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Moore's Lore
February 2005
February 28, 2005

A Giant FallsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Giants fall all the time. In an earlier item today I mentioned one such fallen giant, the playwright Arthur Miller.

Computing also has giants, and we're all diminished when one of them falls. As Jef Raskin has fallen.

Jef, who died of cancer recently at 61, will be remembered as the "father of the Macintosh." He gave the project its name, and he pushed it within Apple.

But he was much, much more.

Continue reading "A Giant Falls"

The Blog CrucibleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

To many journalists today bloggers seem to be the new plague.

Someone does something or says something "the mob" doesn't like and within days there's a virtual lynching.

But Paul McMasters is wrong. The problem is not that bloggers are attacking.

The problem is that no one's defending. And no one is getting underneath the mob, finding its sources, and placing the same spotlight on its leaders that they place on the powerful.

In his heartfelt commentary on the subject McMasters fails at that job, too. He wants "them" to stop, but to let "mainstream media" go on, as before. It comes off as special pleading.

Continue reading "The Blog Crucible"

American Diaspora 9Email This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.

The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.

This was not the country I remembered.

It was obvious as I cleared customs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 9"

Lakoff, Technology and MarketingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I still get a newspaper. I read books and magazines. I listen to the radio. So, probably, do you.

But all these technologies (and industries) have been "killed" several times by great new technologies. They are all supposed to be dead, thanks to various features of the Web, right now.

Today Dennis Dunleavy offers a great discussion of all this.

Fact is journalists have a bad habit of buying industry hype about "killing" older systems, and in doing that they're buying what George Lakoff would call a "political frame."

Words have power, and by saying that old technologies are about to be "killed" by new ones, we tend to give the sponsors of the new the power to do just that. By doing this before the market has a chance to decide where the new one will fit into its lifestyle, we do everyone a disservice.

Billions of dollars have been lost over the years, and millions of jobs have disappeared prematurely, because companies, and markets, bought into these false frames.

Continue reading "Lakoff, Technology and Marketing"

Girl Scouts, Kidneys and Slippery SlopesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Back when e-commerce was new, some Girl Scout troops decided to get a jump on their neighbors by offering their wares online.

The national organization successfully snuffed out this form of e-commerce. Check out Google on any keyword relating to the cookies (which go on sale soon in your neighborhood and mine) and you won't find any outlets.

The Girl Scouts got away with this restraint of trade because, frankly, it wasn't fair for the non-savvy girls to see money flowing only to those whose parents knew the online ropes. Money raised from sales is shared, after all, between the national organization, the local troop, and its community organization.

What does this have to do with kidneys? Plenty.

Continue reading "Girl Scouts, Kidneys and Slippery Slopes"

Gates Gets A ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I was at the YMCA yesterday, pushing the old bones through another workout, and a crowd gathered around a TV where Bill Gates was giving a speech.

He was reading the speech the way he does, one shoulder slumped down like a hipster from the 50s. The expensively-crafted words did his work for him. He didn't need to work to sing. It's good to be king.

And his message was simple. High schools suck. The words were repeated gleefully as far away as Beijing. "When I compare our high school with what I see abroad I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow."

Both my kids are in high school, Bill, and I'm terrified too. But platitudes won't get it done. Neither will all your money.

Continue reading "Gates Gets A Clue"

How Intel Gets Its Groove BackEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As it prepares for its developer forum this week, Intel faces an audience of bankers who have not lost faith in it, but who don't understand what it means by "platform."

Credit Suisse First Boston, for instance, looks at the word "platform" and sees only desktop or server. It figures Intel is waiting for Microsoft's Longhorn to demand more processing power of computers and bail it out.

If that's the strategy Intel describes, then it is Clueless. But that's not the strategy Intel is pursuing under new CEO Paul Otellini (right).

Continue reading "How Intel Gets Its Groove Back"

February 26, 2005

Media TimidityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Good journalism stories have clear leads, a point of view, and publishers have the courage to defend the results.

There is very little good journalism going on today, which may be why the profession's reputation is shot. In today's class we have two examples of this to show you.

Exhibit A is Spectrum Wars, a long National Journal feature proudly sent to the Interesting People by its author, Drew Clark of their Technology Daily.

It's a solid, workmanlike overview of efforts to free-up spectrum going back over a decade. But it fails to put across any point of view, other than repeating that broadcasters want to keep their frequencies, including those given for HDTV.

It refuses to answer key questions:

  1. Should frequencies be sold or made part of the commons?
  2. Should we be broadcasting or data-casting?

In fact, it doesn't even effectively ask them.

Continue reading "Media Timidity"

February 25, 2005

The Podcasting Boom (How to Profit from it)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Podcasting is the trend of 2005.

It's driven by simple facts.

  • 6 million iPods today, 2 million sold last year.
  • The average music collection is 10 Gigabytes, total. Of this most people listen regularly to about 1 song in 10.
  • Even the smallest iPod has 4 Gigabytes of space.
  • We don't just want to listen to our own music, y'know.

The result is millions of units and millions of hours waiting to be used by someone.

What else is the result?

Continue reading "The Podcasting Boom (How to Profit from it)"

The Climax StateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Note: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, which celebrates its 8th birthday next week. Join us -- always free.

Karl Marx was one of the great moral philosophers of the 19th century. But his vision was perverted, in the 20th century, and made the center of a system that imprisoned billions of people, one that required decades of war to eradicate.

Ayn Rand, who was born 100 years ago, was one of the great moral philosophers of the 20th century. Her novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged , have become as important as Marx' Das Kapital was to Communists, in defining the ideology of modern Conservativism.

It's just as imprisoning.

Continue reading "The Climax State"

Another Always On ResourceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Many different types of solutions go into creating an Always On world.

I’ve talked here often of medical applications for Always On, where you wear a monitor (or have it implanted) that connects to the network and can alert you (or others) to dangerous changes in your physical condition, thus saving your life.

I have also talked of inventory applications for Always On, in which RFID tags or bar codes give you a ready inventory of your stuff. This lets you, for instance, find your keys, or check the fridge to see what you need for tonight’s dinner.

But the low-hanging fruit lies in automation applications. CABA (it stands for Continental Automated Buildings Association) is one of the trade groups involved here. They work mainly with landlords who want to save money on utilities, provide security, and keep track of what’s happening in lots of space so as to minimize labor costs.

Continue reading "Another Always On Resource"

One Word: PlasticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

That's right, gang. The old joke from The Graduate is here again, aiming to drive silicon into the ground.

Nanomarkets, a market research outfit with a beat that looks like tons of fun from here (call me) has a $2,000 report out with a hockey stick chart for plastic semiconductors, estimating the market at $5.8 billion in 2009 and $23.5 billion three years after that.

Plastic electronics -- chips built on conductive polymers and flexible substrates, will be cheaper, take less power, and (obviously) be more flexible than silicon circuits. This makes them perfect for, say, mobile phones.

It will also bring a bunch of new suppliers to the electronics market, names like Dow Chemical, DuPont, Kodak, and Xerox, along with the usual suspects.

What does this mean?

Continue reading "One Word: Plastics"

Aloha Means CompetitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Former Corante blogger (and FOD) Steve Stroh has the goods this month on Aloha Networks, which is aiming to provide wireless broadband service in the 700 MHz spectrum area. (That's the high 50s on your UHF dial.)

Apparently, they've gotten FCC approval to test their services in Tucson. The real test is whether this lives-and-plays with existing users, and Tucson currently has TV at Channel 58.

What exactly does this mean? (FOD means Friend Of Dana, of course.)

Let Steve explain:

Continue reading "Aloha Means Competition"

February 24, 2005

More On Always On (For Real)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Last month I wrote about Motorola and its ms1000, a box that delivers true Always On capabilities.

I've found a second Always On platform maker, a smaller one this time. It's called Secure Digital Applications, and their box is called EyStar.

