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September 20, 2005

Google Flattens the WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

googlelogo.gifLet me take a stab at explaining Google's grand strategy.

My friends at ZDNet call this the Google PC, or a network computer.

Well, sort of. You may, instead of buying Microsoft Office, suscribe to Google's GMail and have a rudimentary office system with a gigabyte or two of storage.

But to say Google is going after Microsoft, the way we said Microsoft was going after IBM, is really to damn with faint praise.

If that were all there were to it, why would Google be planning on building out WiFi, or build out an optical network?

Google isn't aiming at Microsoft, or at IBM. It's aiming at the entire computing-telecommunications complex, building out what I'll call the Google TeleComputing Environment.

The idea is to take advantage of not only the Internet's ability to disintermediate clients, but its ability to disintermediate the phone network at the same time, and to do this in an entirely open source way.

What do I mean? Here are the ingredients:

  • Universally-accessible applications, based on search.
  • Universally-acessible networks, at broadband speeds.
  • Universally-competitive systems, worldwide.

Google is flattening the world. More on what this means after the flip.

Continue reading "Google Flattens the World"

September 19, 2005

The Internet as Shopping MallEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cellphones.jpgAmericans are finally following the rest of the world toward the controlled interface of the cellular phone.

This has profound implications. Mobile carriers are not Internet Service Providers. They control where you go and what you do on their networks. They act as gatekeepers, and take a proprietary attitude toward every bit transmitted.

The difference between the Internet and a mobile network is like the difference between a downtown city center and a shopping mall. There is nothing inherently wrong with a shopping mall, but it is controlled by the mall owner, and everything which happens there must be aimed at making the mall owner (and his tenants) money, all assumptions of liberty to the contrary.

In other words, cellular turns the Internet into a shopping mall, neutering it, and making it solely a means toward a commercial end.

Thus, is has been difficult for mobile (Americans call it cellular) to gain the kind of reach and use that we find even in Africa. But that is changing:

Continue reading "The Internet as Shopping Mall"

September 18, 2005

Rice Wins Again!Email This EntryPrint This Article

rice seal.gif No, not on the football field, silly.

(The original Rice seal, to the right, dates from 1911, and carries its own story, including Confederate gray "warmed into life by a tinge of lavender.")

I'm talking about the laboratory, where Rice is successfully managing the transition from Dr. Richard Smalley's "Buckyball foundation" generation with new research into the link between optics and electronics.

Professor Peter Nordlander has announced "a universal relationship between the behavior of light and electrons" which "can be exploited to create nanoscale antennae that convert light into broadband electrical signals capable of carrying approximately 1 million times more data than existing interconnects."

This is big. In many ways it's as big as the original BuckyBall discovery, and more readily exploited.

More after the break.

Continue reading "Rice Wins Again!"

September 13, 2005

Meanwhile, back in spaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

earth from space.gifOne good thing about covering space is that it puts what's happening to this Big Blue Marble into proper perspective.

See if you don't agree:

  • Closer to the Big Bang -- Space is a time machine. When you detect light that has been traveling 13 billion years to reach Earth you're really reaching back that far in time. And now we have. The particular picture on offer is of a supernova that occurred 12.6 billion years ago, or 1.1 billion years after God likely said "let there be light."
  • The third "space tourist," Greg Olsen, is scheduled to go up on a Soviet rocket October 1. Olsen founded Sensors Unlimited, and is paying $20 million for the trip, which helps keep the Soyuz program going. American astronaut William McArthur says Olsen's engineering background makes him a real asset on the Space Station. (In more ways than one.)

    Continue reading "Meanwhile, back in space"

September 09, 2005

The New Normal: A View from AtlantaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

tucker parking lot.jpgYesterday, for the first day since Katrina, the city of Atlanta seemed to return to normal.

The traffic jams were back. The parking lots at the Tucker Wal-Mart (pictured) and Target were full. I even overheard customers chatting amiably about good things happening in their lives, and laughing.

But the New Normal is a mirage. It’s not real. It’s made possible by Governor Perdue’s short-term cancellation of the state’s gas tax, and by the Administration’s decision to go back to dirty gas and suspend EPA rules.

The gas tax is going back up, next week. And gas prices are headed higher, much higher.

Continue reading "The New Normal: A View from Atlanta"

September 05, 2005

The Spoils SystemEmail This EntryPrint This Article

garfield assassination.gifGeorge W. Bush's Bridge to the 19th Century has deposited us in 1881, in the era of the Spoils System.

The spoils system was instituted by Democratic President Andrew Jackson. "To the victor goes the spoils" meant that every government job belonged to the party in power. Postmasters, and port managers (big jobs in those days) were all political hacks.

The movement against the spoils system was led by a Republican named James A. Garfield. He was elected President in 1880 alongside a representative of that system, Chester Alan Arthur, former port commissioner for New York. He wasn't a perfect vessel for reform, but he moved in that direction.

The picture illustrates what happened next. Garfield was shot, killed, by Charles J. Guiteau, a "frustrated office seeker," in other words, a party hack who was upset that Garfield wanted to bring competence to government. (Guiteau, in fact had visions of becoming Ambassador to France.)

Continue reading "The Spoils System"

September 04, 2005

Sacrifice to Get 'R DoneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

new orleans helicopter.jpgI think nearly all Americans can now agree that the biggest mistake made after 9-11 was avoiding a call to sacrifice.
(Picture from the BBC.)

My generation has never been "in" to sacrifice. It was our parents' thing. They went hungry during the Depression, they risked their lives during World War II, and then they stayed together, working hard, so that their kids (us) would have "everything."

Which we do. Our lives are very comfortable. Most Americans have cars, and TVs, and air conditioning, and healthy food in our refrigerators whenever we want it. We can take vacations. We can get fat. Then we can pay to have the fat stripped away and get fat again.

Maybe that's the real Vietnam syndrome. Those of my generation who felt the call to sacrifice as young people died in rice paddies, or had their dreams shot away. Frankly it doesn't matter why anymore. No matter what side you took in that war, get over it. We're in a different era.

These days sacrifice must be forced on us. And for many this week it has been.

Continue reading "Sacrifice to Get 'R Done"

September 01, 2005

The Dry Drunk MemeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bush finger.jpgThere is a long-running charge, or meme, on the left that President George W. Bush is a "dry drunk," an alcoholic who hasn't dealt with the roots of his alcoholism, and thus exhibits alcoholic behavior even when sober.

Dr. Justin Frank explored this in a book called Bush on the Couch. Katherine Van Wormer made the charge in 2002 and Malachy McCourt has gone further, writing in his short 2004 book, Bush Lies in State that he’s still an alcoholic.

How common is this meme? Example one. Example two. Example three. Example four.

So here is my point. Given his falling popularity and recent bizarre behaviors (running away from Cindy Sheehan, comparing Iraq to World War II while New Orleans died) I'm wondering if this meme isn't about to move.

Continue reading "The Dry Drunk Meme"

August 31, 2005

Logistics of New Orleans' Kidney TransplantEmail This EntryPrint This Article

kidney.jpgA Great City must be evacuated. Then it must be rebuilt.

After the people are gone -- all the people -- the logistics of what must happen in New Orleans next are daunting. We're talking about debriding America's gaping wound and rebuilding a kidney on a massive scale:

  1. Two levee breaks -- one of which is 300 feet long -- have to be repaired. You ever try to stop water from going where it wants to go?
  2. The water inside New Orleans has to be drained, to somewhere. It's filthy, deadly, where is it going to go? It might kill the Gulf, but were else can we put it?
  3. The sewer system has to be re-built, because until it is you can't get to
  4. Everything has to be hosed down, cleaned, and disinfected.
  5. Only then can you begin a true damage assessment, and chances are nearly every wooden building in the city will then have to come down. Where will all that debris go?
  6. Only then can we even talk about rebuilding.

It's the biggest civil engineering job ever attempted.


Continue reading "Logistics of New Orleans' Kidney Transplant"

August 30, 2005

The Big OneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: I have been, and will be, criticized for "politicizing" the naton's worst-ever natural disaster. But knowing how something happened, what made it worse, how it can be made better and how it might be prevented is the only way I know to make sense of things which are otherwise beyond comprehension. My prayers to all.
wtc009.jpgEveryone knows 9/11 was a turning point. (Picture from Tales from the Teapot.)

It changed attitudes irrevocably, in ways we're still trying to deal with four years on.

Hurricane Katrina is another turning point, a different turning point, and a much, much bigger event.

The terrorists destroyed two buildings, and the center of a city. Katrina destroyed multiple cities -- Slidell, Gulfport, Biloxi, New Orleans.

We knew after 9/11 it could happen again. Know this after Katrina. It WILL happen again, and again, and again.

The civilizing process of the 20th century, with its oil-driven economy, is now driving the global environment off a cliff. Most of the world knew this before Katrina. Now even Mississippi knows this.

And this will change us.

  • We can no longer pretend to independence. We are interdependent.
  • We can no longer pretend that the environmental damage of the oil economy can be borne. It cannot.
  • We can no longer remain dependent on the oil economy. It is failing, and will fail.

One of the most maddening aspects of the Katrina coverage, for me, has been MSNBC's continued emphasis on the Casinos as the engines of the Gulf Coast economy. We drive through that area every vacation, and I have taken to calling Mississippi "Pottersville," the town Bedford Falls became in the nighbmare sequence of "It's a Wonderful Life." And Louisiana has made itself into West Pottersville.

I'm not talking about sin here. I'm talking about depending on something that's artificial, fake, phony, as the basis of an economy. Pretending that you'll get rich off others' sin, that the residue won't touch you, and you can then say "screw you" to the needs of the poor, to education, to your fellow man, to the real world, that always fails in time.

It is time for an attitude adjustment.


Continue reading "The Big One"

August 29, 2005

The Killer App for BroadbandEmail This EntryPrint This Article

p2ptraffic.pngOm Malik has a wise commentary today on how peer-to-peer services (p2p) is the killer app for broadband.

He offers a Cachelogic chart showing how p2p services (but more specifically eDonkey) are driving total Internet traffic. In fact, more than half the total Internet traffic monitored by Cachelogic, according to the chart, is eDonkey traffic. (The illustration was copied from Malik's blog, but credit should go to Cachelogic.)

Then Malik makes some really key points (boldfacing is mine):


  • In the long term, however P2P traffic if not managed properly is going to become a big problem.
  • The explosion in P2P traffic is going to have an impact on the people who don’t use the P2P services as well.
  • Due to P2P’s symmetrical nature on average 80% of upstream capacity is consumed by P2P.


Continue reading "The Killer App for Broadband"

August 25, 2005

Hawaii Should Be TexasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

big_island_hawaii_map.jpgThere's a news report out that Hawaii wants to cap the wholesale price of gasoline, because it has gotten too high.

Of course we know that won't work. Refiners will simply ship their product elsewhere if it can get a better price elsewhere.

But ever since I visited the Big Island in 2001 I have felt that Hawaii's energy situation is, frankly, reversed. The island has immense stores of natural energy -- waves, wind, and vulcanism.

All you have to do is tap it.

See if this sounds silly.

Continue reading "Hawaii Should Be Texas"

August 21, 2005

Dating the Next RecessionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

recession.gifThe next U.S. recession will start in earnest on October 17. (If it hasn't already.)

That's the day the new bankruptcy law kicks-in, and credit card banks get hit by a double-whammy of their own creation. (Illustration is from Howstuffworks.) Be careful of what you ask for, because you just might get it:

  1. Borrowers must begain paying back credit card loans based on a 10-year payback, doubling many minimum balances, and
  2. New rules force borrowers to repay those debts, even after filing bankruptcy.

How can this be bad for banks, who after all pushed for the legislation?

Continue reading "Dating the Next Recession"

August 15, 2005

A Basic Threat To The WebEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cavebear.gif
The recent contretemps over Google's Digital Library plan proves that the essential conflict between copyright and connectivity has not been resolved.

I was chilled by this comment from Karl Auerbach, (right, the cartoon featured on his home page) former ICANN governor and certified "good guy" of Internet governance, to Dave Farber's list:

I've become concerned with how search engine companies are making a buck off of web-based works without letting the authors share in the wealth.

I've looked at my web logs and noticed the intense degree to which search engine companies dredge through my writings - which are explicitly marked as copyrighted and published subject to a clearly articulated license.

The search engine companies take my works and from those they create derivative works.

Continue reading "A Basic Threat To The Web"

August 12, 2005

Why Is Oil So High?Email This EntryPrint This Article

peak oil.pngOil, like other commodities, is priced based on a contunuous auction, demand measured against supply. (The picture is from a primer on peak oil, courtesy Energybulletin.net.)

Supply has become inelastic. Not just the oil, but its refining. No one is building new refineries (not in this country). When supply gets really tight we actually import gasoline.

