April 10, 2008

Son Of Bride Of Lolwut

Filed under: awesome,future,life,lunacy,vendetta,want — mhoye @ 10:35 pm

Alex, earlier:

I think I agree: there’s going to be some interesting shit done with 100 Megs that we never thought of; just as there’s interesting shit done with 5 megs that we never thought of. So the question remains — does anyone have any ideas as to what those things might be?

Customer-supported, customer-supporting mesh networking – don’t give people cable modems, give them fiber modems with built-in mesh APs or mini cell-towers, so that as soon as one person deploys the box their entire area (or, at least, all of telco-X’s customers in the area) can use it if they’re roaming nearby. Your customers are never stranded, or off-grid, so long as there is another one of your customers nearby. Stop deploying cell towers completely once you’ve got sufficient coverage in an area, and charge people who want mobile web access two bucks a month for wireless-everywhere. Once you have very good coverage in an area, charge people who don’t even have fiber themselves ten bucks a month for random roaming and sell them cellphones that’ll let them get good value from that.

Geolocate your APs when you deploy them, and pay statistical attention to connection traffic, in terms of type and motion – if all of a sudden fifty access points strung along the Don Valley suddenly light up and users stop moving from one AP to the next, flag that as a traffic jam and make a deal with FedEx to sell them that information in real time so their trucks don’t get stuck in it. Offer the same information to Emergency Services for free as a gesture of good corporate citizenship, and the next time the city needs to renew the EMS comms systems, mention how you already have this great relationship. Spin off a company that will tell users that for a buck a month they’ll SMS them with an alternative route if there’s a car accident on their usual route home or the streetcar line on Queen is gorked again and split the profits.

On top of that geolocated mesh, you make a deal with Cheap Eats Toronto or Zagat or whoever, so that people can ask the network where there’s a decent aperitif within five hundred meters of them, and what does mister Zagat think about that place, and where does a guy have to go to avoid sipping an espresso with a bevy of despondent euroweenies in this town, anyway, let’s find a place with some atmosphere for once. Close the advertising loop in meatspace the way Google can close the loop on web ads and web transactions, and if somebody’s phone searches for vegetarian food near the Danforth and that phone ends up in Jane’s Vegetarian Kitchen half an hour later, somebody gives somebody else a quarter.

Let companies build services on top of those things. Start developer programs and reasonable revenue-sharing. Twitter + GPS, so when Bob goes to Commisso Bros again, the people on Bob’s following-list can ask him to pick up a dozen buns for them, or the grocery list in Bob’s computer can remind him that he’s been meaning to pick up some panini too, or something. Make that metadata work for your advertising, again: 497 people want their friends to know whenever they hit Commisso’s? That sounds like a recommendation to me, I’ll check it out. Somebody gives somebody else a nickel for that, for sure. Or just set a recommendation threshold and wander. Phone, you know where I am, and I’m hungry, so beep when I walk by a place that at least three hundred other people have recommended, OK?

Aggregate that info, put it on a map and send it out to tourism promotion boards. Real Toronto! Where do the locals really go, when they’re looking for good food, or good bars, or whatever? Is that information valuable to you? Because we’ve got that information right over here. And you can have it, with my blessing, and now you and I are friends, and someday when you need something, like advertising or videoconferencing, you can always come to speak with me.

Yeah, you don’t strictly need fiber for this, but massive oversupply means that being able to share generously with their fellow-telco-clients doesn’t hurt a customer one bit. Sharing is all network-effects-benefit, no loss. Anyway, that ought to get you started.

Anyone else?

(Edited to add Cheap Eats Toronto and clean up a little – mhoye)

April 9, 2008

Excitement: Achieved

Filed under: life,lunacy,travel — mhoye @ 4:58 pm

You know how you’re not supposed to carry a nail file through airport security because Brown Macgyver hates us for our freedom, or something? Well, it turns out that if you try and carry an entire toolbox through security, they get very excited. Very excited indeed, and they call their friends! And then those people get excited.

I’ve got to say, I don’t feel particularly safe around people that skittish.

Bride Of Lolwut

Filed under: awesome,future,interfaces,life,vendetta — mhoye @ 4:55 pm


Yeah, pretty much your entire vision of the future doesn’t seem to be related to high bandwidth at all, but merely on weak AI on the computers using it.


What you are saying is: “if I could get more horsepower in my car, I would get to work instantly in the morning”. Let’s ignore traffic in this analogy. It’s still only marginal. It turns out that the speed limits are there to stop you from crashing. No matter how much horspower you add, you’d still only get to work about twice as fast, ever. […] Summary: the only serious bandwidth you’re using is to sync media, and stream media.

Yes, you don’t need fiber-to-the-home for all this, that is in strict terms technically true, but it’s true in the same way that overnight shipping doesn’t have to be cheap in order for wings and thrust to lift airplanes into the air.

