Monthly Archives: November 2011

10 Things You Should Know About the National Broadband Plan

In 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began the process of what would come to be known as the National Broadband Plan. Its purpose is to map out the future of America through a strong technological infrastructure, namely broadband communications. The plan essentially is to provide broadband access throughout the United States, thus strengthening the nation’s economy and education system, among other things. In this article, we will address some lesser known aspects of the plan. The following are ten tings you should know about the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

  1. Timeline – The aim of the Plan is to increase the available terrestrial broadband spectrum by an additional 500 Megahertz. This is scheduled to be done incrementally, and ultimately reach that goal by 2020.
  2. Mobile – Of that 500 MHz additional spectrum, 300 MHz will be made available just for mobile use. That portion will be within the 225 MHz to 3.7 GHz range and is expected to be available within 5 years of the Plan’s commencement in 2010.
  3. Cost – Estimates of the price tag on Plan implementation are as much as $350 billion. There is ongoing debate as to how much of this amount will be paid for with tax dollars.
  4. Dig Once Legislation – In an effort to coordinate, and reduce the installation cost, of fiber networks with ongoing construction or roadwork, the FCC has proposed a Dig Once bill. This legislation would require states or municipalities that receive federal Department of Transportation (DOT) funds to notify local fiber operators at least 90 days prior to scheduling any projects involving digging.
  5. Health IT – One of the benefits of the Plan the FCC proposes is for individual health records to be accessible to patients, in digital, machine-readable format online, “and at a reasonable cost”.
  6. Public Safety – Another significant proposal within the Plan is the creation of a nationwide interoperable wireless public safety communications network. To date, this stage of the plan has been virtually stalled at the starting gate.
  7. Spectrum Auctions – As a means of distributing spectrum, the FCC proposed the idea of voluntary auctions, wherein TV broadcasters could raise revenue by selling off unused bandwidth. This has to a significant degree resulted in a twofold problem: 1) Broadcasters are not all willing to sell off valuable bandwidth, and 2) auctions are no guarantee that the bandwidth will go where it is most needed.
  8. Digital Literacy Corps – With 100 million Americans without access to high-speed internet at home and another 18 million living in areas where there is scant, if any, broadband available, the FCC proposed that a publicly funded corps of volunteers be developed who can provide training in digital literacy. An example of this concept was provided by the ongoing success of
  9. Education – Citing the the music industry and video and book publishing as examples, the FCC recommends the establishment of standards that would make it easier to locate, share and license digital educational content. This proposal was to have taken effect by March 2011.
  10. Mapping Progress – A National Broadband Map is available online, which you can use to locate where broadband is available in your area, and from which carriers.

10 Technology Gadgets Linked to Cancer and Disease

Fans of Star Trek have long been fascinated with the “technology” developed on the show, though skeptics of the day were often derisive in their reviews of the Star Trek vision. Modern medical science has come to the rescue of all Trekkies by bringing to the real world (the “real” real world) much that Kirk and his crew took for granted. Among the myriad examples of technological wizardry available today are some that have already been battle-star tested. Below are some examples of medical gadgets in use today; those with Star Trek “origins” are noted.

  1. The Little Mermaid – Designed for endoscopy, the Mermaid is a small camera-equipped capsule capable of snapping two pictures every second. It was developed in Japan by a team of university researchers.
  2. Jet Injectors – Compressed air or gas directly injects liquid through the skin, eliminating the need for a steel needle. Trekkies are familiar with the Hypospray, which did basically did the same thing.
  3. Mini Monitors – Palm-sized units, suitable for home use, are now available that can track vital signs from heart-rate to blood pressure to body temperature and more. These little guys make it easier for home-bound patients to record information that their care-givers can utilize.
  4. Prosthetics – It wasn’t long ago that prosthetic devices were little more advanced than what Capt. Hook sported, but medical technology has come a long way in a short period of time. Prostheses have advanced to the point where they can rival natural limbs in utility function.
  5. Miniature Mass Spectrometer – A hand held unit used to trace food contaminants among other functions. An MMS can also help detect cancer in the liver, though it won’t tell you if a time-traveler has been nearby, as will the Star Trek equivalent, the Tricorder.
  6. Needle-Free Glucose Monitor – People hate to jab themselves with needles, and they especially hate to do it repetitively. Glucose monitoring until recently has been nothing but self-inflicted pain, which doesn’t lead to good health maintenance. Echo Therapeutics has come out with a commercially available needle-free product that can monitor glucose and deliver medication.
  7. iPad – Cancer education for children is the point behind the activities of Donna’s Good Things,  The iPads are used by both care-givers and patients to help the children through difficult times.
  8. Jordy – Jordy (Joint Optical Reflective DisplaY) is a device that was actually named after a Star Trek character. The Trekkie gadget was called the Visor (Visual Instrument ans Sensory Organ Replacement) and enabled the blind to “see”. The Jordy is a marvelous tool that enables many with serious vision problems (20/70 or worse) to read and write and even watch TV. Some low vision problems such as macular degeneration and glaucoma can become untreatable with regular prescription lenses.
  9. Watches – Wristwatches today can do a lot more than just tell time. Now a watch can measure your heart rate, count your calories and tell you when your next medication is due.
  10. Dr. Smart Phone – No, not a real doctor, but cell phones now have medical-related capabilities that are astounding, for everyone from the patient to nurses to doctors. Some phones are even equipped to detect airborne toxins and explosives residue.

