JUL2003 ARCHIVE

07.30.2003

Dana's been harping on this: the Chinese are getting into chips with "Culturecom Holdings Ltd says it has begun selling its V-Dragon chip, claiming 100,000 orders thus far." And they're doing their own 3G standard, too. Link.

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According to the USDA, 48% of farmers are connected to the internet. Link.

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Frank Raushel ... and colleagues tuned the enzyme phosphotriesterase to destroy the nerve gas soman1. A more efficient version could form part of a mask to protect against nerve agents, Raushel suggests.

Phosphotriesterase naturally breaks down soman, but slowly. Raushel's team has increased its activity by a factor of 1,000. This is still not fast enough to be useful, but the researchers anticipate that further tweaks should make the enzyme work even better.

Link.

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Privacy ruling in California: opt-in for customer information sharing with third parties. The judge also "said the banks don't have to follow provisions requiring customer permission before sharing personal information among affiliated companies, such as brokerage and insurance divisions. Federal laws explicitly allow such sharing, she said." Link.

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Browsing through news.

At New York Times, lead article on web is "Bush Looking for Means to Prevent Gay Marriage in U.S." followed by "Bush Acknowledges 'Real Threat' of Terrorism"

Washington Post has "Bush Takes Reponsibility (sic) for Iraq Claims"

I really don't know how quite to react. Except a mild shrug in disgust.

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This might not sound like much initially, but, those with optical networking experience might get excited. Link.

A research team at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) has for the first time incorporated on a single chip both a widely tunable laser and an all-optical wavelength converter, thereby creating an integrated photonic circuit for transcribing data from one color of light to another.

Here's why:

Data moves between coasts through nodes of the Internet located in cities like Phoenix or Houston, where the capability is needed to switch information arriving on one fiber as orange photons to continue the next leg of their journey on another fiber as red photons because the channel for orange on that fiber is in use. Today, this switching from one color to another has to be done by converting photons to electrons, switching electronically, and converting electrons back to photons.

The new postage-stamp-size device is a tunable "photon copier," which eliminates electronics as the middleman.

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Sony's upcoming PSP handheld platform will be built with wireless networking capabilities. Link.

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Let's talk about this terrorism futures market.

Of course, members of Congress fell over themselves to label the idea as abhorrent. (Go find your own citations ... they're easy enough to locate).

Then of course comes this piece from Wired (I'm sure there are others) that took a counter standard in that it might have been a good idea noting the familiar point that markets are very good:

The price of orange juice futures has even been shown to accurately predict the weather, noted David Pennock, a senior research scientist at Overture Services who has done extensive surveys on the reliability of such markets.

or

"Market mechanisms are more accurate than asking people their opinions because they're putting their money or reputation on the line," said Ken Killitz of the Foresight Exchange, which speculates on everything from the future of human cloning to the possibility that Roman Catholic priests will be allowed to marry. "It gives people an incentive to reveal what they know."

or

But exchanges "tend to predict events really well when no one person knows the answer -- when information is distributed among many people with different knowledge bases," said Joyce Berg, a University of Iowa professor who helped organize the political trading floors. "Markets have been shown to be really good at aggregating that information."

Politically, there's something of a whiff of anti-Poindexterism going on here. He's not popular among the congressionals (both his prior interactions with the legislative branch and being branded as the brains? behind the always-popular TIA).

More rationally, however, I don't think either group has it quite right. I agree it doesn't make much sense -- at least as I understood how it would function -- because I couldn't see the liquidity on two fronts: participants & repeatability.

Specifically, my understanding was that the participants would have been limited to "experts" and I don't believe we were talking about fixed events as commodities. In other words, I might believe that an terrorists might launch an attack in the Paris Metro, but unless enough people could get around the subject and buy/sell that future, it's hard to see the market mechanism really taking "the pulse."

Repeatability is probably most akin to reassurance. The events we're talking about are so infrequent -- and can be so staggering in implications -- that evaluation becomes that much harder. I know I'm not being clear on this point (forgive me), but hopefully you get a sense of what I'm getting at.

UPDATE: Ron Bailey at Reason supports the futures initiative here. Nothing in there that really changes my point of view (again, given my original limited understanding of executional fine points).

FURTHERUPDATE DefenseTech links some articles.

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Ozone depletion rates have slowed by 7% per decade. Researchers attribute to the decline of CFCs. But we're still 40 years away from recovery. Link.

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From Knowledge@Wharton: an interesting piece on how the perception of variety influences consumption. Link. (Believe thie is one of those registration required sources). The article focuses mostly on eating (quite literal consumption), but always interesting to get a new vibe on behaviors.

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McDonalds' Wi-Fi trials (powered by Comeat ... I mean Cometa) picking up steam. Link.

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Gartner thinks that 1 in 10 tech and service jobs will head overseas, with about half that shift taking place before the end of 2004. Link.

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AT&T partners with Covad to offer DSL (and play in the home-based offerings). Link. Noted a premium ("preferred") option offering 1.5mbps for $50 per month. Of course speeds are not guaranteed, but does that mean they're capping speeds at lower levels, or do you get a rebate if you've ordered the premium service and you're not getting the 1.5mbps figure?

Likely not, but just thought I'd ask.

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Interactive technologies, enabling input or interaction with devices through ordinary actions or movements, are highlighted in this piece from CNET.

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Busy day. Much researching. Resulting numbers seem high. Fiddlesticks.

07.29.2003

James DeLong takes on memes (that he attributes to academia and the left) that IP-heavy industries such as the recording industry and pharma sector charge too much. Link.

I don't disagree with his point that, in reality, the economic theory of price = marginal cost is less than applicable. But he oversimplifies the argument. There's insufficient time at hand to pose the argument, but the upshot is (a) the market sets prices, (b) the definition of "the market" has changed with visibility to global pricing/markets and high speed connections to thie home, and (c) reports and analyses regarding overcharging by these sectors should be viewed as just one component of how the market works and dealt with as such.

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VC funding trending upward nationally. Deal size, on average, much lower than 2000 ($6.4m vs. $13.1m in 2000). Link.

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WSJ has the best in-depth look into the most recent allegations against MCI. Link.

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CNET reports on FBI efforts to wiretap VoIP. "The FBI-drafted plan seeks to force broadband providers to provide more efficient, standardized surveillance facilities and could substantially change the way that cable modem and DSL (digital subscriber line) companies operate." Link.

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New Linksys product focuses on PC as central media device. Link.

So what about making a wireless connection between TV, home hi-fi system and PC?

This what the Linksys division of Cisco Systems want you to be able to do with its new line of Wireless Home products. The first is a wireless multimedia device called the Wireless-B Media Adapter (WMA11B). Clearly the 'B' is there to either confuse the general public, or to appease the 'mobiliterii' and allow them to show their knowledge of variatious 802.11 wireless standards.

Either way, it's a box that allows your PC to send pictures and sound to your TV without wires.

Now we're talking lots of data and the WMA11B has some serious processing to do. The underlying power is provided by an Intel XScale PXA250 processor. This enables support for the main picture formats, gif, jpeg, tiff, png and windows bitmap, and the power to decode digital music files. The WMA11B connects on one side to standard red white and yellow audio and video jacks or s-video connector, and the other via a wireless connection or standard wired Ethernet cable. A remote control and simple menus displayed on the TV are all it takes to control it - after all this is a consumer device.

What it means is you can simply view your digital camera images on your TV. You can zoom and pan the images while viewing and set up a slideshow. With the audio in place you could also listen to digital music while you view. Easy.

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BT re-enters the mobile market, and (at least somewhat to my surprise) spurns its former spin-off for T-Mobile. Link.

07.28.2003

Apologies for getting to this late today. But I suspect that's going to be the MO for awhile. Tradeoff for getting busy.

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Outsourcing services provided by Primate Programming Inc. Link.

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More on flash mobs at Smart Mobs. (And, via Die Puny Humans, here's the London flash mob site.)

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Via /.: I'm looking forward to the potential for Linux desktops or tablets -- whatever comes first. SuSE Linux Desktop, which had received positive reviews apparently has some teething problems working with Windows computers. Link.

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Via Corante: Wal-Mart (rightfully) gets serious coverage at b-schools -- just as long as the lesson is not too much about how to replicate. Link.

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Via Corante: Wireless NewsFactor goes in-depth into sensors. Link.

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UWB (802.15?) is progressing through standards process at "breakneck pace" -- should be approved by end of next year. Link. Is that supposed to be satirical?

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Mmmmm. Link.

...an online futures exchange where the "commodities" are possible Middle East events such as the assassination of political leaders.

The intent of the project, called the Policy Analysis Market is to use "market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events," according to a Pentagon report to Congress. One question posed in the Pentagon report: "Will terrorists attack Israel with bioweapons in the next year?" Traders would be those willing to bet their own money on when the events will occur....

The Department of Defense's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, is funding the project but said it won't have access to traders" identities and funds....

Here's how it would work. Traders could purchase one-year futures contracts that would assess possible economic, civil and military events in Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. As benchmarks of how well or poorly a country is faring, traders can nominate specific events, such as the overthrow of the King of Jordan or the assassination of Yasser Arafat. The contracts would set a specific date by which the event must occur, and traders would buy and sell based on what they think will happen. One example cited on the project's Web site: the U.S. will recognize Palestine in the first quarter of 2005.

