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As a confirmed fan of geeky things, I hate to admit this.
But my mobile phone is just a phone. (For more, visit where the picture came from.)
While I'm going off amazed at the wonders of the latest gadgets, fact remains that a mobile phone itself is, in terms of much of the world, a revolution.
Imagine. No wires. Small enough to fit in a pocket. Easy to use. And it lets you talk to anyone, anywhere, instantly. For pennies. Wow.
Asian telecom executives had to remind folks of that at the 3GSM conference recently.
I'm glad they did. Know this, 21st century man. The most revolutionary invention in the history of man was probably...the telegraph.
I was late to Seach Engine Optimization (SEO). It seemed to me like a parlor trick.
The idea of manipulating a search engine's algorithm so as to dictate the first results a user sees feels like...cheating.
But I know a lot of people who use it, honest people. I've seen the good work SEO voodoo can do. And I've learned that, when done in conjunction with a complete online marketing campaign, instead of just in isolation, SEO is an important tool in the online marketer's toolbook.
And so it is becoming. (I will explain that logo to the right if you just click below.)
Cut through the verbiage, and that's the charge made against Linux by the Gartner Group.
Desktop Linux is really just a dodge to get a stripped-down PC that will actually run a pirated copy of Windows, the research group said. (Image from the CPFC.)
It really puts all those stories about Microsoft creating cheap, stripped versions of Windows for foreign markets in a different light. Better we get something and give them a chance to advance something for us in their local language than we get nothing.
What about all those governments that talk about running Linux, and all those politicians praising the penguin?
Gartner has an answer:
I have long felt that Microsoft had a key advantage in the mobile space because Windows runs a robust, scalable kernel and offers the best way for people to sell applications.
This last puts it ahead of Linux. The Linux business model is based on selling services. Microsoft has a huge team of people focused on building application software markets under its operating system.
Now ABI Research has put some numbers to this and the press is all in a dither.
It is inevitable that someone will write a virus that runs on a mobile phone.
The press is salivating over the issue. Everyone is on the lookout. But when something pops up there's always a caveat that lets the search continue.
You'll remember, for instance, how an alleged first "virus" recently turned out to be a copy protection scheme? It did the work of a virus, it spread virally, but it wasn't a virus because it wasn't designed to be one.
Well now we have one that's designed to be a virus, but how much you want to bet this one won't count either because it doesn't really do any damage? (The illustration above is from the BBC story on this virus.) And right on the heels of this is the first offer of anti-viral software (that's where the real money is here anyway).
When we finally get a real mobile virus outbreak, a program written as a virus that does substantial damage, of course, that "first" will be watered-down by all the others, like yesterday's.
So there's no real glory in writing a mobile phone virus. Don't bother.
I've been looking for a good RSS Newsreader for some time.
The folks at Newsgator have a good one, and offered a review unit months ago. Turns out to work with Outlook, not Outlook Express.
But never fear, they have an OE version. With this, Newsgator does the work and just sends you e-mails when your keywords get hit with a relevant item.
So what about it?
What's a store?
Usually you think of a physical location, a building (or a piece of one), in which you find merchandise and a cash register.
But is that the only store? Isn't Amazon.Com a store? Amazon consists of warehouses and databases and delivery vehicles. That model is actually 150 years old, dating from the Sears or Montgomery Ward "Wish Books" of the 19th century. (This here store is actually just a cute piece of bric-a-brac, available here from Aspencountry.com, a Web site.)
But is that the only store?
No. Now a store can be anywhere thanks to Always-On technologies (and Verifone, which has enabled its use for Point of Sale transactions).
What are you talking about, Dana?
Don't believe surveys. Any surveys.
I'm talking about more than the Presidential Polls. I'm talking about any survey, public or private, no matter the subject, that claims statistical validity based on calling people on the telephone.
That's the question, after all, that eluded Apollo. What came next wasn't nearly as exciting as what had already come, thus interest in space waned.
While the publisher of Tubular Bells (you didn't know that was where Richard Branson's fortune started?) has licensed the craft for its designed use of space tourism, there's a new goal, and a new prize shaping up. (That's Branson, from the BBC story.)
