Author Archives: Peggy Dolgenos

Remember the Cruzio Baby?

Cruzio's family in 1997

1997: Cruzio kept the family in tie-dye in the early years

Why are Those Kids on the Counter?

When Chris and Peggy started up Cruzio as a real business, there was an unexpected benefit: they got to bring their babies to work every day.

From infancy, the kids were extremely popular with staff and customers. People cooed and smiled at them, and even sometimes held them while a parent typed on a keyboard or got files from a drawer.

These babies did not tolerate playpens — when placed in a playpen, they’d simply stand up, hold the side, cry, and try to escape. Nothing makes a parent as nervous as noticing a playpen about to tip over.

Mom in the Playpen

So Cruzio gave away the company playpen and set up a fence around Peggy’s desk, essentially making a giant playpen with desk, chair, mom, and baby inside. Peggy often answered tech support email and calls in the makeshift playpen,  baby on her lap. Or both would work on the floor: baby finding something acceptable to chew on, Mom getting account paperwork in order.

Cruzio staff at the time — pioneers of the internet — John, Deana, and Judy, would sometimes take the baby out to local coffee shops to give the exhausted parents a chance to get a little work done. At the coffee shops more oohing and ahhing would occur. The Cruzio kids were known throughout the neighborhood before they could even walk.

The babies were sort of Cruzio’s mascots — along with the Cruzio Kitty, of course. As they grew up, all three kids were often at the office. Even during their surly teen years, the kids took advantage of the extremely fast internet Cruzio always has at our headquarters and often hung out, developing a fondness for obscure anime and child-friendly internet games like Neopets and Club Penguin.

Those Funny Things Kids Say

And in recognition of their place in the Cruzio business, at the bottom of every newsletter — despite their eye rolls — we always put quotes from the Cruzio kids. They are all grown now — the oldest is 27! — so they don’t say such silly things any more. But we kept lots of notes and we post quotes from the early years of Cruzio and the family. You’ll see an example at the bottom of this newsletter (all past newsletters are in our archive).

Running your own business is hard. Last week we described the awful racket of modems and crying babies in the little house where the family lived with multiple modems before Cruzio moved to a real office at 903 Pacific Avenue. Stage two was bringing the babies to the downtown office on the third floor. And stage three saw Cruzio hiring some wonderful staff members (looking at you, Mark!) who allowed Peggy and Chris to take a vacation after about 10 years without one.

(By the way, you can’t see her, but the third kid is in the picture: another baby was on the way.)

Saving the Planet

This week there are climate actions all over the world,  including locally.

Folks at Cruzio live and work locally — in a coastal area. Our office is near a river which flooded its banks just two years ago. We’ve watched fires take down infrastructure around our mountain facilities, and of course the fire disaster news from other parts of California serves as a warning to people in Santa Cruz County. It could happen here, too.

Cruzio has always been mindful of the environment. The internet is a way to travel by moving data, not cars.

Green Building

When Cruzio refurbished our building with our partners at Ecology Action, we followed strict environmental guidelines and achieved LEED Gold certification. We had to pay attention at every stage of construction: we reused everything we could from the previous incarnation of the building as a newspaper publishing plant. We salvaged old lumber and architectural details. When we couldn’t reuse, we put in items made from recycled materials. Or failing that, items made from natural materials like sea grass or flax seed oil. We put in openable windows so that air could naturally flow, and floor-to-ceiling interior windows so light could flow, too. The result? A work environment that’s both pleasant to look at and easy to breathe in.

Green Business

We set a goal when we opened our coworking space and started building our fiber network: 3,000 cars off the road. With fast internet, people can work from home. With great internet and a shared facility, local people — including Cruzio employees — can cowork in a professional environment without going over the hill or spending their workday under low ceilings and inefficient lights. That’s good for our lives — less stressful, less time spent commuting — and better for the planet.

And we’ve always avoided waste by sending electronic, not paper, bills. It took a while for once-ubiquitous old windowed envelopes and fax machines to go out of fashion, but many offices, like ours, use the internet to go nearly paperless.

Participating in Bigger Efforts

But let’s face it, there is much, much more that we need to do.

