Don't take your laptop overseas

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 06/01/2012 - 07:28

The FBI says that you might want to leave your laptop home when traveling overseas. The latest scam is from criminals who set up bogus WiFi networks that look just like the real hotel network. When you fire up your laptop, you get what looks like the real hotel login page, but it is a fake one that immediately loads zombie malware onto your computer. Another trick they use is to have a fake "software update needed" window pop up. Everyone is now so used to getting these automatic software update notices that criminals are taking advantage of the fact that everyone automatically clicks "OK" for these upgrades. The same thing happens: instead of an upgrade, your laptop gets loaded with malware that starts capturing credit card numbers and login information.

Be careful out there.

Virginia wants data centers

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/31/2012 - 09:05

The Virginia state legislature has passed bills providing new incentives to locate data centers in Virginia. The rapid adoption of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud-based data and services is creating demand for places to put all the data. And with data centers, there are jobs:

“With his signature on this legislation, Governor McDonnell has further positioned Loudoun County as a world class location for the data center industry’s leading operators,” Loudoun County Chamber President & CEO Tony Howard said. “The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce fought hard for this legislation because it will provide our County a powerful new competitive advantage that can be used to generate significant new commercial investments and create many new high-paying jobs that will be needed to build, service and operate these high tech data centers.

Bandwidth caps change behavior, discourage use

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 05/15/2012 - 09:44

Georgia Tech and Microsoft have released a study that confirms what most of us already knew: bandwidth caps discourage people from using broadband productively. Bandwidth caps are great for inflating the profit margins of the incumbents when someone runs over their limit and starts incurring more charges, but if you want your business community and your work from home business start ups to be as productive as possible, saddling them with outdated 20th century infrastructure that limits what they can do is not the way to go.

Design Nine helps our clients build modern broadband networks that can deliver as much bandwidth as any business or home-based worker might need--affordably. It's not that hard, but it does require the right business model, the right long term financial plan, and a network architecture that can deliver Gigabit bandwidth affordably without crippling economic development.

PeekYou tries to aggregate even more "private" public information

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/14/2012 - 14:54

Peek You is an information aggregator service that tries to pull together as much publicly available information as possible about someone and package it up neatly. Many of the items it will list take you directly to other sites that provide even more information. The service tries to list all of the available social media connections as well (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.). The service also calculates a PeekScore, which is some kind of weighted value between 1 and 10 that is supposed to indicate how important you are in the online universe. I suspect most of us are going to end up on the low end of the scale. If you want to be nosy, this is a great service. I would expect that advertising and/or fees will eventually be used to support the cost of providing.

No one can afford to have every service as a subscription

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 05/14/2012 - 08:23

Adobe has announced Muse, "...a program for creating web pages without hand coding." Great. Except it costs $14.99 a month, or buy the CreativeCloud package for $49.99 a month. We're in the midst of a bubble where lots of companies think they are going to make lots of money by selling software as a service. But this bubble, like all bubbles, is unsustainable. No company or individual can afford to be paying what quickly adds up to hundreds of dollars a month for "cloud" services. It just does not scale. And expect many many disasters when most of these companies go out of business and a) you find that your data was stored in a proprietary format that cannot be easily moved to some other software, or b) all your data is just plain gone when the company goes belly up.

The cloud is extraordinarily useful for many kinds of applications, but there are two big assumptions: the network will always be there to access your data, and the company will always be there so you can access your data. As for the former, if some rogue state detonates an EMP device over the U.S. that takes out most networks and data centers, what do you do? If a major solar storm/EMP takes out most networks and data centers, what do you do? If you cloud company goes out of business, what do you do?

Backups, backups, and backups. Some of those backups need to be under your direct control. If all your backups are in the cloud and you can't access the cloud, what do you do?

We're building a house of cards here, and placing entirely too much trust in cloud-based services.

Round up of the Broadband Communities Summit 2012

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 11:07

If you were not able to attend the 2012 Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas a couple of weeks ago, you missed a great conference. With an increased focus on both community broadband and open access networks, there were a lot of really good, solid session, especially the five sessions on open access, which I helped to organize.

Here are some of the key ideas, concepts, and take-aways that I noted from the conference:

There was much much more, but those are some of the highlights. Start planning now to attend next year's conference.

