It's Just this Little Chromium Switch Here

Weblogging and commentary by Chip Rosenthal

Old Chinacats, New Chinacat

This weekend I will be building a new workstation. I ordered most of the parts back in September but haven't been able to string together sufficient time to do the final build.

The name of this system will be chinacat. My main workstation is always called chinacat. This is probably my sixth chinacat, going back over 20 years.

I remember my first chinacat. It was an 80486DX-33. The "33" is the clock speed, and back then we measured speed in MHz, not GHz. I remember it had one amazing component: one of the fancy new Seagate ST-251 hard drives. It had a whopping 40MB of space and -- here is the incredible part -- it fit in a half-height 5.25" bay. (That's the size of a typical DVD drive these days. In those days most hard drives were twice that size.) It ran SCO Xenix.

PATA is a PITA (and other thoughts on SSD)

A couple months ago I started gathering components to build myself a new workstation. One of the components I got to try is an Intel X25-V 40GB solid-state disk (SSD). That particular part has since been discontinued, but at that time it was $100. That's pretty pricey as compared to a conventional hard disk of the same size, but would be completely worth it if it provided the performance benefit I expected.

It performed as well as I hoped. I set it up with Kubuntu Linux 10.10, and was completely blown away by the speed-up in boot time.

As great as it was on the workstation, this device was just screaming to be put in a laptop. After all, my workstation gets booted once a season. I can cycle a laptop a dozen times in an afternoon.

The workstation project has been stuck on idle, but I've become increasingly enamored with the laptop idea.

Austin Bids for Big Gigabit Broadband

Big Gig Austin logoOn Friday afternoon, Austin submitted its response to the Google "Fiber for Communities" Request for Information. We joined over 1,100 (!!) communities around the nation, who asked Google to build an open, super-high-speed, fiber broadband network in their towns.

Google created a two-pronged process, one for municipalities to submit their response, and another for individuals and community groups to nominate their hometown. The community support aspect snowballed, and we ended up with towns doing stunts such as mayors jumping into lakes and swimming with sharks.

One of the most frequently asked questions I received was, "What stunt is Austin going to do?" The answer, as my friend Chad Williams said, is, "We're going to be Austin."

Note to Big Gig broadband supporters

Big Gig Austin logoHere is a message I just sent to members of the Big Gig Austin group on Facebook.

Hello Big Gig broadband supporters.

The Google deadline for nominations is this Friday (3/26).

1. Now is the time to submit your personal nomination to bring the Google gigabit fiber to Austin, if you haven't already. It's quick and easy and only takes a minute. Directions here:

2. I'll be doing the final count of supporters on Friday, and obviously the more the better. We're currently at 3,300 and I know there are a lot more -- thousands more -- broadband supporters here in Austin. Can you help? Please make one final pass through your friends list, and invite interested friends to our group.

To invite your friends just go to:

and click the "Invite people to join" link in the left sidebar.

3. Finally, come celebrate at the "How Can Google Not Love Us?" Happy Hour this Tuesday. Event info here:

Hope to see you there.

Chip Rosenthal
chip [at] unicom [dot] com
info [at] BigGigAustin [dot] org

We'd also appreciate your support on Twitter. Please follow @BigGigAustin.

Hope to see you at the Big Gig "How Can Google Not Love Us?" Happy Hour and Tweetup on Tuesday, Mar. 23..

Big Gig "How Can Google Not Love Us?" Happy Hour and Tweetup, Mar. 23


Big Gig Austin logoOne month ago, Google challenged us to show them why Austin, Texas would be the best city in the world to build their gigabit fiber network. We came together and showed them the creativity and enthusiasm that makes Austin world famous.

The end is in sight. The Mar. 26 nomination deadline is days away. So, let's get together to celebrate what we've accomplished and push this effort over the finish line.

Please join us:

Big Gig "How Can Google Not Love Us?" Happy Hour and Tweetup
Sponsored by Big Gig Austin
Tuesday, Mar. 23, 5:30pm
The Highball, 1142 S. Lamar Blvd. (map)

Happy hour specials until 7:00pm: $2 Lone Stars, $2 pints and $4 wells. Plus free karaoke.

Hang out for Geeks Who Drink at 8:30pm.

Thanks to the groovy cats at The Highball for hosting us.

Co-sponsored by: Slackerwood, Helios Project.

