Crossing the spam tipping point

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 10/02/2012 - 10:28

I seem to have crossed some kind of spam tipping point over the weekend, with more spam hitting my Inbox than is being filtered out by two levels of spam filters (one on the server, one on my mail client). There was a time when as much as 90% of the spam was being caught by this two-level approach, but no more. I'm now getting only about 50% of spam trapped by the filters.

Spammers are using two techniques to foil the filters. The first is the relentless use of zombie machines that have been infected to send out email from apparently legitimate source email addresses; they do this so the filters can't "learn" origination email addresses and block them. The second is equally pernicious; they are using increasingly sophisticated phishing techniques to create emails that look exactly like the messages we get routinely from legitimate companies. For example, over the past several weeks, I have apparently ordered at least one thousand large screen TVs from Amazon. The order confirmation message looks EXACTLY like the legitimate order confirmation messages I receive from Amazon. So I can't mark these emails as spam, or the occasional real message will be blocked. I get these phishing emails from US Air, from American Express, from Verizon, from AT&T, and many other companies.

This is a slow motion catastrophe. I would estimate I am now spending as much as 45 to 60 minutes per work day just reviewing and deleting spam from my Inbox. I can typically tell from the subject heading, but it takes me as much as thirty minutes in the morning to delete some 300-600 spams, and then additional time every time I check my email during the day.

Gmail can read your attachments

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 10/02/2012 - 10:08

Gmail can now read many kinds of attachments. It is touted as a benefit to users, as a Gmail user can search not just the text of emails, but also the text of attachments stored on Gmail. But it also means Google will be searching those attachments as well and using the information it finds to fine-tune the kinds of ads it delivers to you.

Making telecom central

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/27/2012 - 07:29

Susan Crawford, writing as a Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, argues eloquently for paying more attention to broadband capacity and affordability, especially in rural areas of the U.S. She argues that well-provisioned, modern broadband connectivity is essential to economic growth.

Chattanooga continues to be serious about economic growth

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 12:46

Chattanooga is providing financial assistance to people with technical backgrounds who agree to buy a house and move to the area. It's a brilliant idea, and coupled with their fiber network, Chattanooga continues to prove they are not just serving up the same old warmed over, forty year old economic development strategies.

Profits go up if service is slow

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 09/26/2012 - 09:04

Via Slashdot, here is a link to a new book that talks about why Internet and broadband in the U.S. is so poor. It's worth a read....basically, all the money has been spent on mobile cellular networks and not on local fiber infrastructure. And adding to the problem, in most markets, there is cartel pricing via the telco/cableco duopoly. Residents and businesses have only two choices: marginal DSL or cable modem service that won't support now-common business services and applications.

Apple's iPhone 5 is a beauty

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/13/2012 - 09:49

Apple pundits, prior to the release of the new iPhone 5 yesterday, were saying that the new device would be no big deal because Apple had nothing to add in the way of features. In a way, that's true; there is nothing like the iPhone 4S release of Siri, the voice input software. But Apple kind of busted through the old engineering joke: "Quicker, cheaper, better: pick any two." Apple has managed, with the iPhone 5, to offer a phone that is faster, lighter, and thinner: customers get all three! Apple is saying this is the best iPhone they have ever built, and I believe them. Not only did they make the phone and the screen bigger and brighter, they also managed to make the phone thinner and lighter. That's quite an achievement. And it is truly a world phone; it supports just about every cellular wireless protocol on the planet. They speeded up the processor, speeded up graphics, and speeded up WiFi networking.

My iPhone 4S is barely a year old, and I'm already looking longingly at the iPhone 5.

New Kindle HD is a direct assault on Apple

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 09/07/2012 - 09:01

Amazon has released its new Kindle HD, and it is really something. It's nice to see someone giving Apple some real competition, rather than just copying what Apple does (cough, cough, Samsung...).

The original Kindle Fire was a bit underpowered, and seemed to be primarily a conduit for selling Amazon content (as well as being a decent book reader). But the Kindle HD, while still a conduit for Amazon content, has a more refined interface, improved graphics, improved processor, and better connectivity (better WiFi, 4G cellular support). But the new Kindle also supports Skype, better email, a very interesting set of parental controls, and an improved Web browser. Finally, Amazon is touting support for college textbooks, a direct swipe at Apple's similar iBook initiative.

This is great for consumers. The Kindle HD now appears to be a much more capable tablet device that can go head to head with the iPad. And it is no accident that Amazon released it just days before the rumored iPad mini.

Apple's reinvention of TV hitting rough spots

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/06/2012 - 13:28

According to a Bloomberg report, Apple is finding it difficult to re-imagine TV. Content providers are scared to death that Apple will be successful in creating a better TV experience. The problem is that the cable companies are deeply involved with the content providers...recall that Comcast, as one example, owns a big chunk of NBC. The cable companies have decided to go down with their own ship; they are going to cling to the sixty year old analog cable model until their last customers swim away the S.S. TitanicCableCo.

