Friday, May 28, 2004


Quote of the day

"It's extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government."
John Feehery, spokesman for Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, quoted in the Washington Post.

Thanks for the link, Larry.


SIP was a good idea once . . .

BCR Publisher Fred Knight bemoans:
a phrase heretofore considered by many to be an oxymoron: Proprietary SIP. It's clear that the odds of any single SIP implementation becoming dominant is, at best, years away. Instead, the IP-PBX vendors are adapting SIP to whatever best suits their existing systems and their perceptions of what customers want.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), a good idea once, has become so complex in its bid to be the high-end, full-featured, do-everything Voice over IP protocol of the future that the only customers for SIP are communications systems specialists, who, in turn, sell to carriers and larger enterprises. Despite heroic interoperability efforts by SIP's early enthusiasts, to a communications specialist, interoperability spells commoditization and commoditization means bye-bye fat profit margins. The damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't solution, an expanded customer base, would take at least one link out of the current value chain.

SIP couldn't support an expanded customer base anyway. It is too complex to appeal strongly to the next tier, which consists of ISPs looking for added revenue sources and enterprises looking to get off the specialized system treadmill.

So here's one scenario: The only channel for SIP would be proprietary enterprise and carrier softswitches, plus special apps like call centers. The vendors would be motivated to "understand" these customers (and their own profit margins) and provide closed, proprietary, turn-key systems. The new tier of potential customers -- who, by definition, see voice as yet-another-Internet-app -- would find that SIP does not meet their needs and look elsewhere.

In fact, the new customers -- the ones who see voice as yet another app -- have indeed been looking elsewhere. Witness Skype, Asterisk, Cisco's Skinny and a few other lightweight, non-SIP initiatives. The new VoIP customer wants protocols that work like HTTP; she will not want to learn new low-level tricks and she will not buy special SIP-aware networking equipment.

Alternate scenario: The SIP community wakes up to what's going on and kicks off an emergency all-out effort to field SIP-lite, a vastly simplified subset of SIP designed to appeal to your average ISP and/or enterprise end-user. Hypothetically, SIP-lite would preserve 80% of the functionality with 20% of the complexity. To do that, the SIP community would have to realize that its customer base is changing. It would have to want to address the new (i.e., unproven) customer's needs. It would have to leave behind some protocol enhancements it has worked the hardest on. And if it fielded SIP-lite, it'd have to endure the anger of its existing customer base, which is now paying the bills. So the alternate scenario is unlikely.

More likely, the SIP community will keep building the eighteen-wheeler it has been working on. More than likely, a new, disruptive protocol -- a Vespa? -- will challenge SIP from below. I'm watching IAX, the protocol underneath Asterisk, which is an open-source single-author protocol that's intriguingly simple, but a little too closely tied to a single hardware platform. But hey, what do I know?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Blogging as your house burns down

Jay McCarthy blogs
It is 7:08 AM on Sunday, May 23rd 2004. I am sitting in my car behind my burning house. Just about two hours ago my house was struck by lighting and I woke up to the sound of the fire alarms . . . About 5 or 10 minutes later I started smelling smoke and heard my dad looking in the attic outside my room. It was now he started screaming, "The house is REALLY on fire. Get anything you can and get out!" . . . I was a bit panicked and shaken but I grabbed my backpack and threw my computers in it and put on some pants. I should have probably put on the pants with my wallet in them . . . The next hour and a half consisted of watching smoke pour out of every orifice of the house and listening to the occasional breaking of glass from the heat and from the high powered water blasts . . . The central fire, probably twenty to twenty-five feet in diameter, in the top middle of my attic had burned through the roof and was providing a heat and light that made it feel like a warm summer morning . . . Part of me is thinking of a large forest that needs the occasional fire and purge to clear of the old generation and replenish the soil or however that works. (I only know this from a discussion about why forest fires as so bad now--basically they didn't allow the little fires years ago so now those little ones aggregate.) So if my house and my stuff are like a forest, then maybe this a chance to do... something?
A little gem of blogging narrative, Jay. Condolences and best wishes for a fire-cleansed future.

Thanks to Halley for the link.


The Pictures We're Not Seeing

The grizly pictures from Iraq have a visceral effect that the words "torture" and "beheading" don't.

Imagine pictures of thousands of wounded twisted broken bodies, faces twisted in pain. Imagine pictures of the dead. Twelve thousand, more or less. Four September Elevenths. Or thirty-six jumbo jet crashes. Bits of flesh. A hand. A piece of a face. Imagine pictures of the mother face, twisted in grief when she recognizes that piece of face as a fragment of her child. These scenes are happening.

We do not see the pictures because they're "in bad taste."

