Tuesday, January 31, 2006

UNIX account issue handling at SJSU

A public service announcement for SJSU Unix users
We have seen a big reduction in tickets related to locked accounts and we are no longer assuming all Unix complaints are related to locked accounts. We are including the checking of, and possible unlocking of, Unix accounts into our normal password resetting routine.

All people reporting account issues, even if they suspect the account has been locked, need to treat the incident as a password reset. We will look at the details of the account to see if the account has been locked. If it has, we then forward the ticket to the SJSU Unix system administrator. This process is followed if the account is used for Email or FTP. The first step in dealing with a possible FTP issue is to verify that the related Unix account is working!

If we reset the password ourselves, or get the password back to us from SJSU Unix system administrator, as per university security guidelines, this Help Desk can only release account passwords to the owners of the account. These are folks who own the accounts and physically come to the Help Desk and physically pick up the reset passwords with photo ID. This Help Desk does not have authority to make exceptions to this policy. I do not have the authority to change this procedure. This can only be done by UCAT (we are not UCAT.) I encourage customers to request the ticket number when they make a password reset request and to always refer to this number in subsequent contacts with us (or UCAT) on this matter. This way accidental duplicate tickets can be avoided and so will the possibility that the password could be reset twice, frustrating the client. Armed with this ticket number clients can call the Help Desk and easily check on the status of their ticket.

The process for requesting a UNIX password reset is here [Link].

Monday, January 30, 2006

Don Hayward, husband of Darla Belshe, died

Don Hayward, husband of retired SJSU Journalism professor Darla Belshe died Saturday after a battle with brain cancer [newspaper obituary link]. I met Don several times during my years working in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He was the voice of Spartan Football, and often he was the voice of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications as well. I remember working with him when he was narrating presentations we did for the School. He was a very nice man and I liked him.

Darla was a fantastic broadcast journalism professor who put in far more hours than she was paid for. Her students put together the university's update news television news program. She cared deeply for her students while at the same time driving them toward excellence. She had the ability to organize every detail necessary for their success and her retirement left a very big void, too big for any one person to fill. I really miss her and miss working with her. I am really sorry to hear of Don's passing and of Darla's loss of her husband.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

TabletPC tool for the classroom

A great TabletPC App for higher Ed
Somebody (can I mention your name?) sent this to Scoble and he forwarded it to me. This is really a neat thing for Tablet PC folks:

Cool Tablet App You Might Not Be Aware Of
Hey Robert... http://www.dyknow.com/products/ is the products page http://www.dyknow.com/products/dyknow-onesheet.pdf is a 2 page pdf overview and this: http://www.dyknow.com/video/dyknowintro.wmv is a video about the product... this product really sounds cool to me; I'd love to have my college notes as Ink.
Name withheld pending permission

I want to look at this some more and show it to some of the TabletPC folks at SJSU.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

I got "naked"

Scoble in 1991

My copy of Naked Conversations Came
I had preordered Naked Conversation's [Link] awhile back using a link Scoble (it seems funny to call him by his last name, but that is what folks do) recommended I follow. I pre-ordered it from Amazon and it finally came. Wow, it looks great. Sue said it doesn't look all Geeky at all. That is a compliment! Robert, [Link] you did good!

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Ken Wong

Ken Wong

Ken Wong, a good and loyal friend
I have been spending some time looking back on pictures of old friends from years gone by at SJSU. It is amazing to look at these pictures and think about the context of who they were when you knew them when and where their lives have taken them since then. Like the others, this picture was taken 15 years ago. Ken worked for me in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications for a number of years. But, he was more than an employee. Ken was a friend. I used to say I never met a Ken I didn't like and that was one of the reasons my youngest son is named Kenneth.

Ken was there for me and helped a lot during a very hard time in my life. He was always a good friend.

My vault a pig sty?
You may get the idea from looking at this and other pictures that my old office in the vault in the now torn down Whalquist Library North was a pig sty. Yes, it is true. But it was also cool in a funky way and became a popular hang out place. I rode out the Loma Prieta Earthquake in the doorway of that vault. The walls were a foot of heavily reinforced concrete and the door was nine inches of armored steel plate. It was pretty secure!

