Corante

About this Author
Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
About this Site
Moore’s Law defines the history of technology. It held that the number of circuits etched on a given piece of silicon could double every 18 months as far as its author, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, could see. Moore’s Law has spawned constant revolutions since then, not just in computing but in communications, in science, in a host of areas. Moore’s Law applies to radios, and to optical fiber, but there are some areas where it doesn’t apply. In this blog we’ll take a daily look at new implications of Moore’s Law in real time, as it rolls forward to create our future.
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January 31, 2006

What Coretta Gave Me

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

ms._coretta_scott_king.jpgCoretta Scott King died today.

She was 78.

She lived over half her life as a widow, true to the memory of her husband, Martin Luther King Jr. She became a symbol of his movement, and sometimes a symbol of how we had fallen short of his ideals.

Coretta stood behind the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and saw it grow into Atlanta's leading tourist attraction. It's not the Aquarium, it's not the Zoo, it's not the World of Coca-Cola. It's the King Center that brings people to Atlanta, from Japan, from China, from Europe and South America. People save for years so that, on a Sunday morning, they can walk (or be ridden) under the freeway to the east end of Auburn Avenue, so they can see his tomb, then walk to the home where he grew up.

If you get a chance, today or tomorrow, drop by the link in the paragraph above, and listen. It's about the idea of service, and the greatness of service. Coretta Scott King lived a life of service, and anyone can.

Now, as to what she did for me...


...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: personal

HIPAA Worse Than The Disease

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

hipaa2.gifInfo-Tech has a release out that says they analyzed the HIPAA law and found it useless. (The image is from the blog of David Hoffman.)

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was signed by President Clinton in 1996, when he was trying to triangulate the new Republican majority in Congress with the idea of regulation, but managed by the private sector.

”HIPAA is a toothless tiger,” says Info-Tech analyst Ross Armstrong. “The first problem is that HIPAA is complaint driven, and complaint-driven enforcement doesn’t work. The second problem is that in the one HIPAA-related conviction that has occurred, only the individual was charged, not the organization itself."

“If HIPAA is to be truly protective and useful, healthcare entities and their executives must be held accountable in the same way that Sarbanes-Oxley holds CEOs and CFOs responsible.”

I'll go Armstrong one better. HIPAA is worse-than-useless.

HIPAA isn't entirely to blame for this, but it has driven the bulk of the medical profession into a very expensive case of Luddism. That's because HIPAA:

  • Theoretically makes hospitals and insurance companies liable for mistakes; and
  • Lets small practices out of this problem by refusing to computerize.

Mistakes in records and their release can happen. They do quite often. By accident. Not on purpose. But because there are automatic penalties (if someone complains) two things happen. The handling of all patient information becomes heavily bureaucratized, and patients are given legal gobbledygook aimed solely at keeping them from pursuing their rights if they arre violated.

It's the small practice exemption that really bites, however.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Economics | Internet | Politics | law | medicine

January 30, 2006

The Internet Necessity

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bob%20frankston.gifA few years ago some wags talked about people having a "right" to Internet service, and they got laughed at.

Let's try it another way.

America's economic future requires every citizen have access to Internet resources, and full freedom to use them.

Everyone needs Internet access, and literacy, to be part of the modern world.

FAST Internet access. Just as it's stupid to tell someone an 8086 machine is equivalent to a modern computer, so it is sheer ignorance to claim the availability of dial-up means everyone has Internet access. It's got to be fast enough so all modern applications run.

In a recent essay Visicalc co-founder Bob Frankston compares the Internet to roads. In a recent piece here at Mooreslore , I offered something similar. What if the railroads had a veto over road development, I asked, even after the car became popular?

But this dramatically underestimates what we're talking about.

The Internet is becoming a universal database, a universal discussion, almost a hive mind for humanity in the 21st century. If you don't have access you can't contribute. And you can't benefit, either.

This is the Century of the Mind. We've already seen business gravitate to those cities with the best connectivity, with the best chances for minds to connect. That's what Silicon Valley is about. That's what Boston is about, what New York is about, what Atlanta and Austin and Washington are about. Connections.

But with the Internet it's not just cities which are judged on their connectivity. It's nations.

And we're falling behind. Already, just in the last few years, we've fallen to 19th in broadband penetration. We're about to be passed by Slovenia, for God's sakes! Slovenia! Slovenia was, in the 1990s, part of Yugoslavia, a country which destroyed itself in civil war. Now Slovenia is passing us in the access its citizens have to the Essential Resource of our Time.

Why is this? Simple.

We've allowed Internet service to be monopolized by two sets of companies - Bell companies and cable operators - who are paying for obsolete infrastructure, who are forcing us to pay for that infrastructure before they deliver more, and who think only in terms of billing for specific services, not selling bits.

The Internet is just bits. Video bits, sound bits, e-mail bits, Web bits, text bits. The meaning of the bits are defined at the edge, on the computers that exchange them. All producers are consumers, all consumers can be producers. But the gatekeepers won't accept that. They see the Internet as services - TV, phone, e-mail - billable events which they define and they control.

And so, with Internet connectivity held hostage to these so-called "service providers," your ability to be part of the future atrophies, disappears, dot by dot, bit by bit. So does America's competitiveness.

