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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Keep the Internet equally accessible for everyone

August 30, 2010
by Mark Ollig

The FCC’s public hearing on net neutrality in Minneapolis Aug. 19 looked to be more of a future Internet town hall meeting.

My understanding of net neutrality ensures all websites, social networks, blogs and other publicly available sites have equal accessibility over the Internet network by all Internet users.

In summary; all Internet traffic should be treated equally.

I do recognize the companies who make available and maintain the Internet network have the right to a fair return on the services they provide – however, there are definite concerns many of us have if there is no net neutrality.

Here’s one possible future scenario I can imagine:

The corporations operating various parts of the Internet network could begin to offer preferential treatment to a larger website or social network by providing them with an ‘enhanced’ Internet service. They could offer, say, a “premium Internet presence” option for a substantial monthly fee.

This additional cost might consist of exclusive bandwidth allocation or some type of “guaranteed” preferred connection availability to their website over that of a similar website not paying the extra fee.

In this tiered service scenario, preferential treatment takes place over smaller business and individual sites that are unable to afford the premium service fee imposed by the companies used to maintain their presence on the Internet.

With no net neutrality, the Internet could turn into the network of toll-roads and cash registers – essentially blocking out or reducing the bandwidth availability to many websites. Internet service providers could possibly begin charging Internet users access to popular sites on the Web currently reachable for free.

I do not believe this is what the original pioneers of the Internet culture, the virtual community, and those who established the Web envisioned for the future.

Okay, I will step off of my soapbox . . . for now.

The hearing was being live-streamed at The UpTake website. The UpTake also provided a chat room for online users text messages and comments which I participated in.

The UpTake was established in July 2007, and is a “citizen-fueled, online video news gathering organization” based in St. Paul. It is made up of citizen journalists. The UpTake says they are “an alternative to the mainstream media.”

Online messaging about the hearing was also taking place on Twitter, so I was text messaging there, as well.

FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael Copps, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, along with Senator Al Franken, appeared at the hearing.

Ritchie opened the hearing with “. . . we’re gathered to share, we’re gathered to help shape the future.”

Franken spoke on the importance of keeping the Internet open to everyone and not allowing it to be controlled by the large corporations.

“Without net neutrality, Internet access would be determined by the four or five corporations that could determine what info gets out,” Franken said.

Copps stated he “. . . will not settle for profit driven corporate-owned Internet that doesn’t benefit the people.”

“Our job now is to correct course and reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service,” he said.

“An open Internet is the great equalizer,” said Clyburn in her remarks to the people in attendance. She continued, “Without a free and open Internet, we wouldn’t have seen Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in less than 10 years.”

“More Americans rely on the Internet each and every day, it has become the center of our economic lives and essential to our futures,” she said.

On Twitter, some messages expressed concerns about the government regulating the Internet. Others spoke out against the large network carrier’s possible intent of selling “preferential access” bandwidth.

One message said “by controlling Internet access, they are, for all practical purposes, acting as the Internet gatekeepers.”

“The Internet should be a level playing field for everyone,” another message read.

Twitter buzzed with messages using hashtags like “internetmn,” “netneutrality” and “fccnn.”

Over 100 people from the audience spoke during the public hearing. I noted most were expressing the importance of having the Internet remain fully open and equally accessible by everyone.

“Let’s build broadband, not bombs,” said one audience member standing before the commissioners.

The statement received loud applause.

At one point the number of people watching the live-stream videocast over the Internet reached 800.

“This is what an open Internet looks like. . .” one Twitter message stated after seeing this number.

The hearing lasted a full four hours.

After the hearing concluded, some of us spoke online with the people from The UpTake about how this event turned out to be a good example of citizen journalism, government representation, and public and online participation.

People’s voices were heard. Hopefully their concerns will be taken into account when final decisions regarding net neutrality are made.

Watch the complete public hearing at:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

‘Attention-grabbing’ YouTube facts and figures

Aug. 23, 2010
by Mark Ollig

YouTube says, “Our mission is for YOU to discover and shape the world through video.”

Well, I am no Roger Ebert, but this humble video watching columnist has been doing his part in this effort.

YouTube, as you all know, is the popular Internet site where folks can upload, share, and view videos.

Website Monitoring is the name of a business which – by way of contracted services for a monthly fee – monitors the status of websites.

One of the appealing benefits of this monitoring site is being able to obtain interesting facts and figures freely available on their web-blog.

In looking at the information collected about YouTube, I found some good stuff to share with my readers.

It all began Feb. 14 of 2005, when the original founders registered the domain name “” and began working on their new website.

The very first video was uploaded to YouTube April 23 2005. This video was recorded by Yakov Lapitsky, who was one of the co-founders of YouTube. He uploaded a video about his visit to the San Diego Zoo. This video was 19 seconds in length and has been viewed more than 3.4 million times. It can be seen at this shortened link I created:

The official public launch of YouTube occurred in December 2005.

In July 2006, YouTube reached 100 million videos being viewed each day, along with 65,000 videos being uploaded per day to the site.

When Google acquired YouTube in October 2006, they paid $1.6 billion in Google stock.

