Entries Tagged as 'Observation'

Why You Never Write About Laws You Break

Transportation Security Administration, an age...

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Would I be surprised that Jordan Crook got put on a no-fly list for breaking laws?  Probably not.

The one thing I learned a long time ago in journalism type ventures is that you never take anything that you’re currently doing and throw it out to the world thinking that the masses can protect you.  If you’re still doing it, then you don’t go about broadcasting how you’re breaking the law, neener neener, because bad things befall those that taunt the law in that fashion.

Basically, the article itself is about how there is still the law on portable devices creating the possible interference with navigations and other devices on a plane and how some people (like Ms. Crook) think that there isn’t such an issue.  Having been in the wireless industry for over a decade and knowing the ins and outs of RF, I am one of those that find it absolutely amusing when it comes to the justification of how GPS and other navigation equipment gets “effected” by wireless or portable electronics.   Sorry, but it’s basic physics.   If your equipment isn’t effected usually, then it’s not an issue of EM or wireless since those signals always exist.  It’s the same reasoning behind people that think cell phones can set off detonators on a construction site.  If that was the case, then it would have went off long ago due to base station coverage and I don’t see airports setting up no cell coverage zones like it is at a NSA listening station.

No, all of that is fine and dandy.  But if you’re actually looking to travel still for whatever reason, you don’t go around telling people the laws you break on planes.  In my opinion, the travel industry is already inundated with a bunch of movie-scenario security laws and in doing silly things like “proving a point”, that just proves that there needs to be regulations in place to prevent people from using technologies in the air.  On top of that, most laws are enforced by people that don’t actually understand what they’re enforcing.  Just look at the random TSA cases of seizures of books (when the law claimed books of matches were banned) and other types of amusing stories.  Government never claimed to be efficient.

So, if the next time you fly and get detained by TSA, Ms. Crook, I’d probably go and take a look at what you’ve written.   Maybe it wasn’t such a wise choice after all.

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Ubuntu 11.04 Quick Review

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So I finally got a chance to update my netbook to Ubuntu 11.04. And I have to say that so far, I’m very pleased with it. At least currently, I’m not running into any wireless issues like I did in 10.10. The overall look and feel has been very clean too, and it’s perfect for any sort of development type of environment.

Overall, I have to say that it’s amusing the application dock bar is almost a direct copy of the Mac OSX docking bar. It’s not completely the same but the similarities are definitely there. What can you say, don’t mess with a good thing when it’s proven to be a good design. I do love the full screen app mode where it takes over the entire screen itself too. The menu system will come up when you hit the alt key, so it’s actually very easy to work with and doesn’t change any of your current working styles, just makes the real estate to work in larger.

One change that I haven’t really tested too much are the differences between LibreOffice and Openoffice. LibreOffice has replaced OO, and it’s actually a fork of it where it’s trying to remove the dependencies of Java. Looks fairly clean, but like I said… haven’t had a change to play with it since I’m usually embedded deep in command line, vi, and terminals.

The only thing that I can see where linux is drastically missing something now, is probably a spectacular email client. There has to be something that can replace Outlook completely, but still have the ease of use and simplicity of Ubuntu. That’s really what has driven Ubuntu’s user experience in my opinion and driven linux use forward. Especially compared to the days when you had to compile X11 and all you had for window managers was something out of the Unix term environment.

If you have an older computer, I definitely recommend checking out Ubuntu 11.04. The speed of it really breaths new life into a computer that you thought couldn’t be worth anything anymore. And with basic browsing, printing, and your average document processing? Ubuntu 11.04 has come a long ways since I first touched linux.

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The Dark Power of Bitcoin

While this project is currently in beta, it’s actually a game changer. A scary one.

Bitcoin itself is an open source project where a currency bartering system was created based on P2P. A completely self-sustaining currency where there is no centralized system and everything is based entirely on the algorithm in which creates the bitcoins and the distribution. The fact that there’s an underground market for this, and that apparently there are people that are some stories of people using it as tender for illegal activities makes it entirely interesting.

The way each bitcoin is made seems to be along the same lines as [email protected]. Processing power is used to compute blocks, where when the blocks are assembled, it creates a bitcoin at random. Probably not entirely correct, but it’s enough to go on.

