Internet

Cyber Harassment and the Law

On Point had a fascinating show today in its second hour: Cyber Harassment and the Law.

Cyber-bullying is too mild a term for some of what goes on in the rougher corners of the Internet.

When anonymous online attackers went after two young women at Yale Law School, it had the feel of a gang beating. Maybe worse. Brutal. Obscene. Relentless. And done, it seemed, for fun.

Now the women have pushed back in the courts. Defendants say it’s not their attacks but free speech that’s really under fire. The case may change what you can and cannot say online.

This is an upsetting yet fascinating topic.

Setting up Cable Internet and an AirPort Network on a Macintosh

Author’s Note
This article first appeared in the Closing the Gap Newsletter. I updated it in summer, 2002 to include more information on AirPort.

Cable Internet Finally Hits the Woods
I’ve been supporting a number of web sites and dealing with hundreds of emails a week for many years, all with a dial up account and a modem. Here in the northwest corner of Connecticut we may be one of the last places on the east coast to get any kind of high speed access to the Internet. Not only did we have to dial up for a connection, but the connection wasn’t and isn’t all that stable: ice on phone lines, wind, trees knocking down lines, and dampness offset some of the benefits of living in “the country.”

Our phone company, SNET (Southern New England Telephone) is not a great phone company and was recently bought by Bell Atlantic. They’ve been promising residential DSL service for years now and the scuttlebutt is that the entire state will have DSL by the end of this (2001) year. I’m not holding my breath although when it comes I will undoubtedly want it.

Meanwhile our local cable company has also been slow to offer cable internet. Their cable infrastructure wasn’t in place nor did they have the server infrastructure in place to offer it. Along comes a large East Coast cable provider (Optimum Online) and viola, our company offers us Optimum’s cable internet service.

So, I now have access to the internet via cable and even though some of you have been down this path already or have been down the DSL path already I thought it would be useful to tell you what I’ve done in my house and how it works.

What is Cable Internet?
Cable TV companies have put coaxial cable (on poles and in the ground) into most communities now. Almost the entire United States is wired for cable TV and finding people who have good enough reception to only watch broadcast TV is starting to be as rare as finding people who use rotary dial phones (I know, some you reading this have rotary phones but the real question is, how many of you use acoustic couplers to get on the internet?!).

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There are two competing infrastructures: phone lines and coaxial cable. There is overlap in ownership of these infrastructures and we won’t go into the deregulation of the phone company in this article but those of you who are as old as I am (or older) remember the days when there was a single phone company and cable TV was Ted Turner’s wild experiment. Now Ted Turner works for AOL/Time Warner and that “convergence” is yet another story.

The kind of information that can travel or live on these two kinds of “lines” is varied and confuses the issue in many ways: phone lines can handle video as well as voice and coaxial cable can handle phone calls as well as video (TV).

Best to think of the two infrastructures as competing “pipes” that can handle any kind of information. The big question five years ago was which one would win, but now the question is, which one will set up reliable service to your house first. In our case, the answer was cable as our phone company still has not offered DSL here in Warren, Connecticut as of the posting of this article (10/15/01).

When I heard that our local cable company was offering internet service I got in line in their phone tree to order it. Because I spend so much of my time supporting web sites the cost was less important to me than just getting it.

Because we’re already cable TV subscribers with a level of service just above basic, we were offered internet service for $29 a month. We were also offered a “deal” on a cable modem which we took knowing nothing about them. From what I’ve heard, $29 a month is a very good deal. I’ve heard of people with cable or DSL paying as much as $60 a month for the same service we have.

What Came in the Box
A week after signing up two boxes arrived. In the boxes were:

  • a Motorola cable modem with power supply
  • a cable splitter (for turning a single cable into two: one for the TV, one for the computer)
  • a 50′ piece of coaxial cable
  • a 10′ piece of 10 base T ethernet cable
  • a CD with software and a setup installer on it (including a two year-old copy of Netscape Navigator, etc. with little Mac support), all close to useless
  • various manuals, all close to useless

I opted to do the installation myself. For $150 I could have had the cable company come out and split the cable and mess with my computer. No thank you, they rarely know anything about Macs and I figured I’d call them if I messed it all up (which was a distinct possibility).

I did was go to Radio Shack and buy the following:

  • a cable stripper
  • a box of cable connectors (BNC cable ends)
  • a crimping tool for putting the cable connectors on the raw or cut cable
  • two boxes of clips for nailing the cable to the wall in the attic
  • 50′ of cable (I found the Radio Shack cable easier to strip and put ends on than the stuff the cable company sent me)

I had to pick a place to cut our cable so I could add the splitter and run the line to my office. I picked the attic where the cable comes into the house.

I used the wire-cutter part of a large pliers to cut the cable, then used the cable stripper I bought from Radio Shack to strip the insulation off of the cable. Don’t try to do this with a pocket knife, the Radio Shack cable stripper is worth it, even for one job.

