The growing irrelevance of toll-free numbers

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First, there were "ZEnith" exchanges, the original toll-free numbers. Since there was no Z on the dial, you would call the operator and she would connect you to a business on its dime, making the connection by looking up the number associated with a ZEnith number.

Finally, the Bell System launched Wide Area Telephone Service in 1961, which became used for the first direct-dial toll-free 1-800 numbers in 1966 and 1967. Originally toll-free exchanges were tied to geographic areas, much like area codes, but, gradually, like everything else in the phone network, things soon loosened up and, today, the modern toll-free network remains a fixture of television advertisements, magazine inserts, and radio jingles. What better way to entice the customer than… — Click here to read the full post

Who should autonomous vehicles kill in a collision?

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Autonomous vehicles are seemingly all the rage in many of today's tech lines. Tech companies like Tesla and Google just won't give up, will they?

For what it's worth, the likelihood of so-called "self-driving" cars taking off is slim. Sure, tech moguls say it's the next big thing, just like 5G, the Internet of Things, "smart meters", and the multitude of other tech disasters that are sprouting up across the country, mostly financed using misappropriated… — Click here to read the full post

Landlines Win Again

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Somewhere between 40% and 50% of households have a landline today, though the number of true traditional copper POTS lines is somewhere around 20%. (Think you have a "true" landline? You might be in for a nasty surprise.)

Yet, at least in theory, most people have a lot more love for the humble landline than they let on. According to a 2014 Pew Research Poll, "the public felt most secure using landline phones": The public feels most secure using landline phones, least secure on social media

Personally, this is not so much surprising as it is reassuring. Most people know that landlines are the more secure, reliable communications options. In practice, many of them fail to recognize this when they cut the cord. It's only when danger strikes that they begin to regret this.

With the skyrocketing number of wildfires on the move today, this is an eminently practical concern of huge importance to many. In the recent wave of wildfires in California, mobile phones "went silent" as cell towers went down. Search and Rescue actually had to resort to stone age tactics: going house to house on foot!

Those experiences during the widespread fires that claimed more than 70 lives -- as well as during and after hurricanes earlier this year -- reveal a downside to the wireless communications upon which Americans are increasingly dependent: Mobile service falls short of old-fashioned landlines when it comes to surviving catastrophic events.Bloomberg

Think twice, or thrice, before cutting the cord. Ask yourself: is my life, and my family's, worth more than $20 per month?

The Truth About the Digital Divide

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The digital divide has taken on a new meaning. Previously, it referred to the areas of the country that relies beyond the reach of high-speed broadband Internet. We referred to them as being unfortunate enough to be "on the wrong side" of the digital divide. All of America still does not have high-speed broadband Internet, one reason why millions of Americans continue to use dial-up Internet today. But now the digital divide has taken on a new meaning, as technology becomes so heavily integrated into schools that the whole idea of the digital divide has gotten flipped on its head.

Back in October, the New York Times ran an article titled "The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids Is Not What We Expected". The caption reads "America’s public schools are still promoting devices with screens — even offering digital-only preschools. The rich are banning screens from class altogether."

Yes, you read that right! The rich are banning screens altogether! Should this really come as much surprise, though? Tech moguls like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have, after all, limited their own children's technology use. Many teachers to whom I've posed the question have confirmed this firsthand: standardized test scores have dropped significantly since 1:1 technology was introduced in schools. It's not just academic or even psychological though: there are now plenty of physiological effects caused by young people's hyper-use of technology.

Certainly, technology skills, particularly use of a computer, will continue to be important in our electronic world. But the hype surrounding "21st century learning" is simply fabricated by big tech companies like Apple and Google to sell tablets and Chromebooks (a.k.a useless not-a-PC laptops) to schools, to boost their bottom line by whatever means they can.

