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Moore's Lore
August 2004
August 31, 2004

Birth Of The Sell PhoneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Your cell phone is about to become a sell phone. (Picture from Philips.)

Near Field Communication is a communications protocol that can work with a variety of short-range technologies -- Bluetooth, 802.11, RFID. The key is that commerce is defined within the protocol. It's not so much a communications engine as a commerce engine.

If you're reading this in Asia this is not news. You've been able to buy even expensive trinkets with Near Field for years.

But it's finally coming to America. The result will be a revolution. We're accustomed to think of wireless purchasing in terms of cheap goods. We hear about using our mobile phone to buy a Coke from a vending machine, or a game from a Web site.

But NFC will enable you to buy plane tickets, meals, anything in fact, simply by waving your phone at a port and pressing a button.

Wired has a story this week accenting the fear side of this technology equation. If you devote yourself to Near Field (or NFC) purchasing, your carrier would know exactly where you were, what you were doing, your whole pattern of behavior. All they would have to do is combine GPS technology with NFC, and voila.

Well, so what? Once we establish in law that the data you create belongs to you, and cannot be shared without your consent, this fear should dissipate. (Should doesn't mean won't.)

Continue reading "Birth Of The Sell Phone"

Rebirth Of The Engineering WorkstationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

History buffs will recall that Sun Microsystems began in the 1980s with one goal, to put the power of an engineer's minicomputer onto his desktop. (Picture from The Register.)

As Moore's Law proceeded this ideal seemed to die away. After all, couldn't Intel chips, running Windows, provide all the power the average engineer needed? Over time, in fact, Windows-based machines did indeed reach, and then exceed, the capabilities of SPARC-based Sun designs.

But perhaps Sun just wasn't using its imagination.

Continue reading "Rebirth Of The Engineering Workstation"

Meanwhile, In A Lab Not Far Away...Email This EntryPrint This Article

Over at AMD, they're rolling out their first "dual-core" processors. (The image is from AMD's press site.)

A dual-core chip is actually two chips in one, so products with them can run multiple tasks at the same time.

AMD is pushing the dual core idea, which it's been working on for five years, in part to extend the life of the 90 nm process technology. Dual core lets you boost performance without actually shrinking transistors, much as RISC technology did in an earlier time.

It's yet another example of how Moore's Law doesn't just apply to gate size (although that was what Moore was writing about in 1964). Moore's Law proceeds because exponential improvements can happen in many different directions. Even as we reach the limits of gate size (as we approach the atomic scale) new advances in the design of chips, in the material used to make chips, and in the way we put systems together will keep the improvements coming.

All of which makes this beat very cool indeed....

Moore's Law Marches OnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

It's always comforting when the nay-sayers are once again proven wrong on Moore's Law. (This, believe it or not, is a Japanese Screensaver.)

Things really can get better and better faster and faster.

Intel said this week it has perfected 65 nanometer technology. That means it can get 33% more transistors in the same space than with the 90 nm technology now going into production.

All the Moore's Law advantages apply. As the new chip goes into production new application spaces will be created that don't exist today. All that 90 nm stuff can indeed become cheap as chips.

Of course, this was a close-run thing

Continue reading "Moore's Law Marches On"

August 30, 2004

The Headset-Handset DivorceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over at The Feature Mike Masnick asks a question that has occurred to me many times.

Who needs a handset?

Today a cellular handset serves two purposes. It's your voice interface, with the speaker and microphone. It's your computer interface, with its buttons and (perhaps) a touchscreen.

Those are completely different things, aren't they?

Continue reading "The Headset-Handset Divorce"

Bill Gates' NightmareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC reports on a series of events meant to boost Open Source software held recently throughout East Asia. (That's Linus Torvalds himself, from 2003, as pictured in the BBC story.)

The events, held on August 28, were organized by the UN's International Open Source Network (IOSN) and were called the first annual Software Freedom Day.

Of course the Linux operating system was featured, but so were applications like OpenOffice, the Mozilla web browser and e-mail project, mySQL database and the Apache web server.

Click through for the stuff that's really giving Gates the willies:

Continue reading "Bill Gates' Nightmare"

Open ListingsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

From Marc Canter (pictured from his blog) comes a new concept that he says originated with Ross Mayfield -- Open Listings.

Here is how it works. An ad goes on a Web site. Next to it you have terms and conditions. I want to be on this kind of site, and I'll pay this much for each clickthrough.

Sites download the code (as on AdSense), they paste it on their pages, and trackbacks handle the rest. The ad runs until the money runs out, and then it disappears. Or the owner can re-load it with more budget.

Continue reading "Open Listings"

No Surprise With ShorthornEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Why is anyone surprised, let alone outraged, by Microsoft's announcement that its "Longhorn" version of Windows will be short key features? (The shorthorn pictured was originally a cigar label, and went for $75 at this fine online store.)

They've been doing this for 20 years. They announce something great, they back off key claims, then they ship something lousy that gradually becomes acceptable.

This has been true since Windows started.

Continue reading "No Surprise With Shorthorn"

August 28, 2004

The Present DangerEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This piece by Juan Cole is being ignored by all the political blogs, so I offer it here.

Cole, who works at the University of Michigan and has become a "go to guy" for Iraq war criticism, charges that Israel has taken over U.S. foreign policy and the current hoop-de-doo over an analyst's passing of documents to a pro-Israel lobby is just the tip of the iceberg.

Pro-Likud intellectuals established networks linking Defense and the national security advisers of Vice President Dick Cheney, gaining enormous influence over policy by cherry-picking and distorting intelligence so as to make a case for war on Saddam Hussein. And their ulterior motive was to remove the most powerful Arab military from the scene, not because it was an active threat to Israel (it wasn't) but because it was a possible deterrent to Likud plans for aggressive expansion (at the least, they want half of the West Bank, permanently).

But wait, there's more.

Continue reading "The Present Danger"

August 27, 2004

Transparency Makes Blogs BelievableEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This blog doesn't have that millions of readers, but it does have fans.

