Sunday, February 28, 2010

ICT - Ten Years After The Dotcom Boom

The March 2010 issue of Wired Magazine has an interesting piece titled 10 Years After: A Look Back at the Dotcom Boom and Bust. Here's some striking numbers comparing today to ten years ago:

Then (2000)
Now (2010)
ECommerce Sales (Annual)
$19.5 Billion
$156 Billion
Hard Drive Storage (per GB)
Bandwidth for Streaming Video (per GB)
Web Storage (monthly, per GB)
Domain Registration (per year)
Hosting (monthly per MB)
24-pack of Red Bull

Note: Numbers have been adjusted for inflation.

This is only a tiny sample of what is in the March issue - it brings back a lot of memories. Things certainly have changed lots!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is the third of three videos demonstrating the use of the Moodle QA database we'll be using for the Survival Master game for STEM learning development team. The video goes over how to access the database, how to write up a bug report, and how to view bugs that have already been reported.

You can follow along via the project website at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is the second of three videos demonstrating the use of the Moodle QA database we'll be using for the Survival Master game for STEM learning development team. The video goes over how to access the database, how to write up a bug report, and how to view bugs that have already been reported.

I'll post the third video in the set in my next post. You can follow along via the project website at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) Project

This is the first of three videos demonstrating the use of the Moodle QA database we'll be using for the Survival Master game for STEM learning development team. The video goes over how to access the database, how to write up a bug report, and how to view bugs that have already been reported.

I'll post the second and third videos in the set in my next two posts. You can follow along via the project website at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Mixed Results for 4G Wireless Trials

Cox Communications released some interesting results at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain yesterday. The company has been testing Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless delivery on both its AWS and 700 MHz spectrum in San Diego and Phoenix. I've written here in the past about the 700 MHz spectrum range - back in 2005 Congress passed a law that requires all U.S. TV stations to convert to all digital broadcasts and give up analog spectrum in the 700 MHz frequency band. This law freed up 62 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band and effectively eliminated channels between 52 and 69. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a 700 MHz auction in 2008 with Cox and others buying some of that spectrum for technologies like LTE. The Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) band is similar to 700 MHz but operates at a higher frequency, representing 90 MHz of spectrum in the 1.7- to 2.1-GHz range.

Some industry people have been saying fourth generation (4G) technologies LTE and WiMAX will effectively backfill areas where high speed "wired" broadband services (Cable, FTTN, FTTH, etc) are not available. I've been one of those with my fingers crossed, hoping 4G technologies will eventually provide high-bandwidth services to underserved areas of our country. If Cox's test results are any indication, it does not appear this will be the case though. Stephen Bye, Cox's vice president of wireless services presentation is referenced in a Fierce Wireless post yesterday:

Cox's LTE trials showed peak speeds of around 25 Mbps with 2x2 MIMO technology over a 2x5 MHz channel in the carrier's AWS spectrum. However, those speeds were for a single user very close to the cell site.

On the cell edge, that same single user would only get around 10 Mbps, according to Cox's tests.

Multiple users on the cell edge would see far slower speeds.

To put those numbers into perspective, Bye said Cox's wired Internet subscribers average around 8 GB per month of data use, and the top 1 percent carrier's most active wired Internet users access 200 GB of data per month (those users enjoy wired Internet speeds of up to 50 Mbps, he said).

Bye said Cox has witnessed a 200 percent growth rate in 12 months in its customers' wired Internet usage.

In his presentation, Bye described wireless as "complementary" to the MSO's wired network and explained that LTE will never handle the traffic loads that fully wired Internet users generate.

