Tag Archives: F2C

Cloud Computing Redux

A year or so ago I railed against the cloud. Or rather, I railed against the paid cloud. Notwithstanding the fact that even then I was already paying for the cloud.

The subject came up during the Freedom To Connect conference. We were sitting around having lunch, several pretty hard-core networking types and somebody was grousing about cloud computing. “It’s not secure!” “It’s slow!” “What if you’re not connected to the Internet?”, (this at a conference of which the entire point was being connected all the time at ultra-high speed). But, I’m Cloud-Boy.

web site hosted at my ISP
eMail hosted at my ISP
virtual disk iDisk hosted at MobileMe
project management BaseCamp
time cards Harvest
Calendar Google Calendar
RSS reader Google Reader
word processing Google Docs (occasionally)
invoicing QuickBooks via eMail

Then there are the mandatory online applications when dealing with the federal government:

  • Employee withholding and tax payments
  • Applying for federal grants at Grants.Gov
  • NIH Commons for managing those grants once you’ve got them.
  • Electronic Funds System for drawing down funds.

Unfortunately, our state of Vermont is far behind… they actually require paper for virtually every step of the grant application and management function. Hmm….I wonder if you can file for a gay marriage license online?

I guess the point is that you’d be nuts not to take advantage of some hosted applications, and even if you are dead set against the cloud, you might be using something in the cloud and barely realizing it.

As usual, the MobileMe suite of applications from Apple have a little extra. Theoretically at least, you can sync your Safari links, and dashboard applications. (I still can’t get the dashboard apps quite right). The iDisk is effective in that it essentially mirrors one or more folders that are present on a particular machine, my desktop iMac for example, and replicates that disk to one or more other machines. (can work for Windows too…although I haven’t tried it. ) The neat thing about the iDisk though is that there is still a local copy of the folders on each machine. This unloads many of the objections to Cloud Computing…the notion that if you aren’t connected, you don’t have access to your files. True disk transfer happens at “FTP” speeds, so sometimes it takes awhile to sync with the cloud.

Freedom to Connect — Manifesto

I’m beginning to figure out that Freedom To Connect is a conference of people who espouse the following principals (with reservations by some).

1. Just as we first served homes with copper wire for electricity, and then copper wire for telephone service, we are now at an historical juncture where we should serve homes with fiber optic cable. It will actually cost less than either of the first two, because the poles and infrastructure are already in place for putting fiber into homes. Applications that would be supported by fiber include (but are by no means limited) to:

  • The Smart Grid, or “infotricity” a two-way connection between the power company and home appliances, water heater, air conditioners, and furnace that would automatically smooth demand for electric power throughout the day. This would result in a projected saving of 25% of the current base power load and eliminate the need for new coal and nuclear power plants.
  • “Triple Play”, cable TV, telephone and high-speed internet service.
  • Telemedicine, Telehealth and Distance Learning applications via two-way interactive multipoint videoconferencing
  • Security monitoring
  • Tele-Presence — viewing a neighbor or relative (located next door or across the globe) in their home to share photos, stories, grandchildren, whatever.
  • etc. ad. infinitum.

2. The notion that wireless technology is somehow a substitute for FTTH should be disabused. It is a necessary and desirable supplement, but not a replacement for FTTH.

3. Many believe wireless is actually twice as expensive to install and manage rather than fiber for the following reasons:
a. Wireless towers and transmitters still must be served by a fiber connection. (“backhaul”)
b. Wireless requires substantial density to provide effective coverage.
c. Wireless is subject to interference, (leaves, weather, etc).
d. Wireless technology is volatile and becomes obsolete quickly.

4. There are many definitions of “under-served” populations. However, DSL technology with something like 320KB up and 1.5 megabits down does NOT constitute “broadband” in any meaningful sense, nonwithstanding that it is an improvement over dialup.

5. A working definition of broadband would be, at a minimum symmetrical speeds of, say, 20 megabits, (both directions), at the equivalent of $60.00 per month or less.

6. Under lobbying pressure (corruption? payoffs?) no less than 15 states in the U.S. have actually passed laws that prohibit municipalities or citizen groups from creating and forming their own broadband utilities. Examples cited in our meeting this week (Lafayette LA, and Glagsgow KN), described debilitating litigation initiated by incumbent phone and cable companies to shut down efforts to provide muni wireless and fiber networks. After the dust settled, the incumbents reduced their rates by three quarters when they had to compete with the municipality. So, unfortunately, incumbents must be seen as the enemy, until proven otherwise.


Personally, I think this has parallels with other current battles.

  • We can’t have single payer healthcare because it would hurt the insurance companies.
  • We can’t have high-speed broadband, because it would hurt the incumbent cable and telephone companies.
  • We can’t have realistic fuel-economy standards because it will hurt the car companies.
  • We can’t get loans, because the banks won’t lend any of their multi-million dollar bailout money.
  • We can’t have affordable higher education, because it would hurt the educational institutions (and the athletic programs).
  • We can’t find out who is responsible for the policies of torture and rendition, because it would “damage” our government’s credibility and reputation.

Oh well. Might as well go back to watching television.