Author Tom Clancy, a "good conservative," was on Fox TV yesterday saying that the U.S. did not have a "causus belli" in Iraq. Translation: the U.S. did not have a reason to go to war.



415 Historians on Bush II Presidency

The History News Network reports:
Of 415 historians who expressed a view of President Bush’s administration to this point as a success or failure, 338 classified it as a failure and 77 as a success.
(Moreover, it seems likely that at least eight of those who said it is a success were being sarcastic, since seven said Bush’s presidency is only the best since Clinton’s and one named Millard Fillmore.) Twelve percent of all the historians who responded rate the current presidency the worst in all of American history . . .
Thanks, Pete, for the link!

Friday, May 21, 2004


Sky Dayton on Cometa's failure

Does Cometa's failure presage the collapse of the pay-hotspot business, or is it simply an AT&T-style inability to execute? WiFi Networking News has a statement from Sky Dayton, founder of Boingo -- another pay-hotspot provider -- that testifies to the latter. Dayton says:
Cometa . . . spent too much money before [it] needed to and demanded carriers pay high minimums for access to a network that wasn’t yet built . . . Boingo had attempted to strike a roaming agreement with Cometa, but they claimed to not be interested. Even though their network wasn’t much more than a promise, they were acting as if they were already the market leader. They succeeded in alienating the very people they needed to help them succeed.
I used to be a Boingo fan before I realized how cheap and easy it was to do a hotspot, and before I had a couple of nasty pay-hotspot experiences, the first of which was my inability (probably due to my own stupidity) to sign up as a Boingo subscriber.

Cometa might have failed to execute, but that's no indicator that the pay-hotspot biz will succeed.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


One true thing

On Thursday, May 13, Bush said, "Like you, I have been disgraced . . . by what I've seen on TV, what took place in the prison."

Indeed we have.


Scatt Oddams points out where the real chemical weapons are

You think a whiff of 1991 vintage Sarin is dangerous?

P.S. Great links, too, Slowpoke!

[Scatt Oddams is the Cartoon Critic in Residence at]

Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Should cyberspace be shared by all?

Here's the results of a recent ITU study
There's a small minority, mostly in the Americas, that seems to think it shouldn't.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004


AT&T does it again, folks

AT&T, has extended its amazing, unprecedented, unbroken two-decade long string of "every business initiative we touch turns to sh*t." WiFi Networking News reports that Cometa Networks, the paid WiFi hotspot venture of AT&T, Intel and IBM, is shutting down tomorrow.

Maybe there's deeper import here. Hopefully, it is the beginning of the end of pay for hotspot service. Certainly, I have found that the biggest problem in using a pay-per-hotspot service has been in the paying. I've had problems with Wayport, T-Mobile and every other paid hotspot I've ever used -- with the exception of hotel hotspots. It seems there's always a problem with the registration or the payment. I've never even used a free coupon successfully. In one case, I spent the better part of two days (don't ask) in the San Jose American Airlines Aadmiral's Club talking to T-Mobile customer service on my cell phone -- and they charged me for the privilege, even though I never connected.

In sharp contrast, at the Continental Airlines club WiFi is free -- I tune in, turn on, and catch my flight every time.

You know the truism that the most expensive part of running a phone network is doing the billing? Corollary: the hardest part of using a WiFi hotspot is paying.


AT&T Wireless & Sprint -- Like asking Coke to bottle Pepsi

According to Techdirt: AT&T has just signed a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) agreement with Sprint. "Sprint gives AT&T the network, and AT&T does all the branding," says Techdirt, just as soon as the merger of AT&T Wireless with Cingular closes. AT&T even gets the rights to use the "AT&T Wireless" name. But would they want to?

Scott Moritz at says that this is, "like asking Coke to bottle Pepsi." Moritz adds,
With the pending combination of AT&T Wireless and Cingular set to create the nation's largest wireless carrier and Verizon Wireless already a formidable player, Sprint finds itself a distant No. 3. Lacking the marketing muscle necessary to win millions of new subscribers each quarter, Sprint's wholesale strategy helps add customers at far lower costs.
Moritz has a skeptical eye for the business ploy. He observes,
This will be AT&T's second go at bundling. The first, investors will fondly recall, was cobbled together and then dismantled by C. Michael Armstrong.
Wait a minute! Wait a minute!!! I've got a GREAT idea. AT&T should put John Zeglis in charge of the wireless offering.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


