardon – Comcast offers free Wi-Fi service to all in Sandy's path:

Comcast said today that it will allow anyone regardless of whether they are a customer or not to access its Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots in several states hit by megastorm Sandy.

The cable operator, which with its cable partners operates 50,000 Wi-Fi hot spots in public places throughout country, said that it would make its hot spots available to anyone who needs them regardless of whether or not users are Comcast customers. (This service is typically password-protected and available only to Comcast or its partners' broadband customers.) The states where Comcast is offering the service include: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.

2048 QAM

Martin Sauter on 2048QAM Over The Air. Wow!

Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, or QAM for short, is a modulation technique used by systems such as UMTS, LTE and also by microwave backhaul systems. UMTS and LTE use QAM, 16QAM and 64QAM to encode 2, 4 or 6 bits per transmission step. And 64QAM already pushes the limits quite hard and is only used when a user is very close to the base station.

The highest modulation technique I have heard about for microwave Ethernet backhaul systems to transfer data back and forth from and to the cellular base stations so far is 256QAM, i.e. 5 bits per transmission step. This is possible due to the very directional focus of the radio beam versus sectorized transmission in cellular systems.

Now Dragonwave is saying that their latest system is capable of 2048QAM, i.e. 11 bits per transmission step. Further numbers cited in the article match that claim. A peak throughput of 550 Mbit/s over the channel mentioned in the article would mean that a 50 MHz channel is used for data transmission. Quite a fat pipe but not unheard of for microwave backhaul (see also link above).

An incredible number from today's perspective despite the directional nature of the transmission and pushes the state of the art quite a bit.

P.S. The latest version of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac uses 256QAM for very good signal conditions.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Using the iPad to Get Away from Your Desk!

Great post from David Sparks! Harry McCracken Still Loves His iPad:

I love my iPad and use the heck out of it but I'd put my Mac/iPad ratio closer to 60/40. I still use a Mac more often but anything away from my desk is done on an iPad (and I'm finding increasingly creative excuses to get away from my desk).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

IBM Reports Nanotube Chip Breakthrough

John Markoff … Bits Blog: I.B.M. Reports Nanotube Chip Breakthrough:

I.B.M. scientists are reporting progress in a chip making technology that is likely to ensure the shrinking of the size of the basic digital switch at the heart of modern microchips for more than another decade.

The advance, first described in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on Sunday, is based on carbon nanotubes, exotic molecules that have long held out promise as an alternative material to silicon from which to create the tiny logic gates that are now used by the billions to create microprocessors and memory chips. The I.B.M. researchers at the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., have been able to pattern an array of carbon nanotubes on the surface of a silicon wafer and use them to build chips that are hybrids of silicon and carbon nanotubes with more than 10,000 working transistors.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jailbreaking and Unlocking Ruled Illegal

Jailbreaking your iPad and unlocking your iPhone ruled illegal by Library of Congress:

Somber news for the jailbreaking and unlocking community. Per rule of the Library of Congress, it will be illegal to unlock any smartphone (including iPhone) or jailbreak any tablet (including iPad) purchased after January 1, 2013. The only exception is jailbreaking or rooting a smartphone, which is covered by the DMCA for the next three years. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Razors and Razor Blades

David Sparks with a followup post to his thoughts on a $329 iPad Mini. The razor and razor blade model assumes you give the razor away and make money selling the blades. For this to work, you need to sell a lot of blades - Amazon needs to sell more blades! $329 Coda:

As a follow up to my piece this morning about the iPad mini price, Amazon today reports a $274M quarter loss.

David Sparks on the $329 iPad Mini


Apple however does not play that game. Apple likes to make money. I can't really fault it for that. The iPad mini starts at $329. the Google Nexus device starts at $199. That Google device only has 8 GB of storage whereas the iPad mini has 16 GB. To get a Google Nexus tablet at 16 GB, you need to spend $250, $79 less than the iPad mini.

So a fair comparison is the $250 Google Nexus device versus the $329 iPad. What does that extra $79 get you? For starters, the iPad mini is better designed and built. I'll take aluminum over plastic any day of the week. Additionally, the iPad mini is an iPad in all senses of the word. It runs, natively, all of the excellent iPad software. The Android tablet software is not there yet.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

iBooks 3.0

iBooks 3.0 now available, adds iCloud purchase support, scrolling theme:

From the release notes:

Introducing iBooks 3

  • See all your iBookstore purchases in iCloud—right on your bookshelf with iOS 6
  • Scroll vertically through your books with the flick of a finger using the new Scroll theme
  • Receive free updates to purchased books—including new chapters, corrections, and other improvements
  • Look up definitions for words in German, Spanish, French, Japanese and Simplified Chinese with iOS 6
  • Share quotes or thoughts about your favorite book with friends on Facebook, Twitter, Messages, or Mail

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cloud-based iWork Suite

From Mikey Campbell … Rumor: Apple planning cloud-based iWork suite for iPad to fight MS Office:

Apple is reportedly working with VMware to bring a cloud-based, business oriented version of its iWork suite of apps to the iPad, with the partnership said to be directed squarely at Microsoft's rumored release of Office for iOS.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why Surface May Undermine OEMs ...