We use electricity. How is that generated? We were early supporters of Monterey Bay Community Power, in hopes that would spur innovation and increased use of renewable energy.

Our employees and customers often drive to downtown Santa Cruz. How can we further reduce hours on the road? We’re supporting local efforts to create more workforce housing close to businesses like ours.

And some issues are so large we barely have a voice. But we encourage everyone to stay aware and to advocate for the right thing when given the opportunity.

All this is a lead-up to the events that are happening this week. Check out the speech by teen environmentalist Greta Thunberg and consider participating in local and national actions.

Cruzio Met the Aggressive Squirrel

Emily the squirrel in a box

Emily, just prior to her notorious escape

Cruzio has a small office which happens to be next door to the grapefruit tree where a local squirrel became famous.

Emily’s Story, in a Nutshell

The squirrel was abandoned as a kitten, then raised by hand by a kindly human who named her Emily. But this July, Emily’s onset of maternity (which honestly can be overwhelming) combined with her lack of fear of humans and possibly some innate character flaw caused her to go psycho on passersby.

After several unnervingly hostile staredowns and biting incidents, people alerted the fire department to the squirrel.

The fire fighters and a brave animal rescuer removed Emily and her three small babies from the grapefruit tree. In a sad echo of her own early orphanhood, Emily then abandoned her kittens as she chewed through a plastic box and fled. It’s reported that she may have been seen, post-escape, in Live Oak. (But how can people tell it’s her, really?)

This is all documented in local and national news stories. Here’s a great video of the incident.

Cruzio’s Experience with Emily

Cruzio, being nearby, has additional exclusive information and footage of this squirrel prior to her arrest and escape.

We had noticed an odd squirrel in the maple tree outside our office, just about 30 feet from the site of her eventual capture.

In early spring, we saw the squirrel chewing on something strange. Not a nut. Not a scrap of food. On closer examination, it turned out to be a cigarette lighter.

Emily, the video

Emily, spotted near her grapefruit tree a few months before the famous incident

Okay, that’s weird. Another day, we went outside and noticed our 3-foot-high avocado plant had been ripped out of its planter. The foliage had been torn off and thrown several feet away and the pit from which it rooted was chittered into hundreds of pieces strewn around our porch — as if a tiny wood chipper had gone at it.

At first we thought it was a human vandal but who would chip an avocado pit into literally hundreds of small pieces? Not a human and not even a normal squirrel.

A squirrel who’d gone bananas, that’s who.

Later, when the squirrel hostilely stared down passersby and even bit several people, the word was that she was just protecting her babies. That may be so. But in our experience, she was already pretty nutty.

Takeaways:

  • Squirrels are wild animals. Changing their ways can be hazardous.
  • Also, don’t feed squirrels. One of the attacks happened when a young man tried to feed Emily a potato chip.
  • Don’t leave your young avocado plants outside…

Squirrels Were Once Beloved Pets

Colonial girl with squirrel

To be fair to squirrels, humans often have a hand in their weird behavior. Let’s go over some of their history in the USA.

Colonial Squirrels: Beloved Pets

Colonial Americans lived among many wild animals and tamed both deer and squirrels for pets. Even Ben Franklin, living in England just prior to the Revolutionary War, felt he could best show his gratitude to his host family by having his wife ship some American grey squirrels to them as pets. The squirrels were a hit. One of them was particularly beloved, and when it was killed by a dog in 1772 Franklin wrote a sad ode in its honor.

“…Daily wert thou fed with the choicest Viands
By the fair Hand
Of an indulgent Mistress.
But, discontented, thou wouldst have more freedom.
Too soon, alas! didst thou obtain it…”

Tame squirrel enthusiasm waned, however, as sharp claws and teeth, plus a tendency to steal food and bury it all over the house, revealed squirrels as less than desirable pets.

And don’t get any ideas. Today, it’s illegal to have a squirrel as a pet in the State of California.

Squirrels and Technology: a Bad Combination

Cruzio has another objection to squirrels: they like to chew on fiberoptic cables. Their teeth grow rapidly and they must chew to keep the teeth short and sharp. As bad as landslides and storms are for telecommunications infrastructure, squirrels give those trials a run for their money. Squirrels have gnawed outage-causing cuts into fiber cables in Santa Cruz several times in the last decade. It’s one reason that Cruzio has to have doubly- and triply-redundant connections.

