Ralph’s good idea of the month

Sheesh, this one is a slap yourself in the forehead idea.

If you, like me, have a cable connection to the internet and you, like me, haven’t thought about your cable modem since the day you bought it and you, like me, bought the durn thing more than a couple years ago — go buy a new one that’s compliant with DOCSIS 2.0. It’ll be way faster.

Ralph pointed this out at lunch on Thursday. By Thursday afternoon I had me a brand new Motorola SurfBoard (which, with all the rebates from CompUSA, turned out to be free).

I’m talking way faster… Ralph’s getting over a megaBYTE per second sometimes. I haven’t formally tested mine. But it’s…


Good words for Qwest

I’ve been grouchy about Qwest in the past, sometimes even way beyond grouchy into the “troublemaker” category.

But today it was reported that they are the only RBOC holdout in the NSA’s program to build a database of every dang call made in the USA.

Kudos to Qwest for holding those call records back. Stick to your guns, folks.

Corp.com registry

The latest project to keep me away from this blog is bringing up the registry for CORP.COM domain names.

This is a project that Edmon Chung and I started back in 2002 when Edmon was the hotrod young entepreneur in charge of Neteka. He did such a great job that they got acquired by Afilias not long after we started our project.

What with Edmon distracted by the acquisition, and me distracted with a series of really interesting InstantCxO engagements, the Corp.com Registry sorta went on the back burner for a few years. But the time seemed right to both of us last year and the project is galloping toward an April launch.

2nd level domains like CORP.COM have been steadily gaining favor over the last few years, which is another reason why it seems like the time might be right to kick things off. Afilias is game, Edmon is game, I’m game, we have our first registrar in NamesBeyond. So off we go.

Which is the best data center, Tier 1 or Tier IV? It depends on who you’re talking to

Les Suzukamo (a buddy of mine) wrote an article about data center outsourcing in last Sunday’s Pioneer Press that you might find interesting.

But he got beat up by a reader for the following sentence — “Tier 1 is considered the Rolls Royce category of data centers. ” The reader pointed out that Tier IV is the best, and that Les had gotten his ranking backwards. When Les asked me this afternoon, I gave him the consultant’s answer — “it depends.” In this case it depends on who you talk to. Us network geeks tend to think in terms of Tier 1 carriers — and thus their data centers are considered Tier 1 data centers (or, telco-class data centers).

But data center infrastructure geeks indeed do have a different hierarchy, and by those lights Les’s reader is right — Tier IV is the best. I pushed this white paper along to Les by way of backup.

Dang, that’s confusing…

Free corporation name searches

I’m working with Affilias to roll out a registry for corp.com domain names (“did you miss acme.com? you might be interested in acme.corp.com”). We’re shooting for early April to have things up and running.

Along those lines, I’m working on a little gizmo to help people look up name-possibilities for free. There are lots of darn good resources, but they’re really hard to find so I thought it would be useful to find as many as I can, and perhaps put some automation in front of them to make the searching easier.

This is a scratchpad for me as I locate the free-lookup sites.

Free trademark searches — US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) — (note; follow the “Search trademarks” link in the middle of the page)

Free national business yellow-pages searchSearchbug

Free state entity name search locations (not complete, I’m still hunting them down on the incredibly variable state pages — you’d think there’d be some kinda convention they’d follow…)

District of Columbia (DC)
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York

Migrating from Xoops to Word Press

This is the scratchpad I'm going to use to keep notes to myself as I migrate Sex and Podcasting from Xoops to Word Press on my IIS server (Win2003). This is extreme geekness, not good reading unless you're trying to do the same thing.

Read on for the geek stuff…

This is the scratchpad I’m going to use to keep notes to myself as I migrate Sex and Podcasting from Xoops to Word Press on my IIS server (Win2003). This is extreme geekness, not good reading unless you’re trying to do the same thing.

Read on for the geek stuff… Continue reading “Migrating from Xoops to Word Press”

BlogTorrant – making BitTorrants easier for your blog

I've been puzzling about the problem that BlogTorrant solves for quite a while.

Namely — how can I make it easy to put BitTorrant versions of big files (like my Sex and Podcasting podcasts) up on my sites.