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We in the US don't like international standards. Need further proof? Piece from CNET regarding IPv6. Link. More seriously, I'd suggest that if we were unencumbered by the current economic uncertainties, the argument might be less significant. As it is in the US, I'm not quite sure who (outside the DoD) would be willing to spend for it.

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Subscribers for Vodafone live! up from 1.5m at the end of May to 2m at the end of June. Positive. Though not earth-shattering. Link.

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According to the WSJ, Disney is thinking about going the MVNO rout. All for it, but PLEASE don't enter the market as a telco player. (Think a more Sony-like approach). Link.

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The Diamond Age cometh a step closer. Link.

Conjuring gemstones from thin air sounds like one of the alchemist's more ambitious projects. But that is what a team of chemists from China is claiming to have achieved by making small diamonds from carbon dioxide....

The team claims its method could be cheaper and more efficient than some existing methods of synthesising diamonds, which require pressures of up five million atmospheres and temperatures that reach 1400 °C.

Chen and his colleagues make their diamonds by reacting CO2 with metallic sodium in a pressurised oven at only 440 °C and 800 atmospheres. "This is the lowest temperature reported so far for diamond synthesis," he says. After 12 hours, the grains of diamond can be separated from the sodium carbonate, graphite and unreacted CO2 that remain.

And then you come up with this piece replicating the matter compiler. Link.

Freaky.

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Engineers at the University of Calgary have developed a pill that

...will determine how healthy or ill the patient is, and will release just the right amount of medicine accordingly.

Dubbed the Intelligent Pill or iPill, the new drug-delivery system packs a micropump and sensors that monitor the body's temperature and pH balance into one pill. If the body's temperature and pH reach certain levels, the iPill responds by pumping out more or less of its drug payload. It could be used to treat many ailments like AIDS or diabetes.

Link.

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If you haven't read it yet, here's FCC Chairman Powell's New York Times op-ed on the media consolidation furor. Link. It's cogent. Nevertheless wish something like this would have been written to push public debate prior to June 2.

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Via New Scientist: a "new type of on-board computer for satellites" has passed its first major test. The circuits are configurable post-launch but are therefore susceptible to cosmic ray damage -- which means they need a way to check and repair themselves. Link.

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Interesting piece in this month's Scientific American regarding the Digital Divide. In short, the author believes the gap is not about inability to access the internet, but rather lack of application. Pick-up the issue. Or alternatively, if you have a subscription to SciAmDigital click here. Or wait until they put it online.

07.27.2003

Population with HIV/AIDS growing rapidly in India -- grew 15% during 2002 to 4.58m. Link.

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Concerns regarding fishing practices in the Southern Ocean (waters surrounding Antarctica). Link.

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Via Wired: Nice page from the EFF "How not to get sued by the RIAA for file sharing." Link.

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Executive decision reached today. Think I'll begin doing the archive dump a week later than I have. Not exactly sure why this idea has hit me now rather than earlier, but that's the magic of consciousness. (Or maybe laziness.)

07.25.2003

Southeast Airlines may become the first to offer free internet access and reasonable voice calling with the caveat that one might need to endure advertising. Link.

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Via Politech: fine print worth reading for iTunes users considering traveling (link); some inside comment on how "hard drive detectives" work (link); thoughts on the Wait Listing Service (WLS) (link).

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Forbes on GSK transforming its drug discovery process. Link. Take with grain of salt (as anything you would from Forbes), and continue to watch for what happens.

But in GSK's new lab, robotic arms remove compounds from the freezer and pipette them into 1,536 pinhead wells on plates the size of letter envelopes moving along a conveyor belt. Each tiny well contains a disease-linked target and the equipment instantly reads what's happening in each of the 1,536 microtests. Software feeds news of a "hit" back to the freezer, the promising molecule is automatically reprioritized among the stacks, and a whole new series of tests begins. Almost 300,000 such automated tests are conducted each day.

Peter Goodfellow, who runs the division, says it now takes about three years from the time a drug candidate is identified in the screening process until the first clinical trials begin. The industry average is five years.

Wanting to unleash the entrepreneurial energy found at biotech companies, Garnier and Yamada created six autonomous units around the world, each with a SWAT team of 280 to 450 biologists, chemists and other lab scientists. These centers are run by a project manager, much like the project leaders found inside car companies, and they are responsible for sorting through Goodfellow's leads, discarding the toxic compounds while shepherding the most promising through early-stage testing.

Result: GSK's predecessor companies produced 10 to 15 drug candidates a year for early-stage human testing. Today a streamlined GSK is producing candidates at the rate of 25 to 30 a year. If GSK manages to sustain these productivity gains and produce useful drugs, Garnier's and Yamada's restructuring will have profound repercussions.

But Garnier is also shrewd enough to realize GSK isn't the best in every field of discovery. That's why he controversially folded the drugmaker's licensing division into R&D, instructing Yamada to cut deals with the biotechs, pharmaceuticals and universities working on promising compounds that complemented what GSK was doing in-house.

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So now we have chipsets combining 802.11B and VoIP. Link.

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Via Smart Mobs: the introduction to this piece is a little deceptive, but it's basically about a smallish firm, Plastic Logic, that is able to incorporate electronic circuits cheaply onto polymers so that they can incorporated into nearly anything. Link.

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Via Moore's Law & /.: an interesting case in Portland where the city's PGE Ballpark doesn't "want a community wireless networking group, the Personal Telco Project, to provide Wi-Fi service to people in their ballpark because the team has a sponsorship deal with Comcast." As Dana notes, there are no rules governing interference with an unlicensed frequency. Link.

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Zack Lynch posts his article on Neurotechnology and Society (2010-2060) here. I'm unsure whether I'd talk about the economic impacts of NBIC (nano-bio-info-cogno) convergence as he does, but it rattled a few branches.

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Via /.: In-dash computer from Xenarc Technologies here.

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Via Corante: security experts told a House subcommittee that the US DoD relies too much on commercial software. Here.

"Most of those products are not written to be used in an environment where there is a significant threat," Spafford told the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities. "We have ... attacks being committed by hackers, by anarchists, by criminals, probably by foreign intelligence services. The (commercial) products have not been designed to be reliable or robust under those kinds of circumstances."

Also

In addition to relying on too much commercial software, the DOD uses the same software across many of its systems, forming a "near mono-culture," Spafford added, without naming any software packages. Common software products suffered about 2,000 vulnerabilities last year, he said.

And

Outsourcing software development is good for the world economy and good for U.S. software vendors trying to compete in the marketplace on price, but using this software for computer systems containing national security information may be questionable, Spafford said.

"It introduces a tremendous vulnerability to our systems," he said. "The software is being developed, sometimes tens of millions of lines, by individuals whose motivations and agendas may not be fully known."

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IVF pioneers state that embryonic stem cells can end infertility by creating eggs and sperm for infertile couples. Here.

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Edible food wraps here.

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The sky is ... rising. The troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere, has apparently risen by several hundred meters since 1979. Link.

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Interesting piece from Tech Central Station on EU membership's advantages for Bulgaria -- and the things that may not change. Link.

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Gateway's troubles continue with 20% decline in revenue (selling 490K PCs during the quarter, a 25% decline). Sales of non-PC products of total increased from 24% in Q1 to 28% in Q2. (Doesn't the math suggest that sales of non-PC products also fell?) Link.

Msg to Mr. Waitt: don't talk about commitment to the current PC market. Talk about commitment to the new computing devices market (gaming, consumer-lite).

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Chinese companies are developing their own 3G standard, TD-SCDMA. Link.

Most industry experts expect that the American and European technologies still will capture substantial shares of the Chinese 3G market. The country's largest wireless telephone carrier, China Mobile, uses GSM technology, which is in place across all of Europe and much of the rest of the world. The European 3G technology, WCDMA, was designed as an upgrade for GSM, making it a logical choice for China Mobile. The country's second-largest mobile carrier, China Unicom, runs on the CDMA technology developed by Qualcomm, making it a logical candidate for CDMA2000.

But as the country's two dominant old-fashioned wire-line telephone companies -- China Telecom and China Netcom -- expand into the mobile business and gain licenses to build 3G networks, many analysts expect the government to press them to adopt the homegrown standard. Hua, the secretary general of the TD-SCDMA alliance, said he expects that even China Mobile will use the Chinese standard for part of its 3G network.

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The House passed "legislation to allow Americans to import U.S.-made drugs from Canada and two dozen other countries where they cost considerably less than they do here" in a 243 to 186 vote. Senate is still uncertain. Link.

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Developments on media consolidation in Congress. Too early to tell, but momentum has shifted towards overturning the FCC's increased cap on television ownership. Potentially sets up an interesting bout between Republicans in legislative and executive branches. Link.

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More ugliness from AOL Time Warner's America Online unit. WSJ highlights the over-hyped subscriber numbers here. CNET emphasizes online advertising challenges here.

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Formal announcement on Intel's partnership with the Alzheimer's Association. Link.

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Nextel's (& Motorola's) PTT technology (do I really need to trademark PTT?) will be tested by Jordan-based Fastlink and Nextel Mexico subsidiary, NII Holdings, internationally. Link.

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Wal-Mart allowing web customers to pay with electronic check. Link.

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Oracle ups bid for PeopleSoft-with-JDEdwards. Unreassuring.

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Different approaches to presenting the pictures of (reportedly) Saddam Hussein's sons highlighted by CNET here (interesting given general opposition to Al-Jazeera's use of graphic images).

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Researchers identified numerous security holes in the current set of electronic voting machines. "Our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts ... [A]s a society, we must carefully consider the risks inherent in electronic voting, as it places our very democracy at risk." Link.

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Four ISPs are suing SBC (in California, that leftest of coasts) for inflating wholesale DSL prices (highlighted here) and/or "bundling offerings for the high-speed service, known as D.S.L., for digital subscriber line, with equipment like free modems and by engaging in actions intended to discourage customers from switching to independent vendors, like delays in filling change orders." (here). Once again highlights the challenges inherent in having different regulatory rules across an increasingly converging/bundling landscape.

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Busy days Wed and Thurs. (Duty calls, you know.) More soon.

07.22.2003

From FuturePundit: "The study found that nodding your head up and down is, in effect, telling yourself that you have confidence in your own thoughts – whether those thoughts are positive or negative. Shaking your head does the opposite: its gives people less confidence in their own thoughts." Link.

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Telecommunications carriers are expected to launch a roaming Wi-Fi service across networks in Australian, Singapore, China and Malaysia tomorrow.

The service will allow subscribers to access more than 20,000 hotspots in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the year, including 17 at international airports.

It will be targeted at businesspeople needing Internet access while travelling.

The move was first announced by the Asian Wireless Broadband Alliance in March. Australia's Telstra, Korea telecom, China Netcom, Malaysia's Maxis and Singapore's Starhub are all involved.

Link.

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Via BoingBoing: Oil-money enabling big thoughts of building islands in the shape of palm trees by the UAE. Link.

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First human tongue transplant successful (assuming "successful" equates to being able to talk and eat, but not taste). Link.

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Earnings expectations management continues -- despite introduction of Reg FD, SEC activity and passage of Sarbanes-Oxley (link). To be fair: no one should be surprised: implications of share price are significantly financial to influence behavior.

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Testing Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle as it relates to macro-objects. Link.

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Kodak is entering the medical imaging space with acquisition of PracticeWorks, announced yesterday, for about $500m in cash. Link. (Hmm. Verticalizing a horizontal technology?)

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Further activity regarding micropayments -- thrust more apparently on execution side. Link.

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Dose of reality for those expecting easy WLAN access during your next hotel stay. Link.

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Happy to see headline in New York Times: "Pfc. Jessica Lynch Is Returning Home Today" -- less specifically because she's returning home, but happier that they incorporated "Pfc." rank. Link.

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AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS are reportedly discussing roaming across their public WLAN networks. Link.

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Google adds to its search capabilities with Advanced News Search. Link.

[The service] allows visitors to scour headlines by date, location, exact phrases or publication. People can use it retrieve articles from more than 4,500 news outlets publishing on the Web.

Advanced News Search adds to the company's ever-expanding set of Web navigation tools and improves on its specialty index, Google News, which was introduced last fall. For example, Google released a new browser toolbar last month that lets people block pop-up ads and easily update their blogs as they surf the Web. For its part, Google News has proved immensely popular, with roughly 2.5 million unique visitors in June, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

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Via Politech: Some reminders on how government can work. (Ah, where's that darned sausage-making allusion?). Link.

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Reason's Chris Doherty uses the recent case involving John Gilmore to take a broader look at privacy, including a reference to Brin's "The Transparent Society" and the "we are all guilty" argument. Link.

Read it -- I think it puts privacy into the appropriate light.

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Exel acquires Unidocks, a pharmaceutical logistics provider in Brazil. Link. Yet another example of verticalizing horizontals (and the fact that everyone wants to get into pharma).

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Via Corante: San Francisco Chronicle reports on Steve Wozniak's latest initiative.

They said the technology would create personal wireless communications networks that fill a gap between the geographically limited wireless local area network now available for computers and wider telecommunications networks like cell phone systems....

Like the RFIDs, the wOzNet technology uses standard 900-Mhz radio frequencies, but combines low battery power usage with the ability to transmit a small amount of data over longer distances.

The individual wOzNets can be moved from location to location, like from home to the park, and can tie into other individual wOzNets to create a community watch network, Wozniak said.

The devices would allow wOzNet zones, or hot spots, to extend over an area of 1 to 2 miles, but Wozniak said it could be expanded to cover as much as 100 square miles.

Link. According to CNET, launch expected early in 2004.

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Via Corante (sorry, didn't glance at WSJ y'day): Tensions between European telcos and shareholders regarding what to do with their "gobs" of cash (ah, visuals). Link.

A few thoughts:

(1) This underscores my view that fixed line commco players are the ones that can invest to drive change into their industry;

(2) Given self-interest, very few executives would be expected not to tell some kind of net income growth story. Coupled with fewer opportunities to improve bottom-line numbers through cost-cutting will force execs to increasingly consider the top line.

(3) Top line story is easy to talk about, much more difficult to execute on. Specifically, firms will point to opportunities related to geographic expansion, expanding share of consumer connectivity spend (e.g., bundles including entertainment and communication, fixed and wireless), and enterprise network-related IT spend. These are all viable possibilities, but shareholders and analysts must apply razor-sharp focus to the fine points of execution as all these areas are, generally, extremely competitive.

UPDATE: Qwest & SBC announced deals to partner with satellite-based content providers (Echostar and DirecTV) for consumer bundles. Link.

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"Executives at Amazon.com are negotiating with several of the largest book publishers about an ambitious and expensive plan to assemble a searchable online archive with the texts of tens of thousands of books of nonfiction, according to several publishing executives involved." Link.

Interesting on a number of fronts. It does create competition for Google and Yahoo as an information source but I think the more interesting opportunity lies in a meta-approach, leveraging both as potential vehicles.

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Caching once again runs into IP/copyright problems. This time it's not Google but rather ISPs using Joltid's PeerCache technology to cache high traffic p2p files. Link.

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Boosting carbon levels by .002% in martensitic steel improved time to rupture by a factor of 100. Appears to be driven by larger number of fine particles (5 and 10 nanometers vs. typical 100 to 300 nanometers) in vulnerable regions of the material. Link.

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Via eMarketer: Pointsec reports on mobile device use by enterprises, focusing mostly on the security risk. Found some of the usage-related data useful as well. (Question: I wonder what's more valuable: information on the portable device or information sent from remote users to corporate intranets?). Link.

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ReplayTV's new products will be more Hollywood friendly. (Hmm ... how long before someone hacks in and makes a few adjustments?) Link.

ReplayTV's new 5500 model, which will go on sale next month, will no longer be able to skip entire commercials automatically without recording them or to send recorded programming over the Internet to other ReplayTV users outside a home network. The recorders will, however, still be able to store large libraries of programming indefinitely and allow users to skip manually through recorded commercials in 30-second increments.

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NY Times reports on Disney's upcoming self-destructing DVD trial. Link.

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Two energy experts expressed doubt that hydrogen powered automobiles would cut air pollution and reduce dependence on oil imports. They suggest focusing on fuel efficiency and stronger environmental standards. Link.

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Researchers report evidence from a study using mice that stem cells from the brain do not provoke immune response when transplanted into another individual's body. Link.

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Earlier this month, the Pew Internet & American Life project issued a report on gaming at universities, suggesting that it's both more prevalent and has more of a social role than earlier expected. Link.

Gaming also appears to play a surrogate role for some gamers when friends are unavailable. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of students surveyed agreed that gaming, either moderately or strongly, helped them spend time when friends were not available.

Two-thirds of respondents (65%) said gaming has little to no influence in taking away time they might spend with friends and family.

Students integrate gaming into their day, taking time between classes to play a game, play a game while visiting with friends or instant messaging, or play games as a brief distraction from writing papers or doing other work.

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80% of internet users search for health-related information online, making it the third most frequent activity using the internet (1 being e-mail, 2 being product research). Link.

The information-gathering has been helpful, as 73 percent of health seekers say the Internet has improved the health information and services they receive. With 87 percent of the nearly 2,000 respondents claiming to be living with a chronic illness or disability, online resources could help them become well-informed patients.

07.21.2003

Perhaps should have warned. Thought I mentioned it, alas.

Laptop went into that long, dark night while I was away (no, it wasn't due to being left alone -- it was with me).

This evening chose to spend some quality time reformatting hard drive and reinstalling its (albeit) abbreviated functionality).

Few small things remain (e.g., reinstalling WinRAR's key, reinputting the settings for the web site on that machine) but bulk of effort completed, and have tested internet accessibility via the WLAN.

So following the work day, basically accomplished next to nil here (am typing this while Dreamweaver is re-installing itself -- looks nearly done so I'll close this off).

Speak tomorrow.

