Quarter the 2006 Price in 5 Years

I love it when I run across a prediction about the time of the deadline. Jakob Nielsen made one on November 20, 2006 that computers will be 1/4th their current price of $379 in five years. Five years later is November 20, 2011. That is today!

In areas like North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia’s advanced countries, computer cost is no longer an issue. Dell’s cheapest computer costs $379 (with a monitor) and is about 500 times as powerful as the Macintosh Plus I used to write my Ph.D. thesis. While it’s true that a few people can’t even afford $379, in another five years, computers will be one-fourth their current price. Would that all social problems would go away if we simply waited five years.

So $379 / 4 = approximately $95.

Dell, the company Nielsen picked on, the cheapest I found was in Dell Outlet a Latitude laptop for $239.

Walmart’s cheapest non-refurbished I found was $212 laptop. (There was a Pentium 4 refurbished desktop for $115 which is old even for 2006 but adding the cheapest $89 monitor is still $109 too expensive. You would be better off going to a garage sale and picking up the same computer for $25 and getting a kid in the neighborhood to refurbish it.)

Best Buy has a $205 laptop.

I guess after five years they are getting close to half? Maybe this is why the FCC started a $4 billion program to help close the digital divide at $150 a refurbished computer + training + $10 a month broadband. Even this is not Nielsen’s a quarter of 2006 prices. (FCC and “Connect to Compete” Broadband Fact Sheet)

Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

Linux Adventure Part 1 | Linux Adventure Part 2 \ Use these to catch up on the story.

After work and much ridicule from a coworker over this Ubuntu mess, I come home to play some more on this wireless mess. I was even somewhat leaning towards giving the firmware cutter stuff a try. After all, it is just a card, right? I could get another miniPCI card in a pinch, right?

I looked at dmesg and syslog but there were few mentions of the card. So back to research… Lo, the BCM4312 I thought was supported was actually 14e4:4312 when what I have is a 14e4:4315 which is “in progress”. WTF does that mean? Without a date on the page, how do I know how long ago that was?

Now, purely farting around I clicked the Network Tools to turn off the wired connection only to see a list of wireless networks. It was easy to setup the network and get online.

Huh.

Yeah, computers hate me.

Why Read Books?

That I read books probably lowers my highly coveted geek cred. Instead, e-books read on the computer screen, phone screen, or e-book reader should have long ago replaced reading on dead wood. Unfortunately, I am intentionally avoiding reading books much on computers, phone, or readers.

  1. Why I need a purseNo purse to carry more stuff. I have big fingers, so I need stuff with big buttons. Things like iPhones are maddening to use because I cannot seem to hit the buttons correctly. Things with lots of big buttons tend to be big which makes them a pain to carry.

  2. Never underestimate my ability to break toys. Only the most resilient of electronic toys survive me. It isn’t uncommon for my laptops, phones, or cameras to experience 5 foot falls. Everything I carry with me ends up with marks from the abuse even books. Paper can take the abuse. I have no faith e-book readers could maintain their screens from being around me.
  3. Computers tend to tempt me to fail at multi-tasking. When I shut down my computer to go home, I typically have at the minimum a dozen windows. (Even the client I use to connect to my servers usually can fill that dozen.) Reading on a computer rarely will result in more than a page of reading every 10 minutes. Because blog posts are usually pretty short, distractions have less chance to interfere with reading them.
  4. Books are common enough people accept them as normal. Cool toys attract attention. I’d expect an expensive phone or e-reader or laptop to attract the kind of attention which results in theft. Books are cheap few would care to go to the effort.
  5. Phone are becoming more like computers. What I don’t want is a phone (or another device) which I treat like my computer, aka failing at multi-tasking. Just today I squared 1024 on paper instead of using the calculator on my phone. Having access to the Internet through my phone could be bad for keeping me on task.
  6. Why faux paper when you could use paper? The e-book readers market how much their technology looks like paper. Paper looks, feels, smells, and tastes like paper.
    🙂
  7. Spending money on a device to get to read seems counter-intuitive. The devices should be subsidized by the content. But that would mean Amazon $10 books would cost more like $20.

Typically I don’t change until I have a problem with what I am using. Books don’t cause me problems. So I am happy to continue to read books for the foreseeable future.

Computer Metaphors

An effective way to explain something is to use a metaphor. This can be especially effective by picking an metaphorical object or behavior with which the audience is already familiar.

The one I see most often is comparing computers to a car. This morning I saw this on an email list describing a person’s experience  migrating to Vista 8 from Vista 3.

It is like I have traded in a familiar (though frustrating) car for one that has the lights, wipers, and radio in new locations.

Also this morning, Vista 8 was compared to a malfunctioning pen forced on faculty who would rather use a better pen. Nevermind all pens are not used exactly the same. (Fountain vs rollerball) Some require more maintenance and care than others.

A coworker always says Free Open Source Software like Sakai or Moodle are free as in free puppies not free beer. Nevermind proprietary bought systems like Blackboard are bought as in bought puppies.
🙂

DDoS of Social Media

Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal and other sites all admitted to suffering from a DDoS attack. It seem to me the purpose of a Denial-of-Service attack (DoS) against a web site is to flood it with so much traffic the site becomes unusable. The DDoS is where multiple other computers are coordinated into launching the attack.

