Monday, January 31, 2011

About time we named these new gadgets

For several years now we've called our most popular new gadgets Mobile Devices. That's a name only a geek could love. We have smartphones and tablets of all sizes and they all share common characteristics so it makes sense to name this group. I think they should be referred to as - drum roll - Companion Computers. First, they really are computers and should be identified that way. Some are used as phones but referring to them as phones misleads the public into thinking they are primarily phones - they are not. We've had desktop computers and laptop or portable computers so it makes sense to use the word computer here as well. In fact, some survey organizations are now including iPads in computer sales statistics as I believe they should.

Companion has two meanings. First, many of these new devices will be with us constantly and will be our companions. Certainly smartphones and the smaller tablets - think smartphones without a phone - will be in our pockets, our bags and our cars. Larger tablets can be taken and used everywhere much more easily than "traditional" computers. Second, these computers will also be companions for our desktop and portable computers. They will not replace them in the near future and will coexist peacefully and perform whatever tasks each one does best.

I'd certainly like to hear what you think - other nominations are welcome.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The end of an era

Most Exciting Consumer Electronics Show Ever
By Horace Dediu (asymco)

At this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) two unthinkable things happened: The abandonment of Windows exclusivity by practically all of Microsoft’s OEM customers. The abandonment of Intel exclusivity by Microsoft for the next generation of Windows. Many of Microsoft’s customers chose to use an OS product from Microsoft’s arch enemy. Some chose to roll their own. Microsoft, in turn, chose to port its OS to an architecture from Intel’s arch enemy.

These actions confirm the end of the PC era. Although most people would characterize the era as exemplified by a particular form factor or market, for me the definition of that era is the way the value chain was structured and hence how profits were captured. That era was marked by the condensation of profits around two companies, Intel and Microsoft, with the simultaneous evaporation of profits from all other participants in the value chain.

To achieve this, Microsoft maintained a monopoly on the distribution of operating systems and Intel maintained a monopoly as the single supplier of chip architectures for that operating system. These monopolies are both over. And they both ended at the same time. And it happened this week.

Who says CES is boring this year?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Meet my friend the queen!

Here's a less than enthusiastic report on social media - and a really fun read by Glyn Meek in Computerworld.

"I saw a while ago that even the Queen of England now has an 'official' Facebook page! What is she going to show, "me and Phil with the grandkids at Buck House?" or "Snapshots of Christmas at Balmoral?"

In The Book of Revelations Chapter 23, verses 12-13, is written the following…
12 And it came to pass that the eighth and final sign was the Queen sending forth her messengers to the people with all manner of tidings.
13 Many rent their garments and tore their hair at this sign of evil that the common people should know their rulers in such detail, and a plague was upon the land."
(full report).

Speaking of large numbers - really large numbers

We just got used to gigabyte (billion) when along comes terabyte (trillion) and now petabyte (quadrillion). Some names of large numbers, such as million, billion, and trillion, have real referents in human experience, and are encountered in many contexts. At times, the names of large numbers have been forced into common usage as a result of excessive inflation. The highest numerical value banknote ever printed was a note for 1 sextillion pengÅ‘ printed in Hungary in 1946. In 2009, Zimbabwe printed a 100 trillion  Zimbabwean dollar note, which at the time of printing was only worth about 30 US dollars. For much more fascinating facts from this Wikipedia reference click here.

How many was that again?

It's generally claimed but probably not true that IBM president Tom Watson said the world would need five computers. In 1980 many people thought the world needed just over four billion Internet addresses - wrong again! We know they believed this because that's how it was designed. All Internet addresses are numbers. The addresses we use - for example - are immediately translated into a number (the real address of the site) before they are sent whizzing off to their destination. Imagine that you were setting up the records for a small town and decided to record every resident using a three digit number - after all it was a small town. Of course when person number 1,000 moves in, you have a problem.

That's exactly the predicament faced by the Internet - the 4.2+ billion Internet addresses are almost used up. People have seen this coming for a long time and created a new addressing system  that will be phased in over several years. Internet addresses are called IP addresses for Internet Protocol. The current version is IPv4 and the new version will be IPv6. IPv4 addresses consist of a 32 bit string of zeros and ones - bits. IPv6 will be 128 bits long. Keep in mind that every bit you add doubles the size of the maximum number. The fact that everything from cell phones to printers and refrigerators may get an IP addressed assigned in the future is no cause to worry since a 128 bit address is inconceivably large - a 4 followed by 38 zeros - just shy of a duodecilion!

Monday, January 3, 2011

What's a TinyURL anyway?

Internet addresses often look like "". is a web site that changes long web addresses (URLs) into short ones. looks like this
You can type or paste a URL into the first box. You may enter a "vanity URL" in the lower box. The vanity URL is one that is unlikely to represent an existing address. Here's an example using the address of my November newsletter. The actual address is:
Since the vanity address (Braley012) has not been used, TinyURL provided the following short vanity address
You can now use www.tinyurl/Braley012 in place of the longer original version. NOTE: The first part of a web address - up to the first slash following the .com, .edu, etc. is NOT case sensitive. Anything following that slash may be case sensitive.
TinyURL is not the only game in town. You might also check out,,, or

The shortened URL is an intermediary web page set up by the shortening service. When you click to go there, you are immediately redirected to the desired page (with the original longer address.) For more information go to