AMEC, which has part of the contract for restarting Iraq's water and energy, is behind a move to re-launch the nuclear power business through what's called planar geomelting. (Image from the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab.)
The idea is that the subsurface of the waste is melted, at high heat, leaving a sturdy coating from which gases have been expelled. The waste then becomes stable for over 200,000 years, AMEC claims, by which time the material is no longer radioactive.
With Microsoft cutting back, with Intel dropping product lines and with entrepreneurs stuffed by a fearful capital market, a journalist is hard-pressed to find a brave company taking big risks in the face of real market opposition.
IBM is putting $250 million into a new division that will push RFID and other Always-On technologies. The division's name is the Sensor and Actuator Solutions. The division will become part of IBM's Pervasive Computing business.
Now when anyone tells you Always-On is a myth, you send them to Armonk.
Which bright bulb over at AT&T Wireless came up with the idea that teenagers don't want to talk?
Donald, do your thing now.
AT&T Wireless has released a Taiwanese-device called Ogo that, for $100, plus $20/month in service charges, lets you do everything a mobile phone does, except talk!
That's right. A messaging-only mobile. For kids. (The image is from the C|Net story, by Ben Charny, which was completely non-judgmental. Fortunately blogs don't have to be that way.)
I'm old enough to remember the original Yahoo, a site that deliberately toned down its graphics to load faster. I know that's old-fashioned today, now that so many people have broadband connections.
But did they have to turn it into Excite?
The online photofinishing wars were supposed to be simple.
There would be Kodak (of course), their big photofinishing partners, and maybe some competitors.
That's not the way it worked out.
What we've got instead are a host of Web sites working to top one another in offering free tools. It's not a photo market, but an Internet market.
We got a lot of feedback (for us) on the recent note about Spamdexing Google News.
I know J.D.'s aim was true because I saw the same thing early this year when I worked with Howard Dean. News searches on his name turned up tons of stories, often multiple copies of the same story, from Chronwatch and sites affiliated with it. Defenses of Dean somehow didn't make it in.
We now know the reason. Chronwatch was using Search Engine Optimization techniques to get its stories to the top of the rankings on that keyword.
Of course, that was an early beta version of Google News.
Blogging software can be used to create a media site. But as I've said many times here, it can be used for many other things. (Note that the Movable Type logo to the right, from their site, calls it a Publishing Platform.)
Since blogging software is based on a database metaphor it can easily be used to sell goods. Comments thus become customer feedback. Your search box becomes a link to the inventory. Any site can be a blog.
But most of those who talk about blogging talk about it as a medium, as a way to do journalism.
In line with that, we're saddened by the news that Billmon, a popular blogger known for his Whiskey Bar, has decided to fold up his tent. And I'm afraid that what he wrote (fortunately it was in a newspaper) as he left the field was both obvious and wrong.
Simpay has won agreements with Europe's four largest mobile providers to offer third-party billing services next year.
While The Inquirer touts this as the death of mobile phone portals like Vodafone Live, it's actually far more significant than that.
Or it could be.
That's right, kiddies. Ireland has gotten into its second major cyber-scrape, one big enough to use the word "war" in describing. (You will also notice that the ancestral home of my mom's people, the O'Donnells, is not shown on this Irish map from the Goingonvacation site.)
Ireland's first cyber-war came in the late 1990s, when an Irish entrepreneur, Connect-Ireland, won the contract to manage East Timor's registration service. East Timor at that time was trying to break away from Indonesia. So Indonesian hackers engaged in a cyber-war to try and take the Irish site down.
Its latest effort is more offensive-minded.
This is big news.
If space remains a preserve of governments then it has to compete with all other government functions, both swords and plowshares.
But if space can be made to pay then it merely has to compete against all the other possible uses of private capital. And the growth potential for space is unlimited.
While many in the anti-spam war will applaud this news (see that one hand clapping) it should also be noted that this is a private action filed based on the content of an ISP's network. In other words, the ISPs are being sued for what others are doing.
I had wondered for some time why Google News highlighted right-wing crank sites like ChronWatch, often at the expense of, say, The New York Times.
The answer, JD Lasica writes in the Online Journalism Review, turns out to be SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Conservatives are simply spamming the directory.
It's a Googlebomb. And they're bragging about it.