Frankston calls the process through which this has happened the Regulatorium. He's talking about a network of political connections, state and federal agencies, think tanks and Bell-sponsored "consumer groups" who push the Bell-Cable duopoly more effectively than Jack Abramoff's K Street Project dreamed of.

Here, he says, is what we need instead. Some simple statements:

  • Connectivity is fundamental. The Internet is not a service. The Regulatorium doesn't have the language for this. Giving it the language is the leverage point.
  • Speed is useless if you can't communicate. It's easy to speed up the network - what we need is pervasive connectivity. This means that wireless connectivity - be it Wi-Fi or other protocols is our basic right.
  • Rather than giving carriers the ability to define our services, connectivity must be infrastructure like roads and power lines and "just be there". We can then create services and solutions.

This is light years from the way the world works today. But we have to get there.

I've written a lot about these issues here, tangentially. Moore's Law drives the world, not just as it relates to chips but as it relates to telecomm technology too. Moore's Law of Fiber shows that optical fiber capacity can grow exponentially, just by changing out hardware. Moore's Law of Radios shows we can have the same capacity increases using the air that we have with fiber.

All the laws and rules we have in place for telecommunications are based on the idea of scarcity. Capital to build networks is scarce, so only a few big companies can play. The frequency spectrum is a scarce good government must distribute.

I don't know of a better way to say this, so I'll just say it.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | law

The Law and Google

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

googlesignII.jpgGoogle has to obey the law.

Doesn’t matter if the law is oppressive, as in China. If Google wants to do business in China, it must obey the law.

Google can fight stupid laws, as in the EU Google can argue in court against some laws, as it’s doing in the U.S.

But Google must, in the end, obey the law.

I’m sick and tired of sanctimonious claptrap from people who state, baldly, that Google’s stated intent to “do no evil” means it must defy the law. Google is a public company. Google can’t do that. No public company can.

You can complain all you want about Google’s actions within the law. People do. They complain about its cookies, about its tracking usage patterns. They complain about its habit of leaving projects out to dry if they don’t work, about how some projects aren’t worth the spin that’s placed on them. They complain about its lack of lobbying prowess, or how little it has spent lobbying.

But Google has to obey the law.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Economics | Internet | Politics | e-commerce | ethics | law | marketing | online advertising

January 29, 2006

This Week's Clue The Entrepreneurial Team

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

This week's issue of A-Clue.Com is on-topic (for once).

It's about e-commerce, and about how to make start-ups work.

Specifically we're talking about what it takes to get a start-up launched and the character of a successful entrepreneur, who is at its heart.

You're invited to join the A-Clue.Com community by clicking this link. Always free.


entrepreneurial%20team.gif
I learned a great and terrible lesson recently.

While it's true that anyone can launch a business, an entrepreneurial business must be a team from the start.

Sure, you need the entrepreneur, the idea person. You need someone who can find the money, who can sell the scheme, who can adjust to events, who can lead. You need someone of boundless energy, determination, ambition, and (especially) ruthlessness.

If your business is going to be on the Internet, you need a content guy. Having an Internet business without a content guy is like having a restaurant without a chef. On my latest venture, I'm the content guy (not the entrepreneur).

The content guy is committed to the editorial mission of the site (and even stores have an editorial mission). The content guy has contacts, a voice, an understanding of what's needed to attract attention and credibility. A content guy might be able to run the whole show himself, if this were a small business. But it's not, so keep the content guy in his place.

There's a third team member needed, and many businesses fail to plan for this. That's the tech person. In a restaurant this would be the maitre 'd. In an old-line manufacturing business this would be the engineer. In retailing it's a number cruncher. A geek, in other words. Gotta have a geek.

While today's Web tools are much more powerful and simple to use than ever before, they're still tools. Every step toward simplicity is matched by a step toward power. While users may use your Web site to simplify their lives, or even their own creation of content, that's not how it works inside the site business.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consulting | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

January 25, 2006

Porn Fight Kills the E-Mail Guy

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

matthew%20prince%20unspam.jpgEveryone hates spam. But there has been no political constituency potent enough to fight the well-organized Direct Marketing Association, which has successfully defended spammers from meaningful regulation for a decade.

Now Matthew Prince, a young Chicago lawyer, thinks he has the answer. Porn. Well, anti-porn.

Using the Christian Right as his political base Prince’s company, Unspam Inc., has gotten laws passed in Utah and Michigan that could both make him rich and make most e-mail disappear. While fighting for the law in a Utah court, he has taken his show on the road to Georgia, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, trying to get identical laws passed there.

The laws create a “do not porn” registry, run by Unspam, that e-mailers must filter their messages through. Anything in an e-mail deemed “harmful to minors,” even in a link, becomes a felony. Not just porn offers, but alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms and illegal drugs are covered. Parents on the list get the right to sue for up to $1,000 per message (Utah) or $5,000 per message (Michigan). There are also criminal penalties, including jail time.

Prince spends money through his “base,” using Susan Zahn’s WDC Media (the same folks used by Christian broadcasters) for his PR, and emphasizing the porn angle in his releases. An Unspam press release sent out via Webwire identifies only the porn industry as fighting the new laws.

