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Cringeley, from the Pulpit,
February 4, 2001 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Cringeley, from the Pulpit, on Starband satellite internet, and it's use with home LANs and non-Wintel machines. Yes, you *can* get an Ethernet connection to the external box instead of that silly-ass IP over USB thing...
posted by baylink (32 comments total)

 
Apparently, the USB interface is on a daughtercard, and you can just open the box and unplug it. Cool!
posted by baylink at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2001


I dunno. Take some of the stuff this guy says with a grain of salt. He fills his articles with a bunch of assumptions that he doesn't back up (If he REALLY wants to know if napster will work or not, then why doesn't he install it and find out???) ... Hardware sites have totally jumped all over this guy, and I think he's a bit of a fraud myself. Well, maybe fraud's a bit of a strong word, but maybe a little full of shit sometimes.

Like what kind of ISP could possibly stop you from using internet connection sharing?? They can't! They provide you the IP and the connection. You can do whatever you want with it. They can't check how the information gets routed once it exits their modem (whether it be cable, DSL or satellite)! So it's not exactly rocket science what this guy is doing. If you really look at the article, you'll realize it's about some schmuck in mid-western America, who just happens to seem like a tech wiz to his neighbors, who in comparison are probably inbred hicks... who's fooling around with internet connection sharing (which I assure you is now so easy that your average non-techie could get it working), and doing a pretty half-assed review of a new satellite-based ISP. Sorry buddy, try a little harder to sound like you know what you're talking about.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2001


And that's the most expert word from a CS undergraduate in cosmopolitan Waterloo, Ontario ("only two hours from Buffalo, NY!"). Hey PWA, here's a big hearty fuck you from mid-western America!
posted by rodii at 2:43 PM on February 4, 2001


PWA, if you had even half a clue who Cringeley was or why his opinions and writings are read and taken somewheat seriously by people in the business, you would realize what a complete and utter fool you have just made of yourself... And no matter what you think, sequestered in whatever compu-heaven-reality-avoidance timewarp you're living in, there's nothing even remotely "easy" for non-techies in setting up an IP-sharing home network. Good God, son, how far removed from reality are you?! I'd be very willing to bet you that the some statistically significant number of people who bought PCs in the past three years are lucky if they can get a simple inkjet printer installed.
posted by m.polo at 7:37 PM on February 4, 2001


some schmuck in mid-western America, who just happens to seem like a tech wiz to his neighbors, who in comparison are probably inbred hicks

Wow, that's some insensitive comments for such a large percentage of the American population. I'm offended, personally.
posted by daveadams at 8:56 PM on February 4, 2001


> some schmuck in mid-western America, who just happens to
> seem like a tech wiz to his neighbors, who in comparison
> are robably inbred hicks

I resemble that remark
posted by Dean_Paxton at 9:29 PM on February 4, 2001


Alright, I think I was a bit hasty with the whole "inbred hick" deal. So I'm going to retract that.. I apologize to anybody who took offense to that. I seem to be catching more flak for that than the things I've said about Cringely himself. So here's a more analytical look at the problem I have with the things that he's saying:

1. Some pictures would have been nice. No self-respecting hardware site would do an article like this without a few pictures to back up their claim. Would help the rest of the people out there who do have this Starband modem get it done. He talks about the delphi.com forum without linking to it, which I think is a pretty major oversight, considering there may be people who really don't know where they can find this information.

2. Many of his comments are based on hearsay, some "educated" guesses and not fact. Why doesn't he do some research to back up these claims? Maybe he's too busy making fabulous money giving his well-informed opinion to businesses? I don't know. Want examples? You've got examples:

"I have heard, though, that there is a firmware upgrade available to fix this on earlier units."

"I'm not sure I can tell, myself, but you can still do all that by running the Starband software on any Windows machine...."

"My sense here is that Starband really really wants people not to send much data up to the satellite and they are putting up roadblocks to make sure they get their wish. I'd love to hear from anyone actually running a server on their Starband network. And is anyone using Starband to provide songs to Napster?"

"One thing you might wonder is why telephony works and FTP doesn't. My guess is it has to do with how much bandwidth each requires. My telephony application takes only 9600 bits-per-second, while an FTP server will grab whatever is available. "

"I haven't tried video conferencing, but my guess is it will be an unsatisfying experience. "


All these statements make him seem like quite the knowledgeable computer guy, but to me, he's speaking out his ass. I could just as easily make some guesses as to why things happen, but without some testing and analysis, I don't think I'd put something like that on the web for many, many people to see. There's nothing to back up what he's saying.