Food for thought…

The Power of PowerShell

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PowerShell isn't by any means new. Designed by Jeffrey Snover and initially released in 2006, PowerShell is now on its 6th stable release and has infiltrated workplaces everywhere. While it hasn't entirely displaced the Command Prompt, which itself came about in 1999 to emulate MS-DOS, it certainly allows administrators to spend less time at the black shell and more time at the blue one. While there are many cases where the regular Command Prompt is sufficient (mainly because the PowerShell prompt takes noticably longer to load), network admins everywhere are using PowerShell, so here's a gentle nudge to see what PowerShell can unlock for you if you haven't delved deeper… — Click here to read the full post

A Second Look at Richard Nixon

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No doubt one way or another, you've been caught up in the drama of the election that ultimately culminates today, when people will cast their ballots. Today, it seems like every candidate is out to get you, one way or another, and there's no good choice to be made. In the 2016 election, people were forced to choose between the lesser of two evils in a highly polarized election: the only question, who was the lesser of the two evils? (Answer: Neither, vote for a third-party candidate.) Wouldn't it be nice if we could return to a bipartisan era when people could feel good about going to the polls?

Today, we'd like to take a closer look at one of the most infamous presidents in history: Richard Nixon. Undoubtedly, you've heard of him — he was the only president ever to… — Click here to read the full post

The Truth About Fiber-Optics

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Fiber-optic cables aren't exactly new. Part of the reason for the 2001 recession was a tech crash caused by excessive buildout of fiber, most of which remained "dark" for years. Fiber has been used for Internet backbones as well as long-distance trunks in the PSTN, but only recently has the idea of extending fiber directly to the home become pervasive. I won't give an overview of fiber here, so for some history and details about how fiber-optic communications works, you can check out Broadband Now.

Until recently, I'd been… — Click here to read the full post

Why I Favor Splits over Overlays

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How many digits constitute a telephone number?

The most common answers, at least in the United States, which is part of the North American Numbering Plan (NANP), are 7 and 10. There's a pretty good chance that whatever answer YOU gave says something about your age.

For the record, telephone numbers are… — Click here to read the full post

Adopt A Payphone

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Adopt A Highway began as a local effort in Texas in the 1980s. Today, the program has spread all over the United States. It's hard to drive almost anywhere these days without seeing the iconic "Adopt A Highway" signs on the edge of the road. That's all great, and the idea could prove to have other useful applications as well.

Today, most payphones are owned by payphone providers, not telephone companies. Most telephone companies… — Click here to read the full post

Reasonable And Prudent — Speed Doesn't Kill, Speed Limits Do

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It's a common belief that speed limits are designed to keep us safe. Few of us like to heed them, but we believe they exist for the common good and grudgingly abide by them. A closer look at the facts, however, will put this misconception to rest.

For a long time, Montana held the honor of being the only state with no daytime speed limits… — Click here to read the full post

Electric vehicles aren't the solution to climate change

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Global warming, or climate change as is the more "proper" term, is a serious conundrum. Everyone likes a cleaner planet, but few people are actually willing to adopt a lifestyle that is seriously environmentally friendly.

In the meantime, businesses everywhere have rushed in to take advantage of this sublime opportunity to make a buck. Perhaps no industry has done more to try to profit off of climate change as the automobile industry. Ironically, electric vehicles do little to combat climate change… — Click here to read the full post

The term "cell phone" is a misnomer

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“Phone” used to be just short for telephone. Telephones were phones and phones were telephones. Today, that is not the case. "Telephone" adheres to the denotation of the word, whereas the connotation of "phone" has changed. Think about it: the word “telephone” is generally only used to refer to corded fixed-line phones. Today, all telephones are still phones, but not all phones are telephones. Mobile phones and cordless phones are generally never referred… — Click here to read the full post

Monopoly Isn't Always A Bad Thing

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Monopoly isn't necessarily bad. In fact, sometimes it can be a good thing. A very good thing!

Most economics classes foster a passionate dislike of monopolies in students. But this dislike is not necessarily deserved. Economics classes teach us about seemingly malevolent monopolies that wreacked havoc on the economy. But most economics courses omit discussion of the largest monopoly ever to have existed — perhaps the most benevolent monopoly of all: the Bell System.

