Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Friday, May 11, 2021

In a way, the ascendancy of digital cameras has been something of a battle of tradeoffs. The advantages over old traditional models are obvious: No film to buy/mess with, unlimited number of do-overs, easy electronic transfer for emailing purposes.

The disadvantages? Really only one, and it’s a biggie: Shutter lag, that maddening delay between finger-click and image capture which strains the concept of a quick “snapshot”:

The first problem is that shutter lag is not really shutter lag at all, but processor lag… When the photographer begins to push down the button to snap the picture, sensors in the camera begin to take a series of measurements. The processor calculates the distance to the object, determines the amount of light needed and even does some balancing for color and whiteness. The processor may also have special software to focus on faces, so those calculations are run. In effect, the processor is analyzing a series of images as the button descends.

Which is all a reminder that what you’re pointing-and-clicking with is less camera than it is computer. It’s a specialized-purpose computer accessory, basically.

I’ve had plenty of experience with the dreaded lag, just from using the various camera phones I’ve owned. The delay on those little numbers are really noticeable — like 2-3 seconds. Unless your subject is stock-still, it’s practically not worth it.

There are tricks to compensate:

Photographers offer a few tips on capturing action shots with point-and-shoot cameras. If you can anticipate a shot — for instance, the birthday cake candles about to be blown out — then push the shutter-release button down halfway. Priming the auto-focus gets the process started early. When you push the button down all the way, the camera can process the information more quickly.

Another trick is to point the camera to where the action will occur, push halfway, and when the action occurs, push it all the way. That means you do not follow the subject, you follow the event. In other words, if you are tracking a downhill skier slaloming through a series of flags, aim at the flags, not the skier.

Camera makers also suggested using the burst mode, which quick-fires a series of photos. Shoot the first one in advance of the event and then you probably will capture the significant moment.

Now that I’ve got a new camera to play with, I guess I’ll have to pay more attention to things like this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 05/11/2021 09:53:58 PM
Category: Tech, Photography | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Thursday, May 10, 2021

New York City cabs will soon be accepting credit/debit cards, despite vehement opposition from the cabbies over the infrastructure costs they’ll incur.

If the hacks need any extra convincing that this development will end up making them more money in the long term, here it is:

I’ll start taking cabs more often than I do now. My current average is about never, so nowhere to go but up.

By necessity of City dwelling, I always have some cash on hand. But I’m loathe to drop too big a wad of it at once, like in a taxi. I’d rather spend the money electronically, via plastic.

And I’m just the tip of the iceberg. Generation Plastic, aka twentysomethings, are habitual small-ticket credit card users, so you’d better believe they’ll enthusiastically pull out their cards when it comes time to pay the fare.

Plus, there’s the interactive map lookup and news service to keep the riders occupied. What more can you ask for?

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 05/10/2021 11:08:36 PM
Category: Tech, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, May 07, 2021

Is your household experiencing a dearth of molded-plastic accessories? Then you might be interested in the possibilities promised by soon-to-be-affordable three-dimensional printers:

Bill Gross, chairman of IdeaLab, says the technology it has developed, which uses a halogen light bulb to melt nylon powder, will allow the price of the printers to fall to $1,000 in four years.

“We are Easy-Bake Ovening a 3-D model,” he said. “The really powerful thing about this idea is that the fundamental engineering allows us to make it for $300 in materials.”

Others are working on the same idea.

“In the future, everyone will have a printer like this at home,” said Hod Lipson, a professor at Cornell University, who has led a project that published a design for a 3-D printer that can be made with about $2,000 in parts. “You can imagine printing a toothbrush, a fork, a shoe. Who knows where it will go from here?”

I admit the concept of downloading a design off Mattel and baking up your own action-figure model is kinda cool.

But the wider applications seem pretty pie-in-the-sky. It makes sense that you would be able to easily “print” a replacement battery cover for your cellphone. But would a homemade replacement actually fit? We’re talking about fairly exacting precision molding to get interlocking parts to work together; a tiny imperfection can screw it up.

Plus, look at how long it took the traditional paper-printing business to address something so fundamental as correctly printing Web pages. Figure it’ll take at least as long — some ten years and more — for 3D printing to work out the kinks. I doubt consumers are going to wait around for that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/07/2021 11:27:28 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, May 06, 2021

If it weren’t for the Sidekick, T-Mobile probably wouldn’t still be around on the U.S. wireless phone scene.