3. He brings up all sorts of techno mumbo-jumbo whizbang stuff that seems incredibly complicated to the average non-techie, using big acronyms like SSL and of course being all l33t with his "802.11 wireless connection" through his Apple AirPort. Naturally that makes him a cool techie right? Sorry, I see right through it, buddy. Try harder to fool me next time.

My apologies to whoever I offended by that remark.. I'm sure there's a whole bunch of you Americans living out there. Guess it came out the wrong way. :P

But to those of you who are still worshipping this Cringely guy, I just want you to open your eyes and realize that what this guy is saying is nothing spectacular. His writing is not particularly insightful, and I'm not particularly convinced by the things he says.

Rodii: I couldn't care less what this guy's credentials are in the tech industry. The page you posted just makes me think he's an even bigger, arrogant, full-of-shit asshole. Puff Daddy's made lots of money in the music industry. He's dating Jennifer Lopez. Does that make him a great musician? I think a large majority of the music industry would say no. Just because you make lots of money from it doesn't make you good at it. OK?

And by the way, the University of Waterloo is considered one of the top math and computing sciences schools in North America, if not the world. I'm sorry if you haven't heard of us, we try to keep a low profile. Waterloo is also interconnected to Kitchener, which is a small city of about 200,000. Toronto is about an hour's drive away, and I'm actually from Vancouver, so lay off with the small town stuff. At least we get @home here. =P

m.polo: Not that far removed actually. My sister, who's an Arts student at UBC, who only uses the computer to type out her assignments, surf the 'net and ICQ managed to have a home network set up using telephone network cards on her own. This is a girl who has never seen the inside of a computer. Popped the cards in, wired it up, installed the internet sharing software, and she was good to go. I'd consider her relatively "non-techie"... I'll admit I've had some problems networking computers myself (and I'm supposed to be a techie), but for the most part, those home networking kits have gotten really good in the last few years. Telephone-line networking, electrical outlet networking... Getting pretty easy to set up now.

I try not to get too disconnected with the real-world and where they stand on tech issues. I know a lot of people still have a lot of catching up to do. Some might never catch up. But I think I do a decent job of at least trying to explain things to them. I don't try to sound like I know things when I don't. I explain stuff to my mom, dad and relatives. I don't try to impress them with big fancy words and acronyms. I try to tell them how things work, in words they'll understand.

OK, I've spent far too much time on this. Hope I've at least made you guys think a little about the things this Cringely guy has to say.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 11:00 PM on February 4, 2001


No, he's not an engineer, by any means. He's sort of Jerry Pournelle's Smarter Brother. And no, this wasn't a technical piece.

But that's not his gig, ok? You want that technical stuff, you know where to look for it.

He's not supposed to be A J Foyt... and he's not required to be, to tell you that the new Dodge Grand Caravan is a pretty decent set of wheels.
posted by baylink at 11:29 PM on February 4, 2001


baylink: I still think you're missing my point. And the thing I'm trying to get at is that a lot of the stuff this guy says is unfounded, and seemingly without any sort of research. How his opinion can be so highly regarded is beyond me. Sometimes I like getting a birds-eye view too, but because of what I do happen to know about the things he's talking about, I just wanted to say that you should be careful in taking what he says as fact.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 11:59 PM on February 4, 2001


And the thing I'm trying to get at is that a lot of the stuff this guy says is unfounded, and seemingly without any sort of research.

And this differs from what you're saying how?

...but because of what I do happen to know about the things he's talking about...

And we know that how?

I just wanted to say that you should be careful in taking what he says as fact.

Indeed. And not just him.

Look, I'm not saying you're right or wrong... I am saying that if you're going to criticize Cringely for being vague and unspecific, it would help if you weren't vague and unspecific. Show us your experiments. Tell us which "hardware sites" have jumped all over him.

Practice what you preach. Otherwise you just win the Monty Python That Isn't an Argument Award.

posted by aurelian at 12:36 AM on February 5, 2001


No self-respecting hardware site would do an article like this without a few pictures to back up their claim ... He talks about the delphi.com forum without linking to it...

You gotta remember, the PBS web minions actually put this article up. He probably submitted it in Word format or something. In short, it's shovelware, from a guy who is basically a print writer who doesn't usually get to run pictures or hyperlinks with his syndicated columns, of which this might well one.
posted by kindall at 1:29 AM on February 5, 2001


kindall: Point well taken

aurelian: Actually I did look around for it... here's a spoof site from cr0bar over at detonate.net. Now this kid's only 18 or something, but even he's jumping all over this Cringely guy.