I can't really figure out what Apple has in mind that hasn't already been done. I've already ditched cable TV, and am quite content with cheap Hulu and Netflix subscriptions. Why do I need to buy a box from Apple? It's not that hard to bookmark the Netflix site and click on something in my queue. This is one area where I don't Apple really can bring some fresh new user interface experience a la the iPod or the iPhone and win.

Put down the iPad at bedtime

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 09/06/2012 - 12:42

Here's another report on backlit tablet devices and how they disturb your sleep cycle. The Kindle does not cause the same problems, as it uses the reflective e-ink technology.

Update: I was reminded by a reader that the Kindle Fire is backlit, so that is a device you should NOT be using at bedtime. The less expensive black and white Kindles are the e-ink models and do not have a back light.

Yet Another Update: Amazon just released a new Kindle Paperwhite and Paperwhite3G....with higher screen resolution....and...a backlight! They even have a picture of someone reading in bed in the dark using the backlight. Somehow they forgot to mention "Warning: use of the backlight before bedtime will keep you up all night."

Death of TV: Part XXXVI: Netflix and HBO to dump "TV"

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 13:54

The clash of the Titans is on....Netflix and HBO are taking the gloves off in Northern Europe. Both content companies are ditching cable and satellite TV to offer their movies and "TV" shows as IP-TV offerings. No cable or satellite TV subscription required. Meanwhile there are bunches of small start ups that are negotiating "channel" line ups for a pure IP-TV offering; their plan is to offer bundles of niche channels (e.g. The Food Channel, the Golf Channel) at a very low monthly subscription price. Once subscribed, you can pick out any show you want and watch it anytime you want, much like Hulu.

A woodstove that charges phones

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 13:16

Sometimes little things can have big impacts. The BioLite HomeStove has the ability to make a lot of lives better while reducing tree loss in many parts of the world. The innovative cooking device is a highly efficient "jet" or "rocket" stove that burns small amounts of wood while generating a lot of heat. There are many similar jet stoves, and because they are so good at creating lots of heat quickly, in many impoverished areas, the stoves can dramatically reduce the amount of wood needed to cook food, and make it possible to sterilize water much more easily. The stoves also reduce the amount of work needed to collect wood, which, if you are cooking for a family over an open fire, can be very significant.

But the real innovation of this device is the integrated thermocouple that powers a small fan (to make the stove more efficient) and powers a USB port that can charge small portable devices like LED flashlights and cell phones. It is an amazing innovation that has the potential make millions of lives better.

Apple's iCloud disaster

Submitted by acohill on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 13:37

I hope other iCloud users are having better experiences than I am. From my perspective, it's a mess that makes its mostly awful predecessor, MobileMe, look pretty good by comparison. Here are the problems I am having:

I could keep going, but you get the idea. iCloud is a big mess. The only thing I notice it does very well is keep your music in sync across several computers. I can buy a song from iTunes on my iPhone, and a few seconds later it is in my iTunes library on my laptop. Leave it to Apple to make sure the big money maker (i.e. selling music) works okay. Everything, not so much. Somebody really should be fired over this.

Danville Broadband Conference: $95 early registration

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 08/07/2012 - 14:02

The Danville Broadband Conference, on November 8th and 9th, is still available for the early registration price of $95. It will soon go back up to the full fee of $475, so if you are planning on going, get in on the great deal. You can register here.

Rural America still on a broadband dirt road...

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/26/2012 - 08:13

Via Eldo Telecom, there is a Calix U.S. Rural Broadband Report with depressing news about broadband cost and availability in rural America (about 70% of the U.S.). Rural residents don't even have the laughingly pathetic 4 meg down/1 meg up of the national broadband target. Most rural broadband is running between 1 and 3 megabits.

But Design Nine is changing that, one community at a time, with projects like RANA and FastRoads. Call me (540-951-4400) if you want help.

Do Not Track spat heats up

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 07/24/2012 - 12:50

The Do Not Track fight is heating up, with the big Web sites like Google and Facebook firmly opposed to the idea that they should not be allowed to track where consumers go and what they do online. The Federal government is threatening legislation that will require Web sites to allow an opt out option. It is a dilemma, as sites like Yahoo!, Google, Bing, and others make their money in large part by using tracking data to sell ads.

I think it is past time to let users make their own decisions about this. The idea that we can't use the Internet unless we give up all our privacy is an odd, even malicious one. Certainly business models will have to adjust, and we may have to pay for some services that were formerly free. But the problem is that right now, there is no such thing as a "free" service; it is just that the cost (giving up privacy) is obscured, tilting the business transaction in favor of the seller, rather than a more equitable balance between sellers and buyers.