What’s especially impressive is how the Sidekick maintains its popularity among the crucial younger demographic, despite a relatively multimedia feature-poor package:

“We thought the [Web browser] would be geared for entertainment, but an overwhelming majority of users are using it to stay connected as well,” says John Clelland, T-Mobile’s VP of marketing.

According to T-Mobile, more than 30 percent of all Web pageviews on the Sidekick are to MySpace.com. What’s more, the average T-Mobile Sidekick customer sends or receives more than 3,000 instant messages per month - well above the average for other phones the carrier sells.

In other words, Sidekick users use their phones as communications devices, whether that’s traditional voice or texting. Web access via mobile is part of the equation — but again, only as a communicative interface. Websurfing for entertainment or information-gathering doesn’t seem to hold much appeal here, despite the supposed tendencies of 18-to-34-year-olds.

This is telling. When the most-wired demographic doesn’t want to use their phone for much else beyond — gasp! — phoning purposes, why should we expect anyone else to want streaming television, videogames and the like on their handsets?

It’s not a question of marking time until the media-delivery infrastructure for wireless bulks up, either:

But T-Mobile’s Clelland says at this point the company has no plans to add multimedia functions, despite the upcoming network upgrade.

“The core notion of the Sidekick is that social people like to stay connected,” says the VP. “We focus on communication, and that is the area we’ll continue to innovate on at this point.”

Keeping this in perspective: T-Mobile remains the smallest of the wireless carriers in the States, so maybe their strategy isn’t ideal for long-term market dominance. But they’re focusing on the basics, and succeeding. The push throughout the rest of the industry toward multimedia bells and whistles could use some tempering based on the Sidekick example.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/06/2021 05:23:36 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

A few years ago, an officemate of mine came up with a delightfully crackpot conspiracy theory. Taking note of how attempts to print out an average Web page always ended up in a do-over — to “fix” things like paper margins cutting off text — or in a final page consisting of nothing but irrelevant footer information/graphics, she reasoned that the computer printer manufacturers intentionally rigged their software for this sort of result. All that wasted paper and toner adds up, to the tune of lots more sales for the office supply business.

If that’s the secret business model, Hewlett Packard is getting ready to blow it up. HP wants to optimize printing for online documents, drawing back users who don’t bother even buying a printer as part of their home computing setup.

Last month, in a small step toward making sure that home printers keep churning, H.P. bought a small company, Tabblo, a privately held developer of Web-based software in Cambridge, Mass.

Tabblo’s software creates templates that reorganize the photos and text blocks on a Web page to fit standard sizes of paper. H.P. wants to make the software a standard by making it ubiquitous, like Adobe’s Flash and Reader or Sun Microsystems’ Java.

“We’d make printing as much a nonevent in the online world as it is in the desktop world,” said Pradeep Jotwani, the unit’s senior vice president in charge of the supplies business.

If it creates the printing engine of the Web, H.P. will help all printer companies — but as the industry leader, it will benefit more than its rivals. It is only the first step, analysts said, as the company tries to stay at the center of a system of consumers and businesses generating and printing Internet content, whether it is for homemade books or custom marketing materials.

I’m one of those non-printer types. I actually do own a printer, but it’s a cheapy Lexmark that stays in storage 99 percent of the time. For the rare occasions when I need to print something out, I’ll drag it out and hook it up via USB; otherwise, I have no use for it, and it’s not worth adding to a wireless home network.

Frankly, the ability to email or e-fax materials, combined with ever-increasing hard-drive storage space, makes the need for a hard copy questionable. For business purposes, there’ll always be a need for paper, simply for legal and presentation purposes; but for the home, it’s hard to see the point. I’d almost rather outsource the document (either via a portable drive or via email) to a local FedEx Kinko’s, because I’ll get a better finished product with less hassle.

