Happy Back To The Future Day!

On this day in the future of 1985, Doc Brown, Marty McFly, and Jennifer (Marty’s girlfriend), visited the future to save the future for Marty and his future wife (then girlfriend).

back-to-the-future-clock

“Where we’re going, we don’t need…. roads.” – Doc Brown

Happy Back To The Future Day!!

All other ISPs Vs Google Fiber

 

All other ISPs Vs Google Fiber

If you’re fortunate enough to live in one of the very few cities or metro areas, such as Kansas City or Austin,  that have Google Fiber, you probably remember the battle to get there.  But for those who have yet to experience the wonder of the modern world, there are semi-alternatives available. These faux alternatives are offered by the companies that Google is battling with and they are AT&T, Comcast, Time-Warner, etc… That battle is still waging now, but it’s akin to the beating that the Seahawks gave to the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII (48).

Let’s review what each company has to offer.

Google Fiber is 1000 Mbps Synchronous, that is both directions, upload and download.  It costs $70 per month.  You can get Television service as well for an additional $50 per month.  Installation is Free if you sign up for a 12-month contract.  The price does not change after the contract period.

AT&T does not currently offer Fiber service in areas that do not currently have Google Fiber available.  But you can get up 50 Mbps / 5 Mbps (Dn/Up) in many areas for between $50 and $100 / month with a 24-month contract.  And the price will go up after that.

Comcast does offer Fiber Service, even as much as 2 Gbps in areas where Google Fiber is currently available.  The deal is great for those with money to burn; $500 for install, $500 for activation, and $300 per month with a 12-month contract.

As for Time-Warner Cable, there’s only whispers of a suppositional possibility for 1 gbps service in the future.

It would appear that the best deal, even if not available in your town, is Google Fiber.  You may have to suffer with slow speeds, high cost, and wretched customer service, for a while until Google Fiber gets to you.  And there are usually other alternatives locally, but you may pay more for them.   For example, in Northern California, a local company Etheric Networks, offers a land-based microwave system that offers up to 100 Mbps, but at a steep price.  Whereas another local company offers AT&T’s U-verse service for 50% less and it includes VoIP phone service (Sonic.net)

If you’re wondering why Google Fiber is so much less expensive and why all the other ISPs have yet to offer Gigabit service, the answer is a complex one.  Google wants everyone on the internet and the fast, the better.  Google sells ads and the more bandwidth, the fast ads can be sold.   The other ISPs currently make a very good living from charging consumers for slow internet, especially in monopolized markets.  Plus, improving access speeds is a massive infrastructure cost.  In short, it is in Google’s interest to give you faster internet, it is not in the interest of all other ISPs.

 

 

USB Type C

usb-3-type-c-final-render-640x353

USB Type C offers new Power

Ever since it’s inception, I’ve personally tracked the progress of the Universal Serial Bus (USB).  In the mid-1990’s I postulated about the idea of a SmartMedia Card being attached to a USB plug that could be connected to a computer for external storage (now called the USB thumb or flash drive). It has fascinated me how it could be possible to have a cable that could be so “universal”.  I appreciated the ideal and so the USB consortium has announced the latest in the line of products, USB Type C.

It’s pertinent to cover the history of USB to offer a level of perspective on what has been available and what USB has done to further connectivity.  In it’s earliest rendition USB 1.0 began in 1996 with a decent throughput rate of between 1.5 and 12 Mbps.  In 2000, USB was upgraded to 2.0 ranging throughput between 280 and 480 Mbps.  And more recently with USB 3.0 the throughput was upgraded yet again to 4 Gbps.  As recently as January 2013, that throughput is capable of 10 Gbps.

Many people are aware of the power capacity of USB.  Most mobile phones use USB as a power source as it serves both to charge portable electronics and offers a data connection.  That connection is much smaller than the original standard A-Type USB plug , but they both still part of the standard. Which brings me to the latest USB type C

USB Type C resembles  Type B, which most mobile phones use, but C has some new quirks and features.  Currently Type B is non-reversible, whereas Type C is.  Also, Type C will support the massive data throughput and power capacity that all prior types do not.

What does this mean for you?

The current maximum power available on USB 2.0 (common) is 2.5 W, on USB 3.0 (less common) 4.5 W.  On the latest revision USB 3.1 (not yet released) it will be 100 W.  This means that you can charge much larger devices or hopefully gain access to more power, more quickly.  No longer will it take hours to charge your phone or tablet, but possibly minutes.

