Last updateFri, 29 Apr 2016 3pm

How an extra second could provoke electronic chaos

When you wake up  on the morning of Wednesday, July 1, if you discover some electronic device or another is not working, here is a possible explanation.  Tuesday, June 30 is going to be a longer day than the days before … by exactly one second.  Time kept by atomic clocks is constant, but the rotation of the earth is slowing down by about two milliseconds per day, so 25 times since 1972 there has been an extra second added to the length of the year in order to compensate.  This happens every year or two and every time this happens it seems to cause more chaos in cyberspace than it did the last time.

Getting to grips with your computer’s ‘default’ mode

A client asked me a question the other day, and much to my embarrassment the answer almost eluded me.  The question was “What is the meaning of the word `default’?”  Sometimes I have difficulty explaining things that are so common and familiar to me that I assume everyone else is equally familiar.

Internet muddles along on ‘best effort’ approach

In an earlier column I drew a comparison between the industry standards required for internet communications versus the construction codes enforced by building inspectors.  Both the Information Technology industry and the building industry have their “bibles” defining minimum standards, and they differ radically in their philosophy.  The approach usually taken by the Fire Marshal to their code is one of “zero tolerance” because they know that any variance from the code could kill someone.  By contrast, the approach taken by those who defined the standards for the internet was a “best effort” approach in which they accepted from the beginning that not all traffic was going to go through and a certain amount of death and dying was to be expected.  The contrast between these two philosophies has had a dramatic and sometimes deleterious effect on everyone using the internet.

‘Packet switching’ allows data to travel the world

Many professional disciplines have their own “bible” enumerating the industry minimums required to maintain safety standards.  Ask any fireman about the fire code and be prepared to witness a solemn mood descend as they explain that the code is “written in blood.”  Every page, even every word in the code is there because some unfortunate soul once lost their life in a fire.  I mention that because the standards “bibles” in the Information Technology industry also have a lot to do with death and dying albeit of a different kind.

Windows 9 goes way of 2014 World Series

An upcoming event to watch for this new year of 2015 is the debut of Microsoft’s newest Operating System, Windows 10.  Some people aware of Windows 7 and Windows 8 may be asking “What happened to Windows 9?”

Resolving a lost internet connection

Once I received a call from a woman quite agitated that her computer had inexplicably lost its connection to the internet two days earlier.  When I arrived she showed me her wireless access point with its little antennas sitting in the front room of the house.  I went to work testing it using my own laptop and quickly ascertained that her internet connection was working very well; there was a good strong wireless signal with the identifier (SSID) named “Motorola” or something like that.