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Moore's Lore
June 2005
June 30, 2005

Congressional SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mmusgrave.jpgI just got my first piece of franked spam.

It came from Rep. Madilyn Musgrave of Colorado. (That's her, from a Congressional Web site.)

I don't know how, but my Mindspring address somehow landed on her Congressional e-mail list. The spam is filled with news of her efforts on behalf of Colorado's Fourth Congressional District, about 2,000 miles from my home in Atlanta.

You know what I can do about this spam? Absolutely nothing. That's because the federal CAN-SPAM Act (wonderful name, since it means you can spam all you want) states that I must opt-out of this spam, by hitting a link inside the letter.

The law she passed says her spam is not spam.

Continue reading "Congressional Spam"

Pressure on the Good GuysEmail This EntryPrint This Article

feingold.jpgPolitically I think Senator Russ Feingold is one of the Good Guys. So, to be perfectly bipartisan about it, is Senator John McCain. (You know what McCain looks like, so here's Feingold.)

This is especally true regarding campaign finance. Proponents of reform have been pushing uphill with scant success ever since the 1976 decision in Buckley v. Vallejo, which basically said money is speech, and those with more money can out-shout the rest of us.

McCain and Feingold tried to fit that decision inside their eponymous campaign finance act, and while on most counts the Supreme Court ruled they did, that act also covered the Internet, and both men have insisted to this day that's true.

Now that the blogosphere has pushed-back on this, pushed back hard, from both sides of the aisle, the good guys have not been heard from.

Continue reading "Pressure on the Good Guys"

TheFeature ClosesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

CarloLongino.jpgBlogging is filled with comings-and-goings. Mostly comings these days.

But some goings as well. Some, in fact, are quite sad.

Put this on the sad list. TheFeature is no more. I found out about it a few minutes ago, and confirmed it at the site.

TheFeature was among the best blogs I've seen on the mobile Internet. Their "columnists" ("bloggers") were good writers, with good sources and real insight.

You can see the reactions of some of those columnists here. Russell Buckley, who clued me in on all this, has also announced his own blog, Mobhappy, and one of TheFeature's best, executive editor Carlo Longino (above), is moving over there.

Continue reading "TheFeature Closes"

T-Mobile Jumps Over The WallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

catherine2.jpgT-Mobile has become the first cellular operator to offer full Internet service on its mobile phones.

The service will be sold under the name Web'n'walk, with Google.Com as the designated home page. (Yeah, I know, in the real Internet world you could change the default to, say, http://www.corante.com/mooreslore. But one step at a time.) New devices, with larger screens, will also be sold as part of the campaign.

The decision is critical, because up until now all cellular providers have offered only their own "walled gardens," sometimes using a small i (for Internet, customers think) on their phones, but in fact offering only a tiny fraction of the Internet connectivity customers are used to.

But as phones move to offering true broadband speeds, and some users use cellular broadband on their PCs because of its better coverage, this is finally breaking down.

It will be interesting to see how, and when, T-Mobile starts advertising this feature, and what Verizon and Cingular will say (or do) in response. T-Mobile, while owned by Germany's formerly state-owned phone company, is the smallest of four major operators in the U.S.

Continue reading "T-Mobile Jumps Over The Wall"

Comdex Lives in TaiwanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

computex.gifWhen the Comdex show closed its doors a few years ago a lot of people threw up their hands and decided it was some sort of secular turning-point, the lesson being that people didn't do trade shows anymore.

Well it was a turning point. But not of the ind they thought.

Fact is, Comdex lives. It lives in Taiwan, and it's called Computex.

The show just finished, and the reports are still dribbling in. But what's clear is that the same spirit of innovation, the same corporate social mobility, and the same establishment of distribution that marked the Comdex show in its heyday all took place in Taiwan.

This is meaningful on several levels.

Continue reading "Comdex Lives in Taiwan"

Media AnarchyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

MBA logoFor the last few months I’ve been trying to help the Media Bloggers Association, mainly via e-mail.

I’ve been appointed to three committees, none of which I’ve been much use to. I started in publicity, moved over to membership, and I’m now on ethics.

Publicity they had in hand. Membership passed over a list of prospective members, but I had no basis on which to judge them so I just approved the list. This got me interested in ethics.

Continue reading "Media Anarchy"

June 29, 2005

The Crazy Frog ScandalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

crazy-frog.jpgCellular operators love to go on about how much better their walled data gardens are than that nasty Internet, because consumers are safer.

Really?

Jamster and mBlox created the Crazy Frog phenomenon with a very addictive, and heavily advertised ringtone that topped the British pop charts for five weeks.

But there was a sting in the tail. People (mostly kids, but at least one BBC reporter as well) found they didn't just buy a 3 pound ringtone, but a "premium SMS" service that charged them as much as 3 pounds more for each add Jamster then sent them.

The two companies are being investigated but according to the BBC the maximum penalty could be a mere 100,000 pounds to mBlox, plus loss of its British business license. It's estimated the scam has earned over 10 million pounds so far.

But do you want to know the rest of the story, the bit the Brits don't know (yet)?

Continue reading "The Crazy Frog Scandal"

An Always-On EndorsementEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Always On Server_small.jpgIt's nice when "real" (paid) market analysts agree with one of your premises. Especially when it's a key premise to you, as Always On is to me. (This is advertised as an Always On Server, from Virtual Access.)

So I was pleased to read Chris Jablonski's recent piece at ZDNet, Forget P2P, M2M is where the next party is.

M2M stands for Machine to Machine (ironically this sits right below an item about how poor most tech nicknames are) but we're talking about the same thing, intelligent sensors linked to wireless networks. Programming the sensors to deliver some result, then automating delivery of the result in some way (sending an alarm, telling the user, etc.) is what I mean by an Always-On application.