That's right, Ma Bell the monopoly! Technically, the Bell System… — Click here to read the full post

Local School District disregards health in stunning move

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West High School administration announced this year that the district's cellphone policy, No. 5136, had been relaxed to allow students to use cellphones during lunch and in between classes. While the district says it aims to provide "safe and secure" Internet access and Policy 7540 promises safeguards inhibiting negative side effects, its IT department has been fiercely deploying wireless technology in all K-12 learning environments, despite studies confirming too much technology leads to drops in test scores and retention. Two classes unanimously said they didn't like using tablets for education… — Click here to read the full post

21st Century Learning — NO Technology In The Classroom

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Scientific American released an article about a month ago that reported students are supposedly better off without technology in the classroom.

Wait, what? Isn't technology the whole point of "21st Century Learning"?

Yes, and that's the point.

21st Century Learning is a movement being pushed by the technology and wireless industries in order to increase bulk purchases from schools and educational institutes. While they usually floor superintendents when they boast of "increased workforce preparation" and "real-world applications", these phrases are just buzzwords… — Click here to read the full post

Smartphones: The Undoing Of Humanity?

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I'm a baby boomer. At least as far as most people would care to be concerned, I am. Whether it's a wintry Monday or a summer Sunday, I'm usually up before the sun. I'm a diehard user of rotary telephones and desktop computers. I write letters to family friends I haven't seen in a while, in cursive, and conclude by licking the stamp. In all regards to habitual characteristics that define an individual, I should be receiving my first social security check… — Click here to read the full post

Limes Are Not Unripe Lemons

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Limes and lemons are typically flavors found in carton drinks; for whatever reason, they're not popular fruits for solitary consumption (though I happen to like both limes and lemons). I was speaking the other day with someone who uses lemons, and only lemons, frequently as a cooking ingredient. I was surprised when she asserted that limes and lemons are the same fruit. Obviously, this is not true; she backtracked and asserted instead that limes are just "unripe lemons".

While there are nutritional differences between limes and lemons I won't disclose here, the fact remains that saying limes turn into lemons is like saying windows turn into doors. Limes and lemons are completely separate fruits. A bit of research will turn that up. This cooking site, for example, briefs the reader about common misconceptions. The reader will learn that limes are not unripe siblings of the lemon. In fact, the lemons we buy at the store are also unripe. Both limes and lemons are unripe fruits. If you wish to know more about these beloved sour fruits, I advise you to do some more of your own research. Hopefully, you'll be spared the embarrassment of ever saying limes and lemons are the same fruit in public.

As for me, I favor the lime a bit more than its yellower cousin. Limes don't have seeds and are a tad bit sweeter than lemons, making them the more delicious of the two to my taste buds!

A Professional Perspective: Kari’s Law

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On December 1, 2013, Kari Rene Hunt was murdered by her estranged husband whom she was intending to divorce. She agreed to meet him at a local motel to leave their children with him for a short visitation while he was in town. Her estranged husband ambushed her in the motel room and cornered… — Click here to read the full post

What The Colored Coded Tape Means On Store Columns

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Many stores like Walmart and Sam's Club, especially the older ones, color-code their poles. Have you ever noticed colored pieces of tape at the top of some of these poles? Yes, they actually mean something!

  • Blue — Blue tape at the top of the pole indicates that there is a telephone at the bottom of the pole.
  • Yellow — Yellow indicates a spill clean-up station is located at the bottom of the pole.
  • Red — Red indicates that a fire extinguisher is located at the bottom of the pole. Hopefully, you'll never need to look for this one.