Even Mr. Spock didn’t have everything we mere Earthlings have at our disposal.

Compare a Game of Tag With Facebook (You are IT)

The world of social networking can bear a striking resemblance to the playgrounds of our childhood. If you find yourself suffering from vague feelings of deja vu as you scan your news feed, these may be some of the reasons why.

  • All the Cool Kids Are Playing – Suddenly, it seems like everyone in the world has a Facebook profile. Not having one is the equivalent of sitting on the sidelines while the rest of the class plays a spirited game of Tag; it makes a person seem slightly removed from the rest of society.
  • Games = Getting Caught – Inevitably, someone on your list of friends will answer a question about you, or help out in your virtual restaurant. In terms of a game of tag, you’ve just been caught. You’re now required to throw a digital cow at someone else, and to give the original person a golden egg or a treasure chest.
  • Getting Tagged Can Be Embarrassing – There is a moment in every game of Tag where it becomes personal. The person in pursuit is relentless, while the runner desperately uses every ounce of energy to escape. With a gesture as simple as a tap on the shoulder, the one who was chased is filled with a shame. The grown-up, social networking version of that scenario is the tagged photo of an embarrassing moment. The best and most effective, mortifying photo tag is one that is taken in a bar, just before closing time. Sure, you can simply “un-tag” yourself, but that’s like sitting down on the grass and crying because someone got the best of you. The only thing you can do is ride out the shame until someone else gets tagged in an even better photo, which probably won’t take long.
  • Someone’s Bound to Get Hurt – Just like grade school games, at some point things are going to get out of hand. Someone’s going to get hurt, and they’re going to howl about it. This happens most often when a couple breaks up, but doesn’t delete one another. A status gets posted about a date or a new significant other, and suddenly there are skinned knees everywhere. Insults fly, sides are taken and chaos erupts.
  • No Rest for the Weary – A game of tag demands constant vigilance of all participants. There’s no such thing as playing tag while you’re doing chores or homework. You always need to know who’s “it” and where they are located at every moment. Facebook calls this a desktop app, and no one gets to quit playing until everyone gets tired of it.
  • Tag, Your Mutual Friend is IT – A game of tag can work its way through a crowd fairly quickly when everybody knows one another. Hiding places and evasive maneuvers become predictable, and everyone usually has a favorite target. On Facebook, you work your way through the crowd with friend requests, working from one mutual friend to the next until everyone’s been tagged.

8 Ways iTunes has Changed the Music Industry

Waves of audio innovation have periodically washed away older technologies and changed the way music is heard and made. Some classical composers had their creative urges stifled by political pressures, and everybody’s favorite bad guy, the Devil, has been charged with loading up various kinds of music with evil. Radio reached a broad spectrum of people, and live programs were the order of the early days of the new technology. Payola scandals came later.

Recording techniques evolved, allowing intrepid collectors to scour the outer reaches of civilization to capture rare performances and bring them to the world. Of course, some waves were a bit feeble, and didn’t leave any great mark. Who among you still has a huge collection of 8-track tapes? Well, congratulations to both of you, but the music world went and changed without your input.