"I completely rebuilt the site to better organize, categorize and display the content, to ease the process of adding articles to the site, and to especially be more search-engine friendly," ChronWatch Web developer Thomas Krafft told Lasica in an e-mail.
Computer Associates was a classic "roll-up." (Art from CNN.)
That is, it grew by acquisitions. It took second or third-place products in a wide variety of disciplines and cobbled them together into big "systems" it could bundle to big customers.
But MCI was also a "roll-up." So was Tyco. So, in some ways, was Enron.
See the pattern?
Well it goes beyond that. It now extends all the way to the courthouse, the criminal courthouse. Former CEO (and New York Islanders co-owner) Sanjay Kumar faces criminal charges, and the company faces an 18-month deadline to clean up its act or face more than the $225 million fine it's already agreed to.
Yet Banc of America Securities still rates the stock a "buy." Huh?
One thing that doesn't draw enough comment in the excitement over the iPod (right, from the Hatena Diary in Japan) (and its growing list of competitors) is what this says about the underlying technology.
The iPod is a triumph for the hard disk over optical storage.
When DVDs first came out in the late 1990s they were able to offer about 5 Gigabytes of permanent storage on a disk that could sell for $20, even including the cost of the content. At that time it was a big deal to have a 5 Gigabyte hard drive, and you paid through the nose for it.
Today drive storage prices are down to $1 per Gigabyte. And you can get this storage in any form factor you want. There are even hard drives in some mobile phones.
Not only has the price come down, but today's drives are sturdier than ever. Those dancers on the iPod commercials? Their music isn't skipping, as it might if they were holding CD players in their hands. (That's a subliminal point made in the marketing.) Remember tape back-up? Raise your hands if you still have it, or think you still need it.
The optical disk, meanwhile, has become a floppy. Sure you can buy a blank disk for as little as 60 cents, in quantity. (Fry's has a special on of 50 for $30, with rebate.) But what do you get for that? A few hours of a movie, maybe a dozen albums. And it's still not as sturdy or portable as a hard drive device.
The reason hard drives have become cool while optics drool has something to do with Moore's Law, but also the process by which these two technologies march forward.
The war on Comment Spam can be won.
I mention the subject because this blog was inundated last night with comment spam. All of it came from the same IP address -- 184.108.40.206. I wish the solution we were using would simply block comments from being placed once an IP address is on a blacklist, but it take out the trash so I should not complain.
But there are other solutions that can work as well, solutions that don't exist to fight e-mail spam:
There are many heroes in the blogosphere, and you may have your favorite.
For my money I'll take Hossein Derakhshan. Hossein works in Toronto and has been fighting the Iranian government online since 2000. (For more, see this great interview Jesse Elve of Blog Canada conducted with him recently.)
Hossein told Johotheblog last year there were 1,200 blogs in Iran. The BBC now estimates the number at 10-15,000.
More important, they represent the only free press left in that country.
Forbes, the magazine for the dumb-and-dumber executive, has another prize this week -- an article bemoaning the problem of batteries.
While it is true that metal batteries aren't advancing very fast, this is like deriding Moore's Law because improvements in copper are lagging. (The image of a lemon battery is from Hilaroad.com.)
Fact is there are new sources of power being developed all the time. And they're being adapted. When was the last time you saw a calculator or saw an emergency phone that wasn't solar-powered?
At the CTIA show this spring a lot of U.S. carrier representatives walked around with big silly grins on their face, proclaiming MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) to be the kick-start the mobile data market needs.
As Eric Lin notes over at The Feature MMS is slowing in Europe. The percentage of users in England who have never sent one jumped in the last year, from 27% to 36%. Those who do send them are sending fewer.
The reason is obvious.
Mobile phone makers have been trying to put various versions of the Web onto phones for years.
I've seen text interfaces, menuing interfaces, even an interface that talked. What I've seldom seen is a real browser, because phones lack the screens, the storage, or the interfaces to handle them.
Yet it's clear many people want the "real Web" anyway. The most popular download for Symbian phones (like the Nokia I own) is Opera, the Web browser, with 1 million copies downloaded. (Opera.Com's home page has lots of pictures of phones these days. That's where I found this one.)
