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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

'Trustable' real-time internet statistics

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

Statistics, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary, is defined as “a collection of quantitative data.”

As my faithful readers know, when placing trust in the information found on a website, I always consider the source.

I believe the statistical data provided in real-time by Internet Live Stats (ILS) is trustworthy.

If the inventor of the World Wide Web; Tim Berners-Lee, feels he can trust quoting information from ILS, that’s good enough for me.

An Internet user is defined by ILS as an individual using any type of computing device and connection to access the Internet from their home.

As of July 1, the total number of Internet users on Earth was 3,424,971,237.

The world’s population at this time was estimated to be 7,432,663,275.

Which means just over 46 percent of the human inhabitants of this planet are using the Internet.

To discover not even half the planet’s population uses the Internet, may be of a surprise to some of us.

We also need to take into account the six “off-Earth” Internet users, who are currently living 260 miles above us in the International Space Station.

When it comes to countries with the highest number of Internet users, China is number one with 721,434,547.

India ranks second with 462,124,989, and the US is third with 286,942,362.

However, the US has the highest percentage of its population using the Internet among these three with 88.5 percent. China’s is 52.2 percent, and India has 34.8 percent.

ILS obtains some of its data from: International Telecommunication Union, World Bank, United Nations Population Division, and Internet & Mobile Association of India.

Would you be surprised if I told you there is one country on Earth with all of its population using the Internet?

In 2015, 2,975 Icelanders were not Internet users.

Today, all of Iceland’s 331,778 inhabitants are using the Internet, thus 100 percent of the country’s population are Internet users.

Being curious, I did some research and learned Iceland first electronically communicated outside of their country in 1906.

Iceland State Telephone Service started the same year; making physical connections to the undersea telegraph/telephone cables brought ashore to Iceland’s capital city; Reykjavik, from Scotland via the Faeroe Islands.

September 16, 2014, a message posted on Twitter by Tim Berners-Lee quoted ILS announcing the one billionth website had been added to the Internet.

As of Sept. 29, there were 1,086,150,000 websites – and this number continues to grow by the second.

To watch each new website (represented as a round, greenish, Internet World Wide Web icon) as it’s individually numbered and added to the total, go to

While performing a query, ILS calculated the following events took place within one second over the Internet:

• YouTube videos viewed: 131,989.

• Google searches completed: 56,440.

• Skype video/voice calls: 2,287.

• Instagram photos uploaded: 743.

• Tumblr posts: 1,162.

• Emails sent: 2,526,586.

• Twitter tweets/messages: 7,356.

• Internet traffic passed: 38,304GB.

“Historical Estimates of World Population” can be found on the US Census Bureau website.

Its data shows in 1960, the world’s population was 3 billion.

By 2000, the planets inhabitants had doubled to 6 billion.

If this trend continues, the Earth will be supporting nine billion people by 2042.

I imagine the folks living in 2042 will have had Internet accessibility from anywhere on the planet for many years.

US Census Bureau’s historical world population numbers and related data can be seen at:

The website for Internet Live Stats is

Quantitate this humble columnist’s numerous tweets over the Twitter social media website via my @bitsandbytes handle.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Exploring the ‘physical’ side of the Internet

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

It all started when a spirited squirrel chewed through the cable providing Andrew Blum’s home internet service.

This incident inspired Blum to begin a personal investigation.

He wanted to learn where the other end of the Internet cable went.

“What would happen if you yanked the wire from the wall, and you started to follow it? Where would you go?” pondered Blum.

He wondered if the Internet was a physical place you could look at.

Blum embarked on a two-year journey; visiting the places and people responsible for the installation and maintenance of the physical Internet.

Located in New York, the former Western Union Building; now the major telecommunications and Internet center for the northeast region of the US, is the 60 Hudson Street building.

There, he saw the physical path taken of an Internet router device used by one of the major social media networks.

A yellow fiber-optic cable from the router traveled up into the ceiling racking, came back down, and then connected into the router of a different network.

“That’s unequivocally physical,” Blum reasoned.

The 60 Hudson Street building is also home to major communication networks serving fiber-optic cables traversing under the world’s oceans.

These fiber-optic cables connect America with Europe, and other parts of the world.

An undersea fiber-optic cable usually terminates inside a building called a landing station (hub).

For security reasons, hubs are inconspicuously located along seaside neighborhoods.

Fiber-optic cable hubs are located along coastlines all around the world.

Blum corresponded with someone working for a fiber-optic communications company.

This person gave Blum a specific date and location where he could go and watch a fiber-optic cable being brought onto shore from a specially equipped, cable landing ship.

Blum journeyed to a sandy beach south of Lisbon, Portugal, and saw the cable landing ship positioned in the water about 1,000 feet from the shoreline.

He then noticed a person in a diving suit walking out of the water onto the beach.

This person was holding and pulling on a green nylon rope, and its attached fiber-optic cable.

