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The cost of making something good is directly proportional to the complexity of the tools needed to create it. (The picture is from Freeadvice.com.)
This blog item is quite good. The tools needed to create words are very cheap. Even if the tools were more expensive, as they were when I began writing, my cost to create this text would not go up much. And the likelihood of its being of high quality would be just as high.
If I read this on the radio it would not be as good. The tools needed to create a Podcast require knowledge of radio or music production values. Even if Podcasts were as cheap to make as blog items, the proportion of good ones would be smaller than they are for blog items.
Now that youve read my latest dismissive screed against the government, the question may have occurred to you.
What might a proper telecommunications policy consist of? (Very pretty flower, I know. Here's where I got it. The picture is called Simplicity.)
Its really quite simple.
Click below and I'll tell you.
That game is predicated on the assumption that there can only be a few big "winners" and everyone else is a loser.
Wall Street also believes that tleecommunications is fearfully expensive to provide, that it is a "capital-intensive" business.
In this analysis, Moore's Law is ignored. Forget how fiber becomes more efficient with each passing year. Forget how we use bandwidth more efficiently, or how the cost of processing goes down.
To Wall Street, telecommunications is capital intensive and there can only be a few winners. Period. The end.
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.
We have an unusual marriage, Jenni and I.
Its nothing scandalous. But tor most of the last five years, Ive basically been the wife.
Writing in his personal blog, Carmack said he was intrigued when his wife got him a new phone with a color screen.
His post about the project is an excellent primer not only on the inside of game design, but the creative process at work.
Thanks to Joystiq for pointing it out.
I have made few comments about the so-called conspiracy against the Apple iPhone.
The story was that Motorola was ready to release a cellular phone that was also an iPod device, but it couldn't find any carriers for it.
What's more interesting to me is the tug of war now taking place among entrepreneurs between these two technologies.
And, surprisingly, cellular is losing.
The reason has to do with business models and open standards. (Thus the picture above of standard pawns, available from the good people at Rolcogames.)
Here at Corante, were getting heavily into Podcasts.
But theres more to podcasting than just iPods.
At Podcastmania, Hank has slipped podcasts into Windows Media envelopes and enabled people to stream them to their desktops. This means you can enjoy podcasts at work, or at your desk, and the files will die a natural death in your Internet cache, without cluttering your hard drive.
While Podrazor doesnt look like much, behind it is a database of roughly 20,000 shows, Lynch says. He has personally vetted them, checking them for technical quality, even spent time on the phone with producers. This means you can search for podcasts that are actually worth listening to.
Theres a lesson here that goes beyond podcasting.
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.
It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)
The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.
Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.
And they don't like it one bit.
The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.
In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).
Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.
On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.
At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.
The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.
In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.
But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.
Here is the problem I have with special pleading. Anyone can do it.
But once we let one do it, all do it.
And so I call upon whoever hosts the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries to pull the plug on its ISP account.
And I call on all other ISPs to refuse the pastor's money.
I do this because his site just spammed me from the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's one of the great laws of politics. As soon as people decide you have power, and you can be moved, everyone and his auntie is going to try and move you.
I hinted that something might be happening more than a month ago, but it was probably the controversy over Google News that tipped it over.
With Google News, from the very beginning, Google did something it claimed it wasnt doing. That is, it exercised editorial judgement. As SearchEngine Journal noted, While an algorithm based on publishing popularity chooses which articles are found under which keyword phrases, the news-authority sources themselves are supposed to be pre-screened by a human. And some immediately started writing programs to see what those humans might be doing.
But just as I was objecting, wanting to get in, others were objecting wanting to stay out. Agence France-Presse has won an agreement from Google that News wont even spider stories sent to its affiliates, while Jeff Jarvis is crowing that Google News no longer spiders hate sites.
And now the atmosphere of controversy has spilled into the main site. French law demands that ads for competitors not be placed against trademarks. Google complies, on its French site, but continues to employ them on its U.S. site, where the standard is different. So the French sue.
Of all the things that Gator (and its ilk) did, the worst may have been how they corrupted the file download process.
Click download and you get...who knows what?
Now Yahoo, desperate to catch up with Google, has corrupted the downloading of basic Web tools, by sticking its toolbar in with Macromedia Flash.
The attempts by Macromedia officials like John Dowdell (right) to explain this away speaks to a growing lack of ethics within the Internet business community.
At the heart of the First Amendment is the idea that you don't need a license to do journalism. (Take a close look at the Wikipedia picture -- there will be a test later.)
Now, in the name of fighting competition from a new technology, some journalists are calling for just such a license.
The bleating is seen best in today's column by David Shaw of the LA Times. Shaw feels that privileges his industry worked hard to create will be threatened if bloggers can avail themselves of the same protections.
I hope I'm getting the best of his argument in the following quote:
The Grokster case is irrelevant. The studios have already lost.
The court cannot make file transfers illegal. There are too many ways to transfer them. They can be transferred in e-mail attachments. They can be transferred through Instant Messaging. They can be transferred via MMS.
File transfers are basic to networking. Without the ability to transfer files we're down to typing.
Here's a compromise that rings true to me.
This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.
Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.
Correct and double correct.
I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)
The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.
But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.
The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.
In all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.
The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.
Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.
At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.
Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.
A Santa Clark court has ordered Toshiba to pay Lexar $465 million essentially for violating a non disclosure agreement (NDA).
Some accuse me of not caring about copyright or patent rights. This is neither. It's a trade secrets case. But this is a righteous bust.
