Monthly Archives: November 2002

Another Great Quote

Wow. Another great quote from a surprising source. Not as good as last week’s Reagan quote, mind you, but still pretty telling. I picked this up at BoingBoing, a weblog that I don’t read often.

“In order to guarantee that the United States meets the challenge of this new means of commerce, communication, and education, government must be careful not to interfere. We should not harness the Internet with a confusing array of intrusive regulations and controls. Yet, the Clinton administration is trying to do just that.” “There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?” — John Ashcroft, 1997

Awesome Quote

I picked up this awesome Ronald Reagan quote from Medley today. Read the whole thing, and then think about what William Safire said last week about the Homeland Security Act. Emphasis is mine.

“You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man’s age-old dream — the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order — or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path.” — Ronald Reagan, 1964

Segway HT Available at Amazon

So, the Segway HT is now available for pre-order at Amazon.com. (The press release is here; the actual ordering page at Amazon is here.) I don’t think I’ve mentioned it in this space, but I saw Dean Kamen at Cornell a few weeks ago. He was showing off a Segway HT and talking about his program to inspire interest in science and technology. Both the Segway and the program were very cool.

For a deposit of “only” $495, you can reserve your Segway HT for delivery no later than July 31, 2003. If we were going to be living in Ithaca on a permanent basis, then I would be inclined to purchase one of these rather than a second car. I think it would be perfect for commuting between my apartment and Cornell.

Unfortunately, I have no idea where I’ll be working next year or where we’ll be living with respect to my workplace. (Well… I have a couple of ideas, but it’s still very much up in the air.) So, I’m not in any position to make a transportation decision. Even if I were, I’m not sure that I would be ready to make such an expensive decision…

Wireless

My field of expertise is wireless communications. In the past, I’ve hardly ever mentioned the subject in this space. Recently, though, I’ve been read a number of stories about professionals who use their weblogs as a place to track and comment upon trends in their fields. I have no current plans to convert this weblog to all wireless, all the time, but I thought I would start linking to and commenting on relevant stories from time to time.

Before I link to the two wireless stories in this morning’s NY Times, though, I should make a disclaimer. My “expertise” in wireless networks is purely academic. I have no experience designing equipment for use “in the field” and I have no experience operating or maintaining a large wireless communications system. My views on the subject, then, come straight from the ivory tower. Obviously, I think that the work done within academia is valuable when applied to practice; otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. But I have no illusions that the world is as simple and straightforward as the models that I use to represent it.

That having been said, there are two articles on wireless in this morning’s NY Times. The first is about the growing complaints about the unreliability of cellular telephone service. The second is about the wireless internet boom.

There are a great many things about these two articles which are interesting to me. I’ll be brief today, but hope to explore some of these topics in more detail in the future…

  • First, the contrast between the two articles is interesting. At the same time that cellular companies are unable to keep up with the demands of voice traffic on their networks, they and others are rolling out data services which have the potential to be much more bandwidth intensive.
  • There are fundamental limits on the amount of bandwidth which can be provided over the wireless channel.
  • Exciting new technologies will help us make better use of available bandwidth, though. Two of the most promising, directional beamforming and mesh networks, were mentioned in the second article.
  • An important question is whether or not people are willing to pay for these new services. In an age of cheap internet access, most people have grown up thinking that data is free. This is not a good thing if you are trying to make a buck.

I’ve got plenty more to say, but it will have to wait. Time to get to work!

Even Scarier…

Lest anyone think that I have gone off the left-wing deep end or that the only criticism of the Bush administration is coming from raving liberals, this morning’s link is to a column by conservative columnist William Safire. I don’t always agree with what Safire says, but since September 11, 2001 he is one of the few conservative columnists who has been willing to stand up for freedom and privacy.

(As a side note, the claim that we must trade freedom and privacy in order to gain security is flatly false. There are a great many things which could be done to increase security which would not entail a loss of privacy. Furthermore, it seems to me that collecting all of our personal information in a giant goverment database is going to make us less secure. Think about what happens the first time a stalker or identity thief gains access to that database…)

And now, in the aftermath of the election, it seems likely that the Homeland Security Act will be railroaded through Congress. If not ammended, it will give our government the authority to construct detailed dosiers on all 300 million Americans.

I’ve never really been terribly concerned about my privacy. I use a credit card for many purchases. I have a discount card at the grocery store. I often use my real name on the internet. But I am deeply distrubed by this turn of events. I fear for my country. Go read Safire.

Scary Stuff

Ok. This editorial in the New York Times is scary stuff. When the Democrats caved and the Republicans pushed through their enormous tax cut in the first year of the Bush presidency, I said repeatedly that it was a completely irresponsible thing to do and that it was stupid policy. This is not a new line of thought for me. Even when I was a staunch Republican, I had the good sense to know that good fiscal policy requires that you cut spending and balance the budget before you talk about cutting taxes. My turn away from the Republican party started about the same time that I realized that all of the Republican talk about “fiscal responsibility” and “balancing the budget” during the Clinton years was really just a sham. All the Republicans really cared about was cutting taxes, at any cost.

Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the just completed election closely enough to realize that the Republicans were planning to enact a new package of cuts. This raises an important, if obvious, question about the Republicans motives. At what point does cutting taxes become so completely irresponsible that you are led inexorably to the conclusion that there is more going on here than meets the eye? At what point do you conclude that the Republican party is intentionally trying to impoverish our government so as to justify the cutting of important social programs like Social Security and Medicare? I’ll be the first to admit that these programs need reform, but fiscal stupidity is not a path to reform.

The way to cripple such programs without openly opposing them is to bleed the government of the money to pay for them. With the prospect of budget deficits stretching far into the future, and with the first wave of baby boomers already well into their 50’s, the day of reckoning for Social Security and Medicare is not far off.