The company has just announced the second version of this box, called SmartHome. The press release says this was developed by Innospective Sdn Bhd of Malaysia, a system integrator it describes as a newly-acquired subsidiary. (Very new -- the deal closed February 23.)

While SmartHome appears to be a general purpose gateway, the focus of Secured Digital is obviously security. The featured peripherals are cameras and biometric security devices. In these niches you need monitoring, fast response to alarms, and thus sales channels.

A PDF file describing the system shows it exhibiting most of the features of what I would call a residential Always On system. The central controller is seen controlling media, phones, water and heating systems.

But here is the problem.

Continue reading "More On Always On (For Real)"

Academic FreedomEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Academic freedom is the great issue of our time, because it's not a one-way street.

Just as the GPL carries with it, as one of its "freedoms," the obligation to give back your finished tools under the GPL, so academic freedom also carries an obligation.

That obligation is to the scientific method. (The illustration is from a great discussion of bad science from Frankfurt, Germany. Use the link and then tell me who's pictured in the comments.)

The scientific method does not deal in truth, but in theories. All theories are constantly tested and adjusted by new observations or experiment. They are measured by whether they work, in engineering or in creating new lines of inquiry.

Academic review works similarly. Anyone who has done a dissertation knows the drill. You have to defend your work before people who understand it, and only after you withstand the scrutiny do you get the robe.

Politics exists in both science and academia, but politics doesn't control the whole process. The check on campus politics is the presence of other campuses, and the wider world of the discipline.

This is precisely what is under threat in our time.

Continue reading "Academic Freedom"

February 23, 2005

Pot Helps Alzheimers PatientsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Spanish scientists report that the active ingredient in marijuana may stall the development of Alzheimer's Disease.

Better "Dave's not here man" to "who's Dave," y'know?

Rock or Hard Place?Email This EntryPrint This Article

As of now, all class action lawsuits must go through the federal courts.

The Bushies may be sorry they made this change, because a very big class action is likely to head their way very soon.

The action will be against ChoicePoint, which managed to sell 145,000 credit dossiers to criminal gangs.

That's a big class. Every single victim may have had their identity stolen, either now or sometime later. At minimum, each victim faces a daunting task to re-establish their identity, and the impact of this theft is likely to follow them for years.

That's what lawyers call an actionable tort.

So far only one lawsuit has been filed, an individual suit in California. Expect many more.

The press coverage of this scandal has, so far, been horrendous. Most stories, like CNN's, act like the victims here somehow did something wrong.

They didn't. This was a deliberate act by a company too greedy to take proper care. They deserve whatever the legal system can dish out -- which right now is a lot less than it was a few weeks ago.

And that's the problem.

Continue reading "Rock or Hard Place?"

Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton TreatmentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What does the FBI have in common with Paris Hilton?

They're both making news this week as victims of hackers. (The image is from a conservative humor site. Some of the stuff is pretty good.)

We wrote about Paris earlier this week. (Here's a poem for the occasion. Ahem. I've seen Paris, I've seen France, girl pull on some underpants.)

Now ZDNet reports a new virus comes in the form of an e-mail claiming to be from the FBI. (Not to be undone, Ms. Hilton herself is the subject of a new e-mail virus, called Sober.K.)

As Matt Hines writes, "The mail is disguised as correspondence warning people that their Internet use has been monitored by the FBI's Internet Fraud Complaint Center and that they have 'accessed illegal Web sites.' The e-mails then direct recipients to open the virus-laden attachment to answer a series of questions."

Continue reading "Fibbies Get The Paris Hilton Treatment"

The Return of VoiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Since the collapse of Lernout & Hauspie, voice has been diminished as a computer interface.

But it makes sense. It's hands-free. It requires training, meaning it brings some security with it by default. I continue to believe in it.

So does IBM.

Igor Jablatov is the man behind IBM's voice strategy. He's based in Charlotte, and has a blog, which mainly prints and links to stories and news release relating to VoiceXML. (Jablatov now heads the VoiceXML Forum.)

The Voice Extensible Markup Language brings voice into the Web standards area, and it's important for that reason. But what's more important is the extension of voice into specific vertical markets. IBM has started with things like cars and consumer electronics, and next plans a move into CRM.

These aren't the markets I would have chosen, but for now voice needs to choose markets based on their money making potential, nothing else. And I trust that IBM has done that kind of analysis here.

Where do we go from here?

Continue reading "The Return of Voice"

American Diaspora 8Email This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.

The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.

Lenora’s death made me drop all thoughts of moving “off-campus,” out of the Carlton Center’s shadow.

But I would soon regret that choice. Because the people were coming.

In fact, they were here.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 8"

Sony Drops Clie and PalmEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Sony has officially dropped the Clie and other Palm-related devices from its line. Its PDAs will now be based on its PlayStation Portable game machine and Sony-Ericsson mobile phones.

February 22, 2005

The Jones-O'Gara FeudEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There's nothing journalists like better than a good old fashioned catfight. (The animated gif catfight is from Supah.Com. I guess you can send it to friends as a postcard.)

And in tech journalism today it doesn't get any better than Pamela Jones vs. Maureen O'Gara.

Jones edits Groklaw, the free community blog which has covered the open source revolution's legal defense so expertly. Her stuff is so good that SCO talked about putting together a rival site, called Prosco.Net, last year. (As of this writing that site is still empty.) Jones is so ethical she actually quit a really good job to stay on the beat, writing "money is nice, but integrity is everything." (I think I'm in love.)

O'Gara edits the $195/year LinuxGram newsletter. She writes fast, tight, "insider-type" stuff, with tabloid headlines like "Ray Noorda's Competence in Question." She learned her trade at CMP, and calls her company G2 Computer Intelligence.

Conflict was natural because of their differing styles. Jones is careful and shy to the point of near-invisibility. She writes like a lawyer. O'Gara is brassy and bold and uses the rest of the press as her PR machine. She writes like a journalist.

What got the feud rolling was a stunt O'Gara pulled before the court in the case of SCO vs. IBM. She filed her own motion to unseal the records, then did a story on her heroic act.

Newspaper companies do this all the time. They fight to unseal records of criminal trials or government decisions, writing a series of stories on the filings and the reaction. But Jones didn't like O'Gara's headline, nor the attitude in her story which was (to say the least) self-congratulatory.

Jones let O'Gara have it.

No hostility there. Maybe a little around the edges, oozing out? Leapin' Lizards, Batman, the heroine action figure who apparently wishes to Take the Open Source Movement Down singlehandedly is none other than Maureen O'Gara, who is asking the Utah court to unseal all the sealed records:

Continue reading "The Jones-O'Gara Feud"

Wideray or the HighwayEmail This EntryPrint This Article

With Bluetooth viruses causing all kinds of havoc, and forcing millions to close the open ports on their phones, it seems strange to be writing about a "Bluetooth Network" connection.

But that's Wideray.

Here's the deal. Wideray customers put kiosks in the stores, and when someone comes over with a Bluetooth device they can feed whatever they want -- games, demos, product details. (It also works with Infrared or WiFi.)

I have used the system at trade shows, and its effectiveness is limited by the client device. If the device has limited power and storage, the effect of the download is minimal.

But, with even Nokia Symbian phones attaining the power and storage of older PDAs, this is changing. Wideray now supports Microsoft and Symbian, as well as Palm devices.

Continue reading "Wideray or the Highway"

HK Installed Base Very YoungEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A Hong Kong survey shows that 25% of its mobile phone users are 13 or younger. About 86% of people there have mobiles.

The World's Beta TesterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The last time Paris Hilton featured on this beat, she was leading to the rise of BitTorrent, and crying crocodile tears over the interest we had in a sex tape she made with a (presumably ex-) boyfriend.

This time, she's had her Sidekick II hacked and the fall-out may be more serious.

That's because Paris Hilton is totally innocent this time. As with other Sidekick II users, her data was synced to a T-Mobile Web site, and it was T-Mobile that got hacked.