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Citizen Journalism and News 2.0

News 2.0: "Citizen Journalism" is not journalism
There is a conversation going on by Rich Skerenta of Topix.net [link] and Om Malik [Link] about News 2.0 and what citizen journalism is. According to Skerenta:

The key to understanding what is working in "Citizen Journalism" is that they're first-person accounts. Journalists are professional observers and interpreters; they watch, and report back to the wider audience. But just like stockbrokers and travel agents, the Internet is again cutting out the intermediary.

If you followed the post by Dan Gillmor [Link] and his letter to the Bayosphere about the failure of that, you know there is some real soul searching going on about this subject. This, of course, is an important conversation for journalism educators.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lynn Benson Johnson

Lynn and Ginny

Lynn Benson Johnson: Friend, Photographer, Writer, Mother, Blogger
I cannot say enough about this wonderful and dear friend. I have known her for years. She was a Photojournalism student at SJSU fifteen years ago when these photos were taken. Even though she was about 20 at the time, she was always and always will be, smart beyond her years. She and I took country western dance lessons together, how that went is one of the funniest stories of those years [Link] and we spent a lot of time together both at the university and off. She and her husband Brian are friends of Sue and I. We don't see them near enough.


Lynn and Brian have a beautiful baby boy that neither Sue nor I have yet seen. But, I feel like I know him already because his mother chronicles his life so well...

Lynn with camera

Lynn's blog is one of those not yet discovered secrets of the Internet!
Lynn is not only super smart, she is whitty and an amazingly talented writer. She is one of those writers who is both a craftsman and very creative. At San Jose State she followed up her Photojournalism degree with a Master's in English. Her style is both documentary and emotive.

Read her blog
Read her blog [Link] and she will show you how this medium can be used to give a voice to a great talent. Read her blog [Link] and see how wonderful it is to be alive and a mother raising a baby who changes every day, as we all do. Read her blog [Link] and you will see how wonderful life is and how life is an ongoing story and how every day we live is an adventure. Read her blog [Link] and you will see what Dan Millman meant when he said "there are no ordinary moments." Read her blog [Link] and you will see how lucky anybody is who can call Lynn a friend. But, no matter what you do, remember I was one of those people who said folks should read Scoble when he had 18 readers. For very different and equally valid reasons I am now telling you about Lynn and saying, read her blog [Link].

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Blogger blocks

blog blocks

I saw this on Sam Smith's blog. [Link] There is other cool stuff there too. It is fun to follow links of people who comment on my blog. Here is what he said about himself on the comment:

I'm evangelising about emerging technology (with some limited success) to the guys at the University of Birmingham (UK), so to a fellow mac user, evangelist and spontaneous snapper, hello and keep up the good work.

That is not an easy mission, even here in the city that bills itself as the metropolitan capital of Silicon Valley.

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Julia Evans, SJSU student and blogger

Here is a blog by Julia Evans, an SJSU Library and Information Science Grad Student [Link.] Check it out! She is blogging about her studies and SJSU.

Is Mac OS less secure than Windows?

According to this story on ZD Net Australia [Link] Mac OS X has a number of security flaws that could, should Apple's market share continue to improve, render Mac OS X less secure and more vulnerable to "hacking" than Windows.

No wireless in the cafe at SJSU

This ticks me off
I just learned there is no wireless network in the Market Cafe area at our university. The whole point of a wireless network is that networks do not move, but people do. You need wireless in places people go that wires cannot. That is why it is so important to have the the wireless where people congregate. This is a university and wifi is increasingly becoming the dial tone of digital collaboration. This is not just true for computers, it is true for a whole range of wireless devices. I just got a call from an Engineering Professor who was frustrated trying to get his PDA to work with SJSUOne on our network (but that is another rant.) The point is, ideas happen best where people congregate. Some ideas can't wait until the person (or persons) with the idea gets within range of a wireless access point. By then, the idea may be gone.

I am told that the folks who run the cafeteria don't want wifi there because it might encourage people to linger. I guess when it comes to eating in the Market Cafe you are supposed to eat it and beat it. Did they forget this is a university?

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A younger Robert Scoble at SJSU

Young Scoble

Young Scoble
Fifteen years ago, when Robert Scoble was at San Jose State University and we used to hang out and chew the shit in my old office (which was a vault) in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at SJSU.

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Dan Gillmor: Blogging from the heart

Dan Gillmor shares his thoughts on what he learned from Bayosphere [Link.] In his post, titled From Dan: A Letter to the Bayosphere Community he quotes Esther Dyson:

My friend Esther Dyson says, wisely, "Always make new mistakes." Did I ever. But I learned from them, and from what did work. Here are some of the lessons...