… Microsoft.

From Charlie Kindel (the other "kindle") – Why Surface is Not a Microsoft Business:

It turns out the Surface with a cover is $599. Without, it’s $499. I had done my back-of-the-envelope math assuming it did not include a cover. Thus I was very, very wrong when I said Microsoft will “earn a respectable 20% margin”.

The $499 price means Microsoft will not make any real margin on the Surface.

They may make some profits on the cover, assuming the cover isn’t ridiculously expensive to make (it might be). But even then there is no way the amount Microsoft will make will come close to the $85 they are reportedly charging OEMs for Windows RT licenses.

Worse, every Surface that sells is one less non-Surface Windows RT unit that sells meaning Microsoft not only doesn’t get the $85 from the Surface sale (they’ve priced it so close to wholesale there’s no margin in it) they won’t get $85 from the OEM.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kaspersky's Exploit-Proof OS – "Set It and Forget It"?

I'm dubious as well! From Taylor Armerding … Kaspersky's exploit-proof OS leaves security experts skeptical:

Eugene Kaspersky, the $800-million Russian cybersecurity tycoon, is, by his own account, out to "save the world" with an exploit-proof operating system.

In a blog post this week quickly picked up by news outlets around the world, Kaspersky confirmed rumors that Kaspersky Lab is "developing a secure operating system for protecting ... industrial control systems used in industry/infrastructure."

Given the recent declarations from U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and others that the nation is facing a "digital Pearl Harbor" or "digital 9/11" from hostile nation states like Iran, this sounds like the impossible dream come true -- the cyber version of a Star Wars force field.

No need for updates or patches. No need for antivirus software. No need to hire an expensive security firm to detect millions of malicious attacks aimed at public and private critical infrastructure. No need to push contentious cybersecurity legislation through Congress, trying to balance privacy concerns with the need for information sharing between the private and public sectors.

Just set it and forget it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

802.11ac - Super-WiFi on 70% of Smartphones by 2015

John Cox reporting … Fast 11ac adoption seen for smartphones:

"Super" Wi-Fi will be available on seven of 10 smartphones in 2015, according to a market analysis by ABI Research. And they'll have more advanced Bluetooth radios and near-field communications (NFC) as well.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NOT the Way to Grow STEM in the US

From Anna Kuchment … Romney Would Not Fund New Science and Math Standards:

An education advisor to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign said last night that a Romney administration would not use federal funds to encourage states to adopt higher standards in math and science.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

With Whispercast, Amazon Hoping to Get Kindles into Schools and Businesses

Pretty savvy move … Amazon looks to get Kindles to schools, workers: has launched a service to help schools and workplaces manage Kindles used by students and employees — sending out e-books or blocking certain types of activities, for example.

Called Whispercast, the free service lets businesses and schools buy and distribute books and documents to Kindles over a wireless Internet connection. This means teachers can send out books to students in their class, and businesses can send out training materials, schedules and other documents, Amazon said. Schools can also block Kindles from accessing the Web and can prevent students from being able to make purchases on the device.

Amazon said the service lets administrators register students and employees to their organizations' Kindle devices, assigning them into groups for classes, grade levels or corporate departments. They can then distribute content to these groups or configure the settings on the devices from one location.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Logitech's Broadcaster WiFi Webcam



From Steve Dent … Logitech announces $200 Broadcaster WiFi webcam for iPhone, iPad and Mac (video):

Logitech has formally outed the HD WiFi Broadcaster webcam. The 720P shooter (not 1080p as we hoped) allows wireless transmission from 50 feet away to any Mac computer, iPhone or iPad, instant broadcasting on Ustream and the ability to toggle between your device or computer's built in camera with a button push. The hard plastic carrying case with a magnetic lid doubles as a stand to elevate the cam, which Logitech says will "play nicely" with apps like iMovie, Final Cut Pro and FaceTime. Broadcaster is already up for preorder for $200 in the US

Monday, October 15, 2012

How Serious are Colleges About Data Security?

Not serious enough…

From Steven Musil – Thousands of student records stolen in Florida college breach:

Hackers have accessed the confidential information of nearly 300,000 students, employees, and faculty in a massive security breach at a Florida college, officials said today.

The breach was first thought to have been isolated to employees at Northwest Florida State College but may involve student records from across the state, education officials said. More than 200,000 records were stolen in the breach, including the names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of any student who was eligible for Florida's Bright Futures scholarships from 2005 to 2007.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Who is Coming to Eat Us?