(Other animals, like rabbits and rats, also chew. Why do communications companies focus on squirrels? Because they climb utility poles, so cables hung on poles are susceptible. That’s one reason Cruzio likes to build underground when we can!)

Remember Noisy Modems? Imagine a House Full of ‘Em

Chris and baby Jake

Chris and Jake in 1993, when modems filled the family garage.

More Memories from our 30-year History

In the late 1980s and 1990s, when Cruzio’s founders started offering dial-up connections, people connected to us over phone lines.

It seems primitive today, and jury-rigged. It was! We were using the tools available to us — and luckily the breakup of Ma Bell had freed people to use the infrastructure as we pleased. Fax machines, voice mail, and the internet resulted.

(Telecom monopolies have been reassembling in the 2000s, like some sort of Death Star, but that’s another topic…)

Sharing a phone line with the internet was kind of a drag, because when you connected to the internet you couldn’t make a phone call on the same line. And people used to use their landline telephones a lot more, since many didn’t have the internet and nobody had smart phones.

Lots of problems ensued, mostly intergenerational: older people got furious because the phone was busy for hours and hours while a kid in the house was playing a multiuser game on the computer. Even then, the internet was a huge time suck.

What if You Were the ISP?

In the Cruzio family household, founders Chris and Peggy had it worse than most because their house was the site of several modem servers which made loud modem noises all day and night. Every time a customer connected to Cruzio, the servers would screech and crackle. The equipment was in the attached garage but could be heard throughout most of their small house.

Boing, boing, boing. Crrrrrrr. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Add to this the alarms Chris set to go off whenever equipment faltered. Loud shrieks rang through the little house, waking everyone in the family as Chris valiantly rushed to repair whatever had gone wrong.

Cruzio’s founders knew from the start that the internet is a 24/7 responsibility 365 days a year. People rely on it. And when you host it in your house, you’re going to notice it. All night long.

Things got even worse after the Cruzio babies were born. Any problem with the internet service was immediately followed by a cascade of sound effects: the alarm shrieking, Mom and Dad yelling expletives, babies wailing.

That’s how you ran a startup ISP in 1992.

It’s Different Now

Luckily, Cruzio — maybe because of the valiant efforts — attracted enough customers to become a real business. When Cruzio moved to a downtown office building in 1994, great joy, and much more sleep, ensued.

And our world in 2019 — with its wifi and blue tooth, phones that play movies and fit in our pockets — looks very different now. The babies are grown up. But Cruzio still answers alarms any time there’s a problem with our internet service, any time of day or night.

