Tuesday, December 28, 2010

FCC Net Neutrality Order Rules - Transparency

I've held back writing about the new FCC order because I wanted some time to digest what it all means. With the holidays I have not had a lot of time to take a real good look. This post is my first attempt at explaining how the order will impact people like myself - the average consumer.

The 194 page Report and Order document approved by the FCC on 12/21/10 was released on 12/23/10. The Report and Order lays out three basic rules that, according to the FCC, are grounded in broadly accepted Internet norms, as well as FCC prior decisions. Here they are:

  1. Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their broadband services;
  2. No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; and
  3. No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

I've written in the past about the FCC net neutrality -this new order is a compromise of a 2009 FCC proposal that was countered with a proposal from Google and Verizon. Technically it actually dates back to February 2004 when then FCC Chairman Michael Powell gave a speech titled Preserving Internet Freedom: Guiding Principles for the Industry where he laid out his vision of the broadband Internet and what he called the four Internet Freedoms in response to calls for some type of network neutrality.

In this post I'll look at just the transparency rule. Here's a quote pulled frowm page 88 of the Report and Order.

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.
Sounds good right? Not so quick. Stacey over at Gigaom.com has put together a nice review titled Who Wins and Loses Under the FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules. Here's a piece from her post:

  • The FCC doesn’t go as far as to establish a so-called Schumer Box for broadband which would disclose speeds or details in some type of consumer-friendly standardized language, but it does say an ISP must disclose on their websites and at the point of sale how it manages congestion on its network, the speeds it offers and what types of applications would work over those speed packages.
  • The FCC needs to explain how a user might trigger security restrictions, how the ISP inspects its traffic generally and how an aggrieved end user might address issues with the ISP.
  • An ISP must also show how its own VoIP or IPTV services affect how it delivers broader Internet traffic.
  • The FCC outsources the tracking of violations of these rules to consumers and engineers. It provides the enforcement, but isn’t going to hunt down the problems, it seems.
  • Since transparency is the foundation of this whole order, the lack of a standard framework that’s easily understood by end users is bad for consumers.
  • Outside applications and watchdog groups can fill in the gap and may find the task easier with these rules.

Overall Higginbotham says the transparency rule is good for carriers, because it’s minimally invasive in terms of how they market their services, yet poor for consumers, because it won’t help the average user much, and good for tech-savvy edge service providers who will have the information needed to build apps for certain networks.

I'll review the no blocking rule in my next post.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project Production Video

Here's a recording of a panel session presentation by Jim Kiggens, describing the project production work.

 Follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

Here's an overview video of the  Survival Master game for STEM learning.

You can follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WikiLeaks Update with Sam Bowne

Last week at the Convergence Technology Center's Winter Retreat at Collin College in Frisco, Texas Sam Bowne from City College of San Francisco gave a brief description and update on the WikiLeaks "situation" thus far. Here's Sam's excellent 16 minute and 51 second presentation.



This video is also available as a podcast. If you have iTunes installed you can listen to and subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Maximizing Your Twitter Experience - 10 Quick Tips Podcast

Last Thursday (12/2/10) evening , Mike Q and I recorded a podcast titlted Maximizing Your Twitter Experience - 10 Quick Tips. We also discuss some recent technology updates including:

You can listen to the 36.5 minute podcast in your browser by clicking the play button below:

If you have iTunes installed you can listen to and subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is a temp demo video for the Survival Master game for STEM learning - Knowledge and Skills Builder 2B - Surface Area Heat Flow Challenge level. In this single player platformer level, the learner uses knowledge about heat flow for shapes based upon surface area - to negotiate unlocking a series of elevators and catapulting across a pit of solvent hazard to complete the level and earn energy bonus points and achievements.

You can follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is an overview of the design of the Survival Master multiplayer game level, which is a small team survival shelter engineering challenge that incorporates the STEM skills developed in the four single player "knowledge and skills builder" levels for shape volume and surface area, conductive heat flow, insulators, and structural stability and integrity.