I pushed the cable connectors onto the now cut-in-half and stripped cable and crimped them on with the crimping tool. Now I had my original cable, cut in half, unconnected with “female” cable ends on each piece. No TV until I got this thing back together and working. We don’t watch a lot of TV but I felt a bit nervous at this point.

I took the cable splitter, a cast aluminum thing, and took the end of it with one connection sticking out and screwed the cable coming from the street into it. I took the other half of the cable (the one running downstairs to our TV) and screwed that into one of the two other connectors on the other side. We now had working cable TV again. Whew!

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I took the 50 foot piece of cable I’d bought at Radio Shack and used the stripper and crimper to put a cable connector end onto it, then screwed it into the third male end of the splitter (the last one).

I ran the new cable connection back along our attic to the back of my office (where the cable modem was going to live), drilled a hole in the wall, pushed the cable through (it took a while to get it through the insulation and find the other side of the wall) and out into the office.

I pulled it all through, then used the nail-clips to attach it to the exposed rafters of our attic, up out of the way.

I used the stripper and crimper to put yet another cable connector on the end of this new cable and I was now ready to either watch TV in my office (not), or connect the end of the cable to the cable modem.

Important Note
You should know that once your cable provider offers cable internet, it’s everywhere in the entire cable system. It’s not like they turn a valve in the main office to run it to your house; it’s at everybody’s house all the time. Just like HBO is on the cable on your road and the reason you don’t have it is because the cable guy put a filter in-line with your cable on the pole. HBO is everywhere and you need to have the filter pulled to get it. The internet is everywhere and you need a cable modem and a registered IP address to get it.

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So, I plugged the power supply of the cable modem into the wall and it lit up like a Christmas tree. I screwed the cable connector into the back of the modem and the lights blinked a bit (something was on that cable that the modem liked). I took the length of ethernet cable they sent me and ran it to my PowerBook and plugged it in.

Now I had all the physical connections in place to be online all the time. Now I just had to get the computer to recognize the cable modem.

This part of the setup goes like this for OS 9:

  • AppleTalk Control Panel: Ethernet built in
  • TCP/IP Control Panel: Ethernet, DHCP

This part of the setup goes like this for OS X:

    Preferences: Built-in Ethernet

  • Configure: Using DHCP

Now I could get on the web and cruise around at warp speed. It was simply amazing.

The only thing left was setting up email. I have a domain (ldresources.com) and get my email through my web provider and I did not want to use the email address the cable company gave me. However, I had to use their mail server (an SMTP server) for my outgoing mail so it was simply a matter of changing my Internet Control Panel to use that server name, or, I could change my email program if that’s where I was storing that information.

I must admit that this entire process took about a day and I was on the phone with a good friend in Oregon who’s a Mac expert and who has DSL for which the setup is much the same.

I was the first person in my area which is very rural to get this and when I went online to test the speed of my connection it was remarkably fast, faster, in fact, than DSL.

Two weeks later, as more people had signed up, the connection speed dropped some. And this is the one big downside of cable internet access: the connection speed is determined by local traffic: the more traffic the slower the speed. DSL, on the other hand is constant and isn’t affected by local traffic.

Does this speed issue bother me? Not at all. I can’t imagine how I lived without it and now I end up sending 2 meg jpeg files to friends forgetting that they have 56K modems and I’m tying them up for hours. Just two months ago I cursed people who did this to me and now I’m doing it to others.

The next step for me was twofold: to get my wife’s computer online and to put in a firewall so our little network couldn’t be hacked from the outside.

IP addresses
Every device on the internet has an IP address (IP = Internet Protocol). An IP address looks like this:

192.168.0.2

When I signed up for cable internet service I was sent a cable modem by the service provider. The cable modem, when connected to the coaxial cable from the road, has a way of getting assigned an IP address. I was told when I signed up for this service that I would have a dynamic IP address (it would change from time to time) as opposed to a static or fixed IP address.

Most people who connect to the internet via modem, cable modem, or DSL modem are assigned a dynamic IP address by their provider. Static IP addresses are used by companies with direct connections to the internet and users who request (and pay for) them from their providers. They cost more because theoretically (and actually) they allow you to “serve” a web site from home or wherever the static IP address is. You can’t act as a server with a dynamic IP address because each day your “location” could change.

DNS
There is a database of static IP addresses (web servers) and domain names (closingthegap.com, ldresources.com, apple.com, etc.). Various servers around the world called “dns servers” (domain name servers) provide the lookup information so that when you type “http://www.closingthegap.com” into your web browser a message is sent to CTG’s IP address (a number like the one above). Network Solutions (ugh!) and others allow you to register and pay for domain names and as part of this, you have to give them the IP address of the server your web site is on so they can add it to the lookup tables on all the dns servers around the world.

Routers
With a single dynamic or static IP address, how can we get more than one computer to share a single cable connection? If each device needs its own address, my computer is using the single IP address provided. My wife Anne’s computer can’t share that address.