The biggest change here is that while governments can ban the use of bitcoin, they can’t really control the actual flow of money. Since it’s headless P2P, there really is no way to track the movement of the bitcoin transactions alongside the fact that you can’t tax it, or anything. The entire currency is hard to break down since it’s virtual and in essence, it could start an entire black market trade if it truly became banned. On top of this, the algorithm is an open one (considering the project is released under MIT license) but the amount of power to compute the entire thing is completely ridiculous to try to game the system or mine for more “money”.

All in all, this project was brilliantly conceived and scary in the same breath. I so want to actually give it a test run, but you know that the government at some point will turn their eyes on this. And the moment that happens, everyone will fall into a net of some sort if you have a connection. Thanks but no thanks. Irregardless, it’s one of the few currencies in the world right now that actually has some value to it instead of drawing up some random paper and assigning values to it. Consider this: this is the only currency that requires power to generate it in the sense of the energy spent in CPU processing. No other currency has that sort of value outside of commodities. Food for thought.

(h/t to Jason on the project itself)

Why Congress Is Not As Good As You Think

So the latest and greatest news right now in politics is that the 2011 budget has yet to be decided. So far, the Republicans are talking like big shots to the public about how there needs to be spending cuts, and how Democrats aren’t willing to step across the line. While this doesn’t make Democrats any better in the whole big picture, I think that there are some things that need to be said.

First, the House always passes bills first and then it’s sent to the Senate. So you technically could write whatever crazy and stupid thing you wanted. Republicans could go for broke here because they know Democrats wouldn’t allow it through into law. Everyone must get $100k a year. Everyone can have free cars for life. Et cetera. Thus, you can be entirely and stupidly nutty and make ridiculous claims and still get away with it as long as the American people buy it hook, line, and sinker. That in general vilifies the Democrats even though it’s complete bullshit by the Republicans.

Historically, there hasn’t been one single party that actually promotes spending cuts that the other side wanted. Democrats have always pushed social programs, and Republicans have pushed business and defense. Neither side ever cut their own stuff much so of course they’re going to talk about how the other parties are evil, and yadda yadda. It was boring when I could first vote, and it’s still boring.

Next, the fiscal year for the government is half over. You’re still deciding on a damn BUDGET? Give me a friggin’ break. And then they’re talking about the 2012 budget before the 2011 one is solved. Seriously? You budget for the year before you get to it, not when it’s half over. Solve the issue at hand, you morons. That’s like trying to drive a automobile before you put on wheels. Brilliant.

The entire government shutdown is a huge joke. You know how to get this done? President should basically tell Congress that none of them get paid until other federal workers get paid. You don’t get to see lobbyists, you don’t get your salaries, you don’t get anything. Amusingly, this is the same deal as any other corporation where the top people make a huge deal about how there are issues, but they’re always the people that are paid first, not last. But if you stick it to them, and tell them that they won’t get paid, then people are less likely to act like complete A-holes.

That’s why I think the entire thing is a complete joke and I get more and more cynical with elected officials. They’re always spouting how they represent their constituents and they’re attacking the problems, but never have you seen one single person step up and say…. hey… I acknowledge this issue, I’m accountable for it, and I won’t take any pay until I get this sucker fixed. Never. They’re all in it for their own agendas. Don’t believe it? Follow the money. Money never lies. The day that some Congressional person steps up to the plate and does the right thing regardless of party lines is the day this country will again move forward instead of being in a stalemate that solves nothing.

Criminal Justice Department? What?

So I ran across this website running an ad on becoming a CIA agent. Amusingly, I remembered back in college days when I was accepted to be a CIA intern, but couldn’t even get in with the FBI because of my grades. I suppose computer skills were more important than grades at the time with the CIA.

In any case, so knowing that there are GPA requirements to join certain agencies, I thought it was amusing that there was a site that was offering financial aid to become one, and on top of that was basically saying that you could join in 18 to 24 months. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it depends on a lot of qualifications and all sorts of things.

So I looked it up and the site happens to be off a .org TLD. I could be wrong, but I have never seen any federal government agency use a .org TLD ever. In fact, this is registered to someone that’s using a domain proxy which means that it’s probably a private individual. On top of that, they want to see if you qualify for financial aid. Someone is trying to get personal data for financial aid? Sounds awfully like a phishing scam. Now, like I said, it might be legit. But all indications seem to point to the fact that it isn’t when you get right down to it.

Scary stuff. And this is from a legitimate ad. Caveat emptor.