As I have said here many times the tools are already at hand, and cheap. We're talking here about RFID chips, WiFi and cellular networks, along with standards like Zigbee that let these things run for years on a single battery charge.

There are problems with every application space, however:

Continue reading "An Always-On Endorsement"

June 28, 2005

AMD's New Legal OffensiveEmail This EntryPrint This Article

amd logo.gifAMD is the most infuriating company imaginable.

If Intel is the big dog of the chip world, AMD is the little dog jumping around it, nipping at its heels, acting like it (not Chipzilla) owns the street.

Its latest legal assault may be its dumbest move yet.

Strictly from a timing standpoint, it sucks.

This Administration does not look kindly at anti-trust claims. They settled with Microsoft, they gave the cables and Bells a duopoly (leaving America a third-world broadband country), and they seem content to let China monopolize world trade while India gains control of services. All this is in pursuit of an ideology that becomes less-and-less distinguishable from Putinism and Kleptocracy by the day.

Short form. If they had a case they should have filed it in Europe.

Continue reading "AMD's New Legal Offensive"

The OTHER Supreme Court DecisionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

brandxrocket.jpgThe Supreme Court has decided that cable networks, created under government franchises, under monopoly conditions, are entirely the property of their corporate owners who don't have to wholesale. (That's the BrandX rocket ship -- they lost the case. What follows is directed to them as much as anyone else.)

Some ISPs bemoaned this bitterly. In the near term it means most of us have two choices for broadband service, the local Bell and the local Cable Head-End, both known for poor service, high prices, and loaded with equipment it will take decades to write off.

Smart folks, however, should be celebrating.

Continue reading "The OTHER Supreme Court Decision"

Identity Theft Turning Point?Email This EntryPrint This Article

credit cards.jpgThe recent theft of 40 million card numbers at CardSystem Solutions is a turning point in the identity theft wars.

Previous thefts involved third parties, insiders or numbers left in bins, things that are easily fixed.

The CardSystems case stands out, first, because it happened at an actual processor and second, because it involved the use of a computer worm.

My wife works at a payment processor in Atlanta (most processors, for some reason, including CardSystems, are based here) that has (knock on wood) not been hit (yet).

Continue reading "Identity Theft Turning Point?"

June 27, 2005

A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?Email This EntryPrint This Article

DavidSouter.jpg

It's unanimous.

By a 9-0 count the Supreme Court has held that Grokster (and its ilk) can be sued.

The decision was written by David Souter (right, in an old picture from Wikipedia), a conservative-turned-liberal appointed by the first President Bush.

Here's the key bit:

"We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by the clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties."

I've highlighted the most relevant portion. To me it looks like they wouldn't hold against BitTorrent, but that Grokster's business model, which did sell the service as a way to infringe, crossed a legal line.

As written I find it hard to argue against the language, but I guarantee I'll disagree with the interpretation, especially the spin being placed on this by the copyright industries.

As I see it the decision puts a limit on the "non-infringing uses" language of the Betamax decision, but does not overturn it. Grokster falls because its business model is based on infringement. BitTorrent has no business model, and thus may be exempt.

Trouble is that is an assertion that will be tested in courts that will twist this result just as the DMCA was twisted to reach this decision. Congress was told by the Copyright industries in 1998 that the DMCA would not overturn Betamax, that it would protect fair use, that it would not be extended in that direction and should not be interpreted as going there.

With this decision -- a unanimous decision as opposed to the 6-3 Betamax ruling -- I guarantee you the industry's lawyers will try and turn this into open season on the Internet.

But can they?

Continue reading "A Digital Brown? Or A Digital Plessy?"

No Such Thing As Free WiFiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

freewifispot.gifI spent last week in Texas, dependent on free WiFi hotspots, and I learned a powerful lesson.

There is no such thing as free WiFi.

When "free" WiFi is provided by a bar, coffee shop or restaurant, there is a quid pro quo. You're going to eat. You're going to drink. And when you're no longer eating and/or drinking (and ordering) you're going to get nasty looks until you leave.

There is a cost to a shop's WiFi that goes beyond the cost of the set-up. That is the cost of the real estate, the cost of the table, and the cost to a shop's ambience when a bunch of hosers come in and spend all day staring at laptops.

Now here's an even-more controversial point.

Continue reading "No Such Thing As Free WiFi"

Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Hilary rosen.jpgFormer RIAA president Hilary Rosen finally gets it about copyright.

This volume needs to be embraced and managed becasue it cannot be vanquished. And a tone must be set that allows future innovation to stimulate negotiation and not just confrontation.

Her column at the Huffington Post (she apparently chose not to take feedback on it) is filled with honesty about both the tech and copyright industries, honesty she never admitted to (in my memory) while shilling for the RIAA.

But is it possible that this honesty is what finally caused her to leave? (Or did her life, and its imperatives for action, take precedence?)

That would be a shame, because the fact is, as she writes, that the answers here must lie in the market, not the law courts. For every step the copyright industries take in court, technologists take two steps away from them. This will continue until the copyright industries really engage consumers with offerings that are worth what they charge, and which aren't burdened with DRMs that restrict fair use.

Continue reading "Hilary Rosen Gets It (Too Late)"

The Hedy Lamarr of Early TVEmail This EntryPrint This Article

paul_winchell.jpgBy the time Paul Winchell died, last weekend at 82, the BBC was only able to point out that he had done the voice of Tigger for Disney.

He was so much more. Like Hedy Lamarr, who created the technology underlying WiFi, he led a double-life, as an intellectual in the fun house.