To share a single address we needed to make a small network in our house so the network itself acts as the single device rather than each of our computers. To make this kind of network one needs a device called a router. A router is different from a hub in that it has software installed in it that allows any device on its network to share a single IP address.

Technically speaking the routine this software runs is called “NAT” or Network Address Translation. This is the tricky scheme that translates from local IP addresses (on your home network) to your single external IP address (your cable modem) and back.

The router has a power supply, a port for an ethernet cable that comes from the cable or DSL modem and numerous ports to connect computers and printers on its network. The router automatically assigns each device an internal (to your network) IP address and quickly translates and “routes” information coming in and going out to the appropriate place.

With a router, both Anne and I can be on the internet at the same time and many other folks could share our single cable modem connection.

Interestingly, cable companies won’t tell you about getting a router, they’d rather sell you another cable internet subscription. Read this and thumb your noses at them.

We also have an Apple LaserWriter and we have it connected to the router with an ethernet cable. This allows Anne to finally print from her computer on the printer in my office.

Most routers have a port that can act as an up-link port so that you can daisy-chain a hub onto it to get even more ports.

So, now Anne and I are both on the internet surfing the web and sending and receiving email. If you come over with a Mac (we don’t allow Windows-based machines in the house although if one did sneak in it could also be on our little network) you can connect and surf in a matter of minutes.

If all of your computers are pretty close together or you already have ethernet cables in your house or office, you probably don’t need to consider a wireless network. Anne’s computer is in a place in our house that’s near impossible to string ethernet to without doing some serious snaking in the walls. We knew there was a better and easier way.

IEEE 802.11, What is it?
802.11 is a wireless standard invented by Lucent and adopted by most of the computer industry. It was not invented by Apple or IBM or Compaq, but all of these companies make devices that use it, like USB or ethernet.

Wireless is a broadcast signal, like FM radio, running at a different frequency.

The current 802.11 standard runs at about 11 megabits per second (11 million bits per second). This sounds pretty fast if you’re a dial up modem user (56,000 bits per second) but many corporate, university, and even K-12 networks run at 100 megabits per second over ethernet cables. There is now gigabit per second ethernet although I’ve read that gigabit is approaching the speed limits of the ethernet standard.

Simply, a wireless network is a network that exists by broadcast without wires but all the same rules I talked about above (namely: NAT) exist. If you’ve not used or seen this kind of network I highly recommend that you find someplace to experience it. One of Apple’s new retail stores would be perfect and there’s one opened in the Mall of America. I’ll bet that if you brought your AirPort-equipped iBook or PowerBook to the Mall of America you’d be on the internet within 100 feet of the Apple store.

AirPort
Apple’s implementation of 802.11 wireless is called AirPort. In typical Apple fashion, they made AirPort the easiest to install and use wireless technology in the industry.

Apple makes an AirPort Base Station which looks like a flying saucer and AirPort cards that can be installed in newer Macintosh computers: iMacs, iBooks, G4 PowerBooks, and G4 Towers. Some of Macintoshes come with AirPort cards pre-installed (the G4 PowerBooks).

airport_base airport_card

You connect the AirPort Base Station to your cable modem with a short ethernet cable, plug the Base Station into the wall, install the AirPort cards in the various computers on your network and turn AirPort on in its control panel or on the Control Strip. Viola, everyone’s on the internet with no wires.

Firewalls
In doing my (skimpy) research before I bought the components of our network I read in TidBits http://www.tidbits.com about the need for a firewall when using a cable modem either with a single computer or with a network of computers.

The word firewall in this context is a metaphor for a barrier between the contents of your computer and local network and the prying eyes of a hacker out on the internet looking for IP addresses that are unprotected (the firewall in a car is the metal between the engine and your legs and lap). Anyone who has a cable or DSL modem without a firewall should know that you’ve probably been “sniffed” if not hacked numerous times already. A firewall will prevent most (but not all) attacks from the outside. It’s something to seriously consider, even for a home network.

Norton makes a firewall that’s software that you install on your computer but my reading led me to believe that hardware firewalls built into routers would be better.

So, I knew I wanted a wireless router with a built-in firewall to share my single IP address with Anne. Apple’s first generation AirPort Base Station did not have a firewall so I bought and used a Farallon (now Proxim) Netline Wireless Gateway first, then sold it and bought a second generation AirPort Base Station after Apple added both an extra ethernet port and a firewall to their product.

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There are numerous vendors who make these wireless routers so don’t feel like you have to get an AirPort Base Station, however, I found the software that came with the Netline Wireless Gateway inferior to Apple’s AirPort administration and configurating softare for its Base Station.

AirPort Card
I have two computers: a G4 PowerBook and a late model iBook. Both have slots under the keyboard for an Apple AirPort Card ($99). The G4 PowerBook came with one pre-installed.