But the direct mail industry is now energized as well. WindowsSecrets editor Brian Livingston put out an article on Earthweb last year blasting Prince as essentially a patent troll. (The company has filed U.S. patent application 20040148506 to protect its registry, he says.) Prince claims he wins his registry contracts through competitive bids, but if you got the law through and patented the required technology, well, you figure it out. (I should note here that WindowsSecrets is an e-mail newsletter, so Livingston would have to filter his lists through Unspam if the law holds up in court.)

A recent Wall Street Journal story on Unspam estimates compliance costs this way:

Businesses are charged $7 for every 1,000 email addresses examined each month in Michigan, and $5 per 1,000 in Utah. Companies must have their lists examined once a month. A company with a list of 100,000 emails would pay $14,400 annually to have its list examined by both states. Unspam receives the majority of the revenue to administer the registry, and the rest goes to the state.

Livingston disputes the WSJ conclusions. He says monthly screening won’t protect e-mailers, that 85% of the money goes to the state. He then offers two illustrations of how easy it would be for the law to be abused:

  • A conservative activist puts her e-mail address, which is also used by her daughter, on a state registry. The listing takes 30 days to become effective. She then e-mails a health clinic for information about morning-after pills. If the clinic replies with the information, the sender is guilty of a felony.
  • A liberal activist registers his and his son's e-mail address. After 30 days, he e-mails a gun dealer, asking for product listings. If the dealer replies with details, he's guilty of a felony.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce | law | marketing | online advertising | spam

January 24, 2006

Alternative Energy No Longer an Option

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Hydrogen%20fuel%20cell%20car.jpgJohn Robb of Global Guerillas has posted a blog entry that should curl your hair. (The picture is from Drexel University.)

The control over the price of oil is in now in the hands of global guerrillas -- the open source, system disrupting, transnational crime fueled, sons of global fragmentation covered by this author. These actors can now, at will, curtail the supply of oil through low tech attacks on facilities in Iraq, Nigeria, central Asia, and India. The amount of oil effectively under their control exceeds five million barrels a day, more than Saudi Arabia's two million barrels a day of swing production.

What this means, simply, is that alternative energy research is no longer “something nice” to have, or that switching away from fossil fuels should be a goal.

It means that alternative fuels are now vital to our national security. No, let's be blunt. They are our economic security.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | Investment | Politics | Science | Security | energy | war

A Curious Theory of Conservatism

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

conscience%20of%20a%20conservative.jpgIn his latest diatribe against a la carte cable pricing Capitalist Tool Adam Thierer of the "Progress and Freedom Foundation" claims that arguments by his opponents in this debate represent "a curious theory of conservatism."

I couldn't let that go by without a comment.

  • It's a curious theory of conservatism that ignores the 20th century Progressive movement and approves of duopolies from the age of the Robber Barons.
  • It's a curious theory of conservatism that rejects the idea of free consumer choice and tells them corporations know what's best for them.

Conservatism, in fact, has gotten curiouser and curiouser over the last few years, especially as regards tech policy.

I didn't know conservatism was about supporting only those with the most money, or that government policy should be for sale to the highest bidder. I thought conservatives believed in less government, not more, and less intrusive government by free men, not more intrusive government by Supermen with ears that hear everything, eyes that see everything, and no need to tell the people anything. I certainly don't remember Barry Goldwater writing even once on behalf of monopoly or the police state. In fact, I distinctly remember Goldwater, in his 1964 acceptance speech, castigating as liberal the idea that government should hide facts about wars from the American people. "Enough of it has gone by," he said.

...continue reading.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Politics | ethics | law | personal

4 Years For Spammer: How Much For His Enablers?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

spam.gifCalifornia spammer Jeanson James Ancheta, who turns out to be a 20-year old kid, has pled guilty to computer misuse and fraud charges which should draw him a four-year sentence.

Good.

Ancheta is the first to be convicted of creating a "botnet," a network of infected computers hired-out to spammers and other malware authors.

Good.

Now for the big question. We've established that bots are bad. We've established that the people who create this poison deserve prison.

Now what about those who enable the crime? What about the people who bought spam generated by these botnets, or who bought ads sent by that malware? This was an economic crime, after all. It can't exist without both sides of the transaction.

Like drugs.

We don't just want to throw the pot producers in jail, the Pedro Escobars and their ilk. Isn't the point of our law enforcement to get at the "street dealers" and "users," those whose dollars enable the crime? I've seen tons and tons and tons of ads along those lines, produced by the federal government, over the last decade and more. The propaganda is accepted. We all agree.

So why not here?

Why isn't it a crime to buy the services of a spammer, or to buy the services of a botnet? Why isn't it a crime to advertise through someone's stolen bandwidth, using their stolen PC?

Spam and malware would be a lot easier to stop if those who paid for it faced hard time, too. And I don't want to hear any garbage about "distribution channels." Don't give me that nonsense that you can't police your distribution channels. Of course you can.

Or you, too, should be going to jail.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: e-commerce | ethics | law | online advertising | spam

January 23, 2006

Sexual Monsters Inc.

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

monsters%20inc%20sulley.gifSomething occurred to me when reading of how the Justice Department wants a week of Google search records, ostensibly to enforce the failed law against Internet pornography, but with authority under the Patriot Act.

This is getting someone’s rocks off.

