Saturday, July 31, 2004
A Million Free, Legal Music Tracks
Friday, July 30, 2004
Britt Blaser on how war really is . . .
It was an authentic shitstorm . . . not just the fog of war, but also the FUD of command.I won't attempt to excerpt the story that Britt has told. You should read it yourself. It concludes:
Ah, the endless stream of FUBARs that is the wellspring for the black humor that sustains combat troops everywhere. A management fuck-up in the Fortune 500 is a sad waste of human potential and an inspiration for Dilbertian farce. A management mis-step in war kills hard-working young Americans and maims ten for every KIA . . .*snip*
. . . These are the reasons that people with a memory–like Dwight Eisenhower–are slow to go to war. Combat is always a sad, desperate monument to man's inability to get it right, either diplomatically or tactically. The wise but uneducated people in a culture generally clean up the messes created by the over-educated fools who just know they can manage a war better than the similar idiots who screwed it up last time.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Is there something you believe?
Thanks, Jerry, for the link.
Friday, July 23, 2004
Scatt Oddams agrees: Money Buys Freedom
Oh give me land, lotsa land under starry skies above.
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open spaces that I love.
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze,
Listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please . . .
This cartoon appears here with the gracious permission of the cartoonist, Andy Singer.
[Scatt Oddams is the Cartoon Critic in Residence at isen.blog. He can't draw, but he sure knows how to choose 'em. If your earnings are in the top percentile of U.S. incomes, send hate-email to Scatt at oddams-at-isen-dot-com ]
Fahrenheit 9/11 Lies!
UPDATE: Can you spell S.A.T.I.R.E.?
Illinois Jacquet swings home
Every musician in the band that night was a world class player, and I am sorry there was no program with their names to take home. A few months ago I was pretty sure I saw Jacquet's trombone player from that night in Union Station in Washington, DC. I wanted to stop him and thank him for that wonderful night. But I hesitated. Maybe it wasn't him . . . and the moment passed.
Indeed, the moment passed. Thank you, Illinois, for a magical musical evening. I will cherish it for the rest of my own days.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Scatt Oddams visits Troubletown
I think this Tom Ridge-as-a-big-cuddly-dog shtick is painfully funny. Lloyd Dangle himself gave permission to publish this here, especially if we told our dozens and dozens of readers to visit Troubletown.comics.
[Scatt Oddams is the Cartoon Critic in Residence at isen.blog. He gets his email at oddams-at-isen-dot-com]
In one case I studied for the NSF years ago, a Telco bid $1.5 million up front to connect 25 school buildings with T-1, wired 'service' and then wanted to charge $12,000 a month until the end of time - or $2.9 million over the first 10 years, while a one-man Wireless company bid a one-time purchase and installation cost of $600,000 and that's ALL it took for the same 10 year projection. Today that same school district could be connected up at 10mbps to 45mbps - DS3 speed -for under $150,000, one time. Or do it themselves buying off the shelf radios for under $50,000!Hmmm. Remember the stories about how Soviet factories would take in $1,000,000 worth of raw materials and produce $500,000 worth of product? Here's a telco that proposes to take $2,900,000 and produce $50,000 worth of product. This is called "Value-Subtracted".
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Don't Phone and Drive
This is a purely public service announcement I make today: if you’d like to dramatically reduce your odds of finding yourself in an accident, don’t talk on a cell phone while driving regardless of whether you’re holding it or using a hands-free system.The solution? Glenn writes:
When cell operators finally switch to unlimited monthly plans, they’ll want people to talk less, just as AOL did when they switched from hourly billing to unmetered monthly service. When that switch happens, you can bet we’ll see a 100-percent full-court press on restricting talking at all while driving.But as long as the cellular industry bills by the minute, fuggedaboudit. Glenn cites a WSJ article, paid subscription required, that says,
A sizable body of research concludes that headsets and speaker-phones don't improve safety because it's the mental distraction of talking on the phone, not holding it, that causes the danger while driving.A letter from the NHTSA to all 50 state governors was drafted a year ago (but never sent -- industry pressure?) that said that hands-free laws, "will not address the problem" and "may erroneously imply that hands-free phones are safe to use while driving" according to the WSJ article.
According to the WSJ
"In one study . . . cellphone users were twice as likely to miss [a] red light [on a console] as nonusers, with no difference between hand-held and hands-free use."