It is a very insightful, candid, soul searching and honest post from a man I have had the pleasure to meet and whom I admire very much. Please take the time to read it now.

New SJSU wireless going strong

Ryan Sholin [Link to his blog] [Link to his profile] wrote a great story [Link] about the new Comcast network at SJSU. This network provides a huge leap forward in the collaboration ability of our campus community of Students, Faculty, Staff and University partners. So far, we have seen very few problems with it at our Help Desk. The new wireless seems to be working well.

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Spring semester has begun at SJSU

They're back

I shot this photo with my cell phone while walking to my desk this morning.

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Google to do evil in China?

Google moves into the People's Republic of China and Reporters Without Borders [Link] responded blasting Google, accusing it of hypocrisy [Link]. Google, who's motto has been don't do evil, has agreed to censor it's content of terms that are considered politically incorrect in repressive China. China has become the fourth largest market in the world and it seems companies like Google's values are less important than their pocketbooks. Reporters without Borders publishes the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents [Link] available for download here.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

UNIX Update

We have a count now of 86 tickets in GWI related to this issue. This does not include tickets created either Thursday or through other portals (such as direct contact of campus techs with UCAT's help desk.) Still, this is a marked drop off from Monday where the count was 72 (as I remember.) Hopefully the UNIX crisis has peaked and the "perfect storm" scenario I was worried about of UNIX Crisis + SJSUOne + Semester Start + Wireless will not occur.


Monday, January 23, 2006

UNIX crisis at SJSU?

First signs of trouble
The two main Email systems at SJSU are the UNIX system and Lotus Notes. UNIX is also used to authenticate to and provide access to the university's Web servers. Mid-day Thursday we saw the first signs of trouble with UNIX. Mid-afternoon we started getting calls at the Help Desk requesting password resets. When I went to log onto the UNIX system to reset these accounts my own password did not work. Normally I am the person who resets passwords, but now I needed my own password reset. More and more people were calling in reporting they could not log onto UNIX to either get email or update their web pages. I called the Computer Center to report there was a problem with the UNIX system. At first glance it appeared the authentication server might be down or having problems. I sent an Email to the SJSU techs Email list saying there appeared to be a problem with UNIX. I received a response that there was nothing wrong. In effect, I was told, this was a planned process to cull a handful of dormant and duplicate UNIX accounts.

Then, one tech from a university college called and reported to me that all the department Email accounts in that college appeared disabled and that mail to them appeared to be bouncing. That evening I sent an Email to all the students who work at the Help Desk to start marking all the tickets we receive with boiler plate language that would enable them to be traced. This went out Thursday after we closed:

Please copy this text and paste it into each GWI ticket you send to (Name Deleted) regarding the inability to log into client's email:

UNIX Account - user reports inability to log onto UNIX account. Please check to see if user's account has been locked and unlock it if it has.


A busy Friday?
Normally Friday is a quiet day and I was not in the office that day. I called in several times to the students on Help Desk and they said it was the busiest day they had since the hectic start of the school year in September, normally the busiest days of the year. They estimated they turned in about 30 tickets using the boiler plate language. This volume of Help Desk calls is not good on a Friday.

Monday, is that a wave on the horizon?
There were thirty messages on the phone lines when I came in and the phone was ringing like crazy. Accounts that were locked included the library reference desk and HR accounts. At the rate we were going we would never be able to get ahead. On top of that administrators were calling wanting to know what was going on. Answering those questions took more time. I Emailed every staffer we have at the Help Desk asking for any staff who could come in to come in. We have three student work stations and one is down on maintenance. So counting me, we had three on computers and a couple out dealing with walk ins. By around three a search in the ticketing system using the boiler plate language turned up about 72 tickets. Those were just the tickets we created Friday and Monday and did not include Thursday tickets or tickets that may have come in through other portals. It is my guess there were 90-100 trouble tickets issued, or handled verbally, on this UNIX account issue by close of business Monday. According to one administrator, I am told, the total number of UNIX accounts marked to be locked was around 300 and about half of those were resolved in December. If that is true we have most of those reset already. But, another SJSU IT professional told me reportedly did a search of the database and found about 1,400 accounts that had been locked. If that is true, what we have seen so far may be the tip of the iceberg.

