Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Google Buys Into Undersea Cable

Google will join with five other companies to invest in a 10,000 km trans-Pacific submarine cable to carry data to and from Asia.
By Thomas Claburn
InformationWeek
February 26, 2008 09:00 AM

Having outgrown the capacity of telecom companies to provide bandwidth for its online applications and services, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is buying part of an undersea cable to carry data to and from Asia.
On Tuesday, Google said it would join with five other telecom companies -- Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI, Pacnet, and SingTel -- to invest $300 million in the construction of a 10,000 km submarine cable.
The high-speed fiber optic trans-Pacific cable, called Unity, will have a capacity of up to 7.68 Tbps and will run between the United States and Japan, about 6,200 miles. It is planned to accommodate demand for trans-Pacific bandwidth, which has grown at a rate of 63.7% annually between 2002 and 2007 and is expected to double biannually from 2008 through 2013, according to TeleGeography, a telecommunications consultancy.
When construction of Unity is complete in 2010, Google projects a 20% increase in the amount of available trans-Pacific bandwidth. NEC and Tyco Telecommunications will be handling the construction.
What Google gets is bandwidth at cost, said Stephan Beckert, director of research for TeleGeography, in an e-mail. Google, along with Comcast, is one of the few companies that have opted to purchase and light long-haul dark fiber, he said. It is the first non-telecom company to take an active role in submarine cable ownership.
"They are a huge user of bandwidth, particularly since their acquisition of YouTube, and have been very aggressive in their efforts to minimize their bandwidth costs," said Beckert. The current cost of trans-Pacific bandwidth is eight-times higher than trans-Atlantic bandwidth, according to TeleGeography.
Viewed through the lens of its interest in mobile advertising and phones, not to mention its participation in the FCC's recent spectrum auction, Google's previous investments in "dark fiber" -- unlit fiber optic cable -- have fueled speculation that the company aspires to become a network operator like AT&T or Comcast.
But Google's network acquisitions manager Francois Sterin, in a blog post, denies any such ambition. "If you're wondering whether we're going into the undersea cable business, the answer is no," he wrote. "We're not competing with telecom providers, but the volume of data we need to move around the world has grown to the point where in some cases we've exceeded the ability traditional players can offer. Our partnership with these companies is just another step in ensuring that we're delivering the best possible experience to people around the world."
There are three additional submarine cables planned: The Trans-Pacific Express Cable System should be lit in August of this year, adding network capacity between the U.S. and China, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan. The Asia-America Gateway Cable System, planned to enter service in the first quarter of 2009, will connect the U.S. and several Southern Asian countries. And the third cable is being planned by Reliance FLAG, formerly FLAG Telecom.
TeleGeography says that when all these new undersea cables go live, bandwidth capacity between the U.S. and the Pacific will double and that the combined planned and current bandwidth across the Pacific now exceeds potential bandwidth capacity across the Atlantic.
Even so, all this extra capacity won't be enough. "You should also bear in mind that this cable is a single span of fiber across the Pacific," said Beckert. "It's not a network, and it's not a complete solution to Google's trans-Pacific capacity requirements. They will have to keep buying capacity on the increasingly diverse array of trans-Pac cables to ensure that they have redundant capacity. However, investing in their own cable means that they won't have to purchase as much capacity on other cables."
And given that five undersea cables were cut in late January and early February, some redundancy might be a good idea.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is Google the Anti-Christ?

This is a statement I’ve made on more than one occasion, that Google, the user-friendly search engine company, is indeed the future dreaded Anti-Christ of the Bible. I say it tongue in cheek, but with a certain amount of reservation.

It’s no secret to folks who know me that I am a semi-literate computer geek-ish type person and for those who know me well, they are privy to my fears that technology is a bad thing. I love it and I hate it. I’m drawn to computers for reasons I can’t explain and like a child without proper supervision, I have an almost unhealthy fascination bordering on overindulgence.

However, I am not a child, in fact I am not even close to childish inclinations and I do see that this geek-ish fascination is probably going to end up a bad thing. It’s not bad because I like it, or because I spend too much time involved in it (as I earn money working with computers that I contribute to the family coffer), but it’s bad in that in the long run, technology is slowly enslaving us. Enslaving us?

Most people readily embrace new technology as an improvement. It’s true, they do and I do. If we own an electronic device and a newer version becomes available, we want it. If new software in the form of updates is offered, we download and install it without a second thought. Personally, I never take the default settings for granted when installing software or even as a reason for buying a new product - it’s not always a benefit for me, but the seller.

