Friday, January 27, 2006

What Am I Getting At With WiMax?

In the past I've blogged about WiMax, a burgeoning network technology that can provide high-speed Internet access for an area of up to 3,000 square miles. Another milestone was reached recently on the WiMax front:

First WiMax Products Receive Official Certification

By now some of you are starting to wonder why I'm so interested in this technology. Admittedly, part of it's simply tech-giggle, being excited about something nifty because it's something nifty. But there are practical applications for WiMax that can resolve a host of communication problems in our society. Let me illustrate a few.

Rural Coverage
The other day, I had a brief discussion about wireless technology with a creative director. He was curious about WiMax, and asked my thoughts on it. I told him about the area where I believe WiMax has the most value - extending affordable, reliable wireless coverage to rural locations.

Even dial-up sometimes has problems out beyond cities, and broadband? Forget it. Satellite is the only fast connection out beyond the city limits, and its exorbitant price is a big impediment to its widespread (no pun intended) use. So if a technology can extend wireless range out for several miles outside a city radius, it solves a lot of rural users' connection problems.

He admitted that he hadn't thought of that, but seemed very excited by the prospect. I also know people (like myself) that would like to move to a suburb or outside of a city for the privacy and quiet, but the lack of high-speed Internet "out there" is a big impediment. Soon, with WiMax, that will no longer be an issue.

Mobile Connection
Here's an article about WiMax being used on trains. Broadband speeds on your mobile, while moving? Only WiMax could do something like this; Wi-Fi simply doesn't have the coverage range. This kind of thing will give BART passengers a reason to smile that early in the morning.

I don't recommend reading email while driving, though. Commuter jams are bad enough as they are right now, thank you.

Being Online Anywhere - No, Really
But you're a copywriter, Chris. What about a WiMax benefit for writers like you?

That's easy. Going anywhere and being online.

You might ask, "Can't you do this now, with Wi-Fi and cellphones?" Yes. But that's not "anywhere." Wi-Fi is at coffee shops, bookstores, etc. Gathering places. Writers find inspiration in different ways, from the mundane to the weird. Oftentimes that means being someplace quiet, or alone. I know writers who like to spend hours in parks. Others like driving aimlessly in search of the muse. I personally like to go for walks and hash out what I want to say.

It'd be a bit difficult to stay online in these avenues, wouldn't it? Wi-Fi hotspots wouldn't see much coverage in a park; the connection benefit would not justify the cost. But a WiMax tower would blanket entire suburbs, every nook and cranny. True 'always on' computing, at its finest.

Why am I going through all this WiMax stuff again? I see it as necessary to inform others. Despite its promise and onrush of development, WiMax is still little-known and largely unexplored. It'll be slow to catch on, like all groundbreaking technologies, but if I can hasten the onset even a little, I'll be glad. WiMax provides tremendous benefits to business, to tech, to communication, and even to writing.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Warning! Severe Quicktime Problem!

Saturday I installed the newest update to Quicktime, so I could watch some movie trailers. Afterward, I rebooted.

I wish I'd seen this article before I did that: QuickTime patch hits trouble

My hard drive crashed. Badly. I lost huge amounts of data. My backup procedure, a second partition on the same hard drive, also crashed completely. Drive diagnostics were unable to get more than about two-thirds of my data off. So, back to Seagate it goes for a replacement.

I'm on an older hard drive I had lying around in the meantime. Working with a handicap, but working.

I'm blogging about this to make as many people as I can aware of the Quicktime problem. As you can read in the above article, it's the latest upgrade, 7.04, that are causing the problems. I urge everyone to avoid upgrading Quicktime, if you use it, until another version is posted.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Abusing Spyware - Are Some Companies Really That Sneaky?

One subject I follow closely in IT is spyware. It represents not only a significant threat to technology and network communications, but also a nascent techno-biological organism. I believe spyware, together with computer viruses, are evidence of true artificial life. They consume resources (electricity, information), exercise survival instincts by resisting deletion, and even reproduce.

Even so, I sure don't want them on my computer. I'll bet most of you don't either. Things like that should be studied in controlled environments, not left to run rampant across the Web.

And yet people are encouraging them. Witness the thorough study done by Mark at Sysinternals:
Sysinternals - The Antispyware Conspiracy

As Mark says in his opening paragraph, there's long been a suspected conspiracy of antivirus companies propagating viruses to stay in business. It seems that some antispyware companies may have picked up on this conspiracy, and are turning it into reality. If so, I find the practice totally distasteful - trying to make money on a completely dishonest series of events.

In a sense, this is like telling a child to go take the wallet someone left on the sidewalk, and bringing it back to you. Spyware does what it does, nothing more. Remove it, it's gone. Manipulate it to make yourself out to be a savior (for a 'small' fee), and you're doubly despicable.

It's because of things like this that I'm instantly distrustful of new anti-spyware programs. I need to read a lot of good reviews before I'll even try one. When people ask me about privacy, or what anti-spyware app to use, I always say three things and three things only: Ad-Aware. Spybot. MS AntiSpyware.

That's it.

Anything else is abusing spyware.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Amazing What You Can Learn In An Interview

I had an interview today, with a promising marketing company (who will remain nameless, for confidentiality's sake). During the interview, I learned several important things about the state of business today, and wanted to share them.

1. 2006 is looking good.
I've read the statistics too, but hearing it from the people who live it day-to-day, that's something else. Everyone was optimistic, plans were being made, opportunities were capitalized on. Great way to make the impression of a prosperous year a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2. Small business really IS the heart of America.
The company told me about some new contracts they'd won - contracts with huge, top-name IT companies. Best of the best stuff. Sometimes I wonder about how those enormous companies make so much information available, even at their size. Now we know - small businesses provide the lifeblood.