Now her calendar, phone list, and photos taken with her cameraphone are being spread all over everywhere.

This is very bad for T-Mobile, which is still advertising the Sidekick II as a way to have a private box to store connections to your rich-and-famous friends. (Snoop Dogg is the ad's star, although Paris does appear.) Those ads are still running, but what kind of impact are they making now, as the story of this hack (and how it happened) gains more prominence?

There's another implication.

Continue reading "The World's Beta Tester"

February 21, 2005

Einstein @ HomeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Physicists have launched Einstein @ Home, a distributed computing application aiming to prove whether gravitational waves exist. Order it now and be the first on your block to have it once it's released.

Always On At Demo@15Email This EntryPrint This Article

From Medgadget comes word that Always On was a theme of the Demo conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, last week, even if they didn't use the name.

One such exhibitor was Lusora, a San Francisco outfit that claimed to be in the security business, but also introduced a medical device.

It's all quite wonderful, but there is one big problem.


Lusora's medical gadget uses Zigbee, and its hub, on the surface, looks proprietary, even though it's based on industry standards like WiFi and TCP/IP.

I could be wrong. I hope so. I've contacted their PR folks to see if they can be helpful. And I'm certain they can be.

Law of the HorseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As the legislative season swings into high gear, spyware is high on the agenda.

Some 14 states are looking at bills specifically aimed at spyware. Utah is on its second go-round, having had an earlier bill tossed by the courts.

But speakers at the VJOLT Symposium last weekend agreed that spyware bills are wrong. Instead of going after the means by which privacy is stolen, strengthen the privacy laws so they cover what bad spyware does.

In stating this they all referenced a seminal 1996 talk by Frank Easterbrook of the University of Chicago (right), titled "Cyberspace and the Law of the Horse."

In it he argued against any specific laws for cyberspace, saying standards of "meat space" law should be sufficient to deal with problems that look unique.

Continue reading "Law of the Horse"

Moohr's LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As mentioned in the previous item, I was honored last weekend to speak at the Virginia Journal on Law and Technology (VJOLT) Symposium, "Real Law and Online Rights."

I'd expected an argument. The vast majority of copyright lawyers today are employed by copyright holders. Instead, I was given the lead-off slot, the small congregation nodded in time to my music, and the speakers all advocated a balanced view of copyright and patent law.

One of the best (in my opinion), was Geraldine Moohr, who teaches at the University of Houston Law School, a short bike ride from my old stomping grounds at Rice. She based her talk on a paper she wrote last year on copyright criminal law.

The short version. It doesn't work. "There is a lack of a social norm that would condemn personal use infringement," she said. "Civil penalties may be good enough. They have a a punitive quality to them."

Continue reading "Moohr's Law"

Would Franklin Blog, Would Jefferson FileshareEmail This EntryPrint This Article

While Susan Crawford was asking whether Ben Franklin would blog, (and Donna Wentworth was pointing the world to her piece) I was being asked a similar question "would Jefferson file share" at a VJOLT conference in Charlottesville.

The answer, in both cases, would depend on which Franklin or Jefferson you were talking about.

Franklin was desperate to publish as a young man, and the 1721 Franklin would doubtless have blogged. As a printer, Franklin routinely used copyrighted material without payment, and as a raconteur/diplomat he was far more often on the receiving end, so if he had blogged then he would have done it very carefully, judiciously, with an eye toward public opinion.

Jefferson was the first consumer, and doubtless would have used Grokster in his dorm at William & Mary. But later, as he became a public figure, he would have been far more conscious of the need for anonymity. As a politician, he would have no more admitted to copyright violation than George W. Bush would admit to smoking pot.

Both men, however, learned to live as though their private lives were public. Franklin used his fame to win an alliance with France, even letting himself be pictured in a beaver hat. Jefferson dealt with the Sally Hemings affair throughout the 1800 campaign, not to mention his lifelong reputation as a spendthrift, a wastral and, in the end, a bankrupt.

A better question might be this. Could you, or I, have done as well, then or now?

I doubt it. But we all should try.

The Jordan AffairEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What goes around comes around.

For decades employed journalists have considered themselves a class apart. Charged by their employers with deciding what was relevant, they took fame and turned it to infamy, often violating confidences, and said they were just doing their jobs.

They ignored the concentration of power in their own business -- a journalist is someone who works for someone (who buys ink by the barrel, spectrum by the megahertz, bandwidth by the terabyte) -- and expected a legal shield to protect them and no one else.

Well, uh-uh. No more. And Thank God.

Continue reading "The Jordan Affair"

February 18, 2005

Google's KeyholeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

After writing (briefly) about Google's Keyhole I decided to try the free review.

The software licenses for $30/year, $600/year for professionals, but anyone can download it for a two-week free trial. So I tried it. There should be a screenshot over there to the left, but the e-mail system on the software doesn't work with Outlook Express...I guess you'll have to get your own.

Continue reading "Google's Keyhole"

The Chinese Century Begins (Really)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Unlike my novel, The Chinese Century, the following is true.

China now outconsumes America on most goods (gasoline being an exception).

This fact carries with it some important economic implications. Let's discuss them:

  1. The U.S. is going to have to learn conservation. Being outside the Kyoto accord doesn't matter. If we are to waste what we use, we will be unable to buy more.
  2. In most U.S. recessions prices go down. Next time they won't. There are other big markets for the world's goods. We're not essential any more.
  3. China's economy continues to grow at nearly 10% per year. The gap between their market and ours is widening.
  4. China is becoming less dependent on exports to the U.S. in order to clear its production shelves. When our economy tanks their prices will go down, and their consumers will benefit.
  5. China is not Japan. Japanese consumers remained reluctant to consume throughout their boom. China has proven it will consume.

Continue reading "The Chinese Century Begins (Really)"

February 17, 2005

Draft GretzkyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Forbes, for once, has a great idea today.

Draft Wayne Gretzky (right) as NHL Commissioner.

Incumbent Gary Bettman must be thrown over for losing the season, regardless of the merits. His replacement must be, as Michael Ozanian notes, someone of integrity, who loves hockey, and who can find some common cause with the players.

Gretzky works on all those counts. But there's more.

Continue reading "Draft Gretzky"

Crazy Frog A SingleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A ringtone called "Crazy Frog," which also features a cartoon dancing like one of the original Village People (the policeman), will be released as a single in the UK.

Don't Do It, Mike!Email This EntryPrint This Article

There are numerous reports that New York City is trying to trademark the phrase "The World's Second Home" as part of its effort to win the 2012 Olympics.

An AP lead states baldly the city is dropping its current nickname, "The Big Apple."

There is no evidence of this in the story, which states only that Mayor Bloomberg is big on trademark, copyright and patent protections. That does not mean New York is getting rid of the Apple trademark.

But just in case he were thinking that way, I offer him what Atlanta did in the grip of a similar Olympic fever. (Sad, isn't it?)

The Value of ReputationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Perhaps the most vital asset to any technology company today is its reputation.

It's not money. It's not assets. It's certainly not patents.

It's what people think of you, your reputation.

Paul Robichaux recently wrote that he thinks Google is pulling a fast one, with a Toolbar feature called AutoLink that turns unlinked items on a page into linked ones, automatically.

When Microsoft tried extending its Smart Tags feature, which sounded awfully similar, into Internet Explorer, Robichaux wrote in Exchange Security, "the furor was incredible. Walt Mossberg, Dave Winer, Dan Gillmor, and a host of other influencers immediately started screaming that Microsoft was taking control over web content and generally acting like an 800-lb gorilla. The EFF even opined that the MS smart tag implementation might be illegal."

He's right. But does it matter?

Microsoft has used its power for a decade to extend its monopoly across desktop applications and into the Internet itself. As a result it has a very poor reputation.

Google, on the other hand, has offered optional services, in software, on top of its search service. It has a stellar reputation.

Google is now doing to Microsoft precisely what Microsoft did to IBM back in the day. Microsoft's price-earnings ratio today is 28. Google's is 137.

