January 2018
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The Digital Age Marches Forward

As an official “ol’ guy” I’m more-or-less supposed to be computer illiterate. Unfortunately for my kids I had kept up with the computer revolution and kept ahead of my high-school-age children. My son, who works with me now in our network engineering consulting firm, once went with me to a talk I gave on network protocols and admitted on the way home that he had barely understood a word. But things have just gotten out of hand lately.

Telephones and networking have been partners ever since the age of modems (remember modems?) but it’s gone to a whole new level over the past year. The difference between a telephone and a computer has been blurred in so many ways.

I’m sure you know about Skype which turns your computer into a conduit for a telephone, and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which abandons the old POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) system completely, and everyone has a cell phone; even the seven-year-old across the street (who calls me periodically to say “hi”). But now you can tie your laptop to your cell phone in such a way as to use your cell phone as your Internet provider. It’s called “tethering”.

We’re about ready to launch the muthah-ship and if I have anything to say about it I’ll be spending a lot of my weekends aboard with the muthah anchored safely in a quiet cove and me in a kayak a few miles away exploring new waters. But part of my business is to keep track of my customers’ networks and it’s just darned difficult to do that in the middle of Puget Sound. For instance, I just used SSH to begin an update process of UCC records in a customer’s database. I have to do it on a Friday night because it will take most of the weekend to do the update and will require me to log in several times to ensure that the process is moving along nicely. When I was at the Port Townsend kayak seminar last September I did this from a table in Safeway’s coffee shop where they provide free wi-fi. Unfortunately there are no Safeway coffee shops at the marine parks of Sucia Island.

But by using my new Apple iPhone I can create a wireless network between the iPhone and my notebook computer (which I also use as a navigational tool loaded up with digital charts and the appropriate software) I can simply… hang on a minute… gotta start the second of that database update… I can simply use my computer tethered to the iPhone and get the process completed anywhere I can get cell phone service.

Of course, I could use an SSH client on the iPhone itself but using my notebook is easier with fewer typing mistakes.

There are two ways of looking at this. You can decry the loss of privacy and moan about being connected 24/7/365 with no escape. Or you can think about how you are no longer tied to an office desk and telephone or, in my case, a server room. Because I’m tethered to a new device I’m no longer tied down and I will be happily working (and charging for it) from a classic 25-foot sport fishing boat anchored in a quiet cove in the San Juan Islands of Washington State.

I can live with that.

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