Tell me: are any of you who are making that argument still on dial-up? Are any of you willing to switch back? It’s cheaper, and you don’t really need broadband to read email, right?


Yeah, I didn’t think so.

So how many businesses, how many business models out there rely on a sizeable customer base to be using broadband? Some, right? One or two, you’d say?

I would say one or two, yes.

Because while you do not need 100mbps to every available access point to accomplish most of the things that I am talking about here, there are obvious relationships between supply, demand, cost and the value of people’s time here that some people seem willing to overlook in order to facilitate their likewise ignoring the larger point.

The economics of massive oversupply means very small interactions are so cheap as to be basically free, and even relatively small interactions can be done cheaply and fast. And that makes lots and lots of things possible. Profitable things! The fact that connectivity, local, regional and global, will also eventually be cheap and fast will make even more things possible, and the sooner we stop fighting that and putting it off and pushing it away, the sooner a major player decides to grab that with both hands and jump in with both feet the sooner we get to do all these cool things that need doing and make all that money that’s just lying around waiting to get made.

Yes, my proposed awesomefuture’s bandwidth-need is not strict technical requirement, but it sure is an economic one, because it absolutely requires small-to-moderate bandwidth that’s pervasive and really, really cheap, and those concerns are more than a little related.

It will eventually also mean that decisions involving big hunks of data can become fast enough that people can actually decide to do them on the spur of the moment – it’s basically impossible right now to spontaneously decide to download a movie in HD at any kind of reasonable timeframe (particularly now that Bell has decided to stick their dick in everyone’s intertubes) where “reasonable time frame” means the lag time between “do you wanna watch a movie” and being curled up on the couch making out is acceptable to both slightly soused adults and horny teenagers alike.

Ask Apple if they think user spontanaiety might have something to do with the success of iTunes. I mean, Jeebus, Netflix is well along in their process of putting the former unstoppable juggernaut of their market segment, Blockbuster, right out of business and they’re doing it by sending data to people in the mail, because right now the most efficient way to move a couple of gigs around North America is the postal service, and somehow Blockbuster got themselves to a point where waiting for the mail is a better experience than going into their store. And Netflix isn’t doing anything more exotic than sending what you want and guessing at what you might like next.

What do you do with all that bandwidth? Yeah, you do lots of little things with open platforms and smart agents and all that good stuff, and when it’s time to do something large, you don’t have to wait for the freakin’ mailman.

April 7, 2008

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Filed under: flickr,travel,work — mhoye @ 11:58 am

Sunrise plus airplane


April 5, 2008


Filed under: flickr,toys — mhoye @ 5:30 pm


The Engine Gallery

The Chang Building

April 2, 2008

A Slightly More Elaborate Response Than “Lolwut”.

Filed under: digital,interfaces,life,vendetta — mhoye @ 11:41 pm

So, a few weeks ago I was talking with this guy from a telco, bitching about the fact that we’re still a third world country in moving-bytes-around terms, and mentioned how you can get fiber to the home and dirt-cheap video calling and IPTV all over the damn place but here, and he said “yeah, but what do you do with all that bandwidth?”

And I said “lolwut?”

I did not actually say “lolwut”, you understand, but the inside of my brain briefly went “Haha, you’re kidding, right, oh crap, you’re not, ok, omg, wtf, omgwtfubarbq” and then started making that wibble-wibble-wibble noise that sheet metal makes when you shake it. The inside of my brain does that on occasion.

“What do you do with all that bandwidth? Let’s say you got fiber to the home, dirt cheap cell plans. What do you do with all of it?”

Wibble wibble wibble.

I should be clear that I very much like and respect this fellow, because I think he’s smart and likeable and so on. But this very nearly caused me to fly off my tenuously-gripped handle, and I start to gibber and twitch trying to push a globe-spanning picture of the entire future out of my painfully low-bandwidth, high-lag face. Gesturing helps only slightly.

Good lord, what don’t you do with all that bandwidth? Because this is what the future looks like:

I wake up, and my alarm clock is playing a song I heard last night at my friend’s place because I mentioned that I liked it. I don’t feel like waking up yet, so I hit the snooze button and the alarm clock tells the coffee maker not to make any sudden moves, I won’t be downstairs for another fifteen minutes. If I hit snooze again, they’ll have another talk, this time about making the coffee a little stronger because I got home at 1:30 in the morning (or, at least, my phone did) but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

As I stagger down the hall, the tunable lighting in the hallway is a cool blue, and if I’m awake enough to think about it, that probably means that we’ll be expecting it to be a little chilly outside today, or maybe that the stock market is down three percent, or that my parents are planning a visit, or whatever else I’ve decided that blue lights in the hallway in the morning should mean. While I’m in the shower, my laptop hears that a couple of bits of news have hit a certain interest threshold among a number of my friends so it cues them up for me along with the messages I missed last night and dumps them all into my phone so that I can scroll through them in the subway.

