Saturday, May 28, 2016

Dark Fiber as a model to bring competition back to high-speed Internet and other services.

I'm really excited about this idea. Remember the 90's when competition was fierce with dial-up ISPs? There was a huge factor that helped make that possible and it was commonly available lines to run the services over. Everyone had telephone lines and you could change your ISP simply by getting a new account and calling a different number. Each ISP didn't have to run an entirely new network to provide service to a population. They ordered a number of lines with telephone numbers, hooked up some modems and got a high-speed connection to the Internet and they were in business.

Dark fiber is so named because Fiber Optic cable carries data as light over its length. When it is "dark", that means there's no equipment hooked up to that line. If an area runs dark fiber to all of its homes and businesses, then they can in turn lease those lines to various companies who want to provide services over them. We can again have a ton of competition in Internet service without requiring each provider to run their own lines. Right now competition is very limited due to that simple fact. Here in Richmond Indiana choices are limited. Comcast provides cable modem service over their lines. Frontier and Parallax provides DSL service over telephone lines. Parallax has a limited roll-out of Fiber Optic as well. Then there's Bridgemax over a wifi-like wireless connection.

Internet service is not the only service that could run over Fiber Optic. TV providers and phone could also be run.

Why provide for competition instead of restricting it to a single provider? Not everyone will want the service from a single provider. That would slow down how fast a network could grow. It's not economical to roll it out to every house if only a few wants it. If the same network could be used for people who want service from Company A and people who want service from Company B then it can economically grow. Not to mention, with the added competition prices will go down while at the same time companies will also have to work on their customer service! It also opens the door for smaller companies to offer a service that would be simply impossible to offer if they have to build out their own infrastructure. The exceedingly high cost of building out infrastructure severely limits the possible competition.

Think of roads. Do we have Ford roads that only Fords are allowed to drive on? Do we have Chevrolet roads that only Chevys are allowed to drive on? No! So why not have a common infrastructure for all of our data services, such as Internet, Phone and TV?

Please note that I'm talking about Dark Fiber here. The service providers can bring their own equipment. If newer equipment comes out that is faster, then they can hook that up to the lines. Much like in the modem days when we went from 2400 baud to 56.6k. If Google offers service with 1Gbps equipment and newer equipment comes out that's faster, then they should be able to hook that up.

I've read an article recently about Google working with Huntsville Alabama to put this sort of idea into practice. It's not even the first place it's been tried and I'm very excited to see what happens. If Comcast & AT&T don't kill it off in court anyways. You can read the article here: You Didn’t Notice It, But Google Fiber Just Began the Golden Age of High Speed Internet Access

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Solar Panels grown on the Moon could power the Earth.

This is a neat idea but I object to the premise. The article states:
"To power entire world with solar power, we would need to cover an area that's 92 percent the size of Nevada in solar panels, and that's not even counting the batteries," says Lewis-Weber. "To me, that's just not feasible."
To power the entire world, we'd only need to cover an area 92% the size of Nevada. Not we'd need to cover Nevada, just an area of that size. There's no need to have a single continuous array to power everyone. There'd be tons of transmission losses that way anyways. Not that the article above mentions what the losses would be using microwaves to transmit energy from the Moon. Given the inverse-square law, I'd have to imagine the losses would be pretty great. It'd be better to have solar arrays directly above where they are needed. I have no idea, currently, how much area is available for rooftop solar. If every home and business had rooftop solar, it's entirely possible we'd have most of the energy we'd need. Of course it depends on many factors such as what latitude you live at and quality of panels used. If the grid was entirely distributed then areas with an excess of sunlight can power areas that are cloudy. Or even include wind which will also provide power in the absence of sun.

Not that the article is entirely without merit. If someone can come up with a way to build an entirely automated factory that can be sent to foreign bodies to mine and build stuff with local resources.. that would change a lot of things. It'd also make it possible to have such machinery build bases and other resources on the Moon, Mars or even on an asteroid. Rather than spend billions of dollars to send equipment, we can cut the costs of space exploration without making it more dangerous.

The article doesn't mention how that would be accomplished. Just the idea of sending equipment that would replicate itself. Really more like Science Fiction than fact at this point.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Some Javascript based PC and old computer emulators:

PCEjs The above ported to Javascript by using Emscripten
  • Atari ST
  • IBM PC 5150/5160
  • Mac Plus - Emulates Macintosh 128K, 512K, 512Ke, Mac Plus, Mac SE or Mac Classic
  • rc759 Regnecentralen RC759 Piccoline, which I guess was a computer made in/for Denmark specifically
This one is specifically an IBM PC 5150 emulator. Has several disk images, mainly DOS but there's a Windows 1.0 too.

This one is an x86 emulator written in Javascript that loads up a very simple Linux system when you visit the page. It seems pretty responsive. The guy that wrote it said it should be about the level of a 486 but without a floating point unit. No network support.

This is another x86 emulator written in Javascript. This one has several disk images of Linux, DOS and even Windows 1.01.

DOSBox is a x86 emulator that comes with it's own DOS like environment. The development has been mainly focused on getting games running, but it can also run other applications. It's possible to run Windows 3.1 and even Windows 95 on it. However, Windows 95 isn't super stable. Em-DOSBox is a port of DOSBox to Javascript using Emscripten. Emscripten can compile C/C++ code to Javascript.

Internet Archive DOS and Windows games
Windows 3.11 in your browser
Here's the thing that blows my mind. I ran Windows 3.1 on a 486sx 20Mhz in the early 90s, so about 23-24 years ago. Now it's in my browser and it's not even slow.
This Em-DOSBox generally has a better interface than the other x86 emulators above.

Windows 95 in your browser
I'm not sure about the legality of this one. From all accounts it is buggy and tends to hang. I'm sure the Internet Archive version of Windows 3.11 above is legal. For one thing, they don't let you download it. All you can do is stream it from their website.

It's conceivable that someone could make an adventure game set in the 90s with fully working emulated computers from the era, given that all of this stuff works in the average browser these days. Even better if they can simulate a modem and let you dial up to a virtual BBS. It'd be great if Microsoft came out and said that MSDOS and old versions of Windows, such as 3.1 and 95, would be freely available for this sort of thing. After all, "It's a new Microsoft."

Friday, January 8, 2016

Javascript support

This is a neat Github repository that is a page discussing all of the new features in ES6, also known as ECMAScript 2015. Basically all of the new features in Javascript.

Here is a page that shows a support matrix of which browsers, servers and compilers support which ECMAScript features. It shows ES5, ES6, ES7 and non-standard. It even shows what the currently used browser supports.