I still love technology

Last week of summer. Feels like summer again this week, after a preview of fall weather. Skated 10 miles yesterday, got a little road-burn.

Tomorrow,
Apple is going to announce a bunch of upgrades to “post-PC” devices, and maybe even hint at a roadmap from OSX to iOS. There may be announcements or at least strong hints about the next gen iPads, which the rumor-mongers believe will include cameras for Facetime, and possibly something like the iPhone’s new ultra-high-res Retina display -- but only if it’s a smaller screen size, like 7 inches. Because pushing that many pixels on a big screen takes too much processor horsepower and memory. Dang, I’m glad I didn’t get the first-gen one! Maybe they’ll allow video output of more than just Keynote! That would be handy, if I was going to try to justify it as a classroom teaching tool...

The other rumor is that Apple is going to relaunch iTV, with a $99 device and $0.99 rentals. This is a direct competitor to cable TV and DVRs, which I wouldn’t be likely to buy unless I could simultaneously say goodbye to Time Warner Cable (I can see it coexisting with Netflix on my Wii). Problem is, TWC provides my internet hookup. In order for me to ditch them, I need an alternative broadband ISP.

Now there have been technologies like
WIMAX waiting in the wings for nearly a decade, to HUGELY boost wireless communication speeds and cover entire cities. Seems to me, these technologies haven’t hit the streets yet because of the tremendous potential for pirating. If a guy with a WIMAX router opened it up, he could provide access to a lot of people. The bottleneck would no longer be the wireless, it would be the hard-wire pipe to the internet that it was hooked up to. And the legal implications, since your ISP is going to be dead-set against you doing that...

On the other hand, if enough people had WIMAX radios, a signal could theoretically be routed from one to the other of them, without dropping into the commercial internet of the telecom/cable TV companies. That would be an anarchist response to the multi-tiered internet envisioned in the
network neutrality argument. But what about the regular net user who just wants to get online and doesn’t care about the technology, but wants to get out of that $100 a month TWC contract?

I don’t know how this is all going to work out, but it reminds me of digital music about ten years ago. Napster, Kazaa and others exposed the potential for technology to create legal issues and massive end-user subversion of the old model. And then Apple stepped in with iTunes, which a lot of people seem to consider a cheap enough useful enough product that they’ve stopped stealing music.

Is this a moment when Apple could change the game again? If they did, it would have to incorporate
access and content. They’ve been making noises lately (I think I heard it in that 2007 Steve Jobs/Bill Gates interview) about making a major new push with MobileMe, which hasn’t done anything since it sold websites as “dot Mac.” Apple bought a company called Lala late last year, which seems like it will be the centerpiece of a streaming media push. But music and movies from the “Cloud” could be just a beginning. Google and Apple seem to be racing somewhere...the question is, where?



Summer's ending

So the summer is about over. Another week and a half, and school will be starting. That means there’ll be a few more people around campus. But really, I’ll still be spending most of my time reading. So how did I do this summer? Pretty well. Got a bunch of research done. Went places and took pictures of documents, that means. Still need to read the majority of them and fit them together into a story. And an interpretation.

And I read a lot of books and articles. My big list is starting to look a little brighter. Light colors are good in this map -- they mean I’ve read the book (blue) or article (gray). I’ve still got a way to go, but in some of the core themes, I’ve done quite a bit of major reading. So far, so good...

Another ten miles and hot metal

Skated another ten miles in the morning, then worked all day on my reading (Gates) and documents for the book. Then did a little blacksmith lesson at the Greenfield Forge, Where Vinny cut up a big steel truck spring into chunks, and we straightened it to make tools (a chisel and a punch).



We worked on the coal and the propane forges, today.

That boy is a (skating) monster

It was a sunny, coolish, beginning-of-the-end-of-summer morning, and when I got to UMass, I strapped on the skates. I planned on going up and down University Ave. once or twice. It’s a 2 mile round trip, and although I’d love a trail with a little more length and scenery, the rail trail between Amherst and Northampton is next-to-impossible to skate. Especially the day after a rain, because it stays damp. The 2 mile trail at Cass Park, on the shore of Lake Cayuga in Ithaca was much more fun to skate, when I visited Cornell. And the Erie Canal trail between Rochester and Greece was nice and LONG.

But at least there’s a mile of good trail, between the Southwest dorms and Route 9. So I pulled on my skates, turned up the volume on the iPod, and got moving. The first lap had me wondering if I shouldn’t just call it a day. My balance was bad, my arches and shins burned, and it had been a few days since I’d skated. Yeah, I ran over the weekend. But that’s different muscles, I told myself.

Well, that just seemed unacceptable. I ought to be able to do at least 4 miles. That seemed like the minimum distance I could skate and respect myself afterwards. Hell, 2 miles only takes ten or twelve minutes. It’s hardly even aerobic. So, I convinced myself to start down the road a second time.

It was rough. My balance was getting shakier, and my strokes shorter. This is a far cry from where I like to finish the season, I thought. How could I build back up? If I buckled down, maybe I could do 4 miles this morning and 2 this afternoon, before driving home. Then maybe 6 and 2 tomorrow. Then 8 and 2 Thursday and finally 10 miles Friday. Okay, that was a path back to respectability, I told myself. I’d do that.

Maybe coming to that decision on the way back made me feel better. For whatever reason, the little aches and pains were going away, by the time I got back to campus (mile 4). I found myself, without really having come to a conscious decision, heading back to the hill I climb before turning into another lap, rather than coasting into the parking lot to get my shoes, pack and lunch, and head to the library.

Okay, this is cool, I thought as I skated back down to Route 9. My strokes were getting longer and steadier again, with a little more power in each push. I was probably going a little faster, and I just felt all-around a little smoother. This put me ahead of the game, relative to the plan I’d just come up with. And then I got back to campus again (mile 6) and I was actually feeling good. So why stop now?

At the far end of the fourth lap (mile 7) I was actually holding a little glide, before I put the skate down each time. On the way back to campus, I managed to get into a good (for me) Apolo Ohno crouch and power through the long straightaway. Of course, that felt so good, I just turned up that hill again.

Long story short, I did the ten miles today instead of Friday. I’m probably endorphin-dependent, but there are worse addictions you can have. At least it’s an indication that there’s a real easy way for me to stay on the light side (I don’t underestimate the power of the dark side, especially on rainy days. Luck we didn’t end up moving to Seattle!). Now I have to decide if I’m going to do ten tomorrow and Thursday. Then what will I do Friday? They say if you can
run ten miles a day for about ten days, you’re ready for a marathon. I’d almost given up on the idea of skating a marathon distance this season...

And, more importantly, if the same logic applies to long projects like reading for comps and writing dissertations, then I guess I should just keep pushing through these booklists, do the transcriptions and write the stories that I find in these letters and documents. Then, when I get halfway or two thirds of the way through the project, I’ll start to see that pattern. It’s not exactly a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s more like endorphins. At least, I hope so.

Google, stick to your knitting

Even though the "Neutral Net" is largely a fiction, and is a big case of spoiled first-worlders getting something for nothing for so long, they think they're entitled to it, I'm still not happy about a potential Google-Verizon deal that prioritizes paid content. It seems out of keeping with the environment in which Google originally flourished. As a former employee of the company (Silicon Graphics) that owned the real estate at 1600 Amphitheater Drive before it became the legendary Googleplex, I'd warn them against straying from the original formula. They've done a lot of really good things (esp. Google Books). It would be a shame if they were remembered as the commercializers of the net. It won't be a good business decision in the long run.