Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ITR Presentation - World Wide Web

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blog #8: Globalization of Media

After Edison made the first recording of sound on the phonograph in 1877, the digital recording of sound has come a long way. Since then, we’ve had discs, electric recording, magnetic tape, cassette tapes, CDs, and finally the MP3 in 1992. In 1996, the very first song was illegally copied from a CD and posted on the Internet, Metallica’s “Until It Sleeps.” The act of MP3 compression could feasibly turn a 50MB song from a CD into about 3 or 4MB. Hours of downloading could turn into merely minutes. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimated in 2008 that 95% of downloaded music on the Internet would be illegal.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Blog #7: The Components of a URL

The world wide web, already very well known as representing the "www" we type in front of a URL we want to access, was invented by a contractor named Tim Berners-Lee. In the 1980s, he developed a software called "Enquire"; its purpose being to map relationships between people, programs, and systems at his workplace, CERN, the world's largest particle physics laboratory and the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Researchers from different countries would travel to CERN and bring incompatible computers, making any possible connections a painful, lengthy process. Berners-Lee's attempts at making a web system available at CERN were shelved twice. Continuing his work on the Web, it proceeded without any type of formal approval, meaning at any time, someone above him could order him to shut the process down. Once the www system was created, those at CERN were slow to begin using it. In May of 1992, Perry Pei Wei, a student at Berkeley, had released a browser on Unix for the world wide web. This ended up being a very major step forward for the world wide web because at the time, Unix was the preferred operating system within the computer science community. With the prior instillation of Wei's programming language called Viola which was required for the browser to run, Unix users were able to view the world wide web with color, animation, graphics, and the use of a mouse. After the market collapse in the mid 2000s and the new dot com companies starting to fail, eBay made a turnaround in September of 1995. eBay had advertised itself as a an "auction web". $7.2 million worth of goods had been traded by the end of the following year, and in 1997 when the website was officially names 'eBay', the number had grown to $95 million.

Discussion Questions:
1. What do you think was so unappealing about the first web system at CERN and why it didn't take off?
2. Do you agree with the foreshadow of the causes of the collapse  as described by Alan Greenspan on page 124?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Blog #5: The Birth of the Internet

Tension between the US and Russia during the Cold War was skyrocketing. Effective communication between the two countries was crucial during this time for the aversion of war and prevention of the first strike. Paul Baran, a researcher from an American think tank called RAND (short for Research and Development), was becoming progressively apprehensive about this possible nuclear commencement. Communication between the nuclear strike force would be vital to avoid any accidental weapon firing. Baran devised a concept that could drastically yet efficiently change the national communications network. His idea consisted of “a centrifugal distribution of central points: a distributed network that had no vulnerable central point and could rely on redundancy.” The current communications network at the time had command and control points at the center that stemmed links that would reach other points of contact. The process of rewiring this system was going to be a dilemma. Baran’s idea was of several relay stations that a message could travel around any number of ways. At the time, it was far too advanced to be able to easily find the right team of people. Baran, along with Donald Davies, the Superintendent of the Computer Science Division of the UK’s National Physics Laboratory, both conceived the idea of sending a message in the form of packets to more efficiently transfer data without harming the quality of the data sent. Davies had actually devised his idea of a packet relaying network around the same time as Baran while having been unaware of Baran’s efforts. While Baran was working on his packet switching network, RAND was working at levels both above and below the Air Force and with clientele from outside the military structure.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you believe the development of Baran's idea was a crucial measure during the time of the Cold War?
2. Ryan mentions that Donald Davies, a computer science superintendent, was devising almost exactly the same plan about packet switching around the same time as Paul Baran. Do you think this was just a coincidence or did then current events uprise this method?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Blog #4: Connecting the Big Picture

