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Friday, October 28, 2016

Is there 'control' over the Internet?

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

“Does the USA ‘control’ the Internet?” was the title of a column I wrote in 2007.

Internet domain names are assigned and maintained by an organization called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN, begun in 1998, is a not-for-profit organization consisting of people living in countries around the world.

Recently, the ICANN governing authority was given complete control over what many call the internet’s address book, or domain name system (DNS).

Efforts in the US were made in an attempt to block this; however, the contested transfer arguments were overruled by a US federal judge.

ICANN now has total governing authority; removing the last vestiges of any US authoritative influence.

The DNS translates a web address; such as “,” into the numerical language internet-connected computers use to communicate with each other.

Some believe the ICANN authority controversy to be a recently contested issue – it was not.

In November 2007, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

IGF criticized the US regarding its “influences” used to control the part of the internet where Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and domains are assigned within ICANN.

They discussed the imposing role Americans played over domain name policies, including how to assign internet suffixes in languages besides English.

Not so long ago (well, maybe for us baby boomers), before the Internet became popular, we got our news and information mostly from newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.

We also learned the latest news by talking to each other face-to-face – something we don’t do enough of anymore.

Today, when witnessing a news event, we can take out our smartphone to record and comment on the event, and then upload the video live, or save and send it to an Internet news website, blog, online social network, individual, or organization.

This technology is available to all of us. We have the ability to use the internet as the world’s bulletin board for instantly sharing information with thousands or millions of people.

We now live in what’s called a 24-hour news cycle.

The Internet is used as the venue for the constant deposit of 24-hours-a-day breaking news and events.

In nearly real-time, we are witnessing and commentating on news and events being reported from all over the world via online social media and independent journalists broadcasting live from the scene.

Years ago, I read how the airplane had made the world a much smaller place.

Today, the Internet has made the world a part of the local neighborhood.

Instant release of active events or newly discovered information – good or bad – to the masses may be, and sometimes is, seen as a threat to political or corporate entities, special interest groups, or even a government.

As we have learned, there are powerful influences; including various governments and organized saboteurs, who will intentionally disrupt Internet service to certain geographic locations – or limit websites a local population has access to.

Here in the US, we have the freedom to start our own website, blog, podcast, on more or less any topic we choose without having restrictions placed on its content.

We can join an Internet social media network and respond to and make known our views on politics, life-changing events, breaking news, societal concerns, government actions, world conflicts; the list is endless.

The power to communicate our voice and video messages to the world from anywhere is literally in our own hands when using our smartphone.

People are using their smartphones to broadcast live video content instantly seen by people around the world – an example is those using Facebook Live.

Indeed, we have an “always ready” TV camera in our pocket.

More of us are expressing our opinions and thoughts online – we see this daily over social and mainstream media networks, and in online chatrooms.

What makes these messages so powerful, is that our video and voices can be heard and seen by anyone on the planet having unrestricted internet access.

It would be naive to think there are not world governments, organizations, and regimes who currently control, or want to suppress, local public opinion and individual citizen reporting currently being broadcast over the Internet.

Let’s not take our freedom of using the Internet for granted.

What will the internet be like 10 or 20 years from now? Will we still have the same equal opportunity to use it as a venue to publicly voice our opinions, thoughts, ideas, and concerns?

The recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks reminds us the internet is also a battlefield, where intrusive attacks are being actively waged by those wanting to disrupt its availability.

These cyber-attacks are aimed against online public social networks, private, corporate, and governmental websites in order to interrupt their access, cause mayhem, and/or obtain sensitive information.

We need to remain vigilant, and knowledgeable, and voice our opinions and concerns regarding any governing authorities involved with the internet’s operation, availability, and security.

ICANN offices are currently located in Los Angeles, CA; Istanbul, Turkey: Singapore, Brussels, Belgium, and Beijing, China.

Their website is

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Your story: Broadcast it to a worldwide audience

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

It’s happening right at this very moment.

In more than 60 countries, people are broadcasting and participating in thousands of livestreaming videos.

