The pleasure and (minor) pain of Telstra Next G

Photograph of Telstra Next G cardbus modem in my MacBook Pro, with a pint of Kilkenny nearby

Over the last few months, I’ve been trialling Telstra’s Next G mobile broadband as part of an experimental “technology seeding program”. Despite my initial doubts, I’ve been impressed.

Previously I’d been using Vodafone 3G, tethering my MacBook Pro via Bluetooth to a Nokia N80. It worked just fine. I subsequently moved to a Nokia N96 and Virgin Mobile, which uses the Optus network under the hood. It’s terrible. I made a big mistake.

But that’s a story for another time…

Sure, Next G is the most expensive mobile broadband out there. But it’s also the best. Clearly.

On our road trip, we could use Next G almost all the way from Cowra back through Bathurst to Sydney. Yes, the signal dropped out as we drove through hilly areas, as you’d expect. But the data link automatically reconnected once it found a new cell — with the same IP address!

Seriously. Here I was in a moving car, running a ping and watching YouTube videos. The link dropped out. It reconnected. And when it did, perhaps six minutes later when the terrain sorted itself out, the video started playing from where it left off. Pings resumed with the very next packet number in the sequence — albeit with ping times of over 370 thousand milliseconds.

In another test, the data link kept the same IP address while I caught a train from Newtown across Sydney Harbour to Pymble. In CityRail’s loop under the Sydney CBD, there was no signal in the tunnels, but the link came back up within seconds of arriving at a station.

Somebody did some great network engineering. They deserve a pat on the back.

But what else?

Continue reading “The pleasure and (minor) pain of Telstra Next G”

Creating podcasts on a Mac, Part 1

Podcasting is now far, far easier and cheaper even than I’d imagined — even for complex productions. I’ve been experimenting. Here’s a very quick summary of what I’ve learned so far about doing this on a Mac, my platform of choice.

Now if your podcast is just you talking then you can take a much simpler approach. Read no further.

However this investigation was inspired by the “live recording” of the 2 Web Crew. Having an audience contributing comments and questions via text chat created an interesting dynamic — similar to talkback radio but less formal. I wanted to explore further.

The technical challenge is combining all of the audio elements before the audio or video stream is piped up to Ustream or wherever. There’s probably quite a few ways to do this, but my starting-point was The UStream Tool Kit — which also covers Windows.

Continue reading “Creating podcasts on a Mac, Part 1”

Remember 20 megabyte hard drives?

Photograph of 3.5-inch floppy disc for Apple Macintosh HD20

I just found this while cleaning up the office: the start-up disc for Apple’s Hard Disk 20 from 1985.

This was the first hard drive for the then-new Macintosh. My beloved Fat Mac — “Fat” because it came with 512k RAM, not the original 128K — had two 800kB 400kB 3.5-inch floppies, one of which held the operating system

So this drive extended my data storage from under 1MB half a megabyte to a gargantuan 20MB. I was in heaven!

Later that year, a legal settlement from a traffic accident provided the funds for the other cool tool for geeks: the original Apple LaserWriter printer. I remember being extremely chuffed because it was on special: marked down from the list price of AUD$10k to a mere $7.7k

Yes, seven thousand dollars! In 1985 money!

This was the desktop publishing revolution!

Everyone — simple everyone — wanted to look at the glorious 300dpi print quality. And because I’d gotten hold of JustText, a code-based tool for professional typesetting, I could pass raw PostScript commands through to the printer and do complex layouts. TAFE offered me a job on the spot — which I declined.

It all seems so passé now…

This disc looks in pretty good condition. I wonder if it still works? Anyone got the hardware?

Face facts: Macs get malware, people look at porn

Some days (like today) I get thoroughly annoyed with society’s continual states of denial. Yes, “states” plural. This BBC news story about the “first” Trojan Horse for the Mac is wrong in four important ways — and it perpetuates another “myth of denial”.

[T]he first serious threat to Mac users has been observed “in the wild”.

It’s a Trojan Horse, a piece of code that pretends to do one thing but actually compromises your computer.

This one spreads through online video sites…

That puts my son right in the middle of the vulnerable population because he likes to watch video clips via sites like YouTube and Flixster…

The Trojan sits behind an online video and when you try to play it you get a message from Quicktime telling you to get a new codec, and if you follow the link you’ll be sent to a site that hosts the malicious software.

Click “ok” and enter your systems administrator’s password and it will be installed on your computer with full system access after which you are, to use the jargon, “pwned”, or scuppered.

And you don’t even get to see the video you were after….

At the moment the fake codec is being spread via porn sites, but it will quickly spread to more mainstream sites, and that’s when it will get dangerous…

Here’s why this article is wrong…

Continue reading “Face facts: Macs get malware, people look at porn”