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The Future of Communication: Internet Killed The Radio Star

I posted last week that I purchased an HTC Evo. While I was customizing my device I decided to play with its FM radio. Which I thought was kind of cool at first and it got me thinking how FM radio is a key concept in the net neutrality controversy. I’ll explain this over further but it’s important to understand how I got there.

I was tuning my Evo to my favourite radio station. Since it was moving on toward the evening a familiar DJ was talking in between commercials and music. At first I was thinking how cool this is, ‘FM on my cell phone?’ Yea sure it sounds cool but really, who listens to the radio beside the people without cellular broadband?

The radio in my car has been broken for years. I use my phone to play mp3s over a Bluetooth stereo to FM transmitter. How behind the times was that now? My wife has been using Pandora in a similar fashion for over a year. Who wouldn’t if given the choice? It’s much harder to drive out of a national carrier’s data range than your local FM radio stations and you can skip or pause the stream. If you miss informational audio try podcasts on the road.

Technology is moving forward all the time. No carrier is going to want to maintain older technology forever. It isn’t practical. Remember when the analogue networks were disbanded? This will happen one day to the more modern first and second generation digital networks and it isn’t far away. 3G is already obsolescing faced with 4G is invading.

4G is important and in America 4G doesn’t really mean 4G, at least not ye. 4G in America is the stepping stone from 3G to 4G and are the carriers going to have a problem when 4G really comes out and they’ve used up the name and the hype. There are two big rules for qualifying as 4G. One you must be able to transmit 100mbps to mobile devices and by mobile I mean devices that are actually moving not devices that can be moved like a cell phone. In addition 4G must also provide 1000mbps to stationary devices. The WiMax (Sprint) and LTE (Verizon) networks can’t provide the speed necessary to qualify. It is possible to get 100mbps out of these technologies, but neither speed qualifies as you won’t get those speeds in motion. Lastly a 4G network is 100% ip based. That is… the voice and data are sent digitally over the network using ip connectivity. The same method you use to go to Google or Amazon’s web site.

The rabbit hole went deeper for me. I mean, not all radio stations are going lay down and die off when everyone finally makes the 3G leap. Instead of broadcasting over the air waves they’ll switch mediums and broadcast another way. One example of this kind of switch is satellite radio, but the expense is paid for by the listener because advertising doesn’t compensate for the total operating costs. Bar of entry is pretty bad too because you have to buy a separate

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satellite radio. Another example is Pandora Internet Radio and that’s free. Pandora uses the Internet as its medium for broadcasting instead of the air as FM or satellite does. The bar of entry is pretty small. Most devices that can do Pandora serve several other functions. This is the beauty of ip connectivity, this is the goal of 4G, and that is the embodiment of the future.

I know that some might be thinking, ‘but isn’t cellular broadcasting the same as FM in that the air is a free medium?’ How is it different? Even though the air is the medium of the cellular

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connection between cell phones and cell towers the connection is the property of the respected carrier and the signaling is proprietary between carriers. With FM everyone is allowed to receive signal but with cellular you can’t become a member unless you are a subscriber. You won’t be able to receive or transmit voice or data across the cellular if you’re device isn’t compatible or registered on the cellular network.

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Why does this apply to net neutrality? It occurred to me that Netflix and Comcast are butting heads because common customers between the two companies are using Netflix. This increases the bandwidth requirements for Comcast. They believe that Netflix should pay tariffs for this extra usage. How different is Netflix to Pandora? Not very.

For most subscribers they don’t even consider the actual method their data has to go to get from their PlayStation to Netflix or their Motorola DroidX to Pandora and back.

Comcast and the defendants of prioritizing or outright blocking other content providers believe there tariffs are justified and that the supplier of the content should be punished. The reverse then must be true; either they are right and the supplier should then punish the demander or they are right and they should seek the demander of the content.

In a perfect world no one should have to increase costs to access a portion of the Internet. The reality is that everyone wants a piece of the pie and

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I was just reading a Time Warner Cable advertisement and I saw the price that cable companies charge their clients per view. At those prices it is no wonder Netflix is so popular. The real problem I see here is that either Comcast charges to little for their Internet service or they charge to much for their per view movie content.

In the end, regardless of the verdict of net neutrality, this kind of thought will only lead to the customer paying more. Perhaps if we use more unlimited Internet we should pay more for it. The answer is an problematic but I personally don’t believe in tariffs. In the future the Internet will hopefully be completely free.

Also I wrote this entire post from my HTC Evo. Caio!

Android: We're Here and We're…

I’ve been battling some major disagreements I’ve had with Sprint for over a year now and I finally came to terms with everything.

