The blog formerly known as The Dobbs Method

Back to WordPress…

Posted in Internet, The Dobbs Method by Taylor Dobbs on 02/25/2010

After a two-week hiatus, I’m back to blogging here on wordpress. For the last two weeks, I was checking out a free trial of Squarespace, a browser-based site management service. It was awesome, and definitely a superior product (more customization, hosting, etc.), but it lacked one thing wordpress has: the price tag of 0.

As much as I’d like to be able to justify spending $7 per month on a website, this blog draws in some readers, but no money. Maybe once I’ve got a journalism gig and I can call it self-promotion, I’ll make the upgrade, but for now wordpress has me won.

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Google Pushes Broadband Market, Offers 1 Gbps Fiber-Optic Service

Posted in Internet by Taylor Dobbs on 02/11/2010

Think big with a gig.I posted earlier about the problem the U.S. has with broadband internet. Despite the availability of technologies that can offer extremely fast internet, as is in Japan and parts of Europe, the U.S. has stayed firmly behind. Part of the problem here is that, as with any economic market, suppliers (Internet Service Providers) won’t increase their own costs and keep prices the same just for the convenience of the consumer. They will, however, do this if it’s their only means of survival.

It appears that we’ll see a dramatic increase in speed in the broadband market over the next few years, as Google has just announced that they are running a small, 50,000 – 500,000 household internet service at 1 Gigabyte per second.That’s more than twice as fast as you can transfer songs to your iPod with that handy USB cable. Three entire DVDs, uncompressed, in the time it takes you to watch this video. In other words, it’s really fast.

What’s in it for Google? They want to test some experimental apps that will only run with extrmely high internet speeds, but I’m sure the income won’t hurt either. Another thing this means is that if Google takes a competitive market share, they can use that sway to push the net neutrality issues that they profit from so much.

The experiment is extremely small, which is definitely a bummer (if you’ were hoping to download Avatar in 3D HD before it came out on Blu-ray). Gmail started small too, then slowly spread from there. The model seems to be start small, stabilize, grow, stabilize, repeat. If Google follows this model, maybe Americans will finally be getting what they pay for by 2020. As it is now, we pay significantly more per megabyte per second than any other developed nation, and we run “broadband” that could be outmatched by Japan’s mobile carriers. Looks like the joke’s over for American ISPs.

As our favorite bartender would say, “Well it’s about damn time!”

The State of the Internet

Posted in Economics, Internet by Taylor Dobbs on 02/10/2010

Mashable posted a simple but very informative infographic about the state of the internet. It had information on demographics of internet users, usage statistics, a quick summary of the blogosphere, and probably most upsetting: internet statistics by nation.

The United States has the slowest broadband internet speed by far of all developed nations. If this isn’t depressing enough, my wonderful state of Vermont is ranked 47th in the nation for internet speed.

Considering America is forfeiting its manufacturing sector and moving almost entirely to an information economy, this is an extremely dangerous reality. It’s like being a fossil-fuel based economy and not producing any-

…well anyways, it isn’t good.

I’m all for Obama’s $8 billion rail stimulus, but I think (for once) AT&T is investing its billions more wisely this year, with $2 billion going to network improvements. This is a situation that will hopefully be fixed as quickly as American consumers realize how far behind the curve we are as a country and demand faster and more widespread broadband connectivity. Unfortunately for me and other tech-friendly Vermonters, I don’t think the movement is going to start anywhere near here.

Operation: UI

Posted in Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 02/02/2010
Sci-Fi computer interface shown in the movie Minority Report

Gesture-based interfacing as shown in the movie Minority Report. I wish...

My newest project, and one I will probably never complete, is to set up all of my technology (MacBook Pro, iPhone, PS3, displays) so that it works perfectly to my needs and I don’t have to think about interfacing. The goal is to never have a “How do I…?” moment.

