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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tuckerman's Ravine

I finally put the last jewel in my crown of Eastern U.S. skiing this weekend by tackling Tuckerman's Ravine. I've conquered the front four at Stowe, I've skied Mad River Glen, I've jackhammered the bumps on Outer Limits and White Heat. I've even hiked the Ravine in summer but I've always had trouble rounding up some mates to tackle the Ravine in winter. Finally, I could wait no longer, so I took on Tuckerman's on my own.

March 25 was a sunny day, but overcast once I hit the bowl. I did the hike to HoJo's in a bit over an hour. A short rest on the porch for some "fuel"; I donned crampons and headed into the ravine. There were plenty of people watching, much fewer actually doing any climbing or skiing. I figured I'd stay with the crowd rather than head off to the left on my own, so I made my way to Lunch Rocks and up the kicked steps to take on the Lip. I've hear it compared to a Stair-Master before, but in reality, it's more like ladder-master. The climb is ridiculously steep and never ending; and with skis strapped to my back I wasn't moving all too fast. Finally, I crested the lip and followed the cairns to the trail junction where I stopped for a rest, water and to click on my skis.

I started off heading towards the headwall to make the turn around the rocks and brush at the cornice. A few quick turns opened into larger GS turns to control speed. I was able to stop on the relative safety of the 30 degree or so pitch above the Lip for a quick picture aiming down. It doesn't do justice when compared to actually being there; ready to dive into the abyss.

A few more turns down and I was headed into the 40+ degree steeps of the lip. The snow was packed pretty well but not icy; loose enough to send sloughs down with me as I pedal-turned to control speed before I opened into some GS turns that quickly tightened as the steeps relented.

I took the trail down little headwall with a small group - walking some of the impassible parts where the snow opened up to expose Cutler River. I continued down the Sherburne Ski Trail for a quick exit. The last 100 yards were impassable on skis, so I had to hike it back to the parking lot.

Four and half hours of hiking, skiing and some extreme steeps was well worth the price of admission ... free! Not sure if I'll be returning to lift-serviced ski areas any time soon!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes

Bah, bah African American sheep, have you any wool ...

Vertically challenged Jack Horner, sat in a corner ...

As I was going to St. Ives, I met a philandering polygamist ...

One little, two little, three little Native Americans ...

There was an aged, single mother who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she was on government assistance and made use of both food stamps and the WIC program ...

Barber, barber, shave an obese girl ...

Monday, March 20, 2006

IT Roadmap Boston: Part 2

I just finished the afternoon session: "VoIP and Collaboration". Johna Till Johnson started a promising presentation talking about the concept of a Real Time Communications Dashboard (RTCD) which is realized in such products as Microsoft's Live Communications Server and Domino R7. However, the presentation quickly turned more towards convergence deployments instead of collaboration integration. I'm sure some people got something out of it; however, having worked in a converged environment for the past two to three years, I found the topics elementary. Over a year ago, I wrote a white paper describing presence as the driving force behind converged networks. Seeing a presentation slide today saying for the first time, future proofing the network was more of a driver than cost for converged network adoptions was validating on so many levels.

I'm still shocked to see industry analysts and vendors alike still missing the holy grail of convergence - presence. These thought leaders still talk about applications that integrate email, instant messaging and voice; however, the vision of presence as a dial tone shouldn't depend on an application that puts all modes of contact at your fingertips, but rather enables you to use any form of contact based on the preferences of the person you're contacting. This may seem like a semantic argument, but applications today still don't allow the rich presence extensions that users can create to define how they want to be contact, not just how they can be contacted. It should not be my choice of how to contact my "buddy"; rather, I should be his choice of how I should contact him. My user interface should provide the "address of record" contact as my option, not all possible options.

And furthermore, the whole concept of buddies and buddy lists is a holdover from instant messaging. If we're trying to create a new killer application, we should take the best parts of existing ones and add a whole slew of new features. Static buddy lists equate to host lists on computers. They do not scale. We invented DNS to overcome the static host lists. Why would we go backwards now? Creating presence ties into LDAP - the way we dynamically look up contacts for email now - is a much more scalable method. Instant queries of users presence info instead of having to add them to a dynamic list just to see if they're online is the way to design applications that provide instant collaboration.

IT Roadmap Boston: Part 1

The Network World IT Roadmap Boston Conference started off with a fairly motivating and well structured key note by Network World President, John Gallant. He barely missed a beat as his slides disappeared off the main screen signaling the first of a few technology glitches at this technology conference. A quirky remote slide changer was easy to deal with when compared to the fact that the organizers decided wireless access was not a requirement for the conference attendees.

They had the typical giveaways based on expo booth visitations to solicit attendee participation and engagement of the featured vendors hocking their wares. However, denying wireless access didn’t do much (at least for me) in suppressing my urge to get online and not view the expo booths. In fact, it did quite the opposite. I had to conduct a spur of the moment wireless assessment to find an unsecured wireless network on which I could get access and use my VPN to get email. So a tour around the conference floor with laptop and NetStumbler in tow quickly located a suitable service provider.

Back to the conference; the morning session: “Network Management”, was hosted by charismatic presenter Jim Metzler. His presentation wasn’t overly deep in prescient industry trends; however, he keep the audience involved and hosted a very well put together break out that included four industry vendors – none of whom gave a sales and marketing pitch for their specific product.