A good example of this is one of the many upgrades “patched” by all of us to Microsoft’s Media Player actually removed it’s abilities to write music from your computer to compact disk(CD), based on a set of rules in the update that perceived a violation of copyright laws. Let’s take an old-school look at it. We buy an L.P. album of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and decide to make a copy of it onto cassette so we can enjoy it in our car, but because our record player has the newest technology, we can’t “tape” the record. All because someone decided we shouldn’t be able to do this and we were the one who downloaded this update to our machine.

We are inoculating ourselves on a daily basis with technology and Google is helping us make the transition. I love Google actually. They buy up great programs and make them available to us – free. Take the image managing program Picasa. When it first became available, it didn’t work very well and I uninstalled it. A few months later, I gave it another try and presto, it worked great. Last week, I scanned some old slides in high-resolution (1200DPI) and they were automatically migrated into Picasa by the program.

Looking at the bottom of the screen while in Picasa, I noticed a button “Order Prints”, so I clicked it and was offered a number of companies who would do the work for me, so I selected Snapfish and uploaded 3 of my scanned images to their web site. Clicking a couple of buttons after registering, I ordered three 8X10 color glossies delivered to my doorstep for about 12 bucks. Just like that. Technology. Google. Cool…

Want $20 million bucks? Google will give it to the first team to build a privately funded space craft, land it on the moon, have it roam for at least 500 meters and send photographs and video back to Earth. Google is everywhere and we are welcoming them into our homes like long lost relatives.

Google has either bought into or outright purchased over 50 companies since 2001 and the list is growing. They are so efficient at what they do (buy, improve and give away) that they wipe out anything that competes against them. All of this works for the consumer or so it appears and that is exactly why we welcome and use it and that is exactly how they gain control.

Google Earth has gone where only high-tech spy satellites dared to go and they are bringing it right into our homes. Panoramio, in cahoots with Google Earth is a geolocation-oriented photo sharing website. Currently, some of the photos uploaded to the site can be accessed as a layer in Google Earth, with new photos being added at the end of every month. The site's goal is to allow Google Earth users to learn more about a given area by viewing the photos that other users have taken at that place. Think about that for a minute.

Like I said, we welcome technology and upgrades with open arms and that is exactly why it scares me. Will we, the people, unwittingly welcome in that which we should have shut out?

The Anti-Christ will be viewable by everyone on earth simultaneously according to some sources. I no longer wonder how that could even be possible.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A line in the Dust

Last year about this time, I made the paramount decision to be the first in my family to run for President of the United Snakes. I figured "Hey! Why not"? I immediately began pursuing my campaign in the true American Capitalistic spirit by announcing the creation of one of my ultra-cool and hip fund raising items, which just so happen to be a beautifully illustrated coffee cup with my handsome photo on it and my very Presidential winning attitude slogan of "Because I must!"

They are very Presidential and patriotic looking and sure to get me elected. My platform opener is "If you vote for me and buy a coffee cup, I will vote for your special interests". My plan is to make a lot of money (that I do not have to account for) and truly represent my prostrate minions. I plan to be honest and straightforward. I'm for change. I'm for a lot of change. In fact, I'm drawing the line in the dust with my promises, so there will be no confusion.

"Hey, wait a minute, what's that you said? Not so sure that I heard you right"

One of my original plans was to try and get Oprah Winfrey to run as my Vice-P, but she's went and thrown in with 'those guys" and that pretty much knocked her out as a choice. I wanted Oprah for her ability to influence female voters – especially white female voters, something I recognized as an asset. Hey! I may look goofy at times, but rest assured, I'm as slippery as the next candidate come promise time. I need those women voters!

Being the increasingly unpopular white male Anglo-Saxon Protestant, who believes in all things associated with being, well, let's face it - white male and keeping it that way, I figured to get a ringer, someone who can tip the scales in the direction I need it to go, so I need a prominent non-white male as a running chummy. Danny Glover was a possibility, but he went and got all buddy-buddy with Hugo Chavez and since Hugo got "all medieval" with Exxon, I had to give Danny the boot. Baytown IS Exxon territory after all. I'm for keeping it real.

I need an unspecified individual who can bridge the gap; someone who can push me over the top; someone like Samuel L. Jackson! He's a man to be reckoned with and nobody's sweetheart when it comes to having a strong arm when it's needed. Know what I mean? Did y'all see how he handled that problem on the plane with all the snakes? That's what I'm talking about. He's my military vote getter – him or Chuck Norris.

Did you notice how I said "y'all"? That's right – the Southern vote is already in the poke sack.