Should we be expecting a perfect storm?
Tuesday is the first day of the semester and Wednesday classes are starting. We were expecting the normal storm of folks coming to the Help Desk for routine stuff. We expected to add to this the storm of new users trying to figure out how to use the new wireless network. Now, we may be adding to this a lot of angry folks who are going to be coming back to SJSU just to find their UNIX Email accounts locked. We have a physical limitation in the help desk. We can only have three students on terminals answering phones and entering tickets at a time (when all the terminals are working.) We can maybe have a fourth moving around dealing with walk ins.

So, has this blown over? Will it be smooth sailing tomorrow? Or, will this be one of those cases where three smaller storms converge to form one, big, perfect storm?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This is not a good time to buy a Mac

Lusting after the new Mactel machines? Want more power? Want to trade get rid of your old jalopy Mac? Think this is a great time to buy a new Mac? Think again! Right now most applications are not ready for the Mactels. They will be running in Rosetta mode (think virtual machine.) There goes your speed bump. Your old jalopy Mac might be upgradable for a bit longer on the cheap. I just put a new graphics card, a new ATA controller in my Mac G4 sawtooth, and I had already added a 1.4 Ghz processor upgrade and 1.5G of RAM. Now, that baby screams! It is like an old six cylinder Nova with a new V-8 engine. I figure that boost will get me about 18 months more life. About then the Mactels will have a bigger market share, the inevitable bugs will have been worked out of them, they will be on their second rev, 10.5 will be out and PPC apps will be starting to fade away. So, neither a Mactel Mac, or a PPC Mac are good investments right now, in my opinion.

I think this will be very much like when the Motorola Complex Instruction Set Computers (CISC) based systems were phased out for the Power Mac, Power PC (PPC) Reduced Instruction Set Computers (RISC) based computers about ten years ago. After about two years new applications were no longer being introduced that were compatible with the old Quadra and earlier Motorola, CISC based Macs. New software versions were PPC-RISC only! Now we are transitioning from PPC-RISC to Intel (back to CISC again) and the same issues will be there. The sweet spot to migrate will be in 12-20 months. That is when my 1999 built Sawtooth G4 Power Mac will be ready to be put to pasture. Pretty good, eight productive years. Try doing that with a Wintel computer!

So, will we be able to get such a long life from the Mactels? Or, will they be more like the Wintels in upgradability? Time will tell.

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Today is Scoble's Birthday

I just looked at my calendar and that is what it said. As I remember he is 41 today. I admit, I have not yet checked his blog and the information is likely there. He has been a good friend and a source of information and inspiration over the years. His wife Maryam is one of the nicest people you will ever meet, as well. I should dig out some of the old SJSU pictures of Robert and post them to my blogs. That would be fun.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Microsoft & PRC vs. China Blogger & Free Speech

The story was in today's San Jose Mercury News
The issue is that Microsoft's MSN division shut down a blogger, who went by the name "Anti", who was using it's service and making political statement's critical of the government in the People's Republic of China (PRC.) This story has also been on CNN [Link]. I am deeply troubled with how our American companies, specifically Microsoft in this situation, embrace doing business in and with and cater to the oppressive policies of countries that have such a poor record on human rights, specifically the PRC in this situation. According to CNN:

International companies have adopted Chinese standards, saying they must obey local laws.

Microsoft's Web log service bars use of terms such as "democracy" and "human rights." On the China-based portal of search engine Google, a search for material the Dalai Lama, Taiwan and other sensitive topics returns a message saying "site cannot be found."

In an increasingly flat world with global markets and supply chains we are seeing what seems to be a race to supply goods, services and that means jobs at the lowest cost possible. Can freedom and freedom of speech survive if global corporations are willing to sacrifice their principles so quickly to make a buck. Can they be blamed even for doing so, if their competitors are doing so? Can a company survive if it doesn't do so?

China is such a big market, and such a major part of the global supply chain that companies are going to coddle them if people do not take a stand and stop it. But, if the providers of information to the Internet ban such speech in fear of loosing both a huge market and angering their chief global supplier, what hope is there?

Microsoft Evangelist Robert Scoble, who at one time offered space on his own blog [Link] to a Chinese dissident blogger has been silent on this subject for awhile. As John Welch [Link] one of the commenters to the most recent post [Link] I can find that Scoble made on the subject said:

with China’s economic power, when China says “jump”, MS says “How High”.