I mentioned to the editor at a local paper here that Fry's was coming to Atlanta. After responding to his reply of "huh?" I was given permission to take the day off and check it out. (Logo from Contourdesign.com.)
Fry's is a temple of geekdom. Not just geekdom as a workstyle, but geekdom as a lifestyle. So it sells resistors and other discrete components alongside hard drives and motherboards. But it also sells such geeky esoterica as meditation fountains, pizza cutters, and $2,500 refrigerator-freezers.
At the new Atlanta store, which is actually 25 miles from town in suburban Duluth, it was those big boxes that were moving fastest. My kids and I watched a parade of giant pick-ups pull up to the front door and cart away appliances that would be the envy of restaurants, and Stadium-sized big screen color TVs.
In the end peer-to-peer has nothing to do with copyright. It's the way the Earth links.
For linking people and ideas, P2P is simply a better topology than client-server. It conforms to the way people are. Capitalism is a peer-to-peer economic system. Socialism is client-server. Democracy is a peer-to-peer political system. Autocracy is client-server.
The difference is just that stark.
The myth of the "Intellectual Property cult" is that the products of intellect are unique, complete, all-in-all. They are not. "If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants." That's Sir Isaac Newton.
This applies to all products of the intellect:
A team headed by Yang Wang at Boston College has found that an array of aligned, but randomly placed, carbon nanotubes (pictured, from Physics News) can act as an antenna for visible light. (The little scale bar on the right-side of the illustration is one micron in length.)
This could be used to create optical television or (more important I think) convert light directly into electricity. That had been one of the perceived promises of Buckyballs when Rice scientists first found them almost 20 years ago, but no one had come up with a method for making it happen until now.
This could be big. (Yes, bigger than the win over Penn State.)
When people see a meter their wallets freeze up. People would much rather pay a higher price over a fixed time than a tiny price each time they use something.
Elsevier, one of several academic publishers to try pay-per-view pricing in the mid-1990s, it found that "as soon as the usage is metered on a per-article basis, there is an inhibition on use or a concern about exceeding some budget allocation."
There are other problems, too.
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" , the first totally computer-generated "live action" film, won the week's box office with a take of $16.2 million. (The picture was downloaded from the actual "Sky Captain" site, where it's available as desktop wallpaper.)
I took my son to see it Sunday and while we both enjoyed it the film didn't draw applause.
One early scene explains it all. The heroine, played Gwyneth Paltrow, goes to Radio City Music Hall to meet a contact. While she and the contact huddle in the foreground, the background is the Radio City screen showing "The Wizard of Oz." (The film is set in a fictional 1939.) Just look at Judy Garland's face, reacting to the effect of Billie Burke's good witch arriving on a soap bubble, then compare it to what Paltrow is doing in the foreground.
And that's the most emotion Paltrow gives through the whole performance. (I blame the director, by the way. If actors in front of a blue screen aren't given proper instruction, none of them can get it right.)
What's unique about the Internet's hypertext structure is that anything can link to anything. You never know, when you hit a page like this, just who you're connecting with.
So, just for fun, I want to give a big shout-out here to some of the blogs that have recently put me on their blogroll, as detailed by Technorati.
Let's see who your friends are:
We interrupt this tech blog for another political polemic. You tech fans just go on about your business.
The stock market is like a soda. There are always bubbles. What made the late 1990s so remarkable was simply that there were so many of them. (Image is from California Food & Wine magazine -- subscribe today!)
But there are always bubbles, sometimes just tiny bubbles. And there's one going on right now, in the stock of Travelzoo.
The reason is that Travelzoo has a tiny float (1.9 million shares), real profits (gross profit of $17.5 million on sales of $23.6 million), and dedicated fans. When the company was launched, in 1998, it gave away shares to anyone who signed up for its e-mails. These people haven't sold. (Some may have bought to get to an even 100 shares.)
So this is a going concern with real plans that only got onto the main NASDAQ pages a month ago . The result was a bunch of "shorts," who sold the stock when it wasn't theirs'n, and must now buy it back or go to pris'n. As they're squeezed, they surrender at higher-and-higher prices. And insiders sell out like air coming from a tire, slowly but steadily.
Remember Pointcast? It was great. The news came to you, rather than you having to find the news.