What happened?

Continue reading "The Value of Reputation"

Photonic UnityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One of the nastiest open secrets in the Internet is the switching bottleneck.

Optical fibers move data at, well, light-speed. But electricity moves data much more slowly. Getting between the two is like trying to get onto a freeway from an old cloverleaf junction -- there's not enough of an acceleration lane.

Many companies, including Intel, have been working this problem for a long time. Photonic switching is already a reality. But linking silicon directly to optics remains elusive.

That's the heart of Intel's claimed breakthrough, announced yesterday. Intel managed to produce a full Raman effect on silicon. This should enable Intel to build lasers just as chips are built.

Right now electronic signals have to be multiplexed, and packaged, before getting into the optical net. It's a very expensive, complex process. It's one of the chief capital costs a telecommunications provider faces.

But if PCs had their own photonics, they could plug directly into fiber and, as their processing speeds increased, take full advantage of what fiber can do. You could even have photonic processing inside silicon chips. Voila -- no bottleneck.

That's the hope, anyway. As Alan Huang, a 20-year veteran of this silicon laser business points out, "it's a neat science experiment" and there's a long way to go before this shows up on your desktop.

Still, imagine the implications, as Intel is now doing. Tom's Hardware Guide reports:

Continue reading "Photonic Unity"

How Cellular Can Blow ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The 3GSM Conference in Cannes featured a lot of flash, a lot of optimism, even some good writing.

But Cannes is a place of fantasy, a willing suspension of disbelief. It even has Las Vegas beat in this regard. Hey, the French thought the Maginot Line would hold. Some of them no doubt think smoking is good for you. When a diet of red wine and goose fat leaves you without heart disease you'll believe anything.

What drives the optimism is what is happening in the developing world. Beyond the desktops of the Internet, mobile phones represent everything positive about the future. They're telephony and computing in one hand-held package. They have driven technological change in Africa as nothing before has, and they're just getting warmed up.

Still, if mobility wants to succeed in the developed world -- and the 3G explosion is all about Western markets -- it does have to compete. And most carriers are not yet willing to.

Obstinacy, over-expansion, and hubris killed the National Hockey League, killed it deader than Maurice Richard. They can kill 3G too.

Continue reading "How Cellular Can Blow It"

February 16, 2005

Cato The CluelessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Cato Institute claims to be an advocate of free enterprise, by which we are meant to think free and open competition. (That's the logo from one of their standard online products.)


They are, in fact, huge supporters of untrammeled business power, of oligopoly. Hey, where do you think their funding comes from, rabbits?

Here's a great example. It's a blog they call Tech Liberation. It takes a few clicks to learn this is a Cato shop, but they're not really hiding it.

The piece is by Adam Thierer (left), who works full-time at Cato as "director of telecommunication studies.". Its theme is the latest round of telecom mergers. Its message is don't worry, be happy.

"We can safely conclude that the communications / broadband networking business can be very competitive with 2 or 3 or even 4 major backbone providers in each region providing some mix of voice, video and data services."

Evidence for this? A Wall Street Journal piece noting that SBC wants to get into cable television. Other than that, a lot of chirping crickets. And some very nasty lies.

Want a taste?

Continue reading "Cato The Clueless"

WiMax is LeapfrogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A new InStat report on WiMax is drawing attention for the wrong reasons.

It's drawing attention based on the idea that it calls 802.16 competitive. Other analysts have said it will die stillborn unless questions about the standard, and real products implementing it, get here soon.

But it's the reason for InStat's conclusion that is the real news here. WiMax will succeed, the firm believes, because WiMax can leapfrog western broadband, delivering fast data to the developing world.

Continue reading "WiMax is Leapfrog"

Real Reporters Pack ToothbrushesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is much commentary emerging from a court ruling stating that reporters (like the one at right) must testify to a grand jury or go to jail.

Editor & Publisher wants a federal shield law. I have been a journalist for 25 years, and had the kant of a "journalist's privilege" drilled into me from the start. A shield law would be a good thing, but only if it protected all reporters, not just those few with jobs at major corporations.

But do you know what the reporter's privilege really is?

You have the right to go to jail. You also have the right to be killed in the line of duty, as dozens were in Iraq, some by U.S. soldiers. You have the right to be tortured in many countries around the world, and to rot in jail hoping someone can get you out.

These are your rights. No, these are your responsibilities as a journalist. You have the right to fight for the right to do your job. This is why journalists, the ones willing to accept these rights and responsibilities, are among the most important people on Earth. We know why the caged bird sings, because often it's us.

So if I quote you anonymously, and I promise you anonymity in exchange for your statements, I will protect that. I will risk jail for you, I will risk torture for you, I will risk death for you. If I decide your statements are that vital, and your anonymity that valuable, that's what I will do for you as a journalist. That's my job.

Continue reading "Real Reporters Pack Toothbrushes"

American Diaspora 7Email This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.

The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.

I miss my children. I miss my wife.

But there is exciting business afoot here.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 7"

Encryption Must Become FlexibleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Word that the SHA-1 encryption scheme has been broken in China, which follows news from John Hopkins on how RFID car keys can be hacked, brings me to a sad conclusion.

Permanent hardware encryption isn't going to happen. (The image, by the way, is from DBC of Germany, a player in this market game.)

This does not mean we should give up on encryption as protection, or on hardware for encryption. It's just that, just as Moore's Law means today's state-of-the-art PC is tomorrow's door stop, so today's RFID lock could become tomorrow's open door.

Unfortunately this has major implications for the security industry as it is today.

Continue reading "Encryption Must Become Flexible"

February 15, 2005

Your Favorite Web Addresses, Hit HardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Did you get in on the ground floor of those great .nu addresses? (You know, like whats.nu. How about the .tv domain? (Perfect for every broadcaster.)

Well, those are places. The .nu is the Pacific Island nation of Niue. And .tv is the Pacific Island nation of Tuvulu.

And they're in trouble. Big trouble.

Continue reading "Your Favorite Web Addresses, Hit Hard"

Time for Jobs to Buy SonyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A few years ago I speculated publicly about Sony buying Apple. (That's Sony chairman Nobuyuki Idei at right, from his biography on the Sony.Com site.)

It was a popular thought back then.

Sony blazed new trails among Japanese manufacturers, preferring proprietary control of its technologies, emphasizing design and its brand name, acquiring American firms and integrating them. In the 1990s, on the other hand, Apple was a troubled PC maker with a small market share.

This was before two things happened. Apple's genius returned to his throne, and Sony's faded from the scene.

Sony Founder Akio Morita, who passed away in 1999, was a legendary entrepreneur, a visionary, a genius. In Tokyo, Elvis has indeed left the building.

Still, in the first year after Morita's death, Sony could have done the deal easily. And the spirit of a man equal to Morita in vision, Steve Jobs, would be working for Japan Inc.

Continue reading "Time for Jobs to Buy Sony"

A Strange New TrendEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For the second time in less than a week I received a spam trackback to this blog today. The people who know how to blacklist and erase comments on Movable Type also know how to block bogus trackbacks. Be warned and don't waste our time.

Facts Are Stubborn ThingsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Copyright Police keep coming up against stubborn facts, some of their own making, that throw their arguments into the dumper.

Two are making headlines today.

First is a joint study by Harvard and University of North Carolina researchers indicating "Downloads have an effect on sales which is statistically
indistinguishable from zero." Felix Oberholzer (Harvard) and Koleman Strumpf (UNC) matched a set of downloads to record sales in coming to this conclusion. "Even in the most pessimistic specification, five thousand downloads are needed to displace a single album sale," they write.

The second piece of news comes from the industry itself.

It is, simply, the launch of Napster's "rental" service. For $15/month, you can download all you want. It all disappears when you stop paying, but the industry approved this business model, which estimates the actual value of unlimited downloads at $180/year. Spread that over 10 years, give Napster 15%, and you get an actual industry-estimated "loss" from unlimited downloading of $1,500. Not much.