Some poles may have more than one piece of tape. For example, a pole may claim a blue piece of tape and a yellow piece of tape. That means both a telephone and a spill clean-up station are located at the bottom of the pole. From what I've seen, some poles may have just one piece of tape, while others may have two or even all three. Blue tape is less common than yellow or red tape, so if you need to make a prank telephone call, your choices are more limited. But if the guy next to you starts having a heart attack at the store, make sure you check the ceiling for some blue tape so you can call 911 (some yellow tape wouldn't hurt either).

A Cool "Telephone Trick" That Will Impress Your Friends

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  1. First, pick any 7-digit telephone number. For example — 567-1234
  2. Now, punch in the first 3 digits of the number you chose
  3. Multiply the number by 80
  4. Add 1 to the result
  5. Now, multiply that answer by 250
  6. Now, add the last four digits of your telephone number to the result from Step 5
  7. Add the last four digits of your telephone number again
  8. Subtract 250 from your result
  9. Now, divide the number by 2
  10. You should now end up with the number you chose

AM/FM Radio Numbering — What's The Deal?

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Millions of people regularly listen to terrestrial radio. AM (amplitude modulation) is an older standard than FM (frequency modulation) and is easier to implement. AM signals can travel between 100 and 300 miles while FM signals are limited by the curvature of the Earth, giving them a maximum distance of about 50 or 60 miles. While AM signals fade with distance, FM is consistent within the receiving area, making AM ideal for news broadcasting and FM ideal for music.

All FM radio stations end in an odd number (88.3, 96.1, etc.), though this is purely conventional and regulated by the FCC. AM frequencies are measured in kilohertz, while FM frequencies are measured in megahertz. AM stations range from 520 kHz to 1710 kHZ, with stations spaced 10 kHz apart, while FM stations range from 88 mHZ to 108 mHz. 1 megahertz is equal to 1,000 kilohertz, so technically AM stations range from FM 0.520 to FM 1.7 while FM stations range from AM 88000 to 108000. (Remember, all radio waves are part of the same electromagnetic spectrum — AM and FM are just different ranges of that spectrum.) In theory, tuning to AM 99100 is the same as tuning to FM 99.1.

You've probably noticed you can pick up nearby channels on an unused frequency. For example, you can probably pick up the radio station FM 100.1 on FM 100.3 or AM 600 on AM 610. But do these numbers mean anything? Are some frequencies "better" than others? To transmit a signal, one simply broadcasts audio at a specific frequency. Lower frequencies require less power and travel farther, but are lower quality. Higher frequencies require more power and don't travel as far, but are higher quality. That is, the frequencies that will be transmitted farthest are at the lower end of the spectrum — the 520 kHZ and FM 88.1 frequencies will travel the farthest from the broadcast station and have the lowest quality. In theory, stations at lower frequencies transmit further and have the worst quality. For more information, see this article online.

Can't Beat the Heat?

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Are you looking for something nice and cool to do this summer? How about something really cool that's also cool? Dubbed the "Polar Bear Capital of the World", Churchill, Manitoba is a popular getaway among numerous people and it's one of the most popular tourism destinations in the world for viewing polar bears in their natural habitat. What makes Churchill so unique? First off, you can't reach Churchill by road at all. Nestled in northern Manitoba along the southwestern portion of the frigid Hudson Bay, there are no roads connecting this town of just under 1,000 to the rest of Canada. The only ways to reach Churchill are by air, train, or boat (Churchill has a port, but unless you're commanding a vessel through the bay ice, we recommend you don't sail there). Churchill is a great spot to watch the Northern Lights and it's also a great spot to come see the polar bears, the main driver for Churchill's tourism economy. You can go out on the ice in a great tundra buggy and truly immerse yourself in polar bear country. A remote town that is truly off-the-grid, Churchill is a must-see for anyone looking to connect with nature.

A Couple Videos Guaranteed to Get You Laughing…

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Someone once said that laughter is the best medicine. Even if you're not sick right now — I'm sure we could all use a little laugh right now. Well, I wanted to take a minute and share out some videos I've seen in the past that are guaranteed to get you laughing. If they don't… well, let me know and we'll chat. This first video addresses the notion that desktop computers are stationary and stay in one place — all the time. Well, in this video, some students have decided to attend a lecture and they bring their desktops with them, computers, keyboards, monitors, dial-up modems, and all. In this second video, you'll witness what happens when the code to get on the Walmart intercom becomes public knowledge. Don't try this at home kids!