As of last Tuesday, Google stock was trading at $492 a share.

Thankfully, Google didn’t change the name from YouTube to GooTube.

In July 2007, CNN and YouTube hosted a presidential debate among the candidates running for the office.

Citizens uploaded their video questions to YouTube, some were selected by CNN, and broadcast to the candidate and the nation.

More than 3,000 people posted their video questions on YouTube for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.

Thirty-nine of them were shown and commented on.

One of the more popular videos shown that night was the global warming video question asked by “Billiam the Snowman,” which was sent in by a couple of brothers from the great state of Minnesota.

To see the Billiam the Snowman YouTube video shown during the July 2007 debate, go to

If you want to read more about the great YouTube Debate, look up my July 30, 2007 column: “YouTube takes center stage during debates.”

Getting back to some more interesting trivia about YouTube, we find the most popular YouTube video is “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga which has been played more than 264 million times.

In October 2007, the Queen of England began her own YouTube channel at The message on this YouTube channel says “Welcome to The Royal Channel, the official channel of the British Monarchy.”

As of Aug. 17, there were 31,931 subscribers to the Queen of England’s channel.

The Vatican started a YouTube channel at on June 5 2008. On their YouTube channel, the Vatican says, “This channel offers informative coverage of the main activities of the Holy Father Benedict XVI and the Vatican’s most important events.”

As of last Tuesday, there were 5,043 subscribers on the Vatican YouTube channel.

YouTube is currently operating in 22 countries and in 24 different languages.

Currently, more than 2 billion videos are viewed on YouTube each day.

Every minute, 24 hours worth of video is uploaded to YouTube’s data servers.

The average user spends about 15 minutes a day on this online social networking video site.

Here is a good one – over the course of two months, more video content is uploaded to YouTube than all three major US network (ABC, CBS, and NBC) created video during the last 60 years.

The monitoring site reported the YouTube video player software is embedded in 10s of millions of websites, blogs and social networks (like Facebook and MySpace).

Hundreds of millions of YouTube videos are watched every month on mobile devices, too.

YouTube’s copyright content identification software program tool scans over 100 years worth of video every day.

YouTube’s own “fact sheet” states their user base typically ranges in the 18 to 55 age group, and is evenly divided between males and females. Fifty-one percent of all users visit YouTube weekly or more. Fifty-two percent of 18-to-34 year-olds regularly share YouTube videos with friends and colleagues.

Standard YouTube user account videos are limited to 15 minutes in length and a file size of 2 GB.

YouTube’s original headquarters was above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, CA.

YouTube’s current headquarters is located in San Bruno, CA.

To check out more interesting facts and figures about websites, go to the Website Monitoring Blog, located at

The YouTube Fact Sheet”can be seen at

Now, back to watching some more YouTube videos.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Apple is peddling the iBike design

August 16, 2010
by Mark Ollig

What do you get when you combine the technology of an Apple iPhone, iPod or other high-tech intelligent mobile device with a bicycle?

You get a highly advanced and intelligent “smart bicycle.”

Let’s just name it what it is – an iBike.

Here’s the latest tech news from your up-to-the-minute “gee whiz” technology columnist, who forces you to ask the question: “What’s he ranting about now?”

It seems those brainy inventors behind the Apple computer technology curtain are about to peddle out a new “iProduct” concept to the public.

Throughout your modest (but humble) columnist’s research, he became aware of what can be called Apple’s “smart bike” patent application.

The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published Apple’s patent application for “integrating a portable electronic device with a bicycle.”

Apple Inc.’s US Patent Application number is 20100198453.

The patent application consists of 105 written paragraphs and detailed patent application drawings showing the combination of a pedal-powered bicycle with connected iPhone/iPod or similar technology.

The technology provides much detailed information covering many separate categories to the cyclist (user) via the numerous attached electronic sensors.

These electronic sensors would be connected to different components of the bicycle in order to provide current status information.

This status information would be collected and displayed to the cyclist and also could be shared with others.

Sensors would be also utilized for monitoring the environment surrounding the bicycle.

Various types of sensors, such as “hall effect magnetic field sensors” (a type of electronic device used to time the speed of wheels, for example), would be used on the bicycle and integrated with an intelligent onboard computer device.

Apple states any suitable type of sensor could be used to determine one or more of the performance conditions to be measured, including locating the bicycle in the event it is stolen.

Some of the information displayed to the cyclist includes comparing the cyclist's own riding performance against past performances, elevation of the current bike trail, power generation created by the cyclist, along with calories burned.

Current and forecasted weather and temperature readings would also be displayed.

The removable informational display screen the cyclist would see could be attached to the bike’s handlebars or worn on an armband. The display could also be embedded securely into the handlebars of the bike.

The data collected from the smart bike could also be transmitted wirelessly.

The intelligent display would collect information not only from the bicycle and cyclist, but from outside sources as well. GPS would be used for positioning, and there could also be a connection to the Internet, which would allow an almost endless list of potential application possibilities for the gathering and sharing of information relevant to the cyclist and the bike.

