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:
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 — 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.
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
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 of Santa Cruz County are in orange
In honor of Cruzio’s 30th anniversary this year, we’ll be putting out some of our crazy old stuff.
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.
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.
Cruzio wants to protect your privacy. We are zealous about our own practices and we want to keep you informed of how other entities on the the internet are dealing with you.
We all know that data harvesting practices are widespread, but we can’t know all the details. When businesses are collecting data, they’re not subject to requirements for transparency. In fact, quite the opposite — methods of gathering and selling user data are considered trade secrets and are closely guarded. Private companies often “get away” with gathering more data than the government can.
(By the way, not all internet companies gather and sell your data. Cruzio does not.)
Despite the secrecy, public attention has recently encouraged reporters to dig in to the details. There’s so much to talk about that we’re separating it into several newsletters.
Here’s What We’ve Found, Part 1:
What, exactly, are online companies gathering from us?
A little background, to start. Most apps on your computer, phone, or other device have two purposes: one is the obvious one, the weather app that displays the weather, the social app that lets you see what your friends are doing.
The second purpose every app serves is much less obvious: to gather information incidental to the primary purpose, and sell it. You give the weather app your location. You give the social network your age, gender, and much more.
You might think, that’s not so valuable. What does any one app know? But the data doesn’t stay with that single company.
After gathering information, companies sell their caches to central data brokerages so that data from many different apps is gathered together in one place to form an ever-more-complete picture of you: where you hang out, what you spend, who you know, what you think. Data gatherers even brag that they can tell what stores you enter — and where you go inside the store.
What Are They Vacuuming Up?
It all starts with the gathering of information. Gizmodo has an excellent summary of what apps, browsers, and web pages gather from the moment you click on them. They gather inconsequential bits of information that a browser uses to display your web page properly into what’s called a “fingerprint” — an identifier. Your name might not be gathered, but no one else on the internet, or very few people, are in the same part of town as you, with the same size and version computer, running the same version of a browser. You’re not known necessarily by name, but a name is easily attached when other information is added.
You Can See Tons of Data Collected by Google and Facebook
The data gathered is often only tangentially related to what the app seems to be doing. Tech Crunch reports:
“A great example of that is Facebook’s Nearby Friends. The feature lets you share your position with your friends so — and here’s that shiny promise — you can more easily hang out with them. But do you know anyone who is actively using this feature? Yet millions of people started sharing their exact location with Facebook for a feature that’s now buried and mostly unused. Meanwhile Facebook is actively using your location to track your offline habits so it can make money targeting you with adverts.”
And did you know that Amazon keeps recordings of all your interactions with Alexa?
Can You Really Delete Information?
Many apps allow you to remove your information. But that often means they remove it from your sight, while keeping it in their data caches. And they may have already sold it to another company anyway. Even if data has been gathered or shared illicitly or illegally, the horse is out of the barn.
For example, Cambridge Analytica sold data in the 2016 election. Facebook had shared the data from tens of millions of users without their permission, but with the condition that it be deleted/returned afterward and used for limited purposes. But Cambridge Analytica never deleted the information. And they used it for their own, uncontracted, purposes, sold their findings to political campaigns, and there’s no way to walk that back — the company is gone but the personal profiles have been disseminated . Who else has data that’s left the barn?
And Then There’s the Data Collected by Hackers
You’ve certainly seen headlines about gigantic data thefts, where personal information is gathered by criminals who hack into the computers of large corporations, like Target, or banks, or even government bodies, like the Veterans Administration. We’ve written before about where your data goes after it’s been hacked. This information is less detailed than that gathered by apps and websites, but it’s much more devastatingly personal and can be used for dentity theft. It includes names, addresses, passwords, social security numbers, and more. You can check whether your information is out there by seeing if you have been “pwned.”
Do You Want to be Tracked?
Before we go further, let’s get down to a big question.
Gizmodo has published tools to help you block some of the tracking. But remember: most of the data is gathered by an app you’re using for a reason, and blocking data may hurt the app’s performance. Do you want an online vendor to forget your shopping cart contents next time you go to the site? Do you want your weather app to lose track of locations you check frequently?
You might want to be selective about what tracking you prevent. Many of us go to a “stop tracking me” form and hesitate, mouse hovering over the choice. Do we want to lose the functionality that goes with the data? In a way it’s not really giving us a reasonable choice: it’s either everything or nothing
And we often hear, “I don’t care. I have nothing to hide.” Interesting, isn’t it, that people are more willing to let a corporation have access to their movements and activities at levels they’d never let the government see.