Problem 1: 4G means $G

Seriously, you pay for “premium” data even if you don’t have

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4G in your area. For a company that spends as much as they do on NASCAR you’d think they could reinvest that in to the network and not put the burden on their customers. Now I’m not saying the network sucks, I’m a volunteer Sprint fanboy, but I am generally conservative when it comes to costs. I had conversed with many a Sprint employee over this and everyone of them kept telling me that some how the 4G phones are so much faster even if 4G isn’t available. Really now, this only fueled my annoyance. I finally spoke to someone who said this about the premium data plan: most all other carriers have dropped unlimited data as even an option but Sprint wanted to keep this for their users thus they increased the price of data by 10$/mo and included 4G in to the price. At the time this

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didn’t really reduce my annoyances about it and I know some people probably won’t accept this line of reason. In the end, if I don’t think too much about it, I am accepting of this policy.

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Problem 2: Premium phones and their premium oversights

The HTC Evo 4G was a technological marvel at the time and it is still a major competitor in the cellular phone market. It’s amazing, it has dual cameras, a large display screen and even HDMI out! What’s missing? The directional pad and hardware camera button. The average user may never concern themselves over this, but the average Unix systems administrator will rue the day. The arrow keys are generally displayed on the virtual keyboard, but the camera button is often used as the control key in terminal apps. ConnectBot is

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my terminal app of choice and Better Keyboard 8 is my on screen keyboard of choice. You can fortunately use control and arrow keys, but to use them you must switch back and forth between keyboard layouts of the ConnectBot display window (as control is provided under the virtual keyboard.) The solution here is to provide the control key above the keyboard but that isn’t an option, at least not right now. Other choices exist, but the phone hardware isn’t as amazing as the Evo. The Nexus has promiss, but never made it to the Sprint market.

Problem 3: Rebates, rebates, rebates…?

If you buy your phone from Sprint you get an instant discount off the phone, when you’re eligible for an update, and you get a rebate you have to mail in. When you move constantly it’s hard to keep up on the rebate status. Needless to say I didn’t keep on Sprint to make sure the rebates were received and too much time has elapsed. They did work with me on this and offered me incentives instead. When I decided to renew and upgrade I found that Best Buy is an amazing location to buy your phone. Their prices appeared identical or better on each phone model and you don’t have to be hassled with rebates. Bottom line is, check your options. I was able to get in to an Evo for less out of pocket money than I could have if I bought my phone from a Sprint Store.

In summary I have forgiven Sprint for its current short comings. I have made the choice to stick with them for another 2 years, so we’ll see how things go!

Remote OS Conversion: Doing It Remotely

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its original scope… the problem is simple; your machine is hundreds of miles away and all you have is remote console. Your mission if you choose to accept (if you’re even given the choice) is to install Centos on the remote machine. Now, huge disclaimer… there may be a better way to do this.

As I saw it… I could have tried to set something up to run from the current distribution. My problem is that I also had to redo the partition tables and reformat. I can’t boot to a second medium as I can’t just pop in a CD or USB drive. This also excludes rsyncing a Centos install to the destination.

My first attempt was to chainboot an ISO using grub. Unfortunately I wasn’t running grub2 and I had to use an ISO which can’t be mapped because it isn’t a HD device. Of course grub2 apparently natively supports it. Also don’t be fooled by Google. Loads of people suggest using a knoppix kernel which supports the bootfrom kernel option. The caveat is that the booting kernel must match the kernel in the ISO.

Here was my plan and I totally have done this before. The first line of business was to grab the Centos net install ISO. Fortunately its totally not bloated and is roughly 10 mbs. Next you have to mount it to disect the CD.

mount -oloop Centos_netinstall.iso /mnt/cd-rom

Most, if not all, Linux bootable CDs use isolinux. All I needed to do was find the isolinux configuration, which reminds

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me a lot like the Lilo configuration file.

The configuration has a kernel and an initrd. The kernel in my case was called vmlinuz and the initrd was called initrd.img. I copied those over to /boot and modified my grub like the following.

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Fire it up and you have yourself a Centos net install from grub on your remote system.

Let us talk about further thinking… This principal can be used to create a bootable USB Centos net install thumb drive. Simply install grub to the thumb drive and perform the previous commands.

Say you have a Android x86 bootable ISO and you want to load in your own kernel or turn the ISO into an bootable USB drive. Do the same to grab the kernel and the ram disks. Then boot it from the USB or what have you. Once booted you can grab the configuration for the kernel from /proc/config.gz and compile your own replacement kernel remembering to slip in your new modules in the Android appropriate location.

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There’s probably more helpful things you can do after you split the ISO open and remove the precious brains.