The individual responsible for all this, according to the court, was Toshiba employee Hideo Ito. Ito joined the board of Lexar, then a raw start-up, in 1997, and leaked its trade secrets for flash memory not only to his employers but also to SanDisk, the leader in the flash memory field.
Why is this a righteous bust? Because small outfits like Lexar have to align with big outfits like Toshiba in order to take on large rivals like SanDisk. It's the only way they can reach the market. If that confidence is not secured then small companies never have a chance.
Companies large and small are hiring bloggers, full or part time, are launching their own staff-written blogs, or are seeking to have bloggers publish on company-owned sites.
The weapons they wield are money (I'm up for that), the machinery of publicity, and credibility.
Much of that credibility, however, is being defined by search engines, especially Google, which refuses to spider blog entries on equal terms with media-fed blogs.
If you want to find this entry, for instance, you must look in the main search engine. Specialized blog search engines get a fraction of a regular search engine's traffic, and are based on RSS, meaning they're self-organized rather than spidered.
The result is that the independent blogger today has the same problems finding an audience as an independent Web site would have had in, say, 1998.
Perhaps I should be skeptical, given that this is a company-funded study with a result favorable to the company that funded it.
But the evidence is just too compelling. The cure for the Digital Divide is the mobile phone, and the results are so obvious no big subsidies or taxes are needed to make the change happen.
Here are some facts that really jumped out at me:
It is finally going to be possible to transfer MMS messages between U.S. carriers.
Yes, X.400 is finally here.
X.400, I should note, was an interoperability system for moving messages betwen X.25 networks, and for billing the costs through the carriers. It took years to negotiate, it was difficult to implement, and it was made obsolete by the Internet's basic agreement to move the bits first and settle later.
Today's mobile or cellular operators (take your pick on the name) are much like the old X.25 operators, such as GEIS and CompuServe. The networks they operate are walled gardens, very proprietary, so it takes both technology and diplomacy to get stuff over the walls.
This is not cool, once customers start taking pictures with their camera phones and (under operator urging) want to share them.
You may have caught the nasty 509 error which hit this site yesterday.
Here it was no big deal. It was a technical problem. It was fixed.
But it did occur to me that, finally, the market for core bandwidth is starting to turn around and Web hosts are finding themselves in the position of restauranteurs. (Thus, we're repeating our picture of Italian restauranteur Mario Batali.)
You may now think about Parmesan Reggiano, some nice Balsamico, the cool breezes of Tuscany, an artisanal bread and a fine bottle of red. I'll explain.
Few people understand this yet, but there is a thread tieing together most public issues in our time.
That thread is science, the issue represented best by comedian Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Thus the headline.
This Administration, and its acolytes, oppose science. But science is our only hope for solving real problems. As a result America's competitiveness is disappearing.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for this Administration's supporters to point to an issue, or a decision, or a controversy, where their side supports real science. Instead, science itself is increasingly politicized.
The idea that science is under direct attack remains inchoate in the American electorate. Despite repeated political calls by real scientists for more science education, and a greater use of science in decision-making, those involved in technology remain reluctant to brand George W. Bush their enemy.
They shouldn't have been allowed to do this, but according to Eben Moglen (right, from Wikipedia) they did.
Microsoft got a patent in 1998 on technology that is eerily similar to IPv6.
Moglen, who now runs the Software Freedom Law Center in New York, says IPv6 represents prior art not disclosed in Microsoft's patent application, meaning the patent should be invalidated.
He also says members of the Internet Engineering Task Force are ready to testify, creating a "smoking gun" against Microsoft, he told eWeek:
The Gibson Safety Dance, named for sci-fi author William Gibson, involves companies changing their software simply to keep other programs from accessing it.
It's increasingly common. We've seen it in Instant Messaging, we saw it recently with Microsoft Office, and now we're seeing it with Apple's iTunes.
Jan Johansen, the Norwegian programmer who wrote DeCSS so he could play DVDs under Linux, has entered the fray with a program that breaks the iTunes DRM so Linux users can buy them from the Apple store. Apple's response has been to change the software and keep this from happening.
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.
My mother once said that when you accept your own death then you dont have long to live.
I dont know about that. What I do know is that an awesome feeling of peace came over me in that house. Im not a religious man, but I know a religious experience when I have one. This was one.
Thats what Republicans called it, when they were campaigning for power a few years ago.
The Gore Tax was their name for the E-Rate program. Its aim was to help poor schools cross the digital divide by subsidizing their access costs.
It has been a bipartisan disaster. In practice its nothing more than a subsidy for the Bells, who had the law written in such a way so that they got the money automatically unless they refused it for some reason.
This means, in practice, that the subsidized rate schools pay may in fact be higher than the alternative market rate. Bells are charging hundreds of dollars per month for T-1 customers who could easily be supplied by WISP DSL service at a fraction of the cost.
It gets worse. The E-Rate was also used for hardware, so schools stuck themselves with obsolete PC technology to boot. Youve got obsolete PCs held by captive customers who cant upgrade.
Now Declan McCullagh reports that Rep. Joe Barton wants to put the E-Rate out of its misery and Ive got to applaud it.
Technology moves in waves. What's passe in one place may be very cool in another. This is how you can cross the digital divide.
Here's an example. At the same time NTT DoCoMo is closing down its Personal Handyphone System, moving customers to more advanced forms of mobile telephony, it's growing like topsy in China, and Atheros is rolling out a new PHS chip.
How does this work?