We all know that, for many people, fear is part of their sex drive. Whether it’s fear of discovery or the ability to instill fear in others, it’s real. And both these fantasies are threatened in an open sexual environment. It’s like the movie Monsters Inc. – what are you going to do if the kids can’t be scared anymore? (In the end Sulley, pictured, found he could produce a lot more energy with laughter than with fear. That’s an important lesson.)

This aspect of sexuality is, on the whole, far less healthy than an appetite for seeing naked bodies, private parts, even things going into things. Fear can be harnessed in sexual play of many kinds, but its abuse is more physically dangerous than, say, voyeurism is. Abusive voyeurism is a Peeping Tom. Abusive fear junkies become sadists, rapists and murderers.

But it’s obvious, from the history of the last few decades, that many of those advocating the elimination of porn have sexual kinks themselves. For some it’s mere repression, but for others it’s a form of sadism. Keeping others down gets them off.

And this sadism, under the guise of moral certitude, is driving much of our sexual law enforcement. Make it dirty, make it forbidden, make it sordid, make it hidden. Then, in the dark, where no one can see, the sadist can do whatever he wants.

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | History | Internet | Politics | law | personal

January 21, 2006

Railroaded

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: The following entry is being mirrored at the new Infrastructure Held Hostage blog.



old-roundhouse.jpgWe live in an uneasy relationship with the past.Photograph courtesy RPI.)

The whole past is available to us, there to teach us lessons, to give us Clues that can help us avoid yesterday’s mistakes.

We can find multiple analogies within it. While our politics may seem, to some, analogous to those of the early years of the Cold War, in terms of technology they’re far more like those of the early Progressive Era, the early 1900s.

So imagine if the railroads of that time controlled all the roads.

That’s precisely what AT&T and Verizon, aka Bell East and Bell West (making Qwest and BellSouth into Bell North and, what do you know?) are doing to the Internet right now.

Jay Gould should have been so clever.

They’ve gotten away with it (so far) because the Internet uses the old phone network (cars using the old railroad tracks) for transport. As with railroad tracks and cars, the phone network brings irrelevant, even obnoxious, artifacts with it.

Take out the frequencies used for phone calls (which you can easily do with VOIP) and your DSL line could handle up to 7 Mbps down, no problem, without changing out the underlying technology.

Still don’t believe me? If you have a home LAN (and millions do) you’re assigning IP addresses to each PC on the network, creating your own private Internet.

Your transport to the Internet backbone could be delivered just as easily with a cable modem as with the phone.


  • When the cable company offers you phone service they’re not rebuilding the old infrastructure, just modeling it on data.
  • Internet transport could be delivered over power lines, and where my inlaws live, in Flatonia, Texas, it is.
  • Internet transport could even be delivered using radios, through a Wireless ISP (WISP) using the shared unlicensed WiFi frequencies your home network (and garage door opener, and cordless phone) use.

Whether that WiFi cloud is owned by your city or a private company is irrelevant – it would work.

power%20line.jpg
Many large companies create their own networks, linking to the Internet only at competitive peering locations where they can get the best prices on fiber transport. Long distance fiber remains a competitive market (for now). Their fear is that, with so much of the U.S. transport market now held by the Bells, their prices could be squeezed just as yours are.

Given that the cable operators have powerful lobbies, and cable does not cover everyone, the phone companies are, in their own lobbying for privilege, allowing them to exist. It’s also convenient. Their current efforts at “improvement” are aimed solely at delivering TV to homes, as cable does, not at improving Internet service.

By allowing this dual-monopoly on consumer Internet transport, or duopoly, the cable and phone monopolies mask reality. Having a choice between only cable and a Bell for ISP service is like having a choice between only Coke and Pepsi for the liquid you need to live. It’s a false choice.

In his book $200 Billion Broadband Scandal, Bruce Kushnick details how we got from the open, competitive market of 10 years ago to today’s duopoly. But I’m more interested in how we get out of this, and what a truly competitive Internet market might look like.

...continue reading.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | History | Internet | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | e-commerce

January 20, 2006

This Week's Clue: Circuit Breakers

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

This week's issue of A-Clue.Com is another one of those policy cum history cum politics ruminations I know some of you don't like.

But it's my newsletter. And some of the subscribers enjoyed this one.

You're invited to join the A-Clue.Com community by clicking this link. Always free.



There are many circuit breakers in life. They all have the same general purpose.

They're there to keep you from getting hurt.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Economics | Futurism | History | Politics | Telecommunications

What Jobs Could Buy Today

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

apple%20vs%20disney.pngDisney.

The Walt Disney Co., including ABC, ESPN, the movies, the theme parks -- the whole shebang -- is presently valued at about $50 billion. That's actually about one-sixth less than it was worth five years ago.

Apple Computer Corp., by contrast is worth $65 billion. That's about eight times more than it was worth five years ago.

I decided to note this after reading about how Disney wants to make a move on Pixar, for $6.7 billion, and how that would result in a "pivotal" role for Jobs at Disney, with Steve as Disney's largest shareholder. But before he bought that pig in a poke, you'd think Steve would consider how becoming the "largest shareholder" of a media company worked out for Ted Turner.

Uh, uh. Instead of selling Pixar, Jobs could easily offer a three-way Apple-Pixar-Disney tie-up, in which Jobs and his team would own about two-thirds of the resulting company.