Well said John. I wish more folks were paying attention to this issue. Scoble, with all the Google Juice he has, is in a position to greatly increase the visibility of this situation.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

China health care crisis

Globalization leaves rural poor in China without health care
According to a recent article in the New York times [Link] there is a health care crisis in China. As nations, including our own, compete in the flat world global marketplace to provide goods and services cheaper the citizens of those nations are increasingly being left without basic needs like health care and reliable retirement benefits. The drive to compete is a drive to maximize cost savings. That means those unable to participate in the cut throat competition are left to wither and in many cases are left to die. Is this really the kind of world we want to be building?

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

MWSF, ain't what it used to be

Moscone North

Not the good old days
A decade ago MacWorld was a happening place. Apple had licensed the platform and companies like Power Computing [Link to wikipedia] circled Moscone with Humvees, made some pretty wicked computers, wickeder posters [Link], and had some very clever marketing that really made MacWorld zing. Both halls of Moscone were full. The place was wild, exciting and very, very fun. You could go to MacWorld and bump into folks like Guy Kawasaki walking around the exhibit floor and talk to them. Those were the days. Today the north hall is empty and the only thing I saw circling Moscone in the name of MacWorld was a short string of motor scooters. You remember scooters, like they use in third world countries. We lost a lot when we lost Steve Kahn.

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This is the 2nd test

I am blogging from my phone.

I want to blog from my phone

So, this is the first test of how I may do this.

MacWorld 2006: Where's the Tablet?

MacTablet still missing
Before I talk about what I did see at MacWorld 2006, I will mention what I most missed. Of course I wish Apple had released a tablet MacBook Pro, aka a MacTablet. Quadrupling the speed of the existing product is cool, and I would like that, what would definitely make me want to retire the machine I am typing this on would be a Mac tablet computer. I will be in no hurry to upgrade until I see one.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

MacWorld 2006

David Blatner

Live from MacWorld
It is a good show. I have met some authors I have wanted to meet and seen some very cool products. I am convinced the future is in for some very big changes. The new Mactels are very cool. Great cameras that have built in wifi. Super new tools for podcasting. I have bought some books and a upgraded video card for my Mac G4. This is really good stuff. I would write more, but I am burning daylight!

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

MySpace, a place students often go

We should pay more attention to Myspace
In a recent conversation with Mass Communications students at San Jose State University that was released as a podcast [Link to Audio] the subject of MySpace came up. Now it is the subject of an article in USA Today [Link to Article]. The point is this is an important virtual place where our students interact with each other. To understand how many of our students are using social software, as well as to plan curriculum that they will find engaging, this is a place I think we need to be looking at.

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Will CSU wireless standards meet future needs?

CSU mandating wireless standards
I have heard the CSU Chancellor's office is looking to include mandatory wireless networking standards in its standards for networks on all the CSU campuses in California. Let us hope those standards accommodate wifi enabled devices such as these shown at the recent Consumer Electronics Show [Search Link]. If we base our networks on the old model of just laptop computers using wireless to access E-mail and Web that network will be obsolete before before it broadcasts a packet.

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Intel Mac Envy

Apple drops Intel bomb on Powerbook Users
Apple just dropped a bomb on users of G4 Powerbooks with the release of a new line of Intel based Macbook Pros [Link] running Intel processors. These new jewels not only are four times as fast as the existing models, they reportedly will run Windows XP without having to use Virtual PC. As an owner of two 12 inch G4 powerbooks [Link] all I can say is boy am I jealous. Meanwhile, I am upgrading the video card on my old Powermac G4 AGP "Sawtooth" [Link] to get another 18 months out of it. I am waiting for the Intel processor desktop systems to come out and for more apps to be native Intel. Anybody who pays top dollar for any non-Intel PPC Apple box now is just dumb. Software, in a few years, will not even be able to run on those already obsolete computers.

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This is our university

Tower Hall in Winter

Winter break
It is winter break at San Jose State University and the campus is quiet. Winter break is a short pause between semesters. It is marked by alternating days of rain and days of crisp cold clarity. For a few weeks in January the faculty and students are gone and the campus belongs to the staff. The campus is quiet. Footsteps echo in the corridors. Even though we still have to work, it is now our place. This is our university.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Here are some pictures of Kenneth

Tomorrow is my youngest son Kenneth's birthday. He will be 19.

