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To understand this story, you need to understand that grandchildren are like crack cocaine to grandparents. I'm convinced that if our parents could somehow snort our children up their noses to get a bigger fix, they would. And when your parents live out of state, like ours do, access to the Internet isn't just important. No. It is life threatening.

Like Gator in Jungle Fever, grandparents just gotta get their fix of the grandkids every month. And if they don't, if their Internet is broken for any reason, you're going to get an earful via telegraph and facsimile and registered letter until you fix it.

 never get high on your own supply.

Either way, they're gonna get high. On your kids.

My mom is no exception. So when her computer suddenly stopped working, and she couldn't get updates on her three grandkids, I got frantic calls. Which is odd, because everything had been working fine for a few years now. Once Henry was born in 2009, I set her up with a netbook that had Skype and Firefox set to auto update and she'd been able to video chat with us regularly, no problem at all, since then. So what happened?

My first thought was to hell with it, I'll just buy her a new iPad online via the Apple Store. I'm a big fan of the retina display, and surely the touchy-feely iPad would be more resistant to
whatever problem she was having than a netbook, what with its archaic "operating system" and "updates" and "keyboard" and "mouse".

With some urging from my wife (I married well), cooler heads prevailed. What if her problem had nothing to do with the computer, but her Internet connection in some way? Then I'd just be trading one set of problems for another with the iPad. I have no idea how things are set up over there, thousands of miles away. I needed help. Help from a fellow geek who lives nearby and is willing to drive out and assist my poor mom.

My mom doesn't live near where I grew up any more, so I have no friend network there. All I could think of was Geek Squad. I've seen the trucks in our neighborhood, and they've been around a while, so I checked out their website. Maybe they'd work?

Geek-squad-service

When I can buy my mom a new iPad for $399, the idea of paying $299 just to have someone come out and fix her old stuff starts to feel like a really bad idea. But I suppose it's a preview of our disposable computer future, because it's increasingly cheaper to buy a new one than it is to bother fixing the old one. This is the stuff that my friend and iFixit founder Kyle Wiens' nightmares are made of. I'm sorry, Kyle. But it's coming.

I posted my discontent on Twitter, as I am wont to do, and received an interesting recommendation for a site I'd never heard of – Geekatoo.

Geekatoo-logo

I was intrigued, first because the site didn't appear to suck which is more than I can say for about half the links I click on, and second because it appealed to my geek instincts. I could post a plea for help for my mom, and a fellow geek, one of my kind who happened to be local, would be willing to head out and assist. I could send out the geek bat-signal! But I was still skeptical. My mom lives in Charlotte, North Carolina which, while not exactly the sticks, isn't necessarily a big tech hub city, either. I figured I had nothing to lose at this point, so I posted the request titled "Mom Needs Tech Support" with the info I had.

Much to my surprise, I got two great bids within 24 hours, geeks with good credentials, and I picked the first one. The estimate was two hours for $45, and he was on-site helping my mom within 2 days from the time I posted.

Geekatoo-case

It turns out that my wife's intuition was correct: the cable internet installer had inexplicably decided to connect my mother's computer to a neighbor's wireless, instead of setting up a WiFi access point for her. So when that neighbor moved away, calamity ensued.

And the results? Well, I think they speak for themselves.

Thank you Jeff you are the best son ever!!!!!!!!!

My mom, as usual, exaggerates about her only son. I am far, far from the best son ever. But any website that can make me look like a hero to my mom, and keep my fellow Super User geeks gainfully employed doing superhero work on my behalf gets a huge thumbs up from me.

Needless to say, strongly recommended. If you need reliable local tech support that won't break the bank, and you want to support both your family and your local geek community at the same time, check out Geekatoo.

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The rare transit of Venus across the face of the Sun in 2004 was photographed widely from Europe, to Asia to Africa and North America by professionals and amateurs. North Carolina based photographer David Cortner explains how he made the photograph, which was featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day: “I made this photo on a rainy morning from an overlook above North Carolina’s Catawba River. The sky was clear for only a few minutes, just long enough to grab this photo with a Nikon DSLR and a 5-inch Astro-Physics refractor. I wouldn’t have bothered to get up at all except for the thought that if James Cook would sail halfway around the world to see a transit of Venus, who was I not to at least set up the telescope and hope for the best.”

The next transit of Venus will be in on June 5 or 6, depending on your location. You may want to pencil it in, because the one after June 2012 is not until December 2117. Venus transits come in pairs, eight years apart, then don’t come again for more than 100 years. To see a NASA simulation of the coming transit, click here.

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larry ellison

Editor’s note: Aaron Levie is CEO of Box. Follow him on Twitter @levie.