Portable music is, once again, at the cutting edge of both technology and consumer demand, and this hearkens back to the popularity of the transistor radio in the mid-20th Century. Today, the iPod, and iTunes and iThis and iThat epitomize the state of today’s musical word. iTunes is the mother ship for loading all kinds of devices with audio and video content in accordance with today’s commercial appetites.

The entire music industry has undergone varying degrees of change to meet the demands of the modern consumer, and here are a few items of note with regard to those changes.

  1. Singles Over Albums – Album oriented music has given way to a single-song approach, since this is the way most selections are purchased or purloined.
  2. Album Changes – Albums themselves have changed; song orders and length of songs within that order are very tightly controlled. Producers are gearing entire albums to push single songs. Joey Recchio, guitarist for up-and-coming roots-rockers, Big Daddy Love, told me you won’t hear a group’s best or most marketable song until the third or fourth selection, and you won’t get any lengthy selections until much later in an album.
  3. File Sharing – File sharing is a broad subject, but suffice to say it has been instrumental in the great music upheaval. Increased exposure versus intellectual property theft is just an example of the controversies facing the technology.
  4. Brick & Mortar Implosion – Record and video stores are fast-disappearing, as the new technologies make more and more content available online.
  5. Portable is Back – Portable devices like the iPod once-again have people dancing in the streets and getting run over by buses because they were plugged into their headphones.
  6. Radio – The heyday of commercial radio may be in the past, or the newer forms of internet programming may re-vitalize a flagging industry. Either way, iTunes and similar technology will be a player.
  7. Festy’s – Musicians no longer aim for album sales, because people now tend to buy only single selections, which neither cost nor pay as much. Bands, in increasing numbers, have taken to busy touring schedules, at music festivals, or “Festy’s”, to promote online music purchases. The music festival business is one of the very few growth industries in the United States today.
  8. Privacy Controversy – Privacy issues and copyright infringements have been two of the bugaboos that have caused frictions within the music industry.

Good, bad or indifferent, iTune technology is here to stay. . .for a little while, anyway. . .

10 Words that Describe My Home Internet Connection

Boiling down the description of an internet connection to a single word means distilling thought and emotion to bare essences. It is much easier to convey negative feelings, which our language makes easy, with it’s plethora of interjections. Good feelings, on the other hand, are more difficult to express. Below are some examples of terse commentary as they apply to the nebulous world of internet connections.

  1. Awesome – When everything is going smoothly, and there are no glitches in the system, then it is possible to utilize a word like “Awesome”, which is more easily understood than some other buzz-words like “killer” or “chill”.
  2. ZZZZZ – Some days the connections seem to take so long that you think you were accidentally switched back to a dial-up service. The sound of sawing logs drowns out the low hum of your computer’s fan.
  3. Gone – If you take the air card you use at home with you on a camping trip to the mountains, “gone” may be how you’d describe your connection. Not to worry, all the mosquitoes will have you slapping yourself so much you wouldn’t have time to play “Smurfs” anyway.
  4. Addictive – I know you’re all scoffing at this one, saying, “I can quit anytime I want to.” In reality, you know that going without your hands on a mouse and keyboard for more than 24 hours is pretty hard to take.
  5. Snowblind – If your connection depends on a forlorn little dish that is buried under six feet of snow, then you may not even have a connection from November to April.
  6. Groundhog Day – Alright, that’s two words. However, if your connection keeps “timing out” just as you are about to hit the “save” button on the 50-page report you have just completed . . .
  7. Rhodium –  Rhodium is among the rarest and most precious of all metals. Your ISP seems to value your internet connection in comparable terms, and bills you accordingly.
  8. Embarrassed – Some internet connections seem to blush a lot. At least, this is the feeling you get when the screen flashes, for the umpteenth time, a message that says the server is embarrassed, but it doesn’t seem to be able to make the connection you want it to.
  9. Huh? – When you can’t get to where you were headed, because you get a pop-up every three seconds that says your computer is being updated. Sometimes it gets so “updated” that you are the only one who is left feeling old and useless.
  10. #!%& – This is a popular choice for a lot of today’s connections. If you were able to be a fly on the wall in any home in America you’d be likely to hear one-or-more household members hurling this invective in the general direction of the ISP.

There are more apt one-word (often “four-letter”) descriptions of internet connections, but most of them are related to the terms used here.