Animated web logs … the next steps …

A friend of mine sent me this link to a “animated web log post
… and it’s pretty funny.  The part that I really liked was that
someone actually took the time to create an animated blog post to
communicate something that they experienced.

This really relates to a project that I am now working on with my
father.  He wanted to begin to record video and audio stories
about his life and his experiences to be posted on the web, or made
available to the family and friends.

My parents are running on a new PC, with Windows XP, and they have the
free copy of Windows Movie Maker.  I am now working with him to
get a newer USB camera with microphone, and then we will begin to go
through the process of practicing how to “capture” his
presentations.  I’m really looking forward to getting this going
so that both my mom and dad can begin to make these recordings. 
It will be fun one day for my kids … or my kids, kids … to be able
to go and listen to stories from their grandparents, or

We are entering into an age where teaching and communication of
knowledge is going to radically shift.  We will soon have a much
richer type of historical content that will be available to anyone that
is interested.  I often think about the questions that I would ask
my grand parents about their lives and experiences … I’m glad that
I’ll have the opportunity to ask those questions to my parents, and
have them record their answers in a much richer medium.

Satellite Internet is coming quickly …

In my role at I am currently
investigating satellite Internet access as a solution for some mobile
hotspots, remote locations, and rural users.  I am impressed that
years after hearing of the plans, there are several companies that are
on the verge of introducing satellite Internet access at competitive

There are several new technologies that are enabling this service, and
one of them is the Ka satellite band.  From what I understand, in
the Ka architecture, there are numerous satellites that are each
providing “spot” coverage that only covers a limited geographic
area.  In the one system that I am investigating there are 28
overlapping “spots” to cover the United States … up to 150 miles

A user of one of these systems can expect to see decent bandwidth – up
to 3Mbps down, 1.5Mbps up – for a competitive price – somewhere around
$50-$80/month.  This is higher then in the center of a city
someplace, but that is the point … you can get satellite Internet
access anywhere!

The current generation of equipment seems to be based around fixed
dish, and “mobile” dish usage, however you can not yet use it while “in
motion”.  The completely stabilized versions are coming next year
… then things will get even better!

The rapid depreciation of technology …

There are a lot of little companies here in Utah that are run by
ex-Novell employees. One of them, run by some friends of mine, is
a company called MAS Computers. MAS Computers deals in a lot of used and surplus computer equipment, along with carrying some new equipment.

The other day I went to look for a used computer to replace an aging
system. MAS Computers usually has a good inventory of slightly
older Dell Optiplex systems for ~$200. While I was there, I ended
up talking with my friend Steve, and he indicated that they had a large
inventory of Cabletron/Enterasys equipment they had obtained. I
have a specific application where I am looking for a 10/100 Switch that
is capable of “port mirroring” so that I can use ntop
to monitor one of my wireless networks. I went with Steve back
into the warehouse and was amazed at the number of switches they
had. And these are not small cheap units … but the high-end
Enterasys solutions!

They had a whole shelf of the 2H252-25R “Workgroup” 24-Port Switches,
so I went on-line to see what the feature set included. As I read
through the feature list and technical specs on the Enterasys site, I
was floored. This is an amazing switch, with numerous high-end
features … being sold for next to nothing! MAS is charging $225
for each unit … I found similar units being sold for over $5000 at sites like this one … and yes … it does provide port mirroring.

What really hit me was that this is a model that is still listed on the
Enterasys web site product page. It is listed as “Legacy” on the current switching products
web page … but it’s there. This is a multi-thousand dollar
product … that is in fantastic shape … being sold for hundreds of

In a matter of years, this technology has slipped to being sold at a
fraction of it’s price. Since MAS Computers is a such a great
bunch of guys, I was able to trade in an older “dumb” switch and pick
up one of these “new” ones for under $200. Even at CompUSA they
are selling brand-new 24-port switch – with none of the capabilities of
these switches – for ~$150 and up!

The power in used equipment is reaching astounding levels … it is amazing to me what is being made available …

Embedded systems … moving to Linux …

I am currently doing some work with 802.11 wireless access points that
are built on embedded Linux.  All of the major manufacturers of
wireless equipment – Cisco/Linksys, NetGear, etc. -are releasing
products based on embedded Linux.  What is amazing is the pricing
on these boxes.  Most of them are under $200 with several under
$100.  For a Linux system, this is pretty amazing.

What really hit me is how quickly embedded Linux systems are going to
begin to dominate the embedded systems market.  If I were going to
start any new embedded system design, I would immediately embrace the
embedded Linux architecture and supporting chipsets.  There are
numerous reasons that I could look at:

  • Immediate access to a growing developer community / talent pool
  • Access to a broad range of code for a wide range of purposes
  • Low/No cost for the core software

What is pretty amazing to me is that I am now working on “Linux
computers” that I have purchased for under $100 … that could run on
batteries … and have an incredible amount of power.  All of this
is only going to increase the rate of new intelligent devices being
created and deployed … with extreme features.  There will always
be others … but I think that embedded Linux is on a roll …

Beheadings in the modern world … don’t go looking!

Well … I finally did it.  And now I’m not sure that I really
wanted to.  I have been hearing about these beheadings going on in
Iraq and have been very curious about how they are being done.  I
keep hearing on the news that each one is described as “more gruesome”
than the last one.  So the videos are out there … I kept
thinking about taking a look.