A dose of reality - unfortunately - I have to agree with him. The consumption and desire for more and more bandwidth is not slowing. Even if a wireless provider like a Cox, Verizon or AT&T could provide 25 Mbps sustained to underserved areas - in the end it is still not going to be enough when compared to much higher bandwidth "wired" services we're seeing in many parts of the U.S. and other countries.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Steganography Podcast - Embedding Secret Messages in Online Conversations

On February 15, 2010, Mike Qaissaunee and I recorded a podcast titled Vice over IP: Embedding Secret Messages in Online Conversations. In the podcast Mike discusses embedding secret messages in images and Voice over IP sessions using a technology called steganography. The podcast is based on an excellent article in this months IEEE Spectrum titled Vice Over IP: The VoIP Steganography Threat. Here's a list of some of the questions Mike answers:

Before we delve into this new topic, lets provide the audience with a little background. First what is steganography - sounds like a dinosaur?
Can you give us some examples?
How does steganography work?
How do we stop it? Can we?
How would spectrum analysis help detect these messages?
What is network steganography and how does it work?
What are the three methods or flavors of network steganography that researchers have developed? Can you describe each?
Should we be worried?

Fascinating and interesting stuff. Here's how to listen:

To access show notes and audio of Mike Q and my 24 minute and 5 second podcast titled
Vice over IP: Embedding Secret Messages in Online Conversations, click here.

Listen to it directly in your web browser by clicking here.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cookies, AT&T, Facebook And Your Privacy

This post is based on a question received via Twitter from @mmurfsurf. I apologize for the delay in my reply.

Last month, you may have seen a story or two about an AT&T Wireless / Facebook security problem. Some AT&T mobile Facebook users were being logged into other Facebook users accounts. The Associated Press ran an interesting story about a Georgia mother and her two daughters that logged onto Facebook from mobile phones and wound up in a startling place: strangers' accounts with full access to troves of private information. That AP article said the glitch was the result of a "routing problem" at the family's wireless carrier, AT&T -- revealing a little known security flaw with far reaching implications for everyone on the Internet, not just Facebook users. In each case, the Internet lost track of who was who, putting the women into the wrong accounts.

Both AT&T and Facebook claim this particular problem has been fixed but, it's brought to the front some major security issues with sites that require authentication. Iljitsch van Beijnu in an excellent post titled Facebook, AT&T play fast and loose with user authentication over at ars technica claims 99% of all sites implement user authentication themselves with some doing it right and others not doing it right. Here's more from Beijnu:

Putting a password in a normal text box means it's transmitted in the clear. To avoid this, it's necessary to use an encrypted HTTPS session, at least to transmit the password. Some sites do this, others simply send it in the clear where it can be intercepted relatively easily, especially—but not exclusively—on unencrypted Wi-Fi networks, such as Wi-Fi hotspots.

The second problem with home-grown user authentication is that it really only secures a single page. If the user later loads the page again, or loads another page, she would have to type the password again to really be secure. The solution to this problem is for the server to store some information in the form of a "cookie" on the user's system. Cookies for a certain site are automatically transmitted along with every HTTP request made to that site, so the server can recognize the user by the information in the cookie. So far so good. (Ignoring the fact that cookies can also easily be intercepted if sessions are unencrypted.)

Beijnu lists a couple of cookie related possibilities for the AT&T/Facebook snafu:

Possibility One

When mobile phones first gained the ability to access the Web, a lot of work was done to optimize the experience on slow, memory-starved devices with a slow connection. Much of that magic involves Web proxies. One way for this particular Facebook user authentication issue to come up on AT&T's mobile network would be if there is a caching proxy in between the server and the user that doesn't pay attention to cookies. So if user A with cookie X visits Facebook, the proxy caches the page user A gets. Then, when user B comes along with cookie Y, the proxy simply sends the cached page to user B, which is of course the page that only user A is supposed to see.

Possibility Two

Another possibility is that AT&T uses proxy cookies. WAP, a protocol that was used to create a Web-like experience for phones not capable enough to show the real Web, doesn't support cookies. This makes life hard, so proxies that let WAP clients talk to Web servers often implement "proxy cookies," where the proxy stores the cookies on behalf of the client. However, in that case it's essential that the proxy knows which user it's proxying for at any given moment, otherwise it sends the wrong cookie to the server and the user is logged in as someone else.

