Monthly Archives: November 2005

Google goes wi-fi

I see Google is planning to offer free Wifi access to the residents of Mountain View (home of Google Headquarters) by entering an agreement with the city council to mount wireless access points on street lighting poles. They estimate 300-400 such devices will be enough to allow Internet access from anywhere outside a building. Access from inside a building will likely require a small external antenna.

This is an interesting idea, and it sounds as if Google plan to deploy the technology elsewhere if this initial project goes well. As they say themselves, Google can justify providing free access since it helps generate additional traffic for both Google and its advertising partners.

The city council proposal makes interesting reading, especially if you’re curious about the logistical details of such an arrangement (who pays for the power, what if the city changes its mind in two years, etc.)

One thing I haven’t seen mentioned yet is the impact of this proposed network on exising wireless networks in the area (e.g. within buildings). They all use the same 2.4 GHz unlicensed band. No doubt there are already newsgroups getting ready to meltdown with discussion of this…

Faster network browsing under Windows

Today from Steve, a very useful tip I wish I’d discovered years ago:

Windows 2000 & XP machines delay as long as 30 seconds when you try to view shared files across a network because Windows is using the extra time to search the remote computer for any Scheduled Tasks.

Here’s how to prevent this remote search for Scheduled Tasks. Open up the Registry and go to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE / Software / Microsoft / Windows / CurrentVersion / Explorer / RemoteComputer / NameSpace

Under that branch, select the key:


and delete it.

And just like that, your network shares will once more become instantly accessible. Hard to imagine why this isn’t the default behaviour…

CNTs are coming

CNTs are Carbon Nanotubes, a new technology that allows flatpanel screens to be constructed from what is essentially an array of thousands of tiny CRTs, each CRT representing a pixel or so.

A friend (thanks Mike) pointed me towards this company which has been experimenting in the area. Click on Demonstrations on the left to see a nifty little animated demo of their current prototype (and be sure to read the caveats as well as to why the quality isn’t wonderful yet).

Why is this stuff of interest? Primarily because the potential exists to make absolutely massive screens using this technology. Plasma and LCD screens are limited in size, because they rely on a single sheet of semiconductors to make the whole screen – the technology to seamlessly stitch together multiple panels to make a bigger screen doesn’t exist.

For those screen types, cost increases rapidly as the size gets larger, because it becomes more difficult to get screens with an acceptably high number of working pixels.

With CNTs, this is no longer an issue – you simply manufacture buckets of tiny screens (say 4″ x 5″) and stitch them together to make as big a display as you like. Tiny screens means much higher yield which in turn translates to lower prices. Plus, as a bonus, you get all the benefits of a normal CRT (bright picture, fast refresh, etc.) without the drawbacks of massive weight and depth.

Probably another year or two to go before these hit your local electronics superstore, but it can only be a matter of time.

(On the other hand, whatever happened to bubble memory?)



Edward Tufte’s series of books on visualisation are essential reading for anyone interested in how to clearly present complex (or not so complex) data in a way that is quickly understandable.

I just stumbled upon another Tufte innovation – Sparklines. I’m not sure if he’s invented these, or is just coining the phrase, but in any case the article is well worth a read.