Kenneth and Cat

As Kenneth's birthday has been approaching I have been thinking a lot about it. It seems like he was just a little boy. Now, in 12 months he will be 20. Days go by so fast their passing seems trivial. But, each day is unique and never to be repeated again. Kids, they grow up so fast. It seems like yesterday, but just a little over a decade ago Kenneth was a little 8-year-old.

Kenneth building models

One of our favorite things to do was to go camping at a place called "camp." This is a place where my first wife Candy went since she was a little girl. After she died, this is where we buried her ashes. I hope we can go back there this year. 

Kenneth in tent

Here are some pictures of Kenneth.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The China Blogger

Last time I looked, the issue of the Chinese blogger was not getting as much attention in Robert Scoble's blog. Robert did mention in this post [Link to Scoble post] a post by Michael Connolly, a product unit manager on MSN Spaces [Link to Connolly's post]:

"In China, there is a unique issue for our entire industry: there are certain aspects of speech in China that are regulated by the government. We’ve made a choice to run a service in China, and to do that, we need to adhere to local regulations and laws."

I guess that is the $64,000 question. When a company hosts a blogger, like MSN spaces does, and that blogger's content is theoretically able to be read world wide, and that company is a multi-national, is it an American company or a Chinese company? Does it adhere to American values of free speech or something less? These are serious issues. Let us not forget Tiananmen Square or the repression of Falun Gong. I used to work with a fellow who was imprisoned in China for 18 years for the crime of being educated in the west.

If these are indeed "Naked Conversations" that companies like Microsoft/MSN are enabling I wonder:

  • Will Microsoft enable politically sensitive conversations even if doing so threatens a huge market, such as China?
  • Or, will the company instead cater to the whims of a repressive government?
  • If so, will executives use excuses like "we were just following orders" and/or we need to "adhere to local regulations and laws?"
  • Will Scoble keep the heat on?
  • If Anti, the blogger from China, took up Scoble's offer to let Anti use Scoble's blog, would Scoble still do it?
  • If Anti, the blogger from China, took up Scoble's offer use Scoble's blog, and Scoble did it, would Microsoft fire Scoble?
  • Or, will this just fade away in all the excitement of the CES and MacWorld?
  • My money is on the latter.

Hey folks, this is much bigger than CES and MacWorld or any trade show here! Americans and also good freedom loving folks from China have died fighting for these values. Can we really let this issue just fade away?

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"Stop the presses!"

Katharine Q Seelye of the New York Times wrote this story [Link] about the dilema facing newspaper editors when the news came out that the trapped West Virginia miners were dead, after they were first reported as being alive. According to Seelye:

Most papers were reporting that the trapped West Virginia miners had been found alive. When they learned that all but one of the miners were in fact dead, about 3 a.m. Eastern time, many papers in the East had ended their press runs, and those westward were nearing their closes.

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Accident at Borello and Bascom

Borello and Bascom Accident

Last month Susie sent this article [Link] to Gary Richards. Richards is The San Jose Mercury News's "Mister Roadshow." He writes a daily traffic article that runs on the second page of the newspaper every day. So far Susie's story has not run and the hazard continues. I noticed when I drove through there last week that there was sulfur waste from the burning of highway flares there. Last night when I went over to Fran's (to put a license plate sticker on her car) I saw a SUV near the intersection laying on its side on Bascom. Bascom was closed in the northbound direction and lots of emergency vehicles were on the scene. This is a terrible intersection with roads, light rail tracks, freight railroad tracks, lots of traffic and all converging at one place and with tight angles. This needs to be fixed!

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Scoble takes on Microsoft and the PRC?

Is Scoble taking on his employer (again)?
SJSU alum and Microsoft tech guru Robert Scoble has apparently fired a shot across his employer's bow (again.) This time it is over the alleged censoring of a Chinese blogger [Link] by Microsoft's MSN Spaces. Scoble references this post by Rebecca MacKinnon [Link] that said, "On New Years Eve, MSN Spaces took down the popular blog written by Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti."

Scoble went on further to offer space on his own blog to the blogger known as Anti who is allegedly being blocked by MSN:

Zhao Jing, aka Michael Anti I’d like to offer you a guest blog here on my blog. I won’t censor you and you can write whatever you’d like.