I can't link to his page, since the content is generated dynamically, but hit up detonate.net, wait for the nav to show up, then under "home" on the menu, scroll down to "news archives", choose Dec. 1, 2000 - Jan 15, 2001... and scroll down to the post at Dec. 5th... if you're too lazy to do that, I've cut and pasted the text of what he's said here:

"(18) - An Argument Against Free Speech Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2000, 8:20 PM by cr0bar
The way I see it, if you're irresponsible in your research and the way you represent yourself, what business do you have speaking on subjects which you know nothing about? That's damaging. Of course, the counter-argument to that is that you're an idiot if you believe everything you read. So a guy writes an editorial on Carnivore, the infamous FBI surveillance tool. The big deal is where he claims (as someone who is obviously qualified to analyze a classified surveillance device, I mean, he's got '1010101010101' behind his picture, man! He's l33t!) that not only is Carnivore nothing more than a few lines of code, but that it could be implemented in routers (huh?) and by anyone willing to cough up $300 per month for co-location. He also lists AT&T, IBM, and Intel as businesses which provide colo. Right. I won't even bother pointing out all his other misinformation, but every step he takes towards his point (which I won't spoil for you, read his column) is based on something blatantly wrong."

So there you have it. Want more?
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 1:51 AM on February 5, 2001


I thought Cringley's whole gig was floating stuff out there. Like a more media-savvy Negroponte.

If you are reading Cringley for tech reviews you are at the level that they are presented.

What is it with Geeks and the whole 'I want the mainstream to read like a tech manual thing'.
posted by fullerine at 5:21 AM on February 5, 2001


I personally am not a Cringeley fan, I just wanted to point out that:
  1. He's not in the Midwest or anywhere near it

  2. He's got a track record roughly equivalent to your life

  3. Your crack about the Midwest was offensive and stupid, especially considering you're not exactly from the center of the universe yourself ("Canada's 16th largest university!").

  4. And by the way, the University of Waterloo is considered one of the top math and computing sciences schools in North America, if not the world.

    If not the world!! <smirk>
    posted by rodii at 5:49 AM on February 5, 2001


Hopefully that'll close the list.

PWA_Badboy: Cringley's been running commentary on tech since Bill Gates dropped out of college, if not before hand.

He doesn't have piles and piles of money. He makes a respectible journalist's salary, one that reflects someone who's invested most of his adult life into being a journalist, but he's certainly not rolling in cash.

Cringley's articles aren't about what is as much as what's possible. Where things are going, what could be. He doesn't run a hardware site, his peers are John Dvorak, not Ars Technica.

He uses his article to discuss different technologies, and what can be done with them, and how technology's progressed.

If you get a chance, hit the Blockbuster on University Ave., and pick up his Revenge of the Nerds tapes. There's two, and they're an excellent history of personal computing and the rise of the Internet.

His opinion matters because he's been reporting on the field for years, not because he's some kind of techno-whizz, and he doesn't claim to be. He's a computer hobbyist more than a computer geek, and he's got a good track record of where things go.

And, defending my hometown school (where I don't go but my dad works :-) the University of Waterloo Math & Computers department is consistently rated in the top 10 North American CS schools, and through the 90s the ACM Programming team that comes from UW won a number of the Eastern Region championships, unlike the team from my tiny little college, who didn't solve any of the questions, let alone win anything. :-)

Don't mock Waterloo just 'cause PWA feels like mocking the midwest, please. :-)
posted by cCranium at 7:42 AM on February 5, 2001


the University of Waterloo Math & Computers department is consistently rated in the top 10 North American CS schools

Yeah, doesn't anyone remember WATFOR.

And, just to prove that they do *so* know how to count up there, WATFIV. :-)

(Sorry, cCran, but it was a moral imperative.)
posted by baylink at 8:32 AM on February 5, 2001


baylink: I don't think WATFOR was (is?) a U of W product, was it? Watcom's a seperate company. Sure, it's built up entirely of U of W grads, and I wouldn't be suprised if many of their initial compilers were class products, but it's still better than Turing.

(If you haven't heard of it, be thankful. :-)
posted by cCranium at 9:05 AM on February 5, 2001


I'm still not sure how "I had no DSL, I tried Starband, and it kinda worked. Here's some ideas that I've kicked around with more knowledgeable people" stuck in PWA's craw so nastily.