Citing another study the WSJ says that
. . . drivers talking on the phone with headsets missed four times as many exits as drivers talking to another passenger. The study notes that a fellow passenger "collaborates in the task of driving safely by referring to traffic and conversing about it ... something that a person on the other end of a cellphone cannot do."Auto accidents are climbing for the first time in decades -- are cell phones part of the problem? They are? So let's preemptively invade Iran . . . or something.
P.S. Wait until texting takes off in the U.S. . . . drv n txt = crsh!
Role of government in telecom II: Research
Many of the traditional sources of funding for network research, such as the NSF and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), are funneling their dollars elsewhere. (I noted in a previous column the critical role both agencies played in funding and operating the early Internet.) According to sources familiar with the NSF, network research is no longer a top priority. DARPA has elected to focus on near-term battle technologies rather than long-range strategic innovation.Bell Labs, of course, is no longer the government-sanctioned, ratepayer-supported multi-Nobel prize-winning research powerhouse it once was either. Microsoft Research, according to well-placed observer Paul Saffo, is a roach motel -- stuff goes in, but nothing comes out.
Johna Till Johnson continues
Can't industry take up the slack? . . .[competitive] companies need to constantly cut out "waste" - expenditures that don't contribute directly to the bottom line. Much great research fits that definition, including the Internet . . . [Research has] a lag between funding and commercialization of 17 to 19 years . . . [but an ROI of 12% to 41%, therefore] publicly funded research is inextricably linked to industrial product innovation.I don't even care if the incumbent telcos want to accept government research money as long as (a) it is used for legit research and (b) the results of publicly funded research are public.
The role of government in telecom I: Universal Service
Show me a government program that puts twice as many teachers in the schools every eighteen months year after year. Show me a government program that halves the cost of medical care every eighteen months year after year. There are none. If Moore's Law would flow to end users, it would be the best government program possible, and it would cost approximately nothing.I've tried to explain to my more traditionally liberal friends that government subsidies in the form of tax breaks or credits or contracts, even if they start out as the best intentioned, best aimed, and most cost-effective, will simply become more slop for the oinkers with their snouts already in the trough.
Blankenhorn explains why:
The problem is that networking capacity, both the cost of moving a bit over a long distance and the cost of delivering that bit at "the last mile" of the network, is falling in value even faster than the car in your driveway. When the radios of today are more than twice as capable of handling local traffic as those of two years ago, and the technology of fiber lines show similar improvements, you have blown a hole into any long-term financing scheme.This echoes David P. Reed's must-read (and a fairly easy read, too) Accounting in the Age of Moore's Law.
No one, not a private company, not a municipality, not the federal government, can justify building telecom capacity today on the basis of a 30-year note. Not when that capacity is going to be worthless, in real terms, just three years from now.
The real solution, as I've said, is to endorse full competition. Let the Bells die. Let the cable operators die. Demand that any company wishing to use some of their infrastructure be able to get it, at low, low wholesale prices . . . In the end the only worthwhile assets the Bells and cable operators will have are publicly-controlled -- telephone poles and electromagnetic spectrumYeah.
Every policy prescription I see, across the political spectrum, is an excuse to subsidize either the government or incumbent duopolies. Conservatives' proposals actually violate their own ideological smell test, while liberal solutions all smack of corruption.
[By the by, I wonder when the supposedly libertarian Cato Institute will endorse this pro-competitive view. Adam Thierer, Cato's telecom wonk, seems to think that just because the telcos were here first, that a market exists. He conveniently ignores that the descendents of the Bell System got where they are today because the Bell System was an arm of Big Government. All government needs to do to bring the full benefits of communications technology to everybody is regulate anti-competitive behavior by preserving the right to attach to poles and conduits and use the unlimited, God-given spectrum to the full extent that technology makes possible.]
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
News from "The Simpsons"
[The Simpsons] go on a cable news channel and . . . the host manages to twist Marge's words into saying that Springfield hates America . . . The family is arrested under violation of the "government knows best act" and they are brought to a reeducation center."In this "reeducation center" they find Michael Moore, The Dixie Chicks, Bill Clinton, and Elmo of Sesame Street, whose crime is "attending the wrong fund raiser."
Next week's show is entitled "Fraudcast News." I find it delightful that The Simpsons are on the Fox network.