If HP’s efforts take off in a big way, it would have a more far-reaching effect: The elimination of “printer friendly” pages on the Web. It may even cut into the use of Adobe Acrobat, since the main purpose of that document format is to ensure “clean” print outputs. That’ll be welcomed news by many a webmaster.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 05/06/2021 02:29:26 PM
Category: Internet, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Saturday, May 05, 2021

I liked this turn-of-the-20th-Century advertising placard (which I used for my post about the abundance of pig imagery on Suicide Food) so much, that I’ve gone ahead and uploaded it to my phone. It’s now doing duty as the digital wallpaper for both the front/exterior screen, as well as the larger screen inside the clamshell.

The few comments I’ve solicited tell me it’s unsettling for a cellphone to feature a picture of a pig slicing itself into sausage. My Eurotrashy counter of, “but it’s French!” doesn’t seem to assuage those feelings.

I guess it’s not the cheeriest image to use. But I must point out: The pig is smiling as he puts himself under the knife. And the background is a nice, cheery green, which is my favorite color (and really, the chief reason why I went for it).

The translation of the language in this picture, according to the source:

“You’ll eat with pleasure, and… without fatigue [i.e., without boredom/getting tired of it]: the good sausages of the BOUNTEOUS PIG!

Sausages from Auvergne. Absolute Alimentary Purity.”

Not that it matters as far as my phone goes — the screens are too tiny to read the text.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 05/05/2021 06:30:47 PM
Category: Tech, Food, Creative | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Tuesday, April 24, 2021

When the 2007 edition of the Cyberstates report, a state-by-state detailing of the tech industry, came out today, I’ll bet Florida economic boosters winced when they read this quip by AeA president William T. Archey regarding the Sunshine State’s robust job growth in this sector:

“It’s diffused and there’s no identity to go along with it — you don’t think of Florida as a high-tech state,” Archey said. “I keep thinking the Florida Chamber of Commerce needs to get its act together and start promoting this.”

The joke is that Florida has, indeed, tried to promote itself as a tech-friendly mecca. Using NASA’s presence at Cape Canaveral as a base, the state launched the Florida High-Tech Corridor initiative more than a decade ago, specifically to get the word out. The hope was to spur economic diversification beyond the traditional pillars of tourism and agriculture — at least perceptionally.

That the head of a prominent technology association hasn’t gotten the message means some folks in Tallahassee are heading back to the drawing board.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/24/2007 10:37:53 PM
Category: Tech, Florida Livin', Business | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, April 20, 2021

Here I am on a Friday night, sitting at home while tending my two little personal energy-vampires:

- My LG VX8100, the battery of which drained completely on me by late afternoon. It wasn’t totally unexpected — I had made a couple of calls on it, and it was on one battery-bar to begin with.

But why did I let it get so drained before recharging it? Because I can’t constantly recharge this phone, because according to the Verizon Wireless techs who checked it out, that would ultimately degrade the battery duration. So instead of just plugging it in every night and letting it juice up while I sleep — like I’ve done with every other phone I’ve ever owned — I have to basically set aside 2-3 hours to babysit the damn thing. And carry it around until it’s drained down to near-nothing. And make sure I don’t let it overcharge.

In short, I hate this phone. For no other reason, either. The other features are fine; the battery is the sole issue with it, and has been for a while. I’m at the point where I’m seriously considering buying a new phone, based solely on battery life and care. I’m in the middle of my contract, but I don’t think I can put up with this for another year. I’ll even downgrade in overall features, if that’s what it takes.

- Meanwhile, and less grievously, my iPod is sucking up electricity from my notebook’s USB port. It didn’t die on me today, but like the end of every other day, it was half-charged by the time I got home, and I’m betting that it wouldn’t make it through a full second day without a nightly recharge.

This 5th-generation iPod certainly needs more replenishment than the older models I’ve owned. There are a few reasons for that, aside from the acknowledged shorter battery potential in the latter-day slimmer models. Main one is that the screen gets more of a workout: Instead of never using the backlight, which was the norm with the older monotone screens, the current color screens require backlighting just to read them. I don’t have the backlight always on, but it is triggered every time I touch the scrollwheel, which is a few dozen times a day. It all adds up.

The other big factor: I’m a frequent track-skipper. Some days, it seems the shuffle setting ticks up exactly the wrong song each time, so I have to manually pick one from the menu. That hard drive shifting, combined with the extra backlighting time, also takes a toll.