Among those fans I'm highly credible. I work hard with every piece to justify that faith, and when I fall down they let me have it.

This transparent relationship is at the heart of blogging credibility. J.D. Lasica tried to explain this to the "media industry" in a recent OJR piece. (The illustration of transparency is from a cool Shodor.Org entry on Fractals and Chaos Theory.)

Continue reading "Transparency Makes Blogs Believable"

August 26, 2004

Mia HammEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Mia Hamm, who ended her career today in a 2-1 win over Brazil for her second Olympic gold medal, was the most important athlete of her time. (Image from womensoccer.com.)

She was not the best athlete. That would be Lance Armstrong. She was not the best soccer player. That would be Pele. She may not even be the best athlete in her house, since she recently married Nomar Garciaparra.

But history will write that she was more important than all of them.

Continue reading "Mia Hamm"

A Better Definition of BetterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The 802.11 standards are moving far ahead of Moore's Law. (Image from Linksys.Com.)

The first 802.11 standard ran at 1 Mbps. The second, 802.11b, ran at 11 Mbps. The third, 802.11a, ran at 54 Mbps. And now we have the 802.11n proposal, which promises service at up to 100 mbps.

While all these standards are backward-compatible, your speed will be that of the slowest component. Thus, the current moves to embed 802.11 into PC motherboards may be premature.

When people say "I Got Wi-Fi" they're not used to asking "what kind."

Continue reading "A Better Definition of Better"

Why Silicon Carbide MattersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Silicon has unique properties. It can act as a conductor of electricity or an insulator. Burn it, oxidize it, and the silicon oxide becomes a circuit, magic.

But it's not perfect. Run it too hot and it breaks down. It's not perfectly efficient. You've got to be careful with voltages. It's vulnerable to radiation.

But nothing forms such a perfect, and perfectly thin crystal. Nothing has, until now.

In what may be the most important chemical discovery since silicon itself, Toyota researchers have found a way to create uniform crystals with silicon and carbon, silicon carbide.

Continue reading "Why Silicon Carbide Matters"

Of Mighty Mouse And MenEmail This EntryPrint This Article

We're reaching the limits of chemistry. (Buy your poster of Mighty Mouse here.)

One vital point few commentators mention today is that fewer new chemical compounds are coming to market against disease. This is one of the problems that's fueling the drug industry's consolidation.

The future lies in manipulating genes themselves. We've seen stories just in the last weeks about scientists creating mice that have more endurance and are stronger, even cattle that are leaner and more muscular.

You got a problem with that?

Continue reading "Of Mighty Mouse And Men"

Health Care Technology Standards Needed StatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written several times about how antiquated computing is in the area of health care.

Politicians are starting to take notice of the same thing. (Registration Required)

Fortunately this is a bipartisan recognition. The Post comment above is written by the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist (right, from CNN), and a leader of the minority Democrats, Hillary Clinton.

But what are they really proposing?

Continue reading "Health Care Technology Standards Needed Stat"

August 25, 2004

Shorter AgreEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Philip Agre of UCLA has put out a provocative essay attacking conservatism at its core and proposing what should be done.

It’s long. It’s pedantic. It’s the kind of thing an information studies professor at UCLA would write. (Well, he is an information studies professor at UCLA.) But it won’t get you on The Daily Show or even Meet The Press

For that we need a shorter Agre. Here goes:

Continue reading "Shorter Agre"

Zander's Biggest Coup YetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Since taking over Motorola former Sun COO Ed Zander has been hitting on all cylinders, grabbing market share and building alliances.

This is his biggest yet. (Oh, and word to Motorola PR. Why are all the best pictures of your CEO still on the Sun site?)

Motorola is going to make phones for DoCoMo, Japan's leading cellular provider.

DoCoMo isn't just big. DoCoMo is smart. They have the best reputation in the world for commercializing data applications. The rest of the world is at least three years behind DoCoMo.

And now Motorola will be in the forefront of trying to solve DoCoMo's biggest problem, how do you make all that fast data functionality usable in the tiny form factor of a cell phone.

Continue reading "Zander's Biggest Coup Yet"

VOIP Hardware Go-AheadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Despite a regulatory regime that is impossible to obey (isolating data traffic that's to be turned into voice on a network with trillions of transactions going through it each second) hardware makers are going ahead with the production of Voice Over IP (VOIP) hardware.

Linksys and Netgear are the latest to say that voice support will become part of their residential gateways Real Soon Now. (For more on VOIP, buy O'Reilly's VOIP book, right.)

In this case, however, the Feds will be glad to know there's actually less here than meets the eye.

Continue reading "VOIP Hardware Go-Ahead"

World Law Of Minimal FreedomEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If every nation enjoys remote jurisdiction on the worldwide network, then the only functions available are those legal in every jurisdiction. (Tipped justice scales from Glad.Org.)

Yet that's apparently what the U.S. Court of Appeals thinks should happen. The court ruled that Yahoo.Com, a U.S. site, cannot be protected against French enforcement of French rules regarding what can-and-can't-be-sold.

Continue reading "World Law Of Minimal Freedom"

New Confirmation: We Spam Like MadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

New confirmation that the U.S. remains the world spamming leader comes from Sophos. Sophos, which gets its data from spam-attracting "honeypots," said 43% of the world's spam comes from the U.S., 27% combined comes from China and Korea. (The caricature is from Sophos' French site.)

Earlier this month, readers of this blog will remember, we reported on a CipherTrust study that 86% of the spam it collects at client sites comes from U.S. addresses, although many spoof foreign addresses.

Continue reading "New Confirmation: We Spam Like Mad"

August 24, 2004

Another Defeat For MicrosoftEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't know about US out of the UN, but I know one thing for sure.

Microsoft out of the UN. (Illustration from UN/Cefact.)

Microsoft has quit UN/Cefact, the UN's standards-making effort for e-commerce, via e-mail. It cited "business reasons."

What it means is that the standards body wanted protection for patents on technologies thrown into the pot. Microsoft wouldn't give it.

