Photo of worker adjusting a wireless access point.

Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.

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Friday, December 29, 2006
Star Tribune sells at half price
I mark with concern the passing of the Minneapolis Star Tribune from McClatchy Corp. to Avista Capital Partners, "a firm specializing in private equity investments" according to their site. Price was $530 million or less than half of the $1.2 billion McClatchy paid Cowles in 1998.

Read Garrick for more details and links.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Cutting the cable
Robert Lemos at Wired News: Goodbye TV, Hello Broadband.
It was the ultimate challenge for any lifelong TV watcher.
Yes, he cuts his cable and attempts to find meaningful content on the Internet. In the process, he buys his first Mac since 1997. tags:

NBC's 30Rock streamin'
NBC has all the 30Rock episodes online starting with the pilot. They start broadcasting fresh episodes Jan. 4. The buzz on the Web is that it's a good show so I watched the first two episodes tonight.

It's good and it's funny. Tina Fey (the show's creator and one of the executive producers) is the head writer of some weird comedy show called The Girlie Show. I like Ms. Fey. Tracy Morgan plays a (possibly) mentally ill super star who is going to be on The Girlie Show which is renamed TGS. Alec Baldwin is very good at playing a network VP who is going to retool the show.

It's not Arrested Development which ranks in my top 10 sitcoms and probably #1 currently for this century. But it's definitely worth checking out. Lots of other excellent players that I'm not familiar with but I don't watch tv often.

To round out the SNL heritage, Lorne Michaels is the other executive producer.

The presentation isn't bad. The show is divided into three parts and you must suffer through three short commercials. It's peppier than ABC's streaming player and it didn't freeze up which was a major problem last time I watched Lost (ABC).

In the spirit of Doc Searls, here's a bonus Tina Fey link. tags:

Saturday, December 23, 2006
How they sold us those computers
Back in October, Harry McCracken at PC World did a post called A Brief History of Computers, As Seen in Old TV Ads .

The first commercial is from 1980. It's for the Atari 400 (We've brought the computer age home). The last commercial brings us to the present day with a Get a Mac ad featuring PC guy, John Hodgman, and Mac guy, Justin Long.

Along the way, we get to see William Shatner pushing the Commodore 64, a wonderful Kaypro ad that shows things haven't changed much through the years, and, of course, Apple's famous 1984 Superbowl commercial by Ridley Scott.

Apple dominates with eight commercials. Sadly, several, like a Newton ad from 1993, are no longer available.

Since the ads are more a part of our TV culture than our computer culture, I think they will generate interest across the age and comp-literacy spectrum at holiday gatherings.

Happy Holidays! All the best in the New Year.

Thanks to Josh for sending this along. tags:

Friday, December 22, 2006
Falling Planes
Notes from the Technology Underground: When Planes Fell From the Sky In the fifties, several planes crashed in south Minneapolis, killing residents (several children) and burning down houses. tags:

After Santa, Guy Kawasacki is coming to town
Read Graeme Thickins's post for the full scoop (he's playing in a hockey tournament) and a short interview about Guy's talk at the University of Minnesota. It's free and I would reserve tickets soon as the local blogosphere is lighting up with the announcement.

He's a good speaker. I saw him long ago, at the Walker Art Center, I think, when he was still an evangelist for Apple. He said "Url" like a word, instead of "U R L" like good Minnesota people. I figured it was a California thing.

More info and registration here or call 888-889-7787, Event #932. tags:

Security Farce
So these two guys in Virginia ridiculously disguise themselves and walk into a Virginia DMV and get drivers licenses. They did this several times with different disguises.

Bruce Schneier writes about it here or jump directly to the videos here and here. tags:

Monday, December 18, 2006
Update: Some tech woes solved
Following up on yesterdays post, a few of my technical difficulties are resolved.
  1. The Compaq laptop now prints to my Epson printer. Although Epson tells you to ignore the Windows Hardware Wizard and use their installer, that assumes your Windows install is ready to work with a USB device. Once I went through the wizard, the Epsons install worked. (Previous printer was also USB so I would of thought that the laptop was configured.) (In my geek defense, most of you should know that I'm a Mac guy and printers are generally plug-and-play.)
  2. I have not found a more-recent-than-2002 version of my YAP password database (meaning I'm missing a bunch of passwords) but I did seem to get the sync operation to backup the latest version to disk. I still need to experiment and make sure it updates every time I sync. The very obvious moral to this story is always test your backups. tags:

Happy morning at youtube

Won't stop me from grinding my own coffee but I give Folgers credit for a really freaky commercial.

via Bex's blog.