These sites of mine are built on Xoops, a very nifty, very flexible open-source content management system that can do all kinda cool stuff. But blogging isn't it's strong suit — not terrible, but it's a little clunky at things like track-backs, RSS, etc.

I solved the “how do I do enclosures?” problem by using FeedBurner to generate the RSS feeds that you're seeing — one of the nice things about that system is way it auto-magically does all the enclosure stuff for podcasting.

This BlogTorrant gizmo looks like it might be the add-on that will make it easy to do BitTorrants in the Xoops environment — I will do some tinkering and update this post with a cookbook if things work out.

Recording Skype calls (for podcasting, but also interviews for work)

Ah. A completely satisfactory geek experience. Now that I've rassled most of the basic podcasting stuff into shape, I wanted to move on to doing interviews and conference calls and recording them — Ralph pointed out that Skype was the way to go.

Doug Kaye (the maestro of IT Conversations) put together this definitive post on how to record Skype calls. There are other ways, but this is definitely the industrial-strength approach.

I'm going to start doing “conversation” podcasts, but before that I'm going to use this to record an interview for a consulting project I'm working on — tomorrow. I have a little rant n'record that's going up on Sex and Podcasting about how you could use podcasting as an organizing tool for work (the show will go up in a day or two).

RSS as a replacement for databases

Safe Haven's not getting much attention these days because I'm still getting my sea legs with the podcasting stuff. Sex and Podcasting is gonna be getting a new post a day, at least for the next week.

But I ran into a cool thought while listening to The Gilmore Gang yesterday (what happened to them by the way — a great series of podcasts that seem to have trickled off to nothing back in February).

Here's the idea — why not use RSS on a manufacturing shop floor to let machines and work-centers tell each other (and us) what they're up to. Machines could “subscribe” to upstream machines, and “publish” for downstream machines and let each other know what's going on — feeds could talk about what came into (and left) the machine/work-center.

I spoze this could be expanded to anything that has stuff moving through stages — paperwork processes, hospitals, etc. All kinds of real-time applications come to mind.

One thing that would be neat is that we'd get away from the huge central database notion and so adding a workcenter, or rearranging them, would be easy. Simply a matter of changing who subscribed to what. Sortof an object-oriented model that us regular people could understand…

It could be really visual too — lots of cool UI possibilities there. Not to mention fitting in better with the notion of lean manufacturing, and visual management.

Now, back to podcasting.

Sex and Podcasting — my new podcasting gizmo

I'm late into the game — podcasting's 5 months old, but I'm there now.

This blog has been neglected for the last couple weeks while I've been getting things pulled together, but I'm there now and this is an entry to record what I've learned.

I’m late into the game — podcasting’s 5 months old, but I’m there now.

This blog has been neglected for the last couple weeks while I’ve been getting things pulled together, but I’m there now and this is an entry to record what I’ve learned. It’s going to be another really long one, so I’ll put topic headers and keywords (for Google) “above the fold” and leave the gory details for the “read more” section…

Sex and Podcasting — what it’s about, why I’m doing it, why I transmogrified Lorenzo’s “Sex and Broadcasting” book title into my site’s name, plus some of the interesting current developments in the podcast world like Adam Curry’s Podshow.com.

Licensing — I’m going to play RIAA licensed music. At least I think so… This section is where I’ll explore the differences between ASCAP/BMI performance rights licenses, Harry Fox Agency mechanical rights licenses and SoundExchange federal copyright licenses and how I’ve decided to proceed — the short version is; I’ve got a BMI license for the performance rights, and will work with Harry Fox on mechanical rights when they decide what to do.

Equipment — hardware/software plus construction. I got a couple cool new toys — some nice mics plus a really neat Marantz PMD660 digital recorder (which i wound up getting in preference to the Edirol R1).

To learn more… Continue reading “Sex and Podcasting — my new podcasting gizmo”

Question for y'all — should I add conferencing to the site?

Steve and Ralph and I had a little chat in the “comments” section of the video-conferencing post that went up a few weeks back, which got me thinking this morning…

Since I imagine most of the folks who are reading this blog are Beer Gang members-in-good-standing, I was wondering if you'd be interested in having a conferencing area on the site so you could talk to each other directly. It's easy (a couple mouse-clicks) to put up, if you think it's a good idea.