One other thing: I’m just about convinced that charging an iPod via computer is less optimal than charging it with a plug-in-the-wall AC adaptor (which I don’t have). I noticed this with my older iPods too. I think the computer-based charging involves constant data exchange, which never allows the thing to actually go inert; so even when it shows the battery as full-charged, it never really reaches 100%.

I suppose I could venture out into the world without carrying one or both of these items. But that’s crazy talk.

Even crazier talk: I think it’s time consumer electronics manufacturers really address the paltry power sources they provide. I realize it’s no easy trick to improve upon battery technology. But it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Maybe a way to draw electricity from the air, ala Tesla coils? It’d be good as a supplement, at least. And it’s not like the manufacturers are beholden to battery providers or power companies.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 04/20/2007 09:15:44 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (4)

Saturday, April 14, 2021

Someday, you might have to convince your grandkids that you actually needed a key to open up and start an automobile. Keyless entry and push-button ignition, both still novelty features, are projected to become standard car features on all models in the near future.

For the ignition, it’s sort of a return to the industry’s roots:

Push-button starters are a retro feature, dating back to the industry’s toddler years. In 1913, the Locomobile became one of the first cars to use one. Carmakers also started using keys around that time, after ignitions (and car theft) were invented.

Today’s keyless models use a fob — the small remote control device that most modern cars use to lock and unlock doors — but it performs the additional duty of sending a signal to the ignition. For the car to start, the fob has to be somewhere near the dashboard, perhaps stowed in a cup holder.

I guess this means that future vengeful types will have to find another implement for “keying” some else’s car. I doubt that fob’s going to good for carving into a paintjob.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 04/14/2007 05:41:26 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, April 08, 2021

crank it
I usually wait a couple of months between blogworthy outputs of my iPod’s shuffle setting.

But I’m a couple of hours away from heading to a family Easter get-together, so I’m more focused on just getting through that. A couple of weeks is going to have to be a long enough stretch, this time out.

This five-song sampler, while entertaining — so much so that I have no qualms about presenting it — isn’t particularly Easter-oriented. At least not to me. If you can discern themes of resurrection and renewal here, that’s your business.

1. “Product”, Consolidated - Welcome to the cultural basepipe.

2. “Boys Wanna Be Her (Tommy Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Retouch)”, Peaches - So do you.

3. “Nighttrain”, Public Enemy - ‘Cause he ridin’ the train, you think he down for the cause.

4. “I’m Like A Bird (Digital Cutup Lounge remix)”, Nelly Furtado vs. Asha Bhonsle - You don’t know me that way.

5. “Feel It”, The Afros - Or else they’ll be callin’ me MC Baldy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/08/2021 10:50:08 AM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Tuesday, April 03, 2021

If you’re too lazy and/or technophobic to set up encryption on your wi-fi Internet, perhaps bundling that task into another household chore will make it more manageable. EM-SEC Technologies has announced a special paint that creates an electromagnetic shield to bottle in wireless network signals, thus blocking access to outside leeching.

Granted, EM-SEC is marketing its product for commercial use, along the lines of data-storage bunkers. But some see broader applications, including for personal dwellings, movie theaters and more.

It’s rightly pointed out that home use would be negated by things like windows and other non-paintable openings. Plus, such a wall-to-wall coating would probably prevent you from making cellphone calls inside your own house. So maybe it’s more worthwhile to tinker with the wireless router instead…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/03/2021 11:07:12 PM
Category: Internet, Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, April 02, 2021

Something special’s in store for the stage production of “Losing Something” at 3-Legged Dog Art & Technology Center this month:

A 3D holographic projection system called Eyeliner is being used to insert pivotal special effects into the play, including fully-fledged characters and plot devices.

This is exactly the sort of tech-wizardry that theater purists denounce as a warping of the stage experience. So it’s smart of the “Losing Something” team to define Eyeliner as the modern version of a time-honored technique that’s been in use since the 19th Century:

The Eyeliner system makes use of an old stage trick called Pepper’s Ghost that by most accounts was first seen onstage in an 1862 production of Charles Dickens’s “Haunted Man,” at the Royal Polytechnic Institution in London. John Henry Pepper (1821-1900) is usually credited with discovering the illusion, though an engineer named Henry Dircks was really first to suggest placing an angled piece of plate glass between audience and actors, allowing off-stage objects or people to “appear” reflected on the glass as if they were onstage. When the off-stage lights were turned off, the ghosts seemed to vanish.