Sunday, December 17, 2006
Experiencing Technical Difficulties
It's been a weekend of dealing with some of the dark side of technology.

First, daughter's Compaq Armada is displaying a serious error message on startup, the kind that means the hard disk is not long for this world. She forgot to tell me about this and I think it's been a month or so. Tried repairs but the message remains. It goes in this week for a replacement drive.

But she still needs to print receipts from a recent Pampered Chef show (she is a consultant). So her printer breaks down next. Jams the paper every time. (I found out that printers are now consumable products, given that new printers can purchased for under $30.)

I decide to configure her computer to work with my Epson 785EPX printer. I spent a lot of time at the task and it's still not printing. The drivers install but there are communication errors every time I try to print. Very frustrating.

Second tech issue from hell was a major spamming of this blog. Looks like it's Italians from the text or some romance language country. In my zeal to remove the spam comments, I deleted some real comments (and I can't spare them). In particular I deleted one with a link to how to get Haloscan comments to work in the new Google Blogger Beta.

Third tech issue and maybe the worst was the reset of my ancient Handspring Visor. I let the batteries run down and after a certain time, the unit loses it's settings so when you turn it on, it's as if it were brand new. No calendar data, address book entries, or anything. Luckily I have some backup software and can restore the data. Except the YAP (yet another password manager) database wasn't getting backed up and I'm missing a few of years of passwords. I don't think I had any critical ones there that also weren't listed somewhere else but I'm not sure.

Hopefully, the Gods will be more benevolent this week. tags:

Saturday, December 16, 2006
Peter Boyle is gone
Peter Boyle is dead at 71.

Remember Young Frankenstein? tags:

From Jerusalem to the Jungle: Mel's new historical drama
I just caught Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, which was sort of like Die Hard in a jungle with naked guys and pointed sticks. Annalee Newitz in the Wired Blogs

She gives us some myths and facts relating to Mel's new movie and to Mel.

via Walker Art Center Film Video Blog tags:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Minneapolis City Council trades libraries for police
Star Tribune: Council grants 3 libraries one-time funding (Terry Collins)

By a very close vote, the City Council decided not to provide a moderate level of funding ($250,000) for the cities libraries. With this move, Minneapolis will likely lose three community libraries.

Public safety is the issue. We will be adding forty-three officers to the police force. I have to question whether more police is the answer to the crime problems that many Council members see in our city. Do we have studies or any research showing that this move will result in a reduction of crime? Are there alternative (and less costly) methods of reducing crime?

Doesn't having vital community meeting places where you can check out books and movies serve to reduce crime? Libraries are a form of respect for the community and which leads the people in the community to feel better about themselves. I have to think there's also a correlation between low literacy rates and increased crime.

Libraries are especially critical in this city as more and more immigrants move here. They need this public resource and they need it open when they are not working.

If you live in Minneapolis, let the mayor and your council member know that the libraries need to remain open and hours need to expand. tags:

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Twin Cities south metro looks at broadband
Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports on south metro broadband efforts: What are south burbs doing about broadband Internet? (Sarah Lemagie).


There are currently no citywide broadband initiative, at least at the scale of St. Louis Park and Chaska.

Burnsvilles City Council has a goal to provide 50 to 100 Megabit/second access to every home and business and has told city staff to work with existing providers.

Frontier Communications will roll out wireless within two years to Burnsville. Frontier is working on similar agreements with Apple Valley, rosemount, Lakeville and Farmington. ( Pioneer Press has more on this.)

Both Dakota and Scott Counties have ongoing fiber-optic projects that will eventually link together. Looks like it's mainly for public buildings.