You can follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Friday, December 3, 2010

WikiLeaks and DNS

[Notes: Click images for higher resolution. This post was originally published on 12/3/10, then edited and repost-ed on 12/7/10.]

We all probably have some idea and opinion (de
pending on particular sources) about what is going on with WikiLeaks and the exposing of hundreds of thousands of classified US state documents. I'll keep my personal opinions private here. Technically it has been interesting to watch the cat and mouse game and I thought it would be good to diagram how DNS works.

EveryDNS.net, a U.S. DNS provider pulled WikiLeaks from it's database, claiming constant denial of service took the controversial site offline earlier today, claiming that the constant hacking attacks were so powerful that they were damaging its other customers.

What's DNS and why is it so important? I always describe DNS as basically an internet telephone book - it keeps track of site names (URLs) and the IP addresses of the servers hosting those sites. It is something that is not required to access websites but makes it a lot easier because users only have to remember site names and don't have to remember long IP addresses. You get access to DNS with a web connection from your provider. There are also some good alternative DNS providers you can access as long as you have an internet connection. Here's a diagram I made up showing how it works.
Is DNS required to access websites? No. You can still get to a site by typing in the IP address of the site.

I've got an earlier post on DNS linked here that you may also find interesting.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

FCC Chairman - Net Neutrality Proposed Rules

I've written here in the past about Net Neutrality and the issues. Yesterday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a set of proposed rules to protect the open Internet. Here's a summary of Genachowski's announcement with pieces taken from a post by Nick Farrell:

  • Genachowski will present the principle that broadband companies shouldn't block or degrade rival web content, services or applications to a vote that will be held on 21 December.
  • The compromise rules in theory mean that US Internet users can use peer-to-peer software and see whatever websites they like and use any equipment they like on their cable or DSL connections.
  • Carriers and ISPs will be barred from slowing down or blocking content from competitors. The ISPs will also have to be transparent about how they manage congestion on their networks to ensure that anti-competitive behavior isn't being disguised.
Sounds good so far but is it enough? Carriers will still be allowed to create paid fast lanes on the net and the FCC is not reclassifying the Internet as a "telecommunications service", which would have given the FCC clear authority to enforce its rules.

According to Farrrell, Genachowski has the support of Cisco CEO John Chambers, AT&T senior executive VP Jim Ciccono, and Comcast EVP David Cohen. The Communication Workers of America is also in support with a petition you can sign here. Not everyone thinks it goes far enough though. Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative has a post over at Wired. Here's a quote from Meinrath's piece:

Without fundamental changes to the current order, the Chairman’s proposal will be a great victory for the largest telecom corporations and a sound defeat for those working to support innovation and the economic vibrancy that an open Internet facilitates. The New America Foundation is hopeful that the Chairman’s office and Commissioners that support open Internet rules will develop a final order that uphold the FCC’s responsibility to protect consumers and Internet freedom.

In order to take effect, the proposal must be approved by a majority of the
five FCC commissioners . Here's how Wireless Week breaks down that vote if it were to happen today.
  • There’s no way Genachowski will vote against a proposal he himself introduced and has fought so hard for. He's a YES.
  • Michael Copps issued the most carefully-worded statement of the bunch, but so far he’s been a big proponent of Genachowski’s net neutrality push and it’s unlikely he’ll back out now. Also a YES.
  • Mignon Clyburn seemed to be in favor of the plan, saying “clear rules of road are absolutely necessary.” Another YES.
  • Meredith Baker and Robert McDowell came out against the idea in comments filed today. That is two NOs.
Right now it looks like it would pass 3-2. We'll see what happens on December 21.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

Work continues on the SMTE Project. Here's a video giving a  brief overview of the Survival Master game, Physical Modeling Curriculum and Hybrid Model.

 Follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Verizon and Rural Fixed 4G LTE Wireless

The turkey's just about gone at our house, transitioning from a Thanksgiving Day bird to turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, turkey chili and maybe (just maybe) some turkey soup. It was a nice relaxing holiday and like most people, I enjoyed watching some football on Thanksgiving day - it was especially good this year because the New England Patriots were playing the Detroit Lions. Go Pats!