Fascinating read. Turns out we need both stables and volatiles in an organization and we need someone asking the question - "Who is coming to eat us?"

Personally, I've got a little of both in me.

Michael Lopp on Stables and Volatiles
Stables are engineers who:
  • Happily work with direction and appreciate that there appears to be a plan, as well as the calm predictability of a well-defined schedule.
  • Play nice with others because they value an efficiently-run team.
  • Calmly assess risk and carefully work to mitigate failure, however distant or improbable it might be.
  • Tend to generate a lot of process because they know process creates predictably and measurability.
  • Are known for their calm reliability.
Volatiles are the engineers who:
  • Prefer to define strategy rather than follow it.
  • Have issues with authority and often have legitimate arguments for anarchy.
  • Can’t conceive of failing, and seek a thrill in risk.
  • See working with others as time-consuming and onerous tasks, prefer to work in small, autonomous groups, and don’t give a shit how you feel.
  • Often don’t build particularly beautiful or stable things, but they sure do build a lot.
  • Are only reliable if it’s in their best interest.
  • Leave a trail of disruption in their wake.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Swiss-Army Knife of Smartphone Cases


From Kate Freeman … Multitasking Smartphone Case Has 7 Tools in its Small Frame:

The ReadyCase is being touted as a MacGyver-like gadget. It does more than simply protect your phone from dings and scratches. The ReadyCase has a headphone clip so wires don't get tangled, a USB thumb drive (which is also a kickstand), plus two knives and a screwdriver.

All in all, the case has seven tools and it's only three millimeters thick.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saving Water One Flush at a Time

Saw one of these today!
From Wikipedia ...

Dual flush toilets handle solid and liquid waste differently from standard American style toilets, giving the user a choice of flushes. It's an interactive toilet design that helps conserve water that has caught on quickly in countries where water is in short supply

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

US Government and IPv6 Adoption

58% of agencies with little to no progress - sad! From Darryl K. Taft … IPv6 Transition: Key Dates, Services and Issues for the Move:

The Sept. 30 deadline for the IPv6 government public-facing server transition has passed, and the U.S. government is behind, costing taxpayers down the road and inviting the potential for a network disaster. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently released results showing 58 percent of agencies had made little-to-no progress toward moving to IPv6 from IPv4. There are signs that the United States is leading the cause for IPv6 adoption, but with government agencies working with various countries lacking in IPv6 adoption, there are questions on network compatibility. One of the companies keeping a close eye on the move to IPv6 is Akamai Technologies. To date, more than 20 different government agencies have contracted with Akamai to help with the switch to IPv6 and to ensure their data and their networks are secure under the new protocol. Akamai handles more than 2 trillion Web requests a day, giving them a unique vantage point from which to assess IPv6 adoption and traffic levels. On World IPv6 Launch in June, Akamai tracked real-time traffic data, noting a 460-times increase in the number of IPv6 requests as compared to those received on IPv6 day the year prior. Additionally, Akamai charted a 67-times jump in observed IPv6 addresses.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

History of Earth in 24-hour clock


Great visualization shared by Nathan Yau … History of Earth in 24-hour clock. Amazing how small our (humans) time on the Earth is.

I'm not sure where this is originally from, but I found it on an intro to geology course page.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Bookbot – The Automated Library

From Jay Price … Bookbot: Books flowing into new NCSU library's robotic stacks:

One of four automated book delivery system bookBots moves down a 50-foot high, 125-foot long corridor fetching items requested through a virtual browse interface at the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at N.C. State's Centennial Campus in Raleigh on Friday, October 5, 2012. Over 2 million barcoded items are sorted by size and stored in barcoded bins where they can be retrieved through a robotic delivery system.


Each of the four robots has two work stations where its human co-workers can pull books from the bins and put others back in for reshelving.

It takes no more than 60 seconds for one of the robots to retrieve a bin from anywhere in the system, and after the library opens, the goal will be to have a book pulled and placed at one of the designated pickup areas within five minutes

Monday, October 08, 2012

Videos to Teach History

Great resource from Richard Byrne … 37 Crash Course History Videos:

The last time I checked out the Crash Course history videos on YouTube they were up to 15 videos. This evening I was checking out the U.S. History Teacher's Blog where I saw that Crash Course has added some new content. Crash Course World History now has 37 videos including videos on topics in U.S. History.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Using OpenVPN with Your iPad and iPhone

John Goulah provides instructions on Proxying Your iPad/iPhone Through OpenVPN:

It comes up often how to connect to our office openvpn network using an iPad or iPhone. On OSX its pretty simple, use Viscosity or Tunnelblick. But to my knowledge there is nothing like that for iDevices. However its possible to connect these using a SOCKS proxy. The SOCKS server lives on your laptop connected to the VPN, and the iPhone/iPad will be setup to connect through that. Obviously you should only do this on a secured wireless network and/or secure the SOCKS server so that only you have access. I wrote these notes a couple years ago and figured its worth sharing since it comes up once in a while.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Sudents Crave Connection to Institution

From Joanne Jacobs … CC students crave college connection:

Community college students want to be more connected to faculty, classmates, coursework and career exploration, according to Connection by Design. The report is based on focus groups of current and former students conducted by WestEd and Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s Completion by Design initiative.