“Live lets people, public figures and Pages share live video with their followers and friends on Facebook,” described Facebook in a press release regarding its Facebook Live video service.

Facebook’s Live video streaming is seamless; it’s built inside Facebook, thus no third-party application such as Periscope, is needed.

Most Facebook Live video streams are broadcast from a smartphone.

Social media and mainstream news organizations have taken advantage of this new method of networking with their growing online audiences.

When on my Facebook page, I receive notices of live broadcasts I signed up with in my news feed.

Using the Facebook Live Map, I can quickly see the exact geographic locations on an interactive map of the world, where live broadcasts are originating.

The “plus and minus” icons located on the lower-left of the map, allows you to zoom in or out within a specific location – making it easier to differentiate individual dots within a cluster.

By moving your mouse curser over a small blue dot which represents a single Facebook Live broadcast on the world map, you can see, hear, and communicate (a language translator is in the comment box) with the person originating the live video, and others watching it.

“The Facebook Live Map gives you a window into what’s happening in the world right now,” said Director Fidji Simo, of Facebook’s Product Management.

In addition to people networking with other Facebook users, Facebook Live is being heavily used as a reporting tool by mainstream news outlets, regional newspapers, citizen journalists, nonprofit organizations, cities, states, businesses, and governments.

A growing number of the news media are using Facebook Live when reporting from the scene of a breaking news story.

“Live is like having a TV camera in your pocket. Anyone with a phone now has the power to broadcast to anyone in the world,” said Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg from his Facebook profile page.

I agree with Zuckerberg, and am reminded of George Orwell’s book, published in 1949, about life in 1984.

Today, in addition to “big brother” keeping its eye on us, we, the citizens, are also empowered with a portable “telescreen,” which is, of course, our smartphone.

We have the ability to immediately broadcast what we see or witness to the world.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve monitored the status of the Facebook Live’s World Map.

There has been a definite increase in live broadcasts, as the number of blue dots continues to grow within most countries.

One of the blue dots was in western Russia, in the city of Moscow.

I moved my mouse curser over this blue dot.

On my computer, a video screen box immediately came up; I saw and heard four people sitting at a table speaking Russian. The video’s description was in Russian.

After doing a quick copy and paste into the Google translator, I learned this was a Soviet Sport’s Facebook channel, and the live video feed was a press conference with Russian Boxing Federation presidential candidate Edward Khusainov, who was taking questions.

There are a variety of Facebook Live video broadcasts taking place; from reporting live on the scene during a natural disaster, to people driving into work talking about the traffic.

I viewed various Facebook Live broadcasters discussing politics, the latest news, and their plans for attending a weekend sporting event or wedding.

Others are using Facebook Live for video phone conferencing with friends; much like using Skype or Facetime.

Some Facebook users were even broadcasting live video of themselves doing their makeup from home, while chatting with Facebook users.

One person was broadcasting live video while getting their hair done in a salon.

This person talked with the hairstylist, and also responded to viewer’s comments and questions.

I’ll admit to sometimes feeling like the nosy neighbor looking over the fence while scanning through these live video broadcasts.

If one encounters an offending video, it can be reported to Facebook using a “report” icon.

One Facebook Live video displayed in real-time, is the Abbey Road Crossing sidewalk, which runs through West Minister in London.

This is the crossing where the famous Beatles photograph of John, Ringo, Paul, and George was taken.

The upper-left screen counter showed 4,700 viewers were watching this live video stream.

One person (whom I assume was a tourist), while walking, suddenly stopped in the middle of the crossing and struck a “Beatles walking across the Abbey Road Crossing pose” while a friend took their picture.

I texted my greetings from Minnesota, as did many others from countries around the world who were watching.

Facebook currently has a 90-minute time limit per live video session; I imagine it’s so their network doesn’t become congested with constantly running video streams.

To see the current worldwide status of Facebook Live broadcasts, log into your Facebook account from:

I discovered Live Map is not useable over a mobile smartphone (yet), so you need to run it from your laptop or desktop.