Is Scoble heading, or being lead, to the door?
In another post [Link] Scoble hints that perhaps he has outlived his usefulness at Microsoft. In reaction to his fame, Scoble himself says that some folks don't get what he is about. He said, "You still don’t get it. Something changed over the last five years. What? Everyone has a voice." I think he is right, but freedom of speech is still a relative thing. No, I don't think his employer would fire him, at least not openly or without a huge reason (like protecting a very lucrative market.) Scoble has a personal brand that adds a lot of value to Microsoft.

Scoble vs. the PRC?
That said, the China market is huge and sensitive. Microsoft has a lot of money at stake there. According to MacKinnon, "the commercial blog hosting companies see people like Anti as a threat to their business." If Scoble makes the People's Republic of China's government very mad, his employer could see him as more of a liability than an asset, no matter how big a spike he is.

What if that were you or me? Would/could you do what Scoble did?
A couple of months ago I spoke to a group of long-tail bloggers at a Southbay Bloggers Meetup Group meeting in Cupertino and I did not find any there who would. In my opinion I have seen and felt reprisals in my own little world for what I have blogged and podcast. I feel somewhat protected because I am a long-term state university employee working in a place with a union. But, as a long-tail blogger I do not feel as free as Scoble. I wonder how many bloggers who did not have Scoble's fame and Google Juice, or a great union, or a pot of gold, or a very marketable unique talent would dare to take on their employer like Scoble did? As well as outright termination what they often do to people who make waves in my long-tail world is to just marginalize them to tedius work to encourage them to leave. Marginalization is one of the most effective ways to quiet passionate and engaged individuals who speak their minds. Scoble has clearly and so firmly established his brand as to be a spike blogger who does not have to worry about such things. Speaking for myself I would have to think long and hard before such openly and publicly taking on my employer. Were I an even more vulnerable blogger than I am now, I would either mute my conversation more than I do or do my blogs anonymously.

Thank God for the EFF [Link] and thank God for the tools to blog incognito when need be.

One more thing
Scoble is right and did the right thing to do what he did. I wish more people felt free to speak their conscience on their blogs.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Lost week

Personal note
Over the holiday break my wife and I became very ill with the flu. I am sorry to have been off line so long. We are doing much better now. It is good to be back.

Wireless networking at SJSU

Hail the new wireless network, now let's plan its replacement
According to a story in today's Mercury News by Dean Takahashi [Link] the hot thing in this year's Consumer Electronics Show is going to be Internet connectivity. No, he is not talking about your computer, he is talking about all kinds of devices including things like digital cameras and iPods connecting directly to the Internet to access and move data around:

This year's Consumer Electronics Show is expected to demonstrate that just about every type of gadget will be connected to the Internet and each other -- giving folks access to more digital entertainment like music, video and games, and forcing companies to make their gear work with other devices.

As we ponder and plan the next phase, version 3.0 of the university's wireless network, we need to come to grips with the challenges of how we can provide the levels of security we need to protect our university's digital assets while still enabling access to the network by digital devices that may lack the ability to log in to the wireless network using a web browser:

Just how big a factor will the Internet be in new gadgets in 2006? Consider this: For the first time, Google co-founder Larry Page and Yahoo CEO Terry Semel will be making speeches at this year's show, which is the showcase of the latest hardware innovations. This year, 2,500 exhibitors are expected at the four-day event that starts Thursday in Las Vegas.

As we look at the involvement of folks like Page and Semel, we see why companies like Google have been investing in dark fiber and making offers of free wireless access to metropolitan markets. They are planning to be selling in this space. Building free wireless networks when you are selling on the Internet is like building free and convenient parking lots when you are building a shopping mall. You cannot sell if folks can't get to your store. The technologies of selling are the technologies of collaboration and conversation. There is a whole new wave of collaboration technologies that go far beyond the paradigm of just using a computer to access the Internet for web browsing and E-mail. This new paradigm of mobile and pervasive networking is going to require a much more reliable, robust and inclusive wireless networking infrastructure. According to Takahashi:

People want to move content from the Internet -- movies, games, or music -- to any of their devices, and view that content wherever they want. And while they want the functions the Internet provides -- like instant feature or software updates -- they don't want the hassle of logging into a network.

Tomorrow we will be able to celebrate the turning on of version 2.0 of the wireless network at SJSU. This will happen as the Comcast network is turned on and used on our campus. But, we will not have much time to rest on our laurels. We have to plan version 3.0 now! The future is right around the corner. In fact, it may soon be in the palm of our hand.

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