I don't think Cringely is anywhere near, say, my own level of technical expertise. What he is, is hooked into the high-level discussions, the things that are happening before thy're happening, and such. Hype, buzz, yes, but also ideas. So what if he doesn't make his article a weblog or include a whole how-I-built-my-water-cooled-overclocked-CPU page?
posted by dhartung at 11:12 AM on February 5, 2001


rodii: Lay off man, I apologized already. I'm not gonna apologize again. Don't be making cracks about this small little university here in Waterloo... Do you really want me to dig up articles about how our university beats well-respected American universities in computing contests? I can do that... We're just not the type to gloat about it.

As for Cringely... I really don't have a problem with the "level" of his writing. I read stuff like John Dvorak's column all the time. I like his stuff, but at least Dvorak KNOWS that his "Inside Track" is merely a tech gossip column. It's a nice look at the industry with just a touch of conspiracy theory that you wouldn't get from someone outside the industry.

But Cringely bothers me because what he writes doesn't appear to have any substance behind what he writes. At school, we're given problems to solve. We find answers. That's usually 25% of the marks. The rest of it is usually "prove it"... and that's the hard part. Show that what you're doing actually works. Or doesn't. That's what I've come to expect and respect when I read things that are computer-related. Show me how it's done. Show me why it doesn't work. Don't just say "I think it's because ...". PROVE IT then. And Cringely doesn't do that. I'm not attacking his target audience. Not at all. More power to him if he has a large audience of less technical people. But the least he can do is do a little research before he posts something on the Internet. Especially when his audience is this big.

I'm done
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 1:40 PM on February 5, 2001


And cCranium: As for investing his life into being a journalist, the last time I checked, journalists had to do a certain degree of fact-checking before putting things into print.... That gives them legitimacy and is the reason why many journalists are well-respected for the works they write. Maybe I've been living under a rock, and I didn't happen to hear about it, but are computer journalists not bound by the same rules?
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 1:45 PM on February 5, 2001


That's usually 25% of the marks. The rest of it is usually "prove it"... and that's the hard part. Show that what you're doing actually works. Or doesn't. That's what I've come to expect and respect when I read things that are computer-related. Show me how it's done. Show me why it doesn't work. Don't just say "I think it's because ...". PROVE IT then.

Fine. Lovely. I agree 100%.

So, when are you going to start?

Look at this passage you quoted to me:

"The big deal is where he claims (as someone who is obviously qualified to analyze a classified surveillance device, I mean, he's got '1010101010101' behind his picture, man! He's l33t!) that not only is Carnivore nothing more than a few lines of code, but that it could be implemented in routers (huh?) and by anyone willing to cough up $300 per month for co-location. He also lists AT&T, IBM, and Intel as businesses which provide colo. Right. I won't even bother pointing out all his other misinformation, but every step he takes towards his point (which I won't spoil for you, read his column) is based on something blatantly wrong."

That's just as vague, as with just as little empirical content ("I won't spoil it for you"? Ye Gods.) as what you're complaining about.

It would be much more helpful (and credible) if you'd describe your own experience with Starband.

As you say, prove it.

posted by aurelian at 3:07 PM on February 5, 2001


Huh. I thought I *had* laid off. And I wrote this lovely little note thanking UWa for Tim Bray, the online OED, and XML. Where did it go?
posted by rodii at 4:26 PM on February 5, 2001


aurelian: Read cr0bar's spoof and he explains everything there. cr0's referring to another article that Cringely's written btw. As for Starband, I have nothing to say about it. I don't use it, but at the same time *I'm* not the one writing the article about it. So there's really nothing for ME to prove. I'm asking that Cringely does some fact-checking before putting it into print on the web.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 5:21 PM on February 5, 2001


Watcom, interestingly enough, sold the C compilers, although I don't know whether the Fortran stuff's still there, to Sybase, who've end-of-lifed it, and are going to open source the compiler.

As for the Fortran, damn straight it came from the Uni. :-)
posted by baylink at 9:28 PM on February 5, 2001


PWA... If Cringley annoys you, I suggest you stay in that comfy l33t school for as long as you can, the real world is full of people with less knowledge that are more willing to apout off about topics they know nothing about.

Personally, I was put of by the midwest comment, but you apologized...no harm done


Starband seems like a semi-viable tech, but having done PC Satellite networking support before it will not be a viable option for all of those hard to reach places, there will still be serious LOS issues in many remote or forested locations (I remeber a site in Alaska that had to have their dish mounted on a pole because they were in a deep valley)

I also worry about people trying to self install a dish with a feed horn.
posted by tj at 9:32 PM on February 5, 2001


Cringeley himself doesn't annoy me. It's the fact that he spouts off and people respect him for it that bothers me.