So far, I haven’t done much beyond tweaking preferences on various devices and a little AppleScripting. The big letdown I’ve had is a program called AirLock, which should make it so that my MacBook and iPhone interact similarly to a Toyota Prius and its keyfob. When I’m in the room, my mac can tell based on my iPhone’s proximity and unlocks, opening any specified programs. When I leave the room, my computer loses touch with the phone and locks up, only to be unlocked by a password or reestablished iPhone contact. Cool right? I thought so too. Unfortunately, like most bluetooth interactions, it’s extremely glitchy. This is especially true when using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (as is my situation) with the computer. Airlock is currently switched off, but I have hope for an update.

Obviously, I’m stuck with classic forms of interface. I can’t reinvent language input or improve upon Apple’s mousing. I’ve looked into using the iPhone to interface with the Mac, and that may work as well (more later). Apple’s Remote app allows iTunes to be remotely controlled by the iPhone as long as my computer and iPhone are on the same Wifi network. That’s awesome for when I’m laying in bed and my ambient tunes are a bit too loud for shuteye or if I lock the door and realize I’ve forgotten to turn the music off.

Lastly, my two biggest time-savers: Quicksilver and Ejector. Quicksilver is well-known to most Mac enthusiasts & heavy users, and rightfully so. For those who don’t know, it’s Spotlight on steroids. It launches apps, can be programmed to run any Applescript off of any hotkeys you give it, and it can control iTunes; those are just the functions I use. Quicksilver is run completely from the keyboard (though you can mouse if you want) and does a great job of keeping you working your Mac as fast as you can think, which is generally the goal.

Ejector is simple. It’s a menu-bar icon that allows me to eject one or all mounted drives, digital or external, without having to go to the desktop and select a box then drag the icons to the trash. It’s a life-saver when I’m late to class and need to eject both my externals as quickly as possible. It’s not for everyone (I’m pretty sure that I’m the only kid on my floor with more than one external), but for those few who do need it, it’s a godsend.

That’s about all the progress I’ve made so far towards perfecting the interface, but there’s still much room for improvement.

To be continued…

Storage & Bandwidth: Media’s Best Friends

Posted in Internet, Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 01/28/2010

I grew up with Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, and all the rest. Back in the good old days when the government was more worried about Monica Lewinsky than how I got that copy of the new Backstreet Boys album. Legality aside, there is more media flying around the world than ever before. Sure, you could chalk it up to consumer culture and constant demand, but the real answer to the call came in the ability of technology to store and transmit all of this media.

A few months ago, Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price wrote an article in Wired titled “Waste is Good.” The premise of his idea is that in a world where the means are cheap and convenient, why not reach for ends that are a stretch?

With media, now more than ever, the means are cheap. Only three years ago my dad was telling me how shocked he was to find that external hard drives were selling at a dollar per gig of storage. Back then, I didn’t even know what a Terabyte was. Now I’m shopping around for a 1 TB drive under $150. With the access we have to storage devices that can hold so much for so cheap and computers that can create media for only $500 why not make that silly video you had an idea for? A few years ago, there was no point in making it because so few videos went viral. This was mostly the case because the idea of streaming a video was only out-dreaded by the idea of hosting one. YouTube changed all that. With the broadband technologies widely available and always speeding up and storage as cheap as we have, there are hardly any reasons left not to make that silly youtube video, check out that album you’ve been wondering about, download those pictures, or do any of the other things you can do with media.

It’s only going to get easier from here, so get to work on that viral video. You can’t afford not to.

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iPad

Posted in Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 01/28/2010

Apple iPadAs a blog with any sort of tech leanings at all, it’d be an oversight not to throw in my say about Apple’s big announcement today. The iPad. I must say, I was waiting for the bombshell for the entire presentation, and it didn’t come. Maybe the real “wow” moment with this product will come when a new OS is released (possibly iPhone OS 4.0 this summer), but I still would have expected to have a moment within that presentation that really sold me on it.