It's not clear exactly what was fixed and what happened - at least from the information I have access to. However, it looks like both AT&T and Facebook were at fault - AT&T for mixing up cookies and Facebook for using clear text cookies. It's important to understand it is not just an AT&T/Facebook problem.

How can user information and privacy be better protected? The solution is simple and Beijnu says it well - encrypting all sessions would solve these problems: passwords and cookies can't be intercepted and proxies can't get to the data.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Some Thoughts on Google's Fiber To The Home (FTTH) Experiment

Last week, Google announced plans to test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country. The company is saying these test networks will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today, over 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

The company wants to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that they have in mind:

  • Next generation apps: Google wants to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it's creating new bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" and services, or other uses we can't yet imagine.
  • New deployment techniques: They will test new ways to build fiber networks, and to help inform and support deployments elsewhere, will share key lessons learned with the world.
  • Openness and choice: Google will operate an "open access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers.
I like it, I like it a lot. Not because I think Google will single-handedly solve the broadband access and availability problems in our country but, because Google is trying to do things a little differently. High-bandwidth delivery efforts in the United States to this point have worked in some areas but not in others.

A few weeks ago I wrote as far as broadband goes - things have not got much better since 2007 in most of the rural communities in our country - in many places I would argue access today is worse than it was in September 2007. Things have been pretty dismal in many parts of our country. Now maybe we've got a glimmer - just a glimmer - of excitement and (dare I use the word) hope.

From now until March 26th, Google is asking interested municipalities to provide information about their communities through a Request for information (RFI), which the company will use to determine where to build their network. You can get more information on Google's experimental fiber network plans on the Official Google Blog.

Someone is going to figure out how to do this and so far I'm really liking Google's "experiment".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Worldwide 4G Wireless Service Deployments

TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service has a new report out on worldwide 4G service deployment. Here's some highlights from the report.

  • There were more than 600 WiMAX networks either live or at the planning/deployment stage by the end of 2009.
  • The number of WiMAX deployments significantly exceeds HSPA and LTE deployments.
  • Only around 300 cellular networks have been upgraded with HSPA technology and fewer than 70 operators have committed to deploying LTE equipment.
  • Only a relatively small number of these WiMAX systems offer wide coverage areas; most only offer local or regional service.
  • Late 2009 saw the introduction of the world’s first commercial LTE networks, with TeliaSonera beginning to offer limited services in Stockholm and Oslo.
  • 2010 is expected to bring further LTE service launches in Europe, the US and Asia.
Where is it? Here's a great WiMAX deployment map from TeleGeography --> (click to enlarge).

LTE and WiMAX services both get lumped in to the 4G category. In the U.S. we're seeing Sprint/Clearwire rolling out WiMAX is selected areas (currently in 27 cities) and we'll see Verizon and AT&T launch their LTE services this year.

Which technology will "win"? TeleGeography analyst Peter Bell is quoted in the report press release:

While the footprint of WiMAX worldwide is still growing steadily, LTE deployments should gain momentum in 2010 and 2011. With LTE receiving strong backing from major cellular operators and equipment vendors, we project that LTE subscribers will ramp up far more quickly than WiMAX subscribers.

WiMAX is not going away however. Here's Peter Bell's response to the question:

The answer to the question ’LTE or WiMAX?’ is both. LTE and WiMAX both have roles to play, and both technologies will be with us for years to come.

To find out more about TeleGeography's 4G report, visit

Monday, February 8, 2010

ICT Center Video: The Index of Refraction and Snell's Law

A few years ago, former ICT Center Co-Principal Investigator Jim Downing received a project grant from the National Science Foundation to create a series of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) hands-on videos. John Reynolds our ICT Center New Media Designer is in the process of converting these videos and posting them on our ICT Center YouTube Channel. Here's the first 8 minute and 37 second video explaining Snell's Law and demonstrating how to measure the index of refraction of a material using some simple optical equipment.

Watch this blog and our ICT Center YouTube Channel for more from this video series.