During the game on Thursday I found one commercial particularly interesting - the new one from Verizon Wireless 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution). If you have not seen it - here it is.

What's so interesting?
  • The commercial is rural focused - no fancy city slicker stuff here and no mobile/cell phones are shown. What looks like an old farm that could have been taken out of the 1940's - the kind of location telcos like Verizon have avoided or, at most, have been trying to push low bandwidth DSL service to.
  • The farm in the commercial looks like it only has electrical power strung on poles - take a look around 6 seconds into it - there are some poles running down a very long driveway. I only see one cable and it looks like power to me. I guess they could be telephone wires or the copper could be buried for phone service.
So, we've got this rural farm out in the middle of nowhere with this big long driveway/access road. Not a place anyone would expect to find any kind of internet access beyond dial-up or maybe some kind of satellite service. The kid runs back with the Verizon package and.... you see the rest..... broadband!

Picking the commercial apart here's what I see for today and the future:
  • Verizon will be pitching LTE as a both a mobile and a fixed service. Fixed service will be pushed especially in rural areas where other broadband options are not available. LTE won't just be for mobile devices and the commercial makes this clear.
  • Initially fixed voice and data services will be available but in time, we'll likely see a video service being sold. But - with all of the major networks streaming now along with companies like Hulu and Netflix delivering online content - the line is rapidly blurring between data and video services.
  • Can video be delivered over LTE - yes. There are capacity issues when it comes to the number of cell towers and backhaul fiber that needs to be run to the towers to handle the load. Over time this will be taken care of. I think we'll see something similar to the Optical Network Terminals (ONT's) used for FiOS installed in people's homes - they will be called WNT's (Wireless Network Terminals) or something like that.
  • Verizon FiOS is basically finished - what's there and in the process of being negotiated is there. Nothing more at least from Verizon when it comes to fiber to the home (FTTH). For now. the push is wireless.
Things are (finally) going to start moving - Verizon Wireless claims they will have full nationwide LTE coverage by 2013. AT&T is not far behind when it comes to roll-out plans and Sprint/Clearwire has had WiMax (a competing 4G service) availble for the past year or so.

Living in rural New England with only one broadband option I'm pretty excited about the kind of competition LTE is going to bring. When it comes to the Patriots though - I'm not real excited about the competition those New York Jets are bringing - they are a really good team!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This is a temporary demo video for the  Survival Master game for STEM learning -  Knowledge and Skills Builder 2B - Catapult level. In the video the learner uses Heat Flow knowledge to negotiate the single-player platformer gameplay. This is a first playable temp build.

You can follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Win a $100 Amazon Gift Certificate & Help Out Our NSF Center

Last week we launched a 3 minute survey - complete it and you will be entered into a monthly $100 Amazon gift certificate.

You can enter using your Facebbook or Twitter ID, email address, phone number, etc. You can also fill out the survey without giving any contact information - you just won't be eligible for the raffle.

We promise not to spam you - we only need this information to contact you if you are a winner.

Here’s a link to the survey http://www.ictcenter.org/survey.html

If you could take a few minutes to describe who you are and how you are using our National Science Foundation material (blog, web site, following on Twitter, YouTube, podcast, etc.) it would really help us out.

Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is a temporary demo video for the Knowledge and Skills Builder level 2A - the "Delta T Challenge" in the Survival Master game for STEM learning.

You can follow along via the project website at http://gaming2learn.org/

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

State of the Internet Industry

Yesterday, at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker gave an incredibly paced presentation on the state of the Internet industry. Here’s some highlights from her presentation compiled by Ben Parr at Mashable:

  • 46% of Internet users live in five countries: the USA, Russia, Brazil, China and India.
  • There are 670 million 3G subscribers worldwide, 136.6 million in the U.S. and 106.3 million in Japan.
  • iOS devices reached 120 million subscribers in 13 quarters, far faster than Netscape, AOL or NTT docomo’s growth rates.
  • Nokia and Symbian used to own 62% of the smartphone market (units shipped). Now it’s only 37%, mostly due to Android and iOS.
  • The average CPM for social networking sites is at only $0.55. Meeker thinks this will increase and normalize in the next few years. She also believes that inventory on Facebook is one of the most under-monetized assets on the web.
  • It took e-commerce 15 years to get to 5% of retail. Morgan Stanley predicts mobile should get to that same level in five years.
  • Streaming video is up to 37% of of Internet traffic during traditional “TV hours.” Netflix is the biggest contributor to this, followed by YouTube.
  • Seven of the companies that were in the top 15 publicly traded Internet companies in 2004 are not in that list in 2010.
  • Interest payments and entitlement spending is projected to exceed government revenue by 2025. In other words, the U.S. government is facing a real financial crisis soon.
Here’s an embed of Mary's presentation:

Internet Trends Presentation -

Monday, November 15, 2010

Working from the Command Line

I’ve been involved in some recent curriculum discussions about an ICT end-device technician’s (think typical telecommunications and cable company technicians that come into your home) ability to work from the command-line on end-devices - things like computers, tablets, hand-helds, etc. Not routers not switches, and not servers!

There are two basic arguments - one side saying end-device technicians must be able to understand and work at the command prompt level while others believe modern operating systems do not require command prompt access the vast majority of time.

A couple of years ago I would have argued end-device technicians need to be able to work at the command prompt level. I’ve changed my mind though. I’m now sided with the group supporting the second argument - I personally don’t see the need to go deep into the command-line for end-device technicians.

I’ll use my own experience as an example of why I don’t think it is necessary. I’ve been using a Mac as my primary machine for the past 4 or so years, converting over in 2006. I lug a Mac everywhere I go, running lots of different apps and connecting to different networks in different ways. I’ve never once been required to go to a command prompt (using Terminal which is built in to the Mac OS) to fix something, make an installation tweak, connect, etc. I’ve been able to connect and get stuff working quickly and correctly (basically what most end-device ICT technicians do) without going to a command-line interface to get it done. All the applications I've needed to determine, test and troubleshoot connectivity are built into the operating system using Network Utilities. Modern end-device operating system user interfaces are so well designed now it’s just not something you need to do much any more. And then there’s the iPad and iPhone - if you jailbreak them you can get to UNIX command shell and run command-line utilities. I don’t know too many people that have done this though.

I do still find myself going to the command prompt on Windows machines but this may just be a force of habit, having moved from DOS to the Windows world over the years. It’s what I’m used to doing and I feel pretty comfortable with it. Almost everything I do though could be done within Windows, not using the command prompt.

It’s important to understand the command prompt is available and curriculum should cover basic usage. I can’t see spending a lot of time on it though.

Update on 11/15/10
Mike Q passed along a link to a nice post titled
The Designer’s Guide to the OSX Command Prompt. Check it out if you use Terminal or are interested in learning how to use it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Changing Times: Computers, Communications and Coca-Cola

I've been a developer, programmer, consultant, instructor, and consumer of personal computers and applications since the early days of CPM (pre-DOS). My early work started around January 1982 with the IBM PC on the connectivity and coding side, developing communications and custom business applications. Device-to-device communications was slow, commonly running at around 115 Kbps. I used to say I could make any computing device talk to any other computing device - just give me some cable, connectors, a few basic tools, an RS-232 Protocol Analyzer, breakout box, some paper clips to use as jumpers for cable configuration, and lots of Coca-Cola!

Times have changed - when I started almost 30 years ago, technicians typically drove commercial style vans full of tools and parts. Today a friend has a computer technology business where the technicians drive Mini Coopers. He's got one SUV to lug around bigger stuff but it does not see much road time. Times have really changed.

My current interest and technical focus is on connectivity (copper, optical and wireless), converged network (voice, video and data) services, end device hardware, operating systems and applications (that someone else has written!). Basically TCP/IP, Ethernet and everything involved in moving information securely, dependably and reliably from one device to another.

I still do take a thing or two apart these days though. Most recently I changed an iPod battery using a blow drier (to melt the glue holding device together) and guitar pick (get the thinnest picks you can find). Taking apart an iPad (why would anyone want to?) is not much different - here's a video from DirectFix.com showing how.

