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Email from Jim: Dear Tech Talk. I’m thinking about getting an air card for my lap top from my wireless provider (AT &T)…do you know much about them? Do you know of a better place/better deal available on such an item? Jim
Tech Talk Answers: An Air Card is basically a cell phone that plugs into the PCMIA slot in your computer. You buy some much data transfer with the card rather than buying minutes. A typically plan costs around $60 per month with unlimited (or very high allowed data transfer) and $40 per month for limited data transfers (good for email users).
The cell phone companies will subsidize the cost of the card in order to get your account just like they do with cell phones. You can get a USB, PCMIA, or Express Card format. The subsidized prices are about $50 per card. Some USB cards are free with a two year plan.
You can also use your cell phone with a data kit. You standard phone service provides a 14.4 kbs. However, you will need a dial-up phone number to gain access to the Internet. The Air Card has a built in dial-up account.
Profiles in IT: Mark Andreessen
Mar Andreeseen is co-author of Mosiac, the first widely-used browser and co-founder of Netscape Communications Corporation.
Marc was born July 9, 1971 in Cedar Falls, Iowa and raised in New Lisbon, WI.
Andreessen received his BS in computer science from the University of Illinois.
He worked at the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
While at NCSA, he became familiar with Tim Berners-Lee’s open standards for the World Wide Web.
Andreessen and a full-time salaried co-worker Eric Bina worked on creating a user-friendly browser.
The resulting code was the Mosaic web browser.
After graduating 1993, he moved to CA to work at Enterprise Integration Tech.
Andreessen met with Jim Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics.
Clark believed that the Mosaic browser had great commercial possibilities.
Soon Mosaic Communications Corporation was in business in Mountain View, California with Andreessen as co-founder and vice president of technology.
The University of Illinois was unhappy with the use of the Mosaic name.
Mosaic Communications changed its name to Netscape Communications and its web browser was named Netscape Navigator.
Andreessen was featured on the cover of Time in 1995.
Netscape’s success attracted the attention of Microsoft.
Microsoft licensed the Mosaic source code from Spyglass, Inc., an offshoot of the University of Illinois, and turned it into Internet Explorer.
The resulting battle between the two companies became known as the Browser Wars.
Netscape was acquired in 1999 for $4.2 billion by AOL, which made Andreessen its Chief Technology Officer.
He would soon leave to form Loudcloud, a services-based Web hosting company that underwent an IPO in 2001.
Loudcloud sold its hosting business to EDS.
It changed its name to Opsware in 2003 with Andreessen as chairman.
Opsware was purchased by HP in September 2007 for $1.6 billion.
You can now download a beta of Ubuntu’s 8.04 release (Hardy Heron).
Final release is set for April 24.
Hardy is what is known as an LTS (long-term support) release, meaning that patches and paid support will be available for at least three years after the release.
What makes Ubuntu such a great distribution.
Ubuntu is based on Debian, which enjoys wide developer support.
You can boot it off the CD and try it out first before installing it (called a live CD)
You can also boot from a USB drive.
You can make sure that all your hardware will work correctly and that you’re happy with the look and feel of the OS before committing yourself.
You can also carry it around and boot up a friend’s computer under Ubuntu.
And when you do install it, you’ll be asked a minimum of questions.
The install is even smart enough to help you resize an existing Windows partition (even Vista!) to set up a dual-boot system and set the boot menu to handle it.
Ubuntu has also taken a flexible attitude toward proprietary drivers.
Some distributions, philosophically opposed to letting companies "poison" the intellectually free Linux landscape, pretend these drivers don’t exist.
This can lead to poorly performing hardware or, in some cases, unusable Wi-Fi connections or audio hardware.
Ubuntu does segregate these drivers into a separate "restricted" repository, but it will install them automatically if the operating system detects hardware that could benefit from the driver.
The base version of Ubuntu uses a pretty standard installation of the Gnome graphical user interface.
Ubuntu has a variety of distributions available, each one tailored to a specific window manager.
Kubuntu replaces Gnome with the KDE, while Xubuntu uses the lightweight Xfce window manager, which is perfect for underpowered devices.
If you’re running a dual-boot system, you can read and now write to the Windows New Technology File System directly.
You can now choose to have your file partitions created with encryption for greater security in case a laptop is stolen.
Printers and graphics can now be configured with user-friendly graphical tools, and in many cases, you can just plug and play a new printer.
Canonical also provides update support for Ubuntu, so you never need to fear that clicking for updates is going to break your current system.
Paid support is available from Canonical, starting at $250 per year for 9-to-5 desktop support.
If it has a weakness, it’s as an operating system for servers. Ubuntu has put a lot of effort into the desktop experience and doesn’t ask a lot of questions about security and firewalling.
E-mail of the 18th Century (The Optical Telegraph)
More than 200 years ago it was already possible to send messages throughout Europe and America at the speed of an airplane ? wireless and without need for electricity.
In 1791, the Frenchman Claude Chappe developed the optical telegraph.
The optical telegraph network consisted of a chain of towers, each placed 5 to 20 kilometres apart from each other.
On each of these towers a wooden semaphore and two telescopes were mounted
The semaphore had two signalling arms which could be placed in seven positions.
The wooden post itself could also be turned in 4 positions.
A total of 196 different positions were possible.
Every one of these arrangements corresponded with a code for a letter, a number, a word or (a part of) a sentence.
Every tower had a telegrapher, looking through the telescope at the previous tower in the chain.
If the semaphore on that tower was put into a certain position, the telegrapher copied that symbol on his own tower.
Next he used the telescope to look at the succeeding tower in the chain, to control if the next telegrapher had copied the symbol correctly.
A telegrapher could reach a speed of 1 to 3 symbols per minute.
In this way, messages were signed through symbol by symbol from tower to tower.
The first line was built between Paris and Lille during the French revolution.
It was 230 kilometres long and consisted of 15 semaphores.
The transmission of 1 symbol from Paris to Lille could happen in ten minutes, which comes down to a speed of 1,380 kilometres an hour.