For starters he was the first TV star I remember, one of many models for what became The Simpsons' Krusty the Klown. He had a morning show with puppets, more entertaining (I thought) than Kaptain Kangaroo, with more brain and heart (I thought) than even Fred Rogers. The puppets, which he made himself, were called Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff (right).

What I didn't know at the time was he was also a polymath, with a wide range of interests and a photographic memory. One of his interests was medicine. As an entertainer he manuevered into the worlds of famous physicians, including Dr. Henry Heimlich (then Arthur Murray's prospective son-in-law), and with his help won the first U.S. patent on an artificial heart.

There was even more to his life than that. He sought early funding for the farm-raising of tilapia, He was a skilled painter. And, of course, he was a ventriloquist and a subversive humorist who emphasized the fun of the mind.

Taken directly from his own Web site (he was working on streaming video at the time of his death) is a list of his inventions (remember he was self-taught):

Continue reading "The Hedy Lamarr of Early TV"

June 23, 2005

American Diaspora 23Email 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.


How much can a man change in just one day?

That was the question all of South Africa was asking over its dinner, some in shock, some in awe, others with a rueful nod of recognition, as Mark Cuban was brought out for his arraignment.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 23"

June 21, 2005

The Chipfather is DeadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

kilby_jack.jpgIrregular readers of this blog may think Gordon Moore invented the microchip.

He didn't. Moore did have a major role. He was part of the Fairchild team, co-founder of Intel, and his Moore's Law article popularized the changes that chips would bring.

But Jack Kilby won the Nobel Prize for the microchip, in 2000. He died today.

The original invention, designing multiple devices on a single piece of substrate, was invented in two places at once. One team, which Kilby headed, worked at Texas Instruments. The other team, with Moore, Robert Noyce, and other key men, worked at Fairchild Semiconductor.

The resulting patent was shared, but it was Kilby's team that created the basic technology. The key contribution from the Noyce team involved manufacturing process.

More on Kilby after the break.

Continue reading "The Chipfather is Dead"

American Diaspora 22Email 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.



Jenni’s report gave The Lady a heads-up, but nothing more than that.

The phone rang the next morning at 6 AM. “What the?” I mumbled as I went to get it from its charging stand.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 22"

June 20, 2005

House of CardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

orson card.jpgThanks to his political involvement many liberals are treating Orson Scott Card as a pariah.

I’m certain he doesn’t care. Many great writers have been men and women of uncertain, even unwelcome politics. Like all people they’re products of their environment.

This is especially true in science fiction, a subset of literature devoted to worlds far removed from our own time and space. I didn’t like Robert Heinlein’s politics, and I don’t discuss politics with Jerry Pournelle, either. But I enjoy both, immensely.

I also enjoy Card's work. I'm a fan, with eyes wide open to his faults and limits, but a fan nonetheless.

Continue reading "House of Card"

June 17, 2005

RespiteEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I will be spending time in Texas over the next week, on family business.

Service here will be sporadic, if it exists at all.

I will try to find WiFi hotspots where I can and keep in touch with y'all.

But if you miss me please be assured that, in the words of this guy down here,

"I'll be back."

This Week's Clue: Two TrainsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

blogging time copy.jpgWe returned to the topic of e-commerce, and the effort to make money in journalism, with this week's A-Clue.Com, which went out to subscribers this morning. (You can get one too -- always free.)

The topic this week might be called the new media's old media problem, with a proposal for solving it. (I have no idea whether the book here is good or not. If someone can send me a link to sales, we'll see.)

Enjoy.


In software terms blogging and commerce are incompatible. They're two trains running on different tracks.

Bloggers aren't really thinking of making money. They may put up begging bowls, and they make take BlogAds, or put in Google AdSense, but their Achilles Heel is that, when they think of money at all, it's in Old Media terms.

Let's sell ads.

Community Networking Systems like Scoop, Slash and Drupal also share this problem. They have an advantage over blogging systems in that they can scale. They can take a lot of traffic, and a lot of users. Those users are empowered to create their own diaries, or polls, or multi-threaded comments. But again commerce is secondary, in this case even tertiary. The most successful "commercial" community sites are those, like DailyKos and Slashdot, that direct people off-site to give money or time to important causes. There is no built-in business model.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Two Trains"

June 16, 2005

Why the Housing Crash Will HappenEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bubble.jpgCritics of the idea we're in a housing bubble usually bring two main arguments to the table.

  1. There's great intrinsic demand. Populations are increasing.
  2. Mortgage payments only exceed rents in some areas, not all. Thus, any adjustments will be small, localized, and soaked up by aggregate demand.

I don't buy it.

Continue reading "Why the Housing Crash Will Happen"

The Real Mark CubanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cuban.jpgRegular readers of this space will know Mark Cuban as a recurring character in my two online novels, The Chinese Century and The American Diaspora.

I think it's important to note that the Mark Cuban of those novels is a fictional character. He has the same name, face, and background as the real Mark Cuban, but his motivations and actions are purely imaginary. The world of my alternate histories diverge from the real world right after the last election, with the imagined meeting of an American ambassador and a Chinese official. From there on out it's my world, not your world, not the real world.

There is, of course, a real Mark Cuban. You can find this Mark Cuban at his personal blog, BlogMaverick. It's telling that, to my knowledge, Cuban is the only blogging billionaire. I hope it's telling in a good way.

What's the real Mark Cuban like?

Continue reading "The Real Mark Cuban"

Death of RSS KeywordsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

rss.jpgFor the last few months I have had a keyword search on Newsgator covering topics of interest here, things like cellular telephony and open source. (Last call to buy the book.)

I have watched as it has gradually become worse than useless.

I'm getting nearly 500 e-mails a day on this feed, but the signal-noise ratio keeps going up. Newsgator has begun designating some of these posts as spam, but they're missing most of them, including this one.