When Technology Does More Harm Than Good

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We've all seen that person — perhaps he or she is waiting at a bus stop or perhaps in line at the drycleaners to pick up a beaver-pelt coat. Yet, there he or she is, looking down at a miniscule little screen, fingers tauntingly trained to remain invisible with motion to make life as a recluse complete. How did we get here? Has technology gone too far? How much technology is too much, and how do we know when and where to draw the line? If for some reason, you are not already subjectively guilty to the nature depicted beforehand, then I congratulate thee for remaining rooted… — Click here to read the full post

What Wi-Fi Really Is (And What It Isn't)

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Today, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that despite the vast number of Internet users in the world, a good majority of them are quite dumb. Not dumb in general, but not especially smart in the way they approach technology terminology. For those of us who were around in the 80s and 90s, confusing computer networking technology would be a disgrace, but for the unlucky generation born after 2000, not much can be said for them. Let's look at a few ways that young people today, especially teenagers and college students, manage to screw… — Click here to read the full post

Save the Polar Bears!

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When you think of cute and cuddly pets, polar bears may not come to mind first thing. But polar bears are one of the most affectionate creatures that roam this planet, and the loss of such a wonderful species to global warming (yes, it's happening), would be beyond catastrophic. Do your part to help save these amazing creatures before it's too late, and help make the world a better place! By simply… — Click here to read the full post

Steve Jobs — Hero or Hater?

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Steve Jobs is regarded by many as one of America's technology pioneers, credited with his success at Apple. Nobody will deny that his legacy is a great one or that he didn't innovate constantly, but some of the deepest and darkest secrets of Steve Jobs may turn some of his biggest fans against him. Steve Jobs has throughout the years, maintained a close bond with Bill Gates, founded of Microsoft, the world's largest software company and the most powerful technology company of all-time. Jobs dreamt of stealing that title from Microsoft, and although it failed and is unlikely to ever do so in the future, Apple has uncovered a niche of its own under the leadership of Steve Jobs. What few people realize is the malicious nature and evil sense of humor that Steve Jobs was sometimes known to possess and the lack of empathy for others in the tech sector. Unlike Bill Gates, Steve Jobs didn't…— Click here to read the full post

Walmart CEO — Impostor or the Real Deal?

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A couple years ago, I recieved an angry email from the CEO of Walmart. Yes, you heard that right. But was this email really from the CEO of Walmart, or was it an impostor eager to wreak havoc by submitting support tickets? This question has bothered me ever since I receieved this message from the "CEO of Walmart", and looking back at it, it seems unlikely that this email was sent from the actual CEO of the world's largest superstore. However, until anyone offers to step forward as the sender of this email, I will continue to… — Click here to read the full post

Are there SMART-Boards in your school?

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Are there SMART-Boards or other interactive whiteboards at your school? If so, let me ask you a question? Do you use them? Does anyone use them? How often are they used? Do teachers actually use the SMART-Board in their room, or do they just use it as a white canvas for their projector? These are some of the questions that I have been forced to ask myself as changing practices at many schools in the district have started to render these little marvels fruitless. Once the center of attention and the focal point of the room, many don't even realize that… — Click here to read the full post

Yes, you still need a landline!

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Don't even think about giving up your landline! Yes, you still need it — same goes for your desktop. This concept is one I've been preaching for a long time now, but recently this past Tuesday an event occured that made me want to reiterate my point. Recently at our school, we experienced a power outage. In our area of the state, power outages are… — Click here to read the full post

Welcome to Our Blog…

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Welcome to the InterLinked Project's official blog. Come back often for new topics to ponder or to learn something new. You never know what you'll find here tomorrow!