The problem was it was a bandwidth hog. If 1,000 people wanted Pointcast, every one of them needed to be updated every time a new story hit their preferences. Pointcast died in 2000.
Well, RSS newsreaders are the new Pointcast, and the pushback has begun.
Microsoft is deliberately letting Internet Explorer lose the browser market to Mozilla's Firefox.
Microsoft won't admit this publicly but it makes sense. The company hasn't had a major upgrade to the program in years. It was relatively trivial for Mozilla, descended ultimately from Netscape, to match those features, even go slightly beyond them.
The question is why.
Sometimes I get ahead of myself.
When I read about speech recognition I take it as a given. I really had no idea it wasn't already chip-based.
Well, it isn't. (The big ear is from the ACM.)
Carnegie-Mellon and Cal-Berkeley are going to spend $1 million in the government's money over the next three years trying to create a general speech recognition chip for the market.
When they succeed, and I have no doubt they will succeed, it will be a true revolution.
My first reaction on news that Yahoo bought MusicMatch was...just $160 million?
OK, we're well into a new century here. But still. Yet on the other hand MusicMatch had waited far too long for a buyer -- it's being pressed by Microsoft, Real Networks and Apple. The Yahoo deal was no doubt the best on the table.
But what does this mean for Yahoo?
In a feature on comment spam the OJR's Mark Glaser asked Dave Winer a silly question, and got an equally silly answer.
The question had to do with the nature of comments on blogs. Winer's answer had to do with the nature of blogs.
"I think a blog is a publication, and publications have proven that letters to the editor are useful," Winer said.
I'm not going to simply state that Dave's wrong. I'm going to prove why.
Not that there's anything wrong with Microsoft's Caller ID technology.
It's just that the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is not willing to make every Internet user sign a Microsoft loyalty oath. Even if Caller ID worked a treat against spam (which it doesn't).
Speaking of Microsoft, the Redmond company has a new keyboard and mice set-up out which replaces the clumsy problem of creating passwords with something simpler -- your fingerprint.
For the first time, we have biometrics for the masses.
Here's the deal. To the left of the keyboard is a fingerprint reader. It lights up when you successfully have your left index finger scanned by it. (Never mind that, since it's to the left of the keyboard, this ought to be your left pinkie.)
For those under, say, 50, Apple Corps was a name created by The Beatles in their latter days for various business ventures. (For those under 40, there once was a musical group called The Beatles. For those under 30, designer Stella McCartney's dad plays the guitar.)
Most didn't happen. Most that did happen went belly-up. But the company got the right to their name, what rights the group had to their songs, and other "intellectual property."
Now, for the third time, apparently, the surviving Beatles (McCartney and Starr) are about to cash in -- big time.
The problem with Unix has always been that there were many different versions of it. As a result you couldn't shrink-wrap applications, as you can with Windows, because no one package could reach the whole Unix market. (The illustration is from the site of Barcelona programmer Michael Wolf.)
Linux is changing that. The new Linux Standard Base 2.0 will unify Red Hat, SuSE Linux, MandrakeSoft, Conectiva, ThizLinux Laboratory, Sun Wah Linux, Turbolinux and Progeny. It has the backing of IBM, H-P, and Dell in this effort, along with chip-makers AMD and Intel.
IBM has decided to make some of its key speech technology open source. (That's an old Kurzweil AI poster found at Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson company that could be important in what follows after the jump.)
This is great news, and they're doing it for all the right reasons. The following quote, from a New York Times story on the decision, could have been written by Linus Torvalds himself:
"We're trying to spur the industry around open standards to get more and more speech application development," said Steven A. Mills, the senior vice president in charge of I.B.M.'s software business. "Our code contribution is about getting that ecosystem going. If that happens, we think it will bring more business opportunities to I.B.M."
The 802.11 market is stalling.
I know because Broadcom has warned that its sales are flat.
Broadcom absolutely rocks in the Wi-Fi chip market. It is constantly ahead of the curve. It has great relationships with OEMs and product marketers. TI and Intel look good, but no one plays the inside game as well as Broadcom, trust me.
And if Broadcom is catching a cold, then everyone else has pneumonia.
Why is this?
