Wednesday, June 30, 2004


In favor of Pie-in-the-Sky Research

Despite my last post, I'm all for pie-in-the-sky research. In fact, research is the ONLY way to make pie out of thin air -- that is, new ideas, concretely proved and then implemented, are the only way to real economic growth.

I am a former speech research geek, so I am delighted to see this
Computer interfaces based on speech and gestures that will empower more people with disabilities to work, and to be full participants in the Information Society.
as one of five examples of technological innovation in John Kerry's recent position paper on, "Industries of the Future."

Kerry's other four examples areDisappointingly unimaginative. But better real and unimaginative than completely imaginary, as in clean skys, healthy forests and democracy in Iraq.

Wondering why you've been out of work for the last four years? Kerry's paper proposes to eliminate long term cap gains tax on small business equities that are held for five years.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


I[diot], Cringely

If Robert Cringely's latest idea were a ploy to get him telco speaking gigs it'd be helping the telcos spend their way into extinction, and that'd be its main strength.

Cringely argues that the telcos should keep their circuit networks, because if we'd only throw a few billion at vision research we'd be able to send real-time DVD-quality video over 64 kbit/s lines. That's right; ignore here-and-now affordable gigabit technology for a pie-in-the-sky research project.

"After all," Cringely waxes naive, "what is our retina but a video encoder, our optic nerve but a network, and our visual cortex but a video decoder?" All the telcos have to do is, "build it all into an appliance packed full of DSPs and priced like a video game console." Not only that, "the algorithms have already been worked out and are running today in Matlab." It will cure blindness too.

Why isn't this miracle project rolling into the telco network today? Because the telcos aren't thinking. He got one thing right.

UPDATE: This article from Espen's blog actually takes Cringely's pop neurology seriously enough to critique it. The brain is NOT a computer, and nerves are NOT digital transmission lines.

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Quote of Note: Washington Post

"'Fuck yourself,' said the man who is a heartbeat from the presidency."

Washington Post, June 25, 2004

Friday, June 25, 2004


Broadcast industry circling the drain

Broadcast as we know it is circling the drain. More capable, more powerful Internet access will amplify that sucking sound. And Internet innovations -- such as RSS -- will add layers of value to whatever this new-casting becomes.

Doc Searls and Jeff Jarvis have been having a visionary dialog (blogalog?) about how post-broadcast TV and radio will look.

Doc says that radio & tv stations should
send out RSS notifications with every single program they put on. Hell, every advertisement too. Might even create some demand for appropriate messages. RSS can be really, really huge for the industry. It might make the damn industry not only interactive, but accountable. Meaning, for example, you can count, and account for, your listeners. If you're an NPR station, maybe you can get the listeners to buy the "content" that only 10% are paying for right now.

Doc has more to say here, and Jarvis takes it to the next level here.

[A version of this was originally posted to Wireless Unleashed on 6/21/04 -- David I]


Stroh on Supercomm

Steve Stroh has been following the press generated by this week's Supercomm. He observes:
It's getting close to the endgame for the telcos, and so they're appearing to make changes.

There are fiber to the premise annoucements (really...we're GONNA do it!).

There are cable bundling announcements; phone, video, broadband for $90/month.

There are free VOIP phone (pc software) with callable PSTN numbers announced...

Cingular says thay're going to do 14.4 M (yes, capital M) bps in the Cingular/ATTWS spectral footprint for, among other things, video.

TiVo says you'll soon be able to download video content as pre-digitized bits from a broadband connection instead of having to digitize video locally.

AT&T is virtualizing itself; its voice calls travel over whatever broadband connection is available and they're going to "do over" ATTWS as an overlay on Sprint.

These are PURE examples of everything you, Roxane, etc. have been saying all along; we're finally seeing The Stupid Network trumping all others; voice - just an app; video - another app. In my opinion, though, if the Best Network delivers competitive broadband via wireless, that'll be good enough. That is, you don't need fiber bandwidth if TiVo dribbles in your video content and parks it on a hard disk waiting for you to watch it. So I would bet that those fiber investments won't hold up unless they price it at predatory levels akin to dialup.
If I could get FTTH for the "predatory" dial-up prices around $40 a month -- which is about what 1.3 million FTTH customers gladly pay for FTTH in Japan -- I'd sign up in a nanosecond. But given the current laissez-faire, telco-dominant U.S. policy direction, I expect that Steve's right. The best near-term network will be wireless.


Stroh terns analogy to good use

Steve Stroh writes:
The Broadband Wireless Internet Access industry that I track is a wild bunch of the kind of terns whose behavior you describe. Not all of them will survive; some don't make it out of the egg. Some are killed by the gulls. A lot die looking for food. But enough, through diversity of technique, luck, or chosen niche, survive and thrive.

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Apple's and AT&T's market caps heading in opposite directions

Steve Crandall points out
current market capitalizations for two companies
$12.74B Apple Computer
$11.92B AT&T

Monday, June 21, 2004


One good tern

I went down to the Bay to watch the sunset on the longest day of the year. The terns, little white sea birds with black caps, forked tails, thin wings and red beaks, were diving on some tiny bait fish. It was very energetic activity. They'd fly back and forth thirty or forty feet above the water, head down, looking for food. When they saw a fish they would pause, flutter and dive, beak first, wings back, dive-bomber style. I think they probably get their fish every time.

As the sun set lower and lower, the terns flew off one by one into the wind until there was only one tern left. The herring gulls coasted overhead; they too were heading into the wind. The cormorants flew past in threes and fours into the wind. The sun set, turning a a long string of cirrocumulus quotation marks iridescent.