The problem is that demand has also become inelastic. I'm talking to you, mister. No one seems willing to make a change, to reduce their demand for oil, gas, and electricity. Back in the 1970s people switched to smaller cars, they didn't drive as much, they even boosted the thermostat. Now, nothing. We get in our SUVs, we take the freeway 40 miles to work and back, we drive all over hell-and-gone for various reasons (kids, shopping, etc.) and we usually leave the A/C on high while we're gone.

So we have an episode of the BBC's show Cash in the Attic.

Continue reading "Why Is Oil So High?"

August 05, 2005

Gangs of New BlogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

the crucible.gifOm Malik's pointing to Robert Scoble's friends hammering Andrew Orlowski over the IE7 beta got me thinking about blogging social structures. (The image is from the archives of Johnstown, New York's Colonial Little Theater.)

It's becoming gang warfare, done on a psychological level.

Every top blogger has a gang of toadie blogs that will do its bidding. I got a little taste of that with the Ev Williams mistake (not that I didn't deserve the hammering) When a top blogger identifies a target for ridicule, others can jump in like wolves.

It works the other way, too. When an individual becomes a target a mob of bloggers may take them down, unled. This is what happened to Dan Rather. The story about Bush being a chickenhawk was sound. There was a problem on one of the sources. But a mob of bloggers brought him down, and now they celebrate this, daily.

Continue reading "Gangs of New Blog"

August 04, 2005

Dumb PredictionsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

market research.jpgTwo really stupid predications crossed my desk this morning. (The image is by Katie Guenther. From the University of Vermont.)


  1. Laptops are about to be replaced by mobile phones.
  2. Mobile phones are going to take the music download market from the iPod.

While a straight look at technology and the desires of consumers could lead you to these conclusions, they're dumber than dirt.

Let's start with the first one.

Even if people start leaving their laptops at home, laptop sales are not threatened by mobile phones, because laptops are replacing desktops. It's basic ergonomics. Where does your lap go when you stand up? If you're standing, or walking, you can't use a laptop, you have to use some sort of handheld device. As PDA functionality moves into phones, as the two markets merge, then, yes, phones become the handheld of choice. But that doesn't mean they replace laptops. It means they replace PDAs.

Now for the second prediction.

Continue reading "Dumb Predictions"

August 02, 2005

The Moore's Law DialecticEmail This EntryPrint This Article

gordon moore.jpgToday's politics is cultural.

Even economic and foreign policy issues are, in the end, defined in terms of social issues. This creates identification, and coalitions among people who might not otherwise find common ground -- hedonistic Wall Street investment bankers and small town Kansas preachers, for instance.

I am coming to believe the next political divide will be technological. That is, your politics will be defined by your attitude toward technology.

On one side you will find open source technophiles. On the other you will find proprietary technophobes.

It's a process that will take time to work itself out, just as millions of Southern Democrats initially resisted the pull of Nixon. Because there are are divisions within each grand coalition we have today, on this subject.

  • On the right you see many people who work in open source, or who worry about their privacy, asking hard questions of security buffs and corporate insiders.
  • On the left you see many people who consider themselves cyber-libertarians facing off against Hollywood types and those who create proprietary software.

This latter split gets most of the publicity, because more writers are in the cyber-libertarian school than anywhere else.

Initially, the proprietary, security-oriented side of this new political divide has the initiative. It has the government and, if a poll were taken, it probably has a majority on most issues.

But open source advocates have something more powerful on their side, history. You might call it the Moore's Law Dialectic.

Continue reading "The Moore's Law Dialectic"

July 31, 2005

The Identity WarsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Real-ID-Act10feb05.gifAs previously noted, I became an un-person last week as the Social Security decided to waste my time over a "mistake" some one made back in 1970. (Image from Mindfully.Org.)

Either my wonderful mother (who still walks among us, to my great joy) failed to check the box indicating I was a citizen on my Social Security application, or some clerk failed to do so when the data was entered because there were separate forms then for citizens and non-citizens.

The clerk who put me through this hell blamed "Homeland Security." But I think he was really responding to the reality of how this number is used.

As I've noted many times before, the Social Security Number is an index term. Everybody has one. Everyone's number is different. By indexing databases based on Social Security Numbers (SSNs), government and businesses alike can make certain there's a one-to-one correspondence between records and people.

Stories like this AP feature don't really address this need, this fact about how data is stored. Without the SSN we'd have to create one. Some companies like Acxiom do just that. Every business and individual in their database has their own unique identifier, created by the company. Which also means that the Acxiom indexing scheme is proprietary. The only way toward a non-proprietary indexing scheme, in other words, is for government to provide one. Which gets us back to the need for an SSN.

Continue reading "The Identity Wars"

July 29, 2005

The Tech-Politics ContradictionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

cisco_logo.jpgThe big trend of this decade, in technology, is a move toward openness.

It started with open frequencies like 802.11. It then moved into software, with open source operating systems and applications. Now we have open source business models. The ball keeps rolling along.

Open source has proven superior in all these areas due to simple math. The more people working a problem, the better. No single organization can out-do the multitudes.

But this simple, and rather elegant, fact, is at odds with all political trends.

Continue reading "The Tech-Politics Contradiction"

July 27, 2005

Becoming an Un-PersonEmail This EntryPrint This Article

sscard.jpgA lot has been written about identity theft, data leaks and how to fix them. A lot has been written about identity technology, and how all of it is bad.

But the bottom line is simpler. Our identification system is broken.

It's no longer a question of this system or some other system. There is no system.

What that means, in real terms, if your own identity hangs by a thread, a very thin thread that can break anywhere, and leave you an un-person.

Like me.

Continue reading "Becoming an Un-Person"

July 23, 2005

The Coming Crash?Email This EntryPrint This Article

john rutledge.gifI should not be a fan of Dr. John Rutledge (left).

His economic prescriptions are unrelentingly right-wing. He's a social Darwinist, a raging bull.

But he's not an idiot. He understands money. He knows trouble when he sees it. And, on his blog this week, he sees it.

As I've written in my novel, the name of this big trouble is little China.

The process of China's inevitable Yuan revaluation has begun.

In a series of blog entries Rutledge ticks off what's happening.

Continue reading "The Coming Crash?"

Marc Canter's ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

marc cantor closeup.jpgI'm a big fan of both Marc Canter (right) and Joi Ito . (NOTE: The picture, by Dan Farber of News.Com (and ZDNet fame), was taken off Marc's blog.)

They're both brilliant. They're both A-list bloggers. They're both rich. I've known both for about two decades.

But I think Marc has a vital Clue Joi has missed, about one of the most important trends of our time, the rise of the open source business process.

Here's why I think that.

Joi has put a lot of money into SixApart, which runs Movable Type, which powers this blog. It's good stuff. But it's being left behind because it is, at heart, proprietary. It doesn't interconnect with other software. It isn't modular, scalable, and it can only be improved by the SixApart team.

In other words, it doesn't take advantage of the open source business process, and thus there are whole new worlds it hasn't been able to scale into. It's not a Community Network Service (like Drupal), and it's not a social networking system (like MySpace).

Marc, on the other hand, has just released GoingOn. It's a new engine for digital communities, like MySpace. He launched with Tony Perkins, who will use the system as the new heart of his AlwaysOn network (no relation to my wireless network application idea of the same title).

Marc calls GoingOn an Identity Hub, something to which other identity systems can connect. (It's interoperable with Sxip Networks, for instance.)

But Marc also understands that his stuff can't be the be-all and end-all. Let him explain it:

Continue reading "Marc Canter's Clue"

July 21, 2005

First Shoe Drops on The Chinese CenturyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

money exchange.gifReaders of The Chinese Century know it begins with China allowing the Yuan to float against the Dollar, and then pushing the Yuan up in the market.

The first step toward that reality was taken today. (The image is from the China Daily article.)

Instead of having a fixed rate against the dollar, China will let the Dollar rate float against a "basket of currencies." So if the Dollar falls against, say, the Yen (and it did in response to this news) or the Pound (ditto) or the Euro (mega dittoes) further moves might be made.

The Optimist Club, otherwise known as Wall Street bulls, suggested this will make our exports more competitive. That would be great if we had exports. In fact, it makes imports more expensive. It imports inflation.

It also reduces China's own production costs, because oil (for now) is priced in Dollars. With fewer Yuan needed to buy Dollars, the price of oil to China goes down.

Continue reading "First Shoe Drops on The Chinese Century"

July 20, 2005

The Web is Already BalkanizedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

balkans.jpgI was giving more thought to a recent item, based on Joi Ito's brilliant piece on The Internets, and it occurred to me that the fight for "One Internet" has, in many ways, already been lost.

(The term Balkanize, or Balkanization, is often used in English to refer to this splitting up, which often (as in the 1990s) is accompanied by enormous violence. This picture of the Balkans as they are today is from Theodora.com.)

Think about it. How often do you use a Web site outside your own country? If you're an American, the answer is not very often. This is true for most people.

A lot more follows.

Continue reading "The Web is Already Balkanized"

July 19, 2005

Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)Email This EntryPrint This Article

gumby.jpgMonty Python used to have a running gag called the Gumbys. They would put on moustaches, shorts, place diapers on their heads, and talk sheer lunacy for effect. CORRECTION: There's an update to this piece below the fold which could make this reference even-more apt.

Former FCC commissioner Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth, now a fellow of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute , is a Gumby.

This guy is so Clueless that, in an age when any wingnut can practically become a millionaire by snapping his fingers, he can apparently get his stuff published only in the New York Sun, a right-wing daily with few readers, no business model, and a crappy Web site that won't let you inside its home page without giving them tons of personal information. So no link.

Instead, you'll have to read the whole thing:

Continue reading "Harold W. Furchtgott-Roth (Gumby)"

July 15, 2005

The Most Subversive Book Series EverEmail This EntryPrint This Article

harry potter 6.jpg Hear me out.

J.K. Rowling conceived her entire series on a train. It would be seven books, matching the years spent at an English boarding school such as Eton.

Book Six was released tonight. Rowling herself appeared at Edinburgh Castle at midnight, behind a puff of smoke, to read some of it to some of her fans.

The series was conceived, however, on a train, as a growing-up story. The first book would be an 11-year old's tale told from the point of view of the 11-year old. The final book would be an entrance into adulthood, a mature book.

No one could hit that kind of timetable. It's amazing to me that the 6th book went on sale just 7 years after the first one arrived.

My daughter is a big Harry Potter fan. Harry taught her to read, despite mild dyslexia. First my wife read it to her, along with the second and third books. Then she read them herself, several times. She has grown up on Harry but she will still be grown before Harry will. So will the actors who have been portraying the title character and his friends. It's very likely the actors will have to be replaced before the seventh movie can be produced.

But there's even more to it than that.

Remember that, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

It's this that's the key to understanding what's really going on in the Harry Potter series.

Continue reading "The Most Subversive Book Series Ever"

The New Interfaces (co-starring Steve Stroh as "The Expert")Email This EntryPrint This Article

rss feedreader.gifFor people who like gaming, their games (or online environments) are their main interface to the Web. This has been true for some time, and unremarked upon.

There are other new interfaces that many people depend upon. The iTunes player can be an interface, when linked to Apple's Music Store. Any music player, or multimedia player, is a separate Web interface, which may or may not connect to a Web page at any time. People who swap files use those programs as interfaces.

The point is in many niches the Web browser has already been replaced as the main interface to the Internet. Microsoft's five-year campaign to dislodge Netscape was worthless, which may be why they're letting Firefox run off with so much market share.

And now, even readers are getting their own, separate interface, the RSS reader.

I use FeedDemon. Steve Stroh uses NetNewsWire on his Mac and calls it fabulous. This field has yet to shake out.

I have noticed some big differences occur in my work when I'm using FeedDemon instead of the browser as my interface to the Web:

  • I'm seeing more content, faster.
  • I'm seeing fewer ads.
  • I'm finding great differences among sources in how they react to readers. Some post just a few sentences to the reader, others let the whole article run. The latter sites are seeing far fewer "hits" on their pages than the former, thus far fewer page-views overall, and far-fewer ad reads.
  • Publishers are waking up to this by shortening, even eliminating, the text that goes into the "newspaper" format of feedreaders. The Wall Street Journal is especially aggressive in this. US News is especially lenient.

Steve Stroh has more after the break:

Continue reading "The New Interfaces (co-starring Steve Stroh as "The Expert")"

July 14, 2005

The Finnish ExampleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

finland.gifThere's a long, admiring story in today's Washington Post extolling Finland as a possible model for European development.

Finland has invested heavily in scientific research, especially since it backed a big winner during the early 1990s in Nokia. Nokia stock held by the government is one source of funds, but overall the country puts a whopping 3.6% of its income into research, well ahead of the U.S., and nearly twice as much as the European average.

The result is that, while Finland does have substantial unemployment, and the problems of an aging population threatening its ample social safety net, the 5.5 million people there are nearly as happy as those in the Monty Python song. (All together, Finnophiles!)