This will make for some fun when I speak this weekend at the University of Virginia's VJOLT Symposium.

If I Were A Rich ManEmail This EntryPrint This Article

If I were a rich man I'd want some of these new Oakley Bluetooth sunglasses.

Of course, I'd need the prescription version. And I really like photograys. And have you got that in a bifocal model?

As you can see there is a way to go before Motorola's Cannes fashion statement turns into a really big market. Yes, there are cool-types who will grab on to this, so they can walk down the street gabbing away, like well-dressed homeless. But how many are there? And are all these fashionistas going to be satisfied with just these Oakley wrap-arounds?

A better solution, to my mind, would mount this user interface on the frame, with the electronics hidden in one of those cool eyeglass retainers 49er coach George Seifert used to wear? (That's George, left and above, and you may be able to make out his retainers. From the Seifertsite on Earthlink.)

Continue reading "If I Were A Rich Man"

Microsoft in the Pause Before the PlungeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Microsoft may have as little as a year to take command of the mobile phone platform, or the opportunity will be lost. (Image from Petrified Truth.)

At the 3GSM conference in Cannes, France, they gave it their best shot.

The mobile broadband business is at what Gandalf called "the pause before the plunge." Enough equipment has been deployed so broadband can be advertised. The time has come to define the experience and see if any money can be made from it.

Continue reading "Microsoft in the Pause Before the Plunge"

February 14, 2005

Iron Chef SiliconEmail This EntryPrint This Article

In a New Yorker profile of chef Mario Batali (left) there's a wonderful scene of Mario rooting around a waste pail, looking for what the author-turned-prep chef has tossed away.

Our job is to sell food for more than we paid for it, Mario lectures him. You're throwing money away.

Apple Computer is the greatest exponent today of what I call Batali's Clue. Your job, as the maker of products, is to get more for your creation than the cost of the electronic "food" that goes into it.

It's a vital Clue because components in the Moore's Law age spoil like dead fish on a wharf.

Here's an example plucked from today's headlines. (Well, the ad pages.)

Continue reading "Iron Chef Silicon"

(Trying To Be) Too Big To FailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What's the Clue from SBC's purchase of AT&T and Verizon's coming purchase of MCI? (That's a 1949 Southern Bell logo, from the Knox County, Tennessee historical collection. Beautiful, isn't it?)

The Bells know they are irrelevant to the future. They hope to become too big to fail.

Regulators in most of the world understand that phone monopolies need to be broken up, not just for the sake of competition but for the sake of technology. The EU is spurring the development of VOIP and regularly slapping the hands of "incumbent carriers." The developing world, meanwhile, is able to create multiple wireless competitors, by fiat, and watch competition drive innovation to a degree we can only dream of.

Why are the U.S. Bells the only phone companies in the world that could truly become "too big to fail?"

Continue reading "(Trying To Be) Too Big To Fail"

Gibson WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Which sci-fi author did the best job of predicting what the 21st century would look like from the comfort of the 20th?

It wasn't Arthur C. Clarke. I still don't have my zero gravity toilet. It wasn't Isaac Asimov. Honda's Asimo is no Robbie. Allen Steele? No beamjacks in my world. Ray Bradbury? Larry Niven? Steven Barnes? Jerry Pournelle?

Wrong, wrong, and (sorry Jerry) wrong again. (But there are many centuries to go before your visions come up, so keep writing.)

It's William Gibson (right).

We live today in Gibson's Neuromancer. Cyberspace is everywhere, but so too are viruses. IBM notes they're appearing everywhere -- in our phones, in our cars -- and the people behind them are increasingly of very evil intent.

How did we get here? It wasn't inevitable.

Continue reading "Gibson World"

Always On Led By Media?Email This EntryPrint This Article

It's nice when someone in the "major media" gets the Always On vision, no matter how they get there.

The vision is simple. It's a wireless Internet platform. You get there by combining robust scalable PC applications with Internet connectivity and WiFi.

The BBC's Ian Hardy gets it, but he approaches it backwards, from the media side.

However you get there is fine with me.

Continue reading "Always On Led By Media?"

Is Science Politics? Gilder Thinks SoEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One way I can tell that America's conservatives have become ideologues, akin to Communists, Fascists, and other idiots, is how they have turned everything into politics.

Even science.

I'm not talking about the ongoing debate over teaching science or religion on the schools. It's easy to see how so-called "intelligent design" is religion because you can't do anything with the insight "God did it" -- it leads to no experiment, and ends questioning. Evolution, on the other hand, constantly brings new questions with it. Theories are used to stimulate questions, not end them.

I'm talking instead about how, when you get some of these advocates in a corner, they will flat-out admit that the whole thing is politics, just another way to fight the liberal impulse on behalf of their ideology.

The canary in this coal mine is named George Gilder, (above, from Forbes), and in Wired this month he sings this tune like Sinatra.

Watch him build (then knock down) his evolution straw man:

Continue reading "Is Science Politics? Gilder Thinks So"

Philly Fights BackEmail This EntryPrint This Article

They lost the Super Bowl, but Philly remains as feisty as ever (and God love 'em for that).

In a well-written article on News.Com today, Philly CIO Dianah Neff defends her city against a Verizon attack that caused state legislators to try and stop her city from installing a Wi-Fi network.

"For all the money they've spent lobbying against municipal participation, they could have built the network themselves," she writes. "The truth, of course, is that the incumbent local exchange carriers want unregulated monopolies over all telecommunications."

Neff then quotes Dr. Mark N. Cooper, research director at the Consumer Federation of America, which to a Bell is a bit like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Philly Fights Back"

How Miracles Filter DownEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm fascinated with how Western technology filters into the developing world and changes lives.

For instance. Back in the mid-1990s we had the idea of the "Internet Cafe." It would be flash, it would have broadband, it would have great food. We were crazy.

In the developing world, however, the Internet Cafe idea lives on (and on and on and on). There, though, it's a little shop with some PCs and basic connectivity. It's a lifeline to families, to markets. After the tsunami one was set-up quickly in the disaster area. It was a lifesaver.

Now we have cellular, or mobile service. (Whichever you prefer.) In the West, it means everyone has a phone, and they're on it all the time. Young girls drive like little old ladies. Guys look crazy seemingly talking to themselves, but then you see the little bud in their ear -- oh.

Then it filters down. Read how it filters down in Cameroon, from the Cameroon Tribune in Yaounde. (Then get the scene at the top of this item as desktop wallpaper, free, from Dane Jacob Crawfurd.)

Continue reading "How Miracles Filter Down"

Mobile Industry's Little SecretEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Mobile carriers are trying to make an impossible transition.

They want to move from a data world where every bit is precious, and where every file is controlled, into a broadband world where phones have PC functions. And they want to do it without changing their business models.

It can't happen. The industry's dirty little secret prevents it.

That secret is that most cellular minutes today are wasted. Perhaps as many as 80% of the minutes customers are allocated in their contracts each month aren't used. And this has been the source of immense profits. (The illustration, in time for Valentine's Day weekend, is a Korean product for women that also enables the creation of twin secrets.)

Modern cellular marketing is all built around contracts, with a fixed monthly charge for a fixed number of minutes over a fixed term. To get contracts incentives are offered, including free phones.

But look at what happens. Marketing convinces people to pay high prices for plans with high limits. Cingular's "rollover" plan costs a mininum of $40/month, which comes out to about $45 with taxes and other fees. Advertising convinces people they need high limits to deal with "ugly over-age charges." But it's difficult to measure your usage in the middle of the month, and the vast majority of customers don't come close to their limits.

When the contract term expires, usually in a year, customers can theoretically leave that carrier for another one, taking their phone number with them, and even get a new set of incentives, like a new, more advanced phone. But most are as ignorant of their contract expirations as they are of the status of their minute bucket. (Quick: what's your contract expiration date?)