3. Some things never change...and that's good.
Technology races on, new methods of communication pop up, companies clamor for market share in markets that didn't exist days ago. But in the end, business is still about people. One on one, talking, working things out, meeting needs of other people. I fully believe that writing is the prime extension of basic human interaction, the source and destination of our innovation and problem-solving.

It's not as common as I'd like to meet professionals who place as high a value on writing as I do. But I've encountered several people today that do, and I'm heartened to know it.

I also happen to know that the company's execs read my blog. So Marissa, Wayne, Ed, thank you for your time today. I learned a great deal from the trip, and regardless, I wish you and your company the best.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quirky Networking Tips from the Blue Ferret

Tomorrow is the annual Tri-Valley Regional Mixer (PDF Link). It's a huge event, put together by no less than four local Chambers of Commerce and several regional business organizations.

I've never seen less than a hundred people at this event, and I wouldn't be surprised if it surges past 150 easily. I met my first long-term client at this, the first year I attended. Incentive enough for me to go back after a school-caused absence from the region, wouldn't you think?

This will be my fourth consecutive visit. I have all the basics laid out - what to wear, when to arrive, what to eat, what NOT to eat, etc.

That in mind, I'd like to share some of my networking tips for large groups. Some of these I've gleaned from years of flubbing my words at events like this. Some I've been given by professionals, especially Rick Silva, whose networking advice already resonates so strongly in my community that I'm expecting to have his techniques repeated by others at the same time I use them!

Blue Ferret Networking Tips
  1. Your ID badge goes on the right side of your coat, about an inch below the collar. This is the arm you shake hands with, so the other person's eyes line up with that side of your chest. Makes it easy for them to pick up your name.

  2. Never, ever eat anything dribbly at a mixer. May seem obvious, but I'd need more fingers to count the number of times I've seen someone rush to the bathroom with a badly-stained tie or blouse.

  3. A gimmick is great for a conversation starter, but you better have something to back it up. My blue ferret plush draws attention like crazy, but when I started using him, I couldn't steer the topic away from ferrets and onto writing. As a result, people would talk to me for a second, hit a wall, and walk away. Have something substantial to talk about with others.

  4. Polish that elevator speech until it shines. Rehearsing the words a couple times isn't enough; you'll sound contrived and feel phony. Use a mirror, mutter it while walking around your desk repeatedly, whatever it takes. I like reading my speech, and then doing an impression while rehearsing. Marlon Brando would be proud of this 'contendah.'

  5. Set a goal for a SPECIFIC number of contacts made during your time there. I find 10 to be reasonable (and I easily exceed that). But you have to make it ironclad. You're not leaving until you get to that number.

  6. The peak time for real contacts, for me, is about an hour into the mixer. By then everyone's had something to eat and/or drink, they're in tune with the night's dynamic, and more relaxed. They're at their friendliest. Take advantage of it.

I'll see you at the mixers!

Friday, January 06, 2006

An Unexpected Pleasure!

After my last post on using a Wiki setup for a knowledge base, I received an email - from none other than Matt at StikiPad!

He told me some things about StikiPad's upcoming features and security precautions. I found the contact very informative, and reassuring. Matt took time out to assuage my concerns, and I respect that. He showed real professionalism when he didn't need to. "The extra mile" may be an overused cliche, but it fits here without a doubt.

So here's a post for acknowledging the response from Matt, and a public thank you to his company. StikiPad has, to my mind, the right kind of business philosophy to make it a winner.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Which Wiki Would Work?

Alliteration jokes aside, this is a serious request.

I'm thinking of setting up a Wiki (wiki website, like Wikipedia) as a personal knowledge base. I want to create a space wherein I can store things like saved emails, tech/business tips, articles, templates & documents for work, various notes, book ideas, and more. I've done some research, and have narrowed the choices down to a few (there are a TON of wikis out there!).

Here's my problem. I can't decide what type of wiki setup to use!

In the past I've polled my readers on their opinions, and received several very good pieces of advice. So, go with what works. I'll present you with the contenders, their advantages & disadvantages, and leave it up to you to decide. Drop a comment by with your choice, or email me if you like. I appreciate it.

Instiki ( is a Wiki setup that installs on your PC and runs itself like a website, but locally. It's a pretty geeky choice, but you can't beat the control you have over it.

Advantages: It's local, so it's fast and secure. The size limit is as big as your hard drive. It can export to an HTML zip, which makes backup easy.

Disadvantages: While you can configure it to run as a website, opening a port to host it would be too much of a risk for me, since it'd be on my master system. I don't want to run the risk of a hacker finding that port and leeching off my data. This means I wouldn't be able to access/update it elsewhere.


Never let it be said that Wiki makers were dull when it came to naming. All three of these are basically the same idea - web-hosted Wikis. Big sites that offer free spaces for you to post Wiki pages, as private or public as you want. They vary in features, which makes me think StikiPad, though still in beta, has the best all-around package right now.

Advantages: With a web-based Wiki, I can get to my data & update it from anywhere, any PC. It's not on my PC, so if that crashes, I won't lose my data.

Disadvantages: Storage limits vary greatly. Schtuff gives you 600MB max, PBWiki about 10, and StikiPad doesn't have a set limit right now. And while I believe for the most part that they're secure and private, having all my personal data "out there" always makes me nervous. What if a hacker finds it? What if I forget to password something and it gets stolen?

So I leave it to you, dear readers. What do you think? Which would you choose for your data?