Speech recognition arrives almost unrecognizably
We just traded our Volvo sedan for an Acura TL, which . . . has a satellite navigation system and understands 300 spoken words, including such vital phrases as “Go home” and “Find the nearest Chinese restaurant.” (I am not making this up).I contrast this with 1976, when I would sign up for computer time from 2:00 to 6:00 A.M. to synthesize simple syllables like "ba" and "pa". Recognizing "ba" and "pa", with attendant human variation, was to be immeasurably more difficult. Now, after decades of promise, here we are.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
My "Edge-centric" column in Von Magazine
- Why we don't have fiber to the home, May/Jun 2004
- Telcos try to rejoin content & conduit, Mar/Apr 2004
- Square hole telcos vs. round peg future, Jan/Feb 2004
- Landline decline, Nov/Dec 2003
- Not just another app on the net, Sep/Oct 2003
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
Changes to "Comments"
Monday, July 12, 2004
Blinded by hatred?
Isenberg . . . *hates* the telcos - too bad. He, like a lot of other people who hate the telcos - or anything, for that matter - are blinded by their hate, and closed to any alternative that in any way smacks of including the target of their hatred in any scenario, even if they (the ones who hate) stand to gain from it.I take strong exception! Sadly, I love the telcos. Bell Labs is my alma mater . . . I learned so much there and made many friends. I take no joy from watching them fail. It is like watching an ageing parent deteriorate. If somebody suggests that parent might play tennis or go for a swim my response is, "Get a grip. This person will never play tennis or swim again."
Recently Chris Worth wrote:
Well, they've finally done it: Britain's Bell, British Telecom, has announced an £8bn (at least) plan to basically dump its entire circuit-switched cage over the next five years and go with IP over the entire network.Here's a link to a story about this BT initiative.
As a BT customer both home and biz, I'm fairly pleased with the way this former monopoly has turned out. As a kid I remember my parents waiting two months to get a line; now, I order 1Mbit broadband at my new house and it's operational three days BEFORE they said it would be.
Admittedly I'm not out in the sticks ('boonies') - I can see Canary Wharf from my bedroom window - but it's good service nonetheless. I cautiously support these Bellheads as they reform.
My own cautious optimism is tempered by the knowledge that BT would need to cripple the new network it is installing if it is to preserve itself in anything like its present form. Alternatively it could install a big fat stupid network and cripple itself.
This is not hatred. It is a sad but eyes-wide-open exercise in examining multiple alternatives.
Box office take rises, but MPAA still cries "piracy"
Sunday, July 11, 2004
I've been to several of these memorials lately. It is my experience that people talk in terms of what the dead friend meant to them. But at Tay's memorial, more than one speaker talked about what *he* meant to Tay. It is a subtle point; Tay had a way of showing that he valued me in a way that showed me more of myself.
Friday, July 09, 2004
American Prisons show "American Values"
When I first saw the photo, taken at the Abu Ghraib prison, of a hooded and robed figure strung with electrical wiring, I thought of the Sacramento, California, city jail.et sickening cetera.
When I heard that dogs had been used to intimidate and bite at least one detainee at Abu Ghraib, I thought of the training video shown at the Brazoria County Detention Center in Texas.
When I learned that the male inmates at Abu Ghraib were forced to wear women's underwear, I thought of the Maricopa County jails in Phoenix, Arizona.
And when I saw the photos of the naked bodies restrained in grotesque and clearly uncomfortable positions, I thought of the Utah prison system.
Donald Rumsfeld said of the abuse when he visited Abu Ghraib on May 13, "It doesn't represent American values."
But the images from Iraq looked all too American to me. . . . Reporters and commentators keep asking, how could this happen? My question is, why are we surprised when many of these same practices are occurring at home? . . . photos of prison abuse in the United States have not received nearly the attention that the Abu Ghraib photos did . . .
Thursday, July 08, 2004
Separated at conception?
. . . before the government undertakes regulation it should be able to identify both the market failure or other problem that justifies intervention and its choice of a particular regulatory tool.Just coincidentally, FCC Chairman Mike Powell has started a great blog. Just coincidentally, his first blog entry says this:
Traditionally, the economic justification for government regulation of an industry was market failure such as monopoly, negative externalities, or unmet social goals. Government's role in the marketplace should be limited because markets and entrepreneurs develop innovative solutions far more efficiently than regulators can.Two great minds.
By the way, Powell is one of the great bloggers that has been invited to Crawford's conference -- and he's one of the few who has not yet accepted.
Presidential campaigns take sides on software!
The Web sites of John Kerry and of the Democratic National Committee run mainly on the technology of the computing counterculture: open-source software that is distributed free, and improved and debugged by far-flung networks of programmers. In the other corner, the Web sites of President George W. Bush and the Republican National Committee run on software supplied by the corporate embodiment of big business: Microsoft.*snip*
The two sides are defined largely by their approach to intellectual property. Fans of open-source computing regard their software as a model for the future of business, saying that its underlying principle of collaboration will eventually be used in the pharmaceuticals, entertainment and other industries whose products are tightly protected by patents or copyrights.