Throughout the dot-boom Barry Diller stood aloof. He promised he would never overpay for "Internet real estate," that he would grow his business by finding bargains. (The picture is from this Wired article where he displays far more wisdom about Internet valuations than displayed today.)
For several years he stayed true to that. You can justify the prices paid for Home Shopping Network, Expedia.Com, Hotels.Com, and Ticketmaster based on revenues and earnings. They sold stuff -- toasters, travel packages, concert tickets -- and earned real money.
Sorry, Barry, you finally drank the Kool-Aid.
In calling bloggers "the new Stasi," Tina Brown painted with a broad brush.
But there are Stasi attitudes, in America and elsewhere. (The picture, by the way, is the logo of the real Stasi, the East German secret police who recruited neighbor to terrorize neighbor for 40 years, until the fall of the Berlin Wall. From EyeSpyMag.)
The problem with the world doesn't lie just in its tyrants. It lies in those with a tyrannical attitude. It lies in intolerance, which is the right of every man and woman, but which is antithetical to any notion of real democracy.
I received a full dose of this attitude today.
I am a supporter of the U.N. I want it to have real power and influence.
This makes me a minority among my countrymen. So be it.
But I found myself troubled in reading this definition of terrorism today from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
"any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organisation to do or abstain from doing any act".
In effect this prohibits any violent action against any tyrannical government, and puts the U.N. on record supporting that tyranny.
Whatever idiot at Agence France-Presse is pushing to keep its stories from being linked widely might want to do a re-think after reading this.
AOL is far more powerful than Agence France-Presse. At one time its walled garden was the most powerful force online. Its shareholders took 45% of Time Warner's equity in 2000, and while that's now worth a fraction of what it was (thanks to the fact they weren't really worth the price), it's still a lovely parting gift (and thanks for playing our game).
Well, after spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.
When a currency becomes overvalued it gets tossed like confetti. This is what happened in the late 1990s, and it's happening again. (The allusion, of course, is to the hit song 1999 by the man at left, known again by his given name, Prince Rogers Nelson.)
It doesn't matter whether acquisitions are made with cash or stock. Cash acquisitions, after all, can easily be handled by the company selling stock. Yahoo has been especially active in this area.
Companies of all sorts want this currency, and thus we have both Yahoo and Google on an acquisition binge.
The war against 802.11 hotspots, which I predicted last week, has already begun.
I don't expect free access to survive it.
The fact is that a hotspot without registration allows hackers to insert viruses undetected, allows criminals to hack into databases undetected, and allows spammers to spam undetected.
The New York Times had a feature this weekend , picked up by the Financial Express, alleging half the crooks caught in a recent sweep dubbed Operation Firewall were using public hotspots.
A recent piece from the Medill News Service (my j-school alma mater), picked up by PC Advisor, suggested that people should never conduct personal business through a hotspot, for fear it is actually an "evil twin" set up by a hacker to grab passwords from the unwary. An IBM spokesman also detailed this scam for Newsfactor.
Here are the facts:
As we reported over the weekend Agence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million. We reported that Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file.
While AFP stories are not directly linked to Google News as of March 21, affiliates' publishing of those stories are.
As I noted yesterday Agence France-Presse's suit against Google News is silly.
But just because it's silly doesn't mean it can't be won.
Come along after the break and see how that might happen.
Agence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million, apparently, because Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file. (The image of the faux-French cartoon character, Pepe LePew, is linked from a German site.)
The Agence suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., alleges Google News "stole" its content by linkig to it, with headlines and inserting thumbnails of photos. No claim is made that Google cached whole copies of the news agency's stories.
A U.S. court ruled in 2000 that it's perfectly legal to link deep into another site. But it is also legal to write a program that prevents robots from linking to any page.
On the next page is the code Agence France-Presse could easily insert into a file, robots.txt, linked to its home page, preventing all links from its site:
The great financial Curse is to have money coming out of the ground.
I didn't believe this when I started in journalism. I started in Houston, whose economy was based entirely on the concept of money coming out of the ground - Black Gold, Texas Tea.
For most of history, money has mainly come out of the ground. Assets were what you could drill for, what you could mine, or what you could grow. The exceptions to this rule were those of trade. If you sat astride a trade route, if you had a deep water port, if the railroads decided that your location would work for a station, then your land had value.
Moore's Law has changed all that. The Internet has changed that for all time.
Cellular companies used to be the small, scrappy, second-tier telecomm carriers.
They're now morphing into ILECs, like the Bells. The two largest cellcos -- Cingular and Verizon Wireless -- are in fact owned by Bells. The other big guys -- T-Mobile, Sprint -- also have local coverage areas. (T-Mobile's is in Germany.)
But I'm talking about more than a superficial resemblance. At CTIA, CEO (and former Congressman) Steve Largent (right) announced MyWireless, the beginnings of an effort to use all forms of manipulation -- including Astroturf , to protect the industry's position and stall change through the courts and legislatures.
This is not how Largent (who was also a record-setting wide receiver for Seattle in a past life) put it.
This summer will be the peak of the Voice Over IP (VOIP) boom. (The illustration, by the way, is from Poland. No, he doesn't look Polish.)
It's an easy prediction because Philips announced at CTIA a reference design for "converged handsets," with 802.11 and GSM or GPRS cellular in the same package.
We've seen the success of Vonage and Skype. We've seen the growth of 802.11 "hot spots" in hotels, airports, and on campuses. We've now seen the cellular industry adopt to VOIP. It's happy days.
So why am I predicting it's all going to end?
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?
To some extent, you are.
Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.
Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.
I have some pretty harsh words for the Main Stream Media (MSM) below.