It seems like a stretch to characterize a high-powered computer-generated effect as part of the traditional stagecraft arsenal. And the bigger issue is the application of the technology: In this case, as an integral, proactive part of the action. It’s not like you can ignore the Eyeliner effects, or perceptionally consider it as non-essential window-dressing. If you’re watching electronic ghosts act out the story, you have to ask: Are you really still watching live theater, or an animated spectacle?

Regardless, this is intriguing enough for me to get tickets. Maybe.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 04/02/2021 09:55:14 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech, Creative | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, April 01, 2021

I’ll admit, I was initially taken in by the announcement of ForkPress, the seeming split-off of WordPress by way of Habari (whatever that is).

But as I read the rippling repercussions — and started pumping some caffeine into my system — I slowly started to figure it out. My epiphany moment came when I paid closer attention to this telling stat:

Total ForkPress Downloads: 20,070,401

Impressive number of downloads for a new release. Even more impressive when you break down that big number thusly: 2007/04/01, or April Fool’s Day.

Not a bad hoax from the codemonkey contingent. I’m not going to even attempt to work out any of the other inside jokes and their meaning (K3? bbqPress?); what I’ve seen is amusing enough. It’s also the only Fool’s work I’ve come across today, in any context. If it turns out to be the only one, I’ll be satisfied.

I’m a little disappointed, because at first, I was thinking that my musings on a real WP forking were coming true.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/01/2021 02:32:47 PM
Category: Bloggin', Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, March 27, 2021

It’s been a couple of months, so why not: I present the last five tracks that came forth from my ever-shuffling iPod. As always, I throw in the lyrical snippet as a bonus.

A change from past editions of this mini-feature: I’ve chopped the tracklist from 10 down to 5. It was getting mighty impractical to come across a string of ten songs in a row that a) I actually would listen to without impatiently skipping over one or two, and b) wouldn’t include at least one instrumental track, which throws off that inclusion of a lyric per song. Besides, this is the InterWeb: Short and snappy is king!

And with that:

1. “Mercenary”, Go Go’s - I never meant to break you.

2. “Looking for the Perfect Beat”, Afrika Bambaataa - We are the future, you are the past.

3. “Stop (12 Inch Remix)”, Erasure - Stand there where you are.

4. “Heartbeats (Rex the Dog Mix)”, The Knife - Mind is a razorblade.

5. “Busy Child”, The Crystal Method - I guess I didn’t know.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/27/2007 09:09:43 AM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Friday, March 23, 2021

If, like me, you need two alarm clocks to ensure that you get up in the morning — located on opposite sides of the room, and timed a couple of minutes apart to achieve a staggered-wakeup effect — you might want to consider this Flying Alarm Clock from Hammacher Schlemmer:

This digital alarm clock launches a rotor into the air that flies around the room as the alarm sounds, flying up to 9′ in the air, and will not cease ringing until the rotor is returned to the alarm clock base, compelling even the most stubborn sleepers to get out of bed on time.

So you wake up every day to an immediate treasure hunt for that wayward plastic spin-a-ma-bob. Hopefully it doesn’t do any collateral damage to bedroom furnishings during its flight!

My first impression was that the flying rotor would somehow be aimed at your head, to jolt you from slumber. That would be a bit harsh, and I’d imagine you’d get used to it after a while and sleep-shrug it off. Plus, if you’re me, that projectile action probably would trigger decapitation nightmares, with the deadly weapon from Master of the Flying Guillotine in the starring role. So all told, the indirect method is probably the best bet.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/23/2007 08:17:46 AM
Category: Tech, Creative | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Thursday, March 22, 2021

About a year ago, I highlighted the best potential use of a newspaper reporter’s blog:

Their utility as repositories for extra notes and sidebars that couldn’t/wouldn’t fit into a regular-section article. I find this to be a great tool for letting readers dig deeper into a story, affording a behind-the-scenes look into both the story and the newsgathering process. It’s like the extras you find on a movie DVD: It’s not necessary reading, but perfect for hooking the news junkies. Eric Deggans, the St. Pete Times Media Critic, routinely does this with this blog, most recently to supplement his story about the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s post-Katrina endeavours.