The nylon rope was the fiber-optic cable’s “messenger line.”

The messenger line was used to bring the fiber-optic cable onto shore from the cable landing ship containing large spools of fiber-optic cable.

Blum then noticed a bulldozer driving onto the beach.

The messenger line was attached to the bulldozer, which pulled the fiber-optic cable further upshore.

Many feet of fiber-optic cable were pulled onto the beach.

Off-shore, the other end of the fiber-optic cable being spooled off the landing ship floated atop the water, attached to buoys.

The person in a diving suit went back out into the water and used a knife to cut off the buoys, causing the fiber-optic cable to sink and rest on the ocean floor.

On the beach, workers using a hacksaw, cut open the end of the fiber-optic cable.

The exposed individual fiber-optic strands were then prepared to be spliced with another fiber-optic cable brought from the onshore landing station.

“When you see these guys going at this cable with a hacksaw, you stop thinking about the Internet as a cloud; it starts to seem like an incredibly physical thing,” observed Blum.

After the fiber-optic strands on both cables are spliced together and successfully tested, the cable will be buried inside a protective conduit under the sandy beach.

When the new fiber-optic cable is activated on both ends, the landing station will be able to provide Internet service to the local residents of the area.

Andrew Blum wrote a book about his two-year adventure, and was kind enough to personally answer some of my questions.

B&B: Andrew, you said some people visually see the Internet as a cloud-like image. After two years of exploring and writing a book about the physical side of the Internet, how do you see it now?

AB: I now have a pretty clear image of its physical realities, particularly the hubs closest to my home in Brooklyn. When a web page hangs, I often picture my cable company’s router, and curse the traffic on the yellow fiber optic cable feeding it.

B&B: Many people feel the Internet is connected world-wide via earth-orbiting satellites; however, we know this not to be the case. What did you know about this before you started your investigation?

AB: No, even when I started, I knew it wasn’t connected by satellites. I’d read Neal Stephenson’s awesome piece in Wired from 1998, “Mother Earth Mother Board,” so I had a good starting understanding of the “tubes” under the ocean.

B&B: What surprised you, or stays in your mind the most during your two-year exploration of the physical side of the Internet?

AB: How small the Internet turned out to be, both physically; the list of its most important buildings is surprisingly short, and culturally; the list of network engineers actively involved with interconnecting networks is surprisingly short.

B&B: Andrew, is there another technology you would like to someday investigate and write about in the future?

AB: Good question. I’ve been thinking a lot about that now, but I don’t yet have a good answer.

“Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet,” by Andrew Blum, is available from Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Update: Andrew Blum’s new book, “The Weather Machine,” is due out in 2017.

(This column was originally published Nov. 19, 2012, and was recently updated and modified by the column writer)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Artificial Intelligence: A good or bad thing?

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

While reading predictions on how humans will be using (or surrendering to) Artificial Intelligence, or AI, words one person wisely told me 30 years ago came to mind: “Consider the source.”

I consider Stanford University a good source, and decided their 27-page report: “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030” was worth reading.

This September report is the first in what will be a long-term study on AI.

When I say a “long-term” study, I mean 100 years long, according to Stanford University.

So, what do people think of AI?

It depends on the individual, as I learned there are varying opinions about AI.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he anticipates within 10 years, AI will be outperforming humans.

“The basic human senses, like seeing, hearing, language, core things we do I think it’s possible to get to the point in the next five to 10 years where we have computer systems that are better than people at each of those things,” he said in The Verge.

Zuckerberg also said, in an Aug. 29 Facebook video town hall presentation, he wanted his home to be managed using AI technology.

His home will include speech and facial recognition technology, combined with AI.

Use this link to watch the complete Zuckerberg 57-minute Q&A Facebook video he made while in Rome:

Famous English theoretical physicist, Professor Steven Hawking takes a cautious perspective on AI.

“A super-intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals,” said Hawking in 2015.

However, he forewarned: “If those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble.”

Hawking expressed his concern about AI posing a threat to humanity in the future.

He predicted to the BBC news in 2014; “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

In 2015, Hawking signed a letter warning of the dangers of arming robots with weaponry, and of a potential “global AI arms race.”

Famed mathematician Alan Turing may have influenced Hawking’s opinions.

“There would be plenty to do, trying to understand what the machines were trying to say; i.e., in trying to keep one’s intelligence up to the standard set by the machines, for it seems probable that once the machine thinking method had started, it would not take long to outstrip our feeble powers. They would be able to converse with each other to sharpen their wits. At some stage therefore, we should have to expect the machines to take control,” Turing said in a 1951 lecture he gave called: “Intelligent Machinery, A Heretical Theory.”

British AI scientist, Rollo Carpenter, creator of the AI Cleverbot program, said; “I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized.”

Cleverbot is an Internet AI robotic chat computer program you can have a dialogue with as you would another person.

Yours truly spent about 20 minutes “conversing” with Cleverbot.

