June 2008

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I’d forgotten how it is, dealing with Cox High Speed Internet here in Santa Barbara. We got spoiled with Verizon FiOS in Boston. It’s never down. Customer support is solid. And the data rates rock: 15-20Mb/s, symmetrical, for about the same as we’re paying here.

But here we are, back in town for as much of the Summer as we can take in. Everything is beautiful, except for the Net.

First, I’m paying the “premium” rate for the best they can get me. After a long talk with customer service and tech support in San Diego on Friday afternoon, they repeated to me what they’ve told me before: while they offer up to 12Mbps download speeds elsewhere, and plan for more — and while I’m paying for 10Mbps on the download side in order to get 1Mbps on the upload side, my area is only provisioned for 5-6Mbps down. And that, in fact, Santa Barbara is on the bottom of Cox’s list of areas to upgrade. No change there. We heard that two years ago. Santa Barbara is hind tit for Cox.

Second, outages. These happen now and then with Cox, always without warning. Nothing on the website. No emails saying when it’s going to happen.

So one happened today. Fortunately I have a borrowed Sprint EvDO card here. (My Verizon one won’t work on my newer laptops.) I just checked and it gets 1.096Mps down, 533Kbps up. Not bad, considering. Anyway, I used that connection to get on the Cox service website and eventually found a chat interface. I wanted to copy and paste the text, but the interface doesn’t allow that. So I took a series of screen shots and put together the whole dialog as a .jpg, leaving out the personal info that it asked for. Speaks for itself:

Obviously, Edward is doing the best he can, given the narrow and stilted pro formalities he is required to utter. I’m not knocking him. Heck, I’m glad he’s there, and I really do think he’s sorry for the inconvenience. But really, why not notify people that you’re doing work in the area, which is what a “planned outage” involves? Why not send out an email that says something like, “We’re sorry for the inconvenience, but we’ll be upgrading service in your area starting at 1pm Monday afternoon. We’ll work to minimize downtime. Thanks for your patience.” I notice that’s what universities do when they have planned outages. Why not do the same?

And why use a chat client that won’t let the user copy anything? One can guess, but one wouldn’t be kind.

The thing is, Internet service is secondary for Cox. They’re a Cable TV company first, and an Internet Service Provider second or third (after telephony).

There have to be better ways. A small group of us have been working on that here in Santa Barbara for several years. Given the troubles that municipal “broadband” has run into elsewhere in the U.S., it’s probably just as well that we’ve taken it slow.

Meanwhile, here’s an interview I did with Bob Frankston in May. Lots of grist for many mills there.

Here’s what’s essential, and too often lost in arguments over “Net Neutrality”: companies like Cox need to find benefits to incumbency other than the traditional monopoly/duopoly ones. Here’s one: beat Amazon and Google in the offsite storage and compute businesses. Or partner with them to deliver more and better utility Web services.

Essential guidance for that: ‘s .

[Later...] A guy with a hard hat, a tool bucket and a long bright orange ladder just came down from the pole behind our house and told us we should be getting much higher speeds as soon as they finish working on something back up the street. Good to know.

The trip across the country on Friday yielded very little photography, at least for me: a set just 26 shots long. Our 3-person family had row 12 on the left side of a United 757-200. That’s one of the rows with a blank wall where a window might otherwise be. Our only window was usable only if we reclined the seat, and then it was pitted and dusty, and on the sunny side of the plane as well, which makes for terrible aerial photography. (Here is a shot that focuses on the window itself. Amazing we got anything through that.) Also we were on the leading edge of the wing, with the left engine intruding into much of the view of the land below. On top of all that, it was pretty hazy and/or undercast from coast to coast. The main exception was our flight path southwest across the Wind River Range of Western Wyoming, which features more than 40 named peaks in excess of 13,000 feet. Many of those are in the shot above, along with Willow and Boulder lakes on the far side of the mountains. I am sure Gannett Peak, highest in Wyoming, is near the center of the shot, which also takes in the Continental Divide

The Kid shot nearly all the pictures, by the way. He had that seat.

Cacheing up

This was my first piece about The Giant Zero, from October 2006. Holds up pretty well.

Home again

It’s great to be back at our house in Santa Barbara, with our pool and a climate that is almost criminally nice … cool, dry and breezy while most of the rest of the country swelters.

Spent a bunch of time yesterday in Cambridge trying to find a portable 250 Gb hard drive so I could take most of my photo achive west with me to work on here, where I have a comfortable desk and chair and a nice big screen.