In 1997, Larry Ellison had a vision for a new paradigm of computing which he called the Network Computer (NC). The idea was simple: a group of partners would build devices and services that leveraged the power of the Internet to compete against the growing Windows monopoly.

Ellison believed that the computer in the client/server era had evolved into too complex a machine for most tasks. With the NC, the ‘heavy’ computation of software and infrastructure would be abstracted from the actual device and delivered instead to thinner terminals via the web, thus radically simplifying access and enabling all new applications and mobility.

But the NC never made it mainstream. Microsoft and its allies had already amassed considerable power, and the cost of personal computers was dropping rapidly, making them even more attractive and ubiquitous. Furthermore, many of the applications were too immature to compete with the desktop software experience at the time; and few people, as it turned out, wanted to buy a device championed by Oracle.

The NC fell short on execution, but Ellison was right about the vision: “It’s the first step beyond personal computing, to universal computing.” In many ways, he was the first to glimpse a future resembling the post-PC world we are rapidly moving towards today.

15 years later, it is Apple that has brought its version of this vision to life. And Apple’s rising tide – already 172 million devices strong, sold in the last year alone – has in turn given rise to a massive, vibrant ecosystem: companies generating hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in value in under a few years, revolutionizing industries like gaming, social networking, entertainment and communications in the process. Then of course there’s Instagram.  All proving that value created in this mobile and Post-PC world will rival traditional computing categories.

But the post-PC transformation isn’t limited to the consumer landscape. In the enterprise, we’re transitioning to a way of working that is far more fluid, boundary-less and social. And mobile pushes computing to the cloud and rewrites all applications in its wake. Those who saw it coming (Oracle) and those who initially resisted its arrival (Microsoft) have equally been taken by surprise by the power and speed of the post-PC shift within today’s enterprises, and it’s creating one of the biggest opportunities ever.

Why the change is so profound

We recently met with the IT leadership team of a fairly conservative 50,000-person organization where all the participants all had iPads. No big surprise there. But the apps they were using were radically different from what you would have found in their organization only a few years back – a mix of apps from a new set of vendors that together supplant the traditional Microsoft Office stack.

Post-PC devices are driving enterprises to rethink their entire IT architecture, thanks to a wildly unpredictable and improbable chain reaction set off by a new consumer device from Apple.  For the first time in decades, CIOs have the opportunity – and necessity – to completely re-imagine and rebuild their technology strategy from the ground up. Catalyzing this change is the fact that the technology switching costs are often less than the price of maintaining existing solutions. A shipment of 1,000 new iPads requires applications to run on these devices – and choosing all-new applications and vendors is generally cheaper than the service fees, infrastructure, and operational costs of legacy software.

And thus, the Post-PC era drives the final nail in the coffin of the traditional enterprise software hegemony. Microsoft, in particular, built up a practical monopoly that lasted nearly twenty years, and forced an entire industry to conform to its way of seeing the world.  Yet this arrangement served its benefactor far more than the ecosystem, as the Redmond giant built up leadership positions across nearly every application category.

In the Post-PC era, businesses will shift from deploying and managing end-to-end enterprise solutions from a single vendor, to consuming apps a la carte both as individuals and en masse. But which apps and vendors will help define this new world?

What’s coming won’t look like what came before

Change always begins incrementally at first. Predicting specifically what will happen in the next year or two is a far more realistic undertaking than anticipating where we’ll be in a decade. In shifting from one technology generation to the next, we minimize disruption by porting the old way of doing things to newer mediums or channels. Not until the new model settles in do we see the real results that rise from these foundational shifts.

Mobility is such a foundational shift, and it’s still very, very early. Even when the Microsofts and Oracles of the world relent and build applications for post-PC devices, these apps will carry much of the DNA of their desktop predecessors. We can imagine that each of the enterprise mainstays – ERP, HR management, supply chain, business intelligence, and office productivity – will be painstakingly moved to mobile. But that’s just the first phase.

Emerging CRM startups like Base will challenge longstanding assumptions about where and how you manage customer interactions. Data visualization software like Roambi will make business analytics more valuable by making it available everywhere. Entire industries are already being transformed: mobile healthcare apps will enable cutting-edge health outcomes, and construction sites will eventually be transformed by apps like PlanGrid.  Companies like CloudOn and Onlive aim to virtualize applications that we never imagined would be available outside the office walls. Evernote’s 20+ million users already make it one of the most popular independent productivity software apps of all time, whose value is dramatically amplified by this revolution.  In a mobile and Post-PC world, the very definition of the office suite is transformed.