Friday, February 5, 2010

New Fixed Broadband Subscriber Data Study

ABI Research has a new study out titled Broadband Subscribers Market Data. This study is updated quarterly and profiles subscriber trends categorized by operator, by country, and by technology. Detailed market trends and market forecast information for key regions and countries around the globe are provided where available. The database forms part of the company’s Home Networking Research Service.

Here's some highlights from that latest quarterly report:

The number of fixed broadband subscribers will rise to 501 million at the end of 2014. Of those, about 106 million will subscribe to services delivered via fiber.

Fiber broadband subscribers totaled 44 million at the end of 2009.

The number of fixed broadband subscribers totaled more than 422 million at the end of 2009, a 9% increase from 2008.

Among the three broadband technologies, 65% of worldwide fixed broadband consumers subscribe to DSL, 25% to cable and 11% to fiber broadband services.

The number of fiber broadband subscribers is increasing fastest, showing a compound annual growth rate of 20% from 2008 to 2014.

The Asia-Pacific region has the highest fiber broadband penetration, followed by North America.

Asia-Pacific represents nearly 84% of worldwide fiber broadband subscribers.

South Korea and Japan have the highest fiber broadband penetration.

NTT is the largest fiber broadband operator with approximately 12 million subscribers.

In 2009, Western Europe had only about two million fiber broadband subscribers — a very low penetration compared to North America and Asia Pacific, although Western European countries are planning to accelerate fiber broadband penetration.

You can find additional information in the study press release, linked here.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Apple iPad First Impression Podcast

Last week Steve Jobs and Apple announced the iPad. Jobs and Apple say the tablet-style iPad computer represents a whole new category of consumer electronic devices. On Sunday we recorded a 36 minute and 40 second podcast where Mike Qaissaunee gives his first impressions and we discussed some of the technical specifications of the iPad. Here's a list of some of the questions Mike answers:

Size - How big is the iPad?
What about the hardware? Some people are referring to this thing as a big iPhone or iPod Touch?
What about the screen?
What about capacity?
Does the iPad have senors like the iPhone?
What about wireless?
What about other carriers?
What about GPS?
Battery Life?
What about the processor?
What about the software?
What about what's missing?
So, what do you think - is this going to go down in history as a revolutionary device?


To access Mike Q and my 36 minute and 40 second podcast titled
Apple iPad First Impression Podcast, click here.

Listen to it directly in your web browser by clicking here.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cyberbullying And Electronic Fingerprints

In my last post I discussed a very upsetting story in my town - South Hadley, Massachusetts. On January 14, fifteen year Phoebe Prince apparently committed suicide after being bullied - in school, after school and online. The cyberbullying has even continued after here death, most notably on Facebook. There's been a lot of traffic on that post - here's an update.

Last night there was a Selectboard meeting in South Hadley and people were given the opportunity to publicly comment as part of the meeting format. I did not attend tot meeting but watched the live feed on the town cable access channel. A number of parents got up and described how their children had been treated. Here's a short video clip from the meeting posted in a article

South Hadley selectboard meeting becomes a forum bullying discussion

I believe an entire meeting video recording will be posted soon on the South Hadley Community Television site. Also - here's a few quotes from that same article.

What people wanted to know in particular was what discipline has been handed down by South Hadley High School to the so-called “mean girls” believed to have bullied 15-year-old Phoebe Prince, who was found dead at home of an apparent suicide on the afternoon of Jan. 14.

South Hadley High School principal Daniel T. Smith has his own investigation running parallel to the one by local police working with the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office. So far, Smith has said two students were disciplined before Prince’s death and a third was disciplined stemming from an assault on another student after Prince died. School officials have refused to say what the discipline consisted of, citing legal and privacy rights of the students.

Prior to the start of the meeting, a female classmate of Prince said she is disturbed that the students believed to have bullied Prince are still in school. “I’m concerned about what is going to happen in this,” said the girl who declined to give her name. “I think they should get punished, and it should happen soon. Nothing really happened to them.