Continue reading "Another Defeat For Microsoft"

Got AT&T Wireless? Not For LongEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Cingular and AT&T finally settled the outstanding issues resulting from the Baby Bell cellular's acquisition of Ma's cellular assets.

The deal was beginning to confuse even me, given the extensive advertising of the AT&T Wireless brand during the Olympics.

Continue reading "Got AT&T Wireless? Not For Long"

Bad Reporting Raises Blood PressureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I am coming to believe the American press is biased...toward stupidity. (Illustration by the marvelous Danny Filippone. Every doctor's office should have a poster of this one, don't you think?)

Here's a perfect example of bad reporting, a bylined report on a medical Web site about one-third of Americans having high blood pressure.

Read the story all the way through. Is there any definition of high blood pressure, or the correct way to measure it? No.

Fact is the American press has become so dumbed-down by low salaries and publishers' agendas that most paid reporters can't even read a press release, let alone ask a decent question based on one, or report accurately on what they read.

Continue reading "Bad Reporting Raises Blood Pressure"

August 23, 2004

PrePaid GovernmentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

By announcing she was under consideration as the next Chair of the FCC, the Bush Administration has drawn a ton of telecommunications industry money into the uphill race of Becky Armendariz Klein, running in a heavily Democratic district against a five-term incumbent.

Some questions:

  • If Bush wins and she's not appointed, do the lobbyists get their money back?
  • If Bush loses, will there be heavy pressure to give her one of the required Republican seats on the FCC?
  • Is anyone going to follow what value these lenders get for their money?
  • Would Democrats have the nerve to pull this kind of scam on an industry?
  • Have they?
  • Why doesn't Klein's Web site say anything about telecommunications issues?

Just asking.

Control In The CenterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is much bigger news than you think.

Cisco's purchase of p-Cube for $200 million (the logo image is from p-Cube's home page) is important because of what p-Cube does, and what it has been unable to do. It makes boxes that control Internet content and messaging at the center of the network (as opposed to the edge) and until now it has been unable to sell its boxes to U.S. ISPs who fear being charged with "censors" by both users and rivals.

But what happens when that box says Cisco, instead of p-Cube?

Continue reading "Control In The Center"

Extorting The MarketplaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

InterContinental Hotels last week decided to stop listing its properties with Expedia and instead list exclusively with Travelocity. (Travelocity logo from the BBC.)

Few people noticed it, but it's an important event in the evolution of e-commerce, especially as travel is concerned.

Continue reading "Extorting The Marketplace"

Robot PokemonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

It's said that the creator of Pokemon got the idea from watching insects around his home, creating complex imaginary societies. This sort of thing is common in Japan, where space is tight, and so the eye is drawn to the small in order to imagine big things. (A lot of kids elsewhere do the same thing -- I did as a kid -- but we tend to grow out of it faster.)

Anyway this preoccupation is leading to real advances in robotics, here in the real world. And here's the latest. It's a tiny helicopter -- less than a half-ounce in size -- that can be programmed to take short flights and send back pictures.

Continue reading "Robot Pokemon"

August 21, 2004

Two KerrysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I supported Howard Dean, and opposed John Kerry, because there is one Dean and two Kerrys.

Howard Dean opposed the War in Iraq before it began. One John Kerry supported that war, while a second now calls it poorly executed and offers no realistic plan to do better.

Continue reading "Two Kerrys"

August 20, 2004

Hold The CelebrationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I haven't joined the cheering over the 9th Circuit decision upholding the DMCA's compromise position that software makers (like Grokster) can't be held liable for copyright violations performed with their software.

It's the plain language of the law. And it's in line with previous precedent, specifically the Betamax decision. (We'll get to the why of that picture soon, but meanwhile, if you like it, it's $4.99 from JDHodges.Com.)

The problem is that the Betamax decision itself is under unprecedented attack in the Congress. Vast sums are being spent on passing law that would directly overturn that decision.

Key to this is a notion called "intellectual property," which has no previous standing in law, but which is used by the copyright industries in every press release and utterance they make.

Continue reading "Hold The Celebration"

The SBC Tax HikeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Most tax hikes come with a return address. (Image from CNN.)

That is, there's a public process involved, and thus public pressure can be brought to bear. You can question where the money is going and at least shout "hey" when it's being extracted from your pocket.

That's not true with phone taxes. The causes to which they're put are private and so is the process through which they're assessed.

So if any politician tells you this year that they are against raising all taxes put their feet to the fire and refer them to this. It's a plan, privately negotiated, that is now before the FCC, a plan which will raise the cost of every phone line to $10/month, and start imposing similar taxes on your cable of telephone broadband service as well.

All for the convenience of SBC.

Continue reading "The SBC Tax Hike"

The ClickZ ModelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Wired did a story recently about how TidBits, a Mac-oriented newsletter, had “stumbled” on a way to profit from the Web by creating fast-turnaround e-books.

The e-books, dubbed “Take Control,” are PDF files priced at $5-10 each and they come with free updates. They’re laid out to print out on home printers, and have lots of links. Most important, they’re very timely. Engst says he has total sales of $20,000, and pays out a hefty percentage of that to his authors. His transactions are handled by eSellerate. Advertising is free – the TidBits mailing list is about 50,000 names long.

This is all great stuff. There’ just one problem. It’s not new at all. ClickZ did this, back in the 1990s, and I know others who did the same thing.

Continue reading "The ClickZ Model"

August 19, 2004

What Hath Google Wrought?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Despite everything -- despite the Playboy interview, despite the lowered valuation, despite the stupid allocations, despite the Yahoo deal -- despite everything, Google changed the world today.

By going public through a Dutch auction, and stiffing the investment banking community out of much of its usual fees, Google has changed the face of the stock marketplace forever.

Peter Thiel (right, from Clarium Capital), co-founder of Paypal and now a manager at Clarium, a hedge fund firm, tried to explain this to those slaves of Wall Street at CNBC this morning. They looked at him like he had lost his mind, but his point was dead-on.