So the question occurs, does Jobs want to run Disney?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Investment | fun stuff

Angel (Investors) in America

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

NOTE: I'm promoting this to the top today because of its comment thread.

When I first interviewed Richard Wingard back in September, I thought little of it. He seemed to have a clever way to research basic research, using individual investors. He promised new technology enabling video compression on cellular and dial-up lines. Cute.

Then some of Wingard's investors started commenting here. The number of comments grew and grew. They've turned this comment thread into their own little clubhouse, swapping takes and rumors on the company's promised sale, which in the interview Wingard said would happen some time this year.

Interesting. Enjoy the thread, and if you're part of it, thanks for visiting. We do other stories.


angel_investor.gifRichard Wingard has figured out a way to fund cutting-edge technology with angel investors, and hold them in their investments for nearly 7 years. (The picture is courtesy the University of New Hampshire alumni association.)

Wingard runs Euclid Discoveries, which is working on an object-based video compression technology he says will deliver 10 times the performance of MPEG-4, enough to "turn your iPod into a DVD player."

And he's done it all with angel investors, who are best-known for backing only early-stage customers. Wingard has rejected the entreaties of venture capital firms, saying their time frames for pay-outs are too short. Yet he has succeeded in getting angels who will wait as much as 7 years for a private auction of his technology, and a distribution.

Want to know how he did it?

...continue reading.

Comments (423) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Investment | Moore's Lore | computer interfaces

January 19, 2006

Murder the Beloved Country

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

shalimar%20the%20clown.jpgOne reason I haven't been around much lately is I have been (finally) reading Salman Rushdie's latest 2005 1997classic Shalimar the Clown.

Like all great writers Rushdie tends to be ahead of his time, sometimes far ahead. Just as his Satanic Verses presaged the new Age of Blasphemy, and made Rushdie itself was one of the first victims, so Shalimar describes a national suicide that could yet befall America.

Rushdie's subject is his beloved Kashmir, whose suicide remains an ongoing tragedy. His theme is that intolerance, not tolerance, is the norm, and that no one is immune. His final scene, in fact, takes place in a Beverly Hills bedroom.

There is no way for me to spoil this for you. Rushdie is the greatest writer living in the English language, because he knows so many forms of English. When he writes from India, his sentences are long, filled with the fragrance of allusion, often hilarious. When he writes from America his sentences become shorter, his adjectives fewer, his immigrant wonder clear. When he writes from Europe everything becomes action. I know of no other writer who can truly become different places like that. Some can become different people, Rushdie becomes the flavor of places.

The heart of the book is one page-long paragraph that starts on page 296 of the hard cover edition, after India has decided that the only way to end the crisis over Kashmir is to destroy its people. I'm going to quote only one sentence, and I hope it doesn't violate fair use (because it's a long sentence). Suffice it to say you want to read the first half of the paragraph, along with this, and then you'll be ready for a good, long cry:

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Consulting | Copyright | History | Journalism | Politics | ethics | fun stuff | personal | war

January 18, 2006

The Video Fiction

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

AN%20OLD%20TV.jpgVideo is NOT the future of the Web. (This picture, by the way, comes from a fine student project at the University of North Carolina on Webcasting rights. Go Tar Heels.)

It’s part of the future, no doubt. It’s even part of the present.

But the assumptions that Internet traffic is growing mainly in response to video, that Internet-capable networks must give video 99% of their capacity, or that Internet Law must be changed to accommodate video are fictions.

The Video Fictions are relics of the pre-Internet age. They’re wrong for three reasons:

  1. Video is passive -- When you’re watching a video you’re watching, you’re not interacting. The Internet is all about interaction. It’s about ideas. It’s about interruptibility. It’s about cutting your attention into as many pieces as you can, multi-tasking in order to do more. Video takes all your attention, and demand for it is limited by audience attention.
  2. Video is expensive -- A quality blog item, like this one, can be created by one person in a few hours. A quality video takes the work of many people over many days, and bad video takes just as much time to make as good video. You can’t have both good video and interactive video. Good video just takes too long to make.
  3. Video has plenty of channels – Most of your cable bill is taken up by worthless nonsense already. There isn’t enough quality programming to fill the DirecTv and Dish Network satellites. Broadcasting has worked for almost 90 years. All these deliver more programming at far less cost than the Internet ever could. The Internet, as a video medium, is best served for tiny niches, with low demand, and it already does this.

The assumption that “the future of the Internet is video” is driving just about all the stupidity we see among big companies and policymakers today.

There are video applications which have value on the Internet, but they don’t need the bandwidth or Quality of Service (QoS) up-sells of true video. Videoconferences are of value (sometimes) and video VOIP calls can be of value (to long-separated family members). But the idea that we need the Internet to watch the same TV that comes to us via satellite and cable is nonsense.

There are also some applications that can use QoS standards, and payments. Interactive games can use QoS, especially when players are going against one another in real time. Medical applications can use QoS, although those applications that really need it should be done in clinics or hospitals with ample bandwidth, not the home.

Meanwhile, there is an enormous, and growing bandwidth shortage in the average Internet home. I face it every day. Why?

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Always On | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Digital Divide | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | computer interfaces | law

January 17, 2006

Conservative Crackup over Cable?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

A split seems to be developing within the conservative movement over cable policy.