What makes the mobile or cellular market so much fun now is that no one has a clear lead.
Motorola and Nokia are both close. Symbian and Microsoft are both in there. You can rise or fall quickly, depending on what you introduce today. And there are new introductions from some quarter nearly every week.
Why is that?
If you don't want to know how the U.S. election turns out, just don't click through.
Ringtones are fun, but they are what they are, right?
A company called Notesenses (in Sweden, naturally, you betcha) has introduced Moodies. It's basically a software-driven service that lets you customize the sound of a polyphonic ringtone in any of four directions aggressive, musical, happy and romantic.
Remember CueCat? (The picture is from the University of North Texas.)
Let me refresh your memory. This was essentially a bar code reader, attached to your computer. You could read bar codes all around you, input them to the computer through the reader, and get deals on things you bought regularly.
Well, a version of that idea is back.
I was being a little flip the other day in talking about how R.I.M. had "gone international" by linking with Nokia.
It goes further than that. (The picture is from the New York Times.
The new Blackberry device looks like nothing so much as...a Nokia mobile phone.
And it works like one, too.
The Intel Developer Forum has become where the company offers its big ideas, its visions. In past conferences CTO Pat Gelsinger has introduced Always-On, sensor networks, and electronic dust.
This year, he talked about...the Internet?
But in comparison to past talks, this year's seemed...well, small.
The headline is not about politics. It's about micro-payments.
I've talked about them here before. The question is, how do you collect on digital content that carries a low, low price?
In the real world the answer is cash. While credit card outfits have rules against merchants refusing to take cards when the sale is tiny, many merchants ignore the rules. That's because, when the price gets down to a few dollars, taking plastic means taking a loss. So cash is king.
But what if you're buying a digital good on a cellular phone?
Lee Felsenstein doesn't just write computer history. He is computer history. (And for that he got his own playing card, from the Atari Archives)
Lee was the moderator of the famous Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s. He created the pennywhistle modem, and designed the Osborne I. He was made a member of the Computing Hall of Fame in 1998. One of his fellow honorees that year was Bill Gates. Another was Charles Babbage. A third was Seymour Cray. A fourth was Andrew Kay. (You may have heard of them.)
In his latest piece on computer history (along with Lena Diethelm) he defends the flip-flop. I wish he posted it somewhere other than Dave Farber's list. The only way for you to get the full flavor is to read the whole thing.
Copyright infringements below the fold.
I still think Howard Dean is the best President we never had.
But maybe that's just me.
The problem is that it costs too much to handle the transaction and settlement to make charging a few cents per whatever worth it.
The buzz that got this latest train rolling is iTunes, which sells songs at 99 cents, and ringtones, which can cost as little as $1.50. Right now iTunes is handling billing through accounts that aggregate purchases while ringtones are running through carriers' billing systems that can only handle a few prices.
Most papers spun this the other way, as Nokia wooing the business market, and that may be true. But it's far more important to note here that the Blackberry, a U.S. technology, is now going to spread into Europe and Asia, which have far more mature mobile markets, thanks to Nokia.
In what may be the most obvious hook-up since Gigli, TiVo and NetFlix say they're getting together to rent movies over the Internet.
I say it's obvious because, ever since the copyright industries voted TiVo off the island (in favor of cable-owned DVR boxes) that company has been searching for Internet allies. And ever since Blockbuster started offering unlimited movies for a monthly fee, NetFlix has had a similar problem.
You can stop arguing over Meng Wong's SPF and Microsoft's attempts to use it as a Trojan Horse for its licensing schemes.
Ciphertrust surveyed e-mail from May-August and its conclusion is conclusive:
It found that 34% more spam is passing SPF checks than legitimate e-mail.
If you could get the heart of all technology for 18 times earnings, when the stock market as a whole is selling at 22, would that interest you?
A proof for the Riemann hypothesis, an explanation for how prime numbers are distributed, may be at hand.
This is one of the great "Millenium Prizes" for mathematics on which the Clay Mathematics Institute is offering a $1 million prize.
The claimant is Louis de Branges de Bourcia of Purdue, We should all be patting him on the back, congratulating him, and offering to stake him to at least a round of his favorite beverage. (The Doc is French, and might prefer a fine Merlot, but Purdue's teams are known as the Boilermakers.)