Or maybe I could get Carlos Mencia. He's got charisma to spare and has a primetime cable show, so he's a real contender in my book. He has a lot of acting experience and since this Oval Office thingy requires a bit of theatrics, I could take lessons from him. I was thinking about getting Roger Clements for my number two, but boy, he has a temper! We have to stay levelheaded in front of the cameras, so sorry, Roger, I'll have to strike you.

"Hey, wait a minute; oh say that again. You're in the dust drawing a long straight line"

I actually have a full crowd-pleasing platform and I'll develop it further as we get closer to the actual Election Day (November something). One thing I'm big on is securing the borders – that's a given. I'm for taxing the ultra-rich (someone like Bill Gates) and giving the rest of us our money back. I'm for stem and seed research (who isn't?) and I'm for cheaper description drugs and Heath bar care that is paid for by foreign conquests.

I'm for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and Capitalism. In my administration, I will encourage jobs and encourage education. Why, I'll just become the "Great Encourager"! Of course, I'll have to bulk up, trim down, speed up, look younger and run faster than my opponent John McCain and those other slackers and that's where my special Coffee Cup sales will come in handy.

Personal trainers and HGH injections are not cheap.

Order your cup today
http://www.cafepress.com/ourbay.104073955

Lyrics: Bruce Hornsby

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Girl in the Swing

My bride is out of town this weekend and I have the house to myself, well sort of. My son is in from Austin and my beautiful daughter drops in and out often, so I am not even close to being alone. It does feel like it though – without her.

It was about this time, 31 years ago, that I stood in her front yard in old Pelly and watched her glide past me on the swing her Dad had installed on the limb of their giant cottonwood tree…and realized she was the one I wanted to spend my life with. She was and still is my “girl in the swing” and I still see her in that light.

She truly is the love of my life and my Valentine and she rarely leaves my side to pursue her own gratification. This weekend is one of those times and I must confess I miss her.

Every time my lady abandons me to have a retreat with her lady friends I go into a pity party that is plainly self-possessed and self-destructive. Last night for supper I ate copious amounts of cheese dip with Rotel’s habanera salsa and Tostito’s…twice. Pitiful and stupid, it was. It dawned on me this morning that without her, I would go downhill even faster than I already am. She keeps me on track. There is no way she would allow this delectable taste-thrill to pass for a nutritious supper.

A couple of times a year, she forsakes her home duties (and me!) and blasts off with her sister, sister-in-law and favorite lady friends for a refreshing time of laughing and fellowship and I actually encourage her. I cannot fulfill those lady things all women need and can only get from other women and I know it well. Men are a poor substitute for that inexplicable need women possess to “share” with other women. Men aren’t even in the equation.

Women have needs and it’s not what men think or understand. It’s women sharing their lives, desires, drama and secrets with each other, something that I personally ain’t gonna do with another man and don’t care to even think about. Women need other women and I know this, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to share my bride. She spoiled me and in a roundabout way, it’s her fault I feel this dependency.

I sleep terribly when she’s gone and I did last night. I usually fall asleep about seven or eight pm, sleep like a baby (except I do not suck my thumb or wear a Depends) and arise somewhere between three and four am. I’m a morning person and by the time the day is wearing long, I hit the sack thinking about the morning with anticipation. Last night I dreaded my lonesome, wifeless bed and finally crashed and burned about ten pm, only to plop out, eyes vacant, to an empty house at three-something.

Thursday night, knowing she was going up Huntsville way Friday morning, I had another realistic and mysterious-sounding dream and I even threw it out for comments on the Baytown Sun forum to see what folks thought. Secretly I knew the answer, but here goes.

“I had a dream last night that I was arrested in Huntsville for littering. I wasn't guilty and resisted and the cops beat me until I needed a wheelchair to get around (temporarily).

I was sentenced to 90 days in the Huntsville jail and this is where the dream began.

I was pushing myself around in the wheelchair thinking how unjust the whole situation was. There was nothing weird about the dream and it was very real. Weird… huh?”

I awoke Friday morning feeling grouchy and I admit, selfish about my bride leaving. I’m a mess, a man-mess and deserve a sound thrashing, I know. Don’t pity me. Scold me. Kick me. I’m a bad boy, eating all that cheese-dip and stuff. I need to grow up and realize my lady deserves her downtime. Now - onto the meaning of the dream.

Let me see if I interpreted this dream correctly and you be the judge. My wife’s friends are the police and by taking my bride from me, I am not only blameless, but victimized and imprisoned at home and crippled(!) for what feels like three months…right? Right!

