Monthly Archives: September 2008

When did the internet go commercial?

A friend asks, "when did the Internet go commercial"?  Here’s something of a timeline, incomplete, but footnoted as best I can.

1987: UUNET launches as a non-profit providing Usenet feeds
1989: Software Tool and Die in Boston, MA goes online as the first commercial Internet service provider.
1990: UUNET, now for profit, launches Alternet, an IP network that accepts commercial traffic.
1991: August, the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) connects CERFnet, PSInet, and Alternet
1991: MSEN goes online as one of the first commercial ISPs in Michigan. 
1993: ANS CO+RE joins CIX

The paper Internet Cost Structures and Interconnection Agreements goes into (too much) details about how the money flows between commerical networks; it is a viewpoint from 1995 of the Internet then.  But basically I’d put a date as August 1991 when you could buy an internet connection from one commercial provider and use it to send data to a customer on another commercial provider and not violate any acceptable use politics along the way.

hope this helps!


How to insulate your windows with bubble wrap

Bubble wrap!  Who knew.

Build It Solar has the super-easy instructions, which involve cutting the wrap to the size of the window, spraying a thin film of water on the window, and letting the bubble wrap stick.  Add a little glycerin perhaps if you have trouble removing it in the spring.

It’s apparently a common practice in the greenhouse industry.

And it’s more transparent and high tech than duct taping some foam insulation to the window.

usb powered seasonal affective disorder lamp, for your laptop

I don’t know if anyone makes this, but I think it would be helpful.  Rough specifications:

– usb powered; plugs into your laptop
– some kind of secure clip or clamp attaches to your laptop screen
– bright led lighting designed to deal with seasonal affective disorder

This product page has some plausible options from Gentron Telecom in Taiwan; I can’t find ordering or pricing, so these may be designs available for use but not in actual production.

How to get rid of Japanese Knotweed

We have a patch of land that should be doing something productive but instead is growing Japanese Knotweed.  I’d like to fix that.

The simple description of how to deal with it seems to be to smother the affected area (using tarps or old carpets) and to do container gardening on top of that ground cover.  (ref

It’s time to think about it now, because I know that come May, it’ll be growing with wild abandon.

revisit this talk in 30 days

from the Randy Pausch lecture on time management, which I looked at 100 days ago:

And do a time journal, and if that’s really too much effort, just count the number of hours you watch of television in the next week. That’s my gift to you.

The last thing is, once you’ve got your day-timer, make a note for 30 days from today – it’s okay if that one goes "ding" to remind you! – and revisit this talk in 30 days. It will be up on the web, courtesy of Gabe, and ask: "What have I changed?" If I haven’t changed anything, then we still had a pleasant hour together. If you have changed things, then you’ll probably have a lot more time to spend with the ones you love. And that’s important. Time is all we have. And you may find one day you have less than you think. Thank you.

Pumpkin spider, Araneus trifolium

From my inbox:

My name is Sarah and I’m 12. I live in Ann Arbor. Recently, my family found a spider
with a body about 3/4 an inch in diameter and with legs it was bigger
than a quarter. It is so huge! It is living in a big web between my
house and some bushes. The web is made up of circles and the spider is only there during evening and night. We think it hides in the bush the rest of the day.
    After we found it I did a lot of research and I am pretty sure that it is an Araneus trifolium (Pumpkin Spider, shamrock spider).
It has the rings around the legs and is the right size. It is in the
right time of year, has the right type of web, and has the right kind
of behavior.
    I don’t know whether it’s male or female. How do I figure out? Are
Araneus Trifolium poisonous? Are they common where we live? Can you
look at the pictures and figure out if I’m right and it is Araneus
trifolium? (they are attached)

and my response:

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for the pictures of your spider.  It looks like it is enjoying this time of year! 

Pumpkin spiders are very common this time of year, and they are found all over Michigan.  Spiders can be very hard to identify from photos, because there are so many species of them, but it seems that you have made a good identification.

The reference I’m looking at is

Shorthouse, David P. submitted. Taxonomic and natural history description of FAM: ARANEIDAE, Araneus trifolium (Hentz, 1847). In: The Nearctic Spider Database. David P. Shorthouse (editor). World Wide
Web electronic publication. Direct link: (Accessed:
9/28/2008 10:55:02 PM).

which describes both males and females of this species.  From that page it seems that females are more often seen later in the season, that they are larger than the males, and that their distinctive leg rings ("annulations") are more distinctive than the males.  So I’m guessing that it’s a female, but you
should try to measure its size to compare against that reference.  (One way to do that in photos is to put something of known size, like a coin, next to the spider when you photograph it.)

A second reference is

which is the Bug Guide, which is hosted by Iowa State University Entomology. They have lots of pictures, as well as an identification service.  Their photos match up with your photos so you’re again probably confirming that identification.

As to the question of danger from spider bites, the Michigan DNR has a page on insects and spiders:,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12204—,00.html

which talks about the two known spiders of medical importance in Michigan, the Northern Black Widow and the Brown Recluse.  Since it’s not one of those, you shouldn’t worry about it being dangerous.  In fact I searched google for the phrase

"pumpkin spider bites"

and got no hits.  You might find this search interesting too:

which shows that people look for pumpkin spiders this time of year!



(awaiting permission for use of the photos)