OPEC powerless to stem oil price surge

We are seeing the all-time peak of global oil production while the demand for oil is growing faster than it ever has. Reuters says:
Oil prices have surged to new 13-year highs above $40 a barrel on concern that OPEC may not pump enough oil to meet rapidly accelerating world oil demand. U.S. light crude climbed to a peak at $40.38 a barrel on Wednesday, less than $1 off the 41.15, all-time high for New York crude futures, reached in October 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. London Brent crude was up 14 cents at $37.50 a barrel.
This is the "back story" behind all today's headlines. But you're not likely to see it on the teevee "news" -- they're going to play it, "Gee-golly, isn't the price of gasoline high," until mid-3-bucks-a-gallon-summer, when the new angle will be "Congress demands an investigation," and finally, some time well into Bush's second term, the real news will begin to trickle out.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg says,
World oil demand this year will rise the most since 1988 as economic growth accelerates and consumption surges in China, the International Energy Agency said. Crude oil traded close to 13-year highs in London and New York. Daily use of gasoline, diesel and other fuels will rise by 1.95 million barrels, 270,000 more than forecast last month, to 80.6 million, the Paris-based adviser to 26 industrialized countries said in its monthly report. The IEA's growth forecast has climbed from 1.06 million barrels in October.
James Howard Kuntsler gets it. He blogs,
The reason that gas is going up is because there are no swing producers anymore. A swing producer is someone who can pump any amount extra a day to meet world demand. America was the world's swing producer for a hundred years until 1970, when US production peaked and no amount of pumping would ever again increase the flow coming out of the ground. For the past 34 years, Saudi Arabia has been the world's swing producer . . . But the status quo of the past thirty-odd years is unraveling quickly. Saudi Arabia may not be the world's swing producer anymore. We don't know for sure because the information they release is dodgy and unreliable. But they may be pumping as much as they can, which is one way of saying that they may have reached peak production . . .
The ultimate authority here is Princeton Geology Professor emeritus Kenneth Deffeyes -- his book, Hubbert's Peak, is a must-read.

Monday, May 10, 2004


Carr's re-defined "IT Doesn't Matter" looks suspiciously like The Stupid Network

Nicholas Carr, in his new book, _IT Doesn't Matter_, based on the Harvard Business Review article by the same name, has retrenched his definition of what, precisely, doesn't matter. To quote Don Tapscott's recent critique in CIO Magazine:
In making the case that IT has become a commodity, Carr's original definition includes data and information. He argues that "it's hard to imagine a more perfect commodity than a byte of data—endlessly and perfectly reproducible at virtually no cost."

In fact, nothing in the universe is as diverse as a byte of data, which can carry information ranging from baby pictures to a digitally signed million-dollar bank transfer. It's like saying that Shakespeare's works are a commodity because he uses the alphabet just like everybody else. As many critics of Carr's view have pointed out, nothing is more scarce than the right information at the right time.

Now, having retreated from that view, he's redefined IT as "all the technology, both hardware and software, used to process and transport information in digital form...this does not encompass the information that flows through the technology."
Why, if Carr had framed "what matters" in terms of a layered communications stack, it'd look an awful lot like The Stupid Network.

Thanks to John Jordan's most excellent e-newsletter "early indications" for this pointer. Highly recommended -- contact john dot jordan at capgemini dot com


More war crimes in my name

From today's Washington Post:

Ahmad Naje Dulaimi, a waiter at a restaurant in Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood, was arrested in the middle of the night of July 18. . . . A neighbor had . . . suggested to U.S. troops that he was a member of Hussein's militia, Saddam's Fedayeen.

Dualimi's 11-month imprisonment began in the interrogation rooms of the Adhamiya Palace, a former Hussein villa now being used by U.S. troops. He spent the first night in the T-shirt and shorts he was sleeping in at the time of his arrest, but he was also hooded, with his hands and feet bound by plastic cuffs.

For two days, he consumed only a cracker and several sips of water, he said. On the third night, he was interrogated by two U.S. soldiers, a man and a woman, who were assisted by a Kuwaiti interpreter. The male soldier strode into the interrogation room, Dulaimi said, and immediately urinated on his head.

"They asked me about Baathists in the neighborhood, if there were officers, who sold weapons, and who were Fedayeen. I told them I knew nothing," said Dulaimi, who also spent time in Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib before he was freed on Thursday, according to his release papers and prison identification bracelet. "They said, 'We know you are innocent, but we want information from you. You know these people.' "
We know you are innocent, but we're pissing on your head . . .

Sunday, May 09, 2004


Happy Mother's Day from Scatt Oddams

Thanks to Bill Day for this great cartoon. This Mother's Day remember to keep habit in habitat.

[Scatt Oddams (oddams at is the Cartoon Critic in Residence at]


The actions of a few . . .

. . . do not represent the values of the United States of America.

Friday, May 07, 2004


"Scary, huh?"