My thermostat might take a look at my calendar about then, and see that even though I won’t be home until nine or so my elderly relatives might arrive drop by for a visit earlier, so the house should be kept a little warmer than usual after five. If it’s feeling really smart it might check their flight’s arrival time, to narrow it down. I won’t be taking my car anywhere today, but the car wants attention anyway. On my way out the door it reminds me that the annual tuneup is coming due, but it (and I) were happy with the last one, so can it just book an appointment at the same place as last time? I send the car a yes, and it looks at my calendar and works out a good time for the appointment with the mechanic.

When I hop on the subway I’m not just not-bored, I’m being washed in media. Some people are sitting quietly, sound-cancelled and gathering their thoughts, other people are reading the news or listening to music, but everyone who wants to be a radio station is a radio station, anyone who wants to be a TV station is a TV station and anyone who wants to be a library is a library, radiating data and always-on. I can poll the information cloud to find out what people in my area think is relevant that week, and read up on it while I’m listening to the guy next to me’s DJ set from last week, the classic-thrash stream from the aging metalhead a few seats down or the surprising selection of prewar jazz from the young girl staring out the window.

If I see something interesting, I tell my phone to flag that track, or that artist, and hand off a request to my home server, and find out when that person is coming to town to play live, and jeebus, get me two tickets already, and maybe flag that for two or three friends to see if they’re interested.

This looks like bullshit future-magic, but right now, today, I am more likely to leave my house with my pants on my head than I am to leave without all the hardware I need to make this happen, on my person. And I bet that you’re no different. Because to make this work, you need:

  • A computer, and
  • A cellphone.

That’s your base model. The rest of it, the car and thermostat and coffeemaker and tunable lights and alarm clock, that comes later, a bit at a time.

And then you make them all talk together, and talk to other devices in the world. That last bit is difficult, sure, but you really have only one hard requirement for it to work: bandwidth has to be cheap, and there has to be a lot of it. Bluetooth, wifi, wimax, HSDPA, whatever comes after that, depending on how far away you are from what you want, but you have to be able to get there from here.

The difference between sysadmin me and lowly computer user you is that you sit down in front of a computer, use it to do a thing, and then you turn it off and go do something else. My devices have agency; they take actions and make decisions on my behalf, and report back to me later if they feel like they should. And I want that for everyone – I want people’s stuff, their phones and cameras and cars and coffee makers and thermostats, to have that agency. I want people to be able to tell their machines what to do, and when to do it, and to have those machines talk to each other and collaborate and do smart things for you when you’re not looking or not around. There’ll be one big machine in there, maybe, one beast plugged into your cable modem or fiber-to-the-home that will do the heavy work of getting and storing big files, processing big jobs, quarterbacking your home setup and just generally being a server, but everything else is going to be small, clever and interconnected.

That’s what the future looks like; smart and active and interconnected and network effects as far as traceroute can see and always, always on. And that just can’t happen at five goddamned cents a kilobyte. Which basically means it’s going to happen somewhere else, because all of our local telecommunication infrastructure is controlled by companies that can’t see past the end of their own corporate contracts and extortionate rates and walled-garden environments. And by all the metrics that are going to matter to for the next century, we have a country genuflecting to third-rate telcos with shitty rate plans selling phones so outdated by world standards that they’d be going to a landfill if Bell and Rogers weren’t willing to flog them to the local rubes. A penny-ante little informatic fiefdom, where nothing new can ever get done without the explicit approval of organizations that will never return your calls.

What you do with all that bandwidth? You use it to build the future.

And if you’re a telco and you’re run by MBAs who type with two fingers, gibber about quarterly profit and fling dung at the tourists outside their cages, you fight that future as hard as you can, because it’s unpredictable and scary and different. The telco that turns that around, that doesn’t just allow but actually helps people build stuff on top of their infrastructure, stuff that people can use to talk to other people in ways nobody has even guessed at yet, that company will be the platform the future is built on.

I Am Not A Real Doctor

Filed under: weird,work — mhoye @ 8:58 pm

My colleagues have, I am told due to my reflexive, entirely-natural-and-sane systems-administrator’s response to obviously shortsighted change requests, started referring to me as “Doctor No”.

Recently one of staff here came tentatively into the office, not sure who they were looking for, having been instructed to speak to one “Mister No”.

I replied, somewhat sternly, “Doctor No. I did not spend eight years in No Medical School so that people could call me Mister No.”

This response seemed reasonable at the time, but it was apparently somewhat… confusing? Off-putting, possibly. I will make a note.

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