Writings and Musings

Bob Frankston (bio)

Welcome to my writings.

If you want the recent essays check out the sidebar on the left or, better, go to Further Readings for a curated list of essays.

Other essays are listed in chronological order and then by category. The main essays are in larger letters and minor documents (such as messages posted on discussion sites) are indented and in smaller letters. The documents themselves are located on this site (www.Frankston.com) and as well as external sites.

Note that I'm currently writing shorter transient posts on Facebook as "Bob Frankston". I'm gathering links here.

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The best way to link to a document is as http://rmf.vc/keyword.

By default only the most recent posts are shown, to see:
Recent By Date Posts from the last few months
Columns Columns written in 1998-1999 -- blogging before blogs. Look here for my more recent columns.
All All posts -- hundreds

Writings and Updates by Date

Some of the recent entries are also listed on the sidebar. Secondary items such as postings on other mailing lists are indented. Note that the year shown is the year the essay was updated. An essay written in 1979 might be listed under 2009 if it was updated recently.

Implementing VisiCalc 06-Apr-2003 (Updated: 12-Oct-2015 PDFThe story of how we implemented VisiCalc. We always viewed VisiCalc as a product, not a program. The program itself was just a means of delivering the product and only part of the larger experience.
Telecom Policy: Virtue vs Tolerance 01-Dec-2003 A brief introduction to the brief introduction to my latest essays on telecom and other policies. The Internet seems to violate our work ethic and that makes it very hard for people to come to terms with the new opportunities.
2007 or 1995 or 1950? 01-Dec-2003 Congress doesn't seem to get it. They are acting as if the asymmetric broadcast model must be kept alive and criminalizing those who use content without asking permission first. The private bit police will be in charge.
Policy vs Reality – Problems of our own Devise 01-Dec-2003 Telecom policy should be simple and null. The hard part is convincing people it really is that simple and why. This essay gives an overview for my more detailed comments on television and telephony
Favors I Can't Afford 29-Nov-2003 I accidentally spammed thousands of people because the address book synchronization service is overzealous. The real damage is that it is speaking in my name and thus I get the blame.
The end is nigh again? 17-Nov-2003 Another story saying we are at the end of the beginning. Failure of imagination is comforting but ...
Don't Recapitulate! 13-Nov-2003 The FCC's plan to set rules for VoIP is a reminder of the tragic disconnect between the Regulatorium and the real world and the price we pay for accepting a mythological view of telecommunications.
The Value of Dallying and Community 01-Nov-2003 Blogs are more than just diaries and sometimes it's useful to take time to think.
The Regulatorium and the Moral Imperative 01-Nov-2003 The Regulatorium is sustained by a moral agenda that is based on a perception of scarcity.
What the SV AV-100 Is and What it Could Be 20-Oct-2003 The Panasonic SV AV100 is an example of the best in consumer electronics and the worst. It is a great camera but is hobbled by software that limits its capabilities. The PC industry, often despite itself, has thrived by giving users the ability to reinvent products and create new capabilities. The consumer electronics industry can benefit by sharing the ability to enhance and even redefine products.
VoIP: CoIP or TaWKi? 07-Oct-2003 Should VoIP resemble the PSTN or be something else entirely?
The Importance of What Isn't 21-Sep-2003 We are used to judging a product by what it is but what isn't and can be is far more important. With computers we are increasingly able to create new products out of building blocks. The Internet is just one example of how we can take an existing product, the entire telecommunications industry, and use it as the starting point for creating new products. One reason why it is hard to understand the real importance of the Internet is because we trying to explain what can be and people find it hard to see what isn't.
Answering the Wrong Question: IEEE and Voting 20-Sep-2003 The IEEE is in the process of setting standards for voting machine. Assuring a trustworthy voting system is about more than the local behavior of individual machine. There's a danger that narrowly focusing on an aspect of the process will be taken as endorsement of the process as a whole.
Spreading Infantilization 01-Sep-2003 Another provider or user refusing to accept mail without approval from my "provider" whatever or whomever is supposed to ask as my parent.