The days of vans full of technician tools, desktop type computers and field swappable components are either gone or rapidly going away. Some things do stay the same though - I'm still hooked on the Coca-Cola.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DSL = (D)ead, (S)low and (L)ousy?

That’s what a post over at Stop the Cap! called Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) after reviewing a report from Credit Suisse analyst Stefan Anninger. Here’s some highlights from that report:

  • DSL will increasingly be seen as the “dial-up” service of the 2010s, as demand for more broadband speed moves beyond what most phone companies are willing or able to provide.
  • DSL accounts sold in the United States top out at an average speed of just 4Mbps, while consumers are increasingly seeking out service at speeds of at least 7Mbps.
  • A growing number of Americans understand cable and fiber-based broadband deliver the highest speeds, and consumers are increasingly dropping DSL for cable and fiber competitors. Any investments now may be a case of “too little, too late,” especially if they only incrementally improve DSL speeds.
  • By 2015, cable companies will have secured 56 percent of the broadband market in the U.S. (up by 2 percent from today), phone companies will drop from 30 percent to just 15 percent, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-verse, and wireless broadband will each control around 7 percent of the market, with the remainder split among municipal fiber, satellite, and other technologies.
  • An online survey of 1,000 consumers in August found that less than half would consider going wireless only. The reasons? It’s too slow, too expensive and most plans have Internet Overcharging schemes like usage caps and speed throttles.
Regarding the FCC’s recent push for broadband reform by reclassifying broadband under Title II - Anninger suggests that Net Neutrality enforcement at the FCC is not a priority. Anninger goes on to say if action hasn’t been taken by winter or spring of next year, it’s a safe bet the Commission will never re-assert its authority.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ray Ozzie - Dawn of a New Day

Back on June 15, 2006, Ray Ozzie took over the role of Microsoft Chief Software Architect from Bill Gates. In that role Ozzie has been responsible for oversight of the company’s overall technical strategy and product architecture pretty much behind the scenes, letting Steve Balmer handle much of the public face of the company. Ray's been an innovator in the computing industry for the past 35 years or so and probably best know for his role in the development of Lotus Notes.

He's in the process of transitioning out of Microsoft over the next few months and yesterday published a pretty significant memo to his Executive Staff and direct reports at Microsoft on his blog at ozzie.net. He titled the memo Dawn of a New Day. It's a must read - I bet I've read it at least 20 times over the course of today. I'll be reading it lots more. My favorite piece:

.... the power and responsibility to truly effect transformation exists in no small part at the edge. Within those who, led or inspired, feel personally and collectively motivated to make; to act; to do.

We get down on ourselves, the economy, politics, the day-to-day grind that just seems to come at us from all directions. Love Microsoft, hate Microsoft - it doesn't matter - give Ray's post a read - you'll end up reading it over and over again. You can find it linked here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mobile Broadband Spectrum Demand

The Federal Communication Commission has released a really interesting report titled Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum. The report takes a detailed look at the the current use, growth and need for new wireless broadband spectrum and also estimates the value created by making new spectrum available. Here's some background:

The National Broadband Plan has recommended that the FCC make available 500 megahertz (MHz) of new spectrum available for wireless broadband, including 300 MHz for mobile flexible use within five years. In addition, back on June 28, 2010, President Obama directed in an Executive Memorandum that 500 MHz of new spectrum be made available for mobile and fixed broadband use. The report is an attempt to make some predictions and justify the need for additional spectrum using estimates of various factors affecting aggregate mobile network capacity and mobile data growth. Here's some highlights:

  • Mobile data demand will outstrip available wireless capacity in the near-term
  • Mobile data demand is expected to grow between 25 and 50 times current levels within 5 years.
  • Analysis suggests that the broadband spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 MHz by 2014.
  • Making available additional spectrum for mobile broadband would create value in excess of $100B in the next five years through avoidance of unnecessary costs.
  • Making new spectrum available has historically taken between six and thirteen years
The report claims the $100B estimate of value creation is narrow, as it does not account for the broader social value created through mobile broadband, which some economists estimate as multiples of the private value. Here's some interesting data on how we are using current services and devices:
  • 42% of consumers are estimated to own a smartphone, up from 16% three years ago.
  • PC aircard users consume 1.4 gigabytes (GB) per month -- 56 times the amount of data used by a regular cell phone.
  • AT&T, the exclusive US carrier of the iPhone, has seen mobile network traffic increase 5,000% over past 3 years.
  • Users of Clearwire’s fourth generation (4G) WiMAX service consume 7 GB per month -- 280 times the amount of data used by a regular cell phone.
I like to think of broadband the way I think of garage space - you can never have too much. Be sure to check out the full FCC report linked here.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

EMarketer Report: Corporate Blogging Goes Mainstream

I get asked a lot about blogging - especially by academic people. Typical questions/comments are usually along the lines of:

  • Is it worth the time?
  • I started a blog and wrote a few posts but nobody looked at it.
  • I'm not sure what to write about.
  • What's the value?
  • What's the return on investment of the time it takes to post?
  • Do you think other apps like Twitter and Facebook have replaced blogs?
  • Is blogging dead?
I've found my blog to be one of our NSF ICT Center's most effective dissemination and marketing tools but still have a hard time answering these kinds of questions.

eMarketer just made it a little easier with a new report titled Corporate Blogging Goes Mainstream. I have not seen the full report but was able to pull some interesting information out of the report press release:
  • Blogging has grown into a vital marketing tool for all types of companies, including Fortune 500 marketers and mom-and-pop retailers.
  • 34% of US companies will use a blog for marketing purposes this year, a proportion that will continue to grow to 43% by 2012.
  • While blogging still tends not to rate such high usage as newer forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter, it still has many strengths, including full control over branding and advertising, integration with all corporate web properties, no limits on post length and the existence of a full, easily searchable repository of information. And studies have noted blogging’s usefulness for lead generation.
  • By October 2009, according to a Cision-led study, nearly two-thirds of US journalists reported they used blogs to publish, promote and distribute what they wrote. And according to PRWeek and PR Newswire, about a third of journalists used corporate blogs as research sources in 2010, up from a quarter last year.
Here's an interesting graphic from the eMarketer report showing the growth in marketing blogs from U.S. companies.

Blogging is not going away - it is just going mainstream. Looking to market your business, academic program or establish yourself as a subject matter expert? Don't forget about the blog.

Be sure to check out the eMarketer report press release.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Paper City Goes Green High Performance Computing - Holyoke, MA

I've been swamped with proposal work - the end of this week is a a major National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education submission deadline - and have not had a chance to write about the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center groundbreaking in Holyoke, MA held on October 5.

I've written about this project in the past - the idea was launched over a year ago by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts, Harvard University, Boston University, and Northeastern University. Each school kicked in $10 million and Massachusetts kicked in $25 million from a state fund that provides money to improve roads and other public works to support economic development. At the groundbreaking both Cisco and EMC announced $2.5 million contributions to the project for a total of $80 million committed.

I've been fortunate to have been involved with the planning process (on a technician / workforce / education / economic development level) and it's been interesting to watch the process and progress of the center. Some said it would never happen but - the ground was broken a couple of weeks ago so...... it's happening!

The center has the potential to turn around the first industrially designed city in the U.S. Holyoke was built around a series of man-made canals extending from the Connecticut River that were designed to provide water power to run paper mills. Holyoke once had so many paper mills it's nickname was (and still is) "Paper City". Most of those mills shut down years ago but now - new life for an old New England mill town.

Governor Deval Patrick
missed the ground breaking because he was out on Cape Cod, attending the funeral of PFC Clinton E. Springer II who had died in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 24.

The Governor did come to Holyoke after the funeral though and got the chance to attend a Town Meeting following the groundbreaking. We had John Reynolds there with his camera and he got some great video of the Holyoke Mayor Elaine A. Pluta and Governor Patrick.