The iBook has an antennae built into the housing for the LCD screen which makes reception excellent from quite a distance. The spec is up to 150 feet but sometimes one can go further and sometimes certain walls make even 50 feet difficult. The G4 PowerBook’s slim screen housing prevents this so its antenaes are built into the keypad area (left and right) and reception is terrible, much worse than the iBook. This is a serious flaw in what is otherwise an excellent computer.

g4_antenae

I ordered an AirPort Card for both my wife’s and my iBooks and installed them in less than 10 minutes (for both). Un-clip the keyboard and flip it over, take the extra doohickey (for iMacs) off the AirPort card, plug the antennae cable into the card and slip the card into it’s slot making sure it’s well seated. Put the keyboard back in place and you’re done.

ibook ibook2 ibook3

Final Thoughts
Placement of the base station is something you can play with to affect reception so when you’re designing these kinds of networks do your best to get the base station as centrally located as possible. Apple has an excellent document on their web site called Designing AirPort Networks that generalizes well to any wireless network. Go to http://www.apple.com/airport/ and look at the bottom-right of the page for a number of useful PDF files.

For home networks, I highly recommend going wireless and if you’re a Mac user AirPort is the way to go for simplicity. Between our cable modem keeping us connected at (relatively) high speed all the time and our wireless network, and our PowerBook and iBooks (our only computers these days) the way we use our computers has changed completely. Being online all the time allows you to use the copious resources of the web the way you would local software, and of course, allows you to spend more money faster at one-click enabled web sites!

This is the way everything should work in the computer world. We can only dream. Apple rarely receives credit for this kind of thoughtful design work but I know that Windows users do not have it this good.

It doesn’t take much to imagine the possibilities when you couple this image (using a portable computer anywhere and being connected all the time) with the image of someone sitting in a wheelchair or someone who, for any reason can’t get to the computer that’s connected to the internet.

For what it’s worth, I’m sending this article to Closing the Gap from our backyard, trying to soak up the last rays of summer (2001).

Summer’s over. Bummer.

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Richard sitting in his backyard under the apple tree (no pun intended), using an older G3 PowerBook connected to the internet via an AirPort wireless network.

Digital Independence

What is it? What does it mean? What does it look like?

© 2002 Richard Wanderman, David Clark, and Monika Koethnig

Note: This was first written and posted in 2002 to support a presentation that David and I did at the Closing the Gap assistive technology conference. I was a popular presenter at this conference and generally had standing room only only crowds at my sessions. This session was far enough ahead of its time that it had light attendance which shocked us because we were sure we were on to something, and now we know in retrospect that we were. The sad truth is that most of the assistive tech community still does not get the significance of these ideas and this is one of the many reasons I gave up a twenty year career consulting in the AT area.

Please be gentle on feedback on the nine year old links in this article. I’ll be glad to update them as we find problems. Thanks.

What is it?
Imagine sitting in a Starbucks with your portable computer in your lap, not plugged into anything, and being able to communicate with friends all over the world, pay your bills, move money from your money market account into your IRA, book travel, shop, read the day’s news and weather, and of course, listen to any music from your entire music collection. This image is real and what makes it possible are just a few powerful and readily available technologies: a high speed connection to the internet, a wireless local area network, a portable computer, a small collection of applications, and digital money.

Using “plastic” to pay is not just about floating a balance or shopping online, it’s also about the elimination of handling money, something some people with physical disabilities don’t do well. Using a Mobil SpeedPass or paying for groceries with a credit card are no longer considered cutting edge; we take these tools and processes for granted but if you can’t handle money the digitization of these processes is more than just convenience; it’s access.

Having a music collection digitized and stored on a computer eliminates the need to handle media and allows random access to any of thousands of songs sorted by album, artist, and genre in one place. Digital music players like iTunes or Media JukeBox can organize and play entire music collections (many thousands of songs and albums). Portable digital music players allow you to carry your entire music collection with you without a computer. Music is just one example of digital sound: the era of books on tape will slowly change to books on CD, then audible digital downloadable books, then books streamed over the internet.

This move from analog (money, CDs) to digital (credit card, digital music) will soon be viewed as the most significant inclusive curb cut in history.

Atoms to bits

Nicholas Negroponte, the Director of the MIT Media Lab has been saying for years that atoms are different from bits. When he first started saying this in his WIRED Magazine editorials many thought he was being arrogant and too “ivory tower.” Now we know better. Dealing with atoms – newspapers, money, CDs, paper plane tickets is different from dealing with bits – electronic representations of text on a computer, credit cards, mp3s, and e-tickets. Making processes digital (reducing them to bits) can, and many times does, make those processes more accessible for everyone but particularly accessible to people with a range of disabilities that affect their access to the analog processes.

