February 19, 2012

Solving Lenovo X200 Blue Screen Problem

Posted in technology, Troubleshooting tagged , , , , , , , at 11:32 pm by degyes

Some months back, I posted an article offering a solution to a known black screen issue with the Lenovo X200 PC. This time, we’re solving a blue screen issue …

After months of getting ‘blue screens’ (BSODs) when redocking the PC and taking it out of sleep mode (15% – 20% of the time), a colleague in the laptops lab came up with a brilliant solution that’s been succeeding. The solution involves disabling the function that allows certain hardware devices to bring the computer out of standby mode.

  1. In Windows (still working in XP), select the My Computer icon.
  2. Click the right-mouse button.
  3. In the pop-up menu, choose Properties.
  4. In the System Properties dialog, select the Hardware tab.
  5. Click the Device Manager button.
  6. In the list of components, expand the various trees, select the items appearing within the branches, right-click, and choose properties.
  7. For items with a Power Management tab, select that tab.
  8. Un-select “Allow this device to bring the computer out of standby.”
  9. Click OK.

To save you the task of inspecting each hardware element individually, the following are the items on my PC with Power Management:

  • Modems > ThinkPad Modem Adapter
  • Network Adapters > Intel Gigabit and Intel WiFi link.

Note

Leave USB Controllers alone, i.e. don’t uncheck “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power,” under USB Controllers > USB Root Hub.

August 29, 2011

The Big Switch, by Nicholas Carr

Posted in Book Review, Commentary, Future, technology tagged , , , at 2:42 pm by degyes

The following tweets summarize the main points of Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google. Carr’s basic premise is that the migration of data storage and application hosting to “cloud” computing today is no less revolutionary than the construction of electrical grids in the late 19th century, and resultant provision of electricity to homes, businesses, and municipalities. The first third of the book tells the story of Edison, his contemporaries, and the impact of their innovations. The second third discusses the recent evolution of utility computing and its influence. The final third of the book is essentially a treatise on what we can expect from a future where the common individual has yielded any remaining semblance of privacy to governments, corporations, and various institutions.

[1/11] Finished reading The Big Switch, by Nicholas Carr. http://www.nicholasgcarr.com/bigswitch/ #TheBigSwitch #CloudComputing

[2/11] Informative and entertaining, though dark view of future of computers, networks, and connectivity. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[3/11] Claims Internet puts disproportionate power in hands of gov’ts, corporations & institutions.  #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[4/11] Power no longer in hands of individual end-user. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[5/11] Rejects notion that computer systems are technologies of emancipation. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[6/11] Rather, computer systems are technologies of control. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[7/11] Computer systems designed to monitor & influence human behavior. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[8/11] The more we share into databases, social networks, & cloud storage, the more vulnerable we make ourselves. #TheBigSwitch #Internet

[9/11] Consumerism long ago replaced libertarianism as prevailing ideology of online world. #9heBigSwitch #Internet

[10/11] Claims Google founders predict direct link between #brain & #Internet by 2020, i.e. physical-neural interface. #TheBigSwitch

[11/11] I’m finished tweeting on #TheBigSwitch. Enjoyed the book & recommend it. 

July 3, 2011

Solving Lenovo X200 Black Screen Problem

Posted in PC Tech, technology, Troubleshooting tagged , , , , , , , at 4:03 pm by degyes

I was recently looking around the Internet for a solution to the Lenovo X200 standby /  resume (hibernate / wake-up) issue, which has gotten really annoying lately. Basically, the problem is that in about 15%-20% of cases, when placing the machine in standby or when trying to wake it up standby mode, it black screens.

I came across a bulletin board that recommended disabling the fingerprint scanner via the LT’s BIOS, although no instructions were provided on the site (and thus, no link).

You can disable the fingerprint scanner without going directly into the BIOS, as follows:

  1. In Windows (I’m working in WinXP), select the My Computer icon.
  2. Click the right-mouse button.
  3. In the pop-up menu, choose Properties.
  4. In the System Properties dialog, select the Hardware tab.
  5. Click the Device Manager button.
  6. In the main tree, open the Biometric branch.
  7. Once you’ve opened the branch, you should see an item marked AuthenTec Inc.; select it.
  8. Click the right-mouse button.
  9. In the pop-up menu, choose Disable.

Note that there might be a more recently released driver that solves the black-screen problem. In that case, instead of disabling it, perhaps updating to the newer driver would solve the black-screen problem without requiring a disable.

June 15, 2011

Connecting a PC to a Secure Wireless Network

Posted in technology tagged , , , , , , , at 4:52 pm by degyes

Now that you’ve password-protected your wireless network using WPA-PSK security with TKIP (“tee-kip”) encryption, despite your smart phone and your kids’ iPods easily connecting, you’re having difficulty getting your laptop PC to connect via its wireless radio.

Problem

Whereas the portable devices simply display a password entry screen to facilitate connectivity, with PCs (or at least those running WinXP, like mine), it’s apparently not quite as simple.

Solution

This procedure describes how to repair PC connectivity to your wireless network, once you’ve secured the network via a password.

  1. On your laptop PC, make sure your Wireless Radio hardware is turned on (usually via a switch on the side or somewhere else on the machine).
  2. Open Network and Dial-up Connections > Select Wireless Network Connections. Right-click and choose View Available Wireless Networks.

    The Wireless Network Connection dialog is displayed.

  3. In Wireless Network Connection, from the left-side bar, click Change Advanced Settings.
  4. In the Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog, choose the Wireless Networks tab, and select the ‘Use Windows to Configure My Wireless Network Settings’ checkbox.
  5. Under Preferred Networks, choose the wireless network you want to configure, and click the Properties button (or, if this is a new router connection, click Add).

    In the Properties dialog, configure your settings as follows:

    • In Network Authentication, choose WPA-PSK.
    • In Data Encryption, choose TKIP.
    • In Network Key, enter the password that you defined in your wireless router’s firmware.
    • Ditto for Confirm Network Key.
  1. Click OK x2.
  2. Before your PC will connect to the wireless network, you might have to repair the connection.
    • Make sure your wireless radio is turned on.
    • Go back to your Network Connections window (as in Step #2).
    • Select Wireless Network Connection, right-click, and choose Repair.

      This step should perform authentication between the PC and the password-protected wireless network, as well as perform the IP refresh needed in order for your router to connect to your machine.

Reconnecting in the Future

Once you’ve disconnected from the wireless network and wish to reconnect, you may have to re-authenticate (i.e. perform Step #7, above) in order to before reestablishing connection.

If when attempting reconnection, you get a message indicating “one or more of your preferred networks is out of range,” do as follows:

  1. Click on that message; or right-click on the Wireless Network Connection glyph in your system tray, and choose View Available Networks.

    Note: Make sure your wireless radio is turned on!

  2. In the Wireless Network Connection window, click Refresh Network List.
  3. Double-click on the desired network.

    You’ll be prompted for password authentication.

  4. If the password isn’t already typed in, retype it and click Connect.

    After a few moments, you should be reconnected.

May 16, 2011

What Would YOUgle Do?

Posted in Book Review, Disruptive Communication, Social Media, technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:33 pm by degyes

Our recent reading of Jeff Jarvis’(@JeffJarvis) 2009 critically acclaimed – and sometimes ridiculed – What Would Google Do (#WWGD) stimulated much thought with regard to the tectonic shifts taking place in business during the past fifteen years or so. There are many reviews out there of this book, laudatory as well as mocking. Go ahead and Google them. So why the need for yet another? We decided to present a review targeted toward technical communicators (TCs), a professional group impacted heavily by the Internet economy, and also well positioned—possibly better than any other profession—to exploit these shifts.

A Media Experiment

One of Jarvis’ stories that stood out powerfully for me was his retelling of a media experiment by Brian Lehrer in 2007. On Lehrer’s WNYC radio program, he prompted listeners to go to their local grocery stores and report on the price of milk and several other items. Hundreds responded, providing the station with data no single reporter could have gathered alone. WNYC plotted the data on Google Maps, demonstrating which neighborhoods were being gouged, and even being subjected to illegally high prices.

Why should this be surprising and what’s special about it? Haven’t consumers banded together for ages already, supporting the businesses, products, and services they like, while spurning those they don’t? Yes, but not with such rapidity, ease, and perhaps boldness. Could this experiment have succeeded without Google Maps? Maybe. But the point is that the Internet and a (free) Google product make the collaboration effort much easier and much faster. Furthermore, if it could happen in a few shops in several New York City neighborhoods, could this experience be scaled to a whole state, country, or industry?

Riding the Cluetrain

Jarvis is clearly a proponent of the Cluetrain Manifesto, as he refers to it with some frequency. Furthermore, his main message is very much in alignment with Cluetrain’s principles, as well as its tone. Written in 1999, Cluetrain lists 95 statements (“theses”?) on how the Internet has changed, and is continuing to change, the way the world does business. Namely, it describes how the consumer is empowered through a vast network of people sharing their stories about products and services. Marketing departments and many of the techniques they’ve employed, Jarvis says, are becoming irrelevant and are outmoded. Companies had better tune into the conversations taking place “out there” among consumers and other interested parties that could lead to potential business.

Though written in a somewhat smug tone, Cluetrain contains truths that we ought to internalize. Specifically, what are the key lessons of Cluetrain, as exemplified by Google’s success story? What can we learn here? The take-home message is that product vendors, service providers, and professional people in general—anyone wishing to remain relevant in the public sphere—must place listening to customers and responding respectfully to their input at the foundation of their organizational culture.

You’re Tweeting? So? Are You Listening?

Taking it a step further, Jarvis’ urges avoiding the delusion that having a Web site or being on Facebook or Twitter makes you customer-oriented if your basic behavioral pattern hasn’t changed. Talking down to your public is not only passé, but destructive to your business. Listening goes beyond claiming to have a customer service culture or exuding warmth in your PR campaign. What it does mean is that the products you sell and the services you provide reflect the needs, expectations, and input of your public.

On rare occasion, a product, service, or platform will come along presenting a quantitative shift in the way we do things. It could be argued, justifiably so, that revolutionary changes—mass produced automobiles, telephones, Internet, Web 2.0 applications—were so innovative that they couldn’t possibly have been invented only in response to consumer surveys. On the contrary, these innovations were truly ground-shifting, imaginative, and bold. They’re also quite rare. As consumers, we’ll know one when we see one. In the meantime, just listen.

So What’s the Message for Technical Communicators?

Why do we as TCs need to pay attention to Jarvis’ message? Why can we not afford to ignore the communication frameworks—and the documentation models—emerging as a result of the Internet economy?

The top-down approach to documentation is rapidly becoming outmoded; many would say it’s already gone. Instead, we need to be thinking in collaborative, grassroots, “distributed,” ways. According to Jarvis’ Google Rules for media companies, “thinking distributed” means regarding your readership—i.e. your customers—not as mere consumers of your output, but as content sources themselves. This is already happening across countless support forums—Nokia, Microsoft, Adobe, travel tip sites, are just a few that come to mind. If it hasn’t reached you by now, bet that it will soon. Open up and listen.

What does this mean for us? What do we need to do? Get involved in what’s happening on the ground level. Participate in these conversations. Read what’s being written. Be open. Be responsive (not reactive). Lead discussions. Harvest the knowledge that grows from these interactions. Tag it. Curate it. Repackage and productize it. This is your documentation. This is your product, and your portfolio.

Me? Blog?

Why do people blog? Perhaps the better question is why do professionals blog? Why is it important for us to place ourselves out there before the public? Because, if done well, it conveys that message that we care and that we’re eager to engage our audience and customers face to face.

We believe this message applies to all types of social media, including—but not limited to—blogs. As such, a well-thought social media image addresses the following questions:

  • What is our contribution to the “gift economy”?
  • What is our value proposition?
  • How do we differentiate—i.e. brand—ourselves?

Oh, and if you have to explain your value, it’s probably not as great as you think.

Old Media, New Media

According to Jarvis, Yahoo is the last “old media” company. That is, Yahoo is a portal, a Grand Central Station of online resources. Thus, Yahoo is a manifestation of what Jarvis calls the content economy, which is outmoded. Google, on the other hand, is—claims Jarvis—the first post-media company. Meaning, Google is a platform (not a portal), a network, and is decentralized and distributed. Google trusts and respects people, or at least (says Jarvis) manages to project that attitude. Google exploits the wisdom of the crowd. And what’s more, Google opens up endless choices and possibilities via search, SEO, and AdSense. Whereas Yahoo is a remaining manifestation of the content economy, Google leads the link economy.

The link economy demands that we—companies, groups, and individuals—produce unique content with clear value. Beyond that, we need to remain open so that Google can find us. That is, we’re to let Google exploit—through advertising and promotion—the links and audience that we acquire. Furthermore, we have to use those links to create new efficiencies (“do what you do best and link to the rest”), and find opportunities to create value atop our link layer. This means curate the best content, enable your links to be found, and help content creators monetize—or otherwise promote—links, and in turn, attract traffic.

Are You Drinking Google Juice?

Google juice is what we want. It gives us better ranks, more ads. It will, according to Jarvis, net us more money. To get Google Juice, you’ve got to be Googlified. Googlification of a trade or profession requires its practitioners be open and transparent. Are you Googlified? If you want to remain relevant, Jarvis says you’d better be. However, we would ask the question whether this maxim necessarily applies to all types of business.

No More Depth Thinking? Could Have Fooled Us!

Naturally, as TCs, we value our ability to communicate in an articulate way. If this means writing in long form, we appreciate having a format permitting that. Consequently, those still uninitiated into social media might resent being “forced” to fold a message into the limited space afforded by many Web applications (like micro-blogs) which might seem extreme.

Jarvis says that although it may appear that writing in short blog bursts, as opposed to lengthier articles, leads to rushed, haphazard, shallow communication, in fact, the opposite could be argued. Namely, an idea could be thought out and articulated over the span of multiple posts [even Tweets?], and take shape over the course of time. What’s more, these ideas percolate with input, challenge, and argument from many blog readers and consumers. Furthermore, ideas that don’t work, i.e. those not meriting response from the readership, get dropped. Thus, Jarvis argues that blogs provide a new and efficient means of both collaboration and peer review, which he claims “is the key product and skill of the Google age.”

The Internet might not make us more creative. But it does provide a platform enabling what we create to be “seen, heard, and used,” i.e. shared. In particular, the Internet enables every creator to “find a public, the [one] s/he merits.” What’s more, it levels the playing field of creativity. As Jarvis puts it, in the Google age, to “stand out, one must rise on worth—as defined by the public, rather than the priests, [where] the reward is attention.”

Us Worry?

What will coalesce in place of the institutions losing influence as a result of the Internet and Google? Or, as we’d put it, those failing to adapt and respond strategically to these forces. According to Jarvis, this applies not only to media organizations, businesses and individuals, but to governments and even religions (though there’s still some speculation as to how that would work).

Disaggregation

Will we have anarchy or a new form of organization? The Internet, says Jarvis, is disaggregating the elements that have historically defined us humans. These definitions—liberal, conservative, libertarian—are breaking apart to form new expressions that are more nuanced. As a result, new loyalties are forming from the grassroots, replacing traditional allegiances.

Generation G

Advertising execs, public relations folk, and social media pundits like invoking Generation X (ambitious and family centered) and Generation Y (independent, expecting instant gratification) as supposedly well-understood demographic groups. In WWGD, Jarvis introduces us to Generation G, that is, the Google generation. Gen G has not only grown up in the computer age, but came of age by the time Google was already synonymous with Internet search. Beyond being characterized as independent, Gen G is possessed of a strong individualism, which could end up manifesting as empowerment [good], or as entitlement [bad].

Watch Gen G. Listen to Gen G. Understand how Gen G thinks, works, shops, [and we would add, reads]. Only thus can we have any hope of surviving, let alone thriving, over the coming decades.

Where Do We Take it Now?

Some critical reviews of WWGD urge that we disregard Jarvis’ prescription for Google-age success based on the assertion that Jarvis rambles on in an arrogant tone, doing little more than smugly dropping names and making scary generalizations. While we could agree that Jarvis presents himself as erudite and professorial, this hardly presents justification for rejecting what he prescribes, especially if his basic position is valid (and we believe it is).

What’s the upshot for TCs? We’re told that we need to not only innovate, but make innovation part of the culture where we work. What does that mean practically speaking? For one thing, we need to unlearn many of the practices that have taken us thus far in life and in our careers.

We need to Googlifiy ourselves. Googlification of our profession requires us to be open and transparent. While most of us are “out there” on a social network somewhere, many of us either aren’t ready to exploit the full potential of those networks, or worse, refuse (usually on “privacy” grounds) to participate. Concerning privacy, Vint Cerf, acclaimed as one of the fathers of the Internet, has written “There isn’t any privacy. Get over it.” Jarvis adds clarity to this statement by asserting that privacy is no longer the issue, control is. We do in fact have the right to control our personal information, whether it’s made public, and to whom. So decide upon a security policy that meets your needs, and get yourself out there.

There’s also the issue of intimacy. Participating in a social or business network does not mean laying it all bare for the world to see. Actually, showing us parts of your life to which we’d rather not be exposed would not win you the attention you should be seeking. But we do need to acclimate ourselves to what Leisa Reichelt calls “ambient intimacy.” This refers to the sense of closeness you have with folks as a result of social media; folks with whom you’d otherwise not have nearly as close a relationship, maybe even not know at all.

We should learn, Jarvis says, to think like kids, because once you’re thinking [too much] like an adult, you’re probably not innovating.

Special thank you to Jonny Gold for his input and thoughts.

November 26, 2010

Will the Human Race Survive the Internet? A Review of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows

Posted in Philosophy, technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:27 pm by degyes

While the Internet isn’t necessarily destroying our brains as some would claim, it is indeed altering how our brains acquire and process information, and how that data is converted into permanently held knowledge. Furthermore, the Internet—and its accompanying slew of new media—are influencing the very manner by which we relate to knowledge acquisition, affecting our very neurological composition down to its most fundamental levels.

This article is my attempt at summarizing the salient points of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains[1], a book that I found stimulating, thought provoking, and an enjoyable read overall. In terms of this review, there were some bits and pieces that missed summarizing. One that comes to mind is Carr’s chapter titled The Church of Google. While I thoroughly enjoyed Carr’s treatment of Google’s impact on our nervous system and value system, I skipped taking notes on it, and thus, its content isn’t covered here.

Carr’s main hypothesis is that while the Internet and its gaggle of resources give us access to vast stores of information our ancestors could hardly have dreamed of, the very ease and nature of that availability actually serve to reduce our brain’s capacity to retain information and acquire knowledge in the long term.

‘The Shallows’ is not, by any means, a treatise on how the Internet makes us stupid; and Carr never refers to it as evil (though he quotes some who do). On the contrary, ‘The Shallows’ is rife with praise for the Web and how it places in our hands access to just about any field of knowledge ever known to humankind. The catch is to avoid the trap of allowing that quick and unfettered access to turn us into information vacuum cleaners bereft of the ability to deliberate, analyze, and think deeply about what we’ve read (or watched or heard).

The remainder of this review touches on several of Carr’s points that impressed me or otherwise caused me to stop and think about my own online habits, my relationship to (and with) electronic devices, and my information gatherings practices, namely how they’ve changed since my (pre-Internet) youth.

Carr stresses that most of us who spend a significant chunk of our social and occupational lives online exist in a state of mental fragmentation, attention disruption, and—to some extent—personal disconnection. He often draws comparisons to the advent of mechanical time measurement so long ago, suggesting that when standing clocks and eventually portable time pieces arrived on the scene, our very concept of “time,” namely that it would from here onward be structured and managed, impacted human behavior profoundly and irrevocably.

While Carr doesn’t use the term “spiritual,” he does refer quite a bit to the 19th century “transcendentalist” calls for a return to what is natural, simple, and in deeper touch with our more thoughtful and sensitive selves. If not always stated explicitly, Carr does seem to urge us toward—if not embracing—at least not completely neglecting this perhaps more mystical human faculty.

Discussing the Google-Wikipedia continuum and harking back to the propagation of the Web as a common household tool, Carr says that in “the digital marketplace, publication becomes an ongoing process rather than a discrete event, and revision can go on indefinitely.” This is rapidly replacing the book paradigm, an institution since the advent of the Gutenberg printing press in the 15th century, where an author publishes and the public consumes, waiting perhaps years before a new edition replaces the old one, if it ever does at all. This reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague close to ten years ago, who observed that “news” was then becoming as much a function of reader talk-backs as the (online) paper itself.

Carr spends some time delving into the synaptic processes inherent to the neurology underlying how our brains translate experiences into short-term memories and these in turn, into longer-term memories. While Carr writes that since “neurons that fire together wire together,” today, a “cacophony of stimuli” is short-circuiting our conscious as well as unconscious thought processes, consigning age-old human memory forming abilities to a state of deterioration, if not outright atrophy.

Whereas yesterday we spoke of multimedia, Carr claims that what we’ve got today should really be called “hypermedia,” that is, an overabundance of resources, online and otherwise, vying for our attention. It’s up to us to discern whether the content being pushed to us by those outlets is worthy of our (limited) attention spans. The strain on our cognitive abilities is already tremendous, limiting our ability to internalize the information we acquire. Drawing attention to our evermore limited ability to maintain focus, Carr sites a German study which claims that most of us, upon landing on a Web page via a search, spend on average less than 10 seconds on that page. Carr says that this is probably a high figure.

In the first century of the Common Era, the Stoic philosopher Seneca said that to be everywhere is to be nowhere. This reminds me of the Hebrew adage “תפסת מרובה לא תפסת”, which roughly translates as “if you grabbed it all, you’ve grabbed nothing.” Carr suggests this view as an analogy for how we find ourselves inundated with information; even if we’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge, it’s in such overabundance, we’re not sure how to begin processing it, let alone retain it.

The “velocity of data” refers to how the constant updating of web pages has replaced relatively static HTML—the Internet model of the pre-Web 2.0 1990’s—as the normative condition. Our need to constantly refresh information is best illustrated by the algorithms that govern search engine returns. Although application of SEO techniques can result in better ranking of pages in a search, Carr observes that newer pages tend to get better rankings than older ones. The number of links to a specific page—which one might think would provide a major indicator of a page’s perceived quality, or at least popularity—is only one of about 200 criteria that Google’s search engine uses to determine rank. So, for those with an economic, social, or personal interest in keeping their pages highly ranked, the pressure to accelerate updating is intense and constant. What’s more, the flourishing of social networks adds a whole new dimension to this need for immediacy, and the imperative to keep up the flow of content is unrelenting. Yesterday’s information is, if not already stale, at minimum pushed out of the top returns.

Carr writes that computers “mediate how we learn, think, and socialize.” My particular interest is in the thinking part of this statement, as much of The Shallows focuses on the brain’s declining ability to transform stimuli and short-term memory into long-term memory, and how it is hampered by the rapid pace at which we’re expected to acquire and analyze information.

Carr introduces the term “infovores,” a word describing those adept at acquiring information from multiple sources simultaneously. I like this term, and here’s where I feel the book speaks in a more optimistic voice. Carr concludes by putting forth the hopeful possibility that in the face of the fragmentation, disruption, and distraction caused by the Internet and the plethora of new media, we will ultimately develop new cognitive abilities as an evolutionary compensation [read: survival strategy], replacing the “old” knowledge acquisition and retention abilities that we’ve lost.


[1] Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 2010

February 19, 2010

Getting Buzzed (in the Google Sense)

Posted in business networking, technology tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:43 pm by degyes

A friend was just asking me to offer my take regarding the relationship between Buzz, Google Profiles, and other social networks. Providing an answer gave me an opportunity to place my understanding of all this into perspective, and I thought I’d share. This is all a bit off the cuff, so by all means, feel free to comment, correct, and complete.

The whole buzz about Buzz – as many out there have been asking and professing – is that It’s a question of cutting into business areas that were, until about a week ago, the almost exclusive domain of the pioneer social / business / micro-blogging networks, namely, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. (Yes, there are other networks like MySpace, but let’s leave those forums aside, for simplicity’s sake).  The idea is that all the things that you needed those networks to do — posting a personal / business profile, “friending” people, following contacts, posting status messages, “tweeting” (i.e. public distribution of text messages), controlling access to your information based on categorizing your contacts and setting security settings accordingly — you should now be able to do via Google and Buzz. OK, this medium still needs a bit of refinement. But considering that this product came out of nowhere right into our Gmail boxes at a surprisingly “ready for prime time” quality, it’s already succeeded in creating quite a “buzz” in keeping Google far ahead of the 8-ball as the global campfire around which we gather to do just about anything on the Internet — search / share information, find people / maintain contacts, store / organize data, find entertainment, and so on. By no means do I think Google Profiles / Buzz will replace the existing social networks, and I think it would premature (if not outright foolish) to forecast as such. But the fact that Google Profiles / Buzz offers a range of those existing functionalities, while integrating with them very nicely, does indeed force the incumbents to sweat a little in keeping their offerings attractive and compelling.

http://www.google.com/profiles/david.egyes

December 24, 2009

Google, News Corp & Microsoft: The Media-Tech Battle of the 2010’s?

Posted in business networking, technology at 11:55 pm by degyes

The Microsoft/News Corp vs. Google fight over search could really shape up to the media-tech business battle of the coming decade. Whereas Google has succeeded in democratizing search — in the context of a wildly successful business model (AdSense, etc) — it will be interesting to see how that model holds up against the combined resources of two behemoths of media and technology. My expectation is that the pressure that these companies exert on one another will provide the motivation — and necessity — for all of them to remain creative, and to innovate in ways that will ultimately benefit the consumer (we can hope!).

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/dec2009/tc20091221_722657.htm

October 8, 2009

Bezeq NGN Upgrade: Survival Tips

Posted in technology tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:44 pm by degyes

This post follows the successful conclusion of our several-day saga sorting out our Internet connectivity issues with Bezeq. I’m providing these survival tips and lessons learned to spare others future pain if and when their time comes to upgrade to Bezeq NGN (Next Generation Network). This blog post is entirely technical, that is, no mystical musings or philosophical speculation.

Problem Solving & Analysis

Here are some lessons learned from our upgrade from “old” Bezeq ADSL (~750 kbps) to the “upgraded” Bezeq ADSL (+2.5 mbps), a.k.a. “Next Generation Network (NGN)”.

Scenario

  • We are Bezeq phone and ADSL subscribers.
  • Our ISP is Bezeq International.
  • We were (and still are) using our Bezeq-provided modem as a modem only, i.e. not as a router.
  • Our router was (and still is) a TRENDnet TEW-431BRP (a wireless AP router), which runs a crossover cable from its WAN port to the Bezeq modem, and contains LAN ports in which we insert Ethernet cables for our (home) desktop and (employer’s) laptop PCs.
  • Our computers are both running Windows XP.

This setup enables us to connect more than one PC to the Bezeq modem, and gives us the ability to connect the laptop via wireless, when we wish to.

Problem #1

Ever since the upgrade to the line took place a few weeks ago, we were experiencing increasingly frequent service disruptions, indicated by the ADSL stalling and resetting itself. This became intolerable last Thursday evening (1st October), and into Friday morning.

Action Taken

Contacted Bezeq on Sunday–following a very long wait to get an available service rep–and reported the problem. After explaining the problem, we were told that they synchronized the system via Bezeq’s monitoring & control panel and that service was restored.

Problem #2

Within 2 hours, the problem had returned, i.e. constant disruption to the ADSL Line.

Action Taken

Contacted Bezeq on Monday. This time, managed to get service rep within ~15 minutes (slight improvement). They said that there was either a problem in the modem, or in the line (which would seem to cover all bases); anyway, since no technician would be available until Wednesday, Bezeq would temporarily downgrade our ADSL service from the NGN speed to the pre-upgrade speed.

Result

ADSL service worked well for the next ~48 hours, albeit at the slower speed, which was fine with us since we weren’t benefiting from the NGN upgrade anyway.

Problem #3

Bezeq technician checks line at residence; confirms that signal strength is fine, but that existing modem is too old to support NGN; or possibly, that modem has become damaged.

Technician trades us a new ADSL2 modem (TNN – AZTECH 600E (L2)) for our old one (an ECI B-Focus Router 270PR).

Since this guy is a line technician with no knowledge of software, he leaves our residence at this point, telling us that the computers (desktop & laptop) will connect just fine once we run the Bezeq-provided modem installation CD. This was our first mistake! Installing the Bezeq dialup “חייגן” on our computers made it impossible to establish an Internet connection, even with the LAN and ADSL fully functioning, i.e. all indicator lights green both on the modem and in the PC system tray.

LESSON LEARNED #1: Don’t install the Bezeq-provided dialup software (חייגן). You can connect just fine without it, at least in Windows XP; see Procedure #1 below.

LESSON LEARNED #2: If you did install the Bezeq dialup software on your Windows XP computer, uninstall it via Start > Control Panel > Remove Programs.

Action Taken

Uninstalled the Bezeq dialup software

Result

Still no Internet service (even though, as previously, ADSL signal was working)

Action Taken

Called Bezeq tech support (at this point, having spent no less than 3 hours on time on Wednesday trying to solve the connectivity problem).  This technician, who actually seemed quite knowledgeable and competent, instructed us on the following 3 points (a), (b), and (c):

(a)    The NGN service upgrade, in order to enable you to connect to Internet services via Bezeq ADSL, requires that you create a broadband network connection, and append @014 to your user name in the parameters defining that connection. For instance, if under the old ADSL regime your user name was jsmith, now its jsmith@014. This is critical; it was a mistake that we didn’t include @014 in the first place!

(Note: It has been pointed out to me that the convention username@ISPcode, is not just for ADSL2 and NGN; rather it’s required by Bezeq’s Radius server in order for it to know how to handle your connection.)

(b)    To get the computer to recognize the new modem and establish compatibility with it, use the Procedure #1 below.

(c)    If you’re connecting the modem to a separate router, define the modified username (i.e. append @014) in the router’s firmware; see Procedure #2 below.

Procedure #1: Establish Internet Connectivity via ADSL Modem

  1. On your PC desktop, open Network Connections.
  2. Run the New Connection Wizard.
  3. In the wizard, choose Connect to Internet (first option). Next.
  4. Choose Set up manually (2nd option). Next.
  5. Choose Connect via Broadband (1st option). Next.
  6. Type a nickname for your ISP (so your PC will recognize the new ADSL connection method), e.g. BEZEQADSL.
  7. Type your user name, provided by Bezeq International, and append @014 to the end of the username, e.g. jsmith@014. Type and confirm the password, and click Next.

At this point, it would be wise to confirm that you can connect via ADSL and that you can access Web services.

Procedure #2: Establish Connectivity between ADSL Modem & Router

Connect one of your computers directly to the router and access the firmware. Do this by opening IE and typing the following URL: http://192.168.0.1 (i.e. the IP address of the TRENDnet router; the address of Bezeq-supplied routers is 10.0.0.138). In the firmware “wizards” and parameter definition pages, make sure of the following:

(a)    Your connection method is defined as PPPoE.

(b)   Your username is defined with @014 appended, as described above.

At this point, you can (re)connect the Bezeq modem to the router via the router’s WAN port, and then hook your computer up to the router via the LAN ports. Confirm that both computers can connect to Bezeq via ADSL and access Web services.

Tip: Getting a Human when Reporting Bezeq Internet Line Problems

When phoning 166, Bezeq’s customer support center, the key sequence for getting a service rep (Hebrew speaking) that handles Internet line problems, is 1-1-3-3. You may have to wait several seconds between key presses, but this sequence ought to work. It’s likely that you’ll have to wait for a service rep to actually respond; during our service disruption saga, waiting times ranged between nothing and 20 minutes.

Special thanks to Dani Deitch for technical review and comments.