Guess I’ll go dig up a little breakfast. A double-decker Moon Pie and sausage links dipped in cheese sauce…again.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

This years nominees are…

Working in the same Plant for many years has made me an expert people observer and I would be willing to bet my personal Super Bowl football pot winnings from today's game, that others share like observations in each Chemical Plant on the ship channel.

My favorite category is of course, Drama - with Comedic performances taking a close second. Sometimes the two are so closely entwined, only a seasoned audience can tell them apart. Come to think of it, I imagine most administrative offices experience the same behavior, but in a basically male dominated Chemical Plant industry , the participants get little or no mercy from the audience. Men are very harsh judges of other men and yes sometimes they are downright cruel.

This year is starting off with a whole host of potential Oscar nominees and I might have to call in help to keep it all straight come awards time. One of the current front-runners is an aging athletic rotundic fella who is obviously and expressively sickish at least 4 times a year.
February has just begun and he's already ten days into his first presentation…and this exhibition of sickness is maybe one of his best performances!

I'm thinking "Oscar" in at least three (maybe four) categories. Drama, Comedic performance and Sound effects are shoe-ins, as no one has ever come close to getting four, at least not since my compadre "Maximum Bob" retired. My Buddy Bob, who I affectionately named Maximum Bob was, well, maximum in everything he did.


On any given day, Bob would come into work in the most wrinkled pair of Nomex coveralls ever seen, hair askew, face unshaven, shoes untied and in bad need of 14 or 15 cups of coffee (his usual). He would be literally dragging a bag full of various accouterments, but most of all, his treasured one-gallon freezer bag of prescription medicines.

At some time soon after his arrival, he would dig through the freezer bag while mumbling and with no apparent order, or amount, self-medicate. No rhyme or reason which container he opened was apparent to us, even if we watched closely and no manifest change in his demeanor or obvious symptoms developed throughout the day. This was "Sick Bob" and we knew and loved him well.

The next day Max Bob would burst through the control room door, bag over his shoulder, spring in his step and an Exxon Styrofoam cuppa Joe in his hand. His hair would be greased down Fonzie-style, uniform neatly pressed and even his shoes were tied. He would head directly for the locker room, much to everyone's dismay and shortly appear with his tool belt, gloves and with channel locks in hand; out the door he would go. Make relief - NO, he didn't need no stinking relief; he was on a mission from god!

Shortly after this, alarms would start to sound as Max Bob uncovered one mystery after another in his quest for excellence. The guys running the Control Panel did not like Max Bob as much as they did Sick Bob.

My favorite was "Dancing Bob". Dancing Bob was quite the exhibitionist and in his mind, an excellent dancer. I worked with Max Bob for about 15 years and as far as I could tell, there wasn't anything in particular that could trigger Dancing Bob onto the scene. Dancing Bob was a cross between John Travolta and Tom Bombadil from "Lord of the Rings" lore.
The first sign that Dancing Bob was on the scene was certain music would set him off. When this happened, DB would make an "O" with his lips, hunch his shoulders and hold both hands out in front of him, with thumbs up. Inevitably, you would hear someone say "Dear Lord" and off DB would go into one of his self-taught crouching tiger and feet shuffling dance moves.

I saw DB numerous times and at least twice he got so wound up that he disrobed completely. It was a gruesome and ghastly sight to see as he took our objective and embarrassed screaming as encouragement. The wildest incident took place in front of at least 10 people and involved the inspirational song "Chariots of Fire", one which we all agreed never need be played again in DB's presence.

Although my buddy Bob was a kind hearted fellow and a Purple Heart recipient from his Army days in Vietnam, he could also be provoked into assuming "Mean Bob" and MB was no one to truck with. He was grouchy. We much preferred "Hungry Bob". HB had peculiar eating habits. My first real encounter with Bob's alter-ego HB, took place early one morning, when I watched him heat up a plate of mustard sardines in the microwave and eat them while gnawing on a whole purple onion, apple-style.

A reoccurring comment in the lunchroom was whether Hungry Bob would eat this or that, which was left in the refrigerator. No one would take bets though and HB one time told me he had eaten a rat sandwich, while in Vietnam. I believed him. Heckfire, we all believed him. "Hey, you gonna eat that"?

Yeah, we have a few front-runners already this year here at the Plant for Academy Awards, but they remember a legacy that will be difficult to meet. Our friend Bob (is it any surprise he is a Bob?) is out there somewhere and even if you don't know him personally, you know someone just like him…now, don't you?

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...