Digitizing content is just the start

Long before Negroponte started rubbing our noses in atoms and bits the computer scientist and futurist Alan Kay was commenting on the then new technology of burning large amounts of information onto CDs. He said that the minute you put a dictionary on a CD it’s out of date; the dictionary company will update the information but you (with your new CD) will not have it. So you buy a new, upgraded CD. This goes on forever. He thought (long before the internet explosion) it would be better to be connected directly to the dictionary company so you always have the latest content and never need to buy a new CD. Now, 20 years after he made those remarks, we see that even though the CD may contain a digital version of the dictionary, the CD itself is still made of atoms and consequently, comes with some of the same limitations as a book dictionary; it goes out of date and you have to handle it to use it.

The network and the computer = access
As Kay was saying this, Sun Microsystems was just starting to make the then outrageous advertising statement, “the network is the computer.” Most of us didn’t get it because our connections were modems using regular telephone lines. In fact, Sun predicted that bigger pipes like cable internet, DSL, and ISDN would be widely available and positioned themselves to be key players in the then fledgling move toward the internet.

The AOL model
No one can dispute that America Online (AOL) has brought more people online than almost any other single force. But AOL has not gracefully changed its paradigm since it started. A large AOL server in Dulles, Virginia, holds a huge amount of content and everyone dials in to use it. The more content providers they can sign up the more all of us will want to join AOL to get access to it. And, unlike the internet which is unfiltered, AOL can filter and edit its content, which it does.

However, their model as a single publisher of information doesn’t allow for the parallel growth that can take place when many people, all over the world, become publishers of information.

The internet
Almost all, if not all of AOL’s content providers now have their own web sites as well as spaces in the AOL content area. You can get your weather information from the Weather Channel on television (and watch a lot of commercials), from weather.com (the Weather Channel’s web site), from their space on AOL, or through applications other than a web browser that tap into the National Weather Service’s data pool which is open to all. In short, you now have choices.

What’s different about the internet model is that it’s a distributed model. The information is all over the place (world), and just like investment strategists have been telling us for years; diversification means strength and more probable innovation.

The internet as a sharing medium
When AT&T developed Unix in 1969 they gave the source code away by putting it out on the then baby internet (Darpanet) and lo and behold, computer scientists at UC Berkeley and elsewhere improved on it. (David did not work on this project while he was at Berkeley, he only dreamed about it.)

In 1991 Linus Torvalds, then a grad student in Finland sent email to fellow OS writers telling them that he was working on a “hobby” OS project and asked them if he might share it with them. It was called Linux.

To contribute to Linux or Unix or to any open source project, all you need is a computer, a connection, and a willingness to share. You do not have to go through the interview process to get a job at Microsoft; you just have to earn the trust and respect of your net-peers, most of whom you will never meet face to face.

Doesn’t matter where you are
We have a friend who lives in Central California (near Yosemite Park and we’re jealous). He’s a rare gem importer. He spends six months a year in California and six months in Bangkok, Thailand. When we get email from him we have no idea where he is. In terms of email, he is digitally independent. He has a cable modem and network at home in California, and a high-speed network in his apartment in Thailand. He routinely emails us one day from California and the next day from Thailand. Same conversation continued from a different place.

This kind of digital independence taken further can allow anyone who makes a living on the internet to live anywhere. Our friend chose Thailand because that’s where gems are; but if you design web sites, write, or do a kind of work that does not rely on geography, you’re free. You could choose Thailand because you like it there yet still contribute to a project in Boston or Paris or both.

Home on the cell
In many developing countries the infrastructure for physical telephone lines is minimal and antiquated at best. However, inexpensive and widespread cell phone use allows many developing countries to skip building a physical telephone infrastructure and focus on the ultimate goal, spreading telephone access to everyone. This paradigm shift means that homeless people have access to communication even if they don’t have access to a home. Is this a case of having the curb cut before the curb?

Image filtering
This past summer Richard rebuilt the entire LD Resources web site with the help of two friends, David Clark and Monika Koethnig. Richard lives in Connecticut, David in Massachusetts, and Monika in Aabenraa, Denmark.

The most significant technology we used is chat. Chat made and continues to make working together possible without numerous trans-atlantic phone calls. Each morning (afternoon for Monika) we all spent and continue to spend an hour chatting, showing each other progress on projects and discussing issues.

The operating systems and chat programs we use are different but each keeps a log of the chat so we can refer back to it without having to wade through email and it’s real time so we get answers to questions immediately.

All of us are serious computer users, and each of us uses lots of technology to build and support hundreds of web pages, yet chat is one of the key digital technologies that we depend on. Chat is an inclusive technology.

David and Richard have never met Monika face to face yet they’ve all worked together for over a year now. Monika had never heard David’s voice until one month ago. So, Monika has been able to form an image of David without the “baggage” of visual and auditory stereotyping.

In a perfect world, stereotyping is a non-issue, but we don’t live in a perfect world. It took Richard years to have David’s physical disability fall into the background in his relationship with him. Monika already considers David a close friend without having to work at that.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog

This is the caption to a now infamous New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner showing a dog sitting at a computer talking with another dog (sitting on the floor) about the experience. Map this idea into the disability world and it’s more than a joke. The internet can be a great filter for aspects of a person which might preclude close relationships if they were seen up front. In short, filtering out immediate visual categorization of people can allow their intelligence to shine through before visual stereotyping undermines it.

