Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gifts and Geography - Two Wired Finds

Man I love Wired Magazine. Here are two finds from the latest issue that I thought were worth sharing:

  • Playlist: This month issue recommends the site as a clever gift site:
    Early adopters can be tough to shop for — they already have what’s hot. Fortunately, Perpetual Kid helps out stymied gifters. Amusing and occasionally useful items like corn-dog-flavored lip balm, a Robot Sniffle tissue holder, and a saw-shaped cake knife will neither break the bank nor duplicate what’s already on the giftee’s desk.

    And sure enough, if you check out the site you'll see they deliver: From vampire pacifiers to clocky, the motoring clock - they've got it all. It's sort of like thinkgeek, minus the practicality.

  • Netscapes: Tracing the Journey of a Single Bit. Next time someone complains to me about a slow website or delayed e-mail, I'm going to send them over this article. In it, it shows you a sampling of the the physical locations your data has to pass through before it can arrive. When you think about all the cables and devices that a single bit of data has to pass through, it's a miracle the Internet functions at all. Consider the shot from Kansas City, Missouri:
    The men who built the transcontinental railroad didn’t know it, but they were clearing the way for the Web. Global Crossing uses the old Iron Horse’s right-of-way as the main vein for its long-haul data pipes. Keeping information humming across a 3,000-mile-wide landmass requires utility huts like this one (on left) every 50 miles — even the highest-grade optical fiber has imperfections that cause the signal to weaken as the countryside flashes by. Filled with dense wave-division multiplex amplifiers, these sheds goose the pulses of light and keep bits flowing alongside our amber waves of grain.

    Think about that - every 50 miles there's a structure that has to be there, and be in perfect working order for your data to arrive (OK, not exactly true - the joy of the Internet is that it can theoretically re-route data around trouble spots. But still). Like I said, it's mind blowing.

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