Broadband and the walkable city

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/30/2012 - 10:56

This short article on the weak housing market has big implications for "big broadband," which few of us have right now. A major economist is predicting that the housing market may not recover for years, but coupled with high gas prices, walkable communities will be in high demand.

This has significant implications for city and community planners, but it is extremely difficult to ensure that everyone, or even a majority of workers, can walk to work. A better option would be to get "big broadband" to most homes so that more workers can work from home. Even the ability to work productively from home one or two days a week could cut the cost of commuting by 20% to 40%...nothing to sneeze at when gas is $4 a gallon.

Design Nine is part of Virginia's Blue Ridge

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/19/2012 - 13:22

Design Nine, located in Blacksburg, is part of Virginia's Blue Ridge. The Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitor's Bureau announced a new branding for our region: Virginia's Blue Ridge. We like fits, and the region needs a recognizable brand. We're proud to live and work Virginia's Blue Ridge.

Walmart joins the cloud

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 04/17/2012 - 13:30

Walmart has announced a partnership with Vudu. You can take your DVDs and Blu-ray movie discs to Walmart, and pay $2 to have them "converted" and stored in the cloud. If you want an HD (Blu-ray) version, you pay $5. Walmart does not actually read your discs; instead, they verify that you actually have a physical copy, then just enable that movie for your account from a previously stored digital master. Walmart also apparently stamps your physical disk with some mark so that you can just give it to a friend who takes it in a week later. The Walmart/Vudu site has remarkably little information; you have to create a Vudu account to figure out how it works and what the restrictions are.

Of course, if you want to stream your HD movies from the cloud, you better have good broadband at your house.

North Carolina called a "tech turkey"

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 09:47

The Institute for Self Reliance has put out an interesting infographic highlighting the mis-match in North Carolina between the City of Salisbury's tiny fiber network and TimeWarner. State legislators passed a bill last year that essentially outlaws any community investments in fiber on the theory that TimeWarner needs to be protected against the supposed unfair advantage of local governments. My guess is that all the North Carolina legislators accomplished is to send entrepreneurs contemplating relocation to another state.

Rotary trencher ideal for residential fiber drop installation

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 04/09/2012 - 09:41

We have not seen this rotary trenching machine in action, but this short video illustrates that you don't have to spend a lot of time and money installing fiber drops--this machine looks like it is ideally suited for "last mile" (first mile) residential fiber installation. This pull-along machine is lightweight, can be carried in a van or pickup, is narrow enough to go through typical fence gates, and cuts a 7" deep slot for a fiber drop cable.

It's not triple play, it's "century play"

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 07:11

In Sweden, home security offerings have been an important service on their open access networks, and start up companies have very successfully taken business away from the "big" security companies, which were slow to adapt using an IP network rather than phone lines. The network owner (e.g. the community broadband network owner) may only get a couple of bucks a month from provisioning a circuit for a home security customer, but add that to other supplemental $1-2 per month services like meter reading and you can quickly see 50% to 100% increases over the average revenue per user (ARPU) compared to triple play.

I'm still looking for the right term to replace triple play. It's definitely not quadruple is more like "century play" access networks are rapidly evolving towards a model not unlike the Apple and Android app stores, where you will be able to buy services from hundreds of providers. We won't all buying 100+ services, but we will have hundreds of choices. Five years from now, most open access networks will probably have at least twenty or thirty providers offering various kinds of computer and data backup services because it is so cheap and easy to offer that kind of service on an open access, high performance network.

The scourge of phishing

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 07:02

A lot of new phishing schemes are popping up....a family member mentioned that she got an email "from US Airways" telling her to check in for a flight....I've gotten hundreds of those in the past week.

I've gotten very official-looking messages from the IRS, from the Better Business Bureau, from AT&T, from Verizon, and other well known companies....all sent by automated bot-nets...Russian, eastern European, and Chinese gangs are using these phishing schemes to try to trick you to log in to a bogus "official" site and capture your user id, validate your email address, get passwords, and to try to trick you into entering your credit card info.

You can check these easily by rolling the mouse pointer over the links in the email. If you wait a second, your computer will pop up a little box with the actual URL of the link. You can usually tell by inspection that it is not an official link. But they are very clever....for example:

I have received a bunch of phony LinkedIn messages.

