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Last Mile, July 22nd, 2001 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

the soapbox @ benturner.com
archived soapbox: July 22nd, 2001
"Last Mile" [permalink]
    keywords: bandwidth, internet, last mile, connection, modem, cable, satellite, connectivity, computers
    soapbox #: 303
    written: July 22nd, 2001
    words: 1288

"Last Mile", an Essay

A long time ago I wrote something about the omnipresent Internet that you could just automatically tap into no matter where you were. It was the natural progression and extension of the medium and network as a whole. Just recently I wrote about security and authenticity.

Just a quick thing: I know security is going to be present in just about every part of someone's usage of the future computer. Logging in to the system, connecting to the Internet, stopping unauthorized connections from getting in, making secure transactions, granting intentional and secure permissions to others, etc. I didn't mean to say security would be obsolete. But as I said, it needs to be approached from the proper perspective, and in terms of the companies that are currently trying to make their business off securing peoples' systems, it is only a matter of time. A matter of time until Microsoft integrates such security procedures into its own operating systems. I mean, after all, if it's omnipresent in all our computer activities, then Microsoft will have to handle it, and this will make all third party companies useless. Don't believe me? Look at WinXP. It includes a firewall, zip file support, CD ripping and burning software, remote control access, and so on. And it's about frigging time. The bell is tolling for these other hacks.

So anyway, the last thing I wrote on bandwidth I think was how frustrated I was with getting cable and DSL. Well, since then, our cable here has been stable and fast downloads are pretty standard. My uploads are capped, but that's manageable for now. Hell, even my ex in Sweden has flat-payment unlimited DSL now.

I guess one of the major issues still is getting support to all homes in the world, which requires a lot of digging and a lot of hooking up each street address, and this is known as the last-mile shit.

There's a big inefficiency at the last mile end of things. Companies have overloaded investment into routing and infrastructure and except for incremental improvements and general upgrades, traffic on the Internet runs quite smoothly, especially compared to the past.

But when you get to customers, it's still a pretty sad tale. Commercial customers still get charged up the nose. I mean, you can run a small business, which uses the same resources as some heavy-duty Internet junkie, and the ISPs will automatically jack up the rates.

Now I don't know why Apple was the first to come up with this miracle in computing, at least on a large scale, but that Airport shit is pretty tight. I guess if you don't know what Airport is, it's wireless ethernet connection. You set up reception signal thingies around your house or whatever so that you can put a wireless ethernet card in your computers/laptops/etc. and can then connect to a network without any ethernet cables. So for instance you could write something on your laptop in the kitchen and then go finish it in bed without having to connect anything. Ideally.

Not that Apple was the first to handle wireless. There, were, of course, pagers, and then cellphones, which in their current state, now handle most of what people need from the Internet. Cellphones are not going to fucking going away. And they're only going to get more pervasive. All you people who think anyone with a cellphone is a moron or a wannabe are the same people who thought e-mail was a passing fad. Cellphones are more and more going to be a facet of daily life, and it's just a matter of time until we can buy shit with them and do more intensive tasks with them, like store our ID codes for work or supermarkets, recompile new data with the data stored on our home systems, etc. And SMSing and e-mail of course will remain a staple. People always talk about the ultimate convergence device. But they think it'll be some sort of appliance. I think the more important one will look like a cellphone, not a toaster.

But I do think people will still need desktop systems or at least laptops for home use. Each person needs a private central database if you will. Okay, maybe not everyone. I just think a lot of people will still find one useful. A way to easily access lots of information which is easy to read, a way to play computer games, look at our Quicken data, a place to store our e-mail and whatnot, a way to indulge in online sex bots, pretty much all that we use desktops for now.

But computers will be smaller and lighter and more maneuverable and trying to find an ethernet jack and power outlet are such a pain in the ass. I mean, I can't hook up all the computers we have in our house because I'd have to run ethernet cables from one end of the house to the other. I've done that to some rooms, but they're all close together so it was easier. There's no ultimate flexibility. Wireless networks will provide this.

And on a slightly larger scale, there's tech like WiFi, which lets providers set up wireless posts (albeit with a limited range of what, 300 feet?) in neighborhoods or business buildings that let people connect to the Internet itself wirelessly. Like a cellphone connects to the Internet. And it has decent speed too. Security of course is a huge issue. With proper security you can keep people from just accessing your network, but you're still making your presence known easily using wireless. I liked that story I read about this guy who was cruising around San Fran with a rigged device that could scan all the dotcom buildings and list the names of all the wireless networks. End users are more stupid than you can imagine. (the inherent flaw of security, as a reminder)

But you see, wireless cures many of the last-mile problems. It would be much easier to blanket the country with wireless towers than to hook up each single house. Hardlines might still be needed though for some locations that get poor reception. Not sure about that. But theoretically it seems promising.

If all that happens, my dream of an easily tappable Internet will be one step closer, and that makes me happy.

After all, my dream is to be like Johnny Mnemonic, remember? Everything I need fits in a briefcase, and I can go sit at that cafe in Rome and trade stocks. No hassles, no pressing lots of buttons, no plugging anything in, no delays, nothing. Just a dish of prosciutto e melone and a list of winning stock plays.

Before ending this 'Box, I just want to see how much stuff I really need to live. I couldn't fit it all in a briefcase, but I could definitely get rid of some junk. All these CDs, books, boxes, desks, bookshelves, devices...unnecessary for a constant traveler. All I need is a thin laptop (the kind I want doesn't exist yet as batteries last for like 10 mins and the computers are too slow), some headphones, a wallet, a cellphone, and a suitcase for clothes. A briefcase or backpack to hold it all plus some small things. Most of the information I need I can already find online. That's pretty cool that that's all I need. Maybe it's time to do some serious cleaning up of my room.


 
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