I once had a friend who travelled to Saudi Arabia.  He was in a
market place in some town when he realized a slight panic was arising
in the crowd.  Before long people were moving in the direction of
the town center … and then he realized that Saudi “police” were going
to force everyone in the market into the town square.  He said
that he was quite worried when this happened … until he realized they
were being push to witness a public execution!  He said that a man
appeared on a platform reading the “charges” in Arabic, along with the
criminal and the executioner.  The alarming part was that the
execution was by beheading … and they did it in “three strokes” …
not all at once.

With the recent beheadings, I have to admit that curiousity got the
most of me … I ended up going out on the Internet and downloading one
of the videos.  I’m somewhat sorry that I did.  I would not
suggest to anyone that they do the same.

I am left with a feeling of complete disbelief and disgust.  I
could never imagine in this day and age that anyone would be capable or
willing to kill another human in such a gruesome way.  It is
utterly disgusting to watch and see a life wasted in this way. 
And to imagine that the perpetrators of these acts actually believe
that they are going to be giving any place to participate in the global
community after doing this.

It is a major reality check to remember that these individuals exist
out there in the world.  And they are committing these outrageous
acts against follow humans.  I do not have any problem with our
government being involved in the brutal realities of what it takes to
exterminate people like this from the earth.

I could never have imagined …

Red Hat v7.2 to Fedora Core 1 Upgrade …

One of the most important aspects of computer software, is it’s ability
to dynamically evolve with little impact on the end user. There are
many different layers that exist in computer systems and computer
networks, from the kernel and supporting libraries to the higher-level
programming language support and desktop applications.  These are
the various layers of software that provide all of the functionality
that we use … from the initial boot-up of a computer to the core
services and applications for browsing the web or accessing
e-mail.  All of this software, and all of these layers, continue
to evolve … and what is the impact to the end user?

I learned early on, while at Novell, that upgrades and migrations are
two of the most costly projects that an IT department, or small
business, can take on.  Software architects are now making more
and more efforts to ensure that software can be updated and upgraded.

Back in late 2001, we began the deployment of our
wireless network.  Back then we started by using Red Hat v7.2 as
the platform for our Internet Cafe’s.  Now we are moving on to
Fedora Core 1 and 2.  One of our first locations had some problems
this last weekend, and I suspected that some of the older application
had some “denial of service” issues that had to be resolved.  I
had the opportunity today to experience the upgrade process from Red
Hat v7.2 to Fedora Core 1 … and was pleased with what I experienced!

I was going to do a completely new installation until the Fedora Core 1
install program offered the upgrade choice.  I thought about it
for a while … and chose to try the upgrade.  There were some
issues that I ran into … but overall I’m pleased and will be
deploying the server tomorrow.

The first issue that I didn’t like, was that after choosing to upgrade,
I didn’t get any opportunity to choose the packages that were going to
be installed on during the upgrade process.  My “stripped down”
server now has a lot more than I ever wanted on it.  I’ll begin
the process of removing and disabling many of these over the next week
or so.

The second issue that I ran into is more related to the Compaq computer
that I am running.  I have never liked Compaq gear, and today’s
experience only added to my continued disappointment with their
products.  Upon rebooting the machine, kudzu complained about a
missing Compaq network card … the one on the motherboard … and then
immediately reported detecting a new one.  I went through the
process of removing and re-installing the network card … only to have
to do this again and again.  I finally told kudzu to ignore the
changes … and it’s working.  I’m not sure why kudzu kept
thinking this is a new card … the other adapter – from Intel – never
had a problem.

The third issue that I had was doing the initial ‘up2date’
update.  When I ran it, up2date complained about unresolvable
dependencies an old version of perl-NDBM_File, and an old version
of  mozilla.  The mozilla requirement was for Galeon … a
browser for Gnome that I was not using.  I uninstalled the galeon
rpm and that problem went away.  I then found a reported bug about
the perl dependency and manually upgraded the new perl-NDBM_File
package … which then allowed perl to be updated.

The final issues were all small configuration issues … like updating
the dhcpd.conf file to include some new directives.  In all … it
was a very smooth upgrade.

I am about to deploy my new Fedora Core 1 server to see how things go
… but after a quick set of tests earlier today I am confident that
the Linux update/upgrade was a success.  We’ll see …

Issues with RSS …

This article addresses an interesting dilemma … the constant
“polling” required by RSS news feed readers.  RSS works by having
the “reader” application poll the RSS file to see what new articles, or
items, are present.  As described, the RSS reader applications
often use the “top of the hour” as the time for when they fetch the
file to check for new items.

One thing that can be done on the server side is to insert caching
reverse proxies that are designed to scale these types of
requests.  When I was working at Novell, we used the BorderManager
product for exactly this type of scaling.  It was able to handle
hundreds of thousands of simultaneous TCP connections, and would serve
up the cached content … in this case a simple RSS XML file.

There are some ways that this situation could be improved … but it
would take coordination of the various RSS news reader developers …
and possibly more evolution of the RSS “standard” …

When RSS Traffic Looks Like a DDoS [Slashdot:]

What if an emerging super-intelligence doesn’t need humans?

I’ve met Eliezer Yudkowsky
a number of times at various conferences.  I once joked with him
about his search for “friendly AI”.  He has often talked about the
possible rapid emergence of a super-intelligence, and how we will want
to be involved to ensure our survival.

In my mind, if there is a super-intelligence that emerges, and it
chooses to neglect humans or to allow for our extinction, then isn’t
that the “super-intelligent” thing to do?  C’mon Eliezer, it’s a
super-intelligence … it only does super-intelligent things!  If
it thinks that humans are irrelevant … it’s super-intelligent … we
must be!  😉

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics unsafe?.
The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence launched today
its “3 Laws Unsafe” Web site — timed for the July 16 release of the
f… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]