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Anti-WLAN hype here. (Whatever happened to objective, measured approaches to an issue? Or has that form of discussion gone the way of wearing baseball caps with bills forward and centered

07.18.2003

Cambridge University researcher John Gurdon and colleagues have transplanted adult mouse and human nuclei into frogs eggs and found that frog egg cytoplasm has compounds in it that induce the production of Oct4 RNA which is normally expressed only in pluripotent embyonic stem cells.

When the researchers injected the adult nuclei into frog egg nucleii, rather than into the surrounding cytoplasm, Oct4 levels shot up by a factor of ten. "The reprogramming activity is particularly concentrated here," says Gurdon. Molecules in the frog nucleus may be responsible for the eggs' revitalizing abilities, he speculates

The researchers think there are compounds in froog oocyes that reprogram adult nuclei.

"We believe that the ability of amphibian oocyte components to induce stem cell gene expression in normal mouse and human adult somatic cells, and the abundant availability of amphibian oocytes, encourages the long-term hope that it may eventually be possible to directly reprogram cells, easily obtained from adult human patients, to a stem cell condition,"

Link.

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Researchers at [Carnegie Mellon's] School of Computer Science (SCS) have received an initial 7 million dollars from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of a five-year plan to develop a software-based cognitive personal assistant that will help people perk up their productivity in the workplace.

Nicknamed RADAR for Reflective Agents with Distributed Adaptive Reasoning, the software will aid its human master with tasks like creating coherent reports from snippets of information, scheduling meetings, and managing email by grouping related messages, flagging high priority requests and automatically proposing answers to routine messages.

Link.

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Via Corante: Wal-mart and Home Depot push UCCnet, trying to address the $40B (0r 3.5% loss according to A.T.Kearney) lost in supply chain inefficiencies. Link.

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Advanced scanning technology reconstructs shredded documents. Link.

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Legislation passed by the House of Representatives on Wednesday

aims to create a federal Office of Global Internet Freedom and gives it $16 million to spend over the next two years. The office would be tasked with an unusual mission for a government agency: devising technical methods to prevent other nations from censoring the Internet.

"These regimes have been aggressively blocking access to the Internet with technologies such as firewalls, filters and black boxes," said Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. "In addition, these oppressive regimes habitually monitor activity on the Internet, including e-mail and message boards...The Global Internet Freedom Act will give millions of people around the globe the power to outwit repressive regimes that would silence them, and to protect themselves from reprisals in the process."

Link.

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"MyOrigo, a start-up company based in Finland, has developed a device that lets users scroll through menus, browse web sites and play games all by tilting the phone in different directions." Link.

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Bill Gurley talks about "The comeback of the mobile Internet." Link.

Lead-in was positive.

In the past twelve months, the cellular phone began to prove what many of its hard-core supporters have voiced for years--that the cell phone can be a leading springboard for interactive entertainment services. What's more, it could be much bigger than you realize, perhaps even bigger than the PC industry.

Right. Then we migrate to the fact that carriers are seeing some revenue benefit from wireless content.

[I]n April, Verizon announced that active Get It Now customers showed a $7.50 increase in Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). With ARPU declining steadily across the industry, any product or service that can increase ARPU is the nirvana of the cellular business model. Sprint and AT&T Wireless have announced increased download and ARPU traction as well.

Why cell phones should be the major platform:

As an alternative to other potential interactive technologies (game consoles, PCs, GameBoy), cell phones have some unique advantages. First and foremost, they are pervasive. The installed base of cell phones worldwide is around 1.3 billion. Second, most people carry them wherever they go--this is a real plus for interactive games as well as communication-oriented features. Cell phone games can entertain during "stolen moments"--time that would otherwise be wasted.

Additionally, cell phone carriers have been much more adept than say Internet portals in introducing billing or "wallet"-like features. You can "buy on a click" much easier on your phone than you can on the Internet--an example of the carrier using its previously existing billing relationship. Lastly, because all current cell phones have both a global phone number and an Internet Protocol (IP) address (with your carrier acting as the ISP), you already have a directory-enabling structure that allows any phone to easily link to another.

And it concludes triumphantly with the law of big numbers and setting the competition between the PC and cellphone platforms.

The punch line to this story is the law of large numbers--in this case the enormous numbers of cell phones launched around the world. Consider this: Analysts peg the worldwide installed base of active PCs to be between 500 million and 750 million. However, the active installed base of cellular phone users is, once again, approximately 1.3 billion. Looking forward, this gap is likely to increase. The IDC-reported number for annual PC sales is approximately 150 million. The current estimate for worldwide cellular sales is more than 400 million. Turn your eye to developing countries and the gap is even larger. In China, the installed base of cell phones, at 200 million, is already 10 times the size of the installed base of PCs.

I know I can be slow, but I think it's a false competition.

The point that bringing internet connectivity to whereever you are is clearly happening -- although last mile high-speed connectivity is still in flux.

The role and how devices are segmented is still changing and will be increasingly tied to need. In olden times, one could say that PCs and cellphones did fundamentally different things. However, the ability to shrink the physical footprint of a capable computation device, the fact that most people don't use most of their machine's capabilities, the price differential between PCs, tablets, laptops, PDAs, smart phones and game consoles, and the ability to modularize components (separating storage from processing for example) changes the dynamics where we must focus instead with needs and then figure out how to address those needs with products/platforms.

Finally, cellphones as a platform have several characteristics: yes, they are pervasive (given physical size, convenience and appropriate pricing), but their relatively small physical footprint (screen-size and keyboard/input) creates some challenges in terms of workability and, to a degree, immersability (for more avid gamer.

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Specs on Sony's Clie PEG-UX50 (with pictures). Nice, but pricey. Link.

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Charles Cooper, a CNET columnist, believes that the "next big Linux controversy" lies around liability if the product incorporates misappropriated IP. Link.

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Astronomers have created the "first detailed map" of dark matter mass by using weak gravitational lensing techniques on CL0024+1654. Link.

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"Smart cards" without saying so. Link.

Gonzaga University has chosen U.S. Bank to be its bank partner for the school's multi-use identification card.

The identification card already allows Gonzaga's 5,400 students and 800 faculty and staff members to use photocopy machines, check out resources from campus libraries, purchase meals without cash, and have dorm access. The new card can also be used as a U.S. Bank ATM card on and off campus and at many Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals in the United States starting August 2003.

07.17.2003

Free WiFi hot spots create some difficulties for the RIAA. Link.

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I have mixed emotions on David Kirkpatrick's recent "Fast Forward" column in Fortune (link). While I agree broadly with some of the points attributed to his friend, the CEO of WiFinder (e.g., WiFi will be much like air conditioning, not much money to be made but seemingly omnipresent and the transformative effect of WiFi) I don't think that Vohseip (voice over hot spot enabled IP) will be the leading disrupter of cellular players.

I think it's the plethora of network types (including different types of WLANs, 3G, GPRS, etc.) coupled with SDR that will drive serious change.

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FuturePundit reports on Intel's use of technology to "monitor the health and activities of senior citizens." Link.

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Via Instapundit: A brief Fast Company piece about Charity Navigator, a company that tracks and rates "efficacy of geting and spending" of non-profits. Link.

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In the fishbowl of life, when hordes of well-fed predators drive their prey to the brink of extinction, sometimes evolution takes the fast track to help the hunted survive -- and then thrive to outnumber their predators.

This rapid evolution, predicted by Cornell University biologists in computer models and demonstrated with Pac-Man-like creatures and their algae food in laboratory habitats called chemostats, could play an important role in the ecological dynamics of many predator-prey systems, according to an article in the latest issue (July 17, 2003) of the journal Nature .

Physicians, the Cornell biologists say, should keep this rapid evolution in mind when investigating interactions between diseases and victims. As one example, they say, it is useful in trying to understand how HIV, the AIDS virus, manages to evolve so swiftly that development of improved vaccines is extremely difficult.

Link.

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Via Corante: The New England Journal of Medicine "has pledged to aggressively seek out and publish research on embryonic stem cells to boost the controversial field's standing among politicians and the public." Link.

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The Register takes a long hard look at a recent report suggesting that development costs for WIndows embedded systems are a quarter that of Linux. Link.

It's actually is worth a read. Of course, it's only an opinion.

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"A new computer program can tell whether a book was written by a man or a woman. The simple scan of key words and syntax is around 80% accurate on both fiction and non-fiction." Link.

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The gene, which encodes a protein called 5-HTT, reveals its influence when people experience divorce, debt, unemployment or other occasions of "threat, loss, humiliation or defeat", Terrie Moffitt of King's College London and her colleagues have shown....

People carrying two short forms of the 5-HTT gene had a 43% chance of becoming clinically depressed after four or more stressful events experienced between the ages of 21 and 26. This compares with 17% of those with two long ones.

Link.

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AmEx joins the RFID party, testing in the greater Phoenix, Az area. Link.

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Consumer prices increased 0.2 percent in June as the cost of energy, clothes and air travel rose, the Labor Department reported. The advance in the consumer price index, which came after prices decreased 0.3 percent in April and were flat in May, might ease concerns that the country is headed for deflation. Separately, the Federal Reserve reported that industrial activity edged up by 0.1 percent -- for the second consecutive month -- in June, a sign that the battered industrial sector may be turning a corner.

Link.

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On the heels of Marvel Comics' box office success comes this piece about CrossGen's set of Hollywood projects. Of course, until the recent set of releases beginning with the X-Men, Marvel also had consistently a plethora of projects in the works.

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National Bureau of Economic Research reported that recession that began March 2001 officially ended eight months later. Now, aren't you happy? Link.

Most reasonable statement:

"Most households, most individuals, will really not believe that it is a recovery until we see that job growth as part of the picture," said Lynn Reaser, chief economist of Banc of America Capital Management. But, she added, "the official declaration of the end should help confidence on the part of businesses, investors and consumers."

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Further hints that Lucent, Motorola, and others need to look for alternative sources for revenue growth. Link.

"There are no signs of improvement in the infrastructure market this year," Jorma Ollila, Nokia's chief executive, told investors Thursday. "Operators' investment has decreased to exceptionally low levels."

The handset maker warned that it expects sales to decrease in its current quarter. Ollila predicted a 15 percent drop in cell phone network equipment sales worldwide this year compared with 2002.

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EMC picking up the "on-demand" meme. Link.

EMC is set to get in the game, too. In two weeks, the storage specialist will introduce a service called OpenScale that measures how much storage is actually being used, said Tony Marzulli, EMC's vice president of open software marketing. Customers will be charged accordingly....

The Collector software application is a web-based performance monitor for EMC's ControlCenter.net products and services. The Collector can gather data from storage, Unix, Windows, Oracle, and SAP R/3 environments for access by other EMC products and services such as AutoAdvice, OpenScale and SAN (Storage Area Network) Architect, the firm said.

Other storage systems providers, such as HP, IBM and Hitachi, have traditionally offered on-demand storage services that allow customers to turn on incremental blocks of storage when they see a need. However, EMC's OpenScale service--to be officially unveiled in two weeks--marks one of the first attempts to break storage subscription right down to granular details.

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Japanese airlines ANA and JAL will begin testing luggage with RFID tags. Link.

This "hands-free" delivery of luggage will be tested this year by the new Advanced Airport Systems Technology Research Consortium. It comprises 58 Japanese transport-related and electronics firms such as the Narita Airport Authority, Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airways (ANA), Omron, Dai Nippon Printing, Fujitsu and Matsushita Electric.

Testing will start later this year and carry on for the next five years, the report said. The airlines ANA and JAL will test the system this year at Narita Airport in Japan, as well as at airports in Singapore, New York and Amsterdam.

The Narita Airport Authority is aiming for commercial launch of the system in two to three years, according to Nikkei News.

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Microsoft is receiving positive feedback on Office 2003, most notably the ability to save things in XML format. Strikes me that this XML openness (at least as positioned by the article) is very one way:

Partnering with the software giant means they get to tap into those proprietary add-ons, which means they can offer Office applications as a way to view and manipulate back-end data. Given that no enterprise software maker can offer a user interface as familiar as Microsoft Word, that's a compelling advantage.

"It's a very usable user interface, and people spend a lot of time there," said Susan Funke, an analyst for research firm IDC. "I think that's a big part of why--if you look at somebody like a J.D. Edwards--(enterprise software companies are) definitely looking at Office 2003 in their strategy."

By giving workers a familiar interface, Office 2003 can help remove a roadblock that has helped prevent wider adoption of CRM software and other enterprise technology, Microsoft's Leach said. "One of the biggest challenges with these back-end systems is the tremendous ramp-up people have to go through, to get proficient at using it," he said.

Microsoft's integration of XML offers even more benefits for companies involved in the nascent Web services field, as it allows them to insert those services into Office applications. Microsoft gets to promote new whiz-bang services that make Office more useful, and service providers can offer their wares in the environment where office workers spend most of their day.

It will be interesting to observe the degree to which Microsoft's XML standard can be used the other way (e.g., compatability of Sun's StarOffice outputs with Microsoft Office). Coupled with a robust Linux desktop environment, could create problems for Redmond -- if one thinks about a sub $200 computing device. Link.

(Or of course, you could simply hack an Xbox and convert it into a sub-$200 PC. Link.)

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Ordinarily am a real fan of multi-tasking. But things quite hectic (including a four round match with my computer this morning). Expect blogging to be nigh absent until tonight.

Must also eventually reformat hard drive on the laptop. Unpleasant.

07.15.2003

More tired than I ought to be. Therefore heading to bed sooner than I should. & yes, my writing has indeed been less than inspiring and coherent of late -- but my right ear poundeth.

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Via /.: Some interesting information regarding Microsoft's attempts to keep Linux (this time unsuccessfully) from getting key toeholds. Link.

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Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA II), a rather odd observatory in the sense that it's buried under 1500 meters of ice, has produced its first survey of high energy neutrinos. No conclusions yet. Link.

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The New York Times describes the genesis of grid computing -- more specifically the computing science aspect. Link.

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WSJ looks at the ownership tensions underlying the Verizon Wireless (link). I think Verizon's position is far more sustainable than Vodafone's ... but that's just me.

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Light Reading examines commcos' particular style of bankruptcy. Link.

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Via Corante: The Observer obtained documentation highlighting links between scientific experts used by UK authorities and major companies in the industry segments they were advising on. Link.

I completely get conflict of interest and agree that one needs to manage it (or take it into account when receiving the input), but it's worth suggesting that most experts in a field are likely to have practical experience and much of the available experience will be driven by economic hubs that are the big industry players. Just bear that (and keep in mind how many companies are in your mutual funds) while you read through the points.

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AT&T and EIU report on the growth of teleworking. Link.

The survey indicates more than 80 percent of companies worldwide expect to have employees who telework or work remotely in the next two years, up from 54 percent today. And even though only 13 percent of companies offer financial and material help to teleworkers currently, that number will rise to about 32 percent in 2005.

The top three drivers of this 26 percentage point jump in telework cited by the 237 senior executives surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the business information arm of The Economist magazine, are better network access from remote locations (62 percent), better communications facilities (62 percent) and globalization of business operations (48 percent).

Although 64 percent of companies identified enhanced productivity as the top benefit of telework, more than half (56 percent) reported difficulty in monitoring the output of remote workers as the biggest obstacle to telework. The Economist Intelligence Unit report warns that those companies that cannot meet the supervisory and security challenges posed by remote working should be concerned, as remote working is just one facet of a larger strategic trend toward ubiquitous network access.

The Economist Intelligence Unit report also suggests that enterprises today are increasingly "net-centric"--organized around networks rather than buildings. Robust corporate intranets are enabling employees to access significant amounts of company information electronically through enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management applications.

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Scientists have engineered mice with a "remarkable ability to heal wounds." Link.

The researchers were analysing the role of a gene linked to blood vessel formation when they inadvertently created mice with significantly thickened skin, swollen ears, noses and eyelids.

Tests showed these mice also had the ability to rapidly heal wounds - two millimetre-wide holes created in the mice's ears closed completely within 28 days....

The mice were genetically modified to produce large amounts of a protein called angiopoietin-related growth factor (AGF) in a type of thickened skin cell called epidermal keratinocytes. The resulting transgenic mice showed an increased number of blood vessels in the dermis, suggesting that AGF does indeed promote blood vessel formation.

But further experiments revealed that AGF was also found in particularly high concentrations at the site of wounds. This suggests that the protein also plays a role in wound healing by increasing skin cell formation and improving blood flow to the area.

07.14.2003

When people are busy arguing about whether 802.11b or WiMAX or Zigbee or 3G networks will win out, remind yourself of this article (hint: software defined radio). Of course, reality for SDR remains out a few years, but it probably really is the simplifying answer.

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Via /.: Traffic to Kazaa and Morpheus both down about 15% following RIAA threats. Link.

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The Register reports on a report from Honeynet Research highlighting credit card thieves kindness to credit card thief wannabes. Link.

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Other products in the home (notably in the media realm) increasingly outfitted with WLAN capabilities. Link.

Both Cisco Systems' Wireless-B Media Adapter, introduced Monday, and Sony's RoomLink rely on a Wi-Fi access point and eliminate the need for cables. Wi-Fi networks, already in millions of homes and offices, use the 802.11b standard to create 300-foot areas where files can be wirelessly downloaded at up to 11 megabits per second. Both devices cost $200.

The wireless adapters are another sign of how Wi-Fi connectivity is beginning to expand its reach beyond laptops. Just two years ago, it was rare to find something other than a laptop on a Wi-Fi network. Along with home entertainment devices, tablet PCs, printers and handheld computers, stereos and televisions now employ Wi-Fi's 2.4mbps file-shuttling prowess.

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Yahoo buying Overture for $1.63B. Sayeth chairperson (lest we equate chairman with maile and chairperson with female) and CEO Terry Semel "The combined assets position Yahoo as the largest global player in the rapidly growing Internet advertising sector." (link).

The excerpt, though, I think is telling is this one from the WSJ (link):

Yahoo Chief Executive Terry Semel said in an interview that it is important for the company to have direct control of the development and tools necessary for generating search-related revenue. Mr. Semel said that this realization became quite clear as the company was preparing for its second-quarter earnings call.

The portion that Overture contributed to Yahoo's second-quarter revenue was roughly the same as the first quarter, he said. "That was too much control of our revenue" in the hands of a partner, he said.