Instead, what's the press doing? They're running about like Chicken Littles screaming "e-commerce is broken."
Over at C|Net, Michael Kanellos has one of the stupidest leads I have ever read.
"When it comes to radio frequency identification tags for humans, the people have spoken.
They hate it."
Well of course they do. When you sell it with scare, when you don't push the benefits, when you fail to advocate for the necessary legal doctrine (the data you create belongs to you), when every other word you write is about "big brother watching you," then of course everyone who writes into the newspaper is going to come off as a dyed-in-the-wool card-carrying Luddite.
But that's your fault, not theirs.
That's right, kids.
Samsung has announced a new mobile phone with a 1.5 Gigabyte hard drive inside it. (Photo from Slashphone.)
In some ways the SPH-V5400 (they really know how to name things over there at Samsung) is a stunt. It goes out the door at $800, the processor and software really can't keep up with the thing, and they don't have the iPod license that would fill it with sound. (They do have a camera.)
What's more important is what this says about the future.
A previously-discarded German technology called Pebble Bed Modular Reaction (PBMR) is being resurrected in South Africa as a potential answer to the world's energy problems. (The illustration is from a Science in Africa story on PBMR, published last year.)
It's pretty simple. Uranium is embedded into graphite pebbles, which are tossed into a vessel that itself is surrounded by graphite. Helium is run through the system to collect the heat of the reaction, and that helium then drives a turbine. Left alone the reaction dissipates, so the creators say there's no need for expensive containment. And spent fuel is truly spent, making expensive transport unnecessary.
To these claims environmentalists say...well it's not proper language for a family blog. But Eskom, South Africa's state-run power company, wants to move ahead, pending a November hearing at Cape High Court.
IBM, the default leader in voice recognition (everyone else went under), has teamed with Honda to produce a better talking car.
The new version will not only integrate with maps and tell you where you want to go, but with other databases as well. Some 700 commands are possible and there's a 1.2 million entry database of street names in the thing. (This model of the 1917 Porter used in the 1960s series, starring Jerry Van Dyke and the voice of Ann Sothern, is available for $125 at Gasolinealleyantiques.)
But this is really just the start of something, and then only if Honda can gain share so IBM can sell more systems.
Apache has told Microsoft to stick its Sender ID proposal where the sun don't shine.
Microsoft's plan to force its license paperwork on Internet servers through the standards-setting process was thus dealt a real blow.
Apache (the name has nothing to do with the native American tribe -- it means "a patch-ee") on Linux is the leading Web server, and their refusal to play ball here is important. (But I happen to be a Burt Lancaster fan -- hence the illustration, a DVD release of his 1954 film "Apache.")
Homes are considered 30-year property. Cars last three years. Most of us replace PCs every three years.
But mobile phones are one-year property. That's all they're good for. If your phone is over a year old, toss it. (Looks like this guy, UVALGBTCenter will take it.)
That's the key Clue in news that sales of such phones reached record levels in the second quarter. Gartner analysts claim the figures indicate people are replacing sets after 3-4 years, but I'm not buying that.
The customers you want -- the 20% that does 80% of your business -- they're replacing their gear every year, maybe even more often than that.
What does this mean?
Right now the power in the cellular data business is held, not by the carriers, not by the software companies, not even by the transaction processors, but by the people whose technology delivers the goods to your phone.
The University of Durham, in England, says it has perfected the first plastic magnet that works at room temperature. (The picture is from an earlier experiment at the University of Utah, published in Reactive Reports.)
The scientists were about to give up on their project when they decided to re-check their samples one more time, a month after making them. Turns out they took time to settle and as time went by all their batches showed traces of magnetism.
This is important on several levels:
The law against phone solicitations is based on Caller ID, an old phone company technology that passes your phone number along with your call.
Well forget that.
An outfit called Star38.com is selling a "service" that will let any phone bank spoof Caller ID numbers for $20/month and 7 cents a minute.
The price would seem to protect against phone mills abusing this service. But expecting that price to hold indefinitely is naive in the extreme.
The Times' article on all this continued:
I woke up this morning to read some hard-hitting political commentary. It was unflinching, it was personal. It was highly effective.
