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Episode 44 – What good is Voice Over IP (VOIP)?

It’s Friday and today’s question is about telephones.  What good is Voice over IP?

A quick review.  Telephones started with a couple of wires that carried your voice back to the central office and through switching equipment and amplifiers and whatever to the other person.  Like everything else, they’ve turned digital…just like your music on Spotify.

Okay, so what?  Well, digital voice can be turned into computer messages just like cat videos and Twitter arguments and everything else on the internet.

That’s interesting.  But we haven’t gotten to the magic yet.

In many businesses, there’s a piece of equipment called a PBX that costs you a bunch of money to buy and then a bunch more money to operate.  If the phone calls are now just computer messages, you may not need that piece of equipment.  They can handle it in the cloud.

But that’s just cost savings.  We still haven’t gotten to the magic yet.

If it’s all just computer connections in the cloud, your can make and receive calls from your desk phone no matter where you are.  That’s really good for people whose jobs take them out of the office a good bit.  You don’t use your cell phone number to place business calls. You use the same desk phone number you would in the office.

That’s the magic.  No, really.  Well, I thought it was magic.  Maybe we should fight about this on Twitter.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #44 – 2/8/2019

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Episode 39 - Are our devices listening to us?

Monday was Data Privacy Data in the US and Canada.  Friday’s email asks, “Are our devices listening to us?  And are we living in a simulation?”

Of course, they’re listening to us.  They have to.  If you ask Siri, or Alexa, or Cortana, or Google Assistant to do something, they have to be listening all along.

Computer, coffee, black.

Tastes more like Earl Grey.

If you want your computer to obey anything you say, it has to listen to everything you say.

The real question is what they do with all the sounds they collect.  While you’re talking, while you’re working, while you’re sleeping, and whatever else you’re doing with a phone nearby.

Are they using voice recognition to help you alone, or are they building a profile they use for other purposes?

With good privacy policies, you get to decide.

The second question – Are we living in a simulation?

Some math nuts concluded that the amount of information to describe the whole universe is a whole lot more than the information to describe only your life.  So, probabilistically, we’re more likely to be in a simulation.

Let’s see.

Computer, end program.

Powerpoint!  That makes so much sense.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20CREEK.  We help you build IT you’ll brag about.

Episode #39 – 2/1/2019

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Episode 34 – What is artificial intelligence?

It’s Friday.  Let’s take a question.

 

“I keep hearing about AI.  What is it?  And will our robot overlords take over?”

That’s a good question.  At least the first part.

AI or Artificial Intelligence is something they’ve been hyping for years but until recently they never really had the compute power to do anything useful.  Now they do.

You can think of it as a new way to program a computer.  It mimics the way your brain works.

In conventional programming, the programmer sits down and thinks of all the different things the program should do.  You write down the steps and it executes them, sort of like a recipe.

In artificial intelligence, it’s all about pattern matching.  Let’s say you want to create a computer that can tell the difference between a cat and a dog.  You feed it a lot of pictures and tell it which one is a cat or a dog.  The more training patterns you feed it, the more accurate it becomes.  Later, when you feed it an unknown picture, it compares it to its training history and decides that it’s probably a cat, or probably a dog.

Notice I said probably because just like the human brain, these computers can make mistakes.

As to the second part of the question, “Will our robot overlords take over?”

Don’t worry about it.  Your current overlords will never be willing to share power.

 

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20Creek.  We solve IT challenges.

Episode #34 – 1/25/2019

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Episode 29 - Why is email so unsafe?

It’s Friday.  Time for another question.  What makes email so unsafe?

Good question.

When email was invented, it was primarily between academics and the whole system was more or less based on trust.

Back then, email was like a post card.  On a post card, you write the message on the back.  Everyone along the way who handles the post card can read what’s on it.  There’s no secrecy.  Why should there be?  [Having fun at the Louvre.  Wish you were here.  Why do all the paintings show a dog under the table?]

On a post card, you also put your return address.  Or somebody else’s return address.  Who would lie about something like that?

TRUE STORY – Back in the 1980’s, I decided to get braces as an adult.  The orthodontist made you fill out a reminder card which they would mail to your house.  So, I wrote “Carter Edmonds, King of All Shandon” which is the neighborhood where I lived.  The dental techs got a big laugh.  But I digress.

So, you would think with all the spooky math we have today, we’d be able to create messages that prove who sent them and protect what’s in them.  We can.  But not everyone uses it.  The email people are worried about losing people’s email, so they deliver everything and let you sort it out.

Now, if you have a good IT department, they’ve set something up to trap all of this.  Or most of this.  Okay, well, a lot of it anyway.

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20Creek.  We solve IT challenges.

Episode #29 – 1/18/2019

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Episode 24 - Why is it called The Cloud?

It’s Friday, so let’s answer a question.  Why is it called “the cloud”?

Back when I started working with computers, there was no social media…no websites even.  Dinosaurs-ruled-the-earth.

Academic and government networks were beginning to arise, but there was no public internet.  Surely company offices needed to talk to each other.  How did they do it?

Well, if you had a datacenter on the east coast and a datacenter on the west coast, you called up the phone company and ordered a special phone line.  These were private lines from one site to another.

Someone had an insight.

If A had a private line to B and B had a private line to C, then A could talk to C.  If B were willing to carry the traffic, A did not need a private line to C.

Eventually this grew into a network of networks much like the railroads a century earlier.  Instead of standardizing on track gauge, these connections standardized on communications protocols.  If A needed to talk to Z, the network would find a path but neither the sender nor the receiver needed to worry about the actual path taken.

Your data could travel through various private datacenters to reach its target.   Because the actual path taken was unknown in advance and often unimportant, architects would draw this portion of the network as a cloud.

By the time we started watching House of Cards on Netflix, dedicated backbones and switches had replaced most of these informal networks.  Today, it’s highly unlikely your business email will go through some university’s computer lab, but that’s exactly the way the internet started.

Episode #24 – 1/11/2019

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Episode 9 - Can I use my dog's name as a password?

It’s Friday, and frankly I’m getting a little bored. So, let’s take a question.

“Is it okay to use my dog’s name as a password?”

Hmmmm.

Of course it is.

Just make sure to give your dog a long and complex name that isn’t easily guessed.

For instance, we named our dog:

ZhgLsplat#42*

“Here ZhgLsplat” “Fetch ZhgLsplat” “Good Boy”

I’m Carter Edmonds with 20 Creek. We solve IT challenges.

Episode #9 – 12/21/2018