Saturday, April 29, 2006



My family racked up about $200 in long distance last month, which got me thinking about exploring long distance using V.O.I.P. (Voice Over Internet Protocol).

There's all kinds of people willing to sell you a bunch of equipment or get you locked up into contracts. There are also mainstream VOIP subscription services such as Vonage.

However, I'll be looking at services that are, free, close to free and simple. I don't see why anyone would want to get bound up in unneccesarily complicated long distance contracts, unless they simply didn't know any better.


The simplest, most intriging service I've found is JaJah. It does not require any special equipment and there's nothing to install. Like Google, the interface is very simple. It works like this:

1. At the jajah site, enter the two numbers you want to connect.
2. When your phone rings, pick it up and talk.

You could even use that old Bell telephone with the mechanical ringer on it. Because you are not using your computer's audio capability or your own bandwidth to carry the voice, the quality is as good as a local call.

They are letting people test it with free 5-minute calls.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I'm currently reading "FAB -The Coming Coming Revolution on Your Desktop" by Neil Gershenfeld. ISBN 0-465-02745-8

Imagine downloading the IP rights and plans to a manfactured product and having your own Star Trek style replicator materialize one for you.

If you're fascinated by technology and major economic shifts, this is a great book to pick up.

Automated high-precision manufacturing of complex parts is performed today by digitally controlled milling machines. Like a mainframe of the past, digitally-controlled milling machines could only be afforded by a corporation, such as Boeing.

If you go a step beyond milling machines and think printing out a product you've just downloaded, consider this: There are fabrication machines operating today that use ink-jet technology to produce 3-D objects from digital plans by squirting droplets of liquid epoxy binders (rather than ink) onto a layer of powder rather than paper. A new layer of powder is deposited and the next layer of epoxy binders is squirted from the print-head. Voila! A 3-D object!

Could you print a multi-layer circuit board, a radio or an iPod?

Instead of using a "monochrome" print head squirting only one type of "ink" what if we used a "tri-color" print head and cartridge? One ink in the cartridge would be a thin "conductive ink," the second would be an "insulating ink" and the third could be "case ink" a kind of liquid plastic in the desired color (or clear) for the outer case of an i-Pod?

We can buy a number of high-resolution inkjets at Wal*Mart today for about $30-$130.
How much would adding a third-dimension (layering) cost? Imagine buying a "Lexmark Replicator Z-72" or an "HP build-jet" that prints in progressive layers.

Yes, there are issues to be solved, but they're all solvable with existing technology. Economics will determine the capabilities of the first mass-produced consumer grade Digital Fabrication Devices (DFD).

Computer! Make me Earl Grey, hot, lightly sweetened.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Why blog? Freedom.

I didn't care that much about blogs until it became clear Congress wanted the power to regulate blogs as political speech. Suddenly, a personal freedom about to be taken away became valuable.

I have good news.

At this time, it looks like Congress won't require a three day waiting period, a written application and a background check for permission to exercise my Constitutional right to free speech.

Still, the attempt *is* disturbing. How many would execise their dwindling second amendment rights to protect their dwindling first amendment rights?

In my case, I'm a little too soft, wimpy and comfortable to feel comfortable contemplating my own answer.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Here is a picture of Beluga Point, in Anchorage, Alaska. I feel very blessed to live and raise a family here. To get a perspective of size, notice two people on the beach, just to the right of tree.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Nothing of Value in My Computer:

I'm still amazed. A middle-aged client I respected revealed that she did not protect her computer at home. She works for a government security organization and I know she "telecommutes." Needless to say, my jaw just about dropped to the the floor.

"I'm shocked. How can you work where you do and not bother to secure your computer in this day and age?"

"There's nothing of value on my computer."

I decided to ask her a few questions to illustrate for her if she "had anything valuable."

Do you have broadband?

What are your computer specs?
"Athlon 2 GHZ, 512mb RAM, 350gb hard disk."

What OS are you running?
"Windows XP Home"

And no security software at all? Not even "Zone Alarm" or some kind of virus checker?
"I haven't had a problem yet. I'll use that stuff when my computer gets to be slow enough that I'd actually benefit from installing it."

Well then, I'd say that's a pretty valuable zombie.

A "zombie" is an unprotected computer that can be infected with a virus that alters the computer so that it can be remotedly controlled.
"Well, there's nothing on it. I'm quite a boring person."

Well, if someone can remotely control your computer, they can pretty do anything with it, including commiting crimes from it. For instance they can:
  1. spam other people...from your computer
  2. use it to infect and create other "zombies"
  3. rent out access to your wonderful system and your delightfully fast connection
  4. use it as a distribution point for credit card information or child pornography
  5. blame it all on you
You may think you're a boring person but, to a "bot-net" broker you're an exciting woman! Just think about it, you have a very high-performance virgin computer with lots of storage tied to a high-bandwidth connection and it's not monitored.

Didn't you tell me that you did your taxes yourself?

Did you use that popular computer tax program to do it?

Is it still on your computer?
(suspiciously) "Yes."

Did you file jointly?

So...on your computer is a non-ecrypted, conveniently standardized formatted file containing, um... your full name, job-title, day-time telephone number, social security number, date of birth, home address, your salary, your spouse's name and social security number, job-title and salary, dependents and their social security numbers, your IRA accounts as well as amounts you contributed to those accounts this year, your mortgage account numbers and interest payments you made this year, a list of the bank accounts you have and the amounts of interest you earned from each one this year.
"Oh my god!"

I take it that you'll spend an hour or two this Easter and do something about this?
"I've got *so* much planned for Easter."


Monday, April 10, 2006

Taxing 3rd Graders:

I just finshed doing taxes for my family. I had to file a tax return for my little 3rd grader. She owed taxes on the small interest generated from her savings account. I guess kids learn reality at an early age. I don't recall my generation paying taxes until we became teens and got fast-food jobs.

Since my 3rd grader has no job, she can't start an IRA, so her savings get taxed until she's old enough.