Spam Assassinated! 27-Aug-2003 Spam Assassin is a popular program used to filter mail. Unfortunately its metrics show a deep antipathy towards my email messages because I want to move beyond the limitations of the teletype era. I am being silenced by others' moralistic assumptions about email.
AOL and Roadrunner have Left the Internet 25-Aug-2003 In a naive and misguided attempt to protect their users form spam AOL and it's subsidiary, Roadrunner, have banned email from systems with dynamic IP addresses and thus have made the spam problem much worse by channeling all of the Internet traffic through narrow and arbitrary chokepoints. This doesn't bode well for companies whose future depends on their ability to understand the Internet
AOL and Roadrunner vs the Internet 25-Aug-2003 In a naive and misguided attempt to protect their users form spam AOL and it's subsidiary, Roadrunner, have banned email from systems with dynamic IP addresses and thus have made the spam problem much worse by channeling all of the Internet traffic through narrow and arbitrary chokepoints. This doesn't bode well for companies whose future depends on their ability to understand the Internet
Viruses, Trust and Complacency 20-Aug-2003 We must take the latest waive of computer viruses seriously but the hiding behind the castle wall is not an effective response and only increases our vulnerability while denying us the benefits of the new technologies.
IPv6 isn't just about more addresses 05-Aug-2003 Internet Protocol V6 is an important part of giving us a dynamic Internet that allows us all to be participants. Those who want a transition to IPv6 miss the point of the Internet. We can start using IPv6 now without waiting for a transition.
Kinko's vs Hot Spots 29-Jul-2003 Kinko's has been a leader in taking advantage of the Internet. Adding wireless access to their in-store network is simple and obvious. But instead they have chosen to use T-Mobile's hotspot service which is far expensive and more complicated and slower.
AOL vs the Internet 26-Jul-2003 AOL is threatening to stop accepting mail from systems with dynamic IP address. This is an arrogant and hostile attack on the Internet itself. Has AOL decided to opt out of the Internet?
More on the DNS 23-Jul-2003 Response to Dan's comments on the DNS.
Observations on Observations from Always-On and XP 22-Jul-2003 Comment on Observations from Always on and a warning about an upcoming rant about computer XP and all that
Searching for Dial Tone in Africa 05-Jul-2003 Great NY Times story about Voice of IP in Africa. Worth reading to get an understanding of the impact of VoIP.
Faux Wires 03-Jul-2003 The cellular phone network may not have the artifact of wires but it has the reality of the circuit which is the real limitation whether or not there are wires.
Hotspots Cold Cells 03-Jul-2003 The idea of deploying hotspots seems like a natural extension of the cells used for cellular phones. This is a false analogy and has made hotspots seem to fall short of expectations when the real problem is in not understanding the real needs.
Realizing the Internet 25-Jun-2003 We need to recognize that the Internet has triumphed. The good news is that the carriers are embracing the Internet. The process needs to be accelerated but will rapidly move beyond the carriers ability to stay in control.
We Have Connectivity! 24-Jun-2003 We have an infrastructure that is fully capable of giving everyone always-on connectivity but the FCC and the carriers acting as if it is still a phone and cable TV network. We must recalibrate and focus on removing the impediments of connectivity instead of just mediating feuds that no longer server any larger purpose.
Catching up on 4G, 802.11, Spam etc 03-Jun-2003 Overview of my recent postings on ZDNet and Dave Farber's list.
Stopping spam isn't as easy as you might hope 31-May-2003 Most approaches to dealing with spam naively assume that spam is a simple well-defined concept.
Move over 3G: here comes 4G 31-May-2003 The cellular world is trying to find a future as WAP, Bluetooth and now 3G are seen to be failures. Why should 4G be any different? What is 4G anyway?
Book Sharing 23-Apr-2003 The record industry isn't the only one concerned with their bits. Imagine if the book publishers controlled their content just as tightly!
Another Example of Being Precise, Accurate and Completely Wrong 22-Apr-2003 I reposted my essay on leap seconds because I had made mistakes in cleaning up the HTML for Word. Another example of dealing with a program that gives me a presentation that is has unwanted precision while making it difficult to deal with the content.