Video conferencing on the cheap — finally

One of the dreams I’ve always had (from reading too much science fiction, no doubt) is to be able to do point to point video phone calls with folks. I was an early fan of ICQ — which back in the olden days was one of the very first video-calling applications.

I’ve always been disappointed with the results. The early cameras were crummy, bandwidth limitations resulted in choppy pictures with huge latency and the sound-portion of the call was always a nightmare.

It had been a few years since I’d messed around with the stuff, so when my buddy Bill Coleman asked, I took the opportunity to do a geek project and see how things work these days. This is a “notes to myself” post in case I have to retrace my steps some day.

The big breakthrough was to use Skype for the audio portion of the call. It’s pretty easy to get the video portion of the call up and running with MSN Messenger (and presumably AIM and Yahoo Messenger as well). But getting the audio to work has always been way too hard for me to suggest to “normal people” because of all the firewall and routing issues. Skype neatly solves that problem and we judged our Saturday Geek project “pretty cool” and a big success.

Good things

– It’s pretty cheap. For Bill and me, who both already have broadband Internet access and computers and like that, the only out of pocket cost is the $50 we spent on our spiffy little Logitech cameras. The instant-messaging client (MSN Messenger is what we used) and Skype are both free.

– Quality is good — especially the audio. Skype has got the kinks worked out of their stuff, so the audio portion of the call was smooth as silk. And the video works pretty darn good too. A little fiddling (mostly with the video “size” setting once the video portion was up) and we got the audio and video latency (geek talk for “delay”) pretty well lined up with each other so the lips moved when the sound arrived.

– It’s pretty easy, and thus a rewarding project and a lot more fun than all this stuff used to be.

– It will work for people at work. That’s a really big deal for Bill, because he wants to use this to keep in touch with his clients, who tend to be scattered all over the landscape. See the Cookbook for the tech details, but I think this rig will work with no firewall changes (except for the firewall on your PC) and thus won’t give security-people heartburn.

“Read more” to get to the Video Cookbook… Continue reading “Video conferencing on the cheap — finally”

Havenco – the rise and fall of a data haven

I have an admission to make. I was inspired to get the haven.com domain (which I use for all my personal stuff on the 'net) after reading some cyber-punk novel or other. Might have been Neuromancer by Bill Gibson or maybe Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

Whatever. Anyway I was entranced with the idea of “data havens” that was floating around in the fiction of that time, and that's what was on my mind when it came time to get my very first ever domain name. I was tickled to death to find out that haven.com was available (for free back in those days).

Some years later, Ryan Lackley contacted me to see if I would be interested in selling him the domain for a new venture he was involved with, which at that time was called HavenCo. Their premise was to set up a secure data haven in this odd little place called Sealand (that’s their official “national” site — also check out the Wikipedia entry about Sealand, which includes the latest developments like the fire in 2006). Sealand is an old WWII gun platform about 10 miles off the coast of England that is owned by a pretty odd character who dubbed himself “Prince Roy”, declared himself a sovereign nation and embarked on all kinds of schemes ranging from ship registry to fishing tours.

I passed — we'd just sold gofast.net, and I'd sold Television.com and Company.com and was feeling like I needed a breather.

HavenCo launched about a year later (July 2000), amidst much fanfare and a fabulous piece in Wired Magazine.

Well, almost five years have passed as I write this and as I was updating my web site with a little group of links called “All the Havens this isn't…” I decided to see how HavenCo was doing. Unfortunately, as with lots of schemes that were hatched in 1999, HavenCo isn't doing so well these days.

Here's a link to the official HavenCo web site. Doesn't look too bad does it? The site's still up, and it appears that they're still open for business. Well, not so fast.

Here's an article that ran in 2002 that starts giving you a clue that maybe things are starting to unravel. Check out the pictures of the Sealand platform. Hmm. I'm not sure I'd want to put much of a raised-floor computer/network operations center out there. And I sure wouldn't want to live out there for a couple years the way Ryan eventually did.

Here's Ryan's writeup of where things are at — which is the usual disarray of failed contracts combined with a dash of international sovereignty foolishness. I found this paper that Ryan presented at DefCon to be especially poignant.