If a newspaper blog did nothing else but this, I’d be satisfied. The notion of remaindered content from the reporter, that didn’t make the newsprint cut but still saw life in digital form, is very appealing to me as the attainment of a more complete newspaper presentation.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t see this kind of blogging from journalists often enough.

Not that I always want/need to get extra bonus features from an article. For instance, I could have lived without the blog-delivered additional notes from David Pogue’s review of Apple TV and similar boxes that wirelessly bridge computer and television for digital media playback. I found the rundown interesting, but as I’m not particularly in the market for such a device, I got more than enough from the print version.

Still, I applaud Pogue and the NY Times for extending the story via the blogging channel, and I’d encourage more reporters to take the same approach. If nothing else, it’s surefire content to fill up the posts, and much more relevant than usual blog fodder.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/22/2007 06:41:02 PM
Category: Bloggin', Publishing, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Saturday, March 17, 2021

Just when you thought it was safe to Xerox your ass, hard-drive equipped photocopiers are prompting data security concerns:

“Everyone forgets that there’s data in there,” said Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “Copiers and other intelligent devices like multifunction printers are very exposed in the enterprise. They’re open to attack via modems, and people forget about changing the default passwords.”

Sharp’s survey also indicated that 54% of those polled had no clue that digital photocopiers store an image of what’s duplicated and that a majority believed running off returns on copiers or printers is a safe practice. When told of the security threat posed by unsecured hardware, however, two-thirds of the people surveyed said they were less likely to copy their financial information on a public digital photocopier.

So the call’s gone out to be careful. But how careful do you really need to be? Consider:

- Despite the networking capabilities, how many companies actually have their copiers hooked up to the computing grid? My experience has been that IT departments generally don’t like messing with them, because they’re not “their” equipment. That is, copiers are usually rented, and so are troubleshot/repaired by a third-party — they’re somebody else’s responsibility. So if they’re not connected, there’s no way to hack into them remotely. In the case of a public copier at a library, I suppose a hacker could surreptitiously stick a USB device into the right slot and suck the data out; but it’d be a labor-intensive move from a group that’s more used to sniffing things out over the Internet.

- I’m not clear as to how, exactly, the copied data is saved. I’d think that since this is imaging technology, what these hard drives save are compressed image files like TIFs, even in the case of text-filled documents like tax returns. I seriously doubt the copiers are accomplishing text-recognition OCR conversion, because there’s no point in that for copying/printing purposes. So it’d be incredibly difficult to data-mine such image files, because you couldn’t search/scan through them via keywords. Again, a thief would have to burn a lot of calories just sorting through all that to find Social Security numbers and such.

Both of the above considerations don’t dismiss the possibility of copier-hacking. But it makes it less attractive, especially considering more lucrative targets in the usual insecure data banks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/17/2007 05:17:32 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, March 06, 2021

Every time news of a city-wide free/low-cost wireless Web network comes up, I always point out how that prospect would affect Starbucks.

It ain’t because all that hi-frequency wavelengthing would superheat all those venti cups. It’s because Starbucks is the most prominent example of a commercial outlet that imposes a fee for wireless Web access, via partner T-Mobile. In my mind, free hotspots serve to undercut high-end outlets that are coveted by proponents of downtown vitality; therefore, any such undertakings should tread carefully.

But maybe I’ve got it backwards. Rather, perhaps Starbucks and its ilk should give up the pay-for wi-fi offering, similarly to how another value-added amenity was positioned decades ago:

In the 1920s, when air-conditioning began to be installed in movie theaters, owners had to spend a sizable sum — $50,000 (roughly equivalent to $570,000 today) — to transform the property into a “cold spot.” But it was worth it. Before the “refrigeratory process” came along, theaters could not draw customers during the summer because of the unbearable heat in confined space. With air-conditioning, patronage increased so sharply that even the largest investments were quickly repaid.

Wi-Fi does not address a similar problem of seasonal attendance. Nor will it produce a multifold increase in patronage. But, then again, it’s not nearly as costly to introduce as the cooling plants of the 1920s.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some theaters back then experimented with some similar per-patron charge for AC. Maybe some owners opted for seatside mini-fan, that you had to feed with coins to stay cool? It would have gone nowhere. There may be more parallels to todays free/pay wi-fi option in retail lounges.