Mid-County Fiber Opposed by Big Telecom

map of EASC project
Many of our local government administrators and elected officials have expressed support from Cruzio’s big goal: to make sure all of Santa Cruz County has world class internet at a reasonable price.
Cruzio is trying to push that goal forward. Here’s an open letter to our representatives with the latest news. Please read it and share!
Dear Representative,
Thank you again for supporting Equal Access Santa Cruz, Cruzio’s latest effort to get low cost, fast internet to the under-served parts of your constituency.
As you know, we’re dealing with a scattershot situation where good internet is concerned. Some parts of your district have high speed broadband, others don’t.
The difference is usually that the poorly served areas are rural or low income or both.
Both issues — sparse population and economics — are serious problems and Cruzio is addressing them in a couple of ways:
  1. We’ve created a high-speed fixed wireless network that can extend to remote areas, and we’ve worked with communities and government entities to create economically viable ways to deliver service. However, companies cannot survive on a small, widely dispersed customer base. Cruzio’s competitiveness in more urban areas allows us to survive.
  2. As Cruzio expands our fiber network, we‘ve developed an expertise in serving low income communities, including workforce housing and mobile home parks. Equal Access Santa Cruz is just such a project. We’ve identified underserved urban areas and proposed a remedy.
It comes back to our belief that everyone deserves good internet. Everyone got access to electricity and telephone service when those utilities were established, but the telecommunications industry has been mostly deregulated. Now large national companies are merely picking off the more profitable neighborhoods while harder to reach, lower-income areas suffer.
We need to change that situation. As you know, Cruzio applied for a grant to serve several mobile home parks — and hundreds of low income residents — to address it. We appreciate that you have expressed support for our efforts.
Recently, we were informed that AT&T, Comcast, and Charter are fighting our grant bid based on a technical difference between areas shown on California’s Broadband Map as unserved and what they say the grant guidelines require. This technicality may well deprive hundreds of people from their ability to live like modern people in a modern economy.
If your constituents are deprived reasonably priced, competitive access to good internet, their lives and the economic health of our region will suffer.
This illustrates the damage that highly litigious, lobbyist-heavy telecommunications companies do when they control both the writing and the enforcement of California programs.
Cruzio and our customers, like everyone else in California, pays communications taxes to support rural service. This money goes almost exclusively to AT&T. AT&T, in turn, is taking the money while abandoning the services that reach rural residents. In other words, while being paid to serve rural residents, AT&T is removing the only reasonable service they have.
Let’s disrupt this situation. Let’s not get knocked out by the first technicality. Cruzio will build infrastructure to areas that aren’t currently well served, and we’ll maintain a competitive environment that makes sure local residents get high speeds, low cost, and modern upgrades as they are necessary.
Thanks for your support!

Women with Large Bra Sizes Spend More Money, and Other Strange Correlations

illustration of a thinking woman

 

What the Internet Is Doing with Your Data, Part II

As we mentioned last month. information about all of us is being collected and resold constantly by some of the largest corporations in the world. Our preferences, likes, and interests are being logged and examined for statistical correlations.

This isn’t entirely new. In the past, some patterns were predictable, too. If you lived in Chicago, you probably shopped mostly at stores in Chicago. If you bought hamburger meat, you might go to the ketchup aisle next. But now we have much more sophisticated tracking.

(By the way, not all internet companies gather and sell your data. Cruzio does not.)

New Tools are More Powerful Than Ever

Powerful data-crunching computers and artificial intelligence (AI) make it possible to store and analyze a lot more data and to make a lot more connections over a broad swath of the population. Social media and phone apps supply these powerhouses with the data they need. (What data do they collect? See last month’s newsletter.)

Market research companies use something called Predictive Analytics. One firm explains:

“Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. The goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened to providing a best assessment of what will happen in the future.” 

They go on:

“An analyst performs a regression analysis to spot strength of correlations between specific customer variables with the purchase of a particular product; they can then use the “regression coefficients” (i.e. the degree to which each variable affects the purchase behavior) and create a score for likelihood of future purchases.”

In other words, if we know what you did before, we can make a good guess at what you’ll do next.

Can Predictive Analysis be a Good Thing?

We’ve mentioned before that there’s a positive aspect to having your data analyzed and your behavior predicted. Companies can basically lay a smooth path before you, so that you are as comfortable in the vast online world as you are among friends.

But there are obvious drawbacks, too: giving people more and more of what they seem to like exaggerates the differences among us, putting us into silos of our own personalities. If you are elderly, you won’t see ads for baby food. Young people won’t get ads for arthritis. Politically, siloing has the effect of polarizing us as each person sees only what they already believe.

Some examples of predictive analytics are pretty impressive. For example, a Target customer was shown ads for products of interest to pregnant women before she knew she was pregnant. That’s amazing. The store was trying to be helpful, but that level of help might be unwanted, or even dangerous.

Some Funny Correlations

Other “insights” are bizarre. Scientific American captured a number of them. A few:

Predictive analysis is often wrong. Even at Cruzio, we’ve experienced examples: One of our programmers has been mis-identified as a dentist and can’t escape the flood of ads for dental seminars. Another, who’s white, has been categorized as African-American. These make us chuckle; we seem to be hidden in plain sight, somehow winning the game.

But as data collection and analysis matures, it’s likely mistakes will diminish and more and more will be known about all of us. The small bargains that we accept every day — I’m alright letting my weather app know my location, I’m alright letting Facebook look at my email contact list — add up as data-mining companies purchase information from the vast number of apps, merge the data, package it and sell it. So our “identities” will follow us everywhere.