The Sociology of digital independence
Many people have thought and written about these ideas although with less disability focus and more general societal focus.

Marshall McLuhan was thinking about “digital independence” pretty early in the game. “The medium is the message” has a very different meaning when applied to the above filtering effect the internet has on visual images. He also used the term “global village” long before we had a sense of what it would be like to have full time access to the internet, cell phones, and GPS systems.

Sherry Turkle at MIT has done extensive research and writing on what it’s like to spend a significant amount of one’s time online and how the internet can be a filter. Her latest book is “Life on the Screen”.

What does it mean?
The effects of these changes are profound yet most people haven’t fully considered the implications for people with a variety of learning and physical access needs.

Think about how widespread credit card use is (maybe too widespread). Credit cards change the way we deal with money. A credit card is an access tool.

Think about how widespread cell phone use is. Cell phones change the way we communicate by allowing us to do it independent of land lines. Cell phones are access tools.

It is true that full-time, fast internet access hasn’t reached everyone and that not everyone can afford it. However, this kind of internet access will be as common as cell phones soon and when it is, we think it’s important to consider what it will mean. A computer on a fast, wired or wireless internet connection is a significant access tool.

Finally, these changes are not being driven by disability law or advocacy groups, they are being driven by convenience for everyone. That simple fact makes this the most inclusive and so the most important curb cut in history.

What does it look like? Travelog: Warren, CT to Boston, MA

Below is a travelog with numerous examples of digital processes. The details of hardware, software, or web sites are not what is important. Rather, we are focusing on the philosophy and process of being digitally independent and the potential it has for people with disabilities.