Why AT&T’s Acquisition of T-Mobile is Bad For the Economy

AT&T Mobile Tower Truck

I have yet to see people talk about this, so I suppose I will.  This is my personal opinion of the matter and having been in the telecommunications industry (specifically cellular) for the past decade, I would think that this should bear at least some weight.

The entire thing reeks.  

Sorry AT&T, but there isn’t anything of this that’s good for anyone else except the T-Mobile board and investors.   AT&T first has higher pricing, so T-Mobile customers get to enjoy that luxury that’s coming soon. We won’t talk about the service record that the former actually puts out but everyone has read the reviews.   On top of that, AT&T does have a LTE strategy but contrary to belief, T-Mobile does too.  This will be a huge issue of merging the management and corporate culture in which I would assume that T-Mobile will lose out in the end.  If so, this will end poorly just like the Sprint-Nextel merger where Nextel’s management basically left to start new ventures.  I’ll let the stock price talk about where Sprint has gone with their strategy.

Worst of all though, in these times, this acquisition is entirely terrible for the economy.   In a time that people are looking for good news, this isn’t one.  I don’t care how they spin the marketing piece, one thing is for certain:


Yes, that’s a fact.  In telecom, your job is always a project away from getting cut.  When jobs are duplicated, then there’s even a higher likelihood of this happening.   On top of this, not only will the actual carriers (AT&T) be cutting down the merging workforces, but there will also be a duplication of services and providers such as Alcatel-Lucent, Sony Eriksson, Nokia Siemens, Huawei, Motorola, and whomever else AT&T has dealings with.  So just as trickle-down economics effects everyone from top to bottom, this will be the same with an acquisition.

Don’t be conned by a two year migration period either.   The Verizon and Alltel acquisition is taking all of five years at least.   At the end, I would be curious as far as who will be left from the merger.  The line above will still hold true.

As a T-Mobile customer, I think the only thing you can do is voice your displeasure of this merger.   While I am not a customer, I do have many colleagues that do work at T-Mobile and I’m left wondering what they’re thinking about in terms of the future of their employment.   As a government person, I implore you to push off on this.  In good economic times, the American people can take a large scale hit across their faces.  But with places still having unemployment rates at even 12% (and there’s discrepancy on how that’s determined), I have to wonder if you really represent the American people when we’re suffering through one of the worst times in history and employment is scarce.  More so for those in telecom where I know people that have been out of work for over three years now because of how specialized our work tends to be.

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Why Picocells Won’t Take Off As Planned

cellular antenna in Ein Iron, Israel

So apparently the new fangled thing for cellular is going towards picocells. These are the small cellular cells that allow backhauls from home broadband. It really isn’t that new in cellular but its becoming a hot topic with the tech journalists.

And let me tell you why it won’t take off.

To get good coverage, you still have to put picocells on higher physical footprints. So they would still exist on higher towers, buildings, etc. albeit not as noticeable although when was the last time a person noticed cellular antennas within a city? This still doesn’t help commutable ground such as highways into rural areas and so forth since the traffic follows freeways and thus you need multiple targets instead of towers to handoff traffic. That becomes a space nightmare.

The technology is very sound. It takes traffic off of the precious spectrum and uses broadband instead of packet backhaul. But in doing this, the carriers are not giving back to the consumers. Like solar panels, if you generate more than you use, some states allow credit for energy provision. Given that picocells allow more use of the spectrum for “mobile” applications instead of stationary use, this would be the obvious choice to take. On top of all of this, you won’t hear about a carrier reducing rates. Not for that. Last I checked, AT&T even had you pay for it even though your benefit didn’t outweigh theirs. And they want to push this to all their consumers? Ick.

On top of this, there is the entire security aspect of this. If your backhaul is becoming multiple points in the network where it’s public, it becomes a major concern on someone actually taking over the network, or snooping on the network. Currently, your cellular traffic runs through a private network that is tied into switches that route the calls elsewhere. The moment you start dividing up traffic so that that it can be accessed elsewhere for backhaul, there also creates a middle-man area where a vulnerable point exists. This makes it difficult to convert a current network into one that supports both private and public backhauls without allowing infiltration points.

It’s a huge hassle in re-designing current infrastructure as an overall network design and would only be good in either developing markets or as a supplementary market. Having worked in telecommunications infrastructure for the last decade, I have to say that it would be a great shift in thinking to actually have anyone plan this far ahead with this type of technology. And if we did roll it out? There would be hell to pay without addressing the issues mentioned.