Simply put, offering free wi-fi will encourage Starbucks patrons to hang out longer, increasing the chances that they’ll order a couple of extra cups of coffee, cookies, etc. That should offset concerns about providing the Web access, and being able to serve more customers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/06/2021 11:08:40 PM
Category: Wi-Fi, Business | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Monday, March 05, 2021

The old spring-ahead for Daylight Saving Time happens this coming Sunday, which is earlier than in years past.

Unfortunately, it looks like the computer folks didn’t get the memo until recently:

It’s a massive amount of work to get everything in order,” said Kim Stevenson, a vice president at Electronic Data Systems, a large technology services company. “And the do-nothing plan is a high-risk plan.”

The daylight-time shift, according to technology executives and analysts, amounts to a “mini-Y2K.” That is a reference to the rush in the late 1990s to change old software, which was unable to recognize dates in the new millennium, 2000 and beyond.

I fail to see why IT departments are scrambling now, during crunch time. The bill mandating the DST change passed last fall, so the adjustments and software patches should have gone forth then. You can’t count on Digg to deliver you everything newsworthy…

Anyway, if you’re running one of this century’s versions of Windows, Bill Gates has a shorty URL for you.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/05/2021 09:54:23 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Saturday, March 03, 2021

Granted, the situation where a malicious hacker managed to modify what was the latest version of WordPress to implant an exploitable security hole is highly unusual, and (one would hope) not likely to happen too often.

But what should be learned from serious breach? Simple: Don’t rush out to install a new sub-version of WP as soon as it’s released, especially if your current installation is running smoothly and there’s no other compelling reason to upgrade.

This is not what the WP development community wants to hear. The reason they compulsively release new builds is that they know they can count on a bunch of guinea pigs to install them, so they can then observe any bugs out in the wild. It’s an effort-free way to conduct beta testing.

Unfortunately, this episode shows how juicy a target this continual release-and-upgrade cycle is to the bad guys out there. It presents an opportunity to take over thousands of websites and turn them into link farms, splogs and whatever other Web presences that blackhat elements want. You can bet WP’s servers and mirrors will be attacked continually from here on, and it’s reasonable to expect another successful breach.

The standard justification for repeated sub-version releases: Security patches. Sorry, that’s not good enough, actually. Every new version turns out to have its own exploitable holes (not as big as this hackered one, of course); it’s a constant whack-a-mole game — ironically, the same developmental trap over which everyone slams Microsoft. Personally, I’m not going to trade one set of vulnerabilities for another, and settle for a false sense of security.

I realize this hacker attack could’ve happened at any time, including a full-version release. Still, the frequency of releases doesn’t help. Better to think through a release and not tie it to a timetable, thus giving it a purpose.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 03/03/2021 04:00:24 PM
Category: Bloggin', Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Sunday, February 25, 2021

Are we approaching a point where hunkering down to an Ethernet-tethered desktop computer for Web surfing will become as antiquated as using a landline telephone?

The latest Pew Internet & American Life Project report hints at a strong yes. Finding reveal one-third of users used wireless means to check the Web, while 20 percent had wi-fi networks set up at home.

This changes the level of interaction with the online medium:

“We know that ‘always on’ broadband connections really deepen people’s relationship to the Internet; adding ‘on the go’ to the mix takes this a step further,” said John Horrigan, associate research director at the Pew Internet Project. “The convenience of wireless access gives people the chance to fire off a quick e-mail to someone while waiting in a doctor’s office or check the news headlines on the way to work.”

It’s the next step in an evolution that makes the Internet more ubiquitous and accessible. The first phase was the ascendancy of broadband speeds on dedicated data pipes (mainly fiber cables), instead of the early connections via telephone line dialup. That changed people’s approach toward the Web, from a session experience that you had to bloc out time to accomplish, to a utility that you could access on the fly, picking up info-chunks as needed. With wireless access from mobile devices (including notebook computers, but also phones, etc.), that on-the-fly access extends beyond the physical location.

What’s not mentioned here is the increase in data vulnerability, as so many wi-fi access points are notoriously weak on security. That’s the tradeoff going forward.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/25/2007 08:07:38 PM
Category: Internet, Wi-Fi | Permalink | Feedback (2)

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