One tern kept going back and forth looking for food. At forty feet terns have to see their prey. They're not playing statistical averages like a pelican. They have a small beak; they get one fish at a time, they have to dive accurately. On the average, if these terns are to live, they must gain more energy from each fish caught than they expend catching it.

This one last tern flew up and down the beach as long as I could see it. Before the sun set, it dove as often as the rest of them. As the sun set it would start a dive, then abort ten feet above the water. It would look, pause, flutter, tuck head down wings back and begin its dive, then spread its wings at the last minute and regain altitude. Then once again it would fly up and down the beach, up and down, up and down in the fading light. I don't think it dove more than once or twice after the sun went down. But it kept flying and looking as the light faded, for as long as I could see it.

I thought, "Fool. Give up and go home. Don't you know you're in a losing proposition?" But then I realized that I was seeing diversity. I didn't know if I was seeing stubbornness or metabolic disorder or compulsive behavior or some avian form of bravery. But I realized I was seeing the kind of behavior that might be maladaptive today but adaptive tomorrow. Or behavior that might be adaptive in a different context. Sooner or later that bird was probably going to die from its maladaptive behavior. But in so doing, it was sacrificing itself to ensure the future of its species. It was one good tern.

Friday, June 11, 2004


UNE-P in pictures

UNE-P is a complicated issue, better explained in pictures.

The Bush Administration hopes to stop this:

(Thanks to New York Times for this picture.)
Here's what Chairman Mike thinks of the situation:

(Thanks to the AP for this picture).


The UNE-P non-issue

There's a lot of unwarranted hyperventilitation about the Bush Administration decision not to appeal to the Supreme Court in defense of UNE-P. Unbundled network elements were a bad compromise anyhow. The telcos (and the consumer groups, and the regulators) are pulling an anti-Gretsky, skating to where the money is, as opposed to where it will be. End-to-end VOIP (a la Skype) will soon (i.e., 10-ish years) make even the largest incumbents LECs irrelevant.

Sure AT&T and other IXCs are complaining. If the current Bush Admin decision not to appeal the UNE-P affects anything, it affects the financial health (and ultimate survival) of the IXCs. They won't be a big loss at this point. If the Bushies decided the other way, the ILECs' life expectency would have been shortened. Wouldn't be a big loss that way either. We want all the telcos to fail fast.

I was quoted in the AP and the Merc News on it today. Neither article did the subject much justice. The Merc News story is less bad. I did try hard to explain it to both reporters in hopes they'd get it right. Nevertheless it is good advertising to be quoted -- and maybe my attempts at education will have a cumulative effect in the longer term.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Abolish the FCC -- but for a different reason

Declan McCullagh's recent diatribe, "Abolish the FCC" is kind of right, but for some seriously wrong reasons. Declan observes correctly that the FCC has been fumbling the UNE-P issue, bumbling around the edges of censorship with Stern punishment, and crumbling computer functionality with broadcast flags. As Declan points out, the FCC is crimping the Constitution, cheating on its charter, overreaching it orders. But he misses the fact that all of these briar patches are application-layer issues. And in his resulting confusion, he erroneously looks to the physical layer -- the regulation of spectrum -- to "solve" app-layer problems . . .

Continue reading this over at WirelessUnleashed.

Monday, June 07, 2004


Weinberger blogs IDEAS / News / Blogs / Ideas -- The Boston Globe is sponsoring 32 ideas in 2 days. Weinberger is doing an excellent job of blogging the first day. Not as good as being there I am sure, but LOTS better than missing all of it.


If fish were ideas . . .

. . . after last week, the Communications Revolution would be another day at the beach.


In Memoriam

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Ronald Reagan said that. What's your answer today?


More on Bush & Plame

This article by John "Watergate" Dean provides a lot of useful background legal and political analysis.

For example, the reason Bush needs to consult with a private, non-govt-employee attorney is because Ken Starr, in pursuit of the Lewinsky-Clinton matter, got two court decisions that made attorney-client privelege a lot weaker when the attorney is a govt official.

Saturday, June 05, 2004


According to Capitol Hill Blue, Bush Knew About Plame outing

Capitol Hill Blue: Bush Knew About Leak of CIA Operative's Name: "Witnesses told a federal grand jury President George W. Bush knew about, and took no action to stop, the release of a covert CIA operative's name to a journalist in an attempt to discredit her husband, a critic of administration policy in Iraq.

Their damning testimony has prompted Bush to contact an outside lawyer for legal advice because evidence increasingly points to his involvement in the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak. "

Wow. If this is true, it's huge.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


As global oil production peaks . . .

Isn't it fun to watch the OPEC charade. "We's finding you mo' oil, boss," the Saudi's say, "Once we get these pesky anti-monarchists to behave." But somehow there isn't enough oil to decisively drive the price down.

Meanwhile, demand keeps growing. In China, the People's Daily writes:
Output will total 5.7 million vehicles, up from the expected 4.3 million units this year, said Jia Xinguang, chief analyst with the China National Automotive Industry Consulting and Development Corp.

"Passenger cars will continue to be the biggest growth engine for total vehicle output next year," Jia said.

Output of domestically-made passenger cars is expected to surge by more than 50 per cent to 2.7 million units in 2004, he said, forecasting that this year's figure would exceed 1.8 million units.

He predicted that both truck and bus output would rise 10 to 20 per cent in 2004.

"Domestic demand for vehicles, especially passenger cars, will continue to be very strong next year," he said.
Look out. Here comes, "The Chinese Way of Life."

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