Yahoo was also in the midst of making a decision about its international expansion strategy, Mr. Semel said. All the revenue from the Overture partnership comes from U.S. advertisers. "If we were to continue to expand with Overture outside the U.S., that number would obviously go up," Mr. Semel said.

This is really (I think) a defensive maneuver thay buys Yahoo a bit o' time. The web outgrew their business model and Yahoo never really caught up to it.

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Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) is thinking about on-campus experience, focusing on a "mall-like" experience. Link.

BWI's contract with HMS Host Corp. of Bethesda to run the 60 restaurants, fast-food stands and retail shops ends in April. The airport is seeking a developer to manage the concessions more like a shopping mall, where tenants lease space. HMS Host hires all of the estimated 500 employees in the concessions and brings in vendors.

"We want to have local, regional and international brands at the airport," said Gary Davies, who is overseeing the contract for the Maryland Aviation Administration, which owns the airport. "We want to see a broad range of food and prices. We're trying to make the airport experience as pleasant, comfortable and convenient as we can."

So the mall is now equated with good experience? (Insert mild expression of disgust here).

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A $7.9m IPO to fund a movie project? Link.

Civilian, which still needs SEC approval for the IPO idea, sees the concept becoming a regular alternative source of financing for indie projects, one that would allow movie buffs to invest, as the saying goes, in what they know....

The IPO plan includes a provision that the financed companies would have limited lives: Billy Dead Inc., for example, would be dissolved after about three years — the economic life span of a typical film. The residual rights to the film then would be sold and remaining assets, if any, would be distributed to shareholders in cash.

The LA Times focuses on the risks inherent in the investment (e.g., Ethan Hawke does not play the leading role, the subject matter might lead to an NC-17 rating) but there's something interesting (at least to me) in both the notion of democratic/public funding and short-term or project-oriented IPOs. In the former case, it would be extremely interesting to see how public funding would drive the publicity wheel and project selection. In the latter case, I've been a long-time proponent that some companies (e.g., Cometa Networks or INTTRA) are more like projects and, might be interesting to structure them as such.

As caveat: nothing taken to an extreme degree is necessarily good. And money, in particularly, tends to lead to piles of unintended circumstances -- so I'm not suggesting this is the wave of the future. But rather that it should be given thought.

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At last. A major bank (in this case HSBC) begins to focus on the Muslim market. The story is UK-centric, but of interest. Link.

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Beyond the sexiness of WLAN technologies of 802.11 and WiMAX standards of 802.16 lies ZigBee, a wireless standard leveraging unlicensed spectrum but focusing on low data rates, low power consumption and reliability/security (aren't we all). West Technology Research Solutions is thinking that ZigBee will take off. Link.

In a new report, analysts predict that more than 46 million ZigBee chipsets will ship in 2006 in the home automation segment alone and will continue to grow thereafter. “In the not-too-distant future, it will be common to find as many as 50 ZigBee chips in a house,” said Kirsten West of WTRS. “These will be found in light switches, fire and smoke detectors, thermostats, appliances in the kitchen, and video and audio remote controls. The same principles apply to networks in industrial, building automation and medical markets.”

Yeah, we all know how accurate these assessments can be, but, under the heading of embedded intelligence, ZigBee is worth incorporating into your brainspace.

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Head hurts. Drank insufficienct quantities of coffee to prepare myself for reading about anti-de Sitter spacetimes and conceiving the universe through holograph techniques might supercede field or string thinking. With that, be warned. Link.

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A scientist from Cornell University suggests that solar sails may not work. Link.

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Good Technology has learned lessons from RIM (who, by the way, will get completely trounced by the majors) and, in releasing GoodLink 2.0, will be emphasizing compatibility with more devices and networks. Link.

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New Scientists profiles technologies and tactics that could reduce death tolls related to gun crime and accidents. Link.

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Books have thus far been relatively immune to developments in file sharing. The popularity of Harry Potter's fifth installment coupled with increased comfort with the e-book format might be changing the landscape.

And doesn't this sound familiar:

Neil Blair, business manager at Christopher Little, Ms. Rowling's literary agency, said the firm was aware of several unauthorized copies of the book on the Web and was contacting Internet service providers to ask that they be removed.

"E-book rights are reserved to J. K. Rowling," Mr. Blair said. "so any Harry Potter novels on the Net are unauthorized. We also have an obligation to protect the children who might believe they are reading the official work."

Mr. Blair said he did not expect the illicit e-books to have an impact on sales of the printed book....

Link.

Last point: how about someone such as Sony Ericsson develop a handheld with e-book capability built in (and perhaps a few books for free download). And of course a comfortably reading screen.

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Reports from Strategy Analytics and Forrester basically conclude that WLAN interoperability will be increasingly embedded into laptops from about 24% today to 80 or 90% in 2008. Link.

Usage profile, however, is interesting. Both research firms seem to conclude that primary use will be "on campus" (rather than, say, a public hot spot). The people who should be happy are those playing the secure access game.

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Financial Times profiles SES Global, the world's largest commercial satellite operator. Link.

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John Maggs reports in the National Journal on the administration's focus on competitive sourcing. Link.

The president's radical aim is to eventually make upwards of 850,000 federal workers -- nearly half of the civilian workforce now protected by bureaucratic tradition and civil service rules -- compete against private contractors for their jobs every three to five years. So far, Bush has demanded that 425,000 face competition in the next few years, but he's also said that number won't be a ceiling for his administration. The administration seeks both to reduce the federal workforce by hundreds of thousands of workers and to force half of the government to justify why it should even be part of the government.

07.11.2003

New York Times profiles "The New Card Shark" -- people who honed their gambling skills in online casinos and are winning major poker championships. Link.

When an accountant named Chris Moneymaker won $2.5 million in the World Series of Poker last May, the chatter in the poker world wasn't focused on his skillful bluffing, his tremendous luck or even the aptness of his surname. Everyone wanted to know how a man who had never before sat down at a tournament table could clean out so many skilled professionals.

While the Las Vegas hype machine focused on the rags-to-riches tale of a man who parlayed a $40 entrance fee into a huge pot, many poker players recognized that the amateur's success signaled the arrival of a new age in the game. Mr. Moneymaker may never have been in the same room as other players in a tournament of Texas Hold'em poker, but he had played extensively online, where the game is faster but the money is just as real.

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Mobile operators in Europe have been accused of quietly pocketing a whopping €38 billion (US$43 billion) in excessive termination charges on fixed-to-mobile network calls over the past five years, taking advantage of a uniform lack of regulatory controls in the region.

Termination charges -- the price mobile operators charge for connecting callers from rival networks -- have been under intense scrutiny recently, following high-profile efforts by U.K. regulators to slash them.

A joint report from WIK Consult, Cerna, and the University of Warwick Business School is the first attempt, however, to elucidate the massive amounts of cash these charges are generating for Europe’s wireless carriers.

Link.

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AmEx is reportedly considering replacing its paper-based travellers check with a prepaid card. Link.

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U.S. State Department has asked vendors to comment by July 28 on a plan to add contactless smart card chips to passport books. The document ... says the U.S. government will follow standards set in May by the International Civil Aviation Organization for adding chips to travel documents to store biometric data ... that can identify travelers. ICAO, which sets travel document standards for 188 member nations, specified that biometric data would be stored in contactless smart card chips.... The State Department says it aims to begin issuing passports with chips at one facility by Oct. 26, 2004. That is the deadline set by Congress for the 27 countries whose citizens can enter the United States without visas to begin issuing passports carrying biometric data. By 2006, the State Department says it expects to issue all passports with chips.

Link.

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Physicists have created "slow" and "fast" light in a crystal at room temperature for the first time. The team at the University of Rochester in the US used an 'alexandrite' crystal to reduce the speed of light to just 91 metres per second, and also to make a laser pulse travel faster than the speed of light.

Link.

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Researchers use carbon nanotubes to create smaller and more effective gas sensors. Link.

Ajayan and colleagues made a simple discharge device in which the cathode is a thin-film array that contains billions of multiwall nanotubes. The anode is an aluminium sheet (see figure). Individual nanotubes in the film create very high electric fields near their tips, and the combined effect of all the nanotubes is to increase the overall field and so speed up the gas breakdown process. This means that the gases can be ionized at voltages that are up to 65% lower than in traditional sensors.

The researchers also found that the current discharged in the device was six times higher than in conventional electrodes, which makes the detector highly sensitive. It is able to detect concentrations of gas as low as 10-7 moles per litre. Moreover, it can distinguish between different gases in a mixture and is not affected by external factors such as temperature or humidity - unlike previous detectors.

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Interesting little offering via Tesco & Citibank (link):

A farmer in southern Taiwan checks out the latest invoice report on his handheld computer. One of his biggest customers in Taipei promises to pay him NT$250,000 for his asparagus, pumpkins and watermelons. Payment will be made in four months' time, his client says. Relieved, he immediately hooks up with his bank via his PDA, and requested a loan. Using his customer's outstanding invoice as "collateral," he is able to convince his credit officer to lend him the money that he needs for the next planting season....

If you think this is fiction, you've got another thing coming. This Internet platform - which strengthens the pipeline between buyers and suppliers - is up and running, says Peter Evans, finance director of Tesco Stores Taiwan....

The loose marriage between Tesco and Citibank promises to deliver huge pay-offs for both parties. The supermarket chain, in fact, has already saved millions of dollars by piggy-backing on Citibank's supply chain platform, says Evans.

"If you build it from scratch, you will spend anywhere from NT$5 million to NT$6 million to get it ready," Ang adds.

The Internet portal is also expected to mitigate Tesco's supply chain headaches. The British grocer has over 2,000 suppliers, and receives an average of a thousand deliveries per day per store.

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Interesting piece from the McKinsey Quarterly (caught via eMarketer) presenting information on how firms should go about developing and selling solutions. Unusually practical. Link (free registration required).

07.10.2003

Dana makes a nice catch (I think he picked it up because of the use of Moore's Law in the original paragraph, but that's beside the point).

Just to set context, I linked yesterday to this piece where Jim Gray at Microsoft concluded, in effect, that should be, for the most part, close to computation.

Dana highlights this quote ...

If telecom prices drop faster than Moore's law, the analysis fails. If telecom prices drop slower than Moore's law, the analysis becomes stronger. Most of the argument in this paper pivots on the relatively high price of telecommunications. Over the last 40 years telecom prices have fallen much more slowly than any other information technology. If this situation changed, it could completely alter the arguments here. But there is no obvious sign of that occurring.

... and then proceeds to highlight how optical fiber coupled with higher speed wireless technologies like WiMAX will therefore make Mr.Gray's analysis fail.

It's a good point, but I wonder whether the bottleneck in telecommunications pricing is in technical capacity/supply or in competitive capacity. Think about it.

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Via BoingBoing: WLAN sniffing gets a bit easier. Link.

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Via Virginia Postrel & the Volokh Conspiracy, comes the following comment column from the National Review Online. Link.

In the end, Lawrence is a very simple ruling. Justice Kennedy examined the conduct at issue to see if it was properly an aspect of liberty (as opposed to license), and then asked the government to justify its restriction, which it failed adequately to do. The decision would have been far more transparent if Justice Kennedy had acknowledged what was really happening (though perhaps this would have lost some votes by other justices). Without this acknowledgement, the revolutionary aspect of his opinion is concealed, and it is rendered vulnerable to the ridicule of the dissent. Far better would have been to more closely track the superb amicus brief of the Cato Institute which he twice cites approvingly.

If the Court is serious, the effect on other cases of this shift from "privacy" to "liberty," and away from the New Deal-induced tension between "the presumption of constitutionality" and "fundamental rights," could be profound. For example, the medical-marijuana cases now wending their way through the Ninth Circuit would be greatly affected if those seeking to use or distribute medical marijuana pursuant to California law did not have to show that their liberty to do so was somehow "fundamental" — and if the government was forced to justify its restriction on that liberty. While wrongful behavior (license) could be prohibited, rightful behavior (liberty) could be regulated provided that the regulation was shown to be necessary and proper.

For Lawrence v. Texas to be constitutionally revolutionary, however, the Court's defense of liberty must not be limited to sexual conduct. The more liberties it protects, the less ideological it will be and the more widespread political support it will enjoy. Recognizing a robust "presumption of liberty" might also enable the court to transcend the trench warfare over judicial appointments. Both Left and Right would then find their favored rights protected under the same doctrine. When the Court plays favorites with liberty, as it has since the New Deal, it loses rather than gains credibility with the public.

What smacks me as odd, however, is how different this seems than the current instincts expressed by the executive branch.

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Declan's in-depth view of the politics behind anti-spam bills. Link.

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Microwave radar techniques can "see" into dry ground up to at least 40 cms. Link.

Scientists have long suspected that microwave radar from satellites could "see" below the surface of very dry ground. Many were startled when images from a shuttle mission in the 1980s revealed what appeared to be ancient river drainage patterns below the eastern Sahara desert. Since then there have been other intriguing finds, including ring structures buried under Antarctic ice that look like meteorite craters or the remains of subglacial volcanic eruptions....

Dan Blumberg and Julian Daniels of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel decided to test the idea. They buried flat squares of aluminium at different depths under the sand in the Negev desert, then flew an aircraft over the area to carry out radar sensing of the layers beneath the surface.

By comparing the radar results with the squares' known positions, the researchers showed that the patterns detected by the radar really did show the buried pieces of metal. "Now we have systematic proof," Blumberg told New Scientist. "Buried objects can be detected from airborne systems."

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Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories -- exceeding the predictions of a 100-year-old law of physics -- have shown that filaments fabricated of tungsten lattices emit remarkably more energy than solid tungsten filaments in certain bands of near-infrared wavelengths when heated.

This greater useful output offers the possibility of a superior energy source to supercharge hybrid electric cars, electric equipment on boats, and industrial waste-heat-driven electrical generators. The lattices' energy emissions put more energy into wavelengths used by photovoltaic cells that change light into electricity to run engines.

Link.

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Wired reports on the further implementation of hypertags in the UK (link):

Due to be launched in 20 cinemas in mid-July, the Hypertag technology will enable mobile-phone and PDA users one-click access to Web pages by pointing and clicking at advertising posters.

The real-world equivalent of hyperlinks, the small battery-powered electronic tags use infrared signals to send Web links to mobile phones. Developed by the Cambridge, U.K.-based company Hypertag, these smart tags can be discreetly attached to any information display surface, such as advertising panels, billboards or walls, enabling any mobile-phone user with an infrared port or Bluetooth to access digital content by downloading a small software application.

Yet another example of the possibilities from embedded intelligence. Not overly valuable nor earth shattering. But another piece of the puzzle.

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An anonymous poster to Politech suggests that threats to critical national infrastructure may be overhyped or misleading. Link.

[W]e have two observations:
1. It would be easy for anyone wishing to massively disrupt society, to successfully attack the crucial infrastructure (and escape free.)
2. Suck attacks do not seem to occur. Instead we have (in the USA) one instance of spectactular, suicidal, localised destruction (WTC), and one instance of a generally disruptive (but politically targeted) biological attack. (The anthrax mailings.)

The only possible conclusion, is that there is simply no one seriously interested in committing major infrastructure attacks. And that implies there are actually no true (or even wannabe) 'terrorists' among us. And never have been.

Which in turn implies that all the actual and threatened attacks were not initiated by 'terrorists' (as advertised on TV), but by people withquite different motivations.

As for who they are, and their motivations, I notice the rest of the internet has a few things to say about that. Hovever, it is curious to note that our governments, while doing their best to scare the citizenry with tales of impending attacks, and making a great show of upgrading security around high visibility 'targets', tend to be doing virtually nothing of substance to protect the _real_ soft and vulnerable spots of our society - the critical service infrastructure of the cities.

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Andrew Seybold, who typically focuses on the wireless realm, pens some recent experiences regarding broadband in home and office. Link (anticipate it will be here soon. if not, check here and look for a commentary called "I Want Wireless Broadband and I Want It Now!").

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Have more or less caught up. (Finally). I say "more or less" more because I've chosen to basically ignore last week's news and less because I actually have a clue what went on.

07.09.2003

Via Politech: Speedpass-enabled Timex. Link. (How about SIM cards slots in wristwatches?)

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The NPD Group claims that laptops/notebooks exceed 50% of retail PCs sold in US (up from about a quarter at the beginning of 2000). Link.

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MRAM chips are expected to be in the hands of developers in 2003 and cell phones and PDAs using MRAMs should be on sale by mid-2004. Link.

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Anti-gravity in Wired. Link.

The propulsive force, [physicts] say, has a simpler explanation: ion wind.

When the current enters the wires ringing the top of the lifter, electrons race off to ionize the surrounding air. The ions are attracted to the foil skirt and race down, smacking into neutral molecules and generating a downward-moving breeze. At one point, I take my lifter to Rainer Weiss, a hyperactive, gray-haired gravity expert at MIT. He's working on the groundbreaking LIGO project to detect gravitational waves - when he's not dealing with journalists who plunk tinfoil UFOs down on his desk. He shakes his head and sighs.

"There is nothing mysterious about this at all," he says. He scribbles furiously across two sheets of paper, calculating the current flowing through the device, the number of ions it would create, and their total potential kinetic thrust. It's about 7 millinewtons, he concludes, and scoops up my lifter. "Do you know how much this weighs? Let's take a guess - it's a couple of grams." That's probably just light enough to get it airborne. As far as he's concerned, my lifter is nothing more than a hovercraft. Case closed.

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Sure it's a press release. Link.

"Intel Corporation, Bell Canada and VIA Rail Canada today announced plans to equip select VIA 1 train cars with wireless Internet access for passengers traveling between Montreal and Toronto.

For the first time in North America, wireless local area network or WLAN connectivity will be available within a moving passenger train car. The four-month pilot gives business and personal travelers with Wi-Fi enabled laptops or PDA devices another convenient option to wirelessly access the Internet, check email and connect to corporate networks while traveling on the train."

(And while we're at it, Intel is also intending to develop chipsets for WiMAX). Link.

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Via Smart Mobs, a paper from Jim Gray at Microsoft Research on "Distributed Computing Economics." Link.

