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Exploring the science and magic of Identity and Access Management
Thursday, May 23, 2024

First Round-the-World Telegram – 105 Years Ago!

Communications, History, Technology
Author: Mark Dixon
Saturday, August 20, 2016
9:42 am

Oh, how far technology has come in the last century!  As related by History.com, on August 20, 1911 (105 years ago today) a dispatcher in the New York Times office sent the first telegram around the world via commercial service. 

The Times decided to send its 1911 telegram in order to determine how fast a commercial message could be sent around the world by telegraph cable. The message, reading simply “This message sent around the world,” left the dispatch room on the 17th floor of the Times building in New York at 7 p.m. on August 20. After it traveled more than 28,000 miles, being relayed by 16 different operators, through San Francisco, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, Bombay, Malta, Lisbon and the Azores–among other locations–the reply was received by the same operator 16.5 minutes later. It was the fastest time achieved by a commercial cablegram since the opening of the Pacific cable in 1900 by the Commercial Cable Company.


In these days of ubiquitous, near instantaneous global communications at our fingertips, it is a bit hard to fathom that a round-the-world message took over 16 minutes to reach its destination.  But in a time not too far removed from the Pony Express, 16 minutes was a real breakthrough.

As my Dad likes to say, “We stand on the broad shoulders of those who have gone before!”

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Convergence: Phones and Cameras

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, July 19, 2013
8:51 am

Little did I realize when I was growing up and falling in love with photography and electronics that camera and telephone technologies would converge. Now my kids have grown up taking that convergence for granted. Poor Ziggy is trapped in the past with my parents and others who still resist the inevitable.

Ziggy 130718

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A Billion Cell Phones in Africa?

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
10:46 pm

CNN published an intriguing article today, “Seven ways mobile phones have changed lives in Africa,” which addresses the transformative effect of mobile telephony on the continent of Africa.  And it is only beginning:

“Google, for its part, plans to sell 200 million of its Android phones in Africa and it is estimated that by 2016 there will be a billion mobile phones on the continent.”

Electronic communications has a huge potential to lift and bless the lives of people not only in Africa, but throughout the world.

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Hey Steve! Why are you tracking me?

Information Security, Privacy, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 22, 2011
4:05 pm

I first read the news about Apple’s secretive location tracking capability in the Kaspersky Labs Threat Post article, “Secret iPhone Feature Tracks Owners’ Whereabouts“:

Security researchers have discovered a hidden iPhone feature that secretly tracks and saves the meanderings of the phone – and presumably its owner.

The tracking feature was described in a presentation at the Where 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. According to the researchers, Pete Warden, founder of Data Science Toolkit and Alasdair Allan a researcher at Exeter University in the UK, the tracking feature records the phone’s movements, including what cell phone towers and Wifi hotspots it connects to, when and where. While that information isn’t shared with Apple, it is retained even when iPhone users update their hardware, suggesting that Apple had plans to use the data at a later time.

Was I surprised?  No.  Irritated?  Yes.  We have one more piece of evidence, that when power is concentrated in the hands of a few, abuses tend to occur.

After reading the O’Reilly Radar article, “Got an iPhone or 3G iPad? Apple is recording your moves“, I followed a link to an application to see for myself:

How can you look at your own data?

We have built an application that helps you look at your own data. It’s available at petewarden.github.com/iPhoneTracker along with the source code and deeper technical information.

The broad view clearly showed the four states in which I have used my month-old iPad:

But the real interesting view was of my supposed meanderings in Arizona:

I can easily explain three of the four major clumps of usage in the Phoenix metropolitan area – my home, the Phoenix airport, and a client site. But I have never taken my iPad to the fourth area of supposed heavy use.

All the outliers are even more problematic.  I used the iPad once in a mountainous area northeast of Phoenix, but all the other outliers?  My only explanation is that I must have forgotten to place the iPad in “Airplane Mode” on one or more more of my flights (heaven forbid!).  The iPad must have connected with dozens of cell towers as we flew over.

My message to Steve Jobs?  Please, just call. I’d gladly invite you over for dinner or take you to my favorite restaurant, where we could discuss the things that are important to me in my life.  But these shenanigans?  Really tawdry for a supposely high class company.

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Arizona Broadband Map: I live in a DSL-free Zone!

Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, April 22, 2011
2:39 pm

Several years ago, I was a regular participant in the Arizona Telecommunications and Information Council (ATIC), and still receive interesting information from that group from time to time.  This week, I received a link to the “Arizona Broadband Map“. This map was produced as a result of a federal grant to the Arizona Government Information Technology Agency (GITA):

The U. S. Congress has appropriated $7.2 billion to develop broadband in the U. S. for unserved and underserved areas.

This funding includes grants for broadband infrastructure, computer centers, sustainable projects that promote broadband use; and grants to the states for broadband planning and for mapping broadband in their respective states to use in the creation a national broadband map.

The broadband mapping project will collect and verify the availability, speed and location of broadband across Arizona. This information will be publicly available; updated on a semi-annual basis through 2011. Citizens, local governments, and related research organizations will enjoy a direct benefit from access to this new and additional information.

The following image is a snapshot of the highest level of the interactive map for Arizona:

A really interesting bit of information appeared when I specified my home address and chose the DSL coverage map.  The pink shade in the following image shows areas with DSL broadband coverage.  The tan area shows my subdivision – an DSL-free island in a sea of coverage in Mesa, AZ.  

I knew that we couldn’t get DSL from Qwest.  I just didn’t know how localized the problem was, and still don’t know why it is this way. According to this map, my neighbors on the other side of the street can choose DSL, while I cannot.


It is nice to know that our home is part of the “underserved” broadband area targeted by this study.

Perhaps this is just a symptom of the Cox Communications monopolistic conspiracy! Or more probably, an oversight in Qwest planning.

Thanks, GITA, for providing this insight.


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What is Your (American) Smartphone Preference?

Technology, Telecom
Author: Mark Dixon
Friday, March 4, 2011
5:17 pm

In a recent article in PCMAG.com, an interesting graphic highlighted the market share of smartphone operating system preference.  Where are you located?  I’m firmly in the Apple iOS camp, grateful that I bought an iPhone a year and a half ago, rather than casting my lot with the Palm/HP WebOS.

I enjoyed the comments John Dvorak made today in his article “The US Smartphone Revolution”:

Overlooked in the commotion, though, is the transformative nature of the entire market. The whole world is looking at these changes. Wherever you go, the hip, trendy phone users around the globe will most often be seen with one of these North American smartphones. And to be honest the hippest of the hip will have an iPhone.

I find this particularly amusing, because I recall a constant barrage of anti-American accusations during the late 1990s, whereby we were told that the mobile phone world has passed us by. When I was doing Silicon Spin, a cable show for TechTV, guests would often arrive having just visited Japan, carrying some dingbat phone, such as the Docomo, and singing its praises. …

It’s expected that within just a few years the entire market will consist of varieties of smartphones, whose designs and operation were all invented in the U.S. and Canada.

It’s great time to be an American!  Yes, my Canadian friends, we include you!

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