Look for an increase in the reporting of breaking news and other events being broadcast live over social media by traditional news outlets, independent journalists, and others.

Will we ever see a Bits & Bytes live video broadcast?

Possibly. For now, follow yours truly on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Astronauts leave special silicon disc on the moon

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

When Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin performed their extravehicular activity (EVA) on the surface of the moon July 20, 1969, they left more than footprints in the Sea of Tranquility.
Of course, we know about the US flag, and the metal plaque attached to the landing gear strut of the descent stage of the lunar module saying: “Here, men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”
However, there’s something else special they left behind.
Just before closing out their surface EVA and returning to the lunar module, the following conversation took place between mission control in Houston, and the astronauts on the moon:
Mission control: “Can you – will you verify that the disk with messages was placed on the surface as planned, and also that the items listed in the flight plan – all of those listed there were jettisoned. Over.”
Lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin: “That’s – All that’s verified.”
And with that reminder, Aldrin unzipped his sleeve pocket, and removed a small, round silicon disc slightly larger than a 50-cent piece.
He then carefully placed the disc on the moon’s surface before climbing back up the ladder into the lunar module.
This special disc contains statements by four US Presidents, and messages of goodwill from 73 countries.
Each original message was reduced in size 200 times, before being etched onto the surface of the disc.
The reduced-sized image was then transferred to glass, which according to NASA, was used as a “mask through which ultra-violet light was beamed onto a photo-sensitive film on the silicon disc.”
Hydroflouric acid was used to wash the disc during its final etching.
Silicon was first regularly used during World War II for the production of electronic diode components.
NASA chose to use silicon for this special moon disc because of its ability to withstand the extreme temperatures of the moon; which range from 250 to minus-280 degrees Fahrenheit.
To the naked eye, each message appears on the disc “as a barely visible dot,” according to NASA.
One can read each message by using a microscope, so whoever comes across this disc in a future millennia will either need to use one, or have a pair of highly-evolved eyes.
The non-metallic, gray-colored silicon disc was crafted with the same technology used for electronic components; such as integrated circuits.
This disc was considered very high-tech in 1969.
It was made by the Sprague Electric Company’s Semi-Conductor Division, located in Worcestor, MA, with the assistance of NASA’s Electronic Research Center.
Being curious, I gleaned the NASA website for information about the disc, and found their copy of a July 11, 1969, 38-page document titled: “RELEASE NO: 69-83F APOLLO 11 GOODWILL MESSAGES.”
This copy was publically released Sunday, July 13, 1969 – just one week before Apollo 11’s landing on the moon.
I smiled and thought to myself; “Jackpot!”
The first page read: “A small disc carrying statements by presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon and messages of goodwill from leaders of 73 countries around the world will be left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.”
An inscription at the top of the disc reads: “Goodwill messages from around the world brought to the Moon by the astronauts of Apollo 11.”
The following are some of the goodwill messages etched onto the silicon disc still resting on the surface of the moon, near the Apollo 11 Lunar Module descent stage:
“Man has reached out and touched the tranquil moon. May that high accomplishment allow man to rediscover the Earth and find peace,” Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.
“It is our sincere desire that the astronauts, upon the date of their landing on the moon, will have made a significant contribution to a world utopia and peace though the universe,” Chaing Kai-Shek, President, Republic of China.
“The people of Estonia join those who hope and work for freedom and a better world,” Ernst Jaakson, Consul General of Estonia.
“From the President of Israel in Jerusalem with hope of ‘abundance of peace so long as the Moon endureth’ (Psalms 72,7),” Zalman Shazar, President of Israel.
“On this unique occasion when man traverses outer space to set foot on Earth’s nearest neighbor, Moon, I send my greetings and good wishes to the brave astronauts who have launched on this great venture. I fervently hope that this event will usher in an era of peaceful endeavor for all mankind,” Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India.
“... To the glory of the name of God who gives such power to men, we ardently pray for this wonderful beginning,” Pope Paul VI of the Vatican.
For those who are curious; there was no message from Russia on the disc.
“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth,” John F. Kennedy said on May 25, 1961.
The complete NASA public release papers containing all 73 country goodwill messages can be read here:
You can read my messages (without a microscope) on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Connecting society, creating the future

by Mark Ollig

Copyright © 2016 Mark Ollig

Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) of Japan, boldly promotes its vision to “change almost everything.”

