Category Archives: General

Wall Street Journal opinion page editors = stoned college freshmen?

This morning Ars Technica called my attention to an incredibly ill informed Wall Street Journal opinion piece trying to downplay or eliminate the government’s role in creating the Internet. In making his argument, the author makes the mistake of conflating Ethernet and the Internet. My problem with the piece goes deeper than that, as I explain in a comment I made on the Wall Street Journal’s Site

The Internet isn’t the same thing as Ethernet. L. Gordon Crovitz’s failure to understand the distinction undermines the point he is trying to make, but in the end that doesn’t matter, because this piece isn’t journalism. It doesn’t even rise to the level of the editorial page of a high school newspaper. It is little more than stoned adolescent fantasy. Its the sort of silly stuff stoned college freshmen waste hours on in their dorm rooms when they should be doing their history reading.


The Internet is a complex phenomenon. It is the result of interactions between other complex phenomenon. It is ridiculous to argue that it would have come about if one of the major forces present at its inception, gestation, and early maturation had never existed.


The Federal government provided substantial funding, staff, facilities and strategic direction for the development the Internet and ancestors. Federal grants and state funding flowed to the public and private universities that developed the Internet. Federal and state money underwrote Internet access for undergraduates across disciplines which helped demonstrate and generate demand for commercial Internet access. Federal, state and local regulation helped create a regulatory environment that allowed the earliest dial-up internet service providers to take hold, and enabled the BBS systems that proceeded many of them. And lets not forget the importance of Moore’s Law. We wouldn’t have the Internet we have today if we didn’t have cheap semiconductors and integrated circuits, and we wouldn’t have had those things if the federal government hadn’t helped kindle the semiconductor industry with piles of defense money until it got to the point where it could be self-sustaining.


Those are just some of the highlights of how government was an essential factor in the creation of the Internet. Perhaps it could have happened without the government’s involvement, but it didn’t. If L. Gordon Crovitz and the WSJ are going to convincingly argue for an alternate reality, you are going to have a much better command of the facts of reality than L. Gordon Crovitz and the Wall Street Journal’s editors have demonstrated.


Time to put away the bong, boys and get serious because understanding the difference between Ethernet and the Internet is just the start. Or perhaps its time for the rest of us to stop taking the WSJ seriously and read it like we’d read an overdue history essay from a stoned college freshman.

I’m quite forgiving of stoned college freshmen (been there, done that), but as long as the Wall Street Journal is still treated like more than just another sleazy Rupert Murdoch tabloid, I’m going pretend it should be held to higher standard.

My problem with “ink” on the iPad and other tablets

I’ve been making a point of trying to depend on paper less by relying on my iPad more. I purchased a Wacom Bamboo stylus to making inking/drawing easier, and using it with a few different apps.

The experiment has been instructive, but frustrating. I think the iPad’s overall utility is much higher as a result of Apple’s decision not to design around the use of a stylus, but one result is that the iPad is much worse for drawing/inking that one would hope. Apps deal imperfectly with my strong desire to rest my wrist on the screen, and, more frustratingly, the drawing precision is quite poor compared to my favorite fine-tipped pen on paper.

These issues had me considering whether a tablet with a high-precision radio-frequency drawing surface, like a Microsoft Surface tablet, or certain Android tablets would be a better paper substitute. I think they probably would be better, but I realize that they are unlikely to be sufficient. One of the best things about paper is that I can make a quick sketch on a sheet of paper and then refer to that sketch as I make a revision. That way of working isn’t going to be practical on a tablet, because the screen is too small to display the old sketch while creating a new one, and I can’t “tear-off” the screen.

Of course, it all comes down to tradeoffs. With a tablet, I have the ability to revise a sketch in-place without suffocating on eraser rubbings, but that’s not useful in every situation. A tablet makes it practical to have portable archive of old sketches that I can access from anywhere.

For now though, I think I’m best off with my pen and paper. I can always take a photo if I want a copy online.

Skeptical Reflection on Microsoft’s Surface

I was intrigued by Microsoft Surface, their family of Windows 8 Tablets, but as I’ve thought about it more, it seems the only thing it is likely to succeed at is buying Microsoft some time by discouraging corporate iPad purchases. It’s an old strategy called FUD, for fear, uncertainty and doubt. Microsoft didn’t invent it, but it has long used it to good effect.

Another Reason not to Use Carbonite

In case you needed another reason to choose Crashplan over Carbonite for your online computer backups:  Carbonite sponsors that low-life bully, Rush Limbaugh. (see the update below)

Carbonite addressed the controversy over their sponsorship of Limbaugh today in a blog post by their CEO, David Friend. It’s clear that El Rushbo has offended more people than usual this time. I hope Carbonite goes beyond merely “impress[ing] upon him that his comments were offensive to many of our customers and employees alike.” and actually pulls sponsorship. Rush, like Newt Gingrich, has been a standard bearer for the disfunction, uglyness, and extremism that have marred our national politics for the better part of two decades.


It looks like Carbonite’s CEO let thinks sink in a bit and realized what a wretch Limbaugh is.  The updated the blog post I mentioned above with the following:

“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”

Intel’s Foundry Business

Intel is starting to offer 3rd parties the opportunity to build chips on their cutting-edge “fabs.”  I’m not surprised to see this happening. With each new generation of fab, Intel has more transistors they have to sell in order to recoup their costs and get an ROI. Intel themselves haven’t been that great at creating products to sell those additional transistors. If they are going to keep investing in their process leadership, they have to find a way to pay for it. If they don’t keep investing in their process leadership, they are going to be disrupted by ARM and its licensees.

Intel is opening up its manufacturing facilities to third parties, as it takes the further tentative steps toward building a chip-to-order foundry business. The microprocessor giant announced last year that it would build FPGAs for Achronix Semiconductor, and on Tuesday a second FPGA designer, Tabula, said that it would have its chips built by Intel.

In its announcement, Tabula emphasized that it would be using Intels cutting-edge 22nm process with 3D trigate transistors. Intels manufacturing capabilities are world-leading, with none of the established microprocessor foundries—including TSMC, UMC, and AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries—able to match the companys process.

Compared to the 28 and 32nm processes offered by the competition, Intels 22nm process should offer higher speeds with lower power usage, at lower cost. The company will start shipping its first 22nm x86 processors, codenamed Ivy Bridge, in the coming months.

via Ars Technica.

Whether they can actually sell enough of their capacity without opening their fabs to competitors remains to be seen. At some level FPGAs already compete with Intel’s products, in that they take a different approach to creating general-purpose chips that can be used for a variety of applications.