  1. Richard has $40 in his wallet.
  2. Richard logs into ldresources admin chat with iChat. Finds David and Monika (Germany) chatting. Tells David he’ll be leaving in an hour for Boston so David had better get some food in the house.
  3. David goes to PeaPod to order groceries (his fridge is usually empty) and looks at the weather with Weather Watcher.
  4. Richard uses OS X Address Book to get map to David’s house (Boston is a bear in a car).
  5. David realizes that it is going to be a working dinner, and needs to finally make his Panasonic Toughbook wireless.
  6. Richard told David weeks ago to order a wireless card from CDW, and the package was on his desk waiting for David to install.
  7. Murphy’s law: While David is trying to install his new Orinoco card, he realizes that he neods to download new drivers, but now hisi Xircom card is not working.
  8. Richard suggests the idea of burning a CD of the drivers on the iMac, and then using the CD in the toughbook.
  9. Meanwhile, Richard uses Sherlock to get better driving directions.
  10. David gets his favorite playlist of mp3s playing while he works using Media JukeBox to play music through his stereo from his computer.
  11. Richard gets Boston weather so he knows what to pack.
  12. David runs into a problem with “affect” and “effect” in his writing. He uses Confusing Words (an internet-based reference tool coming soon to this web site) to figure it out.
  13. Richard gets traffic advisory on Mass Pike as well as Boston traffic advisory.
  14. David sends Richard’s wife Anne a birthday gift from her Amazon.com wish list.
  15. Richard looks up the NPR stations along the route using the NPR Station Directory.
  16. Richard backs up PowerBook on .mac account
  17. Richard puts PowerBook to sleep, then puts it in backpack for trip.
  18. Richard gets gas with Mobile SpeedPass. Pays tolls on Mass Pike with FastLane card.
  19. While in the car Richard uses his digital recorder to record ideas for the CTG Digital Independence presentation he and David are doing. Wishes he had a GPS receiver hooked up to his Palm or PowerBook to make it easier to find David’s house.
  20. Richard arrives in Boston, parks in garage, gets ticket.
  21. Before going up to David’s, Richard opens PowerBook in lobby, gets on David’s wireless AirPort network which uses his iMac as a base station.
  22. Richard gets email from friend at Macalaster College. She’s writing a paper on the play M Butterfly and forgets who wrote it. She asks for the author’s name. Richard quickly looks up the play at Google and just to make sure at Amazon too. Sends her email back with answer in 1 minute.
  23. Richard carries PowerBook upstairs to David’s apartment, still online.
  24. Richard notices David’s new Land’s End jacket. Prices it. Skips it.
  25. David looks for a restaurant close by so they can eat.
  26. There is a friend that David wants Richard to meet. David looks his number up on Switchboard.com and invites him to dinner.
  27. They walk to dinner with their computers.
  28. They arive at restaurant.
  29. They order drinks and dinner.
  30. While they wait they might as well be productive.
  31. Richard opens his computer and notices he can tap into nearby Starbucks WiFi network.
  32. Richard tells David he just read the most amazing New Yorker column but he forgot the magazine to give David. He goes to Faith, Hope, and Clarity, and sends David the url.
  33. That leads to more talk about New Yorker writers and on to Malcolm Gladwell. Richard tells David he must read the article Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg.
  34. Which leads to conversation about movies and Richard’s fifty year old brain draws a blank about who the heavy-set supporting actor is in the movie The Waterdance. He uses All Movie.com to find out while we talk.
  35. Monika in Denmark sends David an instant message in chat. She tells him to go to their “chat room” and bring Richard.
  36. Monika has been updating the UK AlphaSmart web site and wants them to tell her how it looks. She sends them the url in chat.
  37. Richard sends the url for the web page documenting David, Steve, and Richard’s recent trip to Alaska to Monika in chat. The page was created with Steve’s program WebPics.
  38. David mentions that there are more pictures at Doug Geeting’s site and sends the url.
  39. Which leads David to play Richard a song from Geeting’s CD The Alaska Mile which he has digitized on his computer.
  40. The people at the table right behind David are speaking German. Richard uses Sherlock to look up some of the words they’re using. Sends the words to Monika in chat to verify.
  41. They are wondering if there is an internet cafe nearby to send a note
    home. Richard offers them his AlphaSmart to write an email on. He asks them to put the email address they want the note sent to in the note.
  42. While they are gawking at the AlphaSmart Richard pulls out his Canon S30 digital camera and takes a picture of them.
  43. The Germans finish the email, hand Richard the AlphaSmart, and he sends their text from the AlphaSmart into his email client. He removes the Lexar compact flash card from his camera, sticks it in the PCMCIA CF reader in his computer, and copies their picture onto his computer. He scales the picture down and gets rid of red-eye with iPhoto, attaches it to the email and sends it to them.
  44. The German couple are impressed with the AlphaSmart and David tells them that there is an AlphaSmart localized for Germany and a German AlphaSmart web site to support it. David sends the url to their email address.
  45. Someone at another table has been watching all of this and asks for Richard’s email address. He has a Palm OS device so Richard pulls out his Palm and beams them his business card. David, not wanting to be left out asks Richard to beam his address too.
  46. Richard and David think they might want to go to the movies after dinner and need to know what’s playing nearby. Richard runs Sherlock to search with David’s zip code.
  47. David uses his credit card to pay for dinner.
  48. They walk back to David’s house.
  49. Richard hates David’s musical taste and he’s brought a new Nickel Creek CD he wants David to listen to. David puts the CD into his computer, and while Richard isn’t looking rips it into mp3, getting all the CD track info from Gracenote.com.
  50. Meanwhile, Richard checks registrations at Resources Discussion.
  51. David sends his goddaughter Catie an eCard for her birthday.
  52. David and Richard submit a proposal to CTG for their Digital Independence session.
  53. They book a room at Sofitel hotel.
  54. They each register for CTG conference.
  55. Richard buys his plane ticket to Minneapolis at Northwest and forwards David the email flight itinerary.
  56. David buys his plane ticket to Minneapolis at Cheaptickets.com, then forwards the email flight itinerary to Richard.
  57. Richard uses Watson to look for a picture of Marshall Mcluhan to add to Digital Independence web page and handout.
  58. After Richard goes to sleep (old man, can’t keep up with “yout”). David replies to some mail, and checks in on a few online communities he
    follows:
    phpbuilder, AlphaSmart, Sourceforge, Half the Planet, LD Resources, and Match.com.
  59. Realizing they’re not even close to having the presentation done,
    David books Amtrak to New Haven so they can continue work in Warren.
  60. Richard wakes up, makes coffee, notices David is running out of coffee so orders some from Starbucks.
  61. Richard puts his PowerBook to sleep and in backpack, says goodbye to David and walks to car.
  62. Richard pays for parking with credit card (sheesh, Boston is expensive).
  63. Richard gets gas with credit card.
  64. Richard pays toll on Mass Pike with FastLane card
  65. Richard arrives home, opens computer and it finds his AirPort network automatically.
  66. Richard has the same $40 still in his wallet (his credit card, however, is charred and smoking).

How to do it: atoms to bits
Below is a list of things many of us do every day and the tools we use to do them.