That said, I’d be kidding myself if I said I don’t want one. I just don’t want one yet. A widely-held disappointment with the iPad (aside from the name) was that it lacked a camera. When I first saw the device, all I could think of was how nice it would be to be able to curl up in bed with in bed with it and Skype. All the other things I long for in the iPad are attainable by software updates (multi-tasking, sexier home screen, etc.), but a built-in camera seems like a necessity to me. Personally, I’d like two. One back-mounted camera (as is on the iPhone) that could do live streaming, photo, etc. and another mounted on the face of the device for things like Skype or webcasting.

I’ve heard the argument already that the iPad is not as capable as PC tablets and as a result isn’t as cost effective. What I say to that is that the iPad, whether Apple likes it or not, is just not a primary device. It would not be able to replace my MacBook in my life. I don’t think they want it to – why sell me one device when you can make me want two? They want me to have both and love it. I think I would. I would love for getting in bed with my laptop to watch a movie to read an article or watch a video to feel natural for me, but it’s just not. The weight and awkwardness don’t make it easy. That’s not to say I wouldn’t get by without one; clearly I can function just fine without the iPad. It is not a necessity, but would be an incredible convenience. It’s a device that fills a gap in Apple’s continuum that goes from iPod shuffle to Mac Pro.

All in all, I’m excited about the iPad. It will definitely help steer the rest of the market and bring on some innovative and exciting products from other companies. It’s a device of convenience and leisure, which I don’t need, but would obviously be nice to have. Reading, watching, and listening may all shift over to the iPad, while laptops and desktops focus on more UI-intensive efforts such as composing, design, video editing, etc.

It’s the beginning of a new chapter of Apple’s history, and only time will tell if it’s a successful one. Based on Apple’s history with products that start with “i” it’s probably got a decent shot.

Image Credit: Apple

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Operation Chokehold

Posted in Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 12/15/2009

Sometimes I forget what service bars look like...

I just found this article, which explains that iPhone users are launching an attack on AT&T this Friday December 18 at 12 PM PST, 3 PM east coast, to try to bring down the data network. This comes in the wake of a blog post by angry iPhone user and popular Apple blogger “Fake Steve Jobs.” After already having experienced plenty of my own AT&T fail, I will very enthusiastically partake in this campaign against the big blue (and orange) beast.

It’s simple. iPhone users are all going to heavily use data-hogging apps on the network for an hour starting at noon pacific time in an attempt to “bring it to its knees.” I see a long hour of slowly-loading YouTube videos in my future.

The only problem now is that I’m not sure if I’ll notice if the network slows down as a result of Operation: Chokehold. I also wouldn’t mind getting a T-shirt out of it.

AT&T Sucks. Also, Water is Wet.

Posted in Rants, Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 08/10/2009

AT&T recently expanded its coverage into Vermont, where I live. Being a complete geek, I quickly got myself an iPhone. Of couse, I was excited. Over time, the splendor has faded. Here’s why:

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Digg Developing API

Posted in Internet by Taylor Dobbs on 08/05/2009

The social news site Digg (mentioned in my last post) has recently accounced that they are developing an Application Programming Interface, which will make it easy for programmers and web designers to create anything from desktop apps to online bots that automatically digg or submit stories.

This move by the site comes after it’s fallen somewhat to the background in the world of social media. Though it has a very large user-base, the average user does not use digg, whereas an average user has an account on either Facebook or Twitter. It appears as though digg is hoping to become an everyday part of the internet experience, with widgets on sites and maybe even a desktop application for heavy users.

As with any API, the effect of this decision will not be seen until developers get their hands on it. If digg is trying to catch up in the social media world, they’ve taken a step in the right direction.

[source: VentureBeat]
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Social Sites Decentralizing News

Posted in Internet by Taylor Dobbs on 08/04/2009

This isn’t news. It’s been clear for a while now that with the rise of blogs and other user-generated information, professional journalism (especially the stuff that comes on paper) is losing clout. As the influence of large sites like New York Times online and CNN fall, smaller news sites are on the rise. The unexpected side of this is that these sites are, in fact, reputable.

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