One respondent at the Dave Farber list expressed the view that the U.S. actually does better than the figures indicate, and that government is mostly out of the picture.

He's half-right.

Continue reading "The Finnish Example"

July 12, 2005

Fight for One InternetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

joi ito.jpgJoi Ito took up a challenge I laid down recently, in my piece on the possibility of Internet War.

Joi's point is that the Internet split has already begun, and it is based on language. Chinese and Japanese people don't care for English. People want URLs in their own language. And these URLs are unreachable by those whose keyboards only write what the Japanese call "Romaji," Roman letters.

"Why should these people be forced to learn some sort of roman transliteration in order to access the company page where they know the official Chinese characters for the names" he writes. (This is a very short excerpt. I urge you to read the whole post -- it is very wise.)

The peculiarities of language provide an excellent source of control for tyranny. Most Chinese don't leave the Chinese Internet, leaving them at the mercy of the authorities. Many Japanese choose not to leave their own language, leaving them ignorant of how others feel.

Language can also provide cover for terrorists. We can't translate all the Arabic-language e-mail or Web sites out there. We can't even find the URLs, unless we know how to look for them. So many of our problems in the War on Terror are exacerbated by a shortage of translators, or mis-translations. This problem continues to get worse.

There's more, of course.

Continue reading "Fight for One Internet"

July 11, 2005

Living in the ForestEmail This EntryPrint This Article

trees.jpgWhen the tornado warning sounded near my home last night I found I couldn't get a view of what might come through the trees.

I have elm trees, oak trees, dogwood trees, sweet gum and a huge sugar magnolia, one of the few trees that has survived the age of the dinosaurs.

It's a 50 x 100 lot.

Continue reading "Living in the Forest"

July 07, 2005

Lasica: King of IronyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

royal crown magnolia.JPGSince I was handing out royal titles last week I thought it might be fun to consider what J.D. Lasica might deserve for Darknet.

NOTE: That's the royal crown magnolia from mytho-fleurs.com. Like it? It's yours.

A long evening spent reading Lasica's book brought the title to me: King of Irony.

Remember, this is a book. Thus it is subject both to a book's business model and its rights regime.

Want a copy? $25.95 plus tax and (if you buy it online) shipping get it for you. Or wait for it to appear at your local library. Or borrow one from a friend, free. Or wait some months for it to appear in a discount bin, or a remainder lot, or a garage sale. The price you pay is a function is a function of the time you're willing to wait for it.

What can you do with this book? I typed an excerpt today by hand. The length of the excerpt, again, is a function of time, and the cost of my time to produce it, unless I want to string it out a page or two. In that case, technology might be deployed -- a scanner -- plus a few minutes with the scanner's OCR software, some cutting-and-pasting, and voila!

Want to steal some more? Production costs are going to get you. A Xerography process may give you a bound book for just a few dollars, if your order is small. An offset process costs less per book, but the order in that case must be bigger. I guarantee the printer will want to know you're a Wiley fella (or lady) before they take the order.

And we haven't even cracked the cover yet. Easy to see where Lasica's crown comes from.

Continue reading "Lasica: King of Irony"

July 05, 2005

Antitrust: It's the Process, StupidEmail This EntryPrint This Article

broadcom chip.jpgGiven the direction of antitrust law recently I was surprised to see the recent suits by AMD and (more recently) Broadcom. They left me scratching my head.

But there is an answer to my quandary.

Antitrust has become a process. It's not a goal, but a weapon in the business war.

The idea that Qualcomm has a monopoly in the mobile phone industry is laughable. It may abuse what position it has, charging chip makers like Broadcom the equivalent of an "intellectual property tax" in areas which use CDMA (and its variants). But GSM is the major world standard. It would be like calling the Apple Macintosh a monopoly.

The Broadcom antitrust suit comes right after it filed a patent suit against Qualcomm, accusing it of violating Broadcom patents regarding delivery of content to mobile phones.

The first shot didn't open up the Qualcomm ship, maybe the second will. All lawyers on deck!

Continue reading "Antitrust: It's the Process, Stupid"

July 01, 2005

J.D. Lasica's "Darknet"Email This EntryPrint This Article

jd_lasica.jpgDon't like fiction? I understand.

But you still need your summer reading. The season is upon us.

So might I offer you the latest from my new friend J.D. Lasica, Darknet

I've been covering the Copyright Wars for nearly a decade, and wish I had looked up from the day-to-day to try something like this book. Its subtitle is Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation, and it covers a ton of ground.

If you're not familiar with the digital underground, or what digital editing is capable of, then Lasica's book will be a revelation to you. Even for old hands like me it's good sometimes to get it all down so you can ponder it as a whole.

Continue reading "J.D. Lasica's "Darknet""

June 30, 2005

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"

June 29, 2005

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

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 17, 2005

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 15, 2005

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 10, 2005

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

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 07, 2005

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

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"

June 02, 2005

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"

May 31, 2005

The Short TailEmail This EntryPrint This Article

obligatory_1.jpegChris Anderson's blog, The Long Tail , is a "public diary on the way to a book" about the economic impact of mass customization.

As the graph shows, the phenomenon is familiar to anyone who blogs, and the challenge is to find a way to profit from it.

Stuff on the left side of the curve has business models. Stuff in the middle is struggling for a business model. Stuff on the right has no business model.

As you can see by looking at the endorsements on the left side of Anderson's blog, the Digirati are reacting like Anderson just discovered fire. And the Long Tail is no less obvious.

What's non-trivial is finding a way to profit from these atomized markets.

Google does it. TiVo does it (sometimes). But must those who profit from the "market of one" all be scaled? What about the creators? And what are the consequences of that?

What we've seen in the market, since the rise of the Internet, is an increasingly-shorter tail. Middle market books don't sell. Independent movies are having more trouble getting produced, not less. Musicians who used to live decent lives on record company contracts find today they can't get a sniff.

Continue reading "The Short Tail"

May 26, 2005

Always On Political RoadblockEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Domecam.jpgWhy hasn't the World of Always On arrived?

The ingredients are all here, and they're cheap-as-chips: (An example is this nifty little camera, from yoursecurity.us.)


  • Wireless networks. You can buy an 802.11 wireless gateway for $65.
  • PCs to run the applications are down well below $250.
  • RFID kits? Cameras? Sensors? All available.
  • Long battery life? Thanks to Zigbee, that's a big check mark, too.

I'm convinced the hurdles facing Always On applications aren't technical, and aren't artifacts of the market.

They're political.

Let's run them down, shall we?

Continue reading "Always On Political Roadblock"

May 25, 2005

The Fog of BlogsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

nick kristof.jpgOften the very thing you criticize others for is your own blind spot.

This was never more true than in Nick Kristof's piece (that's him at the left) yesterday called Death by a Thousand Blogs. China's authorities can't keep up with the content produced by broadband, he says. Their legitimacy is drowning in the resulting revelations.

He could have added the impact of cellphones to that. The ideographic Chinese language lends itself to delivering great meaning, even in small files, as the country's cell phone novella make clear. With 90 million new phone users just last year, with every year's phones becoming more data-ready, there's no way the Great Firewall of China can stand.

But what's good for the goose is also sauce for the gander. Kristof's very point speaks to the bankruptcy of pulling his column, and those of others, behind a paid firewall. They are too easy to replace. Their financial value is minimal compared to their value to the discussion. Losing the latter to gain some of the former is truly cutting off your nose to spite your face.

This is not the only lesson.

Continue reading "The Fog of Blogs"

May 23, 2005

Whatever Happened To That Jobs Kid?Email This EntryPrint This Article

steve_jobs_young-thumb.gifYou may remember him. Long-haired weirdo. Crazy hair. Counter-cultural kind of guy.

Some 30 years ago he and another friend named Steve hung around with the losers at something called the Homebrew Computer Club.

They had this neat idea for a new kind of box, using a TV, tape recorder, and typewriter as interfaces for a self-contained computer. One of them (I think it was the other Steve) shopped the idea to Hewlett-Packard.

Which rejected it. Turned them down flat. Questioned whether it had "serious thought behind it."

Well, you do have to listen to your elders, after all. I'm sure that discouraged Steve. Probably discouraged everyone else around him. Their thing never saw the light of day, as I recall.

Whatever happened to that kid, anyway?

Continue reading "Whatever Happened To That Jobs Kid?"

May 21, 2005

This Week's Clue: Jerimoth HillEmail This EntryPrint This Article

belmont statue01.jpegIn last week's issue of my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.com, I took a look at business models , following a weekend at beautiful Belmont University in Nashville (left).

This week I continued the discussion, asking why so many responded to that piece denying they had any such thing as A Clue, let alone A-Clue.Com.

Enjoy.


There was an interesting reaction to my piece last week, denial.

Many of the leaders in the blogging business read it, and all of them denied its inherent truth, namely that they had A Clue.

I'm not a business, insisted Jason Calacanis. Never mind that he has 65 blogs, a uniform look-and-feel, that his writers don't even get their pictures on their blogs and, when they leave, they leave with nothing. No, it's all about passion, he insists. We do this for love, he says. Business? We're not building one of those.

So it went.

I'm not a success, insisted Rafat Ali of Paidcontent. I'm not powerful, insisted Markos Moulitsas of DailyKos. I'm a dilletante, said Glenn Reynolds. I'm only here for the beer, said Dave Winer. I'm no one at all, said Pamela Jones of Groklaw.

Continue reading "This Week's Clue: Jerimoth Hill"

May 18, 2005

Always On Is RFIDEmail This EntryPrint This Article

gesture pendant.jpgI didn't blog much yesterday because I was researching the state of play in Always On. (The illustration is from Georgia Tech.)

I had a book proposal before Wiley rejected out of hand. But when I then suggested to step back and do a book on RFID for the home, I got real interest. Just make it a hands-on book, I was told.

Thus, the research.

As regular readers here know well there are many Always On application spaces, that is, functions fit for wireless networking applications.

  • Medical monitoring
  • Home Automation
  • Entertainment
  • Inventory

Absent this understanding that a unified platform already exists so that all these applications can be created together, what is the state of play specifically regarding Radio Frequency Identification? (Or, if you prefer, spychips, although since I'm talking about home applications you're spying on yourself.)

Continue reading "Always On Is RFID"

May 13, 2005

The Times vs. Sullivan BoundaryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

lb sullivan.jpg Times vs. Sullivan , as anyone who has taken law or journalism knows, holds that public figures have a much higher burden in libel actions than other people. (That's L.B. Sullivan, then police chief of Montgomery, Alabama to the right. From the University of Missouri in Kansas City.)

To win at trial, public figures must show that a story about them showed "a reckless disregard for the truth" or that a lie was deliberate. This makes it very hard for public figures to win libel awards, although to this day some do.

The question comes up because I was chatting via e-mail with Steve Ross, a journalism professor at Columbia, who said Markos Moulitsas had over-reacted to a question on his annual journalism survey. The survey asked how people felt about campaigns "buying" journalists, citing a deal between the Dean campaign and "bloggers" in 2003.

Readers here know I covered that story, that the bloggers weren't bought but hired as consultants, that they didn't act bought, and that their righteous recommendations were then ignored, so Moulitsas to this day fills a role now DNC chair Howard Dean should by rights be filling. But what brought me up short was Steve's statement that Moulitsas, alias Daily Kos, should know better, since he is "a public figure."

A public figure, eh? A blogger a public figure?

atrios.jpg Well that's interesting. I assume, then, that Glenn Reynolds is a public figure, and any suit he might file for libel is going to have a very difficult time. (Lucky me.) We can't very well have anonymous public figures and thus the "outing" of Atrios as Duncan Black, a Philadelphia economics teacher (left), last year becomes just a public service.

And if that's true, then, is Pamela Jones, a public figure? Would that mitigate any possibility of a successful legal action against Maureen O'Gara? (I don't know if anything has been filed or might be -- I'm just spitballing here.)

Wait, there's more.

Continue reading "The Times vs. Sullivan Boundary"

May 12, 2005

BlogonomicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Fox News Radio Logo.jpgMany think the secret of Fox' dominance of news is political. A generation brought up on the myth that an objective press is biased to the left, then given a right-wing Pravda, sees the latter as "fair and balanced."

That's a small part of the story. Identifying a niche and serving it is as old as the magazine business. Older. It's as old as Poor Richard's Almanack.

The real secret is much simpler. The "network" is actually a studio. Few bureaus, no big investigation team, no bench, little support. Who needs writers when most hosts can wing it. It's talking heads. It's radio economics.

No, it's blog economics, or Blogonomics.

Continue reading "Blogonomics"

May 05, 2005

New LeftEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Ann.bmpAfter 1964, history shows, American liberalism went off the rails.

It started slowly, but it eventually accelerated until liberalism, as an ideal, became anathema to the majority of a generation.

While most 1960s liberals remained wedded to the principles of the New Deal, and the system it created, other voices demanded more radical change. A continuing land war in Asia drained the moderates' legitimacy, inflation rose, and in frustration many leftists dropped out, demanding a revolution against legal authority.