Even some of the "editorial" hits on this list are worse than useless. Here's one. No offense to the writer but it doesn't belong in a keyword feed for cellular, despite the fact that one of the entries in this list is "I have a mobile phone."

It gets worse, but maybe I have a solution.

Continue reading "Death of RSS Keywords"

June 15, 2005

The Journalism CrisisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mencken387x250.gifIt should surprise no one that "professional" journalists hate Wikis and blogs.

A little history lesson shows you why. Only this one's fun. As part of your summer reading get yourself a copy of H.L. Mencken's Newspaper Days. (That's Mencken to the left.) It's his memoir of Baltimore's newspaper business around the turn of the last century.

Newspapermen at that time were lower class, hard drinking, smoking, swearing, worthless ne'er do wells. You wouldn't bring one home to mother. They hid in saloons, spun lies, spied on people, made less than the corner grocer, and were generally shiftless, lazy bums. Despite this, they considered themselves a class apart.

This last is still the case. But today's newspaper writers are either middle-class bores or upper-class twits. Those who report on Washington, write columns or work on editorials are among the most twittish. Many make more than the people they cover, especially if their faces are on television.

Blogs, wikis and the whole Internet Business Model Crisis threaten these happy homes. (Although I've got news for them -- stock analysts treat newspaper stocks like tobacco stocks and their ranks are being thinned like turkey herds in September. They'd be a dieing breed even without the Net.)

What's most galling to "professional" journalists is not the loss of jobs, or money, but their continuing loss of prestige. On the upper rungs of the ladder they're being replaced by "players" -- sports stars, lawyers, politicians, former entertainers. On the lower rungs they're being driven into poverty -- we've talked before of the corrupted tech press. And in the middle rungs you've got these blogs, wikis and the continuing problems of being treated like a mushroom. (You're in the dark and they're throwing manure on you.)

Our times are, in many ways, a mirror image of the 1890s.

Continue reading "The Journalism Crisis"

Best. Commencement. Speech. Ever.Email This EntryPrint This Article

steve jobs at stanford commencement.jpgJohn F. McMullen today posted, to Dave Farber's list, what he says is a transcript of the commencement address Steve Jobs (a college dropout) gave at Stanford yesterday. (The picture is from Stanford.)

Press reports on the speech indicate this transcript is fairly accurate.

What they fail, utterly, to do is really give you a flavor for the wisdom Jobs imparted, so I have taken the liberty, starting below, of posting the entire transcript, as offered by McMullen.

Sit back and enjoy. Assuming again that the transcript is accurate, this may be the best commencement speech ever.


Thank you. I'm honored to be with you today for your commencement
from one of the finest universities in the world. Truth be told, I
never graduated from college and this is the closest I've ever gotten
to a college graduation.

Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No
big deal. Just three stories. The first story is about connecting the
dots.

Continue reading "Best. Commencement. Speech. Ever."

Moore's Law is EverywhereEmail This EntryPrint This Article

optware.jpgA note came in today from a friend I've known even longer than my saintly wife. "How does this fit into Moore's Law?" he asked.

The link was to a story about a holographic storage system being marketed by Optware of Japan. It's called a Holographic Virtual Card (HVC) and claims to store 30 Gigabytes on $1 worth of media. (That's the Optware reader to the right, from a 2004 GearBits article promising commercialization in 2005.)

The kicker is that readers will cost $2.000 and read-write devices may cost five times more. Optware has promised standard kit by the end of next year.

All this related to what my book calls Moore's Law of Optical Storage. Instead of storing data on a fairly flat substrate, the Optware design uses all three dimensions. Think of the storage medium as a cube rather than a circle.

There's a long way to go before this threatens the CDs we're used to. Right now, however, the high price of the readers may be an advantage, making this perfect for applications like physical security.

Imagine the depth of personal knowledge that could be input on a 30 GByte substrate for an entry badge. Connect that to a variety of biometric readers so the bad guys can't hide their identities behind, say, phony fingerprints or contact lenses. Add a human guard to the mix and your entry portal could be pretty darned secure (for a time).

But the best news here may be this, the fact that there's competition in this space from Inphase Technologies, a spin-off of Bell Labs. They're looking at issues like the speed of data transfer, issues that could make holograms an alternative for the archiving of Web data.

Continue reading "Moore's Law is Everywhere"

June 14, 2005

MacGates, or The Tragedy of the UncommonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

macbeth.jpgWriting about Microsoft earlier today got me thinking more deeply about the company. (The image is from the Pioneer Theater Co., at the University of Utah.)

A decade ago Microsoft reached a tipping point. Maybe this came with its release of Windows 95. It was obvious in its obsession over destroying Netscape.

Before 1995 Microsoft was about creating capabilities for others. Since then its mission has been embracing and extending, bringing the great ideas of others into its own operating system, destroying rather than creating niches.

It all sounds like a Jon Stewart set-up. "Aw, Bill, it used to be about the world domination." But in truth, at some point, people do come to dominate their worlds.

And then it all starts to go wrong.

Continue reading "MacGates, or The Tragedy of the Uncommon"

Who You Want Working for YouEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The people you want working for you are not necessarily the people who want to work for you.

This is one of those hard truths that everyone knows and no one talks about.

Gretchen Ledgard of Microsoft recently told this truth, and God bless her for it.

Because it's not just a truth at Microsoft.

Ledgard's post, which she later felt duty-bound to soften, told a real truth, and the fact she felt compelled to soften her tone speaks loudly to just how bad the problem is -- across corporate America.

