Submarine Cable Map

I love maps, especially old paper maps.  But when I came across this on the Internet I wanted to give it a good look.  The Submarine Cable Map website is a comprehensive and regularly updated interactive map of the world’s major submarine cable systems and landing stations.


Why do I find this interesting?  This is how the majority of the worlds communications systems are connected and the Internet would not be what it is today without this kind of infrastructure.  What amazes me is the sheer number of undersea cables throughout the world.  There used to be copper cables under the Atlantic from North America to Europe but those have all been replaced by fiber optic cables which can carry more information over greater distances.

Here is a short video from the “How It’s Made” series that shows how fiber optic cables are made.  It’s a pretty interesting process and you can imagine how much effort it takes to make a cable with hundreds of fiber strands that stretches thousands of miles in a hostile underwater environment.

At one time there were issues with Sharks and other marine creatures damaging the cables.  Changes in manufacturing and installation has helped resolve much of this.  Outages still occur as a result of commercial fishing and the occasional anchor.

So next time you’re watching an NFL game in London or playing an online game with someone in Spain remember how that signal is probably getting to you and the effort it took to make it happen.

Keeping the Web in Your Pocket

As much as I read online you would think I’d already be using an online clipboard but the usefulness was lost on me until about three weeks ago.  Pocket (formerly Read-it-Later) is changing the way I collect and process online content.

Adding a simple bookmark to your browser allows you to take the article you’re reading on the screen and transform it into a very readable (i.e. NO ADS!) format you can take with you anywhere.  Just launch the app on your phone and once downloaded you can get access to the information without any kind of network connection.

Tired of reading on the small screen?  Visit the Pocket website and read on your computer.  Pocket is cross-platform and integrated into a lot of applications (like Twitter for iPhone) where it will grab a link and process it for later reading.  Finally you can email any link to [email protected] and have it processed that way.

Definitely a great way to grab content for later consumption.  The only drawback I’ve found so far is I have a LOT more to read and it’s getting hard to keep caught up!

Worldwide Communications Still Using Cable

While working my way through the several-hundred RSS feeds I subscribe to I came across an article that referenced an Epic Net Outage In Africa.  Curiosity got the best of me and I started looking for more information on the worldwide use of underwater communications lines. Once-upon-a-time these (copper) cables, used to connect the worlds continents, were made up of hundred (thousands) of copper strands.  These, for the most part, have been replaced by fiber optic cabling that can not only carry greater amounts of data but are smaller (and presumably cheaper) than copper conductors.

Communication companies are using these cables, resting on the sea floor in all of the worlds oceans, to move massive amounts of data between land masses.  Typically the majority of the information you access on the internet is stored nearby in servers that cache data that others have already referenced.  Why send the same data over long distances if it can be stored regionally? When you end up requesting a piece of data that’s actually located in another country you are most likely utilizing these underwater cables to transfer the data from its source to your computer.  Here’s a good test for you to try.  In Windows click START, RUN and type CMD [ENTER].  In the command line window that pops up type Ping [ENTER].  You should get something like this: Make a note of the “Time=237ms” piece, you just communicated directly with a server in Taiwan. Now ping Notice how the “time” is a lot less?  This, in geek speak, is called “Latency“.  You just communicated with one of the thousands of servers Google has on the Internet (many of them local to large metropolitan areas).  Now granted, we’re talking milliseconds but that’s an eternity in the computer world.  By pinging the actual IP address of the computer in Taiwan you bypassed any caching by your ISP and communicated with the server directly.

1000 Milliseconds equals one second so when you communicated with the server in Taiwan you sent a piece of data at the speed of light over 7700 miles (and BACK) in 0.25 seconds.  How amazing is that?  When they figure out how to digitize the human body you should be able to travel anywhere in the world in just a few seconds (or less). As someone who’s used satellite communication in the past for voice communication I can assure you that the delay can be in the 1000’s of milliseconds and it’s a real pain to communicate with someone using a satellite that’s just 4-700 miles overhead.

Since we’re becoming a more “global” society it’s important, now more than ever, that these undersea communication links are available (and functional).  Hopefully the telecommunication companies are investing in more capacity to handle the ever increasing need to transmit data around the world.

The 10 Oldest Domain Names on the Internet

27 years ago the first Domain Name was registered.  Here are the first 10 ever registered (The Top 100 list can be found here).

As of today (1/6/2012) there are 135,639,614 domains across the .COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .BIZ, and .US top level domains.  There are more and more added every day & this does not even cover all the .GOV, .US, etc. Domain names in use.

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Being a Webmaster

If you’ve been a webmaster very long (I started in 1995) you learn quickly that links to external sites will eventually break.  Website-sites go down, domain names change, pages get stale (and eventually deleted), old pages become available via subscription only, and finally sites get abandoned

As you build your site the number of links can get pretty large. has several thousand links and up until recently it’s been a challenge to make sure every link took you somewhere.

When I moved the site to a new host last weekend I found an application that makes the process of monitoring external links a breeze.  Broken Link Checker has been a HUGE help with cleaning up dead links in posts and it does it automatically every couple of days.  I even get an email report letting me know what’s broken and why.

If you use WordPress this is an awesome FREE plugin to help you maintain the links on your site.



Is Groupon Good for Business?

After watching the Freakonomics movie, I started thinking about this…

I’ve been on the mailing list for the “Flash Sale/Deal-of-the-day” site called Groupon for several months.  It was not until I learned about a Blackberry application did I actually take note of the “deals” and purchase one.

Although I had a good experience and saved 55% off a lunch I would have paid full price for I could not help but notice how many people were taking advantage of the same offer.  I heard the word Groupon mentioned by customer and staff repeatedly.

The place was packed more than I’ve ever seen before & tempers were starting to flare as the number of seats came into short supply.  The constant attempt by the waitstaff to turn the tables, no doubt to help get everyone moved through the system, was also a big turn off.

I’ve started going back through my Gmail archive looking at the previous deals and I’m pretty surprised by the size of some of the discounts (80% in some cases).

This leads me to a couple of conclusions/questions:

  • There’s a tremendous markup in a all of these products and services
  • Businesses are willing to break even (or loose a little money) to bring in new customers
  • If I get a large discount for a product or service, am I going to be willing to pay full price for it again?
  • If hundreds of people take advantage of a service, such as a hair salon, how many weeks can that business survive with decreased margins and what about the regulars who suddenly cant get an appointment?

How are these online services any better than the Entertainment books we’ve all bought for $20 at one time or another that gave us hundreds of buy-on-get-one coupons for places we would probably never check out were it not for the “deal”?  A little research online revealed that Groupon takes 50% of the already discounted price and then pays the rest to the business over 2 months.

I’m going to continue using the service & look forward to some good deals while doing so.  So my take is this, if you’re a consumer these deals can be great.  If you’re a business, be very careful before jumping on board…

Finally, if I can’t get into my dentist or barber because of one of these deals I’ll quickly change my opinion!