It may be the harbinger of a series of splits on the right over technology. Or it may be nothing.

On the religious side, we have Brent Bozell (phony news a specialty, and if you believe that you're part of the Liberal Media Conspiracy) pushing the idea of a la carte pricing for cable services. This would enable good Christian people to toss not only dirty, smutty HBO but Comedy Central, CNN and TBS out of their homes. They could order just good Christian stations and maybe Turner Classic Movies, plus Fox of course. (The news, not that F/X smut.)

On the corporate side we have Adam Thierer, formerly of the Cato Institute, now of the Bell-funded "Progress & Freedom Foundation", sending otu a "Progress Snapshot" (given the funding maybe it should be a "Regress Rewind") saying bundling is the way to go, and (interestingly) calling out Bozell by name. (Whatever happened to the 11th Commandment of St. Ronnie, boys?)


Ah, the conceit of a regulator and central planner. Mr. Bozell is fine with consumer choices shrinking so long as what's left on the air is the “good programming” that he desires! In the name of “choice,” a la carte advocates will give us fewer choices. But the choices will be “good” ones.


It just goes to show that the fight over a la carte is really a moral battle about what we can see on cable and satellite TV. But Mr. Bozell and many other a la carte crusaders are likely going to be sorely disappointed when the channels that they dislike (such as MTV, F/X, and Comedy Central) survive because they will likely remain very popular, while the channels they think contain “good programming” witness massive price hikes and potentially go under. Some of the most vulnerable programmers to a la carte regulation will be religious and ethnic-focused channels. Without bundling, there probably won't be the audience to support these channels.

He's right, you know. If they didn't force 'em down my throat there are literally dozens of channels I'd love to get off my box. Probably the ones Bozell wants me to watch.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Politics

January 15, 2006

It's the Process, Stupid

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

matt-cutts.jpgThe Windows Metafile Format (.WMF) dates from 1990.

Personally, I'd hate to have to take responsibility for what I did back in 1990, but I haven't made $50 billion in the last 15 years so I don't have to.

The WMF format was designed to move graphics among Windows programs, and one of its features was to allow the execution of code within images. I'm calling this a feature because, at the time it was written that's what it was. What we now know is it was also a flaw.

It means that exploit code can be hidden in any Internet graphic, not just those with the .wmf extension. And it will run. It can turn into a keylogger, or a virus, or any other type of malware. And since the relevant code has now gone online, malware authors are hard at work creating exploits, all of which will continue to steal from innocent people until Microsoft finishes testing and distributing its own fix.

This has a lot of people, like the folks at Softprose, very mad at Microsoft. But it's not the code, or the vulnerability, which troubles me. It's the process.

I understand the need to be certain before pushing out a cure that may be worse than the disease. But we're not talking about a flu vaccine here. We're talking about code and a computer feature.

The easy thing to do, as Google software engineer Matt Cutts notes, is to turn off the vulnerable code. "You’ll lose some thumbnail previews and such, but if you want to be safe until a patch is available, click Start->Run and then type “regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll” to disable the vulnerable DLL."

Of course, this can cause other problems, Cutts admits, but there's a way around those

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consulting | Internet | Linux | Security

The Age of Segregation

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

My apologies to regular readers.

Tomorrow is King Day. As an Atlantan, it's a day I take seriously. This essay takes a serious look at the issues arising from Dr. King's life, and the work still unfinished. More tech bloggie goodness will come later.


tv-martin-luther-king-150-9-2-05.jpgI was shocked while watching Meet the Press today.

It was the set-up to an obligatory debate between two black people on the legacy of Dr. King. Marian Wright Edelman was to say that politics were the problem. Dr. John McWhorter was to say the culture and immorality were the problem.

But before they got off their talking points there was Dr. King himself, in a 1967 kinescope, on the same program, with host Lawrence Spivak.

I watched in amazement as Spivak said (and I'm quoting this from memory) “As someone who came up from poverty yourself, why can’t more do what you’ve done?” King responded with his poor people’s agenda, but it was the question that was shocking, not the answer.

Because Dr. King didn’t come up from poverty.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Politics

January 11, 2006

The Content Chimera

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

The Media PC ain't gonna happen. The "walled gardens" of the cell companies are going to come down. The telcos' plans in cable are non-starters.

All these huge corporations are subject to the Content Chimera, the idea that networks are pipes for selling content to people, and that it will all "converge" somewhere.

This is nonsense:

  1. TV standards are moving toward those of movies. None of the "Media PC" offerings at CES took HDTV into account.
  2. Networks are not pipes for selling content to people. They are two-way bit pipes. The future is synchronoussymmetrical, not asynchronousassymmetrical.
  3. It's not all going to "converge" in any particular place. We will seek to consumer entertainment where we are, with whatever attention we can give. But we also create, we communicate, we interact. Different levels of attention require different types of devices.

The Content Chimera goes nowhere. It's the technology version of the Oil Chimera that now drives America's relations with the world. The solutions in both cases are remarkably similar.

Interactivity.

The "choke point" for the content market is NOT in production, or distribution, or marketing. It's in each one of us. It's in the time we have to consume, and the attention we can give to creation. Creation of content, by its nature, involves the consumption of older content, and the laws must reflect this, or they're economically non-productive. (Energy creation and consumption must similarly become a two-way street, all of us creating what we can from the Sun or wind or heat around us, and the current grid evolving into something remarkably like the Internet. But that's anoither show.)