And, our police chief also spoke at the meeting. Here's a couple quotes from a WBZTV article:

Police Chief David Labrie says they have interviewed numerous people in their investigation. He says they are closer to the end of the case than the beginning.

"We've subpoenaed records from Facebook, we've subpoenaed web pages from Facebook, hoping to track down the perpetrators of some of these criminal threatening acts."

Without getting technical - this information is backed up and logged by providers like Facebook, Verizon and Comcast. All postings, text messages, tweets, etc are available and identified with either an Internet Protocol (IP) address or cell phone number of the posting source. With applications like Facebook there is even more - in addition to your IP address your username is also logged. Once you hit that Send/OK/Upload/etc button it's out there.

With the proper subpoenas authorities can access all of it - source identification, text, pictures, who posted what, when it was posted, when and if it got removed, what got removed, comments, etc, etc, etc.
It's all there - electronic fingerprints.

Monday, February 1, 2010


I'd like to thank Karl Kapp and Tony O'Driscoll for including my blog in the Blog Book Tour for Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration.

Karl and Tony's book uses a combination of case studies, conceptual models, and input from dozens of industry experts to provide practical, research-based recommendations and techniques for integrating existing training, business, and computer systems into productive 3D virtual work environments. Up until yesterday my intention had been to give an update of an earlier book blog tour post I wrote on September 26, 2007 and titled Broadband Gaming in the Sticks. In that post I looked at broadband access and availability in the United States - critical for 3D learners and the applications and methods Karl and Tony discuss in their new book.

As far as broadband goes - things have not got much better since 2007 in most of the rural communities in our country - in many places I would argue access today is worse than it was in September 2007. Important stuff but I'm going to save that post for another day.

Why did I change my mind? I live in South Hadley, Massachusetts, a small New England town where things are typically pretty quiet. On January 14, Phoebe Prince, a fifteen year old ninth grader was found dead in my town - an apparent suicide. She had moved here from Ireland last year with her family and has been described by the parent of a friend as the new girl in school. ... a very pretty girl, very sweet, a smart girl. She had been bullied in school, after school and online.

Unbelievably, the online cyberbullying has continued after her death. On Saturday January 30 (16 days after her death) NBC affiliate WWLP published a story titled Online groups bully Phoebe in death. Here's a couple of quotes from that story:

A recent Facebook group formed in the wake of the student's suicide is raising eyebrows. It's called, "We murdered Phoebe Prince". The latest attack group has classmates seemingly boasting about driving the Irish girl to death earlier this month.

Horrible, hate filled messages continue to plague pages dedicated to the freshman's death. Parents are calling for greater accountability by officials.

You may have caught the story nationally broadcast on Good Morning America January 28. Here's the GMA video - I encourage you to watch all 5 minutes and 41 seconds of it if you have not seen it. Show it to your kids.

Now, back to Karl and Tony's book - I'm a huge online, social media, ubiquitous connectivity, 24/7, crank the bandwidth to 11 advocate. Keeping up with the web and all of its applications and connections is critical for individual success and the long term success of our country. Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook, is referenced in the book suggesting that communication should not be viewed as a way for people to get information. Instead, he proposes that information is a mechanism to foster better communication between people. As students, parents, teachers, coaches, administrators, professors, adults...... it is crucial to remember better communication can be used in both positive and negative ways.

Using technology in our classrooms in appropriate and productive ways has the potential to help us all learn and also has the potential to lay down some usage guidelines and experience that can be applied outside the classroom. Karl and Tony's book helps us understand how we can better do this. It also helps us better understand what our students and kids are doing. I believe every teacher, trainer, professor and academic should read it. Let's learn to use this stuff in positive ways with our students.

I'll write about rural broadband some other time. Today - Peace to Phoebe, her family, her friends, her enemies and this small New England town.


You can check out the web site for the book Learning in 3D and read Chapter One of Karl and Tony's book to get a sense of what the book is about. You can also become a fan on Learning in 3D's Facebook Page.

To learn more about cyberbullying, see Attorney Parry Aftab and the Wired Safety Group's website