The rules of the IPO game have changed.

Continue reading "What Hath Google Wrought?"

A Political StruggleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

These ladies aren't discussing the battle between Real Networks and Apple. But there's an important Clue to be derived here nonetheless.

The dispute between Real Networks and Apple Computer over getting Real songs onto the iPod is a business dispute, even a legal dispute. It's not supposed to be about politics or religion. (The illustration, from the Portland Tribune, is from a political rally.)

Customer loyalty, usually a wonderful thing, can be turned into passion that looks very political indeed. And when Real tried to make this political, through a petition, the backlash began.

Continue reading "A Political Struggle"

August 18, 2004

Spam's Dirtiest SecretEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Spam's dirtiest secret is that so-called "legitimate" businesses are footing the bills. (That's CipherTrust's Paul Judge, one of the "good guys" in the anti-spam fight, at right. Read more on him here. And if you see him, buy him a beer, or whatever he wants.)

They seldom do this directly. Mostly it's through "affiliate marketing" agreements, often created by re-sellers. The legitimate companies put stuff into their channel. The re-sellers are part of the channel. If the affiliate gets busted for spam it's "Mission Impossible" -- the secretary disavows any knowledge of their actions.

This is why, not that spam has swallowed the legitimate business of e-mail marketing, it's becoming seasonal. You get sex spam in the summer, financial scams in the fall.

This could, if someone were clever, create a way in which to reduce the spam problem.

Continue reading "Spam's Dirtiest Secret"

The Power of WindowsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The power of Windows lies in your ability to create and market profitable applications using it.

Yes, there's a limit. Once Microsoft decides it wants your market, your cost of defending the market will likely exceed any incremental sales from that effort.

But Linux lacks Windows' ability to make software profitable. And that is why Windows, not Linux, will lead the next evolution in cellular equipment.

Continue reading "The Power of Windows"

Dana's Law of Creativity SoftwareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

SSEYO has announced miniMIXA, an audio mixer for Windows smartphones.

As part of the roll-out a Reading, England arts festival will use it this weekend to mix what is being played “on-the-fly.”.

This could do to the cell phone market what programs like Musicmatch did to PCs.

The impact could be massive. Ringtones could be created at concerts, and sold right after the show. On the other hand, concert-goers could potentially bootleg the same concert and offer better mixes, free, within hours after the show.

This leads to Dana's Law of Creativity Software.

The cheaper it is, the more people can use it, and the lower the premium paid for poor results.

If you want to see what this thing is capable of, check out these sample mixes for yourself. Or, if you don't have a Windows cell phone, get a taste for the technology by downloading Sseyo's PC plug-in.

Sue A SpooferEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm on my own blacklist.

My e-mail address has been falsified or "spoofed" on so many spams and viruses over the years that when I get e-mail from myself I automatically set it to be deleted.

This is not uncommon. Anyone who has had their address for some time, especially if they're written articles against spam, faces the same problem.

But now there's hope.

Continue reading "Sue A Spoofer"

August 17, 2004

Denny Strigl's VaultEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Denny Strigl is president of Verizon Wireless. There are millions of dollars, maybe billions, he doesn't even know he has. They're locked away in a nascent cellular data market.

All this makes Greg Wilfahrt (right, from his Web site) into Geraldo Rivera. Wilfahrt, co-founder of SMS.AC, has gotten the key to this vault, in the form of a "premium billing agreement." He's gotten similar keys from most of the world's carriers, so he's opened the vault. He's even gotten a taste of the fortune inside.

But only a taste. The fortune, you see, has yet to be made.

Continue reading "Denny Strigl's Vault"

More Thoughts On The Blogging BusinessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Every day, it seems, I see more and more people trying to use the blogging metaphor to make money. (The image, naturally, comes from business-blog.com.)

The question remains whether blogging will become subsumed into other media (lots of high-tech publishers, like Business 2.0, now have things they call blogs), whether new journalism businesses can be built on blogging, and whether blogging will be an individual or community endeavor.

Following are some Clues to this future:

Continue reading "More Thoughts On The Blogging Business"

August 16, 2004

PR BloggingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The New York Times recently featured a (rather tortured) story on the attempt by Warner Music to influence blogging.

The headline summed up the paper's attitude -- Warner's Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note.

But the story revealed more about the Times' relationship to blogging, and the nature of blogging as journalism, than it did about the Warner case study. (I love O'Reilly covers, and I'm sure their book on blogging is quite good.)

Continue reading "PR Blogging"

Coming Attractions: Philippine Cell Tax BattleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is minimal pressure to raise taxes from cellular in the U.S. The land-line industry still generates enormous tax revenue. And the same tricks that serve to "hide" those taxes from consumers (and allow government to keep raising them) can be used on cellular bills.

In advanced cellular markets (with minimal land-line infrastructure) it's not so easy. So I thought it would be fun this morning to highlight the battle over taxes taking place in one such market, the Philippines.

(The Philippine map here is from the CNN International site.)

Continue reading "Coming Attractions: Philippine Cell Tax Battle"

Cingular-led Directory Goes AheadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Is this an instance where Verizon is on the side of the angels? (You can buy this little angel for your favorite Verizon executive (or anyone else) here, at Folkmanis Puppets.)

I've hammered Verizon Wireless often on this blog. They're control freaks. That's preventing the development of a unified cellular data market, and we're less than a year away from phones and networks that can indeed be part of the computing mainstream.

But in the case of cellular 411, consumer advocates say, Verizon's proprietary, protective attitude may be a good thing.

Continue reading "Cingular-led Directory Goes Ahead"

Phones As FashionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In an advanced cellular market (not the U.S., I said an advanced market) how often do consumers change out their phones?

Every 16 months, according to a Korean survey. (The flag is from Wong Fleming, a U.S. law firm which does business in South Korea.)

There are some other nuggets here as well:

  • Kids don't just go for the cheap stuff. We're talking $350 phones here.
  • Design wins out over function.
  • Parents pay.
  • Some 30% got their new phones because they were just tired of the old ones. Most of the rest lost theirs.