When visiting The Dalles, Oregon, Blum talks about his reasoning for going there. "It's home to one of the Internet's most important repositories, as well as being the de facto capital of a whole region devoted to storing our online selves" (p. 229). He compares The Dalles to Kathmandu, Nepal. A mysterious, foggy town at the base of a mountain that happens to be a perfect place to explore those huge buildings in which data is stored, while also being a place to look for enlightenment and a new sense of his digital self. Blum also explains, "A data center doesn't merely contain the hard drives that contain our data. Our data has become the mirror of our identities, the physical embodiment of our most personal facts and feelings. A data center is the storehouse of the digital soul" (p. 229). I realized through reading Tubes that the Internet isn't just nowhere. Our personal data of what we post on Facebook and what we watch on YouTube, is pieces of ourselves in these big machines in various locations. "Our data is always somewhere, often in two places." (p. 240). Blum explains that the 'geeky' way of answering a seemingly simple question of "Where's my email?" is to say that it appears to be in so many places it's as if it is nowhere at all. "The cloud" has always been a confusing topic to me. I know there aren't magical waves of energy that hold this data in a non-physical 'cloud-like' location. Without any previous knowledge, I had assumed this data we keep in this 'cloud' could only be explained by the satellites that orbit our earth. I thought by the term 'cloud', it was trying to be explained to us as our information is not kept with us here on Earth, but miles above our heads. "But generally speaking, the cloud asks us to believe that our data is an abstraction, not a physical reality." (p. 240). Ken Patchett, who worked for the Google location in The Dalles, explained that if you were to blow away the 'cloud', it's all of the buildings, just like the one he works at, around the planet that create this 'cloud'. The cloud is a building that works like a factory that prepares bits that come in to be shipped back out once assembled.
Blum has uncovered what the 'physical construct' of the Internet really is. All of these cables are connected and send light through glass to transmit signals. There is no single headquarters for the Internet. There are several smaller locations all around the globe with cables running everywhere connecting them with other locations and connecting those locations with other locations, and so on. There is a lot more physicality to the Internet rather than everything being sent as 'wireless signals'. There are cables run under the ocean floor. Geographical location is crucial and needs to be taken account of when deciding where to build another facility. Several things that make up what the Internet actually is, and I couldn't have even been able to imagine half of it on my own. The most surprising concept to me is the cloud. I wonder who came up with that term, how it got so popular, and how it so easily brainwashed people with no intensive knowledge of the Internet that it's this non-existent thing that just holds onto our data.

Discussion Questions:
1. What was your reaction to Blum stating that 'our data is always somewhere and often in more than one place', and where did you previously believe it to be?
2. I used to imagine "the cloud" as a way for companies to tell us that our information is stored in satellites, since it's being referred to as being something above our heads. What were your beliefs about what "the cloud" really was?

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Blog #3: Light, Electricity, and Copper

Immediately entering chapter 5, Blum mentions that although he now understands where the Internet is, but he doesn't know much about what it is. Everything was made of copper as his house. From the cables on his desk, the telephone, to the wire from his backyard. Except that when it came to the heart of the Internet, everything was made of glass fibers filled with pulses of light. On page 158 he states, "So far I'd been reassured that on the Internet there's always a distinct physical path, whether a single yellow fiber patch cord, an ocean-spanning undersea cable, or a bundle of fibers several-hundred thick. But whatever went on inside the router was invisible to the naked eye." I'm on the same track as Blum; still unsure as to which aspects of the Internet remain physical and which do not. Luckily this isn't something one should feel embarrassed for now knowing the answer to. A lot of individuals in my generation are very close to the Internet since they grew up with it and are quite tech-savvy to this day. I'm certain a great deal of us think we mostly understand the Internet. I myself used to believe I had a good amount of general knowledge about the Internet. Although, Blum's acts of getting to the nitty-gritty aspects of the Internet really uncover everything that makes up the Internet, including many things myself and definitely several others hadn't even heard of before. None of us probably considered the thought of: if there is, perhaps, one headquarters that runs the Internet, where is it? We most likely never thought about it consisting of separate buildings. Not only all around our country, but around the world. Different buildings in places with their own unique teams of people, all making up the massive construct we call the Internet.
When analyzing the math of increments of a second with Par Westesson, Blum gazed at all the zeros on the screen where Westesson pointed where the millisecond and microsecond marks are. Blum looked out the window and the world seemed different to him. Seeing the cars on the nearby highway, he imagined all of the devices contained inside of them. Cell phones, GPSs, radios; everything seemed alive to him, and these networked systems are everywhere. "But all invisible. To see it you had to imagine it, and in that moment I could", he mentions on page 162.
Blum ends chapter 5 with "A gig is a billion. A billion bits made of light." On page 193, Blum explains fiber-optic technology. It in itself is complex, yet the basic principle is simple. Light travels from one shore to another through undersea cables, like a subway tunnel. At each end, there is a landing station that can be compared to a lighthouse because it's job is to illuminate the fiber-optic strands. To travel a vast distance, thousands of volts of electricity travel through the copper to power repeaters and eventually the destination. Blum states his analogy of this process struck him a wonderfully poetic, as it makes a very advanced concept easy to visualize. Blum adds on page 194 that undersea cables are invisible and feel like rivers with a continuous flow of energy.
"At the logical level, the Internet is self-healing. Routers automatically seek out the best routes among themselves. But that works only if there are routes to be found", Blum says on page 200. Once I saw the visualization of the way information travels from a YouTube video, I saw it wasn't just a point A to point B type of situation. I saw this network of connections that was almost like a maze, except that there were many different ways to get to the destination without any obstacles. Even if some parts of these connections were to become corrupted, data could still find another way to reach its destination. When he says the last statement about the process only being able to function if there are routes available, that says to me that information is still able to transfer somehow unless the entire network is down.

Discussion Questions:
1.  Blum mentioned that up until that point he had felt reassured that the Internet was composed of a physical path. What did you believe went on inside the router that Blum describes as being "invisible to the naked eye"?
2. How had you previously imagined these massive undersea cables connecting the continents, or did you believe the transferring of data overseas was wireless?

ITR Presentation - World Wide Web