Students wanted community colleges to engage them in classes and campus life, but they said mandatory orientation or student success courses must be high quality and relevant to their goals to be worth time in their busy schedules.

In the discussions, students spoke like consumers — saying they wanted more individualized help, if not in-person through personal emails or texts. Students felt most college websites fall short and would welcome more interactive features. Too often students said in making college-related decisions, they don’t know what questions to ask until it is too late.

Students want schools to better anticipate their needs and provide them with clear information, especially if they are at risk of dropping out and could benefit from extra services. And supports should be offered beyond the freshman year, many in the focus groups felt.

Many former students who have dropped out want colleges to invite them to return and let them know how to do so.

Most students wish their college had provided them with more structured opportunities to explore their academic and career options.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Implications of Microcredentials

Fascinating stuff from Salman Khan … My View: The future of credentials:

Let’s try a simple thought experiment: What if we were to separate the teaching and credentialing roles of universities? What would happen if regardless of where (or whether) you went to college, you could take rigorous, internationally recognized assessments that measured your understanding and proficiency in various fields – anything from art history to software engineering.

With our hypothetical assessments - microcredentials, if you will - people could prove that they know just as much in a specific domain as those with an exclusive diploma. Even more, they wouldn’t have had to go into debt and attend university to prove it. They could prepare through textbooks, the Khan Academy or life experience. Because even name-brand diplomas give employers limited information, it would be a way for elite college graduates to differentiate themselves from their peers, to show that they have retained deep, useful knowledge.

In short, it would make the credential that most students and parents need cheaper (since it is an assessment that is not predicated on seat time in lecture halls) and more powerful - it would tell employers who is best ready to contribute at their organizations based on metrics that they find important. College would become optional even for students pursuing prestigious and selective career tracks.

Think about the implications.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Charge Your Devices by Walking

Very cool! From Roberto Baldwin … This Charger Is Made for Walking:

More than two years after the nPower PEG arrived on the scene with promises of kinetic charging for our devices, it’s finally available for purchase.

The nPower PEG (personal energy generator) contains a weight, springs, an inductive coil and a battery. As you move, the weight moves up and down and generates energy that is stored in the internal battery. The more you move, the more energy is created. After you’ve gone for your evening jog or hiked up a mountain, you can unleash the stored electricity via the USB 2.0 port. Tremont Electric ships the charger with a USB cable and micro USB adaptor. iPhone and iPod users will need to purchase an additional adaptor

Just don’t try to charge your laptop. The company notes that laptops require more power than the nPower PEG generates. Tablets like the iPad can be charged, but only to about 15 percent.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Solar-Powered Dowel-Sawing Machine

From Cory Doctorow … Solar-powered dowel-sawing machine is a perfect desktop distraction:

Alex's Almost Useless Machine is a solar-powered desktop amusement that slowly saws through dowels whenever the light is bright enough to power its motor. It's mesmerizing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


Tony Smith asks and answers … WTF is... VoLTE:

How are the UK's mobile network operators going to handle voice calls when they switch on their 4G LTE networks? Possibly not very well.

LTE is a purely IP network, so ordinary phone calls need to carried using voice-over-IP (VoIP) technology. That ought to be straightforward: VoIP has been around for years, the principles are understood, and there's even an LTE-centric VoIP specification, Voice over LTE (VoLTE), formerly known as OneVoice. It sits on top of the well-established IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) standard.

The problem is, VoLTE isn't an easy technology to deploy. It's very new and there's still a lot of testing going on in the lab. Part of the problem is that its implementation is very network dependent: what kit the operators are using, how big the network is, what backhaul capacity they have, the impact of the extra VoIP on the data network, and so on.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Cyber Security Awareness Month

Great stuff from the SANS Technology Institute's Johannes B. Ullrich … Cyber Security Awareness Month:

For a few years now, October is designated "National Cyber Security Awareness Month". The target audience of the awareness month effort is mostly consumers. This year's motto is "the Internet is a shared resource and securing it is our Shared Responsibility".

We will feature a special diary each day in October in observance of cyber security awareness month. Realizing that our audience tends to be more technical, we are picking our own theme. This year, we picked "Standards and Security". Many standards have important security components, and we will try to illustrate how particular standards affect current attacks.


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