Carrier profitability thus depends on ignorance, customers with old phones who don't take out new contracts and don't use their gear. And in that environment, who needs broadband? Where is the market for PC functionality?

Exactly. It doesn't exist.

Continue reading "Mobile Industry's Little Secret"

February 10, 2005

The Human Middleware ProblemEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Middleware was a very big buzzword a few years ago. (Image from the Southern Regional Development Center.)

By middleware, vendors meant software that let people below take advantage of resources above. Queries that delivered reports to managers on how stores were doing, or that placed real corporate data into neat little graphs.

But every organization of any size is based on human middleware. School principals are human middleware. Store managers are human middleware. Party committeemen are human middleware.

These people sit between the decision-makers at the top and those who carry out orders on the bottom. When we like them we call them "sir" or "ma'am." When we want to disparage them we call them bureaucrats.

America has the greatest bureaucracies in the world. We have done more for our human middleware than people in other societies. (Try getting your driver's license renewed in Mumbai if you don't believe me.)

But we can do much, much better.

Software can be part of that solution, but it's only a part.

Continue reading "The Human Middleware Problem"

Ch-ch-ch-ChangesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Brag time.

Hylton Jolliffe has been a busy man lately. In addition to adding a bunch of new products here at Corante he has also been working to enhance the visibility of existing products, including this one.

One change you may notice is the name of this piece (and other recent pieces). Instead of using numbers to denote names, we're now using headlines. The hope is this will make our work more visible -- I've noticed some other news sites doing the same thing lately.

Wish us luck!

Pay Attention!Email This EntryPrint This Article

Katie Hafner has a story today on one of those subjects that makes me want to scream. (Image from Hackvan.Com.)

It's about "pseudo-ADD" and continuing efforts by employers to make knowledge workers pay closer attention to what they're doing.

If they really want to help they should stop interrupting us with meetings, with memoes, and (sometimes) with bosses poking their heads in our doors to see how we're getting on.

Two can play the distraction game. But wait, there's more.

Continue reading "Pay Attention!"

A Special Chip-on-the-Shoulder AttitudeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I love the Brits. (But I love everyone.)

As executives, Brits have developed this wonderful, pugnacious, straight-talking chip-on-the-shoulder attitude in our time. It's a kind of "oh yeah, sez you" that owes more to soccer yobs than fox hunting.

And for a journalist it's great fun.

Continue reading "A Special Chip-on-the-Shoulder Attitude"

Did Branding End Fiorina's Reign?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Everyone sees events through the prism of their own knowledge and expertise.

Rob Frankel (right, from his Web site) sees the fall of Carly Fiorina as a failure to understand branding.

The H-P brand is about teamwork, Frankel writes, but Carly transformed it into executive fiat. The brand became Carly, not the team spirit that built the company.

For me this is the money quote:

Continue reading "Did Branding End Fiorina's Reign?"

Open Source PoliticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: Howard Dean will become chairman of the Democratic Party this weekend. Consider this an open letter to the new boss, from the bottom of the grassroots.

I was wrong about something important last year.

The year 2004 did not represent a “generational election” because people live longer than they used to. Thus, the Nixon Coalition was able to get the knees to jerk by turning 2004 into 1968. Democrats went along by nominating a man of the 60s.

Had this been a true generational election Vietnam would have been irrelevant, just as the New Deal was irrelevant to those marching in 1968, and the Spanish-American War was history to the hungry of 1932.

Will 2008 be the generational election? Maybe, but maybe not. In that year a person born in 1955, at the height of the “baby boom,” will be only 53. That’s still old enough to matter.

But a new generation is coming along, and that’s where Democrats should concentrate their attention.

The last generation had a name, Baby Boom. The new generation has a name, too.

The new generation is the Internet Generation.

Continue reading "Open Source Politics"

February 09, 2005

The Service-Centric PlatformEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Rajesh Jain (left) quotes one of my recent items today and adds this somewhat cryptic comment.

"I think the next platform will be a service-centric platform, built on the Internet and assuming the presence of computers and cellphones."

Once again, we have wisdom from the East. (If I were in California instead of Georgia, of course, it would be coming from the West.)

Continue reading "The Service-Centric Platform"

Moore's Law Wins AgainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Carly Fiorina's reign at Hewlett-Packard was defined by her acquisition of Compaq.

The merger didn't work.

She was fired today. The press release doesn't say "fired," of course. (It never does.) Various stories say the board "dismissed" her, that she "suddenly quit," that she's "stepping down, effective immediately."

She's out because her strategy was doomed from the start. She tried to treat computing as a traditional industry, where the pattern is that once growth slows to a modest level you get consolidation, companies merging together until just a few are left and profits are regular.

This doesn't work because Moore's Law prevents it. Moore's Law means the nature of systems are always changing. Companies rise because they know something about the market, and fall when they lose touch. No amount of consolidation can change that. The merger that created Unisys didn't save Univac and Burroughs, merger didn't save Digital Equipment and Compaq, and it didn't save Hewlett-Packard.

Fiorina's key ad campaign, "Invent," implying the company was going tback to its roots in the garage, turned out to be just that -- an ad campaign. What has H-P invented under Fiorina, except financial manipulation. Anything?

So she's out, for the same reason that, say, Tony Samuel (left) is no longer coach at New Mexico State. (Go Aggies.) His color had nothing to do with his firing, and her gender had nothing to do with hers.

That's progress.

American Diaspora 6Email This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.

The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.

As the long summer months dragged on (February is August here), my days returned to something approaching a routine.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 6"

Palm RespondsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Yesterday, I wrote about how the PDA was rapidly being transformed into the smart phone, so the rumors of the PDA's demise are somewhat exaggerated.

I actually wrote that while looking at a post from Palm Addict about a possible new Palm design. Sammy McLaughlin was virtually hanging about the Patent Office (he's in Manchester, England but the Internet lets you do that) and found an application , from PalmOne, for a device that looks like a "candy bar" phone but flips open to become a PDA.

There is more here than just a new design.

Continue reading "Palm Responds"

February 08, 2005

Sprint's ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Some big news went unnoticed last week .

Sprint's earnings nearly quadrupled.

This is fascinating because Sprint, alone among U.S. telcos, has a unique business model, at least in cellular.

It wholesales.

Lots of companies, from Virgin to Earthlink to Disney, have gotten into the cellular game by re-selling Sprint's capacity. They all have their reasons. They all have their own branding, their own marketing, and their own niches.

The point is Sprint is profiting from wholesaling capacity to these companies. Profiting big time.

Why hasn't this been pointed out?

Continue reading "Sprint's Clue"

Pull My Finger (Or Pull My Leg)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The digirati are in a fury today over claims by an outfit called i-mature which claims to have solved the problem of age verification with a $25 device that checks a finger's bone density to determine just how old you are.

The image, by the way, is from Vanderbilt University, which has no affiliation with either Corante, i-Mature, or this blog. It describes x-rays of a finger taken at different power settings. Go Commodores.

RSA announced "a joint research collaboration" with the company. But there is skepticism over exactly how precisely a bone scan can measure age, and the more people investigate, the more questions they raise.

Continue reading "Pull My Finger (Or Pull My Leg)"

Google Maps Is HereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The beta version of Google Maps is online. The main service is still serving maps from Yahoo and Mapquest. The maps are pretty, the interface clean, and the images are by Navteq.

The PDA Is Dead (Long Live The PDA)Email This EntryPrint This Article

We have read for the last year about the death of the PDA, and it's true the stand-alone version (one without a phone) is fast disappearing.

As Tom's Hardware notes, PDA sales have fallen to a five-year low. I have one, but it was free.

As David Linsalata, the IDC analyst who delivered the report noted, ""Consumers don't see the need to invest $600 in a handheld device if a smart phone can do the same basic tasks."

But isn't this "death of the PDA" business simply a matter of semantics? Isn't this merely the creation of analysts who put technology in boxes, when everyone knows the first thing people do when they get technology is take it out of the box?