There is a solution for this malaise, and it's ironic that a national audience caught it first on a comedy show.
The solution is "boots on the ground," as Tom Fenton (right) told The Daily Show's Jon Stewart this week.
Bloggers provide that. Not all blogs do. Saying "blogs" or "bloggers" as though they were a unitary whole is as misleading as saying "Internets" or "Web sites."
But we've seen bloggers capture many stories, and even beats, by doing reporting that the MSM wasn't willing or able to do. I'm thinking here of Raed in Iraq and, more recently, Riverbend. (She is now much better than he is, by the way.) I'm thinking of Boingboing and Juan Cole and 100 others, people who've broken stories, created new niches, and done real journalism.
There are many, many bad blogs. There are many popular blogs that are very bad. I'm not saying the one should replace the other.
What we need are business models that will enable willing journalists (like myself) to make decent livings (not great, decent) doing what we love to do -- reporting, writing, editing, researching, listening, being careful.
MSM journalism no longer provides that. With the help of people like Hylton Joliffe, maybe blogging will, in time. I'm proud to be part of the effort.
Want some more ranting? You'll have to click for it.
One of the biggest problems we face in cellular data is the lack of MMS interoperability.
If I'm on Cingular, and you're on Verizon, and our friend is with U.S. Cellular, in other words, we can easily exchange short text messages. But exchanging, say, photos or music is nearly impossible.
Back in the 1990s (not that there's anything wrong with that) a lot of companies drew a lot of venture capital promising to target ads based on who you were rather than what you were looking at.
The ploy failed. It turned out the cost of targeting exceeded the premium advertisers could charge for the space.
On the other hand context-based ads, targetting based on the content of a page or a search, continued to draw premium prices. It still works.
So Microsoft actually took a step backward this week when it launched adCenter, which targets based on users' use of Microsoft resources, plus Experian credit scores.
They also, once again, didn't do a complete trademark search. Finding this particular example, which I don't believe has any affiliation with Microsoft, took me all of 10 seconds. (On Google.)
Dem's fighting words, ma'am.
The words are from Tina Brown (right, from the syndicator of her column), at the Washington Post, and they are among the greatest pieces of chutzpah I have ever seen. (Although, personally, I'd love a syndicator. And I could do a job for one, too.)
Careful about clicking below, because I'm about to get mad and my language is about to get very blue indeed.
A new version of Google News is out.
It is still listed as beta code, and it has some neat improvements. But it's still skewing the news business in dangerous directions.
First the good news. Google News now has cookie-based customization (if you have multiple browsers you need to customize it separately for each). This means you can create your own headline term, like WiFi, and have its stories appear on your Google News page. You can also get rid of existing Google News headings (except for the two top stories).
You can change these settings on the fly, getting your World headlines from, say, the French Canadian version of the site, or changing the name of a custom heading (the Always On heading becomes a search for WiFi stories).
But you are still subject to Google's rules about what is and what is not a news story.
And on Google News a news story is something that appears in the Main Stream Media (MSM), nowhere else.
Intel is pushing a version of its MMX2 technology for mobile phones. Not a big story because Intel is not a big factor in the cell chip market. (Now if they turned that into a platform story...)
The USC Online Journalism Review is too filled with major media types to be truly clued-in about the blogosphere. Although they try. And to the major media they really seem to "get it."
Instead, Glaser cries censorship, acts like there's nothing to be done, and downplays the very-active role other Indian bloggers are taking in publicizing what has happened and working around the problem.
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 dont know if you are reading this.
If you are, I have succeeded.
And I might yet live.
Video clips, sold like ringtones. The mobile Web is TV, just as last year's mobile Web was radio. (The picture is from the story linked-to in this paragraph, at PocketPCMag.com.)
I think this is wrong-headed thinking.
That's not to say video won't have a place. It will, especially where desktop Internet penetration is low. Within a few years, I suspect, we'll see a "mobile BitTorrent", because the kind of video that will be in highest demand will be that which is most likely to be suppressed, and not shown on TV.
But video still isn't the Killer App for the next wave. Video is going to remain a niche.
What is the Next Big Thing? Glad you asked.
Look, there he is on the cover of People. ROKR-Roker, get it? Since much of Roker the host has in fact disappeared recently, thanks to surgery that made his stomach the size of a chicken egg, the irony is even richer. There are laughs a-plenty. Tears are literally rolling down some journalists' faces. (Not.)
Anyway, the real story here is much more important and much, much nastier.
There is a move afoot among the world's mobile (or cellular) carriers to keep absolute control over all the money to be made with cellular (or mobile) broadband. It's not just the users they seek to control, and not just the phones.
If you download a bit, even megabits, the mobile (cellular) carriers figure they should look at what you're accessing, decide whether you should get it at all, and take a cut of the revenue as well. (A pre-operation Roker-sized cut.)
This is not Internet service they're offering. These are private networks.
Folks who should know better, like Steve Gilliard, are gleefully piling on a story from New York about an IBM executive who was fired because his Reserve commitment rendered him worthless to the company after September 11.
The story, by columnis Denis Hamill (left) is a righteous bust. IBM is going to lose the suit. IBM deserves to lose the suit. And the only reason I get to write about this at all is because IBM is a tech company.
But the issue goes deeper than any one employer.
African leaders are pushing a "Tech Tax" that would go into a UN-sponsored fund and build the technology infrastructure of developing countries.
NOTE: Please visit the page where I got this illustration, by Los Cybrids. The words here express my overall view of the matter better than this blog item can.
On the surface, a "tech tax" sounds like a very good thing. It has a laudable goal. I'm very much in favor of telecommunications development everywhere. It brings markets together. It raises people up, brings them education, gets them into the mainstream. It's great.
But in practice, this proposal sucks. It sucks big time. Here's why.
Where's the money going?
Reporting on the judge's decision in the Apple lawsuit against three Web sites has been about as bad as it gets. (Celebrate the stupidity with this lovely vase of a wormy apple, from the Seekers Glass Gallery.)
Let me tackle, as an example, the outlet with the best reputation, the BBC. Apple makes blogs reveal sources is the headline.
While the company won the initial court ruling, the fight is far from won. And the decision wasn't germane to bloggers, as the actual story made clear. "Judge Kleinberg said the question of whether the bloggers were journalists or not did not apply because laws governing the right to keep trade secrets confidential covered journalists, too."
Trade secrecy, in other words, gets more protection than national security.
More after the break.
When John W. Berresford speaks, the Bush Administration listens.
Berresford is the FCC's senior antitrust lawyer and a professor at the right's favorite school, George Mason. He has power and the connections to turn his statements into policy.
So when he came out with a paper today about spectrum policy, it was bound to be read avidly.
In his paper Berresford favorably compares the law of land property to that of spectrum. He notes how property rights and spectrum rights are limited under the law, often in the same ways, and states that "efficiency" should be the watchword in spectrum policy.
We should know what we're in for when, in his first paragraph, he mischaracterizes the debate:
Debate rages about whether the allocation and management of the radio frequency spectrum should be mostly a political process, treating it as The Peoples Airwaves, or mostly market-driven, treating it as private property.
That's not the debate. The debate boils down to science and markets. What treatment of spectrum best serves the market, that of a government-owned monopoly or a carefully-managed resource?
We haven't just "discovered" how to use vast new areas of spectrum in the last 20 years. We've learned a lot about how such spectrum can be re-used, again-and-again.
Thus the argument of property vs. commons isn't a left-right argument (as Berresford supposes in his introduction). It's an argument over science and efficiency.
And the plain fact is that the spectrum which is most efficiently used in this country, which makes the most money per hertz, by far, is the unlicensed spectrum.
Berresford ignores both the science and market forces behind this fact.
The New York Times quotes a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."
Here in one sentence we the utter cluelessness of the industry.
Newspapers have always given away their content. Always. The money you pay for your daily paper goes only toward its distribution costs. The ink, the paper, the printing, and the entire editorial budget (which is just 8% of the total, although publishers act like it's the whole thing) -- that comes from advertising.
Where does the money come from? Many sources:
Digital Rights Management is a conspiracy.
Once someone breaks it, it's broken.
There was a similar conspiracy against TV in the 1950s, he noted. None of the studios would produce programming for TV, and anyone who worked in TV was blacklisted.
Then one brave company broke the chain. Disney. Walt Disney needed money to open his amusement park, TV offered it. The move gave him an enormous competitive advantage, as big as Ted Turner's advantage in using satellites 20 years later.
Samsung offered CeBIT visitors a mobile phone with a 7 Mbit camera. That's more resolution than in many stand-alone cameras.
Of all the American entrepreneurs you read about a decade ago, which do you think is doing the best today?
Which one, do you think, is kicking back, living the life, doing what he wants, and bringing in tons of money on something that's relevant to 2005?
The answer: Thomas Dolby Robertson. He blinded them all with mobility.
As Thomas Dolby (his oeuvre is at ArtistDirect, along with this picture), Robertson had a brief vogue on the pop charts in the early 1980s. He even had a pop hit, She Blinded Me With Science.
Then, a decade ago, he morphed into an entrepreneur, doing stuff at the intersection of virtual reality and gaming. The media left him behind and left him alone. (I met him at a few trade shows during the dot-boom. He should have been a pathetic figure. He wasn't.)
It seems Robertson has a talent rare among entrepreneurs, the ability to make lemonade out of lemons. He explained what happened to the Onion AV Club. It was a piece of blinding entrepreneurial insight.
Cynthia Webb (left) is sporting a collection of recent U.S. media reports claiming a "renaissance" in America's consumer electronic market share.
There are more American labels around. Apple. Motorola. Microsoft. The U.S. companies are good at seeing the opportunity and writing software that works.
Our balance of payments is not helped by it.
As Cynthia notes (deep in the article), these boxes are being made in China. (Actually most of them are being made in Taiwan.) Some of the software conceptualizing is being done here, as is the marketing (although I suspect some of that software work was off-loaded to India).
Those failing, flailing Japanese outfits she mentions, meanwhile, are still doing everything in Japan. Or they're doing "too much" in Japan. Except for Sony and Nintendo Japanese companies were never good at anticipating demand. Mitsubishi, Canon, C. Itoh, Ricoh, et al -- they were manufacturing houses. They were China before China was cool.
But the Japanese are getting wise. American Howard Stringer is Sony's new CEO. He knows the game. Expect most Sony stuff soon to come with a "Made in China" label.
What's the real story?
Remember a week or so ago when I wrote about how someone had cracked their iPod's DRM to stick Linux in there?
Well, Novell has released a version of Linux that loves that environment.
Silicon.Com reports that SuSE Linux Professional 9.3 (SUSE is now owned by Novell) includes automatic recognition and support for the Apple iPod.
Now I'm going to tell you how to apply permission to the highest levels of personal transactions, the selling of homes and cars.
What should a rational U.S. technology policy include? Very simple:
Fortunately, someone gets it.