The End of Leap Seconds?? 22-Apr-2003 The "time committee" is considering phasing at the leap second. The leap second has been one of my pet peeves but it's a lot more. It's an example of the experts' inability to distinguish between their technical concerns and the social use of their technology.
Number Portability is misdirection. 20-Apr-2003 With all the discussion of number portability it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we already have number portability. The issue should be why we have to invent a second layer just so that we can pretend it is a difficult problem.
Implementing VisiCalc (pointer) 07-Apr-2003 Short intro Implementing VisiCalc. Points to the primary essay.
768x1280 20-Mar-2003 Laptops seem to be made for viewing movies. If I rotate my laptop I get a tall and narrow screen suitable for reading and writing text.
United States v. American Library Association 05-Mar-2003 The Supreme Court is going to determine if libraries can be forced to act as censors. It is a test of modernity and the idea that ideas have meaning in context and the best way to respond to concerns is by challenging the ideas rather than censoring them. Does a picture of a naked person cause irreparable harm?
Some Good News 03-Mar-2003 I'm cautiously optimistic after returning from the Spectrum Policy conference at Stanford. But I'm exciting to find that the SFO intra-airport trains are running and that I-90 now goes directly into Logan Airport.
Dim Copper 28-Feb-2003 We didn't create the automobile by lashing a carriage to a mechanical horse but we were able to repurpose the roads designed for horses by paving them to create a smooth surface. The Internet isn't just an upgrade to the phone network. It needs its own path. The existing copper infrastructure is a valuable resource that can be used as a native medium for Internet connectivity. We must take advantage of the opportunity to provide universal connectivity very quickly at a low cost, we get vastly improved telephony as a free bonus.
Theft of Service? 12-Feb-2003 Cable modems showed great promise when they were introduced. Originally planned for 10mbps, they rolled out at 1.5mbps. Originally supposed to be symmetric, they were asymmetric at 5:1 and now it's 10:1. Any available capacity is denied us and used to sell us a limited choice of stale content (movies).
Live Blogging! 11-Feb-2003 My attempt to blog an event live. Dave Winer's meeting about blogging at Harvard.
ClearType! 10-Feb-2003 Microsoft's Cleartype technology really does make a difference!
Email is Still Just a Toy 06-Feb-2003 We now think of email as a normal form of communication and have to use the retronym postal mail. But when we have important messages, our email systems aren't up to the task and we go back to paper.
Spam Fixation 02-Feb-2003 Short Abstract of Spam Fixation
Spam Fixation 01-Feb-2003 It seems as if everyone wants to hunt down the spammers and make laws against people who call us on the telephone. The real problem is managing our availability. Computers make it easy for people to send us email but they also give us the means to take charge of our availability.
Prior Restraint: Censorship as the Legacy of Spectrum Policy 22-Jan-2003 Early radio receivers took advantage of the technologies available and assigned each transmitter a unique frequency. It is a very inefficient approach and required a complex regulatory system to keep all the signals sorted out. Since World War II we've had the ability to use signaling approaches that are far more effective and do not need this regulatory regimen. Yet we still cling to spectrum allocation and the censorship inherent in the onerous regulatory system
AT&T Broadband users see 3rd e-mail shift 16-Jan-2003 Once more ATTBI is forcing users to change their email addresses. While they blamed the previous on trademark problems there seems reason this time other than a change in ATTBI's marketing needs
Two stories on coming to terms with the Internet 10-Jan-2003 Two interesting articles in the New York Times about coming to terms with the new marketplace. One about adapting to the new realities of the content business and one about failing to address the change in telecommunications
Bad Coupling (abstract) 05-Jan-2003 I started to write about my successes in using my home networking to connect all my devices but I soon realized that it was a tail of triumph over unnecessary.
Bad Coupling 05-Jan-2003 I started to write about my successes in using my home networking to connect all my devices but I soon realized that it was a tail of triumph over unnecessary.
VoIP is a simple idea and simply works 05-Jan-2003 Voice over IP is a simple concept that allows us to redefine telephony. It requires no special hardware or constructs like QoS. For now it looks like the PSTN but is rapidly coming into its own
Bob Frankston
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