At the least, we can know more about what is tracked and how it’s used.
Recently, a few phishing*, or scam email, schemes got through Cruzio’s spam filters and landed in customer email boxes.
We catch more than 90% of spam, but sometimes the scammers who run these schemes are clever and manage to fool our filters. It’s a constant arms race as barriers improve but spammers figure out how to bypass them.
We have some tips to help you recognize phishing when you see it, so you can have more confidence in tossing phonies away. We’ll use the recent email imitating Cruzio as an example. It was well crafted, but there were some “tells” we’d like to point out.
(By the way, if you think you know all the tricks and are good at spotting spammy schemes, go ahead and skip these tips and try this Google quiz. How’d you do?)
Check the “From” Address
Here’s a great clue to a phishing email. Click the “From” email address to see the full address written out. Usually it won’t be what you expect. In this case, the return address is someone at “wildblue.net,” not Cruzio.
Roll Your Mouse Over the Links
The best indication of all is to roll your mouse over the links in the email. This is where the sender wants you to go to enter your password or other information. Don’t click on the link. Just put your mouse over the link and wait until the destination is revealed. (If you do click, just back out. Unless you enter information, clicking a link is pretty harmless.)
You’d expect this link to point to an address at cruzio.com. But it’s not. It’s sending you to “jamaioaa.com”. That’s a pretty sure sign that this is fake.
Notice that the text appearing in the email looks like the right website address. That’s a spoof. You have to mouse over the link to see where it will really send you.
Sometimes the scammer will put the word “cruzio” into their link to try to fool you. For example they might name the link http://jamaioaa.com/cruzio/verify. But other parts of the address are just words. It’s the “.com” part which shows the server’s identity.
Read Carefully: Does It Look or Sound Odd?
The example above is one of the best fakes we’ve ever seen. Still, there are several obvious problems, if you look closely:
The Cruzio logo is squished. We don’t display our logo with an oval cat, it’s a circle. In fact, the whole header, which has been copied off the internet, is compressed and looks wrong side by side with our real logo.
We don’t start emails with “Attention customer:”. If you’ve ever received email from us — and as a customer you certainly have — you know we are friendlier than that. The whole letter has a tone unlike our other communications.
This sentence is so poorly written, it doesn’t seem written by an English speaker. “Please verify your account with your details click link below” — what? We sometimes make typos or phrase something a bit awkwardly, but this sentence is grammatically wrong in several ways.
Often phishing email will contain easily-spotted typographical errors. In this case there’s an apostrophe in front of “Thank You”. Plus, the email is signed “Cruzio Customer Service” rather than “The folks at Cruzio.” Missing that friendliness again.
Overall, if you take the time to read carefully, this email doesn’t look or sound like us.
If you ever have doubts about an email sent to you by Cruzio or any other company, contact the company directly and ask what’s up. And if you fear you’ve fallen for a scheme, change the password you think you’ve compromised and contact the company and/or Cruzio. We’re always glad to help you.
*”Phishing” is the term email that tries to get users to click on fake links and enter their passwords and other personal information into fake websites. The scammers imitate the look and feel of real companies, sometimes very convincingly. Even professionals can fall for these schemes — a campaign aide who fell for a phishing scheme is what gave Russian operatives access to Hillary Clinton’s campaign emails.
Santa Cruz can be horrifying. In the movies, that is.
We know this from Hitchcock’s The Birds (based on a real event — sooty shearwaters getting disoriented over Santa Cruz!) and from (this is a great clip) Lost Boys and, much more recently, from Jordan Peele’s new thriller, Us — which looks terrifying.
Us even recruited local extras on Facebook. Oops, missed that call!
And, do you simply dismiss Transformer movies out of hand, because you saw a couple of them and they were overly cheesed up?
Then you would have missed the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk’s starring role in the latest Transformers flick, Bumblebee.
Our newsletter squad doesn’t always get to the latest films but we’re assured by the much more in-the-know folks in Marketing and Business Development that Bumblebee is actually a much better movie than you’d expect. Must be Santa Cruz and the Bay Area that made the difference.