The correct URL for LinkedIn is

the phony URLs have been things like (the second 'i' is an 'l')

you can also look at the FROM email address. I just got a US Airways spam sent from an IRS.GOV account. I'm pretty sure US Air does not use IRS computers to send out their email.

The lost productivity costs of phishing are enormous. Many of these messages are getting through two layers of spam filtering here, and that means sifting through your IN box, checking each one to make sure it is not legitimate, and then deleting it. It may only be a few extra minutes a day, but multiply that by the millions of people getting these, and it adds up.

What, me worry? Mad Magazine goes digital

Submitted by acohill on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 12:28

In what has to be one of the most important publishing and content stories of the decade, Mad Magazine has announced you will be able to read the magazine on the iPad, beginning April 1st.

Really. April 1st.

The magazine goes to the trouble of assuring readers it is NOT an April Fool's joke.

I, for one, welcome our new Mad Magazine overlords to the digital world.

Broadband Communities Summit: Bigger and Better

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/29/2012 - 06:15

If you are planning to attend the Broadband Communities Summit in Dallas next month, make your hotel reservations now, as the hotel is selling out. The conference was able to secure an additional block of rooms for the conference, but these are expected to be all gone next week. The conference is going to have a strong focus on community broadband, with tracks on rural broadband initiatives and open access broadband.

Is Chattanooga the next great place for venture capital and entrepreneurs?

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/27/2012 - 07:00

Here is a brief video produced by Alcatel-Lucent on Chattanooga's fiber initiative. One of the people interviewed is a venture capitalist who has settled in Chattanooga, which is worthy of some notice--lack of capital is one of the biggest problems that many regions face when trying to jump start economic development. Most new jobs are created by small business START UPS, not existing small businesses, and start up businesses need angel and VC capital to create those jobs.

Apple iPad 3 smashes sales records

Submitted by acohill on Tue, 03/20/2012 - 09:41

In what has become a kind of ho-hum announcement, Apple smashed sales records again, with 3 million iPads flying off the shelves in the first weekend. To put this in perspective, the original iPad took a month to sell one million. It took three months for iPad 2 to hit 3 million--and three days to sell 3 million of the iPad 3.

Our data is doubling every year

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 03/19/2012 - 07:56

This story from MIT's Technology Review says that the amount of data we are storing is doubling every year. Doubling every year. So that $120 terabyte hard drive you bought to back up the baby pictures and your music library? You'll need another one in a year or two. Then four. Then eight. Hard drive densities keep going up, but they are not doubling every year.

The answer is more cloud storage, and the cloud, to be efficient, is going to have to move closer to the data. It is extremely expensive to drag data across the public Internet to get to a large data storage facility like Apple's, Microsoft's, or Amazon's, compared to a short trip across a locally-owned modern fiber infrastructure straight to a local data center. Akamai has made a business about putting data closer to users, but Akamai caters to the one way data direction (down) of major content providers like CNN. The next frontier is affordable two-way data storage, and communities that have affordable fiber coupled with local well-designed data and colo centers will find it easier to attract and keep businesses and jobs.

"iPads could clog 4G networks" Wait...what?

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 03/15/2012 - 09:30

So on the one hand, the new 4G networks are going to solve all our bandwidth problems without any of those pesky fiber cables running everywhere. On the other hand, Apple roles out a new tablet device, and the very same super fast networks are likely to collapse under the strain.

Somebody needs to get their story straight. But read the whole article, as it provides a good explanation of why wireless is not going to solve our bandwidth problems. We need wireless for mobility access, but it cannot and will not replace the need for fiber at home and at work.

Death of TV: Part XXXIV -- Will Apple TV put finally put an end to "TV"

Submitted by acohill on Thu, 02/23/2012 - 09:06

The buzz that Apple will introduce an Apple TV sometime this year continues. Speculation about the product includes claims that it will incorporate Siri voice recognition so that you can just talk to it and eliminate the remote control. Other theories include the idea that it will look and behave much like an iPad, and that it will essentially be a big iPad, with the ability to run most iPad apps.

If Apple does introduce a new "TV" device, I am pretty sure it will:

Oh, and one more will place enormous demands on existing broadband networks, creating even more problems for existing DSL and cable providers.

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