As for less knowledgeable people, I know they're all over the place. I've worked with lots of people in say, sales and marketing departments on my work terms and there have been a lot of times where I've had to simplify and remove the geekspeak in order to get the point across. I don't try to sound like I really know my shit, and look down condescendingly on those "poor non-techies". But I try to point them in the right direction at least... Tell them what they need to know in a less technical manner while at the same time telling them the truth.

I think the problem I have with Cringeley is that he sounds like he wants all these non-techies to respect him for all the techno-mumbo-jumbo he speaks, and at the same time, is so full of himself, that he doesn't even realize that the real techies on the other side of the fence are laughing at him.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 11:07 PM on February 5, 2001


I guess the question to ask, is *why* do particular "techies" even care if someone writes at a "consumer" level? Because they toil away in anonymity? Because their own technical acumen is underappreciated? I just don't get it.
posted by mecran01 at 6:40 AM on February 6, 2001


mecran01: I, for one, have no problem with people writing at the consumer level. What pisses me off is when the information is inaccurate, or not fully researched.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 8:34 AM on February 6, 2001


cr0's referring to another article that Cringely's written btw.

Exactly. An article that has nothing to do with the one being linked.

As for Starband, I have nothing to say about it. I don't use it, but at the same time *I'm* not the one writing the article about it. So there's really nothing for ME to prove. I'm asking that Cringely does some fact-checking before putting it into print on the web.

So, not having done the leg work yourself on this article, you feel justified on slagging him on this article because of a previous article he screwed up on?

And this constitutes a "prove it" attitude how?

I tend to be true skeptic. In the same way someone who's done something right 99% of the time can be wrong, someone who's wrong 99% of the time can be right.

So, it bugs me mildly that you're criticizing Cringely for writing about something you yourself admit you have no direct experience with... But it bugs me more that you don't see the hypocrisy in kvetching about his writing without research when you're writing without research.

Last time I checked, humans are fallible. Some humans are more fallible than others (myself among them). :) But no human, I believe, is wrong every time.

It's not Cringely per se I'm defending here. It's the idea that if one is going to be an empiricist, one needs to be consistent about it. And you haven't been.

This time. :)

posted by aurelian at 4:59 PM on February 6, 2001


aurelian: My prove-it attitude, unfortunately extends only so far. This is Cringeley's JOB to try to inform good citizens of the earth. My job is to go to school and get my bachelor's degree and maybe one day I'll end up pursuing a career in journalism (although highly unlikely)... The hypocrisy is hardly lost on me.. if I had the time and/or money to be the empiricist and write the damned review, I would. I really would. And I would go beyond saying "I think there's a problem with blah blah blah" and "can someone verify this?" ... I'd take the effort to find the answer, but as it is, it isn't my job now. Of course, if I had the time to do it, don't you think it'd be *my* face there in front of the 010101010101101110110110 with an article about Starband and home networking?

So you're probably saying "well, then if you can't do it, don't open your mouth"... well, I think the only things I've done is poked a couple holes in his "proof". I'm asking for more. I want more detail, more than just a couple of "educated guesses". I'm thinking of myself as more synonymous to someone marking the paper that the student submitted. I'm being critical, but I don't think it's my responsibility to say "Here's how it should be done"... Usually the question gets marked wrong, or more detail is asked for (the answer isn't sufficient to receive full marks), and there'll be a comment like "see answers posted outside room XXX"

So... in keeping with that vein, if I find a well-written, well-researched Starband article and another on home networking, I'll be definitely sure to post it to MeFi, alright?

I think I've spent more than enough time on this thread. If you've got something to say, e-mail me.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 7:31 PM on February 6, 2001


Here's a better review from someone who's obviously not trying to pump up his ego like Cringeley is by writing the article. However, I guess it still lacks the details we're looking for.

Maybe more insight can be found from the user ratings on the same web site.

Oh oh oh!! EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE:

Lookie what I find surfing around the user ratings page:

FTP file uploads fail after about 200 Kbytes. Starband says this is an "issue" that they're working on.

That's about 5 minutes of clicking around looking for answers. Surely he could have found this too if he was spending all day writing his article?
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 7:41 PM on February 6, 2001


More.

and a really good read here.

I don't think any of the stuff I've posted really goes over the head of the average non-techie.. and I found this all by typing in "Starband review" in google.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 7:49 PM on February 6, 2001


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