In 2005 a lot of liberals are scared of right-wing extremism, the way their parents were scared of long hair back in the day. There are loonies trying to re-condition gays into playing straight. In Kansas the state government is trying to toss science in favor of miracles. In Washington there's a court-packing scheme reminescent of Roosevelt's own in 1937 (which is just as popular).

And, of course, there's Ann Coulter (above). I think of her as Grace Slick for the neo-Nazi crowd. Since she's anti-drug (and apparently anti-food) she has to talk mighty big trash to get her little followers hot-and-bothered. Why get mad? Why not just laugh?

Unfortunately most liberals are responding to this by wailing almost as loudly as Goldwater conservatives (like my dad) did in the mid-1960s. Liberals seem both apoplectic and incompetent in the face of opponents run riot.

Personally, I think liberals ought to keep their cool, preach values to Wall Street, and simply look sober.

Continue reading "New Left"

April 29, 2005

The Seventh CrisisEmail This EntryPrint This Article

AntiJeffersonCartoon.image.jpgLast week I took a dispassionate look at economic cycles. This week let's take an equally dispassionate look at political cycles.

Political cycles are generational in nature. (The cartoon is from 1800 and AmericanPresident.Org. ) They're set in a time of great crisis. They're re-set when a new crisis occurs that the old assumptions can't deal with.

But they also wear out. Ideologies are like roads. You set off in a direction but, at some point, go beyond your destination. Yet the road keeps leading you on. And the kids finally say, let's go a new way.

Continue reading "The Seventh Crisis"

April 28, 2005

14 Clues Murdoch Won't UseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Rupert murdoch.jpgYesterday we reported on a speech by Rupert Murdoch (left, from Wikipedia) to newspaper editors in which he so much as said their industry will be killed by the Internet.

Personally I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Newspaper companies will be able to use computers and on-demand pagination to mass produce paper products that are relevant to future audiences. Just as radio and TV only forced the industry to change, not disappear, so it will be in this case.

But let’s assume Murdoch is right. How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.

Following are some ideas.

Continue reading "14 Clues Murdoch Won't Use"

April 27, 2005

Moore TransitionsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The best way to understand the future is to look into how chips are changing.

Two transitions are transforming Moore's Law. The original article, in 1964, described only the density of circuits on silicon substrate.

The rule implied that chips could get better-and-better, faster-and-faster. Doubling bigger numbers means bigger incremental changes in the same time. Over the years chemists and electrical engineers learned to apply this exponential improvement concept to fiber cables, to magnetic storage, to optical storage, even to radios, so that 802.11n radios will transmit data at over 100 Mbps -- twice what earlier 802.11g models could deliver, but still 50 Mbps more.

The transitions have to do with what we mean by better.

Continue reading "Moore Transitions"

April 25, 2005

Tear Down The Great Wall of SilenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

mao zedong.jpg On the surface, the current upset between China and Japan seems ridiculous. (Illustration from Paulnoll.com. Mr. Noll was a corporal during the Korean conflict.)

That the heirs of Mao , that the Butchers of Beijing should lecture anyone about human rights seems absurd.

China puts more people to death each year than any country in the world. (Yes, even more than Texas.) China is a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people as no other country, the most Totalitarian regime on Earth. My mentioning this may get Corante blocked to all of China, by the state's firewall system, the most extensive Internet censorship regime on the planet.

By contrast, Emperor Hirohito and the brutal system he led are dead. Japan acknowledged its sins in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco and has since been a functioning democracy where politicians must accomodate the views of voters. Japan's Constitution forbids it to make war on its neighbors. Japan contributes more to good causes than any other national governnment.

This is power politics. China is pushing Japan out of the world power picture, letting Taiwan know that resistance is futile, and successfully challenging America's status as a Great Power. Just 12 years ago we were The Hyperpower. Now we're becoming second rate, losing our status to tyrants.

The reaction in the U.S. to all this has been silence. Deafening silence.

Few U.S. outlets have covered the story. The right-wing Cybercast "News" Service actually offered a balanced perspective. The New York Times offers only a fearful editorial on possible Chinese revaluation of the Yuan -- at another time this would be called appeasement.

The reason for this silence is not subject to dispute.

Continue reading "Tear Down The Great Wall of Silence"

April 20, 2005

Advice for Young JournalistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Want a career in the exciting, fast-paced world of 21st century journalism?

Get an MBA.

Don't go to journalism school. You can learn to write anywhere. The way to write better is to practice. If you love writing you can pick up the rest on-the-fly.

Instead, go to business school. Why? Because the only way you're going to have a good career in this business is to have the skills of a publisher. And those are the skills taught in business school.

In my first lecture at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, in 1977, we were told firmly that if you wanted to make a good living there was a fine businesss school on campus, the Kellogg School, and we should go there. So I've got their logo at the top of this item. I should have taken the advice.

More on why you should go to business school to learn journalism after the break.

Continue reading "Advice for Young Journalists"

Why U.S. Technology Eclipse May be PermanentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Young people are ducking out. (These young people, by the way, are French.)

It's already starting to bite.

I often feel it in reaction to items I write here or on ZDNet. Excuses. Reasons not to try. That will never work.

Young people new to a field don't think like that. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, we didn't think like that. Whether or not our politics become more conservative as we age, our lifestyles do. A 50-year old programmer worries more about what they're making and fears the future, while a 20-year old thinks about what they might make and embraces the future.

It's a cliche, but that doesn't make it less true. Young Americans are shunning technology for business, for real estate, for law, for things that redistribute wealth rather than create it.

Leaving the future to be made by others.

Because technology changes so rapidly, we feel the impact of change here very, very quickly, and this is like a cold wind in November.

Want some good news?

Continue reading "Why U.S. Technology Eclipse May be Permanent"

April 19, 2005

The Hole In Intel's WiMax StrategyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The hole is the whole U.S.

Intel plans on mass producing WiMax chips and going into rapid deployment, offering end-user speeds far in excess of what U.S. phone outfits provide with DSL.

The problem is that's the speed limit for most backhauls. Go to most WiFi hotspots, or most home networks, and DSL is the backhaul platform. We're talking 1.5 Mbps, max.

Continue reading "The Hole In Intel's WiMax Strategy"

April 15, 2005

Components of the Always On WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

rfid chip.jpg There are two types of chips key to the Always On world.

These are sensor chips and RFID chips.

Both contain tiny radios. The two can also be combined.

A sensor chip, as its name implies, tests specific conditions, and is reporting back with data on those conditions. A motion sensor is an example. A heart monitor is an example.

An RFID chip merely identifies the item it’s on. The chips that will go onto passports will be RFID chips, and RFID identification is at the heart of efforts by retailers by Wal-Mart, as well as service providers like Grantex.

I’ve also written, recently, about applications that combine RFID and sensor ships. Bulldog Technologies is rolling out a line of these chips that not only identify containers in transit, but monitor their condition and shippers know the contents are safe.

Always On applications will use all these types of chips as clients on WiFi or cellular networks, with applications located on gateways that run at low power, with battery back-up, and have constant connections to the Internet.

Continue reading "Components of the Always On World"

Business Week Almost Writes About Always OnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

businessweek_logo.gif The coming issue of Business Week features a short story on the Internet of Things, or Machine to Machine (M2) applications, which this blog calls Always On.

The story focuses on cheap cellular radios and industrial applications.

The story misses the opportunity and the market.

It's a good example of the Intel failure noted below because if no one is going to tell the story a reporter can't write it.

Cellular can enhance an Always On application, making it mobile and ubiquitous. If you have a heart monitor in your shirt you don't want to die just because you walked outside the reach of your Local Area Network.

But these are enhancements. And the industrial market is just the tip of the Always On iceberg.

The big money, as I've said, is based on the wireless broadband platform.

It's true that wireless broadband isn't seen as a platform now. It's seen as an end-point. It's seen as a way for you to link your PC to broadband resources. It is seen as an extension of an existing IP protocol. And a lot of people are waiting for IPv6 to tag every device with a unique number before getting excited over linking such devices.

This is very misguided. You can build true PC functionality into something that runs on rechargeable batteries for just a few hundred dollars. Instead of placing the processing of applications on a desktop PC that's turned off, or a laptop that might be taken away, this puts processing for these new applications on the network itself.

Continue reading "Business Week Almost Writes About Always On"

How Intel Can Fix Its Mobility Problems Right NowEmail This EntryPrint This Article

sean maloney.jpgLast month Intel's mobility chief Sean Maloney was in the hunt to head H-P, a job that eventually went to Mark Hurd of NCR. (Watch out. Dana is about to criticize a fellow Truly Handsome Man.)

But how well is Maloney doing his current job?

Intel's role in the development of Always On is crucial, and its strategy today seems muddled. It's not just its support for two different WiMax standards, and its delay in delivering fixed backhaul silicon while it prepares truly mobile solutions.

I'm more concerned with Maloney's failure to articulate a near-and-medium-term wireless platform story, one that tells vendors what they should sell today that will be useful tomorrow.

Intel seems more interested in desktops and today's applications than it is in the wireless networking platform and tomorrow's applications.

Incoming CEO Paul Otellini says Intel is going to sell a platforms story, not a pure technology story. Platforms are things you build on.

Continue reading "How Intel Can Fix Its Mobility Problems Right Now"

April 13, 2005

Be Very AfraidEmail This EntryPrint This Article

JSurowiecki_full.jpgI'm a big James Surowiecki fan. (Not a Truly Handsome Man yet, like I am, but don't you think his barber is starting to get creative?)

When I got into journalism, nearly three decades ago, I harbored a secret dream of writing for The New Yorker. I never got a sniff. But I harbor no grudges because Surowiecki did. And he's run with it.

All this praise, naturally, is a prelude to my taking issue with his latest column, which covers the subject of the collapsing dollar, the subtext for my novel The Chinese Century.

The headline his editors give the piece is "In Yuan We Trust." His point is that our debts to Japan and China are so massive neither can afford to end their support for us. Thus the air will go out of our financial balloon slowly. We won't know the dollar's a peso until it's reached par. He concludes, "So be afraid. Just don’t be very afraid."

That's the part I take issue with.

Continue reading "Be Very Afraid"

April 12, 2005

The Attention EconomyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

DPRPhotoSmall.jpg In a nice commentary about how Wired is now Tired, David P. Reed (left) got me thinking about what today's key economic good might be.

The answer is attention. The world is entering an attention economy.

In many ways this is not news. What's news is how we're bifurcating our attention -- splitting it into parts -- and how media must now compete for slices of it. (Would this item get more hits if I called it The ADD Economy?)

It's a worldwide phenomenom because cellular or mobile service is worldwide. Mobile service competes well in the Attention Economy. Watch people chat on their phones while driving. (It's like elephants tap-dancing -- what's amazing is they do it.)

More after the break.

Continue reading "The Attention Economy"

April 04, 2005

Who Sets The Agenda?Email This EntryPrint This Article

thomas friedman.gifThe great struggle of our time, between "major media journalism" and "blogging" involves who sets the agenda.

Exhibit A. I've been writing about the economic threat of India and China for years now. I've called the War on Terror a mere distraction from the real game. I know other bloggers have done the same.

But suddenly, wonder of wonders, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times goes to Bangalore, discovers we're right and now it's on everyone's radar.

I've written before here of the methods by which the major media is trying to co-opt the blogosphere and eliminate the threat. They're taking on some people, attacking others, and in this case, just taking others' ideas and claiming them for their own.


Continue reading "Who Sets The Agenda?"

Journalists Still Don't Get MooreEmail This EntryPrint This Article

idiot.jpgHere's an interesting juxtaposition of headlines. (The lovely idiot is from UC Berkeley.)

Is Google Too Generous, asks Motley Fool, talking about Google's decision to offer 2 gigabytes of e-mail storage on Gmail.

Hitachi Eyes 1 Terabyte Drives, writes MacWorld, noting new technology the Japanese company says lets it put 4.5 Gigabytes of data on a single centimeter of hard drive.

I'm like, don't the first people read the second paper?

Moore's Law of Storage is rocketing along right now even faster than Moore's other "laws" (as described in The Blankenhorn Effect). Magnetic storage is eliminating the cost of physically maintaining content, any content, with profound implications for everyone.


Continue reading "Journalists Still Don't Get Moore"

Jumping the iPodEmail This EntryPrint This Article

PlayStationPortable.jpgBoth Sony and Microsoft have recently announced efforts to "jump the iPod" with video downloads.

Neither effort is serious, in terms of 2005 serious. Both are attempts to place markers on the future and gain agreements with the content industries they think will mark the future.

And this is just what's wrong with them.

You don't open up a new market by focusing on the seller side of the transaction.

You open up a new market by focusing on the buyer side.

Continue reading "Jumping the iPod"

April 01, 2005

The Issue of Our TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The following appeared today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, now into its 9th year of publication.