New Wordpress Plugin Provides Anti-Spam Protection Against Email Address Harvesting

I've just released a Wordpress plugin to protect email addresses that appear in the body of posts against harvesting by spam 'bots.

The plugin is called wp-spamspan. It works by automatically rewriting an email address that spam 'bots encounter into a form like:

chip [at] unicom [dot] com

But for people, the email address appears as a clickable link.

The home page for the plugin is here:

Mar 18 update: Today, I received approval to add this plugin to the official Wordpress directory. Watch for it there (real soon now...).

Tonight! Public Forum on Austin Response to Google "Fiber for Communities" Initiative

Big Gig Austin logoThe Big Gig Austin effort continues tonight, with a public forum to discuss the Austin response to the Google "Fiber for Communities" initiative. The forum is sponsored by the Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission.

Public Forum
Wed, Mar 10, 7:00 PM
Austin City Hall
Room 1101, Boards & Commissions Room
301 W. Second St.
Austin, TX

The public is invited to attend and participate.

The forum is tentatively scheduled to be cablecast live on City of Austin cable channel 6, and streamed live online at:

Statement at the "Big Gig Austin" Press Conference

Statement by Chip Rosenthal
"Big Gig Austin" Press Conference
March 9, 2010

I'm Chip Rosenthal. I'm the chair of the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission. One of our jobs is to advise the City on what the people of Austin want for technology services. I'm here today to say that the people of Austin want Google to select Austin for their gigabit trial network project.

Within hours of the Google announcement, there were flurries of emails and tweets all across Austin. People were asking our city leaders to respond to the Google proposal – and they have. The Mayor and City Council have unanimously passed a resolution to submit a response to Google. City Manager Marc Ott and city staff have been working aggressively to produce a response that documents why Austin is the best place in the nation for Google to build their gigabit network.

That's what the people of Austin have asked for. And that's what the City is doing. That's great – but it's not enough.

This is not a standard company recruitment effort. The City isn't offering any economic incentives to Google. The City can't – and Google doesn't want them anyways.

Big Gig Austin -- The Public Campaign to Bring Google Fiber Network to Austin

I wrote previously that the City of Austin is working on a response to the Google "Fiber for Communities" request for information (RFI). I've met with City Council and city staff members, and everybody is enthused about the opportunity.

That's great -- but it's not enough.

If Austin is going to convince Google to build here, it's going to take a strong community response. In fact, there is a whole section of questions for the City to document the community response to the initiative.

The "Big Gig Austin" initiative has been created by a number of supporters, who want to work in support of the Google RFI. We've got about one month to document how incredibly badly Austin wants this network to be built here.

The official rollout of the project will be happening in the next few days. In the meantime, we've created a couple of resources.

24-Hour Twitter Campaign

If, in the next 24 hours, if we can get 200 people to follow @BigGigAustin, I'll ask the City to put us in a press release. I know there have been discussions about sending out a press release about the Google fiber project. If we can get that kind of following so quickly, I'll ask the City to cite us in their press release as an example of how Austin is rallying behind this project.

So let's make the news. Follow @BigGigAustin and tweet your friends to join.

The Story of Soft Whorehouse

A Facebook friend posted a comment about his local Tiger Direct store becoming CompUSA. That prompted me to post the following reminiscence as a comment.

So, around 1986, I'm working at this semiconductor company in far North Dallas. The area was really just one big industrial park. In the same area was this hole-in-the-wall computer place called "Soft Warehouse".

This was in the day of beige-box PCs, where you typically either bought from IBM or built from parts. The Belt Line Road area of Dallas was full of cheap storefront computer places. They'd build and sell their own lines of computers, along with parts for do-it-yourselfers. Soft Warehouse was a store in our neighborhood/industrial park, walking distance from the plant, that primarily sold software and components -- at the cheapest prices around.

Purchasing departments loved them, because they were corp account friendly, and you could buy your Hayes modem there and it would be $3 cheaper than any other place in town. The service was so horrible, however, that we'd have to spend 45 minutes at the will call window to get our parts. Somehow purchasing departments thought that was a good trade-off. But we hated them. We'd call them "Soft Whorehouse."

The formula of crappy service with a huge inventory at a great price was a win for them. Their business boomed, along with the entire PC business. Eventually they moved out of the industrial park to a big box storefront, and rebranded themselves CompUSA.

But they'll still always be "Soft Whorehouse" to me.