Plenty of Good Names Still AvailableEmail This EntryPrint This Article

You can still buy a .com name, at the regular price, that gets your point across, that's memorable, and that gives you a platform for what you want to do.

OK, the name may be a bit long....

August 15, 2004

Qwest and Winthrop: Casualties Of Moore's LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The media, the digirati, even some government figures are laughing today at the East Buchanan Telephone Co-op of Winthrop, Iowa.

They laugh because the co-op has threatened to cut-off cellular calls from Qwest on Monday, claiming it's not being paid for their termination.

The town bought a device that can distinguish between cellular calls and landline calls coming in over Qwest's long distance service. Qwest has won an injunction halting the shut-off for two weeks.

Most reaction has been that the town is crazy, that it doesn't stand a chance.

But they don't know the rest of the story.

Continue reading "Qwest and Winthrop: Casualties Of Moore's Law"

August 13, 2004

540 Megabit Wi-Fi Standard ProposedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

You read that right, kids.

Think of it as Moore's Law in action.

This isn't some funky, proprietary, phony Wi-Fi, either. The 802.11n standard is being proposed by chip-makers Texas Instruments, STMElectrtonics and Broadcom, along with Airgo Networks, Bermai, and Conexant Systems Inc.

The group calls itself WWISE, and plans to submit this as a proposed standard to the IEEE. (WWISE is where the image came from. It's cute.)

The standard can go to 540 Mbps, but the group says it's really only going to claim 100 Mbps because, as they say, your mileage may vary.

Continue reading "540 Megabit Wi-Fi Standard Proposed"

New Support for Spam Kingpin TheoryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A new study from CipherTrust gives new support to the theory that spam could be greatly reduced by finding, and jailing, a few hundred Americans. (Picture from USA Today.)

Gregg Keizer writes for Information Week that, rather than put up a "honeypot" aimed at attracting spam, CipherTrust measured the actual spam it intercepted for its clients.

Dmitri Alperovitch, a research engineer at CipherTrust, explained that "some spammers are actually targeting specific companies with messages that the honey pots wouldn't see."

Continue reading "New Support for Spam Kingpin Theory"

Cringely's MasterpieceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have been rather unkind to Robert Cringely over the years. It was nothing personal. I just had some disagreements.

But the dude can write. He has sources. And today he has come up with a masterpiece. (Picture from the Bitwaste blog.)

The story is on the U.S. sentencing guidelines, and a study showing they wouldn't work which was performed, then buried in 1982. Had the results of this scientific study been accepted, rather than rejected for political reasons, he writes, hundreds of thousands of people might be out of prison, contributing to society, and crime might indeed be lower.

But read the piece yourself and make your own decision. As writing, I want to point to this snap ending:

Continue reading "Cringely's Masterpiece"

Heroes Of CapitalismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Space Transport Corp. made its play for the Ansari XPrize yesterday, launching its Rubicon I at the edge of the Olympia peninsula in Washington state.

The launch was...a complete disaster. (Picture from eBay.)

But, no matter. John Anderson, whose property the boys were using as their Cape Canaveral, had a cunning plan. He reportedly suggested, "Hey, why not put it on eBay?"

Continue reading "Heroes Of Capitalism"

Basic (Executive) InstinctEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If H-P Chairman Carl Fiorina had to report a bad quarter, which he could blame on one group, and if he then sacked the heads of that group, we'd call Carl one tough hombre.

But the H-P Chair's name is Carly, not Carl. (Actually, it's Carleton.) So guess what you were thinking when you read the news? (Picture from PBS.)

Yes, indeed, sexism is alive and well, even after you break through the glass ceiling.

Continue reading "Basic (Executive) Instinct"

The Latest Playboy InterviewEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Google IPO is officially a fiasco.

People were "accidentally" given options that weren't accounted for. The company suddenly gave a big hunk of itself to its chief rival. People who've used the automated system for accessing the IPO find themselves shut out, and they're not told why.

And now, Google's founders have accidentally "broken" their quiet period, with a Playboy interview (given months ago) that was published just as the public stock is ready for release.

The paranoid might ask questions.

Continue reading "The Latest Playboy Interview"

Hang 'im High?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Jeffrey Lee Parson pled guilty yesterday to creating a variant of the Blaster worm and now faces up to three years in prison. (Picture from the Sydney Morning Herald.)

The reaction of many in the computing world is he got off lightly. Hang him high, they say. Make an example of him.

Continue reading "Hang 'im High?"

August 12, 2004

Virus Was Actually DRMEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A trojan virus allegedly put inside a cellular game written for Symbian phones (which is most of them, including Nokia's) was, it turns out, actually a copy protection scheme.

Word of the cellular virus spread around the world, and millions of customers are now being told that their phones are no safer than their Windows PCs.

F-Secure, which first reported on this virus, continues to classify it as one.

And it is.

Going Knoware FastEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft's attempt to sell a "crippled" version of Windows XP in markets where Linux is a serious threat reminds me of a story. (The illustration is from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols's analysis in eWeek.)

My first Comdex, in 1983, featured many attempts to deal with what was then a big problem. Ashton-Tate dominated the market with its dBase II database, but dBase II was tough to use. It was powerful, but few used all its power.

So there were many attempts that year to create a simpler, easy to use, but less powerful alternative. One I remember most fondly was called Knoware.

Its slogan was: I'm Going Knoware Fast.

Continue reading "Going Knoware Fast"

Molding The NetworkEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One of our big problems today is that we can't really "mold" our local networks. (Image from CNN.)

You set up an 802.11 (WiFi) system in your home and the signal goes anywhere it can. You push out enough amps to get it through internal walls and, when it hits an external wall, it flies -- far and wide.

Sure, you can encrypt your whole network. You can add security. But that doesn't solve the whole problem. It doesn't address the fact that your network now interferes with that of your neighbor. When he gets WiFi, his signals are coming your way.

Fortunately, solutions are coming.