You can get it free any time.


Science is the political issue of our time.

It will surprise many to hear it's controversial. But to those with an historical perspective it's no surprise at all.

Continue reading "The Issue of Our Time"

We Love Vint CerfEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vint cerf.jpg Over the years I've been critical of Vint Cerf, one of the original gearheads credited with TCP/IP.

(One look at the hairline, of course, and one must admit he's a Truly Handsome Man. The picture is from Computerhistory.org, a page describing his early work.)

When Cert looks into the future today, he gets it. He understands where we should be going, and perhaps more importantly where we should not be going, in regards to the Internet.

He shared some of that wisdom Wednesday at a dinner called Freedom to Connect.

Following are some of the high points:

Continue reading "We Love Vint Cerf"

Venture Capitalists No Smarter Than Anyone ElseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

An IEEE study shows the excesses of venture capital in the late 1990s actually stifled innovation.

The image, taken from the IEEE Spectrum story, shows what a venture capitalist should be doing, looking for ideas. In fact, as the study indicated, most 1990s' VCs replaced that light bulb with a dollar sign.

It's something I strongly suspected at the time. It's one reason I called my newsletter a-clue.com, because I saw so many Clueless people drawing such fat checks and directing such big funds toward the cliff.

But it is nice to get some confirmation.

In the study by Bart Stuck & Michael Weingarten, over 1300 public offerings over 10 years were analyzed, and scored 1-5 for innovation, with 1 being very innovative and 5 being me-too.

The study's conclusion is poignant. "Based on our experience, we believe that VCs really aren't the risk takers they're often made out to be."

Here's what I think really happened.

Continue reading "Venture Capitalists No Smarter Than Anyone Else"

March 29, 2005

Google vs. News Inc.Email This EntryPrint This Article

hg otis.jpg
The real Hardball isn't the game show on MSNBC, where politicians lie and yap at one another.

It's something far more serious, played every day, by huge corporations that masquerade as guardians of the public interest, but are in fact as corrupt as the rest of us. (That's LA Times founder Harrison Gray Otis on the right. More about Harry Otis here, near the bottom of the page. I direct David Shaw's attention to the quote from Theodore Roosevelt.)

The prerogatives of these corporations and their hirelings, who call themselves journalists (then deny this status to you and me) is under threat on this medium as never before. They're scared, and they're playing Hardball.

Their right, earned by corporate might, to define what is and what isn't news, what is and what isn't fair comment, is under threat, right here, right now.

And they don't like it one bit.

The game is being played mainly on three search engines. On MSN note how these corporations are given, not dominance, but exclusivity. The same is true on Yahoo. Note the list of "resources" at the top-right of the Yahoo page. Note too the prominence given one outfit's stories, the newspaper co-op called AP.

In both cases what you see on your screen is the result of business negotiation. News value is determined by people, meeting in rooms, and (perhaps) money changes hands (we're not told).

Is this fair? It may well be. It's certainly business as usual. And -- here is the key point -- the process is completely opaque.

On the other hand, we have Google News. What you see here looks similar but it is, in fact, quite different. While the stories of the giants do get prominent play, so do other organizations, and other types of news coverage.

At 11:15 AM for instance I checked Google's "coverage" of Laura Bush's trip to Afghanistan, sorted by relevance. Position four was held by a right-wing group, the Conservative Voice. Position seven was held by a left-wing site, Counter Currents, posting a blog item from Counterpunch.

The results on all stories change moment-to-moment, and only a small part of what we call the blogosphere is represented, but the fact is that Google News is offering a far wider set of sources than its rivals. These include "official" outlets like Voice of America and Pravda. They include newspaper sites requiring registration. They also include many sites from outside the U.S.

In some cases, they even include blogs. Yes, even this one.

But that's not the full extent of Google's challenge to the news industry.

Continue reading "Google vs. News Inc."

March 25, 2005

How To Kill Your NewspaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

newsboy.jpg

This weekend Slate offers a feature of Philip Anschutz, a conservative businessman (and big soccer fan) who has launched printed papers under the name the Examiner in Washington and San Francisco.

Jack Shafer syggests Anschutz needs to invest more in editorial and consider the Web in order to be taken seriously.

Correct and double correct.

I wrote about this several weeks ago, and what follows is that original copy. You can get it free
any time.


I have a love-hate relationship with newspapers. (This newsboy is advertising news of the Titanic's sinking.)

The business has been at the heart of my "profession" for a century. The whole idea of a journalist as a professional is also a product of this business. I took my graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism. Joseph Medill was the old reprobate who built the Chicago Tribune empire.

But as I've said many times here this whole idea of a "journalism profession" is a fraud. Professionals can make it on their own. Journalists can't. If you don't have a job you are not part of the fraternity. Even if you build a journalism company based on your vision of what the profession should be, you are always nothing more than a businessman.

The New York Times recently quoted a newspaper consultant as saying "For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free."

Here in one sentence we have the utter cluelessness of the industry. Here is an opportunity waiting for someone to exploit it.

Continue reading "How To Kill Your Newspaper"

Content's Forgotten Middle ClassEmail This EntryPrint This Article

discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.jpgIn all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.

The fact is that, while most western countries are middle class, the structure of their creative classes is pre-Marxist. That is there are a few writers, artists, musicians and actors who get rich from it, and a lot who get virtually nothing.

Unless you have business acumen, or constant success in your field, you're very likely to end up poor. And without a big hit, you're nearly certain to end up relatively poor from your work in the content industries.

At the same time, those who manage the industry, whether or not they have any talent, nearly all wind up rich.

Thus there's a difference between what we find in society as a whole and the content society.

Continue reading "Content's Forgotten Middle Class"

March 24, 2005

Mobility Bridges the Digital DivideEmail This EntryPrint This Article

vodafone_logo.gifPerhaps I should be skeptical, given that this is a company-funded study with a result favorable to the company that funded it.

But the evidence is just too compelling. The cure for the Digital Divide is the mobile phone, and the results are so obvious no big subsidies or taxes are needed to make the change happen.

Here are some facts that really jumped out at me:

Continue reading "Mobility Bridges the Digital Divide"

March 23, 2005

Bill Nye for PresidentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

bill nye.jpg Few people understand this yet, but there is a thread tieing together most public issues in our time.

That thread is science, the issue represented best by comedian Bill Nye, the Science Guy. Thus the headline.

This Administration, and its acolytes, oppose science. But science is our only hope for solving real problems. As a result America's competitiveness is disappearing.


  • In the Schiavo case, Bush is ignoring the science showing the death of the brain is the real death, not the beating of a heart.
  • In the case of Alaskan Oil, Bush is ignoring both the sciences of global warming and of hydrogen replacement.
  • This Administration favors the ignorance of "intelligent design" over the science of evolution.
  • The isolation of scientists from political decision-making guarantees ignorant decisions.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for this Administration's supporters to point to an issue, or a decision, or a controversy, where their side supports real science. Instead, science itself is increasingly politicized.

The idea that science is under direct attack remains inchoate in the American electorate. Despite repeated political calls by real scientists for more science education, and a greater use of science in decision-making, those involved in technology remain reluctant to brand George W. Bush their enemy.

Continue reading "Bill Nye for President"

The Gibson Safety DanceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Gibson Safety Dance, named for sci-fi author William Gibson, involves companies changing their software simply to keep other programs from accessing it.

It's increasingly common. We've seen it in Instant Messaging, we saw it recently with Microsoft Office, and now we're seeing it with Apple's iTunes.

Jan Johansen, the Norwegian programmer who wrote DeCSS so he could play DVDs under Linux, has entered the fray with a program that breaks the iTunes DRM so Linux users can buy them from the Apple store. Apple's response has been to change the software and keep this from happening.

Continue reading "The Gibson Safety Dance"

March 22, 2005

Sunrise, Sunset for Poor Man's CellularEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Technology moves in waves. What's passe in one place may be very cool in another. This is how you can cross the digital divide.

Here's an example. At the same time NTT DoCoMo is closing down its Personal Handyphone System, moving customers to more advanced forms of mobile telephony, it's growing like topsy in China, and Atheros is rolling out a new PHS chip.

How does this work?

Continue reading "Sunrise, Sunset for Poor Man's Cellular"

March 18, 2005

The Oil CurseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Spindletop.gifNote: The following was published today in my free weekly e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com, now in its 9th year. Join us -- always free.


The great financial Curse is to have money coming out of the ground.

I didn't believe this when I started in journalism. I started in Houston, whose economy was based entirely on the concept of money coming out of the ground - Black Gold, Texas Tea.

For most of history, money has mainly come out of the ground. Assets were what you could drill for, what you could mine, or what you could grow. The exceptions to this rule were those of trade. If you sat astride a trade route, if you had a deep water port, if the railroads decided that your location would work for a station, then your land had value.

Moore's Law has changed all that. The Internet has changed that for all time.

Continue reading "The Oil Curse"

So Now You Notice...Why?Email This EntryPrint This Article

jeff jarvis.jpg
Who is to blame for the vapid nonsense of celebrity journalism?

To some extent, you are.

When I write about things that are really important, about space or futurism or how our lives are changing with cellular, few notice. This is normal service.

When I step on the tail of Tina Brown, suddenly the blogosphere pays attention.

Partly as a result our most popular blogs are the cattiest, the most like the worst of the Main Stream Media attitude I criticized.

Is this an attack on Jeff Jarvis? (That's him on CNN.) No, it's not. He's responding to the market, to the audience, to you.

Continue reading "So Now You Notice...Why?"

March 16, 2005

Alternate AttentionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Over in New Orleans, the assumption at this year's CTIA show is "The Next Big Thing" is video.

Video clips, sold like ringtones. The mobile Web is TV, just as last year's mobile Web was radio. (The picture is from the story linked-to in this paragraph, at PocketPCMag.com.)

I think this is wrong-headed thinking.

That's not to say video won't have a place. It will, especially where desktop Internet penetration is low. Within a few years, I suspect, we'll see a "mobile BitTorrent", because the kind of video that will be in highest demand will be that which is most likely to be suppressed, and not shown on TV.

But video still isn't the Killer App for the next wave. Video is going to remain a niche.

What is the Next Big Thing? Glad you asked.

Continue reading "Alternate Attention"

March 15, 2005

The Tech Tax Proposal Sucks (There's a Better Way)Email This EntryPrint This Article

African leaders are pushing a "Tech Tax" that would go into a UN-sponsored fund and build the technology infrastructure of developing countries.

NOTE: Please visit the page where I got this illustration, by Los Cybrids. The words here express my overall view of the matter better than this blog item can.

On the surface, a "tech tax" sounds like a very good thing. It has a laudable goal. I'm very much in favor of telecommunications development everywhere. It brings markets together. It raises people up, brings them education, gets them into the mainstream. It's great.

But in practice, this proposal sucks. It sucks big time. Here's why.

Where's the money going?

Continue reading "The Tech Tax Proposal Sucks (There's a Better Way)"

March 14, 2005

Spectrum Law Is Not Property LawEmail This EntryPrint This Article

When John W. Berresford speaks, the Bush Administration listens.

Berresford is the FCC's senior antitrust lawyer and a professor at the right's favorite school, George Mason. He has power and the connections to turn his statements into policy.

So when he came out with a paper today about spectrum policy, it was bound to be read avidly.

In his paper Berresford favorably compares the law of land property to that of spectrum. He notes how property rights and spectrum rights are limited under the law, often in the same ways, and states that "efficiency" should be the watchword in spectrum policy.

We should know what we're in for when, in his first paragraph, he mischaracterizes the debate:

Debate rages about whether the allocation and management of the radio frequency spectrum should be mostly a political process, treating it as “The People’s Airwaves,” or mostly market-driven, treating it as private property.

That's not the debate. The debate boils down to science and markets. What treatment of spectrum best serves the market, that of a government-owned monopoly or a carefully-managed resource?

We haven't just "discovered" how to use vast new areas of spectrum in the last 20 years. We've learned a lot about how such spectrum can be re-used, again-and-again.

Thus the argument of property vs. commons isn't a left-right argument (as Berresford supposes in his introduction). It's an argument over science and efficiency.

And the plain fact is that the spectrum which is most efficiently used in this country, which makes the most money per hertz, by far, is the unlicensed spectrum.

Berresford ignores both the science and market forces behind this fact.

Continue reading "Spectrum Law Is Not Property Law"

Who Will Break The Chain Against DRM?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Digital Rights Management is a conspiracy.

Once someone breaks it, it's broken.

That's the view of Cory Doctorow, a short version of what he told TheFeature recently.

There was a similar conspiracy against TV in the 1950s, he noted. None of the studios would produce programming for TV, and anyone who worked in TV was blacklisted.

Then one brave company broke the chain. Disney. Walt Disney needed money to open his amusement park, TV offered it. The move gave him an enormous competitive advantage, as big as Ted Turner's advantage in using satellites 20 years later.