I found it interesting; at times silly, surprisingly amusing, and intellectually challenging.

The Stanford University report suggests AI is: “a science and a set of computational technologies that are inspired by – but typically operate quite differently from – the ways people use their nervous systems and bodies to sense, learn, reason, and take action.”

“Being transparent about their [AI] design and deployment challenges will build trust and avert unjustified fear and suspicion,” are the reassuring words by Harvard computer scientist Barbra Grosz, given in an article on the Stanford University’s engineering webpage.

The Stanford report predicts by 2030, AI technologies will become predominantly used in:

• Entertainment.

• Home/service robots.

• Employment and


• Public safety and security.

• Low-resource


• Education.

• Healthcare.

• Transportation.

Stanford University’s complete 27-page report can be read at:

For me, it’s still too early to determine if AI will turn out to be a good or bad thing for humanity; so stay tuned, folks.

If you want to match wits with a very clever Internet AI bot, visit:

I leave you with this quote by Alan Turing; “A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human.” 

As always, you can follow me on Twitter at my @bitsandbytes user name.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The iPhone 7: ‘Hit the Road, Jack!’

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

It’s the second week of September. The Minnesota State Fair has ended, and Labor Day is behind us.

We now begin our journey towards fall.

Being Minnesotans, we know there are still some hot summer days left.

Last Wednesday, I watched Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, take the stage at its Cupertino, CA headquarters in what has become an annual event for the last nine years.

Cook introduced the world to Apple’s newest smartphones; the iPhone 7, with a 4.7-inch Retina high-definition display; and the larger 5.5-inch display iPhone 7 Plus.

“There’s a reason you see so many iPhones everywhere you look – we’ve now sold over a billion of them,” he addressed the audience.

The new iPhone 7 is water-resistant down to 3 feet, and dust resistant, too.

The new iPhone uses a 2.4 GHz (gigahertz) A10 Fusion 64-bit quad-core processor chip, which is said to be two times faster than the previous A9 used in the iPhone 6.

Apple’s iOS 10 operating system is used on the new iPhones.

It has a Touch ID fingerprint touch sensor built within the new Home button.

A new stereo speaker system provides two times the audio sound than the previous iPhone model.
The A10 fusion has an embedded M11 co-processor.

The M11 links with the accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and barometer. The M11 supports a wide range of applications, such as fitness tracking.

These processors are manufactured by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
The iPhone 7 comes with 32 GB (gigabytes) of storage, and goes up to 256 GB.

It has two cameras; the front-facing 7MP (megapixel) features auto image stabilization.

The iPhone 7 Plus boasts a 12MP camera with optical image stabilization, wide-angle, and telephoto picture-taking.

All of us expected the iPhone 7 would have improvements to existing applications, design, and electronic components.

However, the removal of one commonly used feature surprised me: There’s no analog output jack for my earphones.

This new iPhone 7 lacks a 3.5mm analog audio output headphone jack for plugging in an earphone.

Apple might as well have played the song made famous by Ray Charles: “Hit the road Jack, and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.”

If my smartphone would no longer have the 3.5mm socket for my earphone, yours truly would not be a happy camper.

I share this feeling with Steve Wozniak, who, as you know, is the co-founder of Apple Computer.

“If it’s missing the 3.5mm earphone jack, that’s going to tick off a lot of people,” Wozniak said in the Australian Financial Review.

Many of us know the lineage of those handy, plastic-corded analog earphones I remember them being commonly used to plug into those portable 1960s transistor radios.

Apple seems to want us to evolve our earphone listening habits from using an analog 3.5mm output, to their digital output “Lightning” connector, located on the bottom of the iPhone 7.

The iPhone 7 will include its new Earpods with the Lightning connector cable.

Apple noted the Beats Solo3 Wireless headphones will also be compatible with the new iPhone 7.

Apple said on their webpage they included a 3.5mm to Lightning connector cable interface, so folks’ existing analog earphones will be compatible with the iPhone 7 using this additional cable.

Apple will also be selling its small (actually tiny) wireless infrared sensor AirPods earphones, which include a microphone for recognizing voice commands.

The AirPods are stored in a little white plastic holder – so now we’ve got something else to easily misplace.

The AirPods have a five-hour battery life, and work with other Apple devices, such as: iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

The iPhone 7 also has the longest battery life ever installed in an iPhone – lasting an hour longer than the iPhone6s Plus.

Apple also announced their new user interface operating system, iOS 10, will be available for download to your iPhone and iPad Sept. 14.

I forgot to mention; the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus can also be used to place telephone calls.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the first iPhone.

I wonder what new bells and whistles the iPhone 8 (or whatever Apple names the next one) will have.

Social media is still buzzing about the new iPhones, which will be available this Friday.

The hashtag: “#iPhone 7” is being used for Twitter user comments.

Follow yours truly (without a hashtag) via my @bitsandbytes handle.

"The Apple Event"  two hour video was uploaded to Apple's YouTube channel: