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Saturday, May 24, 2003  

Tech Talk

•Big Media: Technical difficulties

I'm beginning to wonder if The Washington Post and the New York Times have enough money to run their operations properly. Friday, a WaPo story I had linked to became unavailable. Today, the NYT is generating this message in regard to a story I want to read.

Server Error

We're sorry, but we are temporarily experiencing a server error. Our systems administrators have been notified and are working to fix the problem. Please wait a few moments, then press Reload or Refresh in your Web browser. If the problem persists, please exit your Web browser and try again. We regret the inconvenience.

Now it is one thing for Blogger Basic to constantly produce server errors. But, I expect Big Media to own enough servers and have the most qualified of techs. These situations should not be occurring as often as they are.

•Could it be the caffeine?

When a barista at a Starbucks told me not to take photographs with my digicam I thought she was just being silly. Turns out there is a policy forbidding patrons from taking pictures inside Starbucks' coffee shops. Via Dan Gillmor's eJounral, a link to Lawrence Lessig.

Story one: Last month while visiting Charleston, three women went into a Starbucks. They were spending the weekend together and one of them had a disposable camera with her. To commemorate their time with one and other they decided to take round robin pictures while sitting around communing. The manager evidently careened out of control, screaming at them, 'Didn't they know it was illegal to take photographs in a Starbucks. She insisted that she had to have the disposable camera because this was an absolute violation of Starbucks' copyright of their entire environment -- that everything in the place is protected and cannot be used with[out] Starbucks' express permission.'

That description mirrors my experience except the barista was not rude per se. Nor did she demand my camera. Not that I would have given it to her if she had.

Law prof Lessig suggests we break the law by taking pictures inside a Starbucks this weekend. I'm game.

•Get with wireless

An article at Wired makes what I've been thinking for a while official: Wireless in, wired out. Not that I'm really free of cable and cord confusion yet, but like millions of other Internet users, I'm heading in that direction.

Wireless is quickly becoming the de facto standard for surfing the Internet and creating home computer networks, according to research released this week by Parks Associates.

The market research firm in Dallas, Texas, found that nearly 2 million American households added a wireless component to their home Internet networks between late 2001 and early 2003. A quarter of all households that have Internet service at home can also tap into the network wirelessly through Wi-Fi technology, Parks Associates researchers said.

...Indeed, wireless technology has become so prevalent in the home that it is now the "driving force" in the adoption of home networking, [Kurt] Scherf said. Wireless gear will account for 40 percent of all devices connected on home Internet networks by the end of 2007, he said.

Laptop purchases are being credited with bringing the wireless market home. As a laptop owner since the 1995, I can attest to the difference not having to connect to several peripherals via wires, thereby undermining the computer's portability, makes.

•Bluetooth makes him blue

Bluetooth is a technology for connecting computers, peripherals and other devices wirelessly over short distances. Think of it as WiFi's little brother. I don't own any BlueTooth devices yet, but have been looking forward to buying some when I upgrade to a new laptop. But, David Coursey of Anchordesk at ZDNet says BlueTooth is broken.

RIGHT NOW, I have a Bluetooth printer and a Bluetooth-enabled PDA sitting on my desk. I also have a Bluetooth cellular telephone. I used to have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. And my Apple iMac is Bluetooth-equipped, thanks to a tiny USB adapter I'm now sorry I bought.

All of this stuff works, mind you. It's just that every time I install something new, the old stuff breaks. I used to be able to use the Bluetooth keyboard or the printer, but not both. The iPaq once synced wirelessly just fine, but stopped when I installed the printer or the keyboard. And, in the great tradition of Apple promoting technologies it doesn't quite support, the iMac will talk to the phone just fine but knows nothing at all about the printer.

Coursey wants to solve the problem through the eight hundred pound gorilla, instead of the development group. He says Microsoft should include Bluetooth management software in a service pack for Windows XP, thereby setting the standard for the technology. That, of course, would be up to Microsoft.

Blogger Charles Hudson says he is satisfied with the Bluetooth headphones he has been using, but the lack of user interfaces for Bluetooth products is a headache.

Problem #2:

WPAN has no UI - One of the most suprising things that I realized was that the lack of UI for WPAN has a very significant impact on how you use the devices. In addition to my t68i, I also have a Bluetooth enabled Toshiba e740. I would have liked to use my headset to dial a phone call using the address book in my PDA (that's what WPAN is supposed to be about, right?), but I hadn't a clue how to do it.

Hudson discusses the technology indepth in an entry he called "Is Bluetooth still relevant?"

Coursey ends his column on a glum note.

Me, I'm not counting on Bluetooth ever amounting to anything, although I retain hope that it will rise above its misspent youth and actually do something useful someday...

If you had high hopes for the technology, as I did, this is disappointing news.

5:40 AM