Continue reading "Who Will Break The Chain Against DRM?"

March 13, 2005

America Rising? No.Email This EntryPrint This Article

Cynthia Webb (left) is sporting a collection of recent U.S. media reports claiming a "renaissance" in America's consumer electronic market share.

There are more American labels around. Apple. Motorola. Microsoft. The U.S. companies are good at seeing the opportunity and writing software that works.

Our balance of payments is not helped by it.

As Cynthia notes (deep in the article), these boxes are being made in China. (Actually most of them are being made in Taiwan.) Some of the software conceptualizing is being done here, as is the marketing (although I suspect some of that software work was off-loaded to India).

Those failing, flailing Japanese outfits she mentions, meanwhile, are still doing everything in Japan. Or they're doing "too much" in Japan. Except for Sony and Nintendo Japanese companies were never good at anticipating demand. Mitsubishi, Canon, C. Itoh, Ricoh, et al -- they were manufacturing houses. They were China before China was cool.

But the Japanese are getting wise. American Howard Stringer is Sony's new CEO. He knows the game. Expect most Sony stuff soon to come with a "Made in China" label.

What's the real story?

Continue reading "America Rising? No."

March 11, 2005

Dean Kamen Gets ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

What should a rational U.S. technology policy include? Very simple:

  • Honor education.
  • Pay educators.
  • Invest in Big Science, big dreams.
  • Turn scientists and engineers (even young ones) into stars.

Fortunately, someone gets it.

Dean Kamen (right) gets it.

Yeah, the Segway guy. Here's how he puts it on the home page of the educational organization he founded, US First:

"Create a world where science and technology are celebrated... where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes..."

I can't say it any better.

Best of all, his words are backed by action. What follows is my personal testimony to this:

Continue reading "Dean Kamen Gets It"

Doerr Doesn't Get ItEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A delegation from the TechNet lobby, including John Doerr (Rice '73) and Cisco chief John Chambers, were on Capitol Hill today warning legislators that the U.S. is in danger of losing its technology lead.

By some measures, it has already happened.

TechNet wants more spending on math and science education, especially in middle schools, and more tech-oriented retraining for displaced workers.

Amen to that. Both my kids felt math was fun in 4th grade, but neither is pursuing it anymore. My son's school refused to challenge him in 7th grade, resorting to a curriculum he'd already learned, and he lost interest. My daughter was bedeviled by reading difficulties and her strength in math was ignored.

Then Doerr went off and spoiled it all by saying something stupid.

Continue reading "Doerr Doesn't Get It"

March 10, 2005

Moore WisdomEmail This EntryPrint This Article

As we approach the 40th anniversary of Gordon Moore's Electronics article, the man himself (Intel co-founder and namesake of this humble blog) has appeared to join the celebration.

While the headlines spoke of Moore's skepticism on materials that might replace silicon, I was more intrigued by his views on Intel, where his foundation still holds a considerable stake.

He's pretty happy. He likes the idea of pushing platforms over performance. It makes sense to him.

Moore also gave an irascible cur whom he quit a half-century ago credit for the creation of what's now Silicon Valley.

Continue reading "Moore Wisdom"

Blu-ray Bags AppleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The logjam over the next optical storage standard may be about to break, as Apple has joined the Blu-ray Group.

The announcement at Germany's CeBit today means that HD-DVD, the rival technology, has lost yet-more momentum. Dell and H-P are already on the Blu-ray side.

This news is bigger than it sounds. Read on.

Continue reading "Blu-ray Bags Apple"

Gates Feeling Groovy, or a Microsoft OzFestEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Bill Gates has finally hired himself a new CTO.

It's Lotus Notes inventor Ray Ozzie. While Ray may think he sold a company to Microsoft, Groove Networks, in fact his world is about to get rocked like never before.

Groove does collaboration tools, and Microsoft (an early investor) is interested in those things. But I don't think Gates signed off on this deal to get Groove's technology, otherwise he never would have un-retired Nathan Myhrvold's title. (Microsoft currently has three people with the CTO title, meaning no one really has the power.)

The bottom line is that Gates needs Ray Ozzie, and he needs him bad.

Microsoft puts more dollars into new technology development than just about anyone else in the world, but it gets less bang for its buck than any outfit since Xerox PARC. Microsoft Research has a ton of high bandwidth people, they're doing all sorts of high bandwidth things, but when was the last time Microsoft introduced anything of real importance?

That's what Ray will be tasked with sorting out.

Continue reading "Gates Feeling Groovy, or a Microsoft OzFest"

Where EDGE Cellular Makes SenseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The cellular technology called EDGE doesn't make sense for the U.S.

It's not that fast. It costs real money. By the time a carrier installs EDGE his competitor may have true 3G available, and now you've spent your budget but lost the market.

But in the developing world, in places like Africa (the future users pictured here live in Benin), EDGE may make perfect sense. Stuff of New Zealand offers some glimpses of it today.

Continue reading "Where EDGE Cellular Makes Sense"

March 09, 2005

BBC Gets It Wrong On ChinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC has a feature today claiming China's censorship of the Internet is highly effective.

In some ways China has been effective. All ISPs and access points are licensed and monitored. The Great Firewall of China rejects controversial queries. A blogger who criticized the authorities using their own name would be quickly arrested.

But there's a lot more to the story than that:

Continue reading "BBC Gets It Wrong On China"

Negroponte's Mobile ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I don't always agree with Nicolas Negroponte (right), but he made a point in Korea recently that really makes sense.

Simplicity is the secret of cellular success.

This is true for hardware, for software, and for services. Future hardware designs must make it easy to connect, hands-free. Software must have intuitive user interfaces, as simple as speech. Services need to be spur-of-the-moment.

A lot of the mobile services I see today violate these principles big-time. They're based on Web interfaces, and thus have a limited time horizon. The key is to get inside the phone, so you're bought as soon as the customer thinks of buying.

Continue reading "Negroponte's Mobile Clue"

March 03, 2005

Barrett for PresidentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I used to like Intel chairman Craig Barrett.

Now, as he prepares for his May exit from the job he's had for seven years, I love Craig Barrett. (Image from ComputerWorld's Heroes page.)

Steve Stroh thanked VNU for the news tip, and I hereby thank Steve. But in his final address to the Intel Developer Forum, Barrett basically went off on the FCC.

I wish I had been able to say this:

"I believe in the Hippocratic Oath for government: first do no harm. That means sorting out spectrum allocation, fostering R&D and creating an environment to let business function," he said.

"[WiMax] is the solution to the 'last mile' broadband issue. It will get us out of the half-assed broadband situation we're in today. 1 Mbps to 2 Mbps is not broadband; 50 Mbps is."

Tell it, brother Barrett. Amen. More on what this means after the jump.


Continue reading "Barrett for President"

March 01, 2005

BellSouth: Clued-in or Clueless?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Is BellSouth being smart or stupid in avoiding the merger mania now sweeping its business?

Rivals and investment bankers say it's stupid. BellSouth must either eat or be eaten, they claim, and once SBC has finished eating AT&T it wll chow down on BellSouth.

Maybe yes, maybe no. It must be admitted that rivals who've merged, and bankers who are selling deals, both have reasons to diss the company refusing to dance.

But there's another way for things to go. Because while there will soon be fewer players in the telecomm space, there will also be fewer real assets.

Continue reading "BellSouth: Clued-in or Clueless?"

February 28, 2005

Gates Gets A ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Gates Gets A Clue"

February 25, 2005

The Climax StateEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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


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

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

It's just as imprisoning.

Continue reading "The Climax State"

One Word: PlasticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

What does this mean?

Continue reading "One Word: Plastics"

Aloha Means CompetitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

Let Steve explain:

Continue reading "Aloha Means Competition"

February 23, 2005

The Return of VoiceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

So does IBM.

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

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

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

Where do we go from here?

Continue reading "The Return of Voice"

February 18, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "The Chinese Century Begins (Really)"

February 17, 2005

The Value of ReputationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

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

He's right. But does it matter?

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

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

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

What happened?

Continue reading "The Value of Reputation"

Photonic UnityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Photonic Unity"

February 16, 2005

Cato The CluelessEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

Nope.

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

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

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

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

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

Want a taste?

Continue reading "Cato The Clueless"

WiMax is LeapfrogEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

Continue reading "WiMax is Leapfrog"

February 14, 2005

Gibson WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

It's William Gibson (right).

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

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

Continue reading "Gibson World"

February 10, 2005

The Human Middleware ProblemEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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

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

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

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

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

But we can do much, much better.

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

Continue reading "The Human Middleware Problem"

Open Source PoliticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article


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



I was wrong about something important last year.

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

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

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

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

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

The new generation is the Internet Generation.

Continue reading "Open Source Politics"

February 08, 2005

More On CellsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few more points:

Continue reading "More On Cells"

February 07, 2005

The WiMax SplitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

Which is it?

Maybe both. Maybe neither.

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

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

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

So what will WiMax become?

Continue reading "The WiMax Split"

Let's Do LunchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

Here's one.

Stardate.

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

Think of it as Science made into Drama.

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

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

More after the break.

Continue reading "Let's Do Lunch"

February 04, 2005

RSS DreamsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

And what is my problem?

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

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

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

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

Corante is interested in this as well.

Continue reading "RSS Dreams"

Food on PaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

An ink-jet printer that makes gourmet food?

The New York Times has found it.

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

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

Now that we have proof of concept, what next?

Continue reading "Food on Paper"

February 03, 2005

The Legal Threat To GrowthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I agree with President Bush on something.

Lawyers represent a major threat to our economy.

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

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

For limited times. To promote progress.

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

Continue reading "The Legal Threat To Growth"

February 01, 2005

The Closeted GenerationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder they don't care about freedom.

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

Continue reading "The Closeted Generation"

The Key to Growth is CompetitionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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

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

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

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

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

This is difficult to assure.

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

Continue reading "The Key to Growth is Competition"

January 27, 2005

The Music of Wolfram SpheresEmail This EntryPrint This Article

One big difference between IBM and Microsoft today is that, while both are filled with "high bandwidth" people, those at IBM seem to have a greater creative freedom.

Here's an example. It's a great little piece by IBM engineer Paul Reiners about turning Stephen Wolfram's cellular automata into music, using Java.

This presses all kinds of buttons for me. I'm a Wolfram fan. I like open source (and IBM is still rumored to be working on an open source JDK). I like music. I love the link between science and art. And the idea of an engineer learning to play music (or tap dance) is also attractive. Something else to think about is how Reiners pushed most of his links into a resources sub-head at the bottom of the story.

Now where does this take us?

Continue reading "The Music of Wolfram Spheres"

An Intimate WorldEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Steve Stroh pointed me to a John Perry Barlow piece (that's Barlow, at right, from his blog) illustrating the power of the medium as few stories can.

It seems that Barlow was recently jolted by a random Skype phone call from Vietnam. He got to know the caller well because she shared a wireless broadband connection with some neighbors. Thus he was able to talk with her, see her work, see her photos, to learn all about her, without leaving his desk in New York. Then he got a similar call from China, and later one from Australia.

Here's the bottom line:

One doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.

And there's more after the break.

Continue reading "An Intimate World"

January 26, 2005

Open Source CampaignsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

gdtop3.jpg
I wrote this for the GreaterDemocracyblog, but I'm also posting it here, because I can.



The software you have on your PC determines what you can do with it. The software a campaign or political movement uses reflects what it can do.

The biggest mistake Howard Dean made in his 2004 campaign wasn’t his attacks on Gephardt, and it wasn’t the scream. It was his software’s failure to “scale the intimacy,” to give the 1 millionth, or 10 millionth, campaign participant the same features, and the same sense of belonging, given the 10th and 100th.

Throughout the campaign, and even to this day, Dean and his Democracy for America have relied on Movable Type as their interface with supporters. MT is a good product, but its interactivity is limited. You enter an item on the blog, and comments flow from it in a straight line.

Continue reading "Open Source Campaigns"

January 24, 2005

Bush's Robot ArmyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've been re-reading the last in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, called Homeward Bound, and I'm once again struck by the similarities between the U.S. military in Iraq and the Lizards of the story.

The Lizards (not to give the story away) invade Earth i 1942, at the height of World War II. They have the weapons of 2000, Earth has what it had. The overall theme of the piece (which has now run into its seventh 500-page book) is human ingenuity vs. reliance on technology.

I don't know what they're thinking with this latest battle robot. (The picture, which I'm confident betrays no military secrets, is from the BBC.) But I'm pretty certain we're going to have some captured, disabled electronically and then grabbed under covering fire. The wireless link between the operator and the bot is the weak link.

And what happens then?

Continue reading "Bush's Robot Army"

January 21, 2005

HearthStoneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: The following was published as the lead item in my newsletter, A-Clue.Com, today. You can subscribe here.



I got a neat birthday present last week. My mom came by to visit.

Continue reading "HearthStone"

January 19, 2005

Moore's Inverse Law of LaborEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I have been singing the good news about Moore's Law for many years now. It spurs productivity, it spreads knowledge, it increases the rate of change across the board, etc. etc.

But there is a dark side to all this that most who write on technology don't talk about. (The image is from Youngstown State University in Ohio.)

That's what I call Moore's Inverse Law of Labor.

Simply put, Moore's Law makes large productivity gains absolutely necessary. To compete in a Moore's Law world, you have to continually replace people with technology, and move folks' time into more productive tasks, or they fall behind.

This is true for individuals, for business, for government, for nations. It has very profound implications for all of us.

Let's think about some of them:

Continue reading "Moore's Inverse Law of Labor"

January 13, 2005

Where To Learn Net SecurityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Where's the best place to learn the art of network security?

My guess is it's an online gambling site.

Most such sites are based in either the UK, the Caribbean or Australia. Because of U.S. legal pressure they were already in the forefront of isolating traffic geographically, at the ISP level. Also because of U.S. pressure, they are frequently on their own when it comes to defending their business interests. (UK police, however, are apparently cooperative.)

All this means that, if you're into security, this is an opportunity.

Continue reading "Where To Learn Net Security"

January 10, 2005

The Great RaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

NOTE: The following was published in this week's edition of my free e-mail newsletter, A-Clue.Com. You can get on the list here.



The Great Race has always been between tyranny and freedom, with order as tyranny's worthy handmaiden, and crime as freedom's ugly stepsister.

The triumph of liberty in the 20th century was basically a technological triumph. It was Moore's Law that did it. Moore's Law, and all its antecedents, changed the rules of the economic game, of the power game, and the balance between rulers and the ruled.

Moore's Law, the idea that things get better-and-better faster-and-faster, means that trained minds are the key to economic growth. Willing hands, the key to economic growth in the industrial age, matter far less than they did. Chains may keep trained hands working. They don't do so well with trained minds.

In America the result, as Dr. Richard Florida (left) wrote, was the rise of a new "Creative Class" that could dominate societies and drive economic growth. These were people, accused of wealth and guilty of education, whose values were intellectual and meritocratic, and (perhaps most important) were capable of economic satiation. Creative people have, on the whole, risen through Maslow's "hierarchy of needs," and are in search of self-actualization, not food or even luxury.

Continue reading "The Great Race"

January 04, 2005

Dissing Open SpectrumEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Chris Davies offers a fine dissent on open source spectrum today.
If you look at his example it even looks compelling.

There are problems with power management, with computing requirements, and with wave attenuation in the open spectrum idea. But the problem isn't inherent in the spectrum proposal of Kevin Werbach (left), and the solution isn't to sell spectrum to the highest bidder. That doesn't really deal with the problem.

The problem is two words: real estate.

Continue reading "Dissing Open Spectrum"

January 03, 2005

Back To Balls For BuckyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For some time interest in Buckminsterfullerene, the unique form of carbon created at my alma mater, has focused on Buckytubes, not Buckyballs.

A Buckyball is a single carbon-60 molecule, shaped like a tiny soccer ball. If you don't cut off the ends, and instead extend the shape into a tube, you have a molecule of almost limitless size, and with enormous strength. A space elevator, as I conceive it, is basically a circled Buckytube that reaches from a point at the Equator to geosynchronous orbit, so that a cab coming up one way is matched by one going down.

But in the short run that's science fiction. There is a lot of proof-of-concept work to do before you can really go after the money, and there we're talking of billions-and-billions.

What Buckminsterfullerene needs, more than anything, is a profitable market that will spur further development.

And now it has found one.

Continue reading "Back To Balls For Bucky"

December 15, 2004

Liberal LudEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I am a big Lauren Weinstein fan. But his reasoning for being suspicious of Google leaves me thinking of two words -- Ned Lud.

But let's be fair, and offer his entire post to Dave Farber, in full:

Continue reading "Liberal Lud"

December 06, 2004

Really Always-OnEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The BBC has a piece today showing how the World of Always On could be invisible, worn instead of held.

We've already seen undershirts embedded with medical sensors. But Ian Pearson predicts we're going to move, over the next 10 years, to a world of devices imprinted on the skin.

Continue reading "Really Always-On"

Digerati News BlackoutEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The Digerati are about to undergo a serious news blackout.

Dave Farber (the picture is from Joi Ito's blog) will be putting up his Interesting People list for 10 days starting Friday as he travels to an undisclosed location with poor Internet access.

This is news because Farber's list has morphed, in the last few years, from a way for Farber to tell friends what he thinks into a real community, where talented people pass stories back-and-forth and comment on them.

It's truly remarkable because, in a technological sense, this should be obsolete, no news at all. Farber's is essentially a shared, moderated mailing list. When someone sends something interesting he forwards it along, and the digerati who are part of the list depend on his unerring sense of what's important (and what isn't) to keep the signal-noise ratio extremely high.

What happens when Farber goes dark isn't just that we lose a news source. We lose contact with all the other people on the list, because we don't have any other place in common.

So if this blog, or your other favorite news source, reads like it's one-eye blind next week you'll know why.

Continue reading "Digerati News Blackout"

December 01, 2004

The Promise of India and ChinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For the foreseeable future, India and China are going to dominate the world economy. (Get your India shirt here.)

Europe and Japan are tired. America is distracted.

It gives me no pleasure to note this. I'm an American after all. But those are the facts.

Yet there is a real, glowing bright side to them.

You see it when you do some math.

Continue reading "The Promise of India and China"

Read The Fine Print: Pennsylvania's ShameEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Philadelphians are celebrating an agreement with Verizon which, they say, allows them to offer a citywide Wi-Fi network despite a law, signed (shamefully) by Governor Ed Rendell yesterday, aimed at stopping the municipal WiFi movement.

But they need to read the fine print.

Wetmachine has the story:


HB 30 prohibits the state or any municipality (or any municipally owned or operated entity) from providing any sort of telecom or broadband service for any kind of remuneration. The bill grandfathers any existing systems, tho, so no one will get cut off.

Sound good? Read on:

Continue reading "Read The Fine Print: Pennsylvania's Shame"

November 30, 2004

RISKEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Reduced Instruction Set Knowledge.

That's the acronym I've coined to explain Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science, which I began reading yesterday.

The acronym takes its cue from Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC), a chip model that swept through computing science in the 1980s, when Wolfram was doing much of the theoretical book that resulted in this book.

The idea of RISC was that, by cutting the number of tasks a chip could do, breaking down more complex ones into pieces, you could actually get more done by raising the chip's clock speed. This innovation, found in chips like Sun's SPARC, was later adopted by nearly everyone.

The idea of RISK is there are a relative handful of patterns which, when repeated or combined, can help us understand and explain what seem to be very complex phenomena.

RISK also describes what Wolfram is doing here, putting his reputation on the line to push, not an idea, but a new way of thinking about ideas. It is nothing if not audacious.

Continue reading "RISK"

November 29, 2004

Wolfram For The 21st CenturyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Stephen Wolfram is one of the most amazing people of our time.

He is known to the lay person, if at all, for a program called Mathematica, which has done as much for the acceleration of change as Moore's Law itself.

By boiling down what you can do with mathematics into a computer program, Mathematica freed science from waiting on mathematics to analyze data. The program helps you devise formulae that work, so the results you get are proven. When people would say "it's not rocket science" they were often referring to the combination of math and science required to launch a rocket. Now, thanks to Wolfram, even rocket science isn't rocket science anymore.

Not only that, but Mathematica made Wolfram's Wolfram Research a going concern, a real business. It freed him from the demands of academe. He truly became the elephant that could tap dance. (He's no Gates, but he's pretty good at it.)

Still, as they always say, what have you done for me lately?

Something quite amazing, actually.

Continue reading "Wolfram For The 21st Century"

November 22, 2004

The Real ChinaEmail This EntryPrint This Article

For those not enjoying our online novel, The Chinese Century, here's a piece of non-fiction that may leave you even more upset. (That's a 1963 Time Magazine cover, by the way, of which prints are available for purchase.)

This story comes from our good friend Rajesh Jain. But it originated with the San Jose Mercury-News' Silicon Beat. (Let's see. China to San Jose to Bombay to Atlanta -- nothing but net!)

It's an interview with Ronald Chweng, chairman of Acer Technology Ventures. Acer is based in Taiwan which China calls a renegade province, and the U.S. once called the Republic of China. Chweng's charge is to find U.S. investments. He says there are plenty, but that the focus may be changing.

It may be moving East.

Continue reading "The Real China"

November 10, 2004

Adjusting Wi-Fi To FitEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Here's an issue I want more attention paid to, framing a wireless network so that it fits the geographic space used by its owner.

This is literally putting a square peg in a round hole.

Continue reading "Adjusting Wi-Fi To Fit"

November 09, 2004

The King Of Yes, ButEmail This EntryPrint This Article

At the Accelerating Change conference I attended at Stanford last weekend the undisputed star was David Brin. (Left, from his Web site.)

Brin is a science fiction writer, a physicist, a futurist, a skeptic, and a great public speaker. With no PowerPoints and few notes he held hundreds of very bright people in thrall for 45 minutes and made it look effortless.

Brin’s theme was the election. For the first time in American history, he said, a President won re-election by running against the Enlightenment, against Galileo, against pragmatism, against the very idea of criticism as a good.

Brin’s talk was a therapy session. “We need criticism,” he said. “Karl Popper said that if you're not making falsifiable statements you're not making statements.” And he could have added, you only learn when you change your mind.

Continue reading "The King Of Yes, But"

November 08, 2004

The Second Life (of lawyers)Email This EntryPrint This Article


A big highlight of the Accelerating Change conference at Stanford last weekend was a demonstration by Linden Labs of Second Life. (The image is from Second Life's Web site, meant to explain the game.) It is, as its home page notes, "a 3D digital world imagined, created and owned by its Residents."

Second Life lives in a server rack somewhere in San Francisco. Each server represents 16 acres of virtual space, where users' avatars can live, work and play. So far there are about 500, but 10 more are added each week. Think of it as Everquest without the plot.

In Second Life the users own what they create. It's a simple concept, but one that is extremely hard to implement. For instance, the demonstrator couldn't pass around any of the work done in Second Life because Second Life doesn't own it. Thus, he couldn't sign the conference's standard release form, which lets the organizers have rights to what's shown.

Continue reading "The Second Life (of lawyers)"

October 22, 2004

Jeff Hawkins, FuturistEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I would much rather see Jeff Hawkins of Palm Computing fame making the future than commenting on it, but his past role in making it does make his comments more important.

Actually he has a whole book of comments coming out, called On Intelligence, and Amazon says it will be released Monday.

He talked to Business Week recently as part of his book promotion tour. Here is some of what I distilled. .

Continue reading "Jeff Hawkins, Futurist"

October 11, 2004

Yon HappensEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Outsourcing. It's not just for Americans.

Yonhap News reports that Korea's LG Electronics (old-timers remember it as Lucky Goldstar) is going to build its next mobile handset plant near New Delhi, in India.

October 07, 2004

Creative Class Going Into Exile?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, says there is evidence that the U.S. is beginning to lose these people to other countries.

This brain drain may be the most startling economic event of the last four years, and one of the most damaging in the long run.

Florida's original book, published in 2002, said that attracting creative, motivated professionals to a city was the key to economic growth. Such people are often accused of wealth and guilty of education. His Web site has a lot of background material, much of it in the form of attrractive charts.

Florida estimated there are about 38 million such people in the U.S. and said they are young, highly mobile, and attracted to exciting, tolerant places. A shortage of them can bury an economy over the long run.

Continue reading "Creative Class Going Into Exile?"

October 06, 2004

Megatrends on SteroidsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Remember Megatrends?

John Naisbitt and a herd of library assistants basically looked at news stories from all over the world in order to divine underlying trends -- they extrapolated the recent past to describe the future.

He made a bundle.

Now a man named Charles McLean, working at an outfit called the Denver Research Group, has updated the concept using RSS feeds. David Ignatius (pictured, in his official portrait) has the story.

The title of the piece is "Google With Judgement," a title suggested by McLean. What he does is monitor 7,000 political sources (probably everything with an RSS feed) in an attempt to catch trends before they start.

McLean is cagey on his specific methodology. He's trying to sell the process for big bucks to corporations that need to know what the market's thinking quickly enough to act on it. But it sounds like he's databased a bunch of feeds and learned to distill their meaning pretty accurately.

Continue reading "Megatrends on Steroids"

September 13, 2004

Why The Wi-Fi Market Is StalledEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The 802.11 market is stalling.

I know because Broadcom has warned that its sales are flat.

Broadcom absolutely rocks in the Wi-Fi chip market. It is constantly ahead of the curve. It has great relationships with OEMs and product marketers. TI and Intel look good, but no one plays the inside game as well as Broadcom, trust me.

And if Broadcom is catching a cold, then everyone else has pneumonia.

Why is this?