Maybe. Here's the headline on a recent story published in Ireland on the subject. "Smartphone and PDA sales go skyward."

Erin go wha?

Continue reading "The PDA Is Dead (Long Live The PDA)"

More On CellsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Nick Blatchford has come up with an analysis of IBM's new cell technology, and it's as neat as I said it was yesterday. Maybe neater.

Think of it as a LAN on a chip. Not just the network itself, but the computers on the network and, to some extent, the people behind the computers as well. (The illustration is from the first section of Blatchford's report.)

Software programs on the chip, called apulets, portion work out among the computing sections, then recompile the results, the way an editor does at a newspaper desk. (Only without the coffee and the yelling and the pressure or the beer after work for a job well done.)

The result is true multi-tasking. As good as some teenagers, who will listen to music, watch TV, and gab on the phone while allegedly doing their homework, and still get As. (You know who you are.)

The best thing, though, is that this thing scales. You have 8 cells on the chip now. You can have more.

I'm no electrical engineer. I just went to school with some fine ones and picked up some of the lingo by osmosis. But it does seem to me that the "dual core" ideas Intel has committed to are merely extended here, in a way very consistent with Moore's Law.

The key point Moore missed (because it wasn't relevant to the paper, hadn't been discovered, and don't you dare criticize Mr. Moore for this) is that the exponential improvements he saw in silicon fabrication apply elsewhere. As I've written many times here, they apply to fiber, they apply to storage, to optical storage, to radios.

And now, for the first time, they may apply to chip design.

A few more points:

Continue reading "More On Cells"

February 07, 2005

The WiMax SplitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Perhaps no technology today splits analysts to the degree that WiMax does.

Gerald Faulhaber at Penn's Wharton School is ready to dismiss it. Frost & Sullivan says embrace it.

Which is it?

Maybe both. Maybe neither.

This is because WiMax is still vapor. The delivery of a final standard has been delayed until summer, which means products won't come out until late this year.

There's also Intel's move to make WiMax mobile to consider. Making the 802.16 standard mobile will take more time, mobile operators are building 3G networks as fast as possible, and purchases of the coming standard may be delayed by people waiting for the better one.

Unlike the situation with 802.11 we have no guarantee that 802.16 implementations will be fully backward-compatible. The gear out there now isn't even guaranteed to be compatible with itself.

So what will WiMax become?

Continue reading "The WiMax Split"

The Best Way To Track News (Is Not Here Yet)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Ever since the Web was spun I've been looking for a better way to track the news.

I have created some in my time. I launched the Interactive Age Daily for CMP. I created the A-Clue.Com weekly newsletter.I like to think this blog helps.

But the raw material I use has changed constantly. Maybe that's a good thing, because some of my value as a journalist lies in my ability to dig through this raw material and give you the good stuff.

Continue reading "The Best Way To Track News (Is Not Here Yet)"

The Buy-Rent ScamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Music companies are now pitching online music as a choice between "buy" and "rent."

That's one way of looking at it.

Here's another, a choice between lies and blackmail. (As with the vinyl album at right, built to fail over time if you played it repeatedly.)

Continue reading "The Buy-Rent Scam"

Let's Do LunchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Now that Star Trek is officially dead (no new shows or movies, even in production) the time has come for a new idea.

Here's one.


It's an anthology series, built around various scientific "principles" that define the Star Trek franchise.

Think of it as Science made into Drama.

Yes, it's an excuse to make science exciting. (Just think of the educational spin-offs we can produce!) And the production costs are low enough to put this on the SciFi channel (where Enterprise should have been all along). Or might I suggest a pitch to Discovery Networks, which has got proven talent in making science fun with shows like Mythbusters?

For host, might I recommend Stephen Hawking? Playing the role Alistair Cooke made famous, he opens each show by describing the science (and the Star Trek technology) on which the show will be based. (I might recommend getting several scientists for this role, perhaps one for each specialty. But Hawking is a name. He'll do great for starters.) Or, with confidence this show will last for decades, Lance Armstrong, who's already under contract to Discovery, who knows how to read a cue card, and who owes his life to science?

More after the break.

Continue reading "Let's Do Lunch"

More Moore TricksEmail This EntryPrint This Article

To all those wishing to bury Moore's Law. There are more tricks left in it than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

We all know about "dual-core" chips. Intel has switched development here, AMD has them in droves. They're basically multiple chips drawn on the same piece of silicon, taking advantage of parallel processing on-the-chip. Great stuff. Makes chips faster, makes processing faster, and keeps Moore's Law going.

Now IBM (with Sony) is rolling out what it calls Cell technology . This extends the dual core philosophy, a single chip that passes instructions to as many as eight processors at once. (Think of it as an editor chip in the "slot" of a computerized editing desk.) IBM says it can handle up to 10 instructions at one time.

All the speculation surrounding the Cell involves where it might go, and what it might do. (They're putting it first into Sony's Playstation 3, but it's listed as a PowerPC advance.)

But that's now what you should be thinking about.

Continue reading "More Moore Tricks"

February 05, 2005

MCI Fingered for Spam FloodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

MCI grossed an estimated $5 million/year violating the law in its home state of Virginia, by knowingly hosting sales of a Russian virus used to turn PCs into spam zombies.

The full story, by Spamhaus' Steve Linford (below) was distributed online today. It charges that MCI knowingly hosts Send-Safe.Com, which sells a spam virus that takes over innocent computers and turns them into spam-sending proxies. Linford tracked Send-Safe to a Russian, Ruslan Ibragimov. Linford estimates MCI earns $5 million/year from its work supporting spammers.

The theft of broadband-connected PCs by viruses, mainly Send Safe and another Russian-made program, Alexey Panov's Direct Mail Sender ("DMS"), is responsible for 90% of the spam coming into AOL and other major ISPs, Linford charged.

Here's the nut graph:

MCI Worldcom not only knows very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year.

Want this made a little more explicit? Read on.

Continue reading "MCI Fingered for Spam Flood"

February 04, 2005

RSS DreamsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have written a bit on RSS here, often wrongly. (The illustration is from the blog of Andrew Grumet, who brings the complexity of video feeds to the process.)

I have bemoaned the delivery of ads via RSS, both as content and within feeds, as "RSS spam."

My complaints were misdirected, as I learned. The problem was not in the feeds, but in the reader. After I patiently explained my problem to my newsreader maker, I was told "we'll work on it."

And what is my problem?

My problem is I want all the real news and commentary on the field I cover, and that's all I want. You don't get that with a simple keyword field.

As always in technology, problems are usually opportunities turned on their head. New start-ups are emerging that hope to use RSS as a true intelligence gathering service, instead of as a garbage in-garbage out collector.

Recently C|Net profiled two of these start-ups, Bloglines and Rojo.

What they say is what I've said, that separating wheat from chaff is very difficult. They are going about that in different ways. Rojo is doing it privately, just letting a few people in, while Bloglines is doing is publicly, creating a versoin of Google's PageRank algorithm.

Corante is interested in this as well.

Continue reading "RSS Dreams"

Food on PaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

An ink-jet printer that makes gourmet food?

The New York Times has found it.

The printer is in Moto, a Chicago restaurant, and it's programmed by executive chef Homaro Cantu. The paper is the same stuff you see on some birthday cakes, made of soybeans and cornstarch. The ink is edible, and the flavors are powders placed on the paper after it's printed. This means he can create a 10-course "tasting menu" that won't leave you bloated -- just well-read and out several Benjamins.

Cantu is making paper sushi and menus that can be crunched into his gazpacho for "alphabet soup."

Now that we have proof of concept, what next?

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The E-Mail MeltdownEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The final destruction of e-mail as an Internet service has begun. (This is as serious as Comic Book Guy's heart attack, right.)

Mainline spam software publishers have added a new worm to their product that not only turns PCs into spam zombies, but runs that spam through the zombies' e-mail server. This on top of an "industry" that already costs legitimate businesses $22 billion.

