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10/23/1999 AM radio is our friend

The AM radio in my car is quite a radio -- on a normal day Winnepeg radio stations come in clearly; That's quite some distance for electromagnetic waves to travel. Bismark, Eden Prairie, Grand Forks, Fergus Falls; all have radio stations of some sort to listen to, and my car picks them all up.

If you look between 88Mhz and 92Mhz of the FM dial, you can find the only reserve for free-range radio broadcasts. 4Mhz, divided up to put enough space between channels, and without interfering with certain harmonics of the frequency, there is little left to broadcast on. 90.5, 91.1, 91.9, and that's about it, and they are all taken up by public radio. The rest of the FM band is full of for-profit stations, owned by the same parent companies, all broadcasting music only. AM, however, goes from 500KHz to 1650Khz, with less restrictions on the space between stations. It's cheaper, easier, and there's less competition between stations. Here in Fargo, the AM station selection is pretty limited, though -- plenty of talk radio, sports, and news, with 1550 being an oldies station (which is my daily listening choice). Continue reading…

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10/18/1999 library of catalogs

Just moments ago, I was listening to a story on Marketplace from NPR. The story was about the benefits of XML, and how the World Wide Web will revolve around this new language, how searching on the internet will become more effective, the internet will move faster due to the simplification of information, and that everyone will have an easier time getting information due to the advent of this wonderful new markup language.

All I can see is this : money. Money money money.

Money money money money. Continue reading…

10/16/1999 Is Derek Goth?

People don't ask it, but I know lots of people think I'm some sort of dark, evil person. That is, when I'm not at work, being your average minion in a dress shirt and slacks. My dresser is full of plain black t-shirts, black socks, and black denim. I have lots of silver jewelry, and I listen to loud angry music. Must be Goth!

So, I took the Goth Test, and scored 17 out of a possible 115.

Still looking for identity, I turned to the Hacker Test, which is unrelated to cracking or malicious hacking, and I scored 0x05C out of a possible 0x200, or as an 'Operator' (which is a step lower than 'Nerd', but higher than a 'User') Continue reading…

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10/12/1999 More on identity

I feel the need to ramble more on the concept of 'created identity' which permeates the online world. I'm not sure why, but it's something that I think is very pervasive today, both in a noticeable and subtle way.

I've read a story in the newspaper where a person changed his name to a 9-digit numerical string; his social security number. He felt that in this world that we live in, his existence was defined more by that number than by his given name. It is a powerful statement, but not neccessarily relavant to interaction with today's world. A person's SSN is focal in any number of information systems as an identifier; it's how your credit card company knows you, it's how your bank identifies you, and it's probably the number on your driver's license, student ID, and on any number of other statements, paperwork, and forms. But, that's all it's used as -- an identifier. It does not correspond to anything but you. The digits within the SSN are assigned based on region of assignment, year of creation (within a range), and the rest are random in order to make the number unique. If it wasn't unique, it would not be of use to any of the insitutions which use it -- there are too many John Andersons, but only one 502-99-1846. It does not indicate your family history, social standing, race, gender, age, eye color, etc. The social security number is nothing to most of the world, except as a reference number. Continue reading…

10/10/1999 the haves and the have nots

When I was a student in Columbia, MO, five years ago, I had three options for internet access. One, was through my school. Two, was to pay for it myself from an ISP, and three, was the Freenet. In a truly communistic sense, the Columbia Online Information Network provided a basic internet connection to anyone who lived in the local area. However, in 1994, a standard internet connection was a text-based shell account, but since then they have added PPP access for people willing to contribute a certain amount every year. In order to prefent abuse of the system, time limits were imposed and every user is only allowed 90 minutes each day.

For as common as it is discussed on TV and in newspapers, I doubt the internet is as prevalent in peoples' homes as we would be led to believe. A $500-$1000 appliance is needed to access it, and it requires around $20-$50 a month in maintenance costs to keep the internet coming into your home without interruption. If you're not making a lot of money, then getting on the internet is just as expensive as having a used car as your main source of transportation. For most low-income households, a computer can still be out of their price range. The low-income households make up a large part of society, but they are also the people least likely to do their shopping online. These days, the internet is not a place to find bargain-priced food, toiletries, and cheap clothes -- you don't shop for the neccesities of life online; you purchase the perks. Continue reading…

10/9/1999 Can u tipe?

Over drinks with coworkers last night, the topic came up of handwriting. The complaint was that kids these days can't hand write a legible sentence if their life depended on it. Through the life of the conversation, what we decided was that computers were to blame for this delapidation of the handwritten word. Even when I was in highschool in the early 90s, some classes required papers to be computer generated, and required me to spend study hall after study hall sitting in from of an Apple ][e, developing wrist pain from their poorly designed keyboards.

This was the answer that 4 people came up with; myself, an actuary, a computer programmer, and a variety-store employee, over two-for-one drinks at the Expressway Inn's lounge. Just talk, but a significant issue. Stopping and thinking about this has brought some issues to my mind. Is it really the computers, the people, or a misinterpretation of what exactly is happening? Continue reading…

10/8/1999 Who do you think you are?

Hi! I'm the author here, and I have no credentials to be talking about computers, I do cite things, but most of what I write comes straight out of my head, and no one really listens to me.

So why are you reading this?

The internet provides a very different source of information. When you consider the print medium, once you print something, it stays that way forever. And, before you ever actually get to print, there are supposedly checks & balances to make sure that the information found in the publication is verifiable, logical, correct, and uses correct grammar. Barring problems with school textbooks, self-published 'zines, and publishers that don't care, the print medium that we all know devotes itself to fact. Continue reading…

10/7/1999 Touch my homunculus

Who you are online has become a popular conversation piece and commodity these days. Web sites require you to fill in personal information to get free things, your email address is filled in places in order to get access to your "personalized" webspace, and you interact as yourself, or someone else, or a hybrid of the above, depending on "where" (in a cyberspace sense) you are at the time and what you are interacting with.