And with this transformation, much of the $288B spent annually on enterprise software is up for grabs.  The post-PC era is about no longer being anchored to a handful of solutions in the PC paradigm. Instead, we’re moving to a world where we mix and match best-of-breed solutions. This means more competition and choice, which means new opportunities for startups, which should mean more innovation for customers. As soon as individual workers look to the App Store for an immediate solution to their problem instead of calling IT (who in turn calls a vendor) you can tell things will never be the same.

In many ways, the enterprise software shift mirrors that of the media and cable companies fighting for relevance in a world moving to digital content (HT @hamburger). If users and enterprises can select apps that are decoupled from an entire suite, we might find they’d use a completely different set of technology, just as many consumers would only subscribe to HBO or Showtime if given the option.

Of course, every benefit brings a new and unique challenge. In a world where users bring their own devices into the workplace, connect to any network, and use a mix of apps, managing and securing business information becomes an incredibly important and incredibly challenging undertaking. Similarly, how do we get disparate companies to build apps that work together, instead of spawning more data silos?  And as we move away from large purchases of suites from a single provider, what is the new business model that connects vendors with customers (both end users and IT departments) with minimal friction?

And then there’s the inherent fragmentation of devices and platforms that defines the post-PC era. Android, iOS, and Windows 7 and 8 all have different languages and frameworks, UI patterns, and marketplaces. The fate of mobile HTML5 is still indeterminate. Fragmentation and sprawl of apps and data is now the norm. And while this fragmentation is creating headaches for businesses and vendors alike, it’s also opening a window for the next generation of enterprise software leaders to emerge and redefine markets before the industry settles into this new paradigm.

It would appear that Larry Ellison’s vision for the NC was right all along, just 15 years early. Welcome to the post-PC enterprise.

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In early April, in an attempt to accelerate the transition of military responsibility to the Afghan government, the US agreed to hand control of special operations missions to Afghan forces, including night raids, relegating American troops to a supporting role. This deal cleared the way for the two countries to move ahead with an agreement that would establish the shape of American support to Afghanistan after the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline. Domestic support for the war (in the US) has dropped sharply. We look back at March in the troubled country. -- Paula Nelson (37 photos total)
Young Afghan women use an umbrella to shield themselves from the sun in Kabul, April 5, 2012. The position of women in Afghanistan has improved dramatically since the fall of the Taliban, with the number of girls in education soaring. But as the Americans and the Afghan government have pursued peace efforts with the Taliban, women are increasingly concerned that gains in their rights may be compromised in a bid to end the costly and deadly war. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

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TIPPED TRUCK
TIPPED TRUCK: Men used ropes to try to right a supply truck overloaded with wheat straw, used as animal feed, along a road in Dargai, about 100 miles northwest of Islamabad, Pakistan, on Friday. (Mian Khursheed/Reuters)

STRAIGHT SHOOTER
STRAIGHT SHOOTER: Rick Ritter, left, and Grady Ritter, both from Stillwell, Okla., checked out guns at the 2012 National Rifle Association Meetings and Exhibits in St. Louis, Mo., on Friday. (Sid Hastings/EPA)

ORTHODOX EASTER
ORTHODOX EASTER: An Orthodox Christian worshiper prayed during a Good Friday procession in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Friday. Thousands of pilgrims, tourists and clergy took part in the celebrations. Orthodox churches celebrate Easter according to the Julian calendar. (Abir Sultan/EPA)

NEPALESE NEW YEAR
NEPALESE NEW YEAR: A child watched the Bisket festival in the ancient city of Bhaktapur, near Katmandu, Nepal, on Friday. The nine-day festival takes place over the Nepalese New Year, during which devotees try to pull a chariot to their locations. Winners are believed to be blessed for the coming year with good fortune. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

TIGHT TURNS
TIGHT TURNS: Ashley Nee took the second of two runs in the women’s solo kayak division Thursday during the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Whitewater Slalom at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C.. (Ben Goff/The Gaston Gazette/Associated Press)

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I just started reading a book on parallel programming, and I immediately began to wonder how it affects time complexity.

I understand that theory and programming are not the same, but time complexity seems to rely on the notion that the algorithm is executed serially—will the mathematics to describe algorithms need to change to accomodate this?

For example, a binary search algorithm could be written such that each element in the set could be assigned to CPU core (or something similar). Then, wouldn't the algorithm essentially be constant time, O(1), instead of O(log n).

Thanks for any insightful response.

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In an industry that at times seems constantly obsessed with the Next Big Thing, it's no wonder there's always so much hype that swirls around the introduction of a new generation of video game consoles. Console gamers don't have the same geek luxury as, say, Apple fanatics, who get a couple shiny new devices every year. Typically, it's only once every several years that a major new home video game console launches. That's a long ...

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