Creating value through the application of digital information collected from IoT (Internet of Things) electronic sensors and devices, is part of this vision.

CEATEC hopes to bring positive changes to existing industrial standards, business models, and societies through “new value” creation.

Last week, CEATEC held a four-day technology symposium in the Makuhari Messe convention center, located just outside of Tokyo, Japan.

This year’s theme was “Connecting Society, Creating the Future.”

Beginning in 2009, CEATEC has now become a popular Asian venue for drawing attention to futuristic technology concepts, and business prototypes.

There were an estimated 150,000 people attending this year’s event. The CEATEC convention is considered the largest high-tech conference in Asia.

Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) looks at and analyses the data provided from IoT devices, and organizes it into meaningful information to be used by industry, business, and individuals. This year’s showcase feature was called Cyber Physical Systems, and the Internet of Things (CPS/IoT).

Approximately 650 technology companies participated during this year’s CEATEC.Of these, 195 represented 24 countries and regions outside of Japan; including 27 from the US.

There were a total of 1,710 product and technology-related display booths during the event. Some of the better-known companies at CEATEC included: Fujitsu, Honda, NEC, and Panasonic.

The symposium was divided into four exhibit areas.

The Community Area showcased technology for ensuring safe communities through the managing of public infrastructure and transportation systems. It also addressed technology to be used for dealing with disasters, local energy consumption, and monitoring of the environment.

The Town Area highlighted technology for assisting cities with providing comfortable and healthy living and work areas. It also displayed technology for improving various town services provided for the population.

The Home Area centered on relaxed and fulfilling lifestyles by way of digital entertainment immersion. This area also demonstrated AI (artificially intelligent) robotic technology for supporting one’s lifestyle, healthcare, and health-assistance needs.

Yours truly has written columns over the years about Japan’s progress in the field of AI robotics. In the near future, we will see several categories of robotic technology being used in our homes, professional healthcare and assisted living facilities, and of course; in the workplace.

The CPS/IoT Technology & Software Area highlighted electronic components, materials, and software needed for creating future technology to be used with CPS/IoT.

The Fujitsu folks demonstrated a friendly-looking, talkative, artificially intelligent robot called RoboPin.

RoboPin, according to Fujitsu, provides a “humanized experience” to whoever it is conversing with. This likable, approximately 12-inch-tall robot, happily greeted visitors during CEATEC.

RoboPin is linked to and can access information from the Internet. With its six moveable joints, RoboPin expressed a variety of emotions including: happiness, liveliness, sleepiness, and even sadness to the folks attending the event.

RoboPin’s audible assistance used a pleasant voice, friendly hand gestures, and head movements. It also changed facial color; determined upon the emotion it was expressing.

RoboPin recommended specific exhibits for a visitor to see based on their registration profile; such as job title, and listed interests.

A small, wireless electronic “beacon tag” device worn by each attendee recorded which exhibits and vender displays they stopped at. Accessing the beacon tag information, RoboPin would offer its “personalized recommendations” of other related exhibits or conferences to see.

You can watch RoboPin in action at:

StradVision, Inc., with offices in San Jose, CA, demonstrated its Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) using its object detection and recognition software.

ADAS also provides recognition software for wearable devices, smart homes, and of course, those supposedly-smart, autonomously-driven cars.

A demonstration of their instant language translation program using a smartphone was impressive. The ADAS language demo showed a sign written in Japanese, being instantly translated to English using a smartphone.

Their website is located at:

CEATEC desires to be a facilitator for bringing business and technology industries together across country boundaries, and encouraging their long-lasting relationships.

The English language website for CEATEC Japan is:

Their YouTube channel is:

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