But another advantage of the new standard is that larger devices like laptops will be able to use USB to run or charge.  USB will act as a standard power cable type.  Some laptops have a power brick that offers 65 W, but others go as high as 90 W.  USB 3.1 will offer data and power simultaneously potentially cutting down on the wide assortment of power bricks and incompatibility.

 Conclusion

After having monitored the USB market over the years I am grateful to see these advancements.  It shows that the ideal is practical and applicable.  People really do use USB and each iteration is progressively better allowing for more use.  There are several other cable types that have been tried and are still used, but none so universal as the one which uses that word in its name.

Rather than generate a whole new standard, USB remains mostly the same and untied to any one corporation.   I’ve yet to see a Firewire or Thunderbolt power adapter for an electrical socket, but I’ve seen many versions that offer USB.   I look forward to the next iteration and the mass of potential uses it affords.

How T-Mobile Forced A Change In Its Two Biggest Competitors

T-Mobile pushed their competitors to change

I’m still not entirely sure that T-Mobile realized how much they would change their competitor’s business plans by announcing the JUMP! service.  I do know it is a disruption tactic, I know that it was meant to unnerve, but I had no idea that it would force AT&T and Verizon to do a complete 180. The T-Mobile JUMP! service literally raked the two largest Mobile Service providers across the coals of competition, forcing them to develop plans that (at least on the surface) reflected T-Mobile’s.

Of course Verizon and AT&T did not have to develop these plans to allow customers the ability to upgrade more often.  Look at what they announced a few weeks before the JUMP! plan rolled out.  They both decided to put the upgrade requirement out to a full 24 months, no early upgrades. But seeing that one of the biggest draws and largest income generators are smartphones and tablets, losing these customers would have hit their pocketbooks directly.  In essence, there was no way that they could allow T-Mobile to roll out with JUMP! and not develop a competing plan.

It would be a wonder if T-Mobile (obviously having planned the JUMP! concept for a while) was waiting for AT&T and Verizon to change their plans to 24 months, knowing that when T-Mobile released the JUMP! plan that it would force a change.  If they did know, it proves that they are more cunning than the largest mobile carriers, but if they did not know then maybe they are the happy-go-lucky, free-spirited, fourth-in-line mobile carrier.

In either case, this change shows the aware observer that the biggest two companies really believed that they could manipulate their customers to their wills, that they believed in the “too-big-to-fail” concept. And that T-Mobile is a  serious competitor that will not simply tow-the-line.  T-Mobile means to set an example of how a mobile carrier should act, that the company value is based on choice of service, not contracts.  That it is the customer that makes the decisions not the carrier.

Now if we could just get all mobile phones upgraded to LTE and a mobile wireless standard across the board. That way all companies could compete openly on their merits, rather than contractually bind them treat them as indentured servants.

 

It’s Cheaper to use a 3D-Printer than to Buy

RepRap Mendel
Credit: Wikipedia

Would you believe that it’s actually cheaper to use a 3D-printer, than to buy? A study by some innovative and forward-thinking Michigan Technological University students has shown this to be true.  The cost of cheap plastic parts, even that which comes from China, is still higher than it would be to print it in your own home.

The students picked 20 things that a typical home owner might use or need during a year.  The cost to print the items (including the time to print) ranged from a factor of 20 to 100 times less than the cost of purchasing the same items online. They spent $18 in materials to make what would actually cost between $318 and as much as $1943 from online retailers

Many people seem either skeptical or just plain unaware of the grand possibilities of a 3D-printer.  Part of it is lack of information, but in what little information a person might have is often related to current 2D-printers.  And current knowledge of 2D-printers is, that they may be cheap to obtain, but there’s a huge cost for ink and paper (printing materials).  Although a 3D-printer may not use ink (alone), the uses are very different and much more vast.

Some 3D-printers are costly up-front, ranging form $2500-$5000, but the RepRap printer that was used by the MTU students can cost in the range of $400-$1500.  As most 3D-printers have the ability print roughly half of their own parts, this is where significant up-front, cost savings are found.

“It blows my mind that you can print your own shower curtains and beat the retail price” said Joshua Pearce, an associate professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at MTU.   The user of the 3D-Printer can make nearly anything that might be needed or wanted, such as custom phone cases, kitchen utensils, bathroom accessories, feet for household furniture and appliance, containers, and all manner of parts for nearly any device a person might own.

The only limit, it seems, is the imagination, although in the mean time, most consumers may find use in replacing parts on broken toys, and supplementing the loss of things destroyed by children or animals. As the technology begins to permeate domestic life we will see more and more innovation and reliance on the 3D-printer. Until then, check out these links for more information

MTU Study

RepRap 3D-Printer

MakerBot 3D-Printer

FlashForge 3D-Printer