Computing economics are changing. Today there is rough price parity between (1) one database access, (2) ten bytes of network traffic, (3) 100,000 instructions, (4) 10 bytes of disk storage, and (5) a megabyte of disk bandwidth. This has implications for how one structures Internet-scale distributed computing: one puts computing as close to the data as possible in order to avoid expensive network traffic.

Seems to conclude that "on demand" computing -- where one moves the data to the application via networks only make sense over a certain amount of processing capability (I think I've got that right).

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While packing myself up on two Friday's ago and getting ready to close shop for a week I scribbled a little note to myself to write a piece on how the embedded computing (and standards) create enormous value from little things.

Then I read this note from Dana, mutter curses under my breath and move along. Link.

Perhaps I come at it from a different slant, but connectivity enables little things (take Instapundit's blog for example) to take on inordinate amounts of value. (Obviously the audience needs to be aware of the offering, but then all you need to do is hire Trans -- Pattern Recognition reference people -- and you've got it made).

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Via /.:

Mobile phone providers switched off their encryption systems for 24 hours on a government order, allowing the Federal Security Service and the police to eavesdrop on all calls....

The decision to shut down encryption follows the double suicide bombings that killed 14 people at the Krylya rock festival Saturday. A cellphone was found on one of the female suicide bombers, and the FSB is examining its SIM card for clues as to whether the bombers coordinated the attack with accomplices, according to local media reports.

Link.

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"Computer scientists at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, wanted to make it easier for staff to log onto networked computers. So they came up with SoundHunters, a program that recognises someone's voice or laughter and works out which computer is nearest to them. It could then be used to automatically log them on to the computer." Link.

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A UC Irvine study suggests superWIMPS (superweakly interacting massive particles) might be the source of the universe's invisible mass. Link.

Like WIMPs, superWIMPs only exist theoretically. In fact, because superWIMPs do not have weak-force interactions, they are predicted to be impossible to detect by conventional experimental methods. But Feng and his colleagues point to some alternative tests to prove their existence. They found that observations of old stars and the cosmic microwave background of the universe can reveal clues for superWIMPs.

"One place to look for evidence is in the cosmic microwave background, which in essence is the afterglow of the Big Bang," Feng said. "This background is very uniform. But according to our theory, WIMP decay would set loose a zoo of particles that would create deviations in this background. If such deviations are found, they would provide a particle fingerprint for the existence of superWIMP dark matter."

Ah, particle physics.

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Verizon launches MMS. Compatible with global MMS standard. But you can't send pictures across carriers (yet). Link.

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The Webcasters Alliance is threatening an antitrust lawsuit ""unless the RIAA takes concrete steps to address anticompetitive conditions in the market that threaten to eliminate small commercial webcasters." Link.

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AT&T bringing in Gric Communications to enable secure public WLAN access in certain public hotspots. Link.

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While the FCC tests my patience, DARPA makes me happy (link). I include the former mostly to consider time frames.

The federal agency, known as Darpa, is trying to spur a new generation of powerful machines for national security and industrial uses in the 2009 to 2010 time frame. The latest awards, coming after a 12-month phase to develop new computing concepts, are for three years of research and development, which could be followed by full-scale development of hardware and software, the Department of Defense research agency said.

IBM received $53.3 million for a concept called PERCs, which stands for "productive, easy-to-use, reliable computing systems," Darpa said in a news release. Sun received $49.7 million for a system called Hero, which includes an approach to make a big computer much easier to program.

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Unintended consequences revisited. Google's cache of copyrighted web pages creates some tensions with copyright holders. Link.

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Michael Kanellos describes developments in speech technology and the reality of computers being able to speak or understand speech. Link.

Personally believe that speech technology really can only be used in a specific context (where probabilities are more likely to work in one's favor) -- outside, of course, to those whose sight is hindered. Note: I tested voice interface software (Dragon Naturally Speaking) but found it cumbersome and, after about a month, gave up on it. Tried it again more recently with the same outcome.

Also find it hard to imagine using voice interface in an office setting (imagine everyone talking to their computers as much as they're currently typing?) or with confidential work in public areas (we're not talking about sub-vocalizations).

So while Ray Kurzweil may have grown accustomed to the voice interface, I'm not sure how many people are surrounded with the right circumstances to move to and grow used to the speech required in voice interface.

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Dell "announced a service designed to activate 50 security-related default settings in Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system at the factory after a PC is built. The service, which will cost $20 per PC, is being offered in response to growing concerns about computer vulnerabilities among companies." Offered as part of Dell's Custom Factory Integration program. Link.

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Wal-Mart cancelled a smart shelf trial. A spokesperson noted that "Wal-Mart ceased in-store RFID testing because executives wanted to focus on installing RFID systems in warehouses and distribution centers instead." Link.

07.08.2003

Declan takes a long look at p2p file sharing and anonymity. General vibe is less than pleasant: current easy-to-use tools expose users to potential identification by the RIAA (or other copyright holders). Link.

At risk of repeating myself:

(1) Stealing is, well, stealing. It's wrong. (2) Not all file-sharing is stealing. To some extent there's been a grey or black music market as long as I can remember (crikey, how many tapes did I make for women in high school and college? Hey, back in the day I even recorded directly from the radio!). It's social and perfectly normal (if a bit sad as it rarely worked for me with the ladies). And it works for the music companies as a way to spread the word. (3) The RIAA do themselves no favors in taking up the mantle of Sheriff of Nottingham to Kazaa's or ANOther.com's Robin Hood.

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The FCC released its report on 2002 cable prices. Link.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today released its annual report on cable industry prices. The report includes information about monthly charges for the basic service tier ("BST") and cable programming service tier ("CPST," also known as "expanded basic"), monthly charges for equipment, installation fees, reconnect fees, and fees for digital service.

The report shows that the overall average monthly rate for cable programming services and equipment increased by 8.2% from $37.06 to $40.11, over the 12-month period ending July 1, 2002. This compares with a 5-year compound annual rate of increase of 7.1% from July 1997 to July 2002. Specifically, the 8.2% increase reflects average increases in monthly charges of 3.7% for the BST, from $13.93 to $14.45; 10.8% for the CPST, from $19.88 to $22.02; and 12.0% for equipment, from $3.25 to $3.64, over the same period. The average number of channels increased from 59.0 to 62.7 channels, an increase of 6.3% for the year ending July 1, 2002. To reflect this growth in channels, the FCC calculated the average rate per channel. On this basis, the average overall monthly rate per channel increased from 65.6 cents to 66.4 cents per channel, an increase of 1.2%. Over the same period, the consumer price index increased by 1.5%. Thus, in real terms, the per channel rate fell by approximately two-tenths of one percent. (Emphasis by me)

This last part (in italics) is complete and utter bunk. More channels does not equate to greater customer value (nor does it intuitively seem to imply a significant impact on cost vis a vis upgrading the network).

Not that it means terribly much, but Commissioner Copps dissented and Commissioner Adelstein expressed concerns with the data.

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Scientists, using nano-scaled materials technology, have built a functioning vascular system. Link.

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A connection between a virus and mental illness? Link.

Keizo Tomonaga and colleagues at Osaka University in Japan inserted a gene for a single protein produced by BDV into mouse embryos. Mice which grew up to express the viral protein in their brains were more aggressive and hyperactive compared with normal mice - much like mice with traditional BDV infection, says the team....

"Although the role of BDV infection in the induction of psychiatric disorders remains controversial, this work should promote further investigation regarding this question." Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York, believes the mouse findings will be helpful if the results of a large scale epidemiological study due out in December, 2003 confirms the suggested link between schizophrenia and BDV. However, he adds that most human studies linking virus and disease have found that infection must occur at a specific point in development to have behavioural consequences. In the Tomonaga¹s study, the protein was expressed throughout development, which could be a problem in pinpointing the mechanism, he says.

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The second of NASA's twin rovers finally took off this morning. Link.

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Reuse in the cellular phone industry. Link.

Staples partnered with a company called CollectiveGood International to put up the mobile phone recycling bins in all of its stores. But the bins' plainly worded signs don't tell customers that CollectiveGood is a for-profit business that buys all the phones outright and then sells many of them to Latin American companies. It then delivers most of the proceeds to Staples, which, in turn, donates the money to -- Sierra Club....

The phones in [Verizon's recycle] bins don't go to nonprofit organizations directly. They actually are shipped to a company called ReCellular, which also collects old phones from carriers involved with the Wireless Foundation. ReCellular, which picks up between 15,000 and 20,000 phones a day -- typically, six days a week -- scours through the bins to determine which phones are to be broken down and recycled and which ones can be reused. Generally, the company is able to sell 75 percent of the phones to Third World carriers, said Eric Forster, vice president of marketing for ReCellular.

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Xeni Jardin previews an upcoming book "Dungeons and Dragons: The Rise of Computer Game Culture from Geek to Chic." The authors seek to slay a few of the stereotypes regarding gamers. Link.

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Long time, no speak. Much to catch up on. Little time in which to do it. Also won't try to catch up on last week's material.

No offense to last week's material but between being offsite, hanging with the family, generally being neurotic and a little thin-skinned as I'm wont to be on occasion and enjoying the love from a dying laptop.

Oh, never mind.