And there’s a third popular movie recently filmed in Santa Cruz — this one on Netflix — Bird Box. Another entry in super-scary cinema, this was partly filmed in Henry Cowell Park where the fog and the huge redwoods provided lots of moody atmosphere.
Maybe it’s our fog.
Want to see a big list of movies filmed locally? Someone put together a list on LocalWiki:
Before there were hipsters in Santa Cruz, there were (and are) hippies. When we introduced a brand new technology in 1999 — replacing good ol’ dialup with the new service called DSL — we had to find a way to explain it.
Here’s a script for an early DSL ad, written by the many-talented Mark Hanford, one of a handful of Cruzio employees at that time, who wrote and performed a lot of our ads in that era. He’s now our Chief Systems Engineer, but he was a pretty hilarious copywriter. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have audio, just the script:
Cruzio ‘LSD/DSL’ 60-second spot for KPIG.
(SP = Support Person)
(SD = Stoner Dude)
(SFX of phone ringing, and someone picking up)
SP: Hello, Cruzio tech support.
SD: Yeah.. ummm… I heard that you were umm… selling drugs?
SD: Yeah, I heard you had acid!
SP: Uhh.. no…
SD: No really, a friend told me about the LSD you’re offering.
SP: LS… Oh, you mean DSL! It’s always on Internet access at several times the speed of 56k.
SD: Uh… did you say speed?!? I could use some of that!
SP: No, I’m not talking about drugs, I’m talking about a high speed connection!
SD: Yeah, that’s what I need… a connection!
SP: Let me explain… Cruzio is Santa Cruz county’s oldest and largest local Internet Service provider. We offer web hosting, e-commerce, dial-up access, and new always-on, high-speed DSL connections at competitive rates. We also have some of the friendliest (and most patient) tech support and sales people around.
SD: Look, I don’t think you get what I need. Umm… Let me talk to Dave…
Tagline: Cruzio is offering a two hundred dollar cash rebate to anyone who signs up for a year of DSL service, now through May 7th. Some restrictions apply. Please visit www.cruzio.com or call 459-6301 for details.
Ad 2: Sock Monkeys
And here’s another Mark Hanford ad, circa 2000, recorded with his partner, Barbara Diamond for our web design service and classes. Have a listen!
Ad 3: Three Little Pigs
Cruzio co-founder Peggy Dolgenos wrote ads, too. Here’s a script from a KPIG ad in 2002. Peggy always wanted to get the radio stations to use lots of sound effects in the ads:
> Sound of fiddle music playing a country tune.
> Sound of pigs squealing happily.
> Pig 2: It sure is snug here in your house of bricks, brother pig!
> Pig 3: (very stupid voice) Yeah, thanks for sharing this nice house after my straw house got blown away.
> Pig 1: (slowly and grandly) I take care of you, brother pigs.
> Pig 2: Now that the house is done, what else do we need?
> Pig 3: Big screen color TV!
> Pig 2: Waffle iron!
> Pig 1: No! What we need is a good Internet connection.
> Pig 2: Brother Pig, you are always so smart.
> Pig 3: I know where to get an Internet connection made of straw!
> Pig 2: We can get one made of twigs!
> Pig 1: No straw, no twigs. For a very reasonable price we can get a connection with an excellent local company called Cruzio. It’s easy to use and very reliable. Cruzio has been around since 1989. They provide excellent service.
> Pig 3: (questioning) Cruzio????
> Pig 2: (enthusiastic) Cruzio!
> Pig 1: I’m ordering Cruzio service today.
> Pig 3: I stuck a bean up my nose, Brother Pig can you help me get it out?
Richard Kiel played the alien in the above episode of Twilight Zone and Jaws in James Bond films
We all know what happened in 2015-2016.
Our personal information — our “profiles” — were bought and sold, not just for advertising, but for political gain. Like the episode in The Twilight Zone pictured above, something we think of as a service for our benefit (social media) turned out to have ulterior motives behind it (data collection and sale).
What kind of manipulation will the internet bring in 2019, with elections coming? How will consumers be consumed?
To be sure, there’s a big baby of good in the bathwater of the internet. We may decide some exchanges are worth the cost. Free service for exposure to ads is an example. We’ve been making that trade for decades. More concerning is the new and hidden level of advertiser access, which isn’t just one way (sending ads to our device) but two-way (sending ads and collecting data). Because that’s not a trade we’re making consciously, it doesn’t feel right.