After spending much of yesterday evening pulling all the archives together, and putting them all on this nice little new drive, I forgot it. Not the worst bummer, but still a downer.

Could be worse

Sitting with the family between planes while delayed at SFO. One good thing: checked the speed and I’m getting 2841kbps down and 3670kbps up. Not bad for airport wi-fi.

Can’t wait to get back home to Santa Barbara. The Kid calls our Cambridge place “alt.home” or “SHIFT_HOME”. But, much as I love Boston (even the weather), SB is still Home.

Quote du jour

Alpha male philandering is the oldest form of recreational arrogance. — Britt Blaser. From a now-old post. But I think it’s still true.

I’m not a car nut — I could never afford to be, lacking both the money and the time — but I do enjoy and appreciate them as works of arts, science, culture and plain necessity. So, about a month ago the kid and I joined Britt Blaser at the Concours d’Elegance in Newport Harbor, looking at an amazing collection of antique cars and motorcycles, all restored or preserved to a level of perfection you hardly find in new cars off the production line.

We also got to hang with new friends from Iconic Motors, who are making a very hot little sports car designed and made entirely in the U.S., mostly by small manufacturers of obsessively perfected goods. Took a lot of pictures of both, which you’ll find by following the links under the photos.

Days vs. Daze

Maarten is going into Day 10 of chemo. Writes Lori,

  He slept a little, and is finally eating something, but I think this has been the toughest day for him physically so far. According to the nurses, tomorrow, day 10, is when his immune system will be at it’s lowest point in the cycle.

  All of your positive thoughts, messages and love are being recieved and keeping him afloat.

Lots coming from here, big guy. I’m out and getting better. You should be too. :-)

So now it’s time to put lessons to work. The Patient as the Platform is my latest post over at Linux Journal, and it proposes something that goes beyond merely giving patients control of their health care records. (As do, say, Google Health and HealthVault.) Specifically,

I believe that having a data store for health records is a necessary but insufficient condition for the true independence and control required for each of us to be the point of integration for the health care we get, and the point of origination for controlling that care — for getting second and third opinions, for summoning data across bureaucratic boundaries, for actually relating to the systems that serve us, rather than serving as dependent variables within them.

For patients to become platforms, we need more tools and capabilities that are native to the patient. All of us need to be able to walk around the world with the ability to jack into any health care system and drive it. How? I don’t know yet. I’m still new to this. But I do know that these are capabilities we need to add to ourselves, as independent drivers of health care services. And that these must be based on free and open standards and code.

The new health care infrastructure must be built on independent and autonomous patients, not on systems that surround and subordinate patients. Once it is, the systems will be vastly improved, and far more profitable for all.

It’s a angle, of course. And it concludes with the same pitch I’ll give here. If you’re interested in putting a shoulder to this boulder, or to weigh in on any of the other development efforts we have underway, come to the VRM Workshop on July 14-15 at Harvard. That page is short on details, but we’ll be filling them in shortly.

Caught a bit of Michael Krasny’s Forum yesterday on KQED, and heard that George Lakoff will be on the second hour today: 10-11am, Pacific time.  Michael is among the most intellectual and probing of interviewers, and I look forward to hearing how he does with George. If you miss that, get the podcast.

What you’ll hear from George about politics, and especially about the appeal of Barack Obama, is unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else. And perhaps more important as well, because George’s work has had a deep influence on the Obama campaign, and especially the candidate’s speechwriting.

This first post-primary TV ad by the Obama campaign. Listen to Lakoff and you’ll see exactly how it appeals to deep unconscious meanings of shared values across political divides. Reagan did it in 1980, and by the time the next decade was over the Republicans were the party of traditional American values while the Democrats were the party of tax’n’spend Liberals, fading unions and collections of minority interest groups. Blame talk radio and Fox News for that, if you like (or the Democrats themselves, who certainly deserve it); but it was Reagan’s work. And it was genius. George Lakoff has studied that genius. So has Barack Obama.

In the primaries Obama beat the Clinton machine with a much more modern and functional one, geared to a wider, deeper appeal: one targeted across political divides.

Ignore policy statements for a minute. Ignore “issues”. Ignore race, voting records and the bullshit that gasses up TV news. Look at how Obama appeals. Ask What are the deeper sensibilities he is appealing to? Then look back at what Reagan did in 1980, and through the presidency that followed. Then look at how well Obama is raising money and weakening the oppositional resolve of conservatives like George Will.

The best competitors learn from both their own mistakes and their opponents successes. The Obama Campaign has been doing that for the Democratic party from the start.

In November, the best Reagan will win.

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