Exploring the impact of broadband and technology on our lives, our businesses, and our communities.

The long slow decline of Apple software

I am a long time user of Apple computers, dating back to my first hand-on experience with the Apple Lisa in 1982. Ever since Steve Jobs died, it has been evident that software quality has not been a priority with the company.

  • The Apple productivity software (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) were released with brilliant interface designs years ago, but the Mac versions have been dumbed down to match the less capable iPad versions of the software. The original Numbers had the best spreadsheet interface I've ever seen, but they ripped it out for a much clumsier Excel-style/iPad interface years ago.
  • For at least a year and a half, I have not been able to use Apple's file sharing service between my desktop Mac mini and my older MacBook Air. I had assumed that it was due to the age of my laptop, but when I discovered recently that the same problem existing with a new MacBook Pro, I went searching online for a solution. What I discovered was that this is a problem that has existed for years and has been carried through numerous MacOS upgrades, without Apple ever bothering to fix a fundamental service.
  • I recently upgraded my iPhone to iOS 13.1, only to notice immediately that battery life was terrible. A quick online search revealed that this was a huge problem for many people. For the first time ever, I have to keep my iPhone plugged in and charging at work. I have never had to do this before. The phone loses nearly half its charge overnight sitting in the dark doing nothing. This is incredible.

Apple hardware, for the most part, is excellent. My eight year old MacBook Air still runs just fine, but Apple no longer supports OS upgrades for it. And that has been our experience at the office generally--Apple hardware just runs and runs, and it reaches end of life artificially when Apple will no longer provide software upgrades.

Apple has the money to put more time and effort into providing quality software; it apparently just chooses not to.

A muni network success story

As hard as some of the incumbents work to convince local elected officials that muni networks are a bad idea, more and more success stories are emerging over time.

Broadband Communities magazine has a great story about Fairlawn, Ohio's Gig fiber network.

It really is worth your time to read the whole article, as the network has been an enormous success, raising property values, attracting new residents to the city, and bringing new jobs and businesses into the community. And it is in the black--covering operating expenses and the steady increase in revenue is planned to start paying off the debt.

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A muni network success story

As hard as some of the incumbents work to convince local elected officials that muni networks are a bad idea, more and more success stories are emerging over time.

Broadband Communities magazine has a great story about Fairlawn, Ohio's Gig fiber network.

It really is worth your time to read the whole article, as the network has been an enormous success, raising property values, attracting new residents to the city, and bringing new jobs and businesses into the community. And it is in the black--covering operating expenses and the steady increase in revenue is planned to start paying off the debt.

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Danville: A True Success Story

The Roanoke Times has an excellent article about Danville, Virginia and its success in transforming the community from a traditional Southern mill town to an Information Economy powerhouse.

The City's early investment in Gigabit fiber played a big role, along with visionary local leaders who recognized that fiber was essential infrastructure but not a complete solution. Danville leaders rehabbed historic tobacco warehouses and created Class A office space for high tech businesses, and they also focused on workforce training and local higher education opportunities.

Perhaps most importantly, they recognized that they had to stick with their strategy for the long term to see results. From the first meetings that I attended in 1998 to today (twenty years later), the City has truly transformed the local economy--something many places talk about but don't always commit the leadership and hard work needed to actually do it.

WideOpen Networks provides network management services for the much expanded Gig network in Danville.

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RIP, Gene Crick

A giant of the community broadband movement passed away a few weeks ago of a heart attack at his home in Texas.

Gene was a dear friend and I am now very glad that I was able to have dinner with him this past April at the Broadband Communities conference in Austin.

The article provides a summary of Gene's influence and his accomplishments better than I ever could. I met Gene in the nineties at one of the Association for Community Networking meetings. We became fast friends and I spent many days in Texas working with Gene over the years. Gene's passing is a reminder of the other giants of community networking we have lost, including Steve Snow and Steve Cisler.