Dean Kamen (right) gets it.
Yeah, the Segway guy. Here's how he puts it on the home page of the educational organization he founded, US First:
"Create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes..."
I can't say it any better.
Best of all, his words are backed by action. What follows is my personal testimony to this:
A delegation from the TechNet lobby, including John Doerr (Rice '73) and Cisco chief John Chambers, were on Capitol Hill today warning legislators that the U.S. is in danger of losing its technology lead.
By some measures, it has already happened.
TechNet wants more spending on math and science education, especially in middle schools, and more tech-oriented retraining for displaced workers.
Amen to that. Both my kids felt math was fun in 4th grade, but neither is pursuing it anymore. My son's school refused to challenge him in 7th grade, resorting to a curriculum he'd already learned, and he lost interest. My daughter was bedeviled by reading difficulties and her strength in math was ignored.
Then Doerr went off and spoiled it all by saying something stupid.
T-Mobile has shut down the Sidekick data services that were the subject of the Paris Hilton hack, according to Weblogsinc.
As we approach the 40th anniversary of Gordon Moore's Electronics article, the man himself (Intel co-founder and namesake of this humble blog) has appeared to join the celebration.
While the headlines spoke of Moore's skepticism on materials that might replace silicon, I was more intrigued by his views on Intel, where his foundation still holds a considerable stake.
He's pretty happy. He likes the idea of pushing platforms over performance. It makes sense to him.
Moore also gave an irascible cur whom he quit a half-century ago credit for the creation of what's now Silicon Valley.
The logjam over the next optical storage standard may be about to break, as Apple has joined the Blu-ray Group.
The announcement at Germany's CeBit today means that HD-DVD, the rival technology, has lost yet-more momentum. Dell and H-P are already on the Blu-ray side.
This news is bigger than it sounds. Read on.
Bill Gates has finally hired himself a new CTO.
Groove does collaboration tools, and Microsoft (an early investor) is interested in those things. But I don't think Gates signed off on this deal to get Groove's technology, otherwise he never would have un-retired Nathan Myhrvold's title. (Microsoft currently has three people with the CTO title, meaning no one really has the power.)
The bottom line is that Gates needs Ray Ozzie, and he needs him bad.
Microsoft puts more dollars into new technology development than just about anyone else in the world, but it gets less bang for its buck than any outfit since Xerox PARC. Microsoft Research has a ton of high bandwidth people, they're doing all sorts of high bandwidth things, but when was the last time Microsoft introduced anything of real importance?
That's what Ray will be tasked with sorting out.
The cellular technology called EDGE doesn't make sense for the U.S.
It's not that fast. It costs real money. By the time a carrier installs EDGE his competitor may have true 3G available, and now you've spent your budget but lost the market.
Wind River is continuing its slow march toward the computing mainstream. (The illustration, from the Wind River site, shows the engagement model the company follows with its customers in producing products. It's careful and complicated.)
It's easy for someone to criticize Wind River's strategy as an attempt to maintain proprietary control in a world of open source, but the fact is there are opportunities here for the Always On world that need to be explained, and then seized.
Fact is Wind River's VxWorks is the leading RTOS out there. RTOS stands for Real Time Operating System, folks. An RTOS is used to make a device, not a system. You find RTOS's in things like your stereo, and your TV remote. What the device can do is strictly defined, and strictly limited. Your interaction with the device is also defined and limited.
An RTOS is not a robust, scalable, modular operating system like, say, Linux. And over the last few years, Wind River has been creeping into your world. VxWorks is used in most of your common WiFi gateways. This limits what they can do. They become "point" solutions. You can't run applications directly off a gateway, only off one of the PCs it's attached to.
Now, slowly, this is changing.
The folks at ZDNet (of all places) are starting to hear mutterings against the concept of corporate personhood.
Companies are individuals under U.S. law. But they can't be killed or jailed as real people can. Their interests are immortal. (The illustration is from a group trying to change this.)
Corporations were made persons by the footnotes to an obscure 19th century Supreme Court decision involving the Southern Pacific Railroad. All those involved are long since dead but the railroal company's interests survive as part of the Union Pacific Corp.
Al-Qaeda wanted Russell Crowe (left).
They would have taken Mel Gibson.
They got Cat Stevens.
Thanks very much, I'm here all week. (With apologies to all concerned...it's a JOKE.)
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.
Im sorry but we cant get you a direct flight to Johannesburg.
Are they all booked? I asked.
The BBC has a feature today claiming China's censorship of the Internet is highly effective.
In some ways China has been effective. All ISPs and access points are licensed and monitored. The Great Firewall of China rejects controversial queries. A blogger who criticized the authorities using their own name would be quickly arrested.
But there's a lot more to the story than that:
I don't always agree with Nicolas Negroponte (right), but he made a point in Korea recently that really makes sense.
This is true for hardware, for software, and for services. Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.
A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They're based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you're bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.
Yahoo is what it has been since 1997, a portal. Google is a search service. Now, with the rise of the Mobile Internet (we're still at 1994 with this, in fact) Yahoo is gigging Google and calling it "limited."
This is not just rhetoric. Yahoo has long been a leader in mobile services. And it's extending that lead with a new games service.
But this does not mean, as Business Week writes, that Google is a "one-trick pony," that its offerings are "limited." This is pure spin from Yahoo's PR people.
Forrester (via the Pondering Primate) offers some better suggestions. Provide other ways in which people can use Google to search for things outside the Web.
Should WiFi cover every inch of ground or should it be concentrated where people congregate.