The result is spam that looks like it's coming from a legitimate address, and despite all the warnings most people still don't update their anti-virals so as to prevent this kind of infection.

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February 03, 2005

How To End The Copyright WarEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Many people reading my stuff think I'm some wild-eyed anti-intellectual property radical.

Labels used for dismissal are as old as labels themselves. But I'm a writer. I make my living from copyright. I'm not trying to tear down the copyright system. I am, in fact, trying to protect it.

I believe firmly that laws which go too far are routinely ignored, while those that are reasonable are routinely followed. Today's laws go too far the way a 21-year old drinking age, aimed mainly at keeping 15 year olds from becoming drunks, turns Yale mixers into criminal conspiracy. (Old enough to fight and die in Iraq, old enough to vote, I say. But that's another column.)

It's time for some reason, for compromise, on copyright. Here it is:

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Dayton's GlueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The glue Sky Dayton will use to stitch together a network is called Unlicensed Mobile Access.

UMA is a set of specifications allowing roaming between WiFi and cellular networks. (JoeJava showed me how it works.)

The problem for Dayton is that the current specification only works with GSM and GPRS networks. Dayton's two cellular partners use a competing system, CDMA.

Qualcomm, which created CDMA, should now be under enormous pressure to do something like UMA. How much you want to bet they announce that something very, very soon?

Earthlink In The Sky With DaytonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Many companies re-sell cellular capacity. It's a simple branding exercise.

Earthlink is the first to enter this business with a vision. The vision comes from founder Sky Dayton, who kept the chairman title for years after leaving for Boingo, but has now relinquished it to run this new joint venture, SK-Earthlink. (Glenn Fleishman interviewed Dayton and has a great story on him.)

Dayton's vision, since the beginning, has been based on the idea that spectrum is plentiful, that WiFi can be connected, and that a telecom firm doesn't consist of wires and switches but software and marketing.

Earthlink itself is based on the idea of re-sale. Its dial-up service rides on top of the existing phone network. Its DSL offerings are based on the same networks. It's not a stretch.

So, what's the vision? Jump over there with me and I'll tell you.

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The Legal Threat To GrowthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I agree with President Bush on something.

Lawyers represent a major threat to our economy.

But I'm not worried about defense lawyers, or plaintiff's lawyers. I'm worried about the newer scourge of so-called "intellectual property" lawyers.

You won't find the phrase "intellectual property" in the Constitution. (It's often credited mainly to James Madison, left.) There, patents and copyrights are covered by a subsection of Article I, Section 8, whcih gives to the Congress power "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

For limited times. To promote progress.

Because economic power has shifted, in our time, from our hands to our heads, and because technology is now able to move the product of our minds around the world at the speed of thought, American lawyers have done just what their British counterparts did two centuries ago. They've tried to make our economic leadership permanent through the language of law.

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February 02, 2005

Do Not Go GentlyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Dylan Thomas had it right.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Ivan Noble did not go gently, or unforgotten, or uncelebrated. It wasn't the end he sought, it wasn't the notoreity he worked for.

Trained as a tech journalist, he became, for many, the world's leading expert on dying of cancer. And now it has taken him.

Before leaving, he left this.

Historical perspective after the break.

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HP's Crossbar LatchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The other day a colleague sent me a party invitation. The headline was "HP Plans Retirement Party for Moore's Law." (Real retirement parties, of course, feature lovely cakes like this specimen, from the Carolina Cake Co., Hilliard, Ohio.)

Moore's Law has been buried more often than Dracula, but like Elvis it keeps coming back.

As I've written, the exponential improvements Moore first revealed in silicon have been replicated in optical fiber, in hard drives, in radios, across the technological universe. And it shows no sign of ending.

In fact, the "Retirement Party" was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a new Hewlett-Packard technology that could extend the life of Moore's Law improvements many, many years.

It's called a crossbar latch and in theory it's just a circuit line crossed by two other lines. But it's capable of performing the same functions as a circuit etched in silicon, and when made on nanoscale, it's more efficient.

The key is that the size of the crossbar latch can scale down further than today's circuits. They can be made smaller, thinner, run closer together, and hence, create more circuit density, which is what Moore's Law is all about.

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American Diaspora 5Email This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: This is part of a continuing online novel. Here is the Table of Contents.

The America Diaspora is a sequel to The Chinese Century.

I’m not a PR man.

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February 01, 2005

Cheaper WiFi For BritainEmail This EntryPrint This Article

BT re-seller Freedom2Surf has put BT's OpenZone hotspots "on sale" for 5 pounds a day, half what BT itself charges. The new price is still what U.S. phone giants SBC and T-Mobile charge their customers.

Don't Believe The IP ScaremongersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over at The Scotsman, lawyer Alison Bryce is featured in one of those stories that doubtless led to Shakespeare having Dick the Butcher say "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Her headline is "Don't believe the software scaremongers" but in fact the article is a classic bit of scaremongering.

She's repeating the Microsoft line that Linux is scary. She calls the GPL "the most restrictive license" and states quite baldly that having the source code published is dangerous. No evidence is offered.

There are also some outright howlers, like this one. "Software released under the GPL, such as the popular Linux operating system," never apparently realizing that not all Linux distros are GPL. Fine misunderstanding for an amateur, but this lady claims to be a highly-paid professional, and an expert on software law to boot.

This bit of garbage could easily have been written by Microsoft itself (and he probably cribbed off their stuff), but here's where I get angry:

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The Closeted GenerationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There is much wailing-and-gnashing-of-teeth going on concerning a poll showing U.S. high school students are indifferent to freedom. (The image, by the way, is from The Minhdonian National Gallery.)

There should be no surprise. This may be the most closeted generation of young people ever. How in the world do you expect them to value something none of them have ever been given?

Today's high schoolers have been told "no" in the loudest possible terms since they were babies. Say no to drugs. Say no to sex. Get your rock from the Disney Channel. Get your rebellion from Nickelodeon.

If they have newspapers in high school these are routinely censored. Even college papers are censored, and closed if they trouble authorities in any way. Kids are even punished for publishing diaries on the Web, even anonymously.

Kids live in a world of V-Chips and drug tests, of mass media with Cyber-Nanny software. It's a comfortable world, for most of them. They're driven from school to ball-field, from day care to proms, but constantly warned that one step over the line will kill them, literally kill them.

No wonder they don't care about freedom.

And I'm not saying this from a sense of moral superiority. I've got two teenagers of my own. They're as closeted as their peers. Although I love them dearly.

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The Key to Growth is CompetitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

It's not capitalism. Capitalism does not by itself guarantee competition. (Image from Clint Sprott at the University of Wisconsin. Go Badgers.)

That is does is the biggest lie told by political conservatives.

Capitalism, in fact, evolves toward monopoly, or to its cousins duopoly and oligopoly, just as ecosystems evolve toward a "climax" state that can only be re-set by catastrophe.

The only mechanism we have to protect competition against this natural tendency is government.

Only a government strong enough to stand up against the biggest enterprises can guarantee competition.

This is difficult to assure.

It's difficult to assure because money corrupts, and corporations -- not government -- are the source of money. It's your money, and unfortunately corporations are considered as people under U.S. law -- immortal people who can't be jailed.

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MSN Search Just AllrightEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Version 1.0 of Microsoft's new MSN Search is up. No thumbs up, more like a hand palm down, waggling a bit. (This is the closest I could come to that, from Gerhard Schaber's thesis on computer hand gesture recognition.)

MSN Search is not bad, for a Google clone. That's cruel and wrong. It's not a clone, because there is just a ton of stuff missing. Newsgroups are missing, shopping is missing, a directory is missing (although Google itself now hides that behind a "more" button.) Yes, Yahoo is better.

What you get are Web, images, and news. The main news page (previously seen at their MSNBC site) only lists one story, then adds the word "similar" which leads to a limited search of official and licensed media. They're using Moreover to get behind some registration firewalls.

But let's talk about the search itself.

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