It came from neither George W. Bush or John F. Kerry. It came from Bill Thompson, a commentator for the BBC. And the man in Thompson's sights was Bill Gates.
It's good reading.
Microsoft has worked with other companies to define a useful way of limiting spam, but has decided that its own interests are greater than those of the wider community.
What may well happen is that the standard will be ratified even with Microsoft's licensing conditions, but it will only be fully implemented in proprietary mail systems.
The free software and open source communities will then be outside the charmed circle when it comes to blocking spam, making life difficult for companies that use their software.
This, of course, may be exactly what Microsoft is hoping for, as it would damage the credibility of free or open source software and give it a marketing advantage.
In the calm waters of the engineering community this is called "ripping your opponent a new one."
For an industry that wants to make money, the mobile data business does not move fast.
The problems, as I've written before, involve billing and control.
Today I talked to Dov Cohn at Powerbyhand, which is a leader in the mobile data market. (The image is from Interpug.com.) They sell big applications to the Palm and Windows markets. They recently bought a German outfit called Mobile2Day.De, which sells ringtones and other mobile data products using Premium SMS in Europe.
But that's not how on-phone sales happen here. In the U.S. the game is micro-billing through carriers.
Cohn acknowledged that most of PowerbyHand's direct sales are made by credit card on the company's own Web sites. For the rest, Powerbyhand works with QPass.
QPass is the leader in cracking micro-billing, with what's called a bill on behalf of (BOBO) interface to most carrier transaction processing systems. (Verizon remains an exception.)
Cohn described the present situation in the U.S.:
Amsterdam, Portland, New York, now Philly?
What is up with all this city-wide WiFi work?
I really do want to cheer, but the cynic in me holds back.
My alma mater, Rice University, has an Owl for its mascot. Ever since I graduated, in 1977, people have never tired of giving me the bird.
As a mascot the Owl is lacking something in the ferocity department. We like to think it makes up for this with intelligence. But we had no idea that meant this, the ability to catch prey using dung as a tool. (Picture from the BBC story.)
That's right. The burrowing owl makes its home in small tunnels, filled with collected dung at their entrance. Dung beetles come to feed on the dung, and voila! Tasty snacks for the taking. (Hey, Aggies, don't knock dung beetles until you've tried them.)
All that bird needs is a remote and a La-Z-Boy and he's ready for Homecoming!
If it works do more of it. If it doesn't try something else. (Picture from 365 Registry.)
This bit of wisdom was given to me by John Audette. I worked with his Multimedia Marketing Group during the boom. He gave me a free trip to Bend, Oregon (which was wonderful). He was saying this in the context of running a business, but I've found it also applies to technologies.
Specifically I think it applies to Bluetooth.
If you're adding 802.11 to your home it's straightforward. You plug in a home gateway or WiFi router as your central access point, and all your network traffic goes into that hub. I don't happen to agree with that approach (you get too many dead spots, or signals that run across the street), but there you are.
For corporate campuses the issues are different. They already have wired networks. What they're trying to do is extend those networks to more users, and put it in the air for PDAs or workers on break.
Right now you have two contradictory issues -- cost and security.
Cost (you're going to buying dozens or hundreds of Access Points) means you want a thin client, like the new Aruba which plugs into the wall along with your Ethernet. Security indicates an entirely new layer of expense, and an entirely new host of problems.
Unix vendor SCO Group (Quote, Chart), in the midst of copyright infringement lawsuits over parts of Linux, reported a net loss of $7.4 million for its fiscal third quarter on lowered revenues and higher legal fees. The results more than reversed its profit of $3.1 million during the same, year-ago quarter.
The "cellular wallet" could debut as early as next year. (But Philips needs to find a better acronym before they hit the U.S. with this -- to most Americans NFC means the National Football Conference.)
There remain questions, of course:
History has already written that Bill Gates rules while Steve Jobs drools. (Image of Jobs from the BBC.)
Better amend that. Before they're done you might even reverse that.
Because while Microsoft has slowly been circling the drain, giving away its gains, fumbling around with Longhorn, and watching its lead over Linux shrink away, Apple has been on a roll with the iPod, iTunes and now its latest iMac, the G5.