Today is August 2, 2011 — or 08.02.11, which geeks the world over are proclaiming as “Wi-Fi Day,” paying homage to the IEEE spec 802.11 which defines wireless networks.

I vividly remember the first time I used a wireless network. In the spring of 2003, I was working as a student worker in a computer lab at Lander University in Greenwood, SC, and our lab had gotten a test access point and PC Card adapters (remember those?). Imagine my amazement when I put in the card, installed the drivers, and was online. It was, in a sense, magical. No being tethered to a network cable (or a modem, for that matter). It was so incredible that when I left for the summer I demanded my parents get a cable modem and wireless equipment for the house — and the rest was history. I haven’t lived in a Wi-Fi-less place since — who would want to?

I challenge you to think of another technology that’s had more of an impact on our culture than Wi-Fi over the last 10 years. Without Wi-Fi, mobile adoption of social networking would likely have been stunted. Wireless connectivity — especially Wi-Fi — has likely been a huge part of why Apple is successful again. (Imagine the first EDGE-only iPhone without the Wi-Fi option — yuck!) The tablet computer is likely not even a thought without wireless networking.

Many of us take Wi-Fi for granted now, but it has brought us — and will continue to help bring us — wonderful new technologies that build on top of it. So here’s to you, Wi-Fi, on 08.02.11. Thanks for being there for me (most of the time, when I’m in range).

In Brief Technology

The A and B Drives

I’m young enough to have only had one floppy drive on my computers (in fact, I had floppies on every machine until the MacBook Pro). This question on Super User makes me feel a lot, lot older.

Personal Technology

An Ode to GeoCities

An era from the early days of the Web is ending, as Yahoo! has announced its intent to close GeoCities, its free Web hosting service targeted to novices, later this year.

I can’t have a legitimate discussion about my career in Web without starting it at GeoCities. I started a site at GeoCities in 1998 as a starry-eyed 8th grader, staking out turf for a little Windows tips site I would call “The Ultimate Windows Launchpad” in a little suburb of the SiliconValley neighborhood known as Haven. (GeoCities, up until about a year after the Yahoo acquisition, used “neighborhoods” to group Web pages together by interest. For example, tech-related pages lived in SiliconValley; there was MadisonAvenue for advertising-related pages, and so on. Looking back, this was fairly brilliant — cutesy, sure, but smart. Eventually, as Yahoo! merged more and more of GeoCities into its operation, this convention was eventually dropped in favor of shorter URLs using the Yahoo! ID.)

Between the lime background, scrolling marquee for a title, and animated GIFs, “The Ultimate Windows Launchpad” was exactly what you would expect from a novice’s first attempt at publishing a Web page. Even worse, I didn’t know HTML then — I had thrown the page together in FrontPage Express, which came along for the ride in the Internet Explorer 4.0 package. Yes, I got started by being a prototypical “n00b” that most experienced Web developers make fun of today.

And thus we run into one of the few regrets in my life — namely not keeping a copy of this old page intact. Who would have guessed its impact it would have on my journey? The earliest copy of the site on is from early 1999, after I had shortened the name to “The Windows Launchpad” and given it a more sophisticated table-based layout in a bid to impress the ladies. (Here’s all has for The Windows Launchpad on GeoCities.)

Of course, I eventually outgrew GeoCities as I started looking for more power user features. During the summer of 2000 I moved the site off GeoCities and onto a rather sophisticated free hosting service from Freedom2Surf (which they managed to run ad-free for a year), where I would eventually begin transforming the site into a message board, which actually did well for a couple years before my interest faded.

As the Web evolved, GeoCities fell from prominence and just became another Yahoo! property and the butt of many jokes from experienced Web developers who, more likely than not, got started on GeoCities or similar services with the “n00b” stigma attached (such as Angelfire and Tripod). Ultimately, more evolved Web services like WordPress and Tumblr, which come prepackaged with great designs, were the downfall of GeoCities and similar services. As ReadWriteWeb notes, people want a professional-looking Web presence, even at the novice level. GeoCities just couldn’t keep up.