The extent of quiet intrusion has been surprising, and mentioned in various news reports. Now that we know, what do we do?
Humans are great at fooling ourselves, so we have to watch out for “I’m not affected by propaganda, not me!” thinking. We are affected by propaganda. We are gullible, and need to guard against appeals to our own prejudices.
More we all can do toward a more accurate internet:
Use your dollars. If the market shows that people value privacy, companies will follow suit.
Don’t click on links to websites you’ve never heard of. CNN, NPR, or the Wall Street Journal are going to take responsibility for their reporting. Thousands of other “news” websites exist just to draw clicks. Don’t get lured in.
Avoid forwarding lurid, extreme news. Whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on, it’s giddy to imagine that the other side is committing crimes so foul they’ll be jailed for life. But that rarely happens. Reputable reporters (see above) will discover and describe crimes more accurately than clickbait creators.
If a friend or relative sends out irresponsible headlines, consider having a gentle word. Funny memes are one thing, stories that pretend to be news are a step beyond.
You vote with your mouse. You define yourself and your community — even, in a way, humans as a species! — with your clicks. If you’d like to see better quality stories, don’t click on the shallow ones.
Support the good guys on the internet. Donate to Wikipedia. Subscribe to legitimate online newspapers and magazine.
Use the controls available to you: Check your browser’s privacy settings. Use Facebook’s and Google’s settings.
Support legislation like the Honest Ads Act. Fight back when internet companies protest that their usage policies are easy, obvious, or even a choice (what if you *don’t* agree with Facebook’s privacy agreement? It’s not negotiable, and the service has no real competitors.)
The internet’s been hit with increasingly tricky “phishing” scams — emails where a criminal tries to trick you with phony information.
What Do Phishers Do?
They might spoof your bank, or a company you’re likely to have an account with like Amazon or Facebook. Sometimes they spoof your ISP. Sometimes, as in the “sextortion” described above, they pretend they can watch you at your computer.
The internet — and email in particular — were originally designed with a small number of trusted users in mind. Programming to block nefarious emails has limited success, as hackers work hard to get past filters. So while email providers block most fakes, some always manage to get through.
How is Cruzio addressing the problem?
We asked our ever-resourceful and remarkably calm Customer Service manager, Justin Von Besser, about the best approach for a responsible ISP.
Says Justin: “We’ve developed procedures to kill these attacks as quickly as possible. First we report the fraud to the FBI. Next, we contact the compromised server— the owners usually know nothing about it, they just have an infected computer — and we tell them what’s happening so they can take their server down and scrub the virus. Our anti-spam software blocks most bogus messages and we are constantly working with our software vendor to make that process more effective. And we’ve been adding a network status to voice mail when an attack seems widespread, so people know what’s going on.”
What can you do to protect yourself? Here’s a summary from Boston University with great advice. We agree with them, except that instead of informing Boston University, you are welcome to tell Cruzio.
Announcements are commonplace now: hackers have stolen private information from companies like LinkedIn, Target, KickStarter, and Adobe. It’s numbing, to be honest. And that nagging worry: what really happens when our information is hacked?
Enough Information to Scare You, and a Warning About Porn
Lately, that personal information has been used for “sextortion” schemes. If your data’s been stolen, the criminal puts enough of it — maybe a stolen password you’ll instantly recognize — into an email subject line.
That gets your attention and you read the email, where the writer warns they’ve been watching you, and recording you looking at porn. They then demand a payment in bitcoin.
What to do?
First, know that the part about recording you is almost certainly bogus. The writer has simply bought your password off a hacker’s website along with many others. These emails go to everyone, hoping to find some who are embarrassed enough to pay.So:
Don’t respond. Don’t pay up.
If you’re using that password, change it immediately.
Consider using password protection programs and updating your anti-virus software.
In fact, this is a good time to check which of your accounts may have been compromised. It isn’t “have you been affected” any more, it’s “how often”.
Have You Been Pwned?
We get so many notices, it’s easy to put them to the side — but luckily you can get a big picture from haveibeenpwned.com. (“Pwned” means a hacker has gotten your account information.) You’ll doubtless find it interesting — if not shocking — to see a list of the times your information’s been stolen.For more information about sextortion and other dangers, we recommend the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Their website covers the topic of protecting privacy in great detail. Cruzio works with the EFF on Net Neutrality and other issues — they are a great non-profit, pro-consumer group.