Buy something

  • Go to store, use cash
  • Write check
  • Use debit card
  • Use credit card
  • Use credit card at Amazon.com
  • Use one-click at Amazon.com

Buy something for Anne

  • Go to store, buy wrong thing
  • Buy wrong thing online
  • Buy something that Anne wants with Amazon.com wish list

Get gas

Find a friend’s phone number

Get the weather

Buy plane ticket

Convert currency

Find out how to get to B & H Photo in New York

Find a movie playing nearby

  • Call all the theaters
  • Use Sherlock to find out what’s playing

Pay traffic tolls on Mass Pike

Give someone your name and address

  • Talk while they write it down on a napkin
  • Give them a business card
  • Give them an address label
  • Give them a business card, they scan it in
  • Beam it to them with your PDA
  • Send it written out in email
  • Send them a vcard in email

Send or receive faxes

  • Deal with equipment, paper, and separate phone line
  • Get an Efax account

Send a card

  • Go to local pharmacy, buy card, address envelope, stuff, and send
  • Pick card from Hallmark.com and send

Get reminded of something

Take a picture, send it to someone

  • Take a picture with a film camera, have film processed, send someone a print in the mail
  • Take a picture with a digital camera, transfer picture to computer, send it to someone as an attachment to email

Share pictures

  • Make duplicate prints, send them out in the mail
  • Send images as attachments to email
  • Use Printroom.com to make prints
  • Use WebPics to make web page of images
  • Share Alaska trip done with WebPics

Reserve a room at Hotel Sofitel

Print your handouts for Closing the Gap

  • Print 100 on your printer, carry handouts on plane
  • Print 1 on your printer, photocopy locally (Kinkos or anywhere), carry handouts on plane
  • Print 1 on your printer, carry to Minneapolis on plane, photocopy at Kinkos or anywhere, carry back to hotel
  • Make a PDF on your computer, give Kinkos the order online, fly to Minneapolis with no handouts, have them delivered to hotel

Submit proposal for Closing the Gap

  • write proposal, print it, stuff envelope, send via mail
  • Submit a CTG web site

Register for Closing the Gap

  • Fill out form, write check, send or fax
  • Register at CTG web site

Chat with someone

Work collaboratively

  • Everyone fly to Minneapolis, meet at CTG
  • Telephone calls
  • Conference calls
  • Group email
  • Use Chat instead of conference calls
  • Use threaded discussion with group edits of single posts
  • Multiple people working on a single online project: Confusing Words

Learn php

  • Take a class
  • Buy a book
  • Read documentation online at php network
  • Read and ask questions in a discussion forum like phpbuilder
  • Find a buddy online to share ideas with

at a meeting

Participate in community

Make the next killer application

  • Apply for and get job at Microsoft or Apple
  • Attend meeting, listen to “water cooler stories”
  • Deal with daily commute and respectability of your wardrobe (rather than your ideas)
  • Work from home in your sweatpants, communicate and collaborate electronically with email, chat, message boards

Find your high school classmates

  • Send a letter to one you remember
  • Wait until 30th reunion
  • Register at Classmates.com

Publish your ideas: write an essay…

  • staple it to a telephone pole
  • photocopy it, staple it to many telephone poles
  • mail it to someone
  • photocopy it, mail it to many
  • fax it to someone
  • fax it to many
  • email it to someone
  • email it to many (careful of being a “spammer”)
  • join a listserve, send to the list
  • get someone to put it on his web site (if it’s about LD, go here)
  • put up your own web site

Pay your bills

Read a magazine

Send a magazine article to a friend

Have a magazine article read to you

  • Ask someone to read it to you
  • Scan article, have it read by computer
  • Find article online have computer read it

Get the news

Find a picture of Marshall McLuhan

  • Find a book in the libary to scan
  • Use Google to search for “Marshall McLunan”
  • Use Google Image Search to search for “Marshall McLuhan”
  • Use Watson to search for “Marshall McLuhan”

Find a wireless access point

Listen to the radio

Translate language

Look something up in the dictionary

  • Get the book off the shelf
  • Go to the library to use the OED
  • Put a CD ROM in your computer
  • Dictionary.com
  • Sherlock (Mac OSX)
  • Watson (Mac OSX)

Send something to someone

  • Take it to the post office
  • Use FedEx to generate label, call for pickup, track package, confirm delivery

Buy groceries

  • Go to store, pick things out, pay, carry home
  • Order groceries from Peapod.com
  • Order dinner from local restaurant

Rent a movie

Buy a movie

Sell a DVD you don’t want anymore

  • Put a for sale sign at the general store
  • Put an ad in Bargain News
  • Have a garage (“tag” on the East Coast) sale
  • Go to a flea market
  • Go to local video store and see if they’ll buy it
  • Sell or auction it on eBay
  • Sell or auction it on Amazon.com

Research a movie

Listen to music

Cook a meal

  • Cook grandma’s recipe from memory
  • Use a cookbook to find a recipe
  • Get recipe from Allrecipes.com

Upgrade your system software

  • Go to store, buy CD
  • Go to web site, buy CD
  • Go to Microsoft.com, download upgrade
  • Go to Apple Support, download upgrade
  • Use Software Update System Preference to check for updates (Mac OSX)

Upgrade an application

  • Get version number of application
  • Go to web site, check lastest version, download upgrade
  • Have application check for updates

Backup your computer

  • Copy files to ZIP disk
  • Copy files to CD, burn
  • Use backup application to copy to ZIP or CD
  • Use Backup to backup to .mac account (Mac OSX)
  • Use Xdrive to backup to internet (Windows)

Prepare for college

And this is just a start…