Continue reading "Molding The Network"

Hotspots Want To Be Free (With A Sticky Bun)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Internet Week is featuring a couple of profiles on hotspot business models. (The illustration, from a Portuguese wireless company, shows coverage areas of several hotspots, and how they overlap.)

There are two ways to go. One way is to broaden network coverage in order to make it valuable, as David Haskins says SBC is doing. Another way is to let your pastries do the talking, as Panera Bread is doing.

Which way works best?

Continue reading "Hotspots Want To Be Free (With A Sticky Bun)"

Digital Phone Tap RulesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over at Freedom to Tinker, Edward Felton has taken a close look at the FCC's proposed rules on digital wiretapping. (This software isn't mentioned in the new rules, but if you want it, here it is, come and get it.)

Felton's verdict: it could be worse.

The question of whether to wiretap isn't on the table, he notes, because the requirement is explicit in law. What the FCC had to do, in thise case, was find rules that would enable the law, rules that might not be too burdensome to network operators.

How did they do? Not bad, he says:

Continue reading "Digital Phone Tap Rules"

August 11, 2004

The Second Tech Crash?Email This EntryPrint This Article

With very little fanfare, technology stocks are crashing again.

Following a disappointing earnings outlook from Cisco (a fearful view shared by other tech heavyweights) the "tech-heavy" NASDAQ average has plunged to about 1760. (The chart is from TA Professional, a German magazine specializing in technical analysis of stock trends.)

How much lower might it go?

Continue reading "The Second Tech Crash?"

Medicine's Luddite LobbyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Each time a member of my family needs any type of medical care I'm frustrated. (The image is from the good people at Tympanitis.com, fighting the good fight against otitis media, and is used here completely out of context.)

Mainly I'm frustrated by paperwork and waste. I'm frustrated with filling out forms, and dealing with bureaucratic clerks.

I'm frustrated because it's all so expensive, and all so unnecessary. There are technologies available today that will cure this problem, solutions that can be implemented now.

If big insurers gave clients smart cards, and insisted that all members of their networks take smart card readers, it would be a big start. Entire medical histories, and biometric identification, could be mounted on the cards cheaply. Read the card and the doctor's network automatically knows what it needs to do, about the patient and the billing.

Why hasn't this happened yet? In a word, privacy.

Continue reading "Medicine's Luddite Lobby"

August 10, 2004

Getting Into The TradeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There's a lot of talk now about quickie "computer degree mills" like Northface, a for-profit school that aims to turn ordinary people into computer geeks within 28 months, at a cost of about $60,000.

I believe Northface could be a very good thing indeed, if it were offering master's degrees instead of a bachelor's. Once someone has learned all they can at a B.A. or B.S. level, a graduate program focused on a chosen profession can deliver someone with both skills and flexibility. You don't see doctors or lawyers going straight to their profession from high school. Why should first-rate computer experts be any different?

I have to question the motives of the big corporations backing this play -- Microsoft and IBM among them. They need leaders, not drones, and if you cut off general education at high school, then go directly into professional training, you're left with someone who lacks flexibility. They'll be good for maybe 10 years, then you dump them and get someone with a newer skill set.

My view, however, is based on personal experience, and the best computer programmer I know.

I happen to know her intimately.

Continue reading "Getting Into The Trade"

Gross InjusticeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Business method patents should not exist.

It should not be possible to patent a way of doing business and force everyone else who wants to do business in that way to pay you for the privilege.

That is an obscenity.

But that obscenity is the law, and that obscenity has given Yahoo what may end up being a controlling interest in Google.

Continue reading "Gross Injustice"

August 09, 2004

The Cellular InterfaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Last week, as you may recall I spent some time dumping on the new Danger box. I have also been working with documentation from a wide variety of today’s cell phones. (The illustration is from the St. Petersburg Times in Florida, and first appeared in 2002.)

What I have learned is that today’s phones have a wide list of options, in terms of what they’re going to be.

Continue reading "The Cellular Interface"

Happy Days?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Lycos was just sold for 111.1 billion!

Happy days are here again!

(Oh, that's 111.1 billion Korean won. It's just $95.2 million in U.S. dollars.)

Never mind.

Well, No ActuallyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Just because a U.S. firm is pushed under by U.S. law, and the efforts of copyright police, does not mean that the technology they create disappears.

There are lots of Russians who can count to 321.

Tyranny of the MouseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

IP stands for Intellectual Property. Under the Constitution it is not like other property, like land or a tractor (or this kite, which you may buy here.) . It is not yours forever, and you don't have absolute control over it.

Because the Internet and other digital technologies make IP so easy to pass around, however, the industries that own IP are trying, in our time, to make IP just like land or tractors. (Dan Gillmor is among many all over this story.)

There are two tracks to this effort.

Continue reading "Tyranny of the Mouse"

August 07, 2004

I, Robot (I, Subversive)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The most politically subversive movie of the year is not Fahrenheit 911*.

It's I, Robot. (Image of the poster from AMEInfo in the UAE.)

My 13-year old son dragged me to see this Will Smith vehicle today. It tells the story of an evil, soulless corporation (check) whose creatures seek to destroy freedom in the name of security (double check).

But wait, it gets better. (Of course, if you click you'll learn the whole plot, so consider this your spoiler alert.)

Continue reading "I, Robot (I, Subversive)"

August 06, 2004

Danger ReviewEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The New York Times has reviewed the new Danger cell phone, under the name of T-Mobile, the cellular operator that will offer it this fall. (The illustration comes from the Times' story.)

The new device carries the name Sidekick II, and the Times likes it.

I don't. Here's why.

Continue reading "Danger Review"

Disney's PCEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Michael Eisner would you please go now?

Disney has announced it is entering the PC market. (The illustration is from the Times' story.)

There are so many things wrong with this, on so many levels. I hardly know where to begin.

Continue reading "Disney's PC"

Meanwhile, in SaskatchewanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Canadian DaVinci Project has a launch date -- October 2. (Picture from the BBC.)