Calix selected for FastRoads Gigabit to the Home network

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 07/23/2012 - 10:01

PETALUMA, CA – July 23, 2012 – Calix, Inc. (NYSE: CALX) today announced that New Hampshire FastRoads (NH FastRoads) has selected the Calix E7-2 Ethernet Service Access Platform (ESAP) and 700GE family of optical network terminals (ONTs) to provide point-to-point gigabit Ethernet services to underserved subscribers in 35 communities throughout the western part of the state. NH FastRoads has partnered with Network New Hampshire Now (NNHN), a 470-mile Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) awarded fiber network project funded by a $44.5 million BTOP Broadband Stimulus grant and $21.5 million in private and in-kind support, to leverage existing infrastructure to bring advanced broadband services throughout the Upper Valley and Monadnock regions, including fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) projects in Rindge and Enfield. The combined efforts of NH FastRoads and NNHN in this new project will bring one of the nation’s premiere networks to rural western New Hampshire and keep this part of the state a vibrant location for innovative businesses, citizens, and educational institutions.

“New Hampshire as a whole has been underserved by broadband for years, with large portions of our population having to rely on dial-up and wireless services,” said Carole Monroe, executive director of NH FastRoads. “This new fiber network will be a powerful tool to further the economic development of the state that began with the NNHN middle-mile project, while continuing to improve the lives of our existing residents and businesses and attract new business to the area. Calix, with its broad experience with fiber access networks and deep understanding of stimulus projects, will be a true asset in the delivery of advanced services to residents and the extension of fiber across the region.”

NH FastRoads is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) of the Monadnock Economic Development Corporation. The organization was established to bring accessible and affordable broadband to the towns of the Monadnock and Upper Valley regions of New Hampshire. NH FastRoads’ mission is to ensure that homes, businesses, and institutions of the region have the best broadband infrastructure to support jobs and sustainable economic development. The organization’s work will enable delivery of a variety of broadband services beyond high-speed data, including voice telephony, Internet Protocol television (IPTV), movies on demand, business-class videoconferencing, health care services such as in- home monitoring, home and business security, computer backup, public access television, Internet radio, and many other advanced services.

Design Nine has provided the network design and project management for the effort. Design Nine's President, Andrew Cohill said, "We evaluated equipment from many vendors, and in the end, Calix had the most capable equipment and the most attractive technical support package. We're glad to have Calix powering FastRoads’ Gigabit-to-the-Home network."

“With the construction of some middle-mile Broadband Stimulus projects already coming to a completion, we are beginning to see a natural extension of these anchor institution focused networks to target residences and businesses, just as NH FastRoads is undergoing in New Hampshire,” John Colvin, senior vice president of North American sales and marketing. “This kind of project is exactly what the Broadband Stimulus program was designed to be – a catalyst for long term broadband expansion and economic development in each region awarded. We look forward to working with NH FastRoads as they improve the lives and businesses of residents of western New Hampshire with this powerful fiber access network.”

Intelligent Community Foundation announces 2013 award program

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 08:56

The Intelligent Community Foundation has just opened its 2013 Intelligent Community Awards for nominations. This is the first step toward the Intelligent Community of the Year award, to be presented on June 7, 2013.

The awards program salutes the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology. Nominations are encouraged from communities large and small, urban and rural, in developing and industrialized nations. The evaluation system compensates for population-related factors and lets the ICF compare large, midsize and small communities worldwide on a level playing field.

The 2013 theme is "Innovation and Employment." A special section of the questionnaire will examine how Intelligent Communities balance the positive and negative impacts of innovation, which both creates new employment and destroys jobs as it makes old processes obsolete. Look for the announcement later this month on the publication of an ICF white paper on Innovation and Employment.

The deadline for nominations is September 21, 2012. The award criteria and nomination form (consisting of just 6 questions) are available here. The ICF also invites communities to take our online self-test to get a feel for how they will be evaluated.

The ICF will announce the next Smart21 Communities of the Year in October at a ceremony in Riverside, California, USA, the 2012 Intelligent Community of the Year.

Disclaimer: I serve as a juror for the awards evaluation.

BT roles out open access

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 07/20/2012 - 07:27

British Telecom climbed aboard the clue train and has rolled out open access (they call it OpenReach) on their fiber network, inviting service providers to sell to BT-connected homes and businesses.

Broadband drives economic growth

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:51

CNBC reports on a UNESCO Broadband Commission report that says every 10 percent increase in the availability of broadband will add 1.3% to economic growth. Don't think that sounds like much? Run that compounded growth out over ten years, and communities with widespread availability of affordable, high performance broadband are going to be enjoying double digit economic performance compared to communities that sat back and waited for the incumbents to deliver their anemic, overpriced offerings.

Fiber capacity keeps up with demand

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:47

While the cellular wireless networks are groaning under the massive growth in bandwidth use by their mobile customers, fiber capacity just keeps growing and growing. The optical transmission manufacturer Huawei has announced that they have been able to transmit 2 Terabits (2 Tbps) on a single WDM (Wave Division Multiplexing) channel. A single fiber can have many individual channels. A terabit is one thousand gigabits, so Huawei is shoving two thousand gigabits down a single wavelength of light, and they are saying they can boost the capacity of a single fiber to 56 terabits.

It's like I've been saying for a long time...fiber future-proofs your community. If you still think wireless is a viable alternative to fiber, ask yourself why cellular rates keep increasing while the cost per megabit for fiber keeps decreasing. It's all about physics, supply and demand, and fiber has plenty of supply because the PHYSICS ARE DIFFERENT.

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