Minnesota suburbs are watching UTOPIA (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) where 14 Utah cities are providing low-cost fiber-optic access (100Mbps) to all their residents. Cost is an issue though, along with educating local officials.

Lack of a champion for the cause was part of the reason that Shakopee's telecommunications advisory committee recently decided not to continue its study of citywide broadband, said chairman Bill Anderson.

Sunday, December 10, 2006
Blogger beta wants to (up)date me
Blogger has been suffering severe hiccups lately due in part to the migration from the old Blogger to the new Google Blogger (eternal?) Beta. Many evenings, I cannot post to my blog due to some kind of system problems.

You have to wait for an invite to move your blog to the Beta. Yesterday, I got the invite.

Once moved, you can't go back. Ack.

I have hacked my Blogger blog a bit and incorporated a categorizing system (old Blogger does not have one) via The hack is a Greasemonkey script (by Johan at Ecmanaut) that's integrated into the Blogger edit screen and gives me a Tags field, which ends up as a entry with a couple of clicks. It's very slick but doesn't work in the Blogger Beta world where they now have labels (read "tags") for your entries. Can I convert my tags to labels easily? (If you're interested in Blogger hacks, check out Fresh Blog.)

Second problem is my commenting system which uses Haloscan because Haloscan has a trackback feature and old Blogger doesn't (not sure if trackbacks are in Beta or not).

Problem 3 is I host this blog on my own server via ftp. That will still work in the Beta but I will miss some cool dynamic publishing features. Changing will mean a new URL and I am not clear as to whether Beta will suck up my old entries if I switch to hosting at Google Blogger.

Although switching to the Blogger Beta is not compulsory today, word in the blogosphere is that it will be in a matter of weeks. I need a plan of attack. I'm sure you'll note the switchover when it comes along. tags:

Twitter: What are you doing right now?
Discovered Twitter today and established an account. I stumbled upon someone's Twitter timeline at their blog and found it strangely compelling. Since I often wonder what I did on any given day, maybe I can now record it and find out.

Found a OS X widget for twittering called Twidget. tags:

Saturday, December 09, 2006
161 and counting
Minnedemo has 161 registrations as of this writing, not to say that all of them will show up on Monday, but Luke and Dan could close registrations at some point so if you're name isn't on the wiki, I would go there right now and register.

Matrix sooner than we think
Dogbert explains it all. tags:

Thursday, December 07, 2006
Keeping America's Rural Areas Disconnected
Berkshire Eagle (Massachusetts, USA) has an excellent editorial about the frustration of trying to get broadband into rural areas.

The situation most clearly illustrates why the unhindered pursuit of corporate profits is not always in everyone's best interest. Through much of the 20th century, electric and telephone service were treated as vital public services, and the people and the government recognized they were too important to be subject to the pressures of the market or the whims of professional greed.

Significant investment in broadband in rural areas can work. It may take more government involvement or even government ownership but it will result in a stronger economy. Rural Washington has is there already (sorry, NY Times has put the referenced article behind the paywall).

Besides businesses actually locating in rural areas if broadband is available, the workers), who are commuting for hours today, can stay home and work over the Net. Some businesses are already getting this.

Esme Vos (where I found the Berkshire link) also has some good commentary. Read it, please. And I talked about it previously here and here.

How do we jump start the twentieth century and start really using this technology. It becomes hard not to see Qwest-AT&T-Verizon-Comcast and all the rest as giant predator beasts t
hat have lived too long but are too powerful to vanquish. I guess this is where the hero comes in. Or maybe the Gods just get really pissed. Something needs to give.

Let me close with one more quote from the Berkshire piece.
This is what happens when your sole motivation is to report the highest possible profit on the next quarterly earnings statement and government isn't there to argue for those without a voice.
Amen. tags:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006
BelAir Networks announces RoHS compliance
BelAir Networks, which is supplying the antennas for the Minneapolis Wi-Fi deployment, announced compliance with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) yesterday. The directive restricts the use of certain hazardous materials when manufacturing electrical material. California will have the first RoHS regulations on Jan. 1, 2008. Ths United States is considering regulations as our several other countries.