I don't think I've ever been this excited about a technical project - computers, networks, high-performance research including microbiology, genetics, chemistry, physics..... all performed in a green environmentally friendly way. The economic development potential and the kinds of companies and people the center will attract are potentially huge. It will be very interesting to watch. Pretty cool stuff!

To see more pictures, here's a link to my October 5 event Flickr photo set.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

SharePoint As An Academic Learning Management System (LMS)?

Over the weekend I had an interesting email exchange with a business owner who runs one of the larger IT companies in Western Massachusetts. He's looking to hire some student interns from our college with Microsoft SharePoint experience. I've been a SharePoint fan for a while now and currently use it as a collaboration/file sharing/communications/etc tool for a national economic development project managed by the American Association of Community Colleges.

I got to thinking after that email exchange - with some added pieces (including a FERPA compliant gradebook), SharePoint has the potential to be a pretty nice Learning Management System (LMS). A few minutes and a quick web search later I found it is already being done by companies like SharePointLMS.

I'm not an LMS design expert but I do use one almost every day. I am sure there are shortcomings using applications like SharePoint as an LMS but - there are strengths and weaknesses with any software based application including the current crop of academic LMS's.

It makes sense to take a look at products like SharePoint and their classroom potential. The more real-world skills and experience our students graduate with the better when it comes to getting that first job.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why Broadband Service Is So Poor In The U.S.

In an October 4, 2010 editorial titled Why Broadband Service in the U.S. Is So Awful And one step that could change it, Scientific American discusses the poor condition of U.S. broadband service when compared to much of the rest of the world. Here’s a couple of key points (we’re all way too familiar with) from the piece:

  • The U.S. came in dead last in a recent study that compared how quickly 40 countries and regions have been progressing toward a knowledge-based economy over the past 10 years.
  • A decade ago the U.S. ranked at or near the top of most studies of broadband price and performance.
From the top of the list to the bottom – what happened in the last 10 years? Scientific American traces the start of our problems back to 2002 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassified broadband Internet service as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” This reclassification allowed infrastructure owners (essentially telco and cable companies) to keep their infrastructure private (some would say monopolize), stifling competition.

How are places like Japan and Korea different? Countries that are beating the pants off us require infrastructure companies to wholesale access to independent providers. This means consumers in these countries have many options from companies competing on price and service. Simply said, broadband competition is good but unfortunately, we don’t have it.

Can we fix it? The Scientific American editorial also discusses the net neutrality debate. Here’s another piece:

A separate debate—over net neutrality, the principle that Internet providers must treat all data equally regardless of their origin or content—has put the broadband crisis back in the spotlight. Earlier this year a federal appeals court struck down the FCC’s plan to enforce net neutrality, saying that because the FCC classified the Internet as an information service, it does not have any more authority to ensure that Internet providers treat all content equally than it does to ensure that CNN treats all political arguments equally.

In response, the FCC announced its intention to reclassify broadband Internet as a telecommunications service. The move would give the FCC power to enforce net neutrality as well as open broadband lines up to third-party competition, enabling free markets to deliver better service for less money.
Sounds great but…. current FCC chair Genachowski has said that although he regards the Internet as a telecommunications service, he does not want to bring in third-party competition. The Scientific American editorial speculates this move may have been intended to avoid criticism from policy makers, both Republican and Democrat, who have aligned themselves with large Internet providers such as AT&T and Comcast that stand to suffer when their local monopolies are broken.

The Scientific American editorial is an excellent read along with the growing number of reader comments. Check it out.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Verizon Wireless - 4G LTE In 38 Major Metropolitan Areas By The End Of The Year

Yesterday, at the CTIA Enterprise & Applications™ 2010 conference, Verizon Wireless president and chief operating officer Lowell McAdam reviewed the companies launch plans for 4G LTE in 38 major metropolitan areas along with about 60 commercial airports in the U.S. The company has a nice coverage map, shown and linked here.

According to a Verizon Wireless press release, expect 4G LTE average data rates to be 5 to 12 megabits per second (Mbps) on the downlink and 2 to 5 Mbps on the uplink in real-world, loaded network environments.