But the politics surrounding open-source software do not always fit neatly into party categories. "You'll find gun nuts along with total lefties," Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, said in an e-mail message.*snip*
Thanks to Benjamin Kowarsch for the pointer!
John Ashcroft can't muzzle fired FBI employee
The air can't be put back into the balloon, but Tuesday's court action blocks use of what Edmonds witnessed by families of September 11 victims in their suit against the U.S. Government.
According to this article in the July 5 Boston Globe, Edmonds, in translating Turkish documents for the FBI, "made an alarming discovery: Intercepts relevant to the terrorist plot, including references to skyscrapers, had been overlooked [by the FBI] because they were badly translated into English."
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
Great Music in the SF Bay Area!
Except that songwriter Stephen Foster reflected the politics and technology of his pre-Civil War, Ohio River-centered life. Foster wrote Oh Susannah, Beautiful Dreamer, Way Down upon the Swanee River, and a dozen others that weave into the interface between agrarian and industrial America. Foster was so prolific a writer he was to his time what boingboing is to ours.
Musician Joe Weed has made it a personal mission to visit the places Foster went, read the books Foster read, get to know the people Foster knew, and make Stephen Foster's music his own. Joe's recent CD, "Swanee: The Music of Stephen Foster," has been described as
music that, "can easily stand beside other traditional music classics like the ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack . . . the best tribute to Foster’s music that I have ever heard," by american music scholar Charles Wolfe. (I am honored to call a great artist like Joe my friend, but I can't believe that he doesn't list Swanee on his own website with his other great recordings, like Waltz of the Whippoorwill and my personal favorite, The Vultures!)
Joe will perform "The Stephen Foster Story" in the SF Bay Area next month, with wife Marty on bass, daughter Katie on fiddle and guitar, and Nashville musician Marty Atkinson on guitar and vocals.
They have three dates:
Saturday, August 14, at 8:00 at the Espresso Garden Cafe, 814 S. Bascom Avenue, San Jose, CA 95128. Admission is $15.00 (408) 294-3353.
Friday, August 20, at 8:00, at the Cayuga Vault, 1100 Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Admission is $15.00. (831) 421-9471
Saturday, August 21, at 8:00 at the Freight and Salvage, 1111 Addison St., Berkeley, CA 94702. Admission is $15.50 in advance/$16.50 at the door. (510) 548-1761
Catch it if you can!
IAX edges in on SIP's early dominance
No technological platform’s place is secure when change is rapid. In the ‘80s I bought into the vision of ISDN services like text messaging and digital music-on-demand. But such ISDN services never left the telcos’ labs. In the ‘90s I saw ATM as the telco architecture of the future. However, in a few years processing improved so much that packets of any size could be handled at “wire speed,” and suddenly ATM’s 53-byte cells seemed unnecessarily inflexible. The story repeats. Remember token ring? Datakit? HomeRF?
Recently I’ve proclaimed that Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) will do for communications what HTTP did for documents. SIP has become the dominant Voice over IP platform. Vendors of telecommunications hardware and applications have put heroic and successful efforts into SIP interoperability. But SIP was not carried down from a mountain on stone tablets. And it has hit some big problems.
SIP’s architects decided to separate call control from the voice stream (and other communications content) so SIP can handle the most sophisticated communications applications. “I can add feature servers and application servers located all over the world without impacting voice latency,” explains Jonathan Rosenberg, one of SIP’s formative developers.
SIGNAL AND STREAM
This separation of signal from stream lets SIP handle complex applications like third-party call control.
But SIP’s separation of signaling packets from media packets creates problems wherever Network Address Translation (NAT) is used — and that’s virtually everywhere there is an Internet based local area network (LAN).
After traversing a NAT, a signaling packet might carry a meaningless destination IP address for its media packets — NATs translate header addresses but not addresses in a packet’s payload. There are several fixes.
The most common, according to Rosenberg, is to re-combine the two kinds of packets at the sending server, so they traverse the NAT together. And Rosenberg has authored a third, more general fix, called ICE, which is working its way through the Internet Engineering Task Force.
I asked Mark Spencer, the author of IAX, another fast-gaining communications protocol that is shaping up as SIP’s rival, about differences between SIP and IAX. “SIP violates protocol layering principles,” says Spencer. In addition, he says, SIP is hobbled by complexity of “seemingly limitless extensions.”
