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6/26/2006
11:13 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
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Tom Evslin: A Blogger Blooks

Tom Evslin and I have crossed paths in just about every one of his careers, although we've never met in person. This morning's crossing was a press release from the PR person for his murder mystery, hackoff.com, which he published first as a "blook," a blogged book, in installments on the Web, and has now issued in hardback. I haven't read it, but if it's as well written as his blog, Fractals of Change, it must

Tom Evslin and I have crossed paths in just about every one of his careers, although we've never met in person. This morning's crossing was a press release from the PR person for his murder mystery, hackoff.com, which he published first as a "blook," a blogged book, in installments on the Web, and has now issued in hardback. I haven't read it, but if it's as well written as his blog, Fractals of Change, it must be a page-turner.Our first crossing was back in the late '80s when he and his wife Mary were Solutions, Inc., and he had written Desktop Express, an MCI Mail client, and Glue, a graphics utility for the Macintosh. I got just one degree away when I met Mary at a Boston Computer Society MacFest in a Boston College gymnasium, where she was flogging Solutions's products.

When the Evslins sold their company some of the products went to Microsoft and Tom Evslin went along with them. He eventually became a high-level development executive with responsibility for Microsoft Mail and its successor, Microsoft Exchange. (Well, somebody has to take responsibility for Exchange.) I wondered why anybody would give up anything as cool as developing products for the Mac to be a Redmond bureaucrat, but that was just me. He seemed to thrive on it.

With his background in e-mail Evslin was a natural to be hired by AT&T to develop its first foray into online services, AT&T WorldNet. I was working for Interchange at the time, a fledgling online service that had been started by Ziff-Davis and sold to AT&T. I resented the hell out of WorldNet because it got all the attention. It didn't really matter, of course, because AT&T didn't know what to do with either one of them, and by '97 Evslin and I had both moved on.

Next Tom and Mary Evslin founded ITXC, the first provider of wholesale VoIP services, a company that eventually became a major carrier of international voice calls. It was sold in 2004, and that's probably why most of the photos of Tom Evslin on his blog show him at the wheel of his boat.

It turns out, however, that (aside from the boat) Evslin and I still have a lot of interests in common, including murder mysteries.

His blog comments on Bill Gates's announcement of his separation from Microsoft, for example:

During the years I was at Microsoft, I learned a lot from Bill Gates about management, almost all of it positive. The company was incredibly externally focused. Politics are inevitable in any organization but Bill's leadership kept us focused enough to win most of the battles we fought. The enemy WASN'T us. Bill's move to the foundation is good news for the world. He would be a loss to Microsoft under any circumstances. I think the company will do better the swifter the transition. And there is plenty outside the company for the 50 year old Bill Gates to do. I look forward to seeing him make an enormous difference in the lives of those who need help the most.

And especially about net neutrality:

Please jump up and down and say "bullshit" loudly any time anyone suggests that Google or anyone else is getting a free ride on Internet pipes. Google pays for Internet access just like you and I do, only they buy a lot more so they pay a lot more. And we pay for the access we use to get to Google.

But the main problem with what the telcos want to do to the Internet is NOT that it might siphon some revenue from Google or even that it is doubledipping. The much more serious problem is that charging according to content or according to the source or destination of a particular packet will BREAK the Internet for both current application AND future applications and that is exactly what our friendly telcos would like to accomplish.

The Internet functions as well and cheaply as it does because the backbone networks know nothing about what is inside packets. These networks have the crucial but ultimately simple task of delivering most packets to where they're going at the best possible average transit time. As David Isenberg explains so well, this "stupid" network architecture means that the network is a suitable carrier for applications which weren't even dreams at the time the Internet was first designed.

The Internet the telcos would like us to live with here in the United States is "application aware" as well as "source aware". If you want to build a new application, you can wait in line for major Internet's owners (these same telcos) to decide to accommodate your packet type.

Reality check: why doesn't your landline phone do most of the things your cellphone does? It doesn't have to worry about either battery life or size? The reason is that it's attached to the traditional phone network on which innovation simply can't happen. Telcos would like to make the Internet a similar innovation-free and profit-safe zone.

Evslin is going to be reading from hackoff.com and offering more of his opinions in an event sponsored by Just Books at Arcadia Coffee, 28 Arcadia Road, Old Greenwich, CT, this coming Wednesday, June 28, at 7:30 PM. If you're in the neighborhood you'll be able to meet him, and I'll be envious of you. Oh well, maybe I'll catch him in his next career.

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