So to sum up — it looks like (as of this writing) HavenCo is limping along, milking it's remaining customers for whatever it can. The founders are all gone. Lawsuits abound. Dreams are shattered. Geeks are pissed.

Sigh. So many stories like this… Remember all that baloney in Wired Magazine about The Long Boom that started coming out in 1997 or so? Oh well…


Julio’s been writing about podcasting for (seemingly) ever — and i didn’t read any of the posts until today when he pointed folks at this great 4 Minutes About Podcasting movie.

NOW I get it!

Amazing — all of the “tell your own story” ethic of community radio, combined with all the cool “build your own feed” capability of RSS feeds, which results in “radio” that’s going to show up in Google.. If you’re a community-radio type person who hasn’t messed around with podcasting, go watch that movie — and then let your imagination run wild. I’m sitting here thunderstruck, realizing what the possibilities are…

What an amazing community technology. For example; you’re an organizer of (fill in the blank), laboring away in your local community. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to hear an occasional “show” about your cause, direct from the mouth of your inspirational mentor? If you’re an inspirational-mentor type person, wouldn’t it be great to periodically share your “show” with others?

Or, if you’re more like the typical community-radio programmer, wouldn’t it be great to reach the .0003% of the population of the planet who shares your passion about (fill in the blank)? Conversely, wouldn’t it be great to listen to shows produced by people who exactly share your tastes and views?

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be broadcasters. Their days of being in any way relevant are numbered.

This one totally nifty technology. Thanks Julio for pointing me at the link that finally turned the light bulb on. I’m going to add useful links “below the fold” as I explore — to see that stuff, hit the “read more” button.

Bandwidth — A puzzler

The community radio movement was all about access to limited bandwidth (in our case, noncommercial FM channels). Podcasting is going to present an interesting bandwidth problem for the person with a really popular podcast — it’s going to slurp up a lot of bandwidth to deliver a 50 mByte file to thousands (millions?) of fans that are hungry for your stuff. Looks to me like we’ll need to marry BitTorrent with podcasting pretty soon now.

I’m really interested in the “how do you do it?” part of podcasting right now, so that’s what this first collection of links reflects.

Engadget provided a great starting point on this page about podcasting.

Creating podcasts is pretty straightforward — make a radio show, but pipe it off to an MP3 file when you’re done. I was Googling for “make a podcast” and got zillions of articles about how to make digital radio shows — lots of talk about mixers, and line-inputs-to-the-computer, and like that.

What I’m interested in right now is the RSS feed part — and the very last part of that Engaget article is what tipped me over to understanding. It all revolves around the notion of an “enclosure” in an RSS feed — something that most blog-creating software doesn’t grok yet, but I bet all off them will soon.

I think for now I’ll try just editing up my own RSS feed by hand rather than trying to force-feed Xoops (the software I’m using to create this blog). I’m going to use the XML file in the Engadget article as a template, build me a little “hello world” podcast and see how I do. But not right away. First I gotta finish helping Marcie lay down flooring in the upstairs room at the farm.

FreeVo — My home-brew Tivo, minus the monthly subscription fees

This is the latest geek project — reclaiming Robert’s old PC and transmogrifying it into a personal video recorder (PVR for short) with a Hauppauge PVR 350 and SageTV software.

Sure, I could have gone out and bought a Tivo or ReplayTV for about the same (or maybe a little less) money. But I see several advantages to doing it myself;

  • I get a glorious few weeks of primo geek tinkering/learning (in addition to the PVR stuff I found myself introduced to the “silent PC” geek sub-cult as I realized that the PC was making way too much noise to remain in the living room without modification)
  • I get a PVR that I can reconfigure (add disk, add more video cards, etc.) when I want to
  • I don’t have to pay a monthly fee to TiVo (I’m using SageTV software that sucks down the program guides off the web for free)
  • I can share/view the shows all over the home network
  • I can participate in EFF’s call to arms over the “broadcast flag” and be my own hardware vendor at the same time.

    This blog entry is my “notes to myself” to record the saga, and will serve as a reminder if I have to come back and retrace my steps at some point in the future. If you decide to do this, it might be a useful set of tips for you too. For the details… read on
    Continue reading “FreeVo — My home-brew Tivo, minus the monthly subscription fees”