Eric Krapf, the editor of Business Communications Review, writes (in BCR e-Weekly Issue #93, 5/6/04):
End users are empowered as never before--they feel free to add instant messaging, voice over IP peer-to-peer soft clients, video cameras and
wireless LAN access points. You name it, if you can download it off the Internet, or if it's got a USB or RJ-45 plug, someone's probably running it on your network.

Scary, huh?
Yup, gotta stop those end users before they destroy the 'net by -- growl! pucker! clench! -- using it.

Thanks to Ron Carlson for the pointer!

Thursday, May 06, 2004


VoIP: Terror in the suites?

"If you're a big incumbent and you've sort of enjoyed a competitive advantage . . . you, in my opinion, ought to be terrified,"
FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell talking about VoIP at NCTA conference, 5/4/04. From article in Rocky Mountain News.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


Scatt Oddams was sure that Iraq's "torture rooms" were closed now

Steph at draws this:
Like the actions depicted, the drawing speaks for itself. Scatt

[Scatt Oddams ( is the Cartoon Critic in Residence at]

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Another tale from Abu Ghraib

Riverbendblog, in a March 29 entry, tells of meeting a 19 year old girl who was thrown in Abu Ghraib because
a certain neighbor had made the false accusation against her family. The neighbor's 20-year-old son was still bitter over a fight he had several years ago with one of [the girl's] brothers. All he had to do was contact a certain translator who worked for the troops and give [the fqamily's] address. It was that easy.
The boys in the family were taken away and the girl and her mother
were taken to the airport for interrogation. [The girl] remembers being in a room, with a bag over her head and bright lights above. She claimed she could see the shapes of figures through the little holes in the bag. She was made to sit on her knees, in the interrogation room while her mother was kicked and beaten to the ground . . . she said, "I heard my mother begging them to please let me go and not hurt me… she told them she'd do anything- say anything- if they just let me go."
Then the girl and and her mother were taken to Abu Ghraib.
In Abu Ghraib, they were seperated and [the girl] suspected that her mother was taken to another prison outside of Baghdad. A couple of terrible months later - after witnessing several beatings and the rape of a male prisoner by one of the jailors - [the girl] was suddenly set free . . . By the end of her tale, [the girl] was crying silently . . . she shook her head and waved away my words of sympathy, "It's ok- really- I'm one of the lucky ones... all they did was beat me."
As of the writing, the girl did not know where her mother and three of her brothers were.

If this story is true, the recent Abu Ghraib horror recounted in The New Yorker 5/4/04 is not "an isolated incident," as the U.S. Army has been instructed to tell the Iraqis.


Fiber to the Home displaces DSL in Japan

This article in America's Network says that 44% of Japan's fiber to the home (FTTH) customers are former ADSL subscribers -- and in Japan ADSL runs at up to 40 megabits per second. "That is not surprising since FTTH offers much more speed for only $15-$30 more per month," the article says. It continues, "FTTH service reliably provides 50% to 70% of the 100-Mbps upload/down speed advertised, [while] ADSL subscribers often only get about 25% of the optimum 40-Mbps rate."

Japan, with a population of 127 million, has gone from zero to 1 million FTTH customers in three years. The U.S., with over twice as many people, counts its FTTH subscribers in the tens of thousands.

Thanks to Dave Farber's IP list for the pointer.

Monday, May 03, 2004


The Geneva Convention is written in plain language

I've had a pointer to the Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners of War on this page (look down and to your right . . . ) since the inception of this blog. The Abu Ghraib prison outrages are clear violations. Article 3 says,
. . . the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) Taking of hostages;
(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
And now they're putting Major-General Geoffery Miller, the Guantanamo guy, in charge of Abu Ghraib, as if that's going to fix the problem?


Reverse Asymmetry (or I'd walk a mile for a Camel Wi-Fi hotspot)

Asymmetric DSL is based on the assumption that the "consumer" is passive and the "content" is elsewhere. But when the end user is the active creator, this changes. Juha Putkiranta, Nokia's senior vice president of the mobile multimedia and imaging group, observes that mobile photography creates new demands on networks. An EE Times article on a recent Putkiranta speech says . . .
bottlenecks in the networking infrastructure loom among the largest issues. Today's networks can take 15 to 30 minutes to upload an image from 1 Megapixel cameras at a cost ranging from $6 to $60 or more for roaming users, he said. The nets may not be able to keep up with phone makers who have road maps for shipping 2 Mpixel phones early next year and 5 Mpixel versions after them. "The pressure on carriers is mounting because the value proposition for mobile imaging is so good," [Putkiranta] said.
The Best Network has the fewest limiting assumptions, and lots of inexpensive capacity in both directions. Will carriers respond? Meanwhile, I'd walk a mile for a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Thanks to Hamish MacEwan for the pointer.

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