Archives For Internet

Fifty Years From Now…

March 9, 2015

2015-03-07_11-49-09Recently someone requested that I be his new “friend” on Facebook. I’m not sure I even know him but I think he is a sibling of one of my high school classmates. One thing that Facebook is good at is to give you a long lists of  “friends of your friends” to entice to add more. I guess they get more revenue that way but I don’t know for sure.  Anyway I went ahead and accepted the request and within a day or two that person’s Facebook page appeared on my screen. The first post was him passing along someone else’s post. It was a comic book type spread that ended up with a not very gracious picture of the president and calling him a “shit head”.

I quickly, maybe too quickly, commented that I wonder if he called the first president of color a shit head was intentional or Freudian? That started a fairly long discussion with a my new friend and some of his friends. My new friend says he just thought it was funny and didn’t hate anyone but some of his other “friends” came on with vitriol attacks of the president screaming YES he is a shit head.

I bring up this conversation for a secondary reason and that is about the legacy people are leaving with their Facebook pages and many other Internet sources. Do they realize that what they post will be readily available to their grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids? Do they realize that their words are permanently etched for others to see?

Being a retired Information Technology guy I know that Google, or whatever replaces it fifty years from now, will be thousands of times more powerful than it is today. All my new friends’ heirs, or anyone else for that manner will have to do is Google his name and they will find that he personally condoned a verbal personal attack of a president of his country. Does my new friend realize that everything he pens on the Internet today will form a legacy of just who he is for posterity.

I’m sure my new “friend” is a decent enough fellow who I would probably like in person if I ever got to know him in person. But this first encounter has soured me to even making that a possibility. I don’t know, maybe he just watches too much Fox News and therefore thinks it is ok to casually trash another person’s character because it is funny? Fox News certainly makes billion of bucks doing just that everyday.  Now I am not saying here that it is not ok to disagree with someone’s actions, especially our public figures. I do my share of that but I try never attack someone’s character with cheap, malicious, and especially racist words. If I ever do I hope someone will quickly call me to task like I called my new friend to task.

I turned off the “Follow” feature of Facebook for my new “friend” so I guess I will never really know him. I just hope he becomes more sensitive to others and be more careful what he does on his Facebook page.

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Rabbit Hole Fox News

Let me start out with the theme for this post. The Internet is a double-edged sword. It allows the free flow of massive amounts of information but it also allow the free flow of massive amounts of mis-information. The crux of the interview that the PBS Newshour quote below comes from is about how people pick and choose which science to believe. Lets face it much the info you can find on the Internet is without any type of documented foundation. Anyone, including me, can put out their opinions on any topic they choose. Now let’s go to the quote:

I think one of the differences today is just the Internet. It has changed the whole information universe. It’s democratized, small-D, information out there. There are fewer sort of gatekeepers of knowledge.

Instead, people go out and seek information, and they often find what they’re looking for that reinforces their belief. The Internet, you know, it doesn’t facilitate consensus, as anyone has noticed who’s gone on the Internet. Instead, it creates these sort of filter bubbles, these rabbit holes, these echo chambers. And these communities of sort of alternative knowledge develop that are often in opposition to the scientific mainstream….

So that’s part of what we’re seeing, is that there are lots of attitudes that are influenced by longstanding values, religious beliefs, political beliefs, other personal experiences. And that’s actually a longstanding pattern we have seen many years, but we have new issues….

Well, I think that there are people who are demagogues in the media world that benefit from, you know, dividing and conquering. They want to have people who — they want to say, trust only me on this issue think the stakes are large for all of us in this more technological, engineered world, where we need to get this stuff right

SOURCE: Why we pick and choose which science to believe.

If we don’t take the time to parse through what we find on the Internet it can lead us to live our life in filter bubbles, rabbit holes, and echo chambers (I love that analogy). The Internet is kind of like the Bible, if we look hard enough and are willing to ignore everything else we can find a phrase or two to back up our current worldview no matter what it is.  The biggest example of this tunnel-vision mentality is Fox News with MSNBC not far behind. Fox News claims to be “fair and balanced” but most everyone, I’m sure even Fox’s regular viewers, know in their heart there is no truth to that statement. Sadly I do recognize that many get all their news from that source. Will Rogers, my hero, said that if you only have one source of news then you quickly become a fool. I think those words apply  maybe even more so today than they did almost one-hundred years ago when he said them.

2014-10-30_08-32-58AT&T has completed upgrading its fiber-network in Austin, Texas, to 1-gigabit-per-second broadband speeds, the carrier said Monday.The Dallas-based company, which started the Austin upgrade in August, has been working to increase the speed of its U-Verse with GigaPower fiber network from 300 megabits-per-second to 1Gbps. AT&T is racing to bring faster Internet to customers before its competitors.

SOURCE:  AT&T finishes rollout of 1Gbps connection in Austin – CNET.

I am one of the fortunate ones along my road in that I am within the 1.5 mile distance from the AT&T central office. I can get my Internet connection at 0.003 Gbps. That is 300 times slower than folks in Austin get.  To put that in perspective what takes them one second to get takes me 5 minutes. Sadly those north of me are limited to 0.0002 Gbps.So when I run across these types of announcements I often say “SHAME ON YOU”.

We all know that in the 21st century information is power. Those with it have opportunity; those without it have almost none and of course the Internet and access to it is fundamental to the 21st century information age.  Why are those of us in less populated areas denied access to the Internet speeds that our urban neighbors take for granted? Of course the answer is profits.