The people doing the hiring, and the people seeking those positions, both think working at Microsoft (or wherever) is the greatest thing since pasteurized milk. In some ways it is. Look at the medicine cabinet you get to use at Microsoft (at the top of this item). Look at the salaries, the benefits, the family-friendly attitude. It's paradise.

Continue reading "Who You Want Working for You"

June 13, 2005

American Diaspora 21Email 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 was going to do something I never did before.

I was going to ask my own wife to cross an ethical line.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 21"

Medical Always-On Niche ProspersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

ehealth.jpgDespite what the snarky set may say, medical applications for Always On technologies are starting to get real interest from people with money.

An outfit called Wirelesshealthcare in the UK has come out with a report called "101 Things To Do With A Mobile Phone In Healthcare."

The only unfortunate thing here is that the writers of the release on this interesting report call the area eHealth.

My problem is not with their intent. A rose by any other name and all that. My problem is that the term eHealth is stifling, limiting. It minimizes what is actually happening, and isolates wireless network applications to one small field.

Continue reading "Medical Always-On Niche Prospers"

LostEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm going to say something really controversial and if that's not what you're up for this morning, please don't click below.

Continue reading "Lost"

When Will They Ever Learn?Email This EntryPrint This Article

hat.jpgDue to low salaries and high turnover, journalism continues to face the problem of reporters seeing failed trends repeated, not spotting them, and repeating the same failed cliches of earlier years, mainly due to orgnaizational inertia.

Two examples.

First, from the Financial Times, a piece on Internet sites being bought by media companies, "falling prey" to them being the operative cliche. On the whole these are market losers cashing out. The buyers aren't getting much, and the story doesn't examine the track records of the sellers. There's a story here, but not the one written.

Second, we have the BBC with the idea that consumer demands drive tech developments. If the iPod were possible 20 years ago does anyone deny we would buy it?

Continue reading "When Will They Ever Learn?"

Even Free WiFi Needs a Business ModelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

freewifispot.gifGlenn Fleishman shared a piece he freelanced to The New York Times whose point is, simply, that even free WiFi needs a business model.

The story is about how some coffee houses are turning off the WiFi because they don't like the fact that their shops become offices. People shut up around WiFi. They bring in their PCs, turn on, and tune out the world around them. They may buy a coffee (increasingly they don't) but that's all you're going to get out of them.

Coffee shops and restaurants have beren the leaders in the WiFi "hotspot" movement based on the assumption they will be good for business, that people who WiFi also eat and drink.

Turns out we don't. Not that much, anyway. And we don't leave the table, either.

All of which leaves these shops without a valid business model. Would those using free WiFi object too much if they grabbed a piece of your browser's real estate and forced ads on you while you worked? How about if they put in a WiFi tip jar? I'm open to suggestions here.

Continue reading "Even Free WiFi Needs a Business Model"

June 10, 2005

A Note to PewEmail This EntryPrint This Article

carol darr.jpgThis is a note to the nice people at the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Some of your money has gone astray. Specifically, it has gone to George Washington University for something called the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, formerly the Democracy Online Project.

GWU put a woman named Carol Darr (right, from the Center for National Policy) in charge of this group, and she has proven to be, well, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot. Clueless, in the parlance of this blog. To be blunt about it, she is using money given for promoting democracy on the Internet in order to destroy it.

Continue reading "A Note to Pew"

Dismissing Always On ApplicationsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

engadget crying baby.GIFOne reason I (unreasonably) went off on Jamais Cascio is because I'm sickened at how the press generally treats Always On solutions. They only see the threats to civil liberties and tend to demean the potential user base.

After Jamais (rightfully) went after me I began looking for an article illustrating this point. It didn't take long to find one. (And the picture at right is from that very story.)

Here it is. It's a piece by Thomas Ricker of EnGadget on what are some really nifty Always On applications in the medical field.

He gets it all down, the fear of "Big Brother watching you" and the outright contempt for the infants, parents and older folks who might need this stuff.

Given all the deaths from SIDS I would think parents would love a mattress that could warn you before your child dies. Given the ravages caregivers face with Alzheimers (not to mention patients), a network of motion sensors telling you when you really need to help grandma (and when you don't) sounds like a very, very good thing indeed.

Continue reading "Dismissing Always On Applications"

This Week's Clue: Destroying the VillageEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vietnam war.jpgI guess I felt a little down this week -- about the direction of technology, about the economy, about a lot of things.

So the readers of A-Clue.com got an earful. (You can get one too -- always free.)


There are times when history, like television, goes into re-runs.

We have literally turned Iraq into another Vietnam. But we've seen this movie before, so when Rumsfeld does his McNamara imitations, or Bush plays like LBJ's dumber brother, we change the channel.

Yet the fact is that when history repeats (unlike television) it does so in spades, in triplicate.

World War I was horrible. World War II was worse.

Iraq is not the only Vietnam repeat out there. We're doing the same thing with the Internet.

We're ignoring history. We know what would work to secure our computers, and the networks they run on. But we don't act. So we get this incremental escalation, this drip-drip-drip that leaves us, in the end, worse off than we would be had we taken decisive action at the start.

There are laws on the books that should deal with spam, with spyware, and with the problems of identity theft. They can be found under headings like fraud, theft, and fiduciary responsibility. Nothing is being done today that wasn't done before - only the means have changed.

Instead of moving against these problems together, as was attempted in the 1990s, we're leaving everyone on their own, and sometimes the cure winds up being worse than the disease.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Destroying the Village"

June 09, 2005

Conservation of MemoryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

the_ultimate_troubleshooter_ss3.jpgMost PC users have been conditioned, over time, into conserving disk space. This is true even though most of us have tons more disk space than we really need.

We're not used to thinking in terms of conservation of memory, taking programs out of memory that aren't doing us good and, in fact, may be doing us harm. (Yes, you Mac users can go to sleep now.)