So what happens now?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Models | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Politics | blogging | computer interfaces | law

January 10, 2006

A Government Action I Like

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Too bad it's not my government.

The Korean government has jawboned an agreement from that nation's mobile operators to get rid of the walled gardens and make mobile Internet service, well, Internet service.

Mike over at TechDirt picked up this story yesterday and noted that Helio, formerly SK Earthlink, could use the lesson to pick up some market share here. He's right.

But the example shows just how far away we are from rational government policy in the U.S., and how easy it would be to make radical improvements with just minor changes to that policy.

If the Bush Administration would put its foot down and DEMAND network neutrality, the Bells would quickly shut up about violating the policy.

If FCC chairman Kevin Martin were to go to the March CTIA convention and say, for instance, that walled gardens are wrong, and that the industry would be wise to do away with them, it would have a major impact. Especially if he were willing to back up his soft words with a big stick.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Politics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces | law | marketing

January 09, 2006

The Watermarking of the Web

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

afp-logo-1.jpgThe news business is going to try cracking down on the Web this year.

Already, I'm seeing all news pictures, even common mug shots of celebrities, given labels. They're small, usually in a corner. They read AP or AFP or Reuters. But they mark these pictures as property, and allow the rights-owners to track them as they're used on other Web sites.

The next step, of course, is to send out RIAA letters to Web sites, demanding that the pictures be taken down or (more likely) that the news agencies be paid cash money for their use.

Personally, I'm avoiding the issue by avoiding the pictures, but that's not likely to be viable over the long run. Because just about every image file out there is owned by someone, and most don't have Creative Commons logos on them.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: B2B | Business Models | Business Strategy | Copyright | Digital Divide | Internet | Journalism

Congress Passes Blatantly Unconstitutional Law Against Internet Speech

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

noid.gifIf Congress thought Netizens were angry before, now we're furious.

Declan McCullagh revealed today that buried inside some must-pass legislation from last year is a provision from Sen. Arlen Spector, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that bans all anonymous Internet speech that "annoys."

Annoys? Excuse me? You may not know this, Arlen, but the Federalist Papers were extremely annoying. So were the anti-federalist papers. (You may not have known such existed, but they did.) All of this debate, which is at the heart of our system (and which predates the Bill of Rights, not coincidentally) was conducted anonymously. The Founders rightfully feared legal harassment from the several states for their annoying speech, and kept their names to themselves as they debated the questions publicly. One thing to emerge from all this, of course, was a promise to cofify specific rights of the people, of which Freedom of Speech would come in the First Amendment.

Since then we've had ample precedent and rhetoric upholding the principle that annoying speech, even anonymous annoying speech, is OK. (The legal problem emerges when you get into deliberate falsehoods, into libel or slander, not annoyance.) Among the most recent such defenses is one from Mr. Justice Thomas, in McIntyre vs. Ohio Election Comm., 1995.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Divide | History | Internet | Journalism | Politics | law | personal

January 06, 2006

Making Microsoft Disappear

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

risk.jpgEver play the old board game Risk?

There were two winners at the end, and one ultimate winner. The first kid would pile all his counters up in one spot (usually Greenland, because it was big on the Risk board) and place one or two on adjacent squares. The second kid, the one who won, would right their way across the board strategically, taking on the first kid only at the end. Once the final battle started, and everyone knew how it was going to go (the first kid was going down), they'd walk away, someone would upend the board, and the first kid would claim he won, or got a draw, or something.

In computing Bill Gates is the first kid. The desktop is Greenland. Everything is focused on Windows and Office. And when computing was based on the desktop -- in the early days of the Great Game -- Gates looked dominant.

But the world is connected. Larry Page is playing the role of the other kid. He's sweeping the board right now, thanks to the Google Bubble, and today at CES he showed the hand he'll play against Gates over the next year.

The talk is going to all be about Google TV, and the scuttlebutt will all be about the Google PC, while software types (like me) will look really closely at the Google Pack of software.

It's what the Google Pack doesn't contain that most intrigues me.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Economics | Futurism | Internet | Investment | e-commerce | marketing | online advertising

January 05, 2006

The Google Bubble

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

bubble.jpgWe haven't had that kind of spirit here since, 1999.

And watch out. It lies like cocaine.

How else do you explain Google supposedly heading to $600/share? How else do you explain a company with $500,000 in revenues over its entire lifetime thinking it can go public at $270 million? How else do you explain rumors of Google replacing the phone company with WiFi or bringing out its own PC? Where else do you get rumors of Microsoft offering $80 billion for Yahoo, and Yahoo (worth under $60 billion currently) saying no?

Now Google is not to blame for this, and Google has a responsibility to shareholders to use its virtual wealth and create long-term value, something it is trying hard to do. Bubbles are not born in Silicon Valley. They are born on Wall Street. They are born by salesmen, stock salesmen, people pretending that "this time will be different," as they've done since the 19th century.

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | History | Internet | Investment

Is Otellini Changing Intel Quickly Enough?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

intel%20new%20logo.jpgWhen Paul Otellini was named the CEO of Intel last year, he promised major changes.