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Why CDMA iPhone Will Be So Much Better

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

I always have to laugh when I read garbage printed about telecommunications when people don’t actually talk to those inside the industry first. Such as this TechCrunch article that basically talks about how Verizon’s network is slower, older, and would suffer the same capacity issues that AT&T did and that there wouldn’t be any other differences outside of the CDMA vs GSM.

Alas, my poor deluded journalist, you are so incorrect. There is a huge difference due to protocol and company culture. And you would know this if you were speaking to people within the telecommunications infrastructure industry (just as I have been working in it for the better half of a decade).

Let’s talk about the corporate culture for a second. Hypothetically, if Apple had chosen Sprint for their network, then I would say that they would have the same issues as AT&T has had with their iPhone coverage. Sprint in the past is known to overload their networks with other products. Boost was one of the first, but there are many others that also use the same network but branded under a different name. But Verizon has had management that has always been a stickler for building out for capacity. They keep building out their networks regardless of economy and the last I’ve heard, they’re perfectly capable of handling any sort of traffic that iPhone sales would generate without even blinking an eye.

While I have never worked on any of the Vegas markets myself, I do know that for events most carriers bring in mobile base station units to help accommodate the traffic for conventions, ball games, and the like. If AT&T couldn’t handle the traffic at CES, there’s a reason for it but I doubt that Verizon would be in the same boat there.

Second, you don’t need more cell sites to gain capacity. Capacity is driven by what we call in the industry: carriers. Each carrier can carry so much capacity and depending on the cell site, you can install so many carriers. It depends on the spectrum and how tall the tower itself is, and if you’re using that tower with other providers. But overall, capacity really is less about physical footprints.

Will data carriers be overloaded? Perhaps. I leave that in the capable hands of the Verizon capacity planners, which I would say have been working on this issue for the better part of a year or two. Will CDMA iPhones experience similar data problems as current GSM ones? Perhaps. I doubt it. If they do experience difficulties, they’ll be different due to the way the protocols handle data.

Now here’s the big, huge difference that CDMA will win over GSM. GSM (circa 1981) is older than CDMA (circa 1993). In my many years of on performance of cellular networks, two major problems plague GSM carriers that do not happen no where near as often on CDMA carriers. The first is ghosting. This is where you’ll be talking to someone and suddenly you’ll hear someone else’s conversation. At times you’ll basically be swapped, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. I’m not saying that it happens on AT&T itself, but that’s something that drives GSM consumers mad. The other is one of the channels dropping off. In CDMA, if you drop a call, you usually drop the entire call itself. Both forward and reverse channels disconnect. However, the competition has a tendency of dropping either channel while keeping the call up which basically provides you a call where one person can talk but can’t hear, or vice versa. That goes away when you switch to a CDMA iPhone.

Now the last part is: what phone do I carry? I personally carry a Droid. Are there GSM carriers I like? Sure. But I can’t stand buying into a network I do dislike just for the iPhone. It’s like driving a Mercedes that has had its engine replaced with a Yugo. It just won’t do. And now that Verizon is going to carry the iPhone, I have a feeling that it’s just about the time to make the switch.

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The “Skills” of Young Gamers and Understanding Ping

A Big Daddy defends a Little Sister from two S...

It’s interesting that I’m an avid fan of online gaming from time to time, and I noticed that younger and younger gamers talked a lot of trash talk, but didn’t understand the basic concepts of how their online infrastructure works.   If you can’t back up your skills then don’t bother trash talking.

So there’s this gal in Japan that loves to talk down on how she’s amazing in Bioshock 2.   And she is.  But it’s only because she can shoot you before your connection processes a kill.  Basically, she would pull the trigger, and in the US, you’d suddenly die without actually seeing the shot pulled.  That’s a ping issue.   For the most part, it goes back to the broadband connections on how they are implemented in each country.

In both Japan and South Korea, it’s pretty common place now to run fiber optics to all housing complexes.   That means that you’re running at least 100-150mbit into the house.  Back in the day, when I was in Ministry of Pain back in the day, we had a sniper that was so good, he could snipe people with a 150+ ping while others were on a 15-30 ping.  That meant that when he got on his school network of 15-30 ping (that’s in ms), he was unstoppable.   He was also part of the [3e] guild (Third eye) which made sense.