As an educator, this piece of the press release really excites me: In addition to the 38 major metropolitan areas, Verizon Wireless is launching its 4G LTE network in West Lafayette, Ind., home of Purdue University. The public university is using several innovative software applications on Verizon Wireless’ 3G network that improve student engagement and success, and Verizon Wireless is working with Purdue to explore the next phase of how 4G LTE technology can improve e-learning across the nation.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Google TV Minisite Launches

Google has launched their Google TV minisite and it looks pretty slick - especially when you take a look at (and think about) the apps potential. Matt Burns has an excellent post over at CrunchGear on the launch. Here's a nice list of what he's found so far:

  • Apps are going to be a key feature and will include Pandora, Chrome, Twitter, Amazon, Android Gallery, and “starting early next year,” apps from the Android Market.
  • Major TV networks such as HBO, TNT, TBS, CNN will have some sort of swanky video portal. This could possible be the device’s killer function.
  • Fling, play audio or video on your phone on Google TV “with the press of the button.”
  • YouTube is properly formated for a larger screen. Possibly a version of Leanback.
  • You’ll be able to browse the web — or use apps — while watching TV. Think picture-in-picture.
  • Google TV doesn’t launch to live content, but rather a customizable homepage with shortcuts.
  • Google Queue: A DVR for the web. Build a list of websites, video podcasts, YouTube videos and watch them later — okay….
  • “Over-the-air updates” Really? As opposed to updates via the constant Internet connection?
Here's a short Apps for Google TV video.

Love the Google TV line Your smartphone has apps. Now your TV does too.

The 10 Best IT Certifications Podcast

Over the weekend, Mike Q and I recorded a podcast discussing Erik Eckel's 10 Best IT Certifications for 2010 post along with Mike's recent blog posts on IT certifications. You can listen to the 35 minute podcast in your browser by clicking the play button below:

If you have iTunes installed you can subscribe to our podcasts by clicking here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Better Internet Wiretapping?

The New York Times today posted an interesting article titled U.S. Wants to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet. The article discusses a bill the Obama administration plans to submit to Congress next year. Here’s a quote from that NY Times piece about the bill.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

We’ve actually got a rather dated law like this in place right now. Back in 1994 the federal government passed the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). Under the law, telecommunications providers must have hardware and/or software installed that will allow law enforcement agencies real-time surveillance of any telephone or Internet traffic.

Originally, CALEA only applied to telephone networks, but in 2004 several federal organizations filed a joint petition with the FCC to expand the ability to monitor voice over IP and broadband Internet connections. Lawsuits challenging that the ruling was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment were filed by organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Council on Education.

There are several gaps in CALEA that the Times piece discusses including the use of offshore services and “freeware” applications created and maintained by volunteers. These are some of the holes the new law will try and address. The Times piece claims officials are coalescing around several of the new proposal’s likely requirements:
  • Communications services that encrypt messages must have a way to unscramble them.
  • Foreign-based providers that do business inside the United States must install a domestic office capable of performing intercepts.
  • Developers of software that enables peer-to-peer communication must redesign their service to allow interception.

My biggest concern is technology backfire - hackers taking advantage of wiretapping holes. I understand the need to monitor traffic in some cases but based on the way the Internet has been put together and works I don’t see how real-time surveillance can technically be accomplished without eventually exposing holes that could (and would) be exploited by hackers. Be sure to read the entire New York Times piece linked here.


Update 9/27/10 - I received the following message from Kyle at newsy.com

Hello Gordon,

I just finished reading your take on how federal officials want to improve internet wiretapping in the very near future. I really enjoyed how you citied the New York Times as well as offered your own opinion on how this opens the door for a different kind of security risk: hacking. It's kind of interesting that by increasing monitoring of the internet, the government could also open doors as you say for hackers to exploit. In terms of security, that's a pretty big issue to deal with right there.

I think you would enjoy this video from newsy.com, it analyzes what the national media is saying about this possibility in a 2:30 video. The video actually references the same Times article that you talk about with mention to the three major requirements the bill will request.

Here's the newsy.com video:

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

Thanks for passing this along Kyle.