As the first non-engineer to rise to the top at the chipmaker, he said he would push platforms, and communications, and low power, and change the corporate culture. He would also push more product internationally, and put consumer products (not just ingredients) under the Intel brand.

Whether he is moving rapidly enough remains an open question.

There are enormous claims of movement this week at CES, where Intel built a booth that would have made its former Comdex managers blush, and changed its slogan besides. But is Intel really leading? Or is it following?

Intel needs to be defining new platforms, based on families of chips. This week, all it's doing is the same-old same-old.

Oh, and word to the media.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: 802.11 | Always On | Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Futurism | Investment | Moore's Lore | Semiconductors

January 04, 2006

File Hoarding 1.0 Proves Bad Business

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

riaa-logo.jpgThe AP had a headline yestoday that Luddites and the RIAA will love. "File-Sharing Barons Face Day of Reckoning."

The story is that old file-sharing sites are closing up shop. The RIAA beat them.

But what really beat these shops was technology.

Systems like BitTorrent don't depend on a central site. Its legitimate uses -- for distributing software, and for breaking international censorship regimes -- are compelling. Many copyright holders, like GE, have found that releasing videos (like CC-Chronicles of Narnia) directly to sites like YouTube is good for business. MySpace (and its imitators) are giving music lovers what they really wanted, community. A host of companies are now working to make file sales online a legitimate business, and some, like Apple, are succeeding.

This is what users wanted. They wanted access to files, they wanted the copyright industries to come to them. Gradually, grudgingly, the industry is obeying the market. But the market won't sit around and wait forever. That's why music sales are declining. (That and things like Sony's Rootkit fiasco, which causes people to distrust all CDs and DVDs they see.)


...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | ethics | law

January 03, 2006

Diminishing Returns on Spectrum

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

australian%20auction.gifThe U.S. government approved yet-another auction of spectrum last week. (The picture is of bids in an Australian spectrum auction.)

But there's a problem.

The big hoarders of spectrum -- phone companies -- are choking on what they already have. Prices are going to be down.

The key word in the above paragraph is hoarders. The phone companies are acting in regards to spectrum just like teenagers grabbing free music from the Internets. They're barely using what they have.

Consider the MMDS spectrum space. This was originally sold for cable television back in the 1990s. Then it was inherited by Sprint and MCI, for broadband. Is it being used? Uh. no. Yet it's extremely close (just a little "south" in spectrum parlance) to the highly-popular 802.11B region.

What will it take for people to get the hint? You get more economic growth, more innovation, and more taxes, more of everything in the long run, when you deregulate the spectrum, when you allow anyone to use it subject to basic rules on non-interference which can easily be implemented through technology.

Instead, we're getting another auction.

Why?

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: 802.11 | Business Strategy | Economics | Investment | Politics | Telecommunications | cellular | computer interfaces

Where Is The Power?

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

LittleMorganHouse.jpgI have something interesting in common with Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz.

That is a fascination with a scene in history. The year is 1881, and in J.P. Morgan's mansion on Madison Avenue an experiment is taking place. It's overseen by Thomas A. Edison, who has installed a generator downstairs and wires all around the house in order to introduce the great financier to the miracle of the age, electric lights. Do away with noxious, unhealthy gas. In with the new, bright, quiet, safe, odorless electricity! (We forget what a miracle that once was.)

Schwartz is fascinated with the expense of Morgan's set-up, and the requirement to have an engineer on staff. I think more of the fact that Edison's set-up ran Direct Current, and it was the replacement of DC with Nikola Tesla's AC which made the present grid possible. (The AC-DC fight led to Edison splitting with the company he founded to pursue electricity, called General Electric.)

The fade-out of the petroleum age should require us to think again about how and where we get our power, and the role of the distribution grid. Already electrical companies are filling city halls with proposals for things like wind farms. That's fine, but even windmills have environmental problems, believe it or not, especially when they're scaled-up. And the current system of generating power and transporting it hundreds of miles to cities is horribly wasteful. You could replace the present copper lines with carbon nanotubes, but that would be horribly expensive.

What to do?

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Economics | Futurism | History | Investment | Science | energy

January 02, 2006

Fox' MySpace Violates Net Neutrality

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

Rupert%20murdoch.jpgFolks who were wondering how Rupert Murdoch and Fox would try and capitalize on the purchase of MySpace over the summer don't have to wait any longer.

They're doing it by trying to break network neutrality, from inside a Web site.

Net neutrality is a basic principle of the Internet. It means you can go where you want. But if you are a registered user of Murdoch's MySpace today, you can't go to YouTube, which MySpace has deemed (without telling anyone) a competitor.

Alice Marshall's Technoflak reports that Murdoch's site has blocked access to YouTube from MySpace users, giving them white space instead. The site has also erased all references to YouTube from MySpace posts.

I thought that as word of this gets around the MySpace site it would be interesting to see how enthusiastic people are to remain there, and how many might be looking for a new online home. Oh, wait, it's already getting around. (Things happen fast in the blogosphere.)

Here is the story at the BlogHerald, with more details (the idiots are even modifying user profiles to erase references to YouTube) and while the rebels tried to get organized against this, they made the mistake of trying to launch their campaign from within MySpace.

...continue reading.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business Strategy | Consumer Electronics | Copyright | Economics | Internet | Investment | blogging | e-commerce | online advertising