Sure, we now have Tumblr, WordPress, and the like roaming the ‘net — but I have to tell you, there was something endearing about Web rings, lousy HTML, and the learning experience of it all that today’s starry-eyed 8th graders are more than likely going to miss out on. It’s a bummer. GeoCities’ hosting of “The Ultimate Windows Launchpad” ultimately proved to serve as the launchpad to a career, and for that it receives my deepest appreciation.


A new day has come

Today is the culmination of a six-year journey which started with expectations (of graduating by 2006 with a computer science major) that were completely different from what ended up happening (graduating in late 2008 with a journalism major).

I have so many different drafts about this day in my WordPress queue, most of which may never see the light. One draft is a pseudo-inspirational look toward the future. One draft is a very detailed personal account of these last few years, with all the pain and joy and passion interlaced together; but today is not the day to rehash those things. I’m not sure when that day will be; perhaps it will be in my memoirs down the road. Either way, while time heals a lot of wounds, it’s still going to take a while before I can publicly talk about some of those struggles that ultimately molded me into who I am today.

So, for the first time in a long time, I’m at a loss for words. The timing couldn’t be worse, too, as this is my thousandth published post to this blog.

Perhaps it’s the relief of passing this milestone, which I made harder on myself to achieve but ultimately did.

Perhaps it’s the realization that just a few years ago, I was near rock-bottom, nearing financial and emotional ruin, drifting through life with no direction and a lack of passion, wondering “what next?” and “why me?”

Perhaps it’s my continued amazement at how a small epiphany during a trip to Atlanta with my dad in 2005 — a highlight of my life in and of itself — put my floundering life back on track, with renewed purpose and vigor the likes of which I had never felt before, wondering “what can I do next?” and “lucky me!”

Perhaps it’s the excitement of the possibility of what I can do with my life now that I’m degreed. Or, maybe that prospect is overwhelming me.

I’m not sure. Again, I can’t put it into words.

In the end, perhaps I’ll approach this like I have the last two years since my return to school, which I announced incredibly non-chalantly in August 2006: One day at a time.

Yes, it took a few more of those “one days” than I probably would have liked, but the end result is that much sweeter, and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned, both inside and outside a classroom, for anything in the world. It was worth the extra time, because I found what I love. That, folks, is what it’s all about.

To the Class of 2008, regardless of how many days are actually left in the year. :)

As Per Whatever


So I’ve been in the equivalent of moving purgatory for the last few days, taking up a dwelling at my parents’ house. Relocation to the new place starts Friday, and will continue at a gradual pace through the weekend. The weather’s going to be oppressively hot — unusually warm for this time of year — so the moving process will probably be a gradual one that lasts through the weekend. I’m definitely looking forward to living in my own place, where I have a much higher degree of freedom and control (read: I’ll be able to spread my computer equipment out with zero objection).

Living with my parents has been cool for a few days, though. I’ve been getting those home-cooked meals, the laundry is done, and it’s not like they’ve put a curfew on me again (I am 24, after all). It’s been a nice visit. In some ways, it’s been a trip down memory lane — late night visits to Sonic happened on a regular basis in high school, and it was a little weird to go back there and see the parking spot where I’d show up every Friday during my senior year of high school to think. (I wrote a series of tweets about this Sonic experience; see [1], [2], [3], [4], and [5])

I’ve been running at a real limited operating capacity, though. I’m primarily on my work MacBook Pro until I move in and get the more permanent desktop setup going. Unfortunately, that’s left me without GRLevel3 at home, so no SuperDeeDooper Doppler updates when there’s severe weather (and, as luck would have it, that happened this past weekend). That’s been kind of a drag. Oh, and my music — or lack thereof. That’s been an issue, too. I haven’t had any of my gigantic music library available to me, ’cause that machine’s disconnected still.

Oh well. Friday will begin to right the ship once more into a stable pattern. For now, I’m starting ROC for sleep!

In Brief

Epic Mosaic Netscape Maneuver

It’s hard enough browsing the Web with Netscape 4.0 these days, but it’s downright impossible with Mosaic Netscape 0.9b. You have to see it to believe it.