Tag Archives | Internet

The Pros and Cons of the Internet, As Taught to Students in 1996

Last weekend, I was at my parents’ house in Connecticut for a family matter. As my sister went through some of the things in her childhood bedroom, she discovered a document from 1996, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet. This was apparently part of some high school handout packet; also included among the papers were tips on using Altavista and print outs of the Yahoo home page as viewed in Netscape.

Since we’re fans of tech nostalgia here at Technologizer, I thought I’d share the document with you. Surprisngly, many of the Internet’s perks and problems remain the same 15 years later, but some of them just seem silly in retrospect.

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What do People Prefer to Sex? According to Tech Companies, Everything!

This week, GPS software maker TeleNav revealed the results of a survey it commissioned about Americans and their phones. The tidbit it chose to highlight: one-third of us would rather give up sex than do without our phones. The news didn’t shock me a bit. Tech companies love to commission surveys that give Americans (and Canadians, and Britons) a Faustian choice between giving up sex and giving up some gadget. (Or, sometimes, giving up sex to get a gadget. Or giving up sex to avoid something, such as PowerPoint.)

They keep on conducting these surveys, and news sites and blogs keep reporting the results as news. And somehow, the news is always that people would rather give up sex than give up gadgets–even when the surveys show that most people prefer sex to gadgets.

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Internet (Not) Everywhere

Photo by Flickr user Secretlondon.

I know it’s possible to live without access to the Internet. (Hey, I lived the first fifteen years or so of my life before I heard the dulcet tone of a dial-up modem connection for the first time.) But a funny thing has happened as broadband, cellular networks, and Wi-Fi have put the Internet within my reach the vast majority of the time: I’ve gotten really bad at doing without the Net.

Case in point: Earlier this month, I flew from San Francisco to Alicante, Spain, for an event called the IFA Global Press Conference. The trek involved three plane flights and took close to 24 hours. And aside from a couple layovers, during which I fiddled my iPhone and futzed with iffy airport Wi-Fi, I was disconnected the whole time.
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Internet Outages: They’re a Tradition!

Like all blogs, Technologizer is a place where most stories scroll off the homepage and into the past in shor order. Some stories may merit revisiting, though–especially when they relate in one way or another to new developments. We’re going to start pointing towards some of these forgotten articles in a feature I’m calling Technologizer’s Vault.

As I followed the news about the humongous outages at Amazon and Sony’s PlayStation Network, I thought back to major outages of years past–which reminded me that I wrote a story called “A Brief History of Internet Outages” back in August of 2008, early in Technologizer’s storied history. It covered crippling glitches at AOL, Skype, Windows Update, and elsewhere–and if I were writing it all over again, the new Amazon and Sony downtimes might have headed the list. Here’s the story again.


Comcast Ultra-High Speed Internet Expands

Need really, really fast Internet? Comcast on Thursday bragged that its ‘Extreme 105’ ultra-high speed internet is now available in about 40 million homes across many major markets, or about 85 percent of their coverage area. For those geekier types who care, the service provides 105Mbps downstream and 10Mbps upstream.

It’s not cheap, though. It set you back $450 initially — that’s a $250 installation fee and then $200 per month for the service itself when it was first introduced last year. But for those speed hungry, Comcast is now offering it for $105 per month for a full year if ordered as part of their Triple Play offering.

You have to have a frame of reference to understand how fast this is: a high definition movie that would have taken an hour and a half on a standard cable connection now takes five minutes: an album from your favorite band that would have taken almost a minute before now takes only three seconds.

Don’t go all nuts though, as there still is a bandwidth cap. Comcast says connections would be throttled after 250GB of bandwidth, which while unfortunate begins to make sense at speeds like this. If everybody’s downloading high-definition movies at the same time, you’d have to think it would slow everybody down!


Internet "Kill Switch" Efforts In US on Life Support?

A plan about 16 months in the making to give the President powers to shut down the Internet may have just died an early death thanks to the events in Egypt. According to supporters of the bill, the purpose was to protect US interests from cyberattacks, although critics say it goes too far and could be a threat to free speech.

In Egypt, the Mubarak regime shut down the Internet in the country in an effort to curtail the organization efforts of anti-government protesters. That hasn’t worked too well, and Internet connections were restored in the country this morning. The effort seems to have shone new light on “kill switch” efforts here.

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How to Turn Off the Net

How did the Egyptian government shut off the Internet? GigaOm’s Bobbie Johnson has some interesting technical information:

Essentially, we’re talking about a system that no longer knows where anything is. Outsiders can’t find Egyptian websites, and insiders can’t find anything at all. It’s as if the postal system suddenly erased every address inside America — and forgot that it was even called America in the first place.

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Finding the McRib, With Help from the Internet

Before reading the story in today’s Wall Street Journal, I’d never heard McDonald’s McRib sandwich described as “the girl who you are in love with who has always been a tease to you.” But apparently some devoted diners will travel for hours to obtain the elusive rib-shaped pork patty. The tech angle? A website called McRib Locator logs sandwich sightings around the country, and of course, there’s a Facebook fan page.

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Open Sarcasm Picks a Bone With SarcMark

A month ago, a company called SarcMark began selling a special punctuation of the same name, intended to denote Sarcasm. As some of our commenters pointed out, punctuation shouldn’t cost money, and SarcMark was charging $2 for the privilege.

Now, a group called Open Sarcasm is staging a protest to crush SarcMark and replace it with an upside-down exclamation mark (¡), which text fields already recognize and doesn’t cost a dime. Open Sarcasm’s organizer even came back to our original blog post to let us know about it.

The group says “¡” is graphically indistinguishable from Temherte Slaqî, an Ethiopic symbol that comes at the end of a sentence, used to indicate an unreal phrase or a sarcastic tone in editorial cartoons. No joke, Open Sarcasm pulls the idea from Wikipedia’s page on sarcasm, which sources a document (PDF) from the 15th International Unicode Conference.

Despite the subject matter, Open Sarcasm appears to be dead serious, writing a manifesto that specifically calls out the SarcMark, starting a Twitter page and opening an online merch store. Of course, the group is also accepting donations, for what I’m not sure.

I still don’t think punctuation for sarcasm is necessary — words alone leave plenty of room for nuance in tone — but a movement to liberate sarcastic punctuation from commercial gain is admirable, at least.