On that date, a balloon will lift off from Kindersley, Saskatchewan bearing, among other things, the logo of the GoldenPalace.Com Internet casino and a rocket called Wild Fire.

If all goes well, the rocket will be released at 80,000 feet, fire, go up an additional 230,000 feet (roughly), then re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and land, ready to do it again within two weeks.

Meanwhile, of course, the American favorite, SpaceShipOne, will have already launched on September 29 carrying the weight of three men. It will have landed, and it will be be sitting on the ground in California, waiting for the October 4 repeat launch that will secure it the X-Prize.

You can't make this kind of stuff up.

Continue reading "Meanwhile, in Saskatchewan"

Google Gets ScammyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What began as an attempt to de-fang the wolves of Wall Street has descended into a Silicon Valley farce.

The problem with Google's IPO delay does not lie in the technical glitches of the system. And it doesn't lie in the really silly price being quoted -- $110 per share.

It lies in the great scandal of the 1990s -- stock options.

Continue reading "Google Gets Scammy"

August 05, 2004

The Internet Is Inherently InsecureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is not news.

On the other hand it is big news. (One more reason to love O'Reilly is at left. They do better parodies of themselves than any rival can.)

At the DefCon show in Las Vegas, a few weeks ago, a speaker from Avaya noted that DNS, the Internet's "white pages," makes it inherently easy to attack. At another conference in the same town a speaker noted that the best tool for hackers is...Google.

Shock. Consternation. Anger.

What should we do about this?

Continue reading "The Internet Is Inherently Insecure"

Secrets of Blog SuccessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The secret to turning a blog into a financial success lies in the word community.

Community is what lets a blog scale from one person spouting off into a true online service, with enough traffic to pay the bills with advertising.

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (left, from his site) revealed this today on his site, Daily Kos, but I am NOT making a political point here. The most successful conservative sites, from FreeRepublic to Lucianne.Com to Andrew Sullivan, all do the exact same things.

What do they do?

Continue reading "Secrets of Blog Success"

August 04, 2004

Encryption Wars, Back AgainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Once again we have to relearn one of those great Internet truths.

On a global network national law is a local ordinance.

With the ominous words, "the hammer drops on VOIP," and other allusions to FCC chairman Michael Powell, Brock Meeks reported today on a 5-0 FCC vote that the CALEA law applies to the technology. All providers of Voice Over IP (VOIP) services must provide "back doors" through which government can tap into the conversations.

So once again we're back to Phil Zimmerman (right, from his own Web site). Back in the 1990s Zimmerman created Pretty Good Privacy, an encryption scheme for which police would have no key. After winning his own liberty (the government arrested him for "distributing" the code by posting it on the Internet) Zimmerman took his technology to Ireland, where it became part of Hushmail. When the heat died down he came back.

The encryption war was won by the market, not the government.

So it will be again.

Continue reading "Encryption Wars, Back Again"

Alvarion Dominating 802.11Email This EntryPrint This Article

Alvarion (the logo is from their Web site) has always intrigued me, because the company's strategy is to maintain good, sound business relationships with Wireless ISPs, even if that means charging relatively high prices for product.

What professional WISPs want, more than anything, is service. Alvarion delivers service. Alvarion charges for service.

In contrast, Proxim has worked to build a complete product line, spanning the LAN and WAN sides of the 802.11 area, and vertically integrating from the chip to the board to the device. Compared to Alvarion gear, Proxim gear is usually a bargain.

Guess which company has won the war?

Continue reading "Alvarion Dominating 802.11"

Agile Radio Steps Into SiliconEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This is an important Always-On story.

Intel has announced its first "agile radio" chip.

This means you can have a device that supports multiple networks, and the chip will tune itself to whatever is available.

This is one step toward Always-On, but others are needed. We need agile radio chips that not only tune to the right frequency, but deliver just the right power to reach another chip in the network, and no more. We need agile radios whose antennas can point to other agile radios and not spread radio waves in every direction. When we have that we can "mold" local wireless networks to just the coverage area they need to have, no more.

But that is coming.

The Real Problem With CellularEmail This EntryPrint This Article

It's the devices, and the fact that cellular networks have absolute control over which devices work on their networks.

So it doesn't matter if someone announces a box that works on both 802.11 and cellular. (Oh, and this is beyond the question of whether said box is any good.) Unless a carrier allows the device to go onto their network, it doesn't exist.

It also doesn't matter if Avaya and Motorola have technology to allow 802.11 roaming. If it is not supported, then it does not exist.

Continue reading "The Real Problem With Cellular"

When Will IBM Get Its Props?Email This EntryPrint This Article

You almost never hear from IBM anymore, except once a quarter when they announce record earnings.

It's time they got some proper respect. It's time they got their props. (Image from the BBC.)

This year IBM will bring in $4.66 in profit for each share of common stock, currently worth about $85. It has sales of almost $93 BILLION per year now, and brings $8 billion of that to the bottom line. (By contrast Microsoft, which claims it has run out of ideas, has one-third the sales, albeit nearly the same level of profit.)

Ah, yes, you say, but what has IBM done for me lately?

Continue reading "When Will IBM Get Its Props?"

August 03, 2004

Population Bomb Defused?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Remember The Population Bomb? This was Paul Ehrlich's Mathusian nightmare scenario from 1968, the idea being that population was growing so fast the Earth would be unable to sustain it.

Well, a funny thing has happened on the way to Armageddon. While the world now has nearly twice the population it did when Ehrlich wrote his book, the rate of growth worldwide is slowing. Some places are even de-populating.

That's the conclusion of Nicholas Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute (from which the picture was taken). And it's not just happening in Japan and Europe, either.

Continue reading "Population Bomb Defused?"

Spectrum: The New FrontierEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A very important political story snuck by us last week. I blame John Kerry for it.

The story is the new push by Intel for 802.16 WiMax spectrum.

While there are lots of high frequency bands in which WiMax could live, the inescapable fact is that the lower your frequency the farther your waves can travel. That's why AM stations can be heard across the country (when conditions are right) while FM stations have trouble being heard across town.

Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney (above, from the Intel site) is lobbying China, the UK and the U.S. to open up space in the 700 MHz band, frequencies UHF TV stations will be abandoning as they move to digital broadcasting, for unlicensed use as WiMax transmission bands.

Continue reading "Spectrum: The New Frontier"

Chip MorphingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The biggest problem we have with Moore's Law is that we think of it linearly. (That's the man himself, from the BBC.)

Chips get faster and faster, faster and faster. That's the short form for Moore's Law, as Moore himself wrote it back in the 1960s.

But there are other ways for chips to get better other than by just getting faster. RISC made chips better. Low power technology makes chips better. FPGA makes chips better. Technologies like IBM's new "chip morphing" make chips better.

So I'm going to do something really big here. I'm going to re-state Moore's Law, for the 21st Century, as companies like Intel and IBM now understand it.

Chips get better and better, faster and faster.

I hope Mr. Moore' will approve.

Continue reading "Chip Morphing"

The Real Problem With MicrosoftEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've been looking at Microsoft from the inside and outside, and I have finally figured out the company's big problem. (Photo from the BBC.)

It's a lack of entrepreneurs.

Microsoft hires smart people, who have good ideas. But Microsoft has just one entrepreneur. His name is Bill Gates. Everyone else is a manager.

This is why Microsoft is looking more and more like IBM. This is precisely what happened to IBM itself, as Tom Watson Jr. exhausted his Last Big Idea (the IBM 360), suffered some heart problems (he recovered), and left the company in 1971, aged 55.

IBM, in the 1970s, became bureaucratic, it became backward-looking, it devoted itself wholly to the interests of its big customers. It became vulnerable to the first kid to come along with a Clue.

How can Microsoft solve its mid-life crisis?

Continue reading "The Real Problem With Microsoft"

The Blogging Of The President 2004Email This EntryPrint This Article

Dan Bricklin, as usual, has it exactly right.

Last week was a test. It was not a final exam.

Charles Cooper was among those quick to call the Boston blogging experiment a failure, based mainly on the fact that some bloggers failed to perform as journalists, while some journalists given blogging tools did rather well.

That's not the point. I'm going to have to repeat a great truth here, and I expect Cooper to finally "get it."

Continue reading "The Blogging Of The President 2004"

August 02, 2004

Elmer FUDEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't know what else to call this, a story that claims Linux "violates" 283 patents, none of which has yet held up in court. (Buy this image and more, at Cartoonfreak.nl.)

Fact is there are many types of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). There is Microsoft FUD, there is Political FUD, there is Security FUD. Then there is the kind of FUD that is so transparent, so ridiculous, and (at bottom) so howlingly funny you can only call it (with apologies to the good people at Warner Brothers and in tribute to the late, great Chuck Jones) Elmer FUD.

That's what we got here.

Continue reading "Elmer FUD"

John Perry Barlow's Cunning PlanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is great angst, trepidation, even an anticipation of tsuris (not to mention a lot of Vertruckete), surrounding the Republican National Convention in New York later this month.

The GOP fears terrorism. Mayor Bloomberg fears demonstrations. Democrats fear that something will get out of hand and give their opponents a big boost. (Think Chicago in 1968.)

Well, former Grateful Dead lyricist (and, he adds, former Republican) John Perry Barlow has what the British might call "a cunning plan."


Continue reading "John Perry Barlow's Cunning Plan"

Blogging In PerspectiveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For all the hoo-ha over blogging it's important to put the "industry" into its proper perspective.

A recent item at Daily Kos, one of the more popular political Web sites, did this very neatly.

The purpose of the chart was to show Kos edging past a rival site, Instapundit. But for our purposes it's more illustrative to look at the left side of the scale, unique visitors per month.

Continue reading "Blogging In Perspective"

The Unpatriotic EntrepreneurEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There are many bloggers, of many types.

Lately many "professionals," that is people with jobs, have started blogging. Like the estimable Jeff Cornwall, who holds the Jack Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship at Belmont College in Nashville.

Recently, Professor Cornwall did a piece advising entrepreneurs on what to do about all these terror alerts, which was sent to me by a reader.

His advice: panic.

Continue reading "The Unpatriotic Entrepreneur"

On Wisconsin...How They Do ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A lot of people were shocked over the weekend to learn that the University of Wisconsin has as many CEOs among its alumni as Harvard, and more than anyone else. (And, yes, they're including the campus at Green Bay. Image from Chunder.Com.)

Here's how they do it:

  • A big pool. Wisconsin has a lot of campuses, not just Madison, and 29,000 undergraduates.
  • A small goal. The winning number was 15.
  • Grad school. Most Wisconsin graduates who made it didn't end their education there. They went on to get graduate degrees, often at more prestigious places.

The rest of the explanations hereare nonsense. They are part cow college stereotype, part political stereotype. If Wisconsin were an ethnic group, they could sue.

August 01, 2004

The Last Phone Company Asset, Under ThreatEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've written before that, when all is said and done, the most valuable asset phone companies have today are their rights of way, and the poles that now hold their wires.

But it turns out even this can be replaced.

New York City has signed deals with a number of wireless carriers to use traffic lights as wireless antenna points. (This cool photo of a New York traffic light is from Laki Sideris.)

This won't work in cities like Atlanta, where not every corner has a light. But there's nothing to stop cities from erecting "unused" poles and renting them out, or leasing that space to private companies who can erect the poles.

So long as the phone and cable operators don't buy those companies, even this last mile of their monopoly can be replaced.

The Chip Danger In Cell PhonesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over at The Feature Mike Masnick has a little piece asking whether mobile phones are a black hole for the chip industry. (This drawing passes for Mike's picture over at The Feature.)

On the surface the charge is silly. Chip makers make chips, phones use chips. Phones are quickly replaced, which means the industry sells more chips. If by "black hole" you mean something that sucks up all the industry's capacity, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

But there is danger here, and it's based on the nature of the phones now being produced.

Continue reading "The Chip Danger In Cell Phones"