I received a lesson on this over the last week from Answers That Work. They're releasing a new version (2.53) of their The Ultimate Troubleshooter (TUT). They asked me to try it out.

I was in for a surprise. Two surprises, actually.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Conservation of Memory"

Dana's Law of BellheadsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

icon_the_boss.gifWhen evolution accelerates size becomes a disadvantage.

It's true in nature, and it's true in technology as well.

The Bells (and Comcast) are the big bottlenecks in our technology universe. With Moore's Law sweeping through the telecomm landscape they are competitive liabilities in our economic ecosystem.

There is no malice in saying this. The Bells can't help being pointy-headed bosses. They are bureaucrats. Their loyalty is to the inside of their system, not to the customer. In a stable environment the ability to retain such people is a boon. In an unstable one it's disaster.

More proof comes today from Techdirt. It's a so-called BellSouthWiMax trial. But it isn't WiMax. It isn't new technology. It's an excuse to keep charging $110/month for DSL ($60 for the phone line) when the phone component is (with VOIP) unnecessary.

Continue reading "Dana's Law of Bellheads"

The Gadget EraEmail This EntryPrint This Article

teacher inspector gadget.gifThe 1990s were all about the Internet. (The picture is from a great site called i-Learnt, for teachers interested in technology.)

This decade is all about gadgets.

Digital cameras, musical phones, PSPs, iPods -- these are the things that define our time. While they can be connected to networks their functions are mainly those of clients.

In some ways it's a "back to the future" time for technology. We haven't had such a client-driven decade since the 1970s, when it was all about the PC.

In some ways this was inevitable. The major network trend is wireless, so we need a new class of unwired clients.

But in some ways this was not inevitable. If we had more robust local connectivities than the present 1.5 Mbps downloads (that's the normal local speed limit) we would have many more opportunities to create networked applications.

Continue reading "The Gadget Era"

June 08, 2005

It's Little Brother, StupidEmail This EntryPrint This Article

manu ginobili.jpgSometimes a negative response comes in here that's so well thought out and cogent that I just need to share it.

Jamais Cascio was on the previous story faster than Manu Ginobili on a loose ball. (OK, I'm a Spurs fan.)


Did you even read the article? It sure seems like you didn't. I know it was long, but if you're going to attack it, do so for good reasons (like the term) and not for things I didn't say.

It's not about the government.

It's not about Big Brother.

It's not about big business or big science being evil.

It's not about the developments I discuss being unmitigated problems or uniformly undesirable.

To quote from the very beginning of the article:

"This won't simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily."

...and a few paragraphs later...

"But in the world of the participatory panopticon, this constant surveillance is done by the citizens themselves, and is done by choice. It's not imposed on us by a malevolent bureaucracy or faceless corporations. The participatory panopticon will be the emergent result of myriad independent rational decisions, a bottom-up version of the constantly watched society."

(Emphasis added, as you seem to have missed it the first time.)


Continue reading "It's Little Brother, Stupid"

I'm My Own Big BrotherEmail This EntryPrint This Article

jamaisMF.jpg
UPDATE: I got a long response from Cascio that I'm going to make another item.


Jamais Cascio at WorldChanging (the picture is by Howard Greenstein, and published on the blog item) has decided to dump heavily on the whole idea of the World of Always On by giving it the ear-splitting name of the Participatory Panopticon. (The speech was made a month ago, but it hit my RSS feed this morning.)

It's wildly over-the-top and based on the idea that any data you collect on yourself must mean Big Brother is Watching You. There's even the obligatory Abu Ghraib glory shot. (The guy on the box, not Lynndie England's smile.)

There are always dangers in technology. People die in traffic accidents. Most mass entertainment is bad for your mental health. If you play video games too much your thumbs will hurt.

But to condemn new technology because of the potential dangers if it's misused is Luddism at its worst.

The fact is that, where Always On technologies are concerned, we're all Big Brother. That is, we're monitoring ourselves, monitoring and controlling our own environments, finding our own stuff.

The key to making this work is, simply, Privacy Law. Data I create belongs to me. Data about me belongs to me. Data about your stuff, in the store, belongs to you, until I buy it and take it out of the store at which point the RFID chip, and its data, belong to me.

  • My heart rate and blood pressure, designed to keep me from dieing in that next heart attack? It's mine. But I can share it with my doctor.
  • The list of what's in my house? Mine, too. But I can share it with my alarm company. And if someone breaks in I want them sharing it with the police. An inventory of what's missing is a good thing.

Continue reading "I'm My Own Big Brother"

BubblesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

google frank_lloyd_wright.gif
When something is overpriced there are always excuses.

I had a friend tell me the other day, with a straight face, that housing is still a great buy because the population will keep growing. Maybe so, but prices are a function of the amount of capital available to buy the goods, not the size of the population. Just because there are a lot of people in Soweto doesn't mean you should plunk down 100 million rand for a shanty.

The housing bubble, in other words, is based on unrealistic expectations. People are taking out interest-only loans, adjustable rate loans, and loans of over 100% of the purchase price, because they expect prices to go up faster than interest rates, indefinitely. True the length of a bubble economy is indefinite, but it definitely bursts in time.

Here's another bubble. Google. Sorry, it's not worth $80 billion. It's worth some multiple of its earnings, and with earnings growing quickly it's worth a premium on that. But it's not worth 25 times its sales of $3.2 billion. No company is. Some part of that valuation, maybe a large part of it, is pure speculation.

Continue reading "Bubbles"

June 07, 2005

American Diaspora 20Email 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.


What can a quarter-million American liberals do?

Quite a lot, it turns out.