Back in the Day, the Browser was Netscape

Cruzio was one of the first companies in the country to offer internet to private citizens. We used that early internet for a variety of things which would look ridiculously old-fashioned now, but back then were cutting edge. In 1993 Cruzio had only a few hundred subscribers — it was a pretty obscure hobby for a small group of (rather nerdy) people.

But that would soon change.

The internet wasn’t people-friendly until web browsers provided easier access. Mosaic, an early graphical browser invented at the University of Illinois, began to catch on in 1992. It was so popular that one of its student authors, Marc Andreesen, founded Netscape after he graduated. Netscape built on the Mosaic model, but was sold commercially, had private investment, and quickly outsped its predecessor. And many people local to Santa Cruz helped build it and use it.

Look how boring Mosaic’s content was in 1993. That was about to change:

Early Mosaic Page

Mosaic, pre-Netscape boom

Why did we all take to Netscape?

Removing the scientific notations and jargon from tools helped make the internet popular.

In fact it’s gotten easier and easier over the decades since. Remember having to type http://www in front of everything? WWW stood for world wide web. We typed it every time. But where else were you going with your web browser?

Cruzio loved the streamlining. It was the whole reason, really, for Cruzio’s existence. Founders Chris Neklason and Peggy Dolgenos were computer engineers at SCO, a local Unix software company. Cruzio was their side gig. Their vision was to make this powerful thing, the internet, accessible to regular people. And better tools like Netscape made the internet easier to provide.

As the better web browser got popular, more people were able to find web pages, so more web pages were created. That meant there was more for the browser to find, so the browser became more useful. It was an upward spiral.

When Netscape was released, Cruzio’s customer base started growing exponentially — doubling every few months. What had been a smallish community of local tech employees from HP or Borland, who wanted home email as well, grew to include many more people.

Of course, lots of kids pushed their parents to Cruzio’s doors. Some of the kids were under ten years old! And many went on to work in the tech industry. Probably their children, in turn, show them how to use phone apps today.

Netscape in 1996

Netscape in 1996 — getting more interesting

Santa Cruz was on it

Cruzio got the internet to people’s homes and offices. But a lot of people in Santa Cruz were working on the technology that was feeding our growth.

More local connections: SCO, where Cruzio’s founders worked, was the first company to include a graphical web browser in its operating system. Lloyd Tabb, a talented engineer/entrepreneur who’s started several businesses in Santa Cruz, was an early employees at Netscape. And Netscape tapped UCSC for talent: Michael Lopp was an early manager after graduating from UCSC. James Clark was a former UCSC teacher.

What happened to Netscape?

As Michael Lopp writes on his LinkedIn page, “Microsoft ate us.”

We built it. We can fix it.

Sometimes, when the state of the internet looks grim (spam, privacy issues, fake news) we look back at that giddy era, and remember how much Santa Cruz contributed to the rise of the internet. And we think, well, there’s still Santa Cruz. Maybe we’ll help solve the problems.

Cruzio Proposes Mid-County Fiber Internet Construction

Everyone in our community should have equal access to high-speed, affordable internet. This has been Cruzio’s goal throughout our history, and it’s why we’ve been constructing our own fiber network, Santa Cruz Fiber.

 

Following our success building in downtown Santa Cruz, there is potential for a new project in mid-County. We’re calling it Equal Access Santa Cruz. Financing for the project would come from a state grant,  for which Cruzio recently applied.

 

This project fits the grant’s purpose to a T; improving internet access in areas which aren’t well served. We have support from Congressman Jimmy Panetta; State Assembly Member Mark Stone; County Supervisors Zach Friend and John Leopold (in whose districts the project lies); the County Office of Education; and many others.

 

Here’s a description of the project:

 

Equal Access Santa Cruz

map of EASC project

Working people in Santa Cruz are sometimes situated in islands where housing is more affordable but internet is not.

Our county in general is considered prosperous, but there is a lack of internet access in working class neighborhoods that’s known to many of us and indicated on recent availability maps from the CPUC. The map is a good start because it means that CASF funds are available from the State of California to help finance improvements to internet connectivity in these areas. Specifically, we are looking at several mobile home parks in the Aptos/Capitola area.