Today, more than ever, the original goals of community networking remain fresh and largely unfulfilled. With the rapid commercialization of the Internet in the late nineties and early 2000s, most community network projects closed their doors, and the industry viewed the whole effort as largely unimportant.

But the hegemony of Facebook, Google, and the many other commercial enterprises that have largely ignored privacy considerations and created information service monopolies, independent, privacy-protecting community-focused services are critical to preserving our privacy and our freedom.

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5G has limitations

This Ars Technica article is unintentionally funny if you have been following the 5G hype. Verizon is installing 5G systems in thirteen NFL football stadiums, but the distance limitations of 5G means in these Verizon installations, you won't have 5G service in some parts of the stadium.

Verizon can always add more access points, but then the cost goes up. 5G is going to be expensive and it is going to be a long time before it is as widely available as the current cellular network.

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Lost AirPods: A First World Problem

According to this story, so many New Yorkers are losing AirPods in the subway that it has become a major issue for subway maintenance workers, who are often called to retrieve them from the subway rail tracks.

The tiny cordless ear buds apparently fall out of a user's ears easily in the sweaty hot environment of the subway. One woman bought a broom and duct tape to create a make shift "sticky stick" to retrieve her AirPods.

The first time I saw AirPods, my immediate thought was, "Those are going to be too easy to lose or misplace." And apparently I was right. One person in the article claims they have lost "ten pair" of AirPods. That is somewhere between $1600 and $2000, depending upon what model he has been buying.

The over-use (yes, over-use) of ear buds is really dangerous. On the way home from work last night, I encountered someone jogging along my side of the road, back to oncoming traffic, with earbuds plugged in. Not only should they have been on the other side of the road, but they could not hear oncoming traffic. And in this college town (Blacksburg), I constantly see students riding bikes with earbuds--ditto on not being to hear traffic around them. For these people, has listening to music become more important than their own life? Apparently so.

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Who is listening?

Without providing personal detail, I have had two incidents this week where an email and a separate conversation both resulted in emails the next day from Amazon suggesting that I guy products related to the email and the conversation.

The email was sent to several people, and two of them were Gmail accounts, so I think it is logical to assume that Google is scanning all gmail messages and passing stuff on to Amazon--Google has admitted as much.

The conversation had to be overheard by an iPhone, which is far more creepy. Apple likes to tout their commitment to privacy, but they are apparently still allowing third parties to activate the microphone and listen in to conversations.

There is really no escaping this, and I have very reluctantly come to the conclusion that a solution probably requires Federal legislation. These technology companies appear to have no shame at all about completely destroying personal privacy.

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Are reforms to Form 477 coming?

Broadband Breakfast has a story on the FCC's proposed changes to the way broadband availability data is collected on what is known as Form 477.

ISPs complete a Form 477 every year, but the data has often been unreliable for several reasons, but the biggest problem has been that if a single address in a census block is "served" by an ISP, then every address in that census block is deemed served. In many rural areas, this cuts off large areas from being eligible for Federal and state grant funds.

The proposed changes include requiring ISPs to indicate where they have service, and eliminating the use of census blocks. Crowdsourcing data (e.g. self-reported speed tests) have also been proposed.

The changes are badly needed, and will benefit many rural communities.

Gig fiber was and is a big part of Danville, Virginia's renaissance

James Fallows writes in The Atlantic about the amazing success of Danville, Virginia. Fallows identifies Gig fiber as of several key factors in the renaissance of the city. Other factors included a local foundation that took a long view of community revitalization and the opportunity to tap Virginia's tobacco settlement funds to build infrastructure like the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

Design Nine worked closely with City officials to help develop and build the Gig fiber network, and in my view, another key factor was a small group of City and regional officials that were determined to make a difference--true visionaries. In 2006, when we first began working with the City on developing the fiber network, it was not at all common for municipalities to make fiber broadband investments. And it was even less common to build a municipal open access network. Danville was the first muni open access network in the country (multiple providers offering offering a wide range of competitive services).

Give us a call if you want our help bringing that kind of success to your community.

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