Steven G. Anderson

history, technology, and hypertext

Australia’s vulnerable submarine cables, by Jessica Woodall at The Australian Strategic Policy Institute

Scattered across the ocean floor in intricate webs, submarine cables transfer high data volumes between onshore nodes. Five main international cables connect Australia to cyberspace and global voice networks. They carry 99% of Australia’s total internet traffic, dwarfing the capacity of satellites. Submarine cables are vital to our communications, economic prosperity, and national security. They also tend to break. A lot.

IleDeReinSydneyHarbour

Cable repair ship, Ile de Re, in Port Jackson, or Sydney Harbor, Australia (via Australia Japan Cable)

In most regions of the world this isn’t unexpected, or particularly worrying. Submarine cables aren’t much thicker than a garden hose and for the most part sit untethered and unprotected on the sea floor. Inadvertent breakages from ship anchors, nets and natural phenomena such as undersea earthquakes occur frequently, averaging at least one a week. To mitigate this risk, international agreements between cable operating companies are extensive, repair ships are quickly deployed and traffic is usually rerouted through other cables.

Unfortunately, the situation for Australia is more complicated. Sitting in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re largely isolated from the busy network of Transatlantic and North Asian Cable lines. We’re also unable to use overland fibre optic cables from other countries, leaving us reliant upon just a handful of international undersea cables.

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Screenshot of Australia and New Zealand on TeleGeography’s submarine cable map at http://www.submarinecablemap.com

Vintage-style map of submarine cables by TeleGeography, updated for 2015.

This year’s map pays tribute to the pioneering mapmakers of the Age of Discovery, incorporating elements of medieval and renaissance cartography. In addition to serving as navigational aids, maps from this era were highly sought-after works of art, often adorned with fanciful illustrations of real and imagined dangers at sea. Such embellishments largely disappeared in the early 1600s, pushing modern map design into a purely functional direction.

sea-monster-book

To bring back the lost aesthetic that vanished along with these whimsical details, TeleGeography referenced a variety of resources in the design process. One of the most invaluable was Chet Van Duzer’s Sea Monsters in Medieval and Renaissance Maps book, which provides arguably the most complete history of the evolution of sea monsters and map design from this period. Our final product is a view of the global submarine cable network seen through the lens of a bygone era.

There’s an interactive online version of the map as well: http://submarine-cable-map-2015.telegeography.com

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“A new map of submarine cables connecting the world” (at TeleGeography)

(via Vox)

The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher, by Michael Godsy at The Atlantic

There is a profound difference between a local expert teacher using the Internet and all its resources to supplement and improve his or her lessons, and a teacher facilitating the educational plans of massive organizations.

The article makes some interesting points, and it applies beyond K-12 also. The name of the article in the title bar is “When the Computer Takes Over for the Teacher,” which seems a better fit for the story. It’s also not just about computers, but a fundamental shift in the way information is created and shared.

BBC gives children mini-computers in Make it Digital scheme, by Jane Wakefield at BBC News

bbc-micro-bit-computer

The initiative is part of a wider push to increase digital skills among young people and help to fill the digital skills gap.
The UK is facing a significant skills shortage, with 1.4 million “digital professionals” estimated to be needed over the next five years.

Interesting controversy too:

The BBC Micro, launched in the 1980s, played a big role in making computing mainstream but it was not without controversy.
The broadcaster’s decision to link up with Acorn Computers angered Sir Clive Sinclair as he prepared to launch a rival machine, the ZX Spectrum.

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The BBC Microcomputer, 1983 (advertisement via Wikipedia)

 

I did a little research on podcasting, but I don’t really have any solid recommendations. It seems to boil down to budget first, then choosing items from there. It looks like the two main pieces of equipment are microphone and headphones, assuming a computer is already in use. For software there’s free stuff like Garage Band, Audacity, and Skype, and capture and editing programs from Rogue Amoeba. Of course, you can go crazy and spend thousands on really high end stuff, but I don’t think that’s necessary, especially just starting out. This equipment will work for other projects too, like video lectures/essays, voice overs, Google Hangouts, and so on.

The Blue Yeti mic is highly recommended, and it’s not too pricey at $119
– I’ve seen these as low as $79 on Amazon now and then (for Silver)
– The Yeti is much higher quality than the $50 Snowball (skip the Snowball)

The Rode Podcaster mic at $229
– It’s good, but the reviews are sort of all over the place, many swear by it, others go for more expensive stuff

There are other mics out there, but I like both of these. The Yeti comes with a table stand, the Rode Podcaster doesn’t but this table stand should work. You might need a USB cable or extension depending on the distance between the computer and the mic.

The Yeti has a mute button on it, but the Podcaster doesn’t (could be muted in software, I think). The Podcaster points right at you, while the Yeti has three settings (for you only, you and someone across, and 360 degree capture).

Headphones are a wild ride, anything will work really, but overall you’d want a closed-back, over-ear model, no noise canceling, and wired only. There’s a pretty good headphone review by Marco Arment for semi-expensive headphones ($300 range), but even basic earbuds would work. The Wirecutter has some headphone reviews in various price ranges, and their review of the $100 Sony MDR7506 is backed-up by positive comments on Amazon.

As a starter kit, the Blue Yeti mic & Sony MDR7506 headphones — $229

Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack/Fission bundle — $60

Optionally, I’d add a boom arm for either mic, the Rode PSA1 — $99

For the Rode Podcaster, also the Rode PSM1 shock mount — $39

For the Blue Yeti, no shock mount (the Blue mount isn’t good, and no other ones work well, it can mount straight on the Rode arm or stay on the table).

I have the equipment already, but I’ve only used it for voice overs, not podcasting. I’ve never made a podcast, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something somewhere. I’ll need to look into the process of hosting the audio files, a website for the show notes (could be a free Tumblr account or something), a name for the podcast, possibly a domain name too.

Here’s some good links on the podcast process and equipment:
Jason Snell at sixcolors.com – Want to do a podcast? Don’t be intimidated & How I podcast: Recording & How I podcast: Editing
Casey Liss – How I Make Podcasts

If only I had this when I was still riding ramps!

How Deep is Your Photography? by Intel (and Jim Parsons)

The three cameras shoot simultaneously, then combine the overlaid information to create an image file that has many more capabilities than a standard JPEG. Once an image is captured, it is processed into a high-quality, depth-mapped file.

“It creates a fat JPEG,” said Erhhung Yuan, system architect and lead developer for Intel RealSense snapshot. “It’s essentially a JPEG with more metadata fields, including the computed depth map.”

The ad is pretty cheesy, but the technology looks interesting. I can see smartphones having more cameras on the backside, and the “fat JPEGS” will require faster processors, more storage, and so on, pushing the limits of the devices even more.

An interesting and very artistic take on the materiality of digital culture, and the physical structures that support modern communication, computation, and data storage.

The ventilation covers and shafts in the beginning of the video seem so mundane, but just a few steps inside is an entire world of noise and movement.

My muscle has been replaced by flex and copper. My brain a server. Ones and zeros my voice. I exist as a phantom, an iridescent color. I speak in shimmering tones to the hidden construction of the form. I desire to become data.

Fragments on Machines, on Vimeo