Continue reading "American Diaspora 20"

Should the Internet be Governed?Email This EntryPrint This Article

mm-headaction.gifFor my ZDNet blog this morning I interviewed Milton Mueller of the Internet Governance Project asking how the Internet should be governed.

The real problem is that most users, especially most Americans, don't believe it should be governed at all.

But it is governed.

The Internet is governed by the U.S. government, through ICANN, so anything the U.S. wants goes, and everyone else can go scratch. If the U.S. wants to violate the privacy of foreigners it does so. If it wants servers shut down -- even in other countries -- they're shut down. And all the "taxes" earned from site registration goes to those favored by the U.S. security apparatus.

In the 1990s there was a bit of whispering about this. But now those whispers have become a roar, because this government's obsessions with its own security (at the expense of everyone else's) and "intellectual property" (a phrase that does not appear in its Constitution) are becoming too much to bear.

That's why the ITU and the UN are sniffing around the issues involved in taking control of the root DNS away from ICANN. The coup would occur by these groups simply rolling their own, turning them on, and having member states point to them, instead of those offered by ICANN.

At first you wouldn't notice. But very shortly, as ITU and U.S. policies began to diverge there would be two Internets. Americans wouldn't be able to reach ITU pointers not recognized by ICANN roots, and vice versa for everyone else.

In a way it's already happening.

Continue reading "Should the Internet be Governed?"

June 06, 2005

Apple-Intel Follow-upEmail This EntryPrint This Article

steve_jobs.jpgIt's official.

Not only is Apple switching its chip supply contract from IBM to Intel, but it is moving to Intel processors in the bargain.

In making the announcement this morning, Steve Jobs said he didn't see how he could continue making great products beyond next year "based on the Power roadmap."

Right after his speech he had a cagey interview with CNBC's Ron Insana. "It’s not as dramatic as you’re characterizing it," he insisted.

"This is going to be a gradual transition. Hopefully a year from today we’ll have Intel-based Macs in the market. It’s going to be a two-year transition.

"As we look into the future, where we want to go is different (from IBM's product roadmap). A year or two in the future Intel’s processor roadmap aligns with where we want to go.

"I think this will get us where we want to be a year or two down the road." Jobs refused repeated requests by Insana to explain what he meant by that. (Jobs is also shaving even more closely than this picture shows. He's down to tiny stubble around a a still-brownish moustache. Hey, Steve, I'm 50 too.)

What I think he means, simply, is video.

Beyond this, most of what I wrote last week holds. This deal is not material to Intel, which continues to face loss of major market share to AMD among Windows and Linux users.

But there are also vital lessons here for followers of Moores Law, lessons I need to impart.

Continue reading "Apple-Intel Follow-up"

Rep Rap RipEmail This EntryPrint This Article

reprap.jpg The folks at CNN fell for the hype from a project called RepRap, a rapid prototyper from the University of Bath in England. (The picture is from the CNN story and shows a robot built with RepRap.)

The machine that can copy anything was their breathless headline.

Well, yes. And no.

The folks at RepRap would like you to think they've got something truly revolutionary. But they don't. The technology has been around for some time. You need to input a lot of files to make anything, so there's a lot of intellectual capital involved.

And here's the kicker.

Continue reading "Rep Rap Rip"

Second Secular Humanist Revival MeetingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Note: The following, based on Orson Scott Card's original Secular Humanist Revival Meeting, is designed to be presented as a podcast. Potential producers should feel free to drop me a line.


dana 2001a.jpgTwo decades ago, a saint came before us to preach the American values of a secular nation in the humanist tradition.

His name was Orson Scott Card. He called his preaching the Secular Humanist Revival Meeting. He was a Saint of the Latter Day.

And as time went on the warnings he gave came true. Religion crept into our science classrooms. Children were told how to pray by bureaucrats. Churches were corrupted by government money, corrupting themselves in the process.

Now we are engaged in a great World War, a Crusade between the Christian and the Muslim world, bomb matched by bomb, atrocity by atrocity.

And in that conflict, where are we? For that matter, where is Card? Gone to the other side, I’m afraid, writing plays and books where only those of the One True Faith find redemption, where only the Chosen are heroes, where action is motivated mainly by belief.

Do you hear me? Am I talking loud enough?

Continue reading "Second Secular Humanist Revival Meeting"

Anakin Scott CardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

orson card.jpgAs a young writer the force was strong in Orson Scott Card.

His Secular Humanist Revival Meeting was a model of the form. He came on in the guise of a Baptist preacher to speak against creation science, and for a secular society in the humanist tradition.

The strongest statement he made in that talk was to note that any religion which gained the power of the state could lose its holiness because its first task once in power would be to oppress other religions. “This was even true for my own religion, in the Rocky Mountains,” he said.

His reference was to the Mormon Church, of which he is a lifelong member. To escape its secular hold he made his home in North Carolina. Still does.

Continue reading "Anakin Scott Card"

June 05, 2005

Intel's Bad TradeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

logocartmanager.gifAssuming Apple does switch to Intel chips tomorrow, as News.Com reports, the value of Intel stock will likely rise.

That would be a mistake.

Intel is making a big investment here to gain a very small amount of market share. Meanwhile it's losing far more market share to AMD in what used to be called the Windows world.

WinTel has been broken. That should be the real headline here.

Microsoft is perfectly happy to have AMD supply chips for Windows machines. People are very happy to buy them. And right now AMD has a price-performance advantage there.

This move toward Apple will, if anything, accelerate that shift. Intel should be spending all its time addressing its loss of share in the Windows world, and in the Linux world, instead of wasting energy with a tetchy, demanding Apple, an outfit that even IBM couldn't please.

One more point.