Read more at MuniWireless. tags:

Minnedemo Heating Up Winter Landscape
Minnedemo on Ice is on for Monday, Dec. 11, at Acadia Cafe, located at Franklin and Nicollet in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. At the moment, there are 134 names on the Attendees list. Is your name there? It should be. We had lots of fun at the last Minnedemo at Chiang Mai Thai in Calhoun Square.

Acadia Cafe is a great venue for the event. The cafe area is separate from the stage for demos so we can socialize, network, and craft multimillion dollar deals without disturbing the presenters.

And let's not fail to mention Acadia's beer list and menu. (I recommend the Rachel sandwhich.)

So come along and join in the festivities and celebrate the special iced edition of Minnesota's one-and-only Minnedemo.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Google Goes After the Little Ones
Interesting AP article (by Michael Liedtke) about Google promoting their online word processor and spreadsheet program (Google Office) to elementary and high schools (K thru 12).  Google Operating System has some good commentary.

Liedkte wonders how they will make money since no ads are allowed in the 'office' space. Maybe they will make it from the ads on millions of blogs, Michael, plus everyone using Goog Office will have a Gmail account with ads and will probably use Google as a search engine where there are plenty of ads.

Microsoft so far as brushed off Google's alternative software as niche applications unlikely to gain mass appeal.

You get all these kids storing their stuff on Google when they are in grade school, with access anywhere they can get to the Internet, and then you think when they grow up they will rush out to purchase Microsoft Office? Not likely because most of the world will probably be using Goog Office by then.

The article mentions that one teacher spent $4,400 to license 70 copies of Microsoft Office earlier this year.

"There is such a big digital divide out there that products like this really help level the playing field for these kids," said Lucy Gray, who teaches sixth graders at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools.

I think a more critical problem than a level field for word processing is a level field for owning a computer and affording Internet access.

No Wireless (Yet) for West Metro
Star Tribune reports that "sparsely populated cities around Lake Minnetonka worry wireless might be too costly."

This summer, the Lake Minnetonka Cable Commission suspended their plans for wi-fi to the 17 cities that they work with. With that, each city had to make their own decision. They decided to wait and see.

West metro is sparsely populated but covers a lot of land with 52,000 people spread over several hundred square miles. That makes any type of broadband deployment difficult. Some residents get access via cable, others through Qwest, but a significant number cannot get broadband.

Medina, MN (population 4,005 as of the 2000 census), did a survey of 550 residents and 60 percent said the "city providing high-speed Internet was either 'essential' or 'very important.'"

Sad that rural broadband problems begin within twenty miles of a major urban center.

Wireless net is on hold for many cities in west metro by Jenna Ross

Sunday, December 03, 2006
Best Buy Installs Work 2.0
Business Week article about Best Buy corporate where they have trashed the time clock and allowed most employees to work when and where they want. They call it ROWE, "results-only work environment"; you are measured on results and not how many minutes you are on location. How they got to ROWE is told in the story and it's fascinating. There is also a podcast with an interview with the reporter.

Turnover is down. Productivity is up. Job satisfaction is up.

They plan to bring this to the retail stores also.

This is the real potential of the Internet thing. You trust your workers and most of them will come through for you because you have empowered them. With the off-site working, you can save money on office real estate. Employees save money on commuting costs.

They aren't the first but most companies that are doing it now - like IBM - are in the tech space. tags:

Cuckoo Every Thousand Years
I remember reading about the Long Now Foundation and the Millennium Clock in Whole Earth Journal (RIP).

The clock spun out of a 1995 essay by Danny Hillis. Here is how he describes it:
I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years. If I hurry I should finish the clock in time to see the cuckoo come out for the first time.
The Millennium Clock
The first cuckoo is still to be heard but the clock is moving along and land has been purchased in Nevada to house it. (Think monument.)

The clock is also billed as the "world's slowest computer."

Long Now also hosts other projects including Long Bets, and the Rosetta Project (building a repository of all documented human languages).

They have Seminars About Long Term Thinking (SALT) and they are available via podcast feed or for download. Presenters include Chris Anderson, Joan Baez, Brian Eno, Kevin Kelly, Jimmy Wales, Stewart Brand, and Bruce Sterling. tags:

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