Cruzio proposes to apply for the CASF grants to serve their residents with low-cost, state-of-the-art speeds of fiber internet: gigabit-per-second internet for about $50 per month, lower for income-qualified households. That rivals the best internet offered in the USA.

The project would make use of the Sunesys fiber installed with state funds in 2014. It involves expanding Cruzio’s existing fiberoptic network into these mobile home parks with underground construction. The areas we’re proposing to connect are marked in red in the map above.

About Santa Cruz Fiber

Cruzio’s Santa Cruz Fiber networks are robust and long-lasting — fiber optic cables can be used to provide not only what’s considered high speed internet today but can be used with more advanced technologies to provide hundreds or even thousands of times as much bandwidth in the future.

Cruzio has already built a similar mobile home park network in downtown Santa Cruz. It’s a great success: El Rio is the best-connected mobile home park in the country, and our story has attracted nationwide attention. We think proceeding further with the same type of project into different parts of the county will kickstart further expansions into other unserved neighborhoods.

Who’s Really Underserved?

A map of other “underserved” areas is below. These maps are notoriously inaccurate, and one of our challenges is to find out what areas of the county are actually in most need of internet — and then to do our best to extend great internet to those areas. Check the map: is your neighborhood represented accurately?

Now that we are experienced fiber network builders, the only thing slowing us down is funding. So the possibility of a grant would go a long way to getting reliable, low cost gigabit internet to all of Santa Cruz County, which is always our goal.

Your Voice Counts

What really helped us get our previous projects going — whether all-fiber or fiber-backed — was enthusiasm from neighbors. We asked for “fiber champions” to come in and talk to us about their neighborhoods and they definitely contributed to our decisions. We know there are other parts of our city and county that want us to build — to provide competition, which lowers prices and improves service. We’re eager to get it done.

Your voices will help if we get to the next stage of the grant application. If you need better internet, please let us — and your elected officials — know where you are!

underserved areas in Santa Cruz

“Underserved” areas of Santa Cruz County are in orange

Back in the Day: the Game was Rogue

In honor of Cruzio’s 30th anniversary this year, we’ll be putting out some of our crazy old stuff.

view of rogue game

We’re being attacked by an orc

Our obsession was Rogue. Everyone played it when they should have been working. The graphics were all keyboard characters, like letters of the alphabet or symbols like # and @.

Why were we playing with such rudimentary graphics? Because that’s all we had. That’s right, this was before people had access to graphical computers, especially at work where we were using something called “dumb terminals.” In the early 1980s most people didn’t even have a mouse on their computer! Rogue was keyboard-driven. You didn’t even need to use the arrow keys: H,J,K, and L moved your player around the maze.

macintosh 1984 ad

But computer graphics made big strides, killing the old character-based games

We didn’t have real graphics till Steve Jobs and Apple came out with the first mass-marketed graphical computers in 1983 (the Lisa) and 1984 (the Macintosh. Remember the 1984 superbowl ad? It’s worth a look, even now).

But when we played with ASCII, the game was Rogue. The game was maddening and addictive. It put you on a treasure hunt and attacked your vulnerable little self-character with bats, snakes, kestrels (kestrels? yes, kestrels) and all manner of imaginary creatures. A bat looked like this: B. A snake looked like this: S. Treasure looked like this: $

And you, little you — you were an at sign, @, constantly running, dodging, picking up $ whenever you could.

Cruzio’s founders worked in a software company where we and fellow engineers often worked all night and all weekend. We took brain-vacations at our desks by playing rogue. Everyone in the office played it.

Rogue was hard, and after getting through tunnels and mazes and evading weird creatures you got attached to your simple virtual @ self. Yelps and cries were heard in the office when the end finally came to a game. Then, back to work.

Rogue was created by Michael C. Toy and Kenneth C.R.C. Arnold in 1983. By the way, the aptly named Toy is a Santa Cruz resident so it’s one of those great Santa Cruz contributions to the world of tech.

Want to play? You can play Rogue on a simulator here. Try it!