Today we have two designs in the news, one meeting each need.
"There are many, many service providers that have very profitably deployed such a hybrid infrastructure - use Wi-Fi where it makes sense - where it can be highly localized and you can take advantage of higher power, more sensitive receiver, and directional antennas on an outdoor Access Point."
But there's another way, too.
Neither U.S. voters nor their elected representatives have ever endorsed the idea of patenting software, or mathematical algorithms. It was done by a court.
If this stupidity is to rule over Europe, it's fitting that the people's representatives should decide the question, and it now appears that they will.
The European Commission has pitched the question of software patents to the European Parliament, and will abide by a negative vote.
The winning argument is that software patents would bring Europe a permanent negative balance of payments, and place a toll on European innovation.
Failure to define a single standard for Ultrawideband is killing the technology. So say the experts.
This could be the week that tells the tale on that, as the FCC weighs in.
First, Rupert Goodwins of ZDNet reports that one-half of the UWB conflict, the WiMedia Alliance and the Multiband OFDM Alliance (MBOA), agreed to merge. An Intel executive, Stephen Wood, heads WiMedia.
Sounds cool, but there's still a rival out there, Direct Sequance-Ultrawideband, pushed by the UWB Forum. The latter group has demonstrated things like home networks, while the former has pushed a Firewire replacement over a distance of 2 meters. (The illustration to the left is from Intel.)
So this is more than just a technical argument. The WiMedia folks see the technology as a Bluetooth replacement. The UWB Forum is aiming at the heart of local networking.
But let's put it more simply
Google's Desktop Search is out of beta and available for download. (Going Gold is a phrase from "back in the day" when software ready to be release would be put onto a "gold" master for reproduction and shipping.)
The final version adds support for the text in PDF files, and meta data from music, video and picture files. System requirements are Windows XP or Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above, 500 MBytes of disk space, 128 MBytes of RAM, and a 400 MHz processor.
But wait, there's more.
When Canadian Michael Geist started his "Law Bytes" column some years ago, I didn't think much of it, or him. It was conventional, and usually took the side of industry.
Either he grew, or I did, because lately he has been rocking. He's loosened up, his writing has gotten better, and increasingly he's on the side of the angels. (Special Mooreslore game now. Guess the headline reference. No peeking.)
Here's an example. In one column he goes after attempts by the Canadian government to wiretap Internet conversations, ISPs' cutting off Vonage ports, efforts to extort money from Canadian schools just-in-case some content they view is copyrighted, and the music industry's incredible ability to get content taken-down on just a say-so.
There's a theme here. And the theme is right-on. It is that the Internet is threatened as never before, by cops, by greed, and by fear. If we allow these to dominate the conversation we lose. And we must not let that happen.
There's something else.
PCs crash, and Google deals with it.
It's faster, has less interference, and it's just better.
Uh-huh. Maybe that's all true. But even if it is, that will take time.
Bluetooth has taken over a half-decade to reach its present level of prominence, and many mobile phones still don't have the capability -- despite cool applicationsl like Hypertag being written for it. (Thanks to point-n-click and Billboard for that link.)
I have headlined this Moores Law of Market Acceptance because, again, there is none. (It's like Moore's Law of Training.) Market acceptance is a human process, involving many actors.
The rate at which a new technology is accepted and replaces an old one depends on how revolutionary it is, how nimble its sponsors, and how rapid is the replacement within the older market.
Bloggers not protected by Constitution, says Apple. That's the headline in EarthTimes over a story stating a judge ordered several online sites to hand over the names of their anonymous sources.
Even well-meaning blogs like BoingBoing get it wrong. In Apple case, court says bloggers' sources not protected is their headline. (I think they're copying a San Jose Mercury-News headline here.)
The first headline is a lie and the second is misleading. (But the picture, from the University of Houston in Clear Lake, is really cool, don't you think?)
Fact is, no journalists have that protection. Didn't these people read the result of the Judith Miller case?
No journalist has the right to protect anonymous sources. But all journalists have a responsibility to protect them.
Those who protect such sources, who are willing to go to jail for them after they promise to protect sources, and who do in fact go to jail under court order, without revealing their sources...those people are journalists. The others are not.
And I don't care how much money you make, or what your so-called employer says you are. If you're not willing to go to jail to protect a promise you have made to a source, you're not a journalist.
Ive seen it and seen it. A big company works its butt off to prove a market, and some little guy comes along claiming patent rights.
Here we go again. This time the victim is Apple Computer. A guy named Peter Chung, backed by a lawyer named Joseph Zito, claims Apples DRM infringes on their patent for limited sharing of files . They want 12% of everything Apple has made from iTunes.
Even the tone of their press release is, in my opinion, abusive.
Everyone knows that iTunes allows a user to play purchased music tracks to up to 5 computers, without repaying the money, under the condition that the computers are registered. The computer registration involves a process of identity verification in which a user is required to key in into the computer the correct Apple ID and password he used to purchase the song.
This is certainly a patentable technology. If iTunes does not patent it, there must be a very good reason for them not to do so- someone else has patented this.
The whole case points to what should be a major reform in the patent laws.
What would such reform consist of?
I used to like Intel chairman Craig Barrett.
Now, as he prepares for his May exit from the job he's had for seven years, I love Craig Barrett. (Image from ComputerWorld's Heroes page.)
I wish I had been able to say this:
"I believe in the Hippocratic Oath for government: first do no harm. That means sorting out spectrum allocation, fostering R&D and creating an environment to let business function," he said.