A touch screen would allow for the cyclist to select pre-configured options from a menu.

Apple listed some of these options: Riding Characteristics - option 302, Map - option 304, Workout - option 306, Share - option 308, and in honor of living in the Twitter age, Apple has option 310 - Instant Messaging.

Apple’s patent information addresses some of the possible types of smart bike display screens which could be used.

Apple says any appropriate type of display screen for presenting information could be built into the bike.

The cyclist will be able to chart their own bike trails on a map or view available bike courses, check on the progress of other cyclists traveling on the same or a different bike path.

The cyclist could instantly look at real-time online reviews for the bike path he or she is currently traveling on.

The smart bike’s display would provide the cyclist an indication of any hazards along the route being ridden – in addition to the bike path’s elevation and incline conditions.

Recent comments from other cyclists about the path could be viewed as text, heard audibly or watched as a video presentation.

Paragraph 96 in Apple’s patent application abstract states “. . . the electronic device, display, or another component on the bicycle can include a camera or lens for capturing real-time images of the user’s face as he rides, and for transmitting the real-time images, accompanied with audio.”

Cyclists riding within a group could wirelessly “network” their smart bikes to transmit and receive shared communications among themselves and to also communicate with other folks outside of their cycling group such as friends or family members.

Apple says by using these communications methods, different riders in a group could more easily coordinate cycling strategies among each other when they are participating in a race, for example.

Apple’s US Patent Application is titled: “Systems and Methods for Integrating a Portable Electronic Device with a Bicycle.”

You can read the complete wording of Apple Inc.’s patent application number: 20100198453 filed with the US Patent Office at this shortened link I created:

Bikes sure have come a long way from the old “Coast King” bicycle my dad bought for me at the Winsted Coast to Coast hardware store in the late 1960’s. On that bike I had fastened a transistor AM radio to the handlebars.

I should have applied for a patent on that idea.

Friday, August 6, 2010

President Abraham Lincoln . . . the first “high-tech” president


(November 13, 2006, Herald Journal)

No, Abraham Lincoln did not claim to have invented the Internet, but he was the first President who used something which looks a lot like what most of us use every day.

President Lincoln made use of what is very similar to today’s e-mail.

The version Lincoln used over the telegraph at that time, could be more appropriately called T-mail.

We have the Internet Network, and President Lincoln used the Telegraph Network.

During the Civil War, Lincoln would spend much time in what was called the “telegraph” or “wire room.” Officially, it was called “Office U.S. Military Telegraph War Department.”

This is where Lincoln would send out his telegraph messages, correspondences and even his encouragement to his generals and commanders in the field.

Instead of electronic-mail (email) which we send electronically over broadband networks, Lincoln had his messages sent or transmitted over telegraph wire lines, hence: T-mail.

I am reading a book called Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: the Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War, which is written by Tom Wheeler.

In the book, Wheeler tells us that Lincoln personally sent out over 1,000 “lightning messages” telegrams during the Civil War period starting around 1862, and Second Battle of Bull Run. Wheeler explains how Lincoln, wanting to be able to send out rapid responses to those out in the field, would end up spending most nights in the War Department’s Telegraph Office.

Wheeler goes on to state that Lincoln used the telegraph to supplement his preferred forms of communication, which were meetings and letters. Lincoln did not want to replace the important face-to-face exchanges, however.

No doubt that the telegraph gave the North an advantage, in so being that the communications being sent electrically over those telegraph wires were received much faster than by other means available at the time – as those electrically transported dots and dashes speed down the telegraph wires much faster than a horse and rider could. Lincoln was able to stay connected to the generals and forces in the field in what could be called ‘real time’.

It was the new technology of the times and Lincoln embraced the telegraph as a tool, using it to his advantage. For the speed of communicating his messages directly to those under his command, he used the telegraph much like we have embraced the use of email for messaging others, taking advantage of speed, which includes saving time and getting an answer back sooner.

Lincoln used this new technology to his benefit and he helped push the evolution of what then was considered modern communications technology from the White House.

I found that President Abraham Lincoln was not a stranger to new technology, as he himself received Patent No. 6469 on May 22, 1849, for a device to lift boats over shallow waters. It was an invention which was never manufactured; however, it did make him the only U.S. president to hold a patent. You can see his scale model on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Here is a link that shows the telegraph system as it was strung across America in 1853: This map is from The Library of Congress. The map shows great clarity and detail, the routing of the telegraph wires and the telegraph stations as they existed then.

The history surrounding the telegraph is fascinating in itself. Samuel Morse, who is considered to be the father of the telegraph, sent the first telegraph message from Washington to Baltimore in 1844. Samuel Morse’s last message was ceremonially sent Saturday, June 10, 1871, in New York.

I encourage you to visit Tom Wheeler’s website at to see and read some of the actual telegraph messages Lincoln sent from 1862 to 1865.

The website also features links to more Abraham Lincoln information and also information on Samuel Morse and the telegraph.

You will be able to download the first chapter of the book in portable document format (PDF) and read it using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Just when we thought all had been written about Abraham Lincoln, we now have something new to explore about his life and personality.