IAX, he says, is comparatively simple. More importantly, IAX is architected so that both media and signaling are multiplexed on a single port and unpacked at the application level. IAX packets contain signaling and media that are separated only by an application.
Asterisk is the main application built on IAX. It is an open-source PBX, or even a “software central office,” according to Brian Capouch, a wireless ISP and VoIP service provider. Benjamin Kowarsch, a VoIP systems integrator specializing in Asterisk phone systems for enterprises says, “With an IAX phone, VoIP is a true plug-and-play affair.”
SIP devotees are quick to point out Asterisk’s limited handling of complex situations, and they say that anything IAX can do, SIP can do better. Furthermore, even though IAX is open source, it has close ties to a single hardware vendor, Digium.
My fingernails are way too clean to call winners. But I’m intrigued by lightweight protocols that require no network changes. And the buzz around IAX is getting too loud to ignore.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Telcordia Study: ILEC FTTP feasible, driven by opex savings
[Aside: I visited the NJ Bell 5ESS in Murray Hill NJ, just down the street from Bell Labs, in 1996. Most of the interior space -- one large-ish room -- was taken up by the "wire frame." This is the huge patch panel where local loop wires come in from the neighborhoods to be connected to the switch. The supervisor giving the tour then showed us the brand-new OC-12 box. This was about the size of an under-desk PC, and it sat all alone in a frame. It handled about 1000 twisted pairs -- it had one fiber going into it and a couple going out. The corresponding copper lines took about 8 feet of rack space. In the case of fiber, all the "provisioning" was done in software. In the case of copper, it is done in software.]The Telcordia-Bernstein report quantifies what I witnessed in 1996. It shows wireline opex as 43% of total current incumbent telco expense structure. 43%!!! Most of this is in Central Office (CO) expense, and it says that the ILECs would save 100% of CO opex by switching to fiber. Other opex would be reduced by 30-90%. At the end of the buildout, 57% of the fiber's benefit would be from opex savings. Repeat: the case for FTTP is driven by opex savings more than by new service revenues.
The study looks at a comparable Fiber to the Neighborhood (FTTN) buildout, where the last few hundred meters are via DSL. It says, "We came away disappointed." While FTTN is but 5% of the cost, it would deliver 8% of the revenue and none of the cost savings of FTTP.
The authors write that the prospect of this FTTP buildout would be met by "investor derision." They conclude that the Bells are "damned if they do, damned if they don't." However, if they don't, the telcos face "long-term earnings stagnation worse than anything they have experienced." This "dour outlook" is "much gloomier" than the prevailing consensus. The report shows wireline voice revenues falling by 4.5% per year over the next five years while wireless revenues flatten. Meanwhile, the cost of keeping a copper access line has been growing, and this is expected to continue to grow.
Studies like these always have problems. This study does not anticipate the effects of future regulatory changes. It does not explicitly cover the WiFi phenomenon, or additional unlicensed technologies that are likely to burst into the marketplace, or innovative new architectures that might suddenly arise in unlicensed spaces. It is not clear whether the study's estimate of VoIP's effects takes end-to-end (aka "free") VoIP into account. But the study rings truer than many I've seen.
Will the ILECs actually do something like what the study envisions? Today I'd bet they won't. And if they tried, I'd bet they wouldn't be able to execute, or that they'd take years longer than planned, or have cost overruns, or Cheney-up in some other way. On the other hand, Telcordia knows ILECs, and ILECs listen to Telcordia. So if I were a betting man, I'd be hedging those bets. The ILECs can't afford not to do it.
SIP expert explains problem with SIP
There are very few people in the VoIP industry who understand firewall and NAT traversal well . . . Explaining to these people what is technically broken with their proposals and why is an extremely time consuming process, and is repeated every time a handful of new companies start to go into the operational phase.Exactly! (a) SIP is too durn complicated, and (b) "the VoIP industry" is too narrow a concept.
Voice is just another app on the net. And the "industry" that will bring VoIP to most of us is the Internet Industry.
It is perilously close to Bellheadedness to believe that VoIP needs a special VoIP industry run by High Priests who can't or won't explain its mysteries. In most cases we don't need powerful protocols and special gear to do basic VoIP-based telephony. In most cases, lighter weight protocols (e.g., IAX) will work fine.
[Thanks to Don Jackson for the pointer.]
Sure, there are always places on The Great Network of Networks where light weight protocols won't work. And there are fancy apps like call centers that demand special protocols like SIP. But we open ourselves to disruption if we believe that VoIP is distinct and special, and that VoIP requires High Priests to implement apps.