All three of the above mentioned sites have had recent issues keeping up with growing usage. The USA inauguration and Iran demonstrations peaked traffic so much the sites seemed like they suffered from a DoS. Already at the edge, an attack tipped the barely making it social media sites over it. Some users abandon them for less popular (so more stable sites). Those who stick around suffer from learned helplessness.

Causing all this hullabaloo over a single user seems odd to me. I don’t speak Russian, so I don’t know if this guy from Georgia (the country) deserved it. Also, it is almost the one year anniversary since Russia invaded Georgia. During the invasion, DDoS attacks disabled Georgian web sites. So, maybe this is to show Georgia the Russians are still capable of causing problems? This is why security evangelists want us to be able to deal with threats.

Various computer viruses over the years have turned millions of computers into zombies for botnets. So… If you are upset about your favorite social media site getting taken down, then maybe you should act on ensuring your computer and others in your social network were not enlisted into a botnet?

Information Should Be Free

Mark Guzdial makes the point teachers add value to the learning process. Normally, I would agree. However, I got hung up on a misquote from a Walter Isaacson article How to Save Your Newspaper in TIME offering micropayments as the solution to newspapers finding a working model to survive since advertisements are not the right one.

Mark said it was “information must be free.” TIME said, “[T]he Web got caught up in the ethos that information wants to be free.” Mark correctly attributed it to Steven Levy who said, “All information should be free,” but in the context of: “Access to computers — and anything which might
teach you something about the way the world works — should be
unlimited and total.” 

Higher education provides such access. However, we hide the access behind beaucracy and tuition. Is it worth it?

Another thought on all this came from a Dorothy E. Denning quoting Richard Stallman:

I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By ‘free’ I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one’s own uses. … When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving.

This reminds me of the concept of Creative Commons and open source. Restrictions to information like copyright ensure the creator makes money. At the same time copyright provides some opportunities for reusing it. (CC and open source just do it better than the Copyright Office.

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.

Christmas Blog Post 2008

Last night I read Uncle Bill’s Christmas letter. He mailed it, but he apparently doesn’t have my postal address so I got the electronic version. Woohoo! His letter recaps the year for his family. Do any of you have such a tradition? Or a family member who does? Oddly my blog doesn’t provide much basis as it is devoid of personal information.

So here goes….

Family

Mom went off to Houston in January to consult with one of the best doctors in the country about a health issue. How things fell into place to allow her to get better amazed me daily. I got to grandparent sit for a week where I made Nannie tell stories so I could post them on Youtube. 😀

William married Nicole, his high school sweetheart. I finally have a sister. It rained on us briefly, so if you are into superstitions, that means either: 1) kids, 2) money, or 3) good luck.

I met Dad’s girlfriend, Sally, this year. She is definitely very nice. I’m happy with the match.

Friends

My only New Year’s Resolution for 2008 was to read 25 books this year. I completed that goal back in October. I’m thinking for 2008 to do a similar resolution. This time I’ll count up the number of pages and set a goal to read 20% more pages.

Some fellow Flickr users started an Athens Flickr Meetup. I’m hoping this is something to continue in 2009 as the weather improves. (Though who knew Georgia would be 20 degrees Farenheit above normal in December?)

RingsAdrianne and Britt asked me to be the photographer for their wedding. I spent hours looking at professional photographer portfolios for ideas about what I should capture. You see, while I do have a camera, I had never really taken photos at a wedding. Heck, few people invite me to weddings, so I was a little unclear what happens. In the end, I think it all turned out pretty well. Adrianne is happy. So I am happy. Working in computers became a profession because it was a hobby. Maybe photography will end up the same in the end? Posted 840 photos to Flickr this year. Started freelovephotography.com to show off my photography.

Las Vegas in July? Dumb. Star Trek: The Experience made my geeky heart soar.
NCC-1701-DNCC-1701-D @ ST: TXP

Digital Legacy

A book on time management in talking about long-term goal planning suggests we define the legacy we wish to leave. Coming from academia, I typically think of a legacy as a name on a building, an applicant with an alum for a parent, or a scholarship. However, the artifacts left behind by previous cultures are also a legacy.

Our digital footprints both could be part of this legacy or easily lost. I lean toward all this data we spew about the Internet will be lost eventually. I have seen floppy disks and hard drives die, taking with them the only copy of critical data. I have seen companies report their hard drives stolen from their machines in co-location as why customers lost their data. I have seen companies close web sites because they ran out of money. Let’s not forget natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.

So we keep backups.

Who will preserve these backups once we are gone? Are you able to read the data from computers 40 years ago? Maybe we’ll be better about being able to read the data from past when we reach 40 years into the future?

Not likely.

Anthropomorphism

Do you talk about computers, software, or web sites as manifesting human-like behaviors? Personally, I have.

At work, we manage several machines who collectively provide the GeorgiaVIEW service. When a machine is completely unresponsive, then we refer to it as having died. When a machine stops a performance issue, we refer to it as happy. I call my car cranky when it fails to run well.

Besides, electronics and vehicles, are there other examples?