The proper term for who you "are" online is an avatar. The theory is that when you use a terminal of some sort to interact with the online world, you are transposed into cyberspace as a moving, sentient being who traverses through cyberspace in the similar way as you walking through a mall. You stop one place, decide to go someplace else, move there, interact with whatever is there, get a lead to someplace else, head there, and continue in that linear, congruent way. The biggest problem here is that cyberspace and it's manifestations are not 3 dimentional, or even linear, worlds. You cannot interact with them in the real-world sense. There are some correlations, such as reading chronological posts in a chat area or bulletin board, but the rest of cyberspace exists in a multidementional, polymorphous form where one point in space can lead to any number of other points, and the distance between any two points is both infinitely large and infinitely small (which you can realize when looking for a single thing on a large website and just can't find it).

OK, things are getting pretty deep there. But, where you need to stop and look is how you interact with this electronic subworld that exists within ours. Cyberspace isn't just the internet -- it is the line of characters across the bottom of your checks, it is the security badge which you have to swipe to get into work, it is your social security number that has also become your school ID number, your driver's license number, and the way your bank identifies you when you call them. You interact with cyberspace every time you type in your PIN number at the ATM or call someone collect. You are constantly manipulating computers, and the computers are constantly keeping track of what you are doing. Continue reading…

10/5/1999 money money money money

My coworkers have put a lot of money into a "sure thing" -- they bought shares in a tech-stock mutual fund. This mutual fund consists entirely of internet stocks, and high-value internet stocks on top of that. The corporations that the fund includes are Yahoo, eBay, and several others.

Normally, an investor buys into a mutual fund for the long-term profits that come from investing in diversified companies with a history of consistant profitability. It's safer, might not have the profits (or the risks) of investing on your own, and allows you to gain profits from companies that may normally be too expensive to purchase individually. When you combine millions of dollars in stocks in Proctor & Gamble, IBM, copper foundries, aluminum producers, and Sears, the profits are divided up between a thousand investors, providing a stable profit for years to come.

You can't debate the current profitability of internet investments. Lots of people are making a _lot_ of money in putting their money into high-technology startups and sitting pack to wait for the checks to roll in. What people don't see is that the people making lots of money off tech stocks aren't making their money off buying a couple hundred dollars in stock and waiting for the company to increase their profits. The people making the most money off the internet already have a LOT of money. They are venture capitalists, career investors, and people who make even more money off Proctor & Gamble, Sears, and currency speculation.

There are the lucky few who happen to pick up a few stocks in a lucky company who is lucky enough to fit into a niche where they make more money than all of their competitors -- a Netscape, a Yahoo, an ICQ, or an eBay. Those are the lucky people -- the reason the big investors don't make all ther money off high tech stocks is because there is a lot of risk involved in technology. Continue reading…

10/3/1999 -- 57 channels and nothing on

I don't have cable TV. It's not some moral opposition to the trashy programs on cable, and it's not because I don't want it. It's becuse cable TV is so damn expensive.

Monopolies seem rampant -- I'm stuck running Microsoft software in order to use all the hardware and software that I want, US West has control over my phonelines (regardless of any arguments about Macleod USA), NSP is my only alternative for power, and finally Cable One is my cable TV provider.

But, a monopolistic company always has an excuse -- I do have alternatives to cable TV if I don't want to pay Cable One $40 a month for average service, plus applicable hardware & installation costs. There is WantTV, which is an over-the-air "cable" service. They provide similar channels to Cable One, but the signals reach your house over microwave signals, sent by a repeater located near Rollag. Their service is decidedly cheaper, an acceptible $24 a month or so, but their service requires their hardware, and a special antenna, which need to be installed "line of sight" to the Rollag repeater. If you're like me, and live in an apartment building, you're going to have to pull some serious strings to get the owner of the building to allow installation of a large antenna. Plus, you're still subject to interference from weather, other microwave sources, and anything else between your antenna and Rollag. Continue reading…


Well, for starters, I discovered I already had the word processor that I was searching for during previous entries. Turns out, Works for DOS will save in a text format that doesn't wrap lines in the saved file, but saves the CR/LFs like a proper text editor. Anyways, that's what I came up with, for all of you that care.

So, Sun buys Star Systems, thus giving it a great office suite, and the capabilities to provide services for free over the internet. A day later, Microsoft jumps up and says "Hey, yeah, we're gonna do that too!" The future now has one of two possibilities -- either Microsoft will kill the ability of other people to serve their applications, or true network computing will become a reality again.

When I say again, I mean that for years and years, applications lived on the servers and your computer was just the interface. The PC afforded the power for each person to have enough power on their desktop to replace the fraction of server power that they used before. Nowadays, very little happens on servers, actually; internet servers don't provide action for the users -- they just provide the raw information and the processing is completed on the user's desktop by a browser or a client or other custom software. Continue reading…

10/1/1999 -- the next day...

Well, I think I've picked a proper word processor now to create the files with. The word wrap doesn't work right, but it breaks each line at the right point, but it doesn't rewrap if you go back and edit. Well, I guess that it means that I better write the correct things the first time.

I decided to create this journal as a reason for me to start writing again. I used to be pretty good, nothing great, but not horrible. I've fallen out of practice, other than official documents at work (which are no fun). I think it's partly due to me no longer looking at the world around me in a creative way. I've always been more practical than original, but it's no reason for me to give up on creativity all together. Continue reading…

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