Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net Neutrality For Poets

socalTECH.com picked up this article for publication.

Net neutrality is a complicated and controversial subject. The principle states that if a given user pays for a certain level of Internet access, and another user pays for the same level of access, then the two users should be able to connect to each other at the subscribed level of access.

Basically, net neutrality calls for an open and non-tiered network. The world's systems of roads is a great metaphor for the Internet. Just like there's no simple way to shut down all the roads in the world, there's no simple way to turn off the Internet.

By imagining the Internet as roads, we can envision each packet of data as a car or truck traveling the highways and byways. Just as a car or a truck carries a "payload", a network packet carries a payload of data.

Using this metaphor, net neutrality means that cars get to drive on the roads with the same priority (speed) that the surrounding traffic will allow. No one's allowed to travel faster than the speed limit simply by paying more.

Openness is also a huge part of net neutrality. The biggest difference between a public toll booth on a road and an outlaw warlord collecting a bribe at a roadblock is openness. We all know that the police and the fire department get to break the speed limit in the line of duty because it makes sense and it's done openly; but it's not OK for a police officer to speed, when off duty, in order to make it to a personal appointment.

Being open also means that a network's owner cannot secretly block, filter, or divert packets because it suits them.

Image what the U.S. road system would be like if large corporations could pay for faster, shorter, and better "Lexus Lanes", while private citizens were forced to use lower quality roads.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bank of America User Experience

Each time I visit Bank of America I get to interact with their ATMs. Earlier this year, I noticed a great UI improvement to save a couple steps when withdrawing money. Unfortunately, B of A needs to improves some of their other UIs.

1. The drive through ATM is unusable without having to at least open your car door and, sometimes, get completely out of the car.

I've seen adjustable ATMs at other banks which let the driver set the height of the ATM so that it works for both SUVs and sedans.

2. Another pet peeve of mine is when I use the ATM in the lobby after the bank is closed. For some reason, I can't read the directions on this sign in my haste to unlock the lobby door with my ATM card. I think simply three words, "Magnetic Strip Down", along with this diagram, would go a long way to improving my understanding.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

King Schools Office & Studio Tour

I recently completed my private pilot training using the course materials from King Schools which is based in San Diego. Earlier this year, King Schools released their private pilot training curriculum as a web based course. Through out the training, I provided feedback regarding errors or enhancements that they responded to which lead them to inviting me down to take a tour of their offices and studios, today.

The head of their product development, a retired Navy pilot, call sign Mac, who has been with the company for nearly to two decades, spent close to an hour giving me the VIP tour and introducing me to every employee we came across from the shipping department all the way up to the CEO. The corporate culture at this company was definitely a caring, enthusiastic, attitude by everyone I met.

The roots of King Schools goes back to the mid 1970s when the husband and wife team, John and Martha King, began teaching flight training. What started out as test prep guides became VHS based courses, that evolved to CD-ROM training, leading to the present day web based format.

The high point of today's tour was the studio and control room which they use to create their videos. Their video editors and film directors absolutely love their work which was very apparent as they showed me around the studios.

Now that I've completed my private pilot certification, I'm looking forward to moving on to get my instrument rating. Although the King School instrument course is still CD based, they assured me that it would be available next year in a web based format. But, I doubt that I'll wait that long before beginning my instrument training.