Freedom to Connect – Day 1

Free to Connect (F2C) is being held at the American Film Institute’s Silver theater in Silver Spring Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC It is an exemplary demonstration of how to hold a no-frills conference… skeleton (but highly competent) conference crew, judicious outsourcing of food and reception, in a compact venue which offers lots of opportunities to meet the other attendees and presenters. The presentations are being streamed on the web, and there is an interactive Campfire chat which is projected next to the PowerPoint slides and which can be monitored by the speakers so that questions can be taken from outside the conference. As might be expected, the interactive chat is a mixture of serious comments and snark. Its a little disconcerting to type and see your comment projected full screen twenty seconds later.

About 250 participants. We were invited to bring our wireless laptops, and looking at the audience during my own presentation it seemed that well over 70% of the audience machines were Macs. We used my own Macbook for my presentation and the colleagues in our session; two were PowerPoint presentations that we ran in Keynote after listened to catcalls as Parallels tried to boot up Vista. Balance seems to be a mixture of Dells, IBM/Lenovo and a few netbooks. Acer Aspire, etc.

David Weinberger is live-blogging.

Session 2: Net politics and other applications
Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation,
Nathaniel James, Media and Democracy Coalition,
Larry Keyes, Telehealth via Broadband, and
Eva Sollberger, Stuck in Vermont Video Blog

4th set of presentations. Chris Savage is a lawyer, had a really interesting talk about the death of the Chicago School and how right now there is a unique opportunity to retool regulation to make it more consumer friendly.

Derek Slater – Google policy analyst. Talking about “Measurement Lab” an open platform for researchers to make measurements of internet bandwidth and for consumers to figure out what their internet speed is. There is so much we don’t know how the internet is performing. Could we fund some servers at the University that would host the Measurement Lab applications?

John Peha – FCC chief technologist. Mythology of Rural Broadband
1 in 3 households do not have access to wired broadband at any price.
Broadband has positive benefits for communities who have it, even for members of those communities who don’t subscribe.

Unserved communities don’t gain from broadband, and broadband installed elsewhere can actually degrade things in unserved communities.

Comment: Government should write the rules so that it easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing.

Technology neutrality is something to aim at.

The people who are comfortable with technology are the non-engineers they just use what works.

Comment: Technology neutrality is a false mantra.

Amy Wohl — “recovering Chicago School economist.” When govt. attempts to fix mistakes by the market there is a lag.

The conference takes place on Monday and Tuesday. I arrived Saturday afternoon at Reagan airport and took the Metro to Silver Spring. Sunday, I ran around the mall. The Holocaust museum was jammed with school groups. I didn’t quite know what to expect, I rather thought it would be like going to a cathedral in Europe, but it was more like the science museum. To get to the regular part of the exhibits you have to get a ticket and you are assigned a time. Because of the crowds mine wasn’t until two hours later. I spent 90 minutes on the lower level looking at an exhibit of Nazi propaganda, and after that, I was done. Why people bring small children to this museum is beyond me.

I also went to the Native American museum, (outstanding kayaks) and the National Gallery. The Smithsonian museums are truly a national treasure..and they are all free.

Tom Friedman at the Freedom to Connect Conference

I’m at the Freedom to Connect conference, Thomas Friedman gives a keynote speech drawn from his latest book Hot Flat and Crowded. Notes:

Khakis, white shirt, tie. Looks shorter and younger than I expected. 🙂
Turns out he lives in Bethesda, so it is just a quick ride on the Metro.
Based on his book Hot, Flat and Crowded.

Looks at the running chat — “What the f*ck is that?”

Takes off shoes.
Someone immediately posts a photo on the interactive chat.

Motivation to write the book was that “we lost the groove of our country”.

New unit of measure — the Americum == 300 million people living like Americans

First Law of Petro Politics:

Price of oil has an inverse proportion to the pace of freedom.

Moderated a panel between Al Gore and Bono.

According to the World Bank, 1.6 billion or 1/4 of all humanity have no access to electricity.

Loosing a species every 20 minutes. We are experiencing the biggest loss of biodiversity.

An incredible list of opportunities masquerading as a series of disasters.
Solution to the problems of climate change, poverty, (and everything else) is abundant cheap reliable energy.

The country which dominates energy technology will be the leader going forward. This country has to be the U.S.

You’ll know it is a revolution when somebody gets hurt.

American golfers get 41 miles per gallon, based on the number of miles walked per year (900) and the average amount of alcohol consumed. (22 gallons) (LK: does this statistic factor in the lower efficiency of ethanol?)

The difference between technology and commodity.
Wind, nuclear solar, etc. are technologies == the more used the price goes down.
Fossil-fuels are commodities. == the more used, the price goes up.

Change the leaders, not the light bulbs.

When we leave Iraq it will be the biggest transfer of air conditioners known to mankind.

BANANA = build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything

Smart grid –> Smart home –> appliances automatically day trade electricity — stores power in electric car battery.

The future is here it is just not widely distributed yet.

I love being a reporter. It is a noble craft.

Conference: Freedom To Connect

Another plug for the Freedom To Connect conference to be held in Washington DC March 30th and 31. To crib from the home page.

F2C 2009 will tell the story of:

  • on-line, network-enabled industry and culture, new jobs and sustainable growth
  • Burlington VT, where muni fiber enables business, artistic endeavor, and new telemedicine
  • how Lafayette LA’s community came together as it built its muni fiber network
  • the twin cities of Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa, where one twin has a muni net, and the other doesn’t
  • how municipal CIOs are planning for Seattle, Portland and San Francisco municipal fiber networks
  • city nets, wired and wireless, that didn’t work — what went wrong and what that teaches
  • what Obama’s infrastructure and economic recovery plans mean for tomorrow’s network