These days, these newer gamers don’t understand that cable connections still don’t outweigh fiber.   That extra faster timing for those packets to travel means that you have just a bit more time to pull the trigger.   And that makes a huge difference when it comes to any sort of online game play, especially the ones that have great snipers.   Ever notice that the best snipers seem to all sit on university networks?   There’s a reason for that.

In any case, the moment you realize that ping can play a major part in your gaming, you’ll start designing ways to depend around the timing situation.  Circling around the peripherals and the back, strafing, and other methods.

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Ten Tips to Refinancing in North Carolina

low rates

I have to say that refinancing in North Carolina isn’t fun, nor is it a ball of awesome. I mean, in all honesty, we had to do all of the research ourselves because frankly no one wanted to tell you about the fees and hidden costs that you’ll probably pay if you don’t be careful. Here’s a few things to keep in mind of to take out of the closing costs of a refinance.

  1. Mortgage Insurance. You only need this if you’re getting a second mortgage and if you don’t have home owner’s insurance. This stuff stings because you have to remember to cancel it even if you’re done with the second mortgage. If you don’t need this, get rid of it.
  2. In North Carolina, there is a origination fee. This is usually 1% of whatever your loan is although there could be a little extra called an “underwriting” fee. This is normal, but it’s also pure profit for creating the loan for you. In other states, this actually goes away these days, especially on jumbo loans, but in this state, it does not (at least not to my knowledge).
  3. Put everything in writing. If they’re going to waive something, that should go into the good faith estimate. Also, from experience, attorneys fees range somewhere around $500USD mark.
  4. Title insurance is a re-issue of your previous title. Don’t buy a new one since that’s a waste of money. Titles are the same everywhere nationally and it usually costs you something like $2 per $1000 on loan. This is for the lender so if they’re trying to get you for a lot more, get your own title from any title insurance company. You could try Chicago Title Insurance Company, whom is one of the major three vendors nationally.
  5. Don’t get suckered into a prepayment penalty loan. These loans will basically mean that you have to pay the entire interest amount off regardless of how early you pay off your debt. You don’t want a penalty for prepayment which basically means that the moment you pay off your principal, you’re home free for interest payments.
  6. Did you know that you can get waivers for appraisal fees and such? This all depends on how much you’re shopping out your loan and how large it is. The more money that’s at stake, the more there are negotiations on closing costs. Everything is up for grabs since the banks want to do the loan, especially if you have a spectacular FICO score.
  7. Don’t roll your closing costs into the loan. That’s plain silly. It might seem like you’re not paying a dime, but in reality, you’re not only borrowing the money of the closing cost, but you’re also paying interest on it. More payment to seem hassle free? I don’t think so.
  8. Home owner’s insurance. You shouldn’t have to pay this if you already have a home owner’s policy. I don’t know for sure on this, but I’m pretty sure it can be thrown out of the closing costs.
  9. Regardless of whether or not your house is in a flood plain, you have to pay for the flood certification. Runs somewhere around $15-25 depending on the home.
  10. If you don’t know how much your house is worth before you start down this path for refinance, check a real estate site like ZIllow. While this isn’t an exact science and there’s not guarantee that the appraiser will value your house close to this price, it’s a number to work with and it seems that banks also use sites like these for their beginning estimations. This will give you an idea on whether or not it’s even worth pursuing the refinance in the first place. On top of this… sometimes it’s not worth getting into a refinance situation if you’ve already paid off a significant chunk of your principal since regardless of the rate, you’re basically getting into another loan from the beginning. The money spent and time has to be accounted for in a refinance.

In the real estate industry, many of these fees are termed as “junk fees”. They’re basically fees that are tagged onto loans to make it seem legitimate but are actual pure profit for the loan generation. Think of it like the certain types of regulatory fees that you sometimes see on utilities or cell phone bills where it’s not tied to any actual law but is made to sound official so that they can collect a little bit more money.

What’s interesting here is that a lot of people lower their rates without understanding what sort of savings you’ll need to save. If the closing fees are $3600, and you’re saving $100/month in mortgage payments by lowering the rate, then this means that each year, you’ll be saving $1200. This means that just to break even on getting the lower rate, you’ll have to hold onto that home for another three years. Is that in your plan? Perhaps. But you need to figure all of this out and believe me when I say that most real estate people that are involved in your loan will probably not go out of their way to tell you about those types of things. In their best interest of course.

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