"[WiMax] is the solution to the 'last mile' broadband issue. It will get us out of the half-assed broadband situation we're in today. 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps is not broadband; 50 Mbps is."
Tell it, brother Barrett. Amen. More on what this means after the jump.
Jan Johansen became infamous because he wanted a Linux-based DVD player. Nils Schneider merely wanted the iPod to be all it could be.
In order to get a Linux DVD player, Johansen hacked the standard DVD encryption scheme with a program called DeCSS. The result was one of the biggest legal hassles of our time.
Schneider, 17, has now managed to get Linux working on his iPod by hacking its Digital Rights Management (DRM) system , according to New Scientist magazine.
Johansen's program, of course, had a lawful purpose, the creation of a Linux DVD player. But in order to do that he broke the copyright act. Schneider's program also has a lawful purpose, namely to run Linux on the iPod. But to do that he got through the iPod's DRM system, which in theory could let the iPod run any file at all.
But it's how Schneider did it I found most intriguing.
Taiwan has the greatest OEMs in the world. They can take your design and turn it around faster than anyone.
But Taiwan is not known for its equipment designs. Taiwan doesn't dominate the brand market.
That may be about to change with the Universal.
High Tech Computer of Taiwan has sold versions of it to most major European cellular outfits. The Windows Mobile device features a QWERTY keyboard which can fold into the device, making it a touchscreen PDA. It also has two cameras (one still, one video), Bluetooth and WiFi standard.
Sony released its Walkman phone yesterday.
It is what it is, a phone with a half-gigabyte of storage in it, enough room for about 500 songs.
Those songs are subject to Sony's DRM, just as iPod songs are subject to Apple's. Both now face the wrath of France because their DRM schemes are incompatible. Unfortunately for France, another unit of the government had previously ruled the link between its proprietary format and its iTunes store is OK so this is going nowhere.
And the Walkman phone is going nowhere in the market.
I have written several times about RSS in this space, often wrongly.
But now I have something which, I hope, will prove non-controversial. (For those who want to know more about RSS, O'Reilly has a fine book out on the subject.)
If your story is behind a registration firewall, don't put it in your RSS feed.
Many newspapers today routinely run RSS feeds on all stories, often through Moreover. Many also have registration firewalls. If you're not willing to deliver your personal data (and remember a new password for each publisher) they don't want to see you.
Well, I don't want to see them, either.
Fortunately, there are solutions.
It's time for the IM wars to return.
The main feature of this market battle over the years hasn't been features, but alliances. As a result the world has divided into two warring camps, that of AOL and that of Microsoft.
Both are making moves again. This time they're going in two different directions. AOL is aiming at a bigger user base, Microsoft is aiming straight at the wallet.
Haptics recreates touch and texture artificially. If your kid has a "force-feedback" joystick on their computer game console, they're getting a taste of haptics. Northwestern, USC and MIT are among the universities doing research in the field. (The image is from USC.)
It's vital that something like haptics comes to mobiles because, in a hands-free environment, you can't depend on just sight and sound. Bringing other senses, like touch (or smell) into the mix allows for communication to happen invisibly.
It's also vital for haptics to come to mobiles because this is a huge (in terms of installed base) platform. If the coding and messaging can be delivered in this space, we're talking about billions of users. And we're talking about a universal language.
The last time we were on the trail of Alzheimer's Disease, which killed Ronald Reagan, my next-door neighbor, and doubtless several great friends of yours, we learned that its risk factors were just like those of heart disease, high cholesterol which causes plaque to form in the brain's blood vessels.
Now scientists at UC San Diego have found a precursor condition that's just as important. Before symptoms are even apparent, proteins start clogging the pathways of axons, the nerve cells whose connections and re-connections represent actual thought. (The axon above is from a Coventry, England pain clinic.)
My favorite TV show turned 25 this week.
It was Yes Minister, a BBC comedy about the intricacies of bureaucracy.
I was surprised to learn this week that the Conservatives of Margaret Thatcher loved the show, because in fact its theme was that the permanent bureaucrats, led by Nigel Hawthorne, knew best. Every week he worked to undermine the policies of hapless minister James Hacker (Paul Eddington).
The beauty of the show, and one reason it would never be tried in the U.S., is that the status quo didn't hold. Eddington got the better of Hawthorne's Sir Humphrey Appleby as the show wore on, and at the end of the run Eddington's character actually became Prime Minister, head of the government.
The best is the technical brief, from a host of distinguished computer scientists including Dave Farber of Carnegie-Mellon (and the Interesting People list).
The short version. If a law against software is strong enough to do good it will do harm. And if it's weak enough not to do harm it can't possibly do any good. Thus the Sony vs. Betamax "test," that technology is legal if it can be used for legal purposes, should be upheld.
A few details after the break:
Rivals and investment bankers say it's stupid. BellSouth must either eat or be eaten, they claim, and once SBC has finished eating AT&T it wll chow down on BellSouth.
Maybe yes, maybe no. It must be admitted that rivals who've merged, and bankers who are selling deals, both have reasons to diss the company refusing to dance.
But there's another way for things to go. Because while there will soon be fewer players in the telecomm space, there will also be fewer real assets.
(By the way, that PHP pinup girl comes from a Lithuanian PHP tool maker.)
Then I took a look at the recent output of this blog. All recent stories here carry the .php extension. They're no longer HTML. The output is still readable by any browser as an HTML file, they're just not written with a pure HTML tool.
The real news, however, is much bigger.
We're seeing nothing less than a mainframe revolution.