The main theme was application management as opposed to device management. This is a trend we’ve seen in the industry for a few years now. I’m assuming it’s gaining more front page headlines with the push towards Service Oriented Architectures that bring the application to the fore. However, none of the speakers addressed the growing difficulties in managing application delivery on a network platform that you don’t manage (let alone own) from end to end.

A quick example: take a large international with a global network services group that mainly exists to create policy and strategy but is largely ineffectual due to the disparate local organizations that actually build and run the networks that compose the whole. Add in a healthy (or unhealthy depending on perspective) dose of outsourcing and managed services. Finally, deploy the end to end global service – say videoconferencing – that not only is truly global and requires very precise controls in terms of network configuration and Quality of Service, but is literally very user visible. How does one manage the delivery of that application without an end to end understanding of the intermediate infrastructure and the appropriate agreements between groups to allow a cohesive holistic management of the global service? It isn’t an exercise in network management anymore; it revolves around relationship management. This is something that can’t be solved with a vendor tool.

Off to lunch now, more from the afternoon session coming!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Net Neutrality? Only in Switzerland

I'm a fence sitter when it comes to Net Neutrality. This of course defines the latest battle of technology pundits against the carriers' campaign to realize revenue off the "service" that they provide. The reason I find myself conflicted is because while I agree the Internet should be a common, global network for all to access and can not be regulated by the United States government, I realize (mainly from being in IT myself) that companies providing transport network services need to make money to maintain the very network that I demand free access to.

It's the same battle that IT departments face: do less with more. Users demand more speed and more applications and expect the network to simply handle it. As IT budgets are slashed and qualified technical talent is outsourced, enterprise networks get closer and closer to the edge of unacceptable user community support.

People assume the Internet is an unlimited free tool at their own disposal. This is quite counter-intuitive considering I pay 5 times more for Internet access now than I did with my original dial-up ISP for my 2400 baud modem. However, when people stop receiving a separate bill for an Internet ISP because it's bundled with their cable or phone bill and they have instant online access with cable modems and home wireless routers and the speeds are as fast as when they surf the web at work (on lunch breaks of course), an arrogance of sorts sets in. "The network is there at my beck and call and on a whim I can connect to Google, or download music or shop online or buy and sell at eBay." The thought that "someone" provides the access between my computer and Google or eBay is somewhat transparent and very unclear for people. Everyone has Comcast or Verizon DSL. I'm not positive, but I think it's a safe bet to say that Google isn't connected to the global Internet by Comcast. To the tech savvy, we realize that this means there are other Tier 1 providers that carry my web page requests from the Comcast network through the Internet cloud to the provider that connects Google. These "men in the middle" don't see a dime from me or eBay, yet both eBay and I (through my eBay store front) can make a boat load of cash.

Not to sound like a communist, but I think we're beginning to see the limits of a free market economy. So called "healthy" competition drives prices down and makes consumers happy. But when the price of voice; for example, gets so low that traditional providers can no longer effectively compete, what happens? Do they go out of business like a failed dot com? Who will be interested in buying and maintaining the assets (the network) of a company with a business plan that didn't fail, but rather was undermined by competition from "innovators" who got a free ride?

It may not be realistic to assume all carriers will eventually fail. Indeed, it is up to them to find a profitable business plan. But charging for traffic on their networks can not be eliminated as a possibility.

Take voice for example. As cheap as it is, each call I make is charged to me. I pay a monthly cost for connection and incremental costs per call. Money changes hands between my local and long distance carriers without my knowledge all to sustain dial tone in my house. With new VoIP plans offering unlimited calling for a flat fee, I (and everyone else) is getting unlimited access for a smaller and smaller price to a limited resource that the company selling me the service does not own or control. Kudos to the VoIP services companies that are making a killing in this environment now; the model does not seem to be sustainable.

Jeff Pulver crying that Google should effectively Denial of Service all users attempting to access its site through a BellSouth connection is absurd (VON Magazine, March 2006). The real worry is an Internet wide Denial of Service - not by some script kiddies running a bot network, but by the service providers themselves. After all, it is their network. Imagine a worldwide shutdown of the Internet for a day by key service providers as a demonstration. That would put all of us in our place and show us who really "owns" the Internet.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Analogies

"Undocumented Worker" is to "Illegal Alien" as:

"Undocumented Dining" is to "Leaving without Paying the Check"

I just need to go to the rest room. Leave the check on the table, I'll get it when I come back.

"Undocumented Driver" is to "Driving without a License"

No sir, I wasn't driving without a license or even on a suspended license. I'm just an undocumented driver.

"Undocumented Transaction" is to "Stealing"

I know I don't have a receipt for this item that I took from your store without paying. That's because I made an undocumented transaction.

"Undocumented Withdrawal" is to "Bank Robbery"

Stick 'em up. I'm not robbing your bank, I'm just making an undocumented withdrawal.

"Undocumented Death" is to "Murder"

I realize that you may say I murdered this dead body since I'm not a doctor and there is no death certificate and I'm fleeing the scene. However, don't worry, it's just an undocumented death.
 

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