Continue reading "Intel's Bad Trade"

June 03, 2005

This Week's Clue: Deep CommerceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

logocartmanager.gifMy free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com was launched in 1997 as a discussion of e-commerce.

This week I returned to the topic.

Enjoy.


The reason why publishers have no editorial budgets with the move to the Web is simple. (Image from Websitecenter.)

None engage in Deep Commerce. Instead, they still just sell ads.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Deep Commerce"

ConsolidationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Marketconsol.pngThe word for today is consolidation. (The illustration is from a report on market consolidation in the business intelligence software business, from The OLAP Report.)

It is a very bad word, scary in fact.

Let's use it in a sentence, shall we?

Many analysts have expected consolidation as companies opt to buy security products from fewer vendors to lower costs and the complexity of integrating the products they buy.

Why is consolidation such a bad word?

Because it means that innovation is over, that the business is now about squeezing out profits. Unemployment inevitably follows. So too does bad service.

When businesses consolidate consumers have fewer choices. It's harder for them to go somewhere else when they're pissed off. This creates an enormous financial incentive for companies to do just that. And they do.

What's the cure for consolidation? There's really only one.

Continue reading "Consolidation"

June 02, 2005

Cellular WiFiEmail This EntryPrint This Article

5G Wireless Solutions of Marina Del Rey, CA announced a "cellular" WiFi system using directional arrays. It promises 2 mile radius service zones in the 2.4 GHz frequency spectrum, and backhauls via directional links in the 5.3-5.8 GHz range.

Short Term ValuesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Transfer-Values.jpgWe do have a values problem in this country. (The illustration is from a Mormon-oriented marketing outfit.)

Too many of us have short-term values.

I could go off on our leaders over this, but leaders need followers, so I'm going after you instead.

  • Why can't businesses see past the current quarter?
  • Why is the environment so easily dismissed?
  • Why does the news care more about the idiot on the Buckhead crane than what is happening in Iraq?
  • Why are religious leaders so anxious to take the state's money?

We see this on the Internet all the time. I think this new XXX TLD is a perfect example. It doesn't answer the question -- what's sexual and what should we do about it? Just build a ghetto and toss Jenna Jameson in there -- oh and Planned Parenthood too. Then what, Adolf?

Americans won't move toward IPv6 because we got a ton of addresses back in the day. Besides, NATs work fine, right?

It is so easy to outsource our software production, to let Taiwan and China make our chips, to do everything we can to discourage kids from getting into tech. Our kids want to win American Idol. India, meanwhile, has a reality show called "the search for India's smartest kid."

Which country do you think is going to win the future, hmmm?

Continue reading "Short Term Values"

Glaser's Best is Just a StartEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mark glaser.jpgMark Glaser's best column yet for USC's Online Journalism Review is on the subject of Googlebombing. (The picture is from Kristenlandreville.)

He works off a case study on Quixtar, which has apparently hired a number of people to make sure its reputation looks stellar and critics aren't found. Yet one of those critics, Quixtarblog, is the third result I found just now, on Google, with Quixtar as my sole keyword.

So it works both ways.

Glaser identifies one of the pro-Quixtar Googlebombers as Margaret S. Ross, identifying her as a Quixtar IBO. But a few more minutes on Google would have picked up this, a Peachtree City, GA outfit called the Kamaron Institute, which she runs, that has been accused of manipulating search results for, among others, CNN. Glaser also identifies Ross as a "writer" for something called esourcenews.com, while in fact she's the registered owner of that domain.

My point here isn't to dump on Mark's work here. It's very good. I just want to make two important points:

Continue reading "Glaser's Best is Just a Start"

June 01, 2005

Uncounted Costs of SpamEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Templeton.jpgWhen we count the costs of spam we usually think in terms of bandwidth, the hours spent clearing it out of our systems, and (sometimes) the cost of our anti-spam solution sets.

But there are other, uncounted costs to spam which dwarf those.

One is the loss in productivity we get from being unable to get in touch with people when we need to. On my ZDNet blog for instance I did a piece today on EFF chairman Brad Templeton (right), based on something he'd written on Dave Farber's list.

I e-mailed him as a courtesy. I had no questions. I just wanted to thank him for his wisdom and let him know I would use it.

What I wound up facing was Brad's spam filter, a double opt-in system dubbed Viking. Apparently I didn't respond quickly enough to Viking's commands, because its response to my opting-in again was to send me a second message demanding an opt-in. (All this was done with the laudable goal of proving I'm a man and not a machine.)

The bottom line. We never connected. I had a deadline, and used Brad's words. Perhaps there was no harm done.

But frequently there is harm done in these situations. I've had occasion to accidentally delete someone's note in my Mailwasher system, and then call the person in question asking for a re-send.

What if they're not in on that call? What if they sent something I needed? What if I were disagreeing with Brad in my Open Source post, or he decided after publication I was twisting his words?

The point is this sort of thing happens every day. People can't be reached in the way e-mail promised they would be, due to spam. This raises the cost of doing business for everyone, and the mistakes that result can be catastrophic -- to people, to companies, to relationships.

Now, in honor of the man formerly known as Deep Throat, I'm going to offer yet-another anti-spam solution.

Continue reading "Uncounted Costs of Spam"

Stupid, Slathering Deep Throat InstapunditryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mark felt.jpgNow that Woodward and Bernstein have confirmed Mark Felt was their source Deep Throat...

  1. Did you notice the white, wavy hair Felt had in the 1970s (pictured)?
  2. Did you know that when Hal Holbrook played Deep Throat in the movie, he wore wavy hair?
  3. Did you know Hal Holbrook wore white hair when he was playing Mark Twain, starting a few years before his appearance in the movie?

Coincidence?

Continue reading "Stupid, Slathering Deep Throat Instapunditry"