I look out my front door and see a couple of two-inch diameter cables strewn between two poles across my front yard. In some places along my road these cables sag to just a few feet above the ground. They have not been improved in many decades. The picture above shows that both of those cables could be replaced by a single small fiber-optic line but to do that would require an investment that currently goes to the owners as profit.

Looking at the history of utilities in rural America I see where this is nothing new. It wasn’t until the 1930s that electricity or telephone was widely available to the farmers who provide the rest of us with food.  The New Deal of the 1930s would finally help remedy that situation via the REMC. Here is a little about that from my friends at Wikipedia:

Many such cooperatives exist in the rural United States, and were created by the New Deal to bring electric power and telephone service to rural areas, when the nearest investor-owned utility would not provide service, believing there would be insufficient revenue to justify the capital expenditures required. Many electric cooperatives have banded together to form their own wholesale power cooperatives, often called G&Ts for generation and transmission, to supply their member-owners with electricity.

If we had a functional government in place, instead of the gridlock that is there, maybe this issue could be resolved like it was then. I guess I should be grateful for my 0.003 Gbps Internet connection even though my city neighbors had connections three hundred times faster. At least my snail like speeds are several times faster than all my neighbors north of me.  It is about time for AT&T to spend a little money and put all of us on a fiber-optic system so that we all have a more or less level playing field for the future.  I thought that was the FCC’s mandate but if it is it is being totally ignored. Shame on AT&T for not having done so already…. And shame on the FCC for not having forced them to do it already….

The Good Old Days……

October 9, 2012

I am a senior citizen so I guess it expected of me to occasionally talk about the good old days. Generally I believe that most things in life continue to get better as time goes by so the “good old days” are not really that good after all at least to me. But there are some things that take a hit as a result of change.

I don’t think there is anyone that doesn’t admit how much the internet has changed their lives and most of it for the better. We can now get almost any info we desire in just a few keypad clicks. Wikipedia and other such on-line sources can help us investigate just about anything we desire. Instead of taking weeks of library searches most information is now just a few clicks away. Where there was once only a hand full of sources for our information there are now millions. Of course everything is NOT created equal on the Internet and we must always be aware of that fact.

But one of the negative things about this proliferation of information is that everyone can now spend hours and hours reinforcing their current world view and therefore never be exposed to things outside that oftentimes tunnel vision. Many Republicans will limit their source of news to Fox News while their Democratic neighbors will watch only MSNBC. They never peer outside those sources so their current views about the topics at hand seldom change.

It used to be in the good old days that it was difficult to determine just what the position was of most news sources.  I can still remember the shock that went through the media when Charles Brinkley made an “open mic” negative comment about President Clinton early in his first term. People were shocked that a news person showed bias.  Those days while being only a couple of decades ago seem like centuries in the media world now.

About the only news org that even attempts to remain neutral seems to be the PBS News Hour but I’m sure the radical right has a different opinion even about them. They are convinced that there is some great conspiracy theory going on everywhere but at Fox News. They think the folks at Fox are the only unbiased ones 😉 .

So, here I am an old timers looking back at the “good old days” and reminiscing about how much better they were. I guess I am not much different from “Unk Shields” of my childhood days. He would sit on a bench in front of the Pure Oil gas station where I had my first part-time job and talk continuously about the good old days.  The gas stations in my town no longer have a sitting  bench out front so I go on the Internet and sit on my virtual bench here and talk about the  good old days….

We stick to the old American principle of only working when the boss is looking. – April 8, 1933  Will Rogers

I’m sure this is as true today and maybe more so that it was in Will’s day only the techniques of not getting caught has changed. I read a statistic somewhere that said that up to 40% of a desk jockey’s time at the office now days is spent cruising the Internet, posting on Facebook, or ordering personal items on-line. Continue Reading…

A recent post about the post office got me to thinking about the Internet and how it is not available, at least at a reasonable speed, to those of us in more rural areas. I am the last person on our county road who is allowed to have a DSL connection from the phone company. And even my connection is spotty at best. My router deems it necessary to reset itself at least a dozen time a day. Even when it is working it frequently freezes. There are at least two hundred homes beyond me where even having the luxury of freezing DSL is not an option.

Being a U.S. history buff I am well aware of the time when electricity was not commonly available to rural customers. That was during the early to mid parts of the last century. The electric companies just didn’t see the profit in stringing power lines through such sparsely populated areas. It took Franklin Roosevelt and a depression to start supplying that 20% of the population with electrical power. This didn’t happen because of some benevolence of power holder but through required regulations set up by the government.

President Obama, as part of the economic stimulus plan passed last year gave several billion dollars to the telephone companies to assist them in supply internet access to the U.S. population. It’s intent was to provide lines to rural America similar to what was done for electricity seventy or so years ago. But it seems that a good proportion of that money was to enhance the internet bandwidth in areas such as Manhattan!  It seems that they were responding to the outrage of the citizens in that area to having to wait for their movie downloads and such.  So instead of providing the very basic Internet connection to those currently without they chose a different route.

So here we are on the county roads depending on a connection that is 100 times slower than our urban neighbors. It is widely recognized that the internet is the pathway for the 21st century and a good percentage of the population is being left out because of a profit motive. At the same time as this is happening I hear word that the Republicans in congress are thinking of deregulation the telephone industry.  If that happens rural internet access will never be a reality. Do we really want yet another place where there are “Haves” and “Have Nots”?

Without access to information for all I am fearful for our democracy.

But what do I know……