Continue reading "Why The Wi-Fi Market Is Stalled"

September 02, 2004

Whither Bluetooth?Email This EntryPrint This Article

If it works do more of it. If it doesn't try something else. (Picture from 365 Registry.)

This bit of wisdom was given to me by John Audette. I worked with his Multimedia Marketing Group during the boom. He gave me a free trip to Bend, Oregon (which was wonderful). He was saying this in the context of running a business, but I've found it also applies to technologies.

Specifically I think it applies to Bluetooth.

Continue reading "Whither Bluetooth?"

August 25, 2004

VOIP Hardware Go-AheadEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Despite a regulatory regime that is impossible to obey (isolating data traffic that's to be turned into voice on a network with trillions of transactions going through it each second) hardware makers are going ahead with the production of Voice Over IP (VOIP) hardware.

Linksys and Netgear are the latest to say that voice support will become part of their residential gateways Real Soon Now. (For more on VOIP, buy O'Reilly's VOIP book, right.)

In this case, however, the Feds will be glad to know there's actually less here than meets the eye.

Continue reading "VOIP Hardware Go-Ahead"

August 07, 2004

I, Robot (I, Subversive)Email This EntryPrint This Article

The most politically subversive movie of the year is not Fahrenheit 911*.

It's I, Robot. (Image of the poster from AMEInfo in the UAE.)

My 13-year old son dragged me to see this Will Smith vehicle today. It tells the story of an evil, soulless corporation (check) whose creatures seek to destroy freedom in the name of security (double check).

But wait, it gets better. (Of course, if you click you'll learn the whole plot, so consider this your spoiler alert.)

Continue reading "I, Robot (I, Subversive)"

August 03, 2004

Population Bomb Defused?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Remember The Population Bomb? This was Paul Ehrlich's Mathusian nightmare scenario from 1968, the idea being that population was growing so fast the Earth would be unable to sustain it.

Well, a funny thing has happened on the way to Armageddon. While the world now has nearly twice the population it did when Ehrlich wrote his book, the rate of growth worldwide is slowing. Some places are even de-populating.

That's the conclusion of Nicholas Eberstadt, of the American Enterprise Institute (from which the picture was taken). And it's not just happening in Japan and Europe, either.

Continue reading "Population Bomb Defused?"

Spectrum: The New FrontierEmail This EntryPrint This Article

A very important political story snuck by us last week. I blame John Kerry for it.

The story is the new push by Intel for 802.16 WiMax spectrum.

While there are lots of high frequency bands in which WiMax could live, the inescapable fact is that the lower your frequency the farther your waves can travel. That's why AM stations can be heard across the country (when conditions are right) while FM stations have trouble being heard across town.

Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney (above, from the Intel site) is lobbying China, the UK and the U.S. to open up space in the 700 MHz band, frequencies UHF TV stations will be abandoning as they move to digital broadcasting, for unlicensed use as WiMax transmission bands.

Continue reading "Spectrum: The New Frontier"

The Real Problem With MicrosoftEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've been looking at Microsoft from the inside and outside, and I have finally figured out the company's big problem. (Photo from the BBC.)

It's a lack of entrepreneurs.

Microsoft hires smart people, who have good ideas. But Microsoft has just one entrepreneur. His name is Bill Gates. Everyone else is a manager.

This is why Microsoft is looking more and more like IBM. This is precisely what happened to IBM itself, as Tom Watson Jr. exhausted his Last Big Idea (the IBM 360), suffered some heart problems (he recovered), and left the company in 1971, aged 55.

IBM, in the 1970s, became bureaucratic, it became backward-looking, it devoted itself wholly to the interests of its big customers. It became vulnerable to the first kid to come along with a Clue.

How can Microsoft solve its mid-life crisis?

Continue reading "The Real Problem With Microsoft"

July 28, 2004

Within Five Years...Email This EntryPrint This Article

There will be no such thing as a phone network anymore.

There will only be data. Voice is a low-grade data service. Every service provided by the voice network can be emulated through software.

Clue one. AT&T has stopped marketing long distance voice.

Clue two. Skype now serves regular phones through agreements with four backhaul carriers.

Out of such Clues are grand predictions made.

Continue reading "Within Five Years..."

July 06, 2004

Tim O'Reilly's ClueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Tim O'Reilly could have been a lot of things on the Internet. (The image is from the HollandSentinel.Com.)

He could have dominated it. A decade ago his Global Network Navigator was THE place to start every Internet session. Launched in 1993 it was the Web's first real home.

Of course, the Web outgrew it very quickly, and Tim had to decide where he wanted to fit into what would quickly become a whole new World. So he sold GNN to AOL, in 1995, and remained true to himself, as publisher of esoteric technology books with woodcuts of animals on their covers.

Since then, of course, O'Reilly & Associates has become an important brand for technical types who need a deep, honest understanding of a language, a protocol, or an Internet technology.

And O'Reilly himself has continued to speak out on things that interest him.

Continue reading "Tim O'Reilly's Clue"

June 17, 2004

Language As TechnologyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Language is an important part of technology.

It's not just marketing, and I'm not just talking about science fiction. (Although one of that field's masters gave me the idea for this post.) (The picture, by the way, is from a really great study site for students, tips4me.com)

Words like RAM, MIPS, PDA and blog come-and-go, shorthand for the tools we build. But I'm not talking of them, either. Every profession has its "magic words," and a journalist needs just to learn a few of them to be admitted to a source's world.

No, I'm talking about words that themselves become technology.

Continue reading "Language As Technology"

June 12, 2004

Why Are Programmers So Down?Email This EntryPrint This Article

I've been looking at this story for days, wondering what to make of it. (That's a Techtoon from a happier time.)

First, it's true. My dear wife is a programmer and morale is down at her place. There's real fear out there. There's fear of India, but more than that, fear of being replaced by someone younger and cheaper.

"Do you know they don't even call themselves programmres?" she asked me one night. "Now they're developers."

Continue reading "Why Are Programmers So Down?"

June 09, 2004

Technology vs. PoliticsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'll be out for the next few days. I hope to launch a new Web site, and see whether the last year's work was just a dream, or whether I might someday be paid for it.

Meanwhile, I've got some deep thoughts for you, about the growing conflict between technology and politics.

Continue reading "Technology vs. Politics"

June 03, 2004

Best Of Both WorldsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

CNN.Com has an AP profile out on the R1, an imaging system from New York photographer Clifford Ross (he's the R) that combines the best of chemical and digital photography. (This image of R1 comes from Ross' own Web site.)

The camera itself is based on one formerly used for aerial spying during World War II. He added vacuum pumps and a microscope to make sure the film stays absolutely flat. Then, after taking his picture, he digitizes it into a 2.6 Gbyte file and uses Adobe Photoshop to adjust the color.

Continue reading "Best Of Both Worlds"

More On Barrett's ChallengeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

My recent piece on Barrett's Challenge drew a strong response from Jay Molstad:

As a scientist with a Ph.D. from a good school, this is an issue of serious concern to me. But I believe that the problem goes deeper than education.

I am on the job market after another postdoc, and the job openings that would justify educating more scientists just aren't there. If anything, the average market value of a scientist seems to be going down in real terms. Biotech is booming, and infotech is post-boom, but in chemistry (my field) and other basic sciences the trend has been down for a while.

(snip)

American industry has basically stopped funding basic research, presumably because it doesn't make money anymore (there was a time, not long ago, when it made lots of money). The students may not understand the fundamental economic causes, but they know that the fast track to big bucks no longer goes through the physics department. If anything, science education gets in the way of the gormless optimism that the market really rewards.

I don't think that a PR campaign, or even an expansion in the science education budget, can make a dent in this problem. A massive government investment in basic research might make a difference, if it was big enough (raising the budget of the NSF by a factor of 10 or something similarly ambitious). It may be, in the final analysis, that we're simply starting to reach the limits of what science can do.

There's a lot of meat here. Let's chew on it for a while:

Continue reading "More On Barrett's Challenge"

June 01, 2004

Barrett's Next ChallengeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm still a Craig Barrett fan.

Barrett has a year left to run Intel before turning it over (most likely) to Paul Otellini. It's a reflective time. And in a recent talk with News.Com, he reflects on the "complacency" of America.

As Intel CEO this doesn't matter much to Barrett. The company can grow anywhere. But as an American it must upset him, especially since, before joining the company he was an assistant professor of materials science at Stanford. He's walked the walk of education.

So what should Craig Barrett do next? I have a few ideas.

Continue reading "Barrett's Next Challenge"

Political Principles for TechnologyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I'm for growth and change. It's the only way to stay ahead of population and pollution without engaging the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse full-time.


The success of the 1990s, and the technology industry failures of our own time, have brought me to some political principles that need to be embraced by everyone -- and which are opposed by politicians of every type -- in order to bring back growth.


  • Competition
  • Privacy
  • Transparency
  • Liberty

All these were seen as important in the 1990s. All have been discarded in our time. And we have paid the price for that.

Continue reading "Political Principles for Technology"

May 20, 2004

The Right Route Toward Better IdentityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

I've said this many times, but I'll say it again.

Better identity would be a great boon to the technology industries. (Image from Region-Zero.Com.)

But we're not going to get there by making it mandatory, as the UK is trying to do. A poll there, where the government is trying to mandate identity cards over the next few years, shows 28% ready to demonstrate against the scheme, and 6% ready to go to prison rather than comply.

Yet better, more reliable identity is absolutely necessary to reduce crime, including terrorism.

So what do we do?

Continue reading "The Right Route Toward Better Identity"

March 28, 2004

Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your FaceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

There are more wails and gnashing of teeth today. Journalism is being outsourced.

C|Net's Builder.Com, which features technical articles for application developers, has decided to push half its editorial to an Indian outfit. According to a memo obtained by Newsforge, the idea is that it's easier to sign one contract for the editorial calendar than a bunch of contracts with freelancers.

On the surface this sounds appealing. But who is taking responsibility here? Not a writer, or an editor, a company. Are we even going to see bylines?

But there's another issue at play here, one that may cause C|Net, and others to rethink their position.

Continue reading "Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face"

March 18, 2004

The Only Answer To EverythingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

The only answer to our economic ills is education. (Mortarboard from MIT, praising Dr. Daniel Kopp.)

I’m not talking here about schools. I’m talking about me and you.

Most of us think our education ends at graduation. But it doesn’t. Mine hasn’t. All my college education gave me were the tools with which to learn other things. And so I have kept my skills up for nearly 30 years.

Of course I’m lucky. I was a “liberal arts” major – actually political science, history, and lots of English (which I liked a lot). These things don’t change much. The Civil War was still when it was, and Shakespeare’s plays haven’t changed. Yes, the interpretations are different, the way they’re being treated is different, but if you put me into a classroom today I could get along.

This is not true for my lovely wife (insofar as her 1986 Master's in Business Information Systems is concerned), and it’s probably not true for many people who took technical subjects. Science changes. The engineering landscape changes. Majors exist today where knowledge didn’t exist in the 1970s. Her first computing class was on a PDP machine, with punch cards. All engineers face this. Old skills become obsolete, new skills become vital, and if you don't keep learning you atrophy.

So our whole attitude about education must change, and the way we organize it must change as well. We’re in a global race to the top of the stack in every field, and anyone who can’t climb is going to be left behind.

Continue reading "The Only Answer To Everything"

February 26, 2004

The Music Must ChangeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

This has always been one of my favorite albums, but not just because of the music (or the words):

The music must change
For we're chewing a bone
We soared like the sparrow hawk flied
Then we dropped like a stone
Like the tide and the waves
Growing slowly in range
Crushing mountains as old as the Earth
So the music must change

Look at the picture again. This is 1978, at the dawn of the PC era. This is the band in front of just some of the equipment they need to perform. Think of all the money that cost.

Now consider how much it would cost today, and how big it would have to be. It would probably pack in a suitcase, and cost just a few thousand dollars.

Continue reading "The Music Must Change"

February 23, 2004

The Dangers Of Politics In ScienceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Last week's startling attack on the Bush Administration's abuse of science should not go unremarked. (If you like the cartoon, start the process of buying it here.)

Essentially 60 top scientists directly accused George W. Bush of perverting science in the name of ideology, and compared him to Joseph Stalin.

Some people feel this may be a tipping point in the politics of our time, a moment when the powerful finally went too far.

But the cynic in me doubts it.

Continue reading "The Dangers Of Politics In Science"

February 20, 2004

More (or Moore) on The Tipping PointEmail This EntryPrint This Article

My recent note on The Tipping Point drew considerable comment in the blogosphere. (The seesaw picture is a cartoon from this page on the Library and Archives of Canada site.)

Much of the commenting was about the idea that Microsoft is becoming "commoditized," and some went so far as to predict China is going to undercut us by 99%.

While that's all well-and-good, and that might even be possible, I think the comments miss the point.

Yeah, you'll have to click below to get to the point.

Continue reading "More (or Moore) on The Tipping Point"